Archive: November 8, 2008

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Kindle rocks

Saturday,  11/08/08  09:46 AM

My wife Shirley gave me an early birthday present yesterday, in advance of flying to Brazil for a week: A spiffy Amazon Kindle!  After charging it over night, this morning I made time to play with it.  I can say unequivocally, Kindle rocks.

First I must tell you all the pictures you've seen don't actually do it justice.  It is smaller and thinner and prettier than you would think;  you have to be holding one to evaluate the "look and feel" properly.  The screen is wonderful, high contrast and high resolution.  The brighter the light you shine on it, the better; take it outside, no problem.  The buttons on the edges take some getting used to, because you have a tendency to click them inadvertently; I'm guessing I'll get used to that, but we'll see.  The feel of the buttons is fine - nice little clicks - and the keyboard is just fine also (despite what you may have read).  It also comes with a really nice book-like cover, very cool.

(click to enbiggen)

The user interface is a bit different to what you might expect at first - it isn't a handheld computer - but once you start using it the whole interface makes sense, it is consistent and very "booklike".  To start with no content ever extends "down"; there is no such thing as scrolling.  Content which doesn't fit on one screen is divided into multiple pages, and you simply page forward to read it.  There's this thing called a "cursor bar" which adjoins the screen to the right (click the thumbnail above to see a high-resolution version of my Kindle, you'll be able to see it).  Below the cursor bar is a "select wheel".  To select stuff, you scroll the select wheel to position a little silver indicator in the cursor bar adjacent to whatever you want to select, and then click the select wheel.  This is how you make menu selections, and otherwise tell the Kindle what to do.  It feels strange at first because it isn't like the computer menus you're used to, but after ten minutes you get it and from that point it is really intuitive.  What's nice (and I suspect the reason they did it) is that you can select anything you happen to be looking at and do things to it: look up words in the dictionary, create bookmarks, make notes, etc.

The Kindle uses an e-ink display, which is where it gets its resolution and contrast, but one drawback to e-ink is that it is slow.  So while displaying static pages works great (again, click the thumbnail above to see my Kindle at high-resolution), it can't do any kind of animation.  Including presumably scrolling a selection in a menu.  So the cursor bar was a clever solution.

The interface includes a Back button so you can "nest in" and then get back to where you started easily.  On the keyboard are buttons for Home and Search; at any time you can search the whole Kindle for any text, which works nicely.

As I started reading I was surprised how useful it was to be able to look up words in the dictionary; there are a lot of words I sort of know, but now I can look them up to get exactly the nuance.  Not only does the author's meaning come through more clearly, but your vocabulary expands :)

So far I have downloaded a few books, and it was really easy, and really fast.  The Kindle uses something Amazon calls "whispernet", which is a combination of EVDO (where available) and 1XRTT (where EVDO is not).  At my house, on EVDO, it takes less than thirty seconds to download a whole book.  Pretty impressive.  Books seem to be about $10, roughly half their paper cost.  I have chosen a few books I've been meaning to read for my trip: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Halting State, Thirteen, and The God Delusion.  I also downloaded a Brazilian travel guide :)

Anyway so far I am really impressed and delighted.  It was a great gift (thank you Shirley!) and I think it will be a wonderful traveling companion.  I'll have more to say about it after my trip I'm sure, stay tuned...



Saturday,  11/08/08  05:38 PM

Checking in after a quiet day...  worked mostly, while feeling guilty for not packing for my trip to Brazil :) and squeezed in a nice ride (last for a week, I'm afraid...)  And now I have just enough time to see what the world is up to, and then it is off to a party...  and tomorrow off to Sao Paulo.  My next post will be from South America - who knows, it could be upside down :)

If you're not tired of the Presidential election yet, you might enjoy these election maps...  the one at right depicts state-by-state results, with the areas of each state skewed by its population.  You can see just how not-close the election was...  [ via Brad Feld

Dave Winer: changing the way we do news.  "What didn't change in the 2008 election is the way news flowed. This is a big disappointment to me and something that causes great concern. I see the newspapers dying, and the broadcast media failing to do news, and I want to evolve to the next thing, but it doesn't seem that's the way it'll go."  Dave and I disagree on a lot, but on this I agree with him completely. 

Philip Greenspun thinks we should let G.M. go bankrupt.  Me, too.  The longer this federal bailout period is taking, the more I think the whole thing was a mistake.  Markets work, if you let them.  And bailouts by the government is the opposite of letting them work. 

Speaking of bankrupt, here we have $1B Zimbabwe dollars.  Yes, that is a real note (thanks Adam Curry) and yes, it is basically worthless.  Actually I think it might have value as a collector's item; I wouldn't mind having one :) 

Mark Cuban has some good advice for Obama: Entrepreneurs will lead us out of this mess. Talk to Them.  "Your current group has no one with 100pct of their networth on the line. I promise you that the possibility of losing it all will provide a completely different perspective than any of the “knowledge” the esteemed, learned members of his current advisory team offer."  Indeed. 

This is really cool: Scientific American has pictures of the International Space Station.  The other day I linked the five most plausible sci-fi movies; well this ain't no movie, but it would fit right in with 2001's Discovery, don't you think?  I remember the old joke, it would cost less to send a man to Mars than to make a move about it, but that wasn't true; space travel is really expensive, especially when [non-expendable] people are involved.  But when you see the ISS and such, it such seems worth it... 

Sadly, it appears NASA have lost contact with the Phoenix lander as it freezes in the Martian North.  It's mission did last five months, nearly twice as long as the projected three months, and there is still a little hope... 

Surfing picture of the day, or any day; Kerby Brown takes on a monster...  unbelievably, the wave closed out and slammed him, but he survived... 

Here we have fifty strange buildings of the world.  And they are truly strange, and quite amazing.  There is a such a variety represented it is hard to pick my favorite...  but I did, and here it is :)  YMMV! 




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