Review of three iPhone docks

Different horses for different courses … all along I want to use my iPhone in three different places for totally distinct usages:

  1. Connect to a notebook computer, sync my iPhone but also house an USB hub and memory card reader;
  2. Connect to nothing, but iPhone as a loud music player in my small office;
  3. Connect to a mini-HiFi, my iPhone as the music and Internet radio source.

In other words, all I need is a multi-purposes devices – an iPhone dock that can connect to an AV amplifier but also a speaker, USB hub and a memory card reader. Of course, there is no such device and therefore I bought three docks to achieve this.

First is the Simplifi from Griffin Technology – It is a charge/sync dock, memory card reader, and USB hub. See the photos below for the look of it, it works perfectly and I am now using it with my notebook computer. It really is a space saver.

  • Pros : Hi-speed USB link, all-in-one device, not expensive, match with MacBook nicely
  • Cons : USB cable to connect to computer is not long enough

The second one is also from Griffin and it is a simple dock that also act like a mono-speaker – Griffin AirCurve Acoustic Amplifier for iPhone. The Aircurve, a cleverly-designed acoustic amplifier, is basically a coiled waveguide “horn’ that collects the sound from the built-in speaker of your iPhone and then amplifies it. Of course it is not a Bose speaker system, but it is good enough for my small office.

  • Pros : Stylish, not expensive
  • Cons : Not a small dock (check the pic), so-so quality loudspeaker (it is mono, after all), you also need to get your own iPhone cable to do the synchronization

Lastly, the Dexim AV Dock is similar to the Apple iPhone AV dock. It connects to my mini-HiFi and in turn to my LCD TV. Now with this AV dock, I can watch videos, view photos on my TV. And also I can play my iTunes music, Internet radio show thru the mini-HiFi.

  • Pros : An cheaper alternative to the Apple dock / cable, easy to set up, stylish
  • Cons : You need to turn the volume way up high to appreciate the music

Life is good.

Reading PDF documents in Kindle 2

Other than ebooks, lots of people want to read PDF documents in their Kindle 2 / Kindle 3. However, since the Kindle 2 cannot display PDF documents natively (Kindle DX can do that however), the big question to many Kindle 2 owners is therefore how to make it work ? One simple answer is to use the conversion service by Amazon.com, however this method is not the best one. I hope this blog post can provide a good answer to some of you.

1. Let Amazon.com do it for you

As mentioned, Amazon.com offers a service to let you just do that. You send your file to your Kindle email address and after a few minutes, Amazon will send the converted file (with .azw extension) to you (via Whispernet). It cost some money to do that, or if you want to do it free, send your PDF document to the free Kindle email address. With this approach you can also save the file and transfer to your Kindle 2 with the USB cable – i.e. it works prefectly if you’re outside US. The only trouble with this method is the converted file is actually not easy to read at all … if your PDF document is full of graphical images and illustrations.

2. Hack your Kindle 2 to do it

Yes, you can hack your Kindle 2 to convert PDF document automatically … just install the Savory tool by Jesse Vincent. This tool converts every page of the PDF document into images and you can read it in portrait or landscape modes.

I like Jesse’s implementation a lot, but I don’t want to hack my Kindle 2 … and I don’t like to uninstall the hack before every software upgrade.

3. Convert to Mobi file format

Kindle 2 supports many formats such as .Mobi, .prc and .txt format, so you can also install file conversion programs to convert your PDF document to .Mobi files. I tried this before with the Calibre opensource tool. And there is another tool from MobiPocket.com that can do this as well. Unfortunately, the converted PDF document looks pretty much like the .azw format – i.e. not that readable for image-heavy PDF documents.

4. Convert to images without hacking your Kindle 2

That method is similar to the second approach above, but you don’t need to hack your Kindle 2. Just download the PDFRead 1.8.2 from the mobileread.com website, install it and convert your document with the profile parameters (check image below). Transfer the converted document (a .prc document) to your Kindle and it’s done. The upside of this approach is the very readable output (including Chinese document as well !!). The downside is you cannot perform text search with this image-based document, and many times you need to zoom in to read the details.

Check the images below …  hope you find this useful and enjoy your PDF documents.

Update 1: Amazon announced a firmware update to support native PDF reading in Kindle 2. Check my blog post for the step by step upgrade procedure.

Update 2: Amazon also announced Kindle firmware 2.5 to cover PDF Pan and Zoom.

Update 3: Get your Kindle 3 to have all the PDF functions.

正能量

上一期”壹週刊”慶祝一千期,加送一本 Special Edition。內裡除了一篇頗長的黎智英專訪外,仲有十多篇短短的個人訪問。

睇睇吓,發覺每篇訪問都有一個”風格”,就是每篇結尾都有一句稱讚香港的句子。都好,香港太多負能量,怨氣,就打一次給大家睇睇(因為根據 Wow 友 Florence 所講 – 我們都缺乏閱讀文字的能耐,所以我估無人睇到尾)。

謝鴻興:”香港好,好在有自重,尊重。”
李麗珊:”香港好在尊重女性,做強人又得,小鳥依人一樣得。”
楊鐵樑:”香港人自律,有愛心,關心香港事,更關心世界大事。”
沈祖堯:”我要將永不退縮的香港精神傳下去。”
周星馳:”香港人最得天獨厚的是生活在一個自由的地方。自由可以令我們有更大創作空間。”
李柱銘:”這裡有新聞自由,資訊自由,更重要是,出入自由。”
吳宇森:”起過,跌過,是香港,也是人生。”
曹仁超:”香港充滿機會,出身多寒微,也有出頭天。”
蘇樺偉:”今日可以自給自足,多得香港人視我殘而不廢。”
簫芳芳:”爬起來,再做過,香港精神。”
許誠毅:”努力不懈,香港精神。”
周潤發:”都是香港好,同聲又同氣。”
陳慧鈴:”香港好在沒歧視傷殘人士,有能力,就有機會。”
飛機迷:”世界要進步,香港人的優點就是懂得向前看。”

不要再怨了,努力向前吧。

Update Kindle software outside US

If you know how to download Kindle books to your Kindle, then it is not difficult to update the Kindle software at all especially you can find the detail instructions in Amazon.com website (after sign into Amazon, select Kindle > Kindle Support > Kindle Software Update).

I upgraded mine but I found that there are one or two steps not the same as in the Amazon page, so here is my version of the steps (some important steps are boldfaced):

  1. First verify your current version with this steps – From your Kindle, click Home Key, Menu Key, select “Settings”, check the version in the bottom status bar. In my case it reads Version: Kindle 2.0 (29133xxxx).
  2. Since we are outside the wireless service area and therefore cannot receive the software update wirelessly, we need to download the latest software to our computer and transfer it to our Kindle via USB.
  3. Before the download, you have to check whether the latest version (2.0.3 as of May 2009) is available to you – as Amazon rolls out the software update to the Kindle users batch by batch. You can check that also from the Software Update page, scroll down and you shall see what software version is available for you to download. If it shows 2.0.2, then it’s not the latest version.
  4. Then in the same page, download the latest software – make sure you pick the Kindle (2nd generation) and the latest version is 2.0.3 (i.e. this is available to your device to upgrade).
  5. Follow the steps as in the Kindle software update page to connect the Kindle, transfer to Kindle, disconnect Kindle etc.
  6. With your Kindle, press the Home Key and then Menu Key, then select “Settings” from the Home menu.
  7. From Settings screen, press Menu Key again, select “Update Your Kindle”. Please note that this menu option will be grayed out if the most recent update has already been installed.
  8. Select “Ok” when prompted if you want to perform an update.
  9. Next you will see system message and progress bar to report the update status. The Kindle will also reboot itself to bring back to the home page.

That is it. Press Home Key, Menu Key and “Settings”, you shall see the latest Kindle version in the status bar … in my case. Version: Kindle 2.0.3 (32761xxxx).

Kindle 2 vs. Kindle DX

As a Kindle 2 owner outside US for just two months, what’s the impact of the new shiny Kindle DX ? Now, here are my takes:

The Good

  1. The new Kindle DX reads PDF files natively – that’s the only reason I will consider to buy the Kindle DX – if I buy one.
  2. The screen auto-rotates the document you’re reading as you turn the device.
  3. The screen is bigger, a lot bigger.
  4. Now the device can store up to 3,500 books and documents.
  5. The keyboard is now better, I think … the Kindle 2 keyboard is really hard to type.

The Bad

  1. The new Kindle DX reads PDF files natively – but of course the PDF file is still a 16 gray document. When was your last time read a black & white PDF document ?
  2. The screen auto-rotates the document you’re reading as you turn the device. Seriously, I don’t think it is good for reading books, especially the menu / next page buttons are now all positioned on top. I think it is good for viewing web page though, since you already get used to view web pages in landscape mode. However, there is no use to me as we cannot use Kindle to surf, outside US.
  3. The bigger screen is good, especially you read lots of full size PDF files, magazines and newspaper. But I don’t need big device because I use my Kindle mainly in subway, buses, planes and cafes. In addition, we cannot subscribe to magazines and newspaper outside US (which needs the Whispernet to download).
  4. Now the device can store up to 3,500 books and documents – but why ? Imagine you need to use the Search function to find your books, from now on.
  5. Somehow, there is no previous / next buttons in the left hand side of the device. If you’re a lefties, hard luck.

The Ugly

  1. I don’t see why I want to pay US$500 for a eBook reader. Assuming there will be another new Kindle in two years, and I can save 10 dollars from every Kindle book … it means I shall read 50 books in two years to pay for the Kindle DX. Don’t think I can do it, really.

What’s your view ?

kindle-kindle-dx

大溶爐

香港真的是一個大溶爐。
最近多了時間在灣仔,就更能體驗這一點。這裡有摩天大樓,又有懷舊唐樓。有亮麗的超級市場,亦有充滿人情味,熙來攘往的街市。餐廳食店就更加數之不盡。
而昨晚地鐵所遇到的亦是其中一個例子。
放工繁忙時間衝入地鐵車廂,見到兩位西裝骨骨,應該是剛剛加入勞動大軍的青年,正在高談闊論:
甲:你就好啦,可以出 Cheap !!
乙:係呀,今次出 Cheap 仲可以帶埋 Gir Fan 去。
甲:咪係,你 Gir Fan 又乜都幫你 Pan 好哂。
乙:又係呀,佢好鍾意 Pan Cheap 咖。不過好煩,最初仲話帶埋屋企隻 Pussy Cat 去添。
甲:乜o野 Pussy Cat 呀?
乙:波斯貓呀。。。
(註:以上英文冇”寸”錯。)
實在聽到耳仔都痕,支持唔住,再行入車廂。
車廂內見到座位上有一位南亞裔青年,腳旁有一部電腦,正在用手提電話教導一位朋友如何下載軟件。這一次耳仔冇痕,因為這位南亞裔青年用的是非常純正的香港廣東話。想起來他一定是灣仔電腦城內一間由南亞裔員工營運的軟件公司。
坐在他身旁的是兩位大學生,一位像是從內地或台灣來的,另一位則應該是北美外籍學生。佢地正在交流北京有什麼好去處。呀,耳朵沒有痕,而且舒服,因為佢地用很動聽的普通話交談。
此情此景,突然有種 “Lost in Translation” 的感覺。回頭再望那兩位香港的才俊及未來,正在熱烈討論應該要講 “叮噹” 還是 “Dollar A Mon” 的時候,我笑了。
香港真的是一個大溶爐。