Life in the fast lane

Once in a while I have nothing to blog.

No more Kindle posts, no more photographs or camera gears, no more gadgets and of course, no more cloud computing stuff (guys and gals, we are tired of keep talking about cloud computing, by someone who have not implemented any cloud computing platform before).

I suppose I can also write something about SoMoLo (or SoLoMo … whatever you like it) apps, something about Liquid Newsroom Project, something about the latest Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco, or even why my iPhone 4 battery runs out faster with iOS 5.0.1; still, my mind is blank.

Then I finally find out the reason this morning … if something is really important to blog, I will tweet it, Facebook it, Google+ it … but if something is not that really important to blog, I will just leave it aside – till one day, I forget all about it.

Technology and mobility do not make us more productive, it just make our life run faster – without any goal.

“Life in the fast lane, surely make you lose your mind.” – Eagles

All new Kindles – Kindle 4th Generation, Touch, Touch 3G and Fire

Guess you know all about the new Kindles from the search engines, technical blogs etc. But what you probably don’t know are the impacts to you – if you’re a Kindle 2 / 3 owners, iPad owners or not living in USA. OK, here you go:

Your Kindle 3 is now named Kindle Keyboard or Kindle Keyboard 3G. The new prices are US$ 99 and US$ 139 (with sponsored screensavers) … but they are still selling at US$ 139, and US$ 189 for non-USA customers.

The Kindle 4 is now just called Kindle. This is a basically keyboard-less Kindle 3 but with only 2G of RAM (Kindle Keyboard has 4G RAM). It costs only US$ 79, but US$ 109 for non-USA customers. It’s also 30% lighter, 18% smaller and supports WiFi only. It supports six languages now – English (US and UK), German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Brazilian Portuguese. Since the Kindle now doesn’t have a physical keyboard (and the next / previous page buttons are very “low profile”), but at the same time it is not a device with touch screen – you need to use the non-QWERTY virtual keyboard and use direction keys to “type”.

 

And what about the new Kindle Touch

The Kindle Touch is 8% lighter, 11% smaller than Kindle 3 and of course with a 6″ touch screen to turn pages (it’s called “EasyReach”). There are also one new feature – X-Ray. According to Amazon, this feature “Explores the bones of a book. With a single tap, see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics of interest, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari.” Yes, don’t really know what it is … I think we have to see it to believe it.

Another significant feature is the new Kindle Touch now support the display of non-Latin characters, including Cyrillic (such as Russian), Japanese, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), and Korean characters, in addition to Latin and Greek scripts.

The Touch has a Wi-Fi version (US$ 99 with special offers) and a Wi-Fi / 3G version (US$149 with special offers). But guess what ? It is available for U.S. only. Looks like I need to use the tricky method to get it.

Kindle Fire

Lastly, the really cool Andriod-based, colorful, dual-core processor Kindle Fire. Cost only US$ 199 and (also) available in U.S. only, it is really the cloud-enabled device. It includes a cloud-accelerated browser – Amazon Silk, free cloud storage, streaming of songs and videos. In addition, similar to Amazon’s Whispersync technology to automatically sync your library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights across your devices. On Kindle Fire, Whispersync extends to video. Start streaming a movie on Kindle Fire, then pick up right where you left off on your TV – avoid the frustration of having to find your spot. Not a new technology but it sounds like really easy and as smooth as silk.

iPad-like screen, 100,000 movies and TV titles, runs Android apps, free cloud services, 17 million songs … hey, it is really as good as iPad and a great tablet.

So which one will you get ? I will probably go for Kindle Fire.

(Check out other Kindle related posts for evaluations, tips and tricks)

Kindle Cloud Reader review

Before I shamelessly promote myself as a big fan of Kindle Apps, I better tell you that I am also a big fan of Kindle eBook reader. I really love the Kindle Apps as it works very well in tablets like iPad (I think people just use the term “iPad” instead of tablet anyway). Therefore when I know Amazon released the Kindle Cloud Reader, I have to review it …I set up the Cloud Reader without any problem, but it’s not that intuitive to set up your library for offline reading … anyway, here is the full details (with photos by the end of that blog post) of that new offering from Amazon.

  1. First of all, go to the homepage of Kindle Cloud Reader. Click the “Sign in to get started”, then sign in with your Amazon account credential in the next screen. That step will then kick start the Kindle Cloud Reader web application, and show you all the eBooks you have purchased for your Kindle.
  2. Next step is to increase the local database storage size (up to 50 MBytes) so that the application can save your books to your iPad (or other devices) for offline reading. And here is the tricky part, the application will also try to save the apps for offline use, and you will see that message “Saving app for offline use” in the bottom of the screen.
  3. In many cases, that step will return an error message stating “Error saving app. Tap here to try again“. If you encounter this, go to your iPad setting page and clear the cache of Safari and repeat the steps above again. The saving shall then be successful.
  4. Then add the apps to home screen. Change name to whatever you like and add to home screen
  5. Other than the Book grid view, you can also see the Book list view. You can toggle the views from the lower right corner selection buttons.
  6. Same as the Kindle for iPad apps, you can change the settings like font size, color mode.
  7. Click any book and you can start reading, and it works pretty much like Kindle for iPads.
  8. Now, try exit the apps and start the cloud reader again.
  9. If you have not saved the app for offline use successfully (see step 2 and 3 above), you will be greeted with that error message “Cloud Reader could not be opened because it is not connected to the internet“.
  10. To really read the books offline, you need to press and hold any book cover in your library, then select “Download & Pin Book.”
  11. After the download, you will see the books are “Pinned” with a green color pin icon underneath the downloaded book and ready for offline reading !!
  12. And lastly, there is the Kindle shop such that you can buy books directly within the web apps (if you’re online).

After all these set up, you can read the book as any Kindle apps … with three exceptions:

  • You cannot currently create new notes and highlights using Kindle Cloud Reader – but notes and highlights you create while reading the book on your Kindle or another Kindle app will be displayed.
  • There is no built-in dictionary (I missed it a lot !!).
  • It still feels a bit slower than Kindle reader and Kindle apps.

Hope you find this review useful !!

My Kindle-iPad experiment

If you search “Kindle vs iPad” in Google and you will probably find over 6 millions results, in other words this topic has been discussed to death. And of course, Amazon thinks there are many good reasons why Kindle is a better ebook reader and I also blogged before that with certain settings, one can use iPad to read ebooks.

But still, to really find out which device is the better ebook reader, I decided to do an experiment – read the first half of an ebook (“I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted“) with Kindle 2, and then the second half of the same ebook with iPad 2. And here are my findings:

iPad

  1. I like the fact that you can check mail, news, tweets, Facebook walls etc. easily while you’re reading your ebook
  2. I hate the fact that you can check mail, news, tweets, Facebook walls etc. easily while you’re reading your ebook
  3. It’s the faster device of the two
  4. The battery lasts only 10 hours, and I don’t like the battery indicator (in percentage) in the upper right corner … it makes me worry about the battery all the time
  5. Without a keyboard, the touch gesture can turn the page, highlight a word / sentence, toggle the menu system etc. etc. – in one word, “confusing”
  6. I like all the colorful book covers in the home screen. It’s pretty much like the album library in iPod is great, but I still like to see all the CD covers.

Kindle

  1. I like the fact that you cannot check mail, news, tweets, Facebook walls etc. easily while you’re reading your ebook
  2. I hate the fact that you cannot check mail, news, tweets, Facebook walls etc. easily while you’re reading your ebook
  3. The e-ink screen is much much better than iPad (for any serious long form reading), your eyes will never get tired, strained and drained;
  4. Battery life of two weeks is good, you can easily finish a book without a recharge;
  5. With the keyboard and buttons to go to next / previous page, it is a lot easier to use.
  6. You can buy ebook easily with the Kindle shop.

Summary

Without a doubt, Kindle is a much better ebook reader if you like focused long form reading. However, if you can only take one device with you and reading is not your primary purpose, get an iPad. You won’t regret it.

Comparison of iPad news reading apps

I wrote about how to make the news comes to you, so the natural next step is find a good tool to read / consume the news. While iPhone is my everyday mobile device, but to read news, iPad is really better. So I installed 4 iPad apps – Flipboard, Zite, MobileRSS and Twitter to find my ideal tool to read news; and here is the comparison – how I read an HBR news with the four applications.

Note that it is not an “evaluation report” as I believe each of us have different evaluation criteria and therefore this post will focus how I read the same news with different programs. Lastly, iPad is still not a good tool to read books, Kindle is much better, but it is another story.

Flipboard

Rated the best iPad application in 2010 and I think most of iPad users have this installed. To connect to the news, just select one of the predefined news sources or you can connect the apps to your Twitter account. Following is the screen shot of the news The Only Thing that Really Matters from HBR.

As you can see the apps strip off all the ads, headers and other elements but only show you the news . Of course you can see the original news if you “click” the source link but in essence, the presentation is pretty plain …

Zite

This apps’ tagline is “Personalized Magazine” and indeed you can feed in many news sources to it and also connect your Twitter feeds to it. One thing different from Flipboard is it does not support your Facebook friends’ feeds (yet). Following is the same news from HBR. As you can see the presentation format is pretty good. You can also “inform” the tool that you like this type of news or the source of the news (i.e. HBR in that case), then the program is smart enought to feed more news similar to that (in that case, business news) or from the same source.

MobileRSS

If your news sources are mainly website RSS but not Twitter and Facebook, then MobileRSS is also a good choice. One thing I don’t like much is the all black default color scheme (you can change it to other themes) and you will see some sponsor ads. See below …

Twitter

The last news apps is in fact the Twitter for iPad, and obviously the main news sources are your followers. Since many websites provide both RSS and Tweets, you therefore can use this to view many news. Unlike the above tools, however, it renders the HBR news like what a browser will do … in other words, you will also see the banner ads in the page; and you need to scroll more to see the whole news article.

Summary

All four tools are great for their own purposes, however, none of them are perfect to my purpose yet. If I have to choose, I think I will use Zite more …

Kindle for iPad survival guide

I have to admit I did not pay much attention to Kindle for iPad as the tool to read eBooks, even the application “looks” good with iPad and iPad 2. Reason is simply that I have a Kindle and it’s a much better device for reading. However, in most trips I will bring both my Kindle and iPad 2 along – the Kindle for eBooks, and the iPad 2 for emails, Facebook, RSS, and eMagazines like Bloomberg Businessweek.

On the other hand, there are trips that bringing two devices is a bit too heavy; and I have to decide – Kindle or iPad 2 ? For me, sometimes it is Kindle (when I have a book to finish …) and sometimes it is the iPad 2 (say, when there is a new issue of Businessweek to read). So when there is only the iPad 2 with me, and I want to read a few chapters of an eBook, I need to use Kindle for iPad apps. And to make this “reading experience” a more pleasant one, I applied the following settings to the application …

Pick the right books

All your purchased ebooks are stored in the Amazon archive, you can transfer all the books from the archive to your iPad but my recommendations is to only transfer the ebook(s) you are reading to your iPad, that save space in your iPad and also the synchronization time every time you start up the application.

Change the settings

From the lower left corner of the home page, click the “info” icon to start up the Settings menu. There are only three options but I highly recommend to turn on the “Basic reading mode”. It means it will not use the page turning effect when you touch the left / right hand side margin, but just sliding the pages.

Download the dictionary

By installing the Kindle for iPad application, the dictionary is not downloaded (it is however come as a standard in Kindle). All you need to do is to “touch” any one word from any eBook, and hold it for a while, then a dialogue will be popped up and ask you to confirm to download the dictionary.

Change the view options

It’s probably the most important part of this mini survival guide. One of the key problems to use iPad as eBook reader is the fact your eyes will get tired easily just by viewing the beautiful screen continuously, so we need to tune the screen to make it pleasant to look at.

In any page of your eBook, touch screen, and select “Aa” in the bottom menu to start up the View Options menu. What I did is changed all the four options – set the right character size and brightness that fit your reading environment. Set the background to black color, and lastly set it to single column reading (it’s better than two columns when you use your iPad 2 sideways, since you’re probably using the Smart Cover).

Hope the above helps a bit to your reading with Kindle for iPad. Enjoy !

Why is it not US$ 99 ?

About 10 days ago, Amazon announced a new version of Kindle 3 – the same look, the same specification but US$ 25 cheaper (i.e. the new low price is US$ 114). But there is one catch – you can buy one at this low price as long as you allow Amazon to place “Special Offers” (read “Ad”) on to your Kindle.

When I scanned this news, several questions popped up in my mind …

  1. How this going to work ? If I bought this Kindle and never turn on the WiFi / 3G, how can they download the “Special offers” to my eReader ? So is it mean I can enjoy a new device with low low price without any Ads ?
  2. When will the price slashing stop ? I bought my Kindle 2 over US$ 300 two years ago and now you can get a brand new Kindle 3 for one third of the price.
  3. Why is it not US$ 99 ? I mean the psychological barrier is US$ 100, so why not another 15 dollars cut ? My view is there may be another wave of price cut in near future (say, after summer holiday).
  4. When will the next Kindle (if there is one) be announced ? The current pricing strategy makes me think that a new model will arrive very soon – may be one with color screen ?

I have no good answers … but looks like at this price point, every book lover shall get one.