Web/Tech

Which Kindle should I buy as a gift this holiday season?

PaperwhiteYou'd be surprised at how often I'm asked which Kindle people should buy for their loved ones. The answer is simple: the Paperwhite (without ads).

Why the Paperwhite?

Because:

  • The only thing that really matters is the screen, and the Paperwhite has the same screen as found in the two pricier Kindles (the Voyage and the Oasis).
  • The screen lights up. Any reader will love this feature.
  • It feels sturdy and good in your hand, which is important for a device you're going to be holding for awhile.

But what if I'm a big spender and I want to impress my loved one?

If you're looking to splurge I'd say the Oasis is your best bet. The screen is just like the Paperwhite and the Voyage, but this thing is super light. I mean, like crazy light (especially without the battery cover). It lasts forever, and the cover is fun to click on and off.

All that's great, but the biggest reason to get the Oasis over the Voyager has a big impact on the reading experience: page turn buttons. The Voyage has areas that are kind of like buttons. You squeeze them and the page turns. They're better than not having any buttons but the Oasis' actual buttons are far superior.

What if my loved one hates Amazon but loves ePubs?

Then the Kindle is right out, isn't it? This seems like an edge case, but if that's the edge your loved one lives on get them a Kobo aura H20.

I like many of Kobo's interface touches more than what you'll find on any Kindle (shocking, I know), and being able to take a bath with your ereader without putting it in a plastic bag is pretty great.

Why don't I recommend a Kobo over the Kindle if I love it so much? Getting books on the darn thing isn't hard, exactly, but it is much harder than the process on the Kindle.

Should I get someone a nook?

No.

I had high hopes for the nook line, and I actually quite like the Nook Glowlight Plus, but I can't recommend them as gifts. Why? Because I get the feeling that Barnes and Noble isn't going to be keeping them around for much longer. I could be wrong, but I wouldn't want to saddle anyone with an eReader without a store.


MacOS Sierra, a not review

I've installed the latest and greatest MacOS on both my MacBook and my iMac (that's Sierra for you folks keeping score). This update continues the trend of MacOS updates which seemingly offer few new features that I either notice or use.

Honestly, I've only noticed two new things (yes, I know there are more than that). Here are my thoughts on them:

Siri

SiriI like the Siri icon, but Siri on Sierra just gives more places on which to not use Siri.

My first attempt to use Siri on my Mac (to find images of kittens dresses as puppies) failed. And when I tried to find the current temperature using Siri on my iMac it told me I had to turn on WiFi first (so Siri could determine where I was).

I know Siri can do many things, I just don't want to talk to my computer. Call me crazy!

I do, however, want to talk to black cylinders so I'll just continue to ask Alexa. I even bought one of them fancy new Dots for the den (where my iMac is) for this very reason.


Stand up, Volume changer, you're on the job!

Badsierra

The only other thing I've noticed is the new horizontal orientation for the volume slider. This is a minor change and I hate it very much.

In Summary

Sierra is pretty much like the last few OS updates: it continues to do what I need to do without much fuss and it adds features I have little to no need for. It is a free update though, so I don't mind.


It's a nice day for a White Kindle

Whitekindles

You can finally buy a Kindle, or a Kindle Paperwhite, in white (again). I'm not sure why you'd want a white Kindle since I think the gray/black helps the Kindle fade into the background when you're reading but I'm not the boss of you.

Also of note, the new base level Kindle ($79) has Bluetooth; the first Kindle to sport this. Generally I tell people NOT to buy the base level Kindle since the Paperwhite is so much better and not that much more expensive, however, if your vision is impaired, or you like your Kindles to read to you, you should totally get the base level Kindle. You can pair it with some Bluetooth headphones and listen away to your books.

Of course, my Kindle of choice is the crazy expensive Oasis. You can hear me ramble on about it on episode 87 of Upgrade.


I heart Amazon Music

I've given up on using Apple's large scale web services long ago (this includes, but is not limited to, iCards, iCloud, and Apple Music). I get most of what I need in these areas from Amazon.

Looks like Apple managed to get international man of misery (I kid, I kid) Joe Steel to take a look at Amazon Music, and he likes it!:

Sour Note:

Amazon Music is like, ‘Hey bro, you probably just want to listen to music. The lyrics are pretty sweet, so I’ll leave them here if you want those too, bro.’ and I’m all like, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know it could be like this.’ and Amazon Music is all, ‘Totes.’

X-Ray lyrics are pretty cool on the app and even more fun on the FireTV.


A world of technology, but I don't use email

Now, I'm no politics junkie, but I am a tech junkie. Here's a story about Philly's City elections chief planning to cash in on a pension plan.

People are upset because he never shows up at his office, or bothers to vote. That's not cool, but surely Clark can stay connected with a computer, smartphone, and an email account. Hmm, perhaps not so much the computer or email:

Clark said he does not use email and has no city-issued cellphone, but uses his personal phone to check in with his staff. He also reiterated his defense of working away from the office, saying, 'As an elected official, you get called to do different things. You're not just sitting at the desk. This is a world of technology; I'm always in communication.'


I guess he calls his office a lot? And talks to whoever in his office gets the emails that should be going to him but don't because he doesn't use email?

A world of technology, indeed.


Six Colors: How TiVo Roamio reached its potential

I love my TiVo (as I've said once or twice on this very blog). And I would seem Mr. Jason Snell is also loving his:

My family and I watch many YouTube videos on the TiVo, and all of my Netflix viewing these days is via the TiVo.

I enjoy flinging YouTube videos from my iPhone/iPad onto my TiVo so I can show Marisa Maru's latest hijinks (oh, that silly Japanese cat). And the Netflix app is good too, though I tend to use my Fire TV for streaming video (via Amazon Prime).


Wrong on the iPhone 8 years ago, twice!

For some reason this tweet of mine from 8 years ago is making the rounds of a few folks on Twitter:

I was totally wrong, and oddly enough I tweeted that out shortly before I left Philly for the Macworld during which Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone:

And I was wrong again about the iPhone:

Ok, technically I've bought way more than one iPhone since then so I suppose it is correct.

Also, anyone else remember when you would tweet in the form of the answer to the question, "What are you doing?"


Kindle Family Library: the downside

Kindle Family Library is great. It allows you to share books across Kindle devices (e-ink and Fire only) between two linked accounts (Kirk has a great tutorial on how to set it up, and here’s  list of devices on which it works).


Marisa and I set this up, which is great since we do have some overlapping tastes in books. Here’s what my library of books looks like on my Kindle Fire:



Can you tell which books are mine and which are Marisa’s? That’s the problem with the Family Libray, books just show up (which isn’t really a problem, but for the purposes of this blog post it is, OK!?). You can view only you books, but what if you buy a book and you don’t want it to show up in your Shared Libray?


The boffins at Amazon have thought of that, which I discovered after purchasing a Kindle book the other day. Check out this screen you are presented with after purchasing:




Click Do not share and it doesn’t show up in your Family Library.


You can also stop sharing books via Manage Your Kindle. Click “Show Family Library” and you’ll be able to manage which books you’re sharing:



Easy as a couple clicks.


Larp Trek


The Internet is an amazing thing. Today’s evidence of this: Larp Trek.


I found out about this amazing comic from Carrie Anne, who will be appearing on a future episode of Random Trek. When she told me about it she said, “You’re going to lose a lot of time to it.” She was right.


Here’s the idea behind it: the holodecks are all offline on the Enterprise and the TNG bridge crew needs something to entertain them. Geordi decides to game master a role playing game where each of the crew members plays a character on the fictional space station “Deep Space Nine."


That’s right, this comic imagines that DS9 was a campaign in an RPG played by TNG characters. I can’t even.


Just read it. Read it now. Start at the first page. If you like D&D and Star Trek you won’t be sorry.


Also, if you like D&D, Star Trek, AND podcasts, you should listen to:


Apple World Today rises from the ashes of TUAW


AppleWorld.Today launches, well, today. It is an effort from a few fine folks at the defunct TUAW (of which I was associated from a while there). I wish them all the best of luck!


Here’s a fun fast: one of the main reasons TUAW wasn’t invited to official Apple events (at least according to folklore) is that fact that “Apple” was in the name. It’ll be interesting to see if AppleWorld.Today will run into the same issues. Of course, I have no idea if they even want to go to official Apple events, as they tend to be pretty well covered.


on TUAW (or WTF, AOL?)

I never really thought I’d be a writer. In fact, for a long time, I thought I was going to end up being a physicist. Fast forward to freshman year in college when I realized that calculus wasn’t for me and I waved goodbye to my aspirations of a career in the hard sciences.

I didn’t immediately think, “Well then, I’ll just be a writer!” I had to pick a major, so I went with English. I graduated, started looking for careers and ended up in Higher Education (which is where I still work!). I never really thought of myself as a writer until I saw a post by Barb Dybwad on The Unofficial Apple Weblog. They were looking for bloggers (not writers) and since I had been blogging for awhile and I liked Apple stuff I figured why not apply.


I sent off an email and waited. I didn’t hear anything, so I figured that was that.


This was all 10 years ago, mind you, but I still remember seeing that email from Barb asking me to join up with TUAW. I did, and wrote this first post, and after a few years I ended up becoming the Lead Blogger at TUAW. I covered a couple of Macworlds for the site (that first Macworld I wrote something like 25 posts A DAY, which meant that I didn’t talk to anyone at the actual event), “starred” in a couple of videos, and wrote and wrote and wrote (my back of the envelope math shows that for the 3 years I was there I wrote 2.7 posts a day on average, or a little over 3000 posts).

More importantly TUAW gave me the opportunity to meet lots of people: fellow bloggers, writers,  developers, and fans. So many people, in fact, that as I started listing them it grew so long that I decided not to include it with this post.


I left TUAW 7 years ago mostly because of AOL’s incompetence, so it came as only a mild shock to hear that AOL is shuttering the site and waving goodbye to all the talented folks who worked there. There’s some corporate speak saying that TUAW would be “rolled into” Engadget which means, I assume, the content will be absorbed into Engadget’s archives so they can still put advertising around it (and sip on that sweet, sweet SEO juice). A sad end to a fine site. A site that is directly responsible for the fact that I now honestly think of myself as a writer (though I still find it hard to believe that I’ve written books that you can buy in a bookstore! Sure, no one actually buys them, but they could and that’s what counts!).


Since today is the last day of publication for TUAW I wanted to thank everyone who read the site, anyone who was involved with it, and everyone I’ve met because of it. Writing for TUAW gave me my first taste of limited highly specific notierity (there was a time when I was recognized whenever I walked into an Apple Store), and my first realization that somewhere on the Internet there is someone who has nothing better to do than to tell you how whatever you’ve shared sucks (now I just go to Twitter for that).


You can read some more about my thoughts about TUAW in my farewell post (which used to have lot of lovely comments from readers wishing me well, but they seem to have been axed whenever TUAW changed commenting sytems. You can see why I have my doubts about the TUAW posts being around for the longhaul).




Random Trek T-shirt

Randomtrektshirts

I have a podcast called Random Trek in which I discuss a random episode of Star Trek with a non-random guest. It is a hoot. You should listen to it.

You should also buy one of these nifty Random Trek t-shirts (available for a very limited time). Why? Because my little podcast could use the support, and I could use the ego boost of having more than 12 people want to wear a t-shirt promoting a project of mine (really, it is all about me).

Buy a shirt, damn it!

Also, if you haven't been listening to the podcast why not check out a few episodes. The most helpful review on iTunes raves:


ITunes

Why wouldn't you listen?


Cube

Cube

Going through my closet I found the box for my beloved G4 Cube. Man, I remember ordering that computer like it was yesterday.

I really shouldn't have ordered it, since it was super expensive and I really couldn't afford it (thank goodness for credit cards). I did order it, though, and I was even so excited to get it that I had them hold it at the FedEx office so I could pick it up myself.

Here's the Steve Jobs announcement that got me to order it immediately:

All told it was a great computer, though probably more successful as an exercise in industrial design.

It sits on a shelf in our living room now, after a few years of faithful service and the box is now in our storage unit.


Amazon Voyage Cover

The Kindle Voyage is a sturdy little device, and it doesn't need a case. That being said, I'm very happy that I bought the unimaginatively named Amazon Protective Cover for Kindle Voyage (I have the "royal" cover, though I think I'll be giving that to Marisa and replacing it with a black cover).

I fell in love with this type of cover when I got one for my Kindle HDX (Amazon called those covers Origami covers, which is a far better name). It converts from a cover to a little stand, like so:

Image

This solves one of the big problems I had with my Kindle: reading as I'm eating lunch. I used to prop the Kindle up against whatever was laying on my desk. Now I can just use the cover!

It is a little odd, I suppose, that the cover flips up and over inside of opening like a book. I actually like it because it makes me feel like an old time reporter opening my notebook to take some notes for some important story. That might just be me though.

There is one minor disappointment, though it is more of a failing with the Kindle's software. The Kindle DX (yes, I owned both) had an auto rotating screen. Turn the device on its side, and the screen would rotate. You could even turn it upside down and the text would rotate.

The Voyage doesn't auto rotate, but you can set it to Landscape Mode which is handy. Sadly, you can't rotate the screen 360 degrees. Why does this matter? While the cover is nice standing upright, you can lay it on another angle like so:

IMG 3209

Which would be great if the screen wasn't upside down. Sad Panda.

That being said, I like the cover and I'd buy another one!


Kindle Voyage Screenshots of possible interest

It seems the old tap on opposite corners of the Kindle screen to take a screenshot does work on the Voyage (though I found it for me a little finicky as compared to doing the same on the Paperwhite) so I thought I'd share some screenshots.

The home screen is pretty much the same:

Home

There's a new Auto Brightness option that auto-adjusts the screen's brightness depending on the room's illumination. I have disabled it because I know better than my Kindle:

Brightness

PagePress can be toggled on and off:

Pagepress

And you can set how much Feedback you want. Also, this is the first set of Kindle setting screens that uses a graphic (as far as I recall):

Vibration

And you can also set the amount of press it takes to turn the page:

Pressure Settings

If you want to see any more screenshots just let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Update 1:

Here's a look at the font options (which are unchanged):

Fonts


Kindle Voyage thoughts


Kindle1andvoyage

A year ago I reviewed the Kindle Paperwhite for TechHive and I said:

I’d like to see Amazon bring back physical page forward and back buttons. Having dedicated buttons allow you to rest your finger on the button and press down when you need to turn the page, instead of moving a finger to tap on the screen. A minor detail, but one that would make for a more pleasant reading experience.

Amazon listened, kind of, with the Kindle Voyage. The Voyage doesn't have dedicated page buttons in the traditional sense, it has page turn areas either side of the screen. One is marked with a dot (page back) and the other is a line (page forward). Squeeze either and the Kindle buzzes to let you know and the page turns.

I love PagePress, though I will say that the first few times I used it I accidentally paged back by touching the screen when trying to squeeze the PagePress button. It isn't happening now that I've got the hang of it, but something to be aware of.

Now, this isn't a full review because other people have done that, but I will say that screen is great. Not being recessed makes a big difference (even though I didn't think it would), and the light seems a little more even than the Paperwhite 2.

The Voyage is without a doubt the best Kindle ever. You should buy one and use my link to do it.

Since this isn't a full review I asked folks on Twitter if they had any questions, and some did. Here they are:

I think this is a reference to Kindle Unlimited (Amazon's subscription library of ebooks). I haven't tried it, and Oyster doesn't work with the Voyage.

Not fragile at all! In fact, since the front is one solid surface it feels a little sturdier to me than the Paperwhite 2 (which wasn't a flimsy device itself!). I don't think a case is needed, but I do like the Amazon case that I bought.

Nope.

I think so. The screen is much better, and I didn't like the unevenness of the lighting on the Paperwhite 1. The Voyage (and the Paperwhite 2) doesn't have the same issue (and the screen is much better).

Sometimes you should believe the hype, and that is the case with the Voyage's screen. It is great.

The Voyage's software is nearly identical to that on the Paperwhite, which means the typography is the same as well. No cool auto-hyphenation or widow/orphan prevention.

Yes and yes.

I didn't have a cover on my Paperwhite, but I'm a fan of the origami cover for the Voyage.

I like the little buzz when you use PagePress, but you can turn it off (or make it even more buzzy).

It is just as responsive as the Paperwhite 2, which suited my needs. There is a slight lag when you press to select something, but page turns are quick (and that's what I'm doing most of the time on the Kindle.


The Amazon Fire Phone

FirephonebookHey, I wrote another book! This one, as you might suspect from the title, is all about the Amazon Fire Phone.

The phone didn't get rave reviews from the tech press, but I think it is a pretty nifty device (I may be biased). It has a bunch of neat features, the OS is pretty clear and easy to use, and it makes getting your Amazon content (books, movies, and music) very simple. Also, can I tell you how much I love browsing the Kindle book store in a native app? Because I do (you can't do that on the iPhone because Amazon won't give Apple the 30% that they charge for in app purchasing).

Anyway, buy my book if you have a Fire Phone. Or if you want a Fire Phone. Or if you want to support my writing career. Or if you're bored. You know, just buy the dang book!

Note: Some people will wonder why I wrote a book about the Fire when my every day phone is an iPhone (a 6 plus to be precise). I wrote about why I really can't switch from an iPhone before but it boils down to: unlimited data and iMessages.