Monthly Archives: October 2009


More thoughts on the Kindle (and other things)

I’ve now really started using the Kindle in earnest, and I’ve gotta say I’m a pretty happy camper.  Though as previously mentioned it is somewhat heaver than I was expecting, it is great for reading on the crowded trains since one can flip through the “pages” one-handed.  I find myself pulling out the Kindle whenever I’ve got more than 5 minutes to spare (of course, it helps that I’m reading a really good book, but more on that at a later date) and reading a few pages before the next stop.

I actually hadn’t intended to gripe about anything Kindle-related right now, but now that I think about it, I do find myself wishing for a better Kindle case than the one I have.  The current cover is one that feels good, doesn’t add too much heft or thickness, at least keeps the screen protected when it’s in my bag.  The downside to it is that it flips open too easily.  In other words, a strap of some sort, or some kind of unobtrusive locking mechanism would be better.  Oh, and if waterproofing could be incorporated into the case/cover, it’d be perfect! (something to consider when a typhoon is blowing)  But enough of the gripe – I’m sure a better case will come out soon enough.

What I had actually wanted to talk about was free books.  EBooks, to be precise.  I’ve actually known of Project Gutenberg for some years now.  Back when I was still in university and working part time, a friend showed me a CD containing hundreds of books he had downloaded and saved to read later.  I thought the concept was great – thousands of books readily available to read – for FREE?  And we’re not talking about unknown novellas that no-one’s heard about either – many great classics by such authors such as Dickens, Keats, Victor Hugo, Mark Twain, Emily Bronte, Tolstoy, R. L. Stevenson… too many to list here.  But many of their works are freely available to download and read.

What enthused me less though, was that…well… they were “E”books – meaning they could only be read on a computer.  Now… many of us work in front of a computer all day.  The last thing we want to do is come back home and sit in front of another computer.  It also doesn’t make much sense to print out the books since we can probably get the Massmarket Paperback version for cheaper than the cost of printing ink and paper.  Finally, it’s really not practical to lug around a laptop to read on the train – not unless you want to expose your thousand-dollar system to the risk of dropping or the elements, as well as have to deal with the frustrations of batteries that deplete after 2-3 hours.

Well, no more.  The (yep, you guessed it!) Kindle (or any other modern eReader for that matter) solves this.  To be honest, I hadn’t really thought much about using the Kindle for reading free ebooks.  However, (again, as I’ve previously mentioned) I’ve realised that while the Kindle books are cheap(er) than most of their paperback counterparts, the ease of buying and getting a book means that I will probably be spending whatever I save in book costs getting new books!  Enter Project Gutenberg (and maybe later, Google Books).  I’ve just downloaded “The Count of Monte Cristo“, “Dracula“, “Great Expectations“, “War and Peace“, “Paradise Lost“, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes“, “Les Miserables“, and a dozen other books – all for free. 🙂

Amazon Kindle supports eBooks in the .mobi format, but unfortunately not the epub format.  However, there is even a workaround for that in the form of Savory – a freely available application that converts epub books into mobi format directly on the Kindle.  To be honest, I haven’t tried it yet since I have too many books to catch up on as it is, but it’s good to know that such an app is out there (and I really REALLY hope that Amazon isn’t so fussy about 3rd party apps that they’ll try to take it down).

Knowing that there are thousand of free books out there gives one even more reason to consider getting an eReader at some point.  While I fully FULLY agree that nothing can replace the feel, the smell, the texture, the “warm fuzzies” that one gets when holding a real book, I do think that eReaders are definitely going to become more commonplace as more and more content gets digitized.  I hate to say it, but I can easily picture younger generations growing up not ever handling a paper book; I can imagine a future where books are, if not luxuries, then at least regarded the same way something like the… abacus is viewed today – something functional, and even elegant… but somewhat antiquated.  Or perhaps the way the iPod has supplanted the cassette tape Walkman.

I think the quote by Douglas Adams (of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame) is quite applicable here:

  • 1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
  • 2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
  • 3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.



Kindle review part 2

Yesterday was my first day to actually really make use of the Kindle since I had a book that I wanted to finish up.  Here are further impressions:

The screen is wonderfully legible.  No strain on the eyes, and can be read under various lighting conditions.  However…with the iPhone being as ubiquitous as it is, this kind of device just begs to have a touchscreen incorporated into its design.  Everyone (really, EVERYONE) I’ve shown this to has tried to swipe their finger across it, to the point that before I hand it over, I tell them, “no, it’s not a touchscreen device, use the little controller down there”.

I am pleased to say that web browsing (admittedly limited to text friendly/”mobile” sites) is free in Japan.  No fees that I can see!  True, it’s not the speediest of surfing but definitely good enough for a quick wikipedia lookup, or browsing to look up the ingredients for hummus. 😉

That being said though, the Kindle is not the most ergonomic of devices.  I understand, a book is not “ergonomic” but this is a device that also supports web browsing as well as note taking.  Perhaps I’m too used to the Blackberry, but I find that the alphanumeric keys on the Kindle 2 are too widely spaced apart and too small.  Aesthetically pleasing perhaps, but the slightly curved keyboard of the Blackberry Bold is still hands down better.  At least there is not too much call for typing on this device yet.

Kindle 2 also supports text-to-speech.  However, it is under their “experimental” section, and it should probably stay there for the time being.  The voices (one can choose either male or female) are not horrible, but nothing to write home about either.  It’s the typical, somewhat monotone/robotic voice that most text-to-speech engines seem to feature.

I have not had the chance to purchase/test reading magazines or newspapers on the Kindle 2 just yet, and don’t see myself doing so anytime too soon for two reasons:

  • 1) It’s not in color!  The magazines I would subscribe to would primarily be technology-oriented, and I like to see my gadgets and gizmos they way they actually look instead of being rendered in grayscale.
  • 2) I am cheap/stingy. 😛 Let me elaborate on that though.  I could easily subscribe to, say, PC Magazine for the Kindle (which, at a $1.99 per issue is pretty cheap).  However, I have my country set to “United States” so that I can get the books for $2 cheaper than if I registered myself as anywhere else.  This however, means that wireless costs are now $1.99 per download…and I am currently not that desperate to spend $4 per month ($1.99 per magazine + $1.99 for wireless costs) for a monthly subscription.

I guess I must sound excessively grinch-like given that I am registering myself as a US user to shave $2 off books costs but hey – I buy books fairly frequently and even if I only bought 3 books a month, that’s 36 books a year (whereas I probably bought more like 50-60 books last year).  If I were charged an additional $2 dollars for 36 books, that would tack on $72, or $100 if I bought 50 books a year, etc.  That’s money that could better be spent on more books!  :p

Thus, what I currently do is have myself registered as a US user, buy books and choose to download to computer (rather than download wirelessly), and then copy it over to the Kindle.  It’s working for me so far 🙂

Right now I have to say that despite the cons, I am pretty happy with the Kindle.  I think I still need to spend more time with it to make sure I’m not still under the haze of “new gadget glee” (^^; but I can easily see myself making heavy use of this.  I do think though, that Amazon is going to have to keep on its toes – for example, there is little to no need for color when downloading/reading books, but I still think that this is one area that B&N got right with their “Nook” device – for websurfing, for magazine reading, for picture viewing… one needs color and I can only anticipate more users clamoring for this in the future.

Same goes for the touchscreen option.  Joysticks/thumb controllers are passé – touchscreen devices are definitely going to come more and more into play in the future and I’m sure that many upcoming e-readers will feature this.  For the time being though, I’m happy enough with my Kindle 2.  🙂

(I probably won’t write more about the Kindle 2 unless something new/cool is discovered or if anyone has particular questions they’d like to see answered)


BK + Windows 7 = ???

This boggles the mind… a Burger King Whopper featuring 7 patties – all to “celebrate” the release of Microsoft’s newest operating Windows 7.

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Update with a youtube video


A Kindle in hand…

Will hopefully be equal to 1,000+ books on a shelf!

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I just received my Amazon Kindle (U.S. and International version) last night and while I’ll attempt to try taking some pictures later on, here are a few of my initial impressions.

First off, this thing is thin!  I’ve seen the pictures, but actually having it in hand allows you to realize how slender it is.  That being said though, the Kindle 2 is also heavier than I had anticipated.  With no scale handy I can’t quite compare weight, but I can tell you that it is at least twice as heavy my typical mass market paperbacks, perhaps as heavy as your average hardcover.

The weight is something I don’t have too much problem with since I’m used to lugging around hardcovers with me all the time.  (Though bringing the recent “The Lost Symbol” to/from work on the train wasn’t much fun!)  Also, though it might be as heavy as a hardcover, it is also 1/3 as thick, leaving me alot more room in my bag.

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Visually, the screen is a pleasure to read.  I was pleasantly surprised at how crisp the text is, and how easy it is to read in various lighting conditions.  The “flash” one sees when “turning” a page is a little disconcerting at first, but one gets used to it pretty quickly.  Unfortunately the screen does not support color and is not touchscreen-capable (unlike B&N’s soon to be released “Nook“).

One good yet potentially “dangerous” point for avid book readers is the extreme ease of book purchasing.  You literally look for a book, click “buy” and boom – it’s available to read in less than a minute.  I bought this thing to a) save my bookshelves from overflowing b) reduce the weight of things I carry to/from work, and c) save money (since Kindle books are typically cheaper than an actual book).  Option (c) is going to be hard since it’s going to take a lot of willpower to resist spur-of-the-moment purchases of books that catch my fancy…

I have yet to use this for extended periods of time reading though I have just bought the book “The Name of the Wind” and intend to start on it once I’ve finished the current paperback that I’m reading.  I’ll probably post more about the Kindle experience in the coming days.


Don’t forget to fear the fuzzy!

This was the one post that was lost during the hacking attempt last month – sorry it took so long to restore it! 😛

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A quiet morning = brief update

It’s been wonderfully quiet at work this morning, hence a small posting (watch the phone start ringing off the hook as I begin typing…)

It’s been very busy lately.  The workload feels like it’s doubled over the last month and in addition to that, I’ve begun driving lessons (which was one of my “resolutions” for the year actually).  I actually signed up on September 27th, and since I do not want this to drag out, have made it my goal to complete the course/pass the tests/get the license by the end of November at the very latest.  So far I am on track to meeting my goal – I’ve just obtained my learner’s permit and, assuming I don’t get sick and miss classes (I’m mentioning that because I’m actually not feeling all that great right now), I should have all my lessons completed by the end of October.  Fingers crossed.

For those who are interested, I’m taking lessons at the Koyama driving school.  It is expensive as all get out, and it’s taken me some time to save up for that but…shouganai I guess…    The fact that the lessons and tests are all in English is what tacks on the extra premium.  On the other hand, the staff at Koyama do take good care of you and have been extremely helpful in helping me get my schedule all worked out and answering all my questions.

Last Sunday I passed the first half of the course and got my Learner’s permit – which means that I am now legally able to wreak havoc on the open road! (as long as someone else with sufficient experience is in the car with me).    The test was a bit nerve wracking since I haven’t taken tests in… wow… 4 years?  (since uni basically).

The test for the learner’s permit consists of a written (well, more like true/false) test, and a practical (driving) test.  I squeezed by the practical with the minimum score required (70 out of a 100) and somehow also passed the written though not sure by how much – I just know that to pass one needs 45 out of 50.

My next 2 weeks + weekends are going to be crammed with work + lessons – here’s hoping I don’t get sick and am able to finish everything!


1 post up!!

I know I haven’t written anything in ages, but honestly…there’s just been no time.  I have started to write posts then have had to drop it due to work.  When I get home, I’m just too burned out to sit down yet again at the computer…

However today I got the following image from a coworker and since it made me chuckle, I thought I’d quickly put it up.

Will try to work on getting other posts up….

(please click on the image to see it properly 🙂

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