Slogging the web: using the Kindle’s experimental web browser

Imagine yourself on a surfboard, the powerful Pacific swelling beneath you, driving you forward, a tropical breeze ruffling your hair…

Now picture yourself in hip waders, dragging yourself through thigh deep sludge, the fetid smell assaulting your nostrils.  When you finally do get somewhere, you are so relieved you plop down, immediately sucked into a cesspool-like embrace.  You struggle to free yourself before it is too late, and begin exhaustedly moving towards the next destination.

You know that second one?  That’s what using the web browser on the Kindle is like.  That’s why I call it slogging the web.  ;)

Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  I just like to make it clear to people that it’s not like being on your laptop.  I have used it, and even for some practical purposes.  It’s just not pleasant.

Buying books

First, let’s separate out the Kindle store.  That’s pretty fast, actually.  You can download a book in under a minute, typically.  I’ve found it tends to be ten seconds or so for me.  The Wikipedia thing is also pretty fast.

Websites

It’s the websites where you will feel it.  It can take ten seconds just to load a site.  You can go pretty much anywhere you want (parents, that includes adult sites).  You won’t see motion, though, and you won’t hear sound.

E-mail

You can get your e-mail through the Kindle, but again, it’s very hard.  I’ll give you more detail later on in this post.  Let’s get to the practical points of using the browser.

Getting to a website

The standard way to get there is Menu-Experimental-Basic Web.  That works, but I find it easier to type in the basic name of the website (like Fandango), and flick right until I get to Google for the search.  That’s on a K2 or KDX: no flicking on the K1. 

It’s worth pointing out that all websites are not the same.  Some are optimized for “mobile devices”, and that is what the Kindle is.  In terms of getting on the web, it’s pretty much like a lot  of cell phones.

I like this as a portal to mobile-friendly websites:

Cantoni 

Definitely bookmark that on your Kindle. I’ll tell you how later. When you get to Cantoni, you’ll see a list of categories, including Entertainment, News, and Shopping.

As a general tip, you can look for the mobile version of websites by typing “m.website.com”  (m.google.com, for example), in your address bar on your computer It will convert that to the appropriate web address. It won’t work a lot of the time, though.

What makes something mobile friendly? Usually, fewer pictures, simpler page elements…that kind of thing.

Changing the settings

What if the site you visit isn’t mobile friendly?  While you are in browser mode, do Menu-Settings.

The first thing to try switching is between advanced and basic mode.  I usually use basic mode, in which I have trouble logging into something…then I’ll switch to advanced.  I’m not trying to enjoy a website the same way I would on a PC: I’m usually just trying to get to the information.

For the same reason, I usually have the images disabled.  Sometimes, you have to click on an image to make something happen, and it may be easier to have them enabled to see that.  Yes, every once in awhile, I do want to see the image.  :)  I was in the car once, and wanted to show somebody a picture on IMDB

The other one you can change is Javascript.  That’s a programming language, basically, and it’s used a lot.  I tend to keep it off, and it’s always off in Basic Mode.  Again, if something doesn’t work, try turning it back on.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear…or, um, three things ;)

While you are in that Menu-Settings thing, you probably noticed options to clear Cache, History, and Cookies.  It can be very important that you clear things.

Cache

The cache consists of locally stored copies of websites you’ve visited.  It’s the same thing on your computer.  I’m simplifying, but that’s pretty much it.  Why do computers and the Kindle do that?  To speed up you looking at a website again.  When you first visit a website, it make take a long time to load.  But you can go to another one on a computer, then hit back, and it pops right up.  That’s because it copied itself to your device.  The negative is that it isn’t pulling down on the current information.  Deleting the cache is one of the things you can do to troubleshoot.  If you can’t log into a website that you’ve tried before, definitely delete the cache and try again.  It appears to me that the Kindle may remember a time it failed…and just keep failing.  I know of people who do that too, ;) but the therapy on a Kindle is simpler.  :)  Also, your cache can be taking up a significant part of the memory on your Kindle.

History

The history is a a list of which websites you’ve visited.  It doesn’t take up anywhere near the memory that the cache does, but clearing it out can help.  The History can be helpful, though.  When you are in browser mode and hit Menu, one of the choices is History.  That can make it easier to revisit a site.  Still, if you are having problems, deleting the history might help.

Cookies

This one is a bit trickier, both on a computer and on a Kindle.  When you visit a site, it may put a “cookie” on your device.  It’s a small file that identifies you to the website when you return.  Have you ever gone away from Amazon, come back, and had it know who you are and make recommendations…even though you didn’t log in that time?  That’s probably through a cookie.  Cookies can be wrong, though, again particularly if you failed doing something before.  You may want to try clearing (not tossing ;) ) your cookies if you are having problems.   However, they may mean you will have to enter a password again, when it used to remember it.

Bookmarks

Bookmarks on the Kindle aren’t those cute little things you stick in a paperbook (p-book).   They are actually like your Favorites in your web browser on your computer.  If you go to Menu while you are in browser mode for your Kindle, you’ll get a choice to go to your bookmarks.  Some bookmarks come with it, but you can add more.  Again, that save you typing in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) every time you want to go somewhere.

When you are visiting a website, you can do Menu-Bookmark this page to add one.  This can be especially useful when you get into a page after several steps of navigation.  For example, I get into the flight status for a relative’s flight.  I bookmark that page, to make it easier to check up on it again.  I’ve actually done that at breakfast, and found out that the plane was running late.

When you are in the bookmark listing, you can flick left (on everything but a K1) to remove the bookmark, or flick right to edit it.  All you can do is change the name, though.

Other Menu choices

The other choices you have in Menu in browser mode are pretty simple.  You can Turn Wireless Off, Shop in Kindle store, Go to Top, or Enter URL. 

The Address Bar

Speaking of entering a URL, there is an “address bar” at the top of the screen, similar to what you would have in a browser on your computer.  When you enter an address, don’t use the http:// (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) part, but do use the www (Worldwide Web) part.  Remember, you can skip all this from the homepage of your Kindle if you type in the main part of the website, and then search on Google. 

You’ll see a choice to reload after you’ve gotten somewhere: that will pull down the new information.  That’s what I have to do with the flight information.  As you flick right (on anything but a K1), you’ll see a few more options, like Google or Wikipedia.

You have mail

People ask if you can get e-mail on your Kindle.  Yes, but it’s by going to the mobile version of your e-mail provider’s website.  I’ve used AOL and g-mail.   Again, I wouldn’t run my business by it, but it works in a pinch.  There’s some confusion because your Kindle has its own e-mail address, but that is for personal documents.  You can use that to send someone a message, but your e-mail address has to be authorized as a sender, and you are charged fifteen cents a megabyte (rounded up) in the US.

Power usage

Oh, it does eat up the power like mad, especially when it can’t find a connection.  Trying to find a connection seems to be a real strain…sort like dating.  ;)  I keep the wireless off when I’m not using it.

Well, that’s the main information for everything but a K1 (maybe I’ll add that later).  Again, it’s not pleasant, but doable.  The nook and the Sony won’t allow it, and I think people may miss that more who never had it.  I do use it, but it’s a struggle every time…and I’m a pretty darn patient person.  :)

If you have more questions, or want to tell stories about how it has helped you (or not), feel free to leave me a comment.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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5 Responses to “Slogging the web: using the Kindle’s experimental web browser”

  1. Brian Says:

    Hi

    You seem to know a ton about Kindle…any idea why Amazon is not allowing Canadian users to access the blogs feature, and do you know if they are planning to add that in the near future. I would love to get one, and I really want the blogs feature.

    Thanks
    Brian

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Amazon is generally not allowing subscription to blogs through the Kindle store outside of the US. My guess is that it has to do with the cost that Amazon pays for wireless. My blog, for example, is generally updated every day (and so far, sometimes more than once in a day). That would be a lot of wireless for which they had to pay. Of course, newspapers are similar, so it’s hard to say exactly. :)

      For obvious reasons, we bloggers would love it if people in other countries could subscribe! One thing I’m planning to do is compile every hundred posts or so into a separate publication. I’m working on that right now, and hope to post the first one to the store in the next few days. I know that’s not the same, because it won’t have the timeliness, but at least you could easily have the information on your Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you could probably get it on the Kindle for PC app, but I’m not sure what limitations they are putting on titles for Canadians for that yet.

  2. Patricia J Ingram Says:

    It’s Sax Rohmer, not Max Rohmer. Gaston Max is the name of one of his characters.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks, Patricia! If I made that mistake, it was a typo. :) I know Sax Rohmer…not personally. ;) I’ll check it and fix it.

      I do appreciate that…I sometimes have to write these quickly, and a few typos can get by. ;)

  3. Peter Fogarty Says:

    I found a way to get every Kindle user back on that wave! I have built a website called http://www.anysubjects.com and I have taken the hassle out of browsing with a Kindle online.

    I built a website which is designed to be viewed with a Kindle. I then only linked to websites which are Kindle – friendly, i.e you did not need to change the font size or the screen settings to see what you were looking for.

    I have then searched the web for all the other people who made short lists of Kindle browsers. I have hundreds, if not thousands of links ready, and think you will love what I have done.

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