Two cool things about the Kindle Fire HD

Twoool things about the Kindle Fire HD

I’ve been using my Kindle Fire HD 7″ 16 GB (KFHD) for several days now. I’ve already given you my first impressions.

I’ve used it at home (including over a weekend) and at work, and although I haven’t gone through it systematically yet, I’m finding some cool things. :) I thought I’d take this post and share a couple of  them with you:

Ivona text-to-speech (TTS)

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of text-to-speech (TTS). I’ve been listening to it, typically for hours a week, since the Kindle 2.

With the Kindle Fire 1st Generation, there wasn’t TTS that worked with Kindle store books (although I did use it with free books in text format from Project Gutenberg).

Well, the KFHD has the

IVONA

TTS app, and I believe the specific voice is Salli.

I listened to We Bought a Zoo, the basis for the movie with Matt Damon.

I was impressed!

Sallie is considerably better than Tom (one of the voices on the RSKs…Reflective Screen Kindles).

Salli was smoother and more natural sounding. If you listened to TTS a few years ago and rejected it, I’d give it another try. It’s not perfect…a “parking COM-plex” was pronounced as a “parking com-PLEX”. It used the pronunciation for something that was complicated.

That’s a minor thing.

There were some pretty complicated (or should I say, “com-PLEX”) ;) words, and they were handled well. The only problem I had was that there was also quite a bit of French…I’m not sure if I would have known how to pronounce if I had sight-read it (my linguist kid says I use a stage French accent…sure, I learned it from Maurice Chevalier and Pepe Le Pew). Those were just proper nouns, for the most part, and didn’t impede it.

Something that disconcerted me at first, but that I like now, is that, when you turn your KFHD from portrait to landscape, the TTS stops. That could be a convenient way to cut off something when someone walks into the room…maybe something you’d rather not share. ;)

With the previous TTS, some people with print disabilities wanted faster speeds…well, you have them now.  You can go up to 4 times speed, which is too fast for me for convenient listening.

I can also see the impact of the improved battery charge life…TTS is a gobbler, and the KFHD handles it better than the KF1.

Overall, an improved feature I’ll use frequently.

To start TTS:

Tap towards the top middle of the screen, then tap Aa.

Turn TTS on.

You’ll get a play button, and you can start playing. To stop it playing, just tilt the device…if you started in landscape (wider than it is tall), go to portrait (taller than it is wide), and vice versa.

The camera

Yes, it’s a front-facing camera (it is looking at you when you are looking at the screen), so it’s designed more for video calls for taking pictures of other people.  You can certainly do that, though…you just have to get used to looking the opposite direction of the thing that you are photographing. It’s like brushing your hair in the mirror.

There doesn’t seem to be a built-in way to use the camera, which is a bit odd, but easily remedied.

You can use this free app from the Amazon Appstore:

PicShop Lite

When you open it up, there is a handy little instruction about where to click…it’s on a picture in your bottom left corner of the screen. You can then choose

Camera

(although you can also choose Gallery or Facebook if you just want to edit).

There’s a slider on the screen which is the zoom, and a blue button which is the shutter.

There is also something that looks like three sliders, like on an equalizer for sound. Tap that, and you can adjust the exposure, the mode, and all that stuff.

Once you take the picture, you can discard it with an X, or save it and work on it with a checkmark.

If you use the checkmark, you get edits and filters…there are more things, but they are locked in the free edition.

If you want to save it, there is what now seems to be a common symbol for saving…what looks like a 3.5″ floppy diskette. :) I wonder how many people have no idea what that is? You can then just save it (only low quality in the free edition), tweet it or send it to Facebook.

I haven’t found an easy place to find it from the app: it says it is in the “camera roll”, but I don’t know where that is. I’ve asked them, and I’ll let you know what I hear back.

I find them using the free

ES File Explorer

app, which I highly recommend. They are in the DCIM folder.

ES File Explorer can also access the camera…and very well!

Launch ES File Explorer, and tap AppMgr at the top of the screen.

Tap Category, and choose System Apps.

Then, tap Camera, and choose Open (rather than Detail).

Now, you can use all three functions of the camera app…still pictures, video, and panorama.

From there, you can use it with apps, including with the built in e-mail app.

That panorama thing is fun…you slowly turn the KFHD, and you get a big sweeping panorama…something they were touting on the iPhone 5. :)

I’ve also used

Audio, Photo, Video to E-Mail LITE

It does what it says. You can record audio, video, or take a picture, and easily e-mail it.

It’s an ad-supported app (free, but ads appear in it), and I’ll need to use it a bit more to do a real report.

One of my favorite apps works on the KFHD:

Paper Camera

It makes the world look like different things…my favorite is a pencil sketch. If you do take a picture with that, it shows up in the Photos tab…and you can also e-mail from there.

I also did buy (for $2.99) the

Juice for Roku

app.

You need to have a Roku to use this, and you need to install a free channel.

Once you’ve done that, though, you can “throw” pictures wirelessly from your KFHD to your TV!

It’s a bit slow establishing the connection, but from there, it was pretty easy. You can also send videos, but I think only your personal videos…I still need to test that one.

One last thing about images, and this was found by Tink-erbell ♛, one of the Kindle Forum Pros.

You can take a screenshot!

Hold down the lower volume button (the one nearest the middle of the device) and the power button at the same time for about a second, and it will take a picture of whatever is on the screen (I’ve heard it does not work with video).

The picture then shows up in Photos.

Well, there you go! Two cool things (with some “sub-things”) ;) about the KFHD.

I know some of this was a bit sketchy…if you have any questions, feel free to ask. Found anything else cool? My readers and I would appreciate you commenting on this post.

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

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30 Responses to “Two cool things about the Kindle Fire HD”

  1. Sheryl Painter Says:

    Yeah – you just made my day! TTS is back. I was holding my breath to see what you thought of it before purchasing the new Fire HD. Without it, my original Fire was going to stay in my hand. My birthday is coming up…..and the Fire HD just went on my wish list! You are wonderful to continue to inform us of all the features you are finding. Thank you!!!!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Sheryl!

      Yay! I’m glad that was helpful for you! I’m looking forward to my commute today with Salli. :)

      I’m not sure that Amazon is great at letting people know about the features. I picture the R&D folks (Research and Development) saying, “Ooh, you know what would be cool? If you could stop the text-to-speech with a simple tip of the wrist.” They make it work, send it off…and the marketing folks say, “Thanks,” and a robot sticks it in a box with a smile on it. ;)

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I just finished reading this KFHD review:

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/09/when-your-best-just-isnt-good-enough-the-kindle-fire-hd/

    and after ubgritting my teeth, I thought I’d just pass along how much I appreciate your more informed/objective comments on the KFHD.

    The woman who wrote the above review seems to have a bug in her ear about Amazon and Bezos in particular. She’s not alone — I find a lot of the mainstream and technology press have similar viewpoints: mindlessly focusing on “speeds and feeds” while missing the larger business model objectives.

    Two things mentioned in the above review seemed reasonable: one had to do with the mediocrity of the camera’s output, and the other dealing with the “choppiness” of internet browsing.

    As to the latter my own experience has been that web browser performance has little to do with the end-user device (I myself have over 15 devices ranging from low performance to gaming screamers and server class machines — all are “choppy” from time to time), and have more to do with your ISP’s state at that instant and the sites being browsed (some sites are mashups with ads that can involve uploading tens of different sites just to get to a single page). Attempting to compare web browsing performance related to end user devices IMO is a fool’s errand. On my first generation KF, I have not noticed that the Silk browser is any better or worse than any of my other devices/laptops/desktops/servers — all can be fast, and all can experience maddening unexplained delays. This across a variety of browsers, devices, and ISPs.

    As to the camera quality, you explained how to USE the camera to take pictures (a device that is there primarily to be used with SKYPE), but you give no impressions of the quality of the result — I’d be interested in your impressions both as a picture taking device and as the imager in a videophone scenario.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      It’s a thorough review, and I think people can get information out of it. Tech blogs tend to have a natural bias in favor of hardware, and against content (particularly books, in my experience).

      As to the quality of the pictures, I haven’t had a chance to test it enough…and I may not be the best judge, honestly. I’m not that picky about it. I need to find a good subject for a still, and somebody with whom to Skype, and then I’ll know. :)

      I’m hoping we get Tango…that’s what I use (which is rare) on my Android. I do want to find a way to easily use the video call feature at work…

  3. Linda Finch Says:

    Hi there! I found your comments really helpful, thank you. Just one thing I wanted to ask. What do you make of the Amazon apps store? Are there a good supply of popular apps there? I’m a bit disappointed that you can’t download from the google play apps store onto KFHD.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Linda!

      When an app is in the Amazon Appstore for the Fire, Amazon has reviewed it and determined that it works and doesn’t hurt the KFHD. They allow you to install apps from other places (I’ve done that), through a setting in the device.

      However, it’s Google Play that has to recognize the Fire as a device for their store, I believe.

      Many of the most popular apps are available…you can see Kindle Fire HD apps here:

      Kindle Fire HD apps

      For example, they have Netflix, Pinterest, Angry Birds, Temple Run, and so on.

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        One downside I’ve noticed with the Amazon App store v Google’s (this behavior I see with my KF — maybe it’s better with KFHD) is that there is no access to portable device apps providing access to Google’s own services such as Google+ and Google Reader (the two I’d like to have on my KF).

        I’m told this is so because access to Google services requires a logon to your Google account, and that the way Amazon forks away from standard Android prevents that (some have said you can get around this by rooting your KF — something I’m not willing to do).

        No matter what the technical niceties may (or may not) be, competition between Amazon and Google may be the ultimate limiting factor as to app coverage in the two stores.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        Actually, it’s a little easier on the Kindle Fire 1st Generation (KF1) than the KFHD (Kindle Fire High Definition) at this point. :)

        You can get the Maxthon browser in the Amazon Appstore:

        With that, I have access to all the Google services I use…I haven’t tested Google+, but I just checked Google Reader for you: no problem.

        For my KFHD, I got Maxthon from the Maxthon site, since it isn’t approved yet for the KFHD…although it seems to work fine.

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        Maybe I’m not communicating too well — I’ve always been able to access the Google services via a browser (even Silk) on my KF. It’s the dedicated Google apps that don’t work. These apps offer far better capabilities (at least for Google Reader and Google+) than what you can get via the browser.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        Oh, sorry…no, I saw that you said “apps”, but I was thinking that you just meant “access”. I haven’t found Silk friendly for Google Calendar and Google Docs, but Maxthon was.

        It’s entirely possible the Google apps wouldn’t work on the Kindle Fires, but I don’t know.

        The KFHD does let you set up your Google calendar to work in its native calendar app…that’s nice, and easy. However, it appears to only display the default calendar for each account. Regardless, that doesn’t solve your app concern, I know…

        Sorry for my confusion on what you had said clearly. :)

  4. The Kindle Chronicles - TKC 216 Jeff Belle Says:

    [...] Tips - Via Bufo Calvin and others, here is how to make a screenshot with your Kindle Fire HD: hold down the lower-volume [...]

  5. Sandy Says:

    My husband gave me a Kindle as a gift. But I still prefer to read on my iPhone. Can you recommend me good apps? iBook is kind of too small. The rankings not always show the best app, they should hire firms like http://madvertise.com/en/ to get better Marketing.

  6. Mary Says:

    Help. I have the new Fire HD and I changed my subscription for I Love my Kindle to go to that device but I don’t know where to find. I did the software update that I was prompted to do when I change the subscription. Can you give me any direction? Thank you.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Mary!

      I’m glad you are concerned about it, but sorry you aren’t getting it yet.

      To my knowledge (and I just double-checked), you can’t subscribe to it through the Kindle store for a Fire (HD or 1st generation).

      You can use the Pulse app to get it, but interestingly, it doesn’t come pre-installed on the HD as it did on the KF1.

      You can still get it, though:

      Pulse News

      Once you download it, here’s how you get ILMK in it:

      Click the menu icon (the horizontal lines in a box) at the bottom of the screen

      Choose Manage Sources

      Tap the blue bar with the plus on it

      Tap the Search magnifying glass at the top of the screen

      Tap the Search box and type ILMK

      Tap the magnifying glass

      It should find I Love My Kindle at http://ilmk.worpdress.com/feed/. Tap the blue plus box at the end of that line. It will say “Added”

      Tap the back arrow…you can drag it to the top of your feeds, if you want, or wherever you want it to be

      • Mary Says:

        thanks, I was able ti install pulse and again have access to I Love My Kindle. Love this Fire, so much fun and easy.

  7. Sophie Rachel Says:

    That is why I am in love with my Kindle device. You name it, it does it. :) The voice feature is superb and it helps my cousin put down notes on his journal from his lecture recordings he may have missed.

    Good post

    Regards

    .S-

    Kindle covers UK

  8. Round up #127: Screenshots, don’t wait on the ‘White « I Love My Kindle Says:

    [...] I previously wrote about how to do it on the Kindle Fire HD, and that had been reported by a Kindle Forum Pro, Tink-erbell ♛. [...]

  9. Updates for 7″ Kindle Fires, iDevices « I Love My Kindle Says:

    [...] For other camera apps you can use, see this earlier post. [...]

  10. D. Knight Says:

    Just FYI, Bufo –

    Amazon has just released a new update for the Fire HD. The only reason I know about it is because I was on a long call to Kindle CS trying to trouble-shoot a problem and the 8.9 Fire HD starting updating in the middle of the call (Amazon had released it at that moment). Don’t know what other models are involved in the update.

  11. larry gropper Says:

    how do you change the speet of the reader on text to speed?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, larry!

      I’m going to assume you have a Kindle Fire HD, since you are commenting on a post about them. If you don’t, please comment again.

      When you hit the play button for the text-to-speech, you’ll see a button that says “1X” off your right side of the position indicator (in line with the play button). You can tap that to adjust the speed…it starts at 1X (for 1 “times” or, normal speed) and can go up to 4X (and down to .7x).

  12. September Says:

    You’re right! It is Salli. I’m the voice actress for her. Glad you’re mostly happy with it :)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, September!

      I’m honored! You’ve made me look forward to my commutes. :)

      Would it be okay if I contacted you privately by e-mail? I think my readers would be really interested in your insight and experiences, and if you would be willing to be interviewed, I could ask you a few questions that way.

  13. It’s ILMK’s 4th birthday! | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Two cool things about the Kindle Fire HD […]

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