It’s about time…

Classic literature may be timeless, but it can still make you late for work.  🙂

Checking the Time

When reading your Kindle, you may want (or perhaps, need) to know what time it is.

Fortunately, your Kindle has a built-in clock, so you don’t have to tear your eyes away from that latest freebie to look at your wrist.  Oh wait, you probably don’t wear a watch any more.  Well, you won’t have to pull out your cell phone.  😉

On the Kindle 1, you hit Alt+ t on the keyboard.  The time will appear in your bottom left.  One kind of cool thing: if you are reading a book, the time appears in words (like “ten after nine”) instead of as numbers, which it will do in other modes.

If you have a Kindle 2 or Kindle DX, you hit the Menu button.  While the menu is displayed, you’ll see the time at the top of the screen.

Setting the Time

I remember a few years ago when a talk show host complained about having to set something like eighteen clocks when Daylight Savings Time changed.  I was thinking, “Don’t your clocks set themselves?”  Almost all of mine do: cell phone, cable box, computers…I have “atomic clocks” on the wall, so they update when they get the time signal from Denver (six times a day, I think).  I have to set the microwave (which is easy) and the cars (which aren’t).  Oh, and the clocks on the nightstands…hmm, I’ll have to look at getting smarter clocks.  😉

Your Kindle is like that: it gets its time signal from the network.  It isn’t possible to set the clock yourself (through the normal interface).  Most of the time, that’s fine.

De-synchronize Your Watches

The weird thing is what happens if your Kindle doesn’t have access to the Whispernet.   You would think the clock would just keep running, and except for the Daylight Savings Time thing, you’d be okay.   Reportedly, though, your clock can get out of sync…and if it does, without a time signal, it will stay out of sync.

It appears to reset itself to January 1, 1970.  If you aren’t a techie, that might seem like an odd choice.  It has to do with Unix, and Linux, and…well, that’s diving in to the deep end of the geek pool.  Suffice it to say that a lot of computer systems start counting from January 1 1970 at midnight.   Not all of them do (there used to be a problem with Excel spreadsheets made on a Mac then put on a PC…the dates would get off because Macs counted dates from 1904 and PCs from 1900). 

You might think, “My clock is off…no big deal.”  Well, did you think you were the only person using that clock, buddy?  😉  The Kindle uses it, too.  When the Kindle sets a date for when you last read a book, it uses its internal clock.  When it sorts your books by Most Recent First, it looks at that “last read time” (or “last downloaded”), which it got from the clock.

Let’s say it is September 1, 2009.  Your Kindle forgets what time it is, and thinks it is 1970.  Well, outside of the Beatles breaking up, your next big problem is that your Kindle thinks you took a break from reading Stephen King’s UR in 1970.  Your other books retain their 2009 (or 2008 or 2007) timestamps.  So, your most recently read book now appears at the back of the list. 

Each time you open a book (until your clock is resynched), it will get that new timestamp in 1970 (eventually, 1971…the clock should continue to advance).   That messes up the Most Recent order.

How Can You Fix It?

Well, the manual, grunt work method is to open your books one at a time (going back to Home in between) in the reverse order in which you want them listed.  You can do them one right after the other, but if you think of it it as one a day, it may make it easier.  You open the first one, it thinks it was January 1, 1970.  You open one the next day, it thinks it is January 2, 1970.  So, the one you opened first is at the back of the line.

I found an interesting post in Jim Shrempp’s online Kindle diary for April 9:

The poster was on a trip to the UK, and the Kindle experienced the “off clock” that I describe above.  He reproduces what he says is a message from Amazon Customer Service (and it does look like one to me).  They say that

When Kindle is reset, the clock reverts to 1979 and then updates wirelessly after restarting. If Kindle hasn’t connected to a wireless signal since its been reset, a 1979 time stamp will be applied to items you open or add since the reset, which will then appear at the bottom of your Home screen list.

 I’m guessing that the 1979 is just a mistake for 1970, either in the CS message or when it might have been transcribed to the diary.

It’s interesting that they suggest a reset being the problem.  I don’t think it happens every time you reset, although I suppose it might and people just don’t notice.  Anecdotally, I’ve had people say that they have had the wireless of for a very long time (in Kindle time…like a year) and not had it lose track.   It’s certainly possible it was reset during that time.   

The other interesting thing is that they suggest turning the Whispernet on, even if you are outside of the range of the Whispernet (even in another country).   Apparently, your Kindle could pick up a time signal from another carrier, even though it can’t establish a “functional data connection to Amazon”.  In other words, even though you can’t download books, you might be able to set the clock.

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

5 Responses to “It’s about time…”

  1. Nurse K Says:

    Oddly, it’s January 1, 1980, not 1970, although you’d expect it to be 1970 because the OS is descended from UNIX.

    It’s not 1979 either. Perhaps it’s 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 1979 and it becomes 1980 by the time I check it in the file system? No. Because the files like the .mbp files that don’t change unless you do something are and stay exactly as follows (on the Mac): “Jan 1, 1980, 12:00 AM”.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for the comments, Nurse!

      I’m not quite sure I understand. In your first comment, you cite two sources that indicate it should be 1970, right? In the second, you’re indicating it is actually 1980? That’s possible. I always like to know what is correct, but fortunately, it doesn’t make a difference to the advice whether it’s 1970 or 1980 or 2005. 🙂 If it resets to a date that is long enough ago that the Kindle clock won’t catch up to when you actually read a book, the same techniques apply.

      The .mbp file Nurse cites is the “associated information” file for .azw files. Those are the most common files for books from the Amazon store. The speculation is that it stands for “Amazon Whispernet”. When you do things with those books (like bookmarks and notes), you don’t actually edit the original file. It’s stored in a second file, which has the extension of “.mbp” (it’s been suggested that is from “Mobipocket”, which Amazon also owns). The other format from the Kindle store, known as Topaz (and with an .azw1 or .tpz extension) used .tan (“Topaz annotation”?) files for the same purpose. I’ll talk more about those files at another time.

      I think it’s possible the files come defaulted to 1980, and then mark the “most recently read date” after reading, while the Kindle clock resets to 1970. Just guessing, though…

  2. Nurse K Says:

    Wikipedia on the UNIX epoch:

    Why is the Kindle epoch 10 years later?

    Macintosh UNIX uses the 1970 epoch, so that’s not the issue:

  3. Mark Alexander Says:

    I don’t have a Kindle yet, but do use Linux. It’s true that the Unix “epoch” is Jan 1, 1970. That’s apparently the time of day that the Kindle reverts to when it’s reset and there’s no Whispernet service. (This is going to be a problem for me if I buy a Kindle, because I live outside the Sprint service area.) But the file system where your documents are stored is a FAT file system, if I understand correctly. My recollection of FAT file systems is that the earliest timestamp they support is Jan 1, 1980.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      That makes sense, Mark, thanks! I’ll try to double-check it, but I was thinking the 1970 and 1980 dates floating around might refer to two different things.

      Amazon has indicated you may be able to pick up the time signal from a different provider.

      If you are =always= out of sync, you’ll be okay. 🙂

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