Round up #63: Firestorm #2

Round up #63: Firestorm #2

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later. The Firestorm designation (used once before in Round up #48) is to indicate that these will be stories about the Kindle Fire. I am being careful to mix up the stories, so I don’t overwhelm people with one topic. Some of my readers are, understandably, not interested in the Fire (after all, it’s not very like the Kindle I loved when I started this blog)…but there are others that are. I figure by identifying this as a Fire based post, that should help. Not interested in the Fire? Read the previous post…or the next one. 🙂

I try a stylus

People who know me well would be surprised that I even tried a stylus. I’m a conga drummer, and I joke with kit drummers that they use sticks because they are too delicate to hit the drums without a tool. 😉 I often prefer to eat with my hands (at home…it’s safe to take me to a restaurant). 😉 However, I’d heard good things from people about using a stylus with the Kindle Fire (and other touchscreen devices).

What is a stylus?

It’s nothing tricky. It’s basically like a pen with a rubbery end where the writing part (is it a nib on a ballpoint?) would be. You use the squishy part to touch the screen, instead of your finger(s).

Well, I bought the

Acase 2nd Generation Apple iPad / Xoom/Transformer/Galaxy Tab/Iconia Tab/Play Book / All tablet PC Capacitive Stylus Newest Model(Metallic Silver)

At $7.99, it was inexpensive enough to try.

Well, I’m glad I keep an open mind. 🙂 I do like using it. One of the main reasons?   No fingerprints! I carry microfiber cloths with me to wipe down my touchscreens, and I was probably doing that a few times a day with the Kindle Fire. I can start up the Kindle Fire, open a book, “turn pages”, and so on, and it stays clean.

“Typing” is also better, faster, since it seems to recognize the touch of the stylus better than the touch of my finger. I also seem to be more accurate: i suspect that’s because the stylus is so much skinnier than a finger, which makes it easier to see the buttons. As an ambidexter, though, I was joking about getting two of them…you would think it would be faster to “hunt and peck” with two hands. However, since we are using “completion matching” much of the time anyway, that’s less significant.

Obviously, there are limitations. You can’t “pinch and spread” (put two fingers together on the screen and then separate them) to zoom in. I do generally like it.

I don’t like having to carry a second item. I have a case (see below), and it has a pen-type clip that lets me attach it to that. That works okay. They also did something clever with this model: they have a detachable loop…and one end of it plugs into the headphone jack, if you want. I’d find it a bit awkward to have the stylus dangling like that, but I can see how it could be useful if you didn’t use a cover.

Oh, and it does work on my Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi only, by the way, although I don’t find fingerprints as big an issue there (since the background doesn’t show them as much).

Kingston announces a wi-fi hard drive for the Fire

One of the concerns people express about the Kindle Fire is the amount of onboard memory (1.17GB for apps, 5.36GB for other content).

Well, Kingston Technology has announced in this

press release

that they will be releasing (later in Q1..before April) a 64GB version of their wi-drive…and that their wi-drive app will be available in Amazon Appstore (I just checked, and didn’t see it yet).

That’s going to allow you to carry around a device about the size of a SmartPhone, and store more videos/music and so on there. In the video on the press release page, they demonstrate that up to three devices can connect at the same time, and the broadcast range is about thirty feet ( a bit over nine meters).

You can get one now…it’s just the 64GB that’s coming later:

I’m assuming we’ll see the app soon. Based on those prices, by the way, I’d expect a 64GB version to cost more than $100.

I try the Elsse Folio case

Elsse (TM) Premium Folio Case for Kindle Fire Cover – Black (Extreme Value Buy)

As regular readers know, I recently lost a Kindle Fire, and a sleeve that I had for it went with it. When I was getting a new Fire, I wanted a new protector for it as well. It fits in a pocket I have, but the pocket has a zipper…I’m not comfortable pulling the flat bevel Fire (the screen is the same level as the surrounding area) in and out of there without protection.

I went with the Elsse case. I wanted something that would hold it in a video viewing position.

I did review some of the reviews first. I was having an interesting discussion about that with family members. I do look for the number of reviews when I’m looking at nonfiction or physical objects. It’s funny, but I’ve never really been able to get people to review my works at Amazon. If I was looking at Kindle Fire books, the fact that mine only has thirteen reviews would matter to me if others had hundreds (actually, I’m looking at it now…I’m not seeing a lot). I’ll probably need to do an article about that at some point…how you use reviews to decide what to buy. Does number of reviews matter? Do you read both good and bad? Hm…that’s for another time. 🙂

There were some concerns about the stability of the stand mode. Obviously, you don’t want it to fall face first.

Well, I would say it’s an acceptable cover for me. It feels a bit cheap…thin parts of it warp. It fits the Kindle Fire well, though, and the stand part does work for me. On a scale of one to five, I’d give it about a three. I’ll use it, it appears to provide protection…but it just seems cheaply made.

App roundup

ScreenDim Trial

One of my readers, JJ Hitt, recommended this one. There’s a free three-day trial version, and a paid version.

What it does is…make the screen dimmer. You can dim it all the way to black, if you want. That doesn’t, by the way, mean you can read outside…the letters are going to pretty much disappear.

In fact, they warn you (and set a minimum dimness, although you can change it) that if you set it to black…you won’t be able to see the controls you need to make it bright again!

I’ve tried using it in the dark, and yes, it’s more pleasant that way than with the normal brightness.

I’m not really a good person to judge this, because I see really well in the dark initially. I don’t think I’m going to buy it, but try it out for free and let me know if it helps you.

Alarm Clock, Calendar, ToDo List – Productivity Helper (Kindle Fire Edition)

First, a little disclosure: Abhi, who does the iReaderReview blog, which I recommend, and I have some minor correspondence (we’ve never met, though). I’ve positively reviewed apps for the RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Kindle Fire) that 7Dragons has done, and Abhi is connected with that (they did this app, too).

I did buy the app…I wasn’t give a comp edition, so no conflict there.

This app gives you a To Do List and an alarm clock.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find it very intuitive to use. For example, in the initial view that shows you the calendar, today’s date is in blue and underlined. What does that usually mean? It’s a hyperlink. In this case, though, it appears to just be indicating today’s date.

If I want to add an alarm, I don’t tap the alarm clock icon..or the plus above it. You have to click a gear icon…and of course, the gear icon is already part of the Kindle Fire user interface. I think that could be confusing…I’m expecting that button to do something like it does for the Fire operating system…change the volume, the appearance, that sort of thing. You can do that there, but it’s also where you set an alarm. I suppose it’s not unreasonable that you go to “settings” to set an alarm, but I think the plus button would have made more sense.

The alarm does work, and you can choose your own song (which is a nice touch).  I tested it when I was using another app, and even when the Kindle was asleep after I’d gone to home. That was all fine.

You can choose your volume, and customize the appearance.

I didn’t see a search…I use that with to do lists, and with reminders. You do have an add button for each of those two…but again, not for alarms. That inconsistency makes it less user-friendly.

I’d have to say that this one functionally does what it should do, but could use an overhaul of the interface.

I’d have to go with three stars on it as is.

Splashtop Remote Desktop

I got this as an FAOTD (Free App Of The Day), and it was later mentioned to me by Edward Boyhan and John Tobison, two of my readers.

At this point, it is fascinating to me, and I need to really explore it more.

The basic idea?

You can use your Kindle Fire to run your other computers, and their screens appear on your Fire.

This has great potential…in both directions.

For example, I can work my Google Calendar on my Fire this way…it’s really running it on my desktop, but I see it on my Fire.

I can also see using this to troubleshoot for other people…using my Fire to take over someone else’s computer to change settings for them.

However…

You, of course, have to install something on the computer first (you can’t take over a stranger’s computer). That was quick and easy…but it wasn’t obvious how to turn it off. In fact, I turned it off on one computer (by exiting the program by right-clicking on the icon on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen)…but it came back on later (probably when the computer was restarted).

The data doesn’t appear to be encrypted, so that’s a bit disconcerting.

The interface definitely has a learning curve. You drag the mouse pointer around the screen. Let’s say you want to see what’s on your left, and then click on it. You have to drag the mouse arrow over there, not just scroll.

It reminds me very much of the

Tickle Bee

toy some of you may remember having as a kid. You use a magnet to drag a metal bee through a maze behind plastic, and if the bee pops up (because you got the magnet too close), you got “stung”.  Just me? Okay, then. 😉

For some reason, it sometimes felt backwards…like I had to drag left to move right.

You have to invoke the keyboard by tapping a little icon in your right corner, and it was a bit hard to set the focus to the field where I was entering text…and then away from it again.

I also found I was adjusting the “zoom” on my Fire to see all the buttons and to reset where the mouse was. I’d also have to some things in landscape (with the Fire wider than it is tall), and some in portrait (where it is taller than it is wide). However, I think I’d get used to that quickly.

I haven’t played with the settings yet…that might make a difference.

This is, though, possibly a huge game changer. For example, I can run a PowerPoint on my Fire…it’s just hosted on my PC.

I’m going to have to work with this one more (I haven’t tried accessing my computers from a different wi-fi network…I don’t even know if that would work)…I sort of hope not).

All in all, though, I’d give this a four star. It could work its way up to a five after I figure it all out.

As usual, I’m interested in your experiences with anything in this post (and other things, too). Feel free to comment on it. If you found a great use for Splashtop, I’m sure the other users would like to hear that too, for example.

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

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12 Responses to “Round up #63: Firestorm #2”

  1. Round up #63: Firestorm #2 | How to get Free Kindle E books Says:

    […] https://ilmk.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/round-up-63-firestorm-2/ This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← […]

  2. Tom Semple Says:

    They need to make a wifi SD card reader (basically this wifi drive without the drive). That would make it much easier to get things off your camera and onto Kindle.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      I’m sure there are a lot of interesting possibilities in the future…would a Bluetooth model in the Fire line resolve that for you?

  3. t. keese Says:

    I love your blog, it’s been a great help. One of the more powerful apps for working with both the Kindle fire and the PC has to be the Evernote application. I started out using the Firefox plug-ins along with the everode desktop. I do a good bit of writing and the note pad along with the web clipper comes in so handy. When I discovered I could then sync my notes from the PC and have full access on the fire, COOL.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, t.!

      I’ve had other people recommend Evernote..I’ll have try it at some point. In the mean time, I’m sure people appreciate your recommendation. 🙂

  4. D. Knight Says:

    It took me about one day to decide I wanted a stylus–after wiping fingerprints every five minutes! I got this one:
    http://www.amazon.com/BoxWave-Capacitive-Stylus-Amazon-Metallic/dp/B000ETU95S
    and I like it because it clips on my case:
    http://www.amazon.com/Verso-Prologue-Case-Cover-Kindle/dp/B005I6EU7U
    so it’s very easy to carry along. (I chose the case for its looks, as you can tell from my review.)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, D.!

      I’ve used Boxwave covers, and liked them.

      The one I got clips on as well…that is nice. 🙂

  5. Kay C Says:

    I don’t have a Kindle Fire (yet :-)) – I’m hesitating because right now the cost v. usability (for my needs only!) doesn’t match. I do a bit of writing that I’d love to do “on the fly” as I have time. My question concerns word processing – do you have any thoughts regarding it’s usability? Have you tried any add on keyboards (the reality is, I just can’t type well enough on a touch screen ;-))? Word processing software? I have Office Suite 5 on my (android) phone – but have only used it for reading docs, not creating. Would love to hear your thoughts on these in the future!
    My other concern was memory storage (I also do some work with photos that need to be stored on my pc as I’m working) but that seems like it’s being addressed. And that’s not as critical to me as the word processing issue.
    I realize I’m asking about the competition, but I have a coupon for 20% off a Nook color,(educator discount promotion) which are now down to $199….. What Would Bufo Do? :-))
    And you probably don’t remember, but I asked your advice a while back on which Kindles to buy my kids (in Nov maybe). I followed that advice, and it was spot on! My techo-geek 12 year old loves the Kindle Touch, the x-ray feature and being able to listen to audible books. My 9 year old drama queen is happy with her Mindle – if she wants to listen to a book, she gets to use my Kindle, which is cool too ;-))
    Thanks for the great advice! Loving the blog (now my 12 year old borrows my Kindle to keep up with your blog too ;-)).
    Kay in NC

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kay!

      I remember your question…I’m glad my advice was helpful. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to let me know.

      At this point, if what you want to do is write, I’d recommend a netbook. That was a disappointment for me: like you, I type pretty well (last time I was measured, I was in the 90s…fast, but not world class), but haven’t been able to type well on touchscreens. I had hoped to be able to fluidly blog on the go with the Fire, but that hasn’t been the case. I’m getting better, but it still feels laborious and unnatural. I know that will change, to some extent, and a stylus does help. However, at this point, I’d get that netbook (which could also handle your pictures). A Kindle Fire is $199. You can find decent netbooks for well under $500.

      I’d love to be able to add a physical keyboard to a Kindle Fire, but that’s not an option at this point. I think it’s possible a more expensive item in the Fire line may come out with Bluetooth, or another connection to a keyboard, within the next year…we’ll see.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kay!

      I remember your question…I’m glad my advice was helpful. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to let me know.

      At this point, if what you want to do is write, I’d recommend a netbook. That was a disappointment for me: like you, I type pretty well (last time I was measured, I was in the 90s…fast, but not world class), but haven’t been able to type well on touchscreens. I had hoped to be able to fluidly blog on the go with the Fire, but that hasn’t been the case. I’m getting better, but it still feels laborious and unnatural. I know that will change, to some extent, and a stylus does help. However, at this point, I’d get that netbook (which could also handle your pictures). A Kindle Fire is $199. You can find decent netbooks for well under $500.

      I’d love to be able to add a physical keyboard to a Kindle Fire, but that’s not an option at this point. I think it’s possible a more expensive item in the Fire line may come out with Bluetooth, or another connection to a keyboard, within the next year…we’ll see.

  6. Kay in NC Says:

    Hi again Bufo
    Thanks for your advice and insight! It doesn’t look like the Fire will work for my needs (though I rarely have to use many excuses to purchase a new toy ;-)) I will be watching the Kindle Fire (and subsequent models) for new features, etc.
    My writing (right now) is rather specific – I write (and upgrade my own work) several travel apps for a travel guide publishing company. At some point, I have to go online to add and/or edit my verbiage in the company’s program, so internet access is a must. I also do most of the photography, so need to upload said pics – though I generally do that at my home with my wifi, since “free” wifi tends to be so unreliable.
    I have an older IBM Thinkpad – I bought it from my “computer guy” for $90 – the only time it needed fixing in the 18 months I’ve had it (minor de-virus work), he did the repair for a half dozen pumpkins for his kids (we grow pumpkins commercially ;-)). Hard to beat that deal! The IBM weighs a ton, but I’ve dropped it, set groceries on it, my cat sleeps on my laptop bag, and abused it in many other ways – and it keeps on plugging along 😉 The Fire is so slick and cute it would be a lovely toy to have – but right now it doesn’t look like it can replace the IBM plowhorse 😉
    My app has been on iTunes and it’s fixing to come out on Android – it works with GPS to locate places to go – so it would be cool if any tablet I bought also had GPS coordinates. Maybe the next gen Fire will do that as well – though I realize the price point would be a bit higher 😉
    Thanks again for the advice! Loving the blog!!!
    Kay

  7. kindle fire case Says:

    kindle fire case…

    […]Round up #63: Firestorm #2 « I Love My Kindle[…]…

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