Archive for June, 2012

DroidTV PrimeTime: current TV on your Fire…easily

June 20, 2012

DroidTV PrimeTime: current TV on your Fire…easily

How much do you pay for TV a month?

How does $3 a month sound?

When I got my Kindle Fire, one of the things I pictured doing on it was watching current TV shows.

I do usually watch them on my TV while I’m doing other things, but TV shows can be good for airplane trips (which I do end up doing).

Up to this point, I haven’t found a really good way to do it.

I looked at Hulu Plus, but the selection didn’t seem to match my tastes. I didn’t want to pay as much as I was paying for Netflix  if I wasn’t getting significantly more for it. If I already paid for Hulu Plus, that would be different, but I don’t.

Also, the issue of having to be on wi-fi to stream anything makes a big difference…both with Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Well, in this

Amazon Kindle community thread

Elleinad asked about DroidTV.

I looked up the app, and decided to try it out.

DroidTV Primetime

I’ve tested it out, and I must say, I’m impressed!

Let me first explain what it is.

You pay $8.99 for three months of service. It will seem like you are buying the app for that much. I’d describe it more as you are subscribing for three months for $8.99, and getting the app for free.

There is a list of available TV shows:

  • 2 Broke Girls
  • 20/20
  • 30 Rock
  • 60 Minutes
  • 90210
  • A Gifted Man
  • Alcatraz
  • Alphas
  • The Amazing Race
  • America’s Got Talent
  • America’s Next Top Model
  • American Chopper
  • American Dad
  • American Idol
  • Are You There, Chelsea?
  • Army Wives
  • Awake
  • The Bachelor
  • The Bachelorette
  • Being Human
  • Bent
  • Best Friends Forever
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • The Big C
  • The Biggest Loser
  • Blue Bloods
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Body of Proof
  • Bones
  • The Borgias
  • Breaking In
  • Brothers & Sisters
  • Burn Notice
  • CSI
  • CSI: Miami
  • CSI: New York
  • Castle
  • Celebrity Apprentice
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Chase
  • The Chicago Code
  • Chuck
  • The Cleveland Show
  • The Client List
  • The Closer
  • The Colbert Report
  • Common Law
  • Community
  • Cops
  • Cougar Town
  • Covert Affairs
  • Criminal Minds
  • The Daily Show
  • Dallas
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • Dateline NBC
  • Desperate Housewives
  • Destination Truth
  • Detroit 1-8-7
  • Don’t Trust the B— in Apt 23
  • Eureka
  • The Event
  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
  • Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files
  • Fairly Legal
  • Falling Skies
  • Family Guy
  • Fashion Star
  • The Finder
  • The Firm
  • FlashForward
  • Franklin & Bash
  • Free Agents
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Fringe
  • GCB
  • Game of Thrones
  • Ghost Hunters
  • Ghost Hunters International
  • Glee
  • The Good Wife
  • Gossip Girl
  • Greek
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Grimm
  • H8R
  • Happy Endings
  • Happy Town
  • Harry’s Law
  • heart of Dixie
  • haven
  • Hawaii 5-0
  • HawthoRNe
  • Hell’s Kitchen
  • Hot in Cleaveland
  • House
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • How to be a Gentleman
  • Huge
  • Human  Target
  • In Plain Sight
  • Justified
  • Kitchen Nightmares
  • Last Man Standing
  • Law & Order: SVU
  • Leverage
  • Lie to Me
  • Lost Girl
  • Mad Love
  • Mad Men
  • Man Up
  • Master Chef
  • Melissa & Joey
  • The Mentalist
  • Mercy
  • The Middle
  • Mike & Molly
  • Missing
  • Mobbed
  • Modern Family
  • Mythbusters
  • NCIS
  • NCIS: Los Angeles
  • NYC 22
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • Necessary Roughness
  • New Girl
  • Nikita
  • Off the Map
  • The Office
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Outlaw
  • Outsourced
  • Pan Am
  • Parenthood
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Person of Interest
  • The Playboy Club
  • Prime Suspect
  • Primetime: What Would You Do?
  • Private Practice
  • Psych
  • Q’Viva The Chosen
  • Raising Hope
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Revenge
  • Ringer
  • The River
  • Rizzoli & Isles
  • Rob!
  • Rookie Blue
  • Royal Pains
  • Rules of Engagement
  • Running Wilde
  • Saturday Night Live
  • Saving Hope
  • Scandal
  • The Secret Circle
  • The Secret Life of the American Teenager
  • Shark Tank
  • The Simpsons
  • Smash
  • So You Think You Can Dance
  • Sons of Anarchy
  • South Park
  • Stargate Universe
  • Suburgatory
  • Suits
  • Supernatural
  • Survivor: Redemption Island
  • Survivor: One World
  • Terra Nova
  • Touch
  • True Blood
  • Two and a Half Men
  • Undercover Boss
  • Unforgettable
  • Up All Night
  • The Vampire Diaries
  • Veep
  • The Voice
  • The Walking Dead
  • Warehouse 13
  • White Collar
  • Whitney
  • Who Do You Think You Are?
  • Who’s Still Standing?
  • Wipeout
  • Work It
  • The X Factor
I typed that list for you, and won’t swear that I didn’t miss something. 🙂 I would also presume its subject to change any time.

There are definitely shows on there I would watch. It includes shows that would otherwise require a premium cable channel (HBO’s True Blood and Game of  Thrones, for example), or perhaps would be available for purchase on DVD on a one-by-one download basis.

Three bucks a month sounds pretty good for that.

You select the shows you want, and you can download individual episodes…at no additional charge.

You can also set up the equivalent of a “season pass” on Tivo…have it automatically download new episodes to your Fire.

You can store “back episodes” with DroidTV for no cost. In other words, after you watch an episode, you can delete it from the Fire and download it again later, if you want.

I would describe the picture quality as okay. It looks a tad muddy…like recording a Tivo show on the Basic Quality setting, rather than the Best Quality. That’s what I normally use on my Tivo, and I’m fine with it here.

Now, of course, the ability of the Kindle Fire to handle the videos matters. I checked a couple of things:

A half hour program took 14% of battery usage to watch…although I can watch when plugged in, of course.

The Internal Storage on my Kindle Fire changed from 709.31MB to 822.19MB when I removed a half hour program…which means it was about 112.88MB.

Clearly, I’m not going to keep a lot of shows on there at once…but I don’t have to do that.

The automatic recording worked fine. I set it up to record new episodes of a daily broadcast to test it, and I got yesterday’s today.

That’s something about which I need to be very clear. This is not like streaming or Amazon’s Instant Video. You can’t just say, “I want to watch that now.” It’s more like Tivo…you tell it what you will want to watch later.

In the case of an episode which has already been broadcast, I’d say it took about an hour to download four shows for me. I had them then, though. It was nice to be able to watch one of them with no problem with no wi-fi.

The interface is pretty simple, and I like that. It remembers where you were in a show, and lets you resume easily.

There are four main functions in the menu (reached through the horizontal lines in a box menu button on the Fire):

  • Now Playing (shows already downloaded. You can tell if you have already started watching a show, because there is a pause symbol || on the play button)
  • Coming Soon (shows scheduled to be downloaded…although it doesn’t include your “season passes” in that)
  • TV Guide (where you pick the shows)
  • Preferences (this has some important things…you can choose the minimum amount of memory to leave so that it doesn’t download too much to your Fire, and you can choose the minimum amount of battery charge to have left before it starts downloading: that last one is a clever protection)

There is also a “More” section. One big thing here is that you can “Select Favorite Shows”. What you actually do is choose shows to hide from your list. So, you are really eliminating shows from appearing in your options rather than making them favorites, but that still works.You can bring them back, of course.

The only set up for the whole thing (after downloading) was putting in my e-mail address…easy, breezy.

I can see where people might want a search, or the ability to display them in genres. I think that this could work very well with kids’ programs, but perhaps in the future.

Another limitation is that at this point, I don’t know of any way to display what is on your Kindle Fire to a larger screen, like a TV. You can do it the other way…put what is on your computer on your Fire (using Splashtop Remote Desktop) or from your Slingbox (SlingPlayer (Kindle Fire Edition)). I think we may get that in the future…either through a cable or wirelessly.

By the way, it did let me put it on two different Fires on the same account. It didn’t object to me downloading the same episode on both Fires.

One other thing: there weren’t any previous seasons from current shows, from what I could tell. If I could have started Game of Thrones from the beginning, I would definitely have done that, but I couldn’t go back a season. Update: just to clarify (thanks, Zebras!), I could go back and get all of the episodes from this current season…it’s not like a Tivo, where I can’t get it if it’s already been broadcast.

For example, Game of Thrones has episodes for

4/1/2012 through 6/03/2012

at this point.

That lets you start now and see all of Season 2, but none of Season 1. Going forward, I would presume you’d also be able to get Season 3. What I don’t know for sure is if you started next season, would you be able to go back and pick up Season 2? I’m guessing not…I think it’s going to roll by season.

Bottom line: I do expect this to be part of my entertainment mix. We have Amazon Prime and Netflix (streaming only…and I don’t use it that often on the Fire). I use

to download public domain videos.

However, the ease of using DroidTV Primetime and the selection means I’ll probably pay the $8.99 for three months on it.

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


Round up #89: more from Judge Chin, Microsoft’s tablet

June 19, 2012

Round up #89: more from Judge Chin, Microsoft’s tablet

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Microsoft’s tablet Surfaces

Microsoft called a big presser today…and revealed that it’s going to do two tablets…later.

They didn’t give prices, exactly, but people do seem to be impressed with what they heard.

There are two things that particularly relate to e-books and EBRs (E-Book Readers); will it compete with the Kindle Fire; and did they tie it into their deal with Barnes & Noble?

On the second one, nope.

$300 million dollar investment in Barnes & Noble…not to mention them in your tablet announcement?

Maybe that doesn’t mean anything, but it makes me a bit uneasy about B&N’s future.

As to the Fire…

It sounds to me like it will cost a lot more. I don’t think Microsoft is entering the entertablet market. I think they may actually be after the laptop market.

Here are the stats:

Oh, and it’s called the Microsoft Surface.

More from Judge Chin…

The legal issues about Google having scanned books just keep going on and on…

Publishers Weekly article

This one isn’t exactly about the Google settlement, but Judge Chin did not except Google’s request to throw out a class action suit by authors…which just keeps things going.

Really, I’m hoping that the Agency Model stuff and the Google scanning concerns get legally settled this year.

You might think that won’t be the case, because it’s an election year, but the judicial system isn’t really supposed to be influenced by that. I think many courts like to show that they aren’t waiting for an election, and may make big decisions at a time when Congress is reluctant to do so.

Update: PW thinks the DoJ trial might start next March (2013), but it is complicated:

Publishers Weekly article

Amazon tablet rumors

I have to say, if I reported every Amazon tablet rumor, I couldn’t keep this blog as varied as I like (and I think you like that way, too).

I still think we’ll get big announcements from Amazon soon, before the end of the summer. That might just be a frontlit RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle) or two or more of them. It might be big updates for existing devices (including text-to-speech for the Kindle Fire that works with Kindle store books).

My guess is still that we’ll get a new tablet announcement soon, too, but I’m not 100% confident. I also reiterate that I would expect it to be at least three tablets: a higher end one the size of the Fire; an entry-level larger device; and a high-end larger device.

Here’s one rumor:

TheNextWeb article

and here’s another:

DailyTech article

Not surprisingly, they are contradictory. 🙂

Honestly, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’d put a high probability on frontlit RSKs before the end of the summer, and a more than 50% chance as a guess on tablet announcements in that time frame.

I checked the

ILMK E-books Timeline

to see when product announcements had come in the past:

  • November 19, 2007: Kindle 1
  • February 9, 2009: Kindle 2
  • May 6, 2009: Kindle DX
  • July 28, 2010: Kindle 3
  • September 8, 2011: Mindle, Fire, Touch

As you can see, a summer announcement is not out of the question. They don’t just hold things for the holiday season.

recently wrote about the US State Department contracting with Amazon for Kindle services. The “justification” document for the deal includes this:

“e-Reader updates:

The Contractor shall be responsible for upgrading and phasing in updated versions of the e-Reader product at least every two years so that the technology stays up to date for users.”

So, Amazon has agreed to provide “updated versions e-Reader product” at least every two years to the government…and you can bet we’ll get them, too. Reading that language, I wouldn’t say they just mean software updates.

Are you ready to buy a new model of a Kindle every two years to stay cutting edge? I probably will…I like to be able to answer questions for people, although I haven’t owned every model (never had a DX).

What do you think? Is the Microsoft Surface a concern for Amazon? Can Microsoft compete with Apple in the tablet arena? Will any of the big legal e-book stuff settle this year? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

Review: Mexploitation Cinema

June 17, 2012

Review: Mexploitation Cinema

Mexploitation Cinema
A Critical history of Mexican Vampire, Wrestler, Ape-Man and Similar Films, 1957-1977
by Doyle Greene
published by McFarland
original publication: 2005
size: 2627KB (203 pages)
categories: arts & entertainment; movies; social sciences
lending: not enabled
simultaneous device licenses: 6
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: no
text-to-speech: yes
real page numbers: yes
x-ray: no

“…perhaps it is an admission by Santo, the film’s “retrograde man who still believes in truth and justice,” that “the fairy tale” has been the lucha libre genre, “the dream” the political and cultural myths celebrated by the lucha libre genre, and “the nightmare” the harsh political realities of Mexico.”

Wrestling women! Living Aztec mummies! Beast-men! The Inquisition!

At this point, you’re either saying, “Cool!” or “Seriously, isn’t there anything else on?” 😉

I’m squarely in the former camp. I’ve watched movies with Santo and the Blue Demon (Mexican wrestlers or “luchadores”) fighting supernatural menaces.

What’s more, I’ve enjoyed them. 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before, that’s one of the advantages of being a geek…low threshold of amusement.

However, I also think it’s a mistake to judge a movie like Santo vs. las mujeres vampiro (Santo ((Samson)) vs. the Vampire Women) by the standards of Hollywood.

It’s easy to assume that with more money, time, and resources, the studio would have made a movie  more like an L.A. studio blockbuster.

That presumes that the cultural sensibilities are the same…that what Mexican movie audiences wanted is the same as what American movie audiences wanted.

There are so many factors that affect the art an artist creates!

That’s what made Doyle Greene’s Mexploitation Cinema one of the books I’ve most enjoyed in some time.

I didn’t know that much about what was going on in Mexico at the time these movies were being made.

Why did Mexican audiences pay to see their wrestling heroes (and villains) in the movie theatre, when Americans were watching ours for free on TV? Simple…the Mexican government had banned wrestling on television!

More interesting was an examination of the themes. What do Dracula, the Wolfman, and the Inquisition have in common?

They are all European.

That might not be the first answer that came to mind.

One of the themes of Mexploitation was promoting “Mexicanidad”, which is a sort of national pride (although more specific than that, as I understand it), over the influence of outside cultures.

Of course, you might notice that the Aztec Mummy I mentioned earlier isn’t European.

That’s right, but it represents the past…and Greene argues that another major theme was the battle of the present (modernity) and the past.

It’s that kind of insight that I think makes this book really valuable, even if you’ve never seen one of the movies discussed.

I can’t give the book an unqualified recommendation for everyone, of course.

There were more proof-reading errors than I would have like…I think I highlighted about ten of them. They didn’t rise to the level of a disqualification for me, though.

The book doesn’t employ profanity…but what is described can be pretty graphic. In Mexico, the movies were typically released with what would be the equivalent of a “G” rating. However, there were also alternative versions created for international markets that included nudity and gore.  One of the movies covered in detail is Night of the Bloody Apes (at least, that was the American release title). In addition to actual footage of open-heart surgery, there were inserts of graphic violence and nudity added, and those are described in some detail.

It’s also clear that this book hasn’t been formatted to get the best out of the digital format. The weirdest thing is an “Index of Terms” in the back…without live links, page numbers, or even definitions. It’s really just a list of terms, which appear to me to have been computer selected. Speaking of live links, there are references to websites…but generally, they haven’t been formatted to allow you to visit them with a click.

It’s also worth noting that, while the book gives you a good sense of what was happening in Mexico that impacted these movies, it’s written for an American audience. The movies are usually summarized from their Americanized versions, not from the original Mexican ones…it wasn’t clear to me that Greene had seen the originals in many cases, and whether or not the author was a fluent Spanish speaker. Someone who grew up in Mexico in the 50’s to the 70’s (the equivalent of the American Baby Boomers) might find it a very incomplete history, although the author makes it clear that it isn’t the intent to provide a complete filmography.

Those imperfections aside, I can heartily recommend the book for geeks and pop culture students.

It would be interesting to see a comparison of these movies and the Japanese kaijū eiga (monster movies, like Godzilla and Mothra). They have some similarities, with powerful entities, battles between good and evil, and Americanization. It would be a way to examine the cultural differences.

By the way, I did recently watch Jack Black’s Nacho Libre (thanks, Amazon Prime streaming at no additional cost). While the script by Jared and Jerusha Hess and Mike White showed some awareness of the lucha libre conventions, I wouldn’t recommend it for somebody who wants to learn about Mexican wrestling. Of course, that wasn’t the point of the movie…but personally, I didn’t find it that funny, either…

One last point…if you have a television provider (cable, satellite), with Spanish language stations, and you have a way to search it (I do through Tivo), try putting “luchador” into the keyword search. You could also search for Santo as an actor. I find that there are usually a few of these movies on every week, although they may not be dubbed or subtitled.

Bottom line: I really enjoyed the book and the scholarship, despite a few flaws.

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

In honor of Fathers’ Day: You Are Old, Father William

June 17, 2012

In honor of Fathers’ Day: You Are Old, Father William

I knew the version of this poem that Alice tells to the Caterpillar, but didn’t know the original (although I knew it was a parody).

In honor of Fathers’ Day, I’m going to give you both the original, and then the version from Lewis Carroll:

The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them

by Robert Southey (originally published 1799)

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember’d that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigour at first
That I never might need them at last.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And pleasures with youth pass away,
And yet you lament not the days that are gone,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember’d that youth could not last;
I thought of the future whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And life must be hastening away;
You are chearful, and love to converse upon death!
Now tell me the reason I pray.

I am chearful, young man, Father William replied,
Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember’d my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age.


From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll (originally published 1865)

“You are old, father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head —
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” father William replied to his son,
“I feared it would injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door —
Pray, what is the reason of that?”

“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment — one shilling the box —
Allow me to sell you a couple.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak —
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”

“You are old,” said the youth; one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose —
What made you so awfully clever?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!”

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

OfficeSuite Pro (the one I use most) on sale for ninety-nine you get $1 for MP3s

June 15, 2012

OfficeSuite Pro (the one I use most) on sale for ninety-nine you get $1 for MP3s

I do use my Kindle Fire for work, even though I make a point with people that it is primarily for entertainment.

One of the things that makes that possible is

OfficeSuite Professional 6

which is normally $14.99, but it is on sale right now for ninety-nine cents.

How does it help?

It lets me not only display Microsoft Office files, it lets me work with them (albeit in a somewhat limited way) as well. They say:

“The program supports Microsoft Office 97 to 2010 text documents – DOC and DOCX (open , edit, and save), Microsoft Office 97 to 2010 spreadsheets – XLS and XLSX (open , edit, and save), opening PPT, PPTX, PPS, and PPSX presentations, PDF files viewing, and integration with Google Docs.”

How do I use it?

Two things, mainly.

I was given a spreadsheet of people that I needed to see about something. When I go into the clinics, I don’t carry my laptop…it would be too awkward. I do carry my Fire. I could change the color of the cells for the people I had seen, which made it easy to keep track.

The other thing I use it for is PowerPoint presentations. I am often helping people at their desks. We’ll have a PowerPoint that goes through something, and I can show it to them right there. It’s big enough for people to see, in my experience.

What I do is e-mail the document to myself at my regular e-mail. I use the Fire’s built-in e-mail app, and download the file to the device. I then can use OfficeSuite Pro to open that file, and I’m good to go. I don’t need wi-fi to access the file after that.

I couldn’t use Amazon’s personal document service to send myself a PowerPoint and use it on the Fire, because it doesn’t know how to open it.

As I mentioned, it isn’t like using the full program. One interesting limitation (which seems to be common in mobile versions of Excel) is that I don’t think you can sort the columns. My guess is that has something to do with the amount of memory it takes to sort (which is a lot), but that’s just a guess.

Honestly, I would jump on this.  It’s the kind of thing that you might not think you need, but then at some point, it’s a lifesaver. You can also use apps like this on multiple devices.  If you end up adding a user to your account at some point, maybe someone who is a student, it might suddenly get a lot of use.

By the way, I also have another popular Office program on my Fire, Quickoffice Pro, but I just don’t find that I use it (although I think I’ve given it a fair testing). I don’t like the “feel” of it as much…and hey, it isn’t ninety-nine cents right now. 😉

Oh, I realized I didn’t mention that $1 for MP3s thing. When you buy this, you get a gift certificate for $1 to use at Amazon’s MP3 store…so if you use, Amazon is basically paying you a penny to get OfficeSuite Pro. Of course, you may end up spending more than that on MP3s, but it’s still a good deal.

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

Cloud Reader, Kindle for iPad and iOS get update

June 14, 2012

Cloud Reader, Kindle for iPad and iOS get update

I don’t have time to check it right now (and I’ll only be looking at it in the Cloud Reader), but Amazon announced a new update:

Announcement Kindle for iPad and Kindle Cloud Reader Update

It brings the Panel Viewer (for comics/graphic novels) and improved children’s book display to the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPod touch.

The above post has links.

If you try it out, feel free to let me and my readers know what you think.

Update: I’ve tried out the Panel Viewer in my Cloud Reader on a desktop running Chrome.

I downloaded a sample of

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed (not with the book, which I really like, but with the Panel View).

This book has some very panel rich pages…there can be many panels.

When I double-clicked one, it did enlarge…but not all that much, in my opinion. I was expecting the panel to fill the reading area of the screen. If I zoomed Chrome up to 200%, it looked nice and large. However, the next page button was then off the screen, so that wasn’t really a good choice.

It might be pinch and spreadable on a touch screen device, but I haven’t tried that yet.

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

Should Kindle updates be optional?

June 14, 2012

Should Kindle updates be optional?

There are three long threads right now in the Amazon Kindle community about recent software updates for Kindles:

Announcement Kindle Software Update Version 4.1.0

Announcement New software update for Kindle Touch

Announcement New software update for Kindle Fire

Each one started with an official announcement from Amazon.

They then go on from there with customer posts, and there are some things that you’ll find in all of them:

  • “Thanks, Amazon!”
  • “This sucks!”
  • “How do I get the update?”
  • “I don’t want this! I bought it, I should get to choose.”

I don’t intend any of those to be specific quotations from individuals, by the way, but just representative.

It’s that last one that prompted this post.

For me, there’s no question that each update (and I think it’s great that Amazon does this many updates) brings things that people like and things that people don’t like. Many people don’t like how the wireless on and off function has been buried deeper on the Mindle, for instance. Understood…I can find some positive elements to it, but for most people I think that’s a negative. I also think that Amazon will change it back in a future update.

Given that, it’s the concept that Amazon shouldn’t update your Kindle without asking that intrigues me.

I have a couple of comments about that.

You do own the physical Kindle, in a manner similar to owning a copy of a paperbook. If you want to use it to stick under the leg of your coffee table to keep it from wobbling, Amazon can’t stop you from doing that.

Amazon isn’t forcing you to take the software update because you own a Kindle. If you never connect to Amazon’s servers, you won’t get it. You could have a Kindle, and just sideload Project Gutenberg books on to it, with it deregistered from Amazon. You won’t get the update.

They force you to get the update if you are going to use the Kindle service.

There are some justifiable reasons for that:

  • It’s much easier to provide Customer Service if people have the same version of the software. Customer Service is expensive…one of the significant ongoing expenses after someone buys a device (at least, with good companies)
  • An update may fix a problem, again reducing Customer Service calls. Suppose there was something that randomly deleted a book. If Amazon didn’t do an update that would fix it, they would get tons of calls on that…and have unhappy customers to boot (even if they could fix the deleted book through a Customer Service call)
  • An update may be necessary to meet some requirement of the content providers. One of the most publicly lamented updates allowed publishers to block text-to-speech access to individual e-book titles. Rightsholders were apparently threatening legal action against Amazon if they didn’t allow it, or were certainly complaining about it. Providing TTS was legal…however, my understanding is that it is also legal for the rightsholder to block it (as long as they have at least one edition of each e-book, even if it requires certification of a print disability, that allows it)

Amazon might also just want to do something…like providing a link to Twitter or add more language dictionaries.

Yes, those examples largely benefit Amazon, and if a customer wanted to skip them and still use Amazon, why can’t they?

Well, it’s in the Terms of Service to which customers hypothetically agree that Amazon can do it. In the Kindle License Agreement and Terms of Use

it says:

“Automatic Updates. In order to keep your Software up-to-date, Amazon may automatically provide your Kindle or Other Device with updates/upgrades to the Software.”

So, no question: Amazon has the right to update your Kindle.

Should they do it without asking your permission in each case, though?

Based on the threads, there are clearly people who think they shouldn’t. I wonder…what if Amazon said you don’t need to take the update, but that they won’t continue to service your Kindle if you don’t? You know, sort of like they let us put third-party apps on our Kindle Fires, but warn us that we are then responsible for any damage those apps might do?

I suspect this poll will go overwhelmingly one way, but I”m curious to see…I don’t like to assume.

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

Robots publish stolen YouTube comments to Kindle store

June 13, 2012

Robots publish stolen YouTube comments to Kindle store

First, let me be clear…I don’t know how much this is happening. The claims could be vastly exaggerated. 

Second, this is a crime, and could result in federal prosecution.

I debated even reporting this one, but I do think it is interesting. I write about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and robots as well as e-publishing and EBRs (E-Book Readers).

You can read about it here, in a statement by the people involved:

Here’s the basic idea, and it will give me an opportunity to explain an important point.

In the United States, copyright is automatic. When you write something (which fits the qualifications for something which can be copyrighted), you automatically have the copyright.

Other people using it without your permission, except under the conditions defined as Fair Use, are committing the criminal act of infringement.

When you see something on the Internet, you can’t just copy and use it for anything you want.

This “art project” use robots (software ones) to scrape comments from YouTube, compile them into books, and publish them to the Kindle store through Kindle Direct Publishing…without human intervention.

The people behind this claim they are attacking the corporations of Amazon and YouTube.

However, they are doing it by infringing on the rights of others.

I don’t want to use an inappropriate comparison…but I will say it is using innocent people as your weapons of choice, without their permission.

I doubt this is going to have a big impact on Amazon (or on YouTube). If we are  talking tens of thousands of books, maybe it would be noticeable. Amazon will have to take the books down, if confronted by the copyright holders…which just isn’t likely to happen.

YouTube won’t be hurt by it…I don’t see any way that this impacts them. I suppose if they also own the comments (that may be a condition of posting), then their copyrights have been violated. Hm…they do have powerful lawyers, if they wanted to pursue this and that is the case.

I’m willing to listen to people argue in favor of this. If they had used software to compose the books, that would have been fine with me…no copyright violation. Amazon doesn’t have to carry any given book, and in fact, my guess is that would probably benefit Amazon. I think some people would buy them.

I’m happy I own

The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed: Computer Prose and Poetry by Racter- The First Book Ever Wrritten by a Computer

by Racter, which is allegedly computer-generated verse. Fascinating, actually.

Yes, this group could have been clever without hurting people.

What do you think? Is there a legitimate point to this “art project”? Do you figure that no one who publishes a comment to YouTube intends to ever enforce their rights? Is the automatic copyright provision outdated?

Feel free to comment on this and let me and my readers know.

Technology Review article

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

The US State Department chooses Kindles

June 12, 2012

The US State Department chooses Kindles

You are likely to see this story reported as the State Department paying $6,600 per Kindle, but that was apparently a mistake which has been corrected in this

The Atlantic Wire article

Let’s skip the price issue…looking at the agreement, there is no indication of how many total Kindles may be involved (and what type, although some current models are excluded by the requirements), so you can’t say how much each one costs.

However, it is definitely worth addressing the points in this document

That’s the official US Government document describing the deal.

Why do we care?

Well, if Amazon has to make changes to meet this contract, it’s not unreasonable that those changes will appear in devices available to the public as well.

When you read the requirements, it seems tailor-made for Amazon. For example, there is this one:

“8. The device shall have a text-to-speech capability in English so that users are able to listen to content on the device. Also, the device should have a Voice Guide feature for menus and book listings and support for audio books.”

Well, not only does text-to-speech eliminate the NOOK, “Voice Guide” is Amazon’s brand name for its audible menu system!

Now, here’s one of those interesting pieces. They describe

“1. The Contractor shall provide a content distribution and management platform to centrally manage an unlimited number of e-reader/tablet devices.”

Amazon doesn’t make a tablet with Voice Guide. Does this suggest they’ll add that (and presumably, more robust text-to-speech) to the Fire?

Maybe…but the document also requires both wi-fi and 3g.

You might think that this simply means the Kindle Keyboard, and they are going into detail describing current capabilities so Amazon can’t change them.

Not so. For one thing, they discuss video more than once:

“3. The Contractor shall deliver the latest generation devices that have audio and video capabilities and include 3G and Wi-Fi services.”

“13. The device shall support audio (e.g., podcasts,, MP3 files, etc.) and it is preferred that the device support video (e.g., MPG, MOV, WMV, RM, etc.)”

The video is only a preference, though.

How about this?

“…must include a front light feature.”

Does a lighted cover satisfy that? I’m thinking not…I think this is the first official statement about a Kindle with a glow feature similar to the NOOK GlowLight. As readers may recall, I mentioned a glowing Kindle being seen before NOOK announced theirs.

The contract also requires Collections (or, at least, collections without the capital C):

“10. The device shall have an organizing feature to sort the content into collections identified by the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.”

This one is very interesting, and something people have requested. I would think this will come down to public devices:

“10. The Contractor shall provide data on how content is accessed on the e-reader. The information will include content accessed, content not accessed, length of time that content is viewed, e-reader features used and content downloaded. The format for reporting will be developed with and approved by the Department of State but will include reporting by country and e-reader serial number.”

This was an interesting statement in the attached justification:

“The Kindle has been identified as the only product that will meet the DoS’ requirements as part of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs’ (R’s) efforts to globally scale e-Reader use as a tool for the DoS’ English Access Microscholarship Program (ACCESS), and also placement in DoS’ many American Spaces housed in libraries, cultural centers, reading rooms and other partnership institutions such as Bi-National Centers.”

There are several (eight, I think) references to an “Attachment A” listing countries. Amazon would need to be able to ship to those countries, and provide internet browsing there. I didn’t see the attachment, although that would be interesting.

 I think this may actually be a very important development, and bring us some real improvements.

Of course, a better EBR (E-Book Reader) and/or tablet isn’t as sexy a story as a government overpayment…even one that turns out to be exaggerated. 😉

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

Menu map: Touch 5.1.0

June 11, 2012

Menu map: Touch 5.1.0

I’ve done this kind of thing for the Kindle Fire in my book, Love Your Kindle Fire: The ILMK Guide to Amazon’s Entertablet, and I’ve done it in this blog before for other models. I think this may become a regular feature, but do let me know if you find it helpful (or not).

I’m going to run through the menus on a Kindle Touch (specifically, a wi-fi only Kindle Touch with Special Offers in the USA). This is based on firmware version 5.1.0.

I’ll add comments where I think that’s appropriate. Do feel free to comment on this post if you have more questions.

What is a menu?

It gives you options, just like a menu in a restaurant. You select a menu (you might be tapping, clicking, arrowing and hitting enter…depends on the device), and see a series of choices. You pick one (if you want), and that “launches” (starts) something on your device.

With the Touch, you would first wake it up or turn it on with the power button on the bottom (press and release).

Those four horizontal lines below the screen are the “Home” button. I’ve heard people asking if that was a speaker or a vent. I personally would have made it look like a little house, because four horizontal lines typically means a menu, rather than Home.

The Menu button is in your top right corner of the screen. Tap that.

  • Menu (with an X…if you tapped this by mistake, the X will close it with no changes)
  • Turn on Wireless
  • Shop in Kindle Store
  • View Archived Items (these items available to be downloaded to this Kindle from the account…and there is a place here to import Collections from another device. This will only be up to date if your Kindle has done a sync with Amazon since the last change)
  • View Special Offers
  • Create New Collections
  • Sync and Check for Items (this will communicate with Amazon’s servers. Not only will this download new items, it may set the time, get you an update, and so on. If your wireless is not on, it will ask you to do that…your Kindle can’t communicate with the server with the wireless off)
  • Sort By…> (tapping this gives you four sort options…Recent ((which is the default)), Title, Author, or Collections ((if you have created any)))
  • Settings (a very important menu)
  • Experimental (Web Browser, MP3 Player, Text-to-Speech…but TTS doesn’t do anything here. This is a list of experimental features, and TTS only works in something you’ve opened that you can use that feature, like a book)

Let’s take a look at the Settings menu:

There are four sections here:

  • Registration
  • Wi-Fi Networks
  • Device Options
  • Reading Options

Here’s the key thing, and something that might surprise you.

You got here by doing


You can hit Menu again to see another menu.

You got here through a menu, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use Menu to get even deeper.


  • Turn on Wireless
  • Shop in Kindle Store
  • Update Your Kindle (if you have an update package on your Kindle which hasn’t been executed yet…this option is generally “grayed out”, or what geeks may call “disabled”. You see the option, but can only select it in certain circumstances)
  • Restart (this will restart the Kindle, which is often a fix for problems. You may need to sync with Amazon after doing a restart. This is a way to restart the Kindle using the software (going through the menus and the “user interface”), so you may see it called a “soft restart”. You can also restart a Kindle Touch by holding in the power button for at least twenty seconds. That uses the hardware (the button), so you may see the term “hard restart”. Amazon has indicated that it is better to use the software restart when possible. If your Kindle is non-responsive, that’s when you use the hard restart
  • Reset Device (this used to be called Reset to Factory Defaults. This is a really radical thing to do, and should be used with caution and when other options have been tried. It will wipe out everything you’ve done to your Kindle, except firmware updates. You’ll lose personal documents on the device, it will forget your wi-fi networks ((so you may need to enter a password again)), it will lose your internet bookmarks…pretty much everything. It’s appropriate to do this when giving or selling your Kindle to someone not on your device, or if you have a problem you just can’t fix any other way)
  • Device Info (this is sometimes crucial information for someone helping you, and I do wish it was a bit less buried. It gives you your firmware version, the memory you have left on your device, the wi-fi capability, the serial number, the Wi-fi MAC ((Media Access Control)) address)
  • Legal (254 pages of small print that you can’t enlarge)
  • Sync and Check for Items

You may notice that this sub-menu inside Settings has some of the same options as the main Home menu. Yes, that can happen…not every menu is unique. Gee, for some reason, Amazon likes to make the “Shop in Kindle Store” option available in several places. 😉

Within a book

To access the Menu from within a book, you first tap towards the top of the screen, in the middle horizontally, then tap Menu.

  • Menu
  • Turn on Wireless
  • Shop in Kindle Store
  • Landscape Mode (switch it so the image is wider than it is tall)
  • Sync to Furthest Page Read (this has to connect to wireless, because it is to coordinate between different devices. Device A has told Amazon’s servers how far you have read on that book. Device B wants to get that information from the server, to set the book to the same point. That works well when the same person is reading the same book on more than one device. It’s not something you are going to use if two different people are reading the same book on different devices)
  • Book description (requires wireless…it gets that information from the Amazon website. An X-Ray enabled book downloads information about the book to store locally, although I don’t believe that affects this menu choice)
  • Add Bookmark
  • View Notes & Marks
  • Share (this lets you write a note about the book and share it with others)
  • Turn on Text-to-Speech (this may be grayed out, if the publisher has blocked text-to-speech access)

Those aren’t the only menus: you’ll have a different menu in different types of content. For example, a magazine will have a menu option to “Keep This Issue”, which keeps a copy of that specific issue locally on that device. If you don’t do that, you’ll eventually lose that issue as new ones come it. That kept issue is not saved for you on Amazon’s servers…just that local copy which is keyed to work only on that specific device.

Let me know if you think this was useful. I think it will help people find what they need more quickly. It also lets me document what is in the menus, so I can compare them after an update. 🙂

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

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