Can you replace a desktop with a Kindle Fire?

Can you replace a desktop with a Kindle Fire?

I recently wrote about my desktop failing (probably due to a transformer exploding near my house). It seems to be toast…it has tried to repair itself, and can’t. I’ll try some more things over the weekend, but then we’ll have to decide if we are going to buy…something else.

We have a Toshiba netbook, and it does work okay (I’m writing on it right now), but it doesn’t replace the desktop. For one thing, the screen is simply too small: I have to scroll a lot to see what I would see easily on the desktop.

I had fantasized about replacing the netbook my Kindle Fire 8.9″ even before I got the latter.

Well, in the last couple of days, I’ve seen the real difficulties with that.

The first thing is the lack of multitasking on the Fire. When I’m writing, I’m often going between composing the post and checking source material. That’s just impractical on the Fire. If I’m working in the free WordPress app, I can’t have a second “window” open with an article on the web. I could go to WordPress directly through one of the web browsers I have on the Fire (Silk, Maxthon, Dolphin), but it’s much easier on Windows to switch between two open programs (Alt+Tab) than it is to switch between two tabs in a browser.

I would sometimes also on the desktop have two windows on the screen at the same time (rather than switching back and forth). Not an option on the Fire.

Another issue is the difficulty in copying and pasting. Oh, it can be done, but it’s often a bit of hit and miss. On a webpage, I long press (hold my finger on the text for about a second), and I’ll get a choice to select text. Then, I have to move around two little “goalposts” (one at a time) to select what I want to copy. I’m reasonably deft, but it’s still hard. They tend to jump up and down lines, go over to a sidebar, and so on.

Next, I have to convince it I want to copy. That’s a long press, but it sometimes deselects before I get the option to copy.

After I’ve copied, I then have to get it to past somewhere…that shouldn’t be hard, but getting the focus where I want it to be can be a challenge.

It’s doable, but it’s much simpler to click and drag with a mouse.

Another issue is finding text on a page. On a Windows based computer with a physical keyboard, it’s simpler: CTRL+F. On the Fire, I can’t even find it as an option all the time.

Typing on the Fire is fine, because I use a Bluetooth keyboard. That one will eventually need to have batteries replaced, which I don’t like, but it does work fine.

Not having a full version of Microsoft Office is also an impediment, although not a huge one. I’ve done some pretty sophisticated things in Excel (years ago, I was a certified expert), but I can probably do what I have to now with other options (including Google, which I access through Maxthon, usually).

My Significant Other and I will probably discuss options this weekend (after I’ve tried, and most likely failed, to “reanimate” the current desktop). I think we would consider a desktop again. They are relatively inexpensive, and interestingly, I don’t feel like we would benefit as much from a laptop as we used to do, since we use the Fires for mobile computing. I want a writing computer, and it’s just going to sit in the den…so I don’t really need mobile.

I’d be interested to hear what you have to say, though. Convince me I can do it with a tablet. Argue for a laptop or netbook over a desktop. Cost is a factor for us, because we don’t feel like this is a real need at this point. I’ve never owned an Apple computer (I’ve used them), and the Agency Model issue makes me disinclined to do so, but I’d listen to advocacy for them. 🙂

Give me any advice you like about replacing the desktop by commenting on this post. You do have a stake in this, since we probably wouldn’t be considering it if it wasn’t writing for you. 😉

Update: thanks to everybody (and there were a lot of you) who have commented! To respond to one thing, I did have the computer plugged into a surge protector (but not the brand one commenter named), but not an Uninterrupted Power Supply. The other devices plugged into that surge protector appear to have been okay, so it might have been a coincidence.

It looks like I’ve been able to restore the computer! I was a bit surprised to find that I had recovery discs, and I used another device to check how to get them started. That worked, although it was a restore to factory defaults. I am currently running the restore from Carbonite (we pay an annual fee to have that service back up our files).

That could take days to run, although I don’t think it will. I can let it run over night and see where it is and what it actually succeeded in restoring.

Again, thanks for all the advice!

Update: the computer is up and running, and Carbonite did restore my files…whew! It took it…oh, on the order of 16 hours to restore 20,000 files.

I may have to reinstall some programs, but there may have been some advantage in wiping out programs I don’t usually use.

Maxthon was a huge advantage…it restored my favorite internet sites in a way that seemed easier and smoother than Google Chrome (although that did work as well).

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

24 Responses to “Can you replace a desktop with a Kindle Fire?”

  1. Louis Deegan Says:

    Amen. PC, Oui, Tablet, Non. However, I’ve a laptop for the past five years and it has served me well. No pun intended, but I’ve grown accustomed to it’s face… and accessibility . True, I’m not, as you, a voracious writer, nor browser as I once was. The Kindle HD 7, for me is my reader and travel companion (battery, however has about as much life as yours truly) and other than no 3 or 4G
    (I would gladly have paid additional for it) is a nice complement to computing needs and I’m very satisfied with its performance..

  2. John Aga Says:

    I reccomend a laptop with a 17 inch screen. A search of shows several that are highly rated and are competitive in price with desktops. Yes you may never move it but a laptop as your home computer does give you the option to be mobile if the situation warrants and having more options is a good thing. If desired you always have the option of hooking up an external monitor and keyboard if you have ones that suit you better

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, John!

      Excellent idea! I’ll try using the netbook with the monitor for the desktop. That hadn’t occurred to me, but makes sense. 🙂

  3. Zebras Says:

    Sorry to hear about your desktop troubles! We are having the debate at my house about replacing a desktop with a laptop. By doing so, no purchase needs to be made. My husband could take over my laptop, and I could grab it when my K Fire is not enough. My husband just doesn’t like change.

    I think for you, the desktop is a good investment. You do so much researching and writing, that you don’t want to be limited by the lack of multitasking on the Fire. We want to keep you posting fast and furiously for our own selfish reasons. 😉

  4. laura Says:

    if the current laptop has the power you need, you could add a monitor and keyboard.

  5. Harold Delk Says:

    Our household is a combination of PC desktops, a PC laptop, and a MacBook Pro, iPad, and a few Kindles to add to the confusion. I tend to do “real” computing (Excel, Access, banking, etc.) on the desktop, reading via Kindle, and most of my “fun” computing on the iPad. My wife, a professional writer, does most of her work on the PC laptop, but is transitioning over to her MacBook Pro (which is a very good desktop replacement IMHO). That being said, I think you will be better served by a desktop (consider the new iMac as well since it can run Windows quite well). I think you get more bang for your dollar with a desktop.

    Mal/non-functioning computer: Have you tried unplugging the computer (both from the wall AND from the PC at the same time … unplug both ends of the power cord) and leaving it off for at least 30 minutes before trying to restart the computer. May not work, but this often clears up problems that appear unsolvable. Also you may try reinstalling Windows (a “repair install”, not a complete one). From your description the problem appears to be software related rather than a hardware problem.

    Excel: ever try to develop a formula to determine the date Easter will occur in any given year?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Harold!

      I’ll try your unplugging suggestion when I get home…thanks so much!

      I think I did have a formula (or function) for Easter…I’ll check later for you.

  6. Karen Says:

    Well, I would never want to be without a desktop pc for all of the obvious reasons you’ve mentioned. I will say though that I’ll also never again buy anything but an all in one. Prices are finally coming down and I love the “clutter freeness” of them. I feel I’m living large with 27″ HP all in one touch smart, a Kindle Fire HD and a Kindle Paperwhite. If I had it to do over though I’d go with HP or other brand all in one without touch. I really don’t use it and it would save money. I’ve been using Windows 8 since the release candidate and honestly love it using mouse and keyboard as usual. It isn’t really that hard. Took a few days to get used to but then it was back to business as usual. I use a laptop at work with a second monitor and really would prefer a desktop.

  7. MikeOnBike Says:

    Pretty much everything I do on a computer happens in a web browser: mail, calendar, etc. I can do many of those things on my Fire, either in the Fire’s web browser or with an app, but it’s often slower and clumsier than using a computer web browser.

    My main computer is a Chromebook, but we have other computers in the house (Windows and Linux).

    Hooking an external display to a Chromebook (or your netbook) might be a good quick solution for you.

  8. alan Says:

    invest in a good surge suppressor like the top-rated Tripp Light. they have saved me thousands from a lightning strike. was your pc protected?

  9. wickedgreensmoothies Says:

    what about the new surface tablet by microsoft? it looks pretty cool is small and has two different kind of keyboards. mabye a desktop replacement??

  10. JJ Hitt Says:

    We don’t have a desktop. We have a docking station (that mates with both laptops), a monitor and keyboard.

  11. Karin Says:

    I find that a laptop with a larger external display is very nice for having multiple windows open. I have also found that having two displays, works great. You can have your mail open on one screen(the smaller one), and other apps open on the larger on. I agree, that a tablet cannot yet replace the PC, although, I think the manufacturers would like to.


  12. Morgan Says:

    i think it can be done with the 8.9 (i have one too but with WiFi only), it’s just a matter of if you want to. they’re work arounds that make it manageable. Evernote, Swype, multiple tabs, etc. that being said,i choose to use my Fire for fun, meetings and quick searches…doesnt help that silk always crashes… i have Evernote on my laptop too so everything that i use one my work computer i can access on Fire… personally, my stance is that it can be done but i choose not to because it’s more cumbersome….my two_cents is to hookup a monitor to you laptop (as others suggested).

  13. skubitwo Says:

    Yep, had that conversation. DH and I have one PC desktop and each has our own PC laptop. I also have KKB and KFHD 7″. No apple products, so can’t comment on those.
    We use the desktop and laptops the most for productivity, but a big reason is because my husband does a lot of engineering research that you need to be able to switch hardware around in, etc. Both of us have educator software that runs best on windows and very poorly or not at all on android systems. So, we’ll probably always have a PC desktop/laptop because of the needing to plug in odd non-standard hardware and software. PC laptops do more non-standard software, but are kind of fiddly for messing with internal bits….and if you screw up, a lot more expensive to replace than a desktop.
    I have a PC netbook that I used to use a lot more for going back and forth to school because I could access the full equation editor type stuff in excel and word – but, the educator software doesn’t adjust to fit the small screen very well anymore. We still take it places – my husband just finished a robotics lab project with it because the students could carry it around for demos – but not sure how much longer it will last since it can’t be updated anymore. I suppose the PC tablets could take it’s place when it finally dies. The cloud computing idea is good, but some fellow researchers have complained that your own terabyte hard drive is a lot safer than having a whole day long program run die because of an internet hiccup – yep, you can imagine it.
    Kindle we use mostly for fun, or quick access while traveling to mail or simple documents. We know of people who have hacked Kindles to do some pretty amazing technical things, but we haven’t…so I know you can do some amazing things with them, I love it for media consumption.
    so, interesting conversation. we’re just out on the odd STEM fringe.

  14. John Aga Says:

    If you have not already done so, more than a surge protector, I strongly reccomend an “Uninterupted Power Supply”. This will not only give you protection from power surges but will also protect you from brown outs or other brief reductions in power that can also harm a computer. Plus they can give you the valuable minutes you might need to save your work.

  15. Angelo B. Says:

    Hi Bufo. Short answer to your dilemma: You can’t do it with a tablet! Screen size, lack of keyboard, inadequate apps/software all work against any high productivity user like yourself. IMHO, a desktop or 17″ laptop would be your most effective solution. For $400 you could get either with a fast processor, sufficient memory, plenty of hard drive space, etc. Tablets are great, but not for what you do. Again, just my opinion. Happy shopping!

  16. Brian Says:

    It is just tough to beat a decent desktop. The power to buck ratio isn’t available in another form factor. I’m with you, a desktop.

  17. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I commented on an earlier post as to what you ought to buy (large laptop or All In One), but it seems like your desktop is showing signs of life. It might be worth while to buy something new — just so you have a fallback device (I’m real good at spending OPM 😀 ).

    As for using the KF89 as a replacement, that’s going to be a problem for all the reasons you pointed out. One thing that could help would be to get Bluetooth keyboard to use with the KF89.

    AFAIK the version of Android that the KF89 runs on does a fair job of supporting mutitasking — the problem is one of task switching. I don’t know — perhaps in the app store one could find some kind of task switcher app that could provide something analogous to Windows’ Alt-Tab facility?

  18. Edward Boyhan Says:

    One more thing to keep in mind is that some surge protectors are one shots: a big enough surge can do in the surge protector as well. I would carefully check that all the surge protectors that were online when the transformer blew are still functional.

  19. Rajbir Bhattacharjee Says:

    Hey Bufo, very apt post. I’ve never bought a tablet myself, because I could never justify to myself the cost of a tab versus the lack of ability to create good content, and run full scale applications.
    The first time something captured my interest were the convertible windows 8 ultrabooks. Fold them like a tablet, use them like a laptop + I think windows 8 has done a good job of giving a tablet like interface along with a more traditional desktop interface for serious business.
    Don’t get me wrong. I was a windows hater most of my life. I still prefer ubuntu anytime, and I’m typing this on a ubuntu laptop with a dock and wide-screen monitor.
    I once thought of getting a transformer prime, but that was about the time windows 8 launched.
    I’d wait a year or so for the convertible ultrabook market to mature. The products out there still seem to be rolled out hastilly, and cost a fortune for a 4GB ram box. My requirements include running 4 VMs at a time for development, and 4GB seems a bottleneck.
    The other product that quite took my imagination is the ubuntu phone. If they are able to pull it off, it will give a phone, which can be docked to a monitor to give a full development experience – running ubuntu.
    I have nothing against android, but I just can’t justify spending 20000 INR on a tablet that cannot run gimp, or cannot run the C compiler.
    Oh, I still use a nokia dumb-phone with a 2 inch display and physical keyboard. Never missed any feature of a smartphone, except, perhaps the google maps feature 🙂 but thats me.

  20. rogerknights Says:

    In Seattle we have a store called Re-PC that REcycles used computers and accessories like UIPs. If you have a similar store in your area you could get a good desktop (or Mac, if you’re adventurous) for less than half-price, and hefty (12-pound or more) UIPs for under $20, or 90% off. You’ll have to trade in the worn out batteries for new ones at a budget battery shop, which will do the installation for you, for about $50. Buy several and protect other electronics too.

  21. rogerknights Says:

    PS: Maybe call a computer consultant or a computer store and ask if there’s any way to fix your possibly fried PC.

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