Re-boot camp: the all purpose fix for Amazon gadgets

Re-boot camp: the all purpose fix for Amazon gadgets

No gadget functions perfectly all the time.

Even p-books (paperbooks), which were undeniably a technological gadget was first introduced (with “expensive” difficult to use versions going to elite early adopters, and then eventually, cheap mass-produced ones which benefited from early users’ experiences), fail in a variety of ways…pages tear or get folded, spines separate, and so on.

With electronic gadgets, one of the big differences is that they actively do things…they participate in your interaction with them.

That ability to participate has its limits…it can become overwhelmed, just like an adult trying to deal with several children. 😉

Most devices have two sorts of memory, somewhat similar to humans.

They have a short term memory (“What am I doing now?”) and a long term memory (“Who am I?”).

Unless something is catastrophically wrong, a Kindle EBR (E-Book Reader) basically knows it is a device to display books. It knows when you tap a title on the homescreen (I say “tapping” because all of the current generation have touchscreens) it should display that book.

That functionality is in its long term memory.

The words it is currently displaying to you? That’s short term…it can store the spot where you were and return you to that, but it isn’t constantly “thinking” about where you are in all of the books you’ve been reading on the device.

The same sort of thing goes for a Fire tablet, a Fire phone, a Fire TV (or Fire TV stick) and the Amazon Echo.

When its active, short term memory gets filled up, it can’t deal with requests very well…just like that adult with several kids all asking questions at once.

In fact, they can get so overwhelmed that requests can’t reach the long term memory part, or they reach it imperfectly, and it freezes up or makes mistakes.

With electronics, we can usually tell them to clear that short term memory so they can work again.

With humans, we typically do that by sleeping and dreaming…at least, that’s my best hypothesis on dreaming, and it seems to work quite well.

When we dream, we can “run programs” we don’t usually use, to make sure they are working properly, then file them away again. You don’t often have to run through the woods, but you can practice while your physical movements are constrained so you aren’t at risk. Experiments have been done with animals where they can remove the constraint, and yes, the animal will physically act out the dreams (that’s how I recall the studies).

You can “defrag the disk”: run things that happened during the day, deleting fragments, storing some others.

That’s why “sleeping on it” works, and why if scientists keep you from dreaming (but let you sleep), you’ll start to hallucinate within a few days (usually).

We rarely let our devices “dream”, so they can also start to “hallucinate” pretty quickly.

How do you let them dream?

You can reboot them…turn them off and turn them back on it. In the turning off process, they’ll clear all of that temporary memory (but not the long term memory) and “wake up” refreshed.

Oh, that’s important: sleep mode won’t do it here…it’s actually turning off the device.

I have a relative who is a psychologist, and we’ve talked about this. You know when you have a birthday party for a five-year old, and there is a clown and a magician and the presents and the birthday kid falls asleep in the middle?

People tend to say it is “too much cake”, but all the kids had cake. Only the birthday kid falls asleep.

What I think happens is that the brain says, “Too much input!” It shuts down the input systems (by sleeping) to give it time to process what has already been happening. Once things have been cleared up and  reorganized  a bit, it can wake up again.

With a Kindle or a Fire, you usually do this by holding in the power button.

On non-Fires, if you keep holding it in (for about thirty seconds), it will typically restart on its own.

With a Fire tablet, like my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and the current generation, you may need to release the power button, then press it again to reawaken it.

If you do need to do that, it’s best to leave it off for a bit (a minute should be fine) just to make sure it gets a chance to clear everything.

From time to time, I have to unplug my

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)


Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to get them to clear up. If you have a way to restart using software, by the way, that’s better. The Kindle EBRs like my

Kindle Paperwhite (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

do. Using the software is a “soft restart”. Using the hardware is a “hard restart” (logically enough). The soft restart is simply more elegant and gives the device more control of the process. If it’s too full to control anything, though, then the hard restart is fine.

On my Paperwhite, you use the menu at the top of the screen (tap towards the top of the “page” when you are in a book to see it), then do Settings, then tap the menu again, and you’ll see the choice.

The Amazon Echo reportedly has a reset button on the bottom…mine is on order, but I won’t have it for a while yet.

Restarting should not affect any of the long term memory stuff, like being registered to your account and knowing your wi-fi network password.

In addition to the devices needing this “clearing” process, so can apps on your Fire tablet.

Their active memory is called a “cache”, and you can also “force stop” them to make them shut down and clear everything out.

I find I have to do this pretty often with some apps. For example, the

CNN App (at AmazonSmile*)

seems to fill up its cache every few days…and then it won’t scroll through the stories. I clear the cache (and force stop it), and everything is fine again.

How do you clear the cache?

It’s pretty much the same on all the Fire devices…TV, stick, phone, tablets.

You get to the Settings, and then you Manage All Applications (you probably need to select “Applications” first).

Then, you find the app that is “misbehaving”.

You’ll see a choice to clear the “cache”. Clearing it may mean that it takes more time to open the first time, or that it may not know where you were in something (like where you were in a story).

The cache is where it puts the things it doesn’t have to remember forever, just for now. I have described it this way: imagine you are on a shopping trip. As you buy things, you are carrying them in your arms. Eventually, you’ll be carrying so many things, you’ll start to “malfunction”, and may even drop items.

Clearing the cache is like getting those packages out of your arms.

When you go home, you might put them away on shelves in cupboards (depending on what they are).

You can no longer get to them as easily, but your arms are free to do more things and carry more items.

This is not the same as clearing the data, which you generally don’t want to do.

The data choice represents things you want it to remember, in most cases.

I have to validate who I am to the CNN app…I’m allowed to watch it for free because I pay for CNN elsewhere (through my cable company, in my case). I can read the stories without that, but I can’t watch live TV.

That validation is stored in the data, not the cache. I can clear the cache without having to revalidate. If I cleared the data, I’d have to validate again.

“Force stopping” it is like turning it off. That can stop processes that have gone wonky.

Let’s say it is trying to launch a video, but there is something wrong…it can’t do the whole launch. It keeps trying and trying, and can’t think about anything else very well.

The force stop will make it stop trying to load that video…just like shutting down a non-Fire Kindle can make it stop trying to index a corrupt e-book file (such as one that only got downloaded partway for some reason).

I know we shouldn’t ever have to do something like going into Settings-Applications to use our devices, but when I do, I don’t find it onerous…it’s pretty simple and will often take care of whatever the issue is.

There you go! Feel free to let me (and my readers) know if you have more questions about “first aid” for your device by commenting on this post.

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

19 Responses to “Re-boot camp: the all purpose fix for Amazon gadgets”

  1. tellthetruth1 Says:

    I find that the more I put on my KFHD, the more I have to do the hard reset, poor thing! But even after all this time, both of them are still working well, although my original one seems to have a few problems that the rescued one doesn’t.

    The rescued one: Mate of mine bought this KFHD for his wife, but she didn’t like it, so he resold it to me. Yup, I love my Kindle that much, that I’d even go as far as to rescue one, haha.

    Good page, this. Thanks, Bufo 🙂

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1!

      Yes, the more you put on it, the more strain you put on it…again, like someone carrying packages. I think I tend to keep my devices pretty light. Some of that is force of habit from the old days, when we had a lot less memory and the operating systems weren’t as robust.

      • tellthetruth1 Says:

        D’you reckon we’ve gone the wrong way, then? I can cram so much on a hard drive nw, that it’s become a habit! Gotta keep it all backed up 😉

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1?

        Which way is the wrong way? Not quite clear from your comment. The progression for a while was towards larger local storage: in the past several years, it’s been to more cloud storage and less on the device. I think that’s the right way, although it does put the power of preservation into fewer hands. I remember when Apple introduced a computer without a floppy drive, and people were at first aghast. Apple was right in saying that they weren’t going to be needed.

        Many laptops nowadays come without an optical (CD/DVD) drive.

        If you want (especially) movies available when you aren’t on wireless, you need quite a bit of local storage. As wireless becomes more universal, though, that will also become less important.

      • tellthetruth1 Says:

        Funny. I remember the loss of the floppy drive! I couldn’t imagine being without a CD/DVD drive. That would mean I’d have to have yet another peripheral sitting somewhere. I’ve already had to go the USB soundcard way when they used to put full cards in a laptop. Methinks technology isn’t going forward. More like going backward when you have to buy the extras to make a full computer. Bit like buying a bike without the wheels!

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1!

        Well, that’s a good example of the form versus the function. What you like is what the CD/DVD drive does for you…presumably because it access things you already have, or because you are used to it for installing software.

        If all of your items that are on CD/DVD now were on the Cloud and easily accessible, you wouldn’t miss it. I could also imagine a different technology to read those CD/DVDs…perhaps holding your phone over it for a visual scan of some kind (maybe rotating one of the two of them slowly once).

        So, it could be more like buying a bike without a buggy whip… 😉

      • tellthetruth1 Says:

        Haha! Love the punchline. No, I need my optical drive for sticking music playlists on iTunes. Saves playing the discs, then. And yeah, sometimes, for software. 🙂

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1!

        Are you still buying CDs? If not, once you get them uploaded, you wouldn’t need a drive, right?

        I’ve found that some of my music was “matched” by Amazon and made available to me that way…that sort of thing may happen more in the future as well.

      • tellthetruth1 Says:

        “Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1!
        Are you still buying CDs?”

        Yup! I buy the discs as backup. Love that many come with additional free Autorip feature as well. Really enjoying the chat mate. Take care.

  2. D. Knight Says:

    There is a reset button on the Echo, but it is the “buried in a little hole, hunt around for a paperclip to unbend” type, so I don’t think Amazon expects it to be used often.

    BTW, I set up the Echo at home, then took it to work (to show it off) and set it up on the wi-fi network there. When I brought it back home, I expected to have to set it up again, but it had remembered my network and rejoined easily within a minute or two, without any intervention from me other than turning it on.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, D.!

      Interesting! Like the first generation Kindle (2007) in that way…we would slip a cover off the back, then stick in a paperclip or similar.

      Intriguing (but not unexpected) that it remembered your network…good information! I tend to think of the Echo as what we used to call a “dumb terminal”, doing very little processing on the device and leaving it to the Cloud. However, your network has to be remembered on it…since it couldn’t connect to the Cloud to find out how to connect to the Cloud. 😉

      • D. Knight Says:

        Another thing I just remembered: when I set it up the first time (using the Echo app on a Fire HDX), there was a video that helped you through the set up process. Then after the set up process was complete on my echo (I had paused the video and asked it a couple of questions, so it was set up), the video gave some example questions to use by having an actor ask an on-camera echo some questions. He used the wake word: “Alexa, ?” and the on-camera echo would answer but mine would not! (The tablet was less than 2 feet away from the echo and the volume was normal, so it isn’t possible that my echo didn’t hear it). I’d then ask the same question and it would respond.

        I was impressed with that. I know it’s a small thing, but it is a bit more polish than what I would expect on what is basically a beta product.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, D.!

        That is interesting! Many people report the Echo responding to things the TV says, and if I make a video of mine (when I eventually get it, estimated to be months from now), I plan to use a synthesized voice (text to speech software). I wonder how they accomplished it, if it was on purpose…could they have used a word that sounded like Alexa to you, but really wasn’t? Like an optical illusion, but an audible one?

      • D. Knight Says:

        Well, a co-worker thought they were sending out a subsonic “do not respond” frequency (or something like that).

        I’ve had a couple of false positives to the TV that have sounded less like “Alexa” to me than that actor did.

        When I set it up, this caught me by surprise, and I didn’t have time to thoroughly test any theories. I may have paused the video every time I asked something–I don’t remember. I could try setting it up again, but I’m not sure I’d get the video again (I didn’t when I set it up at work).

        When you get yours, please try to remember this and test it out for me. Here’s hoping you get yours sooner rather than later. 🙂

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, D.!

        I’ll definitely keep my eye on it during the set up…thanks for the heads up on it!

        My estimated delivery date is unchanged: May 27th – July 2nd.

  3. Phink Says:

    Here is something I wanted you to know about, if you did not already. James Patterson is releasing the world’s first ever self destructing books. I would not be interested but I guess others might be.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      I appreciate the heads up! I’ve seen that, and it might show up in the next Round up. 🙂

  4. tonya gilbreath Says:

    my fire stick says it’s asleep and will wake with any button , but it doesn’t, I’ve unplugged it for days and re- tried this nothing is working. any suggestions would be a great help. thank you

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, tonya!

      My guess here is that your remote might not be working. Do you have more than one remote, perchance?

      If you don’t, you can get the free

      Amazon Fire TV Remote App (at AmazonSmile)

      If it your Fire TV is responding to your remote, trying holding in the select button and the play button at the same time for ten seconds or so…that should trigger a restart.

      If none of that works, contact Help. You can see the Help link at the top of pretty much any Amazon page.

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