Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The New (3rd gen) Kindle

Yesterday I received my new 3rd generation, Wifi-only Kindle in the mail. So far it's been a bit of a mixed bag, relative to my 2-year-old original Kindle.

Good things:

  • it is, of course, smaller and lighter .
  • The contrast is noticeably better, and the quality of images is dramatically better.
  • Page turns are a lot faster.
  • The software offers some nice new features (notably, collections).
  • The wifi connectivity was easy to set up, including multiple networks.
  • The wifi-only version is finally reasonably priced (call it $140).
Bad things:
  • I can't find a way to set the sleep timeout; it seems like it's pretty short, and since I have a password set, that means I have to retype the password too often.
  • The first time I tried to download new (as opposed to previously purchased content from my old Kindle), the items got stuck in a "pending - 0%" state. I called CS, and they had me restart the Kindle (which takes about a minute; it's shockingly slow, for a dedicated device...). That unclogged it, but I won't be happy if I have to do this very often. I got the distinct impression from the CS guy that "pending first downloads" is a common problem.
  • To my surprise, I don't like the "arrow quad" for navigation as well as I did the old "roller strip". The roller was very fast, and since it used a display other than the main display (with a different technology), it was very responsive. Feedback from the new arrow quad is on the main (e-ink) display, which means it can't be very fast; and it feels glitchy; the quad is small enough that I find myself pressing the center "select" button inadvertently.
  • Related to the quad vs. roller - the dictionary lookup is different, too. On the old Kindle, you scrolled to the line containing the word to be looked up, depressed the roller, and selected "lookup" on the menu that appeared. All the words on that line were searched for. On the new Kindle, you actually have to select a specific word, which requires more careful navigation with the arrow quad.
It may be that some of the negatives (like the use of the quad) go away as I become more adept with the device - but it distinctly feels like a more complicated gadget. I fear that Amazon has fallen prey to feeping creaturism. The real beauty of the first generation device was that it was dead-up simple to use as a book. This new Kindle has more features, but may not be as good a book reader - and if it tries to go head-to-head with the iPad, it's sure to lose.

The main reason I got a new Kindle was for sharing; I've been really annoyed that, unlike a book, I've had no way to lend out books on the Kindle to friends. Now that I have a second gadget, I can loan out the old one. 

Given that up to six Kindles can share an account, I can imagine a group of friends, or even a book group, getting together to share books. I bet Amazon - and the publishing cabal - would hate that.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Looking at Wheels

Yesterday I looked at wheels of various sorts. Last weekend RuthAnne and I took the Basic Rider Course from Training Wheels in Plympton and passed the exam to get our motorcycle licenses. I've wanted to know how to ride - and be able to do so legally - since my long trip to India in 2007, when it became clear that a 2-wheeler would have been the ideal way for me to get around. More recently, my daily commute to Burlington by bus has been getting me down; it takes an extra hour out of my day to go by bus than by car, yet I don't want to do all that driving, so I've been thinking a high-MPG 2-wheeler would be a good choice.

So - I stopped first at Boston Motor Sports in Arlington and looked at scooters. They carry scooters from (among others) Kymco and Suzuki. I was especially interested in the new Kymco Downtown 300i, but it's unfortunately not going to be available until the fall. It looks like a sweet vehicle; 60MPG, top speed of about 80MPH, large wheels (for a scooter), lightweight, FUN. While there, I looked at the Kymco People S 250, a similar scooter; it looked pretty good. I also checked out a used 2008 Aprilia 250 with 3000 miles, for $3200, including rear box.

I unfortunately couldn't ride anything; Boston Motor Sports (not unreasonably) requires a full license for test drives, not just a permit, and I'm still waiting for mine to come in the mail. After leering at metal for a while, I wandered upstairs to their gear department and checked out, helmets, gloves, jackets and such. One of the sales guys was particularly helpful, and I tried on a lot of stuff.

A helmet is a completely indispensible piece of safety gear, and I tried on helmets from Shoei and Arai. The Arai Vector medium fit me particularly well; it's about $450. I checked on the Internet (of course), and that's a very reasonably price for that helmet. I did price checks on everything I looked at at Boston Motor Sports, and they alway came in just a little over the best Internet prices. So I'll be buying locally!

For gloves, the Power Trip Grand National medium fit well and felt comfortable; $45/pair. For jackets, there were several that seemed pretty reasonable, costing between $250 and $450 for a complete system (outer shell with protective inserts, removable inner insulation layers). Chaps or other overpants seem like a wise idea, and boots wouldn't hurt, either. So I could be looking at about $1000 worth of protective gear before I even get a machine...

I left Arlington and went out to Framingham to look at a Sym Citycom 300 at Metrowest Scooters. They were a bit more laid back about the license requirement, and I got to take the citycom out for a spin. I was a bit disappointed with the acceleration; there's clearly a big performance difference between motorcycles and scooters with similar engine sizes. But the scoot handled bumps smoothly and was, of course, insanely easy to operate.

Finally, for something completely different, I stopped at Ace Wheelworks ( a few blocks from home) and took out a Trek Allant for a test ride. It was really fun being back on a bicycle, and this one is even pretty affordable. The 20" frame was right for me, and I had no trouble (aside from my terrible out-of-shapedness) gtting it up hills and stopped on the way down.

I'm sure I won't be making any purchase real soon, but it was fun to look.