The Tech Lowdown #1

The Tech Lowdown – Volume #1

I am by no means a tech expert. I may call myself a Geek Warrior Princess, but I just happen to love computers and electronic gadgets. I love testing them out, comparing, and rating them. I figured while I’m doing this I may as well start writing about a few of my so-called tests.

My standard mantra for dealing with technology is simple. Never, ever buy the first generation of anything. Why? Because that is the model the company has rolled out, which is filled with bugs, to test the nettle of the buying public. If a great hue and cry arises, the company hastens to back to the drawing board to work the kinks out that they should have caught in the first place………… So, why did YOU buy it? Curiosity………

For my latest rant, I will lock my phasers on none other than the Kindle Fire.

I had acquired a few extra duckets and went out and purchased both a Kindle Fire and a Samsung Galaxy Tablet. At first silly me, I thought they were very similar. Nearly four weeks later, after intense testing (playing around with both gadgets like a kid on the playground swings, sliding pan, and see-saw), I have come to the realization that they are NOT similar! Not by a long shot!

The only similarities they have are the fact that they are both rectangular in shape, with the Tablet having the word SAMSUNG printed across the bottom. The other similarity is both must have WiFi in order to work. Without WiFi both devises are rendered mostly useless. I found this out the hard way.

You’d think the store personnel warn people about this first before selling them……. DUH.

The Amazon’s Kindle Fire, is Kindle’s version of introducing color to what was formally black and white. Like when color televisions first came out. A definite step up from the Grey Kindle family, yes? Ummm, maybe not……..

I may have mentioned it before, but I must take the time to mention it again. In order for the Kindle Fire to work, you must have access to WiFi. That means either your own secure wifi hook up at home, or work (if they allow you to use it). Or you can take your chances with public wifi in places like McDonald’s. Starbucks, and The Olive Garden, to mention a few.

The very first thing you must do upon opening your new Kindle Fire is to register it on Amazon. As stated before, you must do this via WiFi. Since I didn’t originally have WiFi, I tried hooking my Fire up to my computer via USB cable to register it that way. FAIL!

There is a method to the WiFi madness. Once you register via WiFi, this is the method you will receive your media. Unlike the Grey Kindles which receive media through the Amazon FREE Whispernet (which is their 3g network available for Grey Kindle users). For some inexplicable reason Amazon decided to dispense with this handy feature when they designed the Fire. Shaking My Head……

After you have registered your Fire, you are now ready to move in your reading material. You can either start off afresh if this is your first account, or go to the Amazon Cloud, peruse your previous purchases and download some or all of them.

However, there are other things you need to do. First you must download apps. After all, the Kindle Fire is web capable (to a certain degree) and if you like Face book, Twitter, and other social sites you will have to do the Download Boogie.

The Kindle Fire has about ten pre-installed apps. If you want more you have to go to the Amazon App store and either download them for free, or purchase them through your already established Amazon account.

Warning, the Amazon App Store is nothing like the Google Play App store. The cupboard is bare and they have a limited selection of apps which you may like. I lucked up when I found Plume (a third party for Twitter), Photobucket, and a Bible app to tweet and post scriptures to Facebook.

Don’t bother looking for Gmail, or Google, they are not there, however Amazon does provide you with a generic email app. You can also download games and puzzles that you enjoy.

One of the problems I encountered was the lousy pre-installed browser The Kindle Fire uses. It’s useful to surf the web, that’s it. But if you want to watch a video or video clip, you will need a browser which contains video capabilities (I can’t recall if it is Java or Adobe plug ins you need). So far the only suitable browser for the Kindle Fire of that caliber is “Maxithon”, recognizable by the white M on a blue background. So I had to download that.

Now the other problem I must address is the audio. Unfortunately I’d been spoiled by Pinky, my Gray Kindle. Instead of reading a book, I could switch to audio, put in my earbuds, and have the computer voice READ the book to me. Guess what? The Kindle Fire does NOT have this capability. Yes, I even spent about two hours trying to find and download a audio app which would do this for me. My result was another FAIL!

So, I signed up for Audible, where you can buy and download audio books. Upon signing up one gets two free credits which are good for two audio books. I immediately got “The Help”, and “Roots” (because “Roots” is narrated by none other than “Avery Brooks” of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” Fame). Melt……

Silly clueless me thought these two books were going to show up on my Fire. If you have multiple Amazon reading devises, you can select a specific devise to download media to. I chose my Fire, but that was another FAIL!

After looking for the audio books for two days on line and in my Drop Box, I finally found them, guess where? They had been downloaded to PINKY my Gray Kindle, not my Fire! This is further proof that the Kindle Fire has no audio book capabilities.

This also means I will be canceling my “Audible” subscription when the 30 day free trial is over.

I’m so sorry The Kindle designers took a giant step backwards in this area. I really LOVED being read to.

I was also disheartened to learn that Kindle Fire App Store does not have Drop Box. The only comparable app is SugarSync, recognizable as a green hummingbird. It works pretty good, but it’s no Drop Box. Alas, it is somewhat helpful to download documents/manuscripts to read on the Fire.

There is also a handy Kindle Fire App called Quick Office, recognizable by a gray square with one small blue square, orange, lime green and purple, with a “C” across them all. It has a nifty feature which allows you to write a Microsoft Document (if you can deal with the silly on screen keyboard and auto correct). Once you save it, you can have the app read what you wrote back to you! That I absolutely love! Now if this app can do that, why can’t the Kindle itself do this for books?

My over all opinion of the Kindle Fire? It’s a good e-reader and a fair internet surfer. If Amazon wants the Fire to be a better e-reader and internet tool they will definitely have to enhance their browser, bring back the Whispernet option, bring back the audio read back of books, and last but not least, provide better apps. Most of the negative app reviews mention that many of the apps look and operate as if they were hastily cobbled together in order to meet public demand. That’s definitely not a good way to get and keep customers, Amazon.

I hear the next line of Kindle Fires are out. I sincerely hope they are worth the nearly 500 smackaroos Amazon is asking for them…………

As for me, though I do love my Fire, when the question of reliability and versatility comes up, I will stand by my Gray Kindle, Pinky…….

Adventures In WiFi

Believe it or not, this all started when I bought my Kindle Fire e-reader, last week. I’ve had a “Grey Kindle” (Kindle 3) for about 18 months, and was used to how it worked. The Fire is quite another story.

First, the Kindle 3 or other models like it which I call “The Grey Kindles” all operate on a 3G network which is operated by Amazon called the Whispernet. Once you’ve registered your devise (and named it) with Amazon, you can download books (or media) into your devise through Amazons Whispernet, free of charge.

You can either do your ordering on the computer and send it to your Kindle, or like me order books through your smartphone (my Samsung Galaxy) and have it sent directly to  your Grey Kindle ( mine is named “Pinky”).

However, The Kindle Fire works on a totally different principle. It only uses WiFi to deliver media to your device. So in order for your Fire to work, you must have your own WiFi hookup at home, or if you are daring, use a public access WiFi network (like in Starbucks, McDonald’s, etc).  Or if they allow you to, at work.

My adventure started because I brought a Fire, brought it home and it was practically useless. This was unprecedented for me because, I as a rule research stuff before I buy it. Had I known I would have to go through so much to get the thing to work, I would’ve left the darned thing in the store. . .

I currently have cable as my internet provider. When it was originally installed like four years ago, the guy hooked me up with free WiFi (which he wasn’t supposed to do – what a VERY BAD man. . .), and I had a keycode everything. However, since that time, my Mom passed away, and several traumatic experiences occurred and I forgot the keycode.

Now every GEEK knows, you should have a Big Chief Book where you keep all of the codes for the sites you frequent. Yes, I have an old fashioned telephone book which alphabetical tabs, and I list my sites and codes that way.  Yes, the keycode for my WiFi set up should’ve been in there too. Only problem is, I HAD a Big Chief Book, but I haven’t a clue where the thing is.. . .

Talk about hiding things from one’s own self. . . . .

So, typical geek, I started playing with all kinds of possibilities, words, names and number combinations I could have used, to no avail.

So, I took everything one step further, I called the cable company and explained the situation and asked what can they do. Oh, they can send a technician out to my house to reset my wifi code. But guess what? Since they previously had no knowledge of my ever having wifi, I would now have to PAY a monthly fee for it!  :+/

So, I took the drastic action of ordering CLEAR. CLEAR is a wifi company which rents a wifi device or devises to you for a monthly fee. They provide package plans where you can order a home hook up, or a combo home and on the road (portable hub) for starting at $50. per month.

I ordered it Thursday (08/30/2012), it came Friday (08/31/2012) and I had it set up and running within fifteen minutes. Unlike cable with runs on a 3G network, CLEAR runs on a 4G network, which is much faster.

I’m very satisfied with my service so far, but for one tiny problem. I can’t access my wifi network to use my Fire. . . . .   Don’t ask why, but for some reason my customized password does not work. . . . . I’ve tried numerous times to no avail. I will have to chat with one of the support techs soon. In the meantime, my Fire was still useless.

So, on Saturday I purposely stopped at a local McDonald’s to have lunch. While I sat there I logged into their free wifi network and first, registered my Kindle Fire and two, started shopping and downloading some of the stuff I had in the Amazon Cloud.

You see, Amazon holds all of the stuff you buy on their cloud servers. I have about 700 books on Pinky (my Grey Kindle) and I wanted to transfer some of the stuff to FRYA (my Kindle Fire), so I downloaded like 100 books, plus my bibles. I even received a nice email from Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, thanking me for registering my Kindle Fire . . . . .

So far everything is working fine! I just have to clear up that minor issue of the wifi this week. And, bye the way, Cable IS history. . . . . . . .