Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amazon Kindle 2 Thoughts

Kindle 2
Having been an avid Kindle user since it came out, I immediately upgraded to the Kindle 2 when it became available. It arrived today.

There are plenty of unboxing videos and reviews already on the Web, so I am not going to do an in-depth review. I am just going to share some thoughts.

- The new five way control button. It is slower than the previous scroll wheel for moving up and down within menus and books, but definitely useful for moving sideways in the browser, in some of the pop-up boxes, and for use with the updated highlighting feature which actually works like true highlighting!

- The expanded support for conversion of personal document types including Microsoft Word, PDF, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC and MOBI documents is a welcome addition.

- The text-to-speech option which is "interesting" to listen to. I found the female voice, slowed down one notch, was the most pleasant to listen to. I can see using this function while hooked into the aux jack in the car or on the deck after sunset in the summer.

- The new experimental Web browser is great! It is more like a real browser in how it functions, and the 16 shades of gray make the images much, much clearer. Using the mobile versions of Facebook and Twitter, I was able to read and post, so my PLN is available to me while I am reading on the Kindle, too!

- The note-taking feature is easier to get to and the new keyboard works just fine, although I liked the tilted keys on the thumb board of the previous version a bit better. There is also no @ key on the keyboard, and it takes an extra step to get to it on the symbol button.

- Audible books can be loaded in the top two qualities (4 and enhanced) only, which means they take up more of the internal storage space than the lesser quality spoken word files. (This info is from Amazon's site. Audible seems to allow one to download formats 2, 3, 4 and enhanced, but I have not tried it.)

- Being able to load MP3 files directly into the internal storage is much easier than having to put them on an SD card and re-insert it each time in the back of the previous version. (Update: You can also move from MP3 file to MP3 file on the Kindle 2, whereas on the first version you had to just play them all without any control other than on and off.)

- The 3G network connection is speedy. And the page turns seem speedier.

- The smaller buttons make it easier to hold without turning pages, especially since I do not use the leather cover and hold the coverless Kindle while reading, opting for a zippered Belkin case to keep the Kindle clean and protected.

- There is still a "flash to black" as the electronic ink refreshes between pages. That's how electronic ink works, but after reading about 10 pages on a Kindle, you'll never notice that again.

- Oh, by the way, the Kindle 2, as with the previous version, does a super job of letting you carry lots of books with you and easily reading them! The electronic ink is never tiring to my eyes and the ability to use the Kindle in bright sunlight and other natural light is great!

Update March 3, 2009

Amazon releases the Kindle Reader for the iPhone and Touch!

iphone kindle appThe free Kindle app for the iPhone/Touch works great! With adjustable type sizes and some navigation options, it allows non-Kindle users to purchase books (via their computer or the browser on the device) from the Kindle bookstore and download them to their iPhone/Touch. This works both over 3G and the 802.11x connections.

For Kindle owners, it also does another cool thing-- it syncs your place in the book so, when you open the book on either device, it asks you if you want to move ahead to the place where you left off reading on the other device.

There is no widescreen support for the Kindle app (yet!), magazines and newspapers are not supported, you can add bookmarks, and you are able to read the notes you entered via your Kindle, but you cannot add new notes via the Kindle app.

I have read ebooks for years on small devices via Palm's Reader and with Windows CE/Mobile devices. The clarity of the iPhone/Touch screen makes the experience much more pleasant, but I do have to turn down the backlight so the reading is easier on my eyes. (At least this might extend the rather poor battery life of the iPhone!)

I would rather read an entire novel on the Kindle 2, but having the same books with me all the time for reference or relaxation is great!

Added: 4/19/09

One commenter asked about the number of Audible recordings the Kindle 2 would hold if he had no books on the device. (The original Kindle had an SSD card slot, so you were only limited by the size of the SD card.) The answer to that question needs some explanation as to how Audible works. Audible offers its audiobook recordings in different quality formats. The Kindle 2 can play formats 2, 3, or 4, with format-4 being the best quality.

I chose a title, Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburned Country", to use for determining the answer to this question. Bryson's print book is 352 pages in length. Audible's format-2 of his book is 46mb in file size, format-3 is 86mb, and format 4 is 172mb. That seems to indicate that, on the Kindle's 2GB storage drive, you could have forty-five format-2 Audible recordings, twenty-four format-3 recordings, or twelve format-4 recordings. (And of course, various numbers of the combination of the formats.)

According to these figures, each page of this print book takes up .13mb for format-2, .24mb for format-3, and .5mb for format-4. Does this hold true for all Audible recordings? I am not sure, but at least this gives the commenter some broad idea of how many Audible recordings would fit on the Kindle 2.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Geek Alert: Netbooks & the Airport Extreme

I know that many of us attend and run conferences and professional development sessions, and with more educators getting netbooks, I wanted to share a problem that I experienced, and the solution, in case you are ever encounter it.

I just purchased my fourth netbook, the MSI Wind, with b/g/n network ability and it worked like a dream on the wireless network at home (Apple Airport Express) and out and about at public WiFi hotspots.

However, in my office, with the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station, the minute I connected to the wireless, the netbook would lock up my Airport Extreme. I thought I was imagining it the first couple of times and reset the base station and the cable router, only to have it happen each and every time.

I did some Internet research and found the combination of the MSI Wind (and a few models of the Asus eeePC) and the Airport Extreme Base Station can cause a problem. However, I also found the solution below. It is an easy fix on the netbook.

If you are using the standard Windows wireless configuration utility
  1. Right click on the wireless connection in the taskbar and select STATUS
  2. Click on PROPERTIES
  3. You should be on the GENERAL tab
  4. Choose CONFIGURE next to the wireless adapter box
  5. Choose the ADVANCED tab
  6. Scroll down the list and click on POWER SAVING MODE
  7. Change the value to CAM (Constantly Awake Mode)
  8. Click OK
  2. Choose the SYSTEM option
  3. Choose the HARDWARE tab
  4. Choose the DEVICE MANAGER button
  5. Expand the NETWORK ADAPTERS entry on the list
  6. Double-click on your wireless adapter
  7. Choose the ADVANCED tab
  8. Scroll down the list and click on POWER SAVING MODE
  9. Change the value to CAM (Constantly Awake Mode)
  10. Click OK

CAM mode

If you are using the Ralink wireless configuration utility
(I am not, so cannot verify these instructions)
  2. Enable CAM (Constantly Awake Mode)
I only post this for those of you that might run into this either at a conference you are attending or running, or at a WiFi hotspot using the Airport Extreme base station. Hope it helps!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Digital Pioneer: The Movie

A digital version of a blog post I made earlier this year and my (non-successful) ADE application video.

Digital Pioneer: The Movie on Vimeo.

Maiden name in Facebook

A little known fact in Facebook is that you do not have to put your maiden name as part of your full profile name for others to find you by your "former" name.

Instructions to make your maiden name searchable (for those that knew you "when") are as follows, quoted from Facebook's help file:

"There is a section for users to list their maiden name or alternate name. Please note that this name will not show up in your profile, and is only used to find you in search. To submit your alternate name, navigate to the Account Settings page, and click on "change" in the "Name" section. In the "Former Name" box, please be sure to include your full former name. You will now be found in search by your current name (as listed in your profile) and this alternate name."

This would also be useful if you use some variant of your first name (i.e. Elizabeth vs. Beth), too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tools for Schools: Live Online Conferencing

As an Adobe Education Leader, I am lucky enough to have access to a full version of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, a full-featured video conferencing and synchronous collaboration tool. (If anyone ever wants to see how it works, please let me know and we can set up a time for a meeting demo!)

Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro is not free, and I have yet to find a no-cost option for schools that comes close to its capabilities. However, here are a few free options that provide more than just video-calling (like Skype and ooVoo). The sites listed below will allow you to experiment with a more full-featured toolset and, perhaps, provide enough justification in your school or district for the purchase of a full-fledged system!

These are just brief overviews of the capabilities of each of these systems. Each system often adds new features, so take the time to give each of them a try and re-visit them regularly.

Adobe ConnectNow
...includes many of the features of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, such as video and VOIP for all, screen sharing, whiteboards, etc., but only allows three users to participate in the conference; I would strongly suggest this one for small synchronous sessions

...this tool is very full-featured, and the free version allows only 5 users and the site is ad-supported; there is an easy-screenshot feature, lots of plug-ins such as a YouTube Player, a graphing calculator, desktop sharing, and much more

...the no-cost version of this tool only allows for the presenter's video feed, and four users with voice, but does allow 20 users in the room, and includes a whiteboard, a chat area, and some screensharing

...the free version of Yugma requires registration by each of the (up to 20) attendees you host for a meeting. There is a download of Java required as well as a small client. The free version basically allows screen-sharing and chat. There is a Skype version of the client that utilizes the audio and chat within Skype as well.

...WizIQ is intended to allow users to teach within their system. It allows uploads of presentations, audio for all participants, sharing of a whiteboard, and video for the instructor

Addition (4/30/09)
...synchronous audio and the ability to share photos, files, and videos makes this tool very cool; you need to install a local client to use it, but you do not have to have an account to join a room

Photo located in a Creative Commons search in Flickr.
"Video Conferencing" by mrkimmi

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Searching the Twitterverse

Since I very rarely visit the official browser-based Twitter site, finding it better for my workflow to run a computer-based client called twhirl, I had forgotten about the search tools available on the official Twitter site.

One of my concerns about Twitter is the amount of information that seems to be non-permanent. My Twitter feed is constantly flowing with all types of great information from my ed-tech PLN, and there are times that I want to get back to something from a month ago. (In addition, I also would like to see what the rest of the world is tweeting about, too!)

Twitter has a robust advanced search page which I recommend you try out.

As you can see from the screenshot below, it is easy to limit or broaden your search by filling in multiple pieces of information.

Twitter advanced search screenshot

Screenshot courtesy of, 2/14/09

In addition to the advanced search page, Twitter also offers a handy list of operators you can use right from the simple search box to conduct a search.

Once you conduct a search, you can easily choose to add the RSS feed for that search to your newsreader (Bloglines, Netvibes, Google Reader, etc.) to follow that person, topic, or even just be notified when a word that you are interested in is included in a tweet.

Twitter search opearators

Screenshot courtesy of, 2/14/09

Take some time to conduct complex searches using the Twitter advanced search page or conduct a search and aggregate it for "watching". At least you are guaranteed each entry is short and quick to read!