Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kindle Fire

I took the plunge on Black Friday and purchased a Kindle Fire. I'll report back periodically on my impressions. So far, I'm disappointed with the limited allotment of storage space -- roughly 6 GBs. Amazon counters music and videos can be streamed from the cloud, but I presume one would need to be within WiFi range. Also, the concept of storing other data, like documents, on someone else's server raises privacy concerns.

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass), a trailblazer in Internet law, is asking Amazon for details on how Kindle Fire user data is collected, stored, and used. We all know customer information (demographics and buying habits) is the new currency of the Information Age. Kindle Fire's proprietary Silk browser splits page rendering between the device and Amazon's cloud-based AWS servers. Markey said he is concerned about Amazon's capability "to collect and utilize an extraordinary amount of information about its users' Internet surfing and buying habits."

Amazon counters "customers have the option to turn off the cloud acceleration feature of Silk. In that 'off cloud' mode, Web pages go directly to a user's device rather than pass through AWS servers, and customers still enjoy a good browsing experience."

All well and good, but I've read that on three different Web sites, none of which explain HOW to turn off the cloud acceleration feature. (Yes, the default is set to spy mode).

So here's how you do it. From the Kindle Fire home screen, tap the Web tab. The Amazon Silk web browser launches. At the bottom of the browser, tap the menu button, then tap Settings. Scroll to Accelerate Page Loading and uncheck the box. If you later decide you want Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos as your Big Brother, just recheck the box.

As for the Kindle Fire, the screen is absolutely beautiful, although I'm still having trouble with the touchscreen. Either it requires multiple taps to perform the desired action, or else a mere accidental brush will send me on a journey through Kindle land. Setting up Internet connectivity was an unsuccessful three hour ordeal, made palatable by a lovely young Amazon support rep (Hi Brianna!). I later figured out the key was to whitelist the Kindle's Mac ID on my router. Brianna told me I get a free month of Amazon Prime, but frankly I don't see the appeal. It gives me two-day shipping on books and selected free streaming videos. If I want a book shipped faster than the usual 3-day USPS (which is quite sufficient in most cases), I'll just download the e-book version. Other than "How to Stop a Plumbing Leak", there aren't many books I can't wait three days for. As I told Brianna, "I'm sitting in front of a 60" plasma TV; why would I want to watch movies on a tiny Kindle screen?"

My impression, so far, is the Kindle Fire exists as a tool for Amazon to sell product to Fire owners. Other tablets may be better for general use. But for reading e-books, it excels. 


  1. Wow! Yet another reason why I don't shop Amazon anymore. After that scandal where they deleted books from people's Kindle archives without reimbursing or even telling them about it, I've had enough.

    I bought the Nook Simple Touch. I didn't really see why I needed a tablet (though I get the appeal.) I just wanted a e-reader. The screen isn't backlit so it's easy on my eyes. It's wonderful, I wouldn't change a thing.

    I'm sorry about the bust on the Kindle Fire. It really does look cool, but again, I'm not an Amazon fan.

  2. Here's a link to Amazon's response to criticism of the Kindle Fire:

    I think they over promised and under delivered. It is a nice device with a lot of unfulfilled potential. I hope they find a way to compensate those of us who have spent $200 on a very pretty paperweight or else we will not be so quick to buy the next great thing from Amazon.