Kindle Fire Review

Just got a Kindle Fire a few days ago. I have owned my first generation iPad for awhile now. So, time to compare these two devices.

So, let’s start with the annoying things about the Fire.

  • Heavier than I thought it would be, but lighter than iPad.
  • Shiny screen, like the iPad, so lots of glare.
  • Amazon App store is lacking. For instance, there was no Dropbox app there. I was able to manually install it though.
  • WiFi is not easy to set up. I can’t figure out how to get connected to the corporate network. It works fine on a home WiFi, but has issues with things that require certificates or even ones that require a confirmation page to attach.
  • Power button location is horrible and too easy to press. I have a silicone cover on order, so hopefully that will provide protection from accidental powering off.
  • No Text-to-Speech capability for books. This is a major bummer as it is one reason you might want an actual Kindle versus any of the Kindle app readers. Had I read this beforehand, probably would not have ordered this. (I hastily ordered it when it was massively discounted one day. I got a refurb for $134 net price, delivered. I should have done more research first, but didn’t want it to sell out before I snagged one.)
  • Thicker than an iPad. A lot thicker.

Things I like:

  • It’s a good size. Big enough to read on, easier to hold with one hand. A good in between size when you want to read on something bigger than an iPhone but smaller than iPad.
  • I like the Carousel concept. Is this an Android thing? Or just a Fire thing? I like it either way.
  • Good battery life.
  • Easy to copy files to it from your computer if you plug it in. (Micro USB cable sold separately.) iTunes is a pain so it’s nice to not have to use that.
  • One free month of Amazon Prime. I’m taking advantage of that!

I am too lazy to return it and I’m sure it will be handy to have an Android device, so I am keeping it. If you have no iPad I suppose it is more useful. If someone offered me $150 in cash for it, I would probably sell it and then get an eInk Kindle with Text-to-Speech.

Disclosure: I directly own shares of Apple stock. I may or may not have a vested interest in Amazon stock, depends on what my mutual funds are into these days. Haven’t checked lately.

Then and Now: Cost of TV Versus Gasoline

In 1961, you could get a B/W 19″ table top television for $259 (link). Today, as of this writing, a 19″ Color TV, Hi-def, costs $140 (link). Despite the fact that the technology, image, reliability, and features are much more advanced, and despite 50 years of inflation, the same diagonal measure is half the price. And if we compared to a color model from the same era, the difference would be even greater (about $500 for a color model back then).

Continue reading Then and Now: Cost of TV Versus Gasoline

Blogging Via Phone – Practical

An upgrade to the iPhone client for my blogging software has made it not only easier to blog via phone, but actually practical. For example, this entry was created on my iPhone. Many people wonder if perhaps we are in the post PC era, but I am wondering, do we even need a tablet like the iPad? I can actually type about as fast on the iPhone as I do on the iPad, and maybe a little faster. After all there is less travel on the keyboard. I just have to hold the phone sideways. I have also found that reading books on the iPhone is much better than I would have guessed and my hands and arms don’t get as tired. There are many things I use the iPad for still, but the iPhone has come to surprise me.

Moving VS 2008 Web Apps to IIS 7

Moving off of Windows XP and over to Windows 7 on my work computer has been trying. My latest problem has been getting a Visual Studio 2008 web application to run. Every attempt to run the application in Debug mode resulted in the following error message:

Unable to start debugging on the web server. Check for one of the following.1) The application you are trying to debug uses a version of the Microsoft .NET Framework that is not supported by the debugger. 2) The debugger has made an incorrect assumption about the Microsoft .NET Framework version your application is going to use. 3) The Microsoft .NET Framework version specified by you for debugging is incorrect.Please see the Visual Studio .NET debugger documentation for correctly specifying the Microsoft .NET Framework version your application is going to use for debugging.

To correct this issue, I ran the IIS 7.5 Manager and located my web app on the tree. I right clicked it and selected Manage Application/Advanced Settings.

Then I set the Application Pool to ASP.NET V2.0 as shown below. This fixed the problem.

Mobile App Resources

A list of web sites with resources for mobile application development. If you have cool resources to add to the list, please post them in the comments.

Design Tips

Mobile UI Design  Patterns

Matt Legend Gemmell:  iPad Application Design

Development Tools

Corona SDK

Mobile Browser ID (User-Agent) Strings


Magazine Articles

Infoworld: Escape the App Store: 4 ways to create smartphone Web apps

Infoworld: 5 simple rules for creating mobile-savvy websites

Service Providers

NetBiscuits – uses cloud technology.


Internet Explorer Rendering Problems

Where I work, we ‘officially’ support Internet Explorer. In my web applications, I try to support Firefox, Opera and Chrome as well. It is not too hard these days. But I did find one issue recently with IE. On my local development box, IE was rendering the web site one way, but when I deployed it to our intranet, I was seeing a different (and less attractive) look.

Continue reading Internet Explorer Rendering Problems

Opera and the System Tray

Serif "O" used by the Opera Software...
Image via Wikipedia

As my readers may know, I use the Opera web browser as my primary browser. In addition to having the usability features that I desire (and have grown used to), it also winds up seldom being the target of malware writers due to its low market share. But as much as I love it, I do have to complain about one issue. Opera insists on putting its big red ‘O’ icon in my system tray.  Continue reading Opera and the System Tray

Opera Web Browser

I’ve been using Opera as my main web browser for many years, since the 5.x version. A lot of the features we take for granted today were either popularized or invented in Opera. And despite great progress in the field of browsers , I still find that Opera still is the one that meets the most of my needs.

Despite all that, there are a couple of things I find annoying with the last few releases. After installing version 10.5 and today, 10.51, I have found that the status bar on the bottom of the page is losing my settings. I like to have the status field on the bottom in the status bar. The status field shows the user  what web site a link points to when you hover over the link. I never click on an unknown link without looking at the status field to see where it is taking me. So, it was very annoying when Opera 10.5 decided I didn’t need that on the status bar. I manually added it back. To do so, follow these steps.

  1. Right click the status bar.
  2. From the Customize menu, select Appearance…
  3. Go to the Buttons tab, and on the Category list, select Status
  4. Now find “Status Field” and drag it to your status bar.
  5. Click OK when done to dismiss the Appearance dialog.

The other annoyance is the Opera red “O” icon appearing in the system tray. I don’t need this icon as I don’t use Opera for email. To get rid of this, find the shortcut you use to launch Opera, right click it and select Properties. To the Target, after the endquote as a space following by: -notrayicon

Be sure to include the dash. Click OK, and then exit and relaunch Opera. It should load without the tray icon.

The only problem is, every time you update to a new version, you may have to repeat both of these sets of instructions to fix it again.

While Opera has a low market share (and has fallen behind Google‘s Chrome in fact), it still has a loyal following. One of the advantages of Opera is the fact that I don’t think anyone has ever crafted an exploit that is specific to flaws in Opera. Hackers would rather target browsers with more market share.

Cloud Computing Worries

Outline of a cloud containing text 'The Cloud'
Image via Wikipedia

So, I first wrote about cloud computing a while back. It’s all the rage these days. But I’m skeptical, as are a number of others. I’ve been bitten by cloud computing before, way before cloud computing was a buzz word.

I’ve been a long time user of It’s a nice way to organize things that I use most, into one page full of widgets with various data, such as my stock portfolio, weather forecast, news headlines from various RSS readers, movie releases, and bookmarks, etc. And it is with bookmarks that I got my first lesson in the downside of cloud computing. One day, without warning, Yahoo broke their bookmark widget. I still had access, but it was awkward, as I had to go to a different page. Then, they ‘upgraded’ the bookmarks into a bloated, slow mess, that I found unusable. Fortunately, I was able to export my bookmarks, but then I had to scramble to find a replacement cloud tool to use. I decided I wanted control, so I installed open source software called Online Bookmarks onto my web host and have been using it ever since. While the author has stopped actively supporting the product, the fact is, it works, it does what I need, it ain’t broke, so I really don’t need support. It’s a tool that does one thing, it stores my bookmarks on the web, so I can get to them from any browser.

Following this philosophy, I have installed several cloud apps, such as eyeos, openGoo (aka FengOffice), and an RSS feed reader called FeedOnFeeds. FoF is a different story for me, as compared to the Online Bookmarks (OB). Like OB, FoF was mostly the work of one person. However, he did you a couple of libraries or classes if you will. Feed on Feeds is an RSS reader. It uses a feed reading class called SimplePie, which is maintained by others, and prototype, with is a javascript library, maintained by others. However, FoF itself is no longer maintained. It wasn’t long after I started using it that I noticed it was having problems with some of the feed subscriptions I added. So, I figured I’d see if I could update the SimplePie class and fix the problems. Unfortunately, that broke as many feeds as it fixed. It also broke some other features of FoF, but I partially fixed it, at least enough to make it workable.

However, as I continued to add new feed subscriptions, the problems continued. Granted, some of the problems related to corrupt feed sources, but the thing is, the built in feed reader on Opera Browser was able to work through these problems, and still show me the articles, and FoF was not. You might ask, well, if Opera was working, why bother with FoF? Just like with bookmarks, I wanted a central location, so I could get to the data from any of the four machines I regularly use. So, since Opera sync doesn’t sync feed data, I needed another solution. For now, I’ve gone to Google Reader. I had played with it before, but didn’t like it. Now, it is a bit nicer, but I’ve still got the cloud worries. I no longer have control. At least with FoF, I had source code and was able to play around with it. I did change the CSS and was going to make some other improvements, but it just isn’t in the cards.

I think the lesson here is, controlling your own cloud is nice, but it’s really much more workable if the open source software you use has a strong community behind it. An example is WordPress (the software that runs this blog and others that I maintain) which has massive support. I used to host this blog on a blogging site. But I imported it into my own site, where I have control.

Just as I don’t want Microsoft to own the world, I don’t want Google to either. Both companies play an important role is my professional and personal life, but it’s strategic to limit the number of eggs I put into each basket.

New and improved, more bloggier blog.