Thursday, April 1, 2010

Internet via Kindle

Ok, I promised I’d post about using Kindle for internet access but first let me give the following disclaimer. There are loads of free or 99 cent downloads for Kindle explaining all the great things that you can do with this neat little toy. I haven’t read any of them.

I’ve been a computer geek since 1975 when we still wired boards for accounting machines and reproducers and used keypunch machines. If you know what those machines are then you are probably an aged geek as well!! And so my excuse is that because of my decades of geekhood, and despite my gender, I’m really not in to reading instructions unless as a very last resort.
While I was still working and RVing, I had my air card from work that we hooked to our signal booster in the motorhome when needed and were seldom without laptop internet. Of course, now that I’m not working I do not have that air card.

You see, at this point, Ken and I are delaying buying our own air card. Our gut feel is that there is going to be a phone / mifi combo, something like the Sprint Pre, that will make internet/phone access cheaper for us when we are out of our current phone contract in a year, so we are holding out and playing options on how to access internet in the meantime while on the road. We also don’t like the fact that mifi doesn’t currently work with a signal booster and we find we often park far enough out in the sticks to need that boost. Finally, I question that Ken and I can stick to the 5gb limits on current air cards and the overages are really expensive.

And so, in the meantime, I’m using what technology I do have to feed my internet addiction. I’m sucking what I can out of my Kindle while travelling down the highway or while sitting in the many areas where we don’t have wifi.

My Kindle which is 9 months old gets automatic release updates. The current Kindle software release is 2.3.3. You can check to see if you have this release by looking under Home-->Setting-->Device Name. If what I note below doesn’t work for you it could be that you need a release update.

Here’s what I’ve figured out so far to use Kindle as my mobile internet access…
1. All the internet basics I need are available under Home-->Experimental-->Web Basic. From here I can use the preloaded bookmarks to go to..

a. National Weather Service to put in a city name and get latest forecast
b. CNN to get latest world news updates
c. MSN Money to check on stock price
d. Fandango to find a local movie showing and time
e. Google to search web for whatever it is your looking for (there’s about an 80% chance based on my hits that you will be able to bring up another website from
Google search)

2. If I want to do something that is not already bookmarked under Experimental I can enter the url, such as myself. I have to use the toggle to move up and down on the page until I get to the ‘http’ line and the enter the url there. It is really pretty slick that, in many instances, the url returned will actually be slightly different, often with ‘m’ or ‘mobile’ added somewhere. Apparently these sites recognize that the request is coming from a mobile device and automatically switches you to pages optimized for mobile devices. I’ve seen this with both facebook and gmail.

3. Once you are on a page you want to use regularly, click Menu-->Bookmark this Page. After that Home--> Bookmark will get you there directly.

4. Because you have a small ‘page’ on the Kindle, keep an eye on upper right hand corner where it tells you that you are on page ‘n of n’ and the use ‘Next Page’ button on the Kindle if you want to continue but are not on the last page.

5. You need to use the ‘toggle’ switch that moved up/down/right/left a lot to move around on the page to points where you can enter. The movement is not as easy as using a mouse and not always intuitive but you get use to it after a while.
6. Facebook
a. While I can only ‘update status’ and ‘reply’ on my standard phone via text. On Kindle I haven’t found anything on Facebook that I cannot do using the Kindle.
b. If you go to the last page of ‘Home’ on Facebook you can turn photos ‘off’ which seems to make it work much faster
c. I have found that I can use Kindle on Facebook when I have very low signal, similar to when you can do text at a site but not phone call. We have to use our antennae booster in our current campsite to make our phones work and yet my Kindle seems to work just fine on Facebook and Gmail.

What I think is particularly ‘cool’ about this is that since I’ve paid for Kindle (actually my darling team at work paid for it as retirement gift) I don’t need to pay for any kind of monthly service to make this work.

But, of course, Kindle wireless still has bugs. That’s why they call the menu option ‘Experimental’. For example, I cannot use Weight Watchers website to update my points tracking journal. The website is simply not written to handle a mobile device. Likewise, it doesn’t appear that the Weight Watcher mobile app is written to work on Kindle.

Another glitch I’ve found is that I cannot go from my blog page to the pages of friends by clicking on the section of the page where it shows the blogs I follow. Apparently there is something about the way blogger works that isn’t in sync with Kindle. No big deal though, since I can key those urls in manually once on my Kindle and then bookmark and get to them through that bookmark from then on.

I’m also NOT doing my blog posts via Kindle because I simply don’t have the patience to key this volume of words on the Kindle keyboard. But, as is the case with this post, I simply create the post on my laptop and then when we get to a wifi hot spot, can upload it in a few minutes. There is a way to upload from my laptop via USB port to the Kindle, it just hasn’t become a critical requirement for me yet so I haven’t made figuring it out a priority. I also have my doubts that I'll be able to upload pictures the way I need to.

But, hey, despite these minor glitches, I’m certainly not complaining about the Kindle’s wireless capabilities. I learned from 3 decades in software development that an 80% hit rate on desired functionality is a winner, so I’m all about this.

When I have time, now that I’ve found this technology compelling, I’ll download some of the help guides and see if I can learn more neat tricks. I know there are also some related forums so I’ll probably do some lurking any maybe posting there to find more cool stuff. I can’t tell you how great it feels to be able to work with this kind of geekie stuff where and when I want to instead of based on specific job requirements!

Ken hates it when we are at a wifi enabled restaurant and I spend all my time glued to my laptop screen, checking email, financials, updating blogs, and checking facebook. Then it feels like the laptop is taking away from ‘us’ time. But, when he’s driving down the highway, he could care less that I’m playing with my Kindle.

Life is good!!

Hope my Kindle friends will find this helpful and in turn share any neat tricks you learn, please!
I love this stuff!!

Hugs, C

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