Kindle 2

First, the results of my laptop hunt.  Thank you so much for all the suggestions — there are a lot more ultraportable options than I realized.  I narrowed it down to two wildly different possibilties:

  1. The Lenovo ThinkPad X200s.  I missed the 200s on my first survey — I didn’t realize Lenovo had one under 2.5 lbs.  It’s got perfect geek-oriented engineering (tough metal hinges, spill tray, incredibly rugged, Linux-friendly, etc).  It’s just a little bigger than I was going for — it’s pretty large for its weight.
  2. The Sony Vaio P.  I love the form factor — 9″ wide but only 4″ deep; you could slip it in a pocket.  And the 220 PPI screen is everything I could want.  It’s shiny and pretty and only weighs a pound and a half, and when I played with one I fell in love.  But it’s a Sony, which means shiny appearance but no openness — repairs suck, and Linux will only work haltingly.

In the end, I decided neither was worth the cost just yet while I could squeeze a little more life out of my old laptop.  A new battery, hard drive, and some antibiotics, and it could last another year.  But if I had to pick now, I’d go with the X200s.  The ability to toss it down a mountainside and have Ubuntu boot when it lands trumps gadgety sexiness.  But only barely.

Kindle 2:

On a contrary note, I have a Kindle 2.  I’ve been really happy with it so far, other than the PDF support being poorly documented (it claims to handle PDFs natively in some of the literature, but you can’t actually just plop them down on the drive — it requires passing them through Amazon or converting them yourself).  But it handles html, text, and some other formats fine when just dropped on it via USB — it’s a lot more open than the Kindle 1.

I’m surprised at the talk of the cost being too high.  For me, the comparison is to a laptop with a cellular broadband internet card — $1440 for a standard two-year contract.  The Kindle 2 doesn’t have a full web browser, but if you’re favoring text-heavy websites (news, blogs, mail, wikis), it’s perfectly sufficient.  Plus, it’s a nice screen and has many-day battery life.  All in all I think it’s a more-than-reasonable price for something that lets me read reddit on the street corner so as to better shout at sheeple about government conspiracies.

The xkcd sysadmin, davean, notoriously scornful of any new technology, took a look at the Kindle 2 after it arrived this afternoon.  He spent several minutes playing with it, discovered he could use it for email in a pinch, confirmed that an ssh terminal could be hacked together using the browser and javascript, and bought one for himself within the hour.

Bottom line, I think it’s a really neat device that fills a niche that nothing else really does.  And seeing the prices, I’ll probably even buy some ebooks and magazines.  But the web access is the real reason I got it.  And if the advertised free access to Wikipedia and other text-y websites is curtailed, (as the Terms and Conditions suggest could happen), the Kindle’s battery life means that I can camp out drunk on the Amazon lawn yelling at Jeff Bezos for quite a while.

171 thoughts on “Kindle 2

  1. @AHL – actually, it’s been “SUP DAWG” from the beginning. the fact that randall got it right when 99% of the internet doesn’t even know the difference makes him my hero again. ;)

  2. The two biggest down sides for me are the price and lack of WiFi.

    The former should correct itself soon, I believe. While the Kindle has its pros and cons, perhaps the most important contribution it has made to the technology market thus far has been that it has created a general awareness of and interest in e-readers such as heretofore been unseen. So, as more people want to buy one at any given price, the incentive for competitors to create their own products will increase — just as the success of the iPod spurred a number of likewise successful imitations. This will ultimately lower the price. Considering how long it took for this to happen with portable media players, I would estimate that within two years tops we’ll see a decent range of competatively priced e-readers with even more geekish goodies inside.

    The latter irritates me — and I suspect other nerds of the adventurous persuasion as well — because deep down a part of me strongly idolises Ford Prefect. I would love to go on long trips from one internet-access-having country to another with wikipedia as my dearest companion, a’sitting in my coat pocket. However, the only practical method of making this dream currently come true demands the use of WiFi. With any luck, Amazon or a would-be competitor will realise this sooner rather than later.

    All in all, I wonder how long it will be until the recent wave of Kindle users is outnumbered — at least temporarily — by the number of iPhone and iPod Touch users who download wikipanion and realise that PDF and TXT files can be opened with Safari.

  3. I’m running Linux on an older Sony Vaio (PCG-V505BL), and it’s working just fine. I’m very clueless about Linux – I asked a geeky friend to install it for me, because I’m incapable of doing it myself – but it seems to be doing everything it’s supposed to be doing, including displaying graphics.

  4. @Thomas
    Well, I guess no one read my last comment. There is such an e-reader, it’s called iLiad made by iRex.

  5. I know it’s petty of me to complain, but I get spastic twitches every time someone mentions sheeple. To me, it’s as bad a modification of English as “peeps”. If someone says peeps, I destroy them.

  6. Y’know Randall, if you had gone for an iRex iLiad or even their DR1000S you’d be able to draw your comic strip on it, as well as read PDFs natively…

  7. Randall, Kindle DRM has been cracked for about a year I think. It’s just standard Mobipocket DRM. I’m not sure if the Kindle 2 uses the same DRM though.

    I was trying to get my own software on the Kindle 1 by crafting updates, but every time the Kindle wouldn’t boot. I was trying to do things like ‘while true ; do wget -O- some_page | bash ; done’ with bash.

  8. Randall, have you seen or heard about this thing: ? The Touch Book is 9.4″ by 7″ and weighs under two pounds. The most interesting part is that its screen that can be detached and used as a tablet, or it can be used as a regular netbook with the keyboard. It has its own OS, but you can install any OS on it, including Windows, Ubuntu, or even Google Android, and it has an amazing battery life of 10 to 15 hours. It might be a little weak for your needs — it uses a TI processor is and apparently the only storage is by microSD card. Still, the site says it can play 720p video, and it will be $400 when it’s available in the spring.

  9. @iLiad lovers

    You’re absolutely right: it’s an astounding device. If you own one, then I’m jealous. However, unless it gets to be less than $700 to get one, which is all I’ve managed to find thus far, then I suppose I will somehow have to put off my tech-friendly travel fantasies a bit longer.

  10. I would LOVE if someone answered me…what exactly did Mr. Munroe mean by the Tripod books? It’s possible that this is an answer I’ve been searching for. E-mail works.

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  12. Re: today’s comic:

    Still doesn’t justify giving the owners of a failing business bonuses for running a failing business.

  13. Ian K., they were contract-mandated bonuses, the contracts for which were signed long before this legislation was passed. And according to AIG (I haven’t heard anyone else confirm it, but the fact that the Treasury/Obama administration were worried enough about it to tell Dodd to remove the clause disallowing bonuses of any kind and to substitute one exempting contractual bonuses predating the law would seem to give it credence,) under Connecticut law (where the AIG division that received the bonuses is located) companies who fail to pay employees according to contract terms can be sued for double the original promised amounts.

    Furthermore, the bonuses weren’t “here’s a job well done” bonuses; they were retention bonuses, designed as incentives to keep key employees with the company so that all of its talented types didn’t leave and further destabilize it, thereby making the bailout useless after all.

  14. Excellent comic, as always. Puts things into perspective. Less than .1% went to bonuses. My question is, since these were contract mandated payouts, and there are all sorts of lawmakers saying that the employees aren’t going to get the bonuses, can the AIG employees now sue for their bonuses? Then the government would have to take 90% of that back. It would be like cutting a hole in a shark’s stomach and watching it eat the self generated chum…

  15. For a new laptop, I highly recommend the Acer Aspire 6930-6073. I just got one for my birthday, and I really love it. It had the best hardware for just under $1000. The thing itself has a sturdy design, and the thing I hate about it the most is the glossy finish on its cover. Other than that, it’s great.

  16. I have a Lenovo X60s – a gen or two before the x200. I would like to replace with a x200, but it is still ticking. I did drop it in an airport when I lamely missed slipping it into the pouch of my bag. The battery flew off and some filler plastic of the battery broke and slide somewhere – lost forever.

    Yet, I slapped the battery on and it came right up. That was a year ago now, still ticking along.

    The Vaio P seems a little small for me. I would want to trial one first.

  17. Lawls, I am getting a Kindle II because it is obviously made of win. I wish to buy more actual size stickers – I enjoy the entropy it creates.

    Beh teh wuh, thanks for the funny webcomic. One of my favorites.

  18. How is Kindle 2 more open than the first? I have the first and it can do all the things you mentioned natively as well.

  19. Hm, would I dare suggest a EEE PC, light, already loaded with Linux, small as you can ever wish for, solid state drive, can be modded for a touchscreen… Hmmm

  20. Pingback: Very interesting perspective on the Kindle « Later On

  21. The kindle screen & battery life may be pretty good but those wireless TOS are pretty bad. They more or less say in there they intend to start charging for all internet access except for shopping & downloading from Amazon & Partners. Then they reserve the right to do whatever the heck they want to for their wireless terms. If you need an ebook reader get a Kindle, but don’t expect the free high speed wireless internet access thing to last.

  22. I clicked on the “validate xhtml” link on the rhs of The page does not validate.

  23. RE: Students
    Randall, it’s worse than that. I’ve had the “first day at college” dream for decades.

    Until recently, that is. Though now that I’ve realized this, they’ll probably come back.



  24. Hi
    Can anyone post a link where I can find out how to get SSH working on the Kindle 2? I’ve googled like crazy, and couldn’t get anything like a tutorial…

  25. bleh, I didn’t know it sucked so much…
    may be you should try the the “eSlick”… that foxit reader thingy

  26. Look up the program “RadicalCodex”. It will organize any pdfs and a bunch of other files and makes it a bit easier to export over.

  27. I’ve wanted a Kindle for a while, but that desire has been replaced by a need for the new IPAD as it looks like it will better suit my needs.

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