Paul’s Kindle DX Review

 Posted by on 11 December 2009 at 8:00 am  Technology
Dec 112009

Diana has already posted her own thoughts about the Kindle, and I wanted to note that I have a vastly more positive opinion of my Kindle DX. The Kindle DX is the larger version with a 9.7-inch screen, whereas Diana’s Kindle has the smaller 6-inch screen.

For my purposes, the Kindle DX is nearly ideal. I use it mostly as a travel machine. It used to be that whenever I went on an out-of-town trip, I had to decide which 3 radiology journals and which two books to pack. But given the Kindle’s storage capacity, I can load it up with dozens of books and PDF files.

I have no major complaints about the e-Ink technology. The major positives include:

1) It is very easy to read in direct sunlight (as opposed to a backlit system such as a netbook or an iPhone).

2) It draws very little power (and hence the Kindle requires infrequent recharging)

3) It’s easier on the eyes than any backlit system.

The only relatively minor negatives to the e-Ink technology are:

1) The slower refresh rate when turning a page compared to a typical LCD computer screen.

2) The display is greyscale only (no color). For most books that’s a non-issue. It only really affects me when looking at medical articles, which often include color illustrations.

The Kindle interface is also generally fine for my purposes. The issues that bother Diana simply aren’t a significant problem for me. I don’t rely on the Kindle for notetaking. Nor am I bothered by what she regards as a “Heraclitean stream of words”. I’m in the process of also reading Tara Smith’s book Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics, and have had no problems with reading it.

The three small UI (user interface) nuisances for me are as follows:

1) The inability to sort books and PDFs into folders.

2) The absence in some (but not all) Kindle books of markers that indicate how far one is within the chapter when viewing the progress bar on the bottom of the screen. (The reader can easily tell how far along he or she is with respect to the book as a whole).

3) The inability to alter the font size in PDF files. (One can easily alter font sizes in purchased Kindle books, documents converted using the Kindle free service, or any .mobi files one creates or downloads.)

If a PDF text is too difficult to read in portrait mode, I typically rotate the Kindle 90 degrees and view the document in landscape mode. The software enlarges the file to fit the full width of the screen (which is now along the long axis of the Kindle), but then only one half of the page is visible and one has to use the Page Up/Page Down buttons to toggle back and forth between the two halves of the PDF page.

Because I have the larger Kindle DX (9.7-inch screen), rather than the smaller Kindle (6-inch screen), most PDFs are easy to read in portrait mode. Only a few require shifting to the landscape mode.

I don’t use the Kindle to replace all reading of physical books at home. But when I’m away from home because I’m travelling out of town (or simply just leaving the house for a few hours but anticipate some downtime where I might want to read a book), then I routinely take my Kindle. It takes up very little space in my backpack.

I currently have over 100 books and 100 PDFs loaded onto my Kindle DX. Both categories include a mixture of work-related and recreational reading. About half of my Kindle content is free material (public domain books, PDF articles I’ve found online, etc).

I do think that if a company like Apple had designed the Kindle (rather than Amazon), then they would have done a better job with the user interface. But for my purposes, the drawbacks of the Kindle are relatively minor and are more than outweighed by its virtues of readability and portability.

It’s simply damned cool to have nearly the entire non-fiction corpus of Rand and Peikoff in one place, along with Tara Smith, Lord of the Rings, Dune, a dozen radiology articles, a few radiology, orthopedic surgery, and emergency medicine textbooks, PDF versions of unread Objective Standard articles, classic novels from Victor Hugo and other public-domain authors, and a miscellany of purchased fiction and non-fiction books.

And although there aren’t (yet) Kindle versions of Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, most of Rand’s greatest essays from those novels are available in For the New Intellectual, including Galt’s speech, Francisco’s money speech, etc.

Note: I haven’t spent much time with the various Kindle competitors such as the new Barnes & Noble Nook or the various Sony Readers. But for two fairly detailed Kindle-vs-Nook reviews, see Walter Mossberg’s, “Nook E-Reader Has Potential, but Needs Work” (Wall Street Journal, 12/10/2009) and David Pogue’s “Not Yet the Season for a Nook” (New York Times, 12/9/2009).

Trusting Your Technology

 Posted by on 6 November 2009 at 5:00 am  Cool, Technology
Nov 062009

This cool video shows the SawStop safety device at work:

The SawStop system uses electrical conductivity to tell the difference between wood and human flesh, allowing it to cut the first, but not the second. The technology is impressive, but the most jaw-dropping section of the video is the super slow-motion demonstration where the inventor places his own finger into the path of the saw to show how well it works.

I personally think that it was unnecessary risk for the inventor to take. But there is a similarity to the scene in Atlas Shrugged where Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart had sufficient confidence in their judgment to ride the first train on rails made of Rearden Metal.

More information on the technology can be found at the SawStop website.

(Via Maximizing Progress.)

Hong Kong Vs. Typhoon

 Posted by on 20 October 2009 at 4:00 am  Technology
Oct 202009

This time lapse video of “Typhoon ‘Nangka’ over Hong Kong” made me appreciate the power of storms — and the power of men’s ability to build cities capable of withstanding them:

The final minute when the lights of the Hong Kong come alive is especially beautiful.

Plus it made me think of Francisco d’Anconia’s words to Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, Chapter 5:

“It’s a terrible night for any animal caught unprotected on that plain,” said Francisco d’Anconia. “This is when one should appreciate the meaning of being a man…”

“You stood here and watched the storm with the greatest pride one can ever feel — because you are able to have summer flowers and half-naked women in your house on a night like this, in demonstration of your victory over that storm. And if it weren’t for you, most of those who are here would be left helpless at the mercy of that wind in the middle of some such plain…”

(Video link via Maximizing Progress.)

Be the Local Computer Expert!

 Posted by on 28 August 2009 at 12:01 pm  Funny, Technology
Aug 282009

Oh, this one is soooo going to all of my relatives… :^)

[from HT: JasonG]

How A Differential Gear Works

 Posted by on 14 August 2009 at 2:01 pm  Cool, Technology
Aug 142009

This superb classic pre-CG video explains how a vehicle’s differential works:

You may wish to start at 1:30.

Safety tip: Don’t do the stunt that starts at 9:00!

Project X

 Posted by on 13 August 2009 at 11:01 pm  Technology
Aug 132009

Am I wrong to think that this pain ray bears a disturbing resemblance to Project X in Atlas Shrugged?

The so-called “Active Denial System” works by heating the outer surface of the target’s skin using millimeter waves — short wavelength microwaves. The effect is painful, but generally harmless, and forces the target to get out of the beam. …

[The Silent Guardian] is Active Denial in a box, a 10,000-pound containerized system that can be mounted on a ship, a truck, or a fixed installation. It’s got an effective range of about 250 meters. The beam has a power of around 30 kilowatts.

Unlike “Project X,” this device won’t kill a person. Yet it seems like just the kind of device that some statist government might like to use to control … say … unruly “mobs” of protesters.

Man Vs. Machine

 Posted by on 12 August 2009 at 3:01 pm  Funny, Health Care, Technology
Aug 122009

Another round in the eternal struggle of man vs. computer.

Here’s a recent emergency room x-ray from the night shift, with the associated ER history:

I’d say the machines won this round…:

(You can click on the images to see the full-sized versions.)

Upgrade to HD Television

 Posted by on 28 July 2009 at 1:01 pm  Technology
Jul 282009

Paul and I have been living in the stone ages: we’ve not yet upgraded to high definition television. We bought a 52″ set back in 2001, when HD was way too expensive. We’ve delayed the upgrade as prices dropped so as to get more value from that purchase. But now, with the upcoming NFL season approaching, I just can’t stand it. We’d like to get another large screen — probably about the same size. Any recommendations for buying? Any features that we definitely must have?

That Newfangled Internet

 Posted by on 17 June 2009 at 2:42 pm  Funny, Technology
Jun 172009

This 1994 NBC News story features Tom Brokaw talking to Bill Gates about that newfangled “internet” thing:

Love those “virtual shopping malls”!

Volkswagen "Transparent Factory"

 Posted by on 15 June 2009 at 11:01 pm  Cool, Technology
Jun 152009

Volkswagen’s sleek new “transparent factory” in Dresden, Germany is a technological marvel:

Perhaps if American car companies practiced this kind of innovation, they wouldn’t be facing bankruptcy and/or government takeover.

(Via Howard Roerig.)

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