I have wanted an Amazon Kindle since they were first put on the market. Unfortunately when they first came out at $499, there was no way I could make that kind of financial sacrifice to add another gadget to my collection. Over time, the new version 2 of the kindle came out and the price dropped from $499 to $359 to $299 to $259. Thanks to the Great Tondini, I found one under the Christmas tree this year...
During my past three years or so back in school, I had to get out of my standard reading routine in order to read textbooks instead of novels. Now that I'm finished with school, I am moving back into my standard reading routine. Since Christmas day, I have read two new novels and part of a third on the Kindle, and I have already formed some serious opinions on the device that I just wanted to share. I do not have experience with the Sony Reader or the Barnes and Noble Nook, but my thoughts here are rather independent of the actual device. My feelings would generally apply equally to either of the other devices.
I guess we can start with the things I really like about the Amazon Kindle. The size of the Kindle is roughly equivalent to most books at 8" x 5.3". It's also thin at .36" and easy to hold. It's fairly easy to navigate and the menus are self explanatory for the most part. The Kindle has enough storage capability to hold approximately 1500 books, give or take. That's probably more books than I'll read between now and the time this device becomes obsolete. Books for the Kindle are inexpensive. Choices from the best-sellers list can be purchased for $10 or less and they are wirelessly delivered to the device. Some books are less expensive than $10 and there is a ton of free material available as well. Once a book is purchased, it becomes part of your Kindle library on Amazon.com. If your Kindle ever takes a swim or decides to stay behind on a park bench, your library will still be intact once you replace the device. The battery life on the Kindle is very good. I basically read each novel that I have finished so far on a single charge of the device. That mileage will obviously vary from person to person, but I am impressed with that. The Kindle is designed to be energy efficient. You can increase the battery life by turning off the wireless connectivity and only turning it back on when you need it for something such as downloading new content or receiving Kindle automatic software updates. When it comes time to charge the Kindle, you simply connect it to its USB charging cable that either plugs into a standard power outlet or a PC USB port. Reading on the Kindle is a lot easier than I thought it might be. The display is not like a standard LCD. It's not back-lit, so you do need adequate light for reading when using this device. The screen is quite easy to read in bright light and outdoors as well. The screen is 6" diagonally, and you may adjust the font from too tiny to I'm blind sizes. The Kindle automatically remembers where you stop reading and allows you to resume from that point at any time. You can also create specific bookmarked points and return to those at your leisure. If the book you are reading supports it, you can navigate from chapter to chapter by using the joystick, but not all books support this as I will mention in my dislikes section of this review. If you find a passage you would like to save in a book or other text, you can highlight the selection and it will be saved in your highlights section that can be reviewed or edited via a USB connection to your PC. One of my favorite features on the Kindle is the integrated dictionary. If I stumble across a word I don't recognize, I can move the cursor to that word and get a definition.
Thats a lot of stuff I like... It feels kind of strange because it's more of a feature list of the device. There are more features, bells, and whistles, but these are the items I'm thinking about currently as reasons I like the Amazon Kindle. There are some things I don't like about the Kindle and other similar devices on the market.
If I leave my Kindle sitting on a park bench or on a table in the local coffee shop, I'm out of an expensive toy. If I left a book behind, it wouldn't sting as much. That's not likely to happen, but it could. I have left books behind before. It doesn't feel like a book. It's obviously not a book, but there is a bit of a mental hurdle involved in switching from a physical book to a Kindle. I don't think it's an insurmountable hurdle though. If the battery in a Kindle dies, you can't read until you get charged back up. I have never had to worry about charging a book before! When I finish reading a book on the Kindle, I can't loan it to a friend. Likewise, I can't borrow a book that another friend has finished on his or her Kindle. This little problem of sharing books may be addressed at some point, but in a best case scenario, you would only be able to share with other Kindle owners. Navigating within Kindle books can be a bit tedious if you want to do certain things. Some books will let you move easily from chapter to chapter while others will not. I'm not sure if it's a simple formatting issue for the book or what, but it's annoying sometimes. Kindle books do not use standard page numbers. They use a concept called locations. The size of a page on the kindle varies based on what font size you have selected, so the page number concept doesn't work so solidly on an electronic book. You can navigate directly to a location but I'm not sure exactly how a location is defined yet. The last novel I read had approximately 5000 locations to choose from. In the paper version, there were about 270 pages, so I'm not sure what the correlation is. At any rate, it's not like flipping through paper pages. The Kindle does have a keyboard, so making notes in the margin of the electronic book sort of possible, but not in the traditional sense. The Kindle is a lot more fragile than a regular book. You have to be careful about tossing it in your backpack or laptop bag and hauling it around. It' can't take the beating that a regular book might get in normal transit. If you are a fan of watching your library of books grow on shelves, you can kiss that aspect of being an avid reader goodbye.
There are a lot of trade-offs I suppose. It will be fun to watch this technology evolve...
Ok... After using Lightroom 2 for a few days, I have some first thoughts and impressions. Lightroom has some fantastic features and capabilities. I think one of the most important features is that it will catalog all of your photos based on whatever keywords you may enter and the metadata present in the image file itself. When you import photos into Lightroom, you have the option of adding or modifying any of the embedded metadata within the file. These features allow you to find photos in your catalog quickly and easily with just a few keyword searches in most cases. I don't keep all of my photos online for extended periods of time. I archive to DVD periodically. A little forethought in this process also makes it easy to go back and add a keyword to a collection of files to tell me which DVD I archived to if I wish. So, with this feature used properly, you should be able to find anything at any time with minimal hassle. The database that Lightroom uses to accomplish this feat is rather large though. With about 5500 photos in my current Lightroom database, the size of the database is about 380mb, so be prepared for that.
The real attraction of Lightroom for me is for quick editing and processing of images. When I shoot any particular event, I just need a quick way to browse the images, pick out the ones I want to edit, and do some brief and informal processing of those images. Lightroom is perfect for this task. I can make my tonality adjustments, color correction, crop if necessary, along with a host of other possibilities including some localized spot editing within the images, in a few short strokes of the mouse. This workflow is VERY similar to the one I used when I actually shot my photos in the RAW mode and used Capture One to process them.
Another secondary feature of Lightroom is that it will ultimately make you organize the way you store photos on your hard drive. If you don't do this, you will quickly have a rather large mess that is difficult to navigate within the program. I had a fairly streamlined process that worked for me in the past, but I further refined it for use with Lightroom to minimize the number of top-level file folders on my hard disk where I store photos.
The process of importing photos into and exporting photos from Lightroom is more complex than I thought originally. You have to pay very close attention to what you are doing in these procedures or your files won't end up where you want them, they won't be named properly, and they might have the wrong keywords associated with them. The import and export modules in Lightroom remember your last setting, and will apply them to the current process automatically if you don't change them. Depending on the size of your monitor, you need to make sure you scroll the dialog box window to view ALL of the options that are part of the process. I would love to see these dialog boxes designed where all of the information was displayed at once rather than having to scroll to see it all. It's easy to overlook something when it doesn't appear before you on the screen.
Lightroom is missing one feature that I really loved about the Capture One software I used in the past. In Capture One, as I edited photos, I could add the individual photo to the 'batch.' The 'batch' was a list of photos that I wanted to process for further editing, printing, or whatever else I might want to do. I could build this list as I worked. I could also start processing the batch while I worked and continue adding files to it. In Lightroom, this 'batch' isn't built. When you are finished with your editing, or 'developing' as it's called in Lightroom, you have to go back to your Library view and individually select or ctrl+click select the group of files and then run the export process.
If I come across an image that needs additional editing in Photoshop, I can go straight from Lightroom to Photoshop, with my Lightroom modifications and continue editing. This is an excellent feature.
I have been using Lightroom for less than a week, so I'll probably come back and write some more on this a little later.
After working in the I.T. industry for about 15 years, doing everything between PC repair work, programming and software development, and network/systems administration, I think I'm losing touch with my inner-geek. Maybe some of my experience in that industry has been helpful, but the last two days have been difficult for me with my home computing habits. My desktop PC is about 5 years old, so I decided it was about time to replace it. I picked up a new off-the-shelf desktop computer from Best Buy on Thursday and have spent the better part of the last two days getting all my data and applications moved onto the new system. Every time I upgrade or replace a home computer system, I usually get easily amazed at what you can have for the price these days. My first desktop PC was a PC XT clone that ran at a whopping 8 megahertz. It had a 20 megabyte (yes... MEGAbyte) hard disk drive, which would be difficult to fill up at the time. It also had 5.25" 360k and 3.5" 720k floppy disk drives. The monitor was a simple amber monochrome display with no color. I was also fortunate enough to have a 9-pin dot matrix printer. After some serious saving, I was able to afford a 2400-baud internal modem so I could connect to the few local computer bulletin board services in my area. It was quite an undertaking in 1987 to shell out $2400 for all that stuff.
My current desktop monitor smoked itself last week, so I went out and found a huge deal on a nice Viewsonic 19-inch widescreen LCD for $115 on sale. This week I spent $479 on one of the new Acer Aspire desktop boxes that has quite a few bells and whistles for the money. It has the AMD Phenom X3 triple-core processor running at 2.1ghz (262 times faster than the old XT.) It doesn't have any floppy drives and it has a 320gb internal hard disk drive with 4gb RAM and the Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit edition of the operating system. It has 9 USB ports and one firewire port. It also has a multi-card reader that will read the various memory card formats I use in my digital camera equipment. As I write this blog entry, I do think I have just about everything up and running the way I want it. I can start to settle back into my normal routine now rather than the get-it-running routine of the last two days.
This new PC had one 'feature' that I hated right out of the box. That 320gb hard disk drive was partitioned into two drives. I simply think that's a bad idea and it's not the way I like to work. Fixing it was going to be no easy task. With the 64-bit operating system, I could only find a couple of software options to correct that issue without having to re-format the disk completely and start from scratch. After a little research, I found a software package called Partition Manager by the Paragon Software Group. For $39.95 I got a tool that would allow me to combine the two partitions on the 64-bit operating system into a single partition without having to start from scratch. It did, however, take me multiple tries and a lot of head banging to get it to work. The documentation that comes with this software isn't the best, and re-partitioning drives in a 64-bit system isn't something everyone should try just for fun. In a nutshell, I finally got it to work and if you want to know the details of HOW, just ask and I'll fill you in with the geek detail.
As for losing my inner geek, I find myself not on the cutting-edge of the PC computing world anymore. This is the first time in a LONG time that I have had the latest and greatest version of any operating system on my home PC. I had Windows 95 when it was fairly new, but I skipped over Windows 98, Windows ME, and Windows NT completely. After Windows XP hit the streets, I did upgrade to Windows 2000, which wasn't the newest. I couldn't boast the latest and greatest to the other kids in the neighborhood, but what I had achieved during these times was unparalleled system stability without the hassles of constant upgrades and bug fixes. As I mentioned earlier, the computer that just came off my dekstop was five years old. That probalby also tells a real geek that I'm not a gamer. Since I don't play computer video games anymore (haven't in the last 10-12 years), I don't have to keep the hottest and fastest computer on my desk all the time.
Maybe the loss of the inner geek isn't so bad after all. That geek is high maintenance.