Kindle Paperwhite vs Keyboard

I bought a new Kindle. I have a perfectly good Kindle Keyboard but about two weeks ago I bought a brand new Kindle Paperwhite (2013 model) on a whim. It was quite an indulgence to upgrade when there was nothing wrong with the old model, but I’ve been pretty pleased with the new one!

Kindle Keyboard and Paperwhite

If you’re considering a similar upgrade you might be wondering whether it’s worth it. Here’s what I’ve found:

Pros:

  • The backlight! This of course is the biggest advantage the Paperwhite has over the Keyboard. Brilliant, even coverage which is easy on the eyes, and you can turn it off completely if you don’t need it. It’s quite powerful too – I’ve haven’t needed to turn it up any more than 50% so far.
  • The touch screen is quick and intuitive.
  • Navigation, page turns and functions (eg dictionary look up) are much faster and more responsive.
  •  It’s really nice being able to browse your books by cover.
  • It’s smaller and lighter than the Keyboard, but the screen is bigger.
  • The type is darker and clearer. (I read in a forum that some people had compared demo model Paperwhites to their Keyboards and found the type to be blocky and inferior, but I think the demos must have just gone a bit wrong from being handled too much and too roughly in store.)
  • You can get cases that work like iPad covers – open it and the Kindle wakes up without having to press any buttons!
  • It can roughly calculate how much time it will take you to finish the current chapter, as well as the rest of the book.
  • I thought I’d miss the page turn buttons from the Keyboard but you get used to turning pages by touch pretty easily. Sometimes it’s even better than the buttons, eg if you’re eating a sandwich and only have a spare knuckle.
  • You can look at multiple word phrases in the dictionary much more easily now.
  • Collections now appear in alphabetical order rather than recently accessed.
  • Authors are now sorted alphabetically by last name, instead of first name. (Although this could have had something to do with me cleaning up a lot of my collection’s metadata.)
  • The Page Flip feature isn’t quite as seamless as thumbing through a few pages in a real book, but it could come in handy.
  • I haven’t really used it yet but the Vocab Builder sounds like a nifty extra.
  • I scored mine $20 cheaper at Target than Big W (AU$159 vs AU$178 for the Wifi model). :)

Cons:

  • I had to upgrade my firmware to 5.4.2 to get my Mac to recognise the Paperwhite without resetting it every time. I don’t like the way collections are now somehow synced but luckily I haven’t had the grey ghosting issue other people have complained of.
  • The Kindle Collections plugin for Calibre doesn’t work with the Paperwhite so when I was setting it up with my content I had to file everything manually (but you only have to do that once and then you’re good to go).
  • The battery life does seem to be a bit shorter thank the Keyboard, but still superior to iPads.

How to reduce iPhone 5 battery and data leakage

**Note: always back up your iPhone before playing around with settings!**

I recently bought an iPhone 5. It was a huge jump up from my old 3GS and I love it: slim and light, super fast and responsive, excellent GPS response and accuracy, the camera is fantastic (the panorama function is fun), I love the retina display, and the extra screen space is great.

But there were two things I wasn’t so keen on. The battery seemed about on par with my 3 year old 3GS (ie, needed to be recharged every day) and my data allowance was leaking away at an alarming rate. (I rarely scratched the surface of my 500MB monthly allowance with the 3GS but my iPhone 5 was consuming 50-100MB a day.) Now, I understand that some of this was down to the fact that it was a new toy and I was probably using it more than usual, but after a bit of research I discovered these were pretty common complaints for both iOS6 and the iPhone 5. I became determined to find a solution.

I collected a long list of tips from a variety of forums, blogs and articles and tried every one. In the end I found…

The two things most likely to help:

FOR BATTERY LIFE: Reset all settings

Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings

“If you’re prompted, enter your Passcode. Wait for the reset to finish then use your phone until it gets down to 0% then shuts off. Then, plug in your iPhone 5 until it charges to 100%. This should help to solve any battery life issues you’ve been having.” [Source: gottabemobile.com]

I’m not sure why this helps but it seemed to do the trick for me. Combined with setting my phone to airplane mode at night I now only need to recharge once every 3-4 days. You may want to make a note of all your current settings before you reset so it’s quicker to set them back afterwards. Note that it will also wipe all your saved wifi passwords!

FOR DATA LEAKAGE: Delete iCloud account from the phone

Settings > iCloud > Delete Account

(Note that this just removes the iCloud account from your phone, it doesn’t close it altogether. You can always turn it on again in the future if you want to.) See this thread for an explanation and a demonstration of why this supposedly works. Apparently even if you turn off all the settings that could possibly connect to iCloud it will still chew data (sometimes even when you’re connected to wifi!), unless you remove the account from your phone.

The trick is that without iCloud you’ll need to connect your phone to your computer regularly to back up, and you won’t be able to use features like Find My iPhone. (That’s the only iCloud feature I found useful anyway – I use Gmail to sync all my email, contacts and calendar items, Any.DO for tasks and Evernotes for notes.)

If you’re not keen on doing this, or it helps but doesn’t completely resolve your data leak, the only sure-fire guarantee is to turn data off when you’re not using it. It’s a little bit inconvenient at first but you get used to it. Go to Settings > General > Cellular > set to OFF. (This also helps battery life.)

I’ve listed below all the other suggestions I found in case you find any of them helpful. (Some may appear on multiple websites but I’ve just listed the sources where I first came across them.)

click for more tips and advice »

Lifting the curse of the black spot from a Panasonic Lumix

The first two digital cameras I owned were different models of Canon IXUS. I loved them both, but when the zoom ring died on my 870 IS last year I upgraded to a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 (ZS10). It took me a little while to get used to it (and if I’m honest I think Canons are still better in low light situations) but now I’m very happy with it, especially the brilliant 16x optical zoom. However, about two months ago I noticed two black spots would appear on the edge of my photos whenever I zoomed in:

Green roof with black spot

Cleaning the lens made no difference. When I researched the problem online I discovered the cause was a speck of dust that had found its way inside the camera and onto the sensor. (Apparently when the lens barrel extends after the camera is turned on a small amount of suction is generated, enough to pull tiny specks of debris inside.) I found a detailed video showing how to open up a Lumix in order to clean its sensor but I was in Estonia at the time I just couldn’t find a screwdriver small enough to undo the screws holding my camera together.

I could put up with the issue in the meantime because often the spot would be lost against the background of the image anyway, and when it stood out like a sore thumb I could retouch or crop it away. I kept an eye out for small screwdrivers as we travelled through Finland and Russia but didn’t have any luck there either.

Happily, the spot disappeared of its own accord about two weeks after it first appeared. (Maybe the suction was enough to eventually dislodge the dust.) I was delighted – problem solved!

But then, this week it came back. And it was WORSE.

Now I had three blotches, two smack bang in the middle of frame, one of which was present whether the camera was zoomed in or not:

Blotches

Luckily, by this time Alex and I were in Japan (I’m a bit behind on our travel posts!) and without even going out of our way we stumbled across a street of computer part shops in Kyoto, all of which were selling small screwdriver sets. We bought one and the next day I sat down to follow that video:

My model of camera is slightly different from the one shown  here but I was still able to get it apart and access the sensor. The trickiest part was unlatching the LCD screen, but once I did that I found I didn’t have to unhook the ribbon cables connecting it to the rest of the camera because I could just carefully put it to the right hand side.

Accessing the sensor unveiled SIX specs of dust:

Lumix TZ20 sensor with specks of dust

(You can see how the three in the middle match up with the spots on the text image above, the others were sitting out of frame.)

Removing them all was very satisfying.

I put the camera back together again and turned it with baited breath… it still worked! And the spots were gone! やった! Not ever having dabbled in electronics before I was really rather proud of myself.

Many thanks to Graham Houghton for posting his video tutorial explaining the fix, my Dad for tech support and advice via Skype mid-repair session, and Alex for putting up with me whinging about black blotches on our photos and dragging him in and out of shops literally half way around the world hunting down a size 0 Phillips head screwdriver. Due to the nature of the camera and the suction side effect of the barrel extending as it powers on there’s every chance more dust could end up on the sensor in the future, but now that I know how to fix it it shouldn’t be a problem.

MacBook Air, let me count the ways…

…that make me love you to pieces. :)

(Note: This is my first Apple computer. I was using PCs for at least 19 years before making the switch.)

  • Weight. 1kg vs my previous laptop which was 3kg.
  • Battery life. 3-5 hours of run time vs my previous laptop’s pitiful 10 minutes. (Even when it was new I only got a maximum of 2 hours.) And standby actually conserves battery life, whereas with my old laptop it seemed to consume basically as much power as when it was on.
  • Size. I have the 11″ model so screen size is compromised, but in return I get ultimate portability. The whole thing is about 50-60% smaller than the paper notebook I used to lug around uni.
  • Speed. 8GB of RAM and a solid state drive make a veeery nice combination.
  • Start up. The boot sequence takes only a fraction longer than waking from sleep and both are incredibly fast. It would take a good 10 minutes after turning on my old laptop before I could actually do anything with it.
  • iPhoto 11. Ah I just love it. It’s such an easy way of storing and viewing my photos, has basic but useful editing functions and communicates nicely with flickr.
  • A working wireless adaptor. My previous laptop decided to ignore the fact it had a physical wireless adaptor fairly regularly, requiring a restart to remind it that it was in fact there – no such problem any more.
  • Keyboard shortcuts. Now that I’m used to Mac OS shortcuts they are actually making my life easier. No more 5 key ALT sequences to produce special characters!
  • File search. Fast and very effective without any silly animated characters.
  • Connecting to other computers. It’s easy now! I never really worked out how to network my PC laptop to anything, and I don’t need to work it out with Mac OS because it’s just easy.

Things that I thought would bother me after moving from Windows to Mac OS but actually don’t:

  • Not being able to get to the desktop. I don’t even use the desktop for anything any more because I can access all the apps I need to from the dock or launchpad. If I do want to get to the desktop there’s a nifty gesture to throw all windows to the side, or I can hide everything for a neater look.
  • Not being able to access any window from the taskbar. My command-tabbing and command-tilde-ing are so natural now I don’t need to worry about it.
  • Programs not having a background. I usually hide everything except what I’m working in anyway (unless I want to accesss two different programs at once), and if I don’t want to see windows behind the current program I make it full screen.
  • Using Finder instead of Explorer. In the past I’ve always found Finder a bit fiddly but after a week of using it constantly I think I actually prefer it now. It’s just a matter of what you’re used to.

The only niggles, if anything:

  • Copying a file path and file name. I can’t seem to work out how to do this in one step – I seem to have to copy the path name and then the file name to create a complete link. Never mind, it’s not really essential.
  • Screen resolution. I can’t blame the laptop for this – my short-sightedness is getting progressively worse :'( and I find myself needing to zoom in on most web pages to be able to read them comfortably. At least I can zoom in, which is helpful – I just don’t like the fact that I need to. :P (Feels like it’s almost time for reading glasses, the thought of which I’ve always dreaded. I already have to wear one pair of glasses, I don’t want to have to wear two – or bifocals…)
  • Word processing. I don’t do a lot of word processing but I’m used to the control I have with Microsoft Office and I don’t think I’ll get that with Open Office. Then again, perhaps it won’t be too bad.
  • e-tax. The software used for completing an Australian tax return is still not available for Mac OS.