Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kindle Fire - Follow Up

I've had my Kindle Fire for a few weeks now, so I figured it was time for an update.

First off, I rooted my device. I know I had said previously that I would do a full write-up about rooting it if I decided to go that route, but I figured 'why?' as there are numerous sites already describing the ridiculously easy method for rooting your device. Be aware, however, that once you root your device it's not all sunshine and candy. For the moment, if you root your device, video from Amazon Prime will cease to work. Since I pull video from Netflix and local streaming sources on my LAN this did not affect me horribly, but if you live and die by Amazon Prime's free video on demand you may want to consider this. That said, there's no reason you can't 'unroot' your device after getting things on there that you wanted. For me the lacking applications were things like Dropbox and Astro File Explorer (yes, ES File Explorer is out there but I prefer Astro). Once you unroot your device, Amazon Prime will work again. This, of course, just means developer/hacker folks need to figure out how/what it's checking for and come up with a workaround.

Second, it looks like some of my predictions about this device have come true at least for me. The current #1 issue I have with this device is the lack of external volume controls. I knew it would be a problem, I just didn't realize how much of a problem it would be. Most applications don't give you the opportunity to control volume from within them. This leaves you with having to bounce back to the system pull-down and do it there, which can frequently result in you not being able to resume your application or causing your application to become unstable. All of this could have been solved by two plastic buttons on the side of the device.

Also, as predicted, the power button is a huge issue. I hit the power button pretty constantly while handling the device.

Lack of external storage is also a recurring problem as well. First off, some things can't be downloaded to the device such as streaming Amazon Prime movies, Netflix, etc. So when I'm sitting around some place looking to be entertained, I better hope that there's [good] WiFi nearby. First time I take this on an airplane it's going to get old really quick. That said, if I want to load it up with media to amuse me, I'm going to hit that 6gb limit of useable storage really quick. Obviously I knew going into this that the Fire had fixed storage and no connectivity options other than WiFi, I just didn't realize how quickly I'd hit the upper limits of my storage.

In the 'new issues' pile is the UI itself. I had mentioned in my previous post about how clunky it felt and that feeling has only grown. I press icons and nothing happens. The UI seems to only do what I tell it 90% of the time with no explanation for the other 10%. Applications seem particularly unstable on the Fire as well. I'm not talking about the 3rd party applications that I installed from sources outside of the Amazon App Store, I get that those might not run as advertized. I'm talking about the apps I get from the Amazon App Store crashing and burning on a regular basis.

Final UI issue that I have grown to absolutely loathe is the recent items scroller. First off, there's no way to exclude items from appearing there so it's not just recently opened applications, it's recently installed applications and web pages I've visited. The result is a large, unsorted, pile of junk that I have to hunt through to 'quickly' access it. I find it easier to ignore it completely and just pull apps from the app menu, books from the book menu, etc. The other issue with the recent items is that it's too sensitive to even the slightest touch. One thing I have noticed about the Fire is that if you want an icon to execute you have to make sure you are touching it in exactly the right place and in exactly the right way. The recent items scroller is so sensitive that you will spend time trying to get that icon you want to execute into the one and only position from where you can execute it while alternating between scrolling too far or not far enough. I feel like I'm trying to balance something on the head of a pin before I can open it. Luckily the solution here (for me anyways) dropped into my lap this morning: You can now get CyanogenMod7 running on your Kindle Fire.

In the good news column, I no longer hate the screen size. I still think Amazon would do well to offer a larger version, and if they do I would be inclined to buy it, but in the meantime I have grown used to the display. The battery life on the device is pretty nice as well. I've so far only had to charge it about once a week. The other interesting note is that despite my gripes about it, I do find myself using it daily. If I had to do it again, I'd probably go with a Nook Color though.

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