Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sleeker solutions

Some of the greatest achievements in technology are taken for granted and overlooked. I look around every now and then I marvel at how small and thin things are getting these days. Question in point the USB power adapter. Some time back I picked up a USB power adapter that I could use for my iPhone. This is not the official sleek adapter that comes with the iPhone but a local adapter which could be used in local power sockets (because I picked up my iPhone in Hong Kong and it comes with a flat pin adapter). Recently I bought a Kindle which came with its own power adapter. Comparison of the three USB power adapters shows how things have definitely progressed over the years. Things are getting smaller, slimmer and much sleeker. Kudos to a product developer somewhere out there. Another unsung hero.

This made me start to think. It must be years since the plug was invented. Yet the world over we still seem to have so many different types of plugs. True we now have universal power adapters (ideal for globe trotters) that bridges the gap. Did you know that the patent for the first grounded plug goes way back to 1915, and was filed by George P Knapp. Today there are around 11 different types of plugs in existence. One would think that after having become so technologically advanced we couldn’t have settled on one standard for the basic plug by now. Another interesting fact I chanced upon was that when electricity was new people used to connect appliances to light bulb sockets because the electricity charged for light sockets was cheaper!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Kindle of hope. My first e-book reader.

It’s been a busy few months since I posted something here. After a lot of deliberation I finally succumbed to temptation and invested in an e-book reader. I first thought of purchasing one when I came across a touch screen e-book reader on my trip to Hong Kong.The device I purchased recently however was the Amazon Kindle DX. Bought from the Computer Bookshop on DN Road near VT, it took about two weeks to reach from the US. As with most gadgets I deliberated quite a bit trying to decide between the iPad and the Kindle. While the former serves many purposes and comes with a nice colour screen, the Kindle was half its price something that my wallet could afford. Also the iPad is in its first iteration and the Kindle is in its third, which tips the balance.

Touch screens have truly taken over. Something I realised when the first thing a few colleagues of mine tried to do when they saw the Kindle was to touch and operate it. I recollect that the device I saw in Hong Kong was in fact a touch sensitive e-book reader which used a stylus. The 9.7 inch Kindle screen lives up its promise of being a no strain reading experience. The clarity of the text is nice and crisp and if you are reading a Kindle book (not a PDF) you can increase text size to a nice and comfortable reading size. The fact that you can orient the Kindle in landscape and portrait helps in reading PDF’s. True you can zoom and pan but that gets tiresome for me.

What is impressive about the Kindle apart from the number of books you can cram into it is the free Whispernet GPRS service it offers. I haven’t really taken the browser out for a spin yet. My one try was to log onto to Facebook which made the site think it was some kind of suspicious activity. Still as an Indian who has an affinity to ‘free’ things, free internet does seem alluring. Not quite sure how long the service will last though.

The one design flaw that I did find with the Kindle DX was the way in which you had to switch it off. One slider button has been given three functions. Depending on how long you hold the slider you either put the Kindle DX to sleep, power it off, or reset the entire software. This can be quite a pain for the new user as that sweet spot of duration to hold the slider to power the Kindle off can be quite elusive. I seem to have reset my Kindle software quite a few times already in the process of trying to switch it off. I am thankfully getting the knack of it now. I would also have liked the Kindle to detect my folder structure of files. Instead I have to add books to collections to segregate them. One hopes they figure something else out for this in future models.