Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire image
photo credit: Amazon

The web is all abuzz about Amazon’s Tablet, the Kindle Fire. Naturally it’s being compared to the iPad. Well, I have to admit I already placed my order. I figure I have some time to cancel, although my gadget curiosity will probably have me getting it. Some of my thoughts…

It’s not an iPad killer and it’s clear it doesn’t try to be. It’s about half the specs so it seems clear to me that Amazon’s not going to market this by comparing it to the iPad. As for what will kill the iPad? If the iPad dies it will either be suicide or death by a thousand cuts. The Kindle Fire may be the first cut but I doubt it will be a deep cut. It may be less than an iPad but it’s significantly cheaper than the iPad and Amazon already has content for it. It’s not a “if we build it they will come” mentality. I doubt iPad sales will suffer, rather tabler sakes overall will grow.

It’s still an open issue if the Kindle Fire is for me, especially since I already have an iPad. While the Fire runs Android it seems to be targeted as a content consumption system, with that content coming from Amazon. I haven’t seen acknowledgment that content from 3rd parties, such as Netflix or Hulu, would be allowed on the Fire. Still, in my case that really doesn’t matter. I’ve gone through spurts of using Hulu and Netflix streaming but never really became attached to either one. I’ve recently gravitated to Amazon Video despite having both Netflix and Amazon available on my TV. I can’t say why I’m using Amazon more than Netflix, but I am. Some of it is simply because I have bought some videos from Amazon since the stuff I’ve actually wanted to watch hasn’t been on Netflix. Beyond what I’ve bought I’ve just stuck to browsing the Amazon prime videos when I’m looking to find video to fill time. If I add up what I spend with Amazon it’s around the $8/mth for Netflix streaming, so I just dropped Netflix streaming which puts me even more in the Amazon camp,

Other than when I travel I don’t watch video on my iPad very much (unless it’s web video or podcasts) and I’m not sure that would change much with the Fire, The smaller screen makes it less video friendly than the iPad (at least on the surface). The wireless only nature of it means video would have to be copied to it before any travel, just like my iPad. That’s disappointing since Amazon already has the videos stored in their cloud.

Then there’s Kindle books. I prefer reading novels and test-only books of the Kindle e-reader rather than the LCD of the iPad. I don’t see that changing with the Fire. I do use the iPad for manuals and other books that are either graphics rich or that I want to refer to while I work at my desk. The smaller Kindle Fire screen may make it less useful than the iPad for me.

I do subscribe to a couple magazines on my iPad and the Fire will probably be just as good for them, assuming they’re available.

After going through the above list it seems like the smart decision is to stick with the iPad. But assuming my curiosity gets the better of me and I get the Kindle Fire – would I sell off my iPad? Maybe, but it’s not a certainty.

My MacBook Air is closer to the definition of iPad killer for me. It’s small enough that it’s not much more cumbersome than the iPad when leaving the house.. The smaller iPad is still easier to grab and go or to use when there’s no desk or table available. (Although the Air is very usable on a comfortable couch.) Assuming the browser is capable, especially for my common sites, I could see being able to replace the iPad with the Kindle Fire although the smaller screen has me a bit concerned. I’m not saying the Fire is a iPad replacement, but for the way I use it, it just might be,

There’s still a lot of questions about the Kindle Fire, so it’s premature to say this, but I will anyway. If I was deciding between the iPad and Kindle Fire, and already had the Air I’d go for the Kindle Fire and save $300. If I didn’t have the Air I’d want some better mobile computing capability and would probably go for the iPad. I can also see having both, Like the HO Touchbook that caught fire when it dropped to $99 the Kindle Fire low price should help it out and a hacking community may grow around it. The Kindle Fire would be something I’d be more willing to hack or jailbreak than the iPad.

Set a Static IP Address In Untangle

Typically home routers are set to provide DHCP by default and most home PCs use DHCP out of the box. This makes this work with minimal effort. But there may be times were you want a hardcoded IP address, I was recently installing a new home server which is one case where a static IP address makes sense. Having a server potentially change IP addresses is asking for problems. I also configure a static IP address to that I can access my web server using a alias rather than having to type the IP address or fully qualified domain name.  Another case where a static IP may be wanted is for media center PCs or any PC you may want to connect to from another PC or device.

This shows the steps for setting a static IP address in Untangle. Other routers will be done differently.

Logon to the Untangle Console & Select Networking on the Config Tab

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Select DNS Server on the Networking Page

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Existing DNS entries may be listed or the list will be blank.

Select “Add” under the Static DNS Entries section

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This will create a new entry with some sample entries

Enter in the information for the computer

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Because this computer will only be accessed within my home I don’t enter a full domain name. I can access the computer by using the name only. The name does not need to match the computer’s configured name but to avoid confusion and potential problems it should match the name.

You’re Done – Click OK

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Be sure to set the IP address as a static address on the computer

Now any time you try to connect to the new name it will go to the IP address listed.

WordPress Stats Plugin Goes Jetpack Only

Web Traffic GraphicI no longer use WordPress Stats on this site, but I still use it on one of my other sites. When visiting the admin panel recently I noticed a message that the WordPress Stats plugin would only get future updates via the Jetpack plugin. Both are from Automattic, the folks who run WordPress.com. JetPack is a bundle of many plugins from Automattic. I have an instant aversion to bundles like this so I’ll be moving that other site off of WordPress Stats. I’ve no idea when the lack of a separate upgrade will cause me problems but I might as well replicate what I do on this site.

I’ve currently been trying out three stats options on this site. One is free, one is free for basic service with additional costs for larger logs, and the third has a small one time charge,

In the case of WordPress Stats it’s a plugin that maintains the stats on their own servers, taking the load off my own server. It provides summary data along with some search and post tracking. And it’s free, It integrates with the admin panel. So my requirements were admin panel integration and plugin support. Off site stats maintenance wasn’t a requirement.

Google Analytics

Website: www.google.com/analytics

Pros: Free, Off site stats storage, Long-term historical data detail

Cons: More data to Google (some may consider this a con, others may not). I’m on the fence.

Plugin: Many. I use Google Analyticator.

Google Analytics is easy enough to use for basic stats although it becomes more complex as you dive into what’s available. Due to it’s popularity there’s a plethora of information about setting it up and books about using it.

StatCounter

Website: StatCounter.com

Pros: Free for summary data and detail on the last 500 visits. Additional detail logs for a fee. Offsite stats storage.

Cons: Depending on how busy your site, the 500 line limit may not be enough, requiring added cost.

Plugin: Official StatCounter Plugin

StaCounter is easier to extract the detail information than Google Analytics. The downside is the log file size limits how much detail you can keep with one line equating to one page view. So the free 500 is good for 500 views. I like that the detail includes the search terms that bring visitors to the site and StatCounter makes it easy to view and analyze this information.

Personally I like StatCounter better than Google Analytics but would have to pay for additional logs to make it useful. Summary information is kept long term which is often all I want.

Mint

Website: Mint

Pros: You maintain the database and control the data. Flexible configuration, only track what I want.

Cons: $30/domain. You must maintain the database.

Plugin: Mint Analytics (which I’ve edited to ignore my visits)

Mint’s stats database can be on another server, but it needs to be a server you control. Since your installing the software and database locally it’s significantly more complicated than the other options. You can choose which plugins (called Peppers) to install. These peppers can be developed by the Mint community, not just the owners, I’ve had problems integrating some of the more complex features such as RSS feed tracking and on site search tracking, Some of these problems arise because of conflicts with some of my other choices, such as using a Google custom search for on site searches and aren’t necessarily the fault of Mint.

Summary

I want to like Mint because it lets me control the data. But I don’t like the hassle of maintaining it myself. While not a lot of effort once it’s installed, it’s more effort than the other options. In theory Mint would place more load on the server although I haven’t had any performance issues. Also, I had to manually edit the Mint plugin to not track my own visits, something the other options already include.

I also like StatCounter more than Google Analytics as I get to the data I care about easier than with Google Analytics. But I’ll have to pay for added log space in order to get the 30 days I’d want.

Finally Google Analytics has the long-term logging and is free. Still, I’m less and less confortable with all the eggs I’m putting in the Google Basket.

If you use WordPress Stats will you keep it once it’s part of jetpack? Do you use Jetpack already? Any other stats options you’d recommend?

Tablet Punditry

TabletPC

I was lamenting the lack of an iPad competitor (if only to spur Apple on) when I got into an friendly argument with a co-worker about whether or not the popularity of the $99 HP Touchpad proved there was a way to compete with the iPad. I was on the side that said the $99 Touchpad proved nothing except people like a deal. He said it proved people wanted an alternative to the iPad.

First, the HP Touchpad is not a $99 tablet. It’s $318 worth of parts (per iSuppli) that was being sold for $99. It sold for three reasons – people love a deal (or perceived deal), it was a challenge to get one (therefore a victory when obtained) and geeks love hardware to play with. While I had no interest in the Touchpad, I’ve certainly bought things for the curiosity factor.

A $99 tablet is not iPad competition. There are already $99 tablets, and they’re crap. They are not iPad replacements.

The main argument I heard was HP (or someone) should sell the tablet for $99 and make up the difference in products and services, For example, selling apps. I don’t see anyone doing this. At Apple’s 30% commission HP would have to sell $730 worth of apps (or anything they can get a commission on) just to recoup the hardware costs. This doesn’t include the costs of setting up the app store not to mention the overhead and development. A company like Amazon or Microsoft might be willing to feel a device at cost or at a slight loss while they build a critical mass and ecosystem. But Microsoft doesn’t seem to want to build the tablet themselves, Cut hardware costs and we’re back to $99 tablets are crap.

While not a $99 tablet, my best hope is for the Amazon tablet. I admit that I was assimilated by Amazon long ago, having Amazon prime and easily doing more shopping with them than anyone else. I was already in Amazon Prime when they added movies and I’ve been enjoying the movies and TV. Add to that my growing collection of Kindle and Audible books and I may be a Amazon Tablet owner when it’s released. Although I suspect I would be one of the few iPad owners also buying a Amazon tablet. I’d get it for one of the reasons I mentioned that people bought the $99 Touchpad – hardware to play with. I’ve no doubt Amazon would design their tablet around selling their other products, but I would expect that even they would price the hardware to at least break even.

I would agree with those that say there isn’t a tablet market, only an iPad market. Even the Amazon tablet won’t be an “iPad killer”. The iPad will continue to do just fine. Hopefully it will be enough of a threat to spur Apple to speed up their enhancement,

 

OS Quest Trail Log #63: Hurricane Edition

Hurricane photo

It’s been awhile since I updated the blog, and things have been similarly slow at the OS Quest. There haven’t been any major changes around the home data center, just some minor ones. I survived Irene without a power failure or other problems, unlike most of the state, and 65% of my town according to the power company. In fact, it had the benefit of delaying my planned Sunday flight until Tuesday, letting me trim two days off a business trip that was already painful enough.

Lion

I still like Lion on my MacBook Air and it’s been stable. Still, I’ve yet to install it on another Mac. Eventually I’ll install it on my desktop Mac Mini but I’ve wanted to avoid the inevitable hassle a change always brings, or even worse, breaking of apps.  It will probably get Lion in October. As for my bedroom iMac I’ll probably end up holding off on Lion. It’s an entertainment PC and I use Front Row to watch videos and Front Row is dropped from Lion. Finding replacement software probably wouldn’t be difficult, but expending effort just so I can make a change that gives me what I already have seems like a waste of time.

I’ve been tempted to buy Lion Server but it’s been more out of curiosity than any need. In looking over my Macs, I have two that meet the minimum requirements, my desktop and bedroom iMac, but I’m not willing to experiment with either of those. I do have a Mac Mini I’d be willing to use but it’s just shy of the requirements, I could probably install Lion but I fear I’d be more annoyed than anything else. It would be different if I thought I would actually use it for something.

Firefox Out – Google Chrome In

I’d gone back to Firefox several months ago, despite preferring Chrome. I had a conflict with my LastPass password manager add-in for Chrome and TextExpander on my Macs. When I was logged onto LastPass (which is always) TextExpander wouldn’t work. I noticed recently that it started working again, My MacBook Air running Lion still shows a warning sometimes, but TextExpander is working fine, I’m glad to be out of Firefox. Their recent 6 week upgrade cycle was a pain. I consistently had broken add-ins and it’s the add-ins that brought me to Firefox. Now some of it may have been that the add-in developers just needed to flag the add-ins as compatible, but still, the whole thing was handled poorly.

Firefox is still around, but I glad the speed and simplicity of Chrome is back as my default browser,

Home Entertainment

In my last trail log I mentioned that my LG Blu-Ray player was having problem playing some Handbrake encoded files. I mentioned the files played fine elsewhere, Well, they don’t play fine elsewhere and re-encoding them solved the problem. In the LG player they were scrambled from the beginning, on everything else they played fine until about the last 90 seconds where they showed obvious problems. So the LG player was affected more, but there were definite problems with the files.

Everything else is still working fine, Streaming from my Windows Home Server works great despite being wireless and running on HP MicroServer hardware.

SpiderOak

Last month I started testing SpiderOak as a backup and syncing solution. I’ve since upgraded to a paid account. I’ve been using it to sync files between my PCs (including Macs) along with backups. I also use it to backup my Windows Home server despite not being an officially supported OS. For the WHS it’s actually a second offsite backup for my most important files so I’m not too concerned about the unofficial support. It’s probably worth a longer article, but the short review is I’m happy enough to have bought a 200 GB subscription, Which does trigger my one gripe about plans like this. I bout the 200 GB plan because I’m just over the 100 GB plan so needed the next level.

On Tap

Now that the summer is officially over and vacationers return to work I hope to get some time back. I’ve got a couple weeks vacation soon. No travel plans but that could change if the weather is nice. Still, I should be able to find some quality tech playtime, There’s a few things on my list, but since I won’t get to them all I won’t mention any. It’s been over a month since the last post, hopefully the updates will be a little more frequent for the rest of the year.