Monday, March 26, 2012

Kindle Fire Review (pt.1)

I received a Kindle Fire this past Christmas and have been eager to see how it could augment my graduate work. Having used it extensively for about three months, these are my first impressions.

There are some advantages to being a graduate student and using the Kindle Fire – particularly the fact that, between my apartment and the FSU Campus, I very rarely am without (1) cheap/free easily accessible electricity and (2) wireless internet. If this is not the case for you then the Fire will not be as effective for general computing purposes outlined below. Another is that on campus and at home I have access to a computer lab and my laptop (respectively) and, therefore, utilize the Fire to supplement the services of more capable computing devices rather than as my primary mode of computing. That being said, the Fire has certainly been a great addition to my graduate work – it fits conveniently in my purse (between the wallet and cel phone pockets) and I no longer have to bring my laptop to school. This lack of transit for my laptop will hopefully add a year or so to its life enabling it to survive through another couple semesters of coursework.

Due to the Fire’s versatility, this review will be in two parts. In addition to internet capabilities that I’ve been emphasizing so far its primary purpose is as an e-reader. Last week, I wrote a review paper on a book read entirely on Kindle and engaged in seminar discussion of two others. Part One of this Kindle Fire Review will focus on general comments about the Kindle Fire as well as apps that I’ve found most helpful in outfitting the device to fit my grad school needs. The Second Part of the blog (to be posted later in the week) will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of writing papers and engaging in class discussion using e-books.

Part One: Outfitting the Kindle Fire for My Graduate Work

The first two apps that I looked for were Dropbox (cloud-based storage and sharing program) and G-mail (my preferred e-mail). After some googling I realized that these apps are unavailable from the Kindle Fire app store. Based on some further googling, there is a way to “sideload” these apps by downloading them elsewhere, extracting some files, emailing the extracted files to yourself and opening them/downloading them on the device itself. I am damn near computer illiterate – this blog is about as tech savvy as I get and, as a good light-skinned American, I am sometimes ok with working within systems that are already in place (but only sometimes). My question then became how to gain access to apps that would allow the cloud storage of dropbox as well as access to gmail.

For Dropbox, I downloaded what seems to be regarded as one of the top “Office” type apps on the Kindle Fire market: QuickOffice Pro (which was on sale for I believe $9 when I purchased it). This program will sync with Dropbox (as well as Google documents, Evernote, and others) so I can access all files stored there, open .pdf files, and edit word documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. If there is a lot of editing to be done, I still prefer a computer, but this has proven excellent for last minute changes to papers, a quick switch on an attendance spreadsheet from “absent” to “excused” and is phenomenal for opening and reading .pdf files.

As far as emails go, I do nearly everything from my gmail account, so the lack of a gmail app is still frustrating, but I’ve found that the Kindle Fire email client is fine for checking and quickly responding, but I have to wait until I’m at a computer to label/file/meticulously organize emails…which may be for the best as I am what some may call “anal retentive” regarding email organization. Further, an app called “CalenGoo” (which runs about $5 I believe) syncs with the Google Calendar quite well – you can edit events, set reminders, add events, etc. fairly easily. If this is something you use for keeping track of your calendar, Calengoo is also a must-have on the Kindle Fire.

Accepting the limitations of the device, the email client has proven useful and QuickOffice pro has proven indispensable for using this device for graduate work (all articles for classes and for papers are saved on my dropbox and therefore accessible on the Kindle Fire). A few other apps that I’ve found to be handy: app, wikidroid (Wikipedia), Pulse (a news app that I think came preloaded on the Fire – handy for brief headline-reading), iQuranPro (a full Qur’an with Tajwid (recitation)), and...a Facebook app and tweetcaster for twitter – because, let’s be honest, these are absolutely essential for grad school. Also Amazon Cloud storage for music is great provided, as mentioned above, that you have reliable access to wireless internet. While I would not rely solely on the Kindle for computing (which is not its intended purpose) I would highly recommend it to carting a laptop around provided you will have access to a larger computer at some point. Some have complained that its browser is slow but I have found it to be fine for the quick reference and online BSing typical of graduate work. Its primary purpose, however, is as an e-reader – a function to which I will turn in the second part of this review.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Three Vehicular Requestdemands

Having spent a good amount of Spring Break 2012 on the road, I feel qualified to make the following (sort of) humble requests (demands). My observations take the form of sort of humble requestdemands due to my general suspicion of the establishment of rules and/or guidelines. Feel free to disregard these requestdemands, but feel freer to contact me and tell me how right I am should you choose to do so. My observations on the roads from Tallahassee, FL to Lynchburg, VA and back have left me thinking that the average driver (but certainly not the average reader of this blog) would be unlikely to read anything for an extended period of time. Following this hunch, I have provided pictures (though if SOPA ever ends up gaining traction again they will be promptly removed).

Tommy’s Three Vehicular Requestdemands


This is a driveway. If you are unwilling or your automobile/truck/tractor is unable to reach a speed of five miles per hour under the speed limit please leave it here. If you live in an apartment complex, please replace “driveway” with “parking lot.” Should you choose to move your unwilling person or unable vehicle from the driveway/parking lot, you will not cease to agitate people until you return your vehicle to your driveway/parking lot.


This is a two-lane highway. If you (a) drive like a maniac (15+ miles over the speed limit) you should avoid these as you will become quite frustrated by vehicles that do not share your need to reenact any of the 7 Fast and Furious movies. Should you choose not to avoid these roads you will become agitated.

If you (b) are unwilling or your automobile/truck/tractor is unable to reach a speed of 5mph under the speed limit, please see Requestdemand 1. Should you choose not to avoid these roads, please use your emergency flashers and be aware that you will not cease to agitate people until you return your vehicle to your driveway.

If you (c) typically maintain a speed of the 5mph under the speed limit to 10mph over and feel the need to pass someone, your spouse/passenger will likely tell you to never do that again. Be prepared to be agitated by those who disregard Requestdemand 2(a) and 2(b).


This is a four lane highway – Maniacs, this one and those with higher lane counts are for you. If you (a) drive within 10mph of the speed limit, utilize the left lane to pass those who remain closer to the speed limit than yourself. Only utilize the left lane to pass after checking your rearview mirrors for maniacs. Be prepared to be agitated by those who drive like maniacs as well as those who disregard requestdemands 1 and 2(b).

If you (b) drive like a maniac (again, 15+mph over the speed limit) you may remain in the left lane and may not use the right lane to pass. Should you choose to pass in the right lane, be prepared to be agitated by a driver who seeks to move out of your way but is not doing so at a speed that endangers him or herself, his or her passenger(s), or innocent bystanders.

So ends my simple list of three requestdemands. While these requestdemands are not (nor do they seek to be) exhaustive, following them will help a great deal in ameliorating my general disdain for that wide swath of humanity that I do not know. Please feel free to spread the word as these requestdemands likely only apply to those not enlightened enough to have come across this blog.

Bonus Picture:

This is the Paris Metro. I miss it.

As always, thanks for reading.