Archive for November, 2011

A day with the Kindle Fire

After a few reviews were out in the wild, I decided it wasn’t too much of a risk to pull the trigger on my own Kindle Fire. This should be prefaced with the fact that I see no point in tablets. I have computing ADD – if I’m using something that purports to be a computer it’d better be able to multitask its face off. Fortunately, the Kindle Fire seems to be marketed more as an eReader with some mobile entertainment features and not as a laptop replacing tablet. My intentions with this device are simple: reduce the weight of my backpack by purchasing engineering textbooks digitally. As an Amazon Prime member, the free content offerings from Amazon are a nice benefit. The question is, will this device do what I want it to do well enough that I feel like I didn’t blow $200 on something I won’t use?

A solid day of use may have provided some insight into my last question. Books that are published as print reproductions, which as far as I can tell is marketing speak for low-resolution image exports of page layouts, may not be of any use at all on the Kindle Fire. Magazines published this way are certainly not worth a second glance – full zoom fails to yield text that is in any way a joy to read. Viewing PDFs of lecture slides is not a problem, and for the last several semesters that’s how most of my required material has been delivered, so at least there’s that. Publications that actually take the time to format their content for mobile devices are excellent. While I’ve never used an original Kindle, and can’t comment on the differences, I will say that using Kindle-specific content is very enjoyable. Two such publications are Science News, and The New Yorker. The latter is delivered through a standalone application, rather than the Newsstand, but offers several features that make content consumption more dynamic for the user – namely the inclusion of links to multimedia content which the Kindle Fire happily plays. The former populates the Newsstand, and reads much like a Kindle eBook.

Kindle Fire

As far as the other features are concerned, the Kindle Fire seems plenty capable of handling most light tasks pretty well. Silk, the browser Amazon spent so much time talking about, is kind of a dud in my opinion. It’s certainly not the fastest browser I’ve ever experienced. It loads pages though, and renders most things pretty well. The browser does seem to report as computer rather than a mobile device, leading to some pages coming up in a less-than-ideal format. The Amazon Appstore leaves a lot to be desired, for instance Dropbox is not available. Fortunately, you can get the apk directly from Dropox and it functions just fine. Anyway, it’s not going to replace my desktop by any means. My laptop will still be coming with me in the event I need MATLAB or any of the other major software suites I have installed on it. For light browsing, chatting, video, audio (through headphones, the speakers aren’t that great), and the obvious Kindle features I think this device will work just fine for me. Your mileage may vary.

MS150 – Houston to Austin

This coming April, I’ll be joining several thousand other cyclists on a charity ride in support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Over the course of two days, we’ll pedal the 150 miles between Houston and Austin. Anyone interested in donating to my fundraising efforts for this cause may do so by clicking here. I have set a personal goal of $1000. As of this posting have already raised $425. With 151 days to go, I hope to break my goal. Any support is greatly appreciated.

My training for the event has already started, with my completion this past Sunday of the 62-mile Bike the Bend for Literacy. The wind was a major factor in that ride, more of a factor than the steep climbs I encountered in Little Rock back in September, and I’m going to have to get out there to battle the wind some more to make sure I can survive two days of more than 60 miles of riding. Having gone between Houston and Austin by motorcycle at least a dozen times in the last year, I know there is plenty of wind between here and there. Hills have tops, but wind can blow strong for days.

Oatmeal Stout, original recipe #3.

About two weeks ago I brewed my third original beer. This time, and in keeping with the season, I brewed an oatmeal stout. To make sure I had plenty of body in this brew, I mashed high and used plenty of oats. Pre-boil gravity was 1.046, that boiled down to a starting gravity of 1.054. Airlock activity ceased after about four days, which seems to be the running average on my all-grain beers, but I left it alone until today. My final gravity, which I’ll confirm over the weekend, was 1.012. I hit my target OG on the nose, but it seems I either did not mash hot enough or the yeast were just really happy with the meal they were given because my FG is three points lower than I planned. Fortunately, it still tastes great.

Recipe:

  • 6lb – 2 Row
  • 4lb – Munich
  • 2lb – Flaked Oats
  • .5lb – Roasted Barley
  • .5lb – Brown (British Chocolate)
  • .5lb – Amber
  • 1.75oz – Kent Goldings, at boil
  • Irish Ale yeast (I used Wyeast)

Mashing in

Sweet wort

Hot-Break

Hop addition

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