34 Brent Evans

brent-evans-thumbNews – l. No more free ride on email translations to Kindle format?  2. CNETt’s David Carnoy offers a sane overview of criticisms of the Kindle 2’s text contrast compared with that of the Kindle 1.
Tech Tip – How to use Instapaper for convenient transfer of content from the web to your Kindle.
Interview – Brent Evans, creator of the GeekTonic blog, where you’ll find a thorough review of the Kindle 2, his wife’s view, a comprehensive list of Kindle 2 shortcuts, and a scary bathtub photo.
Quote“Interviewing with the Person-al Touch,” from LenEdgerly.com. Thoughts after on an interview by Bryan Person.
Comments – Cindy Brooks, Gregory Keck, Marcy McKenzie, Barry Buris, Allen MacDiarmid, Bruce Bouchard on Calibre, Dan Meyers, Mark Aherns, Larry Goss, Rebecca, Kayla Fleming on haiku contest to win a Kindle 2, and an audio comment by Stephen Windwalker.

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Comments 12

  1. Windwalker wrote:

    Great show as always, Len. Brent is an interesting guy, and the Instapaper and Calibre initiatives are fascinating.

    Posted 13 Mar 2009 at 7:13 am
  2. Jesslyn Hendrix wrote:

    Great podcast, Len. Because Amazon may start charging for document conversion, I wanted to comment on the conversion applications. I seem to have become the Kindle expert here at work; I have 4 coworkers that got the Kindle after I showcased my Kindle 1 and Kindle 2. I got a lot of questions on document conversion so I decided to do some FAQs on my blog. I have put together one on the MobiPocket Creator and one on the Calibre converter.
    Odd thing on the Calibre converter; you pronounced it ‘caliber’ and I have been thinking of it as ca-lee-bray. In any case the How-Tos on document conversion are on my site – My Kindle Stuff @ http://www.knuckleheadnetwork.com.

    In case your listeners also want other tips, I also have links to the latest free and cheap Amazon books and a guide on getting your favorite blogs and feeds onto your Kindle wirelessly.

    Another thing you may want to point out is that Amazon has fixed at least one aspect of the Personal Docs problem. The documentation infers that both documents you add via USB and documents that are emailed to Amazon (for wireless delivery) will be shown under Personal Docs.

    An update is being delivered that does not iterate the software version. Once you have it, documents that you email to Amazon will appear under Personal Docs. Unfortunately, USB uploaded documents will still go to Books.

    Looking forward to your next podcast!

    Posted 14 Mar 2009 at 9:15 am
  3. Tom Ford wrote:

    Hey Len, I just stumbled upon your podcast a couple of weeks ago and am enjoying it a great deal. Thanks! I thought I would weigh in on two issues. Firstly, I found that the text was too light on my Kindle 2 compared to my K1. I wrote to kindle2-feedback@amazon.com just to share my thoughts and they sent me a replacement right away. Although the background screen on both was nearly identical, the text on the new Kindle 2 was obviously darker and clearer! So far so good…. then today I took the new Kindle 2 outside and I had the fading text issue in the direct sunlight. I wonder if temperature could be an issue. Anyway, I never had any issues like this with my Kindle 1 and wonder if I was just lucky or if something in the new technology and/or production of the screens is leading to these quirks. Long post! (And PS – I’m not one of those who complains all the time.) Thanks again for the podcast. Best, Tom Ford

    Posted 14 Mar 2009 at 2:00 pm
  4. Jesslyn Hendrix wrote:

    Added note on my previous comment. It seems that the CS rep I spoke to was somewhat mistaken. Rather than deliver an update, Amazon has added properties to emailed converted files so that they properly appear under Personal Docs.

    Posted 15 Mar 2009 at 12:15 pm
  5. Erie K. wrote:

    I’m so glad that SOMEBODY who loves the kindle 2 (and gets commisison for each sale)can be objective enough to point out its flaws as well. The lighter text quickly irritated me. More irritating was the lavish praise reviewers bestowed on the device after mere hours of tinkering.

    The lighter text is something best measured by the number of “breaks” you take during a long reading session. I could read for 2-3 hours straight on the K2. With the K1, I’m never quite “in the zone” as I’m resting my eyes every 15 minutes or so.

    Kudos, for pushing for a firmware update, and let’s hope that with a darkening of the text via patch, we can all hope to “read different.”

    Posted 15 Mar 2009 at 12:41 pm
  6. Erie K. wrote:

    I meant to say, “I could read for 2-3 hours straight on the K1. With the K2, I’m never quite “in the zone”

    Posted 15 Mar 2009 at 12:43 pm
  7. Ted I. wrote:

    Hey, great podcast! I installed Calibre – great tool!

    I had a couple comments on the “light text issue.” Don’t know if you’ve been following the discussions on Amazon, but I’ve been doing a lot of experiments and posting results there. The clearest one can be found here:

    As noted on your ‘cast, the Kindle 2 is capable of rendering beautiful text, they just need to give users an option for changing the default rendering mode. This is what they should have done originally when someone suggested that they make the text less crisp. That was truly an error on the development team’s part – you NEVER change a feature that people like on the original without giving users the option of retaining the feature in its original incarnation. Especially one so fundamental to the usability of a device.

    Also, you had someone asking about grayscale images. I’ve got a long imaging background. Here’s some tips for users who want to show images to best effect on the Kindle 2 display.

    Keep in mind that this is a 16-tone display combined with the fact that “white” is really a mid gray and “black” is really a dark gray. So you have three things working against you displaying great images. This just means you have to take particular care in optimizing the images before saving them to your Kindle.

    Step 1 – Crop: Because you have a limited display resolution, take advantage of every pixel. Crop the image as tightly on the subject as you can. This will help the Kindle show the fine details as well as possible.

    Step 2 – Sharpen: Sharpen/unsharp mask the image to enhance details to your liking. Experiment with different levels of sharpening. Keep in mind that the Kindle paper displays differently than a computer monitor, so edges won’t be quite as clear on the Kindle. Therefore, you need to sharpen the image more than would look really good on the computer. When you do this, you start getting some “edge effects” on sharp borders. These will be toned down when displayed on the Kindle screen.

    Step 3 – Optimize the contrast. Using a photo editor like Photoshop or Picasa, stretch out the contrast so that blacks are really black and whites are really white. The Kindle needs all the help it can get, and since you only have 16 gray levels to work with, you want to use all of them. You might play with the “curves” or do other processing. You really want the image to “pop” on the display.

    Step 4 – Rescale the image. The image should be a bit less than 800×600 for display on the Kindle screen. If it is larger, the Kindle will rescale it. You want it to display “raw” – pixel for pixel.

    Step 5 – Convert to 8-bit grayscale. I do this after all the other operations, which should be done in the order given above. You always want to sharpen an image before doing other things to it or you can end up with some nasty artifacts.

    Step 6 – Depending on the type of image you have, you may need to “dither” it in order for it to look good on the Kindle. Portraits and anything else where you have a large area of subtle gradations are particularly prone to rendering artifacts on screens with a limited number of shades. Dithering is a technique that introduces some random noise into the gray values of an image in such a way as to fool the eye into perceiving more shades of gray. This step makes the difference between an artificial looking portrait and a beautiful one.
    Unfortunately, the only program I use that does this is Photoshop.

    Step 6a: In Photoshop (I use the CS version, yours may be different), go to “save for the web”. For the image type, select either “GIF” or “PNG-8”. For “color reduction algorithm”, choose “perceptual”. For “dither” choose “noise”. Under “colors”, select 16.
    While you’re adjusting the settings, you can view the original and the image as it will be saved so you can tell what works the best. When you have all the settings done, click on the little arrow next to the “presets” dropdown and save your settings so you can use them again in the future.

    Step 6b: Click save and store your image.

    If you don’t have the dithering capability, just save the image now and transfer. I suggest you save two copies of the image. One in an uncompressed format, like TIFF, and another in the format that you’ll be transferring to the Kindle.

    You’ll undoubtedly have to experiment a bit for best results. But this should be a good starting point and get you going in the right direction.


    Posted 15 Mar 2009 at 3:21 pm
  8. Anthony Rosenburg wrote:

    At the very least, we can all agree that there are some drastic variations of text/contrast in the ‘Kindle Wild.’ A different species is found everyday – fluctuations of light to dark, unpromted data transfers, sudden sharpness then dissipation after battery run…

    -Life in the Amazon

    Posted 16 Mar 2009 at 4:20 am
  9. Jonathan wrote:

    Hey Brent,

    I just discovered a great way to keep the K2 protected for CHEAP. Use a CD case! I needed something quick to take with me on a trip and so I took the CD’s out of a case that is 11″ x 6″ and the Kindle fit perfectly between the soft pages and zipped right up. Here is a link to one on Amazon that is similar, though mine is a little slimmer.



    Posted 22 Mar 2009 at 10:37 am
  10. becky c. wrote:

    Thanks for the detailed instructions on how to use instapaper. I sat at my computer with the podcast playing on my ipod and followed each step. Worked like a charm! I am a happy K1 user and I enjoy your podcast every week. Thanks for all the work you put into it.

    Posted 23 Mar 2009 at 5:13 pm
  11. thorn wrote:

    w/r/t greyness of e-paper background: have you noticed how white-white-white the kindle is? i read on one of the boards a report of greatly improved reading experience — after the poster had purchased and applied a black skin to his device.

    i wouldn’t go for that solution myself — would prefer my device to be the same shade of grey as my e-paper background, and matte. if such a skin were to come into existence, i’d consider it. otherwise, i’m fine with my device as-is. i find it no less contrast-y than a regular paperback; just that the background is cool grey rather than warm light beige.

    Posted 06 Apr 2009 at 10:40 am
  12. thorn wrote:

    me again. this time re. instapaper.

    do we trust instapaper not to send spam to our kindles — since we are enabling it/them to do so? the function is really cool, but as far as i can tell, instapaper has not promised not to spam us.

    Posted 06 Apr 2009 at 10:54 am

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