Category: Hardware

Kindle Oasis short review

I’m a fairly occasional book consumer, and a very frequent gadget user. I usually read books in their original format, but over the last couple of months I’ve started using my old, but trusty, Kindle 3rd Generation on my commutes to work.

I’ve never found the Kindle to be very comfortable to use – I always struggled to find a correct position to hold it – and the latest generations never seemed interesting to me because they kept the same physical format and actually made it a little bit worse by removing the buttons. I thought about buying the Kindle Voyage (name always reminds me of this) as it had a much better screen than my 3rd Gen. Kindle but contrary to all other models, reimplemented the buttons (kind of), but decided to wait for Amazon to come up with something new.

Low and behold – Kindle Oasis, the new Kindle is upon us. After the initial images I was sold, as the ergonomics finally seemed to fit with what I would expect from this kind of device. Once it was finally officially announced, and even though the price is quite high I decided that I would give it a try.

First reviews were all unanimous : great quality, good ergonomics, evolutionary but not revolutionary, expensive (some like the Huffington Post, even use the kindle as an example of consumer waste), not waterproof.

I honestly couldn’t care less about the waterproofing – not sure where people are using their kindles, but on my daily use there is no water involved. Price was obviously the biggest let down, but I still think that taking into account the quality of the device, and comparing it with other “gadgets” like tablets or smartphones, it isn’t exceedingly expensive.

The Kindle box greets you with a Voltaire quote “I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way.” and informs you of the Kindle Oasis real name “Kindle Generation 8”. Inside it two boxes, one for the battery cover, and another one for the Kindle reader itself.

The device itself and the cover are great to hold – it would be great if they had 10 or 20 grams less, but you can see that they made an effort to make the weight balanced and the touch soft on both plastic and felt parts. The grip is great on both left or right hand usage.

Upgrading from the 3rd to the 8th generation also meant getting a new version of the Kindle software (users coming from Paperwhite or touch devices won’t see much difference) – X-Ray, GoodReads integration, new book shelf screen, etc.

Screen is amazing – instead of the greyed out screen I was used to, I’m presented with a white screen with great definition. Looking at the old Kindle screen now seems to me like looking at an old washed out book.

First usage issue I had was with the page up/page down buttons – even though they were on the same position as on my old Kindle, it just felt weird to use the top button for Page Down and the bottom button for Page Up. On the 4th Generation it felt much more natural as the buttons had different sizes. Amazon must have felt this could be an issue as they added an option allowing you to invert the buttons.

Second usage issue, was related to the touch. There is no way to disable page flipping on touch (I learned later that the Kindle Voyage suffered from the same issue). This is actually very cumbersome as any unintentional touching of the screen causes a page change. Amazon could easily add an option to disable page flipping or at least to define sensibility/time until touch acts.

All in all the Kindle Oasis is a great upgrade. Is it worth it if you already have a Kindle? Probably not, unless like me you have a Generation 4 or older device. But if you are looking for your first e-reader – this is the device to buy.

Don’t forget that like with all other Kindles, you can easily copy .mobi files and read them with the same quality as the books you would buy from Amazon. This Kindle has 4 GB of storage, so more than enough space for any “normal” personal library.

 

Android 4.2 Nexus 7

And today Android 4.2 is finally available. As millions of other geeks I rushed to install it my Nexus 7, mainly because I was eager to try out the multiuser functionality.

I have to admit I’m impressed with the amount of changes 4.2 brought : Multiuser, new drop-down menu, screensavers, lock-screen widgets, Photo Sphere – a lot of things for a minor update.

Only thing that really disappointed me, was that it’s not possible to share applications between users in the same device. I had to add my a second google account to the second user so I could install some paid apps – and unfortunately there’s a small bug in this function – even though there’s an account selector, it keeps the last added account as the selected account…

If you have a Nexus 7 and don’t want to wait for the OTA, there’s a very easy procedure you can follow:

  • Download this file
  • Connect the nexus to the computer
  • in a shell type : adb reboot recovery
  • when the android with the exclamation point is on the display press power and the center of the volume key at the same time
  • select “apply update from ADB”
  • in the shell type : adb sideload 094f6629314a.signed-nakasi-JOP40C-from-JZO54K.094f6629.zip

(in case you don’t have the Android SDK installed you can use this ZIP from Android Central which contains all files you might need)

Supermicromess

Recently I had to install two Supermicro Storage Servers (Model 6047R-E1R36L) – unfortunately not everything went well with their installation.

First unit I received was DOA, it’s always unfortunate when such things happen – nothing a little bit of QA wouldn’t avoid. Called up Supermicro assistance and they did some diagnostics with me…but allas ..the same conclusion – the unit was dead. Supermicro’s american twitter account still exchanged some tweets and emails with me…but in the end, I had to wait almost a week for a motherboard replacement, and with that out of the way… (almost*) everything worked fined.

This week I received the second unit, and after turning it on (yay – worked!) I went to the RAID manager to set up the disks … I looked around and couldn’t find the option to create an array (which I found very strange because on the first unit everything was very straightforward…). A little bit of googling around and I found out that there are two kinds of firmware for this SAS controller : -it (iSCSI) and -ir (RAID) and for some unfortunate reason mine had the it. Googled a lit bit but nothing really interesting came up, and on Supermicro’s site there weren’t any downloads for this server. Called up Supermicro assistance (again…) and they were very helpful – the files I needed were on their FTP server. Next step ? Flashing them! I admit I had never used a UEFI shell before – but it wasn’t that scary. Unfortunately following the instructions returned the error “cannot flash ir firmware over it firmware”. a little bit of googling around and I ended doing this:

  • Download files from FTP and copy them to a USB drive
  • Enter UEFI shell pressing F11 and selecting UEFI shell
  • map (so you can see what device name the USB drive has – mine was fs0
  • fs0:  (this changes to the fs0 drive – like DOS)
  • sas2flash.exe -o -e 7  (erase complete flash)
  • sas2flash -f 2308IR14.ROM -b mptsas2.rom
  • reboot
Everything looks like its working fine (and I can finally create RAID volumes) except I have a warning on boot “SAS address not performed on controller on slot X” – couldn’t find a way to correct this, but it seems not have any adverse effect.
* Almost because about two days later I received another motherboard and unfortunatly I couldn’t find a way to correctly install the system disks (2.5″) in the server trays and had to use a not very orthodox process – Epoxy glue – because all the 2.5″>3.5″ Adapters I tried failed to put the disk in the correct position.

 

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