Category Archives: Technology

Essential Free Stuff

Every once in a while I recommend a list of utilities and programs I find useful.  I don’t like paying for software so most of the stuff listed is gnu open source or free.

Operating Systems

Most of us don’t install operating systems, They come with the computers that we purchase and seldom change. Basically, we have three different flavors available to us.

  • Linux
  • Apple OSX
  • Microsoft Windows.

Operating systems are pretty good these days. Most of us seldom see crashes,  all of them.  Many of us remember the Blue Screens of Death, lockups and forced reboots in the form of the 3 finger salute. (<ALT><CTRL>+  <DELETE> They all have more features than any of us will ever use.

Todays operating systems are much more than the fundamentals that allow us to make our computers run other programs.  They contain a bunch of useful programs that come with the Operating system package.

Apple OS X

I don’t have a lot to say about OSX, because I don’t use it very much. That isn’t to say it’s a less worthy system.

OSX is Unix based, much of the GNU open sourced software is available for the Apple platform.  It also comes abundantly equipped with its suite of apps, such as Facetime,  Safari, Quicktime, and iTunes.   Arguably the OSX system is best at handling media such as music video and pictures.

Microsoft Windows 10.

Windows has been the most reviled os ever. Vista sucked Windows 7.0 was a marked improvement. Then followed the 8.x disaster.   Windows 10.x is pretty decent. Its reliable robust and intuitive. It’s very full featured.

Because it’s a very popular os it has a huge online support community. OEM support is scheduled in twice a year updates at around April and October. Unlike the previous service pack updates of earlier Windows versions, The updates are smooth with few reported update fails. The updates are somewhat automated although they may require a couple of reboots.  I tried to avoid using Windows on my home computers in the Vista through the windows 8 days. Windows 10. is a vast improvement and is a pleasure to use.

Linux (Ubuntu)

Linux is ideal for the beginner computer user and the hacker types. It’s turned into a mature and very functional operating system  A dual boot system can be installed on most systems, It can be installed on a flash drive or as part of a dual booted system.   Linux will run on just about any hardware.

Ubuntu is what is called a distribution,  A package of selected programs and apps. It is the most popular Linux distribution. Ubuntu is suitable for Complete novices. IT professionals and Hackers.

  • For novices the simplicity of the Graphical interface, and the inclusion of the most commonly used application. Ubuntu hardware requirements are low and will perform better than most modern operating systems with limited hardware.  Children and novices find the system easy to use, partly because they have no preconceived notions on how things should work, It being free and runs efficiently on low priced systems.
  • IT professionals love the power of Unix based systems. Ubuntu and other Linux based systems form the basis of the internet. Everything from online servers, the cloud to routers and smart switches are running Ubuntu and Linux.  Ubuntu is available in two major flavors; With a Graphical Interface, much like Windows or OS X and a Text-Based server system.
  • Hackers and tweakers have lots to play with,  The native terminal mode is very powerful,   Systems can be customized to suit almost any desire.  perl, python,  and ruby. It also has  GCC which is a sort of super compile that supports. C (gcc), C++ (g++), Objective-CObjective-C++, Fortran (gfortran), and ADA.Ada (GNAT). Since the operating system is open it is well understood and documented.  Linux was designed from the beginning to be a developers playground and can be customized to small enough to operate a home router, a gamers system, or a super computer’s OS

A terminal version of Ubuntu is available internally to Windows 10 . It can run under the command shell or from the Start menu. OS X has its own native Unix like shell.  A full-blown Linux system can be installed to replace the original Windows or Mac Operating system or alongside it in a Dual Bootable system.   I have a little notebook that was running Vista. I replaced the OS Use it for when traveling for surfing and for  running CHIRP to program my ham radio’s.

Another option is to run take a portion of disk space and to reconfigure the system to run dual booted. The user has the option of booting into either system. I have a newer HP Envy 17. It’s got a 1 TerraByte Hard drive, Windows 10 will never miss the 200 GB I stole to run Ubuntu.  There is plenty of storage for either platform.  This is a spare computer that my wife and I share.  Useful for extended travel, and computing without being wired around our home.  We both use Windows. I use Ubuntu for programming  In Python and C/C++.

Free Programs/Apps

Following is a list of essential free essential programs that are useful and might increase productivity.

IrfanView

This is a quick and fast viewer for image files. Irfanview is capable of doing some basic editing function.  Although the editing functions are Basic it does what it does very well. Irfan view will display,   crop, resize/resample brightness/contrast, rotate and color correction.  Unfortunately this is a Windows only Program It is free with no advertisement.  It is not Open Source and there is a small charge for commercial uses.

GIMP

This is a serious photo/Image editor.   It has a huge advantage over Photoshop. because not only do you get to own it, rather than rent, It’s free.   It will run on Linux, OS X or Windows.  Although there are lots of tutorials, and a great manual,  The program isn’t all that intuitive for the casual user, but it is capable and not real difficult learn the basic functions. It is Gnu  OpenSource and free without obligation or strings attached.

LibreOffice

Other than a web browser office software is perhaps the most useful of any personal application software. LibreOffice is more than just a program or an app, it’s a suite of powerful productivity applications. A few of them are:

  • Writer the processor
  • Calc a spreadsheet program
  • Impress: a presentation Program
  • Base: a database program.

What it doesn’t have are an email program and a calendar type program such as Outlook. This can be rectified by installing Thunderbird with the Lightning add-on.

The only real competition to LibreOffice is Microsoft Office which costs money. It’s available on a lease basis or outright purchase.  LibreOffice is free.  Free as in no cost, no strings attached.

LibreOffice is not an inferior product to its Microsoft competition. While some of Microsoft’s features might have an appeal to certain personal environments LibreOffice has it’s own set of advantages.

Even if one has bought and paid for Microsoft office it cost nothing to load LibreOffice anyway, it can’t hurt to have a backup.

One of LibreOffice’s biggest strengths is its compatibility.  Office productivity software has come and gone in the past. LibreOffice supports just about all the formats Including Wordstar, Lotus, or Quatropro. Writer can be used for HTML files. Not least of all Microsoft Office files can me read edited and written.

Governments outside of the United States have adopted LibreOffice as a standard, The Open Document File (ODF) format is an ISO standard. and is unlikely to ever go unsupported. It is critical for government agencies to have access to files forever.  Not only is LibreOffice capable of reading old WordPerfect or Wordstar files stored in the ODF format are assured to have future accessibility.

Old versions of LibreOffice and its predecessor OpenOffice often had problems with keeping the same formats. Libre office is very good at this in newer versions.  I had to surrender and purchase Office a few years ago because the editing and submitting of certain court reports had some formatting issues. This has been resolved and MS Office is pretty much retired.

I find that LibreOffice is very intuitive, some might not but only because it’s not the same as the Office suite that they are used to.  The user interface is excellent as are the help files and online user-generated he n in Windows Apple and Linux Systems. There is no Microsoft Office available for Linux.

Python Programming Language

Most people won’t see a need to install a programming language.  Learning some programming does have its benefits. Python, in particular, lends itself to doing small repetitive tasks. and automation.

Python is what is called a high-level interactive language,  Which means that it has a powerful syntax, and tends to be able to do powerful things in a simple program. It is interactive. One can type in one line at a time or terminal either to test code lines or to use as a calculator.   Whether to automate simple tasks or to learn a little bit of programming Python is a great place to start.

Some reasons to select Python are:

  • Unlike BASIC this is modern, and because it’s from a single source it’s consistent between platforms.    Python is very powerful and often allows complex problems to have simple solutions
  • It’s Interpretive and interactive. Interpretive means there is no complex compiling and linking involved.  You type save it and run it.
  • It uses the standard C language library.
  • There is lots of available help, tutorials and example programs.  Python.org site has excellent tutorials and example programs.

 

Lessons on Cord Cutting.

Cable bills are soaring. and we are getting less for our home entertainment dollar.  Some of us are cutting costs by either cutting back or eliminating our cable services. There are cheaper or even free.  I just want to cover a few tips.

Over the Air

The great broadcast television switch over to digital had a lot of people convinced that we were now completely reliant on our cable service for content. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Each broadcast channel has multiple available subchannels. From Galveston, I can receive about 77 channels. Some of them are religious, others Spanish or Asian channels. and a few are shopping channels. There is plenty of good stuff available. I was  somewhat surprised to find that a lot of the channels I got were local broadcast channels  and not cable channels.

I live about 50 – 70 miles away from the Broadcast towers. and my antenna is a smaller one that fits conveniently in  the attic. There are times that a few  channels  can’t be received, but most of them can be viewed reliably.  If one lives closer a pair of rabbit ears may be sufficient.  The video is digital. there is no shadow there is no ghosting ,there is no snow. whether the material is standard 480 or 1040P.

It’s worth nothing that there can be a clear difference in quality between the cable offerings and what you receive over the air. Comcast tends to compress pretty heavily.  while the over the stuff has  fewer artifacts and compression.

Content Streaming Hardware.

There are several ways to access the streaming content, my intent is not to give a comprehensive review but to cover the capabilities. available with each method. If you’re going to stream content you will need a good high-speed internet service.

Smart TVs

Smart TVs have streaming capabilities built into the Television itself.  The biggest advantage to  smart TVs is that the user only needs one remote., another is that it doesn’t use precious HDMI ports. The interface is  consistent and simple.  Access to the content are called Apps. Typically Apps that are available include Pandora, Netflix,  Hulu and a bunch of other mainstream services.  I have one of the original Visio sets, they recently dropped Amazon from the availability list. Probably due to the complexity and security that is involved with  the options of making purchases.  Unlike other devices. It’s not so simple to update the hardware and software when it’s integrated into the set. The external units are inexpensive enough to be disposable if the technology becomes obsolete.

Some addons devices such as Blue-Ray and game systems such as Xbox and PlayStation also have smart streaming capabilities.

Roku

The Roku is the Grandaddy of the of the streaming  add-on-box. It has a great interface and comes preloaded with a bunch of services. They come in different models, and have a huge choice of available programming. It’s reasonably priced particularly if one purchases one of the middle priced boxes or sticks, there isn’t much 4k quality to stream these days. I have 2 older boxes, They are not as flexible as the Amazon Fire Stick, and the remote is infrared so the box is line of sight, and the remote needs to be pointed at the box.

Google Chromecast Cast

The Chromestick takes a different approach.  You are to use a device, typically, a smartphone or tablet, although  a PC running chrome will work.  The apps are loaded into the phone.  you select a video that is broadcast from your Chromcast device out to your HDMI port.

I found Chromecast a little limited. First of all, they don’t support Amazon Prime. The other issue I had with it is that it relies on the phone.   Loading heavily burdened phones with dozens of more apps is awkward, at least to me it is.

Amazon Fire Stick

I have the Roku Chromecast, and the Firestick.  The only one that  we use these days is the Firestick.   It has a convenient  remote that is radio operated. so the remote doesn’t need to be pointed directly at the stick, would be difficult to do anyway because the stick is just a little bit bigger than a USB thumb drive that plugs into an HDMI port at the back of the set. It works with all the typical apps, including of course Amazon Video and music. The unit is cheap and like most Amazon services the delivery is quick and efficient.

If you subscribe to Amazon Prime there is quite a bit of free material available. This combined with the free downloadable books, and free delivery makes it a good value.  The Amazon Interface is good and easy to access.

While the choices available are as inclusive as any of the other hardware, it can be expanded even more with the addition of Kodi.

The Firestick operating system is written in Linux, the open sourced and widely understood operating system that runs many of our devices and computers.   Because of this third, party applications are easily written and can be added on. Kodi was originally written as a Linux computer program to catalog and stream video sources from around the internet.  Its was initially called XBMC, they probably figured the name Kodi was less intimidating for non-geeks. Installing Kodi is moderately complex, but can be done by carefully following directions. The firesticks can be bought preloaded for a moderate markup. There are a couple of different methods for loading Kodi, I used my computer and followed the instructions here. Loading can also be done directly by using the app called ES.

Additional streams can be accessed using  the Kodi addon Exodus, The content available here is less legitimate, but almost any content can be found. Old or new series for binge watching, and old or new Movies are all available. Exodus used to be called Genesis, I suppose the next version would be called Leviticus.

 

 

Got the Turbo Tax Blues

Turbo Tax has pulled the old bait and Switch. Things that we used to for the past 20 years  such as handling Rental  properties,capital gains and  small business deductions are no longer handled by the Basic or Deluxe versions of Turbo TAX. They have pulled the old Bait and Switch and pissed a lot of people off. Long story short. If you need Forms A B or C you will need to get the $75.  Premier Version. If you make deductions at all Basic version will not work.

The changes require customers to upgrade to more expensive versions if reporting investment, self-employment, or rental income — costing an extra $30 to $40 — and surprising many long-time Turbo customers.

“Imagine their surprise when they get halfway through doing their taxes and there is a roadblock in the program that says you have to upgrade,” added Dworsky.

“It can be viewed as a bait and switch, yes,” Prof. Bryan Menk told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday, “because people were not accustomed to this limitation in a prior year.”

HR Block is helping fight back, They are offering their software for free, to Turbo Tax Users who got screwed.

The Kansas City-based tax preparer (NYSE: HRB) announced it’s new “Switch to Block” program Monday, which offers its Deluxe + State desktop software free to any taxpayers who purchased Intuit’s TurboTax Basic or Deluxe software for 2014.

The offer from H&R Block comes at a time when TurboTax customers who itemize tax deductions through a Schedule A report will find that TurboTax Basic can no longer help them, so in order to file taxes they have to spend an additional $40 on an upgrade to TurboTax Deluxe. H&R Block’s basic software allows those same filers to use its basic software, which typically costs $19.95, but they can transfer for free right now.

While the offer is tempting I think I’m going to run with TaxACT regardless, we will not be using Turbo Tax anymore

Not as Bad as It Seems.

As we close out the old year and start the new one, it is a good time to get look at  where we are. Most of us tend to think the world  is pretty bad shape. Maybe it’s not as bad as we perceive.

Maybe Bill Gates explains it Best:

200 years ago 40%of all children died before the age of five. People didn’t have a chance to be literate or to read books, average life spans were less than 40 years. And so in a span of not to much time, even compared to human history, we have made unbelievable progress; the things we take for granted, the abilty to go out and learn things, to have air conditioning, tove clothing, to have a toilet is pretty phenomenal. So anyone who looks at capitalism and what it does and says, “Okay it’s been a net loss versus that life we had before.” I think there is a loss of perspective there.

Yeah, Its all about perspective.

There ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Tribal warfare in Africa, Yet things seem to be getting better, Our wars for the most part less deadly. We watch news eith its 24 hour cycle and we see war and the horrors of war, and the world seems to be comming apart at the seems. But is it as bad as it seems?

Judging the world through headlines is like judging a city by spending a night in A&E – you only see the worst problems. This may have felt like the year of Ebola and Isil but in fact, objectively, 2014 has probably been the best year in history. Take war, for example – our lives now are more peaceful than at any time known to the human species. Archaeologists believe that 15 per cent of early mankind met a violent death, a ratio not even matched by the last two world wars. Since they ended, wars have become rarer and less deadly. More British soldiers died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme than in every post-1945 conflict put together.

We face heathcare upheaval, Ebola killing thousands.  Our food is supposedly loaded with pesticides, herbacides and hormones. Genetically modified is gonna kill all of us who can’t afford to pay 4 times as much for Wholefood groceries.  It’s doom and gloom and we are all gonna die.  Would you believe that we actually aren’t doing that bad?

This helps explain why Bob Geldof’s latest Band Aid single now sounds so cringingly out-of-date. Africans certainly do know it’s Christmas – a Nigerian child is almost twice as likely to mark the occasion by attending church than a British one. The Ebola crisis has led to 7,000 deaths, each one a tragedy. But far more lives have been saved by the progress against malaria, HIV and diarrhoea. The World Bank’s rate of extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25 a day) has more than halved since 1990, mainly thanks to China – where economic growth and the assault on poverty are being unwittingly supported by any parent who put a plastic toy under the tree yesterday.

Britons don’t need to look abroad for signs of progress. The Lancet report showed that, since 1990, life expectancy in Western Europe is up by five years – thanks, mainly, to fewer deaths from cancer and heart disease.

The 24 Hour news cycle brings attention to the violent world that we live in.  According to statistics perhaps there is something to entering the golden age of Aquarious.

Homiciderates

To be sure, adding up corpses and comparing the tallies across different times and places can seem callous, as if it minimized the tragedy of the victims in less violent decades and regions. But a quantitative mindset is in fact the morally enlightened one. It treats every human life as having equal value, rather than privileging the people who are closest to us or most photogenic. And it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of violence and thereby implement the measures that are most likely to reduce it. Let’s examine the major categories in turn.

Homicide. Worldwide, about five to 10 times as many people die in police-blotter homicides as die in wars. And in most of the world, the rate of homicide has been sinking. The Great American Crime Decline of the 1990s, which flattened out at the start of the new century, resumed in 2006, and, defying the conventional wisdom that hard times lead to violence, proceeded right through the recession of 2008 and up to the present.

Happy New Year everyone!!

Hamming things Up

I’ve been playing with my radios this weekend, tweeking some settings, adding frequencies and deleting others.  All the while trying to keep some consistency between the three different radios.  I also set the FT-8800 to work as a cross band repeater.  This will allow me to walk around freely with a handheld, and  still use the power of a more powerful radio. Pretty kewl !!

I made some changes to my ham page I included a list of local repeaters with the settings. This might prove useful to a new ham or someone new or visiting the area.

 

Radio Free Galveston

I  changed the Tagline of the blog to today. from “Observations of a Yankee Living in Galveston”  to “Radio Free Galveston”.  The old Tagline was lame and didn’t reflect about what the blog is really about.  The new one in three small words defines  the things I want to post about, and combine to make a tribute to an  effective free press operation.

The new Tagline suggest:

Radio. Is my newest interest and I am  fascinated by different aspects of Amateur radio.

Postings of Galveston news , happenings and politics. Now that the newspaper the Galveston Daily News has turned in a shadow of itself and the website has been buried behind a paywall, There aren’t aren’t as many choices as there used to be.

Free as in freemen (women too) there will always be free people and those who wish to take those freedoms away.

 

New Computer Build

Windows_logo_and_wordmark_-_2012.svgMy trusty little Intel Atom based desktop died a couple weeks ago.  This was a an Ubuntu based system was very inexpensive and yet functional.  I replaced it with a new modern Dell.  Its $600 price tag was double what my Ubuntu based Atom board costs, and came with Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. I  need to have a functional Windows system these days, unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to configure the system as a dual booter. So for now I’m stuck in the Windows 8 ecology.  I can’t say that I’m impressed with Windows 8 the apps and the convoluted way one must do things,  but the whole Idea of an operating is to run the programs we need to use.

I’ve been downloading and configuring the different program and applications I will need and want to use. I find it kinda surprising how short my list is of essential programs that I have installed.

 Google Chrome

I have been using Chrome since the beggining.  What is pretty kewl is that the apps follow the user in a new installation, as well as ones favorites and book marks.  Eventually I’ll install Firefox but for now Chrome is good enough to do what needs to be done.  The nice thing about Chrome though is that the apps I’ve been using automatically got installed.  Some of these Apps are Tweetdeck and Barcode reader

Thunderbird

Thunderbird is the default email reader for most people these days.  I’m amazed at how fast it is to set up and configure. The program prompts the user for email addresses passwords and IMAP or  POP3.  for most configuration login and mail download is automagilcly done.  Those who are still checking their email via a web brouser might reconcider and check out Thunderbird.

 Olympus Viewer 3

Linux and Windows Vista had pretty good import utilities.  Windows 8 though calls up an app when you plug in a camera into the USB port. The problem with Windows 8 apps is that they don’t use the desktop, so practical multitasking is not accessible.   I’ve previously avoided OEM supplied downloaders, and they were not available for Linux based systems anyway. The new Viewer 3 does a pretty good job and allows some touch up editing.  The program uploads and organizes images just fine. While I installed mine from the supplied CD, it is available online from the Olympus site and I suspect it might work from any camera or flash media.

Arduino

I have a couple of Arduino devices, including the Arduino Mega 2560. The new versions of Arduino Programmer.have a real Windows install routine The Arduino is a great development tool for students and professionals alike.  Arduino is an inexpensive and easy way to develop both software and hardware solutions to control or measure or interface with just about anything.

LibreOffice

I don’t have a preference or do I even know what the differences are between OpenOffice.Org and LibreOffice. As far as I am concerned they are pretty much equivilent.  Libre Office is now at version 4.0 and is my gotto for any document creation and editing.  A great Office suite and more than adequate for anything I’m likely to need at my home office.

Microsoft Online Office 365

 This is both a cloud and an application suite.  We moved to this at the office and it came with 5 installations per user so I was able to install everything at home on my desktop.  Suite has a bunch of parts, all which tends to encourage collaboration. The online stuff is hosted by Sharepoint.and is where all the collaboration magic is going to happen.Outlook is available with all of its normal parts, such as tasks and calendars.  Also available are messaging and a newsgroup type functions, blogs and website building tools.   Outlook is pretty good and is pretty much full function the rest of the Office applications is pretty much a neutered version of the real thing.  but is capable of of opening and creating  most documents.

Office 2013 comes to the package and is quickly installed from on line.   Microsofts cloud storage application. Skydrive Pro, the cloud storage app and resoursource is what ties the desktop apps with the online cloud apps. As long as one stores and accesses the Skydrive everything is synced.

This is all rent software and the desktop stuff only runs on Windows 8 or newer OS or Apple OS10 10.3  and better is supported. Vista and XP users are out of luck,  . While my installation is a corporate version . There is a home edition available.  With a licence for up to 5 machines it might not be a bad deal for some home offices with multiple machines and users.

Python 3.3 and 2.7

Python is a programming language. Its today’s BASIC. The nice part about python is that it is cross platform, and it is an interpretive language no compiler required. Its great for writing scripts and even serves as a self documenting calculator I mostly use 2.x because the syntax is a little different for 3.x .  Its a great install for someone who wishes to learn objective orientated programming or create some quick and dirty utilities.

Some stuff I haven’t installed yet but I know I will is Firefox. and Adobe Reader. While some might claim the PC is dead there is still a lot that can be done on a  home desktop. If it is a Windows machine.

 

Google Cleaning House.

Google is discontinuing their reader service on June 1st.  Google seems to do this a lot, offer a service and get a lot of people to use it then take it away. Most of the ideas are an attempt to get people to  work and stay while in their environment.  The problem is Google wants us to use their tools so that they can mine mine data from us. Unfortunatly, often  what they give they take away, Remember Blogger?    A creation of Pyra Labs,Blogger introduced both the blogger and reader to the art and science of blogging, It was free, and all that was required was a host.  which in many cases was provided by our ISPs When Google bought out Pyra Labs. they introduced free hosting., although bloggers were allowed to self host. In other words  to use a host of their own choosing.  This allowed one to use a commercial Web host. This no only allowed users to maintain ownership of their content, but to avoid Google Censorship. Now Google wasn’t all that dictatorial at least in most cases. But any system which responds to complaints subjective decisions as well as automated processes will make bad decisions.    Self Hosting Blogger was the best of both world.  Until Google insisted that we should use their hosting.  This left bloggers with a choice abandon years of work or move their blog to  Google servers.  I left mine on my leased servers , but with out ability to modify, add new comments.   One  unintended side-affect was the loss trust in Google. The user is aware  what Google gives Google can take away.  All this while Google is trying to pull us into  the collaboration in the the clouds scheme.  The grand plan to pull us in and keep us in a Google environment.

There have been a few attempts by Google to build an all inclusive environment  Google Wave was pulled away it just as people were learning to understand it. bloggers and heavy internet consumers were using Google reader, so Google is taking it away in June.   . Google drive is supposed to be the end all using the cloud collaboratively, Its been a year of promises yet Google still hasn;t delivered Google Drive for Linux.

Its getting pretty apparent that while Google gives us great things to play with, they can’t be trusted with real tools that will be available in the long run.. Bing is actually looking pretty these days.

 

Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD Review

This summer Amazon announced a new replacement for their $200 dollar tablet, the Kindle Fire. The new replacement device to be called the Kindle Fire HD. I received mine as an early birthday gift in September. The FIRE HD now comes in several flavors. The Second Generation non HD version  with 8 gigs of storage memory  7″ tablet sells for $159.00. The 64 Gig 8.9 inch with 4G connectivity for $599.  The model I have and reviewing is the $199 16G 7 inch HD model. The Kindle arrives packaged without a lot of extra goodies inside the box.  It comes with a USB cable but there is no charger, there is no paper manual. The metal and glass  construction of  Fire HD gives it a solid heft and feel. The unit comes fully charged and  preconfigured to your Amazon account. All that is required to do is to make the entries to enable the connections to your home WIFI.  Amazon’s Highlighted features are:

  • 1280×800 HD display with polarizing filter and anti-glare technology for rich color and deep contrast from any viewing angle

  • Exclusive Dolby audio and dual-driver stereo speakers for immersive, virtual surround sound

  • World’s first tablet with dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi for over 35% faster downloads and streaming (compared to the iPad mini)

  • High performance 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor with Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core for fast and fluid performance

  • Over 23 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, books, audiobooks, and popular apps and games such asFacebookNetflixTwitterHBO GOPandora, and Angry Birds Space

  • Integrated support for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and more, as well as Exchange calendar, contacts, and email

  • Front-facing HD camera for taking photos or making video calls using Skype, Facebook, and other apps

  • Free unlimited cloud storage for all your Amazon content

  • Kindle FreeTime – a free, personalized tablet experience just for kids on the Kindle Fire HD. Set daily screen limits, and give access to appropriate content for each child

  • NEW Kindle FreeTime Unlimited – just for kids. Unlimited access to books, games, apps, movies and TV shows.Learn more

  •  Prime Instant Video – unlimited, instant streaming of thousands of popular movies and TV shows

  •  Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – Kindle owners can choose from more than 270,000 books to borrow for free with no due dates, including over 100 current and former New York Times best sellersI guess the biggest question one might ask “Is this tablet is the best one for me?”

The answer. of course is, It depends”

Amazons tablets strength is also its weakness. The Operating System is a modified Android Icecream Sandwich. It has been tweaked to work int the Amazon environment.  This is a particular benefit if one subscribes to Amazon’s Prime free shipping program which normally has a $79 annual subscription  fee.  We have found that the free 2 day shipping is well worth the Prime membership fee in itself, and Amazon is our prefered on-line retailer.  The free Kindle stuff is icing on the cake.  The free loaner library is mostly unknown authors, but there are some blockbusters there.  The Ian Flemming’s James Bond ,   Suzzane Collins’ Hunger Games and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  There is a decent selection of free videos I find the movie selection is better (not more, just better) than Netflix. The Kindle HD is a very nice personal video player. The screen and audio is surprisgly high quality for such a small device.

The Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Kindle is the supplied web browser, Silk. I wish they had supplied a more developed browser like Firefox or Chrome, It doesn’t support Flash, or as other have claimed  Flash doesn’t support it. I have never been a fan of Flash, but there are still interactive web and you tube sites that demand it. while Silk can seem sometimes awkward it usually works pretty well and remains pretty transparent in its use.

Still the Kindle HD is primarily  an ereader, and it does an outstanding job at this.  Books are highly readable, there is a good selection of fonts and styles supplied, and the kindle is readable most any conitions ecept when a bright sun is behind you. The bright light will wash out the screen. While there are lots of free books and inexpencively priced books available, Sometimes the ebook prices seem out of line.  We are told that the publishers set the price.  I still purchase the dead tree versions when a bargain can be found.  I enjoy reading ebooks, and they have many advantages and do most of my entertainment reading on the ereader.  Occasionally it just pays to be the cheap deadtree paperback at Sam’s club or the used book store.

My biggest praise for tablets such as the Kindle HD is its use as an Adobe PDF reader. As a field service rep. I have lugged around hundreds of pounds of service and user manuals. A laptop and some labeled fashdrives helped a lot, but with an AC powersupply and limited battery life, even a laptop isn’t always user friendly.  Using a tablet with the free PDF reader program has made my life a little easier.  Another use I have remarkably handy is Skype.  If one can find a Wifi connection it can be really handy face to face communications. There is also a useful magic Jack app which is usefull when the cell phone isn’t working.

All in all the Kindle HD has been a very handy an convienient device, and has is one of those things that is essential to  my every day life at work and play.