Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kindle DX - mini review

Like many technicians, often I have to deal with a lot of documentation.
Specifications, internal documentation, development notes, products documentation, programs documentations, technical books ... is quite an impressive amount of stuff to read.

For years the only way to deal with this stuff was just to print out the most used ones and keep read on the PC  the rest.
Unfortunately read documentation on the PC has many drawbacks.
The normal LCD screen tends to cause fatigue to the eyes and the brightness tire very fast the eyes.
Also the position is not helping.
I'm already forced by the nature of my job to stay seat for long time in front of the computer.
The ideal is to be able to go elsewhere to read, possibly outside :-)

And this is the other limits of the normal screens.
The 99% of laptop LCDs are basically unreadable outside.
So you can only print out what you want to read .. but this cause another problem, actually more than one.
Printing out even a couple of documents with more than 200 pages (quite usual in my field of work) means to have a quite heavy and bulky object to handle.

Until few years ago there was not much alternative, but now the ePaper (or eInk) allows to have eBook readers.
It sound the best answer to the problem to read documentation without the need to print it out or read it on a LCD.

Problem solved ?
Well, not quite.
The 90% of the technical documents and available technical books/papers/ecc., is in PDF (Portable Document Format).
The majority of the eBook reader on the market, has a quite small display, usually about 7".
This limit a lot the usability of the eBook to read PDF files.

Alternatively there are many "tablets" out there, but they have two big problems, actually three :
  1. the cost
  2. the LCD problem
  3. the battery time
A typical entry level tablet costs around 400$, more if is something really usable like the iPad.
But still remains the problem to read in fully sunny light and the battery last just few hours.
So an eBook seemed to me the better choice anyway to read technical documentation.

Kindle, one of the most diffuse eBook readers, especially if related to the price, introduced with the serie 3 (the current one at April 2011) a better PDF support.
But still the dimensions are not helping.
Then I discovered the existence of the Kindle DX.
Kindle DX has a 9.7" inches screen and it seemed to me the best choice to read PDF files even if quite priced ($380).

First impressions

So far I was right, here some notes about this new  toy, a Kindle DX Graphite.
Really a neat object and a very impressive contrast and easy readability.

As first thing I immediately connected to the USB port of my PC (Ubuntu 10.04) and voila', a neat Kindle directory opened immediately.
Kindle DX is seen as a normal USB hard disk, so I just loaded in the Document directory some documents, keeping them in separate directories.

I loaded many different types of PDF documents , from specifications, magazines, technical books and white papers and also documentation I made.
Without the need to zoom the documents are perfectly readable.
The dimensions are little bit less than a normal letter format sheet but still fully readable.

This picture is from my Kindle DX showing an old electronic magazine page, with a schematic.
Really impressive the details.

In these two pictures there two pages from an ETSI specification (for the curious, is the ETS 300 102, the basic layer 3 signaling for ISDN).

And of course I can now buy eBook from Amazon :-) and download tons of free books from many places.

The only thing that is missing from this nice toy, is a WiFi connection.
It has a 3G connection that allows even some light  use of a browser, but is really not very useful, too slow.

But the main purpose, to read tons of technical documentation in PDF, is totally nailed down !
I can load it and go everywhere, anytime, to read it.
Cool !

Few days ago I had a nice chance to put the toy at serious work.
I was stuck for few hours waiting for the service of my car, and of course I had with me the Kindle.
I was able to study some protocol specifications, even retrieving some missing ones via the 3G connection.
Very very nice ! Two very productive hours otherwise lost.