Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Saturday, February 27, 2010

technology update

So about a week ago I was reading a book on my Kindle when suddenly it disappeared. Not the Kindle, the book. The screen went blank, the Kindle restarted, and when restart was complete, the home page informed me that I had zero items on the machine and zero archived items. I set it aside and came back a few minutes later, and now, it seemed, I had many archived items but none on the Kindle. I tried downloading one of my archived books, but after five or six minutes the “your book is downloading” message (which usually stays on screen for about ten seconds) was still there. An hour or two later I looked again, and my books had returned.

This has since happened twice more, both times when I was seriously engaged in what I was reading. A disconcerting experience. Because I dropped this Kindle the first time I touched it and slightly damaged one corner — a sad tale I told on this blog — I doubt that Amazon will give me a replacement. But I will ask, and report what I learn.

On another front, my emancipation from the clutches of Google remains incomplete. Gmail is gone, replaced by Fastmail, and that’s working out well, with the minor quibble that Fastmail’s spam filter is not as good as Gmail’s — a few items of spam are getting through and there have been some false positives as well. When I used Gmail I just didn't think about spam.

Also, for a long time now my wife and son and I have been coordinating our calendars using Google Calendar, so I don't think I can change that anytime soon. I also miss Google Reader: Bloglines updates slowly and inconsistently, though the new beta site looks very nice, and that’s the only real option for syncing my RSS feeds on my iPhone. But since I don't read RSS feeds on my iPhone very often, I think I’ll stick with a desktop RSS reader, either the full-featured NetNewsWire — with which I have a long history — or the beautiful NewsFire.

These are slight annoyances, but, simply put, I don't trust Google to use my data appropriately, so I can put up with them.


  • Does your unGoogling include their no-login-required offerings as well (Books, Maps, Search)? Gina Trapiani over at Lifehacker made a big deal a few months back about switching hear default search to Yahoo! so she could keep using Gmail but not have all her info in one basket.

  • No problems with the no-login services. I use Google Books and Maps all the time, and plan to continue doing so. It's what Google does with my personal info that concerns me.

  • I've been considering a Kindle for a while now, mostly to avoid 1. backpacks full of C19 novels; 2. reams of paper wasted on printing out the latest issues of journals devoted to C19 novels. Has this problem affected PDFs you have loaded onto the device, as well as books purchased from the Kindle store? Is the Kindle useful as a PDF reader in general, outside this particular problem?

  • Matt, everything disappeared — but then returned. And do remember that I dropped the thing once, which may contribute to, or may have created, this problem.

    With a recent software update the Kindle is a much better PDF reader than it had been — before the update its translations of the PDF's text layer were sometimes a little wonky. The words were there, but formatting could be a problem, and page headers and page numbers would end up right in the middle of the text. All that seems to have been fixed.

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