Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kindle Paperwhite Unboxing

Article can now be found at OhYongHao.com
This is going to be sort of my second unboxing (although during my first unboxing of my new XDs I didn't take any pictures, but I'll leave it up to you to decide if it counts or not).  I was not originally going to be purchasing a Kindle Paperwhite so soon, but unfortunately about a week after the announcement by Amazon of the Kindle Paperwhite coming out my Kindle Keyboard was stolen.  I had had it for just over a year.
To be honest, I think that the name is hard to pronounce and doesn't quite roll off the tongue.  The first time I saw it was in a Google News link and I thought it was an article that was criticle of the Kindle and calling it a Paper "weight".  Since then I have to catch myself everytime I want to say Kindle Paperwhite because I almost always try to say paper weight.

The Cover

Due to supply and demand I got my Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover first around October 3rd.  It was exciting to see about what size the Kindle would really be.  One disappointment is that although it is a "leather" cover, it appears to be a thin layer of leather on the outside with denim on the front inside and a plastic mold where the Kindle sits.
The only identifying marks on the outside cover is the magnet on the right side which is silver in color and has the Kindle logo engraved.  Whereas the inside cover has a large font Kindle stuck on it that resembles a sticker.
I'll talk a bit more about the cover after we've unboxed the Kindle Paperwhite.

The Kindle

After nearly a month of waiting my Kindle Paperwhite arrived by UPS.  It was in a slick thin box with the Amazon Frustration Free Packaging.  I tore it open at first opportunity, then remembered I wanted to take pictures for this blog.
As noted on the Amazon website this Kindle does not come with a wall adapter (also known as a wall-wart).  That being said, it does come with a USB cable.  The standard extra long Amazon USB cable.  Still having the one from my previous Kindle before it was stolen, I probably won't be using this one until I find a place where I need to be charging something that I don't already have a cable, but it's not quite as dramatic as I thought when I first read that it didn't come with the adapter.  For those that were worried, you'll still be able to charge it with any other USB adapter or computer that has a free USB port.
My first impression was the bevel was bigger than I was expecting, which I consider to be a good thing.  Some other bloggers had mentioned that the bevel was much thinner and some of them had trouble holding it, especially since now touching the screen is forbidden unless you want to turn a page or access the menu.
The Kindle, I find now, is thin enough to fit inside my coat pocket, either on the outside hand pockets, or on the inside pocket of my leather jacket.  With the hand pocket it still sticks out slightly, so at best it can be put there quickly to get out of the rain, but I find that I enjoy storing it in my interior pocket, something that my previous Kindle could never do due to the size.  This is also including the leather cover that I mentioned above.
The cover fits snug, your Kindle Paperwhite will just snap into place and it doesn't feel like it's going anywhere.  With the conspicuous magnet on the right side you also don't accidentally try opening your Kindle the wrong way and damage it because of the electrical connections for your light.  A really nice feature is how the cover works similarly to the iPad cover where closing the cover turns off the device.

Special Offers  

I got the device with Special Offers and the one downside to this is that there is an extra swipe that needs to be done to open your device.  A friend of mine paid the extra $20 to not have Special Offers and with his device you barely catch a glimpse of his screen saver before you are brought back to the last page he was reading.  This is done, I believe, so that people actually see the ads, because otherwise you would only catch a small glimpse before they disappear.  That being said, I don't really find the ads to be very distracting.  Although it should be noted that the ad also appears on the homepage on the bottom, making the covers slightly smaller than if you did not have Special Offers.
Most of the offers I have gotten are 30% off some item, or 80% off a featured book.  I haven't used any yet, they seem to come just after I bought the item they are advertising.  For example, I had just bought two pairs of jeans from Kohls when I got the 30% off denim advertisement   I also got a 30% off Kindle Accessories, which having already bought the leather cover, was completely useless.

Screen Protector

I was never the geeky guy with glasses taped together and a pocket protector to fit, but I have found that I enjoy having that added protection that screen protectors bring on all my electronic devices.  I particularly recommend the BoxWave Kindle ClearTouch Anti-Glare Screen Protector.
Application is pretty straight forward, just don't mess it up the first time.  The screen protector feels natural, there will be a few bubbles for the first few days but should work themselves out.  One important note is to try to work in a dust free environment because any specs of dust that you get underneath it will be stuck there for life.  You can attempt to reapply, but, ahem, from my experience that usually just ends up in more dust.

First Boot

I got to admit, I was in the middle of an awesome quadrilogy and was looking forward to diving right in.  Turning on the Kindle for the first time brought me to a tutorial on how to use the Kindle with no clear way of forgoing the tutorial.  I was stuck and had to do all the page taps before I could begin enjoying my book.  It felt like it took a little longer than I would have liked.  There also doesn't seem to be a way to restart the tutorial, but there is the Kindle's User Guide which you could read through later, or Google.
After starting you'll have to connect to a WiFi Hotspot in order to connect to the cloud and begin to get your books loaded.  I found that navigation in the book was really simplified, just a couple taps of the screen and I was able to find my place in the book that I had left off at with my friends Kindle.  In order for the reading progress to work I found that you have to switch it to one of three choices:
  1. Location in book
  2. Time left in chapter
  3. Time left in book
By far I find that "Time left in chapter" is the best option.  If you tap at the top of the screen and have the menu available you can see all three at the bottom of the screen anyways, and the one I want to know most often is how much is left in this chapter.  It doesn't take long for it to start working.  I wish that these options were able to be checked on or off and rotate through them, although I would still find the location one not very useful unless you were trying to match up exactly with a reading partner.  What I find is, for the most part, we just sync up on chapters anyways.

Share

Quite honestly I haven't used this feature yet, not from lack of trying, but mostly from its inability to queue shares until I have WiFi access again.  To me this is a great oversight that Amazon really dropped the ball on.  I take my Kindle everywhere with me, whether it be the grocery store, beach, work, or hiking up a mountain.  My daily commute to work gives me about 1-2 hours of reading time.  I have thought about syncing it with my Android Hotspot, but that still doesn't work with hiking/camping or other places where I don't have reception.  I think it would be nice to write the share and then have it queued up until I make my next connection.  I've found myself actually wanting to use it a couple of times, especially since I usually have some friends reading the same book.

After the First Week

Now that the novelty of the Kindle Paperwhite has worn off I still find myself in love with my new Kindle.  Because of its convenience of fitting in my coats interior pocket I pretty much never find myself without it.  Opening up with the new cover means I can be reading within seconds, and when I need to put it away it shuts off as soon as I close the cover which means I'm not going to accidentally turn the page.
I have to admit, when I first heard that they got rid of the page turn buttons I was upset, I thought it was the dumbest thing they could have done.  Audio jack, never really used it, but the page turn buttons I had grown accustomed to.  Most of the time I find that I hold the Kindle in my left hand and had found a very comfortable position that allowed me to turn the page with an almost unnoticeable twitch of my hand.  After having used the Kindle Paperwhite for the last week I find that I do miss the ability to gently turn the page with my left hand, if Amazon would add a Left Hand Mode for their screen tap area that would probably make up for it, or possibly make the turn back section only take up the top half of the left side and leave the bottom half for turning forward.  The only other complaint is once in a while I accidentally activate the menu by tapping too high, usually with my right hand.
Overall it is a really well made product, I haven't had any complaints from my wife about the glow while I'm reading with the lights off.  A different review had mentioned they like to read with the light on 100% the entire time, I find that I enjoy it more either having it off or on up to about level 6 for night time reading.  To me the full brightness makes it seem too much like an LCD screen that I hated reading before I got my Kindle, it just feels like too much light being directed towards my eyes.

Final Thoughts

My final thoughts, I would recommend this to anybody who loves e-readers, or to anybody who was hesitant to switch from dead tree books.  This is one purchase which will bring a lot of enjoyment to your life.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gun Review: My XDS 45

Your first gun purchase is always memorable, there is the excitement building up to that perfect gun that you have dreamed of.  You've spent countless hours going through forums, threads, google searches, asking friends and daydreaming about how it will be.  You've convinced yourself that this is the perfect gun for you, it's exactly what you want and need.  At least, that's how I've come about this.  Truth be told, I purchased a revolver a couple weeks before because I needed something for easy hiking and concealment, and that purchase had it's own feelings, but nothing quite like this.  A brand new gun, only been fired once in the factory.

Unboxing

My excitement quickly faded as I realized that there are a few quirks with it to start with, almost border line regretting the purchase, but then I have to remind myself, that a brand new gun has springs that haven't been warn in, it doesn't have the grooves worn in on the slider, or part of the extractor wore off and extra lube replacing those worn out spaces.

The first thing I noticed was that it was hard to pull the slide back and lock it.  After locking the action open, it was hard to rack the slide again, it takes quite a bit of effort to get the slide back a little bit further and push the slide lock down to release the slide.

Another piece was the magazine, the bullets are hard to get in, and even harder to pull out.  That appears to be influencing the slide, when I try to load the first round in the chamber, and it also effects the extractor.

Trip to the Range

I got a chance to finally take it to the range.  I had been carrying my friends XD-45 Compact for the last few months and had shot my fair share of rounds through it.  My dad found a great deal at Bi-Mart for a 250 round box, I decided I was going to shoot 100 rounds through it this time.

After struggling to get both magazines with 5 rounds each I pushed the first magazine into the XDs with a click.  Pulling back the slide to release it now I was ready to take aim at my target and fire.  Immediately I noticed the red fiber optic on the front site that allowed me to zero in, I drew a deep breath, let it out slowly as I steadied my arms, and moved my index finger to the trigger.  As I reached about half a breath I held my breath and began to pull back on the trigger while slowly exhaling.

It didn't got off the first time, with no need to rush I removed my finger from the trigger, relaxed my arms, and started the process over again.  I wanted this first shot to be perfect.  It took till the third round, each time squeezing the trigger ever so slightly more, then BANG!, it went off and the recoil was what caught me by surprise, and the empty shell flew back and caught my dad by surprise.  He could feel the reverberation from next to me and described it as a canon going off.

First Impression

Right away I noticed that the recoil was enough to cause my right and left hand to separate.  I tried a few more shots and finally got the recoil under control.  I knew going into it that a lot of people say that a short barrel causes more recoil, and they were right, especially with how light this gun is.

One great surprise was how easy it was to aim and be accurate, I was having groupings similar to my friends XD-45 Compact.  It gave me a lot of confidence and I felt comfortable switching immediately to this for my concealed carry sidearm.  It could fit loosely into my friends Crossbread Holster that was made for his XD-45 Compact, I already had one being shipped on the way.

My dad tried to shoot it and didn't make it through one magazine before giving up.  It left imprints on his hand from the grip.  He is Type-I diabetic and approaching 60, so perhaps that has to do with the circulation in his hands not being as good.

Getting in the car with the XDs is noticeably better, I no longer notice that there is a gun behind me at four o'clock.  After receiving my new holster it became part of me, I don't even notice that I'm carrying.  There is less of an imprint on my leather seats also.  Overall I really like this gun, and any immediate regret or disappointment I felt when I first picked it up disappeared after taking it to the range.

Final Thoughts

My final thoughts on this are that if you are a smaller guy who's used to shooting a larger caliber then this is very worthwhile.  I haven't had a chance to try the sub-compact XD-9mm, and I think that one may be a great CCW, especially if you are a little concerned with there only be 5+1 rounds. (I have started carrying +1 because with only 5 rounds I think the +1 is worth it.  When I carried my friends XD-45 with 10 rounds I never bothered with the +1.)  I haven't gotten one yet, but there are now 7 round magazines for the XDs.  It would probably be worth it to have a couple of those even if they are only used for range practice.  I would have to try them out with ease of concealment before I switch to that.  Overall a great gun.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Square Foot Garden

Square foot gardening was a great experiment this year.  I had read about it before and really wanted to get into it.  Luckily one of my friends also wanted to and having a friend support you really helps to get things done.  It was already late in the year for starting a garden (mid June), but we decided that if we don't do it now we may just procrastinate until this time next year.

Materials

We set out with the latest edition of Square Foot Gardening in our hands and got our material together.  My friend already had two plots set up in 4x8 patterns instead of the standard 4x4, so that helped simplify some of our needs.  We just needed the following

  • Wood (2 6x2x8)
  • Wood Screws
  • Weed cloth
  • Soil
  • String
  • Net
  • Electrical Conduit
  • Seeds
Except for the Net and Electrical Conduit, which I bought later, we worked out the math for our plots for the amount of soil and split the cost based on him using one of his 4x8 plots and my newly constructed 4x4 plot.  The funnest part was probably buying the seeds.  You start to have dreams of all the vegetables that you are going to eat, and calculating out how long it will be before you begin to have your first harvest.

There were some items that we also had to purchase on top of all this which included gloves, garden shovel, and a 5 gallon bucket which we used for watering our garden.

Construction

Mixing the soil was probably one of the hardest parts.  We laid a tarp in the bed of my dads pickup and slowly added one bag and a time and used a shovel and a rake to turn it over until we felt there was an even mix.  The manure was the worst to mix in because it likes to clump and not break a part so much.

Even with our superior math skills and following the design laid out in the book my 4x4 plot ended up being something more like 4'1"x3'8" or something along that line, not exactly as large as I was hoping for.  Previously I had taken a bit of the landscaping in back and flattened out one portion and raised another in hopes that next year the raised portion may be used for another garden.

After laying down my squarish box and applying the weed cloth to it we filled it with the soil that we had just mixed.  I think we should have left another wheel barrel full or an extra 5 gallon bucket that we could have used to replace the soil after our first dousing of it with water, it compacted about an inch or so which left us with a little less depth for our carrots than we wanted.

Planting

Now with our accumulative knowledge and arm chair warriorness we split to attend to our personal plots.  I came out with a grid network and a solid plan to allow for a full summer and constant supply of lettuce and carrots along with some of my wife's Chinese plants.

Being naturally smarter than all other information I read, I reasoned that places where it said four meant I could add a fifth right in the center.  Also that I could add more cucumber plants and peas than was recommended.

After about two weeks and little showing of anything coming up I faithfully planted my next set of Iceberg Head lettuce and continued to water.

Results

We had some pretty good results, my wife had a lot of her plants come up well, our carrots were producing sky high green stems, and with the help of a little coaxing, our cucumbers and peas were growing up to around four feet in height. 

As it turns out iceberg is great to buy in the store, but didn't seem to do that well growing in our garden, we had much more success with leaf lettuce, especially after I informed my wife we should prune the leafs, not pick the whole plant.  Our carrots were a mix of nice fat lengthy ones and skinny white roots. Not sure what caused some to grow and others not so much.  I was a little disappointed in the ball carrots that really didn't seem to be worth it to grow.

What we learned

One of our biggest caveats was location, our garden happens to be in between our house on the west and the neighbors on the east.  My friend and I both had some banana pepper plants, and while his flourished and had more than he could eat, ours produced minimal results at best.

Another problem I saw was when we tried to use the garden hose for watering.  Despite its name it is not very suitable for this task.  Our soil is fairly loose and the pressure from the hose caused a lot of it to be pushed away and blown out of our square garden.  Later we switched to using a 5 gallon bucket and an old salsa tub to lightly dispense the water.  This gave us much greater control as to which plants got more water, plus it didn't disturb the seeds or push the soil out of the box.

Conclusion

Start early and you can enjoy your vegetables much longer.  I believe it was still worthwhile even as late in the season as we started.  I kept telling everyone that this year was just an experiment, I just wanted to see what would happen.  All in all it cost me about $100 and we got quite a bit of food out of it, although not quite a return on investment.  The great thing is this soil can still be used next year along with the box, netting and electrical conduit, greatly reducing our cost, and because we used the one hole one seed method we still have plenty of seed stored up for next year.  I fully expect to make a good return on investment next year, and may possibly think of expanding our plot to two plots after moving them to an area with more sun.