Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Gear: Another Kindle Fire Update

As I've mentioned previously, my Kindle Fire doesn't offer the proxy server support necessary for use on the University's networks. Since tablets are by their very nature optimized for use on wireless networks, that's left me pretty limited as far as what I can accomplish with it. This is partly made up for by the availability of the SOC, and it can connect to retail networks like the one at Starbucks - plus it's always useful for reading books.

I wanted to add some offline utility to my Kindle, so I went looking in Amazon's app store - unfortunately, because the Kindle Fire is so proprietary, it requires some risky tweaking to access Google's Play Store. I was looking mainly for business productivity software, but also sought out a few games. Here's what I came up with.

  • Kingsoft Office: Office software. I figure I'll be able to use this to write documents and view spreadsheets or slide decks.
  • Inkpad Notepad: I figure I can use this for notes. I do a lot of my editing in Windows Notepad anyway, so I'm hoping that it will save in the same file format.
  • xWriter Free: This is the same idea as Kingsoft Office and Inkpad Notepad.
  • MapQuest: I'm not sure how much use this will be offline, but I expect that it'll be particularly useful when I travel and have the option of looking up map data in a coffee shop or something.
  • MyTopo Maps: This is the same idea as MapQuest, but I think these are exclusively topographical maps.
  • World Factbook: The CIA World Factbook is a fantastic resource, so I'm stoked that there's an app for it. The one big issue is version control - the World Factbook changes at least annually, so you tend to get slightly dated information. Based on the app's description of Libya, I'm guessing that it was probably published in 2010 or 2011 - particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, quite a bit has changed since then!
  • Basic 9 Line UXO/IED Report: I may get some use out of this at some point, but I obviously haven't yet.
  • Arabic Dictionary: Let's just say that I'm underwhelmed by the scope of the dictionary's vocabulary.
  • Advanced Tactics: A strategy game; appears to require network connectivity.
  • Command Crisis: Another strategy game that requires network support.
  • Galaxy Empire: A space strategy game that requires network connectivity.
  • World at Arms: Another strategy game that requires network connectivity. Are you sensing a pattern yet?
  • Jetpack Joyride: This is a pretty cool game, and doesn't require network connectivity. I've already played through all of the missions, but there are additional items to buy, and beating your previous score is always a temptation.

    So, it's sort of a mixed bag, but any boost to my Kindle's utility is welcome. None of my textbooks for this term are available on Kindle, but a couple of my readings about the Dhofar Rebellion are on it, which gives me something to read. I also have Clausewitz and Machiavelli's Art of War, which are evergreen resources in this line of study - particularly Clausewitz.

    Apparently Amazon has stopped selling the first generation Kindle Fire altogether. I'm still pleased with mine overall, but as much as I want to savor the time in Aberdeen, one of the few silver linings of heading home at the end of the year will be regaining the ability to use my Kindle on my home network, without worrying about proxy support.
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