Chuck Gray

Sideloading Android Apps to Your Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire H D

The Kindle Fire HD really is a fine piece of mobile computing hardware.  Everything from the high-definition screen to the staggering Dolby audio fidelity to the grip of the device has been well thought-out.  It’s designed with media consumption in mind, with access not only to Amazon’s vast library of ebooks, music, movies, and TV, but also to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, and more.  And it’s cheap too, starting at $200 for a 16GB wifi variety.  It's a shame then that such a great device is paired with Amazon’s App Store, whose offerings are laughably, pitifully lacking when compared to the Google Play store.  What’s worse, you can’t put the Google Play store on the device without some serious Android hacking chops and voiding the warranty in the process.  But, if you or a friend own another Android device with access to the Google Play store, like an Android smartphone, there is a way around this!

Watch out for Cheap Tablets!

curtis klu tablet computer

Serial readers of the Tech Answers blog probably know that I would recommend either an iPad Mini or a Google Nexus 7 for an eReader tablet and that, though they are very pretty (the devices, not the blog readers, who could be pretty, but I wouldn’t know), I would guide most away from retailer-specific hardware like the Kindle Fire or the Barnes & Noble Nook.  But that overlooks one very important buying category: Cheap Tablets.  These are sub-$150 and often sub-$100 devices that you’ll find at convenience and drug stores.

Adobe Digital Editions for Geniuses

Adobe Digital Editions program icon

If you own a Nook, Sony, Kobo, or other non-Amazon e-ink (black and white) eBook reader listed here and you’ve checked out eBooks from CRRL, chances are you’ve had the misfortune of dealing with Adobe Digital Editions, the gateway between most copy-protected eBooks and reading devices.  If you’re planning on giving or receiving one of these toys this holiday season, you’ll want to read on.  Adobe Digital Editions is poorly designed, non-intuitive and relies far, far too heavily on keyboard shortcuts and buried menus.  Even with its recent, underwhelming 2.0 update, be you tech “dummy” or “genius," it’s a pain. Sadly, it’s what we’re all required to use in order to get our eBooks from the Internet to our devices.  Read on to learn its secrets.  

Rip-offs and Tributes: A Look at Derivative Works

picture of copy machine

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Isn’t that how an article about derivative works is supposed to begin?  We only ask because there are probably other articles out there on this topic that begin the same way.  Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, 100% true originality in the case of media like books, film, music and games is practically unheard of.  That’s not a bad thing; works that build on one another can be some of the richest experiences imaginable.  On the other hand, some people are just lazy and rip-off other, greater works. 

iPad Mini Review

iPad mini review

The iPad mini is awesome.  You can read on if you like, but just know that this is a tech purchase you probably will not regret.  With its slim size, diminutive weight, and full-sized iPad technology, the iPad mini is a winner with few drawbacks.  

Philosophically I approve more of Google’s open source Android than I do Apple’s closed-off iOS.  I also am not a fan of iOS devices’ lack of centralized file storage and exploration. But really, there’s no denying that Apple knows how to build a tablet that overcomes these issues.  The mini is 0.28 inches thick, 7.87 inches tall, 5.5 inches wide, and weighs only 0.68 pounds.  The front of the mini is entirely glass with a diamond-cut edge that fits snuggly into an anodized aluminum unibody that comes in both slate and silver.  The left and right bezel of the device have been narrowed significantly; at times this can make holding the device in portrait mode slightly awkward, but not as much as you might think thanks to its surprising lightness.  Apple is king when it comes to rolling out devices that are a pleasure to hold and the mini is no exception; you will not believe how light and thin it really is until you hold one.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman

If you knew when the world was going to end, to the day, what would you do? Would you abandon everything and do the things you always wanted to? Would you wallow in despair? Would you go insane? Would you end your life? Or would you cling to your identity, doing what you'd always been doing right up to the end? You will ask yourself these questions and many more as you read through Ben H. Winters' The Last Policeman.  

The 2012 Holiday eReader Tech Guide

The 2012 Holiday eReader Tech Guide

Updated November 2013: After a year of living with much of this tech, I have some new insights that should help you decide if you want to settle for slightly older hardware at cheaper prices when shopping for the 2013 holiday season.  I have also provided links to the updated versions of the devices that were listed in 2012 as alternatives to the standard Apple/Amazon/Google/B&N devices.

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke and Key book covers

Here’s all you need to know: not since Neil Gaiman’s brilliant Sandman series have a I found a work of graphic fiction to be so engrossing and moving as I find Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke and Key to be. Joe Hill’s story and Gabriel Rodriguez’s art come together in a way that I’m not certain any other collaborative comic project will be able to match.  If you like brilliant, emotional, and very dark, creepy storytelling at its finest, you must start reading Locke and Key right now.

The Sad State of Passwords

image of random password

Here’s the hard truth: your password, well, it’s no good.  Does it include a word found in the dictionary, a name, a date, or even numbers that look like letters (e=3, I-1, o=0, etc.)?  Yup, no good.  Do you use the same password for some or even all your websites?  Tsk, tsk.  The practice of password cracking has never been easier thanks to a number of landfall events for hackers, namely the release into the public of numerous huge password databases from hacked websites and the development of more advanced and specialized tools. What’s worse, the security of your password isn’t always wholly dependent on you but on the websites you use.  I know it’s hard; you have trouble remembering your passwords, etc., and I’m sorry, but in today’s world those excuses just aren’t acceptable.  Practicing good password hygiene isn’t a suggestion if you want to survive online, it is now a requirement.  Please read on!

Escaping Adobe Reader

PDF logo

You wouldn’t know it by the state of things, but Adobe Reader isn’t the end-all, be-all of PDF.  Standing for "Portable Document Format," PDF is a file format used to maintain the uniform appearance of a document no matter what type of hardware or software is being used to view it.  You will see it used frequently for government documents such as IRS and court forms, job applications, ebooks and more since it looks the same everywhere.  Adobe may have created the PDF format, but they made it a free-for-all file format in 2008, resulting in software for reading and creating PDFs that rival Adobe’s own.  

You might be asking yourself ,“Why would I want to switch from Acrobat Reader?”  Over the years Adobe Reader (once known as Acrobat Reader) has become a horribly bloated program that takes entirely too much space on your hard drive and, in my opinion, an unacceptable amount of RAM to use.  It’s slow to load and slower to use.  Furthermore, Adobe is constantly releasing updates for the program; it seems like every other time I turn on my Windows 7 computer there’s a notification for an Adobe Reader update, and I’m growing tired of it.