My last business trip was among my most absent-minded ever. I forgot a clean shirt going up. I forgot my copies of the deposition exhibits in my haste to get to the airport for an earlier flight home. And, worst of all, I forgot my Kindle on the airplane in my haste to get ahead of rush-hour traffic. I rather doubt it will be returned to me through the lost and found function of the airline.

So The Wife decided I needed the Kindle Fire and just bought one for me. This is not a full tablet, but it is pretty spiffy. Because it displays in high-resolution color, I can read newspapers and magazines and get the visual impact of the layout. I haven’t tried to watch TV on it yet. Maybe in a couple weeks when I have to go on the road, again. It is not a substitute for a computer. It is not a substitute for a smart phone. Perhaps one day all these devices will consolidate powerfully enough into a single, light device, but that day is not yet upon us. What I can do from the Kindle Fire is make comments here at the League. That’s reasonably fast and convenient. I’m not sure, though, whether I’m going to be able to make the time to read the newspaper on my Fire every morning.

But aside from the gorgeous graphics, I suspect my smartphone has better computing power than the Fire. I would not use the Fire for productivity, that’s for sure.

Our new television is not hooked up to cable or satellite. Our content is provided through the Xbox. This, it seems, is actually not such an unusual thing and will become less so in the future. I use the TV and Xbox to play Skyrim and to stream music. Mrs. Likko is watching TV on it; so far she hasn’t found any Xbox games that interest her. The headphones that enable me to play Skyrim after she’s gone to bed without making audible noise will, no doubt, preserve our marriage.

So the verdict is — the Xbox, sold as a video gaming system, is a useful content provider that has enriched our lives. The Kindle Fire is a toy that I use to read books.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. The headphones that enable me to play Skyrim after she’s gone to bed without making audible noise will, no doubt, preserve our marriage.

    That…kind of makes me not want to get married, ever.

    Also, this page gives me an ad for a divorce attorney.

    • I get a criminal defense attorney. Clearly I’m a threat to society.

      • I get a DUI lawyer. I hope that’s not a comment on the code I just integrated.

          • I get ads for divorce attorneys on facebook. I always wonder if that’s because my husband chats with an ex or something.

    • At least this time the ad I see is not for available Ukrainian women.

    • i get starcraft ad.
      I suggest marrying someone with a similar level of addiction to video games.

      • That wasn’t really what I was getting at. It was more the fear of reaching the point where there’s a girl in my bed and my primary concern is how to play video games without waking her up. That’s scary stuff threre.

        • And my ex-husband wonders why our marriage didn’t work out. This.

        • If you’re worried about waking her up, your best option is already off the table! AmIrite, guys??


          • I think I’m supposed to give you a “high five” here, right?

  2. I’m thinking of buying a Kindle, but I just want something to read books on and download pdf’s, and preferably other types of documents, too. I’m clueless about the market, however. Does anyone have any very cheap suggestions? (I’m doing my own research as well, but I trust the people, especially the regulars, at this blog.)

    • Kindles are fine for most document formats, if you’re willing to run (free, downloadable) conversion utilities to turn them into Mobi files first. I love my Kindle — it’s about the best $150 I ever spent.

    • Go Kindle Fire. You won’t regret it. My g/f got one and absolutely loves it.

        • Yes, that’s one of the best conversion utilities. Mobipocker Creator is another. And Kindles can read plain text (though not HTML) natively, so those don’t need conversion.

          • Do either Caliber or Mobipocket Creater preserve images? Do they convert LITs? The one I got converts LITs but not the images.

            (Also, as mentioned before, in addition to plain text, mine reads the PDFs I’ve thrown at it.)

          • My Kindle does read PDFs, but of they don’t fit on the screen, you need to scroll them back and forth, which I find awkward. If they’re text-only, I prefer to convert them to Mobi.
            And yes, Calibre does preserve images.

    • After a brief consultation with the g/f, she opines the Kindle Fire has a few drawbacks. First, Amazon doesn’t like you downloading eBooks, .mobi files off the Internet if you don’t buy them from Amazon. You’ll have to move them in from your regular box. Not much problem with USB, though. I just moved in a .mobi for Apache Tuscany I bought to her Kindle Fire. Picked it up no problem, cover art and all.

      And the browser is a bit funky, overhelpfully remembering tabs. It runs well enough but sometimes stalls, requiring a force-quit. It’s a common enough problem on Android phones, too. It’s over Gingerbread 2.3 which is currently a fork but Android is moving into the Linux stream.

      She’s telling me if you’re just looking for a straight eBook reader, you might consider the old Kindle, which can be read in daylight and no glare. You can pick up a Kindle eBook reader for around 70 bucks. As long as you don’t want to get on the web, (there is some rudimentary support but it’s awkward) and you want a straight-up eBook reader, the reglar rabbit Kindle is great. But she wanted to get on the web, too, (sadly, she’s become yet another Words with Friends addict) so it was Kindle Fire.

      • Yep. That was going to be my question: Where will you read?

        If you’re going to be reading in natural light, you’ll want the eInk of the Kindle. If you’re indoors most of the time, then the Fire.

    • Pierre, I got my wife a Kindle for Christmas. The cheapest one they had with 3G (It was $80, I think). So far, I’ve been pretty impressed with what it can read even without converting. It reads MOBI files, of course, but also TXT’s (which it formats well) and PDFs (these can be a little harder to read, depending on the PDF, but I’ve never had a problem). No file conversion required. The only thing I’ve run into that it can’t read are Microsoft LIT files, which is a pretty dead format (except for the fact I already have a bunch of LITs and the conversions are imperfect).

      If you want, I can field-test some other kinds of documents for you. I’ll try DOCs and ODTs. Is there any other format you’re curious about? I love playing around with the thing.

      • Thanks for the offer. The only format I’m particularly interested in are word and pdf formats. I’m pretty computer illiterate….I’m not even exactly sure what type of files I’m interested in. I do like downloading pdf articles (from journals…I have access to jstor) and reading them on my desktop. If I had an e-reader, I would probably use it for things like that, or probably e-books, assuming they were cheap.

  3. Kazzy: you get it through Netflix, Hulu, Vios, or some other similar service. If you’re like me and you enjoy the SyFy creature feature, well, there’s an app for that, too.

    • Gotcha. The main reason I can’t rid myself of cable/satellite is I watch entirely too much life TV. This solution does not seem to address that, unless I’m missing something about one of those offerings.

      • This is true. The gap for me is sports, which pretty much needs to be watched live.

        • I used to think, “I’ll just go to the bar for big games.” I would quickly spend more money than cable costs.

          I do now have an internet-ready TV which has a built in app for MLB.tv. Theoretically, I could buy a subscription to this (which traditionally allows you to watch any game on a computer) and watch it on the big screen (supposedly in HD). But I think even that is $160 for the season, which is about $25 a month.

      • TV on demand is actually a different bird, in my experience. When you watch something on Netflix or Hulu, you’re watching it because you want to watch it. You like the show or somebody recommended it or you read something about it or something like that. With live TV, you spend time watching stuff because it’s on. And that’s the real timekiller.

        I have satellite for sports, mostly, but part of the deal for me is that I never channel-surf except on particular gamedays. I just watch the DVR.

        • I do love to channel surf. My wife talks about how I need constant input. If I don’t have the TV on or radio or a podcast playing, I don’t feel settled. I’m an odd bird like that.

          • I hear ya. I keep TV shows* and audiobooks on my smartphone and listen to them whenever I am puttering around the house. Especially when I’m driving (don’t worry, I keep the video off so I am not watching while I drive), but also when cleaning, doing computer stuff (can’t listen and read/write at the same time, but that’s about my only limitation). I still don’t channelsurf, but that’s mostly so I focus on the stuff I am most likely to enjoy.

            * – There is a certain art to finding TV show I can listen to without watching.

          • I’ve got a low threshold for engagement, so channel surfing often yields stuff I enjoy (though I enjoy them in different ways). I can have an order of Law & Order on in the background or pretty much any reality competition; I know that the latter are crap, but I’m enthralled by just about anything that has a winner or loser.

            Shows I TRULY enjoy, like The Wire or Breaking Bad, deserve and get my 100% attention. Which, unfortunately, means I take longer to watch them then most since I can so rarely devote that to them.

      • We got rid of FIOS for a while and just used Roku. We missed live TV (mostly tennis, but occasionally other things as well), and there wasn’t as much content available streaming, Netflix, Hulu, etc. We often ended up downloading shows on iTunes and paying for them. And I like some HBO and showtime stuff. We just re-hooked our FIOS (for cheaper including phone and internet than it had been with just phone and internet). And we are happy.

        Have an iPad. Overpriced, overrated, but still fun. Got it as a gift; would go for the FIre were I starting over.

        • I have a Roku. It’s fine for me, but I don’t watch much tv. I use it to access Hulu and Netflix, but that’s it. I know I’m missing out on a lot of great tv, but i just dont have the time. I struggle to even keep up with JB’s bookclub and that is like 90 minutes of tv in a week.

        • If you’re in a big enough local market, you can put up an HD antenna (they run about $50 at Frys, but you can build your own for about $8) and get broadcast HD.

          The Los Angeles area has 28 broadcast HD channels, including two PBS ones that aren’t available via cable. I’ve toyed with the idea myself.

  4. I was looking at getting a Fire a couple months ago, but decided that it didn’t do some of the things I want it to do. I’m thinking of plunking down more to get a Samsung Galaxy Tab instead. From there I should be able to download the Kindle software, right? Has anyone used the Kindle software for Android?

  5. I bought myself a Kindle Fire for Christmas just as a toy. I’m disabled from rheumatoid arthritis, so I don’t go many places, so I have no need for a smart phone or iPad, except that I love gadgets. So the Fire was a good way to get that touch-screen fix without spending a huge amount of money. I love it. Amazon has a free app a day, plus many more free with ads, so there is always something to play. I like to read myself to sleep, which it’s good for, because it turns itself off. With my old Kindle the light would wake me up several times a night.

    The screen is a bit small for Netflix, which I watch on the TV hooked up to my mom’s old laptop via VGA cable, but if I did do some traveling and there was WiFi available, it might be OK. It is heavier than I’d like compared to the older original model, so when my hands are really sore I still use that one.

    Both Kindles know where my place is in any book and will ask if I want to go to the latest location, which is amazing. If you’d told me in my childhood that at this point I would have a little piece of plastic that could summon books out of thin air almost anywhere in seconds, I would have thought you were crazy. We live in an age of miracle and wonder indeed.

    Between library books via Overdrive, the Amazon Prime lending library, and out-of-copyright stuff, I can indulge my reading addiction for little to no money. Right now I am hooked on Dickens, who I somehow missed completely. I’ve been giving away hundred of books I was hoarding to re-read in my old age, which has created all kinds of extra space in my house.

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