I'm an ebook convert now

Matt has made it well known that he loves his Kindle and for a while I thought about buying one too. Unfortunately I’ll have to order it from Amazon.com in the US because I live in Ireland. Attempts to buy it from Amazon.co.uk result in an error and asks me to go visit the US site. When you add shipping costs and import fees it drives the price on Amazon.com up to $193.58!

So, if not the Kindle, how do I read ebooks? On my phone of course! I downloaded the Android Kindle app for my Samsung Galaxy S. The 4 inch screen of this phone is plenty big enough for reading, though you won’t be doing it at arm’s length. It’s also backlit so there’s no need for a light to shine on the device to read it. That suits me as the majority of my reading is done when I’m in bed at night. I don’t think I’ll ever read a magazine on the phone as the screen is too small. I tried reading bits and pieces of a Retro Gamer pdf on it but it was a horrible experience. I presume Kindle formatted magazines are better suited to the small screen?

I tried reading books on previous phones but each time it was one of the free “out of copyright” books I picked up rather than a book I had to spend money on. Last September at Seaside all that changed when I bought the Kindle version of Terry Pratchett’s “Unseen Academicals” and put the paperback version of that book back into my bag. It was wonderful!

I don’t think I’ve bought a paperback since. I wandered into Waterstones once (killing time, I didn’t even head over to the sci-fi section), and any time I pop into Eason’s it’s to buy a magazine. I’ve since made several purchases on amazon.com including a few books by authors unknown to me. Check out Containment and Brainbox by Christian Cantrell for example.

I’m not happy about everything Kindle however. Even though Ireland is in the European Union along with the UK, Amazon customers here cannot buy the Kindle or ebooks through amazon.co.uk. Instead we have to use amazon.com. Thankfully there’s no VAT on books so the US price is the price Irish customers pay. Good thing the Euro is stronger than the US Dollar. It does however mean that we have to buy books with American English spelling and that won’t improve the humour of those people who will criticise the service.

Also, some books cannot be bought because I’m not in the United States or United Kingdom. Ender’s Game is one such novel. If I search Amazon.com for that title I won’t be shown the Kindle version at all but I found it by using Google. I can’t even look for it on amazon.co.uk because I’m in Ireland, not the UK. I understand this is probably because publishers have regional contracts but this is digital data and Amazon has a worldwide audience.

I’d still like to try out a Kindle as a reading device as I’ve heard so many good things about it, but the important part of the Kindle are the books, and I can read them just fine on my phone.

Besides the Kindle app there are many other Android ebook readers. I particularly like FBReader myself but check the market for others.

For historical purposes for those reading this in 10 years time when it will probably be hard to buy paperback books, Amazon sold more ebooks during the last 3 months of 2010 than paperbacks.

Amazon has revealed that it has sold more Kindle ebooks than paperbacks in the US during the final three months of 2010.

A similar pattern has continued during January 2011 with 115 ebooks being sold for every 100 paperbacks.

Get Angry Birds for free on Android!

The good people at GetJar.com are now offering Angry Birds as a free download for mobile phones running Android.

The game is ad supported but as far as I can see, adverts appear at the start of the level and don’t appear on each one so they’re not intrusive. Works flawlessly on my Samsung Galaxy S too. Great job!

Oh, you might have to wait a while before downloading. The GetJar website is currently down, but persevere and you’ll get it!

This advert disappeared after a few seconds.

My phone is faster than yours

If you’re using a Samsung Galaxy S or one of it’s variants then my phone may well be twice as fast or even faster than your phone! How? It’s all rather simple actually.

First of all, I downloaded Quadrant Standard from the Android market. This is a benchmarking app that you can use to find out how fast your phone is. Run a benchmark and note the performance figure for your phone. Now, go look for “One Click Lag Fix” in the market and install that too.

This little app will root your phone, and install a new ext2 partition on your phone. The default Galaxy S filesystem isn’t that hot at running apps. The new partition will be used to store cache data, and because ext2 is supposedly better at caching your apps will load faster, and you’ll experience less or no lag when opening them. That was my experience with it anyway. This will help your phone’s performance significantly.

In recent updates to OCLF two new options were added, “Alter Minfree”, and “Change Scheduler”. Adjusting these will make a huge difference to your phone. Each one is explained briefly, with a recommended setting. I followed that advice and it’s like my phone is on steroids now! Apps open faster than ever and I’m just waiting for it to dance a jig it’s so fast and responsive.

Please be aware that running OCLF means rooting your phone and invalidating your warranty. You may brick your phone. That means it won’t work any more and can’t be fixed. It more than likely won’t happen and I haven’t read about it happening but you should be aware of the risks involved.

Bonus tip: If you’re running Linux on your desktop computer, the scheduler can be changed on that too. Must give that a go some time.

Android Battery Saving Tips

Battery usage on all so called “smart phones” is almost universally woeful. Big high-res colour screens, fast processors, sound, wifi and 3g networking all consume gobs of battery power.

Here are some battery saving tips for Android phones. I’m going on a long flight in a few days time so I’ll be trying these tips out before I go!

  • Go into Settings->About phone->”Battery use” to see what’s chewing up your battery.
  • Turn off haptic feedback. That’s vibration alerts when you press your screen. Turn off vibration as a notification too.
  • Apparently 3G uses more power than wifi so make sure wifi is always on. (Settings->Wireless and network->Wifi Settings->Advanced->Wifi sleep policy and select “Never”). My Galaxy S switches to 3G when the screen blanks by default but apparently this is a big battery saver. Only when you have a wifi network around I guess.
  • Always press “BACK” when you want to exit an app.
  • Turn off GPS. If your phone uses the cell network to find your location turn that off too.
  • Turn on power saving, and reduce the screen timeout so it goes black faster.
  • Turn off wifi when you leave your house or work. That stops your phone trying to connect to a network.
  • Turn off bluetooth when you don’t need it.
  • Turn off 3G and use 2G. (Ugh, slow!)
  • Turn off background data and syncing.
  • Turn down the brightness on your display.
  • Don’t use your camera.
  • Don’t use a live wallpaper, what’s wrong with a static picture?
  • Don’t use a homescreen widget that pulls data and updates all the time.
  • Task manager are generally frowned upon but some apps misbehave and don’t close properly. “Watchdog Lite” is a useful app that tells you how much CPU each app running on your phone consumes. Beware closing apps too much. They may look like they’re running, but they’re not. Android keeps them in memory, so they start up quickly next time.
  • Get Juice Defender off the Market. Besides a ton of battery saving features, the like of which I’m still trying to understand, it has a handy widget that will disable mobile data completely. Nice!

I’d love if Android phones totally disconnected from the Internet when I closed the browser, Tweetdeck or whatever app was using the network. My old Nokia 5800 did that. It connected each time I opened the browser and had wonderful battery life.

So, what other tips can you suggest for power hungry smartphones?

Update! With wifi and the 3G radio on the other night 6% of battery was used over about 6 hours. I switched off wifi and 3G (using Juice Extender) and the phone only burned through 2% of battery power over the same period last night.

Quake 3 for Android

Kwaak3 and Kwakk3arena (xda forum thread) are ports of Ouake 3 to Android that looks interesting but do first person shooters really work on mobile touch screen devices? That’s one of the downsides to getting rid of the keyboard, but you could always connect a USB keyboard to your device. All you’d be missing is a mouse then!

I might get my old Quake 3 box out of the attic and give it a go, just to see it in action!

Top Ten Android Games?

The Guardian games blog has a post listing some of the essential Android games users should play. My current mobile contract expires in about 2 weeks time so I’m looking at my options and it’s likely that I’ll buy an Android phone.

Three have the iPhone 4 at a reasonable price but it’s Three and I’ve heard lots of bad things about them.

What would you choose?