Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kindle Fire

It's not often that cnet's Eric Franklin and I both talk about the same thing. In fact, I tend to avoid discussing too many tech things in part because I don't want to be mistaken for him - he's an expert in his field, and electronics are his field.

Last week, however, my Kindle Fire arrived.

Fair warning: This post has three videos in it, so those of you reading via RSS (or Kindle) may not be able to see the videos. I've filled in text overviews so that the videos are optional, and I am really hoping that their formatting doesn't make this entry illegible for you.

When gaming, I like having two copies of the necessary books - one for the GM and one for the player(s). Having a tablet gives me a shortcut for this - I can have one print copy for the players, and then the tablet for my own reference. DriveThruRPG has been a godsend for me on several fronts - and, with the addition of my Fire, it has potential to be even more useful (and dangerous to my wallet).

Some of you may recall that I have a Kindle DX that I have been using to read PDF files for several years, now. As a pure reader, it was exceptional ... most of the time.

Some of you may also recall that there is one PDF that has been the bane of my Kindle's existence: Houses of the Blooded.

It took upwards of ten minutes to render a single page of this particular file on the DX, which made for some very frustrating reading. Even then, the render was ... less-than-perfect. And the "convert" option that Amazon advertised turned it into an unreadable hash. So did conversion via Calibre.

Now, keep in mind: I have had my Fire all of two days at this point.  There is probably something I'm overlooking for one or more of these programs that would improve the few negative portions of this experience.

So here is my Kindle Fire with its built-in PDF reader showing how it can read Houses of the Blooded:

Not too shabby. It loads quickly, it scrolls smoothly, it zooms well.  In fact if I were just reading the PDF and not trying to use it to run a game, I'd use this built-in reader nearly every time. It's fast, it's smooth, and it looks good. Not only that, but it remembers where I left off.

But it won't work At The Table, because there's no search option. If I don't know what page something is on, I have no fast way to look it up.

Adobe also produced a version of their Acrobat Reader for the Android Platorm.  It's free for the Fire, so I gave that one a spin, too.

I was less impressed with this one.  It was slower than the built-in reader, and just plain didn't look as good. But it has a few bells and whistles that the barebones reader lacked. Most notably, the ability to search the file.

For a free At The Table file reader, this one gets the nod - If I'm looking for a rule, I can search for a word that is in that rule and have a shot at finding it relatively quickly.

Finally, I used QuickOffice Pro - it's not free, though. This software allows you to open more than just PDF files - there is a free version that lets you read these other files, but not change them.  The pro version lets you both open and modify Word and Excel files and, as an added bonus, lets you read PDF files.

It had a few rendering artifacts here and there, but on the whole it was much faster than the Adobe software AND was searchable.  If I were using my Fire at the table, this is the app I would use. QuickOffice can integrate itself with your Dropbox and Google Docs, too, making it easy to put the files onto your Fire without needing to move them around (most of my DriveThruRPG library has been migrating to my DropBox as a convenient storage area).

All in all, I will definitely be packing my Fire along as a game aid. For the first time to see if it's as useful as having the book (without being too distracting). After that, I suspect it'll be just another game aid. Much like dice or pencils are.

No comments:

Post a Comment