Kindle LED light prototype C

Okay, this is the best one yet and it’s super light and simple.

I took some 9 gauge aluminum armature wire that I had lying around (you can buy much more of this than you need for this via Dick Blick), I then stuck one end of it in the headphone jack on top of the Kindle, bent and shaped it into an arm, then added one of the new Maxell CR2032 Micro Lithium 3V batteries that I received today ($3 per), and taped the battery to the armature wire and then simply slid two LEDs ($1 each) onto the battery and voila! This gives a nice full Kindle light dispersion.

For the next version: I will move the battery to the back, add a switch, run wires up the armature to the two LEDs, and probably wrap the armature in electrical tape and add some sort of dome to keep the lights from shining in my eyes.

Continue reading Kindle LED light prototype C


How to build a cheap LED reading light for your Kindle or Sony Reader

So last night, while I was watching Heroes, I built this little guy:
Kindle LED light (prototype B)
This is just the first prototype of a better-designed LED light for the Kindle that I have in mind (but some of the parts are still on order). However, this is dead simple to make, and I happened to have all the parts lying around (after the LED lights I’d ordered arrived yesterday).

Parts needed:

  1. One Ultra-Bright White 5mm LED—Cost $0.98 each; I bought 5 and they arrived yesterday.
  2. A 3V CR123A camera battery—These can be had for as cheap as $5 for two. They also come in rechargeable versions for more money, which I would have used, but I had some already lying around. What’s good about these batteries for this no frills LED hack is that they stand one-and-a-quarter inch tall, weigh practically nothing, and are thick little batteries that act as both battery and stand for the LED light.
  3. Aluminum foil—You could use wires if you want to get fancy, but at 3V of current, some mangled, twisted and shaped aluminum foil works fine, and you can even bend it nicely so it acts as a nice switch.
  4. Tape—I’d prefer electrical tape, but I couldn’t find any yesterday and it’s only 3V so I just used regular Scotch tape.
  5. A large rubberband.

Continue reading How to build a cheap LED reading light for your Kindle or Sony Reader

Ubuntu 9.0.4 Netbook Remix version runs out-of-the-box on various netbooks

Thanks to madaeradog for noting in the comments to my Ubuntu on the Asus Eee PC: Part 1 (or How to run a functional Ubuntu install off a USB drive) post that the new version of Ubuntu comes in a Netbook Remix flavor that runs nicely on various netbooks without tweaking. Included in the list of popular compatible models is my old Asus Eee PC, although there are some known issues:

This netbook basically works, but most of the problems with it center around the fact that it has a very small screen with a default resolution of 800×400 and many apps simply won’t scale down to that size. Known issues:

  • 354681 – Totem takes more space than available on Eee 701SD
  • 354681 – Rhythmbox takes more space than available on Eee 701SD
  • 354687 – Evolution setup assistant takes more space than available on Eee 701SD
  • 354685 – Volume hotkeys take a long time to react with Rhythmbox
  • 354705 – [Jaunty] Microphone doesn’t work at all on Eee 701SD
  • 354710 – Display preferences takes more space than available on a Eee 701SD

There is a workaround for the problem of oversize windows on a small screen. Holding down Alt as you press down on the trackpad (or holding down the left mouse button) allows you to grab somewhere other than the title bar and move the window up off the top of the screen to bring buttons at the bottom of the window into view.

I’ve been pretty happy running XP on my Eee as of late (and my 3G wireless card is XP compatible but not Ubuntu compatible, so there is that), but I’m still thinking about loading Jaunty Jackalope on my diminutive Eee PC now that it is supposedly such an easy task.

Introducing Let’s Talk Lit!

You may not know this about me, but I have three degrees (from three different institutions) that I earned by reading and thinking and talking at length about books. Rather than let them go entirely to waste, I thought it would be fun to start a podcast about literature. It’s called Let’s Talk Lit!, and it’s now available via iTunes (direct link).

It’s rated explicit, because sooner or later, I’m sure I’ll end up cursing on it or quoting some text that curses violently. I may have a beer or two when recording, although I haven’t indulged while recording as of yet. I’m currently reading Don DeLillo’s Falling Man: A Novel. And the first real episode of the podcast (after the introduction podcast), spends about 12 minutes discussing some themes that I see developing in the first four chapters of the book.

I hope this will be a regular discussion of books that I’m reading and thinking about, and should some of you want to join in, I’ll be starting a Let’s Talk Lit! book club (which you can join now, informally, by reading along). I’m also interested in having guests, so if you love books and literature or you’re one of my graduate student friends, one of my former students, or one of my former professors, please let me know you’re interested in participating and we’ll see where it takes us.


Install a darker, more readable font on the Kindle 2

In case you haven’t heard about it, there’s been some controversy from people who have had both a first generation and second generation Kindle, complaining that the Kindle 2’s text doesn’t appear as crisp and dark on the screen, making reading more difficult in low-lighting situations. The problem isn’t a problem with the Kindle 2’s screen (which is actually better than the screen on the first generation Kindle), but instead Amazon has added font-smoothing to the Kindle 2 because its better screen can handle such things as font smoothing. Unfortunately, the font smoothing decreases readability.

This forum thread has quite a bit of discussion of all of the above, as well as a link to a petition you can sign if you are so inclined, asking Amazon to improve the fonts on the second generation Kindle. Even better than all that, Ted Inoue has a set of installers for different custom fonts that he’s designed to rectify this issue (as well as an uninstaller), so that you can change the fonts on your Kindle 2 if you would like a little more contrast when reading in lower lighting situations.

I just installed the Arial Round Narrow font on my Kindle 2, and here’s some comparative screenshots.

First, the Kindle 2 displaying the first all-text page from today’s New York Times in the default font:


Second, after the installation of update_arialRndNrw_install.bin here’s a screenshot of the same all-text page from today’s New York Times:


Now, you’re probably thinking “ok, cool you can change the fonts, but honestly the first one doesn’t look any lighter than the second one, really.” Well, true, but that is because these were screenshots and don’t represent the difference of the two fonts being displayed on the actual screen with font smoothing. It’s not that the black in the middle of each character is any blacker, it’s that the edges get slightly blurred / smoothed by the display, so the more rounded default font blurs a bit more than the straight boldness of the arial font.

You can find actual comparison shots of the different fonts on the screen below the download files on this page.

In any case, this hack is as simple as downloading the font file you want to use, putting it in the root directory of your Kindle 2 via USB, then dismounting your Kindle 2, hit Menu, then Settings, then Menu, then Update Your Kindle and simply wait for the update to apply and your Kindle 2 to reboot. Don’t try to reset your Kindle during this process. Once it’s done, you should have a new font. Check it out. If you don’t like it, just use the uninstaller file and follow the same process as above. Easy.

UPDATE: I uninstalled everything and then installed the bolded version of the default font using update_Droid_fonts_install.bin. Here’s a screenshot of that one:


I should also note that even after you run the uninstaller, there are several extra files in the root directory of your Kindle, including:,,,,, netfront.ini.orig, netfront.ini.prerestore, and netfront.ini.restored. So if you run this hack then uninstall it to send your Kindle in for repair or something, make sure you remove those extra files too.

Another Update: If you install this hack, the next time Amazon releases an official update you will have to uninstall it in order to perform the update. Version 2.0.3 update works with it, so just uninstall the hack, run the official update, and then reinstall the hack.