Kindle VOYAGE e-Reader Review

I am an unapologetic Apple fanboy. However, I am not a fan of either Apple’s own iBooksReader nor the Kindle application for phones and tablets. Thus I am also a Kindle e-reader fanboy.

I started off with one of the non-backlit, keyboard models…something like the Kindle 2, I believe. I had to buy a little clip on light in order to read in bed in the evening, or out in my hammock in the woods, but I loved the “electronic ink” reading experience. As long as you were reading outdoors or with a decent light over your shoulder, it was phenomenally better than the overly bright and glaring tablet and phone readers available.

When the Kindle Paperwhite was made available several years later, I upgraded to that and was even more satisfied. It’s not only had a brighter and clearer screen with a higher pixel count, But it introduced a”backlight”… Actually a row four light sources across the bottom edge of the screen that projected up evenly and could be adjusted from barely there to very bright.

Somewhere around 18 months ago, Amazon introduced the Kindle Voyage to their lineup, but it was awfully pricey, coming in at around $200 as opposed to a Paperwhite price of just over $100.

There was actually nothing wrong with the Kindle that I’m currently using, but there IS always that nagging “newtoyaphilia” that all technophiles suffer from. A week ago, Amazon put put them on sale for a slightly reduced price and I was very tempted. However, I thought to check eBay listings and I found one in “like-new” condition going for right around $100. It had the added advantage of being unit that did not come with “Special Offers”… ads by any other name, and another $20 charge to turn off. Anyway, I lurked, I sniped at the last second and I got it.

 

The seller shipped it that same afternoon and I had it two days later. Thankfully since it was used, it was just as represented. I couldn’t find a single thing wrong with it… Not even a scratch or an uncleaned fingerprint.

So, why would I [or you] want upgrade to something [originally] costing nearly twice as much?  Well, to quote directly from the Amazon site:

  1. PagePress sensors with haptics~ PagePress is a custom-designed force sensor made of carbon and silver, which reacts to a subtle increase of pressure, triggers a page-turn, and provides a haptic response only your thumb can perceive. Because PagePress has no moving parts, the haptics provide you with the most minimal indication that you have pressed the button, to reduce distraction from reading.
  2. Sleek yet durable designs~ Kindle Voyage was designed to come one step closer to a sheet of paper, with a flush-front bezel for a clean, streamlined design. With a magnesium back and a specially-reinforced glass front, Kindle Voyage is both durable and sleek.
  3. An unsurpassed 300 ppi display~ Kindle Voyage features a bright, high resolution and high contrast display. The micro-etched glass display diffuses light to eliminate glare and matches the feel of paper.
  4. Adaptive front light~ In order to more closely resemble reading on real paper, we researched and hand-tuned the optimal brightness setting for every lighting condition. The adaptive front light automatically adjusts the brightness of the display based on your environment, and can even be fine-tuned further to your personal preferences. When reading in the dark, the adaptive front light slowly lowers the display’s brightness over time to match the way the eye responds to darkness.

VS the Paperwhite:

  1. Touchscreen where you “swipe” to turn pages, and touch to “click” features
  2. The screen is inset, and is of some type of poly material with a slight texture
  3. The actual ppi is the same at 300
  4. Only four light sources vs the Voyage’s six.
  5. They both share a feature where they can power-up and resume where you left off reading by opening a magnetic case if you choose to add one.

The Voyage is also a little smaller in all dimensions, and the difference in weight is actually noticeable when you hold it for awhile.

I read a great deal, preferring it to television, so these small changes in the Voyage’s construction and details are noticeable to me, but might not be to everyone. In fact, most reviews that I read when it first came out suggested that unless you break your old e-reader, there was really no reason to upgrade to the Voyage. I would agree with that conclusion overall, but because I spend as much time reading as the average American does in front of the tube, it seemed that the upgrade might be worthwhile on my part.

I really like the difference in ergonomics that are the result of the magnesium case and the flush glass screen. The Voyage simply has a better feeling in my hand. I like the idea that I can use either the new haptic press OR the old faithful swipe to turn the pages. And I especially like the changes in the back light. This was where I had always had my most difficulty with all of the models I’ve had in the Kindle line.

 

The early units did not have built-in lighting at all, so, it was wonderful to get the real lighting feature in the new Paperwhite when it came out. However, that backlight always had a problem of turning itself off all on its own. I would pick up my unit, open the case, and the magnet activated screen would power up right where I had left off reading… but about 50% of the time that was without any backlight. I even went so far as to have my original Paperwhite exchanged for a new unit in the hopes that the backlight problem would go away… no such luck.

The Voyage initially auto-set the brightness to the same 14-15 range that I had been self-selecting on my own in my standard reading environment. After several days reading I have not had the light drop out even a single time.

As far as screen resolution goes, on the the Kindles, no matter what version, my go-to typeface has been Bookerley set at 5 on the slider… this is comparable to most library books in size. On the new Voyage the factory reset default was only to 4, and I was able to read at that [more like a paperback] resolution with very little extra effort.

 

This does allow for more screen real estate and less page fiddling. Somehow, the combination of the new glass screen, the better backlighting, and the existing 300ppi resolution, have created a more readable screen.

One feature on the Voyage that I cannot make any confident comment on yet is the battery life. You’ll notice in the second photo above that the battery has already dropped by perhaps 30 to 40%. I think this is because I had only remembered to toggle the “Airplane Mode” just before the photo was taken. Amazon, of course, leaves it turned on at a factory reset… They want you to spend as much time connected and deep in their universe as they possibly can. I am sure that the constant searching for a Wi-Fi signal causes the battery to drop more than it might under just a reading condition.

The conclusion is that I am quite happy with this “upgrade on a whim”. Plus, my newtoyaphilia is damped down temporarily… always a good thing.  Speaking for me personally, somehow the various small changes Amazon has made between the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Voyage makes my reading experience better overall. The eBAY price and the condition of the unit that I received means that it comes in reasonably well on the 90%/50% scale as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Titaniumophilia~~ A Wake-Up Call For Gram-Weenies

(1) Titanium is… The Fairy Queen in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Nope. That was Titania. Dang.

(2) Titanium is… Proof that you’ve spent more money on your cook set (or stove, or boot lace tips) than anyone else in your hiking group (extended family, city, state, province, country, continent).

(3) Titanium is… Proof that you’re trendy, and possibly an idiot, though still a trendy one. Let’s hope you can dress the part.

(4) Titanium is… A metal incorrectly described by absolutely everyone stupid as “amazingly lightweight and strong, and perhaps the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces.”

(5) No, it isn’t. But what would you expect to read in Backpacker magazine?

 

Titanium is a metal. And titanium is light, compared to uranium, but not compared to steel.

Stoveless and cook-pot-less and fuel-less is the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces, and can gag down cold suppers night after night.

Aluminum, however, is the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces and grams and price, and if you like to compare the weight of your tools to the weight of their shadows.

Titanium is only 12% lighter than steel, though it has almost all of steel’s strength, while aluminum is 54% lighter than steel and still has 75% of steel’s strength (Spot the trend here?), which is enough for a cook pot.

Titanium doesn’t ding or dent very easily (because it’s tough, which is nice), and titanium is highly resistant to corrosion (which means that it stays pretty). Since it is tough, it can be rolled thin. The thinner the material, the less there is of it, and so the less the finished product weighs, even if it’s made from heavy materials, which is the real advantage of titanium.

But if you want a cooking pot and you don’t care a lot about exactly how pretty it is, but you do care about how heavy it is, then aluminum is the way to go. You sort of care about how tough a pot is and you probably care a whole lot about how much it costs. You may also kind of care how beat up it’s going to end up being, eventually, or not. Your call, eh?

Titanium as a material is significantly heavier and vastly more expensive than aluminum, but tougher, and those who own titanium items feel smarter because titanium looks new longer. A lot of people who feel that way don’t go backpacking because if they go backpacking they will get their clothes dirty and they will get tired, and what they really above all want is to keep that just-off-the-shelf, crisply-pressed, newly-unwrapped look, while continuing to smell of aftershave. Titanium will help with that.

Titanium is for them. Titanium is for people who don’t ever want to sweat or walk uphill or know that bugs might actually be attracted to them.

 

Thanks [and apologies for the mild reformatz] to // so says eff

For me, the bottom line is that aluminum is simply better for cooking… better and more even heating/conductivity, less scorching and burning, perfectly acceptable weight tradeoff… and way less moolah. It’s a 90%/50% thing.

—-

Putting a Fine Edge on Things…

When I was at the Great Pumpkin hammock hang last month, my friend R3l@X gave me a knife sharpening mini-seminar. I am fairly proficient, and have a variety of stones that have accumulated over the years, but I wanted to see if I could up my game. His system is based on the Lansky System of graduated hone stones and various polishing compounds on leather strops. I was way beyond impressed with the results, and ordered my own set when I got home.

From the Lansky site:

“The Lansky Deluxe Controlled-Angle Sharpening System [5 Stone] features:

  • Extra Coarse Black Hone: (70 grit) for re-profiling the bevel grind
  • Coarse Red Hone:  (120 grit) for edge reconditioning
  • Medium Green Hone:  (280 grit) for sharpening and less frequent touch-ups
  • Fine Blue Hone:  (600 grit) for most frequent touch-ups to keep your blade paper-slicing sharp
  • Ultra-Fine Ceramic Yellow Hone:  (1000 grit) for polishing the edge for a razor sharp edge
  • Honing Oil:  Specially Formulated for sharpening
  • Easy to use, multi-angle clamp:  to hold the blade securely
  • Guide Rods:  One for every hone
  • Extra long knife clamp screws for thicker blades
  • Storage/carrying case to hold all system components
  • Complete easy-to-follow multi-lingual instructions”

I ordered two additional diamond hones in Coarse (120) and Medium (280) grits because I knew that I had some, old, worthwhile blades that would require aggressive reshaping.

As you can see in the product materials, you clamp the blade in the jaws of the clamp, select an angle [17°/20°/25°/30°] that closely matches the existing edge, and using the rod mounted on the hone stone to maintain that angle with the slots, you gently slide the hone upward against and into the blade while sliding it sideways as well. The technique takes only a couple of passes to master, and yields superb results.

One of R3l@x’s tricks is to blacken the cutting edge of the blade with a “Sharpie” marker. Then you make 1 or 2 passes with the ultra fine, 1000 grit hone. That stone is so fine that it only polishes off the marker, and reveals how much the blade needs actual “grinding” down with the more aggressive stones to place/extend that polish right to the cutting edge. Any black between the polished of area and the cutting edge needs to be worked down. There are some other tricks and techniques that make using the Lansky System easier and more efficient… I will go into those when I do a planned tutorial on Basic Knife Sharpening sometime soon.

You just move up through the gradations of grit, moving from actually changing or improving the edge profile, thru simply refining out the grind marks, and on until you are merely polishing the final, “hair popping”, razor-sharp edge.

The results are astounding! I took the sad little neck knives that I bought for next to nothing out of Sham Shui Po, last seen in the post “You Get What You Pay For…”,  and achieved an unimagined sharpness that upgraded them from classic POSes, to really “OK”. I had them relegated them to survival kits just for batoning fire stock. Now they can shave tinder as well. They were the proof for the Lansky System in general, and the two diamond add-ons as well.

 

Using the Lansky is simple and effective. Combined with further finish honing on stropping compound sticks, you can easily get great results. The action is one that you can do semi-mindlessly while you listen to music or chat around a campfire. At an Amazon price of only $40 , and given the life it can quickly bring back to nearly any knife, in nearly ANY condition, that needs sharpening, it is close to a no-brainer to pick up.

Later, as needed, you can add the diamond stones, arkansas stone hones, a 2000 grit Super Sapphire Polishing Stone, as well as shaped stones that let you work on serrated and curved blades like “karambits”. They also offer two stands and a C-clamp to support the blade clamp.

Look for my upcoming [check the sidebar] Sharpening Tutorial to see some results.

 

The “HangTime Hook”

For the last couple of months I have been following a project that is been under development over on the Facebook pages. It is initially intended for, and is currently only of real interest to, those who hammock hang. This is the “HangTime Hook”.

I was asked by Eric, the developer, and if I would like to try one out for review. He provided this black unit with the red grips. I have now had the opportunity to take it out several times when I’ve had my hammock up, and I’m very pleased with it.

It is a unit that slides on the ridge line of a hammock and allows you to clamp your cell phone in a viewing position out in front of you. Down the road, it may have other iterations that will allow it to be of use to other folks like tent campers. It is now available for sale, although in a prototype version. Each unit is individually made on a 3-D printer.

To my layman’s understanding, this means that they are possibly not as sturdy as they may be when they are actually cast or molded for full production. I did not find them “flimsy” at all. I actually found it quite sturdy. Not evident in the photo, you can see from the structure up close that there are indeed places where the 3-D layering as it is built up could conceivably cause it to fracture.

      

It comes in two separate pieces… the slider unit for the ridge line, and the screw-on clamp itself. Installation is a piece of cake. You simply unscrew the collar on the clamp, slip the ball into the socket, and screw the collar back down.  The red liners in the jaws give a soft, but firm grip to the phone. No worries about it slipping out and falling free. To mount it, you allow the ridge line to slot into the diagonal groove in the center of the top bar. A quick twist right and left allows the line to then slip up slots into the tube. Once on the line, it can slide easily back-and-forth, but the weight of a phone in the clamp causes it to tilt enough to create a friction belay. [You can also use of rubber band or a ponytail tie as a prussic to keep it from sliding. I heard somebody suggest just using a toothpick stuck into the hole along the line, but that seems like a good way to find a sharp, poke-ey stick lost down under you amid your expensive fabric].

 

The clamp jaws open up enough to accommodate even a full-size cell phone like my iPhone 6+.

Hung inside the cover on my Chameleon

The first night I tried it out by watching 30 minutes of a movie. The “Hook” did everything it was supposed to, and was very viewable. Because the clamp swivels completely, it is just as easy to point the speaker end of your phone right back at yourself to enjoy music as well. It is also easy to adjust the angle both up-and-down as well as side-to-side to match up with your lay and the size of your phone. The only criticism I can really level at it is that weight of the phone means that it does tend to sway back and forth if you move about at all. Once you’re comfortable and lying still, it’s no problem. [It is also no big deal to reach up with one hand and stop the motion].

One nice side benefit I found is that I no longer have to put my phone in a “ridgeline organiser” when I’m ready to go to sleep. It can just stay right in the clamp where it is available for a quick time-check in the middle of the night.

I also found that by turning the HangTime Hook’s clamp 90°, to a vertical orientation, it would accommodate the power bank for my fan just as easily. I had just been using a couple of Velcro straps right on the ridge line itself, however this lets the fan hang much lower, and further away from the hammock sides or netting. Very nice to keep the air moving on a hot summer night.

 

I have to admit that this is a niche product. Not everyone is going to feel the need for one, however, I think that there will be enough people interested to create a market. Personally, I’m not somebody who is likely to spend a lot of time watching movies in my hammock. Music, that’s another story. I can also see it being nice to be able to put on a slideshow of the photos you’ve taken that day for review. Using it for things like the fan, or as a clock, that were not originally intended is also a nice side discovery. It does what it’s supposed to do pretty darn well, and all in all, I can’t find any real things to complain about other than the side sway… That’s pretty minimal criticism.

Prior to Eric’s offer of a unit of my own, I had already seen the HangTime Hook in use at other hangs. The people who had bought one seemed to be fairly well impressed with their units as well. They are starting to be seen and talked about other than on FB. It will be interesting to see how many I notice at the next hang in a couple of weeks down outside Boston.

 

DISCLAIMER: the unit shown and reviewed was received by the author for that specific purpose. When the review unit offer was made I was already at the point of purchasing one, on my own, for my own use, for full price. Eric knew that I had a blog and occasionally reviewed items, and his only request was that I would commit to reviewing the unit. No opinions expressed in this review would have been any different if I had purchased the item instead of receiving it.

 

More info at:

 

YuHan USB LED RGB Rope Light~ 5ft. Review

A couple of years ago I followed the LumiNoodle Kickstarter*, which was successful, and which went on to become available as a retail product. Like almost all appealing gadgets these days, it has now been cloned. I picked this “YuHan” branded clone up on Amazon for $15. The identical unit is also available from other distributors. While it does not have the remote control the multicolor LumiNoodle unit has, it comes in at less than 50% of the price.

The RGB, of course, stands for red/green/blue… This is a multi-color unit, and it does have 20 different colored light “models”. Any color can be displayed as either static or dynamic, and including the multicolored cycling, there are 20 different modes of flashing and glowing.

     

Completely waterproof and flexible, the rope light comes packaged in a nice white drawstring bag, and includes three noodle-bead ties to strap it to lines or objects. The three blue slides are also magnetically enabled if you want to slap it on the side of a car. The modes, colors, and cycling are all controlled from the three-button widget on the line itself.

 

There are five levels of illumination for each color in the static modes, and five speeds in each dynamic. At the brightest level, it produces a very large amount of light from the 60 LEDs. Personally, I find the lowest level of the most rewarding.

Nicely, the bag also acts as a diffuser if you want to use it more as a lantern. The string also has magnets built in to stick it to a car, etc.

 

 

 

 

I paired mine with a five dollar “lipstick” powerbank from FiveBelow° that is rated at 2200 mA. It ran for over three hours last night without dimming.

I figure to try powering it up again each evening until the battery gives out. That should give me a good guestimate of my total burn time, but I don’t expect it will give out in a couple of hours of use each evening on a weekend camping trip… I plan to use it as a ridgeline light inside my hammock bug net.

 

Nearly everyone in my hammock and crowd has some kind of party lights rigged on their hammock. Not only are they kinda fun, but when you have 20 or 30 hammocks hung up in the night woods, it’s difficult to figure out which one is yours after full dark. One friend, who is a former airline pilot, had a landing light strobe hung on his last weekend. I found most of the ultralightweight wire type lights flimsy and too likely to break, and I had no interest in the ones that are shaped like plastic hula dancers or jalapeno peppers, so this it a lot more to my liking.

Fits the 90%/50% criteria, seems sturdy,  as long as the battery life is decent, I’m going to give it a shot the next time we have a group hang.

 

[Edit~ I ended up getting right at 9 1/2 hours of total run-time for the YuHan Light Rope utilising both static and dynamic modes… and this was with only the one full charge on the 2200mA. cheapo battery. That should be plenty for two or three nights camping. I highly recommend this one!]

* Luminoodle now [Nov. 2017] has a new kickstarter and project out. Three rows of LED on a flex-strip for high powered “work light” situations… bit pricey though.

Cooling Breezes

Last August down outside Andover, Massachusetts at a group hammock hang, we had temperatures in the 90°s and extremely high humidity. It made for really uncomfortable sleeping… Heck, just hanging around was HOT!

Our friend, R3l@x had kludged up a half dozen computer fans powered by 12v batteries, and gave them out. They were kinda wonky… you had to wrap a wire around one of the terminals to turn them on, but they were a lifesaver in the August heat. I got this little fan sometime/somewhere last fall, remembering how hideous the heat was in our rigs down at at Harold Parker SF and wanting a nicer, more convenient, solution.

This one runs off of a USB powerbank.

I also picked up a “gooseneck” m-f USB cable, so I could focus the breeze where needed.

I turned it on yesterday at 4pm powered by this small Choix charger. Running non-stop, it just gave out at 8:25pm… GoalZero claims 5 hours on their own charger, so that is not bad. The Choix is older tech and not all that powerful. It’s like a charge one cell phone once unit.
The fan moves a lot of air and, while you can hear it hum, it is very quiet. You can feel the breeze from over three feet away. Hung on a hammock ridgeline or in a tent, you should definitely get some relief from the heat.

One speed. From GoalZero. Looks like it will do the trick.
I’m going to try it out tomorrow on a newer powerbank and see if I get a longer run, but this is pretty satisfactory.

I checked on-line, unfortunately REI is not stocking ’em anymore. I think that was where I got mine. You can still find ’em on Amazon, but they are getting a bunch more than I remember spending. The gooseneck was 4$ on Amz.
If you are looking for a more low-cost [90%/50%] solution, Amz has this alternative, too>> https://www.amazon.com/ARCTIC-USB-Po…498MG732WQG84A

[After a bit more poking around online, it appears that GoalZero actually has them on their own site for considerably less than Amazon…]