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PaulStamatiou.com - Technology, Design and Photography





Updated: 2016-09-10T17:24:06-07:00

 



Getting started with Raspberry Pi

2016-06-28T09:00:00-07:00

In early 2012 an intriguing single-board computer with a weird name hit the market. For the low price of $35, you could get a fully functioning computer that could run a real operating system. It was called the Raspberry Pi and it was the brainchild of a UK charity called the Raspberry Pi Foundation. They saw the need for an affordable computer after seeing a consistent drop in students applying to study computer science. Well it turns out this tiny and cheap fully-functional computer had a much larger audience than anticipated. Multiple models have been created since, including the $5 Pi Zero, and over 9 million Raspberry Pis have been sold. This is a long post so I more than likely made some errors along the way. Feel free to let me know on Twitter, thanks! Table of contents What is it? What can you do with a Pi? Getting started Sharing a USB drive, benchmarking, overclocking and cooling Working with the GPIO pins Building a digital photo frame Is this like an Arduino? No. While I have been hearing about the Pi for years, I never really took a good look at it and mentally just wrote it off as some kind of Arduino development board for enthusiasts to hack on. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Arduino is an open-sourced microcontroller with I/O pins to control other electronics. The Pi on the other hand still has those I/O pins (GPIO) but also has a closed-source ARM System on a Chip (SoC). However, the Arduino is better suited at connecting to analog sensors out of the box whereas the Pi works best with serial interface sensors using I2C or SPI communication. The fastest Arduino runs at 84MHz while the Pi 3 runs at 1.2GHz. So what do I mean when I say the Pi is a fully-functional computer? Surely something that cheap can’t really be usable.. it is. Along with that 64-bit 1.2GHz quad-core CPU the Model 3 B features 1GB of RAM, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth along with a myriad of ports: 4x USB, HDMI, microSD and more. That allows it to run operating systems optimized for ARM chipsets, and there are quite a few these days: Ubuntu MATE Raspbian and Raspbian Lite (Debian optimized for Pi) OSMC and OpenELEC (media center OSes) Pidora (Fedora for Pi) Arch Linux ARM (Arch optimized for ARM computers) Chromium OS for Single Board Computers (You might know it as Chrome OS as used on Chromebooks) Windows 10 IoT Core (A Windows 10 variant made for Internet of Things uses) Coming soon: Official Android support from Google For comparison the smaller $5 Raspberry Pi Zero (v1.3 and camera module shown below) has a single-core 1GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM — still enough to run these operating systems too — along with its microSD slot, a mini HDMI and two micro USB ports. However, it lacks onboard networking and you'll need a USB dongle with USB Wi-Fi if you'd like Internet access. There are lots of Raspberry Pi competitors. Some are more powerful and more expensive. There's the PINE64 with 2GB of RAM and Gigabit Ethernet, the 2GHz quad-core Odroid XU4 with USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet as well as the blatant Raspberry Pi clone the Banana Pi1 with its SATA connection. However, nothing quite beats the Pi's massive developer and enthusiast community. This makes it easy to find support for projects you're building or use Pi-specific software projects. Energy consumption Oh and this thing sips electricity! Unlike larger computers where you may need to think twice about running it 24/7, Raspberry Pis cost almost nothing to run. This makes the Pi remarkably attractive as an always-on linux server or base for your connected hardware projects. Consumption depends on the model and there are ways to reduce consumption even further2, but a Pi 3 Model B will draw around 1.4W at idle and up to 3.7W at load. In the state of California where electricity costs around 15 [...]



Design for Curation

2014-04-14T08:00:00-07:00

Last week Dropbox launched a new gallery app called Carousel. It's a focused app, only letting people view their photos stored on Dropbox1 and conveniently share them. There are a few interesting parts in the app but there is one piece I’d like to highlight: Swipe down to hide.

This gesture doesn't delete your photo, it simply removes it from the gallery view. It's not a heavy action. There's no cognitive overhead, no thinking "wait, do I want this shot?" as there generally is when deleting items.

(image)
View screenshots

Swiping down to hide less-than-stellar photos is as satisfying as crossing something off your to-do list. It's the only curation tool you need for a stark gallery app. I effortlessly turned my heap of mobile phone photos and videos into a meaningful digital library that I found myself casually browsing over the past few days.

And that seems to be the point of Carousel. Make it easy for me to see the value of curating an easily digestible and shareable gallery and I may use Dropbox to store even more of my photos.

Now you're thinking "but Paul, this is nothing new!" Agreed. That's why this post isn't about Carousel.


As designers we love to focus on simplifying interfaces. We clasp Dieter Rams' 10 principles. But what about decluttering and crafting something useful with the content that lives inside these interfaces? Craig Mod suggests content for readers should fit the experience, not the other way around. What if you extend that thought to content created by the user, not just content consumed by them?

You can turn bulk, typically fleeting data into a moment, a story, a timeline, a canon of the user's own digital personal effects. Whatever it may be, help your users make it their own. Wherever your users create, let them curate. Otherwise your app's value may be fleeting instead.

About a year ago I began putting more time into my photoblog. I wanted to use it as a base to share my travel experiences. The goal was — and I haven't gotten there yet — to also use video, location, weather, audio and other Feltron-like statistics from each trip to tell my story. What ended up happening is I created something meaningful largely just for myself, something I'll revisit.

Where else can this be done?

1 More or less your phone's camera roll if you have “Camera Upload” enabled


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How To: Hosting on Amazon S3 with CloudFront

2014-01-13T01:45:00-08:00

A few weeks ago my DNS provider Zerigo sent an email stating that due to recent infrastructure upgrades they would need to raise their prices. For my meager DNS needs that ended up being a huge price hike: from $39 per year to $25 per month1. Prices were set to take effect a month later. I decided to put my current dev work — designing and building new photoblog functionality to showcase my Japan trip photos — on hold to move away from Zerigo. I chose to switch to AWS Route 53. I was able to successfully get my DNS running on Route 53 and pointing to my Heroku setup rather quickly. Though everything was working, I realized I was running an unsupported configuration. Namely that I was using DNS A records to point to the root of my domain. Heroku explains the problem with this zone apex approach on cloud hosting providers: "DNS A-records require that an IP address be hard-coded into your application’s DNS configuration. This prevents your infrastructure provider from assigning your app a new IP address on your behalf when adverse conditions arise and can have a serious impact to your app’s uptime. A CNAME record does not require hard-coded IP addresses and allows Heroku to manage the set of IPs associated with your domain. However, CNAME records are not available at the zone apex and can’t be used to configure root domains." I felt uneasy about this and wanted to make sure my site would just work at all times. I didn't want to leave myself with future technical debt due to a hacky solution. There were other options available but moving over to Amazon S3 site hosting with CloudFront was the most intriguing: It supports zone apex domain hosting with Route 53’s ALIAS DNS record. I would save $34/month by moving off Heroku. I was only on Heroku since I had used ruby rack with my Jekyll setup to do some basic URL 301 redirection to preserve an old permalink structure I had. After some research I found out how this could be done on S3 hosted sites as well. I already use CloudFront, S3, Glacier and Route 53 so it’s nice to keep all of my eggs in one big Bezos basket. Although I had previously hosted all assets on CloudFront (CSS, JS and images) I would still see a huge performance boost by having all requests hit CloudFront. I've known about S3 site hosting since it was launched but was always wary about how it would perform when I wanted to update current files. Previously I thought that CloudFront only updated files every 24 hours. That concern became a non-issue when I discovered a great ruby gem that calls CloudFront's invalidation API when pushing s3 sites. With my research done, I began the migration process. Moving from Zerigo to Route 53 When it comes to moving domains and hosts, the name of the game is minimizing downtime and DNS propagation. It's vital that you keep both sites running so that folks with old DNS records can still load a version of your site until the propagation completes. I exported my DNS records from Zerigo2 imported them on Route 53, waited a while for the new DNS records to be active for good measure, then pointed my registrar Namecheap to the new Route 53 servers. That only took a few minutes through the Route 53 web console. At this point I had Route 53 working with my old host Heroku. S3 website hosting 101 The next step was to enable S3 static website hosting and get my Jekyll site running exactly as I wanted it before adding my domain. I had to create buckets where I would store my site's static files. Amazon suggests you create two: one for no-www and one for the www version of your domain. For example, www.paulstamatiou.com and paulstamatiou.com. But since we will be using CloudFront from the get–go, only one bucket is required (your root domain bucket). More on that later. What if someone's squatting on my domain name bucket? I found myself in this predicament. Someone was squatting on the paulstamatiou.com S3 bucket. I asked on the AWS forums and they replied stating that [...]



Android is better

2013-08-12T10:00:00-07:00

It was just meant to be a quick experiment. I started using a Nexus 4. I was going to go right back to my iPhone after a week. I was designing more and more Android interfaces at Twitter and realized I needed to more intimately grok Android UI paradigms.

A week in it started feeling normal; the larger form factor was no longer a nuisance. A month in I didn't miss anything about my iPhone. Two months in I sold my iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. It has now been three months since I made the switch. I'm loving Android. I only missed having a good camera so I just upgraded to a Google Edition Samsung Galaxy S4.


This RSS feed only shows excerpts. It will look much better on the website: Android is better



Storage for Photographers

2013-07-10T10:00:00-07:00

Note: I wrote a sequel: Storage for Photographers (Part 2)

There comes a time in every photographer's life when they must ask themselves what to do about all those photo RAWs filling up the tiny-compared-to-spinning-platters SSD on their primary machine. Easy, just get an external hard drive. Redundancy? Just get a Drobo or Synology NAS. More redundancy? Just backup the Drobo to Crashplan or Synology to Amazon S3 or Glacier. Done right?
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Simplify.

2013-04-30T09:00:00-07:00

I have been thinking a lot about simplifying my life recently. I started a stellar new job four months ago and it felt like a great time to change other parts of my life.

I used to be a slave to my startups. If I wasn't working, I had a perpetual feeling of guilt that I should be working.
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Developing a responsive, Retina-friendly site (Part 2)

2013-03-13T10:00:00-07:00

This is the last part in my three-part series about the design and development of a responsive and so-called Retina-friendly website. While I have covered my development process, media queries for responsive development, and various JS libraries I use, I'm going to talk about images in much more depth in this article. In particular, I'll show how to use HiDPI image assets as well as cover responsive images and some history around that.


This RSS feed only shows excerpts. It will look much better on the website: Developing a responsive, Retina-friendly site (Part 2)



My Setup

2013-02-18T00:10:01-08:00

Note: This post is now a bit outdated. I have updated my Stuff I Use page.

I have always been a fan of The Setup and have been maintaining my own Stuff I Use page for some years now so it only made sense that I would eventually write my own such article. This is how I work and what I use to do it. If you have any questions please leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter.


This RSS feed only shows excerpts. It will look much better on the website: My Setup



Developing a responsive, Retina-friendly site (Part 1)

2013-01-23T08:00:00-08:00

In my last post, Designing a responsive, Retina-friendly site, I covered my design process and thoughts behind redesigning this site. I did not cover any aspects of actual development or any Jekyll specifics. This post will mainly cover coding up responsive design and the third and final post will cover retina media queries, responsive images and more.


This RSS feed only shows excerpts. It will look much better on the website: Developing a responsive, Retina-friendly site (Part 1)



Joining Twitter

2013-01-14T08:00:00-08:00

I have always wanted to work at Twitter but never actually thought about it until Akash Garg reached out a few months ago1. Yes, this is a post announcing that I have joined the flock at Twitter. I signed up for Twitter exactly six years ago in January 2007 as user #624,6832.


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Designing a responsive, Retina-friendly site

2013-01-05T17:20:00-08:00

It's hard to believe I have been blogging for more than 7 years. Michael Wozniak, my hallmate during my freshman year at Georgia Tech, had gotten me into Gentoo Linux the year prior and told me he was playing with WordPress 1.2. Compared to the MediaWiki site I was running at the time that piqued my curiosity and I began blogging on WordPress on my G4 Mac Mini that summer. I immediately fell in love with it and began learning CSS and PHP to tweak the theme1.


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Twitter Review: New Gmail iPhone app

2012-12-06T13:28:38-08:00

Google recently released a new iPhone app for Gmail this week to much fanfare. After the third blog post citing how "slick" it was, I gave it a go myself. I currently use Sparrow for email on my iPhone. After having it installed for 5 minutes, I asked the Twitterverse what they think:

New Gmail iPhone app: discuss. I think the font-weight is too light. I want to read my email, not frame it and put it in an art gallery.

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Culture

2012-09-05T15:00:09-07:00

I recently read Alex MacCaw's article, What it’s like to work for Stripe, while on a much needed vacation. Alex, whom I first discovered via his post on asynchronous UIs and then traveling the world, does a great job discussing how Stripe operates. I have gotten to know the Stripes over the last year and am impressed at how well they execute. As he states, culture can be hard to define so I'd like to share a bit about what it means to me.
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My TechCrunch Post for First-time Startup Entrepreneurs

2012-08-16T10:49:03-07:00

In case you didn't catch it, I wrote my first TechCrunch guest post earlier this month. It's aptly named First-Time Startup Entrepreneurs: Stop Fucking Around and it's my take on how first-time startuppers should work and get things done. Take a look at it and let me know what you think!
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Browser sync is the killer app

2012-06-29T00:00:00-07:00

"Slow. Doesn't use the V8 engine. Second-class citizen on the iPhone. 3x slower than Mobile Safari because it uses WebViews. No full screen, no gestures. Horrible."

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Taken by a lovely Canon 5D Mark III (thoughts coming soon)

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My First Hackintosh

2012-05-27T19:05:00-07:00

A year ago I wrote about how I wanted to build a Hackintosh. Oddly enough, exactly a year later, I ended up getting around to it.

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My roommate/cofounder Akshay had a Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3R motherboard and Core 2 Quad CPU lying around from his last hackintosh (he's since upgrade to Sandy Bridge). I ended up putting getting a display,
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The Life of a Startup in Commits

2012-04-13T17:49:52-07:00

Here's a GitHub impact graph of every Skribit code commit. Starting from November 2007 during Startup Weekend (hence all the contributors initially), progressing through to when I began working full-time on Skribit in 2009, when we slowed things down in mid-2010 and then pulled it offline in April 2011. It was a great ride!

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Click for full-res. I believe I had two computers at the time so a few of those colors are mine.

This RSS feed only shows excerpts. It will look much better on the website: The Life of a Startup in Commits



Inside Votizen

2012-04-12T11:00:00-07:00

It's no surprise that I'm enthralled by startups of all types. I am particularly interested in how startups work, their internal processes and culture, rather than their external pitch and product features. It was this interest that lead me to catch up with Semil Shah and Jason Putorti from Votizen one sunny afternoon in in Mountain View, just a block or two from 500 Startups and a mile from Y Combinator.

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Semil and Jason at Votizen HQ

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On Keeping Busy and Staying Sane

2012-03-06T21:46:31-08:00

This was originally going to be a blog post about Venmo and the difficulty of growing such payments services, but I decided that didn't really have much content (here's the draft — 100% boring and not proofread). So here I am on a 6.5 hour flight from JFK to OAK, connected to a lovely ad-hoc wifi network my cofounder created so we can collaborate over Bonjour on this Gogo-less flight. We both ended up with middle seats on the same row and failed to get adjacent seats despite our best efforts at persuading each of the other four folks in this row to swap with us. Photo Hack Day 2 NYC — Alexis Ohanian of Reddit/Y Combinator and David Karp of Tumblr to the right We're heading back from a 2 day stint in New York City where we attended the awesome Photo Hack Day 2 (that I just wrote about for the Picplum blog). I was in Atlanta the week before courtesy of my alma mater Georgia Tech where I participated on an entrepreneurship panel at career week and spoke in an experimental NSF-funded engineering and design class. It turned out to be big week for the Atlanta tech scene and I got to swing by Startup Riot for a bit1. For the record, the Jawbone Jambox is quite possibly the best travel companion. Georgia Tech added a few new buildings since I last visited. (Nerd Note: This is my first blog post after moving my old Apache + Jekyll setup to Heroku with Rack (rewrite, deflater, trystatic) with Unicorn. Fast. Also, LiveReload + single-post live regeneration is a nifty update for writing and previewing my blog posts.) Now that I look back at my last two startups, I really don't recall ever being as focused or in the zone as Akshay and I are right now. New ideas are becoming fleshed out roadmaps and we have laid out what our company's big vision is all about in just the last few months. I think the next step will be finalizing what our company values are — an exercise suggested to us by Dan Martell. Keeping Busy Akshay and I are both roommates and cofounders so we often get asked how that arrangement works for us. Regardless of whether Akshay or I reply, the answer is usually the same2. We are on complete lockdown about 6 days of the week. This is something we picked up during Y Combinator, where Paul Graham said something along the lines of "use YC as an excuse to not get distracted with other events/meetings/people.. tell them you're busy for these three months." We're usually awake from 11am - 3am and working about 90% of that. We try to decline most meetings. I'm very bad at saying no but slowly getting better. My excuse is that we're in a code sprint for another week (apologies if I've used this line on you). Any essential meetings that persist get scheduled into one late evening so as to not interact with our zone in the middle of the day. Because f/1.4 bokeh makes coffeescript beautiful. View more of my photos here » We're both full-stack generalists and tend to work on our own projects or features. We each take an item off our "big vision" board (which is more and more less a Trello board and more of an item from Hackpad, create a new branch or repo as necessary, then go to town on that until it's done and deployable. But we always start with the user experience and interaction, something I also found to be true at Votizen when I stopped by last week. For example, I'm finishing up a "send now" page redesign for Picplum after many users told us they wanted an easier way to switch between recipients in every batch. We brainstormed and sketched out some ideas for an hour late one night. (I touched up a bit o[...]



Mini Review: Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth Speaker

2012-03-02T00:27:49-08:00

Over the past two weeks of traveling I have been using the Jawbone Jambox wireless bluetooth speaker extensively. I have concluded that it is quite possible the best thing ever created for frequent travelers1. Great for filling up your hotel room with sound2 or your playing your favorite beats while showering before that big meeting.

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The Jambox playing music via bluetooth from my MacBook Air at the Downtown Atlanta Marriott (3/10 Stammys) — though I usually have it play from my iPhone.

This RSS feed only shows excerpts. It will look much better on the website: Mini Review: Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth Speaker



Ad-hoc Wifi in the Sky

2012-02-27T17:08:17-08:00

How do you collaborate on work when you and your cofounder are on a 6.5 hour wifi-less flight and couldn't get adjacent seats? Create an ad-hoc wifi network and use bonjour messaging in iChat. I'm pretty sure we annoyed some people next to us...

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On Venmo and Payments

2012-02-26T17:32:28-08:00

When was the last time you were so enthused about a product you actually wanted to pay your friends to get on it with you? Venmo is that magical service for me. It's a fantastic product (consider me a brand ambassador if you will, I tell everyone about it) but over the last few months I have become intimately aware at how hard it must be for them to acquire and onboard new users. Let me backtrack a bit.
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iPhone Picture Stats

2012-01-15T20:27:14-08:00

I recently ran out of space on my iPhone 4S and did my yearly ritual of moving last year's photos off of my phone. Here's what my iPhone-taken photo and video stats look like:
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R.I.P. 1920x1200

2011-12-29T23:05:30-08:00

I'm at home in Houston for the holidays and of course working on Picplum stuff when I'm not chasing my 18-month old nephew around. I'm used to working on my 27-inch Apple display so hacking away on the Air's native resolution took was not quite for me. Most importantly after a few days of working my back started hurting
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CoffeeScript

2011-12-27T14:35:47-08:00

After months of hearing about CoffeeScript and having it on my to-do list week after week, I finally got around to really reading up on it during my flight from SFO to IAH. I tweeted that I was in the middle of moving Picplum over to CoffeeScript and got no less than 10 people asking me why.
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Startup Idea: User Retention as a Service

2011-12-21T10:00:00-08:00

It was the middle of our Y Combinator batch this summer. Akshay and I had a decently functioning version of Picplum that we were continuing to test and polish up. At the end of our office hours that day, Paul Graham said our product was good enough and that we should stop coding and start selling & marketing. I think about this quite often.

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Picplum at YC office hours in July. Photo Credit: Garry Tan

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Talking Startups and Picplum on BBC News

2011-12-14T18:19:47-08:00

After a gracious introduction to the BBC by Mr Amit Gupta, I appeared in a short BBC News segment about the Silicon Valley startup scene as compared to the NYC startup community. Click the screenshot below to watch the video!

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On BBC News talking about Silicon Valley, startups and Picplum

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DNSCrypt

2011-12-07T12:28:36-08:00

Head over to OpenDNS and install DNSCrypt for Mac. DNSCrypt, in a nutshell, encrypts all DNS traffic between you and OpenDNS. If you've been reading my blog since the early days, you've already been up to date on what their primary product does
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Give the gift of Picplum

2011-11-11T16:32:22-08:00

Akshay and I just rolled out our Picplum gift page after receiving countless emails from people asking how they could buy gift Picplum to friends and family. Powered by Stripe, of course.
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Sennheiser HD 650... Wow

2011-10-28T16:14:44-07:00

After I mentioned that I was no longer happy with my Dr Dre Beats Studio headphones in a recent blog post, The Coding Zone, a mysterious package arrived from Amazon. It was a pair of pristine Sennheiser HD 650 headphones; a kickass gift from my friend Noah Kagan of AppSumo.
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The Coding Zone

2011-10-23T01:27:52-07:00

I've learned there are three main things that set me up for a productive programming session.

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My current coding wonderland.

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R.I.P. Steve Jobs

2011-10-05T17:06:19-07:00

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Thoughts on the Amazon Kindle Fire

2011-09-28T08:39:24-07:00

It was exactly one year ago that I received my first Kindle and fell in love with it. Why? They distilled the essence of a simple, superb reading experience into a lightweight, affordable and hassle-free device (as in WhisperSync and stellar battery life). While the affordability is definitely still there with the new Kindle devices announced today, I'm a bit wary of where Amazon is headed.
This RSS feed only shows excerpts. It will look much better on the website: Thoughts on the Amazon Kindle Fire