Thursday, May 22, 2008

kindle review

I've had my Kindle for about a month now. And I had a chance to try out its wireless features during a recent trip to Chicago. So, I feel ready to to post a fairly serious review.

I think it's fine for reading. The contrast is good. It's not backlit so you do need to find a light source. And I have noticed some reflection from the screen.

The size is reasonable - about the same as a quality paperback, smaller and lighter than a hardcover.

The navigation - next page, previous page is adequate. The main next page button is on the right. I get ahead of myself sometimes and hit next page before I'm ready. Then I fumble for a moment to get back to the previous page. It's on the left but so is another smaller previous page button. I find the other higher level navigation somewhat clunky. That might be a result of the fact that I don't read directions. But it seems to take several tries to get to the top level navigation.

It works like a charm with audiobooks from Audible. Unfortunately, it won't work as of yet with Overdrive or Netlibrary. But for Audible purchases, the navigation is good and you can listen via a small speaker or headphones. You can also add your own MP3s. But this is apparently intended as background music. You can play MP3s but I haven't been able to figure out how to select an individual track. It seems you just listen to them one after the other.

I LOVE the wireless features. They're what really makes this device work. So, it's a pity that Amazon chose not to make that available to anyone in Montana or Alaska as well as wide swaths of other rural states. I don't know what browser Kindle uses. It's found under Experimental, if that's any indication. I understand it uses a Linux OS. It works fine for largely text-based sites like news sites. I loved being able to scan the headlines on BBC's site. I was also thrilled to be able to use it to (in theory) locate and map restaurants while on the el in Chicago. I say in theory because while I found the restaurant listing, kindle froze before I could map the location. You'd think a techno-geek like me would know never to put faith in technology, especially new untested technology. I had to reset it. Since I often don't have a paper clip on me at such moments, I had to wait to reset it until I got back to the hotel and could do the always popular earring reset. Not something to attempt on a subway for a lot of reasons. Also, due to the browser quirks and limitations I couldn't get into my IMT or emails, but it worked okay with gmail. It also worked with Twitter, but Twitter's so glitchy, I wouldn't use that as a standard.

It's probably a good thing that I can't use the wireless. If I could I'd probably be buying far too much from Amazon. I bought 4 books in the 2+ days I was in Chicago. And I would certainly be subscribing to at least one daily newspaper. It's ridiculously easy to shop the Amazon kindle store and click buy and have your purchase downloaded to you within minutes. For a biblioholic like me, I could really go bonkers. It works okay with computer downloads but it lacks that immediate gratification. I talked about the rather clunky purchase and loading previously. It's workable but makes me less susceptible to that tendency to buy on impulse. I have a feeling that they still would have made money off me had they to pay for roaming for wireless access.

The built in memory is pretty limited in this day and age of terabyte drives. But it's amazing how many print books/magazines you could carry with the 185 MB. I discovered fairly quickly that was not going to go very far with audiobooks, however. So, I bought a 2 GB memory stick and installed it. That helped.

Without the wireless, I really couldn't recommend this for purchase for anyone but the highly geeky must-have-the-latest-gadget type (like yours truly), and/or for those who travel quite a bit outside of the rural west. And I've been pondering it's potential usefulness for libraries. The $399 price tag means it would hurt if it were loaned out and lost or damaged. But possibly more of a concern would be the easy purchase features in most of the country. So, you check it out to a patron who decides that he wants the entire Stephen King collection and clicks buy to charge it to the library account. I'm sure this instant purchase feature could be turned off, at least I hope it could. But it's certainly not in Amazon's interest to do so.

In short, I do like it. I enjoy being able to carry a bunch of books, magazines, audiobooks and music all in one pretty compact package. It's gotten me to subscribe to several magazines again. I stopped because I couldn't keep up with reading, particularly weeklies. I don't feel so bad when the evidence of my backlog is strictly digital. And it's a great conversation starter. Some of my state E-rate colleagues were very intrigued. It also started a great conversation about YA books with the woman sitting next to me on the Chicago-Denver flight. But I'm going to continue to complain about the lack of wireless availability.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I, Spammer

OK, so everything I said in my last post (Fight SPAM with reCaptcha) is true. It's just not applicable to my present situation. Here is the latest on my SPAM epic.

We get very little SPAM in our accounts here at MPL. So we really noticed it when it started coming in during the middle of April. Like I said, we have three layers of protection, so I didn't think it was our mail server. I ran some anti-virus and anti-spyware scans on the mail server and some of the affected PCs, which indicated nothing to worry about. It would go away soon.

Well, it hasn't gone away and it's getting old so I felt I needed to look into it a little more. The final kick in the butt for me was when my ISP called last week to say that they are seeing somewhat elevated port 25 traffic coming from our site. That is mail traffic. It was confirmation that we are the problem. We had become a spammer.

Since all our traffic comes out from behind a single public IP address, the ISP could only say it was coming from the library, but not where inside the library. That's my job. Suspecting that someone has infected their PC by doing something inappropriate, I block outgoing email from everything except the mail server. Still SPAM goes out. So I know the problem is with the server itself.

Finally, yesterday I decide to run another virus scan. Bingo! It turns up something called "Troj_Dloader.amt. The scanner removed the trojan and I haven't seen any "undeliverable" messages since. The Anti-virus vendor, Trend Micro, first identified this trojan on May 6. It had a solution to remove it on May 8. I ran a manual scan on the mail server on May 13 which found it.

There are a few interesting points here.

  • I don't yet know how this server got infected, but I work pretty hard to make my servers resistant to this sort of thing. If I find out, I'll let you know.

  • My AV program is always running on my server. I would have thought it should have recognized the infection, even though the infection was there first, once it downloaded the signature file that recognized the problem. But it didn't. It didn't catch it until I ran a manual scan.

  • We have been infected for about a month now. Yet the SPAM volume was never so high as to cause my ISP to shut me down, or the mail server to slow down substantially, or to make humans so annoyed that I had to immediately find and fix the problem to keep them from cutting my throat. The bad guys are now less concerned about making a big splash by rendering unusable thousands of PCs and more about making money. So the parasites are smart enough to keep the host alive and functioning. They are trying to stay under the radar.
  • That said, I wonder how many of you are spammers too. The trojan I had doesn't necessarily require an existing in-house mail server to work, so you could have just one PC and still be sending someone's SPAM out. How can you tell for sure? That's a good question. For many of us we only find out when the PC doesn't work anymore or the ISP shuts us down.

If you are interested in knowing a few tricks to help determine whether you are a spammer or not, drop me a line saying so and I'll show some ideas in a future post.