Thesis Research

Technical Research

I spent part of this week delving into the Kindle forums at mobileread.com. They have a very active community of e-reader hackers, but all of the content can be a little tedious to sort through. There’s a bunch of different information depending on what type of Kindle you own…and there are many types of Kindles (Kindle Fire, Kindle 4 no-touch (with or without ads), Kindle 4 touch, Kindle 3, Kindle 2…).

Oh and did I mention that sometimes large parts of threads are comprised of arguments about the ethical nature of removing ads from your Kindle, or whether it’s appropriate to reply to an IRC question by creating a new forum thread, or emphasizing that although a certain 1337 hax0r would prefer to say “RTFM” he/she will give you advice this ONE TIME. Anyway…

I own a Kindle 4 (no touch, with ads) so naturally I’ve decided to start my research there! Here is a list of the links that I used heavily:

http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Kindle4NTHacking
http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Kindlet_Developer_HowTo#How_do_I_install_my_keystore.2C_and_how_do_I_merge_it_with_an_existing_one.3F
http://cowlark.com/kindle/getting-started.html
http://www.mobileread.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-181360.html

Other useful info (for the future):
http://www.mobileread.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-166687.html

Spiritual Research

In conjunction with tech research, I started reading Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together (on my Kindle…). Half of the book is about robots, but the other half is about our constant connection to the internet and the ways that this cyborg umbilical cord alienates us from meaningful social contact. It’s about checking your Facebook at a friend’s party or sending off work emails while Skying with your grandma. Reading a book has a naturally isolating quality, but I do find that there is a difference between reading and being on your smart phone (well I imagine, I don’t have a smart phone). The internet is sprawling and limitless – your mental retreat can go on forever! Plus, you’re often engaging in superficial contact with others. Reading does not profess to be a substitute for calling your friends.

I got to thinking a lot about the kind of interaction I want from these covers. I’m not a fan of projects that profess to “create emotional connections” through the changing color of an LED. It just feels disingenuous and also I think you need at least 5 LEDs for that. I don’t expect to create book covers that magically make everyone on the train be your friend. I want to bring back a tiny portion of a previously commonplace interaction…and some of the artistry that has been lost as people replace beautifully-designed book covers with paisley quilted e-book covers. Anyway, I think Alone Together is providing good food for thought on the subject.

Aesthetic Research

Last summer I was incredibly inspired by Jilian Tamaki’s embroidered book covers for Penguin. I especially loved the Black Beauty cover because I have vivid memories of reading and loving that book at one point.

bbeauty

embroidery

suess

Related Works:

Kindle Projects

Most of the Kindle hacks I found were very practical and less artistic. These include a weather app, Sudoku, and apps for managing/importing books. While these are useful in terms of showing me how to make Kindlets, I think the most relevant project with a Kindle is the Kindleberry Pi, if only because it’s using the Kindle in a non-obvious way. Plus, it connects the Kindle to other hardware, which I also hope to do!

Progress Summary:

Mostly I made some technical progress. I was able to Jailbreak my Kindle, crack the root password (using an online tool and my serial number), and ssh into my Kindle. I also found a sample homebrew app, put the developer key on my K and ran the Kindlet. The app (which was a dev example) also contained the Java libraries I need to write my own content. I’ve started exploring the KDK and hope to write my own app in the next few days.

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