Amazon’s Fire: does anyone really use it?

I’m a podcast junky. I love listening to them, it makes my work day go by much easier.  Since I am a geek at heart, I tend to listen to technology oriented podcasts (No Agenda is, for now, the lone exception.) As such, I listen to the ‘biggies’ like TWiT, Windows Weekly, The Vergecast, Macbreak Weekly and the Engadget podcast to name a few. The past few weeks, these podcasts have focused on tablets, Windows 8 and Android.  Of course, the announcement of the new Android tablet from Google has most of these people speculating that it will shut down other competitors like the Kindle Fire.

For some reason, the press (and these podcasters) have turned on Amazon and the Fire. I’ve heard things like ‘sales fell like a brick after the Christmas frenzy’ and ‘no one uses them.’  That last one I have heard repeatedly since that Google announcement. It makes me wonder…just how do they arrive at this conclusion?

Well, they usually use internet web access analytics.  And, surprise, the Kindle is barely a speck on that chart. iPad, by far, takes the lions share of the mobile numbers. Android is right there at number two.  Kindle Fire? way down in the bowels of the chart. Windows Mobile 6 seems to have higher numbers.  Why is this? Amazon sold a few million Fires. Surely, these people use the fire online, right? Well, maybe yes, maybe no.  I know myself, I use it for Facebook and…not much else. Sometimes, depending on where I am, I may use it to hit up, the Verge or CNN. Mainly, though, I use apps to get my internet related content. Things like Flipboard and USA Today. I read PC Magazine on the Fire. I also use it for reading the books I’ve purchased and, yes, I listen to podcasts on the device when I neglect my Zune (which, unfortunately, seems to happen a lot these days…I must be getting old or something.)

Now, mind you, I may not be a typical user, but my instinct says that I use my Fire quite a lot like most would and, since it is sold by Amazon and marketed primarily as eReader, I suspect most will use if for that purpose and not for browsing. So, for these ‘reporters’ and podcasters to make such a statement, based solely on numbers for web pages, is just ludicrous. Of course, many of these same people also claimed that the Wii was used once or twice and put in a closet. Right. For nearly five years, the Wii sold like hotcakes and so did software for the device. The top ten in software sales would be dominated by Nintendo for four of those five years. Yet, according to the ‘experts’, no one played it. Funny, we have two and they still get quite a lot of play. Nothing tops Mario and as for the Fire, it’s a dandy tablet. Good size, decent performance and does not cost a bloody arm and a leg, only a Wii and Mario Kart.


Hot Wheels, Nintendo 3DS and InnoTab…ahh, to be a kid again

English: A Nintendo 3DS in Aqua Blue, photo ta...

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One of the joys of being a parent is that you get to play with toys that you would not others get by with playing.  And, today is a good time to be a parent as the toys are super cool.  Take, for example, today’s Hot Wheels.

hotwheelswalltracksHot Wheels has a cool set of tracks that use the Command Strips to fasten connectors to the wall and mount tracks there. These things are really cool and solve the ages old space problem of where to store the tracks. With these, you just leave them on the wall, provided, of course, you have a room where you don’t mind them hanging around.  For us, it is in our game room.

There are several sets, including a starter set. Each set comes with the hangers, Command Strips, track pieces and one Hot Wheels car. Note, not all Hot Wheels will work on the various pieces parts. For example, one set has a launcher mechanism shaped like a motorcycle engine. Only a certain type of car will go through it, some boxier shapes and those with oversize wheels will, likely, not work.

Each set is designed to be interchangeable and reconfigurable.  They vary in price but you should be able to get two to four sets for under a hundred dollars.

Another cool toy this season is the Innotab from VTech. This is a children’s tablet.  Although similar to the VReader, it is, of course, not compatible with any of the VReader software.  The device has a small touchscreen with vibrant colors and is fairly responsive. While is resembles (to a four year old) an iPad like device, it is no iPad. Or even a crappy assed Android tablet, but, this is OK. Those devices tend to confuse whereas the Innotab (and the LeapPad Explorer) are designed to be used by children.  The built in software is simple yet functional and most things you would expect from a tablet are there, including an accelerometer. There’s no web browser as the device lacks any kind of connectivity. Again, this is not a problem since it is a device for young children.  It costs $79.95.

Lastly, the Nintendo 3DS is, by far, the coolest toy on the market. It is a standard DS that plays 3D games and takes 3D photos and video.  The software is mostly well done and the ability to turn off the 3D is a huge plus. I found the effect pleasing until I moved either my head or the device . Once that happened, I could not get it quite right and ended up turning off 3D.

Mario Kart 7 for 3DS is, quite simple, a great game.  Almost perfect.  The only problem I had was the wonky control pad on the device itself.  This might be the 3DS’ achilles heal. It just did not feel overly responsive.  The game, however, has much going for it, including the return of 16 mostly great tracks and 16 brand new ones.  All versions of the game have at least one track, though most of them are redone versions and contain new elements, like underwater sections.  Overall, though, MK7 is one great game.

Now, the 3DS is one device that anyone who is just a kid at heart can actually own and not feel like a moron. It is priced right too: just $169 for the device.  Oh, it has a browser built in and a virtual console to play older Gameboy games.

I guess I am still just a kid heart as I found the Hot Wheels tracks to be quite a bit of fun and our kids did too.  Who says you need to be between 4 and 12 to enjoy them? I’ve been accused of acting like a five year old from time to time…maybe there is something to that after all!