About

On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

Recent Comments

November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Kindle Fire’s Silk Browser Initially Disappoints?

After all the effort that Amazon spent advertising the benefits of the Kindle Fire‘s new Silk web browser, I think it is fair to say that it has been a disappointment to a few people so far.  Not only has the anticipated speed improvement been minimal so far, but in some cases it can even take longer to browse a page using Silk with its signature web caching ability turned on than getting it normally by toggling off the accelerated page loading.  While this is demonstrably the case right this minute, however, that may not mean it is time to give up hope for the future.

There was never much of an indication that Silk would result in less data being downloaded overall, as far as I can tell.  The intention was increased efficiency, thanks to removing the need for your Kindle Fire to make connections to multiple different servers for a given page, but nothing huge in terms of simply reducing the amount of transfer.  The way it works means that the faster your internet connection is, the less you will benefit from this part of the feature.  Establishing multiple connections is less of a problem on a high speed, low latency network.  This is a large source of the most common complaints, most likely.

By maintaining an ongoing data stream, Silk will supposedly eventually be able to send along associated and anticipated site data while you wander the internet.  As more data is gathered regarding customer browsing habits, particularly in terms of large trends in behavior (visitors tending to move directly from the main page of a web site to its current headlines or daily sales page, for example) the browser should begin to perform significantly better.  There are no guarantees, of course, particularly if the majority of your browsing is through little-visited sites, but the potential is there.

The failure to meet customer expectations in this case is understandable.  The idea behind the browser is impressive enough to be worth bragging about, but the fact that the eventual results rely on Amazon’s machine learning algorithms means that it would inevitably take time to get the best out of it.

There is every reason to believe that they can turn all this around.  The Silk browser really does do some neat things compared to the alternatives.  Among other things, Amazon has proven to be pretty effective at predicting peoples’ habits based on what they look at.  There wouldn’t have been nearly as much outcry against the advertising on the Kindle Library Lending checkout page if it wasn’t at least somewhat accurate based on minimal data.

Put that together with the fact that they have clearly made a huge investment in the success of the Kindle Fire and the line of products that will surely descend from it and functionality is pretty well assured.  The big question now is whether it will be in time to drum up interest again.  Without the big initial splash of excitement that real speed improvements would have provided at launch, it might prove hard to make it happen.  Perhaps the Kindle Fire‘s larger sequel, when it comes along in a couple months, will take long enough for potential to become reality.

Kindle Fire Rooting Likely To Come Quickly

So, Amazon knows that some of you will be rooting the Kindle Fire by now.  It’s hard to imagine otherwise at this point, given the state of the competition and the community of Android enthusiasts who love to unlock the full functionality of the OS.  What’s fairly unusual about Amazon’s approach to this, though, is that they don’t really seem to care and won’t be making any major moves to prevent it.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “rooting” a device means gaining unrestricted access to the device’s software in order to, among other things, install a fresh or custom version of the operating system that is more in line with what you are personally interested in.  The Nook Color, for example, was widely regarded to be an impressive budget tablet after rooting despite its less than impressive default feature set at release.  Rooting is common practice on Android devices, especially when by default these devices prevent users from accessing the Android Marketplace or when manufacturers stop supporting software updates for older devices.  This is essentially the same process as Jailbreaking your iOS devices and the results are comparable.

Amazon representative Jon Jenkins, director of the Silk browser project for the Kindle Fire, admitted “It’s going to get rooted, and what you do after you root it is up to you.”  In the same interview he admitted to not even being sure if the bootloader was locked, which is just one of the many ways that Android is closed off to potential hackers.  This doesn’t mean that Amazon will offer any special support for such endeavors, and indeed it will still most likely result in a breach of warranty for anybody who chooses to go this route, but they don’t seem to see much profit in staying on top of any potential exploits and holes in the security.

It’s a novel approach for a major developer.  For the most part companies tend to overreact to what they view as a threat, often to the point of forcing normal users into less enjoyable experiences as a result.  It also implies a certain level of confidence in the experience being delivered.

Amazon is essentially gambling on the idea that the Kindle Fire’s unique interface and distinctness from the generic Android experience will be enough to keep users locked in.  They have spent a great deal of time and effort, by most accounts, in creating something distinct that customers will feel worth investing in.  Of course it will probably help that without the Kindle Fire‘s OS it will likely be difficult to make use of Amazon’s cloud services.  If the Silk Browser is genuinely faster than the competition as it claims to be then that alone would be enough to make you hesitate to switch.

Basically, if all you want is the hardware then you’re in luck.  Grab it, root it, play with normal Android all you want.  It provides a decent amount of power for the $199 price.  What many of us are hoping for though, and what I think Amazon is banking on, is that they have done a good enough job to make it not even worth the effort.

Kindle Fire’s Silk Browser Raises Security Concerns

Amazon’s Kindle Fire does a few things that surprised people when it was announced a couple weeks ago, but probably nothing shocked people more than the inclusion of the new Amazon Silk internet browser.  The idea behind it is sound, allowing most of the work for web browsing to be done in the cloud so that the user experiences vastly reduced loading times and a generally superior browsing experience.  Obviously, however, the fact that the processing is being done by external computers raises some concerns in terms of privacy that need to be addressed.

Some have worried that Amazon would use customers’ browsing habits to customize sales pitches.  Others are concerned that once acquired this user data becomes a commodity that Amazon can hope to turn into profit.  Enterprise IT is definitely concerned with the presence of the Kindle Fire in the workplace this November for a variety of reasons.  Even Congress has gotten involved, making the assumption that Amazon would be collecting as much data as humanly possible about everything going through their servers.  In response to these concerns, Amazon has released some information to the Electronic Frontier Foundation regarding what data will be collected and how it will be used by the company.

The biggest concern for many people, especially those focused on their online privacy, is being forced to use the Amazon Cloud acceleration.  Worry no more: You CAN turn it off at any time.  In addition to opting-out by the user, anything encrypted will be routed from your Kindle Fire directly to the origin server.  This means that anything going on over HTTPS will remain totally off limits for Amazon by design.

In terms of what data is being stored, each session will be logged individually for 30 days.  This log will contain nothing more than requested URLs and timestamps.  In no way will names or user accounts be connected to these logs, nor can they be according to Amazon representatives.  Data may in some instances be even more secure than it would otherwise be since the connection to Amazon’s servers is always going to be encrypted regardless of what you are doing.

Is there still some reason to be concerned?  Of course.  Mostly, however, it requires far fetched scenarios.  Since each session is logged individually, it is unlikely that search history could be used to identify the user from logs.  That doesn’t mean impossible.  Amazon will also suddenly have access to a vast amount of information about browsing habits in general which could be used to inform future business moves.  There is even the chance that law enforcement will find ways to coerce the company to provide cached information for one reason or another.  In terms of individual user safety, however, it seems that things are looking pretty good.  Being singled out is all but impossible.

If you are still concerned, just remember that you can tell your Kindle Fire not to use this feature.  Even without it on, the Silk browser is reported to deliver a speedy experience.  It’s always better to be aware of what information you are letting out about your habits on the internet, however mundane those may be.  Overall, though, Amazon seems to have gone out of their way to avoid intruding on your privacy.