Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Kindle Fire(s)

My passion for the Kindle Fire started shortly after developing a plan for my project in mid 2011. Every now and then I'll drop a few more details about that plan here, too, but now I want to tell you more about how I got my 2 Kindle Fire(s).

Ever since the Kindle Fire came out in November 2011 I wanted to have it. My plan needed a powerful dual-core embedded platform with a good and bright display and a capacitive touchscreen. The Kindle Fire had a lot, not more than I needed. Actually less, but it's good at what it offers and that counts most for me. The rest I could hack and mod myself, learn something by doing so and have some fun at the same time. I had known the Pandaboard and Blaze from Texas Instruments before, so I was familar and happy with that basic TI platform.

At that time my passion had almost gone with the Blackberry Playbook already. But that was not as open as the Kindle Fire. And it was soooo expensive. Blackberry clearly missed the bus... train... what do I say? ...rocket to enter the tablet market! And very much because they got the price wrong. The hardware was very right and I would still prefer it over the Kindle Fire. But the Fire is 1) way cheaper and 2) (more) open!

Ok, talking about pure hardware-mods here, you could argue now: simply ignore that locked Blackberry bootloader and set the OMAP4 SYS_BOOT bits right and you'll get around it. That's true! But then what about the operating system? 3) Amazon releases at least the source code. Well, ...releases! They obviously don't care about us hackers and developers (who should we blame to not include a proper kernel-.config?).

The summary of this: the Kindle Fire is just open enough to be an attractive hacking platform, while the Blackberry Playbook is just closed enough not to be! So, finally my passion went with the Kindle Fire. The absolute right timing for my plan! Amazon, how did you know that I would need...?

Honestly, the story is a bit different and I need to take another short detour. I was a bit more impatient, so in September 2011 I started on my plan with a Huawei Slim S7. What a difference compared to the Kindle Fire lateron: 800MHz single core, 800x480 display, *not* an IPS panel (colors? yes, a lot, but you've no control over them... :-) ), only 4G ROM (what can you do with even less than 8G?), but GPS, WLAN, BT, 3G and the whole bunch of nice toy sensors. Actually not even worth starting to talk about hardware-mods, because it had everything (except a Geiger-Müller counter maybe). I played around with it for a while to learn how to hack Android systems. And hacking here means: get rid of Android, install your own Linux from scratch! A good experience. I learned that I had missed that for some years.

Finally it got 2012 and then March and I had the chance to travel to the US for some business reason. I ordered a Kindle Fire ($199=€150) and learned that Amazon even delivers to hotels (so you don't need to be a permanent resident). Back home I hacked my fresh Fire in the same way as that Huawei Slim S7 and I was immediately happy with everything. That was my Kindle Fire #1.

You guess it already: my plan needs a second Kindle Fire! And that I bought on ebay. A used one, but rarely used. Actually not much more than my fresh new one from March. So, my Kindle Fire #2 was there, crafted back in January.

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