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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle 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 Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2016
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Kindle Touch Update 5.1 Adds Landscape Mode, Language Support, and Translation

The Kindle Touch has had its firmware updates in preparation for a multi-national release, it seems.  Version 5.1 actually brings us a number of useful features that users have been vocal about desiring for their eReaders.  While the removal of the physical keyboard may have opened the door for Kindle availability in languages besides English, this is probably the biggest step we have seen so far in terms of making that a reality.

Here’s what we’re looking at right now (Amazon Support Page):

  • Landscape Mode

It is finally possible to switch back and forth between portrait and landscape orientations on the Kindle Touch.  While this has long been an option for Kindles, for whatever reason it has taken until now for the Touch to get with the program.  Good news since there are situations where you can’t reasonably  do without it.

  • Added Language Support

Kindle users can now choose from English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese according to personal preference.

  • Instant Translation

While reading, you can now highlight a word or selection and have it translated for you on the spot.  Translations go through Bing Translator and are obviously going to be imperfect, but this is both fun and useful.  Unfortunately, it won’t work very well if you like to read with the WiFi turned off to improve battery life.

  • Improved WiFi

Connectivity has been improved and users have more options.  Connect with WPS and some WPA2 Enterprise setups.

  • Read-to-Me With Text-to-Speech

This one is restricted to English for the moment, but the Kindle Touch can now read to you, including some magazine and newspaper articles.  Perhaps more robust language support will come later?

  • Expanded Sharing

This will basically just tell people what you’re reading, should you feel like sharing.  It fills in a feature missing in comparison to Nook and Kobo options, but doesn’t excite.

  • Onscreen Keyboard Suggestions

Let’s face it, onscreen keyboards are annoying.  On the Kindle Touch it is even worse because of the refresh rate of E Ink.  Now typing is far more manageable.  Huge improvement!

  • Kindle Format 8

This one was pretty much just housekeeping for Amazon.  If you’re going to try and build a new standard, the least you can do is make sure that the latest generation of the device it is being designed for can handle it.  Might make periodicals more readable, but overall reflowable text is still the biggest advantage of an E Ink Kindle.

The Kindle Touch just plain works better now, really.  They added enough that there should be reason for users old and new to be excited here.  Landscape mode might have just been crossing an essential fix off the list, but things like keyboard suggestions and translation on demand change the experience for the better.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next generation of Kindle now that we have an idea what the innovation it brings to the table will be, but for now I may finally be recommending the Kindle Touch over the Kindle Keyboard for the first time.

Kindle Touch 5.0.3 Update Available for Manual Download

Kindle Touch

Kindle Touch

Along with the Kindle Fire update, the Kindle Touch also got one as well.  It is currently only available for manual download at the moment.  If you want to download it see Amazon’s instructions on how to transfer it via USB here.

I don’t really see anything major in this update that is worth racing to the computer to download, so I’d sit tight and wait for it to be available via Wi-Fi.  The automatic update does all of the work for you.  But, it is a matter of preference, and the option is there if you want to take advantage of it.

I think it is worth pointing out how to check for updates.  I learned my lesson first hand when I realized my battery was draining really quickly on my older Kindle.  If you need assistance with the process, Amazon’s support is excellent.  It is good to do this periodically because it can affect security, battery life, and the content on your e-reader.

So here’s how:

Tap “Menu’.  Select “Device Info”  If it says “5.0.3″ then you’re good.  Most likely it will say “5.0.”  That will be greyed out until the automatic update is available.  For the manual download, you will need your USB cord.

Amazon is really vague about what is in this update, but one thing I’d like to see if smother page transitioning.  My Kindle Touch has frozen before after being incredibly slow.  This has only happened once, but there have been other reports of freezes.  Touch screen technology is not quite up to speed with physical button transitions from what I can tell.  You can’t turn pages as quickly as you can with the buttons.

Another good improvement that goes along with smoother transitions would be to erase the previous page shadowing that seems to linger when I move on to the next page.

Other than those two issues, I have really enjoyed my Kindle Touch.  I especially like the grip on the back and sides, and the compact size.  It fits much more easily in my purse than my Kindle 2 did.

Stay tuned for the automatic update announcement.  As I mentioned earlier in the post, until then the manual download with instructions is fully available on Amazon’s website.

 

Kindle Infinite Reboot When Updating

I’ve received several messages from people who try to install an update or a hack (for example Unicode Font Hack) and Kindle enters infinite install update-fail-reboot cycle. Some believe that the device is bricked. I also saw people posting on forums about similar problems. Good news is that if it happened to your device chances are it’s not bricked. All you need to do is put your device into Recovery Mode by holding “Home” button when the device boots up. Once in recovery mode, connect it to your PC via USB cable and remove the update_*.bin file that fails to install from the Kindle drive, unplug the USB cable and then press “R” to reboot the Kindle. It should boot normally. Once it boots you can make another attempt and installing the same update. Most likely you will not have the same problem.

It’s unclear what causes this problem. I saw it happening with hacks as well with official Amazon updates. Deleting and copying the same update will fix it. I can guess that there is some bug in Kindle USB disk related software and sometimes update file is not stored correctly which causes update unpacker to fail. Good way to test this theory would be to make a copy of the faulty update file from the Kindle drive when in recovery mode and compare it to the original. I’ll test it if I get a chance.

Kindle Software 2.0.3 (327610024)

Kindle software update version 2.0.3 is being rolled out over the WhisperNet. I decided not to wait for the automated installation to fail because I have font hack and Savory installed and did a manual update. Uninstallers for both hacks worked just fine and official update installed without any problems. I used Igor’s script to take a peek inside the update packages and copied some files from Kindle before I installed the update. I then sucesfully applied the official patch, made another copy of the files that were updated but didn’t find any exciting changes.

All-in-all, it looks like a collection of bugfixes. It’s possible that TTS change is there.

First thing after the official patch – I’ve reinstalled the Unicode Font Hack and it installed just fine.

Kindle Software Update 2.0.3

Kindle Software Update 2.0.3

Unicode Fonts for Kindle 2 v0.1

Patches were tested by several volunteers and all results were positive. The patch works and doesn’t cause any problems. You can now read books on your Amazon Kindle 2 in Russian, Chinese, Japanese and probably number of other languages.

Currently I’m releasing hack with two different fonts: Liberation that comes from RedHat Linux and Droid that comes from Google Android project. Both fonts are open-source and they are the best ones I could find that suit the needs of this hack. Finding good fonts was much harder than creating the hack itself.

Instructions and download links can be found here. Please-please-please-please-please do be very-very-very-very-very careful if you decide to experiment with adding your own fonts to the hack. If you find good free or reasonably priced fonts that work – please let me know – I’ll test them and make more versions of the hack available here and give you proper credit. Please spread the word about this hack as it will increase chances of someone finding better fonts that can be used with it.

Here are some screenshots of what Kindle 2 with hacked fonts looks like:

kindle-ufhack-v01-liberation

kindle-ufhack-v01-droid

I would like to thank John, Ted and some other folks for helping me test this patch. Another big thank you goes to Igor who created the python script that creates Kindle 2 update packages.

I’ll now shift my attention to figuring out creating custom recovery mode updates. Once this is done – I’ll have much more freedom in messing with fonts and other settings without fear of bricking my Kindle 2.

Kindle 2 Software Update 2.0.2 (309510017)

My Amazon Kindle 2 just updated itself to new firmware version 2.0.2 (309510017).

kindle software 2.0.2 (309510017)

At the moment there are no official release notes from Amazon.com, however by looking at the source code I could speculate that there are some changes related to sound system (most likely bugfix). There seem to be changes related to watchdog timer. In plain English it’s a software and hardware system that will reboot your Kindle automatically in case it freezes and stops responding to user input.

Some people have reported that screen seems to refresh a tad faster now. Now that I’ve read it I seem to notice it too but it could be the placebo effect. Please leave a comment if you noticed any changes in your Kindle 2 after the update was applied.

If you have Kindle 2 Screensaver Hack installed you’ll need to uninstall it first and then apply the update manually. After update is installed you can re-install the hack.

Kindle Software Update 2.0.1 (303870012)

Today my Kindle 2 updated itself to 2.0.1 (303870012) without even me noticing it. I had very hard time figuring out what this update is about since it’s not officially announced by Amazon (although it’s listed on the source code page) however – here’s what I could gather:

  • This may or may not be related to selectively disabling text-to-speech feature on some books since on one hand the updated started circulating among limited number of users before the decision was announced. On the other hand it’s very logical that Amazon prepared the code that started testing it on limited number of Kindle’s before it made the official announcement.
  • Some users have reported that 5-way controller got an acceleration feature (cursor starts moving faster after a second of holding the controller in some direction). I checked and it really seems to be the case now, though I can’t say that the feature wasn’t there in the first place.
  • At first it was rumored that this update addresses some kind of hardware issue that affects only some devices however this proved false since gradually more and more Kindle owners are getting this update.

I’ve downloaded both 2.0 and 2.0.1 source codes, ran a WinDiff (a program that finds changes in the source code) and here’s what I’ve found:

  • Several changes in power management code including the code that talks to MC13783 power management controller. These are most likely to improve battery life.
  • Minor change in code related to ISP1504 USB Hi-Speed transciever.

This only entails changes made to GPL portion of the Kindle source. Amazon code that controls high-level Kindle functions is not published so there’s no telling what was changed there. My personal guess would be that it is the text-to-speech update that was released before decision was publicly announced.

kindle-software-2-0-1

Instructions for manually installing this update can be found here. Use at your own risk!

Updating Kindle Firmware

After my last post about custom Kindle firmwares possibly making appearance soon, I received several emails with questions on how official firmware updates should be applied. Indeed there is very little information in the User’s Manual on how to update the Kindle software.

Normally Kindle 2 would automatically download appropriate software updates if it is connected to the WhisperNet and automatically intall it when Kindle goes into sleep mode. Update installation will be followed by a reboot.

If you are don’t have Sprint EVDO coverage and therefore don’t have access to WhisperNet update can be done manually by following these steps:

  1. Download appropriate update file from Amazon.com. Kindle 1 updates should be downloaded from http://www.amazon.com/update_kindle.bin. Kindle 2 users should download from http://www.amazon.com/update_kindle2.bin. It’s very important not to mix these files as you can possibly brick your Kindle by installing the wrong update.
  2. Connect your Kindle to your PC via USB cable.
  3. Once Kindle USB drive is mounted copy the downloaded file to the root folder of it.
  4. Unmount the drive using Safely remove installed hardware icon in the system tray (next to the clock, volume control icon etc)
  5. Disconnect Kindle from the PC.
  6. Go to the Home Screen, press Menu and select settings and then select “Update Your Kindle”. If your Kindle is already updated the menu item will be gray and you will not be able to select it.
  7. Once update is installed your Kindle will reboot.

Please be extremely careful when following these instructions and even then do it at your own risk!

Reflashing Kindle 2 with custom firmware may soon be a reality.

It looks like Jesse Vincent has found a way to re-flash Kindle 2 with custom hand-made firmwares. At the moment he’s not uncovering any details of the process. Hopefully, he or somebody else would soon come up with firmware that would support full range of Unicode international characters to enable proper display of Asian, Cyrillic and other characters on web-pages and in downloaded eBooks and documents.

It took Microsoft Zune more than a year to put a Unicode font in the firmware (even considering that Zune is a Windows Mobile-based device, and Windows Mobile had proper Unicode support for ages). This is why I don’t believe we would see Unicode support in official firmware updates from Amazon and Kindle community would be better off helping themselves.