Charles Engelke's Blog

November 17, 2011

Kindle Fire out of box experience #kindle

Filed under: Uncategorized — Charles Engelke @ 8:37 am
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My new Kindle Fire was waiting for me when I got home last night. So far, I’m very impressed.

It was packaged in a custom cardboard shipping box, opened by peeling off a well-marked strip. Once opened, there were only three things in the box: the Kindle Fire itself, a micro-USB power supply, and a small card welcoming the user and telling how to turn it on. The Kindle Fire was in a plastic wrapper that was a bit hard to slide off, though I could have just torn it off if I’d been in a hurry.

I guess I hit the power button while I was removing the plastic wrapper, because once I got the Fire out it was already turned on. I had to drag a ribbon (from right to left for a change) to get the first welcome screen to show.

What a contrast to when I turned on an iPad for the first time! The iPad just showed me an icon ordering me to connect it to a PC (which also required downloading and installing iTunes). With the Kindle Fire, I was just taken through a short dialog. I was first prompted to connect to a Wi-Fi network. The unit showed me available ones, I picked mine, and entered the password when prompted. The I went to a registration screen, which in my case didn’t require any effort at all because Amazon had already set it up. It then started downloading a software update and suggested I plug it in to get a full charge. I don’t know why a brand new unit should need a software update, but this was only a minor annoyance.

It was already about 90% charged, but I plugged it in anyway and waited the couple of minutes the download required, and then got back to the unit. And that was it, the Kindle Fire was ready to use, and registered with Amazon. All my books and music were available immediately (when I clicked the Cloud button instead of the Device button), as well as several apps.

I opened my current book and it took only a few seconds to download it to the device and open it to the current page I was reading. Amazon Prime video played back perfectly, as did my music I already had in Amazon’s cloud. I installed Netflix and entered my credentials, and it played back great as well.

Oh, I also installed the Barnes and Noble Nook application. That wasn’t in Amazon’s app store (go figure) but was easy to get using GetJar. It works great, too. Though I’m unlikely to actually buy any non-free books with it, because why would I? Thanks to the apparent collusion between Apple and the major book publishers, most book prices are fixed and cost the same regardless of seller. I like Amazon’s ecosystem, so there’s no reason to deal with anybody else.

How do I like the Kindle Fire as a tablet? It’s too early to tell much, but the smaller form factor is definitely better for me than the iPad or Galaxy Tab 10.1. It’s easy to hold it in one hand while using it, and the display is plenty large enough to use well. I think this form factor is going to become much more common than the larger ones.

July 1, 2011

Relative Performance in Amazon’s EC2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Charles Engelke @ 11:58 am
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I’ve been using Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud for several years now, but a lot more lately. And one thing that has always confused me is the relative benefits of using Elastic Block Store (EBS) versus instance store.  I’ve seen some posts on this, but they all set up sophisticated RAID configurations. What about some simpler guidance for a regular developer like me?

Well, I don’t have the answers, but I have a little bit of new data. I’m updating a site that starts by loading a 1.25GB flat file into MySql, then creating three indexes, then traversing that table to create a second, much smaller table.  Dealing with those 10 million rows is pretty slow, so I decided to see what difference it made using EBS or the instance store. While I was at it I tried different size machines. The results, shown in minutes to complete the task, are summarized in the table below:

Size  EBS  Instance
t1.micro 635
m1.large 56 66
m2.xlarge 47 49
m2.4xlarge 42 40
c1.xlarge 49 49

The t1.micro machine size is only available in EBS, and it got about 90% of the way through (finished creating all three indexes) then died.

This seems to show that (for this kind of operation) EBS performed noticeably but not enormously better than the instance store, but the difference shrank as available memory increased. Also, “larger” machines didn’t help much once there was enough memory available. Not surprising, since this is a single-threaded operation.

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