There’s An App For That

My nephews are completely fascinated with my Kindle Fire tablet.  If I have it powered on within a five meter radius of their position, they are instantly at my side – demanding to “play” with their Tía’s “toy”.  As I hardly thought the apps I frequent most – Evernote or Color Note – would hold their attention, and I definitely did not want them to access my internet browser, I needed to find an application that would be both kid friendly and easy to use.  I found that app in Kids Doodle.

The default screen.

When you open the Kids Doodle application for the first time, the screen you are presented with (after the prerequisite introduction/information screen) is blank, except for the six button options across the bottom of the screen.

Click to change background colors and/or erase screen.

The option on the far left is the background changing button.  Every time you touch this option, the screen erases itself and changes background color – almost like ripping off a used piece of blue construction paper to find a fresh green sheet underneath it.  Repeated touches to this option allows the user to cycle through the background colors available: black, navy blue, pale green, green, lime green, white, purple, lavender, peach, bright green, mustard yellow, burnt orange, slate gray, ocean blue…the list goes on.

Click to change your "pen".

The second to last option on the bottom-left hand side of the screen is the pen changing option.  With every touch of this button, the user is presented with a different kind of “pen” to use – giving the child (or adult) different options to pursue while drawing free-hand (with fingers) or with a stylus.  As for the options – the lines can become thin, fat, neon, or faded, and can either show up on the screen as a solid color or continuously change colors the longer the “pen” is used.

The third option from the end on the lower-left hand side of the screen is the Undo button.

Click to undo last action.

Click to change your "pen" into an eraser.

The option to the immediate right of the Undo button is the erase option.  Simply touch this option to transform your “pen” into an eraser.  When finished erasing, touch the pen changing option once to reactivate your “pen” and continue drawing.

Click to watch your drawing come to life, step-by-step!

The option second to the end on the screen’s lower-right hand side is the media button.  From the first “stroke of the pen” to the last on every new “sheet”, the Kids Doodle application records the user’s progress.  Pressing the media button shows the user a video of the picture they have just drawn, step-by-step from start to finish.  The video can be paused, stopped, fast-forwarded, rewound, and played again.

Click to save your masterpiece.

Here you have the option to save your work or share it.

The last option on the bottom-right hand side of the screen is the save button.  Pressing this option will save your current masterpiece into the Kids Doodle folder on your device.  Pressing the menu button on your tablet/phone will also give you the option to save your drawing, as well as the ability to easily share it with friends via email.

If you are looking for an app for your Android device that is easy to use and capable of entertaining curious young minds longer than a few seconds, I would highly recommend this free application for either your phone or tablet.  To download, either click on this link to send the app to your phone via the Amazon app marketplace, or type “Kids Doodle” (created by Bejoy Mobile) into the search bar of the Amazon marketplace on your phone.

The Fire Burns On!

To wrap up my commentary on the noted “issues” of the Kindle Fire’s performance, I need to address two more problems: the audio being slightly off on videos streamed through Netflix, and its tendency to crash.  For the first issue,  a fix is available.  All the user needs to do is download the newest version of Netflix…that’s it!  The best way to ensure that your Netflix account works on your Kindle is to download the app from the Amazon App Store (do not side-load it).  That way, new updates are available to the user immediately, ensuring that any audio bugs are corrected as soon as possible.

As for crashing – not once has my Kindle Fire crashed on me.  In talking to a friend (who also owns a Fire) I discovered that their tablet had only crashed when they attempted to do too many things at once on it – such as viewing a graphic heavy website and attempting to click on too many media links at once.  Crashing seems to be more operator error than an actual problem, though I will post should I ever have this issue on my own tablet.  Overall, the Kindle Fire can keep on boasting about its great performance.  They have most certainly earned the right!

What’s Up With the Pens?

If you have ever looked at a Kindle device, you will have noticed that they come packaged with stock images.  On the Kindle eReader, these images appear as a screensaver whenever the device has been left to idle; on the Kindle Fire, they are the background you see when you run the Fire with a different launcher that the one it came pre-installed with.  The images themselves are no so bad to look at – maybe I would not have minded them so much, were I not such a customization fiend.  I wanted to replace these images with my own (I like my NASA photos much better than random pictures of pens).  Unfortunately, the Fire comes with a built-in protocol that prevents users from using their own images: you will look at these pens and you will like it!  Irritated, I began to look into this issue in hopes of discovering a resolution.

Let me take a minute and back it up for those who I may have lost after I mentioned the phrase “adding a different launcher” to my Kindle.  What do I mean by “a different launcher”?  The launcher (or start-up/home screen) that the Fire comes with is extremely user-friendly: this makes it easy to navigate, and very easy to understand how it works.  While I can appreciate it from a new user’s perspective, I could not feign the same appreciation when comparing it to what I am used to dealing with on my phone or even my laptop.  I like a clean home screen with maybe a widget or two (like a clock and/or weather widget), and a hidden drop-down menu – not a carousel featuring pictures of every single app on my device.  I hated the carousel; it needed to go.

I decided to run the Go Launcher Ex application (found here, or by typing “Go Launcher Ex” into your phone’s Android marketplace) instead.  This is only one of the various options available to the user in terms of launchers, and seemed to be the app of choice among other Fire owners…and it is free.  Before doing this, you need to go to Amazon’s App Store and download the app ES File Explorer (by EStrongs, Inc.) to your Fire.  This free application is essentially a file manager for your Kindle, much like Windows Explorer for PC’s and the Mac Finder window.  Unfortunately, the Amazon App Store does not have the Go Launcher Ex app available for download – you will need to side-load it (explanation in last paragraph of linked post) and install it that way.  In order to side-load, obtain the .apk file from the Go Launcher Ex application and send it to your Kindle via data cable or in an email.  (I use the app Astro File Manager to obtain .apk files for all of my apps – it is free and extremely easy to operate!)  The ES File Explorer (ESFE) app allows you to find your downloaded .apk file and install it.  (The default Fire launcher does not have that capability, hence the necessity behind downloading ESFE.)  Voila!  You now have a new launcher!

As for that pesky problem of not being able to customize your own wallpaper – there is a solution.  You will need to download the free application Rotating Wallpaper (found here or in your phone’s marketplace under the same name).  With this app, you are able to pick as many (or few) pictures as you want and set them as your wallpaper.  Once you have transferred this app’s .apk file over to the Fire and installed it with ES File Explorer, open it up and touch Add Set; make sure to give your new wallpaper set (folder) a name when it prompts.  After you name the Set, you will be allowed to choose the image/s you wish to have as your wallpaper.  When you are done modifying your Set, touch the back arrow and then touch Settings.  You need to set the Rotate Interval to either one or five minutes, and make sure there is a check mark next to the option Delay on Sleep.  (The reason you have to set such a short rotation for your wallpaper is this: just as soon as you turn your Kindle’s screen off, the wallpaper defaults right back to those stock images (the cursed pens, again).  The lower you set the rotation value, the quicker your images will “rotate” to replace Amazon’s – the quicker, the better!  If you do not want to have your wallpaper changing images every minute (or whatever value you chose), only select one picture for your Wallpaper Set.  That way, you will only ever see that one image.)

While you can never completely avoid the built-in Amazon wallpaper, Rotating Wallpaper will help you avoid those ever-present pens as much as physically possible.  Until Amazon decides to allow their customers’ more options when it comes to customizing their Kindle Fire, this way will have to suffice.  Amazon’s wallpaper, while annoying, is not insurmountable, making this issue less of an operational concern, and more operator choice.

**Disclaimer:  I am not encouraging readers to side-load or root their devices, only sharing information on a theoretical level.  What someone does with this information is completely up to them.