Kindle

How I like to Study

stargazing

After taking a 4 year break from studying, I decided to ease myself in gently by studying a subject with which I was already fairly familiar. I opted to go for Galaxies, Stars and Planets, a short course with the Open University that has helped me formalise many of the concepts I have learned through being a member of The York Astronomical Society.

Location

My location of choice is the JB Morrell Library at the University of York. I’ve frequented the library since I worked at the Science Park in 2008. Back then, I was studying mathematics and I loved how studious the atmosphere was. Since then, the library has been refurbished making it even easier to get access to things like power sockets.

uni-library

I do actually have a favourite spot on the second floor which has a nice view and isn’t very far away from the toilets and recycling facilities. There is also a chilled water fountain nearby – but if water isn’t strong enough the CafĂ© is just downstairs. (Which is great for my Fitbit floors goal!)

The Morrell Library is located on the Heslington West campus. It is only a short walk to get to the largest plastic bottomed lake in Europe (fans of QI will understand the reference). I have found that it is a lovely place to walk around, and it gives me some exercise and fresh air when taking a break from studying.

bridge

Equipment

The course I’m currently studying centres around one key text book, which is supplied to me as part of the material sent by The Open University. It’s also available online in PDF and epub formats. The latter of which can be used (via conversion) with the Kindle.

large-scale-universe

My Kindle has been the main way I have read the study material while working on the course, and it’s obviously a lot easier to carry than the larger study book. I also keep a copy of the PDF versions on my Surface Pro 2 just in case I need to look at the diagrams in colour.

The Surface Pro is also great for the online elements, including watching videos provided by the Open University, which accompany the course.

einstein

I decided to use a Moleskine notebook to work through the activities and make notes. It actually ended up being larger than I needed, so I think the type of notebook I use will be something I look into changing, for the next course.

Because all the equipment I use is so small, everything fits in my Knomo bag without any problems. In previous years I had been carrying around a large backpack which contained more books, a larger computer and a calculator or two. Keeping things light and simple means I have less to carry with me when I study, helping make the whole experience more enjoyable.

dark-matter

Software and Services

When I started the course back in May, I set about doing a lot of the meta-work up front. This meant that I could just rely on these things moving forward.

  1. I downloaded all the images, videos, and other materials from the OU website and put them on my OneDrive, setting them to always be available offline on my Surface Pro
  2. I made a list of all the work that would be required in the study plan and put it all into OneNote as a task list
  3. I put the milestones and study dates for the whole course into my Outlook calendar
  4. I set up the Aladdin Sky Atlas software using IKVM.NET on my Surface, so that I didn’t need Java
  5. I converted the study book from epub into the Kindle format, and stored PDF versions for the Surface

When actually working on the activities and reading the material, I’ve also used Windows Calculator, Bing Wikipedia, Periodic Table and Star Chart. These applications have helped me do mathematics, look up further reading, and – very importantly – visualise the solar system using 3D graphics.

sun-diameter

hydrogen

The extra programs that the Surface Pro provided where not required for the course, but certainly helped.

Mindset

I decided that I only wanted to study at my study location, which means I go there once a week, every week and make no compromises about that. If a friend suggests doing something on one of these days, I’ve just had to be firm and say no.

surface-library

But doing it this way has really suited me, as it gets me away from a home full of distractions and into a productive environment with other people wanting to get things done. The motivation of wanting to progress my work has been enough to keep me going.

I may have found it a lot easier on this course because it’s a subject I already understand more than the average person, so I’ll be really interested to see how well I fare when I pick a new subject next year.

While I’m not ruling out taking time off again, I’m certainly planning to continue my mindset of life-long learning for the foreseeable future. I’m sure the way I like to study will only improve over time.

Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite Home Screen

Three years ago I got a Kindle – the first international version that Amazon released. The e-ink screen technology has moved forward over the last three years and I thought it would be a good time to look at upgrading to a more modern ebook reader. After waiting to see what ‘NewCo’ announced* (very little) I decided to go with what can only be described as the best ebook reader on the market – the Kindle Paperwhite.

The Kindle Paperwhite not only has a higher resolution screen with higher contrast, it also has an adjustable front lighting system which produces some fantastic results. I tend to have the light quite low most of the time, which is just right for my eyes to make the screen as legible as possible. I did find that having the screen too bright when in a dark room produced a kind of ghosting effect on my eyes. Though when I have been in a well lit room having the light nice and bright was quite comfortable indeed.

Reading on the Kindle Paperwhite

The software has been improved too, offering a new home screen which features large book covers, rather than the textual list of the previous versions. There are also new fonts and reading options, including a new indicator at the bottom which tells you how long there is left in the chapter or book in hours, rather than just a bar. This makes me much more likely to finish a chapter or two in one sitting, rather than just stopping part way through.

Kindle Paperwhite

Like my previous Kindle, I decided to get the optional leather cover. This time the cover includes a magnetic grasp which keeps it closed, and also turns on the device as you open it. My Kindle spends most of its time in the cover, but sometimes it is nice to take it out and feel how thin and light the Kindle Paperwhite really is. Overall, the case was an integral part of my decision to upgrade to the Kindle, and I think it’s something that Amazon has done really well.

If you’re looking to get a device dedicated to reading, the Kindle Paperwhite definitely gets my recommendation. From the amazing screen technology and high quality accessories, to the rich ecosystem and availability of reading material, I get the feeling this device is going to be by my side for at least the next three years.

* I mostly live in a Windows ecosystem and now that Microsoft and Barnes & Nobile have entered into a partnership, I figured it may be the right time to look at switching my ebook provider. Much to my dismay, the Nook devices that were announced in late 2012 were nothing more than Android tablets designed to compete with the Kindle Fire, not the Metro-style ebook reader I was hoping for.