The mysteries of Kindle debug mode

December 21, 2011

I’ve had my second-generation Kindle for coming on two years now, and even though it’s been a frustrating device sometimes, (especially since Canadian Kindle owners get the short end of the stick in numerous ways compared to Americans,) I’m glad I got it overall. A few days ago I converted a few chapters that a fellow Toronto area writer sent me many months ago into Kindle format, vowing that I’d get her my feedback before the year was out. I started reading on the bus yesterday, and figured out how to make annotations as I read.

Hello, frustration, I was wondering when I’d meet you again! There was an oddly unpredictable lag when clicking the ‘Save Note’ option – anywhere from a few seconds to at least two minutes before I could turn the page – or even read from the bottom of the page, where the annotation is entered.

At first I was wondering whether this was because of the way I’d used the old Mobipocket Desktop program to convert the word file into a format that Kindle could read – it wasn’t even quite the usual .mobi format. But trying annotations in a few other books resulted in the same lag, and I found a discussion thread on an e-reader forum talking about a very similar lag on Kindle 3. Apparently, it has something to do with the ‘clippings’ file that Kindle saves annotations in, and the background indexing process.

There was a solution posted – a debug script that you could type into the search box on the Kindle home screen, which would disable indexing until the Kindle was restarted. While indexing was off, apparently annotations could be entered quickly, which seemed to be a reasonable tradeoff for not updating the search indexes – and you can restart the Kindle, let it index overnight, and then disable the indexes again.

The script given was for Kindle 3, but I decided to give it a try and see how it worked, because I couldn’t find a similar method for disabling indexes on Kindle 2.

;debugOn

No real sign yet of whether it was working or not, as expected.

~help

The Kindle churned and thought about this for several seconds before bringing me back to the home screen, instead of showing me a list of debug commands. No joy. Hmm…

This time, I searched for ‘debug mode Kindle 2’ – and found something useful! It was a page with general information on debug in Kindle 2 versus 3, with the tip that in Kindle 3, you use the ~ tilde where Kindle 2 has the ` backquote.

Aha!

`help

This provided the list of debug commands. So I continued with:

`disableIndexing
;debugOff

And tested entering a new annotation – less than a second’s lag time. I haven’t tested it under real reading conditions yet, but I’m hopeful.


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