#BYOD Issues with @Amazon #Kindle #Fire

Source: Amazon.com
Update 1/24/2012: Be sure to read the update on the issue posted at the bottom of this blog entry!

The Amazon Kindle Fire has come blazing into schools, especially those with a BYOD focus. After all, Xmas just went by, and kids are dying to show off to each other what "Santa brung them!" Of course, I'm still trying to decide if I want to buy a Kindle Fire for my own use. I've already decided that the iPad 3 is a device I will probably invest in, but since I love my B&N Nook (the original), I don't need to invest in yet another device. My kids love their Amazon Kindles ($79 model).

For those of you stuck on the fence, this diagram that I saw via Beth Knittle might help you make a decision:
View full size at http://www.gliffy.com/publish/2059164/

I have to agree with Grant McWilliams comment about ereaders as book replacements:
If you want your reader to do more than just be a book then considering a Kindle Fire or Nook Color or ipad may make sense. For me none are options because I want a BOOK. The battery life of the kindle is in weeks, I can buy new books on the fly even if I'm not near wifi and I can read it anywhere I could read a real book because of the e-ink screen. My only complaints are that I wish the screen had larger margins and I'd like it to be waterproof.
However, as an ereader the Fire or the Nook Color make little sense since their battery life is measured on your fingers in hours, not weeks.
What happens when all these devices come to school? Earlier this month, one Texas school district posted the following problem:
I have a couple Kindle Fire Tablets that we are experimenting with. I am unable to access the internet through our system. The Kindle will connect to the wireless access points and will get a valid IP address from the dhcp server. I can ping the Kindle and the network connected icon shows it is connected but there is an “X” below it indicating that it has no internet access. Sure enough, when I try to get to a website, no access. If I enter a static IP address, it zips right to the internet with no issues. I might add that I even used the same IP address that the dhcp server assigned when I entered it statically and it worked.

My first thought that there was an issue with the dhcp server but to further complicate the issue, all my other devices (laptops, android devices, IPads, etc) connect to the internet using dhcp via the same server and wireless access points with no problem. It seems to be limited to the Kindle Fire only.

My consultant that I go to for issues I can’t solve has a lot of stuff going on and hasn’t had time to really dig into it but since the Kindle Fire is new, he hasn’t run into this issue either. Has anyone else had this experience or are your Kindles connecting like any other device? Does anyone have any advice? I’m not sure where to go from here. We are planning on deploying Kindle Fires to some classrooms but I obviously have to solve this problem first.
These [Kindle Fire] are owned by students or teachers. They are allowed to BYOT or BYOD. So far there have not been any issues, even with the older Kindles. After Christmas when everyone started showing up with their Kindle Fire that Santa Claus brought them did this problem come up.

BTW, according to Amazon’s official Kindle support page, the Kindle Fire does support enterprise.
I checked and I am running the latest version on the Kindle. Based on the responses I got, it appears this is a known issue with no solution. I guess we’ll see what happens. It makes it very difficult to initiate a BYOT or BYOD program with this issue. I have a bunch of kids and staff that got the Kindle Fire for Christmas. Not sure where to go from here.
Today, that district followed up with this remark:
To refresh your memory, I posted here that I was unable to get Kindle Fires to get to the internet through our Wireless system using DHCP. The device would get a valid IP address and could be pinged from within the network but would not get out to the internet.

There is no way to drill down in the Kindle to see what the subnet mask, default gateway and DNS information it was getting for the DHCP server. I suspect that they are not getting all the info needed from the DHCP server but I have no way to prove that. As soon as I put in a static IP along with the rest of the info, it zipped right to the internet.

In researching this issue and reaching out on tecsig  as well as other experts through other venues, it appears that this is a widespread problem with the Kindle Fire. Across the board, the only way to guarantee connectivity is to put static information in the Kindle Fire. Fortunately, the Kindle is easy to turn static on and off and it retains the static info entered so all a user has to do is turn static on and off as necessary.

The students and staff that have brought their Kindle Fires to school have all had a connectivity issues. Once I assign a static IPs and show them how to turn static on and off, it became a non-issue.

I tried to get in touch with someone at Amazon that I could talk with about the issue and how it relates to sales. That proved to be an impossible task. Amazon is one of the toughest companies to actually talk to a knowledgeable person that I have ever seen. They have their “firewall” reps in India or Pakistan and I could not get past them even when I asked to be transferred to someone in the US. There may be a way around that but I couldn’t find it in the short time I had.

The bottom line is the Kindle Fire is temperamental when trying to connect it to your network but that is overcome by assigning static IP addresses. The Kindle Fire still beats most other tablets for the price other than the IPad. We are still looking at the Kindle Fire as well as the Nook and some other devices for a test deployment in a classroom or two.

I would be curious to hear from anyone out there that has deployed any Kindle Fires, Nooks, or similar devices in their district and get any feedback you may have. I know a lot of you have deployed IPads but we simply do not have that kind of money and are looking for a good inexpensive solution that will do the job.
While other Texas districts are reporting that they haven't experienced this issue, it's clear that companies like Amazon may need to develop better interfaces that make it easier for school districts to connect with them better. What a great opportunity for Amazon to reach a wider audience in K-12 schools!

UPDATE 01/11/2012: Another update from the school district technologyfeatured above:

A short update.

Yesterday, I rounded up as many different devices as I could find and checked connectivity to my wireless network. The lot included older Kindles, IPads, I-Phones, several Android phones, a Nook, and several other off brand tablets. Every one of them connected to my DHCP server, got a valid IP address and went to the internet with no issues. A couple of the Android devices gave me a little trouble. Basically, I had to force the connection but then they were fine.

Several school districts responded through tecsig that they had no problems with the Fire. Several responded that they did. My consultant is pretty smart. He also checked with his friend at [another large district]. They have/had the same issue. My consultant checked all my network and firewall settings and could not explain why I was having this issue.

To further complicate the issue, if I entered all the network connection settings statically, the Kindle Fire connected just fine.

The bottom line to all this is that……..well, no one seems to know. I’m still planning on getting some Kindle Fires for the classroom. I’ll just configure them with static IPs and move on. It seems to be a mystery.

Probably my biggest complaint is Amazon. There doesn’t appear to be a way to speak with a US based, knowledgeable person. They need to learn the lesson that Dell did and bring all their education and business support back to the US. While I am going to use the Kindle Fire as an evaluation tablet for a couple classrooms, I will not make a large purchase until I know there is someone to talk to when I have an issue come up. It’s frustrating because I think the Fire is going to eventually beat out most if not all tablets except the IPad, mainly because of the price and what can be done with it. Amazon has an opportunity to take over the Non-IPad (is that a word? LOL) market but their customer service, or lack thereof, may prevent that.
Update 1/24/2012: It appears that the problem experienced by the school district quoted above was a local issue, NOT Amazon's fault. Here's the solution to the problem for other districts/orgs that may have encountered this problem:

I thought I would pass along some info that I finally figured out and some of you might be able to use down the road.

If you recall, I was the one asking for help on resolving a connectivity issue with Kindle Fires, or more specifically, the lack of a connection. I could connect with a static IP addressing scheme but the minute I switched over to DHCP, nada.

It turns out it was a DNS issue. I have several DNS IP addresses I use. It’s a long story as to why but they are all necessary. Apparently Kindles and I’m sure a lot of other devices only accept one or two DNS IPs when set to DHCP. I’m basing that on the fact that if I enter the info statically, there are only boxes for two DNS settings. The DNS setting I was using when I set it up statically was actually 3rd on the DNS list at the DHCP server. When I moved the DNS that worked statically up to 1st on the list, everything started working as it should.

I have been driving myself nuts for 2 weeks trying to figure out why the Kindle would not work when set to DHCP and it turns out to be something this simple. Now that I’ve found it, I’m kicking my rear because I should have found something that simple earlier.

So there it is. Something so simple yet hard to find. My Kindles are now working great.

In response to this, I sought clarification..."Was this you or Amazon?" and received this response:

Alas, I’m afraid so. Mea Culpa!

I still think Amazon needs to get on the ball with their customer service. I really think the Kindle Fire will quickly become # 2 in the market simply because of what it can do and the price. Those two factors could, very well send it past the IPad in sales. I believe they have a huge potential in the education market if they’ll get more responsive on their tech support/customer service side.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Anonymous said…
I had a similar problem with Kindle Fire on our school Wifi. Our network uses the CIPA filter to Authenticate users granting permission based on user ID. After 4 very frustrating support connections with Amazon (2 phone and 2 chat)where they keep asking me to reset the Fire and reset the Wifi (which connects fine to other devices). I was finally told that Silk did not support proxy settings. They said it might be in the plans to add this support but could not give me a timeline.
Anonymous said…
Fiberlink will be hosting a webinar on Thursday where you can learn best practice for securing the Kindle Fire in the enterprise. Not guaranteeing anything, but there is a Q&A section where you may be able to get some answers your looking for.

Free registration here: http://bit.ly/AhrCuT

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