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Customize Your Kindle Screensaver August 6, 2012

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Popular Culture.

I read an article online about six weeks ago, in which the author said she had updated her Kindle screensaver so that it used only one image, which contained her name and her e-mail address. That way, if she accidentally left her Kindle somewhere, she had a better chance of getting it back than simply trusting whomever found it to do the whole “Home – Menu – Settings – Next Page” routine.

I thought, except for the only-one-image part, what a terrific idea!

When I wrote an e-mail to Amazon about updating the screensaver images on my Kindle, the form-letter reply was that this was impossible; I simply had to content myself with the 23 images that had been supplied.

But as the Cyberman said to Miss Hartigan, “This statement has been designated ‘a lie.’ ” In fact, it’s easy to “jailbreak” your Kindle. I now have more than a hundred screensaver images on my Kindle, including several each of my husband, my cats, and even myself. Each of these images contains my name and telephone number — and that was by far more difficult and time-consuming than jailbreaking my Kindle. (The image you see here is one of my favorite photos of my husband.)

Your first step will be to begin your collection of screensaver images. This will be thousands of times more time-consuming than jailbreaking your Kindle — so it’s lucky it’s also fun. Also luckily, you only have to jailbreak your Kindle once; after that, uploading additional images is simple. And don’t worry; according to Amazon customer service, updating your screensaver images does NOT void your warranty.

The Jailbreak

(1) First, be sure what Kindle you’re hacking. Your serial number ought to appear on the back of your Kindle; if not, do “Menu – Settings – Next Page” and look under “Device Info.” This chart of serial numbers will help:

B002 – Kindle US Wireless
B003 – Kindle Global Wireless
B004 – Kindle DX US Wireless
B005 – Kindle DX Global Wireless
B009 – Kindle DX Graphite
B006 – Kindle 3 3G US
B008 – Kindle 3 Wi-Fi
B00A – Kindle 3 3G UK/Europe

Next, you’ll need to download a recent copy of the ZIP file that contains all necessary hacks. I got mine from Kindle Boards; this link is to the Mobileread community’s version.

(2) Download this file, which will be named something similar to “kindle-jailbreak-0.4.N.zip.” Its contents will look similar to this:

Unzip this file.

(3) Connect your Kindle to your computer with its USB cable. Copy the (one) appropriate update file to your Kindle’s root (top) directory; for example, “update_screen_saver_0.4.N_k3g_install.bin.”

(4) When the correct file has been copied, detach your Kindle from the USB cable. Press “Home – Menu,” scroll down to and choose “Settings,” and press “Menu” again. If “Update Your Kindle” is grayed out, your Kindle has already been hacked and you can skip to uploading your own images (step 7). Otherwise, press “Update Your Kindle” and “OK.” I read online that this step can take a few minutes, but for my own Kindle, it took about 30 seconds.

Earlier Kindle versions may try to scare you by saying “FAILURE.” Don’t worry; you haven’t failed.

(5) Reconnect your Kindle to your computer via the USB cable. Open two computer directories, one for the subdirectory in which you have amassed your own images, one for the Kindle.

Now comes a step you’ll only have to take when uploading images. Press the “help” button on one of your two directories. Search for “show hidden,” then select “Click to show folder options.” Click on “View.” Early in “Advanced settings,” choose “Show hidden files, folders, and drives.” Your computer may try to dissuade you from doing this; if so, insist. You’re not going to be monkeying around with anything you shouldn’t.

(6) Now that you’re able to see hidden files, have a look at your Kindle’s root directory. It will look something like this:

If you don’t see the directory “system,” you may have used the wrong BIN update for your hack. Assuming you can see it, double-click first on “system,” then on “screen_saver.” And voila! There will be the 23 images that came with your Kindle.

(7) I downloaded all the original Kindle screensaver images onto my computer before I erased them from my Kindle. Your preference may vary. (Okay, there were one or two images I was so sick of looking at I just deleted them.)

Next, I copied all of my screensaver images to my Kindle’s “screen_saver” subdirectory.

Note: Your Kindle steps through your images in alphanumeric order. If you have a lot of images with similar names, such as “Cats 1” through “Cats 10,” and you don’t want them to clump in the rotation, this is the time for you to look at the “screen_saver” subdirectory using “Large Icons,” and change the names to disperse your images in a way that is more to your liking. For example, my screensaver has such images as “A-Jerry as baby,” “G-Jerry as boy,” and “V-Jerry in 2004,” not to mention “A-Escher 1,” “E-Escher 2,” and “X-Escher 5.” (All of my screensavers are in the PNG format, so the actual name would be, e.g., “X-Escher 5.png”. Kindles will also read JPG files.)

(8) Almost done! Detach your Kindle from its USB cable. Press “Home” and “Menu,” scroll down to and choose “Settings,” then “Menu” again, and scroll down to “Restart.” This will take a minute or two, but after that, your next step is: enjoy! On your computer, reverse the “show hidden” process — unless you enjoy wondering why your computer has so many “thumbs.db” files.

When you accumulate more screensaver images, simply connect your Kindle to your computer; open the subdirectory in which you keep your images; open your Kindle’s root directory; do “show hidden”; go to “F:>Kindle/system/screen_saver”; copy your images to “screen_saver”; restart your Kindle.

A housekeeping note: the subdirectory in which I keep my Kindle images has a subdirectory of its own, “Used,” to help me distinguish to-be-uploaded from already-uploaded.

Your Own Images

To make your own screensaver images, you need your own graphics editing program, such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. If you don’t want to spend any money, the program “Gimp” is good. (Gimp.com)

Create a subdirectory just for your Kindle images, then copy the images you want to use to that subdirectory. You don’t want anything bad happening accidentally to your precious originals.

Each of your Kindle screensaver images should be 600 pixels wide and 800 pixels tall, or 824 by 1200 for the Kindle DX. Ideally, they will be nice, vertical images to begin with, but you’re probably going to have to crop them. For example:

When your image is more or less the shape you want it, use your program’s “resize” function to resize it along the appropriate side. For example, if your original image is 300 pixels by 500 pixels, resize it to be 480 pixels by 800 pixels, rather than 600 pixels by 1000 pixels.

When the image is the right length on one side, use your program’s “add borders” function to bring the short side to the correct length/width. In the example above, I would add 60 pixels to the right and left margins so as to transform a width of 480 pixels to 600 pixels. While not strictly necessary, this will provide you with space to add your name and contact information.

You can also “add borders” to all four sides, as with the image of “Stephen Colber(t)” you see here. (I doubt this is the true appearance of the comedian Steve Colbert!) Notice that I left lots of space at the bottom of this image for you to add “This Kindle belongs to / Yourname / your contact information.”

Remember to save your image as 8-bit grayscale. Even if your Kindle displays color, grayscale saves space.

If you agree with me that having each image identify you and provide a contact, this is the time to do it. Lots of web surfing has left me with hundreds of type faces to choose among — and I rather like the images that let me use white letters on a dark background.

I’ve been having so much fun that I created a Flickr account so I could share my “public” screensaver images. Feel free to browse and download. Most of them are images I found online, but some of them I created myself. You’ve seen some of my favorites through this post.