Augustina's Technological Blog

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Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category

Managing Ebooks on the Kindle

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DefectiveByDesign and other Free Speech advocacy groups have been targeting the Kindle for its DRM limited content. This was something I grappled with when I bought my Kindle last year. Of course Amazon wants Kindle users to buy books from their store, but limiting ebook content really limits the usefulness of the Kindle! What if an ebook I want isn’t available through Amazon, but is available in another format through another seller? What about checking out ebooks from the library?

I initially was interested in ebook readers because I use the bus as my main mode of transportation. Also I love to read but I tend to forget to return books to the library and my collection of used books keeps growing. Living in the city, I don’t have a lot of space. If I could have all of my (non-picture) books as ebooks I would be very satisfied.

The great thing about the Kindle is that I’ve been reading A LOT more and it’s a fun device to use.

The not-so-great thing is that Amazon limits the way you can access ebooks DRM’ed by other providers. Fortunately there are ways around these limitations!

Download Free Ebooks in Mobi Format

There are non-DRM books available that the Kindle can read and it’s really easy to do. I use my SD card because I think cables are annoying. Insert the SD card into your computer and create a new folder called “documents”.

There are several free ebook sites on the web, in particular Project Gutenburg and Mobipocket Free Books. Pick a title and download it in “mobi” format. Save it to the “documents” folder you created on your SD card.

Insert the SD card into the Kindle. When you start your Kindle up, you will see the titles you downloaded as “new” items.

Convert Digital Files to Mobi Format

Kindle offers a service that will convert other ebook formats (HTML, PDF, etc) to Mobi format. This service is $.10 USD per book. Alternatively you can convert it yourself. Either use MobiPocket Reader to import the file (it is saved under “My eBooks” in your Documents folder) or download MobiPocket Creator. Note that there may be additional challenges with DRM’ed ebooks. Once converted, copy the files into the “documents” folder either on your Kindle or on your SD card.

Register Your Kindle as a MobiPocket Reader Device

The final workaround involves registering your Kindle as a MobiPocket Reader device. Not only can you read Kindle ebooks on your computer, but you can transfer them to other devices, and even transfer ebooks DRM’ed by other providers to your Kindle. For more detailed instructions on converting the Kindle files to MobiPocket format, see this article.

What you’ll need: A Kindle, an SD Card (or USB Cable to transfer files between your Kindle and your computer), ActivePython 2.x, MobiPocket Reader, Python Scripts (see below for where to get them)

Step 1) Get the Serial Number of your Kindle.

This is under the back cover on the label above the battery. The “Serial No.” is listed under the first barcode.

Step 2) Copy the ebook file from the Kindle to your computer.

Insert the SD card into your Kindle. Open the Content Manager and select a book on your list. Choose the option to save it to the SD card. Alternatively you can download files from your Kindle profile in Amazon to your computer.

Turn off the Kindle and insert the SD card into your computer. Your book is in a folder called “downloads”. I have a folder I created in “Documents” called “Ebooks”.

Step 3) Install Python and download the scripts.

Install Python 2.6 if you haven’t already. Note that the scripts are not compatible with Python 3.x. On Windows, I recommend ActivePython. Next download a small suite of Python scripts from the linked article above, under “Step 4”. Please let me know if the archive is unavailable so I can update this article.

When you extract the archive, you can place the scripts in the Tools\scripts directory of your Python folder and update the system path variable. I placed mine in the same folder I save my ebook files to for convenience. You need to run the scripts from the same location as the files you copied from your Kindle.

Step 4) Create the Mobi file

Open up a command line interface. On Windows type “cmd” either in “Run” (XP) or in the search dialogue of the Windows menu (Vista).

Navigate to the folder containing the files you copied from your Kindle:

cd Documents\Ebooks

Type the following command, replacing yourserialnumber with your serial number:

python kindlepid.py yourserialnumber

The script returns a 10-digit PID as the last item on the printed line. The third to last digit of the PID is an asterisk(*). Make a note of the PID.

Step 5) Open the book in Mobipocket Reader.

Install Mobipocket Reader if you haven’t already done so.

To register your Kindle as a device in Mobipocket Reader, select Reading Devices from the navigation on the left. Click the button located at the upper center part of the window to add your Kindle. I named my Kindle “Kindle” and chose “Other” for device type. Enter your PID in the field that asks for a MobiPocket ID. To open Kindle files in Mobi, change the extension of the “.azw” file to “.mobi”. Select Open or Import to view the file in Mobipocket Reader.

Double click the .mobi file you created to open it in Mobipocket Reader. Use Mobipocket Reader to register other supported devices so you can transfer your ebooks to them!

Written by missaugustina

August 26, 2009 at 6:37 am

My First Day with the Samsung Reclaim

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I’ve been using a Motorola Razr for the past 3 years and I’ve been less than satisfied. My former employer provided me with a Samsung Blackjack running Windows Mobile, so I had no reason to upgrade my personal phone. When I was laid off in June, I had to give up my Blackjack.

Based on my experiences with both the Razr and the Blackjack, I created a list of features I wanted in my new phone (in order of importance):

  1. Qwerty keyboard
  2. Text messaging and social networking focus
  3. GPS / Google maps
  4. Web browsing at least as good as the Blackjack running Windows Mobile

Deal-breaking features: Decent battery life and responsive OS (minimal lag/slowness).

I originally considered the Palm Pre because it covered most of those things and a lot more. I hesitated because of the battery life issue. I didn’t feel the price of the Palm was worth it because of the battery life issue and because it’s a 1.0 piece of hardware. Furthermore, I don’t need all the bells an whistles the Pre has to offer. While it’s “cool” it’s not worth the price tag to me when there are mid-tier phones that can fit my needs. Finally, I would have to change my current plan to accommodate the Pre.

I saw an advertisement on Instructables for the Samsung Reclaim. I had never heard of this phone nor seen it before, so I started reading about it. The Samsung Reclaim’s plastic casing is made from corn-based bio-plastic material (40%) and Sprint claims the phone is overall made from 80% recycled materials. I was under the impression that meant the phone also had parts made from recycled plastic, but they may be counting the packaging. I checked on both the Sprint and Samsung websites and I was unable to find a whitepaper outlining exactly what the recycled content of the phone is. Regardless, I liked the look of the phone and I like the direction Sprint is going with it’s eco-conscious image.

I went to the Sprint store to try the phone out and I was pleased. The Samsung Reclaim comes in both a bright green and a bright blue. Both are great colors, however I liked the green better. I wanted to test the QWERTY keyboard for usability and although small, it is very accurate. I have small fingers and am comfortable with small buttons. The phone slides out easily and I can hold it without accidentally pressing any other buttons (unlike the Razr). Because I felt the phone meets my basic requirements, I purchased the Samsung Reclaim.

The OS is Sprint’s own operating system that is similar to the Pre’s WebOS in look and feel. The button navigation and labels are similar to my Razr so I could easily figure out how to move around. Other aspects had the same labels and organization as the Blackjack so things I had figured out there also applied to this phone. I haven’t read the manual yet and already I’ve changed my screen pattern and ringtones, set up twitter and facebook, set up email and instant messaging, updated my contacts using bluetooth from my old phone, set up Google applications, taken photos including a panoramic, made phone calls, and sent text messages. For me, this phone is super easy to use.

While the Reclaim is not a smartphone like the Pre (in fact Gizmodo coined the term “dumbphone”), the Reclaim has enough applications and features to sufficiently meet my requirements. The up front cost was $100 plus tax and the mail-in rebate takes 6-8 weeks to process. I am very pleased with this phone and will write a further update once I’ve used it awhile to discuss how well it does at meeting the requirements I’ve listed above.

Written by missaugustina

August 20, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Gadgets