Kc234 : "Talking ebook readers".

With the IPAD hype in full swing we turn around and take a look at the current ebook readers on the market, specifically the Sony PR-505. We talk hardware, software and lead you down the patch of cross-platform open source hacks and tricks where we talk about CALIBRE as a great Ebook-management software. Why does the PR-505 come without an internet connection ? And why is that a good thing. Put down your smelly paper book and come listen to KC0034 .. to find out.

Shownotes.

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Simplicity : One machine to rule them all.

When you come down to it, all geeks are voyeurs. They just LOVE to look at how other geeks have setup their little Geek-Palace and get some tips and ideas from there. Recently I posted the pictures of "The Laundry Room" on Flickr. Last week however, i had to re-arrange some of my setup due to the fact that I made little "impulse buy". This purchase consisted of a 24 inch Imac that was on sale at Dixxons (A Chain of electronic stores in the Netherlands that frequently have pretty good deals on Apple stuff). Since this was a model that was no longer being made ( Its all 27 and 21 inch now) they had a few 24 inch macs on sale for as little as 1095 euro’s. We had walked passed the store a couple of times over the last few weeks and had commented back and forth that this was in fact a it was a very good deal for anyone looking for a cheap but awesome Mac. Since Nyana has put our other Imac on the kitchen table , it is almost in constant use , you know how the story ends right?  Our techlove got the best of us and before we knew it we were dragging a big white box into our home.

This of course meant we had to re-arrange some of the items in my office. Since I had about 24 inches of real estate coming my way, I thought of moving my 28 inch secondary display that was hooked up to my Macbook Pro, to our bedroom (so serve as a TV screen ) But once I had set everything up, their proved to be plenty of room for both displays in my office.

 

Click Picture for full size image.

So right now I have the 24 inch Imac on a "central" position on my desk, flanked by the 28 inch monitor on the right. Now you might think that this amount of screen real estate is obscene .. and you’re probably right, but it is also very practical. You see, as a cross platform "slider" jumping from operating system to operating system, this "giant screen" is very useful. The 24 inch Imac is more then powerful enough to handle more the one operating system at once. So instead of "just" running OSX and some applications, it is more then capable of running Windows 7 or some installations of Linux side by side. So where we had two computers on two screens before, I’m using one "central computer" with multiple screens (and multiple keyboards).

Multiple keyboards ? Why  ?

It would be perfectly possible to use just one keyboard and mouse combination on this machine. The wireless apple keyboard (I’m using one from Logitech) is brilliant BUT there is an issue. There is a small difference between French AZERTY keyboards by Apple and French AZERTY keyboards for pc’s. For one the placement of the @ key, and several other buttons. This is not really an issue when you use Ubuntu or Windows virtual machines (For Windows there are bootcamp drivers that fix this keyboard ‘indifference’ ) For Ubuntu systems you can choose the ‘French Macintosh’ keyboard layout when you install. All of that is not really a problem. The problem comes to the party when I need to ‘remote control’ windows machines using the remote desktop software called Logmein. The remote systems (of friends and family) that i need to fix/upgrade/use etc have French Azerty keyboards. Now when I do this using a system with a mac keyboard layout the keyboard mapping gets all garbled up on the other side and its VERY annoying. So to fix this problem I remote control other users systems from a Windows 7 virtual machine using a second external keyboard. Its like having two computers side-by-side with two keyboards, but just one central ‘cpu unit’.

 

 

Click Picture for full size image.

 

And then some.
But lets not forget the ‘remote’ systems that are under my command. Using remote connection programs like the terminal, The Remote Desktop Connection viewer from Microsoft, the FreeNx client for Linux, all of these applications hook me up with other systems (around the house / around the planet) that I can control from this ‘center seat’. So is 52 inches of real estate too much ? Depends if you say its just for ‘one’ computer. Its in fact for "several systems" at the same time. (AND for a full 28 inch wide version of Tweetdeck it is just plain overkill).

 

Click on the picture for the ORIGINAL Size :

3840 x 1200 pixels.

 

 

Teleport.
I could even add another player to the party by hooking up my Macbook Pro on the other side of my screen and use TELEPORT to control it using just one apple keyboard – mouse combination. But the addition of a "second" computer to the mix does not strike me as very productive .. Yet 🙂

Links.

NxFree

Teleport

RDP Client for the mac.

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Build your own Astromech Droid.

Ok , you can be good with your hands .. and you can build your own freakin WORKING astromech droid. As this video below illustrates, this gentleman is one belonging to the latter category. Some day you get up and you say : Today I want to build an R2-D2 unit and impress all of my friends.  Good for you buddy .. go right ahead. BUT this man takes it one step further and takes his little droid beyond visits to HOOTERS and such. As we can see his little R2 unit brings joy to children, people who are sick and less fortunate and .. even those who are going to get married. So for that we applaud him .. (and insert the video).

 

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Build in Podcatcher in your Ipod.

Never mind the fact that i’m online most of the day, and live at least 80 percent of my waking hours connected to some kind of broadband connection, sometimes you just have to go “off the net”. Since I spend a lot of time in the car (and on the road) I consume a fair amount of web based content like for example E-books and Podcasts, while i’m “away” from my home network.  In order to have a picnic, you need to make your sandwiches before you leave, and the same thing is true if you want to listen to podcasts in the car or read some RSS feed on your Ebook reader while you are having lunch. The biggest “Bitch” of this process is that you need to “sync up” before you go. This means firing up whatever computer you require, download the content that you want to have, attach your portable device and sync it up. No biggie one would think, however I think the whole procedure is a bit to much hassle for my taste. Why in this day and age do we need to go through all this trouble to get our content on our portable devices. Can’t they get it for themselves ? Can’t this process be automated in some sort of manner ? There has to be a better way. The reason for my rant comes from the fact that I always “forget” to sync up the night before and end up needing to “update” my Ipod (and Ebook reader) with ‘fresh’ content in the morning, before I leave to work. I can tell you nothing is more annoying then having to ‘fire up’ a system, WAIT for content to download, CONNECT your portable device, WAIT for it to sync up. Even if I get up early enough for the entire process to complete its stilll a hassle. There has to be a better way.

Why does my Ipod, a device that has wifi and can surf the Internet like my Ipod touch, need a cable to sync podcasts !
If you think of it, its completely ridiculous. Every morning i would have to Boot up Nyana’s Imac (our main music collection and podcast subscriptions are on that machine) Launch Itunes (wait for it to “send its genius results back to apple) download fresh podcasts (quite an effort if you have quite a few) Hook up my ipod to the cable and sync over the podcasts. Never mind the stupidity of the concept of having to ‘tether’ a wifi enabled device to another wifi enabled device, its also a MANUAL process. I HATE manual processes, especially if the time consumed by them could be better spent having coffee or sleeping 40 seconds longer. So there had to be a solution for my problem. It would be ideal if the Ipod touch could have a built-in podcatcher. But that would “duplicate” some of that precious Itunes functionality Apple is so protective about. But after some Googling I DID find an application that might help me out. Unlike what we mostly talk about on the blog here, its NOT a freebee, but for 79 eurocent i thought i COULD give it a try. RSS-PLAYER may have a very simple name, but it does the job quite surprisingly. Available in the Itunes store it lets you (after installation to your ipod touch or Ipone) look for podcasts in its online directory (and subscribe to them) OR enter RSS feeds of podcasts manually. All in all its a very simple application that does its job very well. You “refresh” your subscribed podcasts from the home screen and RSS PLAYER will DOWNLOAD the latest episode of each feed to your Ipod over wifi. The OTHER episodes in the podcast feed are ALSO available to play via streaming. This is a very handy functionality when i want to listen to some episodes i hadn’t downloaded earlier, while i’m still at home. Whenever i’m cleaning the house or training the dog in our yard, i pop the Ipod in my pocket and “stream” whatever episodes there are in the feeds while still in reach of my Wifi access point. Should i want to listen to an episode “offline” I just select the episode and ask for it to be downloaded manually aswell. RSS PLAYER deletes the older episodes (you can save up to how many you prefer) , gives you a little ‘floppy disk’ icon before the feed entry to show you the episode has been “downloaded” or is available for “streaming”. The application “parses” your RSS feeds every hour or once every day, however the application has to be running (and wifi needs to be enabled and connected) to do that.

The way I use it is that I plop my ipod touch in our charging station, open up RSS PLAYER and tell it to ‘refresh’ my podcast lists. RSS PLAYER downloads all the podcasts in the background as it charges, and in the morning I just snatch the Ipod from the charger and am off. And when I don’t have the content available offline, I can just war-drive my way to an open hot-spot and download (or stream) my content from there. A truely remarkable app for a small price. Ok , it might be a liiiitle bulky and not have the well polished “finish” other native Ipod-Iphone apps have, but it does the trick. My Itunes isn’t polluted with podcasts, RSS PLAYER has built in playlists for unplayed episodes etc, it supports downloading AND PLAYING of screencasts .. its everything you want when you are too lazy to sync.

Download RSS PLAYER app from the Itunes Store or go to their website HERE .

In part Two : Syncing up my Ebook Reader

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Walking the dog thanks to Youtube.

The say you can find just about everything on the internet, and if "they" say that , its probably true. From the formula for a perfect Café Latte to the formula for an atom bomb, from pictures of kittens to full out FluffyPron ( hello @woollymittens 😉 ) There is indeed no source of information more powerful then "The interwebs". One side of the net that has been "under – appreciated " for providing us with valuable information is Youtube. Sure enough, "The Tube" is awesome for entertainment. Posting little flicks of you best friend face-planting his fresh nosejob into gray unforgiving concrete is hilarious (and a wonderful tribute to gravity), but youtube has more to offer sometimes. Personally I see Youtube as a great source for "instructional" videos. Wether its on some DYI work (putting up Cornishes in my office) or for something as simple as walking your dog. Our Dobberman Dog "Lot’cha" (Klingon for : I’ll tear your nuts out with my bare teeth if you bring that copy of Windows Millenium into this house) is a super-sweet dog, but VERY enthusiastic when we go on walks. Needles to say she can yank her (and my) chain so hard, I am positive that my right arm MUST be longer then my left one. So yesterday , after another tug-of-war between my and my beloved K9, I hit the youtubes for some short and informative videos on "how to walk your dog". And behold ! it is FULL of it ! No longer do you need to worry about reading through an enormous amount of texts and instructions, Youtube can be the perfect source for short, informative, compressed and handy instructional video’s.

 

 

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Linux runs on Everything ? Part two.

Find PART ONE of this series HERE.

IN our second part of the series about “Linux running on everything” we are going to take it one step further. Lets take look at a few Linux distributions that work ‘from the command line’. Now “From the command line” can mean quite a lot of things. It can be an all black screen with a cryptic cursor blinking, or a fully equipped (ASCII) menu interface that lets you do (almost) all the things that you do and then some. So depending on what version you choose your mileage may vary. When it comes down to the ” Hardware Footprint ” these Linux distributions vary a little. It depends on what you install, how many applications you are running, how many users are connected and what the machine actually has  to DO for you. Many people think that a “command line” install of any version of Linux requires only “minimal hardware” but that is where you are wrong. When installing a command line version of Ubuntu Server last year, and using it as a VM-ware Server to run 5 Virtual machines, i can assure you that CPU power, Memory and Hard disk space where very high on my wish list.  But that’s not what we are looking for today. We are going to take a look at three “command line” versions of Linux that you might be able to use on a day to day basis…. on minimal hardware.

 

Ubuntu Server.

 

The “Ubuntu Server” distribution is what we could call ‘Ubuntu Linux without the graphical user interface’ . No Kde , no Gnome, No fancy desktop, just a plain black screen with a blinking cursor, but PLENTY of possibilities. Setting up the Ubuntu server (as mentioned in our screencasts ) is not that hard.

These days you get a fairly easy installation wizzard that lets you ‘choose” what kind of server (if any) you want to set up. Where installing a LAMP (Linux, Apache, Mysql) webserver was hard before, now you can just tick the box when installing and.. Hopla. The new 9.10 version also comes with the ability to turn it into a virtual machine server during setup (or even enable some cloud computing) just by ticking a box. But when we are talking about everyday use, the great thing about the command line interface is that it is “very light” to interface with either locally or remotely.

Enabling SSH to connect via a ‘secure shell’ is a breeze and lets you interface with the command line of your system from ANY computer all over the globe, as long as you open up the correct port on the firewall. Enabling the SSH server is done by checking the right box at installtion and after about 20 minutes you have your system up and running. This is of course a very “basic” system. Its versatile but it also means it does not come with a lot of “basic” applications installed. Its like a big box of lego and you have to choose what you want to build. You can install apps VERY easily over the command line with the apt-get command (Sudo apt-get install NAMEOFAPPLICATION) and there are a lot of cool ones out there. Caferninja has posted a link in his blog to THIS website listing a whole slew of command line applications you can use.

Some of them are fairly easy to use, some of them are pretty hard to use. We come back to the statement that some applications just need a graphical interface (For example Video Editing) and others are better to do with the command line interface (renaming a bunch of files etc). But the “Command line version” of Ubuntu is very suited as a versatile platform for your command line stuff. With the combination of “Screen” (see our Docu cast episode about how to use that ) and applications like Centerim, Irssi, Alpine, Mc and others you can have a pretty nice machine up and running in no time.

Minimal hardware record : An Ubuntu 8.04 server, with a LAMP web server, an SSH server, running Alpine (mail) Centerim (chat) Irssi (irc) Mc (file explorer) doing automated backups using Rsync and Cron and some other stuff : Compaq Armada E500 (with a busted screen and keyboard) 256 meg ram and a 8 gigabyte hard drive. DOWNLOAD HERE

 

 

Adriane Knoppix.

For a change this is NOT a Ubuntu installation. Its actually based on the famous KNOPPIX live cd’s but this version has a little bit of a twist. This is a command line version of Linux, Pre-packed with quite a few applications AND a screen reader that reads out everything that is on the screen. WHY i hear you say ? Well, this version is originally intended for the visually impaired who, thanks to the simple setup of the command line menu’s AND the screen reader, can use the system very easily. For those of you who don’t want a blinking cursor at the command line, but want an easy menu to run all of your applications ? Adriane Linux might be an interesting tool. The cool thing is you can also use your mouse to navigate. Adriane comes with browser, email, notebook manager AND some graphical programs out of the box. SO if you are running this distribution on a laptop you CAN always open up Firefox when you need to.

Minimal Hardware Record : A virtual machine, with a harddrive of 4 gigabytes and 256 megabytes of ram assigned. Download HERE.

 

 

 

INX linux. 

This last distribution we are talking about is one for the true command line geeks. If you want to do (almost) everything from the command line, want ALL of your applications pre-installed AND you want an easy menu structure to navigate, you might want to try out INX linux. INX is a ubuntu 8.10 based distribution that has an intricate menu structure, a LOT of applications AND the ability to PLAY VIDEO ! (using a thing called the “frame buffer” it IS able to display videos on your- otherwise command line – screen). This is a pretty complex and complicated command line version of Linux, but the designer HAS made sure there are some basic tutorials included. If you want to try out all kinds of text-based apps and see how far you can take your command line fetish : THIS is the distro you want. You can download the pre-built virtual machine (very nice to tinker with), the Live cd (that works on ANY computer) or build it yourself by installing a basic version of ubuntu 8.10 and downloading and running the installation script. Inx is the lightest distro in this series

Minimal Hardware Record : A virtual machine with 128 megs of ram and a 2 gigabyte harddrive footprint. DOWNLOAD HERE.

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Linux runs on Everything ? Part one.

One of the myths that are out there , is that Linux runs on “everything”. Technically, this is true, Linux does “RUN” on even the smallest and most underpowered devices (Appliances like routers, your Tivo and some cellphones) and sure enough, geeks manage to run Linux on lighter computers like a 486, just to prove their point. The question is : What kind of “Linux” are they running on those machines. I mean : Linux is a very broad term when you think about it. It can range from command-line-Linux only, to a full desktop version with tons of apps and cool COMPIZ effects, to even a super cluster rendering the next pixar movie. There are many “variations” and “incarnations” of Linux, and depending on what you work with , they sure don’t run on “everything”. There is a difference between ‘application-like bare minimum Linux versions’ that do one thing and one thing well, there is the “mid range” that lets you do about everything as long as you are happy with the command line. Finally there is the “everyday Linux” that lets us live our life on the web inside a graphical user interface with common applications like Firefox, Flash etc.   In the next series of articles I’ll write up some personal experiences on working with these several “incarnations” of Linux. I’ll show you what i used them for, and what my personal “record” is on lowest hardware requirements.

 

 

 

The Bare Minimum Linux Distro called … FREESCO.

Sure , you can run Linux on a 468, if you only install the Kernel (the heart of the operating system) and a VI or Nano editor. What you have then is a glorified typewriter (that is if you add in some network support) and I’ve been known to use “light” versions of Linux like that to get stuff done. Back when I worked for the educational department was in need of some network printers. Most printers they had lying around came with a parallel port connector and where only useful when they where hooked up to a “local” computer. Pretty shitty if you wanted to use them as a network printer, so other students could print to that printer via the network. In those days people would “sneaker net” their files around using Floppy disks from computer to computer. I had to put and end to that and get those printers networked. Sharing out the printers on the local computers ? not done. (Systems would be shut down and printers would be unreachable). Network printers ?  no money for that. Network-printing boxes ( Parallel to Lan adapter ) ? No money for that either. The only thing I had lying around in plenty of number where old 486 computers. Time for some Linux Magic : FREESCO  A Linux based distribution that allowed you to turn an old computer into a router AND a print server. The only thing you needed was : 8 MEGAbytes of ram, one or more network cards, a parallel port an .. a floppy drive. No harddisk required. This baby booted completely off a floppy drive and had easy (command line) wizards to follow in order to setup your old box as a router, a firewall or a print server. So this meant all the old machines I had could be turned into network print servers ! The devices could be turned on and off at random without damage to the operating system (everything was stored on a floppy) I could easily backup the ENTIRE print server (all i needed to do was ‘copy the floppy’ AND the thing played “money money money” by Abba when it finished booting ! Bare minimum Linux to the rescue.

My lowest hardware record : 486mhz processor, 8 megabytes of Edo Ram, 1 PCI network card, 1 Floppy drive.

Freesco Linux.  A router, Firewall and a print server using nothing but a floppy drive.

 

 

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Back on the Blog : Get well soon Dave.

I could say life has been getting in the way, I could say I have been busy with work, I could say I’ve been abducted by aliens. But only two out of those three statements would be correct. The truth is I’ve been getting a masters degree in procrastination and have been a bad bad blogger. So without further ado, lets kick back into rattling on the keyboard. Quite a bit has been going down the last few weeks, and you’ll be pleased to know that i’ve been working on some new projects and some new technology to "tune into your way of life". Its not always easy to find ‘new stuff’ to talk / podcast / screencast about, but the last few weeks of silence have brought up some interesting topics that we can talk about in the upcoming weeks. For those of you who realy want their "Knightwise-Fix" to trickle into their digital vains on a daily basis you can always check out my twitter feed (that is very active) on www.twitter.com/knightwise

But before we kick off into the new  series of articles and stuff, I want to take a moment to wish my good friend Dave Gray a " Get well Soon " from the heart. He’s my long time digital friend and we’ve been co-hosting both the Global geek and the Aussigeek podcast for a few years now. He’s had some serious health issues the last couple of weeks and all our hearts and thoughts go out to Dave and his family. So "Get Well Soon " buddy !

 

But since one picture is kinda dull, I decided to rally up some more Belgians to wish Dave Well . Its amazing how friendly, loving and caring all of them where. You can join in and send your own picture to the AGP Forums here

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