Wednesday, 12 October 2011

By on October 12th, 2011 in Barbara, dogs, ebooks, technology

10:05 – Colin is really a Fearsome Predator now. This morning, he caught a chipmunk. Six times. The first time, the chipmunk froze. Colin pounced on it, and came up with it in his mouth. I shouted, “Drop it!” and he did, whereupon the chipmunk ran for its life. Colin gave it a headstart (seriously) and then overran it in about five steps, again coming up with it in his mouth. Again, he dropped it and it ran under a pile of leaves. He grabbed it again. This went on until he’d grabbed it six times. I’ve heard it said that Border Collies have had all the kill instinct bred out of them, and it’s obviously true. Despite the fact that he had it in his fangs repeatedly, he never bit down on it. The last time he dropped it, the chipmunk staggered away slowly and I dragged Colin away from it. I hope the chipmunk was just stunned rather than injured, but I’ll go out and look for it later.

Barbara is doing extremely well. This morning, she tried using my four-footed cane, which I need only for balance, particularly at night. I’ll borrow it back when I take Colin for a walk, but otherwise she’s welcome to use it. She’s still sleeping on the sofa, and will keep the walker frame for use at night if she needs to get up and also as a physical barrier to keep Colin from jumping up on her.

I just officially transferred my Kindle to Barbara. I connected it via USB and deleted dozens of titles I knew she wouldn’t want to read, but that still left her with 140 titles to sort through and decide whether or not she wants them. Most of those are free or $0.99 ebooks that I downloaded from Amazon because they sounded like something she might like. If she finds some authors/series that she enjoys we’ll buy the rest of the titles in that series, assuming they’re not outrageously priced.

Overall, I think the Kindle is nearly perfect. The exception is that its file management sucks dead lifeforms through a small tubular object. The fundamental problem is that Kindle uses a flat file structure unless you use its incredibly awkward organization tools. I should be able to create a directory structure on my hard drive and copy individual titles into that directory structure. If I then copy that directory structure to the Kindle, the directories should show up as top-level categories that contain the individual books. It doesn’t work that way. If, for example, I create a directory called “Downie, Ruth”, copy her four Medicus books into it, and then copy that directory to the Kindle, the four books show up as individual titles at the top level. In order to categorize them, I have to create a category named “Downie, Ruth” (or whatever) with the Kindle’s tiny little keyboard, go find each book, and manually transfer it to the new category. That takes lots of keystrokes and lots of time. It sucks. Nor is calibre any help. I can use it to organize the titles with no problem, but according to the calibre docs, Kindle makes no provision for transferring that organized structure via USB. The only consolation is that the Nook is just as suckful. Apparently, the only company that gets it is Sony, whose ebook readers support transferring organized structures. Still, I’ll never buy a Sony product, so there’s no use worrying about it.

13 Comments and discussion on "Wednesday, 12 October 2011"

  1. Peter Thomas says:

    Have you taken a look at the Kindle Collections plugin?

  2. Stu Nicol says:

    Peter: Thanks for the link to the Calibre plugin, I’ll check that out later.

    Regarding my public library and ebooks: Not all that wonderful.
    The most popular, A-list go on your waiting list instead of immediate download.
    For example:{CE1D9A18-51FF-48CB-AC21-79DBCA36C1E9}
    Then, after download, you have two weeks to read them or they vaporize.
    Additionally, I think that they are DRM’d as you cannot use Calibre to convert from epub to mobi, you have to download something, no cost though, from Adobe to convert.

  3. Roy Harvey says:

    In order to categorize them, I have to create a category named “Downie, Ruth” (or whatever) with the Kindle’s tiny little keyboard, go find each book, and manually transfer it to the new category. That takes lots of keystrokes and lots of time. It sucks.

    I don’t have a Kindle (yet), but I’ve been using the their Windows PC app.
    Since the PC app supports importing collections from another “device”, it seems conceivable that a Kindle might support importing collections from the PC app. That will do our host no good at all, but those who use windows might take a look.

    Creating collections on the PC app is not too difficult, and I certainly don’t have any complaint about the keyboard. It is particularly easy since I discovered that drag-and-drop is supported. Using the list-of-books view (no covers, one per line) it isn’t too bad to do drag-and-drop, especially since it is easy to filter the list by whatever I type into the Search Titles & Authors box. I can even have one collection on display and drag items to a different collection. Among the oddities is that I have found no way to re-order the collections, they display in the order I created them and that is that.

    Even with all that the flat-view sucks, just less.

  4. Chuck Waggoner says:

    I have lost more files using drag-and-drop than I care to remember. Just lost a couple (hopelessly) while I was babysitting the radio project for a week (using the station’s computer), a couple weeks ago. Often happens when the mouse hand bumps something and you let go of the click button. Who knows what the title of the file was, never mind where it went? Fortunately, there is Explorer^2 for Windows, and the file manager in Ubuntu allows 2 panes, from which it is easy to make a copy/move a lot less risky.

  5. Chuck Waggoner says:

    For the last week, there has been a back-and-forth about Linux vs. Windows going on at the Rivendell radio automation list. Rivendell runs on Linux. A couple of people who clearly have only ever run Windows (they even admit that Linux is too formidable for them to tackle), and have no personal experience with both systems, keep insisting that Windows is superior for most installations.

    Problem is, that tech types who actually support Rivendell on Linux keep coming out of the woodwork to relate their experiences—in many situations, practically case studies of before with Windows, and after switching to Linux—the result is that Linux requires FAR less IT support than Windows.

    Typical was the experience of the IT guy assigned to the radio station at the University of London in London. The shop was 100% Windows when he got there nearly 2 years ago. In his words, “It was awful, broken the vast majority of the time, unstable the rest of the time, and a pain in the ass to administrate—and that was with the entire college IT department on hand, providing us with software support and so on. We now run 90% Linux…and it’s rock solid, stable as anything. I’ve not touched any of the Linux boxes for months. We can properly monitor them, I can easily and securely remote in to fix things if anything does go wrong, and we can build redundancy into boxes very easily (we have two encoder machines for internet playout, both of which will pick themselves up from pretty much any mishaps—same goes for our file servers, mail server, web server, and so on).”

    Several others have chimed in and say that if it were not for Windows, they would be in dire straits financially, because their Linux stations require essentially zero maintenance–one or two visits a year. It is the Windows shops where they earn their money, with calls several times a month.

    What is really hard to take, is that the Windows proponents—I’m sure without knowing they are doing so—reveal their foolish ignorance in their comments and assertions. At least, they have indicated who NOT to call when there is trouble.

    One thing that is easily refuted by those with Linux experience is the so-called “training” factor. The Windows people insist that switching desktop computers from Windows to Linux requires training on how to use it. Again, those with better experience step in and quickly refute that. The college stations once more provide the proof: hundreds of students man each station during a year, and NONE of those stations provide any training for Linux desktops used in the operation (Rivendell, yes–but all radio automation requires training, including Windows automation software); if you can use Windows, you can switch to using Linux with no training whatever.

    One of the great things about Rivendell,—a feature which is lacking in every other automation software on the market,—is that Rivendell has its own command language. With it, you can invoke Linux shell scripts and do anything that Linux can do. That allows some pretty creative solutions to do anything from turning equipment on/off, changing satellite receiver channels and orientations, to unlocking the station doors during business hours.

  6. Don Armstrong says:

    Chuck, for a Windows drag’n’drop gone awry,
    simply select on the top ribbon – “Edit” then “Undo”.
    Returns you to where you were. No strange files in strange places.
    Whatever happened is undone.

  7. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Well, I’m still using XP, and probably will not have a computer with anything more advanced than that before I move to Linux altogether,—but that trick has never worked for me. All I get is a greyed-out Undo. Never tried it on anyone else’s computer; hope I can remember next time it happens.

  8. Gary Mugford says:

    I don’t use collections at all. I do the organization through calibre and then I use the title-sort to get my books in an order that I want. I can then re-sort into most recent order to delete the book I just read. The whole secret is in the organization of your calibre library and it’s ability to kick out to the Kindle a title that is different than the one you have on the book in calibre. Here’s MY scheme, not that there are different, and maybe better ones, out there.

    I have created some extra columns:
    xstatus (text,fixed set) XS? PM,R,x3,xp
    (Export status=Problem,Read,Ondevice(x3),Pending(xx))
    readrank(text,fixed set) RR 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9
    (ReadRank=1 best to 9 worst)
    tagsgm(comma sep. text) TagsGM
    My own set of top level tags, SF, Sports, Mystery, Thriller, Romance, etc.

    The following are created columns from other columns:

    genre Genre Two-letter abbreviations of My tags {#tagsgm:re( *(.[^\,]?)[^\,]*?(\,|$),\1\2)}
    stripped_series StrippedSeres Short form of series name {series:re(^(A|The|An)\s+,)||}
    shortened Shortened Short form of series with internal .. {#stripped_series:shorten(4,~,4)}
    initials Initials Acronym form of series name {#stripped_series:re([^\w]*(\w?)[^\s]+(\s|$),\1)}

    Next, I created a metadata plugboard for mobi:Kindle2. It’s a true work of art (and help from CHaley). Here it is (Hint, copy and paste, there are spaces you won’t spot):
    [{#readrank:ifempty(9)}{#genre:ifempty(SF)}] {#stripped_series:lookup(.\s,#initials,.,#shortened,series)}{series_index:|-|-}{title}

    Let me explain. It first sets up a square bracket, then the readRank, which is 9 by default if missing. It then adds a genre shortform, putting in SF if missing. Then we have the closing square bracket and a space. So far we have [1SF] or [2My] as examples. Now it puts in a series indicator. It tries for the full title first, then the .. in the middle version and then the initials. All trying to keep it to five characters or less, PLUS the volume number is the series. It adds a dash if it finds that there is a series. Lastly it adds the title. You KNEW that had to come eventually. So you might get something like [1My] SP15-Fearless Fifteen or [1My] Monk12-Mr. Monk On The Couch.

    NOW, when I get the book into the Kindle, it sorts by hotness first (1’s to the front), then genre within hotness, then series, then title. The Kindle can handle sorting by author or most recent first (needed to delete the book from within the Kindle, using the Kindle). It’s up to you to sort the hotness quotient. 1’s are for books I wanted read ASAP. 2 is for next volumes in series I am reading. 3 is for books from unfamiliar authors that have been recommended. 4 is for ‘popular’ books that I’m probably not interested in. 9 is for technical books. Your system will probably vary.

    There are holes in the system. You can’t up a 2 to a 1 within Kindle. I tend not to have to do that anyways, but you CAN delete it, change the 2 to a 1 in calibre and re-send it to the Kindle.

    Yes, this takes 15 minutes to set up and yes, you have to import your downloaded content TO calibre to send it BACK to the Kindle, so the effort is non-zero. But it’s close. And you can massage the formulas above to get exactly what you need, including making the compressed series info wider.

    Just a thought. GM

  9. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Thanks. The problem is that I’ve killed calibre. I had version 4.something installed, and it was showing that version 6.something was available. I’m running Ubuntu 9.04 on this system even though Ubuntu ended support for it something like a year ago, mainly because it’s my main system and I can’t afford the time to upgrade everything.

    I tried upgrading calibre through Ubuntu, but I have the latest version available as far as Ubuntu 9.04 is concerned. So I went to the calibre page and downloaded the installed for the current version. When I ran that, everything appeared to complete successfully, but when I ran calibre it still came up as version 4.something. So I nuked the /opt/calibre directory and tried installing again. Running calibre still brought up version 4. So I uninstalled calibre through Ubuntu, which said it completed the uninstall, and then re-re-installed the current version. This time running calibre generated an error message that wasn’t helpful. So I tried reinstalling the old version from Ubuntu, but that failed.

    Right now, everything is fine in the sense that I’m able to copy ebooks to Barbara’s Kindle and she’s able to read them. I’ll worry later about getting everything working with calibre. In fact, I’ll try to set aside some time to pull the hard drive from the current system and re-install the current Kubuntu on a new hard drive.

  10. BGrigg says:

    I have lost more files using drag-and-drop than I care to remember. Just lost a couple (hopelessly) while I was babysitting the radio project for a week (using the station’s computer), a couple weeks ago. Often happens when the mouse hand bumps something and you let go of the click button. Who knows what the title of the file was, never mind where it went? Fortunately, there is Explorer^2 for Windows, and the file manager in Ubuntu allows 2 panes, from which it is easy to make a copy/move a lot less risky.

    Chuck, Ctrl-Z works on “lost” files accidentally dropped while moving. Saved my ass more than once!

  11. dkreck says:

    While I might use a drag and drop from time to time I still find right-click/copy(or cut) right-click/paste a more suitable option.

  12. Roy Harvey says:

    Issues with drag-add-drop within Windows aside, the use within the Kindle PC app is non-destructive because it is not moving anything, only adding books to collections. A book can have multiple collections. Worst case is that you drop it on the wrong collection (I have) and end up with (for one example) as fiction title in the Reference collection. There is a right-click alternative that is far more cumbersome; I was very relieved to discover drag-and-drop.

  13. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Maybe my installation is borked, but Undo/Ctrl-Z has never worked for me to undo anything in WinExplorer. In fact, I can recall it not working in my W2k installations, too. I just looked, and there does not seem to be any setup that enables/disables that function that I can find, so this non-functionality is a mystery. But the “Undo” menu option is never anything but greyed out, when I have needed it in my system.

    However, I have learned to get along without dragging and dropping anything, as I was used to the 2 panel Norton Commander from DOS, long before Windows. Any mistake I make there (with Explorer^2, which is founded on Norton Commander) is easily seen and reversed. Only when I am on someone else’s computer do I ever have to drag and drop anything. And when dragging and dropping, there is nothing worse than the herky-jerky scrolling that is often necessary to get the destination in view–then, accidentally passing over some folder that automatically expands itself, shifting the destination out of view again and causing the need for even more herky-jerky scrolling, while the mouse finger starts getting tired of holding down.

    By the time I get one file dragged and dropped, I could have done half-a-dozen copy/move actions in Explorer^2, where you can navigate with Tab, Enter, Backspace and forget the mouse. And the great thing about Explorer^2 is that Alt-9 highlights files that do not exist in the other pane. Makes updating my podcasts (6 x weekly shows + 1 x daily) to the iPod about a 2 minute weekly job.

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