Archive for July, 2010

Published by sylvia on 02 Jul 2010

Still trying to read ebooks …

Well, here I am again, still trying to find an eBook reader that will work on my Toshiba e800 running Windows Mobile 2003 SE. I found a humongous list of eBook readers, broken down by OS but not by price/free or if they are still supported or even which version of the OS they run under. I also found several links to .chm readers which I didn’t pursue because I haven’t found any free .chm format books, and Palm eReader. However, the Palm eReader turned out to be the same zip file as the eReader I couldn’t get to work yesterday. I ran all the following installs with the PDA powered on and connected via USB to my PC running Windows 7 Home Premium, and with .txt, .epub, .mobi, .plucker.pdb, and .qioo.jar files in an eBooks subfolder of the My Documents folder on the PDA. I also added the biggest ebook file I had, an almost-2-mb file of Bleak House in .txt, .mobi, and .plucker.pdb formats, to that ebook directory to see how the programs handled very large ebook files.

iSilo says it reads its own format as well as .txt and some .pdb files. I downloaded a .cab file for Pocket PC that said it required an ARM processor, which apparently my e800 has because it installed fine. It started and told me I was on day 1 of a 30-day trial period. However, even when I had it look in my ebooks directory, it did not see any of the text files, only the .plucker file which it couldn’t actually read. So I didn’t need 30 days to decide it wasn’t going to work for me and removed it.

Mobipocket Reader looked very customizable and I know Gutenberg offers many of its titles in their format. I downloaded the “Old Windows Mobile” .cab file for ARM processors and installed it without problems. But it doesn’t customize the items I would like to set. I don’t really care about the colors, which I can set, but I’d like to be able to permanently set which directory to look in and to list all the files in that directory, and I can’t. I have to manually change those choices every time I click on “Library.” It also takes a LONG time to load. The standard version is free, the Pro version is for purchase (I couldn’t find for how much) and includes the capability to scroll or switch to landscape mode. It automatically found the .plucker.pdb files (the “type of file” defaults to .prc) but couldn’t open them (error message was that they were corrupted, all three of them – right). Interestingly, Mobipocket couldn’t open any of the three .mobi files I downloaded from Gutenberg. Mobipocket was able to open the big Bleak House .txt file, but it took several minutes to load and there was another delay when I tried to do anything but simple page-down. But I like being able to read using the scroll button or the down-arrow button (which it treats as a page-down button) so this one stays, at least for the time being.

Tiny eBook Reader ($34.23 but with a free trial version) says it can read books of any size in txt (and zipped), html, and lit formats. I clicked on the .exe file and the information said I could add ebooks to the library by moving them into the My Documents folder or onto the CF card. It installed on my PC but the “finish” screen gave me the option of installing it to my “connected Windows Mobile with touchscreen” which I selected. It showed up on the PDA under “Programs” and started just fine, giving me a choice of folders to look in for ebooks. I clicked on my ebooks folder and it found the .txt files but none of the others. It opened Bleak House with no delay and I was able to move around in it with no problems. It did leave several .tbr files in the ebook folder, though. This one stays to be tested further.

I couldn’t resist a program named Tome Raider although it costs 15 British pounds (I got the free trial version) and appeared from the documentation to only read its own proprietary file format. It installed painlessly from a zip file and opened on the PDA, but I was right about it only reading its own format; it saw no ebooks until I downloaded a “trial” book from the TR website, then it opened the one I had just downloaded but every other page was “please register” so I uninstalled it. Too bad, I still love the name!

uBook ($15 with a free demo) claims to read .txt, .html, .rtf, .pdb, and .prc files as well as zipped files of any of these. Knowing now that I have an ARM processor, I downloaded the .cab file for Pocket PC ARM with Toshiba listed in parentheses. It installed, but gave me an error message that it might not have installed correctly because it was for an earlier version of Windows Mobile. But it opened okay and went directly to a 43-page User Guide. There is a nice clear (if tiny) page number at the top of the screen with forward and back arrows to either side. But there are also arrows pointing in different directions in the corners that are not obvious what they do, the type size is miniscule, and the program defaults to covering up the Start menu button – not a good thing as there is no quick way to exit the program. I finally found an Options section by clicking on the unlabelled buttons at the bottom left, but most of them were disabled, including the type size adjustment, presumably because this was the demo version. I paged down and the program locked up, I had to do a soft reset to get out of it – NOTHING worked. I still wanted to see what files it could read, so after the soft reset I clicked on the program again and found myself directly in the options section again and unable to get out AGAIN – had to do another soft reset and removed the program. It may be a great program, but if I can’t navigate around in it I’ll never know.

Vade Mecum is an open-source free program, although I couldn’t originally tell whether it supports Windows Mobile 2003 – since it hasn’t been updated since 2006, I thought it was worth trying. This is the Windows Mobile program to read Plucker files. The .cab installed but gave me the same “designed for a previous version of Windows Mobile” error message I encountered with uBook. But it not only opened, it found the Plucker files without further prompting and had a nice clear “settings” button at the bottom of the screen to let me adjust items like the directory where the ebooks are stored and what size typeface to use. It also defaulted to full-screen mode but it was easy to find the pull-down screen to turn full-screen off. It opened Bleak House in sections but remained pretty fast when I navigated both within the section and to the next section. It also let me use the scroll button on my Toshiba. I like this program! Even though it apparently *only* reads plucker files and I’ll have to go see which of the books I’ve already downloaded in .txt format are available in plucker format. It did create some small files of its own but they are safely tucked in a VadeMecum folder, not cluttering up my ebooks folder. Definitely on the short list.

Free Zulu Reader can read .epub and .rtf files. The .cab installed fine but didn’t actually run, which wasn’t a big surprise as the wiki listing claimed it would run under Windows Mobile 2003 but the download page didn’t list it. Removed from PDA but this was another one that I couldn’d get the icon out of the Programs folder.

There is still a brisk market on ebay in these older devices, and plenty of people like me who want the convenience of a PDA but can’t justify (or afford) spending hundreds of dollars on the newest one. That is why I’m going into such detail here, because everything I found on Google was several years old – I’m supplying info on what is available *now*.

Note: comments have to be approved because this site gets way too much spam each day. I’m eager for comments pro or con, but please Email me at mamasylvia at mamasylvia dot com to tell me you left a real comment, otherwise it will probably get deleted with the unread spam.

Published by sylvia on 01 Jul 2010

Wanna read ebooks!

I’m still working on getting my new (to me) Toshiba e800 configured to suit me, and one reason I bought it was to be able to always have something to read with me: ebooks. Project Gutenberg has thousands of free ebooks in various formats. Other sites such as Amazon also offer ebooks, but since Gutenberg is free, I started there. However, the e800 did not come with an ebook reader! So the first task was to find an ebook reader, preferably free, that would work with my Windows 2003SE mobile device.

Thanks to Google, I found and downloaded three: Microsoft Reader (which did NOT come already installed), eReader (which is affiliated with Barnes & Noble and of course markets their ebooks, but also has some freebies, and comes in a wide variety of OS flavors), and Freda. (I also picked up a free PocketPC PDF reader from Adobe – don’t know if it will work as an ebook reader, but it will be nice to be able to read pdf files like the user manual on my mobile.) I tried all of them with my PDA on and connected to my computer, and Windows Mobile Device Center running, which (besides keeping calendar/contacts/tasks synced) syncs the PDA with whatever I put in my My Documents\Documents on Sylvia’s PDA folder – very convenient both as a backup of my critical document files and as a way to painlessly get files onto the PDA.

Freda was the easiest to install. It came as a .cab file so I just moved the file to the CF card on my PDA, then clicked on the file from the PDA and it magically did its thing. The only problem was that the program didn’t work. I clicked on Freda on the program list and NOTHING HAPPENED. I found the exe file using File Explorer and clicked on that. Nothing happened. Okay, I thought, maybe it only activates when you click on an ebook file, so I clicked on one in my ebook directory. It opened fine – with Pocket Word. Still no Freda. I went back online to read the manual, and apparently Freda is supposed to go to a “main menu” when it is started. So apparently it doesn’t work with Windows 2003SE after all and I deleted it from my PDA (which was a minor pain and I had to find and use Remove Program). So much for Freda.

The next on the list was Microsoft’s Reader. It was an .exe file so I just clicked on it, on my main computer, in Windows Explorer. It ran an install program and although it wanted me to let it install in the default directory, when I clicked “no” it let me choose between regular memory, the flash ROM, or the CF card. I decided to put it on the CF card with my ebooks. When it finished, it told me to check my PDA to see if additional steps were necessary, which I thought was smart. But the message on the PDA was to “reset your device according to the device manufacturer’s documentation.” Huh? The user guide PDF says nothing about resetting after installing a program, and I don’t know if the instructions mean a soft or hard reset. So I did neither and went into Programs to start it up (and was annoyed to find the Freda icon still there). It started fine but told me the program was “not yet activated.” Huh? What do I need to do to activate it? I was able to open the help file that came with it, but it took me a minute to figure out that the page number was the number between the “3” and “4” at the bottom of the screen. Maybe this was one of the fonts that the PDA needed to be reset to use properly? So I tried a soft reset. Sure enough, after restarting the program, the page number at the bottom is now bracketed by left and right arrows instead of 3 and 4. The program has adjustable type size, which was nice, and the capability to add bookmarks, which is necessary. But I still couldn’t get it to see any other ebooks, so I started wandering through the help file and discovered it was looking in the My Documents folders. So I moved my eBooks folder into the My Documents folder. I also accidentally found out how to “activate” Reader, and it requires logging on with a Passport ID (using Internet Explorer, it told me Firefox doesn’t support activation), but the help file says any Hotmail, MSN, or Passport account will do. Of course, I don’t have ANY of those. This is turning into a major pain. (Gee, what a surprise with a Microsoft product.) However, the login page also said I could use a Windows Live ID, and I had to get one of those a few days ago to download Windows Mobile Device Center, and fortunately I long ago set up a “login” folder and filed the confirmation email for my Windows Live account in that folder so I can actually find it now! So I login and now I get ANOTHER error message. “You must install the Activation ActiveX control before you can activate.” And I can’t go any further without allowing Microsoft to install ANOTHER program on my computer. Reader is looking less and less attractive now. Before giving up completely, I checked to see if Reader would recognize and read any of my free Gutenberg .txt files. No matter where I put them in the My Documents folder, they failed to appear in the Library. I also tried a book in epub, Plucker, QiOO mobile, and Mobipocket formats, moving them all to the Personal folder to make sure it was somewhere Reader could find it. It didn’t recognize any of them. Does anyone actually jump through all of Microsoft’s hoops in order to use their “free” reader?

eReader was the last one I tried because it came in a zip file and I hate dealing with zip files. But Microsoft has made it too hard to use Reader so I guess I’ll try eReader now. I right-clicked on the zip file, told it to “extract all,” had to wade down through two levels of folders to get to the extracted files, and clicked on BookInstaller.exe – at least they made the title obvious. Install was not so obvious. There are three choices on the screen and none of them are to install a reader. I selected “install books” and it prompted me to tell it where to look for the books to install. It didn’t find any of my .txt books so I moved all the odd-format files (that I tried with Reader) into the ebooks folder and it recognized one of them. Wish I knew which one, but I guess it doesn’t matter because I got the dreaded “this program may not have installed correctly” message and there is no new reader in Programs. (Turned out to have been the Plucker file, I found it on my CF card later.)

So my choices are: (a) buy an ebook reader (which may just saddle me with another program that doesn’t work); (b) let Microsoft install another program on my computer and see what other ridiculous hoops it makes me jump through to get Reader to work; (c) keep using Pocket Word as my ebook reader, which doesn’t let me insert bookmarks on txt files; or (d) give up on reading ebooks on my PDA (which is a major reason I bought it in the first place). But I’ve had enough trauma for one day. Tomorrow is another day.

Oh, and the Freda icon is STILL in the Programs folder. Guess it’s time for a hard reset after all.

Note: comments have to be approved because this site gets way too much spam each day. I’m eager for comments pro or con, but please Email me at mamasylvia at mamasylvia dot com to tell me you left a real comment, otherwise it will probably get deleted with the unread spam.