Archive for February, 2011

Published by sylvia on 20 Feb 2011

Kids gone, pets here – what’s wrong with this picture?

When my kids were little, as most kids do, they wanted their own cats. We had a family dog but they wanted their own animals, to be just theirs. We lived on 8 acres in the country, so I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but I knew too many families where the kids had begged for a pet and promised faithfully to take care of it, but “forgot” and the parents wound up doing all the animal care. I was NOT going to have that. I bombarded the kids from birth about responsible pet ownership – neutering, vaccinations, and generally putting the pet’s needs ahead of your own because it can’t fend for itself. They were each responsible for some aspect of dog care, and when I thought they had demonstrated the ability to do that part without being reminded, I talked to my husband about letting them adopt kittens and raise them.

I did want the cats to be good mousers, so I waited until the local “free” column contained an offer of kittens from a barn cat mother, and took the kids over to pick out their kittens. I explained to the kids that how the kittens were raised would strongly affect what kind of cats they became, so the kids needed to spend lots of time playing with and petting the cats, so they would learn to enjoy and value interaction with humans. They smiled and agreed – please, Mama, don’t throw me in that brier patch!

And they did take care of the cats. They fed them, cleaned the litter box, loved on them.

And then the kids grew up.

My daughter went off to college first. She couldn’t have her cat with her in the dorm, of course, so Squeaky lived at home that year. Second and third years, she was living in a house and kept her cat, but for her senior year, she wanted to share an apartment with a cat-allergic friend. Squeaky is a VERY affectionate beast, so I didn’t really mind letting her move back in with us. But now she is planning on staying in the college town, with the same cat-allergic friend, after graduation. Excuse me? Have you forgotten your commitment to your feline friend?

My son, meanwhile, joined the National Guard and was gone for about 6 months doing basic and advanced training. Naturally, Blackie couldn’t go with him. He tried college for one semester but didn’t pay enough attention to do well and moved home (with cat) to job-hunt. He’ll start with the state prison system in a couple of weeks. And he announced that he has found an apartment … that doesn’t allow cats.

Figure out what’s wrong with this picture yet?

Published by sylvia on 03 Feb 2011

RSS to Calibre to Kindle 3

I am totally hooked on getting subscriptions to my Kindle via Calibre now, and it motivated me to tackle something I’ve been eyeing for months: an RSS feed. Since I was able to get Calibre to subscribe to some periodicals and painlessly (and automagically) email them to my Kindle, if Calibre is an RSS reader and I can figure out how to use it, I could subscribe to RSS sites and blogs as well. That motivated me to overcome my fear of RSS and intimidation by Calibre and see if it was possible.

Fortunately for my budget, I bought the WiFi Kindle 3 instead of the 3G version. I had wanted the 3G version, but it was more expensive. The 3G version has wider-ranging Internet access, but with WiFi at my home and in more and more hotels and restaurants, I don’t anticipate I’ll be going anywhere that I would be without WiFi access, and receiving Kindle-formatted documents via WiFi is free. The 3G version charges for most deliveries.

I googled RSS feed and was drowned in hits, but while I finally figured out that RSS is just a standard so different readers can use the same material, I didn’t find anything about using Calibre as an RSS reader. So I posted my question on the Amazon Kindle discussion board. As often happens, some helpful people with more experience with Calibre jumped in and told me just what to do. It turned out to be fairly straightforward, once I was told that the important part was to copy the RSS link into the URL box under “Add custom news source” and I could “name” it whatever I wanted.

The next entry contains detailed instructions for those who need straightforward “click here and type this” instructions like I did!

Published by sylvia on 03 Feb 2011

RSS/periodicals to Calibre to Kindle 3 Instructions

Following are the “RSS/Periodicals to Calibre to Kindle 3” instructions for dummies we found to work. Thanks so much to “Tegan” on the Amazon discussion board for her contribution!

First, download and install Calibre for your operating system. The following instructions assume Calibre for Windows; if you use a different OS, I hope you’ll be able to find the corresponding buttons.

Click on “Preferences.” Under “Behavior,” CHECK the box by “Automatically send downloaded news to ebook reader.” For the time being, do NOT click on the next “delete news” box. Once your system is functioning correctly, you can come back and check this box if you don’t want to keep a copy of your downloads on your computer. Set the “preferred output format” to whatever your ebook reader needs. For the Kindle, it’s .mobi format. The “preferred input format” doesn’t really matter, Calibre will figure it out any time you run a conversion. Click the green “Apply” button in the top left corner.

Click on “Common Options” and then “Output Profile” and select “Kindle.” Click “Apply.”

Click on “Sharing books by email” and then “Add email.” Enter the @free.kindle.com email of your Kindle and select .MOBI as the format. Check the “Auto Send” box. If you have a gmail or hotmail account, you can easily use that to send files to your Kindle. Click on “Use Gmail” or “Use Hotmail” at the right and enter your email address and password. Leave the Mail Server settings alone. If you want to use another email account, you will need to either figure out the server settings and enter them, or set up a gmail or hotmail account and use it. There is a “Test email” button but I can’t figure out how it is supposed to work. Click “Apply” and then “Close.”

Go to your “Manage Your Kindle” at amazon.com and page down to the “Your Kindle Approved E-mail List” section. Under “Enter an approved e-mail address,” type the email you told Calibre to use to send files to the Kindle and then click “Add Address.” Unless you want to spend money having Amazon convert documents for you, also go to the next section, “Your Personal Document Charge Limit,” and enter 0.00 as the most you authorize spending on sending documents to the Kindle.

Now you are ready to send something to your Kindle! Click on “Fetch News” and then click on the triangle to the left of the language in which you want to see available periodicals. Select something that doesn’t require a User ID and password but is fairly static, such as Anchorage Daily News or Business Week. Do NOT click the “Schedule for download” button, just click on the “Download now” bar near the bottom right corner, then “Save.” You should see “Jobs: 1” and a whirling black circle in the bottom right corner of the main Calibre page. When the black circle stops whirling and you see “Jobs: 0” then you should also see the name of the publication at the top of the list of “books.”

Wait a few minutes and then turn on your Kindle and turn on WiFi, or go somewhere that has WiFi. Within a few minutes, you should have the periodical on your Kindle! If you don’t, go back and check the above settings, especially the Kindle email address and the “sender” email address you typed into Calibre – make sure they are correct and match the ones in your Manage My Kindle page.

Now you can set up the publications you really want to get delivered regularly. Click on “Fetch News” and then click on the triangle to the left of the language in which you want to see available periodicals. Select the first periodical. If it requires a UserID and password, you’ll have to go to the site and subscribe before you can set Calibre to get it automatically. If not, click on the “Schedule for download” box and select how often you want to get it, either every certain number of days or a certain day of the week. Weekly or monthly magazines you will probably check for less often than a daily paper. Once you have set frequencies for the desired periodicals, click “Save” and you are done. But you will need to leave Calibre open and connected to the Internet for it to get the periodicals on the schedule you want.

There may also be periodicals and/or blogs that you want to collect regularly but that are not on Calibre’s list. You can add them as a custom source. Click on the little down-pointing triangle to the right of the “Fetch News” button, then click on “Add a custom news source.” This is where the built-in Calibre instructions left me totally baffled. Ignore everything on the left side for the moment. On the right, look for the “recipe title” field and enter the name you want the generated book to show up as. The Oldest Article and Max. number of articles can stay the way they are for the moment.

Go to the site of the blog or periodical you want to add. If there is an RSS button, click on it and copy the http address given. If there is no RSS button, copy the COMPLETE http line at the top of the browser. In Firefox the RSS feed shows up in the URL bar automatically if it can find a feed for the website. At the bottom, where it says, “Add Feed to Recipe” type in the title of your feed (the blog or periodical name) and then paste the URL you copied into the second box. Then click “Add Feed.” You can add multiple blogs to the same one (although I prefer to have a recipe for each blog), so you have a book of blogs. When all your blogs are in the feed list, go to the left side and click “Add/Update Recipe.” The new recipe should show up in the list on the left. Now, go back to the main window, click on Fetch News, and look under “Custom.” You should see your new recipe there. Click on “Download Now” at the bottom of the right side, and see what comes up in Calibre. When you have it working, you can set it for automatic download just like the preregistered periodicals above.

Please feel free to leave comments on whether this worked for you, or if you think something should be added or changed!

Published by sylvia on 02 Feb 2011

Thoroughly hooked on my new Kindle 3

I’ve really wanted a Kindle for months, but I didn’t *need* one. I am able to read tons of free eBooks from Gutenberg.org on my PDA, an old Toshiba e800 running Vade Mecum. I wanted the Kindle in addition for two reasons: first, so when my DH and I go somewhere together, I could take along something for him to read so he doesn’t get cranky; and second, to be able to take along a ton of books in a very small space when travelling (Amazon says Kindle’s capacity is 3500 average books; my PDA can only store 2-3 before impacting the rest of its functions). Many people rave about Kindle’s e-Ink technology being incredibly easy to read. I never had a problem reading my backlighted, color PDA, so that aspect didn’t influence me. After getting my Kindle, I found a lot of free or very-low-priced eBooks for the Kindle on Amazon.com itself, but nothing so compelling that it made the Kindle a must-have. I don’t have a problem reading the Kindle, but I don’t find it better or worse than my PDA. (Its battery use is sure more efficient, though. The instructions say it can go a month without needing a charge if you leave the WiFi off!)

Now, however, I’ve discovered periodical subscriptions, and the Kindle may have to join the PDA in my purse whenever leaving the house. I like reading magazines and newspapers, but I don’t need more paper piling up in my house, and newspapers are messy and awkward to get folded as I read through them.

I started with four subs through Amazon.com: Home Business, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, and the Denver Post. I actually live 100 miles north of Denver, but our local paper is a bad joke. Amazon starts all Kindle subscriptions with a 14-day free trial, which I thought was a great idea, and I was curious to see what was included and how easy or difficult it was to read through a periodical on a small eReader.

I also started a thread on Amazon’s Kindle discussion board, asking what other users had thought about the subscription option. One responder mentioned getting subscriptions free through Calibre, a program I was already using to convert eBooks in other formats to Kindle format. But Calibre is a much fancier program than I am used to using, and frankly it intimidates me. So I hesitantly poked around it and I was able to find its capability to grab publications and send them to my Kindle. I actually knew my Kindle’s free.kindle.com email address, so I entered that, and used my gmail.com address for Calibre to send the files from. I cancelled my Amazon.com trials for Denver Post, Reader’s Digest, and Newsweek, and set them up to come via Calibre instead.

This morning, I got some lovely email messages from Amazon that there were files ready to download onto my Kindle, and the names are the ones I set up on Calibre. I’m going to skim the Amazon.com subscription files before downloading the Calibre files, since they may overwrite the Amazon files and I want to compare apples to apples. Stay tuned for further developments!

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.