Ebooks for your Palm Pilot

Even before I was a Project Gutenberg volunteer I wanted to have a PDA, but the expense was always too high to just buy the thing as a vanity object. However, “PG” gave me a reason to buy one, even if it was the cheapest one I could find.

Once I had brought my shiny new Palm Zire home, I started Googling for free ebooks. What a deception! All I could find were links to commercial publishers who provided a few free works as an incentive to buy. Where was the rich repository that the internet promised?

Of course, Project Gutenberg provides loads of gratis electronic texts, but they need to be converted to Palm’s proprietary format.

Later, I found out that there were several sites that provide ready-to-go ebooks for your Palm, if you know how to find them.

So I wrote a small guide that can be found at http://www.xs4all.nl/~collin/freepalmbooks.html. I hope it’s useful.

Guest

A cat is staying over for the weekend. At least, that’s what I thought. The owner, safely away in Brussels, hinted at a longer stay. Hm…

Cold

The promise of a headache has been lurking in me for hours now. Usually these promises fullfill themselves within minutes, but this one seems content just pestering me.

Meanwhile, I seem to be getting a cold.

Private space plane

Earlier, I wrote: “[…] the European Space Shuttle. […] equally important, this is today’s technology, not yesterday’s.”

Well, that is true, but it is today’s technology that is going to be used in 20 years. Still better than NASA and Energia, who want to use yesterday’s technology in 20 years, but not a scratch on American civilians, who are using today’s technology today!

Competing in the X-Prize competition, Scaled Composite’s (pity about the website) Spaceship One reached a height this month of 60 kilometers. That’s just 40 kilometers shy of real space. The system they use is similar as that planned for the European space shuttle, except that they are flying now, not twenty years from now.

Exciting times are ahead!

The last promise of the web

A smart webdeveloper nowadays has a couple of CMSes up his (or her) sleaves that he can sublicense to customers who want to be able to control (part) of their own website. Work that the webdeveloper used to do himself, is now done by somebody at the customer’s.

This is a good development, because it allows one to put responsibilities where they belong. If customers want to change the news, update prices, add more information, they should not have to go through the developer first.

But of course, conservative webdevelopers might see this move to smarter customers as a threat. It used to be the case once that webbuilding was more a craft than anything else. Only a select circle of initiated knew how to build a cross-browser, cross-platform, cross-everything website.

In order to familiarize myself with CMSes, I downloaded and studied a lot of the open source ones. There wasn’t really much choice; a lot of the commercial CMSes cost more in licensing fees than small and medium businesses would ever want to pay for their website.

The problem with all CMSes that I have encountered in this way is that they are too difficult to set up. Weird dependencies (Zope comes with its own webserver!), badly written or non-existent documentation, and even if you do manage to set up the CMS, that’s no guarantee that you will be able to easily convert a site design to it.

Still, I would not have suspected anything wrong with this situation. I can accept that CMSes are incredibly difficult to program, and that support for gratis CMSes therefore tends to lack due to lack of resources.

However, there are tools that are not CMSes, but that offer similar possibilities and that often are (in my experience) extremely easy to set up and maintain. These tools are wikis, blogs, forums and community software (call them the Nukes).

It seems to me that these easier tools have all the potential to supplant CMSes, at least in the non-commercial space.

And by doing so, they bring the possibility to the websurfer to edit the pages he visits, thereby fulfilling the last unfulfilled promise of the web.

See also: The blog systems that made it as CMSes (2010).

Alternate space faring technologies #1

As I wrote earlier, many different plans for taking us into space exist. All backed by hard science, no doubt, but the fun thing about not knowing anything about hard science: you can play this game too.

Here’s my first plan:

The Space Catapult

If I throw a ball, the ball is able to reach a distance far greater than the length of my arm. An aparatus for throwing a ball is called a catapult. We could catapult people and goods into space.

Of course, the ‘arm’ would need to be much longer, perhaps even hundreds of meters.

As my golf instructor once told me, when I strike a ball, my skin is moving just a few kph around my spine, but the club head is often moving at speeds greater than 100kph. And the distance from my spine to the club head is barely a meter. Think of the speed you can reach with a ‘club length’ of dozens of meters!

The best thing about my plan though, is that all the fuel needed stays firmly on the planet. From what I have been told, the biggest problem about space rockets is that they need to carry the weight from all the fuel that is necessary to carry the weight of all that fuel. Yes, read that again if you must: a lot of fuel in a rocket is needed to carry itself into space.

With my plan, all the fuel that is needed to drive the catapult can stay safely on the planet.

Next episode: the gravity pit/space yo-yo.

Gone fishing

Today I received the first two Dutch spam mails under the new regime. I reported them to the proper authorities. I hope they’ll get caught and will get the chair. (Well, we don’t have The Chair here, but hope springs eternal.)

Smarter images for the web

Customers often insist on maintaining (part of) their own web sites, and with good reason. They are often perfectly capable to do so. However, some of the things even the amateur web designer takes for granted are completely opaque to people for whom a web page is just an extension of the Powerpoint presentation.

Take images. Apart from legal and aesthetic problems, there are simple logistical problems involved with web images. For instance, you have to give them names that keep working across networks and operating systems. Whoever would have thought that there are operating systems who refuse to load a file called ‘bullet.gif’ if it was referenced in the web page’s code as ‘Bullet.GIF’? It works on Windows, why not elsewhere?!

I wrote a small article on such problems and how to avoid them: “Some guidelines for creating and storing web images”. The article lists the things I remembered my customers stumbling over. Did I forget any major pitfalls? Mention them in the comments.

Eigenface

Geek news site Slashdot linked to a site from a Norwegian newspaper, where they let you upload a portrait and they will tell you which (Nordic) celebrity you most look like.

Apparently, my portrait at the Abeleto website makes me the spitting image of Roxette’s Per Gessle. Me, I disagree. He looks much more like my brother.

You agree not to upload obscene stuff, and apparently the newspaper reserves the right to use your picture for promotional purposes.

Something to do with eigenfaces.

[brankoper] Update (7-1-2006): since I will be changing the photo at Abeleto.nl soonish, I put a picture of me in this entry, to the right. (Now who is who?)

 

Save a book a day…

If your volunteering muscle itches, consider doing some proofreading at Distribited Proofreaders. The books thus produced will be posted at Project Gutenberg. Together with Distribited Proofreaders Europe and Distribited Proofreaders in support of Project Madurai, etexts in dozens of languages from all over the world are being saved from the disastrous effects of modern day copyright.

The latter of the three produces Tamil etexts for Project Madurai.