Ebooks for free (Android/Nook)

Disclaimer: There are lots of ways to get free books that aren’t strictly legal or ethical. I’m not going to discuss those methods here. I figure, if you can afford to buy an ebook reader or tablet, you can afford to pay for books that are within copyright. And if you can’t afford them, you can read legitimate free books. End of lecture. Back to our regularly scheduled blog entry.

Some of the techniques I discuss may work for devices other than Android tablets/phones and Nooks (e.g., the idevice of your dreams or Kindles of various flavors). Since we’re talking free here, it’s probably worth a try if you haven’t already done so.

Where to Get Free Ebooks:

First free book source: Project Gutenberg (Gutenberg:Project Gutenberg Needs Your Donation – Gutenberg). I put Project Gutenberg first because I have been getting ebooks there for more than 15 years. (Really? Oh yeah!) I used to download books from there and put them on my Palm Pilot back in the mid-late 90s.

Gutenberg has public domain books, meaning those that contemporary writers make available for free, and those that are no longer in copyright. The latter are old books … quite old in many cases. But do yourself a favor and try out a few of them. John Carter may not have been a box office success, but the original book, A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, was a smash pulp fiction hit. (Burroughs later wrote the Tarzan series.) I deliberately put the donation page link above, since if you’ve ever gotten a book from PG, it would be swell if you could make a small donation to them (truly, any amount is helpful), and if you haven’t and are just starting out, keep in mind that free is never truly free. Someone pays … with their cash, or their time … to make free stuff available. If you’re on a smartphone, here is their mobile link: ProjGutbg Mobile.

Project Gutenberg Australia has a different selection of ebooks: http://gutenberg.net.au/

Books at PG are available in a multitude of formats. Choose the format that works with your ereader. Post a question in comments if you need specific help on this matter.

Barnes and Noble: They have a varying selection of free ebooks. To find them, go to the main B&N web page (http://www.barnesandnoble.com) and enter $0.00 in the Search box. In addition, B&N has Free Fridays for Nook books, which offers a commercial quality book for free every Friday (http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/The-NOOK-Blog/bg-p/Unbound). Often these are first books in a popular author’s ongoing series (also known as “hooks”). If you don’t have a Nook, you can still read Nook books on your Android phone/tablet by downloading the free Nook app from Google Play.

Amazon: Amazon keeps some free ebooks here (http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=amb_link_355831402_49?ie=UTF8&node=2245146011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=left-1&pf_rd_r=1Y9GECX534NEQHZ5Q1MW&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1374232782&pf_rd_i=1286228011). You probably need their free Kindle app to read them (available at Google Play or the Amazon App Store). They also link to Open Library, which I just discovered while writing this blog entry: (http://openlibrary.org/), and the Internet Archive (http://archive.org/details/texts).

Google Play Books has free books here: https://play.google.com/store/books/collection/topselling_free.

Still with me? Good, ’cause there are still more resources for free books.

Check your local public library‘s web site. You may have to click around a bit, but they typically have a place to download free public domain ebooks. Here is what I found for Nook-compatible free ebooks from Baltimore County Public Library: (http://maryland.lib.overdrive.com/EBE656E6-BA49-4BA2-9DF4-5C1D30C3E31C/10/336/en/PublicDomainCollection.htm)

Kobo has a link to free ebooks: http://www.kobobooks.com/free_ebooks.

University of Penn has a link to free ebooks: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/books/.

Literature.org has free ebooks that open in your browser, but you can save those files and use a utility like Ecub or Calibre to make a compatible ebook for your ereader or ebook app: http://www.literature.org/authors/

University of Virginia has the VIRGO site for ebooks: http://search.lib.virginia.edu/catalog?f[digital_collection_facet][]=UVa+Text+Collection&facet.limit=500&id=digital_collection_facet&sort=date_received_facet+desc&width=490.

Memoware has free ebooks: http://www.memoware.com/

And that’s all the links that I have handy. I have omitted links to self-published ebooks at this time, but there are plenty out there, and some self-publishers are fine writers. And some are not.¬† ūüôā

Library Ebooks:

Library ebooks I classify separately, since these books technically are “borrowed” and “returned.” The borrowing (checkout and checkin) are typically handled by separate software.

With Nook ereaders, the process is convoluted: you download Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) and register for an Adobe ID. Connect your Nook to that computer and authorize the device with ADE. Sign up for an account with your local public library, which is typically then linked to the Overdrive library management system. Browse at your library, check out your books, download them, then fire up ADE. The downloaded book shows up in ADE (if the stars are aligned properly), then you just drag it to your Nook. Boom, go to My Documents on the Nook, check for new content if you don’t see it, and then you should be good to go. There are more detailed threads on this at B&N’s Nook forums.

Ironically, that process is more complicated than if you have a plain old Android phone or tablet. If you do, simply download the Overdrive app to your phone/tablet from Google Play. Link the app to an account with Adobe (this step, along with the ADE steps above, are all about DRM, so it’s not really avoidable). Select “Get Books” from the menu (first time through you select your local public library), which takes you to your library web site. Find your book, check it out and download it, and there it is in your Overdrive app (which is also an ebook reader app).

If you finish your book before the due date, kindly consider checking it back in manually to make it available to the next person. Library ebooks often have long waiting lists, so the nicer we all play together, the more it benefits us all.

How to Get Books onto Your Device:

Here are some briefly described ways to get ebooks onto your reader/phone/tablet:

My favorite: Plug it in – plug the device into the PC, drag the ebook to a folder on the device.

Copy to microSD card: Remove microSD card, place in SD adapter, then into slot in a card reader, desktop or laptop system with a SD slot. Drag the books to the correct folder (My Documents on a Nook microSD card, or typically Downloads on a tablet or smartphone). Open the book with a compatible reader (Aldiko will open many formats, Nook opens most epubs, Kindle opens Kindle format books and should open mobi format books too.)

Direct Download: Browse to one of the websites listed above on your phone/tablet, and download the book directly to your device. Ebooks are typically small, just a couple of hundred kilobytes, so downloading a book or two doesn’t use a lot of data. But if there is any concern, just turn on WiFi and download that way.

Conclusion:

Didn’t want to just end there so abruptly, so feel free to comment if you have found another good source of free ebooks, or if you have any questions about reading ebooks on a Nook or Android device.

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5 Home Energy Saving Tips

A couple of years ago, the sale of electricity was deregulated in my state, and in the months before it happened, there were dire predictions about short-term spikes in prices as the market transitioned from regulated prices to free-market prices.

I began to look for good ways to save or conserve electricity use. To do this effectively, it’s important to know the biggest consumers of electricity in your household.

According to recent Dept. of Energy statistics, in the average home, the top 10 (really 9) energy users are (in order):

  1. Heating/cooling (31%)
  2. Refrigerators (14%)
  3. Water heating (9%)
  4. Lighting (9%)
  5. Home Electronics (7%)
  6. Dryers (6%)
  7. Spare freezers (3.5%)
  8. Ranges (3%)
  9. Dishwasher (2.5%)
  10. Other Stuff (the rest)

If you can make some significant cuts in the top 5 energy users in your household, you can, truly easily reach 10% savings, more if you do more.

I’ll tell you the 5 things I did that made a real impact in my electricity bill:

  1. I got a programmable thermostat. Previously, I tried to remember to set the temperature up (in summer) when I went to work (down in winter only affects my gas usage). But automating the process means no “oopses.” I set the temp to go up at 6 a.m. — I leave at 9 a.m., and it takes a few hours for the temperature in the house to rise to uncomfortable levels, even on the hottest days. I tell it to start cooling down about 1/2 hour before the first adult comes home. There are ones that are purported to “learn” your habits and preferences. Yeah, for $250, whatever. The point here is to save money, not put it into some scammer’s pocket.
  2. I also set the thermostat to 79 for the coldest setting. And I bought the quietest fans I could find to use for extra cooling in the living room, bedroom, and home offices. Moving air really does subtract at least 4 degrees in the perceived temperature indoors. Besides using less electricity, you wear out your central air conditioning unit less too.
  3. I changed light bulbs to compact fluorescent. Yeah, LED is supposed to be the wave of the future, but it ain’t waving at me until the price comes WAY down.
  4. At night, if the temperature outside is under 74 degrees F, I open the bedroom window and let the free cooler air come in. (Obviously, dependent on how quiet your neighborhood is, whether it’s going to rain, what floor the bedroom is on, etc.)
  5. I bought some good quality weather-stripping and put it around my front door, which is the only spot where there was any significant leakage. If your house is older, you should check out other doors and windows.

There are other common sense things too, like making sure you turn off lights as you leave a room, wearing season-appropriate attire (do you know anyone who wears shorts in winter then turns the thermostat up to 85?), unplugging vampire charging devices (or buy some switches for the outlets), turning off the drying cycle on the dishwasher (tip the accumulated water and let the air dry the dishes … only takes a few hours).

In general, things that make heat or cold (intentional or not) are the big energy users in the house. Find ways to safely make them work less, and that’s how you can rack up savings on energy costs.

Please don’t kill the bugs

I have a neighbor who is a little bit funny about his yard. He pays someone to come dump various chemicals on it every few weeks, and whenever he spots more than a few insects, he pulls out the Sevin and starts dumping pesticide all over the place.

He’s not really particularly bright, but he’s a pleasant enough neighbor, and I try to keep peace with my neighbors, no matter how much I think they are doing the wrong thing.

His war against the insects is one of those things that seems so wrong to me. I am of quite the opposite persuasion. I don’t particularly like bugs, but I accept that most of them have a genuine useful purpose in the great scheme of things … at least the non-invasive, native types. And I have a policy on bug control.

My policy is simple: inside belongs to me, and actually, so does a part¬† of the outside … but as long as they stay outside and do not dedicate their efforts to getting inside and taking over, they can live outside, undisturbed by me. In fact, if a non-pest happens to find his/her way inside, I’ll scoop it up in a big plastic cup and relocate it back outside. Everyone makes mistakes, even bugs.

I remember as a kid, there used to be so many fireflies. Now, I see very few, and I have read articles that say that, in part, the overuse of pesticides by homeowners (and fertilizers containing pesticides) has reduced the populations of these marvelous insects, and many more beneficial species.

I don’t know where the “it’s a bug, I must kill it” attitude comes from. But I sure encourage everyone to try to find a more tolerant place in their hearts. If you have a wasp nest, even if you are allergic, you don’t have to destroy them. They really aren’t interested in you … they are serving an important function in preying on insect pests. If you have kids and are worried, teach them to respect nature, and not throw rocks into the nest … getting along with other living things is a tremendous virtue. Killing things that annoy us is not a particularly good life lesson.

Live and let live. There is a lot of wisdom in those words. Please think about it, before you grab that can of Presto Bug Killer.

How I Quit Smoking

Shortly after I turned the big 4-0, I awoke one day to find I was feeling a pain in my right lung. I had been smoking menthol cigarettes, 1-2 packs per day, for nearly 25 years at that point. I worked out several times per week, alternating aerobic and strength training. I figured, as a smoker, it was important and maybe helped my body deal with the bad effects of smoking. This is what I now know is called, “silly thinking.”

Anyway, there was this pain, and as I was dipping my toes into middle age, I realized it was time that I quit smoking. I had tried it once. When I was 20 or so, and had only been smoking 5 years. It seemed impossible at that time. The urges were too strong. However, in the ensuing years, researchers developed nicotine replacement therapy, which was available first, by prescription, then later over-the-counter. By the time I decided to quit, availability was over-the-counter.

Basically, I didn’t make a big deal out of it. Some recommend that you do that … make announcements, plan for the big day, etc. I told myself that I’d just give it a try, that whole quitting thing. No pressure.

I got my nicotine patches, and started with them. I wore the strongest patch first, as it recommended. I found that I didn’t want to smoke as much. Hmmm. Working pretty well so far.

I continued with the patches, and smoking only when the urge was too strong to resist. However, about 2 weeks into the program of using the patches, I had an allergic skin reaction to them. I awoke in the middle of night, feeling pretty sick, heart racing, stomach churning, and developed red welts in the last 4-5 locations where the patches had been applied to my skin. I think the adhesive was the issue … I have since that time had big problems with any sort of medical adhesives. I think they caused this inflammation and allowed too much nicotine to get into my system, and I had a mild overdose of nicotine that night I described.

So, not near completion of the patch program, unfortunately I had to discontinue it, but good news, the nicotine gum was available. So I stopped smoking at that time, and used the gum for a couple of weeks when the strongest urges hit. They were not frequent.

That’s the physical side.

The more important, and possibly more difficult battle, is the emotional one. They say to avoid triggers. What, don’t eat, don’t drink, don’t talk on the phone? This was before the Internet … that was how you communicated. Scratch those recommendations.

For me, the real tricks of being successful were in programming success.

Every time I had an urge to smoke, I said, either aloud or whispered (depending on where I was): RIght now I really want to smoke. But I CHOOSE not to. (What does this do? It acknowledges reality — trying to tell yourself that you don’t want to smoke only empowers the cigarettes. Acknowledging the urge gives ME the power, as does the follow-up statement — that I CHOOSE not to smoke.)

When I had the urge to smoke, I also told myself this: Whether I smoke or do not smoke right now, it will not be enough. It will never be enough … it will not make me not want to smoke. Smoking will only satisfy the urge momentarily. It will be back again. (That helped me realize that smoking is a short term series of little satisfactions, but it never provided long-term satisfaction.)

After a short time of not smoking, I realized 2 important things:

  1. I was just like those people I saw huddled outside smoking. They are, and I was, an addict. Smoking was just like sticking a needle into my arm to give me the drug I needed. I often told myself I smoked because I loved the taste. I realized that was self-serving rationalization. I smoked because my body needed nicotine.
  2. Smokers stink. I could smell them each time I walked past them … and I realized I used to stink too. What a nasty smell. Smokers can’t smell it on themselves.

Frankly, I was surprised that it was not as hard to quit as I remembered from my attempt 20 years previously. I think the main difference was that during those 20 years, I lived. When you live, you gain experience in dealing with adversity, you gain strength, you gain the ability to make choices and stand by them.

One lady I knew, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, was headed outside to smoke. She had just revealed the cancer. I said, “So why are you still smoking?” “Oh,” she said, “I’m just not ready to quit.” I told her what I had discovered … you are never “ready.” There is never a good time. There will always be stress at work, a partner that you argue with, a sick relative, final exams, debt, worry about affording the new itoy, whatever. There will always be adversity. Cigarettes do not obliterate adversity. They only add to the burden: the cost, the toll on one’s health, the augmenting odds of serious disease as the years pass.

Anyway, that’s my story about quitting smoking. Hopefully, someone can glean something useful from it.

Good luck!

Money-wicking athletic wear

There’s a big US company that markets its athletic wear, at amazingly high prices, as being “heat wicking” or some such nonsense. The gist of their very effective marketing campaign, besides getting many professional sports teams to wear their gear, is that the moisture wicking nature of the completely synthetic materials is supposed to magically make you cooler when it’s hot and you’re sweating.

Well, um, no. Wicking doesn’t make you cool. It just makes you dry. If you don’t believe me, get all hot and sweaty, then dry your face. Does it feel cooler? I’m going to bet, no.

The best place for moisture-wicking material is places where moisture causes a problem, but provides little benefit. Diapers, for example. Or feet, for example. Wet feet rub excessively, the moisture softens the skin, soft skin rubbing makes blisters faster. So, moisture wicking socks = good thing. Hikers have known this for years. Wear soft cotton socks, get blisters. Wear polypro liners and wool socks. Walk all day without blisters.

But moisture wicking in your t-shirts and your shorts? Well, that’s not only not effective at cooling you, it’s counter-productive.

What cools you is the natural mechanism of perspiration > evaporation. The body produces perspiration as a method of cooling your surface temperature. Notice how you get flushed when you’re overheating? Your body opens the capillaries so that your blood collects at the surface; it makes you perspire so that the evaporating perspiration cools your blood which cools YOU. Boom. Now remove that perspiration, and your body is just as hot, but now dry … and needs to make more perspiration to cool you.

Look at the clothing worn by people who live in perpetually hot climates, such as the desert. The clothes tend to be natural, breathable fabrics cut to fit loosely. Not skin-tight and synthetic. The air flow achieved with loose fitting garments is going to increase evaporation, which increases cooling. These people have been living in, and successfully dealing with these hot climates for millennia. They’re not in it for a big house in Worthington Valley. They’re in it because it’s how they survive in a harsh climate.

So next time you are enticed by some “heat gear,” well, go ahead and buy it if you like. But realize you’re paying for marketing and hype.

Or, be smart … buy something loose and comfortable at 1/3 of the cost. Your body will appreciate it more.

 

Shake shake shake (repeat), Shake your sports drink (repeat)

Homemade Sports Drink

A couple of years ago, I got one of those GI bugs and was pretty miserable for a few days. I decided to be kind to my digestive system by giving up cola (I’d typically drink 2 per day, non diet) because of all the sugar in it, as a way of helping my digestive system get back to a “happy” place.

Funny thing is, I found when I was feeling better and went to drink a cola, it seemed so egregiously sweet to me, I couldn’t stand to drink it. Instead, I switched to a somewhat less sweet alternative, Gatorade.

Fast forward another couple of years, and sadly I developed some much more serious medical problems. Thankfully I made it through those too. However, as a way to deal with the shock of that serious illness, I re-evaluated my approach to food and drink.

One choice I made was to eat as much organic food as possible. Another was to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Nothing off the deep end here. Just goals … and determination … to eat and drink better quality food. I’m not here to sell this approach to you. If you look at Gatorade and you think that looks like a good idea to put into your body, that’s okee dokee smokee with me.

If, on the other hand, you like more natural alternatives to that oddly colored beverage, but enjoy the flavor of it, then I think maybe you’ll like my more natural sports drink.

Materials:

  • 20 oz. bottle
  • tap water (I like to filter mine, just to remove some of the chlorine smell/taste)
  • 1/2 lemon (can substitute a True Lemon packet)
  • 1/2 lime (can substitute a True Lime packet)
  • table salt
  • sugar (I personally like turbinado sugar because it is less refined than the white stuff, and retains some trace minerals)

Procedure:

  1. Fill the 20 oz bottle with water — just a bit short of full.
  2. Wash the lemon. Squeeze in juice of 1/2 of a lemon. If organic and you like a bit more zing, you can micro-grate some zest into the bottle too.
  3. Wash the lime. Squeeze in juice of 1/2 of a lime. Like the lemon, if it’s organic and you want to, go ahead and add some lime zest into the bottle. (If you cannot get fresh lemons/limes, I find True Lemon / Lime to be an excellent substitute. It’s available online or at many major US grocery stores, usually near baking supplies.)
  4. Add a rounded 1/8 tsp of salt. If you want to increase the potassium content of your homemade sports drink, substitute a scant 1/4 tsp of Morton Lite Salt. (This boosts the electrolyte content a little.)
  5. Add 1 tbs and 1/4 tsp of the sugar. If this is not sweet enough, I originally started with 1 tbs + 1 tsp of sugar, but have gradually lowered the amount to the current 1 tbs + 1/4 tsp of sugar.
  6. Shake until all solids have dissolved.

One advantage of real lemons and limes is you can leave the pulp from squeezing in for a bit of added fiber.

The taste isn’t exactly Gatorade, but it’s good, and to me, going back to Gatorade makes my face pucker. Even though it has about 3-4 times as much sugar as this homemade alternative.

5 Handy Tablet Tips

Here are 5 handy tips for tablet users.

  1. Hate screen smudges and fingerprints? Me too. To clean the screen easily and without a separate cloth, use the side of your hand (under your pinkie finger) as a squeegee. Drag it across the screen horizontally in rows (like mowing a lawn), then turn the screen to the other orientation and repeat the squeegee process. That part of your hand has very little in the way of skin oil, and the screen looks cleaner, faster, than using an actual microfiber cloth. (If you prefer a cloth, you can buy one of those small eyeglass-cleaning microfibers from the optical dept of large discount stores.)
  2. Battery longevity: Many laptops have a battery-saving protocol that most people never discover or utilize. Part of the process is to initiate a recharge before the remaining charge reaches 20%, and to only recharge up to about 85%. To prolong the longevity of your tablet battery, follow this process yourself.
  3. Free Apps: Recent tests have shown that the free versions of apps are often the main drainers of battery. Tracking your whereabouts,¬†fetching and running all those ads are pounding your wifi/data. If the paid versions of the apps are low cost (and many of them¬†are only about $1 US), and if it seems like you’re always charging your battery, try installing the paid app versions.
  4. Screen Brightness: Another big battery user, usually the biggest, is the screen. If your screen does not automatically adjust to ambient light, try out an app called QuickProfiles (or search for one like it, if you prefer). It can be set up to switch screen brightness, radios (wifi, bluetooth, airplane mode, etc.) with just a tap. Other similar apps can be configured to do this automatically. Screen brightness can be turned way down once the sun sets, and I personally have tested tablets from major manufacturers that do not turn off wifi when they are put into sleep, so setting your tablet to airplane mode might save you some juice.
  5. Wifi vs 3G/4G … Pay-as-You-Go: I decided to get the wifi version of my Xoom tablet because I refuse to be tied to a contract for mobile service. But some folks¬†feel that they need the connectivity of the 3G/4G equipped tablets in case they are not near a wifi hotspot. Well, I picked up a¬†3G Mifi broadband wifi hotspot for about $65 US, and I can use it to get 3G internet on a pay-as-you-go basis. I’ve been testing¬†it the past month and it’s worked wonderfully well. So I have 3G data with my tablet when I need it, and¬†only¬†when I need it.¬†Think about a solution like this if you know you will not be needing 3G with your tablet on a continual basis. (I can also use if with my laptop, or any other mobile device, something that might not be possible with a tablet with built-in 3G/4G.) Another option, if you already have a 3G/4G-equipped tabled, is to buy a sim card from a third party broadband provider (there are several) instead of one of the major carriers, and pay-as-you-go with them rather than getting bogged down by an expensive contract.