Saturday, August 22, 2009

If you're Jane Austen - avert your eyes

I love the new movement for book trailers. I have one myself but their are lots in production by the big publishing houses. The place to see them is on YouTube, of course. Most take themselves seriously but a few are more irreverent. A bit like TV ads. Why is it only beer commercials can be funny?

Here's a fun one by Quirk Publishing. If you're the ghost of Jane Austen - avert your eyes. HERE.

Mine is HERE.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oh! The frugal joys of eReading

I told you about my purchase of a Sony PRS700 reader. It wasn't cheap and my wife thought I was mad. I also showed you how it pays for itself if you are a daily paper buyer.

After that my quest was to download 112 books into it for a fiver and have change for a pint. Which I achieved.

But, I hear you cry, what about new, up-to-date releases from famous authors? Well, I decided to buy Philippa Gregory's hot, new book, The White Queen. My wife loves her and Ms Gregory is first rate at what she does best. Historically based fiction. This was random. It could be any new release.

But I wouldn't pay more than 6 quid.

The List Price set by Simon & Schuster in America is $25.99. No way would I pay that! In the UK it is £18.99. A quick currency conversion tells you it should be £15.79 but that's good old, rip-off Britain for you. Why is it never less? However, I digress.

Waterstones sells The White Queen at 20% off for £15.19 although, if you bought it at full American price, that's only .60p off.

WH Smith do a little better at £14.24 suggesting it's 25% off.

The Sony eBook Store offers The White Queen for $14.29 - that's £8.68 converted! Have you noticed something fishy here? Sony is the partner of Waterstones (£15.19) for book downloads.

Now, you can wait. Older titles by the good Philippa go for £5 to £10. No doubt The White Queen will tumble down the price lists in future. But I didn't want to wait.

So I turned to good old

The White Queen? No problem. That's $9.95 to you, squire - or £6.04 converted! Full epub format. They also have a rewards scheme for past purchases. So what did I pay?

£5.39 ($8.87) What should I do with the .61p change?

Monday, August 17, 2009

This message will self destruct in 8 hours

What's the closest we get to infinity? The endless reaches of outer space? The time it takes for the taxman to repay an overcharge? An apology from a banker?

No. It's the cyber Elephant. It's the longevity of storage of our personal data on computer banks. Like the prehensile-trunked mammal, servers remember everything forever. Your laptop has a copy of your e-mail, of course. So does the recipient, naturally. Your IP provider stores one. And then the many servers en route.

Those messages might contain bank details, personal info, legal contracts, business secrets, job offers etc. that you really don't want hanging about in cyberspace. The Times tells us a recent US survey revealed that one in five Americans had written something online they regretted later. Whilst one in eight teens had posted revealing photos of themselves.

Divorce lawyers love to obtain old e-mails which can be used in a court settlement. That message from the oil rich husband to his Liechtenstein bankers. His ex-wife's 'secret' liason with the poolman. These e-mails live like ghosts, lingering forever. Deleting doesn't really clean them out. A judge's subpoena will release them. A thief might steal them. Government agencies have no trouble squeezing them from IP providers.

Sometimes there are good reasons that this should happen. Nobody in their right mind wants a paedophile protected or a bank robber. But what, you may ask, of the privacy of the rest of us?

Now Professor Hank Levy of Washington University and Roxana Geambasu may have found an answer. It's a programme they call Vanish. Any message written under Vanish self destructs in 8 hours. Like the old Mission Impossible messages. It will disappear in all it's forms, wherever it is held. Pouff! Like a magic trick. It also applies to social network messages. Facebook, etc.

Vanish scrambles your text into a string of gobbledegook letters. It then splits the digital key to decode your message into 10 pieces. These are hidden across 1.5 million, randomly selected computers across 200 countries. As each user logs off his machine then reboots, refreshing its memory, they disappear, one by one. The prof. reckons that averages an eight hour span before the decode keys are gone.

He's offering it free as a research project HERE.

The picture is from HERE.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Spooky - they know where you are

In an earlier post I asked 'Do we own what we buy or are we just subscribers and renters.' (Thurs July 23rd)

My point being that the nice, new, shiny iphone or kindle you bought with your money is just a plastic shell. The real owners are still the manufacturers, unlike home appliances, because, in their etherial 'cloud' they control what's in it and what it does. And what to snatch back, as in the case of George Orwell's 1984 in Kindlegate. (Tues Aug 4th)

Now new evidence (paranoia?) comes to light. This time concerning the Palm Pre. This smart phone (pictured above) is a rival to the iphone. Apparently, IT developer and Pre owner, Joey Hess discovered that his beloved smart phone was secretly being unfaithful to him with its creator. It was phoning home not only his precise location at any given time (it has GPS) but all his personal data like what apps he was using and for how long, etc.

Joey explains he understands the sending of crash data but what about the rest? As ever the 'explanation' by the manufacturer is a convoluted, double speak statement that is so boring you'll have to read it on this site: HERE

Joey's argument, and I believe it's a good one, is that most appliances ASK before sending personal data, as is only polite. Certainly my Apple gear does and, I believe Microsoft stuff, too.

The thought of your appliances betraying you behind your back is a worrying one. Grounds for cyber divorce.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Challenge - 112 ebooks for a Fiver

I've set myself a little challenge suited to the Financial Crisis. I have a fiver to spend and I want to download 112 books for it. Easy, I hear you say. Just go to Project Gutenberg. Have you tried that?

It's an archive. It smells of dust and parchment. Half a million frayed books to wade through, with little weevils running out. That's what it feels like.

So, I hunted further with my fiver in hand.

I found Girlebooks. (not that kind of girliebooks, pervert.)

This one is run by Laura McDonald and her mum, Joyce. The website at is a wonderful site. Laura and Joyce are dedicated to finding books written by women, mostly by plumbing the depths of Gutenberg and making them available as ebooks for free. But that's not all.

Cleverly, they find suitable paintings to convert as covers for them and they look great. They offer five or six formats for download (whatever Gutenberg offers). They are, of course, old favourite classics. Elizabeth von Arnim, Louisa May Alcott, Katherine Mansfield, etc. A great opportunity to add them to your e-reader and computer e-library. Just to dip into whenever the mood takes you. An antidote to a rainy afternoon. Or to introduce to your children when the time is right. They offer 89 of these classics.

You can salvage through Gutenberg yourself but I found it hard going. I added The Herries Chronicles by Hugh Walpole. That's Rogue Herries, Vanessa, Fortress and Judith Paris.

That's 4 more. I added Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll for my kids and grandkids.

Next came Harlequin Books. Great offers here. It's their 60th birthday. To celebrate they are giving away 16 books to download absolutely free. How could I resist! All Detective or Romance with a big following. So, in they go.

Next, the turn of the Sci-fi brigade. Suvudu Books are offering 5 free downloads of their latest titles.

That's 110 books so far, and not a penny spent.

Then I came to run by Matthew McClintock. He has 24,461 free e-titles! It was time to stop.

In an effort to spend my fiver I went to Waterstones and downloaded The Third Pig Detective Agency for .78p.

I searched on. An intriguing and, I hope legal site was I felt I might be slipping into one of those old naughty bookshops in Soho. Titles like Discover the 100+ Lovemaking Toys Already In Your House or An Amazing Guide to Finding A Thai Wife.

I made my excuses and turned to leave then found on offer Save Your Driving License, secrets of how to get off when the cops stop you. All about slipping out of speeding, radar guns, totting up points, etc. That seemed an investment at £2.

That's 112 ebooks for nothing.

So, I have £2.22 left. I think I'll have a pint with that.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More on Kindlegate

In an earlier blog I told you of the angst amongst Kindliers over Amazon cyberstealing back their copy of George Orwell's 1984. Apparently they didn't have permission to sell it in the first place on Kindles.

Their acolytes revolted, claiming Amazon had no right to creep electronically into their eReaders to snatch back their paid-for downloads. On their forums things got angry.

Now it has reached boil-over. A 17 year old high school senior in the States named Justin D. Gawronski, has sued Amazon for stealing off with his legit download because he had done copious notes from it for his college course work. The notes disappeared along with his book back into the bosom of Amazon. He has filed suit in a federal court.

I don't know about you but, at 17, I was discovering girls, strong drink and the delights of football. The last thought I had was to sue somebody. Perhaps that's why I'm not rich. Perhaps Justin D. G has a dad who's a lawyer. Or, with the thought of the millions a class action against one of the world's top companies might bring him, he's an entrepreneur in the making - or a law student.

Whatever the reasons behind it, Justin has found the backers and the money to go head-to-head with a phalanx of the world's top lawyers. I hope he knows what he's doing. Maybe this is the new way to attract the posh girls at high school?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Starting Today. FREE episodes of The Deadline Murders

From today you can read THE DEADLINE MURDERS for FREE! Each day I will publish a new episode HERE. Enjoy!

You can download the free Adobe Reader from the right hand column. New episode links will appear below it each day.