Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Using Amazon Kindle reader under Wine on Linux

(updated ... see below)

In an effort to expand my interests outside of plain old computers, I have decided to see what it would be like to try reading some books again.  I was thinking of buying a Kindle from Amazon.com, but I already have a netbook (eee PC 900A running Gentoo Linux) and really don't want to have another portable device that may or may not get used.

Amazon.com unfortunately doesn't have a Kindle for Linux, so the best I figured I could do was to install the Kindle for PC (which really should be named Kindle for Microsoft Windows...because PCs can run other operating systems) using Wine, which is an open source software package that allows some Windows applications to run natively on Linux (or other UNIX-like operating systems).  I quickly discovered that this was a bit more difficult than it needed to be due to some documentation issues.

So here's how to get this done, as of April, 2011:
  1. Download the Kindle for PC installer from www.amazon.com
  2. On whatever flavor of Linux you like, install wine - be sure that it is at least version 1.3.0.  I am using 1.3.9 and it is working well.  Since version 1.3.9 is not the accepted stable version on Gentoo yet, you will need to edit your /etc/portage/package.keywords file to contain this line prior to doing an "emerge wine":

    =app-emulation/wine-1.3.9         ~amd64 ~x86

    This tells portage to allow this version of wine to install, even though it isn't the tested stable version.  Additionally, I used the following "use flags" in package.use (you may wish to use others, but this is what works for me):

    app-emulation/wine      alsa jpeg truetype

    The one that is likely important for you will be "truetype" as an earlier attempt got wingding fonts in some places (yuck!).
  3. Configure your wine set-up, if you haven't already using winecfg.  Other people say you need to emulate Windows 98 when you're running the Kindle application, but I have not found this to be necessary anymore.
  4. Place the Kindle installer file (KindleForPC-installer.exe) into the wine drive_c directory.
  5. Run the installer (wine 'c:\KindleForPC-installer.exe').  Once you're finished installing the Kindle software, then you can remove the installer.
  6. Using winefile, you can navigate down to the location of the Kindle software and run it.  This is at C:\Program Files (x86)\Amazon\Kindle For PC\KindleForPC.exe
    .  I'm sure there is a way to create a shortcut for this, I just haven't done anything with it yet.
I registered fine with my Amazon account, and was able to read the sample books it included.  I haven't tried anything else yet, but I will soon.

Those who are running other distributions of Linux, such as Ubuntu, should simply be sure that they are running a 1.3.x release of wine.  It doesn't work on 1.2.x, I have tried it.  So don't waste your time doing that.  You can still run the beta Kindle reader with 1.2.x (if you can find the beta), but that isn't a really good long-term solution.

It would be better if Amazon would simply supply a statically-linked (so it'll work on any distribution and/or version of Linux) Kindle reader binary for Linux.  Even better would be to make it open source, but, as I understand it, the problem here has to do with digital rights management and copyright issues for the books, and they feel this is the only way to deal with that for now.

Happy reading!

Update 1:  wine version 1.3.2 does not work, so don't use that one either. Version 1.3.9 doesn't work on my eee PC with an Intel Atom N270 processor (it does work on other platforms, including my laptop with a Celeron-M processor).

wine version 1.3.6 works on my eee PC, so that's the version I now recommend using.  I will continue testing and update the rest of the text with this information if it continues to work.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Craziness

(courtesy of ABC TV/Jeopardy)
Those who know me know I have this uncanny ability to find information online about people...but sometimes I feel like I've crossed the line and am a bit sorry I did so.  Such as the case with the ultra-cute & smart Jeopardy contestant from Friday, who I searched for in Google.  I was wondering why I kept trying to follow the Google links into Linkedin. and it kept coming back empty.  Then I finally searched on the company in the cache links and it came back with:

Private
at Hill & Woodard, L.L.P.
Location Dallas/Fort Worth Area 
Industry Legal Services
...at which time I realized that:
  1. I probably wasn't the only one who found her attractive/intelligent
  2. I also wasn't the only one who did a Google search on her
  3. Too many people a lot creepier than I am probably decided to contact her and she kind of had enough.
In reality, just to set the record straight here ... a lot of times, I like to do this when I see someone interesting on TV because I'm interested in what they're into and what they're like in real life.  No harm or creepiness is meant by my curiosity.  One day, y'never know ... perhaps, I may run into someone who shares the same interests as I do.

It's a shame Kimberly didn't actually win at Jeopardy because she clearly had a wealth of knowledge.  She was shut-out by the reigning champion, unfortunately, and got the final Jeopardy question wrong (actually they all did).  It was a hard question, to be sure, and the current champion (Christopher Short) played a really good game again and could not be caught.

Several other things have happened over the past few days that are less interesting and more worldly that require some commentary...

Just like most of you, I don't like to admit when I'm wrong but I'm afraid I need to do so.  I previously penned two comments in this blog - one of them back in September, 2010 titled An Old-Fashioned Book Burning, and another in October, 2010 titled American Muslims.  Both of these were meant to show some sensitivity toward those of the Muslim faith and I have been forced to think about what I wrote in a different light.  To defend myself, I still feel many of my basic sentiments are valid and stand behind them, but I have been forced to re-think my opposition to burning copies of the Quran.  A YouTube video done by Thunderf00t titled Burning Half a Million Korans (which I invite you to view) took the recent burning of the book by a pastor here in the USA and showed the reaction it caused.  His question, in a nutshell, is whether the world should be held hostage by a group of people who are willing to resort to violence in response to the burning of a copy of their holy book.  I realized Thunderf00t was exactly right.  The US troops in the middle east are fighting, in part, to ensure people have the freedom to believe as they do.  While I am sure there are are followers of Islam who are not quite as fundamentalist as others, I cannot condone a belief system (even in an attempt to be sensitive to some believers) that would react in such a violent way to the burning of a copy of a book.

After Thunderf00t's video and the latest 20/20 episode about the teachings in some IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptist) churches, I am further convinced that religion (and particularly organized religion) is nothing more than a cult.  For every person it has comforted, for every charitable good it has achieved, it seems to produce some of the most atrocious abuses known to mankind.  Makes me proud to be atheist.

Finally, it is time for me to write briefly about finances, budgets, taxes, and what it means to everyone, including corporations.  A week or so ago, 60 Minutes did a segment on how US corporations are moving their corporate offices to foreign countries to avoid paying US corporate income taxes.  The complaint from companies like Cisco Systems (don't even get me started about them!) was that they would pay 30% income tax in the USA, while paying half that amount in other countries, like Ireland.  So, Cisco, you think paying 30% corporate income tax is high?  How much do you think the rest of us have to pay?  Did it ever occur to you that these other countries fund these lower corporate taxes by taxing the hell out of its own citizens?  There are days that I'll defend corporations just like I'll defend the "little guy," but here is a clear abuse that must stop.  If you're a US company, then pay your fair share.  If you leave the USA, then it's time that we somehow send a message to these companies that we won't tolerate this behavior.  Again, this goes back to the same discussion of penalizing US companies for outsourcing jobs, which I think needs to be done if we're to level the playing field again.

At the same time, I am sick and tired of people complaining about what the government should be spending money on, when they no longer have the money.  "The rich are getting tax breaks - just tax the rich more!"  Would someone please define for me what "rich" is?  Let me help you a bit, "rich" is probably (in your eyes) defined as anyone who is making more money than you are.  My next door neighbor defined rich today as any household making more than $200,000/year.  He was shocked when I suggested that there are people who feel that rich is a household that makes half that amount.  Taxing the "rich" isn't the way to fix the troubles here.  I discovered recently that someone felt that "tax breaks for the rich" were defined as people making more money than they were getting the same tax breaks that they were.  Uhhhh...yeah, well, why would you expect anything else?  I recently suggested a flat tax on Facebook and got summarily booed off the stage (or, should I say, I got played off by Keyboard Cat?).  I've grown more and more tired of listening to the tirades of people who have chosen to have children all of a sudden finding that the lifestyle actually costs a significant amount of money, then expecting that I have an obligation to give more of my salary to their lifestyle choice.

Here's a suggestion:  If you have a favorite government social or other spending program that you wish to fund with money from someone else, why not start by giving-up your own money to that program.  I am dead serious -- if you really feel the schools need more money, then take your own money and donate it to your local school district.  What?  You don't have any disposable cash to donate?  Well, neither does anyone else.  We're all tightening our belts and cutting discretionary spending because the cost of everything is going up, and most of us are lucky to see a salary increase at all (and definitely not one that is covering cost-of-living increases).  Our savings are not earning any significant amount of interest, and our biggest investment (our homes) are dropping in value in many areas.  That's what happens when the economy goes all to hell like it has been.  I am all for making sure that we have the money to pay teachers and to fund education, but it is clear to me that what parents want is an education system that includes lots of extras that we cannot afford any longer.  We all need to tighten our belts, the schools and other government spending included.  "The Government" is not this god-like entity that magically can make funding appear from thin air and pay for things that you wouldn't, in your right mind, pay for on your own.  For every government project or stimulus being funded, you and me and everyone else ends up paying for it.  You know, "no such thing as a free lunch."

I mention this because I'm kind of tired of being robbed by this invisible bandit called "government" who steals from me at the direction of people who bitch about having no money for things because they have kids, or
want to save the world but don't have any money to do it.

In my case, I was frugal with my spending and anticipated a potential economic disaster (having experienced a layoff in my younger years).  So don't get mad at me if I don't feel like giving-up my hard-earned income to your favorite project.  Yeah, I'm doing okay, but I don't anticipate being that way forever, and would like to retire sometime.  I also don't see government as a terribly efficient way to fund some of the ideas you have, and further don't feel like some of these ideas are grounded in any kind of reality, no matter how humanitarian you may seem to feel it is.  So seriously, if you feel it is money well-spent, then go ahead and spend your money.  You and the several other people you can find that have disposable income...

I'd like kids to take their iPhones, iPads, and other trendy computerized gadgets that they feel they need to have  and actually do something productive with them (rather than send text messages to their friends) and learn how to create a budget and then teach their parents and government how to do the same.  Yeahbut that'd be too practical...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Funny Netflix Recommendations

You may think somehow my sense of humor got destroyed by my leg injury and cold.  Well, you'd be wrong.  Now presenting:  Funny Netflix Recommendations

Recommended:   Dogs Decoded: Nova (a PBS documentary)
Why:  "ed: Wallace & Gromit: Three Amazing Adventures, Lie to Me: Season 2"
(unfortunately, there isn't a "Cats Decoded" episode of Nova or I would have been interested in that, but not because I enjoyed "Lie to Me: Season 2")

Recommended:  Life Of Birds (a BBC documentary)
Why: "Because you enjoyed: Coupling: Season 1"
(hahaha ... how in the WORLD did they come up with that one?!  Do they really think everything on BBC is a documentary?!)

Recommended:  Invader Zim (a children's cartoon series on Nickelodeon)
South Park: Season 1, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, The Nightmare Before Christmas"
(obviously the recommendation staff at Netflix has never seen South Park :-)

Last-minute edit:
Recommendation:  Vicodin and a cane
Why:  Because your right leg hurts like a sonofabitch and looks like it could fall off at any time, and because you're a wiz at what you do and have an attitude to go with it, and because you enjoyed "House" (the TV series)

Yes, I made this last one up, but I am actually taking at least part of the recommendation.  The cane will need to wait...and I'm a lot more compassionate and empathetic than Dr. House (but then again, he got Dr. Cuddy!)