Apr. 20th, 2011 08:42 pm
llcoolvad: (hair)
I have been obsessed lately with free or cheap entertainment. I have my Netflix subscription, and I use the Watch Instantly feature almost every day. I listen to Pandora and to Radio Paradise for new music (although this oftentimes leads to a CD purchase, sigh). And around the turn of the year I started exploring cheap reading options. Sure, there's your library. But sometimes there's snow on the ground. Sometimes you want something at 9pm. Sometimes it's just inconvenient to leave the house. So I prefer ebooks. I prefer them in general, anyway. I have way too many dead tree books as it is. I cannot keep overloading my house and stressing my movers.

So over the last few years whenever publishers would release free ebook versions of novels I would usually download them but not necessarily read them, largely due to file format issues, lack of organization, forgetfulness, or just lack of overall knowledge about what I'd need to do so. So I started experimenting, and now I feel the need to collect information in one place.

Stuff I've already used:

  • 2 Kindles: 1st gen & latest gen. Both have been great. Excellent battery life (like weeks at a time of heavy reading between charges), great displays, do everything they should. Earlier one more awkward to turn pages than later one, but later one still not perfect. Can load several file types onto it, including pdfs. Downloading files simple both through the kindle store AND by dragging files onto it manually from a computer. Not the cheapest option, since there's the initial equipment fee, but once you have one there are great buckets of free ebooks out there. Unfortunately when I got my first Kindle the max cost for an Amazon store ebook was $9.99, but the publishers fought that and now some new releases are as high as $14.99. Ugly. And since it's so easy to buy, sometimes it's irresistible.
  • The Kindle app on iPhone: Been using it since the week it was released. Works great, but only lets you read stuff you purchased through Amazon (purchased does not have to mean at great cost. The amazon store has tons of free titles every single day). iPhone screen small. Can't read outdoors in sunlight. Still, you can't read a book unless you have it with you, and I am pretty much never without my phone. I have done the majority of my reading here, at least until recently.
  • Stanza on iPhone: I can load any .epub file onto it from my computer through iTunes. Excellent little app, gives loads of flexibility. The .epub format is the most common format for every store other than Amazon so there is oodles of free stuff available here, too.
  • Overdrive on iPhone: Fairly uncomplicated. App allows you to log into your library system through your library card. I have library cards in three local systems: the Boston Public Library system, the Minuteman network, and NOBLE, so I can browse for ebooks in all three — at least once I renew the Minuteman library card I can. Stupid things expire! Who knew? Obviously library books are free. Even ebooks and audio books.

Stuff I will try: Soon there will be the ability to download library books straight into the Kindle, avoiding the Overdrive app. But from what I've read there will be no possibility of downloading library books into the Kindle app, which is a bummer, and means if I want to read library books on my phone, I'll still need to use the Overdrive app. Not a hardship.

I downloaded three random books today into Overdrive, and it was pretty quick and reasonably hassle-free. Of course I had to dig out my library cards so I could copy the numbers into the Overdrive app, but I'm hoping I only have to do that once. The books only have a 14 day lending window, and you can only borrow up to four at a time, so I'll need to read them ASAP.

Problems: My biggest complaint about the Overdrive library system is that your local library (or the wider system it belongs to) still only buys so many ebook "copies" — which means that regardless of your spiffy instant-download technology, you may have nothing to download, as everything has already been borrowed by someone else. It would be nice if the search interface allowed you to filter by what's actually in stock (as if you were looking at things in the actual library), but it only allows you to filter a specific search (for example, searching for Douglas Adams books) by if it's in stock. I'd like to filter "Mysteries" but there doesn't seem to be that option. So you might end up building yourself a huge hold list and still have nothing to read. I downloaded the three I did largely because out of 200 titles they were the ones actually available. As it was an experiment, that's ok, but as a real world thing that's not how I read! I'd like to choose a title I might enjoy.

Other considerations: The Stanza app requires a tiny bit more tech knowledge / ability to experiment. First you need to get your file into a format it can read, then you need to wrestle iTunes to the ground to transfer your file (and that's only for the latest gen of iPhone. Earlier versions have more complicated ways to get the file onto the phone). After that it's cake, but novice users might have some hassle.

Finally, how do you keep track of all your bounty? Damned if I know. Currently I'm running a spreadsheet of titles including data like what file format I have it in, what device it's on, has it been read yet, and how much I paid for it. This allows me to sort by highest price/not read yet and make sure I'm not wasting the money I've spent. I also use the ebook database/file conversion program Calibre, which I can't recommend highly enough. That allows me to take a non-DRMed version of a file and change it from .mobi to .epub and back again, making it simple to read any file on either Kindle or iPhone. It also allows me to set up libraries, so if I want to have one for my iPhone files, and one for my Stanza (need a different file format) I can, making it easier to find the files when I want to transfer them to read.

Ok, so those are my cheap entertainment hacks and more technical details than you wanted. Any cheap entertainment hacks you'd like to share?
llcoolvad: (Default)
Three new reviews up — sorry for so many on one day, trying to catch up. I still have at least four more to do (this will be it for today, though):

Stop on by!

Summer TV

Jul. 20th, 2006 11:41 pm
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Network summer TV is generally miserable, right? Original programming consists of lame reality shows, game shows, and endless "Dateline" episodes. Then there's pay channel stuff, like "The Sopranos" and "Deadwood", but those work on their own Very Special Schedule, and really have nothing at all to do with summer programming.

For the last few years, cable channels have been taking up the slack and rolling out a few originals, shows like "Rescue Me", "The Closer", "Saved", "The 4400", and "Psych" — these are all pretty great shows, and there are just enough of them to give you one thing to watch per night that doesn't suck (besides baseball, natch!).

But my very favorite show this year is from a completely unexpected quarter. It's "Hustle" — it's on AMC, it's British, and it is just plain crazy genius. The story is about a really good group of grifters. Each week brings a different mark and a different con, and usually there's some kind of cool theme, too, that takes the show into inspired lunacy territory. This week's mark is a mean miserable rich man (played by the very hot — he's on the right — Silas Carson) who loves Bollywood films, and had wanted to be an actor in his youth. Our gang uses this weakness as their entry into his wallet, and by the end of the episode there's an inspired lengthy dance number, complete with slave girls and rose petals and silly song lyrics, and I found myself clapping my hands in sheer joy, bouncing in my seat!

The cast is inspired, the writing is great, the directing is top-notch, and this is season two! I am so going to try to find season one!

So what gets YOU through the summer doldrums? I am looking for passionate recommendations, here! And none of that "I love to take long walks with my significant other, and sometimes we ride our tandem bicycle to the beach and let the dogs run in the surf!" crap. I want to know what television you are watching right the heck now that is blowing your skirt up!
llcoolvad: (Default)
Ahhh. Baseball is already awesome and it's only May!

Keep in mind I don't work Mondays. So I logged onto my work email around 7pm and almost wept. Almost every day during the various sports seasons my company gives away a pair of tickets to games (they have season tix for entertaining clients). The really good games are never usually available, though. But there they were. Two tickets to tonight's Red Sox-Yankee matchup, sitting there for the taking. Shit! The email usually gets sent at around 10am, so there's not a possibility that the tickets would still be there past 10:01am; but it makes me grumpy that I missed the opportunity.

And what a game it was! Wakefield pitching, Mirabelli returning to the Red Sox literally five minutes before the game, a 3-run shot from David Ortiz, Papelbon pitching the awesome final inning, and let's not forget endless Damon/Demon* opportunities. Does baseball get any better than this? Red Sox win, 7-3.

Ahhh. I love Red Sox vs. Yankees. Fun to hate! Fun to watch! I wore my hat all night.

* If you are not a baseball fan, Johnny Damon left the Red Sox this year to join the Yankees (for a lot of money). Red Sox fans, while grateful for all that Johnny did for the team for the last few years, felt betrayed that Johnny would go to the most-hated number-one rival Yankees. Most signs in the park tonight read "WWJDD? Betray!" and "Johnny DEMON" and "Any team but them!" He was classy enough (or smart enough) to tip his cap to the crowd at his first at-bat, but there was no mercy. Soundly booed. All night. Almost felt bad for him. Remembered that he's a hugely overpaid professional athlete. Stopped feeling bad for him.


Apr. 23rd, 2006 11:26 pm
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Another entry in the so-bad-they're-almost-good SciFi Channel movies list. This time it's "Mammoth"; with Vincent Ventresca in the Corin Nemec role, 25-year-old Summer Glau playing his 16-year-old daughter, and Tom Skerritt totally slumming as crazy-old-coot-who-believes-in-aliens Grandpa.

But wait, there's more! Vinny (SciFi's "Invisible Man" series) is Dr. Frank Abernathy, a scatter-brained natural history museum director; his current obsession is a well-preserved wooly mammoth. When he accidentally signals the mother ship by drilling into the mammoth's butt and pulling out some kind of transmitter, mayhem ensues. The mammoth comes to life and becomes a, yes, mammoth-alien hybrid zombie, and runs amok in all the usual ways. And hello? Why WASN'T Corin Nemec cast in this movie? Was he too busy? They couldn't possibly have written the part with anyone else in mind.

Summer Glau is totally underutilized as Jack, who is supposed to be celebrating her 16th birthday, but is instead being neglected by her flaky scientist dad. She has a boyfriend (played by Cole Williams, Paul Williams' son (yes, THAT Paul Williams)) who convinces her to sneak out and go to a really dull rave. They do, and mammoth mayhem happens with predictable results. Her job? Looking upset. Running. Screaming. Pouting.

We lost count of the many many good movies that they referenced: Men in Black, the Blob, Night of the Living Dead, Addams Family, Jurassic Park, Signs, War of the Worlds; basically every SF movie there ever was -- meaning there wasn't a new or original idea in the whole movie. But it was cheesy fun, and I laughed a bunch. Since it was a Saturday night and we'd already gone out to the movies and had dinner, it was an acceptible way to spend a couple of hours.
llcoolvad: (cold)
Just watched She Monster on SciFi, and boy was it fun! Like most people, I love a good B-movie horror flick, and was expecting the usual SciFi badness when I turned this on. But no! This was an actual GOOD B-movie!
Review )
llcoolvad: (cold)
Restaurant Review #1:

This evening a bunch of friends and I all decided, at the request of an out-of-town co-worker, to visit the No Name Restaurant in Boston.

Behind a cut because who really cares other than Boston folk? )


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