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Pre-paid WiFi roundup: TruConnect, Wal-Mart, Karma
March 21, 2014 | 11:49 am

A while back I talked about the TruConnect Mi-Fi portable WiFi hotspot I had purchased. It’s time for an update, and discussion of a couple of reasonable prepaid Wi-Fi alternatives. First of all, I still use the TruConnect MiFi. In fact, I’m on my second one now. The first one stopped working after I dropped it; I bought a replacement and kept the battery from the old one, which means I now have access to twice the battery life, even before plugging in the three different battery backups I now have—bonus! I don’t use it as... blocks FLAG fanfic e-book converter, disallows copying and pasting
November 5, 2013 | 8:47 pm

fanfictionWe’ve run a couple of articles about useful apps that can turn fanfiction posted at popular online fanfiction repositories into e-books readable on portable devices. But lately, it seems that one of the most popular fanfiction repositories,, has taken issue with one of the more popular downloading tools, the Fanfiction Lightweight Automated Grabber (FLAG). FLAG admin Steven Gilberd posts an email exchange he had with’s administrators. When he originally developed the tool in 2008, Gilberd asked for and received permission from to allow the tool to operate. However, has suddenly changed its tune, saying, “Please note it...

Cord cutting snips the reality-TV noose
August 10, 2013 | 9:00 am

reality-tvFrom Techdirt comes yet another bulletin about the phenomenon of cord cutters—this rising demographic is, well, continuing to rise. From the article: The pool of potential customers has risen with no correlative rise in subscribers. That's an indication that more households are foregoing cable television entirely...that had better represent a huge concern for the industry. Television providers have done a horrible job of making their content available in the way customers want it, when the customers want it, and they result has been a declining subscriber base. Personally, I humbly submit that the availability...

Google to close down Google Reader as of July 1
March 13, 2013 | 10:19 pm

Google ReaderThere is a risk to relying on cloud services, as I’ve found to my chagrin time and again: they may not always be there when you need them. Etherpad servers have crashed, taking the only copy of my writing with them. Web-based IM service Meebo shut down, leaving me scrambling to find a replacement. And now comes the latest blow: Google plans to close down its Google Reader RSS reader service (along with a number of other, lesser-used services) as of July 1. I used Google Reader exclusively to find stories to reblog when I was writing more actively here—I would...

CNet offers TruConnect MiFi hotspot for $74
July 3, 2012 | 8:15 am

CNet’s “The Cheapskate” blog has a special offer on the TruConnect MiFi hotspot, offering a $25 discount to knock the device down from $99 to $74 when you use the discount code CNET2012 through TruConnect’s checkout. As I’ve said before, this is a great way to get inexpensive (albeit slow) prepaid 3G wifi (using Sprint’s network) for those who only plan to use it occasionally or with very low-bandwidth applications (such as, say, downloading e-books). The plan costs $4.99 per month in which it is actually used (you pay nothing if you don’t use it at all during...

Unofficial Calibre help file seeks feedback
June 24, 2012 | 11:00 pm

Calibre is one of the only good open-source options for managing your e-book collection, but we all know it’s notoriously user-unfriendly. On one of the mailing lists I follow, I’ve heard from Becca Price, who is trying to do something about that. She is compiling a help file for Calibre as part of a class she was taking on how to develop help files. Becca notes that this is an entirely unofficial project, and “isn’t even quite a beta draft.” And the sound file on the “About Calibre” topic does not work reliably (apparently it works on Macs but not PCs) has...

Wikimedia Foundation prototypes new user-friendly editor for Wikipedia
June 21, 2012 | 8:03 pm

Today the Wikimedia Foundation announced a demonstration of a forthcoming new WYSIWYG editor for Wikipedia, in the hope that making it easier for people to edit without having to understand confusing symbols or wikitext markup will lead more people to edit the wiki. The idea is that you shouldn’t have to learn a new coding language in order to contribute what you know. (According to TechCrunch, only about 0.7% of Wikipedia users are active contributors to the site, making up about half of the entries.) While the demonstration version still lacks a number of key features and is restricted...

Wal-Mart offers prepaid MiFi plan just right for email and e-book downloaders
June 20, 2012 | 9:15 am

Want to add on-the-go connectivity to your Wi-Fi-only tablet or e-reader? Wal-Mart could have just the thing for you. Our sister blog Gadgetell reports on a new prepaid MiFi plan coming out through a deal between Wal-Mart and TruConnect (whose $5/mo + 3.9 cents per megabyte plan I currently use). The plan will use the same MiFi 2200 model as TruConnect’s, but instead of a monthly fee, there will be a one-time charge for megabytes that never expire (as long as you use the device at least once a year so your account stays active). The press...

How can we find books we want to read?
May 20, 2012 | 5:42 pm

ed_dis_l_myst_magnifyPublishing Perspectives has an article discussing various new tools for electronic research. Though this isn’t directly connected to e-books, in a separate discussion seed post editor in chief Edward Nawotka draws a parallel between the problems of researchers sifting through reams of data to find what they need and readers confronted by a million zillion $2.99-or-less self-published e-books to find something worth reading. Unfortunately, those research tools in that main article won’t help. The internet and digital age promised us tools that would help us find the perfect books to read. But with the proliferation of...

Readability changes link-sharing format to link to original articles
March 31, 2012 | 10:17 pm

Readability has lately found itself plunged into some of the same hot water as aggregators Flipboard and Zite. Originally conceived as a reformatting service to let people read articles on the web in clear, easy-to-read formatting, without distracting advertisements, the service revamped itself and expanded into a subscription service to pay publishers for skipping their ads. This didn’t work out terribly well for Readability, and so it recently went free instead of trying to convince people to subscribe. But one particularly obnoxious feature that Readability introduced at the time of its revamp is that when you reformat an article... seeks to bring back the art of storytelling, on-line
March 28, 2012 | 10:15 am

cowbirdOn ReadWriteWeb, Alicia Eler reports on, a site meant for telling stories that are too long for social networking. Sounds an awful lot like a blog to me, but Eler explains the site has broader ambitions pertaining to storytelling in general: What Cowbird is really trying to do, however, is something much bigger than just building another social network where stories live and die. It wants to bring back the art of storytelling, that same art that's been lost in the 24-hour Web news cycle, the constant onslaught of tweets and Facebook status updates, image-heavy...

Creating e-book files with Scrivener
March 25, 2012 | 3:15 pm

Until recently, the main formatting tools that self-publishing writers could use to create e-books were expensive desktop-publishing applications that cost a lot of money to buy and a lot of time to learn. (I’m not counting Calibre here because Calibre is a conversion app—you still have to do the actual writing and formatting in something else.) However, the $50 writing and note-keeping app Scrivener has changed that. Scrivener can export e-books in PDF, Kindle, EPUB, and Word (required for Smashwords) formats, among others. On his blog “Writing is Hard Work,” independent author and English teacher Roger Colby...