Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Electronic Books: Has Their Time Finally Come?

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Vol. 2, # 58 - Feb 12, 2009 - Issue # 67 
 Electronic Books: Has Their Time Finally Come?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Electronic Books: Has Their Time Finally Come?
    • Follow-up: Should Windows extras stay or go?
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Speed up Vista
    • Microsoft dumps Ultimate Extras
    • New Dell Tablet PC runs Vista or XP
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • How to change the time and date on your photos
  5. Vista Security
    • Making social networks more secure
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • I don't want autoplay to autoplay - except when I do
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • The Move button is missing when you try to move a public folder
    • Vista computer wakes immediately after you put it to sleep
  8. Windows 7 Preview Corner
    • Win7 beta download no longer available
  9. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  10. Product of the Week
    • Text Speaker: Turn Text Documents Into MP3 Audio or Read Them Aloud With Natural Sounding Voices.

My Antivirus Is Killing My Netbook - Now What?

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Editor's Corner

Electronic Books: Has Their Time Finally Come?

The big buzz throughout the tech industry this week is all about ebooks. The discussion was inspired by Amazon's release of the second generation of its Kindle reader. The Kindle 2 launched on February 9th at a press conference that included an appearance by bestselling novelist Stephen King, who has written a story called "Ur" that features a Kindle in its storyline and is, appropriately enough, available only to Kindle users.

For those who missed the news when the first Kindles came out in 2007, it's a special purpose computer that downloads books over the Sprint EV-DO network and displays them on a screen that's about the size of a typical book page (6 inch diagonal). It has 64 MB of RAM and 256 MB of internal storage. Its memory can hold an estimated 200 books (without pictures). There is also a (mono) speaker and stereo audio jack, and it can play Audible audiobook files and MP3s.

Amazon sells new releases in electronic format for about $10 each - around half the price of a hardcover book at the typical discounted price. You can find older titles for less (classics are about $2) and you can subscribe to newspapers and magazines for a monthly fee of around $1.25 to $14.99, depending on the publication.

This new version of the Kindle goes on sale February 24th and is thinner (just a little over 1/3 of an inch), with better battery life and 2 GB of internal storage (which will hold approximately 1500 non-illustrated books). There's also a feature in the new version that reads the content to you in your choice of a male or female voice. Neither version of the Kindle is available to users outside the U.S. You can see pictures of the Kindle 2 here:

The Kindle's main rival in the ebook space is the Sony Reader Digital Book. It's classier looking than the Kindle, has an interactive touch screen and a built in light, and claims a battery life of up to two weeks of reading (the original Kindle needed to have the battery charged approximately every other day but the new one is supposed to last 20% longer). You can find out more about the Sony models here:

There are many reasons for voracious readers like me to embrace ebook technology. To me, the biggest attraction is the ability to carry multiple books with me, without the bulk and weight of paper books. This is especially true when I go on trips. Five books, even paperbacks, take up a lot of precious space in an already-crowded suitcase, and checking a second bag costs precious dollars on most airlines today. With the new Kindle, I could carry hundreds of books onto the plane in my briefcase, with plenty of room left over for my laptop and other things.

For those with an environmentalist bent, electronic readers can save millions of trees from destruction. Paper books are, of course, still made of wood pulp. And even though the readers require electrical power, the amount is small compared to what it takes to turn those trees into bound books.

So why is it that we aren't all rushing out to buy these electronic reading devices? Why, in fact, haven't I yet purchased one myself, when normally I'm quick to go for cool new technology? I think there are several reasons electronic readers haven't caught on as quickly as their makers might have hoped. The first is more emotional/psychological than practical: many of us just like the feel, smell and ambiance of holding a paper book in our hands and turning the pages. In fact, that's the most common reason I hear from friends who vow they'll stick with "real" books to the end.

But there is also a more pragmatic reason for holding off on buying an ebook reader: the cost. The Kindle is $359 and the Sony models range from $299 to $399. To most of the folks with whom I've discussed it, that seems like a lot to pay for such a device. Many people have told me that "if it were $100, I'd buy one in a minute." Three to four hundred bucks for a reader might have seemed reasonable back when full fledged computers were all close to $1000 and laptops were even more, but now that you can buy a netbook for about the same price as a dedicated reader - and get up to a gig of memory and 20 to 80 GB of storage space - the choice seems like a no-brainer to many.

Some would argue that the form factor of a notebook computer isn't well suited to reading books and that's a legitimate issue. But now convertible tablet- style notebooks are beginning to come down in cost. In fact, Asus demonstrated a tablet model of the EeePC at this year's Consumer Electronics Show last month. It may cost a couple hundred dollars more than the readers do, but you get far more functionality. You can see it here:

If you read books with photos or illustrations, a notebook or netbook is far preferable to an ebook reader, since the former can display those pictures in glorious color. Reading your books on your notebook computer also avoids another of the issues that make me hesitant to buy a reader: the specter of having to carry around multiple devices. That's probably the biggest reason that smart phones have become so popular: you only have to carry one device, instead of a phone and a PDA and an MP3 player.

Speaking of phones, I would be happy to read books on my phone. In fact, I did just that all the time with my old Samsung i730 smartphone that came with Microsoft Reader installed. I could put a hundred or more books on a flash card and easily read them one-handed. For some reason, Microsoft Reader is shown as not compatible with the current generation of Windows Mobile-based smartphone devices. The other problem is that support for the .LIT format used by Microsoft Reader seems to have fallen off dramatically. Whereas once I could find new Michael Crichton titles and other bestsellers in .LIT, now the selection is far more limited and the books are even more expensive than Kindle books. Just check out this list of new releases, few of which I've seen on the bestseller shelves of my local bookstore:

That brings us to a few more things that work against the ebook readers. One is the cost of the books themselves. Sure, it's lower than you pay for the hardcover version of the book - but it's higher than the paperback version. And with both hardcover and paperback, I can proudly display my book collection in my home or office, too; ebooks don't look nearly as impressive on a shelf. I'd be willing to give up those advantages if the price were right, but at $10 to $14 per ebook, I'd prefer to spend a little more or wait for the paperback to come out. Once again, a quick and dirty informal survey of my friends showed that most of them think $5-6 for current releases is the price point at which they would feel comfortable buying ebooks.

Proprietary formats are another big problem for ebooks and because of that, many people just don't trust them. When I buy a printed book, I get a real, physical object that I can hold in my hand and I can be fairly certain it won't suddenly disappear into the ether, become "corrupt" and unreadable for no reason, or become unavailable to me if my reading device dies or becomes obsolete.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the new Kindle is the rumor that in the future, you will be able to synchronize it with your mobile phone. However, there aren't many details about this planned feature, and there's speculation that it might only work with Sprint phones, or that it will just be for iPhones. Others think it might work with the Google Android phone. Interestingly, nobody seems to be betting that we'll be able to use it with our Windows Mobile phones - which, for me, renders it not all that interesting, after all:

Bottom line: ebook readers may be just the thing for some folks - but they haven't yet reached the price point and level of functionality that I expect from a $300-400 gadget. Rather than have one more device to carry and worry about charging up, I'd prefer more focus on book reading software for my Vista laptop and/or my smart phone. I'd shell out the dollars for ebooks if the price came down a bit, and if I had a good selection to choose from and if they came in a non-proprietary format without DRM technologies that prevent me from transferring them to a different device if my current one fails. Until all that happens, I'll probably continue to do most of my book reading the old fashioned way.

Tell us what you think. Have you tried an ebook reader? Did you like it, or was it one of those gadgets that went to the back of the closet as soon as the "new" wore off? If you don't have an interest in reading books electronically, why not? What changes could be made to ebook technology that would change your mind? Are you put off by the price, the intangibility of the content, the features (or lack thereof) on the devices themselves, or something else? Let us know your opinions at

Follow-up: Should Windows extras stay or go?

In last week's editorial, we talked about the "extras" that have found their way into modern operating systems - more with each version, at least until Windows 7. Some folks would like to see the OS trimmed back; others like getting common applications built in. Many of you wrote to give your opinions.

Al S. wrote: "as an avid reader of vista news and a minimally capable user, I would prefer the new systems include the features , I know that many users are less adept than I, and would be lost if they had to install all the outside apps that would be required for a stripped down OS. One man's opinion. The bulk of users do not have much technical knowledge and they are not your subscribers." And Ri A. noted, "For me personally I prefer to "have it all" when I purchase my computer. That way I don't have to spend any time looking for and installing and trying it out. If it is installed at the time of purchase then all I have to do is tweak it as necessary, and away I go."

Not everybody feels that way. Alfred N. said, "I use and like Vista Ultimate but there was a lot of glut that I've since removed. I think it's great they did not put it into Windows 7. Even though I was using 'Meeting Space' (not in Win7), I would download it myself. Everyone has different needs and the best way to satisfy them is not include it by default. Allow the user to download what they want when they want."

Bob Y. agrees: "Yes, the core OS should be 'lean and mean.' Major applications being endorsed or suggested by Microsoft can be downloaded from Microsoft's official download site. Almost [all] users will probably download a browser, an e-mail handler, and some kind of CD-DVD reader/player. Fewer users will want to download movie maker, photo editing, FAXing, and similar applications. In essence, let the user decide how much "stuff" they want to add to the base OS." And Barry S. said, "I have always felt that an operating system should do just that -operate the PC. Anything more than that and it is an application system. Which is exactly what MS wants it to be."

Thomas N. takes the middle ground: "How about creating a 'core OS' each for Home and Business. There are groups of add-ons that you may choose from depending on your purchased license level - Basic, Advanced, Premium, Ultimate. Kind of like your choices when selecting TV cable services tiers and extra channels. Additional applications can be purchased and downloaded - from Microsoft or third-party."

Greg A. feels similarly: "I think some features should be left in the OS such as a simple mail client & web browser for the less technically inclined and ease of use. Not everyone can afford an MS Office suite with Outlook & Word in it and with no web browser at all where do you start to get a browser? Order a CD? I think the EU just has it out for MS and should concentrate on more important issues at hand instead of worrying about what MS sticks in their OS."

And Robert T. said, "I chose Ultimate because I wanted all those add-ons. I don't come anywhere close to using all the ancillary programs that came with Vista but I like that they are there. And, every once in a while I will develop a need for one of them and I like that I don't have to go out and buy it. Sometimes I find that what MS offered wasn't all that I needed and bought a third-party app with more features to replace it. I don't mind MS adding anything they think might be useful to a user. I do want them to be modular in that if I want to use a different app I can shut off the one MS supplied and install something better."

Ed T. had mixed feelings: "Since I go back to the days of IMSI 8080 systems, I have always believed that the OS should be just that, a OS to just run the system, and you get to select what other add-on products you truly use. That said, I am not sure I could go long without many of the built-in programs that are in the various versions of windows. I rationalize it by looking at the price of 3rd party software, and the lack of support they have (Adobe for one) and decide that maybe it is not too bad having a bundled product. Thus my true feeling is to have Microsoft release a security hardened OS, and the let me decide what other "applications" they offer to install."

And David K. wrote: "I would want windows to have just enough stuff to be able to get me everything else I might need. So it needs networking, a browser (a purely text-based one would be fine) and probably a basic text editor. Then let me get the full-featured browser (Firefox), Media Player (Real Player), Mail (thunderbird), etc. I never use calendaring, movie making, photo gallery or faxing software, and only rarely do any scanning (the one that came with my scanner), games, or disk burning (Infra Recorder), so let me pick and install them when the time comes."

And John P. suggests that "Windows should offer options during install similar to how many Linux installs do... it would be great if you could choose 'complete', 'typical' or 'custom', with the 'custom' option offering checkboxes for the various modules and apps (maybe there could even be 'roles' similar to how Server 2008 does with it's fileserver, appserver, etc options)."

Larry S. takes a "tough love" approach: "It's pretty much getting to the point where the only way they are going to satisfy the PC customer is to have them pre-order, like they are ordering a PC from prefab manufactures. To where they would have to go through each area. Of course, this will never satisfy the habitual critics. For they will complain about lack of local availability and say the process is too long and tedious. It is my fond belief that Windows is doing the right thing, by having all the options and then allowing individuals the availability to uninstall or stop programs and services. I mean seriously, is going to add/remove programs that much of a strain? ... I think giving into whiners is like a child have candy when they throw a temper tantrum. Best alternate advise, let them cry, eventually they will get over it."

There was no clear consensus among readers; it's really just a matter of personal preference. Thanks to all of you who shared yours.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication for XP users called WXPnews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Quotes of the Week

When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind. - Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 1592)

The multitude of books is making us ignorant. - Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

I think it is good that books still exist, but they do make me sleepy. - Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993)

Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!

Cool Tools


New! PerfectDisk 10 defragmenter. Supports Windows 7. MS-certified, true free space consolidation. Single pass, fast, complete and low resource usage.

Ever use a download manager? You might not know what your missing, try this one!

Rip DVDs for your iPhone, iPod touch, Apple TV, or iPod Video Nano. Bundle includes video converter too! Free Trial:

Advanced Vista Optimizer does a great job tweaking Vista for Max performance.

Eliminate your online traces with CyberScrub. Privacy equals security.

Backups? We don't need no stinking backups! Synchronization isn't anything like backing up, it's better! Easy too!

Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions

Kill the background tasks belonging to legitimate software that runs all day. Why? To get your speed back!

One easy to remember password gives automatic access to all my online passwords and usernames. I love the autofill feature.

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Speed up Vista

Love the Vista interface but performance is sluggish? Not ready to bet on a beta and install Windows 7 but longing for something snappier? This article contains a number of tips that can help you speed things up on your Vista computer:

Microsoft dumps Ultimate Extras

One of the things about Vista that didn't make many friends was the "Ultimate Extras" concept. The idea was that Microsoft would provide cool (free) add-ons periodically for people who bought the Ultimate (and most expensive) version of the OS. It sounded good in theory, but in practice it didn't work out so well. Except for a few games and the DreamScene animated screensavers, all those promised extras didn't materialize, and Microsoft got blasted for it by users who felt they weren't getting what they paid for. Consequently, the company has announced that Ultimate Extras won't be a feature of the Ultimate edition of Windows 7. Read more here:

New Dell Tablet PC runs Vista or XP

Dell has just come out with a multi-touch convertible Tablet PC, and they didn't wait for Windows 7 (which will have built in support for multi-touch technology) to put it on the market. Instead, it's available now with either Vista or XP. You can get it with up to 5 GB of RAM and a traditional hard drive or SSD. Best of all, Dell claims battery life of up to 11 hours. Read more about it here:

How to: Using the New Vista Features

How to change the time and date on your photos

If your camera's clock was set incorrectly when you took your digital pictures, your photos may have the wrong time and/or date. That's not good if you're trying to find a photo based on when it was taken. But you can change the date and time. Here's how:

To change the date:
  1. In Windows Explorer, right click the photo file whose date you want to change and click Properties.
  2. Click the Details tab.
  3. Navigate to the Origin section and click in the "Date Taken" field, then type in the correct date. Note that you can't change the time here.
To change the time:
  1. Open Windows Photo Gallery (included in Vista) and navigate to the photo whose time you want to change. You can also select multiple photos here.
  2. Right click and select Change Time Taken.
  3. In the dialog box, use the up and down arrows to change the time in the "New Time" field
Note: if you're using Windows XP or Windows 7, you can download Windows Photo Gallery from the Windows Live web site at

Vista Security

Making social networks more secure

Do you use Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or other social networking web sites? They can be handy methods for meeting others and exchanging information, but are they secure? Ummm ... not so much. However, there are things that you, as a user, can do to reduce your risk, as well as steps that the site owners could take to enhance security without disrupting functionality. This article takes a look at the topic of social networking security:

Vista Question Corner

I don't want autoplay to autoplay - except when I do

I like the autoplay feature when I put a CD or DVD in the drive - but I don't want to see that dialog box every time I put in an SD card from my camera. Is there a way to fix this? Thanks. - Faye T.

You can designate what AutoPlay should do with specific types of content. For instance, if you want it to always open up the folder to view the files list when you insert an SD card containing pictures, do this: In the AutoPlay dialog box that pops up when you insert the card, check the box that says "Always do this for pictures" and then pick the option you want (Import Pictures, View Pictures, Open Folder to View Files, etc.). From now on, when you insert the card, your selected action should occur instead of the dialog box popping up. You can also configure the behavior of AutoPlay for various types of media such as CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs through the AutoPlay applet in Control Panel.

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

The Move button is missing when you try to move a public folder

If you attempt to move a public folder in Vista, you may find that the Move button is missing from the Location tab of the folder's properties. To circumvent the problem, you have to disable User Account Control (UAC), which could expose your system to malware. However, if you still need to do this, see KB article 933127 for instructions:

Vista computer wakes immediately after you put it to sleep

If you put your Vista computer to sleep but it immediately wakes up, this may be caused by a USB device connected to a USB host controller that doesn't support the wake from sleep functionality. You can fix the problem by disabling the USB device's ability to wake the computer. Find out how in KB article 927821 at

Windows 7 Preview Corner

Win7 beta download no longer available

If you've been putting off getting Windows 7, you've waited too long. Microsoft cut off availability of the public beta software at midnight last Monday. However, if you already downloaded the OS but haven't yet gotten your product key, you're in luck - you can still get that. Or if you have a TechNet or MSDN subscription, you can still download the beta through those programs. Find out more here:

Meanwhile, if you do get the beta installed and you want some tips on how to use the new interface, take a look at this article:

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

Text Speaker: Turn Text Documents Into MP3 Audio or Read Them Aloud With Natural Sounding Voices.

This advanced text-to-speech application turns words into audio with 2 included AT&T Natural Voices™ offering the most realistic sounding voice available. When you purchase Text Speaker, you receive two professional quality Natural Voices from AT&T, Mike and Crystal, a $50 value by themselves included free. Listen to text documents instead of straining your eyes! Text Speaker can read your documents aloud, or you can convert them into MP3 files for listening, anywhere at any time! Just open a document and click Speak to hear it read in a clear, understandable human-sounding voice, or click Convert to Audio to create a WAV or MP3 file to listen to later. VistaNews readers can download the trial version here.

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Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.