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Topics - Mike D. aka jmiked

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Not Quite Kindle / Winter Tip
« on: December 11, 2016, 08:19:56 pm »
Here's an idea I saw several months ago. I bought a roll of small bubble wrap at that time, and yesterday trimmed lengths to fit my kitchen windows and living room sliding doors (inside). I sprayed a light mist of plain water on the glass surface, then applied the bubble wrap (bubble side towards the glass) and patted it down. It's not glued down so it can be removed easily. I ended up leaving a small 3" gap at the bottom of the glass door so the cats could see outside.

Yeah, it obscures the view a bit, but really all I lose is the fine detail. There are several places where I left a flap that can be folded back to see out.

Previously I could put my hand between the curtains and the window glass and it felt quite cold, and that end of the kitchen was always been quite a bit cooler than the rest in the winter. Now the area between the curtains and the glass feels almost like room temperature, maybe very slightly cooler. It makes a significant difference. The temperature last night was down in the forties (F), and the area by the kitchen sink didn't seem any cooler than the rest of the area.  This is almost certainly not as good as double glazing, but it costs only a couple of dollars to do those windows and doors. It should help a bit in the summer, also. This glass takes up about a third of the east wall of the kitchen/living area and has always been too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.


Apple devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod...) / What has happened to Apple?
« on: November 21, 2016, 12:44:33 pm »
It didn't start with the removal of the headphone jack, but that's the first of the recent high-profile items.

Then, this month with the introduction of the MacBook Pro, it was announced that the MagSafe connector was being removed. This is the power connector that is held to the computer by magnets and just pops off the laptop when the cord is pulled. This prevents your expensive computer from being yanked off the table and crashing to the floor. This has saved my MacBook at east a dozen times in the 10 years I've owned it.

Now it turns out that the new MacBook is completely not upgradable and not repairable. Everything including the solid state drive and memory is soldered to the main board. According to, it has five batteries that are glued to the assembly so well that you pretty much can't remove them without risking danger of fire/explosion. The conclusion they draw from this is that the computer cannot economically be re-cycled (meaning it won't be), as removal of the battery is so time-consuming and tricky that you can't recover any of the recycling costs. Straight to landfill. Plus if the battery needs to be replaced Apple will possibly just have to swap it out for a new/refurbished computer.

A few weeks ago, Apple announced that they were no longer going to sell their stand-alone 5K monitor (out of my price range anyway).  Now they have announced that the Apple Airport Express wireless router is being dropped (I really like this device).

And their phones are so thin that it is all too easy to flex some of them a slight amount and cause solder connections to the chips to pop and then the phone fails. At least it doesn't explode. The 5 series phones were much better, IMHO.

At this point, there's no particular reason for me to ever think about buying another Apple product. As a long time Apple user (since 1984, Apple //c), this makes me sad. I'll mention that I have also been a PC user since before Windows even existed.

I'm really unhappy.

 :'( :'(


Not Quite Kindle / Bread Makers
« on: July 30, 2016, 05:49:35 pm »
I'm sure someone here has some bread-making expertise. I'm looking for some kind soul to make recommendations for a relatively inexpensive bread-making machine and info on supplies and such.


Not Quite Kindle / I finally got hearing aids
« on: July 15, 2016, 01:18:16 pm »
After two hearing tests in four years showed a severe high-frequency loss (age-related, I'm 73), I finally overcame inertia and bought a pair of hearing aids. They arrived Wednesday. After running the program to calibrate them, which consisted of listening for tones and tapping the button on the iPhone app when I could hear them, I discovered a whole range of sounds that I wasn't aware that I had been missing. My charts indicated that the hearing ability dropped into the severe loss range after about 2kHz. Naturally, the loss happened over many years, so I wasn't aware that it was occurring.

I know three people that wear hearing aids, and all of them said it would take quite a while to get used to them, but I have not found that to be true. I'm pretty much accustomed to them after two days of using them all my waking hours. I still need to tweak the sound tubes a bit for comfort, but the sound quality is good and sounds pretty natural.

Several things of note:
The sounds that hungry cats make are more obnoxious now,
The sound of the electric igniters for the gas stove burners are really loud,
I play classical guitar and now hear that my technique isn't nearly a good as I thought it was ó I hear way too much string squeak and buzzing. I may just turn off the devices when I play.  ;D ;D

I am going to have to get used to hearing music so differently. It's not as 'mellow' as I thought.

I'm going to a lunch Sunday at a restaurant with some friends, and I'm looking forward to seeing how much difference the gadgets will make in that environment. I've had trouble for years in following conversations in noisy places and these things should help. There is a Restaurant setting that makes the microphones pick up sound mainly from in front of me, and seems to have some noise-cancelling ability.

Both of my parents and my grandmother were very hard-of-hearing later in life, and conversations with them were very difficult. They all refused to get hearing aids. I finally just avoided trying to talk much with them. I decided I wasn't going to be that person.

To mention an Amazon-related item, I complained in one or more of the Echo threads here that the sound was too boomy for me to enjoy listening to music streamed through the device. Well, that's no longer true. While it is still not all that good, it is much better than pre-hearing aids. I will listen to streamed music now.


Anything Else Amazon / Non-Amazon Alexa device
« on: April 30, 2016, 09:45:08 pm »
It's called the Triby:

I hadn't heard of this before, or seen a mention on the Kboards (maybe I just missed it).

The Book Corner / I recognize the symptoms of a bookaholic
« on: April 21, 2016, 11:19:01 am »
I ran across a link to this post on the blog Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine - one of my most-often re-read authors.

As you might guess, it's written by Crider's daughter. I think the description of a bookaholic will fit many of us, although maybe only pre-Kindle.

Bill Crider is the author of many books, including my favorite contemporary mystery series, which is about a small-town Texas sheriff named Dan Rhodes. The series is up to 20+ books now (all available as ebooks). Recommended.


Let's Talk Kindle! / Scammers target Kindle Unlimited system
« on: April 19, 2016, 09:46:42 am »
I found this article while browsing a news site:

Yet another example of how some people will game the system to get money without contributing anything, while honest people (in this case authors) suffer for it.

Other (non-Kindle) eReaders / New eInk reader being crowd-funded
« on: March 19, 2016, 09:11:25 am »
I ran across this today, a proposed eInk Android tablet with a 13.3 inch screen:


Fire Talk / Amazon makes tablets less secure?
« on: March 03, 2016, 06:06:03 pm »
Apparently Amazon has removed encryption capabilities on the Fire Tablet. It appears to have been optional to use, but still...


The Book Corner / Pendergast coming to a TV near you!
« on: February 03, 2016, 01:22:13 pm »

Maybe we should start worrying now.  :D

Moderators: couldn't decide if this belonged here or NQK. I tossed a coin.


Not Quite Kindle / Adventures in cooking
« on: December 07, 2015, 10:11:07 pm »
Iíll preface this by saying that Iím an older guy whose idea of cooking for many years has been to stick a frozen pizza in the microwave (or oven) or to open some cans and heat stuff up on the stovetop.

Iíve been aware that for quite a while my diet has not been all that great, and Iíve fallen into an all too predictable and boring routine of consuming fast foods. Several months ago I decided to make a radical change and subscribed to a food service. Once a week they ship me a moderately large box of fresh veggies and such and some printed recipes with step-by-step illustrated directions on how to prepare and cook the meals. I can make six meals from the weekly supplies (since thereís only me to feed).

One of the things I like about this system is that there are no preservatives, no added sugar, no added salt, no MSG, nothing that I donít add myself. The produce so far has been of very good quality, better than I get from my local grocery store in almost every case. All the ingredients are in little individual packages (except for things like lemons, onions and such) for each recipe. If you need milk, it will come in a small container, as will various types of vinegars, etc. Iíve gotten some packages with several slices of a particular type of bread which Iíve never heard of.  Spices and herbs are fresh-picked and come in little packages. I particularly appreciate being able to control the amount of spices in the dishes, as I don't care for highly-spiced food.

The claim is that many if not most, of the items are from local sources, but Iím not sure what Ďlocalí means in this context. My packages are shipped out of Fort Worth, Texas for overnight delivery (in an insulated box with ice packs).

Iím having a great time, Iíve found I enjoy cooking from scratch. The recipes are fabulous and I find that even things I wouldnít previously have chosen to eat (roasted cauliflower) are a tasty dish with the right spices and herbs. I should mention that I get the vegetarian plan, so there are plenty of veggies.

I had to buy quite a few kitchen utensils as a result of this. I never heard of a Ďzesterí before now.

I calculated that my total food expenditures are maybe as much as $10-15 a week higher using this plan, but itís worth it to eat healthier. Who knew cooking could be fun?


Let's Talk Kindle! / Books unexpectedly showing up on Kindle
« on: October 20, 2015, 01:49:09 pm »
Several times in the last few months I've had a book that I purchased several years ago show up at the top of my Home Page on my Kindle as a new purchase.

The only explanation I've been able to come up with that seems plausible is that the publisher submitted a corrected or revised version to Amazon and that it got pushed to my Kindle. I can't find any indication that the book has been changed though... no version numbers, etc.

Has anyone else had this happen?


Not Quite Kindle / 2015 Emmy awards
« on: September 20, 2015, 09:13:55 pm »
I guess I'm really showing that I'm an old fogy. I watched the 2015 Emmy Award show this evening (well, I fast-forwarded through everything except the winner announcements), and I didn't recognize the names or faces of pretty much any of the people that got up on the stage, whether announcing or winning. I did much better during the In Memorium segment, though.  ;D

I've only watched two or three of the shows mentioned. I guess my tastes aren't high-brow enough.  :o


The Book Corner / The short fiction of Clifford D. Simak
« on: September 14, 2015, 11:09:44 pm »
It has been announced the the complete short fiction of award-winning SF/Fantasy author Clifford D. Simak is coming to the Kindle over the next 7/8 months. This will be six volumes, said to contain every short story he published. I've pre-ordered all six. The first ones are due on 20 October.

Simak won three Hugo awards and one Nebula award. The Science Fiction Writers of America made him the third SFWA  Grand Master, and he was one of the inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. Today, he is best known for two award-winning works, Way Station, and City (both available for the Kindle).

Simak's work is frequently set in pastoral/rural/idyllic settings with characters the verge on the contemplative, with a rich interior life. Nevertheless, several of his more well-known stories "verge on pure terror" (Wiki).

Simak is up there with Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein, IMHO. Well, maybe higher than Heinlein.  ;D


Not Quite Kindle / Longmire on Netflix
« on: September 10, 2015, 09:26:25 am »
Available right now on Netflix. The entire 4th season (10 episodes).


Not Quite Kindle / Forced download of Windows 10?
« on: September 10, 2015, 08:10:05 am »
I can't vouch for the accuracy of this news item, but it appears that Microsoft is downloading Windows 10 to your Win7/8 computer if you have automatic updates toggled on. It doesn't actually install the new OS unless you tell it to, but you may end up with a huge update file on your hard drive, which may cause problems with some users (like me). It might mess up your data usage also if you have a limited plan.


The Book Corner / Something a bit different in an SF novel
« on: August 03, 2015, 10:56:58 am »

Here's something a little different in a science fiction novel. First published in 1983, the author got the rights back and revised it in 2014 to add more character development and further explanation of some key aspects of his unique universe. Here's a blurb I swiped from Goodreads:

Rumor had it... that out there, somewhere, a starship lay abandoned along the airless subspace trail that was the only means of travel between planets for the primitive trailside peoples. And Eiverdein needed a ship if ever he was to return to known space and the culture of Earth Humans. But many things stood in his path - murderers, strange physics, an alien whose speech could kill, and a girl who was, at best, never all there...

I bought this a a paperback when it first was published and it appealed to me a lot; I've read it several times since. It's been on my eReaderIQ "Waiting to be Kindlized" list since 2011, but curiously, I wasn't notified of the publication as a ebook. I had to find out via a comment on Goodreads. I'm going to suspend my current read and dive right into this one. I'm very curious as the changes made.

If you're in the mood for something not run-of-the-mill, give it a try*. It's reasonably priced. There are rumors of additional books to come set in the same universe, and I'll pre-order without a second thought.


Edit: A bit of a disappointment in some areas. The additional material slows down the narrative in several spots. The enhanced characterizations seems a bit forced, although this may be because I'm familiar with the original story. The thing that really was distracting was the author's habit of reversing the standard of punctuation, then  quote mark for dialogue, i.e., using "I thought I would go to the dining car", he said, instead of "I thought I would go to the dining car," he said. I'm very sensitive to this sort of thing. I had to do a search and replace in Calibre to fix it, it was just too distracting. It's still a marvelously inventive tale, though. It was nominated for two awards when it was first published.

*Although you may hate it. It became obvious many years ago that I don't have mainstream tastes. Imaginative plots count a lot for more for me than for many others.

The Book Corner / "And Then There Were None" TV movie announced
« on: July 16, 2015, 01:49:25 pm »

A TV movie based on Agatha Christie's best-selling mystery novel And Then There Were None has been announced. The cast looks impressive. I have no doubt it will be a good-looking adaptation.

It is yet to be seen if it will differ from all the other movie versions and have the same ending as the book.  ;)


The Book Corner / Does America value the printed word more?
« on: July 04, 2015, 05:04:49 pm »
An interesting blog entry by one of my favorite authors, Christopher Fowler:

I chuckled at one of the sig lines of a presumably UK commenter with a sense of humor:

"Just remember if you are making tea properly, it is important to warm the harbour first."


The Tour de France started today, and I used to think it was a test of endurance, but it now looks like a three week casual tour of prima donnas compared to the Tour Divide, a yearly 2800-mile bike race from Banff, Alberta, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico (right on the Mexican border). It more or less follows the Continental Divide (hence the name). Since it follow the CD, the trail is mostly mountain trails with passes at 14,000 feet, with some riding on two/four lane roads where trails don't exist (uncommon).

You leave Banff at 10AM on race day and ride as fast as you can. Everybody is on their own, you can only use what you take with you or can buy at whatever stores you can find along the way. The winners frequently only get 4-5 hours of sleep most nights. They take a sleeping bag or tent and camp alongside the trail, although it's OK to get a motel room if available. They mostly don't see anybody else for days at a time, since the ride goes through back country primitive roads/trails with no services and no access to food/water for 100-150 miles at a time. When there is snow, they carry their bikes through 3-4 foot accumulations. It's not unusual to have to carry the bikes across 3 foot deep streams. Sometimes it rains for days and the trails turn to mud. It also snows/sleets/hails. There is very rarely cell phone coverage. If your bike breaks 100 miles from anywhere, you have a problem, since it's up to you to get yourself out of the fix. Temperatures range from below freezing to 95F+.

There's also a bear problem. Many come across black bears, with the occasional grizzly. One woman had a grizzly rush her this year, but managed to avoid a last minute confrontation by using an air horn and 1/3 can of bear spray. I think this is the only case of a bear not wanting to avoid people that has happened in all the ~10 years of the race. There are also various mountain cats and elk to worry about.

In 2008, 15 people entered (a documentary was made that year, but the camera crew couldn't get to 95% of the trails). This year 159 people started, ~20 were women. Ages ranged from 17 to 65. People came from all over the world to race.

Participants do carry SPOT trackers. It's a small GPS device that sends your location to a service every few minutes and has a panic button that will transmit a call for help via satellite. It also allows people to follow the racers on a map in almost real time. You can see this at .

It's an informal race, there aren't any officials standing around anywhere. The participants leave around 10AM on the second Friday of June and all the progress is monitored by GPS. Nobody is at the finish except the border guards and anyone else who wants to be there. It's a very isolated spot.

Josh Kato set a record this year (most of the racers are still on the course) with a time of 14 1/2 days, and average of over 200 miles a day. Lael Wilcox set a new women's record of 17 days. Bear in mind the total elevation gain over the distance is around 200,000 feet, and average of over 14,000 feet a day!  :o

Looks like fun, eh?


Let's Talk Kindle! / Finally ordered Kindle Voyage
« on: July 01, 2015, 01:29:23 pm »
Well I finally caved (as I knew I would sooner or later) and ordered a Voyage. It should be here Friday. It will be a nice upgrade from my Kindle Keyboard.  ;D

Edit: Holy smoke. Less than 10 minutes after my order, it was listed on the My Devices page.


The Book Corner / New Lisbeth Salander book in September
« on: April 01, 2015, 09:07:31 am »

It had to happen, I guess. Someone has written a continuation of Stieg Larsson's popular series. The blurb on Amazon says "AUTHOR: David Lagercrantz is a Swedish journalist and best-selling author of fiction and nonfiction. He was hand-selected by the Larsson estate to write this stand-alone sequel based on Stieg Larssonís characters."

Anybody think having someone else continue the series is a good idea? I think I won't pre-order this.

The title doesn't show up in the thumbnail above, but it's The Girl in the Spider's Web.


The Book Corner / The Wrecking Crew
« on: March 27, 2015, 09:53:33 am »
I finished this book yesterday:

It's rare these days for me to read a book straight through, but this one held my attention. It's the story of a dozen or so musicians (there were more than this number involved, but not covered in the book) in the Los Angeles area in the fifties and sixties who played on virtually every rock and roll hit of the era that came from the LA studios. I had heard of them over the years, but was amazed the impact these people had on the music of the time.

One of the things that surprised me was that most of the players in the bands weren't considered good enough to do studio work, but could manage to do the songs on the road. Studio time was expensive, and producers needed someone to show up on time, play the music without any mistakes, improvise on the spot, take the money and leave. Some of these players were booked up months in advance and made pretty good money for the time. They were almost always anonymous as far as the public was concerned. I'd heard of some of them, mostly the guitar players.The only one of these people likely to be known to most people is Glen Campbell. He was one of the most-recorded guitarists of the time but the public had never heard of him until he hit it big as a singer.

Probably every one knows that The Monkees were a manufactured band, chosen from thousands of applicants for the tv show. Only two of them had any musical experience. The Wrecking Crew (TWC) did all the music for the Monkees' early hit records, laying down the instrumental part. The boys would then come into the studio and record the vocals. They learned to play the music well enough to do the songs on tour. Some of TWC occasionally toured with the bands they had created the music for.

A similar situation happened with The Beach Boys. The records were made with TWC, sometimes while the band was out touring. TWC also played the music heard on records by The Mamas and the Papas, some of the Everly Brothers hits, the 5th Dimension, Simon and Garfunkel. and many more.

The studios insisted on absolute secrecy of all this from public knowledge, and succeeded. It was well-known in the industry, though. The musicians were paid union scale for the time, they got no share of the vast amounts of money made by the studios. Very unfair. They may have gotten a few hundred dollars for work on a recording which made many millions. A very few of these people had recordings released of their own work apart from the studio work they did. They sometimes worked 15-hour days for the studios. They were pretty well-paid for time, though.

A documentary movie has been made inspired by this book. I'm looking forward to seeing it. These people were amazing.


Apple devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod...) / Insurance for iPhone 6
« on: February 15, 2015, 03:58:38 pm »
Now that I have this new expensive phone, I'd like to get some sort of insurance for it. What are your experiences and what do you recommend?


Let's Talk Kindle! / Info on how Kindle Unlimited works
« on: December 30, 2014, 08:34:58 am »
Interesting article by author John Scalzi on the details of the Kindle Unlimited subscription plan (and why some authors are not too happy with it):

I'm not an author, but I was interested to learn to the details. I assumed some money was going to authors. I like to see authors get paid so that they will continue to write.

Moderators feel free to move this to the Writer's Corner, but I thought it would be interesting to non-authors (such as I).


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