Techie Saturday – eBooks vs Paper

This week in our series about eBooks I want to show you some of the advantages and misunderstood disadvantages of going electronic. If you missed last week’s post you may want to go back and review it by clicking here.

One of the most obvious advantages is that it saves trees. I don’t know how many, but I suspect it is in the millions. Fifteen years ago I got most of my monthly bills in the mail. I would then write a check and post it back to the mail. I think you get the idea. The world is going paperless, and that is a good thing.

Another advantage is as I mentioned last week, it saves shelf space for those of us who are avid readers. 95% of my books from the last at least five years now reside on a device that is about half the size of an average paperback. I have about three hundred books that now reside there.

Note taking is drastically simplified with ebooks. No longer do I need to scribble out unreadable notes about what I read. I don’t have to worry about earmarking pages and highlighting paragraphs in hopes that I can find them later. Highlighting text for retrieval later is done with the flick of the wrist and then stored away for easy search and retrieval.

Ok, now let’s look at a few perceived problems with ebooks. One is that you have to buy them instead of just getting them from the library. I know Kindle books pretty well so I will talk about that, but I’m pretty sure there are others who provide similar services. If you don’t want to buy a book just take it out of the Kindle Library. With Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, there are about almost 1.5 million books you can borrow for free with no due dates, including current and former best sellers. I get about half my books in this mode. You can keep ten library books at a time. When you reach that limit you have to return a book in order to borrow a new one. To see more about this click here

One of the biggest perceived negatives is that some of us just don’t like to do extensive reading on what we see as a glaring computer screen. I personally spend a lot of time in front of my Mac and understand that problem. But there are now ebook readers that are pretty much the same as reading a paper book. The technology is called e-Ink. It was originally introduced in 2010 but has been improved drastically since then. One of the distinct advantages of reading ebooks is that they are subtly background lit so you can read them without having to turn on a light. That’s pretty important for us old guys, and for those bed reader who don’t want to keep their spouse up at night. Another is that you can make the text size as big as you want!

Next time I will close out this series by discussing the tools that make ebooks possible and what I consider the ultimate secret advantage of ebooks.

E-Books Part 1

This Saturday post will start a short Saturday series about electronic books, otherwise known as e-books. For this particular post, I want to give you an idea of what it was like before technology came to the library.

When I was in college, many many years ago 🙂 I was a regular visitor to the university library. It was a humongous place. The main reading room had card file cabinets that were as long as a train. Now, remember this was a time before computers took over so everything in the library had a 3×5 inch index card describing where the book was and basically what it was about. The millions of cards were kept in the mile-long cabinet called the card catalog. I would literally spend hours there until I finally found just the right sources I needed for the paper I was writing.

Zipping now to the beginning of my retirement years for a personal story. When we were renovating our 1927 farmhouse in 2001 I built a ten-foot wall of bookshelves to hold many of the books I have read over the years. The shelves were designed around the ones I had discovered in Thomas Edison’s library in Menlo Park New Jersey a couple of years before. Within a year the shelves were full and overflowing with books and they started piling up at the front. Now zipping forward again to 2019 and all my paper books are now contained in two feet of the original fifty feet of shelves. The rest contains memorabilia from trips and vacations across this great country. I can’t say that I miss the other forty-eight foot at all. Many of the more treasured books are now converted to ebooks with the paper copies given to local libraries.

If you haven’t figured it out by now I do a LOT of reading. It is now split between books and electronic media sites such as the New York Times and Politico. Matter of fact, being deaf I probably spend a big majority of my day reading. Even TV is about reading the captions on the PBS Newshour 🙂

When I depended on paper books as the source of my reports I would most often cover several sheets of paper scribbled with little notes about the important things I wanted to remember. One of the problems with that was, as my class notes, my scribblings become unreadable to me within a week or two of when they were written. I write well but I don’t “write” well it seems. If my sources were my personal books, as opposed to the library’s, I would also have my highlighter handy and my personal page earmarking system.

Now that you have an idea of the “good old days” that our current MAGA president is trying to get us back to, it’s time to close out this post. Next time I will start to tell you some of the many advantages of having information in electronic form. That story will be like comparing the Space Shuttle to a steam locomotive. I will also show you some of the tools that make the task more enjoyable. It is really not as painful as you have been led to believe. 🙂

Techie Saturday – The Secret of Google

For this Techie Saturday, I want to let you in on a secret. It is better than going to the mountaintop in search of a sage to get your answer to life’s questions. That secret is Google.

Now before I go into the details of my little secret I want to give you a little history lesson. The Google Company was started in1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They developed a search algorithm that literally destroyed all its competition. Larry and Sergey wrote their program, originally called “BackRub” when they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University in 1996.

Let me pause here. What’s an algorithm? It is a computer program that uses a set of rules to be followed in problem-solving applications. In other words, it is a computer program written by a programmer to tell a computer what to do and how to do it. Now back to the subject matter…

Larry and Sergey’s algorithm searched information stored on computers linked together by the Internet thousands of time faster than anything else available at the time. Needless to say their “better mousetrap” led to many companies rushing to their door. They went public with their new company called Google in 2004 and it has quickly become the world’s largest media company.

Just like the source code for Apple Mac computers and iPhone and such, nobody knows exactly what is in the code behind Google search engines. That is way above my paygrade so I won’t even attempt to guess how it works. Now Google is not only a company but a verb. “Why don’t you Google that?” is probably said a million times a day now.

Let’s get back to my little secret. Most people don’t realize just how powerful the Google search engine is. One example of its use is the fake alerts that are constantly around us today about some bad guy trying to steal our money or identity. Social media is full of things that warn us of dire consequences if we do this or that. The vast majority of those alarms are fake, but they seem to spread from one social media user to another at a lightning pace. I have personally stopped hundreds of this alerts among the folks I am linked with on social media. It makes me sound like an authority in the field, but all I really had to do was google a few sentences of the alert to find out its fake and has been spread around for years.

I know this post is getting awfully long so I will try to sum things up here. The secret to being a guru on almost any subject is to learn how to Google it. In order to keep from getting a million sources, you have to keep your words to the point of your search. Don’t add any unnecessary details, just get to the point. It would probably take a book to thoroughly explain this but you do get better with practice.

You can google almost anything. For instance, I am constantly buying new and improved apps. I have apps for photography, sketching, databases, etc. When I don’t understand how to get something done in any of these apps all I do is google my question with the name of the app attached to the search and almost always get a detailed answer to my question.

One of the biggest things about this secret of life is being able to parse out the hype, junk, fake stuff from the facts. That takes practice but can be learned too.

Enough for today. I hope you get the idea. If you have any questions I would be glad to try to answer them but, better yet why don’t you Google them? 🙂

If you have a question about ANYTHING, just Google it

Techie Saturday – The Polar Vortex

Techie Saturday is meant to be primarily about computers and such but the current disruption of the Polar Vortex makes this topic of the day, and it does have some pretty neat graphics that I want to show you. 🙂 The source article is one of the best explanations of why we have been having some pretty severe cold snaps the last few years. Let’s start out with a quick quote for the article. Just click on the source to see the entire article.

“This pattern looks much more active, [with] more winter type storms and Arctic outbreaks — I think I would attribute it to definitely being a polar vortex disruption, because it is very consistent with what we’ve seen in the past,” Cohen said.


The northern polar vortex is a fast-flowing stream of air that circles the North Pole in the upper parts of the atmosphere, known as the stratosphere, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) above the surface.
A similar polar vortex exists over the South Pole, but it is the northern polar vortex that can bring severe winter weather to the United States and Europe.

Source: LifeScience

I know there are those who are willfully ignorant on this topic, but I am a scientist so I am definitely not one of them. Up until I read this article I assumed that a polar vortex was the cause of these extreme cold cells moving into my State. I now realize it is the “absence” of a polar vortex that allows the extreme arctic cold to escape. Learn something new every day.

Setting The Foundation For Techie Saturday

Here we are at a new Saturday and a new category here at RJsCorner. So, I thought I would use this first post to tell you why I chose this topic. The general view of us senior citizens is that we resist change, particularly things technology related. It is perceived that most of us don’t have cell phones and we have no idea how to use computers. Lord forbid trying to get us to understand how automated home systems work!

To that view of us, I say “BUNK”. Yeah, I admit that some of us might fit that description, one of them is occupying the house with me, but there are many of us who are still in the learning mode and willing to tackle something new every day. We might not seek out the very latest technology thing but we don’t shun them when we see how they might improve our lives.

Getting back to this new “Techie Saturday” explanation, I am going to give you a weekly lesson on the tools and apps that might improve your life, or at least give you have some idea what your kids and grandkids are talking about.

What makes me qualified to be your techie guru? Over the years I have had more Apple computers than I can even count. I will also quietly admit that there were a few years in there that I was, due to a corporate edict, a Windows guy but my heart and loyalty remains Apple. I am on my 6th cell phone. I played around with Android but finally went to an iPhone and never looked back. iPads are constantly by my side to jot down notes for post ideas or to just ask Siri a question that popped up in my mind. I had to wait until I was almost forty for the PC/Mac to be invented. After it was, I spent hours and hours programming my first computer, which was a TRS-80, to control the lights in my bachelor pad apartment. From the get-go, I totally immersed myself in the techie world.

Because I am deaf, I might not be up to par on music things and social media is to some degree still somewhat unexplored for me, but for the rest of it I keep up with the daily news and read a couple computer magazines every month.

Ending this initial post, come back on Saturdays with your questions and your learning hat on. I’m sure there are even some of you out there who can school me on some of these topics. I actually look forward to that. 🙂