How to easily convert almost any eBook to open ePub format

My iPod Touch is also my eBook reader. I use the Stanza app (recently upgraded), and the Stanza desktop application to get pdf and other formats into my iPod Touch. But Stanza can’t read all formats, and occasionally an imported file will not display correctly — the layout gets messed up.

This is where comes in. This online eBook converter will take up to 5 eBooks of various formats (doc, epub, fb2, html, lit, lrf, mobi, odt, pdb, pdf, prc, rtf, txt) and convert them to ePub (or fb2, lit, lrf, mobi) format.

Then it’s a simple matter to share the file with Stanza, and send it to my iPod Touch.

I’ve only converted a couple of titles so far, but the output files have worked like a charm.

2ePub is a very cool and sophisticated application, utilizing a few ‘hidden’ backend applications — according to the developers:

2EPUB relies on various open source software, including Calibre, OpenOffice, AbiWord, Unoconv and pdftohtml.
2EPUB can convert only those documents that were, intentionally or not, made suitable for automatic conversion.
So now, when I get a new eBook (in whatever format) I’ll be running it through 2ePub first, to clean it up and make it more sharable with my variety of hardware platforms

A great tool if you’re writing on a deadline

All righty then. Just finished up a cool conversation with a dude that I have to meet with later to figure out some stuff.

Now, I guess I’ll keep plugging away at writing, nay, testing Write or Die, a timing and wordcount interface that helps focus your writing by imposing limitations and consequences on your writing.

I’ve not bumped into the consequences yet, but I have bumped into the limitations.

– it’s hard to spellcheck.
– no other formatting commands, it’s all about getting the words out of your head and on the screen
– Oh, hey, the screen turned red when I paused for thought. Cool.. Just to let me know that I shouldn’t do that, I guess.

Now then, this test is only a 200 wordcount test, and I set a time limit of 10 minutes to write it.

At this point, including the 3 minutes of conversation that occured after I launched the app, but before I started actual writing, I’m at 159 words and about 4 minutes remaining. I should be able to make the deadline…maybe.

Wow, one thing I do notice; all this concentrated writing is causing me to notice my wrists. Usually my writing style is more thoughtful and casual, but right now I’m just spewing…oh, hey, I just made 200 words, with about 3 minutes to spare.

Well, I won’t edit this too much; I’ll just paste it in as is, and let it be an example of work created with Write or Die.

After writing using this tool, here’re some thoughts:
– Yes, I’d use it again
– My wrist is kinda sore right now
– It could use some additional editing / layout features
– Anything written using Write or Die *must* be edited…typing spew is not good reading

26 seconds left – copy to clipboard just in case 🙂 Saving now.

Cool! Online lighting diagram creator – photography

The following post is a QuickHit(tm) — an article or post I found online and thought was important enough to share directly with you. Of course, you’ll see my thoughts or opinions prepended or appended to this post, otherwise I’m just scraping content, and that’s not the intent.

I'm looking for tools to help me set up this year's Christmas dog photo session, and I came across this nifty online application:

"Photography lighting diagrams made easy with this online tool: use the drop down menus, select objects, drag them, rotate them, change their layers then export your diagram to JPEG or save its URL."



You’ve just read a QuickHit(tm). Thanks! And don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments.

How to easily install essential applications on a new Windows 7 computer

It doesn’t matter if you’ve upgraded from Vista or XP, or if you’ve bought a new Windows 7 based computer, you’re going to need to install some basic and essential applications on your new baby.

And this awesome website makes it so, SO easy. 4 easy steps:

  • Visit the site
  • Select which applications you want
  • Press the button to start a download
  • Run the downloaded application

Visit the site is a very cool web app with a single function: to make a custom downloader and installer that will save you time and mouseclicks to install commonly used open-source and free applications.

The page looks like this, a long list of applications and utilities, divided into sections by application type.

Ninite includes everything from office suite applications (Open Office, MS Office trial), image and  audio editors, to system maintenance utilities, virus scanners, and media burning tools.

Get your applications
This couldn’t be simpler. Click on the apps or utilities you want. Unfortunately there’s no link to a product overview so if you’re not familiar with the application you will need to Google it.

Press the button
This initiates a bit of back-end magic at the site. A custom download/installer application is built and sent to your computer. It contains all the information necessary to, when run, download and install (in background) the applications you selected in the previous step.

Make it so
When  you run the installer, a window opens showing you the progress of the process. If you’re curious, you can ‘show the details’ and each phase of the install can be viewed.

The big benefit for me is the time saving and the click saving. What would normally take over an hour for a new install, basically takes 2-5 minutes of my time, the rest happens in background while I do something else. To quote from the developers:

Ninite runs on Windows XP/Vista/7 and works
in the background 100% hands-free.

We install apps with default settings and
say “no” to browser toolbars and other junk.

All we do is install the latest versions of the apps
you choose. Not even Ninite is installed.

How can that not be cool?

Old school dungeon crawling on the iPhone

Last week Torchlight was released. Future Shop Techblogger Matthew Kumar wrote a great overview of the game. But there was a time, way back in the last century, when similar computer games were played without the benefit of 3D graphic cards, Dolby Surround Sound, or mice and gamepad macro programming applications. Strap yourself into the way-back machine ’cause we’re going to look at the progenitors of Torchlight, Diablo, and any other hack ‘n slash dungeon crawl, and we’re going to use the iPhone / iPod Touch to do it. …more

This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.

How to use a webcam as a home security camera

Over the years as I’ve acquired various bits of hardware, I’ve somehow ended up with a few ‘extra’ webcams. Not really wanting them to languish in my parts bin, I figured I’d take a stab at setting them up as home security cameras. And, I wanted to check out what my dogs were up to during the day 🙂
My kitchen was the perfect test area, as I already had a windows-based PC there. All I needed to add were some USB Extension cables and I was set. So for you list-minded folk, here’s what I used:

I positioned the cameras where I’d have a good view of the floor-space and entrance. It takes a bit of trial and error to get the right angle and in one case I had to use a weight to keep the Logitech Camera in place…the twists of the cable wouldn’t let the camera sit flat.

On the software side, I chose to go with an online solution, This was much simpler than setting up a home web server and webcam capture solution. I wanted something that was pretty much plug-and-play.

Our subscribers use HomeCamera’s built-in motion detection for security cameras, to receive image and video intrusion alerts on their email and mobile phones. Features like automatic recording schedules enable you to see what happened in your home throughout the day, even while you’re on an out-of-town work trip. Business customers use HomeCamera to watch over their factories, their shops, warehouses, and more.

Setup was pretty simple. I tweaked the camera settings using the camera manufacturer’s setting software, then ran the client.

The Client allows you to set up and share your cameras. Again, very easy.

Since is in beta, their service / performance may fluctuate — though I’ve never had any issues.

As well, service is free during this beta period. According to the site, there will be a free option, but also a paid one too:

We expect to exit beta and go commercial in early 2010. At that time, we will offer two service plans: FREE (which is pretty much the service you see now, with a few limitations on number of online cameras and server storage) and the full service (with video streaming) at US$ 29.95 YEARLY. Yes, that’s $29.95 per year – we want to keep the price low enough for regular people to easily afford the service. At this price, it’s cheaper than a cup of coffee a month…

So, I now have a video-based home monitoring system. Basically free, as I had all the parts anyway.

There are other online monitoring solutions out there, but this one just seemed to be the simplest for me…got any ideas how I can improve this setup? Let me know!

Organized: A great thing to be when guest editing at someone else’ blog

Last week I had the honour of curating One Degree’s Week in Review. My contribution: Meltdowns, Monitizaton and Monks. The week in review: Friday the 13th edition, February 2009

Quick background: is one of Canada’s leading online publications about digital marketing, online communications and social media — penned by some of Canada’s most insightful and innovative internet marketers.

Now, what was interesting in this exercise was the fact that I had to gather a week’s worth of ‘interesting things’, keep them organized and ready for review and inclusion into the final article.

What made this process easier is that I set aside time to apply a system to this. It kept me organized and focused…no multi-tasking allowed. Here’s how I did it.

  1. Scan lots of sources. In my case, I tracked trending topics on Twitter with TweetDeck (and it’s super-cool Twitscoop function), reviewed my regular Google Alerts on topics I’m interested in, Scanned my RSS feeds for interesting blog posts.
  2. Harvest the best items and add them to my bookmark stream, adding appropriate tags. In my case I used 1degree
  3. Repeat daily, or more often if needed

So, on Edit Day, I had a rather large list (60+ items) of bookmarks and other items to review and try and find a common theme or themes (for the title), build the submission and select appropriate categories.

At this point, it was easy to see common threads, themes and categories. Then it was a simple task, based on the number and frequency of similar items, to determine which made the submission.

All told, I likely spent 20-30 minutes each day collecting content. Then on Edit Day, it took me maybe 90 minutes to build the final article.  All in, maybe 200 minutes total; 3+ hours.

Since this is the first time I’d applied this system, I’m thinking with practice and experience I’ll be able to bring that time down in future.