Monday, January 28, 2008

30 Benefits of Ebooks

Read an Ebook Week is a yearly event, and this year (2008) it runs from March 2 to March 8. To encourage the celebration of this little-known happening, here is our list of 30 Benefits of Ebooks. We love pbooks (paper books), and hope that they are never replaced by their electronic grandchildren. Yet ebooks are a worthy companion to their paper elders. Here's how and why.

30 Benefits of Ebooks

Copyright © 2008 by Michael Pastore

1. Ebooks promote reading. People are spending more time in front of screens and less time in front of printed books.

2. Ebooks are good for the environment. Ebooks save trees. Ebooks eliminate the need for filling up landfills with old books. Ebooks save transportation costs and the pollution associated with shipping books across the country and the world.

3. Ebooks preserve books. (The library of Alexandria was burned and the collection ruined. Richard Burton's wife, after his death and against his wishes, destroyed a book he had been working on for ten years. The original manuscript of Carlyle's The French Revolution was lost when a friend's servant tossed it into the fire.) Ebooks are ageless: they do not burn, mildew, crumble, rot, or fall apart. Ebooks ensure that literature will endure.

4. Ebooks, faster to produce than paper books, allow readers to read books about current issues and events.

5. Ebooks are easily updateable, for correcting errors and adding information.

6. Ebooks are searchable. Quickly you can find anything inside the book. Ebooks are globally searchable: you can find information in many ebooks.

7. Ebooks are portable. You can carry an entire library on one DVD.

8. Ebooks (in the form of digital audio books) free you to do other activities while you are listening.

9. Ebooks can be printable: and thereby give a reader most or all of the advantages of a paper-based book.

10. Ebooks defy time: they can be delivered almost instantly. Ebooks are transported to you faster than overnight shipping: in minutes or in seconds.

11. Ebooks defy space: ebooks online can be read simultaneously by thousands of people at once.

12. Ebooks are cheaper to produce. Thus, small presses can attempt to compete with media giants.

13. Ebooks are cheaper to buy.

14. Ebooks are free. The magnificent work of Project Gutenberg, and other online public libraries, allow readers to read the classics at no cost.

15. Ebooks can be annotated without harming the original work.

16. Ebooks make reading accessible to persons with disabilities. Text can be re-sized for the visually impaired. Screens can be lit for reading in the dark.

17. Ebooks can be hyper-linked, for easier access to additional information.

18. Ebooks -- with additional software and hardware -- can read aloud to you.

19. Ebooks let you tweak the style. Many ebooks allow readers to change the font style, font size, page size, margin size, colors, and more.

20. Ebooks may allow the option for the addition of multimedia: still images, moving images, and sound.

21. Ebooks, with their capacity for storage, encourage the publishing of books with many pages, books that might be too expensive to produce (and purchase) in paperback.

22. Ebooks -- without outrageous DRM schemes -- are made for sharing. Ebooks can be quickly duplicated, and then distributed to strangers or given to your friends. Worry no more about your loaned books that will never be returned.

23. Ebooks empower individuals to write and to publish, and in this way help to challenge "the crushing power of big publishing", that excludes so many authors from the New York City publishing circus. Publishing can move from the impersonal and profitable, to the personal and pleasurable.

24. Ebooks -- thanks to the simplicity and speed of publication and feedback -- allow authors to experiment in many themes and styles.

25. Ebooks posted online encourage comments, corrections, and feedback -- which eliminates mistakes and improves accuracy -- especially important when dealing with scientific and technological issues.

26. Ebooks allow publishers to publish (and readers to read) works by a larger number of authors, and works on a wider variety of topics. Critics of traditional book publishing (such as Jason Epstein and Andre Schriffin) state that economic pressures have reduced and limited the number of authors and topics that traditional publishers will now produce.

27. Ebooks defeat attempts at censorship. All these works were banned: Analects by Confucius. Lysistrata by Aristophanes. Ars Amorata by Ovid. Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio by John Milton. The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne. Wonder Stories by H.C. Andersen. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Ulysses by James Joyce. ... Many of these books were confiscated, burned, or denied availability in libraries, bookstores and schools. Ebooks guarantee that readers maintain their right to read.

28. Ebooks help paperbook publishers to sell paperbooks. Cory Doctorow has explained that the giving away of ebooks, for free, has helped to sell the paperback editions of his stories and novels.

29. Ebooks are evolving. As technology develops, ebooks may contain new features. For example, a book of recipes may contain a recipe calculator to figure how much maple syrup is needed to bake 200 cookies. An ebook that prepares you for the GRE could include an interactive test. An ebook about politics might allow you to click a link and register to vote, or send an email to a Congressman that tells him he is not a good environmental steward.

30. Ebooks are good for paperbook publishing. By setting an example for diversity and freedom of expression, ebooks may motivate the stagnant book publishing industry towards the renewal of small presses, the end of the blockbuster-bestseller publishing mentality, and a healthier balance between the needs of commerce and culture.

For more information about eBooks:

References To This Post

== END of 30 Benefits of Ebooks, Copyright © 2008 by Michael Pastore ==

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Bobby Fischer ( 1943 — 2008 )

Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.
—Italian proverb

Bobby Fischer (March 9, 1943 – January 17, 2008), legendary world chess champion, died in Iceland yesterday after a long illness. After defeating Boris Spassky for the World Chess Championship in 1972, Fischer vanished from the chess world until the Fischer-Spassky rematch in 1992 -- which Fischer also won. Toward the end of his life, his anti-American and anti-Semitic remarks -- in my opinion, tragic and inexcusable -- overshadowed his chess accomplishments. However, in all of the game's history, his success is perhaps unequaled: without wealth, without great teachers, without computers, without the entire chess-teaching structure that trains a typical Russian grandmaster -- Fischer defeated the world's best players of his era.

The video clip below shows scenes from Fischer in Iceland in 1972, during his most famous match.

Bobby Fischer in Iceland, 1972

Fischer Remembered by His Friend, Larry Evans

Dick Cavett in the New York Times (including clip from the Cavett-Fischer interview)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Book Reviews: Head First SQL, and Learning PHP & MySQL

You’ve probably read about the 10-year-old boy from Mexico, who tried a unique method to avoid his boring day at school. His solution? He glued his hand to his bed. After paramedics freed him — in time to get to school a few hours late — the boy said: "I didn't want to go to school because vacation was so much fun."
This incident reminded me of the gem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749—1832), who epitomized the essence of education with this simple sentence: “A man learns about only what he loves.”
Modern education should be based on these principles: enjoyment, enthusiasm, wonder, passion, curiosity, creativity, imagination — all facets of love.
Instead, in too many of our schools, we are given mere instruction. The misguided goal is to cram facts into the student’s heads, so that these facts can be regurgitated during the exam, and then forgotten as quickly as possible afterwards. Dickens satirized this mis-education in his novel Hard Times, where his schoolmaster (Thomas Gradgrind) insisted on “the one thing needful”:

“Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.”

Now and then I discover a teacher or a leader who is truly inspired; a product that evokes creativity; or a book that conveys its subject with an approach that is thoroughly unique. Head First SQL is just that kind of book.

And how is this miracle of pedagogy accomplished? … The book is filled with illustrations, lots of white space, and eye-catching text. Humor and a light touch is rarely absent. Most importantly, the essential ideas are presented in small easy-to-grasp chunks, presented at just the right time.

Good writing never happens by accident. The book’s philosophy of “metacognition” (as the editors call it) explained in the introduction. And the implementation of these subtle educational ideas is flawless. The book never leaves you wondering “what’s going on here?”. The book just works.
If you skim through the book at a bookstore, don’t be offput by the author’s choice of the DOS-like interface used to enter MySQL commands. If you want to learn to make websites, you shouldn’t start with the WSYWIG Dreamweaver: you should first learn some coding in XHTML and CSS. To learn SQL, you’ll need this same kind of understanding of the nuts and bolts. The slick GUI can be added later.

After you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you might want to continue your SQL study with another fine O’Reilly book, Learning PHP & MySQL (2nd Edition). The book, intended for beginners — beginners with some HTML and graphic design background — covers more topics and goes into greater depth than its Head First cousin. Despite the cute kookaburra birds on the front cover, the tone of this SQL book is less casual, but the writing style is equally clear.
These days, everywhere you look, you’ll find websites and blogs powered by MySQL and PHP. For webmasters and blogmasters, after XMTHL and CSS, these two languages are the next big things. With these two books on your shelf you will master the subjects quickly and painlessly, and have time for a vacation in the south of Italy, like our good friend, Mr. Goethe.

Head First SQL
by Lynn Beighley
O'Reilly, ISBN: 978-0-596-52684-9
Paperback, 571 pages, $ 44.99

Learning PHP and MySQL
by Michele E. Davis and Jon A. Phillips
O'Reilly, ISBN: 978-0-596-51401-3
Paperback, 411 pages, $ 29.99


Boy Glues Himself To Bed to Avoid School (from the Guardian):,,2237129,00.html

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Martin Luther King, Jr. — Born January 15, 1929

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929. King revolutionized the world with his work for civil rights, and equal rights, for all Americans. Inspired by Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi, King's method for creating social change can be epitomized in three words: non-violent civil disobedience.

No Turning Back, a new book by Gurdon Brewster (shown seated beside King in the photograph) tells the story of Brewster's encounter with King and King's family, during the summer of 1961. Filled with original photographs and amusing anecdotes, the book reveals a personal glimpse of a genuinely remarkable man.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

10 Tips for Switching to a Leopard Mac from a Windows PC

comic and tragic masks

You remember, of course, the classic story by O’Henry, “Gift of the Magi.” The husband [text deleted to not spoil the story -- ed.]; and the wife [text deleted to not spoil the story -- ed.]. Something similar happens when you first get your beautiful new Mac machine. You’ve got the hardware, but with everything you’ve spent on it, your budget is low and dry for buying new software for your Mac.

But wait! Nil desperandum! ... Your new Mac comes with some terrific software; and iWork ( $79) can solve your simple word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation needs. And yes Virginia, there is not only a Santa Claus, but there is freeware for the Mac. ... All at once you grasp that there’s no need to toss out the old as you ring in the new. Using BootCamp (free with Leopard) you can run your favorite Windows programs on your new Mac computer. Enthusiasts and fanatics have been talking about that possibility for the past 10 years. And now it’s it’s possible, it’s real, it's here now, and it’s easy to do.

This article describes a strategy for moving from a Windows computer to a Mac. It assumes that -- at least for a few months -- you’ll want to use the best of the software, shareware, and freeware that you’ve been accustomed to on your old Windows nag.

Here’s how I made the great transition. Use this as a rough guide to help you to devise your own plan.

1. Learn about the Mac basics. ... Learn how the Finder works; how the Mac keyboard differs from the one on the PC; and how to find your newly made files.

2. Carefully install Bootcamp. ... Bootcamp is the software made by Apple that allows you the choice of starting (and restarting) your computer with the Windows operating system or with the Mac Leopard. Apple provides (as a downloadable PDF from their website) a 26-page Installation & Setup Guide that you should read carefully; especially the part where you must choose which drive to partition. One false move here and you wipe out your entire hard drive, and obliterate all of Western civilization.

3. Install Windows XP with service pack 2. ... I prefer XP to Vista; but you could choose Vista instead. And yes, you’ll need to buy a copy: check the web for deals.

4. Move your data from your old computer to your new one. ... I used a Maxtor OneTouch USB external hard drive: its 300GB capacity was more than capable for the job. I simply dragged everything from the MyDocuments folder to the Maxtor; and then (when booted up in Windows) dragged everything from the Maxtor to the new machine.

5. Install your essential Windows software. ... WordPerfect, File Locator Pro, Manny’s Simple Note Cards, and TreePad were the first to bless my new machine. For your shareware shareware and freeware, it’s often simpler to download these installer files fresh from the Web, rather than dig up the original ones on your old hard drive. If you can’t find your registration numbers, contact the software seller and request these magic numbers.

6. Move your software's special settings from the old machine to the new one. My Wordperfect had macros and custom-made keyboards: the macros were dragged into the macro folder; and the keyboards re-appeared by dragging in a template file. Dreamweaver contains special information about folders, and the passwords to access your websites: a migration tool (free) made life a lot easier here.

7. Upgrade your hardware drivers. ... Now is a good time to search the websites of your hardware companies to find updates to the latest drivers, for hardware such as printers and scanners.

8. Test your Windows and your Mac systems. ... Open your programs; try to print and scan something; make sure all your important data is where you want it. Practice switching operating systems, from Mac to PC (just restart and hold down the “Option” key) and from PC to Mac (click the small button on your toolbar, then choose “Restart in OS-X”.

9. Soup up your Mac with Freeware and Shareware. ... Download Firefox and Open Office; and then check out useful shareware and freeware programs for the Mac.

10. Open up iCal -- set your tiny mouse button (on the top) to bring up iCal instantly -- and then wonder in wide-eyed stupefaction how you ever accomplished anything without it.

You’re done. Woo-hoo! ... Now go forth and have fun with your Mac.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Need Help? … Find It on the Internet

fragment of the Creation by Michelangelo, enhanced by Michael Pastore

May the new year 2008 bring you Health and Happiness. Resolve to improve yourself and to help others. Never lose hope. And whenever you need hope, or help, do not be shy: call a friend or a member of your family.
The Internet, too, may help you, in these 5 ways:

  1. Forums let you log in and ask questions, which may be answered by experts, novices, and everyone in between. For computer and technology help, visit Tech Support Guy at . Whenever I get viruses, spyware, malware, and other electronic plagues, the generous vounteers there have solved the problems.
  2. Groups are similar to forums: you ask for help and people provide free answers. Google Groups are my favorite: start exploring here:
  3. Experts Websites. When you enter All Experts or Get Satisfaction you are answered by a person skilled in her/his area of expertise.
  4. Websites in General. Here, you don't ask questions, but instead you can look at information, or links to information. Examples: Epublishers Wiki Health Sites and and Wikipedia
  5. Fast and Easy Access to Information for Local Help. Use the Internet as a super yellow-pages or white pages, to find resources in your own community. If you're hungry in Tompkins County, it takes just 10 seconds to Google for "free food" — and you'll find the Tompkins County Food Distribution Network at

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