Converting website URLs to ebook format

I love my Nook Simple Touch. It is light weight, easy to use and has a microSD slot allowing a huge digital library on the go. So, I’ve kept an eye out for a way to toss some of the articles I run across into ebook format for later reading. Calibre has the capability to capture URLs and convert them to all of the ebook formats the program handles. The biggest problem I’ve had with Calibre is it only converts one address at a time and captures everything on the page including all of the ads and assorted links and minutia which clutter up the formatting on the Nook.

Readlists.com is a web-based solution offered up by the folks at Readability. From the homepage, you see the day’s featured Readlists. Scroll down to the bottom of the homepage and you will find an easy to miss “Recent Readlists” button which will let you scroll through other Readlister’s gleanings. You can view any of these Readlists online or download as you see fit.

Click on the big “Make a Readlists” button at the top of the homepage and you are ready to start cutting and pasting the URLs of the article or post that you want converted to ebook. Readlists lets you take a variety of links, drop them in line by line and then create an easy on the eyes ebook. You can then download your ebook, email it, or send it to your Kindle or iDevice.

So far, all of the URLs I have tried with Readlists have resulted in an ebook that formats well on my Nook very similar to the format I see when reading the site on Readablity.

While you can create anonymous Readlists you can also login via your Readability account. The advantage of logging in is you are able to manage your Readlists via your userid. However, this logging in via Readability is the biggest problem I have with Readlists: you cannot easily log out. Also, the only indication you have that you have successfully logged in is when you try to create a Readlist: your Readability userid will appear in the “Created by” statement under the Readlists title strip. Your userid is found at the top of the bar along the left hand side of the page once you hit “Make a Readlist”.

The only way I found to break the linkage between any future Readlist I created from my Readability userid was to force a logout in Readlists by using my browser’s (in this case, Firefox) security features to clear my cookies. I also cleared cache, active logins and site preferences at the same time — which might or might not have been overkill. Once I cleared these settings, my Readlists went back to anonymous.

If I am missing something here, like an obvious “logout” option on Readlists that I’m simply not seeing, please let me know in the Comments.

Using WordPress offline with XAMPP and Skype playing nice

I’ve spent the last few days playing more with the stuff behind the blog curtain. I prefer to develop my posts offline, drop in my formatting and links and see how everything looks before I actually go online and publish the post. So, I dusted off my offline install of WordPress which I managed to get up and running last year by following the directions I found on LifeSpy.

There are several different ways to get WordPress up and running on your local PC, but I found LifeSpy’s instructions the easiest to implement. Their version makes use of XAMPP which handles the install and set up of  an Apache web server, MySQL and PHP; all needed to get WordPress to cohabitate nicely on your desktop sans an Internet connection.

Sadly, the comments on this LifeSpy post seem to have disappeared; at least, I am unable to access them. During my original install of XAMPP I found the comments as helpful as the original post. Of course, this post is now at least a year old or more, so you might want to dig further for more up-to-date instructions if you want an offline version of WordPress. Regardless, my install still works even after being allowed to lie fallow for a year and the original post proved helpful when I couldn’t remember how to fire it up after so long.

This time I did run into problems with XAMPP.  The Apache server just would not start. Every time I tried to fire up XAMPP I got the message, Run this program only from your XAMPP root directory. A bit of searching on this error message led to the news that XAMPP and Skype (which I now keep running in the background so I can keep up with my kid) do not play well with one another. Both programs want to use port 80; if Skype gets it first, the Apache server will not start. Disable Skype and XAMPP fires right up and the Apache server runs fine.

Getting your cake and eating it too

Well, that’s nice. But what if you want to be able to use your offline WordPress and have Skype running in the background? Back to the search engines and I find that the folks over at the knowledgesutra.com forums offer up an explanation and the solution for me. Turns out that Skype uses port 80 as an alternate port. It is easy to turn this off in Skype by going to Tools | Options | Advanced | Communication and unchecking the box for Use port 80 and 443 as alternatives for incoming connections.

So far, this has worked for me. I did have to completely sign out and then quit Skype, restart and sign in again.

However, be careful! I haven’t a clue of the impact unchecking this option might have on the operation of Skype. On the “to do” list is to find out the significance of not having ports 80 and 443 available for Skype if it happens to want either of them.

If you can help educate me on the significance of these ports to Skype or have other thoughts, please share in the comments.

Dyeing clothes and falling into bogs since the iron age

The folks at PastHorizons report on an article from ScienceNordic about textiles that maybe those iron age folk tossed in the bog weren’t all criminals or sacrifices. They dressed nice too.

You need to get click happy on this one and click through all the links at PastHorizons. Lots of pics of the various textiles in both posts. Moving on to the original article, even more explanation at ScienceNordic. Both PastHorizons and ScienceNordic make it easy to send their articles to print or pdf. If you don’t have these sites in your bookmarks or RSS reader, you need to do so.

Make sure you don’t miss the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research. The Centre, associated with the University of Copenhagen, provides a wealth of information on textiles, cloth making technologies and the relationship of clothing to culture on their site. I have not had a chance to dig deeper into the Centre’s site, but it appears to cover a large part of northern Europe and beyond.

Create a custom atlas of maps suitable for scribbling upon

Fieldpapers.org lets you zoom in on an area and save the map to an Adobe .pdf printable multi-page atlas. The authors, Stamen Design, also include a map template with room for notes and they encourage users to upload annotated maps which, in turn, will help improve the OpenStreet effort. According to the site’s About page, Fieldpapers builds upon walkingpapers.org (another interesting mapping site ripe for exploration), OpenStreet and other open source GIS efforts.  The site offers free customizable maps in black and white line drawing as well as color satellite views.

My first atlas took me several attempts as I kept messing up the scale, unable to get a street level print out. Considering it is a free site, the developer was very responsive to my emailed questions. Turns out I was missing the obvious. I had to increase the number of pages and then use the “grid grabber” located on the lower right corner of the page grid. Once I scaled the print grid to optimize coverage of the area I wanted, I downloaded my custom 50 page, street level atlas.

Sweet.