Steampunk Rainmeter Layout

I am a big fan of Rainmeter desktop customization.  I just finished putting together another Rainmeter desktop layout for my laptop computer. 

This one is based on steampunk themed (think lots of gears and brass) skins created by Customize.org member, Mordasius.  The majority of my layout is from the Big, Bold & Brassy collection of Rainmeter skins available for download from customize.org.  My laptop has a native resolution of 1366 x 768 and you can see in the screenshot that this makes for a tight fit. 

SteampunkDesktop

I added a different analog clock from another Mordasius skin (available here), which features animated gears with a piston that appears to vent steam every minute. 

I found the background “wallpaper & wainscoting” by searching for “steampunk backgrounds” with Bing.  And finally, I adapted my own stock market skin (lower right corner) to fit the theme.  You can read all about the features (e.g., WiFi, network, music player, RSS reader, etc. skins) at the customize.org link above.

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Read EPUB Books on Kindle Fire Without Conversion

Yes, it is possible but will require “side-loading” the necessary app (Aldiko Book Reader Application).  Once loaded, the Aldiko app works perfectly on the Kindle Fire (HD).

Step 1 Change a system setting on the Kindle Fire

On your Kindle Fire use the pull-down settings menu, choose “More” then “Device” then turn on the “Allow Installation of Applications from Unknown Sources” option.

Step 2 Download the APK file

Download the application “apk” installation file.  The apk file can be downloaded directly from the source at the originators web site to your Kindle Fire.  Open the web browser on your Fire and type in “Aldiko”.  From the search results go to their Home page.  Go to “Support” from the green  menu bar.

Alkido1

On the Support page follow the first topic link (“Download the Latest…”).

Alkido2

On the Download page click the apk file link (“Aldiko Book Reader Free 2.2.3.apk” at the bottom  of the page.

Alkido3

Download the file to a folder on your Kindle Fire.

Step 3 Install the APK package

Open a file manager app on your Kindle Fire, like ES File Explorer or Browser for SkyDrive (discussed in a previous posting and available from the Amazon App Store) and navigate to the folder where you put the apk file (usually “Downloads” by default).  Touch the file name to launch the installation of the app.

Step 4 Get Books

Aldiko has a built-in Store for buying epub books, or get books from any source and copy them to your Kindle Fire by WiFi or USB cable.  To add books to your Aldiko library use the “Files” widget on the main screen to specify epub files on your Kindle Fire.  It is also capable of aquiring  school and library books from the library’s “overdive” system without having to install a separate overdrive app.  Enjoy!

Aldiko4

Two Great Apps for Kindle Fire HD

Screenshot_KindleFireHD

If, like me, you have files spread across your home network and in the cloud, you are going to want to have theses two file handling apps for your Kindle Fire HD:  ES File Explorer and Browser for SkyDrive.  If you are going to side-load android apps you will need a file manager app like one of these.

ES File Explorer by ES Mobile

This is a free app at the Amazon Apps for Android Store.  And is packed with useful features. You can perform the usual cut/copy/paste/delete of files and folders as well as create new folders and use multi-select for files or folders.  It includes a player which can play music and video files when you tap their file names.  It’s most outstanding function allows you to specify storage locations local to the Kindle Fire, on your LAN (access wireless drives like NAS storage), via FTP, Bluetooth and on the Net ( non-Amazon cloud drives like MS SkyDrive).  These are organized in tabbed groups.  Navigation to folders is done in a single pane which “side-scrolls” amongst tab groups.  Most used locations can be set as favorites for quicker access.

ESFileExplorer

As for customization you can choose from 5 themes or set your own picture as a background.   You can hide tab groups that you never use (like FTP and Bluetooth in my case). A manager function (from the main settings bar) lets you make settings for security, apps, backup of apps, view tasks and manage bookmarks.

Browser for SkyDrive by Bolero

While I can access my SkyDrive files using ES File Explorer, the interface in this app is more convenient.  It also has a dual pane mode where you can select files on one side (say local photos) and transfer them to the other side pane (maybe your SkyDrive Public Photos folder) just by touching an arrow icon.  You can also view the transfer status of files, and always login automatically when the app starts.  It’s not quite as customizable as ES File Explorer, but it is specifically tailored to work with your SkyDrive and your local files on the Kindle.

BrowserforSkyDrive

Two very useful Kindle Fire HD apps and both are free at the Amazon App Store.

Cakewalk SONAR X2 Backgrounds w/Shortcuts

I’ve taken the information from Cakewalks’ SONAR X2 Quick Start Guide and incorporated it into a custom background image.  When loaded into SONAR X2 (Preferences>> Display>> Colors>> click “Custom” under Background) the keyboard shortcuts and some other useful information will be displayed as background in SONAR.  I’ve made two sizes (1920×1080 and 1600×900) which work fine if the main SONAR window is set for full-screen.

SonarX2GuideBackground1080

The background files must be bitmaps (.bmp) files which can be downloaded from here.

New, Cool Music Tech

I just upgraded my workhorse music software to Cakewalk SONAR X2 and came across an iPad app that works with one of my favorite sites (IMSLP, International Music Score Library Project) to show musical scores.

Cakewalk SONAR X2

sonar_x2_producer_skylight

The latest version of Cakewalk’s digital audio workstation software for Windows has many great new features, most of which were based on user suggestions.  According to Cakewalk:

SONAR X2 is undoubtedly the best version of SONAR to date. Not only does it introduce exciting new features, but much time and care went into refining almost every aspect of the program. With an ear to our customers and a keen eye on what today’s musicians need, we improved performance, workflow, aesthetics, and stability. Our goal? To craft a program that excels at every stage of music production and enables musicians to sound their very best.

Some of the more anticipated changes include: take lanes, automation lanes and smart tools that work the same in any type of lane/track context.  From my brief use of SONAR X2 Producer I’d say I’ve noticed better stability and much improved workflow with iron-clad audio performance.

piaScore iPad App.

go_itunes_piascore

This is some Japanese tech which shows musical scores (PDF files) on an iPad and lets you change pages by gesturing over your iPhone ( or, I think it can use the front-facing camera on the iPad to detect head-tilting to trigger a page turn.).  One of the cooler features is a link to get free scores from the IMSLP online library of over 200,000 scores.  You can also add your own annotations to your score using up to 3 different colored pens. It’s a free app as is the remote-control for the iPhone.  Since I have neither an iPhone or an iPad I haven’t tried it, but I like the concept of making the free IMSLP library more available.

How to Read Kindle Notes on Your Computer

The Kindle allows you to make notes in your books by typing any text while you are reading.  You may also highlight any text by moving the cursor to the start, clicking to select, moving the cursor to the end and clicking again to complete the selection.  These two types of user text (notes and highlights) are stored on the Kindle in a file called ‘My Clippings.txt’.  Here is how you can get to the text on your computer.

Hook up your Kindle to your computer with the USB cable.

On your computer, look for the Kindle to show up as a new ‘Drive’.

Click on the Kindle drive and open the ‘documents’ folder.

Find and copy the file ‘My Clippings.txt’ to your computer.

Open the ‘My Clippings.txt’ file with your word processor application.

Below is a picture of an example file.  If you have many notes in the file, use the ‘Find’ feature of your word processor application to look up what you want.  You can also manage your notes by periodically renaming the “My Clippings.txt’ file to some other .txt file on the Kindle, or just copy it then delete it and the Kindle will start with a fresh one next time.

KindleClip

UPDATE (for Calibre users):

As of Calibre version 06.44 you can use the “Fetch Annotations” feature to transfer your notes and annotations into the Calibre database (for Kindles only).  They will then be merged with the “Comments” shown under each book in the “Book Description” pane in Calibre.  From the mobileread forums:

  • Connect a Kindle via USB and wait until the Reader icon is displayed next to the Library icon.
  • Click the small down arrow to the right of the Send to device icon, then select Fetch annotations.
  • The Jobs icon spins while Calibre is retrieving annotations from the Kindle.
  • A progress dialog is displayed while the annotations are merged into the database comments.

Do it Yourself–Do Not Track (DIY-DNT) for Firefox and Internet Explorer

UntitledIt used to be that you only needed browser add ins to block annoying advertisements that slowed down viewing of web pages or irritated you by flashing in your face while you were trying to read.  Now, it’s equally (or maybe more) important that you deal with how information about you could end up in the wrong hands just by browsing the Inter-webs. 

With the recent changes by some online companies (I’m looking at you, Google!) your online privacy is now a matter that you have to take into your own hands.  I’ll give you some tips about tracking protection for Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers, that won’t involve opting in or out or reading any small print privacy statements.

big-firefoxFirefox (v.12.0)

  • First, be sure to get the latest version of Firefox. 
  • From the Firefox menu bar choose Tools>Options>Privacy and select the checkbox “Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked” (Web site compliance is voluntary, but it may help some).
  • Go to Tools>Add-ons> and use the “search all addons” text box to find Adblock Plus.  Install it with the default settings.
  • Next, search for and install the DoNotTrackPlus addon.  Again, the default settings will work fine.

ie9Internet Explorer (v.9)

  • From the “gear-like” icon on the toolbar select Safety>Tracking Protection…. Click the “Get a Tracking Protection List online” link.  From the site choose as many lists as you like, but I recommend subscribing to: Abine TPL, EasyList+ and Stop Google Tracking TPL.

The tracking lists and blocked ads are subscriptions that are updated automatically (if you stuck to the default settings).  Advanced settings allow you to turn off blocking on selected sites that you trust or add specific sites that you want to block and these settings will be remembered. 

It’s interesting (to me at least) that when it comes to user-controlled tracking protection,  FF and IE follow different philosophies.  First, neither does it by default, requiring the user to initiate blocking on their own.  But FF requires third-party addons that must add at least a little to the programming overhead, while IE has the coding built in and only needs the data to implement this function.  I can say that browsing the web with these browser modifications is much more enjoyable and responsive.