Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to borrow ebooks from NLB

Some of you may heard that our very own national library board (NLB) had begun lending out ipads with books preloaded inside or downloadable from the library site, in order to encourage the younger ones to take up reading. While I reserve my judgement on whether it's a good thing using ipad to encourage reading before children actually learns to read good old boring books, I think libraries going the way of lending out digitized content is actually a good thing. If you look at the many physical book stores that go bust or downsized (think borders, mph, harris, page one and times) and compare it to the proliferation of online book stores, it's not hard to see the growth of digitized content readers. This trend is certainly helped by cool gadgets like kindle and ipad, as well as smartphones.

And this post is going to share with you how to get e-content from NLB. Firstly, you'll need to sign up as a member. If you ever borrowed a physical book from the NLB before, you're already a member. If you are not one yet, join it, it's the wisest use of your tax money and it's free. Let's go:

1. Go to this link from the NLB site. Click on number 5, the overdrive site highlighted below.

2. You'll be prompted to log in using your NRIC, the first word of your name and your date of birth. If you are not a member yet, just join in. It's free and it takes only a few minutes to sign up.

3. Once you logged in, you'll be back to the screen in 1. Click on the same thing again, and another tab will open up with the opendrive website. You can search for books here. But most require you to download Adobe Digital Editions because the books that you can 'borrow' comes with DRM (digitilized rights management). You have to downloaded the Adobe software first before downloading the ebooks. After that, you can just click on the ebook and open it with the adobe digital edition. Since this is a library afterall, you need to 'return' the book after a number of days. In this case, after 21 days, the book that you downloaded will expire and you can no longer read them. Please don't send the expired downloaded books back to NLB by email, lol!

4. For example, if I liked this particular book, Zombie Economics. I can see that there are 1 library copy in total and 1 available copy for me to borrow. I think due to IP requirements, NLB cannot just let a lot of users download the ebook. It's silly, really, so let's hope this kind of thing that governs physical books be removed when it comes to ebooks. You just click on the add to cart button, highlighted below.

Then click on the proceed to checkout button to go through the transaction. After clicking that, you'll be asked to enter you NRIC and date of birth (again) before you can go on to the next step. So enter them. You'll then see a screen telling you how many books you can borrow. If you're a normal member like I am, you'll be able to borrow up to 6 books, each book being 21 days before expiry.

5. Once you confirmed the checkout, you'll proceed to the download screen. Here, it's important to download the Adobe Digital edition software (free of course), before you download the ebook. The ebook that is downloaded here has DRM and has limited reading period (it expires after 21 days), hence you need another software to prevent piracy. So click on the purple highlighted link first before you download the ebook.

You'll see two available softwares here. I selected on the Adobe Digital Edition. Not sure how the Overdrive media console is about, but you can try. Both should work. Anyway, for illustration purpose, select the highlighted one.

It'll bring you to adobe website where you can download the required software. Before you can access it, you can need to have an adobe id, which means an email and a password to have an account with them. Once that is done, you can finally click on the download button (highlighted pink) from the screenshot above this current one. Save it somewhere and click on it. It should open up Adobe digital edition and you can read the book off your desktop or laptop. If it doesn't open up, right click and choose to open with adobe digital edition.

This is how the adobe digital edition looks like. There's also 'days left to expiry' on each borrowed book.

Happy reading!

There's quite a few selection from just that overdrive site alone. If you're interested in children's books, you can select other links, though personally I've not tried it before, so no advice from me there. You can even browse singapore historical books and documents. Those are very interesting. Like this link, it'll lead you to a book that contains historical photos of Singapore in the 1900s. If you're so inclined to read the memoirs and even orbituary of Raffles, you can also find it somewhat there. It's almost like I've stumbled into an Indiana Jones' tomb of ancient historical relics!

Let me know if you encounter problems. I'm not an expert, but I'll try to help :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kindle dx graphite edition review

I very recently bought a kindle graphite dx. This is the newer version of the kindle dx that I had and it comes with free 3G, a usual 9.7 inch display but with the newer e-ink (pearl) display. The 3G really works and I can access a very basic web browser with it. Don't expect to do fantastic surfing with the browser because the refresh rate and loading speed, at least here in Singapore, is rather slow. I'm sure if I'm residing in US and with the whispernet available there, the surfing speed should be appreciably faster. Still, I'm happy with the basic free 3G services for stuff like looking up the kindle store, google stuff and checking wikipedia. That's a huge improvement because my older kindle dx does not have all these functions. These are secondary improvements to me, because the main function of having a kindle dx is just to read. The rest of the features are good to have, but not essential ultimately.

The best thing that I liked about this newer 'graphite' edition is that the contrast is much much better. I've had the older one for 2 yrs already and it's okay to read it with sufficient lighting. But once the lighting drops, you find that you have to squint to make out the words because the contrast isn't good enough. The newer one has purportedly 50% improvement in contrast compared to the old one.

As you can see, even without words, the background of the new pearl e-ink technology shines through. The older (white) kindle has a more grayish background compared to the graphite one.

Reading pdf files on the new kindle is better than ever. When reading pdf files which I do very very often, the older version will experience a drop in contrast. Some pdf files are thus 'unreadable' because you really have to make out the darker gray words against the gray background. Not a very good reading experience at all.

Two of them side by side. You can see the words jumping out of the background for the graphite edition, whereas for the older version, the words and background are sort of merged together.

But the graphite edition makes the contrast so much sharper. I tried reading in a place with very poor lighting and I'm happy to say that it can still be done. Reading pdf files in the past will also experience a drop in the page turning rate, meaning that it will take a longer time to turn the pages. Amazon made tremendously improvements in this department. There is still a very short lag between pressing the 'turn' button and actually seeing the page flip, but it's tremendously shorter. It doesn't affect my reading experience, even with the older version, because you can get used to such things after a while. It's like just before reading the last few words, you start to press the button already, and when you actually finish reading the words, the page turns just in time for you to have uninterrupted reading. You know what I mean.

Reading text files. Again, the words are clear and sharp for the graphite edition. This is not to say that the older version is not's just that you need better lighting to do it. 

Nothing much is changed when reading mobi or amz format. The text size changes seems faster than the older version, but you don't usually change text size on the go, so it's not going to affect much.

Comics look great on kindle dx. The large screens size means  more can be packed in one page without sacrificing readability. Try reading comics in a small screen and you get what I mean.

Due to the improved contrast, I think I can start reading more comics on the kindle. I didn't do it in the past because the words can barely be read using the older kindle. I'm actually looking forward to this!

A real work of art. The screensaver when you're not reading literally tempts you to unlock it and start using it.

I bought this for $370 from a kind gentlemen. He found the kindle dx with the big screen too huge to carry around, so he got himself a smaller one. I'm unlikely to carry this around with me and it's meant for reading when I'm not travelling, so the size is okay with me. It comes with nearly 1 yr of warranty so I practically got a new set with a huge discount. For readers who want to see what I had blogged about for the older kindle, do check this out.

With the new 3G function, I wonder if I can subscribe to some periodicals and newspaper and have it wirelessly transmit over to my kindle for my reading pleasure. It certainly opens up a whole realm of possibility. I'm going have a few sleepless nights of reading again...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Online loans

Online Quick Loans—Great Solution to Overdrafts

Payday loans are now one of the most convenient ways to borrow money. Banks offer loans with low interests however; approval takes some time because of several factors. Cheapest pay day loans UK offer online quick loans to borrowers who need loan for emergency situations. People have been using bank loans but recently, payday loans have become relatively popular than banks. “Cash loan instant” is now being chosen by people to get immediate money without undergoing long process and extended wait.

Payday loans can be costly because of the high interest. But still, this type of loan is fast and reliable since it can be approved in a short period of time. As long as the borrower completes all documents and meet the requirements, lenders can release the loan within the day. The loan amount is also dependent on the borrower’s salary figure.

Banks versus Payday Loans

Interest on payday loans can reach as much as 25 percent and must be paid in a short period of time. In a month’s time, borrowers should make the repayment of the whole amount plus the interest rate. Banks offer a minimal percent and it’s done on an annual basis. However, borrowers can be charge of a higher interest during bank overdrafts. These overdrafts are limits set by the bank on accounts. When limits have exceeded and extended, borrowers will get high interests and should be paid sooner than the expected time. Cheapest payday loans UK offers a one off payment in a month’s time. This process is more convenient since payday loans will not go through overdraft. People are now resorting to payday loans because of overdraft experiences. Some of these are unauthorized and cause problems due to high interest rates given by banks. Overdrafts are required to be paid in days or months which are expensive on borrower’s end.  Online quick loans can be easily accessed through the Internet. This can be a cash loan instant thing because of its simple process. Applications can be done online and once approved; it will be deposited on the borrower’s active account. This is a very convenient way because it’s a one day process as long as documents and requirements are complete. People who have experienced troubles with overdrafts have resorted to payday loans for their emergency needs.

Cheapest payday loans UK can offer you as much as £750 and can get it the same day. There are also other online quick loans that provide higher amount. Approval of applications is dependent on the capacity to pay and salary range per month or per annum. If you want a cash loan instant approval, you can check the Internet for more information.

Payday loans have become popular because of their accessibility. These types of loans are ideal for people who are in need of urgent financial assistance. There’s no need to wait for a long process and approval. As long as you meet the entire requirement, you will instantly get the money deposited into your account. It will not also give you headache on overdrafts because payday loans are set to a one off payment.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Diablo 3 hardcore

There's this game called Diablo 3 by Blizzard that I'm spending quite a fair bit of my time on. Having played the normal aka softcore mode using all the different characters available, I thought I'll try the hardcore mode for the wizard character. They said it's going to be a wild ride and it sure is. In hardcore mode, you can only die once and if you do, your equipment that you carry with you when you die will be erased. The gold that you kept will be saved for future hardcore characters though, so at least you don't have to begin everything from scratch, as I do when you switched from softcore mode to hardcore mode.

When you begin to realise that dying actually matters, not just in terms of the huge repair cost in light of the recent patch, you start to see things in a different light. Things that you take for granted, like wading right into the thick of battle, going off to the toilet while you're in the dungeon and taking on something bigger and meaner than what you can fight...all of these starts to become an important factor in deciding your longevity. I think everyone who plays hardcore mode knows that their character is going to die one day, but they still play it, although more cautiously (and justifiably so) than softcore mode.

I think there's a lot of relevance between playing hardcore mode in Diablo 3 and life itself. The lessons that I take away from playing hardcore can thus be equally applied to the game of life. Except that in life, you can only play hardcore. There's no ifs and no buts, no server lag excuses. If you die, you die. So make the best use of your life. The memory of the deceased will live on, even if the life and body did not.

Draziw....I'm never really imaginative, so says Zoltan Kulle

Hardcore lessons:

1. Buy the best gear that your money can afford. Constantly upgrade yourself. There's no point hoarding so much especially when you do not know when you are going to be killed by the next monster or server lag. Whatever left that is in your bank account will be left aside for the next character. Therefore money that is not spent on yourself now is not yours.

2. Spend more on vitality (aka health). If you know you only have one life, you had better spend more time building up on your vitality. More vitality, more health, and you last longer.

3. You have to play the game cautiously, but you can't play it too cautiously. If you spend so much on vitality and ignore your damage per second (DPS), you're just running on the treadmill - you can't move on. Take risk when you are ready, if not, your self doubts and lack of confidence means that you are depriving yourself of life itself, even though you are trying to prolong it by playing it safe. That is not the way the game is meant to be played.

4. Choose the right partner. Even though I played the game solo, there are times that I wish there's another hardcore character to team up with me. When choosing partners, it can be a double edged sword. Once another character joins in  your team, the monsters' health doubles - it actually become harder to kill. Hence, it's important that your partner knows what he is doing in order to maximise each other's ability. If not, he's just dead weight and will drag you down. Imagine you fighting solo for 100% of the monster's health, and you fighting solo for 200% of the monster's health while your partner is idling somewhere. It's just not right.

For all the Diablo 3 players out there, happy gaming!