Burning to get my hands on an Amazon Kindle 3G

Right-hand holding an Amazon Kindle (e-book reader)
The Amazon Kindle 3G in someone else’s hands

Probably like a lot of people of the geek persuasion, I have a lot of e-books: articles, books, cheatsheets, leaflets, manuals. I have e-books about CSS, design, Flash, HTML, JavaScript, jQuery, microformats, MySQL, PHP, regular expressions, RSS, servers, WordPress, XML and a whole lot more.

The only problem is: if I want to read them then I’m tied to sitting in front of my PC, lugging my laptop around, or peering at the tiny screen of my mobile phone and scrolling left-right-up-down for dear life. So for a couple of years I’ve been looking for an e-book reader that would adequately handle PDFs as well as standard e-book formats.

I think (I’m hoping) that I’ve found the answer in the new Amazon Kindle 3 that will be released this week (27 or 28 August, if I remember correctly).  I have had mine on pre-order since 30 July; before they pre-sold out!  I’ve ordered the model offering both WiFi and 3G.

A full review will follow shortly after receipt.

Who needs a Kindle?

In the meantime, here’s a parody video I discovered about the Kindle.  Excuse the rude reference near the beginning of the video if that offends you.

Using a Creative RM-1800 remote control with WinAmp

Creative X-Fi Platinum soundcard, breakout box and remote control
Creative X-Fi Platinum soundcard, breakout box and remote control

What a fabulous discovery: I can now use my Creative RM-1800 infra-red remote control to control WinAmp.

Creative drivers

For the last few years my shiny, silver Creative remote control has sat beneath my PC monitor looking rather forlorn and underused. So a few months back I emptied it of batteries and handed it over to Reuben and Joshua’s toy box.

The remote control was one of the reasons that I went for the X-Fi Platinum in the first place.  I had visions of sitting in my study and being able to control my music from the other side of the room.

It was great for a couple of weeks.  I had to make do with Creative Entertainment Center rather than WinAmp but that was fine. I could live with that.  But then the first time I had to do a clean reinstall of Windows XP and upgraded my Creative X-Fi Platinum drivers I lost use of the remote control.

1. Install Creative Entertainment Center

I had assumed that the remote control drivers were a part of the soundcard drivers, after all the infra-red receiver is firmly embedded into the break-out box that is installed just beneath my DVD-RW drive.  But they are not: they are installed with Creative Entertainment Center.  I only discovered that yesterday!

I installed the Creative Entertainment Center software this evening.  It ended with a rather abrupt error message but it did install ok — at least, both the remote control driver and Creative Entertainment Center are installed and appear to be functioning correctly.

2. Enable Remote Control

Once installed I fired up the Entertainment Center Settings, which brings up this dialog box in which you need to enable the remote control:

Screenshot of Creative Remote Control Settings window
Creative Remote Control Settings window

3. WinAmp plugin

The final step was to install the Creative Remote Control plugin for WinAmp.

Under Windows 7 I had to install by right-clicking the installer file and selecting “Run as administrator”. This is because the plugin installer needs to write to the C:\Program Files\WinAmp directory and for security reasons it needs administrator rights to be able to do that.

4. That’s it

And that was it!  When I fire up WinAmp I can now sit in my study and control my music from the other side of the room.

I’m running

  • Windows 7 Professional (32-bit) and (64-bit)
  • Creative Entertainment Center 3.40.21 (19 December 2007)
  • WinAmp 5.581; upgraded now to 5.623
  • Creative Remote Control plugin (25 July 2002)
  • Creative RM-1800 infra-red remote control

Updating Outlook Appointments gadget for Outlook 2010

Outlook appointments gadget for Windows 7
Outlook appointments gadget for Windows 7

One of my favourite Windows 7 gadgets is the Outlook Appointments gadget. As gadgets go it’s pretty simple: it shows me  upcoming appointments. From Outlook.

But oddly, only when Outlook is open.

Anyhow, when I upgraded Microsoft Office from 2007 to 2010 a couple of weeks ago I discovered that it no longer worked … it just complained that it didn’t have the correct version of Outlook installed.

The hack

But there is a simple hack:

  1. Make sure that you can view hidden and system files (Control Panel > Folder Options > under View tab select “Show hidden files, folders, or drives”).
  2. Close the Outlook upcoming appointments gadget.
  3. In Windows Explorer navigate to C:\Users\YOURNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets\OutlookAppointmentsGadget.gadget\en-US\js\” where YOURNAME is the name of your user account.
  4. Open the file “outlook.vbs” with Notepad (or other text editor; personally I wouldn’t use WordPad).
  5. On lines 22 and 42 change the two occurrences of the number “12” to “14”.
  6. Save the file.
  7. Open the Outlook  Appointments gadget again.

Outlook Tasks gadget

The same hack also works for the “Outlook Tasks” gadget.

Update

It looks like someone has released pre-hacked versions of Appointments and Tasks called iOutlook which work with Outlook 2010.  The iOutlook Appointments one now offers 3, 5 or 10 appointments.

What’s a kitchen?!

Call centre
Congratulations! By looking at this photo of a call centre you qualify for an £850 voucher for …

Who you gonna call? Not me…!

A few years ago, around about the end of May 2006, I signed up for the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). I know that because I have a letter from them confirming that I had signed up for it.

The TPS is

“the official central opt out register on which you can record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls. It is a legal requirement that all organisations (including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties) do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have your consent to do so.”

Despite that we still get unsolicited sales calls from time to time, wrapped up in a cunning disguise to make them look like we’ve won a competition or money-off voucher for a new kitchen, bathroom or bedroom.

I got another one of those calls this evening, and I have to confess to have … well, see for yourself.

The call

As professional sales calls go this one didn’t get off to a terribly good start.  When I picked up the phone the caller was in the middle of a chat with a colleague.  They were laughing about something.

I said hello.

“Oh! Sorry,” she replied, “Hello!”

I’d clearly taken her by surprise. But ever the professional she started to read from her script.

“Congratulations! You’ve been selected in a … blah blah blah … to receive an £850 voucher towards the cost of a new kitchen or bedroom.”

“Sorry, I’m not interested,” I said.

She ignored me and pressed on with her script.

“Can I ask you how old is your kitchen?”

“My what?” I asked.

“Your kitchen,” she said.

Kitchen?! What’s a kitchen?”

“You know,” she said, a little taken aback, “a kitchen.”

“I have no idea what that is. I don’t think we’ve got a … what did you call it?”

“Kitchen”

“Yeah, I don’t think we’ve got a kitchen.”

“A kitchen,” she said, her voice getting more animated now. “Surely you know what a kitchen is…”

And then she went to the trouble of trying to describe it for me.

“… A kitchen: a room with a sink and cupboards in it.”

“Hmm … no, sorry. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Come on!” she said, “stop taking the mickey, everyone knows what a kitchen is.”

“I have … no … idea,” I said, sounding genuinely confused.

“Okay,” she continued, “then can you tell me how old your bedroom is?”

“Well!” I exclaimed, “that’s a very personal question!”

“No it’s not!” she said, quite forcefully.

I’m pretty certain that bit wasn’t on her call centre script.

“It is to me.”

“How can it be a personal question?” she challenged me.

“Well, I don’t phone up complete strangers and ask them how old their bedroom is! How rude!”

“But it’s for a voucher,” she said.

“Ahhh!” I said, sounding quite enlightened. “A VOUCHER!”

“Yes,” she said, almost audibly sighing with relief.

“Yeah, I’m not interested.”

“What?!” she exploded. “I can’t believe that you’re turning down the opportunity for an £850 voucher for a new kitchen or bedroom.”

“I … I …,” I wasn’t quite sure what to say.  But that was okay because I didn’t have to.  She was back to her script.

“Can you tell me how old the furniture in your bedroom is?”

“No.”

“Well, can you tell me how old your kitchen is?”

I think she was trying to catch me out.  But how could she, had she forgotten, I don’t know what a kitchen is.

“My what?”

She then called for her manager, and I could hear her talking to him.  “This guy says that he doesn’t know what a kitchen is,” she said to him.

There was a pause while she handed me over to her manager, Dan.

“Hello sir,” he said, quite politely.

“Hello,” I replied, as is the custom.

“Are you having a good evening?” he asked.

“Erm, yes.  I was just trying to explain to your colleague,” I ventured, “that I wasn’t interested in your offer just now because we already have twins and have another baby on the way so we’re really not planning to upgrade our kitchen or bedrooms in the near future.”

“That’s fine,” he said. “I’m sorry about that, she must have been a bit slow to understand what you were saying.”

“That’s ok, I understand.  Thank you. Good night.”

I hung up.

Next time

We seem to get these calls every couple of weeks.  The next time it happens I really need to take the company’s name so that I can contact the Telephone Preference Service and ask them to follow up the call to ascertain why we were being contacted.

In the meantime I’ll just continue to have fun.  The last time I got a call like this I just told them that we hadn’t had a kitchen since the explosion and that the insurance company was dealing with it.  The next time … any suggestions?  Leave them in the comments, if you like.

p.s. I do know what a kitchen is. We’ve got loads of them!