Books, Books, Books

Putt Putt at Elkin, 2012

One of our traditions when we go to Elk Lake is to play Putt-Putt at a course in nearby Traverse City.

I spent the better part of this last week up at Elk Lake with my extended family, including my parents, my three sisters (for some reason my two brothers never come), Their husbands, their kids, their kids’ kids and friends. We were missing some this year. One of my nephews is in Peru, serving in the Peace Corps, and one of my nieces is in the middle of planning her wedding (and the rest of her life, for that matter). Even so, it was a great vacation. There’s plenty of time to eat, to play in the water, and read books.

This year, I only took one print book, The ABCs of Software-Defined Radio by Martin Ewing, AA6E. This is the book I purchased with my $10 birthday coupon from the ARRL. To be honest, I didn’t even take it out of my briefcase. I’ll do a full review later, but my initial impression of it isn’t that good. It’s only 50 pages—not counting the glossary—and looks to be very basic. I was even tempted to send it back.

What I did take was my Nook Tablet. I loaded it up with 31 different books, including books on radio, website developement (I’m a freelance website developer by trade), and business development.

Reading a book on my Nook next to the lake.

I really like the Nook Tablet. It’s not an iPad, but it does have a lot of functionality of the iPad at a fraction of the price. In addition to the books, it has Evernote, a note-taking app; and Get it Done Tasks, a to-do app; and QuickOffice, which can open and edit Word files and Excel spreadsheets. It’s really pretty cool.

One of the books in my Nook was Radio for All by Hugo Gernsback. This book is available for free on the Barnes&Noble website for the Nook.

Gernsback was one of the movers and shakers in the early days of radio. He published several magazines, including Modern Electrics, the world’s first electronics magazine, and founded the Wireless Association of America, one of the ARRL’s early competitors. He was also one of the first publishers of science fiction. The Hugo Award for science fiction achievement are named in his honor.

In Radio for All, published in 1922, Gernsback describes the marvels of radio. It’s about this time that radio technology was switching over from spark-gap transmitters to transmitters and receivers using vacuum tubes. He writes:

Today, by means of our super-sensitive vacuum tubes, it is possible to hear a one-inch spark coil perhaps a hundred miles and over. As a matter of fact, it can be proved theoretically that a one-inch spark coil connected to six dry cells, and providing we have a sufficiently large aerial, may be heard as far as it is possible to go on this globe, which is 12,000 miles.

You might say he was the first QRPer!

Free Science Fiction
Another free book that I had loaded on my Nook was Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. You can download this book for free by going to Doctorow’s science fiction website. Doctorow gives away all of his books, so check those out, too. In addition to penning some very entertaining science fiction, Doctorow is one of the authors of BoingBoing.

The story is about a high-school kid, Marcus, who finds himself being held by the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist attack on San Francisco, his hometown. After some pretty rough treatment, he uses his hacking skills to take on DHS, which has turned San Francisco into a police state. It’s a real thriller and quite a good read.

It even has some ham radio in it. Zeb, one of the other DHS prisoners, describes how he would communicate with Darryl, one of Marcus’s best friends, “At night, when we were in our cots, we would softly tap out messages to each other in Morse code (I knew my ham radio days would come in useful sometime).”

Back Home
We left Elk Lake Saturday morning, getting home about 12:30 pm. That afternoon, we decided to visit the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library Book Shop. Normally, books are $2 each, but today, everything was free!

I picked up about a dozen books, including books on cats, glass, retirement, and diet and health. My big—and I do mean big—acquisition, though, is the sixth edition (1958) of Marks’ Mechanical Engineers Handbook. This book is nearly three inches thick and has thousands of pages on various ME topics. Here’s a random sampling: atomic power, bearings, friction, lubricants and lubrication, machine-shop practice, mechanics of fluids, refrigeration, strength of materials, and welding. That should keep me busy for a while.

Like I said, I had a bunch of other books on web-development and business topics, but I won’t bore you by talking about those books. Let’s just say that some were good, while others have now been deleted from the Nook. Overall, though, it was a great reading vacation.


  1. Sent a copy of “Little Brother” to my kid in SF shortly after it was published. She said she got freaked out & had to stop reading it. I had thought it was a good read.

    I grabbed a copy of the Gernsback book. Brings back memories of my beginnings of the trip into radio stuff.

    TNX royeh
    73 W6REH

  2. Dave, N8SBE says:

    I’ve been enjoying using a Kindle reader app on my smartphone, but kind of ran out of free or really cheap things to read. I was pumped to learn recently that if you have a library card, you can check out various ebooks and audiobooks from the library system, but I found that a) they don’t have anything I’m really interested in, including some brand new books that I saw on Jon Stewart or Steve Colbert, or b) if they have some particular title, they only have a one or a handful available, and they are all checked out and there is a waiting line of a dozen folks in front of you. BUT, they have a ‘buy now’ button prominently featured.

    So far, I’ve been completely turned off by the book publishers asking MORE for an ebook than the print edition. What’s up with that?


  3. Dan KB6NU says:

    I’ve checked out a few e-books from the local library, but in general, my experience has been a lot like yours. The selection isn’t that great and you end up waiting even for those.

    I’ve been getting a lot of free Kindle books. If you go to the website, you’ll find a list of a couple hundred free e-books every day. These aren’t books from “name” authors, but some of the books I’ve gotten for free have been entertaining or useful.

  4. Eric, KG6NFJ says:

    Since you mentioned the Nook Tablet, I wanted to make you aware of a product that will allow a Nook Color or Nook Tablet to boot into the Android OS just by inserting a micro SD card into the Nook’s expansion slot:

    There are many ham and electronics apps available once you open the door Android!


  5. Franklin WA8WHP says:

    I have the Nook and Kindle apps on my PCs and my Android tablet. I use the free Kindle access from the public libraries and now have sources for the Nook.

    Look for our special event station w8lky this Saturday celebrating Carnation Days. Alliance was the home of Ohio state flower, the red carnation.

  6. Barns & Noble makes you give a credit card for a free book. Bleah.

    Get it here instead:

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