Zamzar — helpful file format translator but hangs up sometimes

I just tried out the free version of Zamzar.com’s file conversion service and found it worked quickly and converted more or less as promised. The files I uploaded and converted included:

  • 1 pdf file (1.3mb) — converted to *.doc in a little less than 1 minute. However, in spite of the *doc extension, the file format actually was rtf and the output file was 13.5mb.
  • 1 jpg file (831.9kb) — converted to a 1.3mb *.gif in a little under a minute. The quality of the photo seemed to remain consistent.
  • 1 mp3 (6mb) — converted to a 2.9mb mp4 file in 3.5 min. The smaller file seems better quality than the original, but that’s generally the case for mp4 files.

I spent a while trying to convert a web page, but the result was consistently either a message to use a file that has an extension, or that the translation format was not available. Unless one has selected a downloadable file from a website, a url doesn’t carry an extension. Most of Zamzar’s “translate to” formats are the same three letters as are their file extensions; the one choice Zamzar listed with a literal dot+3letter extension wouldn’t work.

Another glitch: I couldn’t get Zamzar to translate files one after another without closing my browser (Firefox), going back to the site, and making sure the login/password slots were empty. I had to do this several times in a row between the second and third file. After that, I also cleared my browser’s memory and history. Zamzar is probably downloading a cookie to make free translations harder, maybe to encourage us to sign up for the fee version, but I’m not likely to do that. Lots of free file converters are available for download, which is how I mostly want to handle my personal files. FreeFileConvert.com also does a pretty good job, if you’re looking for another online converter.

I’ll add the link to Zamzar.com and FreeFileConvert.com onto the browsers of librarian’s and patrons’ computers at the library and onto my own, but I won’t spend the library’s or my own money for Zamzar’s services.

Saving Paradise, by Mike Bond (Mandevilla Press, 2012) – 4 stars

I’m giving Mike Bond’s Saving Paradise 4 stars because it’s not just a decent novel but also is an exposé of the hoax wind energy companies (which are also oil companies) are perpetrating on us. I’ll rant about the hoax itself elsewhere and here say only that the disturbing details, on their own, make the book worth reading.

The plot is timely and suspenseful, pitting the wealthy and powerful against native Hawaiians and threatening the islands’ ecology and sacred spaces. Hawaiian Pono Hawkins, the book’s main character, is a Special Forces veteran and excellent hero material. His passion is surfing, his survival skills are finely honed, he keeps himself in excellent physical shape, and he knows the islands (and a number of beautiful women) intimately. His prison record and native status make him automatically suspect by the police, but he’s a good guy who took a fall for a friend (a disabled vet who once took a bullet for Pono) and he’s an habitual rescuer of damsels, animals, and friends in distress, compelled to take risks for good causes. He’s an interesting narrator, too, able to use native dialect naturally, but also so that it illuminates native customs, values, and settings in ways relevant to both character and plot.

I’ve ordered a copy for our library and recommended its purchase in digital form for our Overdrive Consortium. Here’s hoping Pono stars in many more Bond novels to come.

5 STARS for Gracefully Grayson, by Ami Polonsky (Hyperion, 2014)

Ami Polonsky is a young writer I am delighted to add to my “must follow” list, her first novel is so well done. Gracefully Grayson is a wonderful book that I hope many adults as well as young readers will read and share with their family members and friends. I’ve ordered it for our library and recommended its purchase in digital form for our Overdrive Consortium.

The narrator and hero, Grayson, is a 6th grader who mostly keeps to himself, trying to avoid humiliation and abuse by hiding a secret, that he is a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Keeping that secret is increasingly difficult to do, and when the story opens, Grayson is already looking for ways to let that inner self out.

Grayson’s parents died when Grayson was 4. Aunt Sally and Uncle Ethan took him in, but Grayson doesn’t feel part of their family or safe enough to tell them the truth. Aunt Sally has rigid standards for acceptable behavior and wants Grayson to be more athletic and more like her son Jack. 7th-grade cousin Jack no longer acts like a protective big brother but seems to condone his athletic friends’ bullying. Uncle Ethan and younger cousin Brett try to be supportive, but Sally and Jack ignore them.

Grayson’s quest for identity, self-esteem, and acceptance is a heart-pounding suspense story that will keep you turning pages, worrying, cheering, and caring about not only Grayson but other characters, teens and adults, who share in the risks Grayson takes. I hope you’ll read Gracefully Grayson soon. Read it, talk about it — and pass it on!

Let’s Get Lost, by Adi Alsaid (Harlequin Teen, 2014) – 4 STARS

Never did I think I’d write a glowing review of a Harlequin publication, but Let’s Get Lost is a wonderful novella, extremely well written — and, yes, I have ordered a copy for our library and recommended its purchase in digital form for our Overdrive Consortium.

The novella’s 5 parts each center on a different character, but Leila, whose own story is the focus in the last section, plays a pivotal role in each of the other 4 parts. This structure lets the point of view shift comfortably from Hudson (in Vicksburg, Mississippi), to Bree (in Kansas), to Elliot (in Minnesota), to Sonia (in British Columbia and Tacoma, Washington), and finally to Leila, who travels from Texas to Alaska and back again. Leila’s ability to both empathize with others and see their situations objectively lets her help them through life crises while she deals with her own quest to understand herself and choose how she will live.

Let’s Get Lost is much more than a romance. I recommend it to readers young and old.

Battle For The Net

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here: https://battleforthenet.com/sept10thEveryone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

Exploring Crowdfunding

This month’s tech challenge from Nebraska Learns 2.0 is another winner, at least for me. (If you don’t know this site, check it out: http://nlcblogs.nebraska.gov/nelearns/ . You’ll also love Michael Sauer’s Travelin’ Librarian blog at http://travelinlibrarian.info/ .) I only knew about crowdfunding in a very general, abstract way until starting this exercise. Now I’m hooked – not so much on using it to raise money (though I do now have some ideas for our library!) but definitely on using it to help fund other people’s projects.

I spent a couple of afternoons exploring Continue reading

DOZENS OF STARS for Nest, by Esther Ehrlich

Nest, by Esther Ehrlich (Wendy Lamb Books, 2014), more than lives up to its editor’s promise. This is an exceptionally fine novel, not just for young people but for all readers. From the first sentence, I did not want to put it down. At the last sentence, I did not want it to end but knew it should end there and am still thinking and feeling the whole book.

Ehrlich is definitely a writer I want to follow. Nest is her first novel and, in my opinion, should take every award it may be eligible for; it is that good. The characters are wonderful, every word of dialogue rings true, the problems are universal and important, the pacing is excellent, and the voice – I cannot overstate how true it is. I am amazed that a first novel could so faithfully portray an eleven-year-old narrator and simultaneously be so well done that we understand clearly what the child does not, while everything is shown, not told. Ehrlich pulls you right into the story and keeps you there, fully sensing and feeling every bit of it.

Thank you, Wendy Lamb, for introducing us to Esther Ehrlich and Nest