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The Netbook Newbie's Guide to Linux

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The essential guide to IT transformation

Episode 4

Book Reader

True to its name, a netbook makes a very decent ebook reader. Here's the freely-downloadable Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, complete with original Tenniel illustrations, as it appears on the MSI Wind:

wind as ebook reader

This is the PDF version of the original 1866 edition, downloaded from GASL.org. There's a tiny trick to getting this working optimally, but you should be able to do this with just about any netbook that comes with Adobe Reader. I also tried it with Evince, the general purpose document reader that's part of the Gnome Desktop Environment used by Suse Linux on the MSI wind. Unfortunately, Evince seems to crash with large PDFs (see box below).

If the version of Firefox you're using to browse the link is equipped to read PDFs with an add-on don't just click on the link. That'll open the PDF inside Firefox, with the Firefox gubbins attached. To get a clean, full-screen view you need to download the PDF first with a right mouse-click, and then load the file in Adobe Reader. The View sub-menu allows you to rotate the image to fit the shape of the netbook's screen, and then expand it to full-screen as the illustration shows. Then use the Page Up and Page Down keys to navigate through the book.

You're going to look a bit weird on the bus holding your NetBook sideways, but you get a nice, readable full-size page, and at 15MB for the full illustrated versions of both Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass, you can carry a good stock of books before your netbook fills up.

Evince Crashes

Like the rest of the Gnome Desktop Environment, and indeed like Linux itself, Evince is free software. This doesn't just mean that you don't pay for it - see Gnu free software - it means that it comes with important, guaranteed freedoms attached. One of these is the freedom to sing out to the developers, a freedom that some users (like me) interpret as tantamount to an obligation.

The corollary of help-seeking as discussed on the next page is the custom for user of free software to help developers by reporting bugs - even (or perhaps particularly) in a situation like this where I'm not in trouble because I have alternatives.

The first thing to do is to check whether the bug is already known. Googling "evince pdf" lead me to the web-based bug-reporting system Bugzilla. The case of PDFs crashing Evince turns out to be well-documented, so I didn't bother to file a report. With a little more time on my hands, I might have read the existing reports carefully to see if I could add useful detail, but this is beyond the call of duty.

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