Since becoming a nerd I’ve started using the following softwares

As I recall, when I was in elementary school, all our conversations basically consisted of quotes from The Simpsons.1 And I don't think I actually watched the Simpsons, but I got a lot of it through osmosis. And one of my favorites was when Nelson calls Milhouse a nerd, and Milhouse says, "I'm not a nerd! Nerds are smart!"

Well, I've become a nerd! I think the genesis was something to do with Twitter potentially collapsing. I can't remember. But the point is, I wanted to take control of my own data. And the main data I was worried about was my kindle books. And the current best method (a paid software called ePubor) of cracking Kindle DRM (Digital Rights Management) only works on Windows machines, because it requires a deprecated version of the Kindle software that only runs on machines w 32 bit support.2

I have a huge clunky windows laptop I was using for gaming, but somehow during the Black Friday sales I ended up buying a new Windows machine, and I haven't opened my Mac ever since. Now everything I want to do takes longer and is harder: for instance, whenever I do a video-call it used to just work, but now I have to fiddle with my camera and microphone. But I also have way more options! Everything feels customizable and up for grabs.

Note-Taking

Being a nerd also means switching away from Apple Notes. I switched to Obsidian, which is a notes software where the underlying notes are written in markdown, which is a convention for formatting your text easily without mucking around with a lot of HTML. More importantly, the texts are still readable to the naked eye, so even in ten or twenty years, a markdown file will be very decipherable.

I ported over all my notes from Apple notes. And then I started to think why don't I write my blog posts in Markdown, so I installed the Markdown plug-in on wordpress. And that words okay, but the internal markdown editor is a bit clunky, so now I've installed a special Markdown word processor: Typora. You know, nerd stuff. The kind of things that nerds do.

Library Management

I also put all my audio books and comic books in calibre, which I use to organize my ebooks. And I'm doing barcode scans of all my paper books and will put notes for those in Calibre too. So eventually I'll have my whole library in one place, digitally speaking, and I'll know exactly what books I have.

With my switch to DRM-free books I also switched to a fancy chinese e-Reader, the Hi-Reader. Its essentially an android tablet. It runs the Kindle software but the best thing to use on it is a 3rd-party e-reader software called KOreader. This software is really customizable, so you can mess around with the look and feel of books if they look slightly off. It's also good at reflowing PDFs, if you're still using those. And it handles large libraries better than the Kindle software. I just imported my entire eBook library (some 2300 books, which I've bought over the course of 12 years) into it. The most fun feature is the one that'll let you pick a random book. That's led me down some cool paths and has made my library feel a lot more open and accessible.

In terms of reading news and whatnots, Calibre has a news aggregator that will upload, for instance, today's New York Times to your e-reader whenever it connects wirelessly. I also downloaded Instapaper, which has a paginated viewing style (with a button press, you can flip a page, instead of scrolling) that works well for e-Readers, and now when I have a long article I send them to Instapaper, where I can...well...let's be honest, probably never read them.

Comics

My windows laptop is also a 2-in-1, so it folds back and becomes a tablet. The screen is 15 inches, and it's very wide, so it's good for the aspect ratio of most media these days and good for reading comics. It took me a while to find a comics reader with good touch controls, since most PC comics readers are designed for keyboard / mouse controls. [Pico Reader][] is by far the best here. Cover is also good when it comes to touch controls, but has bad library management and doesn't play well with Calibre (when you use Calibre to send a book to Cover, Cover opens the book, but doesn't add the book to its internal library or remember your position).

When it comes to Comic Book management, one major problem is getting the metadata. Most comics, if you get them from Humble Bumble, don't have anything besides the file name to indicate what they are. Ideally if you're importing them to Calibre, you want the author and book description meta-data to already be in the file. For this I used Comic-Tagger. This is kind of a finicky and difficult to use program. If you still can't find the meta-data, your last resort is to use Calibre's internal search tools (it'll search Amazon and other databases to find meta-data based on the author name and title of the book), but those are hit or miss. A great comics program for Calibre is Embed Comic Metadata, not so much for embedding metadata, but for the final stage in the comics conversation process.

Making DRMs easily usable in Pico-Viewer is a bit of a process, though it's not that difficult. When I buy a comic on Amazon, I download it to my deprecated Kindle software, then open up Epubor and strip the DRM. Calibre is programmed to automatically add anything in the Epubor folder to its library. Then I use Calibre to convert the comics file from AZW3 (the Amazon proprietary format) to ZIP (which is just a zip folder that has all the pages of the comic listed in sequential order). Then I use Embed Comic Metadata to convert the zip to a cbz file (this is actually a very simple process, you just need to change the file name ending, but it's a hassle to do manually). And then when I want to read it I click the link in Calibre and read it in Pico.

Now is this simpler than just using the Kindle software? Of course not. But simplicity isn't really the point. It's just about having fun.

Next Steps

Of course one problem with Windows is that these softwares are often maintained by small teams and frequently the team quits or goes out of business or sells their software to someone else and they fuck it up. This obviously never happens with core apps like Word or Apple Notes (or rather happens much more rarely). But on the other hand because each app handles your files in a way that's transparent and not proprietary, it's a lot easier to put in another software that does something similar.

I guess my next step, if I cared to, would be to take my site off wordpress.com and start hosting my own wordpress install, so I have full control over my site! There's definitely something attractive about that. Over the last few years, everyone has made a substack, and nowadays when people talk to me about my online journal, they're like, "I loved your newsletter". It's not a newsletter. It's a blog! I've been writing it since 2008. I never stopped! I honestly just don't like how closed-off Substack is. I want people to just hop onto my site and click around. I like how roomy it is, and how there's lots of content, etc. Just saying.

Now, finally, you might ask, has any of this affected how you write fiction? And the answer is...no. I still write almost everything in Scrivener. Sometime last year, I finally started consolidating my poetry, essay, and story-writing into their own single scrivener docs. So I have three docs: Master List of Poems; Master List of Stories; and Master List of Essays. Then all my stories, poems, and essays are inside there. I think otherwise I felt very constrained, because it seems like a lot of effort to make a document for a single poem or a single story fragment, when I might easily abandon it, and yet I don't want to just leave it in Notes or someplace I could forget it existed. With this, I can easily move around the little sub-documents, and it's easy to compile things when I want to send them out. Novel-writing still happens in its own Scrivener document, though I have recently made a doc called Master List of Novel Starts which contains attempts at novels that haven't yet gotten big enough to gain their own document.

Oh! Now that I'm writing non-fiction I might want to get some good reference software. Will have to investigate that more carefully, since I've seen from my wife and mom how you get locked into a certain software and if it messes up your database, then it really hampers your work.

I also have a lot of contracts flying back and forth, and I need to figure out a method for keeping fully-executed contracts so I can refer back to them. I am so glad that publishers switched to Docusign (all book contracts used to be paper!!!) so I know the documents are always somewhere in my email or computer, but still I occasionally want to refer to them quickly, especially when it comes to exclusivity clauses etc.

When it comes to contracts, I got tired of printing out, signing, and then scanning everything, so unless it's a very important document (i.e. book contract, which is all docusign anyway), nowadays I just use Adobe Acrobat Pro to give it a digital signature. I've never had anyone complain, so I assume that's okay.

Finally, a pro-tip regarding contracts, which I am going to bury here at the end. You can sign contracts with whatever name you want, so long as it's understand that you are you. If you're trans you don't need to sign contracts with your legal name. There's no need to run it past anyone or ask permission. Just give people your name, they'll type up the contract with that name, and you can sign with that name. If you ask permission, they'll run it past the lawyers, and the lawyers might very well say no, but lawyers constantly say no to shit that's perfectly fine. It's their job to cover the company's bases in every circumstance. For my part, unless it's a mortage or something, I just use "Naomi Kanakia" and that seems to work. I've even been running my credit card payments as Naomi Kanakia sometimes, and they go through fine. After all, the system isn't set up to protect ME, it's set up to protect THEM. So long as they get their money, they're happy. It's up to "Rahul" to complain if his name / identity are being misused, and he really has no problem with Naomi signing for him.


  1. On a sidenote, did you know The Simpsons is still quite popular? It's true! It gets something like 2-3 million viewers an episode, and was getting five million as recently as 2014. That means way more people watch The Simpsons than watch most of the cult-hit sitcoms (i.e. Community or Parks and Rec) of the last ten years. 
  2. I have no idea what '32 bit support' means. But I used the term as if I knew, didn't I! 

2 thoughts on “Since becoming a nerd I’ve started using the following softwares

  1. Robert Nagle

    HI, there, I’ve been following your blog a while (enjoying a lot btw) and have been meaning to write you privately about literary stuff. (I got my creative writing master’s from JHU in 1989 and run a small indie publishing company called Personville Press). I format ebooks for a living too.

    About 20 years ago all chips were 32 bit and then Intel started making 64 bit chips for their computers. The problem was, it took forever for Windows to support the extra memory capabilities of it.

    Finally Windows made a 64 bit operating system, but it took developers a really long time to build their 64 versions of software — and 64 bit Windows operating systems could still run 32 bit operating systems (albeit without being able to take advantage of 64 bit’s expanded memory capabilities. 64 bit programs generally run faster.

    Fast forward to now.. Almost all versions of Windows support 64 bit programs, but some 32 bit programs were never updated or the developers just decided it wasn’t worth making 64 bit versions of them. They still work mostly, but the more recent versions of Windows have interface changes which mess up the 32 bit programs.

    I totally endorse DRM-free stuff (and I’m also a big promoter of Creative Commons), but instead of using tools to bust open kindle files, there are a few things to keep in mind:

    1)publishers have the option to specify an ebook as unencrypted (DRM-free). That makes it easier to view on multiple readers. If you’re talking about ebooks you purchased that are encrypted, my preference is not to crack them but just look for devices where you can run the Kindle app. I read most of my kindle files on the Kindle app for android devices.

    2)I’m surprised that you are not talking about epub — which should be the universal standard for ebooks. (I realize that you’re talking about comic books mostly — ps, love Humble Bundle). These are much easier to manage and to produce.

    3. WordPress.com vs. self-hosted. I was one of the first people ever to use WordPress and self-host 5 or so wordpress blogs. (Strangely I’ve been producing lots of simple HTML sites recently, not using wordpress anymore). There’s more freedom — but wordpress.com does a lot of the security for you and backups. YOu might be able to download more themes and plugins if you self-host, but the time-saving in terms of security in using wordpress can’t be overlooked. Also, I still haven’t set up email newsletters on my self-hosted sites. (ON my todo list for a while). WordPress.com just does this things out of the box.

    Speaking of Legal, you might enjoy the Writer’s Legal GPS: by Matt Knight. He runs a legal blog for writers, Sidebar Saturdays which contains almost all the material included in the ebook.

    1. Naomi Kanakia

      Oh yes I convert them all to ePub too! The kindle android app is good, but when you’re using a non Kindle eInk device, it has weird features that work well on a tablet but don’t work well w eInk. Various things about how you highlight and turn pages, for example. Also, when you’ve got a lot of ebooks, library management becomes impossible if you’re doing it all inside the Amazon infrastructure.

      In general I feel kind of burned by having lost everything I bought on iTunes. At one point something happened while switching accounts and I just couldn’t access it anymore. Since then I’ve wanted to keep a backup of my library—I don’t expect the tools I use to crack the Kindle DRM to keep working forever, so it felt best to me to crack as I went, rather than find some day ten or fifteen years from now that I suddenly couldn’t get at all the files! But yes it’s not the easiest solution and probably isn’t best for most people 🙂

      I agree that a self hosted install probably isn’t right for me. I have the WordPress business plan that lets me install plugins and that’s probably about as much as should have 🙂 I do want to figure out how to do offline backups of my site more frequently, but there’s probably a plug in I can install now for that 🙂

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