Entertainment for Grandma

Cat's CradleI don’t remember when grandma got her TV but I would guess around 1960. I would sometimes go to her house with my mother but I never remember seeing the TV turned on. Besides gardening, she liked to read.

Now, you didn’t read it on-line or even order it on-line from Amazon because on-line didn’t exist. That meant you either had to borrow it from the library or buy it from a store. Both the library and bookstores were on the other side of town which would mean she had to sucker my mother into driving her around. Sometimes it worked but she needed a good backup plan.

There was a neighborhood grocery (that’s before we had the 7-11 chain which was named thusly because unlike local stores, they were open long hours — from 7AM to 11PM) that ran a book exchange. It made sense as grandma was no exception in a neighborhood of lots of bored old folks.

Here is how it worked. You could buy any used pocket book for $.10 (new ones cost from $.25 up to maybe $1.00 and, yes, they did sell them too). Each book you brought into the exchange got you $.05 credit. Thus, once you got going you got a lot of entertainment at $.05 a pop. Pretty much anyone could afford that and no Internet connection was required.

How does this work for me now?

Each time I have moved I have somehow disposed of a lot of books. They are heavy, they fall apart, the cookbooks get covered with food and, most debilitating is that they can be in one place at a time. In the 1950s, that no nulti-use seemed reasonable but that doesn’t work for me any more. So, most of my books are digital. At home, they are on one computer which exports them for access over NFS. But, beyond that, I sometimes want access remotely. I deal with that in two different ways:

  • Syncthing which is free software that allows you to mirror at the directory level between your computers.
  • Uploading the files to a web host on the Internet.

I have a directory called 2READ shared between all my machines with one system set to be the only one where changes take place. This forms my current reading list.

For more long-term possibilities (reference books, books I am unlikely to read for a while, videos and such) I use the server upload approach. I confess the right software to do this has been elusive or, more accurately, hard to get running because it is written in a real language — Python.

My final ingredient is what portable device to I usually use to access this information. I have assorted laptops here, cel phones and a couple of tablets. But, I almost always use my new ChromeLinuxBook. I guess I need to talk about it a bit more but basically a $180 tiny, light laptop that runs for nine hours on the battery now running GalliumOS.

I still must confess, grandma’s solution was a lot more cost-effective.