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Less is More

The list of quality sources such as RSS feeds, blogs or e-zines is pretty impressive – and growing. The mere quantity may become a problem once you can’t dedicate enough time to actually read and understand the bits you identified as your own personal nuggets anymore.

If you possess an e-reader, iPhone/iPod or some similar device, you might want to try out Instapaper to cope with this avalanche. The idea is pretty simple: Don’t read your feeds on the computer screen but quickly scan the content and decide whether to read it in depth later. If so, click on a button in the bookmarks toolbar of your browser to transfer the URL onto your Instapaper account. Later on, access your Instapaper account, download your personalized compilation in a format suitable for your device (such as ePub), find a cosy couch in your favourite coffee shop and digest the news.

Sony PRS-505 E-Reader

Despite its popularity, the Sony PRS-505 e-reader is not state-of-the-art anymore, but if you’re like me stuck with it waiting for color e-ink displays, there are ways to render it more useful together with Instapaper. You shouldn’t hold your breath when it comes to official firmware updates from Sony, the company has a sad reputation of phasing out products soon after they hit the shelves. But luckily the PRS-505 is Linux-based and just recently a new project PRS+ which aims to provide improved firmware has emerged from the community.

Among other things, PRS+ lets you use custom CSS style sheets for ePub documents which is just what you need to do away with one nasty behaviour the reader shows “out of the box”: The monospaced font is very wide and long lines don’t break which renders most code examples useless as they run off the display area.

PRS+

Installation of PRS+ is pretty easy:

  1. Format an SD with FAT32. (The firmware update later on did not work for me after formatting the SD with Disk Utility on Mac. If you experience the same issue, format the SD on a PC instead.)
  2. Download the Universal Flasher, unzip it and copy the contents onto the SD card.
  3. Download PRS+, unzip it and replace the Sony Reader directory on the SD card with the one just extracted.
  4. Put the SD card in the PRS-505 and follow the instructions.

Connect the e-reader, create a directory /database/system/PRSPlus/epub/fonts and copy your favourite monospaced TrueType font in there. A very nice font is Inconsolata, however, it’s OpenType so you have to convert it beforehand for instance with the Online Font Converter.

The actual CSS style sheet goes into /database/system/PRSPlus/epub. You can have as many as you like, just give it unique names and .css file extension. Here’s an example for Inconsolata which sets the font size to 17px and wraps long lines:

@font-face { font-family: monospace; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal, small-caps; src: url(res:///Data/database/system/PRSPlus/epub/fonts/inconsolata.ttf); }
@font-face { font-family: monospace; font-weight: bold; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal, small-caps; src: url(res:///Data/database/system/PRSPlus/epub/fonts/inconsolata.ttf); }
@font-face { font-family: monospace; font-weight: normal; font-style: italic; font-variant: normal, small-caps; src: url(res:///Data/database/system/PRSPlus/epub/fonts/inconsolata.ttf); }
@font-face { font-family: monospace; font-weight: bold; font-style: italic; font-variant: normal, small-caps; src: url(res:///Data/database/system/PRSPlus/epub/fonts/inconsolata.ttf); }

blockquote.message { font-family: monospace; font-size: 17px; white-space: pre-wrap; }
blockquote.code { font-family:  monospace; font-size: 17px; white-space: pre-wrap; }
code { font-family: monospace; font-size: 17px; white-space: pre-wrap; }
pre { font-family: monospace; font-size: 17px; white-space: pre-wrap; }

As a final step you have to select which CSS the reader should use, you find it under “Settings -> PRS+ Settings -> EPUB User Style”. Et voilĂ !

(Sven Schwyn)

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