Once a week we round up three excellent reader tips and share them with the greater How-To Geek audience. This week we’re looking at how to run an ebook server from the command line, scoring cheap HDDs, and tweaking Windows 8 menus.

Run Calibre From the Command Line for Corruption Free Sharing

This tip actually comes to us courtesy of a great reader comment. In response to our guide How to Access Your Ebook Collection Anywhere in the World, James shared his technique for using Calibre:

Calibre offers a stand-alone server, which is run through Command Line.

Once Calibre is installed it is as simple as writing a Batch file in notepad specifying a few details.

An example of this is:

calibre-server –port 8080 –with-library C:\Users\Admin\Documents\Calibre\Nameofyourlibrary\

This will run the server portion of Calibre only, freeing up resources( I run two instances of the server, one for me and one for my wife, and notice no performance decrease by doing so).

The only downside to this is a DOS window will stay up if you are running windows, on a linux distro you can add the command –daemonize , which will allow the server to run silently in the background.

As a work around for the DOS window staying up, you can download a little program called Batch To Exe Converter, which has an option to run in background. Then you simply place the .exe wherever you would like, I put mine in the startup folder so Windows would run the exe automatically on startup. No more dos window, and the server runs in the background, always available for when you need it!

Why is this command line trick useful? For two great reasons. First, it lowers your overhead—there’s no need to run the entire application, complete with GUI, if you just need the server running in the background. Second, and this one is really important if you’re storing your book collection on a media server, it allows you to remotely manage the collection without worrying about corrupting it. If you have the full Calibre application running on your media server in the basement and then you fire up the Calibre application on your desktop PC upstairs to edit your collection and add new books, then you have two copies simultaneously accessing the collection—there is a very high chance something will go wrong and the collection data will become corrupt. Using James’s command line trick, you can load just the content server on the media server and then, from the desktop you’ll actually be working at, load the full collection in Calibre. This keeps the process of sorting and editing the collection separate from serving up the content.

Score Large HDDs on The Cheap

Mark writes in with the following tip to score larger hard drives at a substantial savings:

I saw your article the other day about the inflated price of hard drives after the Thai floods. Here’s a great way to score a big hard drive on the cheap. I wanted to upgrade my media center with a few extra large capacity drives but, as luck would have it, I made this decision once the hard drive prices had sky rocketed. What was going to be a sub-$400 purchase of a couple 3TB drives became far too cost prohibitive—there’s no way I was going to spend $350-400+ a piece on a 3TB drive.

None the less, I ended up with 2 3TB drives for a mere $240! Even though bare drives and drive kit prices went through the roof, the price of external hard drives has stayed fairly stable. I picked up two 3TB drives on sale for $120 each. I cracked them both open and found a nice big fat drive inside. It’s not covered under warranty of course and it’s a rather slow drive (5400 rpm) BUT for storing video in what amounts of a glorified TiVo, I’m more than happy with it.

Great find, Mark. Like you said if you don’t mind voiding the warranty the day you buy it and the slow speeds aren’t an issue, you can score a huge drive for dirt cheap.

Keep The Windows 7 Start Menu and Enjoy Metro UI in Windows 8

Carl writes in with a tip for those irritated by Windows 8 design choices:

I’ve been playing around more and more with Windows 8 and there a few things that really irritate me. What I really wanted was to enjoy the start menu style from Windows 7 but without having to totally abandon the Metro UI. I found this great little portable app called Metro Cheat. It enabled the classic menu in the Metro UI. The only complaint I can log is that in order to use it you have to turn down the UAC protection, although this seems more like a Windows issue than anything the developer has control over.

Thanks for writing in Carl! We think it’s exciting that people are already tweaking and modding Windows 8 to fit their needs.

Have a tip or trick to share? Shoot us an email at tips@howtogeek.com and look for your trick on the front page.

Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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