Have a look at the PocketBook e-ink readers. Sadly, they have left USA market, unable to compete with Amazon.
Here in my European country, in an online store specialized on e-book readers PocketBook is by far the most popular brand. Keep in mind that most people buying kindles are buying them directly from Amazon.
I have PocketBook Touch Lux 623. The screen and front-light are the same as on Kindle Paperwhite. It supports 18 e-book formats and lots of configuration options, all without hacking. It has headphones output with support of TTS in many languages. You can use micro SD card. There are third-party programs available, such as scientific calculator, Linux terminal (for hacking - the reader itself has busybox installed), ftp server (so you can look at *and* modify files from internal memory), Coolreader, chess, several games, Vim text editor (full-fledged recent version).
You can make your own notes and highlights and PocketBook will prepare html file for each document with your notes that you can download to your PC. No special software necessary.
You can import PocketBook from Europe.
Are you sure you are not confusing King with Patterson?
Vim is absolutely magnificent Free Software project - a very powerfull reincarnation of the vi editor. And the left-over money will be used for kids in Uganda.
See this page: http://www.vim.org/sponsor/index.php
Registered Vim user You can become a registered Vim user by sending at least 10 euro. This works similar to sponsoring Vim (see above). Registration was made possible for the situation where your boss or bookkeeper may be willing to register software, but does not like the terms "sponsoring" and "donation".
Even if you are just kidding
Preferences -> sharing -> sharing over net -> start server.
I was using Calibre the same way as you - for conversions (and to communicate with my Sony PRS-500 reader), exactly because of that unusual interface.
Nowadays I simply reconfigure the interface, using Preferences -> interface - > Toolbar.
I remove all icons from the toolbar and put the functions I want on the menubar.
Do not saw off the branch you are sitting on and first define the menubar, with a prefferences menu and only then remove the toolbar.
Calibre is extremely configurable and *very* powerfull. It has great support for regular expressions and other advanced things.
OK. I could save one watt by running IE instead of [insert your favorite browser here]. But then I would have to run it on Windows, and install anti-mallware, anti-virus and other anti-CPU measures.
I think I am much better off running a less efficient browser on Linux, even with a memory hog called KDE 4 running the whole show.
I know you do not need ISA for RS232. I wrote about ISA to show that you can buy even more exotic stuff than a PC with an RS232 port. Sometimes you have special hardware that does require ISA.
A few posts ago I wrote about Industrial PCs.
If you need just a serial port, and not complete PC running old software that needs to access serial port directly, there are boxes from Moxa that let you connect dozens of serial ports to one PC.
At work we use Industrial PCs for work with PLCs. You can still buy PC with an ISA slot, and most of industrial PCs have good old serial port. Just contact any competent supplied of industrial automation equipment.
One of manufacturers is Advantech. Have a look at their UNO line of "brick" computers. Plenty of industrial RS232 and RS485 ports even in the most basic models. Computers are fanless and built to last. Unfortunatelly, those machines are bloody expensive.
If you look really hard, you can even find new 486 machines. Those are even more expensive than Advantech bricks I wrote about, but there are still people that need those computers, so there are companies able to provide them at a cost.
I block ads because some sites are *so* horribly infested with annoying, blinking, screaming, memory-hogging, loud crap that there is no choice but to install something.
I am willing to whitelist a site that asks nicely AND takes care that the advertisments do not make their site un-viewable. No popups, no animated crap that makes reading text impossible, no flash that bogs down entire computer, no loud sound, no articles divided to 20 parts so they can cram 20 times more ads down our collective throats, no double-underlined words that display a caption add when I move mouse over them. It can be done. Have a look at google site.
Please understand: the vast majority of users out there are too lazy and ignorant to mess with switching on the add blocking. They are even willing to use browsers horribly infested with unbelievable amount of crap. In order to make such user to go and ask someone knowledgeable to install an adblock for them they had to be extremely annoyed.
So, if you want to blame somebody, blame stupid webmasters and super-greedy advertisers that created sites that drove us to block ads.