Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

January 2010 Posts

Comparison of eBook Readers for Mac: First Impressions

Sat, 01/30/2010 - 06:08 -- rprice

I have tried reading books on my computer screen before, and I have been disappointed. Mostly, I have realized that scrolling sucks. Given that I have already paid to download a few technical books as PDF, I needed a reader that could make the PDF experience easier than Preview or Adobe.

(psst: I've heard good things about the Kindle, though I have not extensively used one myself. [affiliate link])

EDIT: If you're looking to create ePUB files, check out the beautiful and open source Sigil.

I'm learning to develop for iPhone, so I found two books from Pragmatic Programmers, Cocoa Programming Quick Start and iPhone SDK Development.

Following this, you'll get a screenshot of each reader, and a bit about why I would / wouldn't use it.

Here's Preview:
[caption id="attachment_864" align="alignnone" width="266" caption="Preview"][/caption]

After having gone through the other apps in this list, Preview is actually not too bad for reading technical books, but not my first choice.

I had heard Andy Ihnatko talking about Stanza. I think he likes it to synch books between his iPhone and his laptop. I'm pretty sure you can also buy books wirelessly from your iPhone inside this app.
[caption id="attachment_866" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="stanza"][/caption]

The problem here is that this app is designed for reading story books - tons and tons of text, no fancy formatting. In fact, this app strips out all of the formatting and fonts, to the point that it makes no sense for tech manuals.

I saw Tofu on another site reviewing Mac eBook readers.
[caption id="attachment_865" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Tofu"][/caption]

In the description, there was a line "Tofu is different". In fact, Tofu works almost exactly like Stanza (at least for my purposes). While Tofu did keep more of the fonts and formatting, Tofu still wants to break the layout that the original publishers created, which makes this the wrong choice for programming books.

Then I discovered my saving grace: Skim - and it's open source!
[caption id="attachment_863" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Skim"][/caption]

It may be because it is created by programmers scratching their own itches, or maybe because it is not geared specifically for mobile devices or story books, but something just felt right about Skim. I really like the ability to highlight text and leave notes. Everything you highlight now becomes a bookmark you can jump back to for future reference. This seems like an app I'll keep open while I'm coding to go back and refer to examples and explanations. More or less, exactly what I was looking for.

It also has pretty good search functions - when it finds a word you're looking for, it circles it in red. You also have tools to manually circle text, draw a box, underline or strike through text, or draw arrows to help you annotate graphics.

There is a full screen mode and a presentation mode, as well as a neat feature called the reading bar - basically, a line-by-line bookmark to let you remember where you left off.

I've said the most about Skim because that's my pick. It's free, Mac-only, and open source.

A final note: I also tried an application called eReader Pro. This seemed to be tied to an online bookstore, and had zero support for PDF. Any tech book I've seen comes as a PDF, so steer clear of this one if you're a programmer.


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Yay Boston!

Fri, 01/22/2010 - 07:52 -- rprice

It was prohibited to use a camera inside the museum, so I recorded this one in the parking lot.

I had a great time conducting training in Boston and met some great Drupal folks - @starshaped, @finkatronic, @himerus, and @susanmacphee. We hung out and had some good times, and I got a tour of the MIT Media Lab, which is on my short list of places to go if I ever feel insane enough to attempt graduate school. At the very least, that building houses some of the coolest projects that mankind has created in recent years. I'd like to go back, and I may get a shot when the next Desgin4Drupal event comes up.

While I was at the museum I also purchased a Diana F+ Camera by Lomography and proceeded to incorrectly load the film - I'm pretty sure my first sixteen photos on Lomo will be ruined, but we'll see.

I am finally getting to hang out at Proctors after having built them a new site last spring. It's cool to actually see this space "IRL".

Now I should get back to work fixing their Drupal TV displays. I only have a few minutes before I go meet everyone from the theatre.


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Florida DrupalCamp - Feb 20-21, 2010

Sun, 01/17/2010 - 04:08 -- rprice

This is the 2nd annual DrupalCamp Florida held in Altamonte, FL. Open Source software tools are a great resource for companies and organizations to cost-effectively connect, communicate, and organize members using the Internet. One of these free tools for website creation and management is Drupal, a content management system that uses a modular approach that allows organizations to easily customize their websites and use blogs, video and user content to build their communities.

Florida DrupalCamp - Feb 20-21, 2010
Click here to register and get more info about DrupalCamp

Drupal has a very active community that will gather at DrupalCamp Florida on February 20 and 21st, where new and seasoned users learn about and share their knowledge of Drupal. The event is an opportunity to get an overview of Drupal and the developer and user community in Florida.

We will be having an event after all the learning to get some grub, drinks, relax, and get to know each other better.

If you're interested in this event, please comment below and let me know!

Download a 10 minute podcast about the 2010 Florida DrupalCamp and our Coding for a Cause non-profit benefit

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Community Media works when you get involved

Mon, 01/04/2010 - 04:09 -- rprice

We had our first official Producers meeting about the new Orlando Scene TV (background) this week. Michael showed us all a trailer based on footage he and I had put together, and something funny happened inside me:

I was overjoyed that this crappy video I shot was getting used in something so professional and awesome.

Then I realised that we can bring that feeling to dozens and dozens of people every time we release a half-hour show, and a whole bunch of pieces clicked together in my head.

In order to really have the community feel like they own this thing, we have to make a pointed effort to include their contributions in every single episode, and make a call for entries loud and clear.

This isn't about UGC. This is about something more real than that. Each community member has an equal chance of creating something that makes the final product better.

Then, they will want to call their mom and their friends and tell them "turn on channel 1, watch my video on this show!"

If I can call my mom, then we have succeeded.

When there are moms calling other moms, we have reached the tipping point.

If all those moms and their kids give us a few bucks, we can quit our jobs and make this full-time. We can rent a coworking space, train new filmmakers, buy them equipment, build a network and live the dream.


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On the end of Terrestrial TV Broadcasting

Sun, 01/03/2010 - 05:17 -- rprice

There was a big discussion last week on my local geeky mailing list that started because of a mention that local TV stations may stop broadcasting over-the-air for free.

From Yahoo News:

The recession has squeezed advertising further, forcing broadcasters to accelerate their push for new revenue to pay for programming.

That will play out in living rooms across the country. The changes could mean higher cable or satellite TV bills, as the networks and local stations squeeze more fees from pay-TV providers such as Comcast and DirecTV for the right to show broadcast TV channels in their lineups. The networks might even ditch free broadcast signals in the next few years.

I say this can be a good thing for Local Producers looking to grab ad dollars from retailers in their area, and find ways to connect with their local community and economy. The hyper-local video shows we are producing in the dark now will have a hungry audience looking for content.

However, I don't think that we can be successful unless internet gets a lot more ubiquitous - we either need more competition, or more over-the-air access to the network, or both. Where is all the WiMax we were promised?

Once we get the WiMax, then why doesn't it come bundled with content, similar to Verizon FiOS? They would do well to throw in a set-top box like a Roku or the upcoming Boxee device with a 2-year contract, and maybe some bonus subscriptions thrown in there.

A small chunk of the ad revenue is being recouped online, where the networks sell episodes for a few dollars each or run ads alongside shows on sites such as Hulu. Media economist Jack Myers projects online video advertising will grow into a $2 billion business by 2012, from just $350 million to $400 million in 2009.

But that is not significant enough to make up for the lost ad revenue on the airwaves. Advertisers spent $34 billion on broadcast commercials in 2008, down by $2.4 billion from two years earlier, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising.

Crybabies! Figure out how to operate lean and mean, trim the fat, and stop paying people who think they know what's best for their audience - why not try asking us for a change?

If all they're going to do is keep making reality TV, I'll be happy that it's not getting sent over the airwaves - I don't want to see any more of that crap. I don't care if they do have Ben Folds now, it's stupid, mindless and childish.

But tell us how you really feel...

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Magazine Reader Concept by Bonnier

Sat, 01/02/2010 - 06:33 -- rprice

The parent company of my old employers have hired a design firm to create a concept of an ideal electronic magazine reader.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

One of my favorite parts is when he talks about feeling as though you have "completed" reading the magazine. He says it from the editorial point of view, but for me it has to do with my habits (or you could call it OCD). When I'm reading email or feeds, I get driven by the number, as in the number of remaining articles to be read, or the number of comments to approve, the number of plugins to update, the number of emails to delete. It gives me a sense of how far I've gotten, and it's a powerful motivator for someone like me.

It's also cool that the spine is e-paper. That and the "heating up" rubbing gesture are two of my favorite parts about this video.

Really, these concept videos are so damn flashy - even though this one is trying to be minimalist. I get frustrated, because I know that actually seeing this device is still several years away, if it ever gets made. I still think of the Optimus Keyboard, which is now finally released 4-5 years later, and with a $2000 price tag. On the other hand, it's pretty awesome.

Even if we never see this device in the wild, hopefully the good design and user experience will make its way into other applications and devices in the next few years.


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