Friday, October 29, 2010

Time to give up on XP

Unless you are using an old computer that you are not planning on upgrading, it is time to bury XP. Even some enterprises are still loading XP images on new hardware, but in some cases it is just not working. For example; the Ati2dvag problem where some video ATI chipsets cause persistent blue screens in XP that cannot really be fixed in XP. The solution, upgrade your operating system. I have had good luck with the latest service pack of Vista, but I would also recommend Windows 7. It's good.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scotland Yard Reportedly Investigating Google

Last summer our university migrated its employee e-mail to Google. According to a post in the Science and Tech section of Mail Online by Vanessa Allen, "The internet search giant was forced to confess it had downloaded personal data during its controversial Street View project, when it photographed virtually every street in Britain." Allen said:

In an astonishing invasion of privacy, it admitted entire emails, web pages and even passwords were 'mistakenly collected' by antennae on its high-tech Street View cars. [Read More]

Because university e-mail between faculty, counselors and students is often very confidential this may be of concern to some university employees and students. According to Allen "Scotland Yard is already considering whether the company has broken the law."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Good deal on EPUB book this week

EPUB Book by Castro

Peachpit Press's eBook Deal of the Week, for this week, is EPUB Straight to the Point: Creating ebooks for the Apple iPad and other ereaders, by Elizabeth Castro. This book is recommended. It has a great introduction to EPUB as well as workflows for creating EPUBs from Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign.

Normally $23.99 it is on sale this week only for $9.99.

I strongly recommend checking this out if you are interested in producing books, documentation, course readers or other eBook type content in EPUB format. It does not cover the Sigil workflow, should you choose to go that route. But, there is still plenty of useful information here, especially at that price point.

More information on EPUB is in this post.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adding EPUBs & PDFs to iBooks App for iPhone or iPad

Have the EPUB somewhere on your computer where you can navigate to it. This may require downloading it from an external source.

In iTunes, select the file menu, File > Add to Library

Adding an EPUB to an iPad

This then opens up the Add To Library navigation box:

Select the EPUB to add.

Select and Choose the Title you wish to add.

Now be sure the Books > Sync Books setting for your iPhone / iPad is either set to All Books or Selected Books with the title you wish to have on that device selected.

Now, Sync your iPhone / iPad

New Adobe suite for moving publications to iPad

According to a post written by Terri Stone on, "you can go from InDesign to iPad using tools that are now available in beta form on Adobe Labs. The full suite will ship next year, but be warned -- it won't be cheap." Stone said:

It's no secret that the iPad versions of Wired and The New Yorker were created using private, prerelease versions of Adobe software. The prerelease program wasn't limited to big corporations;'s sister publication, InDesign Magazine, used the prerelease software for its iPad app, too. But details about the process have been sketchy -- until now. [Read More]

Adobe estimates that it will release the full Digital Publishing Suite sometime between April and July of next year.

EPUB3; The evolution of the EPUB standard

The EPUB (short for electronic publication) format is evolving. The next iteration of EPUB is called EPUB3, by Liza Daly. Listen here to her presentation at the O'Reilly Tools of Change Frankfurt 2010 conference on October 5, 2010.

According to Daly, topics covered in the talk include:

  • The current state of the EPUB3 working groups and overall schedule.
  • Enhancements to worldwide language support, including vertical text.
  • Native multimedia and HTML5 video/audio.
  • Interactivity, and the UI and accessibility challenges it imposes.
  • Improved styling and layout via CSS3 and media-query.

Listen here to her presentation if you are interested in the direction this format is taking.

The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) is a trade and standards organization dedicated to the development and promotion of electronic publishing and content consumption. The IDPF develops and maintains the EPUB content publication standard that enables the creation and transport of reflowable digital books and other types of content as digital publications that are interoperable between disparate EPUB-compliant reading devices and applications. EPUB is a free and open e-book standard by the IDPF. Files have the extension .epub.

Liza Daly, of Threepress Consulting Inc., is a member of the IDPF Board of Directors.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Commentary: Books, paper vs. electronic

I am a lover of the printed page. Yet, I have many eBooks and have read several novels on my iPad. I am reading one now. I find reading an eBook to be equally satisfying as reading a print book as far as book as a reading experience.

Bookstores? I love bookstores, Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Powell's in Portland, Elliott Bay Books in Seattle are all places I can get lost in.

But, let's not talk about paper books and bookstores; let's talk about film photography and camera stores. I love film photography. I have old press cameras that are older than I am. I love being in darkrooms and going to camera stores and talking about film and developers and photo techniques that do not involve computers. But, despite that passion; camera stores are almost gone. Film is not dead; but it is not mainstream either.

You could also say similar things about vinyl record stores. To be sure, vinyl records are not dead and there are still vendors that specialize in meeting the needs, wants and desires of those folks who prefer the old ways. But, to most people camera stores and records shops are just plain retro.

I prefer eBooks to printed books for technical publications. For reference books I find eBooks have it all over paper. I resent technical books that are not available electronically; I find them to be so inconvenient. I can have my whole technical library with me on my iPad, iPhone and all the computers I use; all at the same time. Paper technical books go out of date in two years and are virtually worthless. To me, that is really a waste of good trees.

So, in my opinion, for novels either paper or electronic is fine, for technical books I prefer electronic, for art "coffee table" books I prefer paper! I could go on. I think in ten years we will be looking at paper books like we now look at vinyl records and photo film. They will still be a passion for some; but for most they will just be a retro decorating accessory. Most folks who have them will have maybe a few around, just to impress our friends.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thinking about the future of publishing

In my opinion, to quote Stewart Brand at the first Hackers' Conference in 1984, "On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other."

What we are going to be seeing with EPUB as an open format, the Internet as a distribution method and iPads and other devices as consumption devices is a huge push toward the free side of the equation in the book industry. Making and distributing a book is going to be dirt cheap compared to traditional paper based publishing.

The question is establishing value. This is the challenge to journalists already, and will be to book publishers and librarians. In a sea of free information and the potential for that wave, that has already hit newspapers, to start washing over the book publishing industry the whole idea of monetization has to change. To make money you will have to be really, really useful. If you are not you will be routed around. You will have to find another monetization strategy, a way to embrace free.

EPUB vs. PDF on a Mobile Device

Focusing on the iPad and iPhone, EPUB is only one of the two formats Apple's iBooks application supports. The other is Portable Document Format (PDF). PDF is an open standard for document exchange. PDF was created by Adobe Systems in 1993. PDF is used for representing two-dimensional (2D) documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware, and operating system. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout 2D document that includes the text, fonts, images, and 2D vector graphics, which compose the documents. Lately, 3D drawings can also be embedded in PDF documents.

Image: PDF on an iPhone (Click image to enlarge.)

PDF is designed to reproduce page images. PDF text traditionally could not be re-flowed to fit the screen width or size. As a result PDF files designed for printing on standard paper sizes are less easily viewed on screens with limited size or resolution, such as those found on mobile phones and PDAs. Adobe has addressed this by adding a re-flow facility to its Acrobat Reader software, but for this to work the document must be marked for re-flowing at creation, which means that existing PDF documents will not benefit unless they are tagged and resaved.

PDF documents can be read on an iPad. That is great for access to legacy and transitional documents. But, if you are hoping to have your eBook reach a larger audience, consider EPUB.

Image: EPUB on an iPhone (Click image to enlarge.)

A great source for much of this post and recommended reading is Elizabeth Castro's great book, EPUB Straight to the Point: Creating ebooks for the Apple iPad and other ereaders, published by Peachpit Press in both print and electronic editions.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Introducing EPUB

Yesterday I posted my cookbook for using the free EPUB creator Sigil to produce eBooks in the EPUB format. But, why would you want to produce them in EPUB format. Indeed, what is EPUB?

The EPUB (short for electronic publication) format is a free and an open standard for e-books. EPUB is the most widely accepted format for eBooks. The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) is the trade and standards association for the digital publishing industry that developed and maintains the EPUB standard. You can find the official specifications for EPUB documents on the IDPF website.

In essence an EPUB document is a specially constructed zip file with the .EPUB extension. You can reflow the content of an EPUB document into any size display screen, from a phone to a tablet to a desktop monitor. EPUB also allows for the generation of a navigational table of contents.

The content of a book formatted with EPUB is contained in XHTML and CSS files, which may reference images and embedded fonts, and can be encrypted with DRM.

The pages in an EPUB document are written in XHTML which is a special flavor of HTML. The EPUB file also contains a series of XML files that help format the book so that it can be properly read by an eReader.

There are a number of tools that can generate EPUB files for you, either from plain text, from XHTML, from Microsoft Word, or even from Adobe InDesign. The tool I use for creating EPUB eBooks is Sigil. Sigil is a basic WYSIWYG EPUB editor that works for producing basic EPUB eBooks. If you want to go beyond basic, in these early days when EPUB tools are less than perfect, it's a good idea to know what's going on under the hood so that you can go in and make necessary adjustments.

For example, Word doesn't export drop caps, but you can edit the XHTML files by hand to allow them. InDesign doesn't export text wrap with its EPUB documents, but you can set up the files so that a quick edit to the XHTML achieves that aim. Just like working on a Web page, the more you work using any tool to generate EPUB documents, the more you will want to be able to get to the code and be able to tweak it.

Besides the iBooks application that Apple provides for the iPhone, iPod touch and of course the iPad. EPUB is supported by other devices and client applications including the Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Sony Reader. The Amazon Kindle, at the time of this writing, does not support EPUB. EPUB is supported on desktop and laptop computers using Adobe Digital Editions (which is free) and on various platform smart phones including Android and Blackberry using products like Lucidor, Stanza, Ibis Reader, Aldiko and Mobipocket. EPUB can be considered a write once read on (almost) any device eBook format.

A great source for much of this post and recommended reading is Elizabeth Castro's great book, EPUB Straight to the Point: Creating ebooks for the Apple iPad and other ereaders, published by Peachpit Press in both print and electronic editions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My eBook cookbook for making eBooks

Using Sigil, a free EPUB editor, to make an eBook

What is Sigil?
According to the Sigil Website, "Sigil is a multi-platform WYSIWYG ebook editor. It is designed to edit books in ePub format." Yes, it is all that, and it's free!

Why would you want to make an eBook?
Well, imagine being able to do a course reader, documentation, a family history or that novel you have been wanting to write (and have no publisher for) and being able to distribute it yourself to the world in a format that can be legibly read by almost all computers, tablets, iPads, eBook readers (except Kindle) and smart phones including iPhone, Android and Blackberry.

Why would I make an eBook about how to use a computer to make eBooks?
Because it can be hard use your computer to read an online Website about how to do something with your computer, when you are trying to use that computer to do that something. Now you can use your iPhone, Android or Blackberry, iPad or other device (except Kindle) to read the cookbook.

Here are links to my eBook Cookbook and to some Sigil and EPUB resources:

Comments and corrections are greatly appreciated and can be emailed to me at or posted here on this blog post.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Gmail users no longer forced into threaded mail view

In a September 29, 2010 Googlewatch post, Clint Boulton explains that now Gmail users can turn off threaded view of their Gmail. Boulton said, "Hewing to its pledge to provide choice for its 180 million or so e-mail users, Google has backed off its adherence to its beloved "conversation view" by allowing users to receive e-mail messages in chronological order."

In another post TothePC offers detailed information on how to turn off the feature:

You can easily turn off conversation view in Gmail settings and get each reply listed as separate message in the inbox. [Read Detailed Easy Instructions]

Boulton said, "The thread, which Google calls conversation view, makes it super easy for users to find entire message exchange sessions between users. Ideally, this saves time. Still, enough people used Outlook, or Eudora for enough years to become comfortable with the traditional chronological view."

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Google introducing new photo format for Web

According to a post on Mashable by Jolie O'Dell, "Google is introducing a new format for images: WebP." O'Dell goes on to say:

Images on the web in this format will have smaller file sizes, load faster and relieve a lot of overclocked networks. They won’t necessarily look better — WebP images are as “glossy” as JPEGs — but the files might be around 40% smaller than JPEG files. [Read More]

If Google can convince browser manufacturers and Web designers to support this format this could be a big benefit to folks downloading graphics over cell connections, especially as carriers have been stepping away from unlimited service plans.

Monday, October 04, 2010

I have moved my SJSU Twitter Feed

My train feed as seen on an iPad using Flipboard, delivered via Twitter, click on picture to see related Twitter feed.

In the past I used the following Twitter feed for passing along news related to SJSU:

Well, that has changed. With tools like Flipboard (for the iPad) now being available, I am now seeing and using Twitter in a whole new way. To quote Flipboard, "Flipboard is a fast, beautiful way to flip through the news, photos and updates your friends are sharing on Facebook and Twitter."

Scoble has a great post about Flipboard. I am passionate about my work at SJSU. But, I am especially passionate about trains! After speaking to Scoble, I realized, using Twitter, I could launch my own personal train picture magazine.

I am using Twitter as the conduit for my photo stream. This is very cool! So I decided that I wanted my name to be address of this train photo magazine. So, I have moved my SJSU related Twitter feed. My SJSU feed is here:

I hope this does not cause confusion. I will continue posting news related to San Jose State University. I will just be doing it from this new Twitter account. You are invited to subscribe, or stay subscribed, to my Train picture feed and subscribe to the new SJSU Twitter feed.

Oh, and do check out Flipboard. It rocks, and is a great example of why I think the iPad is so cool!