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Updated: 1 hour 24 min ago

Finding the best ebook format

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 19:21

I haven’t looked up survey results to confirm this, but I doubt that very many technical writers are producing their documentation in ebook format. However, some of the things that you need to think about when producing ebooks also apply to the new responsive HTML formats that current tools like Flare, RoboHelp, or WebWorks ePublisher can produce.

DBW has a good article that examines some of the design issues in producing ebooks that were originally based on a print design. Writers producing (more)

Rescuing ColumbiayE

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 18:39

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Columbia disaster in which seven astronauts died when their Space Shuttle disintegrated on re-entry over Texas. In the subsequent investigation, it became clear that at least some of NASA’s engineers were worried that the foam impact had fatally damaged the orbiter and had lobbied for access to classified assets (spy satellites) to take photographs of Shuttle so they could try to ascertain the damage. If they had known conclusively that Columbia couldn’t safely re-ent (more)

Locus recommended reading list and poll

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 19:12

Locus, the news magazine of the SF field, has released it’s annual recommended reading list for 2015. It’s a good start to finding books and stories to nominate for the Hugo awards, but I do see one notable omission – Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities is not on the best novel list, and it should be. I’m a bit more than halfway through it and I will be nominating it for a Hugo. Many of the stories in the short fiction categories are linked to online versions.

Conc (more)

Garnet Rogers at Hugh’s Room

Sun, 01/31/2016 - 11:43

We certainly enjoyed Garnet Rogers’ show last night at Hugh’s Room. The place was packed, as usual. Garnet was in fine form, both vocally and instrumentally, playing half a dozen different guitars. Standouts were the first set closer of The Last Trawl > Make and Break Harbour, and in the second set, a gorgeous version of The King of Rome (on the Yamaha electric bodyless guitar with full synthesized orchestration).


Snapseed – a review

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 06:03

I’ve been using Snapseed as the primary photo editing app on my phone for some time. It’s powerful and easy to use, more so than the default photo editing app that comes with my Samsung phone. Amateur Photographer just published a detailed review. If you have an Android or Apple phone, I’d definitely recommend it.

Nik Software has been developing a range of excellent plug-ins and standalone software for photographers since the 1990s. Most famous for its image-editing p (more)

Paul Kantner, R.I.P.

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 16:44

The news came late last night that Paul Kantner, guitarist and singer for the Jefferson Airplane and later Jefferson Starship had died from a heart attack at the age of 74. There has been a spate of high-profile musicians dying recently, but this one really hurt.

Like everyone else my age in the mid-sixties, I was a Beatles fan, but the Airplane were my gateway into the world of rock and roll. I wasn’t a serious music fan until I heard Somebody to Love on the radio (more)

The Cancon podcast

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 19:04

I listened to the first episode of the CanCon podcast today, hosted by none other than my nephew, Douglas Soltys. I’ll keep listening as it was a solid, informative episode. I especially enjoyed the discussion of “hipster TV”. It’s nice to see some tech journalism with a Canadian slant.

The CanCon Podcast emerged from a consensus that Canada was missing a high-level conversation on tech from a Canad (more)

The last days of Target Canada

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 16:19

It was obvious from the day they opened their first stores, that Target Canada was in big trouble. They didn’t have the selection of quality merchandise that savvy shoppers had come to expect from their American stores, the stores were full of empty shelves due to a botched inventory control system, and their prices were out of line for what they were selling. My wife, who had worked at Zellers and knew people who’d been hired on at Target, said that employee satisfaction with the new management was non-existent. A year or so later Target announced they were pulling out of Canad (more)

Some speculation about the MCT

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 04:19

Elon Musk of SpaceX has big plans for going to Mars, and they involve a very big rocket, the Mars Colonial Transporter. No official details have been released, but as this article shows, it’s possible to put together a pretty detailed picture of what the MCT might look like given what’s already known about what SpaceX is working on. And it’s big.

The single-core booster will launch and land in a similar fashion to the first (more)

What goes into producing a book

Mon, 01/18/2016 - 04:58

George R. R. Martin recently announced that he wouldn’t be finished The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in his Song of Ice and Fire series, in time to have it out before the next season of Game of Thrones on HBO in April. In his blog post, he indicated that his publisher could probably get the book out on the stands within three months of his turning in the manuscript. Some people questioned why it takes even this long to produce a book, most likely people who haven’t had any involvement with the publishing industry where the normal production cycle is usually at least a year lo (more)

Text-to-speech for ebooks on Android

Fri, 01/15/2016 - 23:08

My previous ereader was a Kindle Keyboard 3G, which had a nifty feature – it could read an ebook back to you. It used a computer-synthesized voice sounding a bit like Stephen Hawking, but it worked. Nancy and I used it as a substitute for audiobooks on a few car trips. Unfortunately, Amazon has removed the audio output from the Kindle Paperwhite that I have now, probably because Amazon now owns Audible and the (more)

DITA 1.3 specification published

Wed, 01/13/2016 - 19:26

The DITA Technical Committee has announced the publication of the official DITA 1.3 specification which was approved in December. You can get all the details and related publications and files on the OASIS site.

The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) v1.3 specification defines both a) a set of document types for authoring and organizing topic-oriented information; and b) a set of mechanisms for combining, extending, and constraining document types.

Version 1.3 is organized (more)

More SF to look forward to in 2016

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 04:42

io9 has published yet another list of SF and fantasy books to look forward to in 2016. I guess I have no hope at all of clearing my to-be-read collection on my Kindle, even assuming that George R. R. Martin doesn’t get The Winds of Winter out this year!


Typographers’ favourite letterforms

Mon, 01/11/2016 - 04:12

Wired recently asked a group of typographers to describe their favourite letterforms. You might think it was a banal question, but the results were illuminating.

The most banal question asked of artists after What is your favorite color? is What pencil/pen/brush do you use? I expected type designers to be equally bored by inquiries into their favorite letterforms.

Boy was I wrong.

Typeface and lettering artists not only enjoy drawing certain letters more tha (more)

This is getting ridiculous

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 18:49

This is getting ridiculous. io9 has published what it calls The Ultimate Guide to All the Science Fiction and Fantasy Shows Coming in 2016. I don’t know if it’s the ultimate list but it sure as heck is LONG. I called it ridiculous because who has the time to watch all of it, not that any one person would want to. I can remember where the only science fiction on TV was Star Trek. Now it’s taken over the world.


Some DITA and DocBook History

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 04:28

I remember attending one of the first presentations about DITA sometime around 2001 by Michael Priestley at a Toronto STC meeting and have followed its development with interest since, although I don’t use it. I knew its genesis was from IBM’s GML and BookMaster but not much more than that. However, Elliot Kimber (aka Dr. Macro) has written a fascinating article explaining the early genesis of both DITA and DocBook, the other major competing XML-based documentation architecture. (more)

Reverse numbered lists in Word

Tue, 01/05/2016 - 04:47

Microsoft Word has several options for creating and modifying numbered lists, but reverse numbered (or countdown) lists aren’t one of them. I’ve never had to use one in my technical documentation, but they’re common enough, especially at this time of year when people present best of the year lists.

Of course, you can always manually number the items, but if you want automatic numbering things get a little more complex. The WordTips Newsletter presents a couple of different options; one being a fa (more)

Unix command line faster than Hadoop

Mon, 01/04/2016 - 04:44

If you’ve paid any attention to cloud computing, you’ve probably heard of Hadoop, a cloud-based tool for analysing large data sets. You might think it would be the be all and end all for data analysis, but in reality modern PCs can outperform it for some tasks.

Adam Drake downloaded a database of results from 2 million chess games and used some clever Unix shell script programming to analyse the data. He was able to get his results on a laptop more than 200 times faster th (more)

The Website Obesity Crisis

Sun, 01/03/2016 - 04:10

Despite having a reasonably fast cable Internet connection and using an adblocker, there are times when I hit a website only to find that it takes an inordinately long time to load. Usually that’s because of stuff that’s being loaded in the background – multiple JavaScripts and code libraries, style sheets, images, tracking cookies, and lord knows what. It used to be that a typical, text-based web page would be well under 100K in size; now you’re looking at pages that may be loading several megabytes of data even though the basic content of the page might be less tha (more)

Editors’ picks for 2016 SF

Sat, 01/02/2016 - 04:09

Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog has compiled a list of 72 SF and fantasy books to be published in 2016 as picked by their various editors. Publishers represented include Tor, Baen, Harper Voyager and several others. It’s an eclectic list and worth and includes many new and less established writers. Here are three that look interesting.

  • The God Wave, by Patrick Hemstreet (May 17)
    A debut novel exploring the science behind telekinesis and the e (more)