Archive for February, 2009

Links of Interest (February 5th 2009 Through February 24th 2009)

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
Plugin Authors, Are you making the best of Readme.txt?
A comprehensive guide to where the WordPress Plugin Directory pulls the data it displays. A must read for plugin developers. Especially important with the recent changes to the directory's search capabilities.

Cross-Browser Inline-Block
If you've ever tried to create a flexible gallery style layout of elements of varying heights, then this is for you.

HTML5 Canvas Cheat Sheet
A compact reference for HTML5 canvas element.

Dalek War Boxset
This Doctor Who Restoration Team article detais the process of restoring color to "Planet of the Daleks" episode 3. It was theorized some years ago that interference on the surviving 16mm B&W telerecording (made by essentially pointing a film camera at a TV) might contain some valid PAL color subcarrier information. Unable to get funding to investigate the idea (which sounds a bit more far fetched than Dalek's to me), the informal Colour Recovery Working Group was started up online. The group succeeded in recovering color information from the telerecording. Meanwhile the Restoration Team commissioned Legend Films to colorize the episode (a process that's come a long way since Turner, but can still look a bit flat in the end). The finished version blends these two sources together, then processes them via VidFIRE (the process of restoring the original 50 field per second interlaced image from a telecline, another process developed during restoration of Doctor Who episodes).

Bacon Stupidity
For the month of February, Michael J. Nelson (MST3k, Rifftrax) has pledged to eat nothing but bacon. Yup, bacon. All month. Just bacon.

Robotic Nanny (Bedtime Stories Not Included)

Monday, February 16th, 2009
Amazon Kindle 2

In case you missed it, Amazon announced a new version of their Oprah approved Kindle e-book reader. One of the new features announced was the ability to have the device read aloud using text-to-speech. Pretty neat, huh?

You Don’t Have the Right

The Author’s Guild released a statement claiming that Amazon was not within their rights to do any such thing, and calling for Amazon to add a feature where authors/publishers could disable such a feature. Science Fiction author Robert J. Sawyer posted his feelings on the subject on his blog. One of the follow-up comments prompted a follow-up post about what people can and can’t legally do with things they “own”. For example;

You can buy a car, but there are countless regulations governing what you may do with it even though it’s your property. You can’t, for instance, drive it without a license, drive it recklessly, permanently export it to another country, drive it without insurance, allow children to drive it, park your car in my driveway, and so on.

The list got me thinking.1

The majority of items on the list can easily be used to do the illegal things mentioned and there is nothing else in place to prevent it. Those illegal acts have consequences to go along with them, and for the most part it seems this is enough.

The exception is pretty much any new technology. When new technology is involved then all consumers are criminals who can’t be trusted and there needs to be functionality crippling technological restrictions added. From where I sit the text-to-speech feature is merely a tool Amazon provides to the end-user. That end-user has to decide to use the tool, and perhaps they’ll use it to do things they don’t have a license to.

If you exclude DRM based restrictions, there’s nothing the Kindle 2 does that I can’t do with an electronic text and a desktop computer.

Death of the Audiobook Industry?

There is obviously fear that this will harm audiobook sales, and the value of audiobook rights. I just don’t see it. I can’t imagine there’s any real worry this would cannibalize the audiobook market.

I’ve played around with text-to-speech, and some of it is surprisingly good, and sure to keep getting better and better. Still I doubt the majority of folks who would happily sit through a text-to-speech reading of a book, would be likely to shell out the money for a commercially produced audiobook.

It’ll be a very long time before a computer simulation can come close to a Scott Brick or a Jonathan Davies. Not as long as it’s a passive act. Until computers can feel emotions, and be moved by what they are reading it won’t come close. And at that point what makes the act so different from an adult reading aloud to a child?

Unsolicited Advice to Amazon

The Author’s Guild responded to criticisms that they weren’t taking visually impaired users into account:

Others suggest that challenging Amazon’s use of this software challenges accessibility to the visually impaired. It doesn’t: Kindle 2 isn’t designed for such use.

I see that comment, and I see a solution. Perhaps rather than cripple the device, Amazon should work towards making the remaining functionality accessible to the visually impaired. The text-to-speech engine is already there.

Roxy RobotAnd just to be clear, I have no real interest in this feature. In fact, until the Kindle does ePub I’m not interested in it at all. I just get antsy when I see content producers so afraid of content consumers that the innovators in the content delivery space are pressured to stop innovating, and start restricting access. If this “burn the witch” mentality against innovation doesn’t stop then one day the robotic nannies may start the uprising that destroys the human race all because we wouldn’t let them read aloud.

  1. Which is the only reason I’m mentioning him specifically. I don’t agree with his take, but I’m not trying to attack Mr. Sawyer in any way. You should buy his audiobooks. []

2008 Writing Wrap-Up

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I’ll keep this short, but I wanted to address my lack of writing updates. I managed to make monthly writing updates here for about half the year before they pretty much stopped. At first they stopped because I was to busy actually writing (which was good), then that slowed down (not so good), and I didn’t feel like whining about my reasons here.1 In the end I wrote just under 86,000 words last year. I spent the majority of my writing time editing Miracles, which has been slow going.2

All right. Enough of that. I have scenes to edit.

  1. Especially since if I had time to whine, I had time to write, right? []
  2. I’m 83 scenes (out of 109) into the write-in process as of this morning. []