Links of Interest (March 5th 2009 Through August 13th 2009)

Friday, August 14th, 2009
Audible.com to sell 2 DRM-FREE titles
It appears Audible.com is going to try releasing Cory Doctorow's next two audiobooks without DRM (a first for Audible.com as far as I know).

Skulpt
"Skulpt is an entirely in-browser implementation of Python."

Modernizr
Modernizr is a Javascript library that allows client side detection of CSS3 and HTML5 browser features. It allows you to write CSS with conditionals through one of my personal favorite bits of CSS magic: classes on the body tag. It also gives you the ability to do the same in our Javascript.

epub-tools
A collection of open source (BSD) tools for generating and managing ePub documents. Adobe's Java based EPUBGen was just added. Tools now exist for conversion to ePub from Word, RTF, DocBook, TEI, and FictionBook.

Doozers Get "Fraggle Rock" Spin-Off
It's animated, and aimed at ages four to seven, but I'll probably check it out with the kids.

The Zelazny Project
"We plan to print a complete collection of Roger Zelazny's short fiction and poetry, in (most likely) six hardcover volumes. We expect to include all published fiction and poetry we can find, however obscurely published, and a number of unpublished works retrieved from Zelazny's archived papers. We also expect to include the shorter early versions of several novels, several novel excerpts that were published independently as short works and a few of Zelazny's articles on topics of interest to him."

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.

Links of Interest (August 25th 2008 Through September 28th 2008)

Sunday, September 28th, 2008
jQuery and Microsoft
When Microsoft started adding some of the often requested features to their ASP.NET AJAX Client API they realized that jQuery (my personal favorite javascript library) already did what they wanted. Rather than reinvent the wheel Microsoft will be shipping the standard, as-is jQuery with full intellisense support in Visual Studio.

The Creative Process
“For me, ideas stream through my head at a frantic pace. I feel like a bear trying to grab a salmon. If my paw misses its target, that salmon is gone for good. I don’t dwell on it. I just lunge for the next salmon.” Scott Adams (Dilbert) discusses ideas, and how he sometimes forgets he’s already used them.

Tip: Using a background image on an image
Using CSS to create layered images (with a fun animated example). Simple but effective.

Tags: , , ,
Fresh Out – PDF Version
Free fun little mini-comic from Natalie Metzger. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll really want some cookies! Ready for printing.

Sizzle: John Resig has a new selector engine
Ajaxian brings word that John Resig is working an a new Javascript selector engine, which is expected to replace the one in jQuery. So far it’s less than 4k (but it doesn’t support IE yet). “4x faster in Firefox 3, 3x faster in Opera 9, 1.5x faster in Safari 3 than the other major JavaScript libraries.”

Re: Cover to Cover #319B: Electronic Formats Revisisted

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Dragon Page: Cover to Cover has been discussing ebooks at length lately, especially since Mike Stackpole is selling his stuff in the iTunes App Store. In the latest episode they spend the opening section lampooning the idea of e-book standards. The conversation that ensued contained a good deal of misinformation1 .

So I’m posting this in response here, hoping to keep the conversation going (I could post it as a comment on the site, but it’s a bit long for that, and it’s way to long to leave as a voicemail without sounding like even more of a crank).

Stand Alone Readers in the iTunes Store

The discussion gives an impression about the stand alone readers (specifically Stanza and eReader) having access to a bunch of old public domain content nobody actually wants to read. No mention is made of putting content you purchased outside iTunes or creative commons works into these readers, which seems to be their primary purpose.

Stanza

The Stanza iPod Touch/iPhone app is an offshoot of the Stanza desktop reader (Mac Only). Any file you can read on the desktop reader2) can be transferred to the mobile Stanza app. This covers a lot of commercially available content.

Also the mobile Stanza app is pre-configured to pull ePub files from Feedbooks. Feedbooks has 2500+ titles available for free. While many works are those you avoided reading in high school, it also includes titles from authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lester Del Rey, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, H. P. Lovecraft, Andre Norton, H. Beam Piper, Robert Silverberg and E.E. “Doc” Smith. Those too old school for you? How about Steven Brust, Tobias Buckell, Cory Doctorow, James Patrick Kelly, and Charles Stross, to name a few.

eReader

Although it’s stated that the eReader can be used to download free content (I admit I don’t even know if can download free content), no mention is made that it is actually designed to download your purchases from eReader. Also, any multi-format purchase from Fictionwise is also supported.

Since I personally avoid books that come locked in one format, the vast majority of my Fictionwise purchases are instantly downloadable to my iPod touch. That’s a big win for me, because it means when I’m home I can read on my dedicated e-book reader, with it’s larger screen, but when I’m stuck in the waiting room I can keep reading the same book off my iPod Touch without buying it twice.

ePub and Tower of eBabel

There is a group of […] e-book enthusiasts who are deaf on anything that is not the one true ring, the one true way. They want everything to be available in one universal format, which doesn’t happen to exist yet. […] and they want it to then be cross-platform available because they’re very resentful if seven years ago they bought a book for their palm pilot and now they can’t play it on their iPod.

Yeah, those people. Me.

Mike and Mike then then proceed to talk down to “those people” as if we all just fell off the esparanto truck by giving the same arguments all the digital music players that didn’t play MP3s used to give and why music would always have DRM. Making a buck will always trump the demands of the consumer. Format wars will always go on forever and ever and there will be no standard delivery mechanism3 .

More importantly, the format does exist in the form of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)‘s ePub, and it does have vendor support. Adobe, Amazon4 , eBook Technologies, OSoft, VitalSource and LibreDigital (among others) all support ePub in their current products. Sony just added ePub support to it’s line of readers, and Bookeen is currently working on adding it to their Cybook readers. You can get any of Feedbooks 2500+ titles in .epub. Heck, even the last of the freebie releases from TOR was released in .epub rather than .mobi.

Maybe I’m Crazy

I like e-books. I prefer them to print. I like being able to increase the font to rest my eyes. I like being able to read them on multiple devices. I don’t want this to happen to my books. I feel that e-books have to be more convenient that print to really take off5 . So either I’m a nut-job, or I’m who the people trying to sell these things should be targeting. I’m the one going to go out and extolling the virtues of these things to the people I know who are hanging by the sidelines waiting to see if they want to jump in. Feel free to tell me which one you think I am in the comments6

  1. I honestly don’t believe this was intentional. []
  2. Stanza supports HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word, RTF, Amazon Kindle, Mobipocket, Microsoft LIT, Palm doc, and EPUB (at least the DRM free variations of the above []
  3. Yeah, that’s why we don’t have a way to deliver audio programming in mp3 files over HTTP using RSS to any number of devices. []
  4. Amazon supports ePub in it’s Mobipocket products, but there’s no mention of the Kindle yet []
  5. It’s very likely publishers don’t what them to take off. Record companies still want you to buy CDs too. []
  6. If I don’t get any I’ll know I’m a crazy person talking to myself. []

Links of Interest (May 9th 2008 Through May 29th 2008)

Thursday, May 29th, 2008
IETester
IETester is a tool that runs the rendering and javascript engines from IE8b1, IE7, IE6, and IE5.5 in a single process so you can see how each one mangles your site in it’s own unique way (currently in beta).

POC : Implementing HTML 5 Video Element using JavaScript and Flash
A proof of concept allowing use of the ‘video’ tag from the HTML5 draft spec, and having it work, even though browsers don’t yet support it.

Audible.com and Blackstone Audio Royalties
SFFAudio shares some information from Robert J. Sawyer on the royalties he receives from audiobooks.

Characteristic Confusion
While investigating line-height Eric Meyer used font-family: Webdings to display “Oy!” (Webdings doesn’t contain ‘O’, ‘y’, or ‘!’). Firefox 3 unexpectedly displayed “Oy!”, which, it seems, is technically correct, leaving him asking “which is less correc

Growl for Windows – alpha now available
Growl is one of the three apps that excited me enough to buy a Mac, and it’s one I really miss when I’m on my Windows box.

Links of Interest (January 28th 2008 Through January 30th 2008)

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
jQuery Validation plugin overview
Examples of how to use the jQuery Validation plugin 1.2 to provide unobtrusive Javascript validation to forms.
The Dissing of SF
Ever have someone ask you for a favor and simultaneously insult your career? Science Fiction author Robert J. Sawyer had this happen twice in one hour, and he posted his responses.
JavaScript Pretty Date
John Resig has released a prettyDate Javascript library that can take strings like “2008-01-28T20:24:17Z” and turn them into “2 hours ago”. It works standalone or as a jQuery plugin.
JavaScript Memory Leak Detector
Paolo Severini of Microsoft’s Global Product Development team has released a utility to help find Javascript memory leaks in IE. It can be set to detect things that would leak in IE6, things that would leak in IE7, or actual leaks.
Getting HTML 5 styles in IE 7+
Possibly the most interesting thing to come out of the X-UA-Compatible discussions was this method for allowing IE7+ to apply styles to elements it doesn’t support.
Tags: , , , ,
Write to Done
A friend (thanks Kate) recommended this spin off of zenhabits.net which is billed as “Unmissable articles on writing. Twice weekly.” So far it’s living up to it’s promise.
MD044 – Stan Lee Interview
Veronica Belmont interviews Stan Lee on Mahalo Daily. I never get tired of seeing interviews with Stan Lee. Maybe it’s his voice.

Best Viewed in X-UA-Compatible

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Note: This post is quite a bit more technical than what I usually talk about.

Yesterday saw the release of A List Apart #251 which is causing quite a bit of discussion. It focuses on a proposal put forth my Microsoft and some members of the Web Standards Project for a new meta tag than will control the rendering mode of IE8.

The first article (Beyond DOCTYPE: Web Standards, Forward Compatibility, and IE8) covers the proposal, what it means and why it’s needed. The second (From Switches to Targets: A Standardista’s Journey) documents Eric Meyer’s shift in perspective from being opposed to, well, not opposed.

My initial thought is that it’s a horrible idea. After reading more about it, and seeing the arguments in favor I think it’s a bad idea.

(more…)