Category Archives: Art & Writing

Softcover Is A New Self-Publishing Platform Aimed At Technical Authors

Offering e-books has a great deal of potential as a platform to provide clients and patients, as well as, their caregivers with dynamic content for home exercise and independent living programs.

TechCrunch

Softcover is a startup offering what it calls a “frictionless” platform for self-publishing e-books.

Co-founder Michael Hartl is an author himself, having written the Ruby on Rails Tutorial. (He’s also a repeat entrepreneur, having founded Y Combinator-backed social-networking startup Insoshi.) Hartl told me via email that between a publishing deal with Addison-Wesley and direct sales from the tutorial website, the book has made $750,000 — and Softcover is based on that experience:

Originally, Softcover came from scratching my own itch: I wanted to make follow-on products to the Ruby on Rails Tutorial, a book and screencast series that has become one of the leading introductions to web development. I knew from experience what a pain it is to make a new website, install a sales system, and upload the files to make them available, and I didn’t want to have to do that for every new product. I…

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella points to Office for iPad’s early App Store success

The emergence of Microsoft’s office applications on the iPad platform will greatly enhance it’s functionality, especially when developing and sharing office documents with colleagues and friends using PC-based operating systems. What do you think about Microsoft offering these as “free applications” but requiring a subscription to fully unlock all of the features and functionality?

Stacey Harris: Hit Publish, Now What? How To Promote Your Content Through Social Media

Utilizing social media for networking includes authoring original content that can be shared far and wide. This article provides a good foundation upon which aspiring authors can generate content that is read throughout the world.

WordPress.tv

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Office For iPhone And Android Is Now Free

TechCrunch

Along with a new version of Office for iPad, Microsoft made Office for iPhone and Android smartphones free today. The apps have updated in the respective app stores and can be snagged here for iPhone and here for Android.

The change log notes that the apps are free for “home use.” As Emil Protalinski pointed out earlier today, this seems to imply that “Microsoft still plans to require that businesses have an Office 365 subscription.”

You can now use Office for free, including editing, on every device except for the iPad, ironically, which requires an Office 365 subscription to unlock editing capabilities. There are free Office apps on Windows Phone, iPhone, Android and Windows RT devices, and for anyone on a regular PC, Office Offline is a decent solution.

Microsoft’s goal is to arc people towards paying for Office 365. But at the same time, use of free Office…

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Office For iPad Review: Surprisingly Worth The Wait

TechCrunch

Microsoft has launched new Office for iPad software, finally, after people have been asking for it since, oh, say, the day in 2010 when the iPad originally launched. The new apps are currently available for anyone to download, so you can scratch that four-year itch, but is it worth it? Read on to find out why Microsoft’s iPad-based productivity suite will be a lifesaver for some, but probably not a necessity for your average tablet user.

Video Walkthrough

[tc_5min code=”518175375″]

Basics

  • Free (but editing requires a $5/mo Office 365 subscription)
  • Word, Excel and PowerPoint support in separate apps
  • Cloud autosave and collaboration (but not real-time concurrent)
  • Available in 135 markets in 29 languages
  • Product info page

Pros

  • Reads all Office formats perfectly for free
  • PowerPoint offers presentation mode free

Cons

  • Full functionality requires recurring $5 monthly commitment

Design

The Office for iPad apps are each, to a tee…

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Movies and PwD

Disability Need Not Be Barrier for Moviegoers
by MAURIE HILL on JANUARY 21, 2014

On a recent rainy afternoon, I ventured to our local movie theater to watch “Philomena”. I had the best movie experience since losing my 20/20 vision roughly 30 years ago. Stargardt Disease (similar to macular degeneration) has gradually robbed my ability to read text on the big screen, identify characters’ faces or expressions at times, and pick up important details or actions, no matter how close I sit. So what was different this time around? As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was anxious to try the MovieReading App on my iPhone as soon as “Philomena” came to town. The app allowed me to hear details I would normally miss, and it more than confirmed the idea that this app is the easiest solution for those who are sight-impaired and still want to enjoy movies and television.

Though I used an iPhone 5, the MovieReading app also works on an iPod Touch or iPad (as long as it can run iOS 6 or later); plus, an Android app is in the works. But forget the details for now, and let’s look at the bigger picture: I didn’t have to take a bus to a larger theater that provides specialty equipment for the blind (or hearing impaired). I didn’t have to worry that an untrained person would be the one attempting to show me how to use such equipment. I didn’t bother anyone sitting around me. I didn’t have to ask for any assistance to get it started. I used a device and headphones that I always carry with me anyways.

The movie “Philomena” was phenomenal and most of all, I knew what everyone was laughing or crying about because a pleasant voice in my ear told me what my eyes are not able to.

The MovieReading app was extremely easy to use. It uses the microphone on your device to determine where the playback is at, and then automatically syncs with the movie’s soundtrack within seconds. Though I arrived to the movie early, getting to the movie theater a little late is not a problem because it will sync. You just hear the audio description and reading of any text on the screen (such as subtitles and credits) through your headphones; the rest of the movie you listen just like everyone else through the theater’s speakers. I tried big padded headphones first, and then switched to ear buds. In both cases, I could still clearly hear the movie playing at the same time. I had never tried using audio description in my life, but after the first few minutes, it was neither confusing nor distracting. I chose to just use one ear bud for the descriptions; though I could have popped it out at any time, I never felt the need to.

Determining how to describe a movie through audio is definitely an art; I’m happy to report it was artfully done for this movie. There was no disruption while characters were having a conversation, so it would sometimes go a long time before describing again. Some examples of what and how things were described in different parts of the movie (if I remember correctly) – “Sister Hildegard peers coldly through the window at Philomena”; or “in a quaint village where a BMW pulls off to the side”; or “Anthony’s cherubic face can be seen in the rear window as the car starts down the country road”. The app did not annoy you with every facial expression, but described ones taking place at crucial moments, giving me a complete sense of the mood.

The app works with VoiceOver, so I was able to start the audio description by myself. A message from the app reminded me to put the device in airplane mode and lower the screen brightness so I wouldn’t disturb fellow moviegoers. The description will continue even when the screen is locked. Using wired headphones, the iPhone’s battery life went from 94% to 80% for this 90-minute movie. My fears of having a dead phone at the end (or in the middle of!) the movie were eliminated. I probably could have used my Bluetooth headphones and still had juice by the end of the movie as well.

Philomena is the only content currently available through the MovieReading app. If this movie is no longer playing in your local theaters but you are curious about audio description created by Hollywood Access Services, there are mp3 tracks available for purchase (these do not play within the MovieReading app) for the “Breaking Bad” TV series on DVD, the “Hunger Games” DVD, and more. You won’t have to unearth a buried audio description menu that some DVDs provide or worry about disturbing other family members while you listen to the description on your own device. Due to the fact that distributors haven’t yet made this content available for access through the MovieReading app, you’ll need to follow simple instructions at the beginning to manually sync the mp3 audio description with the DVD playback.

I strongly believe that the MovieReading app and its Solo-Dx technology for automatically syncing the content can hugely broaden access to more blind, sight impaired, and hearing impaired individuals. We’ve come a long way this year in increasing the ways and means of reading books. In terms of accessing visual content, the ease and consistency of enjoying movie and television content through one app is within reach.

In order to get first-run movies available on the MovieReading app, as well as television and after-theater movie content, the distributors must make their content available to Hollywood Access Services. This is necessary in order to create the appropriate audio description for the sight impaired as well as captioning files for the hearing impaired.

With regards to getting distributors to provide access, Anna Capezzera, co-founder and Vice President of Hollywood Access Services states that “there is a small fee to cover all technical aspects of hosting audio description on the app. For distributors that don’t use our company to provide audio description services, we can still upload their description if they give us access to the files. It’s a very simple process.”

She continues, “I think partially because this app is so new, distributors don’t have a full understanding of how enthusiastic people are about this technology and how much easier it makes going to the movies. If they had a better idea, one hopes they’d see that it’s worth their effort and the small fee to put their content on the app. The best thing the blind and visually impaired community can do is make their voices heard. Contacting distributors – movie studios, TV networks, streaming sites such as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon – en masse would bring better awareness, plus contacting the National Association of Theater Owners could help because they in turn could influence the studios to make their movies available on the app. This is especially the case with smaller cinemas that can’t afford the currently available audio description equipment.”

So, if you want to help break down barriers to enjoying entertainment the easiest way I can imagine, then it looks like we have a job to do. At the very minimum, share your thoughts with all of us here.

For more information, check out these FAQ’s about the Solo-Dx technology used in the MovieReading app, listen to an interview about the app on Serotalk podcast 179 (one hour and 3 minutes into the podcast).

Tagged as: ai squared, app, audio description, iOS, Maurie Hill, MovieReading, movies, theater, zoomtext

Hacking Attention: Media, Technology and Crisis

Social media could be a powerful tool to unite people with disabilities, especially when dealing with the fall-out of a catastrophic injury or illness.

Josh Stearns

On Monday at 5pm I’ll be moderating a session at SXSW that explores the way journalists, civic hackers, and local communities are using new technology and social networks to respond to crisis and conflict. What follows is a preview of some of the issues we’ll be grappling with.

What is your attention worth? Online publishers, advertisers and social networks are putting a price on your attention every day. The entire web metrics industry is built on the economy of attention – impressions, clicks, visits, time on site, RTs, likes, shares. These are the atomic elements of attention.

But there are also people who are working to hack attention, to use new networks, new connections and new tools to drive our hearts and minds towards the most important stories of our time. The hope is not that we can turn attention into dollars, but that we can turn attention into action.

Today…

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Self-published vs. traditional vs. hybrid vs. mutant ink scribbler

Therapists can help facilitate their clients to publish short stories, poetry, and even memoirs which can be extraordinarily efficacious and therapeutic!

Michael J. Martinez

Traditionally published and coming May 6. Traditionally published and coming May 6.

Can’t we all just get along?

The whole “self-publishing vs. traditional publishing” brouhaha got a shot of (unneeded) adrenaline over the past few weeks when Hugh Howey — a stand-up guy and my agency-mate — published his latest round of reports over on Author Earnings. Hugh’s obviously a huge proponent of self-publishing, and rightly so. He’s done quite all right by it, and that’s an epic understatement.

The gist of his report was that independent self-published authors, on average, can take home more money than traditionally published authors. I’m sure I’m oversimplifying matters, so you can see some of his work here and here.

This led to a lot of…stuff. Commentary and ideas that transmuted into sharpened words and the occasional bit of uninformed blathering levied by genuine insights.

You know, as the Internet does.

I’m not going to get into the…

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