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August 2011

9 posts from July 2011

One Simple Reason O'Reilly ROCKS as an Ebook Publisher

Like many technical folks, I've long been a fan of O'Reilly books, having purchased my first "animal" book sometime back in the late 1980's, but as we collectively make the transition to the world of ebooks, I've discovered one simple reason O'Reilly truly rocks as a publisher:

That's it! Enter that one little URL into the browser on your tablet, mobile phone or e-reader and after you login... ta da... there are all the O'Reilly ebooks you have purchased! No need to sync to a program on your laptop or desktop ... just straight downloads to your device to open in whatever program you use - iBooks, Kindle, Stanza, whatever...

Here's how it looks on my iPad:

Oreillyebooks ipad

As you can see, books are available in whatever formats they were produced in... so you can grab ePub for iBooks or Stanza, Mobi for Kindle, or just a straight-up PDF for use in other apps. You aren't limited to one format, either, as you can download all of the formats if you want. O'Reilly has also taken the step to deliver their downloads DRM-free, so you can use them on any device.

Oreillyebooks iphoneThe image on the right shows the same screen on my iPhone. The URL will naturally work on a laptop or desktop, too, but the beauty of it is that the URL is so trivial to enter into a mobile device. About as small a URL as you can get.

The great thing about ebooks is, of course, that you always get the latest version of whatever the author has uploaded. And O'Reilly routinely alerts you via email whenever there are new updates for you to download.

That one simple URL makes it so easy to obtain whatever books you purchase and whatever updates there are.

In full disclosure, I now am an "O'Reilly author" with my latest book, "Migrating Applications to IPv6", but that is just recent (last month) and I started purchasing O'Reilly ebooks quite some time ago for my iPad.

The whole world of ebooks is undergoing an amazing amount of innovation right now... and it's great to see publishers like O'Reilly trying out new ideas to see what works. And in my mind, having an easy-to-access portal to all your ebooks at a super-simple URL is a great idea!

Thanks, O'Reilly, for making it so simple to get to your ebooks!

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Fascinating Chart of Growth of Google+ Relative to Facebook and Twitter

Fascinating chart on the growth of Google+ relative to Facebook and Twitter, courtesy of Leon Håland:

Growthofgoogleplus 1

Now, of course, being the newcomer Google+ benefits from already having Facebook and Twitter out there to spread the news about Google+ ... and to spread the links to Google+ material.

Google also has the massive directory of users of Google services... from Gmail to Google Docs and everything in between.

So on one level it's no surprise to see the phenomenal growth... still, it's quite impressive by any measure.

P.S. And of course I am on Google+...

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The Insanity of the Rush To Buy Books At Borders' Going Out Of Business "Sale"

BordersWhy in the world are people buying these huge stacks of books at Borders right now? Where are the "deals" that are supposed to be there?

I asked myself these questions when, like carrion drawn to roadkill, we naturally had to visit our local Borders here in Keene, NH, over the weekend.

The signs, of course, broadcast out "10-40% Off", but closer examination showed naturally that almost everything was at "10% off" except for a few categories.

So let's do some math… there was a book my daughter wanted that cost:


Take of the 10% and you get:


What a deal, right? But consider that here is the cost for the exact same book on


In doing some quick spot-checking (gotta love a smartphone with a browser), it seemed pretty much the case that most all the books were priced about 40% higher than you could buy them online.

So here's the math quiz for anyone thinking about going to Borders' "sale" right now:

If the book prices are 40% higher than online, and you subtract 10%, you are still paying ____ more than you would pay online.

Umm… how many ways can you spell "F - A - I - L"?

Even if you don't have Amazon Prime and still need to pay for shipping, odds are that your shipping costs probably will still make it cheaper to buy online.

Sure, this is standard liquidator practice… pump up the promotion, get people coming in thinking there are great deals, and hope they stumble upon a few things to buy. (And in fact, I did buy a book that had a list price of $16 and was on a discount rack for $3.99.) Try to milk every last $ you can...

But it did astound me to see the long lines of people with big stacks of books…

As for me, now that I've seen the lines and the shelves, I'll tune out the news for a couple of weeks… when the deals actually start to get real, maybe I'll make another visit… :-)

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Google+ App Finally Comes to the iPhone! (But Not The iPad)

At last, we iPhone owners who have been watching our Android-owning friends play with Google+ for the past couple of weeks, particularly with uploading photos, can now play, too! The iOS app for Google+ is now available.

A couple of quick screenshots:

Googleplusiphone1 Googleplusiphone2

The app worked great, too, for uploading photos to my G+ account. It also has some interesting features like the ability to swipe with two fingers to switch between your main "Stream" and the "Incoming" and "Nearby" streams. I have only started using it, so we'll see how well it works in repeated use.

Sadly, though, the Google+ app will NOT install onto an iPad, even in just the reduced-size iPhone mode. When I go to the iTunes URL for the app, the iPad flips over to iTunes, and then gives this error message:

Gplus on ipad

A couple of other folks commented (on Google+ naturally) that they were unable to load the app onto an iPad through other means.

Too bad, really, since the Google+ browsing experience on an iPad is so miserable. :-(

Regardless, it's great to have an iOS app available for Google+ ... I'm looking forward to using the service more!

P.S. And of course you can find/follow me on Google+...

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How Badly Has Your Online Writing Impacted Your Offline Writing?

Do you still write offline at all?

You know... using one of those pen or pencil thingies and some type of non-electronic media? Like, oh, maybe that wild concept known as... (gasp)... paper?

Personally, I've been writing in journals for literally decades. In fact I recently opened a box and came across a couple of my journals from back in the 1980's. I have many of these floating around in various boxes.

Writing is just part and parcel of what I do and who I am.

But, of course, like most of us these days, my writing has been increasingly online.

I started "blogging" (although it wasn't called that yet) back in May 2000 at a site called Advogato and have continued on through LiveJournal, TypePad and WordPress to where I routinely write across about 15 or so different blogs and sites. Every work day (and often weekends, too) usually starts with writing blog posts and often ends with writing posts. My brain is always firing with a zillion ideas of what to write about... my constant struggle is to find the time to write all the posts I want to write.

What is losing out in this battle for time, I've found, is my offline writing.

The truth is that the vast majority of my writing is "public" and so it's perfectly fine online. In fact, it is better that it is online because it is much more easy to find... it is searchable... it is easy to "back up" (if I do so)... and in some ways it probably has a much longer lifespan than my offline journals, should, for instance, they meet with our wet basement. (Of course, the contrary might be true int that they may outlast some of the online sites hosting my content.)

But there are some topics I don't care to share online. Some of them are more "personal" thoughts... some of them are sketches for ideas for future stories - not yet ready to be put online... some of them are notes about our kids that I want to preserve for us, but don't want to share with the world. I've also been writing poems for years and they, too, are not yet ready for me to share online (or more precisely I am not ready to share them).

And sure, in our culture of "transparency", many people simply dump ALL that information online somewhere... maybe on public sites... or maybe in private sites... or in walled gardens like Facebook. I'm not personally ready to be THAT open.

I didn't quite realize, though, exactly how much my offline writing had been impacted. On a recent weekend, I opened my current offline journal and leafed back through the pages. I was rather shocked to realize that I began this particular journal in October 2006!

Almost five years ago.

Go back a decade and I probably would have filled up a journal like this one in a few months... and here it's been five years and I'm maybe only 2/3rds of the way through it.

An amazing change...

How about you? If you ever wrote offline before, do you still do so? Or have you moved entirely online? Have you seen a drop-off like I have?

P.S. And with that drop in offline writing, I've also noticed that my cursive handwriting - never terribly legible - has declined even further without the regular usage. :-(

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Do You Have A Favorite Time of Day To Write? (And What Happens If You Miss It?)


Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write your blog posts or other online content? What happens to you when you can't write during that time?

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning, I found myself just a bit jittery in the morning and seemingly out-of-sorts. I couldn't quite figure out what was going on... and then it hit me:

I was missing out on my "normal" writing time!

You see, my wife is recovering from breast cancer surgery and during this period she can't do things like, oh, lift up our 2-year-old daughter and change her diaper! Or simply hold our 2-yr-old if she falls ... or just wants to be held. (Needless to say, this is immensely frustrating for my wife!) Or reach up into kitchen cabinets to get plates or glasses. Nor can my wife drive right now with her limited range of motion.

The result is that for this week my mornings prior to 9am have been spent getting both kids ready and off to camps or friends. (Our 9-year-old has been in a day camp and our 2-yr-old has been visiting each day with friends or family.) Plus all the other typical morning activities in a household.

Now, don't get me wrong... I am definitely glad to help in doing all this. My wife has been making an amazing recovery and each day she's getting better and better. It's no big deal for me to do what I'm doing to help her out - and I'll keep doing it as long as she needs me to do so.

What I didn't expect was the disruption to my own habits by starting my work day one hour later.

Here's the deal... for years now I have always started my formal "work day" around 8:00 am. And yes, I'm often checking email and Twitter, etc. before that time... but 8am has generally been the time when I go "into my office".

And what's the first thing I do when I go into my office?


Indeed, I have formally blocked off 8-9am every morning on my calendar as "Blogging Time". It is a time when I try my best to just FOCUS on writing.

Before getting sucked into the zillion Skype group chats that are part of my IM-centric company.

Before getting sucked into my email inbox.

Before getting sucked into the mega-timesuck that is Twitter/Facebook/Google+/whatever.

Before getting sucked into whatever Voxeo projects are on my plate for that particular day.

Before any of that... I try... to just spend an hour where I'm entirely focused on writing.

Typically my focus is on cranking out at least one post for Voxeo's many blogs and then often a post for one of my many other blogs. My goal is to try to always have a queue of posts that will be going out over time to keep content flowing out online. (Confession: right now with everything going on, I don't! My queue of written posts is empty - tons of ideas, no text!) Sometimes my focus is on an article for some other site... regardless, I try to spend that time writing.

Sometimes that block of time stretches on beyond an hour... maybe it turns into a couple of hours. Sometimes it winds up only being 15 or 20 minutes before something high priority interrupts the time.

This week, though, I haven't had that block of time in the mornings. And to my chagrin I've found that this does have an effect on me. :-(

Now, the effect on me will be temporary as next week we don't have quite the same schedule of camps and such and I'll probably be able to resume my early writing block. And if it's not next week it will be the week after.... or somewhere in here as my wife keeps getting better. So I'm not too concerned in the grand scheme of things.

But this whole episode has made me realize just how important that little block of time has become to me!

How about you? Do you have a favorite time of day to write? Have you formally blocked out a period of time? Or do you just try to catch some time when you can? Does it bother you when you can't write?

Image credit: kobiz7 on Flickr

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Video: Rocketboom Provides A Great Explanation of Google+ vs Facebook and Twitter

With all the hype about Google+ lately, a lot of people have been seeking to understand how it is different - or not - from Twitter and Facebook. The folks over at Rocketboom came out with this video that does a nice job of explaining the differences - kudos to the team!

And yes, I'm naturally on Google+ these days...

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The Three Genders of Google+

I was greatly amused to finally get in to Google+ tonight and see in the sign-up form that Google offered a third gender of "Other":


Now, granted, there may be a few people out there for whom that is actually an accurate label... but I have to wonder how many people may choose that "gender" more as a joke simply because the option is there. And what happens if you do???

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Great Photo of President Obama Tweeting Out of The Twitter Town Hall

Sure, you can argue that Wednesday's "Twitter Town Hall" was a clever publicity stunt for Twitter, Inc., but I think you do have to admit this photo from Geoff Livingston is pretty cool!

The First Presidential Tweet

I mean... here is the President of the United States getting involved with interacting with people over Twitter.

Fun to see...

And, gee, it turns out that the first tweet answered in the town hall was from someone here in New Hampshire. Now... why would that be? I mean, N.H. doesn't play any real role in politics, does it? ;-)

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