How hard could it be? Those are usually the last words I utter before descending into a quagmire of technical pain as I work through how to use and master a new technology. Fortunately this time, making an eBook and related hard copy book turned out to be a straightforward and fairly easy process to master… once all the appropriate tools were identified and lined up, that is. An added bonus is that all the software is free to download and use on both Windows, Mac and Linux computers.
This project started a couple of months ago when a coworker kindly suggested that I write a paper based on a presentation I give to classes of law students on software tools for research and collaboration: Research & Collaboration Tools for Students, Staff & Faculty: Creating a Modern Memex. With that encouragement I started writing with my current favourite writing tool, Google Docs.
Related YouTube Video: eBook Publishing Made Easy
Step 1 Google Docs: Google Docs is particularly good for collaborative document editing but it is also capable enough for academic writing. This means that it supports footnotes, endnotes, bibliographies, tables of contents, inline images, and style sheets among other things. For the purposes of this project, it also does a great job of exporting all of these features and formatting into a HTML document, which is exactly what we need for the next step of our project… creating an ePub file in Sigil. If you use Microsoft Word or OpenOffice instead of Google Docs, you can still save your document as an HTML file and then import it into Sigil. Note, you should not proceed to the next step until you have completed writing, editing and revising your document. This is because if there are any changes you need to make after this point, you’ll need to redo steps 2 and 3 every time you “edit” your document.
I’ve just finished creating eBook and paper book versions of a paper that I recently wrote called, “Research & Collaboration Tools for Students, Staff & Faculty: Creating a Modern Memex“. It should be helpful for anyone doing research, but especially for high school students, university students, teachers and faculty. At 55 pages in paper book format, it is a short but informative read.
As a personal learning project, I’ve made the book available in multiple formats, so that it is accessible to everyone who is interested in reading it. Feel free to send a link to this page to anyone who you think might find this short book helpful. I’ve published it using the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
If you have an iPad, be sure to download the “iBooks for iPad only” version, as it is a multi-media edition, that includes embedded videos that unfortunately the other formats do not yet support.
Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions for the book. If you read a free version of the book, please leave a review in the Kindle Store, as I suspect this will help others discover the book.
Last week I spoke to 70 members of local women’s group about how they could potentially use iPhone’s and iPad’s in useful ways in their lives as retirees. As I made a list of apps and use cases for my presentation I thought about how much I’d miss my iPhone if I were forced to give it up, and remembered a story that my father used to tell about a Yankee Clock Peddler. The story goes like this…
The Yankee Clock Peddler and his travelling companion start out on a sales tip in a rural area, and they stop for the night at a farmer’s house. In the morning before leaving to make sales call in neighbouring communities, the clock peddler asks the farmer if he’d store a clock for him for a couple of weeks, and that he’ll pick the clock up on his way back home. The farmer agreed to this, so the Peddler wound up the clock and placed it on the farmer’s wall before leaving (the farmer does not yet own a clock). When out of ear shot, the traveling companion asks the clock peddler why he left the clock at the house. Didn’t he want to sell the clock on the trip? To this the Yankee Clock Peddler replied, “don’t worry, by the time I come back in a couple of weeks, the clock will be sold… the farmer will happily buy it from me.”
The moral of the story is: “We can do without any article of luxury we have never had, but when once obtained, it is not in human nature to surrender it voluntarily.”
Being the father of five children under the age of 16 years old, with a home that has three computers, four iPhones and three iPod Touches, I’ve been experimenting with software over the past few years to trying to reduce the likelihood of porn inadvertently showing up on their screens. After trying some commercial software for content filtering a couple of years ago, that ended up slowing down our old computer, I have found something that doesn’t kill our computer, and as an added bonus is FREE – OpenDNS.
OpenDNS allows you to filter web content and block adult websites on the internet by simply changing the DNS servers that your computer or router uses. While not full proof (no solution is), it quite works well. After you’ve setup an account, you can specify the kinds of web sites you want to block or allow. You can also specifically allow web sites that may be grouped in a category you have blocked. You have all the control that you could ask for. If you want you can install on one computer in your home to let OpenDNS know if your IP address changes, so that it can continue to filter based on the criteria you’ve set in their control panel.
If you want, you can also enable logging so that you can keep track of the websites computers in your house are visiting. This all happens transparently, without having to install any software on your computers, iPods or iPads.
The easiest way to protect all the computers and internet devices in hour home is to manually change the DNS servers that your internet router uses to the two OpenDNS servers. If you want to change your DNS settings now just use the following:
If you need help figuring out where to change the DNS settings for your router, OpenDNS has a great tutorial that shows you how on their website.
OpenDNS along with Dropbox and two services that every home should seriously consider using. OpenDNS is completely free, and Dropbox is free up to 2GB of data backed up. Enjoy!
You can’t put a hyper-link on a poster, sheet of paper or bookmark, but you can put on a QR Code. It is a much easier and more accurate way to link to a web page than to type a URL into your smart phone.
How can I use QR Codes?
Using a QR Code reader on your smart phone (like the Google App on an iPhone or Android phone) you simply take a picture of the QR Code and the reader redirects you to a mobile web page or some other resource on theinternet. Depending on what you download, you’ll be able to:
- Read a web page with text and pictures
- Watch a video
- Listen to an audio file
- Download an app
- Register for an event or buy tickets
QR Codes are commonly used on posters, in print ads, on bookmarks, on business cards and even on web pages.
My current favourite QR code reader for the iPhone is the Scan by QR Code City (search for “Scan” in the App store). For all other smart phones, I’d suggest trying the free Neo Reader.
P.S. Here is handout with QR Code information. Here is a bookmark sheet to go along with the handout.
Creating and using good passwords is the digital equivalent of flossing our teeth. We all know we should do it, but it’s time consuming and not easy to do. The good news is that it’s possible to create strong, but easy to remember passwords.
So, which of the following two passwords is stronger and more difficult to crack? Which is more difficult to Remember?
Believe it or not, the first password is both stronger, and for most people easier to remember. It’s hard to see, but the first password is one character longer than the second, and because of the way hackers try to crack passwords, it is more secure than the second. The first tool that hackers use when trying to guess passwords is a dictionary attack. Because neither password is in a dictionary, that attack will fail. At that point a hacker will fall back to a brute force attack, where password length and character mix is important for making a password hard to crack.
So how should you choose your password?
- Use a memorable word or phrase that has upper case, lower case, number(s), and symbol(s) in it.
- Pad that with a character to make the password and then pad it with a random character so that the password length is about 25 characters long.
- Another example of a strong password is: D0gsD!g………………..
For more information, and to check out how secure your password is from a brute force attack, check out this excellent resource from Steve Gibson at GRC.com
which was the inspiration for this blog post. Passwordmeter.com
is also another great resource that help you to know how strong your password really is. If you’re really interested, here’s a podcast Steve did
where explains in detail why this sort of password is so effective.
Spreadsheet of Data + Google Docs Pivot Tables = Reporting Jedi Master
Pivot tables are the quickest and easiest way to get useful information out of spreadsheets of data… especially large spreadsheets of data. Google Docs makes using pivot tables quite easy if you’re familiar with spreadsheets. Let’s say you have a spreadsheet of conference attendees with contact information along with the sessions they registered for, and the date that they registered. Using a pivot table you could quickly find out if there is a correlation between the people who registered for the “how to get organized” workshop, and how early people registered.
You could also quickly determine how many people attending the conference are out of Province (or State). I’ve just scratched the surface; it’s truly amazing the information you can glean for playing around with a pivot table and a data set. I first used pivot tables over 10 years ago while working at at Westech Building Products, a manufacturing company, and they were invaluable when analyzing production and sales data.
Take a look at the following 1.5 minute video for an excellent overview. Happy spreadsheeting!