Friday, August 23, 2013

Blackberry World has 47,000 Apps from a Single Developer


Blackberry likes to promote the fact that their app store has over 120,000 apps that are compatible with the latest generation BB10 smartphones. Visiting the store, you often find popular apps like Skype and Whatsapp, but what the other apps available? Well, for starters there are 47,000 apps from a single developer and the quality of said apps, well, its fairly lackluster.

Over 46,500 apps submitted by a user named S4BB who is from Hong Kong. They are taking advantage of the fact they are functional apps, if a bit woeful. Most of the apps are wrappers that point to mobile websites, which are all done automatically via online builder tools. The vast bulk of them tend to be city maps for virtually every major city in the world and audiobooks. He is not alone, several developers employ this method of bare minimum single functionality apps.

This problem is not just indicative to the Blackberry platform, but is prevalent on Android as well. Most of the apps submitted to Blackberry World are in fact Android apps, that have been automatically converted to a BAR file. The developers then re-purpose the apps and submit them on Google Play. It is only noticeable really on the Blackberry ecosystem, because it only has 170,000 apps, while the Apple store has 900,000 and Android over a million.

Blackberry World has 47,000 Apps from a Single Developer is a post from: E-Reader News

Digital Comics Bargains: Last Blast of Summer


Summer’s almost over, but there’s still time for some comics reading before school starts in earnest. Dark Horse’s big sale this weekend is on kids’ comics, with 99-cent issues of Axe Cop, Groo, and Usagi Yojimbo and heavily marked-down graphic novels, including Avatar: The Last Airbender, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and the Eisner-nominated Chimichanga—possibly the best $2.99 you’ll spend this week, whether for a kid or an adult. It’s Eric Powell’s tale of a bearded girl and her pet monster, set in a sad circus; check out my review at Robot 6 if you want to know more. The sale is this weekend only.

If you prefer something a bit more mature, Dark Horse is also offering a Hellboy: Weird Tales and Others megabundle of 32 comics for $30. This is basically a collection of Hellboy side stories, so it’s a great way to dip your toe into the waters.

I’m only seeing one weekend sale at comiXology, and if you blink, you’ll miss it: All Ed Brubaker’s comics are marked down to 99 cents, but the sale ends tonight. That’s a bunch of issues of Captain America, Daredevil, X-Men, and Winter Soldier.

In case you missed Digital’s Tezuka Week promotion—15% off the first ten issues of Astro Boy Magazine—they are extending it for another week.

And finally, Viz’s big summer sale—up to 20% off their digital manga—is still going on, and there’s a lot to choose from. Every volume is discounted, and there are hundreds to choose from, so don’t miss out.

Digital Comics Bargains: Last Blast of Summer is a post from: E-Reader News

Authors, Readers Band Together to Stop Goodreads “Bullying”


Who knew the book industry was filled with such venom, such mayhem, such…death threats?

Book discovery and discussion site Goodreads has been the battlefield recently for a game that is causing concern among both authors and readers alike. According to some reports from actual users, there are roving bands of “bullies” on the site, some of them actual moderators approved by Goodreads, who seek out titles to destroy with artificially low rankings and ratings. How is it artificial? Because some of the books haven’t even been published yet, and ARCs were not sent out. (Goodreads terms of service allows this pre-release ranking to demonstrate a reader’s interest level based on a blurb about the book.)

After author Lauren Howard made the decision recently to pull her debut novel from publication after a firestorm of hatred–including what she claims to have been rape and death threats–more information on this level of behavior surfaced from other sources.

Now, a group has formed a website and a call to action to demand that Goodreads finally step in on this type of behavior, something that the site has long refused to do as it would be a form of censorship on readers’ opinions about books. The website lists updates with Goodreads users by name as well as screen shots of some of the comments that have been made about authors personally, and not just about their books. In many cases, they also link back to other accounts a user has on Goodreads, demonstrating that a number of these reviewers are using more than one account to continue in the same vein.

One of the site’s moderators, who goes by the screen name Athena, sent comments to Good e-Reader about the behavior and about their efforts to stop it.

“GoodReads's laissez-faire policy toward its users is really what has led to the bullying on their site and to be honest, we've seen much worse than online, written threats of rape and murder. We've seen the GR bullies actually cyber-stalk authors by digging up their PII online and then calling them on the phone to threaten them in their own home. We have police reports to prove this as well as screenshots. And it's not just GR's ‘open-use’ policy, either, that has led to this behavior. We've seen the Goodreads managers and moderators actually foster this kind of environment. We have a screenshot of Patrick Brown telling a user that she should feel free to say what she wants about an author. This kind of do-what-you-want message from the GR community manager himself has led to cases of libel and career-destroying. For example, one author we know was wrongfully accused of intentions of rape because of something one of the characters in his book said about another character. This is the kind of behavior that needs to be discouraged and stopped. And until it is, we will continue to blog about it on our site.”

While Goodreads, with a membership of 20 million users, may feel that censoring what it feels to be genuine responses to books would be wrong, Athena and the other moderators do propose solutions to at least keep the site civil and supportive of readers.

“What we'd like to see Goodreads do is eradicate from its website anything that has to do with this culture of personally attacking and abusing authors. In other words, we want them to get rid of the ‘BBA culture’ on their site. This hatred toward authors needs to stop. We'd like to see GR remove author-bashing shelves, as well as comments and reviews that are also author-bashing. Not only that, any member who personally attacks an author in a comment, a shelf, or a review should be immediately removed from the website. GR should follow in the footsteps of professional blog tour companies who remove abusive book bloggers from their recipient lists. They should protect their authors. As it is now, if an author is attacked, the only recourse the author has a right to is to flag the abuse and contact the GR managers for help. And in most cases, the GR moderators really do nothing to help. They let the abuse continue until the author's reputation is shattered and their will to write gone. Until GR (i.e. Amazon) decides to clean house, we recommend that all authors (and publishers) steer clear of Goodreads altogether. If not in protest, then for the simple reason that just being on the site will more than likely hurt their career.”

It will be interesting to see if Amazon, now that they own Goodreads, will put a stop to a behavior that has apparently been occurring for quite some time, especially considering Amazon’s support of–and reliance on–self-published authors.

Authors, Readers Band Together to Stop Goodreads “Bullying” is a post from: E-Reader News

Apple Taps Into Education with Products and Services


Apple has introduced a new “Apple and Education” section to its website, carrying forward the company's new focus, the education segment. The central idea is clear and simple: ease the introduction of technology both as a learning and teaching aid. This way, while it will be easier for the educators to teach, the students will be able to grasp the topics more easily. The education segment is also expected to spur the creativity of the students, helping them further to think critically.

The web page covers several aspects of education where Apple feels its products can come in handy. Quite obviously, the iPad tops the list, with the site mentioning the apps and ebooks that the teachers can make the best of. There is also a section for those with disabilities of varying forms. Apple promises better means of both imparting education to the disabled via use of its technology through the host of accessibility options built into iOS platform, and the latest iOS 7 is expected to come with more enhanced accessibility options.

Further, the section also comes with real life experiences of teachers who have implemented Apple tools and devices, and the ways it helped them achieve their goals. Teachers also have at their disposal some nice tools such as the iBooks Author app, which comes free and enables the teachers to create their own ebooks for iPad that suit their teaching styles. There is also the Volume Purchase Program which enables educational institutions to make bulk purchases of apps and ebooks. Finally, the age limit for students to have their own account at iTunes has been brought down to 13.

All of the above shows Apple's new found zeal to have more of its devices introduced at schools and universities. Their focus is for students and teachers to push the use of its books, apps, and the iPad. Of late, Microsoft has also been working to win over students by offering discounted Surface RT devices.

Apple Taps Into Education with Products and Services is a post from: E-Reader News

Ted Bull Stratos: Babbage’s leap of faith

Liz: Today we’ve got a guest post from our old high-altitude-ballooning friend Dave Akerman (just as well, really, because I’ve got really bad backache and am having to make a little nest of pillows to sit in before I can type without wincing). Tomorrow morning, Eben and I are rising with the lark to drive over to Berkshire, where we’ll be “helping” Dave launch another Pi-enabled balloon. This time, the payload is someone who may look familiar to you, and he’s going to try to replicate a world record. This is cross-posted from Dave’s own blog, where you’ll also find much more information about tracking this flight from home if you’d like to follow us along tomorrow.

We selected Babbage as the Raspberry Pi bear (you can buy your own Babbage here) because as well as being cute and cuddly, he’s just the right size to fit a Pi inside. I’ll let Dave explain what he did once he’d scooped Babbage’s innards out (I had an email in which Dave described those innards as “the right stuffing”), and why. Thanks Dave!

My next flight is an attempt to reproduce Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking skydive as part of the Red Bull Stratos project, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.

The flight is due for launch about 10:30am this Saturday morning from Berkshire. Landing prediction is a few miles SW of Newbury. You can follow the flight using these links:

Live streams from launch site Chase car 1 and Chase car 2

Live images

Tracking Map

So, here's how the 2 projects stack up:

Red Bull Stratos Ted Bull Stratos
Pilot Felix Baumgartner Bionic Babbage
Cameras Capsule and Suit Capsule and bionic eye
Budget £30,000,000 £300
Capsule Weight 1300 kg 200 g
Balloon Volume at launch 5000 m³ 3 m³
Jump Altitude 38,969 metres 39,000 metres (est)

So whilst this project won't be manned (just beared), and doesn't have the same sort of budget, it does aim to exceed Felix's flight in one regard – altitude – albeit by a mere 31 metres.

"Babbage" is of course the Raspberry Pi mascot (buy your own here), but with one or two minor changes. The first change is to add a GPS/radio tracker so we know where he is throughout the flight, including where he lands so he can be recovered. The second is to give him the ability to take photographs during his flight, and transmit those down to the ground. To do these, I first replaced his right eye with a Pi camera. This part of the operation was easier said than done – those eyes are very well fixed in so kiddies don't pull them out and choke on them – and I had to use some decidedly non-surgical implements to complete the task. That done, I trimmed the eye hole (I hope you're not feeling squeamish!) with wire cutters. I then placed a Raspberry Pi Camera behind the now vacated eye socket and fixed it in with a magical settable rubber called Sugru. After leaving that to set I could insert the rest of Babbages's upgrade package:



So here we have a model A Raspberry Pi (sans almost all of the connectors), GPS receiver, batteries and a radio transmitter. Only item missing here is an aerial which was added later.

The next pic is near the end of the procedure, with the aerial protruding from the logical place.


The GPS receiver is in his left ear, and there are 2 batteries down each leg. The camera is connected and it only needs those 2 JST connectors to be mated and he'll take and transmit images from his new eye. With his shirt back on, and a harness around his shoulders, here's the completed Bionic Bear:


So, with Babbage ready for action, it was time to build his capsule. What I wanted to do was replicate the great downward view of Felix's jump as he left the capsule and disappeared towards the Earth, and this meant placing a camera directly above Babbage's head. He also needed a step to rest on, carefully sized so that once he is released (by cutting a supporting nylon cord) he wall-falls forward. The rest of the design was basically to join those items up with a box section to hold the tracker and batteries:


Note the picture of the star constellation that Babbage's capsule is named after!

The height of the capsule was designed to replicate the view from Felix's overhead camera:


The mission is now planned for Saturday 24th August. Babbage will be tied to the capsule using nylon cord running through a device that will release him at 39,000 metres, when he will descend with his own parachute. Both Babbage and Ursa Major will take and transmit photographs throughout the flight, except for two periods. The first is when they reach an altitude of 38km, when they will both take videos for 8 minutes (plenty enough time to reach 39km when Babbage will drop). They will also switch to video for their landings.

Fingers crossed that it all goes well!

Google Updates Word Search Functionality

Google word search

Google has updated its search function for words. However, while it might seem too minor for the casual user, the logophiles can feel blessed by Google for it to introduce the enhanced functionality. This since searching a word now yields far more details than ever before. The additional details include not only the meaning of the world but also synonyms and antonyms along with the way the word actually goes into the making of a proper sentence. Plus there is a drop down box as well that can translate the word in another language. Also served are other details such as the known origin of the world along with a graph that traces the word’s usage over time.

The new search features are available for both the desktop as well as mobile devices though applies to only the US at present.

Google Updates Word Search Functionality is a post from: E-Reader News