This year's Pi Day isn't just any ol' holiday that celebrates an irrational and transcendental number, but a once in a lifetime date in which the year lines up with the number as well: 3.1415…. (3-14-15)
To help celebrate this very mathematical date, the Collection Team has created a collection of popular science and math books for all kinds of celebrators. The list includes self-improvement books for those of us who might need a little help to brush up on their math skills, to puzzle books for those of us who find math quite fun. We have books that reveal the mathematical secrets of The Simpsons, biographies of famous historical mathematicians, and statistics books that show us how numbers as inescapably essential to our daily lives.
And of course, there are also plenty of pie cookbooks in the list as well- because who doesn't want to celebrate a holiday with some homonym desserts?
If you are a math or pie enthusiast, get in the spirit of the holiday by reading some of these novels. And bake a delicious pie too! Don't forget to raise a slice (or a glass) this Saturday for Pi!
Friday, March 13, 2015
Springtime is in the air and the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom. People are starting to consider their next e-reader in order to read outside or take with them on vacation. Today, we take a look at the Top 5 e-readers for spring 2015.
Icarus has redefined what an e-reader is capable of with the advent of the Illumina E653. It comes bundled with Android 4.2, which gives users the flexibility to install their own eBook, magazine, newspaper or manga apps.
The Illumina E653 features a six inch e-Ink touch screen display with a resolution of 1024×758 pixels. There is 4GB of internal storage to house of all of your apps and eBooks. If this is not enough for your literary needs, there is support for a 32GB MicroSD card. You should get some solid battery life with the 2000 mAh, which is good for 4,000 page turns, or about 1 month of constant use.
This e-reader has a front-light, which means you can read in the dark. This device is good for people who commute to work because not only does it have a touchscreen but also physical page turn buttons. This allows you to hold it in one hand.
Kobo has an obsession on what constitutes the perfect e-reading experience and they have been feverishly working towards this ideal. They have slowly been evolving their product line to fall in line with the quintessential five B's of bookselling; Bath, Backyard, Bedroom, Bus and Beach.
The Kobo Aura H2O features a 6.8 inch e-ink Carta touchscreen display with a resolution of 1430×1080. Carta Imaging Film offers a 50% improvement in contrast ratio over previous generation of e-Paper displays. This allows for faster page turns and the ability to turn pages in a digital book, without the need of constant screen refreshes.
Underneath the hood is a Freescale i.MX507 1GHZ processor and 512MB of RAM. It ships with 4GB of internal storage and can be expanded further via a MicroSD for up to 32GB of additional memory. Basically, if you max your storage, you can store over 30,000 books on your e-Reader and not have to charge it for up to two months.
This e-reader is compelling because its the first mainstream waterproof e-reader and allows you to read in the dark with the built in light. The Kobo online bookstore almost rivals Amazon with the sheer amount of content you can buy. Kobo will likely appeal to many users because you can download your own books from the internet and easily load them on.
Onyx has broken e-reader convention by releasing a new 9.7 inch device that runs Google Android, so users can install their own apps. Large screen readers are not cheap, and this model will set you back $293,28 €.
The M96C features a capacitive touchscreen display which allows you to interact with the device with your fingers, whereas the older M96 relied on an accompanied stylus. The resolution is 1200×825, which makes it solid for reading documents that are image heavy, such as manga.
Underneath the hood is a 1 GHz Freescale CPU with 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage, and a microSD card. You will be able to connect up to the internet via WIFI and connect up external devices via Bluetooth.
The Amazon Kindle Voyage is likely the best e-reader ever made, in terms of hardware and software performance. It brings to the table innovative features such as a new methodology in page turn buttons, ambient lighting control, X-Ray, and social book discovery site GoodReads.
The Amazon Kindle Voyage features a six inch e-ink Carta display with a resolution of 1430 x 1080. It has 300 PPI, which is the highest we have ever seen. In contrast, the Paperwhite 2, which this model replaces only has a resolution of 1024 X 768 and 212 PPI.
Lets look at what the competition is doing, the Kobo Aura H20, which came last year has a 6.8 inch screen with the same resolution as the Voyage, but has 265 DPI. The Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight has been on the market for quite awhile, but its 1024 x 758 and the 212 PPI is somewhat depressing.
Amazon does not have an SD card and the company also has its own digital book format. This prevents users from buying e-books from another company transferring them to your Kindle. Still, if you want to deal with one company for all of your content, Amazon currently controls 75% of the North American e-book market, so historically they are very appealing to deal with.
The Energy Sistem PRO comes from a Spanish company and the six inch e-reader not only has a touchscreen but also physical page turn buttons. It runs Google Android, so you can install your own apps. This is basically the same e-reader shell as the Icarus HD model, but has different software.
I like this e-reader because it has an SD card, solid resolution and the fact it has a 3.5mm headphone jack is very compelling. Few e-readers these days have any sort of audio capability for audiobooks and music. If this is important to you, the Energy Sistem PRO is a solid investment.
In this year’s 16th issue of Weekly Shonen Jump will announce on Monday that Daisuke Ashihara’s Sci fi manga, World Trigger, will be getting it’s own smartphone game entitled World Trigger: Smash Boarders. The game will be free to play with the option of in game purchases, and will be available on IOS and Android devices.
The "aim and hit smash action" will allow players to control a team Trion soldiers to carry out the defence missions from the Border headquarters to repel the terrifying Neighbour invasions. Players will then take take aim and fire away at the Neighbours and if players can link attacks between members of a team, they can deal much more damage.
Daisuke Ashihara debuted the original World Trigger manga in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in 2013. And Viz Media added the series to it’s digital anthology version of Weekly Shonen Jump.
If you haven’t seen the anime, go on over to Crunchyroll to check it out!
A new report on the digital newspaper publishing industry has predicted a steady increase in the global production of digital titles, with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.52% worldwide by 2019. That may not seem like an impressive number in markets where 100% to even 300% growth is more typical, but there are a lot of factors that have to come into play for this type of increase to happen internationally.
First is connectivity. While initiatives are still at work to increase global access to internet connection–such as programs like Google’s Project Loon that literally plans to use high-altitude weather balloons floating over various regions around the world to provide internet access to places that otherwise wouldn’t have it for decades–there’s no point in having internet access if you can’t afford a device to connect. Therein lies a catch-22 as well; what’s the point in developing a sturdy, affordable device if there’s no power grid to charge it and no internet connection to run it? Headway is being made on both of those fronts, which will lead to a greater emphasis on digital publishing.
Environmental impact is another arena getting more and more attention, and digital newspapers first offer no carbon footprint in terms of necessary paper, ink, and production utilities, but also require no overland trucking to deliver them. This shift towards digital comes at a time when climate change is an almost global concern.
Improved education access and literacy rates are also expected to cause a greater demand for newspapers as citizens have the capability to read the news and take an active role in the coverage. Greater emphasis on mandatory education will correlate to subscribership.
Finally, library access is gaining more attention than ever before, with as many as 95% of survey respondents citing that libraries are vital to the health and strength of communities; in an interesting aside, the same Pew Internet study that uncovered that response found that only 54% of the survey takers had been to a library in the previous year. This indicates that libraries are being held in high esteem, even by people who don’t have need of them for educational and technological access. Citizens with the economic means to provide their own content still strongly support the existence of libraries for those who cannot otherwise access computers, books, or other library services. This emphasis on maintaining libraries comes alongside the introduction of digital lending provided by companies like OverDrive, Pressreader, and Zinio, which allow patrons to access ebooks, digital newspapers, and digital magazines without having to physically enter the library.
As most of you have probably heard, Sir Terry Pratchett (an author whose works I dearly loved) passed away yesterday, March 12th, 2015. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2007, and managed to fight it, while continuing to write best sellers. He called it his "embuggeration."
I greatly admired Sir Terry Pratchett (yes, he was knighted) not just for his writing, but also for his approach to life. In his books, he used poignant satire to expose our flaws, and, sometimes, our downright silliness as both people and societies. He made Death into an almost lovable character, and showed us what happens to aging barbarian heroes. He taught us about fame, magic, life, love, and all sorts of other things while keeping us engrossed with an incredible sense of humor.
When it came to his own mortality, he took a page or two out of his own books. He didn't just retire. He didn't hide from his disease. Instead, he kept on writing (and doing it well). In fact he was the second most read author in the UK, behind only J.K. Rowling. In addition to publishing novels, he became a voice for those suffering from dementia in all its forms. He contributed a lot of money to the cause, and was always publically demonstrating his ability to function as a happy, not-dead-yet adult.
Even his last tweets, though tear-inducing, showed that he went all the way up to the end as himself: a brilliant satirist with an undying sense of humor and a close, personal relationship with Death.
For those of you that haven't read a lot of Sir Pratchett's work, one of his best recurring characters was Death himself. Heck, the entire novel Mort was about Death seeking an assistant. Death had a fittingly dry sense of humor, and felt like he was hated mostly because he was very, very misunderstood. Death wasn't a bad guy—just a guy doing his job well.
"Despite rumor, Death isn't cruel—merely terribly, terribly good at his job." – Terry Pratchett, Sourcery.
What I'm getting at is this: I don't think Sir Pratchett would want us moping about. Rather, I believe he'd want us to carry on the fight against stupidity, dementia, and mundane thinking. We should take his life's work as inspiration, and use it to create new and fantastical things—both in fiction and in the more tangible world around us.
I believe that he greeted Death as an old friend, and is now up there finding new ways to laugh at and with the world—ways that weren't possible from his previous, more limited perspective.
Thank you, Sir Pratchett, for all that you accomplished in your time here. Though it was far too short for your fans, family, and friends, we'll never forget you, and because of that, you'll live forever.
"DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH." – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens.
In an attempt to cheer you up a bit, and show you why I personally enjoy Sir Terry Pratchett so very much, I'll leave you with the first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic. If you haven't read the series yet, you might want to start (the first two are my favorite).
Quinton Lawman is a Technical Writer for OverDrive
Luke Dormehl for Cult of Mac provided a seriously in-depth look at this book and its differing views from other titles, which is interesting given Dormehl’s source was the LookInside! feature on Amazon’s sales page for Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader. Some of his findings include:
One of the more interesting distinctions that Dormehl uncovered is the fact that the two authors of Becoming Steve Jobs are themselves tech experts, or at least great tech “understanders.” This is in contrast to the previously dubbed definitive Jobs biographer Walter Issacson, whose 2011 biography was called a “tremendous disservice” to Jobs by none other than current CEO Tim Cook. Issacson has been criticized for not understanding the importance and nuances of crucial technological developments that came about due to Jobs’ influence, and painting him as a far more difficult person than friends and colleagues claim.
"I thought the Isaacson book did [Jobs] a tremendous disservice," Cook states in the new biography. "It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality."
Unfortunately, Amazon has removed the LookInside! feature for this title, which will be released on March 24. Whether it’s simply a marketing tactic or is in response to the already-circulating criticism of previous versions that the sample selection allowed is uncertain, but offering a free sample that directly refutes books that are currently available for purchase can be bad for other titles’ business.
I’m in Austin, Texas at the moment – Matt and I set up our SXSW Create computer lab yesterday and now we’re couple of hours away from the doors opening, so I thought I’d tell you all about the new DOTS project we’re trialling here.
If you’ve been following me on twitter you might have spotted the DOTS board I’ve been working on.
Inspiration and Bare Conductive
In preparation for SXSW I was thinking a lot about using PCBs as a creative and interactive medium – I was also interested in developing ways to play with circuits at events that didn’t involve lots of wires (that get lost) or soldering (that you often need extra permission for).
It just so happened that the lovely Matt Johnson from Bare Conductive came to visit Pi Towers and we had a lot of pizza and talked about Raspberry Pi HATs. After about an hour of talking about cake, we had a brainwave and came up with the idea of a Dot to Dot board.
Bare Conductive is an conductive paint – so it’s prefect, we can make circuits without the wires!
Designing the DOTS board
I used EAGLE Freeware to design the board – this meant I could design a prototype 2 layer board at HAT size without having to sign up for a licence. I personally found Eagle the easiest PCB software to get started with – Particularly because there are lots of community-generated libraries available like Pimoroni’s EAGLE Library.
EAGLE already has a very strong following in the open source hardware space and I would keep a close eye on them in the coming months.
Ok ok, the eagle-eyed of you will already have noticed.. I admit it, I kinda cheated at Connect the Dots. I wanted to make sure that people could make a circuit, so for this version I broke out the GPIO pins and designed a pad that exposed some ground plane – This meant that all people have to do is blob some paint all over the pad and it would make a circuit.
I will be uploading my Eagle files in the DOTS Github folder here as soon as I get back to the UK – Hack it and let me know how it goes :)
Making the DOTS board
I have been working with Stacey and Connor at Ragworm to get the boards made in time for SXSW. This is the first time I’ve ever had a board assembled for me – thankfully there is only two components on the board; the GPIO header and one resistor.
Stacey sent over some photos of the assembly process:
Software and Developer Giveaway
For SXSW Ben made some test code and Eben some Pygame code – thanks Ben & Eben!
You can actually install this on your Pi today:
sudo apt-get install python3-pip sudo pip-3.2 install rpi_dots
sudo apt-get install python-pip sudo pip install rpi_dots
Run from the command line:
But I have more – I am going to be giving away 50 boards and 50 tubes of Bare Conductive to BETA testers. I’m interested in developers who would like to have a go at making some software to work with this board.
I will welcome feedback on the hardware and will share future aspirations for the board as well as feedback I get from events. I hope to produce a set of boards this year for different age groups and themes – so come get involved! :)
We are super excited about trying the board out at SXSW – I will report back with what we think worked and what didn’t. If you are visiting SXSW make sure you come say hello :)
With the official release of the Apple Watch earlier this week, Google has their sights set on giving Android developers the upper hand. Now more than ever, app development needs to be universal (supporting multiple devices and a large number of form factors). Taking into account a wide variety of screen resolutions and sizes can be an overwhelming task for even the most experienced developers; to this end, Google has created a universal music player app to serve as an example.
It may not have an array of features (though it does show how to implement media browsing and playback functions like MediaStyle notifications, MediaSession, and MediaBrowserService), but it does a good job of providing a template to follow during the creation of any other apps.
Android isn’t the only platform to push universal apps, Apple and Microsoft have also tried to encourage developers to create code the works on every device available. It is good advice for anybody wanting to leverage development efforts instead of supporting multiple code bases for the same app. Don’t discount that it is a win-win arrangement though: app store volume can help to determine the success or failure of a platform.
End users will not find this universal music player in the Play Store, instead developers will have to look on GitHub for the source code so they can start combing through it.