Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Microsoft Cortana Available on Android and iPhone this June


If you are not a huge fan of Siri or the Google Now you may soon have an alternative. Microsoft is porting over Cortana to Android in June and an iOS version a few months later. Cortana's arrival is part of a larger cross-platform mobile strategy centered around the newly announced Phone Companion app for iOS and Android, which will help users configure their phones to work (and play) well with their Windows 10 computer.

Ever since Microsoft got a new CEO a few years ago the company has been bringing all of their key software to the mobile platform. If you really think about it, Microsoft Office has been in use for well over a decade and optimized apps for Android and iOS only came out this year.  I know plenty of people who now rely on Outlook for their email, instead of using the default Mail app for Apple devices.

Microsoft says that the experience will be comparable to the one in Windows and Windows Phone, but not identical. You can use the dictate function, set reminders, track flights and otherwise keep your life organized. Cortana’s Notebook, which remembers what you like, will also sync across all your platforms.

It has been confirmed that the seminal “hey Cortana” or options to launch apps and settings will not be available on Android and iOS. This will purely be a Windows 10 and Windows Phone feature.

Microsoft Cortana Available on Android and iPhone this June is a post from: Good e-Reader

Google Signature Font “Roboto” is now Open Source


Google has announced that their signature font “Roboto” is now officially free to use by any e-reader company. This font is the default one that is currently being used in Android and Chrome OS.

The font files for the Roboto family of fonts were first released under the Apache license as part of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) in 2011. With this launch, Roboto is now a true open source project, with a revamped font production toolchain that is completely based on open source software.

Another key improvement in the Roboto font family has been the vast expansion of its character coverage to include all Latin, Cyrillic and Greek characters in Unicode 7.0, as well as the currency symbol for the Georgian lari, to be published in Unicode 8.0. For the expansion, the number of glyphs provided in the fonts more than tripled in number, going from around 13,000 (1071 per font) to more than 40,000 (3350 per font). An earlier version of the expanded font family is included in Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and later.

The open source nature of this font is going to appeal to e-book reading apps and e-reader companies looking to expand on their product offerings.

Google Signature Font “Roboto” is now Open Source is a post from: Good e-Reader

3M Cloud Library Implements New Web Features

3M Cloud Library Web Patron

The 3M Cloud Library system by Baker and Taylor has been embraced by hundreds of libraries in the US. In order to provide a robust experience for patrons, the company has totally revised their user interface. Meanwhile for librarians, 3M added the ability to reclassify the age range for books.

What has changed on the user interface? Well, newly enhanced personalization options give users the ability to manage their accounts, receive email notifications and customize favorite content categories.

Library collection managers will likely dig the changes made to the purchasing tool. It allows them to change a book's age range. If a librarian sees a book in an inappropriate age range, for example a Young Adult book appearing in the Children's age range, they can now reclassify the book so it will be the right age range.

These new enhancements come after a banner year for the 3M Cloud Library, in which checkouts grew 121% and 95% of customers renewed their contracts

3M Cloud Library Implements New Web Features is a post from: Good e-Reader

John Scalzi Signs Massive 13 Book Deal with TOR


Author John Scalzi has just signed a 13 book deal with TOR. For the next ten years he will be writing for the DRM-Free publisher and will be garnering over $3.4 Million dollars.

The first book will launch a new far-future space opera series. Scalzi will also return to the Old Man's War universe. Other titles will include sequels to 2014's bestselling and critically acclaimed Lock In.

"Well, now I know what I'm doing for the next decade," says Scalzi. "And that's a good thing. In an era when publishing is in flux, this contract with Tor will let me spend more of my time doing what readers want me to do: writing books and making new stories for them to enjoy. It also gives both me and Tor a stable, long-term base to grow our audience, not only among established science fiction and fantasy fans, but among readers of all sorts. Science fiction is mainstream culture now, and there are so many people discovering just how much there is to enjoy in these stories of ours. We have much more to share. That's what we're going to do."

The TOR website is really hyping this man up, as well they should. In a recent blog article they said “John Scalzi is one of the most acclaimed SF authors to emerge in the last decade. His debut Old Man's War won him science fiction's John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. His New York Times bestsellers include The Last Colony, Fuzzy Nation, his most recent novel Lock In, and also Redshirts, which won 2013's Hugo Award for Best Novel. Material from his widely read blog The Whatever has earned him two other Hugo Awards as well. Currently three of Scalzi's novels are in development for television: Redshirts (FX), Old Man's War (SyFy), and Lock In (Legendary TV).”

So here is a bit about the deal. The money is spread out over ten years, he doesn’t get paid unless he writes the books. John also is getting an indeterminate amount as a signing bonus. Two books with the TOR deal will be focusing on YA and hopefully get the same type of audience that other books like Maze Runner gets.

In the end, this certainly isn’t the biggest book deal in publishing but it does give John security in order to write books and know where his next paycheck is coming from.

John Scalzi Signs Massive 13 Book Deal with TOR is a post from: Good e-Reader

Periscope for Android Now Available


Periscope is a live streaming app that was developed by Twitter. It launched on iOS two months ago and has been a hit with celebrities and citizen journalists alike. In its first 10 days of operation it reached over 1 million users and now the app is available on Android.

The first iteration of the Periscope app for Android requires a fairly modern version of the OS. You need 4.4 in order to gain access to all of the features. The new app is also optimized for both smartphones and tablets.

When you install the app and register an account it will recommend recent broadcasts from people you are following. If you are new to the app Periscope will suggest you follow everyone you’re following on Twitter. If nothing current is happening, you can swipe right to the next screen, which shows you broadcasts happening around the world.

There are some features on this app that are not in the iOS version. Periscope on Android offers you a "Resume notification" so you can keep watching where you left off in case your broadcast gets interrupted (by a phone call or message. It also offers a material design for the app icon and notifications.

Why should you care about Periscope? It might be the next big streaming app since Vine. The platform is made by Twitter, so it immediately adds credibility.  Even tech savvy authors such as Margaret Atwood are starting to embrace it.

You can download Periscope for Android for free, from the Good e-Reader App Store.

Periscope for Android Now Available is a post from: Good e-Reader

Harlequin is Producing Audiobooks


Audiobooks are quickly becoming a billion dollar industry and this has prompted a number of publishing companies to take advantage of new digital distribution platforms. Romance and erotica publisher Harlequin has just announced the formation of a new audiobook unit and will begin pushing out new content this June.

200 audiobook titles will be produced in the first year and they will be pushed out to most digital platforms such as Audible and Findawayworld. Harlequin Audio will also distribute physical CD versions of all titles through Blackstone Audio and Midwest Tape.

Harlequin will be producing the audio titles in conjunction with HarperAudio. This is the first major initiative between the two companies since Harlequin was acquired by Harpercollins last year.

Harlequin is Producing Audiobooks is a post from: Good e-Reader

Lenovo Tab 2 A8 Tablet Shows up Online for $129

A couple weeks ago I posted about some interesting new tablets from Lenovo that were recently added to their A series lineup, the Lenovo Tab 2 A10, A8 and A7 tablets. They appear to be good value picks on paper, especially the 10-inch A10 model for $199 with its high resolution 1920 x 1200 resolution […]

Amazon’s Tax Woes Hit EU

View of the reception of Amazon Europe Holding Technologies in Luxembourg in this picture taken on November 20, 2012. To match Special Report TAX-AMAZON/   REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (LUXEMBOURG  - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) - RTR3B9F8

View of the reception of Amazon Europe Holding Technologies in Luxembourg in this picture taken on November 20, 2012. To match Special Report TAX-AMAZON/ REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (LUXEMBOURG – Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) – RTR3B9F8

The past few years have not been kind to Amazon in terms of sales tax. Once various states around the country discovered a veritable cash cow in trying to force Amazon to collect and submit sales taxes, lawsuits sprung up from every corner of the country, with states’ attorneys general filing lawsuits to recover back taxes and state governments introducing new legislation aimed at forcing online retailers to comply.

That issue largely died down following Amazon’s official stance that it would follow any national sales tax introduced and passed by Congress, but that it simply wasn’t feasible to collect and report sales tax from fifty different states with fifty different requirements. States that worked out deals with the retailer stood to benefit, and states that continued to obstinately push the issue found their Amazon distribution centers closed and their residents’ affiliate statuses revoked.

Interestingly, there was outspoken backlash against Amazon at the time, but there was also a lot of sympathy, even from small business owners who argued that it wasn’t fair that they had to charge their customers sales tax while Amazon could not only offer lower prices due to volume, but also didn’t have to charge taxes. Supporters could appreciate the logistical nightmare involved in following so many different regulations.

But one area where Amazon has not garnered as much sympathy is in Europe. Due to interesting tax structures, Amazon was able to set up operations in Luxembourg while still selling and shipping to other countries in the region, meaning it only had to collect sales tax at Luxembourg’s enticingly low rate while competing business owners in each different country quickly lost customers to a retailer who offered everything, shipped immediately, and could charge less.

Amazon’s defense this time? “Everyone is doing it.”

And to a large extent, they’re right. Amazon has been pointed out as the villain in a tax evasion scenario while every major corporation conducting business in Europe lines up in Luxembourg, with companies like Starbucks, Google, and others setup operations in what is essentially a tax haven. Basically, the sentiment became, “You guys let us do it this way, now we’re just taking advantage of that.”

And that’s about come screeching to a halt, at least for Amazon.

While Amazon has stated this change has been a gradual two-year process, the company will begin collecting and reporting sales tax for its sales in Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain. It’s by far not all of the countries contributing to Amazon’s $15 billion European sales in 2013, but it’s a start. Industry watchers are already speculating as to whether this seemingly voluntary move (or at least voluntary before the EU could come together and rewrite the tax code to make it even more punitive on retailers) will spur other tech and retail corporations doing business in Europe to follow suit.

Amazon’s Tax Woes Hit EU is a post from: Good e-Reader

Astro Pi Mission Update 3

Here at Pi Towers, Astro Pi fever is taking hold! Over the last few weeks there have been a number of things happening which we’re really excited about, so it’s time for an update.

astro pi

The first and most crucial bit of news for those of you furiously writing your competition entries is that you now have just a little more time. UK Space, the organisation managing the competition, have decided to give secondary students a whole extra week. As we were a week late in shipping the kits to our phase 1 winners the deadline is now Monday the 6th of July, by 10am, so get cracking!

Put this date in your diary, don’t forget.

To help you get to grips with programming the Astro Pi HAT we’ve created a couple of helpful resources.

Firstly, you can find out all about the hardware, its capabilities and get a detailed breakdown of the Python library using our Astro Pi Guide. It explains in detail all aspects of the library and provides some examples of how to use them.

However, if you just want to have a play and learn as you go, check out our Getting Started with Astro Pi resource which works through a series of examples and explores most of the the Python library.

Astro Pi Teachers' Guide Getting Started with Astro Pi

You will create a series of interesting programs which make use of all of the Astro Pi sensors like this reaction game.

There’s a great interactive demo for exploring the IMU (movement) sensor and you can also experiment with pressure, following Dave’s example:

Astro Pi HATs are also starting to appear in the wild — loads of competition entrants have been receiving their Astro Pi HATs and excitedly tweeting about it.

Others within our community have been playing around creating examples and resources. The awesome Martin O’Hanlon has put together a getting started tutorial as well as building this amazing interactive Astro Pi in Minecraft:

Dan Aldred, one of our Raspberry Pi Certified Educators, has put together some great resources for using Astro Pi with his students. Visit his website to find a great language reference booklet.

We also have a number of examples compiled by Ben Nuttall and available on Github.

If you’re looking for more technical help with Astro Pi check out our Astro Pi forum.

As you can see we’re all super excited about the Astro Pi Launch! You can keep an eye on our progress as we get closer to lift-off by following social media channels. In the next few weeks the flight hardware is going to be assembled and tested!



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