Category Archives: Books

Acrobat Reader Feature Requests

I find it easier nowadays to use PDF documents and other screen-based formats for my reading needs than to use books. The reasons are that I can enlarge the fonts, I can scroll with minimal effort in a comfortable position (which helps with speed-reading), and text-to-speech features found in Acrobat Reader and the Mac OS X system-wide speech service.

The text-to-speech feature is particularly helpful for me. I have a very slight blind spot at the point of focus in my right eye, probably gained from neglecting to use the polarization filter during late-night moon observations with my telescope many years ago. It is difficult sometimes for my eye to focus on a line, especially if I’m a bit tired. The text-to-speech feature helps keep the focus moving along. For Mac OS X’s Preview application, I set a keyboard shortcut to start reading, although I couldn’t seem to get a shortcut to take hold to stop the reading. Good enough though. I keep Preview as my default PDF application on my system, although I would consider Adobe Reader again if it could address some of my concerns.

So on to my feature requests for the Reader freeware:

  • Add a feature to read aloud only the current selection.
  • Give me a way to change the voice and speed of the voice that is reading. It is not picking up my system preferences for speech and it reads way too slow for my tastes.
  • Get rid of the infernal Adobe Download Manager for installing and let us just download a binary package installer. The download manager does not work with my firewall configuration.
  • Make software updates a standard download and install feature rather than forcing it to go through the broken Adobe Download Manager. (No I am not going to disable my firewall to download your security updates. That is the wrong solution.)

The Download Manager really bums me out. This is probably the number one reason why I gave up on Reader.

Two things regarding books.

I’m an avid reader of books. I am kind of an Amazon.com addict that way too. Unfortunately, 95% of the books I read are of the geek variety – some sort of alphabet soup of technologies that I’m constantly chasing in order to stay on top of the web development industry.

In the past couple of days, I’ve seen two very “web 2.0-ey” things pop up on my radar screen that are of particular interest to bookworms.

Flickr for bookworms

First off is LibraryThing. This site is for those that like to put all their books in alphabetical order and categorized in their bookshelf, for people who spend too much time and money on Amazon.com, and for your basic, garden variety readers that like to find out what others are reading. LibraryThing is social networking applied to books. I love it, I have to admit, because when I put in my most recent reads, it helped me map out my next set of books by showing me what others that read like me have in their shelves.

The Decline of Western Civilization

Or: Anyone with a Xanaga or MySpace blog can publish the entirety of their mindless drivel as a book in a few simple steps.

Since the invention of the written word, there have been systems in place to keep people from publishing that should really have no business doing so. Usually it was funds, or access, or education, or censorship. But over time, things have gotten in the way of all that. First to come along was moveable type. Industrial printing processes made the cost continually cheaper and cheaper to publish content. Then came mimeograph and photocopy machines, which helped in a low budget way to get stuff out there in a pinch. Desktop publishing was made feasable and popular with the advent of the Macintosh in 1984, and electronic media made it simpler to move and present that content. But once the web came along and any yahoo with a modem could post pictures of their cats, and pr0n, it was a sleigh ride straight to hell ever since. And it’s picking up speed right as you read this.

To cap that process off, we have Blurb.com. All you have to do is write your book and lay out your content in an easy to use framework, and they take care of the rest. And you know what comes next?

My Cat Whiskers, by I.M. Sad.

Or worse…

Seriously though – this is a wildly cool idea, to allow any aspiring author to test the waters of publishing. This reminds me of how Mac iApps strive to lower the barriers for getting things done, but somewhere along the lines these new web applications have started to catch up and pass what is possible on desktop software, at least in terms of convenience and usability. I think we’re really seeing the practical results of the web diminishing the importance of the operating system with this kind of stuff. Many of the web apps I’m seeing built today have more functionality and more usability than equivalents you can find on the desktop.

The Zen of Book Binding

The Zen of CSS DesignI found a funny thing when reading my copy of The Zen of CSS Design by Dave Shea and Molly Holzschlag. When I got to page 83, the page facing it to it’s right was page 113. This continued on for about 20 pages or so, then another page 83, and then it skipped again to leave out another couple of chapters later. Cool – a fluke!

I mean, I’m bummed I don’t have all the chapters right here anyway, but this is cooler. (I have plenty of friends with copies I can borrow…) Besides, Molly signed my copy, so that makes it an extra-valuable fluke.

I wasn’t going to see this before, but…

I wasn’t going to go see The Da Vinci Code before, but now I’m gonna!

CNN.com – ‘Da Vinci’ provokes widespread protests – May 16, 2006

Now that’s a movie I’d like to see!

It amazes me that wingnut factions worldwide will call more attention to an issue that they hate by kicking up a fuss than if they had just kept their mouths shut in the first place. This is precisely what any book, movie, person, company, or whatever wants, is some loudmouth zealots shouting about how bad/evil/anti-christian they are, on the crest of a little popularity. This movie will skyrocket, as did the book, because of the free press and the buzz they help to create.