Getting to know you…🎶

(Cross-posted from Medium.)

Nice dress, Julie.

Tomorrow is my first day in the immersive curriculum of the Grace Hopper Academy full-stack JavaScript “bootcamp,” (as opposed to the part-time, remote portion, which has been going on since April), and we’ve been asked to write a blog post introducing ourselves to our classmates and anyone else who happens to stumble in.
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Note to self: Keeping my new inkjet printer alive

Back in October, I company-ized myself into an LLC, and on the advice of my travel guru Gil Saunders, I got a credit card that will give me 30,000 airline mileage points if I spend $1,000 on it within the first 90 days. So then, hmmmmmmmmm, what can my business spend $1,000 on, to get me half a trip to Paris?

Well, shifting my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription to annual and putting it on the card took care of more than half the challenge. :/

And then I replaced my inkjet printer, which—like every other inkjet I’ve ever owned—had died of infrequent use.

As anyone who’s owned an inkjet knows, if you don’t use it often enough, the heads dry up. Then you end up having to run the head-cleaning utility all the time, which wastes a lot of ink, and you have to replace the ink cartridges all the time, which wastes a lot more. And since printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids on the planet, wasting it is baaaaad. Besides which, eventually those underused nozzles get permanently gummed up, and the machine stops working altogether.
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Note to Self: Transcribing Podcasts

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, and I wanted to try making transcripts of one series, because, well, podcasts are a terrible way to store any information that you actually want to retrieve. And then a friend on Twitter was lamenting about how the process of transcription sucks, and another Twitter friend pointed out glitchdigital/video-transcriber, and I decided to try it.
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Degristling the sausage: BBEdit 11 Edition

Women in uniforms standing at long tables, handling sausages.

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post called “Degristling the sausage” to explain my method of using BBEdit to get a list of which CSS classes are actually applied in a given EPUB file, out of the sometimes hundreds that are included in the stylesheet. Apparently I’m not the only person who needs to do this sort of thing, because that post has stayed in the top four pages on this site ever since, and clever people keep linking to it.

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Castoff Calculator

Wang 700 Advanced Programmable Calculator

Yesterday at work I was generating price breakdowns for a bunch of POD printing situations, doing it the old-fashioned way by dedicating a separate chunk of a spreadsheet to each variation, when it occurred to me that maybe it would be easier to set up a dynamic calculator for these scenarios in Python, which I’ve been studying on and off (mostly off) for a while now.

Then it occurred to me that I might not even have to leave the comfort of my spreadsheet, since most such applications include functions for calculating and doing other useful things. I rarely use anything more complex than =sum(), but I know the other stuff exists. Mostly I needed to be able to set up conditional behavior, so as long as there was an if/then function . . .
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PDFs in EPUBs: Test results

Trojan Horse

What a thing was this, too, which that mighty man wrought and endured in the carven horse, wherein all we chiefs of the Argives were sitting, bearing to the Trojans death and fate!

—Homer, Odyssey (translated by A.T. Murray, 1919)

A couple of weeks ago, Hugh McGuire tweeted this:

and then he blogged the replies he received at Including a PDF in an EPUB.

This is something I’d been wondering about for a while, too. I remembered Joshua Tallent of eBookArchitects mentioning at at least one workshop that it was possible to embed a PDF in an EPUB, but I’d never tried it. The company I work for publishes a lot of craft books whose print editions have patterns and templates in the back, and so far we’ve either had to suppress the e-book versions entirely or supply those patterns to our e-book readers through the Web. Hugh’s post reminded me that I’d been meaning to test Joshua’s tip to see if it would help solve our pattern problem, so I finally just did that.

TL;DR: Yes, you can embed a PDF in an EPUB so that all its pages are viewable in iBooks and Adobe RMSDK–based readers, but display is wonky and not necessarily readable, and you can’t print the PDF at full size, if at all, so it doesn’t solve my particular problem. It might solve your problems, though, so a more detailed breakdown of what I found follows. Continue reading “PDFs in EPUBs: Test results”

Degristling the sausage

One of the things I do at my job is clean up and beautify e-books that have been produced by a “meatgrinder”—the sort of automated conversion process that an outsourcer uses. My company has worked with a couple of conversion companies, and there are definite differences in the quality and markup philosophy of the files they produce, but one problem that appears to be chronic is that the EPUBs come back with CSS files containing tons of unused style declarations.

I’m talking thousands of lines, when two to three hundred will usually do.

This makes the files extremely tedious to troubleshoot and rework, so one of the first things I usually do if I know I’m going to be spending a considerable chunk of my day living in a particular EPUB is to cut down that stylesheet to what’s actually being used.

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E-reading application showdown, part 2: Typography

Early-twentieth-century photo of two women boxing

Cross-posted at Digital Book World. Part 1 is also on both this site and DBW.

When I first decided to try reading an e-book on my iPod Touch, I assumed—since I’ve been designing and typesetting book interiors for more than a decade and have strong opinions about what makes text readable and appealing—that poor typography would be my biggest complaint about the e-reading applications I tried. In the event, it turns out that as with print books, I’m much more tolerant of ugly, poorly set text than I expected. Just as I’m capable of losing myself in the pages of a cramped, blurry mass-market paperback if the story is one I want to read, so, too, can I block out consciousness of the less-than-ideal typography of an e-book viewed on a small screen. In fact, though I haven’t tried to empirically test this theory, I believe I might read novels faster on my iPod than I used to do on paper. Or maybe I comprehend better, or remember more of what I read.

Still, I’d rather have the option of making the text look good, and if an e-book’s appearance seriously offends me, I’m batty enough to crack it open and change it. I now actually get paid to do this, which sometimes feels like I’ve hit upon the best scam ever. (Other times, not so much. See below under anchovies.)

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E-reading application showdown, part 1: Annotations


About two weeks ago, in a fit of pique, I posted some gripes about my current e-reading application of choice, which is Kobo for the iPhone/iPod Touch. I was pressed for time, so I didn’t provide any context, such as why Kobo’s is my favorite e-reading app, which apps I’ve chosen it over, and whether the things I find awesome and annoying about it are unique to Kobo or are universal across the e-reading–on–iOS world right now.

Here, finally, is the first in a series of posts providing that context. Specifically, I’ll be walking through five of the e-reading applications I’ve used on the iPod Touch, explaining what I see as the pros, cons, and OMFG-what-were-they-thinkings of each.

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