WordGrinder: Distraction-Free Writing From the Command Line

WordGrinder is an old fashioned command line program that doesn’t try to do a lot of things. Its purpose is to get the job done, and stay out of the user’s way while doing it.

A few months back while perusing the latest news from the open source media, I came across an article listing five favorite command line tools, or some such nonsense. It turned out that one of the items on the list was a command line “word processor,” WordGrinder, which the article’s writer claimed to be an uber-easy way to write from the command line.
As it happened, I’d been looking for that very thing, so I immediately looked in the Mint/Ubuntu repositories, found it, installed it and took a look. Unfortunately, at the time I was busy, facing a couple of deadlines, so when I couldn’t figure the first thing out about it in five seconds or less,

Original URL: http://fossforce.com/2017/03/wordgrinder-distraction-free-writing-command-line/

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Latest Raspbian upgrade turbocharges Raspberry experience

TeleRead stalwarts may remember that I adopted a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B as a test bed to try out this tiny but popular ultra-cheap one-card compact computing solution. Initially, I wasn’t impressed, although later I had some better experiences with the hardware. My initial disappointments were based chiefly on the shortcomings of Raspberry’s preferred Raspbian OS. This version of Debian, as I reported previously, offered “painfully slow load times” when using Google Docs and when executing most browser-based tasks. That basically led me to abandon the Raspberry.
Until now. Because Raspberry has whipped up a new desktop environment for Raspbian and its associated hardware called PIXEL, “which now officially stands for ‘Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Lightweight’.” And improved it certainly is. Not only does the new OS front end look far slicker than older versions, with a fully overhauled Windows-style interface and drop-down menus, it’s also far faster. It’s bigger

Original URL: https://teleread.org/2016/10/20/latest-raspbian-upgrade-turbocharges-raspberry-experience/

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Hyphen is nearly the best DRM-free ePub reader available for iOS

Why does iOS have so many good plain-vanilla DRM-free ePub reading applications? I already checked out Marvin, whose latest version carries on the tradition of offering a remarkable number of features in a single application. Now I’ve had a look at Hyphen, which is very nearly as good.
Hyphen is available in a free trial version, which limits you to reading the single book you just added, or a full version for $2.99. It’s certainly a worthwhile purchase at the price. My one reservation is that Marvin may make it a touch redundant.
I suppose it just goes to show how impressed I was by Marvin that while I was reading with Hyphen, I kept catching myself thinking, “That’s just like Marvin” or “That’s almost as good as Marvin.” For starters, you can add e-books to the device from Apple’s Cloud Drive, Dropbox, or Google Drive, just as with Marvin. (Though you

Original URL: https://teleread.org/2016/07/05/hyphen-is-nearly-the-best-drm-free-epub-reader-available-for-ios/

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Capti Narrator brings free text-to-speech to nearly any DRM-free e-book or document

I just learned about a Capti-vating new development in text-to-speech. PRWeb is carrying a press release about Capti Narrator, a free cloud-based text-to-speech Windows 64 and iOS app (Android coming soon) that will effectively read aloud just about any DRM-free document.

The press release pitches it as useful with Project Gutenberg (“50,000+ eBooks by Project Gutenberg are Now Available as Free Audiobooks” reads the headline) but perhaps the greater use for it is reading aloud pretty much any DRM-free e-book or other document you have on hand (such as titles by Baen, O’Reilly, etc.), especially if you already have it in the cloud. It will also read aloud news stories or sites you’ve saved to Instapaper—a very useful feature that goes most e-readers one better.

Not only will this be great for people with visual or reading difficulties, the press release also touts it as a way to help learn English by hearing words spoken as they’re read.

Apparently this project has been in development for a while—at least since before the 2011 death of Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart. The press release proclaims:

“I corresponded with Michael Hart when we were just starting with Capti; he told me that he saw a great purpose in our mission of enabling everyone to listen to all they want to read” – said Dr. Yevgen Borodin, the CEO of Charmtech Labs LLC. “And, today, I am thrilled to finally deliver on my promise and make Project Gutenberg eBooks available as free audiobooks to everyone!”

The app is currently available as a download for 64-bit Windows and a freemium app for iOS. (An Android version is promised soon.) The way it works is that you load your document into it and press play, and it starts reading it aloud to you using one of your system default speech-synthesizer voices. (I found two on Windows, and five on iOS.) If you want other voices, you can add them for prices ranging from $4.99 to $29.99 each. The Windows app launches in a web browser window (though it also runs in your system tray), and the iOS version is its own standalone app.

imageOn the Windows version, you can add files to your playlist from a local file, Dropbox, Google Drive, Instapaper, OneDrive, Bookshare, or Project Gutenberg. The iOS app includes this, as well as OneDrive, Pocket, the clipboard, and letting you choose particular pages with the web browser. File types can be PDF, WORD, EPUB, DAISY, HTML, and “many other digital text formats.” I tried it with my e-book Joe & Julius from my Dropbox account and it worked just fine. The ease of uploading titles from the cloud rather reminds me of the way the iOS e-reader apps Marvin and Gerty will read and parse your Dropbox for e-books.

064220F6-8FB4-4F31-8218-A86909A92D4EOnce you’ve added titles to your playlist, when you hit play, the app reads along with your book, while showing the text on the screen and highlighting it word-by-word. As expected, the result is somewhat mechanical and awkward with cadence and pronunciation of some words (contractions get short shrift: “we’re” gets pronounced as “we-ree”), but probably no better or worse than the text-to-speech functions of the Kindle or any other e-reader or app that supports read-aloud. If you’re used to using those functions, you’ll have no problems with this one either.

Furthermore, after I originally posted this story, Dr. Borodin contacted me and noted that Capti’s premium voices sound a lot better than the system default voices, as the Capti-narrated YouTube video above this article demonstrates. I didn’t actually watch through the whole video before writing this, but now that I do I have to admit that’s pretty impressive. It might actually be worth shelling out some money for one of those voices if you plan to use this system very often.

One other noteworthy aspect of the app is that it incorporates cloud playlist file and position sync. If you tell it to sync the playlist from your desktop, then sync from the mobile app (or vice versa), your Capti playlist has all the same titles in it, and it picks up right where you left off playing them.

The free version of the app will be extremely useful to the majority of readers, but there is also a premium plan available at a cost of $1.99 per month, or $9.99 for six months. It includes a number of extra features such as the ability to view any images that were incorporated in the original document as it is read aloud, the ability to translate words in your texts into any of 28 different languages, a full-text playlist search, and a linguistic game called “Word Challenge.” Though I don’t particularly need those features, I could see they would be very useful, especially to English-as-second-language students. The app strikes a pretty good balance between being useful enough for free and more useful for a slight extra cost—it’s not one of those apps where you have to pay something to get any use out of it at all.

The app could stand to be a little more user-friendly—it was a little tricky for me to find the functions to add titles to my playlist at first, and they’re in different places in the Windows and iOS versions. But once you start reading, it works surprisingly well. The voice is loud and clear, even if I don’t like the artificial way the system version sounds.

I can’t see using this program too often myself—I just can’t get past the artificiality of the computer voice. Though then again, if I buy one of the premium voices like the one that narrated that video I might change my mind. But I know that’s not a problem for many people who swear by it, and were disappointed the latest Kindles dropped the feature altogether. I predict that this free text-to-speech app will find a place on many, many computers and mobile devices.

The post Capti Narrator brings free text-to-speech to nearly any DRM-free e-book or document appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

Original URL: http://www.teleread.com/capti-narrator-brings-free-text-to-speech-to-nearly-any-drm-free-e-book-or-document/

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How I turned my Raspberry Pi into a Chromebox

IMG_20160430_181119TeleRead readers will recall that I posted details of a new hack for the Raspberry Pi 2 and Pi 3 for Chromebook-using teachers and students, turning the ultra-cheap minicomputer into a Chromebox. With my own Raspberry Pi 2 lying idle at home, I decided to try this myself: and here are the results.

Installation of the new OS was as easy as expected. l unpacked the downloaded file with 7-zip and wrote it onto the Raspberry’s micro SD card with Win32diskimager; with this done, I set up my Raspberry with mouse, keyboard, HDMI cable and Ethernet plugged in, then powered it up from the monitor’s USB port. It started up first time with no problems.

How well does it work though? Startup is slow, but no slower than many Linux OS versions running on the Raspberry Pi 2. The display looks fine across a big screen, and with a Bluetooth USB adapter plugged in, the device can work fine with wireless mouse and keyboard. For web browsing, document editing on Google Docs, audio playback on YouTube, email composition on Gmail, and even Facebook, it should be enough. However, video playback is clunky and often plain inadequate, and the thing often locks up on complex web pages like Twitter. The Raspberry Chromebox does record most account settings for restart, but wifi doesn’t work, at least with the USB adapters I have – a known issue that may get fixed later.

How useful is it? For general purpose computing on the Raspberry Pi 2, it’s faster and more user-friendly than the Linux versions I’ve run on this device. I plan to use it for text editing and browsing, and am already listening to audiobooks on it. It may not be good for much more, but you get what you pay for, and with the Raspberry Pi 2, you’re paying almost nothing.

The post How I turned my Raspberry Pi into a Chromebox appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

Original URL: http://www.teleread.com/turned-raspberry-pi-chromebox/

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Windows 10 e-reader app review: Nook reader

nook-starting-screenGiven that we’re now in the age of Windows 10, it seemed like a good time to take a look at the Nook universal Windows app. The last time I reviewed the Nook e-reader apps was all the way back in 2011, and a remarkable amount has changed since then.

I’ve had mixed luck with Barnes & Noble’s e-books through the years, but I used to be a regular customer—early on I figured I might as well keep buying from Nook, since it already had (most of) the books I’d bought from eReader and Fictionwise. As a result, I still have nearly 200 titles in my Barnes & Noble library, and I might as well be able to keep reading them.

Downloading the app is simple enough: just click or tap on the Windows logo shopping bag on your status bar to open the Windows Store, then type “Nook” in the search box and it pops right up. (It calls itself “Nook for Windows 8 v1.9,” but it works just fine on Windows 10.) Downloading and installing it is just as simple as installing any Windows universal app.

As with any universal Windows app, Nook will work with both PCs and Windows mobile devices, though since I don’t have a Windows mobile device I can only review how it looks on my desktop.

Launching the app brings up a multi-paned page with access to your library, or you can scroll the screen to the right (with your finger, or your mouse scroll wheel) to access several panes of Nook Store shopping options. Clicking on the title to any of these panes drills down into another screen with more options. For example, clicking on “My Library: View All” opens a broader view of your library, where you can click on “All,” “Books,” or “My Files” to view different sections. You can also sideload your own EPUB files from directories on your computer.

nook-textOnce you’ve chosen a book, it opens up a view of the text. You can page forward and back using the scroll wheel, or right-click on it to bring up the menu bars with options to access various bookmarking, annotation, or formatting functions. You can also left-click on words to highlight or annotate them. If you compare the photo here to the ones of the old PC app in my earlier review, you’ll note it looks a lot more polished by comparison. It might not be Google’s Material Design, but it nonetheless does look like it belongs in Windows 10.

nook-menu-barsOn a related note, it looks like I might owe the old Nook PC app an apology. In my earlier review, I complained that the Nook reader put blank lines between the paragraphs as well as the indentation—but now that I check again, I find the Young Wizards book I reviewed at the time still opens with the excess blank lines, whereas other books don’t. It turns out that was the fault of the e-book file, not the software itself.

nook-fontsThe formatting options available in the “Text” menu are pretty good. The menu is a lot more like those on mobile apps rather than Windows apps now—you no longer choose font size by point, but from a row of different-sized letters. There are options for line spacing, margin width, number of columns (from 1 to 4, or automatic based on font size), font, and theme. There aren’t too many fonts available, but it has my favorite reading font of “Georgia,” so I’m happy.

One area where the formatting options have backslid is that there is no longer any way to disable full justification, and there’s no automatic hyphenation. The books don’t look too bad on a desktop-sized screen all the same, though.

Turning pages is swift and responsive; the text slides left or right to move to the next or previous set of pages. The text find function is fast and snappy, too. I could see using this to read my Nook titles or my own EPUBs and not feeling too boxed-in by a lack of choices. In fact, it actually has more formatting options than the Adobe Digital Editions I normally use for reading EPUBs on my desktop—and unlike ADE, its user-interface gets out of the way when I don’t need it.

That said, it does have one more annoying aspect. The Nook app is full-screen-mode only. You can’t restore it down to take up only part of the screen, and you can’t move it from one monitor to another—not even using the shortcut of Windows key plus arrow that works on just about everything else. It remains stuck to your primary display. If you right-click at the top of the screen where the title bar should be to bring up the movement options, everything but “Minimize” and “Close” is greyed out.

There’s no particular reason why this should have to be the case. I’d guess it was because the app has to work on both tablets and desktops, but other Windows universal apps such as Netflix and Hulu restore down and move from screen to screen just fine. Maybe it’s because it’s a Windows 8 app rather than Windows 10?

Finally, it’s worth noting that this app will still let you get around Barnes & Noble’s annoying decision to disallow downloading its e-book files. Finding where it actually puts them took some doing. It turns out to keep them in the hidden directory C:Users[Username]appdatalocalpackagesBarnesNoble.Nook_ahnzqzva31encLocalState, and it names them by seemingly-random series of letters and numbers. (So if you’re looking for a specific one, you have to go by the date and time you downloaded it.) Also, if the titles had DRM on them on the Nook store, they’ll still have it after you download them. But if you have some reason for wanting to have access to those files all the same, well, there they are. (Just be sure not to do anything illegal with them!)

In the end, the Barnes & Noble Nook Windows app offers a reasonable EPUB-reading experience, especially if you’re one of the Fictionwise/eReader early adopters who ended up with titles in your Nook library that you never bought from Barnes & Noble. And given that it’s free, if you’re running Windows 10 you might as well install it and try it out. Some of the reviews on the Windows Store note it has problems running on Microsoft Surface tablets, but it works fine on the desktop for me.

The post Windows 10 e-reader app review: Nook reader appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

Original URL: http://www.teleread.com/windows-10-e-reader-app-review-nook-reader/

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Toshiba dynaPad: The perfect paper notebook replacement for writing, ereading?

Toshiba dynaPadToshiba’s dynaPad WT12PE-A64 Signature Edition Tablet, which debuted exclusively on the Microsoft Store this January, is a highly specced, highly attractive Windows 10 tablet, at the not too dreadful price of $569.00. But it’s also an interesting essay in tablet design as an explicit replacement for paper notebooks for sketching and writing – and an attractive ereading device that could stand up pretty well alongside higher-end iPads.

“The world’s thinnest and lightest 12-inch Windows tablet” – according to the Toshiba blurb at least – “the dynaPad is ready to reinvent your work and play. It’s only 0.27 inches thin, weighs just over 1 pound, and comes with a highly sensitive TruPen stylus for writing, drawing, and jotting notes whenever and wherever inspiration strikes.” More details are available courtesy of the Toshiba launch release here.

As a Windows 10 device, the dynaPad has highly attractive specs: Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor, 4GB of memory, 64GB eMMC storage, two micro USB 2.0 ports, one Micro-HDMI port, WiFi and Bluetooth. micro SD slot, and Windows 10 Home. But its real differentiation is in the screen and the TruPen stylus, developed with Wacom technology. According to Toshiba, once again, “with 2,048 levels of pressure, the stylus delivers all the accuracy of pen on paper for superior accuracy and performance.” Meanwhile, “the 12-inch Full HD TruBrite IPS touchscreen has ultra-wide angles for viewing comfort and a high-precision surface for using the stylus.”

Toshiba previously made an impression in the onscreen writing/drawing area with its series of Encore 2 Write Windows 8.1 tablets, debuted at CES 2015 in both 8″and 10″ formats, with the TruPen stylus. Needless to say, though, Windows 8.1 was hardly the ideal OS for this format. With Windows 10, Toshiba is positioned to deliver a far better, more integrated Windows tablet experience.

Toshiba is clearly placing a lot of emphasis on the onscreen writing and drawing functions. “Precision digital inking technology is the next frontier of truly personal computing,” said Philip Osako, senior director of product marketing, Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., Digital Products Division, in Toshiba’s launch release. “Advances in engineering and pen technology have enabled us to create an amazingly thin and light tablet that’s ideal for instant creativity while also offering the versatility to immediately transition to a clamshell form factor for productivity. Toshiba dynaPad is the ultimate digital notebook.”

Personally, I’ve long been an onscreen writing advocate, and used a Fujitsu Windows tablet before the iPad even existed. Nowadays, though, with the iPad Pro out there as well as some very highly specced Android tablets, and the Apple Pencil, would I be inclined to pick the Toshiba dynaPad? Actually, the answer is probably yes. The device has received some good writeups elsewhere, especially in sites focused on tablets for artists, and although it’s not the most powerful machine ever, it does offer full Windows 10, with all the attendant versatility and backwards compatibility. The real obvious competitor is the Microsoft Surface Pro, but the dynaPad’s emphasis on excellent onscreen writing and drawing technology could give it the edge for some requirements – including mine. And that screen looks like a beaut for reading on.

As for the competition, the iPad Pro 12-inch is currently going for a minimum of $799.99 on Best Buy. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is retailing for $899 at the Microsoft Store. The Surface Pro 3 at $399 might be tempting, but it’s obviously not specced to anything like the same level as the dynaPad, and you have to buy the Surface Pen separately – and even then, this only offers 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, compared to the TruPen’s Wacom-powered 2,048 levels. I couldn’t possibly imagine the Surface Pro 3 as a serious laptop replacement, but I can easily see the dynaPad in that role. And it just so happens I need a new laptop, so …

The post Toshiba dynaPad: The perfect paper notebook replacement for writing, ereading? appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

Original URL: http://www.teleread.com/toshiba-dynapad-perfect-paper-notebook-replacement-writing-ereading/

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