iBooks Authoring and Me

ibooks authoringNot long ago Apple introduced a book authoring program called ‘iBooks Authoring’. Its an application that makes publishing books to the Apple iBooks store a whole lot easier. One of the reasons my book ALL THAT MATTERS was not published to the iBooks store was because of how difficult it was to do so. To solve this problem Apple has made an application that will make the whole process of publishing to their store easier.

When I checked out the application on the Mac App store the other day I saw loads of comments from people who have already used it publish their own books and that it was very easy.

But will I use it?

The answer is yes and no.

I will use ‘iBooks Authoring’ to post ALL THAT MATTERS so it will finally be available on the Apple iBooks store. I plan to do that as soon as I am done writing MIRROR IN TIME. While I have been writing my second book, I have been planing in the back of my head to hire a third party to code out the book for the Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and other e-book readers. Coding out the first book took up a lot of my time and I just assume put that in someone else’s hands who has more experience than me at doing it.

Lossless Audio

I really love music. All of my life music has played a big part in it. I remember at a very young age listening to vinyl records on my father’s Sony turntable home stereo system. I would listening to records for hours and hours. When CDs first came out I started buying them. To this day I still buy CDs and have a pretty large collection.

When MP3s started to make an appearance in the 90s they had one large advantage for the causal listener and one large disadvantage. The advantage being that file size of an MP3 file was is very small. You could store hundreds of MP3 encoded songs on one CD. This was huge and lead the way for music players like the Apple iPod.

The big disadvantage to MP3s for people like me was that since the audio was compressed to be a smaller file size you could hear the compression or the missing audio data when listening to an MP3. This drove me nuts!

I have friends that to this day swear up and down they can not tell the difference when listening to a song on a CD or when listening to the same exact song from an MP3 file. To me the differences have always stuck out like a sore thumb. Which at times I can’t even believe since I have been a rock drummer for so many years and I have to be experiencing some form of hearing loss by now.

So, because I can tell the difference between the lower quality audio as a result of an MP3 file and a CD I have just always bought CDs.

Very recently I have been educating myself on the virtues of the Free Lossless Audio Codec, or FLAC for short. Because FLAC is a lossless audio format it sounds just like my CDs sound. I can not tell the difference when I am listening to a FLAC audio file verses listening to the same song on CD. Everything I have educated myself about FLAC says that there really is no audio difference between the CD audio file and the FLAC audio file. The lossless audio codec was specifically designed for audio and the resulting file will drop down to at least 50% if not more of the original audio file from the CD.

So, why do I care about all this? Why don’t I just continue to listen to my CDs? Well, I do still listen to my CDs at home, but we now live in a world with lots of portable devices that were made for our connivance. I would like to take full advantage of my devices.

When Apple announced the iPhone 4S, I ordered one right away. At the same time I started researching FLAC audio files as a solution for my portable music listening pleasure. I found the following FLAC audio encoding guide and FLAC audio player ‘Golden Ear‘ for my iPhone. I also ordered a pair of really great headphones that I can’t say enough good things about right now. Sony Dynamic Stereo Headphones MDR-7506 Professional.

Based on the audio guide I found I started encoding my CDs right away. I received my headphones a few days later and then my iPhone 4S arrived. I purchased and loaded a copy of ‘Golden Ear’ on to my phone and transferred over a few songs to test out the application and my head phones. I was amazed! Every song sounded wonderful and crystal clear. The ‘Golden Ear’ audio player works a lot like iTunes for the iPhone. You have the quick access controls from the home screen as well as a play list of music to scroll through and choose from.

If you are really into audio quality like me, I can tell you I am so happy that I found this solution. I wish I had found it sooner. It would have saved me years of frustration.

I Am Quitting The Facebook

I will be removing myself from Facebook at the start of November. You can still follow me on Google+, Twitter, and of course, I can always be contacted via E-Mail.

Facebook is an evil company and that is something I hate to say about a service that has put me in touch with so many friends from my past. But it is time for me to say good bye to Facebook. I have finally gotten annoyed with their horrible user interface and the fact they sell everyone’s privet information off to other companies

I have been seeing this quote more and more on-line.

If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold.

Facebook sells our personal information to ads companies so they can place more targeted ads directed to you on internet webpages. This is how Facebook makes it’s money. Did Facebook ask me if it was ok to sell my Location, Hobbies, browsing habits, phone numbers, or addresses to a third-party advertiser? I don’t recall ever being asked by them, but that is what they are doing and that is why I am quitting Facebook.

Twitter, and to a lesser extent Google+ do sell ads. This is how they make money. What they are not doing is selling my personal information to ad companies. Not yet anyway. So since they are not doing that, I will continue to use their services.

Another thing with Facebook is that even after you have logoff of Facebook’s website, the cookies that your browser has downloaded from visiting the site remain active. This allows Facebook and their advertisers to continue to post ads targeted directly at you based on your online activity.

One thing I find scary is that the popular online music service Spotify, which a few friends have been trying to get me to join ever since it became available in this country, now requires new members to have Facebook account to sign up. I have never been a fan of streaming music services, but since my friends where so insistent that I give this a shot I was going to sign up. Now that I have learned that a Facebook account is required, I will never be trying this service. This is a deal breaker for me.

I hope that my friends and family who have been following me on facebook will now follow me on Google+ and Twitter. Two services that are just as feature rich and easier to use than Facebook.

Wedding Photographers

Hannah and I recently got married. It was a beautiful ceremony that we got to share with our family and friends. Now that it’s over the two of us are taking some time out to write Thank You cards, get copies of our wedding photos printed off and mailing them out to people.

It’s the photos I wanted to spend a little time talking about today because finding a photographer to shoot my wedding the way I wanted it shot was one of the most stressful aspects of our wedding. There was no reason for it to have been that way.

In setting out to find a photographer I had some requirements.

  1. I wanted the photographer for 8 hours on the day of our wedding.
  2. I wanted  photos taken the whole time.
  3. I wanted digital copies of all the processed photos.
  4. I wanted digital copies of all the RAW photos.

That’s all.

I have no need for prints. I have no need for them to be posted on a website for family to view. I just wanted their time, a lot of photos taken, and digital copies of everything.

It was my last request. The one for the digital RAW files that hung me up with most “photographers” (and I am using that term very loosely). The general responce I got from “photographers” regarding my desire to have copies of the RAW image was something like this:

As far as photography, I’m sorry, but I do not give out my RAW files to clients.  I am comfortable providing only a finished product of edited JPG files to my clients. I am sure you have reasons you would like RAW files, but I do not work that way.

That was a copy of an actual e-mail I got from a “photographer”! Can you believe it? It says to me that “I am not comfortable with my talent enough to give you the digital RAW images. Only until I have processed and manipulated the photos will I give a digital copy to my clients.” As a result this “photographer” did not get my business. I don’t feel like I lost anything either. It’s not like the photographs this person displayed on their website where any better or worse than any other wedding photographers website I saw. This person just happened to be the first result on my google search, so I e-mailed them. Maybe they should change careers to SEO consulting than stay in photography. At lest they are good at SEO.

Next we have an e-mail where the “Photographer” treats me as if I don’t understand what I am requesting from them. It’s insulting to me and it makes them look stupid. By the way, belittling your possible clients is a great first impression to make! Because nothing says “I am a great photographer” than  insulting the one you are hoping is going to hire you.

I need a bit of clarification on the RAW files you requested.  By RAW do you mean full resolution?  Because RAW is totally unedited and looks worse than a jpg for a point and shoot as the basic adjustments that many cameras do to jpg files, isn’t done.  They aren’t a pretty image.  And honestly, I don’t release RAW files.

This “Photographer”  has already lost my business just for writing me this way. This e-mail is just an insult that feels like a slap in the face. What on earth happen to ‘the customer is always right’? Good luck finding work in the future with that attitude you camera monkey.

Next, we have an e-mail response where the “photographer” is trying to justify their lack of accommodating my request with pure bullshit.

I’m afraid that I cannot accommodate your request for RAW files.  It is akin to handing over undeveloped rolls of film to a client.  Even in the days of film, which lab one chose to develop and print your film made a difference in the image quality.  I don’t honestly see a benefit to the client having them, so if I’m missing something or maybe we are speaking of two different things, please feel free to clarify what benefit you wish to gain from them.

In this e-mail the “photographer” is trying to justify to me why they will not hand over the RAW images. My favorit line is: “I don’t honestly see a benefit to the client having them”. If this person can’t understand why a client would benefit from having the original RAW files, then it astonishes me that they are even still in business. In fact, this person should be required to give up all of their cameras until they do understand how a client could benefit from RAW images. These excuses, in my opinion, just don’t hold water. Based on this email I can only assume that:

  1. This “photographer” does not believe enough in their own talent to hand over the RAW images. So, why would I even bother hiring them in the first place?
  2. They probably don’t even shoot in RAW to begin with.
  3. Their ego is so big that they can’t accept that the customer might know how to use photo editing software better than they do or the customer has someone else in mind to do the photo editing.

The next e-mail came to me as meaningful advice from a friend when I was ready to pull out my own hair in frustration looking for a photographer.

…a word of warning would be that no good photographer will give you the RAW images. It is their art. They will want to be able to edit and perfect the image and doing so will force it to be converted into a JPEG format (or possible other format) making it no longer RAW…

This is just annoying. My friend has only the best intentions for me. That part is clear to see, but the whole thing comes down to my needs. I am requesting the services of a “photographer” to shoot my wedding. These people are not Ansel Adams nor will they be the next Ansel Adams. They just happen (I presume) to own an expensive camera and they think they can shoot better pictures than other people.

I come from a 15 year background of graphic arts and photo manipulation. I am expertly versed in (but not limited to) Aperture, Photoshop, and Lightroom,  I am also an amateur photographer myself. I have no doubt about my ability to work with RAW images. I just didn’t want to take photos at my own wedding. I have had friends and family offer to shoot my wedding free of charge. I would be just as happy with their photos as I would be with someone who claims to be a pro and wants to charge me a couple of grand. I just don’t want my friends and family taking photos when they are supposed to be at our wedding enjoying themselves.

What I have learned from this is that most “photographers” are control freaks who, if they gave me the RAW digital files, they won’t be able to modify them to cover what a shitty job they did in the first place. This is why 99% of all wedding photos have that blur/haze effect.

The real problem is that there are a LOT of really, really bad photographers out there. In today’s world, people think equipment equals skill, but in actuality, better equipment just creates a false sense of one’s own abilities. It seems like weddings attract the worst of the worst in photography.

I did eventually find a very polite photographer who was more than accommodating of my requirements. He even advertised them on his website. He shot my whole wedding and reception. He gave me digital copies of the processed photos and the RAW images. As a result this person will get my repeat business and I will recommend him to anyone looking for a photographer in the future.

Using Markdown

I recently wrote about keeping a simple wiki with just text files. Text files are fast to open and easy to work with. In fact you can open a text file on any kind of computer running any kind of operating system and it will just work. If you have a modern operating system like me, (I am running Mac OS X) you will be able to do a simple find command to not only locate the text file you want but even search within the content of that text file quickly and easily.

I want to talk a little bit about some ideas on how you should format that text file. There are going to be times where you don’t need to think about formatting your text file. The text file may not contain enough information to bother with formatting. I have text files that just contain the information with in the name of the text file its self, but nothing is actually inside of it. Other times I have so much content in my text file I need to write it in a way that it is organized and easy to read. This is where Markdown comes into play.

Wikipedia discribes Markdown as this:

Markdown is a lightweight markup language, originally created by John Gruber and Aaron Swartz allowing people “to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML)”. The language takes many cues from existing conventions for marking up plain text in email.

What does that mean in English? Well, here is how I look at it. Markdown gives you a set of rules for writing a plain text document which gives it structure, which makes it easier to read and at the same time allowing it to be rendered into something you would see in a word processor or in HTML with all the correct tags.

So let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In my post I mentioned earlier about keeping a very simple wiki, I also talked about one of my favorite recipes, Corned beef. With out using any Markdown what-so-ever here is what the text document looks like when you open it up.

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
Makes: 10 servings


2 and 1/2 pounds medium new potatoes, (about 8), cut in half
2 cups baby cut carrots
1 cup frozen small whole onions, thawed
1 corned beef brisket (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup of water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water


1.) Mix potatoes, carrots and onions in 4 to 6 quart slow cooker
2.) Thoroughly rinse corned beef; discard seasoning packet. Place beef on vegetables; sprinkle with pepper. Mix 1/2 cup water and the Worcestershire sauce; pour over beef.
3.) Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours or until beef and vegetables are tender.
4.) Remove beef and vegetables from slow cooker; cover to keep warm. Pour juices from slow cooker into 1-quart saucepan; heat to boiling. Mix cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir into juices. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened. Serve sauce with beef and vegetables.

Nutrition Information

1 Serving: Calories 340 (Calories from Fat 160 )

From the get go I am clearly not working with the most complex document on the planet, but I do think it works as a springboard for showing you how to write Markdown and why I think it is so beneficial.

So to get started. We are going to jump right to the top of the document. The first line reads:

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

All we are going to do is at a pound sign in front of the title so it looks like this:

#Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

In Markdown a pound sign represents a header 1 tag or an H1 tag. The first level header. If we where to put this in a program like Textmate (the greatest text editor ever) that can render Markdown, it would render the font large and bold. I will show you an example of this once we get a few more lines written.

The next three lines of the recipe are:

Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
Makes: 10 servings

Now with this I want to make an unordered list. Unordered is just an odd way to say that I don’t want my list number or alphabetized. So to do this in my text editor I and going to add a dash and a space in front of each line like this:

– Prep Time: 15 min
– Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
– Makes: 10 servings

So now my whole plain text document looks like this:

#Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

– Prep Time: 15 min
– Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
– Makes: 10 servings

So lets look at what this looks like rendered in Textmate:

Pretty sharp. From Textmate, I could also render out HTML and it would look like this:

<h1 id=”Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables”>Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

<li>Prep Time: 15 min </li>
<li>Total Time: 9 hours 15 min </li>
<li>Makes: 10 servings</li>

So lets continue on with the rest of the recipe.

#Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

– Prep Time: 15 min
– Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
– Makes: 10 servings


– 2 and 1/2 pounds medium new potatoes, (about 8), cut in half
– 2 cups baby cut carrots
– 1 cup frozen small whole onions, thawed
– 1 corned beef brisket (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
– 1/8 teaspoon pepper
– 1/2 cup of water
– 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
– 1 tablespoon cornstarch
– 2 tablespoons cold water


1. Mix potatoes, carrots and onions in 4 to 6 quart slow cooker
2. Thoroughly rinse corned beef; discard seasoning packet. Place beef on vegetables; sprinkle with pepper. Mix 1/2 cup water and the Worcestershire sauce; pour over beef.
3. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours or until beef and vegetables are tender.
4. Remove beef and vegetables from slow cooker; cover to keep warm. Pour juices from slow cooker into 1-quart saucepan; heat to boiling. Mix cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir into juices. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened. Serve sauce with beef and vegetables.

##Nutrition Information

1 Serving: Calories 340 (Calories from Fat 160 )

So you will see with the sub headers. The Header 2 or H2 I started the line with two pound signs. You can do this all the way to header 6 or H6 with six pound signs.

Under “Directions” I also used numbers followed by a period and a space rather than dashes. This means if I render out that section it will be a numbered list. So lets render this out in Textmate and see what we got.

Not a bad-looking document. Something that looks great and is easy to read as a text file. Giving it structure and conformity, a cleanliness that was not there before. It looks even better when rendered out. I hope you I have done a good job explaining how great I think Markdown is and how useful it can be. I will be including all basic formatting information for Markdown below as my recipe example above did not use all the possible formatting tags.


Just write sentences like you would normally do. No tags for paragraphs are needed.

Emphasized text

*Italics* Anything surrounded with “*” Is italicized.

**Bold Text** Anything surrounded with two “*” is turned bold.


Blocking off code inline requires it to be `surrounded` by a backtick.

Indent several lines of code by at least four spaces.


*  This is an
* unordered list
* This is a sub list item

1. This is an
2.) in an enumerated (ordered) list


#First level heading

##Second level heading

######Sixth level heading


> This text will be enclosed in an HTML blockquote element.
> Blockquote elements are reflowable. You may arbitrarily
> wrap the text to your liking, and it will all be parsed
> into a single blockquote element.


This is [an example](http://example.com/ “Title”) inline link.
[This link](http://example.net/) has no title attribute.

This is [an example][id] reference-style link.

hen, anywhere in the document, you define your link label like this, on a line by itself:
[id]: http://example.com/  “Optional Title Here”

Horizontal rules

Horizontal rules are created by placing three or more hyphens, asterisks, or underscores on a line by themselves. You may use spaces between the hyphens or asterisks. Each of the following lines will produce a horizontal rule:
* * *
– – –

For more information on Markdown and to see a few more tags I did not include here please check out the following links.

A Very Simple Wiki

I have almost always had a wiki in one form or another to help me keep track or remember things that I just don’t use everyday. It’s been a very useful tool for me, not only at home, but also in the work place.  TiddlyWiki stands out as one of my better wiki experience as I could just keep it on a thumb drive in my pocket.

My thoughts on keeping data in a manageable wiki have changed recently. This is due to a post I read at mnmlis titled: Store everything in text files.

The argument it is that text files are not only faster to open, but if you have a modern operating system the contents are completely searchable. On my Mac for example, I can be almost anywhere and press Command + Spacebar and I am presented with a search field. I can just start typing whatever it is I am looking for. If I am looking for my Corned beef recipe I just have to type “Corned beef” and my text file with my corned beef recipe comes right up.

I do keep all my text files in a directory called “Wiki” located in my Documents directory. I also try to keep the titles of my documents somewhat standard. For example, the title of my Corned beef recipe is “Recipe – Corned beef” so if I search for the name of my recipe only Corned beef will show up. If I search for just “Recipe” I get a nice list of every recipe I have saved on my computer.

The whole thing is a lot faster than any wiki I have ever used and has been working out just great for me so far.