I’m an official “Cord Cutter”. We cut our TV package some time ago, due to our service provider not being able to keep the service up for more than three days. We did end up switching Internet Providers. Although Comcast has its customer service issues, if you can get past that, the high speed internet is great.

Here is what we did:

  1. We started with the back TV to transition into this.

We hooked up an Digital Antenna. You can get one from Walmart or Amazon. ClearTV is a good one (http://www.cleartv.com/) or Mohu (http://www.gomohu.com/) has a good onmi-directional antenna.We had to get one of the outdoor amplified ones, because our house sits low and has lots of trees. If you use on more than one TV you have to have a splitter. See what local channels you can get. (We were able to pull in 15 local channels).

  1. Hooked up the Roku. We have a Roku3. I heard Roku was releasing a new product this summer. https://www.roku.com/It is real easy to set up. Basically, it serves as your “cable” box. It brings all the apps together in one place. You do have to create an account. They like a credit card on file. We used one that only has like a $20.00 credit limit, or you can use a prepaid card. You will also notice Netflix runs a lot faster through it.
  1. These are the services that run through Roku, that we pay for.
    1. Netflix — put in your current email and password.  — $9.00/month
    2.  Amazon Prime — we have this, but don’t use it much. Plus it comes with other stuff through Amazon. So the average monthly is around $9.00 if you divide out the yearly payment.–If we did not have the free shipping thing, I would drop this
    3. Hulu Plus — $8.00/month — most of the TV shows that are on during the week are on Hulu the next day.
    4. Pandora (Music) — My husband likes to have the ad free one but this is optional $6.00/month. If you don’t have it, you can probably just add to the Roku with the free version. There is also an app called iHeartRadio that brings in a bunch of radio stations.
    5. Sling — [See update below] This one has live TV channels. They have different packages. We pay $20.00/month. Mainly because it does has ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3, and several other channels, like HGTV and FoodNetwork.  https://www.sling.com/ They just started offering HBO for extra $15.00. But we are not going to add that.

We have tried several “Private” channels via Roku, only to go back and delete them.

Other:

  • Some of the services you have to go to their website, create an account then put a code into the Roku when you add the app.
    Most of these also have Facebook sites that you can follow for updated news. I also follow CordCuttersNews.
  • We only have Comcast Internet it is $49.99/Month for 75Mbps. The 25mbps is also good. No TV or phone Packages. The other things Comcast doesn’t tell you…. We bought our own equipment, as they have Comcast enabled modems at Best Buy. It saves another $10.00/month. But you have to call and make them take their rental off your bill if you want to use your own equipment. Of course turn in their equipment.

It takes a little bit of patience to set up everything and to find the apps that you will want. Most of the apps require an additional sign-in (like the TubiTV app) I just watch what is available without the sign in.

Most of them offer an easy way to discontinue the service, so there is no “contact”.

This ala carte has saved us at least $100/month.

http://www.killthecablebill.com/getting-started/ — they also have a good page on a bunch of sites that are scams.
Since we switched out, we haven’t had any real issues, other than getting the antenna pointed right.  I like not being stuck to a schedule to watch something. Most of the time we use Netflix, Hulu and Sling. Each of them do have “kids” shows on them for the grand kids. The Roku also has apps for PBS, PBSkids, History channel, Cowboy Classics, Disney, CBS News and Wall Street journal has “live” times during the day.

Update: 2/9/2017 — We originally had subscribed to Sling.  Couple months ago we discontinued. We realized were just were not watching it that much.  We were only watching 2 channels on it.  For us Sling had too many outages.  One of the nice things about cord cutting, is that you have no contract. It is easy just to drop what you don’t need.

We have been watching AcornTV. We have been very happy with the content and quality.

Tip. Keep a calendar item to call Comcast before your 1 year lapses. It looks like to get the lower “no package” just internet option, you have to call at least once a year to renegotiate your price.

Since we started this in 2015, we have been watching the market for more offerings. More companies are coming on board with options. However, be sure to read the fine print. Some offer a great monthly service, but you still may have to commit to a two year contract.  We won’t go back to any contracts.

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The e-book market is a relatively new market for publishing for Government.  These are some key findings for the e-book publishing.

Standards

The current e-book publishing standard is ePUB3

Formats:

  1. E-book publishing formats go beyond a PDF.
    1. In the past it has been very common to use the PDF format, which several years ago became popular. However, over time the saturation of PDF has not moved to the mobile market well.  In some cases it takes too long to download a PDF onto a mobile device.  Although free mobile readers such as Aldiko will allow you open PDF’s , many PDF’s are not formatted to read in a readable format on a mobile or tablet device.
    2. PDF represents a fixed-page view and gives you complete control over page layout and presentation. The reader consumes content exactly as the publisher intended. EPUB allows the publication text to reflow according to screen size, enabling the publisher to distribute and the reader to consume digital publications on a variety of screen sizes.[i]
    3. Larger PDF’s assume Wi-Fi connection.
    4. There are more than 30 current tablets on the market today.  The most popular readers are Nook, Kindle, iPad, and Samsung Galaxy Tab. Major competitors, such as Apple and Google, continue to be in the market, in addition to Microsoft with Windows 8 platform.

Publishing Outlets

Typically when publishing “free” e-books, there is not an IBSN needed if you have a free book agreement.

  1. iBookstore[ii] – Free book account allows you to offer free on the iBookstore. You can use iTunes Connect to publish. You need an AppleID with credit card on file (for identity verification purpose). Legal entity name affiliated with US Tax ID is required. EPUB and multi-touch is the only format accepted in the iBookstore, no PDF’s.  All submitted books must pass the latest version of ePubCheck, include only files listed in the manifest, and use UTF-8/16 characters. Magazines and other periodical are not supported by the iBookstore.
  2. Amazon[iii] – Mobi format (only unencrypted), plain text, some PDF’s . Not all PDF’s display well on Kindle. Source content such as HTML, XHTML or EPUB can be converted.
  3. In most cases, it is simpler to just offer several format options on your own website rather than publishing to e-book outlets.  This is an example of how the Department of Children and Families provides their caregivers guide for download in multiple e-reader formats.

Example web site

Software

There are several software products that are freely available; however, some only save to one format or the other. There is not a good consistency and it is early in the market for having a software product that will save to multiple platforms.

Software (Free) Notes
Anthemion eCub Start from scratch of import existing text/HTML, ePub files.Create a cover design. The cover design is not real intuitive.

Not an editor. Just software that allows you to import and convert to ePub format.

Java based.

Anthemion Jutoh Simple editor with basic formatting.  Works better if you have not written a book and you would like to publish in a e-book format.  Good tool if you don’t have Adobe InDesign.Java based.
Calibre E-book Management. Import PDF and convert to EPub format (single or in bulk). Extra plug-in can be downloaded free (example: EPubMerge – allows merge of multiple ePubs into one file).
MobiPocket Creator Works fine for .MOBI format. Interface is a little clunky.
Sigil Open source software provided by Google. Allows you to create an e-book from scratch. The editing is similar to creating a web page for a website.
DAISY Daisy is a plug-in that works within MS Word 2007/2010 to convert documents to an audio book format. It does require proper use of styles.
Adobe Indesign (not free) Does have a convert option to download plugin from Amazon save to Kindle format . The plug-in is free, the main software is not free, Indesign license required.  For digital publishing the overall workflow hinges on a strong use of styles to create structured flow of text. Does have ePub export. Adobe has some extra resources for Epub check, preflight and generator based on Java.

Metadata

Meta data is an important part of documents. Metadata includes such information such as document author, date, title of document, etc. Setting document properties within the document should automatically translate over to metadata.  The following is an example of document metadata. Most document metadata is pulled from the document properties.

Metadata

E-Reader metadata missing or very little:

MetaData2

Readers

There are many free e-readers on the market and many can be obtained free. When downloading an e-reader consider one that does both MOBI and EPub formats. Additionally, another element, that is a personal preference, is how the document displays and it is easy to navigate from page to page.  For example some documents display vertical rather than horizontal (and vice versa). The reader may prefer one orientation to the other.  Many e-readers are not intuitive enough to easily import PDF’s into your reader library.

From the computer desktop, the readers are still in an early market. Calibre reader will read multiple formats including Mobi, PDF, EPub, HTML and Word Documents.  Having good up-to-date metadata in your documents helps readers index your e-book library for efficiently.

Accessibility

The EPUB specifications allow markup in two vocabularies: XHTML and DTBook. DTBook is a National Information Standards Organization (NISO) standard that defines the format and content of an electronic file comprising a digital talking book (DTB). DTBs are designed to make print material accessible and navigable for sight-impaired and print-disabled persons. Publishers can create EPUB digital books using the DTBook vocabulary, with additional required information to make content accessible.[iv]


[i] 2008. EPUB Best Practices. Adobe. Last access July 10, 2012 from http://www.adobe.com/devnet/digitalpublishing.html

[ii] Adobe.com

[iii] Amazon.com

[iv] 2008. EPUB Best Practices. Adobe. Last access July 10, 2012 from http://www.adobe.com/devnet/digitalpublishing.html

For some time now I have been watching the development of using Quick Response (QR) codes. Although they have been around for many years, the adoption has become more popular in the last couple of years.  However, it seems governments have had a slower adoption. I have read many articles that say they are worth the effort and some articles that say they are not effective.  Honestly, to create a QR code is pretty easy and only takes about a minute of your time to generate. I have been using a free site via Google. I log into my Google account, then type goo.gl in my browser, put in a link and it not only will generate a QR code, but also a short link. I can check back later to see the statistics on my link/QR Code. For the end consumer, it is still a cumbersome process on my smart phone, as I have to open up my barcode scanner, scan and then wait a second or two for the code to be recognized, then my smart phone prompts to open in browser. 

I can see how using QR codes on a lot of publications is beneficial, whereby you can provide additional information to your consumers. However, it is super important to have a mobile optimized website.  I do not see the use of a QR codes being of much value is when displayed on billboards.  How on earth I am going to scan a billboard going 60 miles per hour?  Do you think I will jump out of my car to possibly try to scan something that is probably too far away? No.  
I also see organizations putting the codes directly on their website. Well….needless to say, I’m already on the website, why would I then want to scan the code to go to another page? How, why and what you use QR codes for is important to your audience. So be aware of places to put them that are easily available for scanning.  
Recent articles:
Other uses:

My Scribd Document:

Recently I have been going on job interviews, as my OPS contract with the college expires soon. The daily news covers stories about how tough the job market is and people having to go to many interviews before securing something. It seems like the jobs you really want, are not offered, however, the job you are not too excited about, is offered.  All in all, I decided to look at the many learning opportunities that I have had over the past few weeks. I’m not by far the expert on job hunting and interviewing. Here are a few things I have learned:

  • Learn to have patience. Often approvals, etc. take time. When should you follow-up on a job? Really not sure, but I found that following up one week or two weeks after the interview is really too soon.
  • Never assume you got the job. If the job is too good to be true, then it might not happen.
  • Don’t get over confident.
  • Sometimes second interviews are very different then the first. During the first interview, it seems like everyone is on their best behavior to impress you. Be sure to really observe the office and people in that office on the second interview.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected. Some interviews don’t always use the typical difficult questions.  Additionally, they could be watching your body language and how you would handle something under pressure.
  • Be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
  • There is no perfect job.
  • Focus on the positive. Try to find something you learned during the process.

Some other things I realized about myself was the fact that after you have been of away from your field of expertise for 6 months, you can be out of touch and no longer the expert.  I often felt after all the years of obtaining my degree’s, I still was not educated enough. So, spend some time brushing up on your skills and knowledge.

No matter what, I think the most important thing I have learned is to focus on the positive. Job hunting can be really tough. You really don’t want give off negative vibes.

🙂

December 4, 2010

Ahhh…it is cool outside, just enough to layer up or down, and I have the day to myself. I like to take times like this to reflect on things going on in my life. Of course, this is also close to Christmas and I like to reflect on sharing, giving and the many blessings I have had in the past year, in my life.

I’m very blessed to have two sons, one being an adult now, the other still at home. Some days are very challenging. I try to step back and think about the good moments we have. The many hugs my younger one still gives me and the insightful conversations my older one contributes. Yesterday I walked up to the mall (1.1 miles), not just for exercise, but also to be an example to my boys. We live close to many places and we should not be beyond ourselves to walk. During my walk, which is always a reflection in itself, I remembered when I was my older son’s age, and did not have a automobile and walked everywhere (and of course I was much skinner then too). I worry too much about the “me generation” and so many things we take advantage of. One of them being, that we do have an automobile, and sometimes we can save gas, the environment, and get a little exercise to go somewhere close.

I also reflect on the many blessings I have had in my career this year. I had spent last two years, engrossing myself into the Government realm of Social Media. As always I try to take on every new challenge as a learning experience.  I learned so many new things, especially, how citizen engagement, participation and collaboration are so vital to our government moving forward. This year,  I received recognition through Government Technology Magazine, MuniGov, and from several of Florida’s Chief Information Officer’s (CIO), as a leading expert for State of Florida government in social media. Although it has presented many challenges  specifically the acceptance and participation of social media/networking in state government, it is often hard for the acceptance of something visionary as social media. Those that have embraced it, haven’t used social media to it’s fullest. It is not always about pushing information out, but to have a conversation and join in that conversation of where the people are.  That is often the missing piece.   I have enjoyed leading some of Florida forward in their quest, however, in the past few months I have taken on some new journeys.

There is a saying something like….when a window closes a door opens…..

Years ago I discovered that I loved being in the technology field. I had found my niche back then and still currently love and have a passion for technology.   After all these years, I can now take my technological knowledge and extended in the classroom.  As far as I can remember, I wanted to teach.  Mrs. Hughes was my 4th grade teacher and I wanted to be just like her. When I got into high school I spent a summer teaching vacation bible school around southern Michigan. Even though I have been in the technology field for the past 15 years, it has taken me many years to obtain the educational credentials I needed to teach at the academic level (oddly never wanted to teach at K-12 levels). I know have the opportunity before me to teach technology classes at the community college.

Although I still plan to stay involved at the state level for social media, I am excited about the opportunities that I can be part of for social media in academics. How faculty can use social media to engage their students.

In the midst of all the holiday busyness take some time to reflect.

I get asked a lot about different free software products. Here are some of my recommendations. Most of these I do use.

1. Free virus checker for phones called Lookout. It works with many phones and free. http://www.mylookout.com/
     AVG Mobilation (Droid) – http://free.avg.com/us-en/antivirus-for-android.tpl-crp

2. Spybot search and destroy – http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html

3. Avast virus protection – home edition – http://www.avast.com/free-antivirus-download
     AVG Virus Protector – http://free.avg.com/us-en/homepage

4. Video Converter – http://www.formatoz.com/

5. Brainstorming/MindMapping Free Online  – http://bubbl.us/

6. Charts – Free Charting/Diagrams  – http://www.lovelycharts.com/

7. Doodle – Free Polls/Schedules/Events- http://doodle.com/

8.  FoxIt – Alternative to PDF Reader (cross-platform)  – http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/reader/

9. Google Docs – Mobile capabilities  – http://docs.google.com

10. Paint.Net — Photo Editing Program (Open Source)  – http://www.paint.net/

11. Photoshop Like Editing Online  – http://splashup.com/

12. Screenr – Screen Recording  – http://screenr.com/ (note: you need a twitter account)

13. CamStudio – Screen Recording – Open source software – http://camstudio.org/

14. Screen-O-Matic – Screen Recording  – http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/

15. Zoho – Mobile Capabilities- http://www.zoho.com

16. Fireshot – Cross browser screen shot – http://screenshot-program.com/fireshot/

Many of these are listed on http://ninite.com/ – NiNite offers a way to create one installer. Just check the boxes of the software you want, and then click “Get Installer” button at the bottom of the screen.  Also note that NiNite strips out the ads that often come with software, such as Yahoo toolbar.

Please continue to check back as I add to the list.

Updated 6/1/2012

I was watching an old black and white movie, filmed back in the late 1940’s, that had a story line of gladiators performing the coliseum during the Greek era. After gladiators fought and no one died, it was decided by the referee if one of the gladiators was spared or put to death. However, the decision by the referee was made by the crowd’s mood with shouting or by using hand gestures of a thumbs up or thumbs down motion for life or death.  Something triggered in my mind, what we now call “social” likes and dislikes and if it has the same representation.  If you liked something, perhaps a video or photo, would it get thumbs up or if you did not like it get thumbs down. And using the crowd to make the decision. Could it be possible, the history of likes or dislikes dates back to Greek times?

Like DislikeThe more you like something online, the higher the rating goes. For example, the more likes you get on some of the social media sites, the more it moves up to in popularity. We have also seen in the past year, how someone can become a star practically overnight, by lots of thumbs up (likes). Could that mean death of something online if it gets many thumbs down?  Possibly. Some could say this is what we also call crowd sourcing. Many are using crowd sourcing for generating ideas from the public (or crowds). Being able to share your idea(s) and have others rate it, the more popular it becomes the more it moves to the top of the list. Ultimately knowing what likes and dislikes helps in the decision making process, as it lets leaders know what is important to the people.

Of course, the movie I was watching was produced from Hollywood. This could very well be just Hollywood influence and interpretation of the Greek history. But crowd sourcing and social networking will continue to grow for what is popular, innovative or what technically dies.

Additional readings:

http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/03/crowdsourcing-evolution-of-congressional-websites.html
http://irevolution.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/towards-a-model-for-successful-crowdsourcing/
http://philanthropy.blogspot.com/2010/03/open-philanthropy-modest-manifesto.html