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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.

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

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.

🙂

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

Everyone has a story…although mine is probably too long to put in a short post. Tonight was very emotional for me. It is unlike me to actually sit and write about it.  The night started off as normal as excepted. I stopped by the store, picked up a few things, went home and we decided to go to local pizza place to have some pizza. We are sitting there having a normal conversation, we made our order, the pizza come and we are eating. A lady comes in with two small children. They looked happy and made their order. A few minutes after they sat down, I heard the lady on the phone, she was calling what sounded like a friend or family member for help. She described a series of things that had happened in the past two to three weeks to her.  I gathered up cash from others at my table, although they did not understand why I wanted their cash. Then two other ladies came in. The ladies were there to take her children away.  Before I knew it, I was crying. The others at the table knew why I gathered up the money. The ladies left with the children. The mother was sitting there crying.  We got up to leave by then, I handed her the money I collected and said “hope this helps a little.”

I don’t know all circumstances to what had happened. I know there were times when people helped me when I needed it.

Hours later I still don’t know if I feel that I really helped and still upset over a mother loosing her children. But I hope what was collected, helped in some small way.  Everyone has a story.

One of the many things I do love about my job is the flexibility to work remotely. There are occasions when I work from a coffee shop.  Why? Is the ambiance? Is it all the interesting people you see and hear? Can I really serve people via my laptop from a coffee shop? Certainly. I’m sure I am not the only one out there that does.

I do find that when I sit in the office from 9-4:30 my creative juices do not always flow. I get most of my inspiration when I am in an environment less stifling.

In the past few years, many government offices have struggled with office space lease issues and the rising cost of letting employees have offices. Having cubicles in some situations provides a cost savings. However, in a cubicle, you sometimes have less productivity, as you hear everything around you and it can be distracting (that is where the earbuds come in handy). There are also the phone calls, whether personal or business, then you end up with cubie conversations through the walls. I’m not saying that all cubicle offices present the same observations, many government agencies that do have cubicles also have a very controlled environment for quietness. Additionally, in situations, where you do have cubicles or shared offices, you end up with a very small working space. I have now started seeing three people in one office, with just about a coffee shop size desk. Really all you need is a laptop (with security of course), phone, and your office in your briefcase or backpack these days.

Moreover, trust plays a key factor in being able to telecommute as some employees can work very independently and some cannot. There are many articles on the web that you can search for effective telecommuting and your specific government guidelines or policies.

Relating this back to social media and how part of social media/networking is having a “conversations” with others. When you go to a coffee shop, part of the ambiance is to have “conversations” with other people. Respect their thoughts and opinions and hearing their stories is all part of being at a coffee shop. So you might be asking, how can someone be productive with all the talking around you, well..in my opinion it is no different than someone standing in your office space talking to you.

Last food for thought – Have you thought about what your office/agency would do in the event of a disaster and how you would carry on services to citizens?

So why not, buy a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the ambiance of the coffee shop, support your local businesses and let the creative juices flow.

I have been a social media/networking advocate for the past year. I have really enjoyed seeing all the ways government has opened up and embraced using social M/N tools to enhance their communications with their constituents. However, many governments are still in the beginning stages of figuring out how to use the tools, create a strategy and how to deal with providing two-way conversation. As I have been out and about doing lectures, webinars, conference speaking and meetings with different managers regarding social M/N, I hear common concerns throughout the conversations. What about public records and how do we manage either requests, and providing the information and achieving?

Well, it is really no different than we have been doing for years. Some of you may have been with government when it first started using E-Mail. People were scared to use it at first. It took a while for all employees to embrace and use as a business tool. Then came the how do we archive and provide public records? Needless to say, we (government) found ways to take care of that. It may not have been right when e-mail was implemented, but eventually we got there.

Now that technology has progressed we are at that cross road again. How do we archive and provide public records for social M/N? Slowly, but surely, it is coming.

One question I am asked a lot is, “so if there are ways to archive, where do we find this information?” So I have provided a list of a few tools that might be helpful. I have tested each one of these and all work very well. I have provided different options, because we all know that the government blocks websites and many agencies do not allow employees to download and install software. If you choose to use any of these, it might be helpful to include the process in your procedures.

Twitter:

TWInbox – Outlook plug-in that works directly within Outlook. By creating folders you can keep a copy of tweets sent and received. This plug-in is free. (You will need install rights to install the plug-in). See demonstration.

TweeTake– offers options for archiving. This is free. (Comment: I have heard many people say they like this option. No software download and can bring the zip file into a spreadsheet program.) See demonstration.

Please note that these are 3rd party tools that require you to put in the Twitter username and password. You may want to change your Twitter password frequently using a strong password.

Facebook:

SocialSafe – Facebook backup – This plug-in is cost $2.99. It will archive the main profile and things associated, not fan pages. (You will need install rights to install on your computer).

Firefox Plugin– Free. Creates a “zip” file. It will archive the main profile and things associated, not fan pages. (You will need install rights to install the plug-in).

Updated – 6/01/2010 – PageFreezer – creates a digital snapshots on a schedule that you set. This service charges a monthly fee.

Wayback Machine – Much like PageFreezer, this also creates digital snapshots.

Please note that these are 3rd party tools. You may want to change your password frequently using a strong password. Keep in mind with 3rd party tools and services, that you have no control as to when those sites are functioning or not.

There are many PDF tools available, where you can open your page and create a PDF by doing a Print to PDF option. A free PDF maker I use is PDFCreator. Here are a couple more that are also free PDF995 | PrimoPDF (You will need install rights to install the plug-in). (Comment: I do not usually use this method, because it seems like with Facebook pages never really PDF right.)

There are probably many more tools out there. This is just to get you started.

I am also including this link, as an example of Washington Secretary of State’s advice and resources for electronic records.

Resource for Government’s in Florida – Social Media iToolKit

*Disclaimer: I have worked for government for nearly 20 years; however I am not a public records expert. Please contact your records management or legal office for specific information about your retention schedules and laws.

Hope this is helpful to get you started. Feel free to add what tools or procedures you use to archive your Twitter, Facebook or other Social M/N sites.

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