Category Archives: computer science

Hipster Primer on eBook formats

Photo by Luca Conti / Flickr

If you’re thinking about electronic publishing, knowing the basic ebook formats is important before you begin trying to compile your literary masterpiece or book of recipes. A lot of different choices exist, but some are better suited for some purposes than others. To help, the list of the commonly used ebook formats below should help get you started.

Basic Ebook Formats

Here’s a look at the ebook files currently in mainstream use.

  • EPUB – This is an open format that is based on HTML and XML that are used on the Internet. Originally designed by Open eBook Forum, it’s become one of the main standards today. A lot of different ereaders can read this format without any problems.

  • AZW – This is Amazon’s proprietary format for the Kindle ebook readers. Basically, it is very similar to MOBI except that it uses more compression to make the file sizes smaller. The format has changed a little since it first came out, but it’s still standard for Kindle ebooks.

  • LIT – Leave it to Microsoft to come up with their own ebook formatting. Once used by PocketPC and other Microsoft ebook readers, this ebook format was retired in 2011 and no longer being used. That said, there are still files out there in this format. If you come across one, you may have to convert it to another ebook format in order to be able to read it.

  • PDF – The Portable Document Format from Adobe has been around since the very early days of the Internet. Some – but not all – ebook readers are able to read basic PDF files.

  • ODF – OpenDocument format is another one that is based primarily on XML Not all ebook tablets are going to be able to read this type of file, but it’s standard for OpenOffice – a big, free competitor to Microsoft Word.

  • MOBI – This format was created to work with MobiPocket devices. Other devices can open these files – occasionally – but there are usually formatting problems, especially with images and tables.

Which one is best? It all depends as they each have their own list of pros and cons. Once you know a bit more about the different formats available, it’s easier to decide which ones you need to worry about when compiling your ebook. Luckily, once you have a master file, you can get software to create something with any type of ebook format you want.

You may also want to have PDF to Word software handy just in case you need to convert an old PDF document that you want to edit. The good news is that a lot of software exists online that can help you with PDF to Word conversion as well as a lot of other document formats. Once you start becoming familiar with all that’s available, you’re going to have an easier time.

Adam Prattler’s main interests are travelling, playing baseball and designing informative images.

Engineering Degrees and the Rise of New Robotic Technology

engineering degrees and roboticsFrom helping us understand the complexities of the Earth’s seismic forces to designing and creating innovative manufacturing methods on a nano-scale, engineers in every field continue to push the limits of what can be achieved with modern technology. Although the engineering industry as a whole took a hit during the recent economic downturn, experts agree that the job outlook for engineering – mechanical, computer, and electrical engineering in particular – is very good.

It is also undeniable that if we want our nation to not only endure but to truly thrive economically, socially, and academically, we will need a strong workforce of engineers applying their creative problem solving to some of our toughest issues. But engineering is a very broad, multidisciplinary field which can make it difficult for aspiring engineering students to know precisely what area they would like to focus on.

A Look at the Types of Engineering Degrees

The possibilities for engineering degrees are many and they include:

  • Electrical Engineering

The work of electrical engineers is concerned with designing, producing, and manipulating electrical systems. This means that electrical engineers may work on electrical wiring in a house, office building, airplane, automotive, or in any number machines.

  • Civil Engineering

Civil engineers focus much of their effort on creating and maintaining essential infrastructure elements such as roadways, tunnels, and sewage systems. For this reason, students who express an inclination towards city planning are well suited for the field of civil engineering.

  • Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers work in a wide variety of different industries ranging from pharmaceutical companies to manufacturers of agricultural products.

  • Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineers are the masterminds behind the development of machines. They are absolutely essential to the aerospace, automotive, heating and air conditioning, and robotics industries.

These are just a few examples of some of the most popular engineering degrees but it is certainly not an exhaustive list. There are many other engineering fields that students can choose to pursue including mining, nuclear, computer, and biomedical engineering.

The Changing Face of Manufacturing

Perhaps one of the most exciting things about engineering is that the technology these engineers develop and use in their jobs is always changing and evolving. Engineers, in essence, are visionaries that have the skills to breathe life into what they imagine.

This seems to be especially true of mechanical engineering as it applies to the manufacturing process. New manufacturing technologies, particularly robotics, are changing the whole face of manufacturing.

While robots have a long history of being used in manufacturing, they were previously considered too large, unpredictable, and dangerous to work alongside their human counterparts. Instead, these metal workers were secluded to lonely, dark corners often within a metal cage, which served as a physical barrier between them and the nearby flesh and blood workers. But all of that is changing thanks to the genius of engineering, which has created manufacturing robots that are increasingly compatible with humans. In fact, many of these new robots can work right beside human workers without posing a safety threat.

An excellent example of this is a recent product of Rethink Robotics, a manufacturing robot affectionately referred to as Baxter. Baxter’s unique abilities were reported on by technologyreview.com last year. Their positive assessment was, “Baxter’s talents could, for the first time, bring the benefits of robotics and automation to areas of work where it never made sense before”.

Baxter and similar new robotics technologies demonstrate just how the world of engineering is ever-changing, ever-exciting, and always needed.

Written by Harvinder Singh an expert in quality machines for various industrial use.

Google Eye Movement And Pay-Per-Gaze: What The Average User Should Know

Pay per gaze & Google eye movement technologyComputer technology is constantly moving forward, and no company has been more influential in recent years than Google. After revolutionizing search engines and creating one of the most user-friendly browsers, Google has also created tablets and smartphones and in many ways has become a worthy competitor for Microsoft and Apple. And now Google wants to see what its users see with a revolutionary new technology that tracks eye movement to make browsing the web and taking pictures that much easier. Of course, they also hope to make money from it as well.

Google Glass

By now many people have at least heard the phrase Google Glass somewhere in the news. For those who may not have heard about it, Google Glass is a device that is worn on the head like a pair of glasses. News of this device gave many people the idea that what Google was developing was some kind of augmented reality goggles the likes of which have only been seen in science fiction. That was part of the truth, since Google Glass does provide a display in your field of vision thanks to a prism screen that provides all the information you need without being obstructive. It takes pictures and allows web browsing and even video conferencing through the Google Hangouts app.

In other words, Google Glass is meant to represent a new generation of mobile devices that allow for hands-free use in ways that few believed possible. It sounds intriguing to say the least, and it has been getting plenty of attention from those who are always on the lookout for new gadgets, but it’s a little too soon to tell if Google Glass will really take off as the next must-have mobile device.

Pay-Per-Gaze

While Google has stated that they won’t use Glass to invade people’s privacy, they have recently been granted a patent for a new technology that would send images of advertisements that people see through the device to a server. Google would then charge the advertiser based on how long the ad was in the user’s field of vision. The technology may even be able to measure pupil dilation to determine how effective the advertisement is and charge the advertiser accordingly.

This “pay-per-gaze” technology is similar in principle to the advertising methods that have been used online for years. Computer users have no doubt noticed that the advertisements that they see on Facebook and other social networking sites correspond to the websites they’ve visited recently and the online services they’ve used. The “pay-per-gaze” model applies this to advertisements in real life. This includes billboards, signs, flyers, and print ads in newspapers and magazines.

If “pay-per-gaze” works like Google hopes it will, it could revolutionize the way advertising works outside of the Internet. Advertisers would get up-to-date information on what kinds of ads are the most effective with certain demographics, and advertisements will change almost constantly. The “real world” will start to look much like the Internet in terms of advertising. Once again, it’s difficult to tell at this point how effective that will be, but like Google Glass itself, it’s an intriguing concept that may show what the future of advertising and marketing will hold.

Our guest blogger, Tessa Lynch, is a freelance tech blogger; she writes abouts burgeoning trends in the tech world, especially those that affect large scale construction projects, pipeline engineering, and architecture.

How Online Typing Tutors Can Help Students Improve Touch Typing Skills

speed typingAs we all know, touch typing speed matters a lot. Whether you are looking for a job as a paralegal or executive assistant, proficient touch typing skills could be the only skill that gives you a competitive edge over other qualified applicants.

When it comes to students, they also need to improve touch typing skills. This is because the current curriculum is more demanding. Students are at times overloaded with assignments that are time bound and so their speed and accuracy is very much required. If they are not proficient in typing they might find themselves lagging behind their instructors or other students and this can greatly affect their academic performance. Below are tips to help you improve touch typing skills:

1. Place your fingers correctly

If you are confused on finger placements, variations on the keyboard and special characters you cannot type effectively. Note that, F and J keys are supposed to be your best friends; they lie at the center row known as home row. This is because you will always start from there and return to them. Home row keys are A, S, D, F and F, K, L. Index fingers should rest on F and J which have got some bumps to help you locate home row with ease.

2. Refuse the urge to look at the keyboard

If you have been using computer for a while, chances are your fingers already know where some of the words are. You may think that you don’t have a clue but of course you do. Try to focus on the screen more often by resisting the urge to look at the keyboard. You can cover the keyboard with a paper to avoid getting used to it as it will affect your typing skills.

3. Practice will never get boring

As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect”. The more you type the more efficient you will become. That one I can guarantee. You can make your practice more fun by playing interactive typing games, send emails or participate in online discussion forums. Touch typing is all about muscle memory. This means that your muscles will need more time to adjust to new techniques and practice is the only way to achieve this.

4. The right posture can do wonders 

This is one of the most overlooked factors when one wants to improve touch typing skills. Bad posture will not only take a toll on your muscles but will also affect your accuracy, speed and energy levels.

With the right posture you will boost your energy levels and you will allow your fingers to effectively rest on the right position. Keep your feet squarely on the floor and your wrist at the same level with your keyboard.

5. Typing tests

Typing tests will help you review your progress. You will be able to know your WPM and determine the effectiveness of the process. Nothing can be a bigger motivator than to watch your WPM creep up progressively.

Online tutors to help you improve touch typing skills

Typingweb.com

This offers comprehensive free tutorials with the right hand positioning for both the beginners and experts. You can proceed to more advanced tutorials and practice sessions that use combination of symbols, numbers, and letters to help your fingers get acquainted with the keyboard.

Learntotype.com

This tutor will help you learn how to type fast without having to look at the keyboard. You can take free tests and online typing games to improve typing skills.

Ratatype.com

This is a fantastic way to learn how to type and is definitely every student’s pick! Ratatype.com is a new fresh, fun and friendly site. It has awesome features: choose your keyboard moving hands; it uses simple and colorful user interface. They offer free online typing speed test and to help you improve your touch typing skills. After the completion you are awarded a certificate. How great!

Typing is one of the skills you can develop and utilize. Honing your writing skills will be a great element to your ability. It will enable you fulfill all your errands and meet your academic and professional goals.

Our Guest Author: Adam Fort is a touch typing enthusiast and education advisor.