Books

Concussion Is Brain Injury Crowdfund Over: The Writing Begins

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End of Crowdfund Campaign for Concussion Is Brain Injury Update

Extending my crowdfund campaign seemed like a good idea. Maybe people who’d been thinking about it would use the extra time to make that pledge, to say with their hard-earned income that they believed in and supported updating Concussion Is Brain Injury through PubLaunch. My campaign certainly received more retweets, likes, and shares! People threw their support behind it.Concussion Is Brain Injury

Unfortunately, the pledges just about dried up. And meanwhile, my energy stores dropped and dropped, and my pain rose up. I was starting to get mighty pissed at the pain in my right hip and lower back waking me up every morning, even after I’d thrown everything I had at it one night and managed to quiet it down to almost zero.

And so I hunted around and gathered new sources to prop up my flagging energy. As I write this, even those sources are flailing futilely in the wake of my injured brain screaming, “Uncle!” as in, I give up. No more work!!

I used to have a habit of pushing myself until I crashed. It took me well over a decade to learn how not to do that. This past month has been a blast to that past! But some of these newish energy props are keepers.

Now that the crowdfunding is over and that it will be an Ingram Spark book not a polished book with the Iguana Books imprint — not enough funds were raised for proofreading, distribution, and marketing — although at least in the last hours, pledges came in to cover the full editing costs! — Alright!!! — I will hunker down and focus on rewriting it with the help of Camp NaNoWriMo (it’s amazingly well timed for me this year).

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

Since it looked right up until the last minute that the funds would not cover structural editing and my injured brain can barely see the big picture of my book — or read it, except with the aid of the Kindle Paperwhite in small chunks — my neurodoc is reading out my Index Card app outline to me.

I began this new method with reading the chapter titles out to him, and the next time we spoke, he read the titles back to me. But now, he reads the Index Cards out loud as I try to absorb. Over and over he reads each card title slowly; over and over he reads any notes on each card with careful enunciation. Nothing happened the first few times, but last week, we focused on the first section of the book, and I began to see. I moved the index cards around, wrote in new ones, and he read them back to me again, starting from the beginning. I added and moved more cards. He took my iPad back and again read them back to me from the start.

Suddenly, my brain quit. Nothing made sense any more. But he asked me if I thought it flowed better, the first section we worked on; I thought so. He did too. He was really happy he could do this for me and that it worked.

On the weekend, I manually copied the work I’d done in the Index Card app over to Scrivener for Windows (their iOS app is coming too late for me) and wrote one of the new chapters. I again reviewed the outline in the app and tweaked the first part of it. The middle to end remain out of my perceptual grasp. But it’s getting there.

And so to the twenty-eight people who backed my crowdfunding campaign: I am writing new chapters and revising the old ones. I don’t know how long it will take me without the full resources I needed, but your faith in me is committing me to finish my book. Thank you!!!

Essay

From Paper to Pixels

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This is from a talk I gave to my fraternity on their Career Day.

We are in an age of transition. Like those who went from calligraphy to the Gutenberg press, so we are going from pen and print books to tablet computers and ebooks.

Up until early last century, manuscripts were written by hand. Then typewriters came along, and writers mastered the two-finger peck. Soon word processors appeared and at about the same time personal computers.

Writers now had a choice of handwriting or typing their drafts on a typewriter or on a computer. But final drafts, the ones sent out as submissions or completed manuscripts to publishers, always had to be typed or printed from a computer.

That changed after the anthrax scare, particularly in the US. Agents and publishers began to demand queries via email only and manuscripts in MS Word DOC format, also via email. But in Canada, some agents and publishers prefer the old ways; perhaps they feel it’s more literary for writing to be on paper than in pixel form. They refuse emails; they want snail mail submissions only. That slow, expensive, tree-wasting method is on the way out though, especially as more and more of us writers refuse to participate and submit only to agents or publishers who accept queries and manuscripts by email.

The revising and editing process has undergone a change too. No longer do editors mark up printed copies with pencil or red pen. Instead they use tracking changes in MS Word and communicate with authors via email. Again, in Canada, some editors still work in the dark ages of print-outs. A few even think it’s not necessary to be on the Internet or have email. Seriously. And so a Canadian author has to pay attention to what specific publishers or agents want: paper or pixels.

But despite a few Canadian anachronisms, writers today must use a computer to write the final draft, however they write their first drafts.

Then last year Apple released the iPad, and things changed radically for writers again.

Up until the iPad, even with computers, writers jotted down ideas in notebooks, sketched out floor plans on paper with coloured pencils. Writers only had one copy of these things, and we panicked if they were lost. No more. The iPad allows us writers to outline, jot down ideas, sketch settings, as well as write our manuscript, all on one electronic medium.

The entire process can now be done on some form of computer. And everything can be saved and backed up to the cloud and shared with others or between our own computers.

Writers are no longer limited to physical media like the typewritten page or thumb drive.

The ability to save one’s work in the cloud means that a writer can work on a manuscript on any computer, tablet computer, or smartphone wherever we are, whenever the mood strikes or a free moment appears.

For those who like to revise on a printed copy, printing itself has undergone a change. With the advent of networked printers, one can print from anywhere on the planet to the printer at home.

In addition to all that, the traditional process of writing, revising, and editing has had a new step inserted: Beta Readers.

Beta readers love to read. They may be strangers or people in one’s writing club. They read our manuscripts and comment on anything from writing style to plot to characters to endings or mood, depending on what their strengths are as readers.

Beta Readers can often be found on social media. When we writers engage with people on Twitter and they begin to read our blogs as well and get to know our long-form writing style, they may well offer to read our manuscripts.

That is just one of the many benefits of social media. Twitter also has a thriving writer community, which holds regular writer chats. So in addition to the traditional associations like the Canadian Authors Association, which provides opportunities to meet fellow writers face-to-face in our own regions, Canadian writers can now talk with writers from all over the world in cyberspace.

After we receive feedback from our Beta Readers, we revise once more and then send out the manuscript to agents or small publishers. Or not. Publishing too has changed.

Traditionally, a book writer would seek out a publisher directly, for the publisher would handle all the chores except the writing. (The publisher choosing the title and front cover still bugs me. I cannot imagine why writers in times past gave up that control.) It was very difficult for a writer to self-publish as printing and distribution were expensive and not easy to arrange.

But that has changed. First, traditional large publishers — the big six — began accepting submissions from agents only. Only small or indie publishers accept submissions from authors directly today. An author still has to wait a week or 6 months to hear back though. Although most agents and small publishers have long since allowed simultaneous submissions, realising writers can’t waste half their lives watching the mailbox, the waiting time can still be excessive. I have already spent over a year trying to find an agent with a few nibbles but no bites.

Then the rise of print-on-demand shifted this balance of power towards the author. It has become more feasible financially for authors to self-publish and nix the long, long process of traditional publishing, although it is controversial to turn one’s back on the traditional way.

As a result, in the last decade, companies that support self-publishing authors sprang up. AuthorHouse is the big one today (I won’t use them — see my adventures with iUniverse). But there are others like Lulu and CreateSpace. They provide whatever service an author needs, from editing to printing, for a fee.

But it is the ebook that has truly exploded author emancipation.

The publishing world has been turned upside down in the last year. Ebooks cost virtually nothing (aside from the essential professional editing step) for the multi-competent writer to create.

Readers like their eReaders. Some tell me no one can pry them out of their hands. They also prefer ebooks under $6.99, maybe up to $9.99. Traditional publishers prefer to price their ebooks high — $12.99 is their low end — and release them after hard cover editions. Both readers and authors are unhappy with that.

This traditional-minded approach gives indie authors an edge. They can price their ebooks at a level readers are willing to pay and release them at the same time as the print books, thus allowing readers to buy their preferred format when the book first comes out. After all, books are written for readers. It’s not for us to tell them which format they should read first. It’s the content that’s paramount, not whether the words are printed on paper or shown in pixels.

Ebooks themselves are in transition as different companies support different formats. PubIt! by Barnes & Noble supports ePub, as does Smashwords, kobo, and Sony Reader. Amazon’s Kindle uses the mobi format. Luckily, it’s become easier to publish in all of them, thus covering eReaders from Kindle to Kobo.

Since traditional publishers support only best-selling authors fully, mid-list and small authors now have an alternative to being ignored: self-publish ebooks.

Regardless of which path an author takes, all authors, except best sellers, have to market their own work. And that’s the hardest job in writing.

But here again, the online revolution has made it easier than ever for an author. Social media is a must. Virtual book tours, book trailers on YouTube, pages on Amazon and Chapters are now possible.

A Facebook Page, Twitter, and an author website are the foundation upon which to build a marketing plan. The writer begins building this foundation while still outlining the book, and does not talk just shop online, but shows the whole of who they are. Readers like to know their authors (well, maybe not all, but followers become readers when they get to know the author as a person first, then become intrigued enough to find out about the author’s works).

The author’s Facebook Page — not Profile — shows their professional side, things like writing-related blog posts, book events, links to reviews, and so on.

Twitter is where the author converses on many different topics, showing off their various interests and connecting with other writers. It is also an excellent place to publicize one’s blog posts, books, poetry, etc. via links.

The author website will not be just for blogging but a place where people can find out about the author’s background and how to contact them (really important, contact info is), their writing, and where to buy their books or articles. It needs to be kept up to date, else people will think you, the author, have died and stopped writing.

One caveat to authors: Do not post your drafts or any part of your book online. Some writers do. But your work has value. Your blog posts and status updates are free. Your work writing, your books, are not free because they’re your income and they’re worth the money for the time and effort you’ve put into them. Treat them that way.

Goodreads is a site for readers, but it also has Author Pages, which authors can use to connect with their readers as readers themselves. The most important part of writing is reading. Here the author can foster that side long before publishing that first book.

There are many other social media sites. It’s tempting to join all of them, but over time too tiring. It’s better to focus on a few and be active on them than spread oneself out too thinly.

The move from paper to pixels lets us authors take control and speeds the publishing process; it gives readers their choice of format; and the trees flutter their leaves in joy.

Lifeliner

Last Day Lifeliner eBook on Sale!

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To finish the old year with a flourish, I have put Lifeliner on sale. Only $2.99! An inspirational story about a woman who suffered the catastrophic loss of all her bowels but whooped it up for another 20 years without eating a morsel, it is gripping readers all around the world. It will light up your New Year with Judy’s zest for life.

Click on the link, choose your preferred eBook format of choice, enter coupon code MS55X, and you’ll be immersed in this true life story in no time! http://bit.ly/aNroTb

Or if you’re an Amazon buff, check out Lifeliner on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. Bonus: now you can lend your copy of Lifeliner to anyone with an eReader or iPad.

If you need help putting the eBook on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, see my previous posts at http://jeejeebhoy.ca.

Internet and Computers

Reading Library or DRM-Locked eBooks on Your iPad

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One of the best things about my Sony Reader is that I can read library eBooks on it. One of the most frustrating things about the iPad is that I couldn’t. But on Boxing Day, I finally solved that problem.

The Toronto Public Library uses Overdrive (among other services) to stock their virtual library. The eBooks expire automatically at 21 days, or less if you so choose, which means they are DRM-locked with Adobe Digital Editions. The Sony Reader is set up to be able to recognize and open the library eBooks through its own software or Adobe Digital Editions software. The iPad isn’t. Major frustration.

Bluefire Reader app to the rescue!

I had tried iBooks, Stanza, and the Kobo apps to read library eBooks, but even though Kobo became more capable of reading PDFs and other eBooks, it stubbornly refused to recognize borrowed eBooks. Recently, I heard about Bluefire Reader on Twitter, but it wasn’t until after Christmas that I had a chance to figure out how to use it.

I began by seeing if I could read on my iPad a DRM-locked eBook that I had bought for my Sony Reader last Christmas. I loaded Bluefire Reader app on my iPad. I authorized Adobe Digital Editions on my computer then on Bluefire app. And then I followed Dear Author’s fantastic, illustrated instructions. Success!

Next, I borrowed a mystery eBook from the Toronto Public Library. Not always an easy thing because mysteries are in high demand on the Library’s site and all seem to be perpetually on hold. Then I followed Bluefire Reader’s instructions on how to get the library eBook onto the iPad. Basically,

  1. Start Adobe Digital Editions;
  2. Use it to download the library eBook;
  3. If you don’t know what folder it downloaded into, find it using Windows Explorer;
  4. Load iTunes and connect your iPad;
  5. Click the iPad device on the left side of the iTunes window and find the Apps tab at the top of the iTunes window;
  6. Scroll down, down, down until you get past the apps loaded on your iPad and reach the File Sharing section;
  7. In the left column, click on the Bluefire Reader;
  8. In the right column, you’ll see listed a couple of default books that come with Bluefire Reader;
  9. At the bottom of the right column, click Add, browse to where your borrowed eBook is, and choose it.
  10. The app adds it to the Documents list and immediately syncs it to Bluefire Reader on the iPad.
  11. Read!

Because the latest Sony Reader software seems to have a weird bug in that it loads but doesn’t show, I had to use Adobe Digital Editions to transfer the library eBook manually to the Reader. Unfortunately, I can’t use ADE to move it to my library collection on my Reader, which isn’t too much of a problem as I don’t have hundreds of eBooks on it.

So now I can read the same book — borrowed or DRM-locked or DRM-free — in the sun using my Sony Reader and in low light on my iPad or whichever one I feel like. Freedom!

Internet and Computers

Reading Any DRM-Free ePub on iPod Touch, iPad, or iPhone

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In honour of all the lucky ducks who got a new iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, Kindle, or Sony or Kobo or Nook Reader, I’m offering Lifeliner at an amazing 99¢ through Smashwords. But how do you get the eBook onto your device, you’re probably wondering. Easy — because Lifeliner is DRM-free, meaning there’s no digital lock on it so any eReader or app can read it. Here’s how.

Go to Lifeliner‘s page on Smashwords. Scroll down till you see the eBook formats available (mobi for Kindle; ePub for everyone else). Click on Buy, check out using coupon code CW95G, pay, and you’ll be returned to the Lifeliner page. At that point, you’ll be able to download your eBook format of choice.

I recommend setting up a folder for all your purchased eBooks. Whatever you name the folder, make it so you’ll remember it. (I’ve actually ended up with two or three folders — very confusing!) Through your eReader or iTunes, access your eBooks from that folder. For the Sony Reader, use either Adobe Digital Editions or the Sony Reader software to add the file to your library. I don’t know how one does it for the Kindle, but here’s how you do it for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. (For those with the Stanza app, scroll to the bottom for brief instructions.)

Open iTunes and connect your device.

I find that with my iPod Touch, it has to be on when I connect it to iTunes so that iTunes will see it.

Click on File.


In the dropdown menu, click on Add File to Library. Alternatively, use the the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-O.

Now browse to where you downloaded your ePub file. Choose that one and click OK.

iTunes will automatically put it in the Books section under Library, which you can check by clicking on that menu item in the left sidebar under Library.

You still need to sync your Books to your iPod or iPad. To do that, click on your device in the lefthand column. And then click on the Books tab at the top of the iTunes window. You will see the books that you’ve added. Now check the box next to Sync Books. And either keep the default All Books or check Select Books then check the books you want to sync.

The first time I did that, iTunes told me it would delete all my other media if I did that. Why, I have absolutely no idea. Seems totally nutty to me that if you sync books, iTunes will delete your music, which you then have to reinstall but won’t be deleted again next time you sync your books (I think). This was not an issue for me with my iPad as I had no music on it as books were the first thing I synced. And I don’t actually remember it deleting all my music off my iPod Touch when I synced a book. It seems to be one of these weird Apple things that may or may not happen.  Go ahead and click the Apply button at the bottom right if you’re feeling experimental. It will sync your eBooks to all your eReader apps on your device.

Alternatively, try the File Sharing option. This is one I’ve just learnt about. It is a bit of a pain if you have several eReader apps like I do as you can only add the ePub one at a time to each app. But if you are only using one or two, then it’s not so bad.

After you select your device in the lefthand column, instead of clicking on the Books tab at the top of the iTunes window, click on Apps.

Scroll down, way down to the bottom until you see File Sharing. You will then see a box with the apps listed on the left side that allow file sharing. All your eReader apps will be listed there. Click on the eReader app you want to add Lifeliner to. At the bottom of the box, on the right side, is the Add button. Click that; browse to where you downloaded the ePub file; choose that; and it will be immediately added to the Documents list and synced to your device.

For those who have the Stanza app on their iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, there is one last method: buy Lifeliner through the Smashwords store in your Stanza app. It’s as easy as launching the app on your device and going to the Smashwords store under Get Books — it’s under Bookstores on that page. I believe you’ll be able to use the coupon code CW95G that way too.

Enjoy!

Internet and Computers

My Top Ten iPad Apps

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It’s been awhile since I last blogged on the iPad – I’m having too much fun with it. It’s become indispensable, my second second brain. After several months of use, these have become my Top Ten iPad Apps.

10. Flipboard. Everybody’s flipped out over Flipboard. I find it the easiest way to read Facebook updates; it’s more attractive with way fewer distractions than Facebook on the web. I also use it to read news, occasionally catch up on tech news, and feast on a few photos. It’s a treat for the eyes.

9. Office2 HD. This is an affordable, easy-to-use word processor. It works well with files on Dropbox or locally on the iPad. There’s no lag time, and it recognizes all the buttons on the bluetooth keyboard (which is why this is in my Top Ten list and not QuickOffice. QO is good to ensure files will open seamlessly in Word, otherwise it’s slow, unintuitive, and doesn’t recognize the cursor keys on the bluetooth keyboard). Office2 HD is a great substitute for your favourite word processor on your computer. Affordable too.

8. Notes. This is the default notetaking app for the iPad. It’s simple to use, has a nice interface, and works with the keyboard to allow you to type up quick notes. I use it primarily for writing out steps for routine tasks.

7. Penultimate. If you want to hand write notes or do quick sketches, this exceptional app is for you. Penultimate’s wrist protection works extremely well. As of the most recent update, it allows you to title notebooks easily and in the grid view to see the most recently opened page in each notebook. I used it to brainstorm character sketches, plot points, themes, and other notes on my novels.

6. Index Card. I’d been looking for an outlining program, and I’d used the index card feature in Final Draft on the computer. Index Card beats Final Draft hollow and is exactly what I needed. I like the fact that one can colour code the cards, which lets me see the structure of my novel laid out in colour. It’s easy to title the index card, write on it, flip it over to add notes you don’t want to print out, then move on to the next or previous card or return to the whole view of all the cards. I was able to see problems in my next novel’s outline as a result of this app.

5. Noterize. Another note-taking app, but Noterize’s strength is in importing PDF files from Dropbox or many other locations and allowing you to mark it up with hand writing, post-its, or highlighting. You can then save to Dropbox or email or to a host of other locations as a PDF. The wrist protection is not as good as Penultimate’s and emailing is a bit iffy; otherwise it’s a well-designed app. I used it to fill in worksheets as I developed character details for my novel.

4. FlickStackr. Flickr has a good website, though it’s a bit cluttered and requires more clicks for routine tasks after its recent changes. That’s why I like FlickStackr. There’s no distractions, like the Start bar or location maps next to the photo or Flickr’s menu bar. All you see is the photo. Press an icon, and the photo flips over, and you see the description, title, and a place to add comments. If it’s your own photo, you can edit the location, tags, groups, description way more easily than in Flickr. My only beef is that I can’t change the date and time on the photos, and I can’t follow my favourite group’s discussion. But those are minor. This is the best way to Flickr on the iPad.

3. Corkulous. I wrote about this fab app in a previous post. If you’re visually inclined, get this app. It’s perfect for brainstorming, setting out goals, working out steps for a project.

2. Pocket Informant HD. I wrote about this in a previous post. One word: indispensable. It is both a calendar and a task app, the only app that does both on the iPad. And because they’ve been in the biz for years designing apps for Palm, Blackberry, iPhone, they know what busy — and organizationally challenged — people need to stay on top of their lives.

1. Twitterrific. If you’re a Twitter addict, Twitterrific is the best app for the iPad. After using this, I find TweetDeck too busy visually speaking and Twitter for the web clunky and confusing. Echofon for the iPhone/iPod Touch is a close second. This app makes it fast and easy to read links, easy to see mentions and direct messages, and provides a lot of useful features to help you follow conversations or see and individual’s tweets and stats.

The iPad. I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

(Blogged on the iPad with BlogPress, a new addition to my iPad.)

Brain Power

Best Two iPad Apps For Organization

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As I wrote previously, I bought the Apple iPad for two reasons: to compensate for brain injury-related issues and for my work as a writer. Today’s post is about the former.

A huge problem people with brain injuries face is, IMHO, the inability to organize, initiate, and to get things done from start to finish. Even if something gets us going, the silliest small thing can stop us in our tracks. Organizing is a cognitive activity, requiring mental energy, which people with brain injuries have little of. Fatigue is a constant whine to stop.

The culprit: a damaged prefrontal cortex. That area is responsible for turning chaos into organization, for initiating and motivating, for making choices, in short, executive functioning.

It sucks not to have it. It sucks less to have a partially healed one, but still sucks.

Many of us rely on handhelds and computers as our second brain, for the executive function and memory. And although the best help is human help, especially for large projects — like writing a novel! — the more computers can do for us, the more independent we can be because human help is often not available or in short supply.

After I switched from my Palm Tungsten e to the Apple iPod Touch, I bought Pocket Informant (PI), the closest calendaring app to Datebk for the Palm, the very best calendar and task app I’ve used. PI is the only app that has both event and task scheduling. Other apps are either events or tasks, not very useful in the real world of appointments and phone calls, coffee hookups and washing dishes. PI is easy to use immediately; it organizes tasks using the Franklin Covey, Toodledo, or Getting Things Done (GTD) method; and it has a robust and active help forum where the developers answer questions and respond to feedback quickly. It’s important to have quick access to help since most of these apps don’t come with extensive manuals and, if you’re like me, they’re too difficult to comprehend anyway.

PI syncs wirelessly with Google Calendar, Outlook, iCal, and Toodledo. They are working on other sync arrangements, including the native Apple calendar in the next update. Syncing ensures your schedule is backed up elsewhere and allows you to check your schedule no matter where you are or if you’ve forgotten your handheld (assuming you’re close to a computer).

PI recently released its app for the iPad. And wow, has it ever made a difference to me being able to see and perceive my schedule.

I’d been working with a therapist on creating a task list of everything I had to do, similar to what David Allen of Getting Things Done fame advocates. The problem was that it made no sense to me. Visually the list was a jumble — even though we’d tagged all the tasks, put due dates on only the immediate ones, and made just the ones for the coming week “Next Action” items. Every time I saw my list of projects and tasks, it overwhelmed and paralyzed me. I couldn’t make a decision when it came time to setting priorities. Sure, I knew what the steps were to choose and schedule a task, but doing them…not happening. My prefrontal cortext balked. I thought it was all about the visuals. But when I saw my schedule on PI for the iPad, I immediately saw that the task and projects lists were too long. There was too much content. Plus all this content, all this information was in text, which is hard for me to distinguish anyway. I knew immediately what I had to do.

I’d read about Corkulous on Inkygirl’s iPad blog, and I downloaded it. Corkulous creates corkboards on which you can put photos, sticky notes, labels, task lists, and nested corkboards.

CorkulousJeejeebhoy.JPGI took all the tasks that I didn’t have to do in the foreseeable future out of PI and put them into Corkulous. For each task, I found a photo that represented that task. For example, I want to work on my CafePress items regularly, so I found a photo of one of my CafePress items and put that at the top of the corkboard I’d labelled “Goals Pending.” Underneath, I put a small label to explain it. I repeated that for all the tasks but ones I couldn’t think of a photo to represent it.

What a relief!

The task list in PI was suddenly manageable. I could see my current priorities easily — and only my current priorities. Decision making became easier. The options seem fewer even though they are really the same as before but are no longer cluttered up with all my other inbox tasks.

I then created a Current Goals corkboard. Again I used photos to represent each of my current goals: script, Lifeliner marketing, She, new novel. Then I made it my iPad’s Lock Screen. Corkulous allows you to quickly take a snapshot of your Corkboard; under Wallpaper in the iPad’s settings, you choose that snapshot under Saved Photos for your Lock Screen. That way you can see what your priorities are every time you turn on your iPad, but aren’t dunned over the head with it as you would be if you made it your Home Screen. You can also quickly change it every time you update the Current Goals corkboard. Once I complete a current goal, I can then move up a pending goal into the current goal corkboard, or at least that’s the idea. Deciding which pending goal to move up, well, that will be tough.

I look at Corkulous for a quick visual reminder of my priorities before scheduling my week in PI. Scheduling is still not that easy — choosing which priority to focus on, being able to break it into actionable steps, figuring out how much time it will take and when I’ll be most mentally alert to spend that time — all that I still need help with. Sure, I can muddle through on my own, and these apps make it much more doable, but over the long term chaos slowly takes over my mind and without that short conversation, that comment that lights up my brain to see the solution, I go from being organized to reactive and less functional. And so I’m still looking for that computer replacement for decision making and initiation (or a way to use audiovisual entrainment to get it to work better).

One more tip: Most task and scheduling apps use the Getting Things Done method. They aren’t very good at replicating the Franklin Covey method. I finally bought the book by Allen. Understanding how he does things helps in understanding the task options in PI. And using colours to distinguish between kinds of tasks and events, e.g., pink for personal, blue for medical, helps you to visually understand your schedule better.

Brain Power

iPad Thoughts

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The iPad is a nifty device. Seemingly a toy before you buy, with its bright screen and magazine size, it quickly replaces one’s computer for regular chores like e-mailing, keeping up with Twitter, managing one’s schedule, surfing, reading. It’s more portable and lasts longer on battery power than a laptop. And unlike a computer, it doesn’t emit great gobs of heat, perfect for using during a heat wave.

First Use

The first thing I wanted to do with my new toy was to see my eBook Lifeliner without purchasing it through iBookstore. To do so, since I didn’t know how to create the Books folder in iTunes, I first downloaded a free book (Aesop’s Fables, my favourite as a kid) through the iBooks app on my iPad, then I synced it so that “Books” showed up under Library in iTunes on my computer. There was one odd thing: when I clicked on Sync Books in iTunes on the computer, it popped up a message warning me it would delete all music, TV shows, and movies off my iPad. Since I had none, I didn’t care. But why would they be deleted? On subsequent syncs, that message didn’t pop up.

Once I verified I had the ePub version of Lifeliner on my computer, I clicked File/Add File to Library in iTunes. I found the ePub file and clicked on it. iTunes brought it into the Books folder. I clicked on the iPad under Devices, clicked the Books tab, and then the Sync button at the bottom. And there it was on my bookshelf, next to Aesop’s Fables! It looks OK, and I was pleased to see that the ending image shows up properly in full colour and sized appropriately (the only eReader in which it does). The clickable links and Table of Contents also work! Yay!! There are two ways to use the ToC: press on the links while reading the book or press on the ToC icon at the top of the page — the icon actually renders the ToC beautifully.

Reading

Many have said it’s easy to read books on the iPad. But like trying to use your brain after you’ve injured it, you really only can tell what’s easier, physically, to read when your eyes are tired and/or hurting. Hands down, the easiest to read is paper, non-glossy paper like in paperbacks or newspapers, closely followed by glossy magazine-style paper. The second-easiest is eInk. Both paper and eInk send no light waves your way. No light waves means no photons bombarding your eyes while you’re trying to use them in close up work. That’s my theory anyway. The hardest on your eyes, physically, is the iPad and your computer screen (and some screens are really awful). And unlike some claims, it isn’t easy reading the iPad in the sunlight. There’s a huge amount of reflection; you have to hold it at a certain angle, which can become tiring, to minimize the reflection; and you have to turn up the brightness to full, not a which is rather draining on the battery. eInk, on the other hand, is a treat to read in the sunlight. However, in terms of clarity, the text on the iPad is beautiful and comes in several fonts of your choice. You can also choose sepia-toned paper for less contrasty reading.

The only problem with eInk right now is the contrast. It needs to become as readable as paper in low light, and it needs to have higher contrast, like paper. Even so, if it’s a competition between my iPad and Sony Reader in most good light situations, I’ll choose the Reader for straight text. I’ll choose the iPad for multimedia type publications like magazines and newspapers and multimedia books — whenever ones I like hit the market. I’ll also choose the iPad for night-time reading but not bedtime reading as I can see how the bright screen can interfere with falling asleep. The Sony Reader doesn’t. In fact, the Sony allows me to read more challenging books than Agatha Christies, by showing me unembellished pages of text and as little text as I want to see, which minimizes visual distraction, a problem for those with brain injuries. And so I find I fall asleep faster from the brain use. The Stanza app is like the Reader in showing just text. The iBooks app is neat in how it looks like a book but is more distracting visually. For those with brain injuries, I’d recommend either an eInk eReader like the Sony or the Stanza app.

Editing

I wrote very differently before my brain injury than I do now. Before, I hand wrote the first draft, edited it with a pen ( with lots of great big Xs driven through paragraphs), and then typed it in to the computer. I always printed off a draft and edited it with a red pen, green for final proof-reading. But the 2000 car crash weakened my dominant arm (again, for the second time. Sigh, really hate stupid drivers, always screwing up my arm because of the seatbelt grabbing me), and it caused big changes in my brain, including how I write. Now I type everything in: original and edits. I never print and mark up by hand with a pen. Oh sure, I tried. It didn’t work.

When I got my Reader and learnt I could annotate a PDF file using the stylus — a tech version of marking up with pen — I thought wow, I can go back to the way I was. It was pretty easy to write notes on the Reader. And handling the stylus was familiar because of all the years I had a Palm. But, you know, it just isn’t me, the me I am now.

I came to that realisation when I checked out iAnnotate for the iPad, which I thought might be easier than the Reader. It has colour, allows for highlighting, underlining, typing in notes. But to me it sounded more and more like way too much work. So much faster and easier to pull up my file on my computer and type away. I will experiment with using a word processor substitute on the iPad for when I want to write away from my computer. The iPad’s superior battery power means being able to use it for as long as I can in a cafe without worrying about it dying and my work disappearing (yes, I do have AutoSave on everything).

I’m not sure if an app on the iPad can help me with my problem with forgetting what I’ve written. I have to outline because of that and update it as I write to ensure I know where I am in the book, both when writing it and editing later.

As for the physical act of typing on the iPad, I took to it like a duck to water. Even so, I find the screen hard on my fingers. That’s why I bought the wireless keyboard, a light easy-to-use accessory. The iPad seamlessly recognizes it, and automatically doesn’t load up the onscreen keyboard once the wireless one is connected. It does take some getting used to touching the screen instead of using a mouse to navigate, but that’s just a habit to form. And if you get the Apple case, you can stand the iPad up on its end so it speak so that it’s like a computer screen, which means less neck strain as you don’t have to look down but more straight ahead while typing.

Blogging

I have two blogs I update weekly. I use blogging software on my computer for the most part and must admit Windows Live Writer is superior (trying not to gag on admitting Microsoft can do something well). I considered blogging on my iPod Touch, but the screen is just too small. I used the WordPress app on my iPad for my first iPad post. But it was really, really, really basic. I couldn’t even italicize. The best it’s good for is to type up a draft, which I’d finish on the computer.

But then I was reading reviews on iPad blogging software and one savvy person pointed out that you could blog in the blogging client itself because Safari on the iPad shows websites nicely. Aside from it being free, it has the added advantage of looking the same whether I’m on my iPad or computer when drafting and polishing off a post. But there’s a problem — you can’t scroll inside a frame, which can make for some difficult moments when editing a longer-than-the-frame size post. Too much work. It’s also easy to inadvertently delete an entire post by grazing the iPad screen. In fact, it’s taking me awhile to get used to keeping my hand off the screen and only touching it with my finger, as the iPad is so sensitive to touch. So after further experimenting, I am pretty much back to writing a post on my laptop, but that might change if I find a good blogging app.

Weather

For weather junkies like Canadians, the weather apps are one of the neatest features of the iPad. Checking the weather from my laptop is OK. But after I got my iPod Touch and downloaded the Yahoo! weather app, I found that much easier and faster. Though a bit off the mark, it was clear and concise; it showed immediately the info I was most interested in.

After checking out reviews and screenshots of weather apps, I settled on AccuWeather for the iPad. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to change it to metric — click that thingy icon on the lower right side to pop up icons for different options; flick the icons to the left until you get to settings; switch to metric.

AccuWeather has a busier look than my iPod Touch app. It’s hard to see at first what day I’m looking at. After the most recent update, it shows the current temp automatically in portrait mode and through a button in landscape mode. The neat thing about it is that it has all sorts of extra info like wind speed and direction. And if you press on that thingy icon on the lower right, then flick to lifestyle, you’ll find all sorts of useful goodies — once your eyes (or maybe it’s the brain) sorts out the details in the immense list of things like dog walking, migraine risk, jogging forecast, mosquito risk, arthritis risk, asthma risk, hair frizz risk (hey, don’t laugh, it’s necessary to know this) and so on and so on.

For a quick check of the weather, I still use my iPod. For a more detailed check, including risks, I use my iPad.

Newspapers and Magazines

I don’t subscribe to the Saturday edition of The Toronto Star because, for whatever reason, the delivery person will not assemble it.  I got fed up trying to find the main paper and other favourite sections in the pile that was left on my doorstep. (As a Star carrier when a teen, I would’ve gotten heck if I hadn’t assembled the paper. Clearly, standards for adult carriers are way lower.) I would occasionally read The Saturday Star (or Sunday) on my iPod Touch on Safari, using The Star’s mobile website. Like any mobile website, the text was clear, easy to read, but the number of articles was limited. I missed reading Rosie’s column. So to find I can read the full website on the iPad — nice! I can read my favourite columnists and see photos clearly. I just gotta be careful not to get breakfast crumbs on my iPad.

One of the much-ballyhooed features of the iPad was interactive magazines. Well, there aren’t a whole heck of a lot of them. (Oprah has announced O Magazine will launch an interactive version later.) And the interactivity of the four featured in Zinio — a magazine app — was nice but minimal. There’s a Text button that lets you read just the text, distraction free. Again, a good feature for those of us who have trouble reading magazines because of the distracting ads and photos and bad fonts and layout (hear me, Maclean’s?). One magazine had a slide show button that popped up photos in full screen, but it was a bit slow. Blue-surrounded text are links to other pages for more information, also a nice feature. And that was it for interactivity.

I would’ve liked to have seen small text on large photos appear in a pop-up box over the photo with a press of the finger to make it readable while still being able to see the photo. Videos of fashion photo shoots would’ve been nice. Videos of news, like The Toronto Star sometimes has on its website, would’ve been nice. Animated illustrations would’ve been nice.

For now, I’ll stick to the Maclean’s mobile app on my iPod Touch and occasionally check out featured interactive magazines until the publishers get their act together.

Social Media

I absolutely can’t stand the Facebook website. They’ve changed it so often, I find it confusing and have given up on trying to keep up. I almost exclusively use the Facebook app for the iPod Touch. It’s concise, clear, if finicky sometimes. But I can’t keep up with my groups through it (or at least I don’t know how if you can), which is why my group participation has fallen right off. For FB status updates, I use TweetDeck on my computer. The iPod Touch app and TweetDeck for the desktop will remain my way of interacting with FB because, believe it or not, there is no FB app for the iPad. And resizing the iPod Touch app on the iPad is a bit clunky.

Echofon on the iPod Touch is a super little free app (except for the odd crash) for Twitter. I use it to check Twitter, my total addiction, when my computer’s not on, or even when it is, the chief reason being that I can scroll through lots of tweets quickly when I want to catch up. Both Twitter’s website and TweetDeck are inefficient on that score. For status updates on FB and Twitter at the same time, TweetDeck for the desktop is the way to go. TweetDeck has an app for the iPad. I like its cute little notepaper look when you enter a status update — but it only updates Twitter and is more limited in options than the desktop version. However, after experiencing several problems with TweetDeck not updating tweets or dropping tweets, I started using the Twitterrific app for the iPad. It’s opening bird tweets when it brings tweets up to date can be a bit annoying — you must be able to turn it off — but it doesn’t have the problems as TweetDeck, shows the tweets in larger size, and is easier to read any of your lists or see your mentions or direct messages by simply pressing the appropriate link.

I’m still a newbie with LinkedIn, and I use its own website on my computer exclusively. Because Safari on the iPad has so much more real estate than on the iPod Touch, I may log in through the iPad as well.

Other

One of the big things Steve Jobs was excited about was watching videos on the iPad. Well, as I mentioned in a previous post, it was not so hot. Videos that keep stopping or stall altogether does not make for a good viewing experience. Other people have noted that the 4:3 ratio is a bit old school, but if the iPad showed 16:9 in full screen sans upper and lower black bars, the size of it would be a bit awkward. That part doesn’t bother me, it’s being unable to watch a video seamlessly that does. Since the recent update, video playback is better, but still not perfect.

One good video app is by the NFB. The NFB (National Film Board of Canada) library is extensive, and its app for the iPad is much better than for the iPod Touch because of the bigger real estate. However, for me, the Watch Later feature doesn’t work. But I enjoy watching a short film when I need a break.

Multimedia books is the other big promise of the iPad. That has yet to be delivered, but with the recent update of iBooks to allow for reading eBooks with audio and video and with Penguin now releasing multimedia books as apps, that will soon come to fruition, and for writers like me, it opens up exciting possibilities. Next: being able to play your favourite books as video games.

WiFi was spotty until Apple finally, at last got around to fixing it with its recent update. It’s more reliable now — so far. As for WiFi vs 3G, I don’t need 3G. In Canada, cell companies charge a fortune for data usage or even just yakking. And with the proliferation of WiFi in cafes around Toronto and with it now being free in Starbucks, really who needs 3G, except on the bus or subway? And on there, I’d rather listen to the music on my iPod  Touch.

Because Apple is being a controlling pain, Pocket Informant for the iPad has not yet been released. They rejected it once for one line of code — one line! — and now they’re taking longer to OK the fix. Over a week now. Sigh. However, I’m hoping that this app will help me better manage my schedule. Organizing, initiation, creating schedules are all challenges for those with brain injury and usually require human help. And so a good app that can replace human help for the most part would be a godsend. Although human help is the preferred way, for many of us, it’s not going to happen. That’s where technology comes in. And that was one of my hopes for the iPad. We shall see.

Internet and Computers

Will Apple Finally Get Serious About Fixing Connectivity Issues on iPad and iPhone?

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I still like my Apple iPad but am rather peeved with Apple.

I’ve had my iPad for just over a week now. I got it for two main reasons: to see if it could help me in my writing life and if it could improve my functionality, get around my brain injury limitations. I haven’t yet decided on the improve-my-organization aspect of the iPad, but I already know its bugginess is a serious headache.

Apple touts its iPad as an e-mail, web surfing machine with amazing video capabilities. When Apple released this game changer, it was way ahead of the competition and already had had years of experience with the iPod Touch and iPhone. So you’d think that the two things Apple touts would work fine.

Well, no.

First Bug

All I wanted to do was watch a TV show. But first, Steve Jobs absolutely refuses to allow Flash on his products. That meant I couldn’t watch what I wanted on television channel websites as they use Flash. Second, whether it’s YouTube or the NFB (National Film Board of Canada) app, no video will play seamlessly that’s more than about 5 minutes long. I have the same problem on my iPod Touch. In fact, it’s so bad on the iPod that I gave up watching any YouTube video and the NFB app altogether. Not worth the hassle.

But after seeing the iPad launch, listening to the hype, I figured the iPad would have no such problems. Wrong!

I gather part of the problem with YouTube is its mobile or touch pad interfaces and that its app is not as good as going to YouTube on Safari. The latter is true. I finally ended up using its desktop interface as a way to force the video to load all the way. Even then, more often than not, it would conk out midway, or worse, a couple minutes from the end – unless the video was shorter than 5 minutes. Meanwhile, a short film will also play uninterrupted in the NFB app (or a video podcast). Short being about 5 minutes. Any longer than that, and it’ll start and stop, start and stop. But at least it will eventually load all the way. Is that because the servers at the NFB end are not up to the task? And how could the servers be a problem with YouTube, when on the computer, I have no such loading and watching problems?

Whatever the reason, the iPad sucks as a video watching machine.

Second Bug

I have the WiFi-only iPad as data rates in Canada are usurious. But no prob I thought even though I already knew my iPod Touch loses the WiFi signal after it’s been asleep or has a weak signal when my laptop pulls in WiFi just fine. The iPod Touch also doesn’t seem to like certain kinds of WiFi though Apple says it works. But the iPad is worse.

The iPad will suddenly, for no reason, stop connecting while you’re in the middle of something on the Internet or sending an e-mail, and will ask you for the WiFi password. Lovely. It’s done it so many times, I have, believe it or not, memorized that long string of characters. A few people recommended resetting network settings. I’ve done that twice. Each time, iPad behaves itself for a day or two.

But I’m getting fed up. Today, right when I was working with my therapist on my calendar online, boom, iPad dropped the connection and absolutely refused to remake it, even with the password. I had to reset the network settings before we could continue. How unprofessional. And what a waste of both our time.

Occasionally, iPad will also have the won’t-connect-after-sleep problem that the iPod Touch has, in which case I have to go into Settings to choose my network.

When I Googled about this issue, I found many articles dating from May 11th, extolling Apple for coming out with a WiFi fix. But with further digging, I realised that was just Apple making a grand announcement to the media to get everyone to shut up about it because my iPad, purchased two months later, has the same OS number as existed back in May. Apple has not released a fix to date. I cannot imagine any other company taking this long to release a critical fix and getting away with it without causing a brouhaha across the Net.

Twitter PC Mag Consumer Reports Print Screen 12-July-2010

But maybe now that Consumer Reports has come out and said don’t buy the iPhone 4 – after waves of articles pointing out that a cell phone that can’t make calls is really, uh, stupid and after weeks of Apple saying we’re going to release a fix – Apple will get serious about its connectivity issues. As for the video problems, I don’t see a fix coming at all.

It really is too bad that there’s no competition for the iPad.