A Quick Intro to Markdown Writer

Markdown Writer is an application I threw together because 1. I love Scrivener and 2. I hate configuring Scrivener’s export options. This post isn’t going to be anything resembling an exhaustive documentation of features; instead, it’ll be just enough to get you up and running.

Step One: Install Pandoc

Markdown Writer uses Pandoc on the back end to convert from it’s native format to ePub (and other formats). You can grab Pandoc for Mac, Windows, and Linux here.

Step Two: Download Markdown Writer

You can grab the Mac version of Markdown Writer here, and the Windows/Linux version here. Just unzip and put in in your Applications or Program Files directory.

Step Three: Point Markdown Writer at Pandoc

Open Markdown Writer, and in the toolbar, click Help > Preferences. A dialog will pop open, where you can tell Markdown Writer where you installed Pandoc. On Mac, this is probably /usr/local/bin/pandoc. You can also use this screen to point to KindleGen, if you want support for creating .Mobi files.

Step Four: Create your masterpiece

Markdown Writer’s composition features are similar to Scrivener’s, or at least the subset of Scrivener features I ever used. You can create folders and documents, move things around, rename them, and add metadata. To create an ePub (or other export format), go to File > Export and choose your options.

Markdown Writer supports Markdown as it’s native format, which is documented in Help > Show Help. Hint: if you’re just creating HTML, ePub, or Mobi, you can also code directly in HTML without losing anything.

Markdown Writer is just some software I threw together for my own use. It works for what I do, but I offer no guarantees of usefulness, extend no warrant, et cetera et cetera. Use at your own risk. Back everything up, regularly. This is always a good idea, but especially when you’re using beta software.

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Wicked Lasers’ Light …er, Laser Saber

VentureBeat brings us news that Wicked Lasers has come closer than anyone else to creating a working lightsaber:

Pretty cool. Dangerous as all hell, but pretty cool.

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Microsoft buy almost 20% of Nook

Engadget is reporting that Microsoft is investing $300 Million into Barnes & Noble’s Nook, forming a “strategic partnership”. I have absolutely no idea what this means for the publishing industry, but it is nice to see the underdog eReader getting someone to stand in its corner.

Update

Digital Book World reports that this is aiming largely at digital classroom material:

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble will collaborate on “management and distribution of online course materials” and will “build a robust platform for digital and physical distribution of course materials, providing schools with unrivaled course management and retail services,” said [Barnes & Noble CEO William] Lynch.

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Introducing Google Drive

From the Official Google Blog:

You can get started with 5GB of storage for free—that’s enough to store the high-res photos of your trip to the Mt. Everest, scanned copies of your grandparents’ love letters or a career’s worth of business proposals, and still have space for the novel you’re working on. You can choose to upgrade to 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or even 1TB for $49.99/month. When you upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage will also expand to 25GB.

Drive is built to work seamlessly with your overall Google experience. You can attach photos from Drive to posts in Google+, and soon you’ll be able to attach stuff from Drive directly to emails in Gmail. Drive is also an open platform, so we’re working with many third-party developers so you can do things like send faxes, edit videos and create website mockups directly from Drive. To install these apps, visit the Chrome Web Store—and look out for even more useful apps in the future.

This is just the beginning for Google Drive; there’s a lot more to come.

Get started with Drive today at drive.google.com/start—and keep looking for Nessie…

That sound you hear? That was the sound of DropBox pooping themselves.

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Tupac hologram roundup

From the “headlines I never thought I’d write department”, Gizmodo has a series of articles on the digital reincarnation of Tupac and Nate Dogg.

First up is this video, which shows Tupac and the D-O-Double-G (someone’s going to throw something at me, aren’t they?) performing at Coachella*:

It’s kind of freaky, honestly. The Tupac CGI cost somewhere between $100,000 and $400,000. How did they pull it off? This article explains that it’s actually a bit of nineteenth century stage magic called Pepper’s Ghost. From Wikipedia:

Pepper’s ghost is an illusionary technique used in theatre and in some magic tricks. Using a plate glass and special lighting techniques, it can make objects seem to appear or disappear, transparent, or make one object seem to morph into another. It is named after John Henry Pepper, who first demonstrated the technique in the 1860s.

Finally, this article has some (very sparse) details on how they made two dead men sing a song together:

Smith said he wasn’t allowed to talk about the creative aspects of the production – including how the hologram was able to seemingly perform the set in synch with Snoop and whether all the vocals were ‘Pac’s – but he did say that his company has the ability to recreate long-dead figures and visually recreate them in the studio. “You can take their likenesses and voice and … take people that haven’t done concerts before or perform music they haven’t sung and digitally recreate it,” he said.

So there we are, folks. We can take dead people and have them say and do things they never said and did. We’re … let’s say five years away from actors licensing the digital representation of their bodies and voices and appearing in movies without ever setting foot on a set. That’s awesome … and kinda scary.

* WTF is Coachella, you ask? I don’t have a goddamn clue, and I’m way to lazy to Google it.

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New Nook Touch glows in the dark

BOOM. I’m surprised they beat Amazon to market with one of these. It’s available for preorder now.

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Chrome OS Introduces Aura Window Manager

Chrome OS, the webapp-only operating system from Google, has been updated with a new window manager, making it a lot more like Windows or Mac OS and less like a glorified web browser.

Aura window manager for Chrome OS

There’s nothing particularly special about this – a window manager is kind of a window manager at this point – but the fact that they’re moving toward a more traditional application switching model is interesting. Still, until Scrivener runs on it, it’s kind of useless to me.

Geek.com has more, as does Slashdot.

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Amazon experimenting with front-lit Kindle

Back-lit LCS, like your computer or cell phone, can be hard to read. eInk, on the other hand – the stuff used in the Kindle and Nook Simple Touch – are a lot easier on the eyes, and can be used outdoors.

But they can’t be used at night, which makes a built-in front light, a light built into the bevel around the screen that shines onto the eInk, and not out from it, an obvious addition.

Amazon agrees, and is experimenting with a front-lit Kindle.

Of course, they’ve patented the technology. You know what? I’m not even mad at Amazon about this. I’m mad at the US Patent office, who keeps giving out this ass-headed patents.

(via Slashdot)

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BrowserQuest – Open source, HTML 5 game

This looks enough like the classic Zeldas that it tripped my happy switch, and the shot where the guy is controlling the same instance of the game on his computer and phone at the same time is amazing. I might actually grab the source code to this just to see how they pulled some of this stuff off.

(via BoingBoing)

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Homebrew Tricorder

We really are living in the future. When I grew up, there were three things I desperately wanted: a Start Trek communicator, a phaser, and a tricorder. Cell phones outpaces the communicator a few years ago, and we’re still waiting on the phasers. But Dr. Peter Jansen of McMaster University has brought the tricorder to life.

Tricorder Mark 1

His Tricorder project – which looks amazingly like the television prop – combines atmospheric, electromagnetic, and spatial sensors into a single handheld package. And, for the hardware geeks in the audience, the plans and code are available under open source licenses.

So far he’s released two version, the proof-of-concept Mark 1 and the more refined Mark II.

(via Slashdot)

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