Tar Heel Reader

French language interface

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Today’s updates to Tar Heel Reader included a new French translation. On the front page, simply select Français in the language selection box and click the globe button.

Hardware errors

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I have been alerted that the computer that runs Tar Heel Reader is having some hardware problems. We have a very capable team who are investigating. They may have to reboot the computer multiple times to get things fixed.

So, if the site goes away, know that folks are working hard to get it back up and stable.

And, if you’re writing a book you better save early and often.

$50,000 Writing Contest for Tar Heel Reader Users

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Enter the Story Share $50,000 Writing Contest for a chance to win the Grand Prize of $10,000 and help teen and adult beginning readers. Visit www.StoryShareContest.com to submit your story today!

Story Share is a contest that seeks to inspire writers and educators to author engaging stories with age-appropriate characters and themes for readers 13+ who read below grade level. The largest individual prize is $10K. The contest is open now and runs through December 8, 2013. Winners will be announced in January, 2014.

 

Beware iOS7 upgrade

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Updated: 14 October 2013

Now that I’ve bought a new Mac and gotten setup to debug it seems to work. I guess they just wanted me to buy a new computer ;-)

Let me know if you see problems with Tar Heel Reader on iOS7.

I have read that the Safari browser app is very buggy in this new release and I’m already getting reports that Tar Heel Reader is not working properly on it.

I don’t have a device to test on but will get one ASAP. You would be well served by avoiding the upgrade on devices that you intend to use with Tar Heel Reader.

Audio not working with Firefox 23 on Windows

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Update: 6 September 2013. I have pushed a change to production that should work around this bug.

I got a bug report and have verified that speech is not working (except in classic mode) when using the latest release of Firefox on Windows 7. This is caused by a bug in Firefox. They know about it and have prepared a fix but it won’t be available for a while.

I’m trying to think of a work around. If you can use Google Chrome in the meantime, I recommend you do that.

No book writing 25 July from 4PM to 10PM PDT

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The Flickr picture repository we use for pictures has informed us that they have scheduled a maintenance outage for Thursday 25 July 2013 from 4PM to 10PM Pacific Daylight Time. Everything on the site should work during that time except searching for pictures on the Write page.

Copyrighted Images and Tar Heel Reader

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Because Tar Heel Reader is a copyright-free site, you must use photos from Flickr Creative Commons or photos you own. Please do not upload photos you find at other photo sources on the web. If you upload pictures for use in your books you will now have to checkoff that you have permission to use them before you can publish your book. The new checkbox will appear just above the Publish button only when you upload images.

Uploading rotated pictures

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I have modified the code for uploading pictures so that they will be properly rotated if they contain the necessary EXIF information. This should help those of you who are uploading pictures from your phones and tablets.

Read your draft books

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On the Your Books page you can now read your draft books. Click the book name and then select the Read button. This may be a partial solution for those of you who want to create books that are not shared with everyone.

New features when creating books

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When writing a book you’ll see a new icon in the upper left of the edit page dialog. Clicking this icon will make a copy of the page you’re currently editing. This can help when you need to say more on a page than will fit in the caption area. Simply duplicate the page and continue your thought.

The maximum image upload has been increased to 10 megabytes.

And I have fixed a bug that caused editing a draft book to fail if you rearranged the pages.

Improved search and a bug fix

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I will release a new version of the software tonight with two changes.

First, you will be able to search for phrases by enclosing your search in double quote characters. For example the search string The Rescue will find books that have the words The and Rescue anywhere while the query string "The Rescue" will only find books that have the two words one after the other.

The second change should fix a bug that has been troubling those of you who are stuck using Internet Explorer. Certain books such as Abraham Lincoln’s Contributions to America would cause an error because of the way the apostrophe in the URL is encoded. I think I have fixed that.

That second change required updating code at the very foundations of the site so, as always, be on the lookout for new bugs.

Users of old browsers rejoice!

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I believe I have fixed a bug that has been tormenting those of you using old versions of Firefox. If you’ve been depending on classic mode, try the site in its modern mode and see if it works better now. As always, report any bugs you see.

Maps are back!

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I’ve got the maps showing where your books have been read working again. They aren’t yet being updated automatically but I’ll try to keep them up to date. Check the map for the whole site and, if you are logged in, for your books at Where are the readers?

You’ll see that the count of books read has jumped up. The old system seriously undercounted books read by the many schools that appear to us as a single IP address. As of Saturday, 02 March 2013 09:22AM our books have been read 5,441,709 times in 179 countries and 52 US states and possessions.

Tar Heel Reader on the iPad, iPod, or iPhone

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To get the most out of Tar Heel Reader on your iOS device, you should run it in App mode. Simply open the site in Safari and click the Bookmark button and choose Add to Home Screen. Edit the name if you like, they offer me “Tar Heel Read” so I add the “er” to the end. Click save. Now close Safari and find the button on your Home Screen. For me, it appeared on page 2. Click that and the site will open up like an App and have access to the full screen.

When reading a book you can change pages by touching the Next and Back buttons or by “swiping” left or right. Just touch the screen and move your finger left to turn to the next page.

Big Changes Lookout for Bugs

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We have made big changes to the internals of the site to make it work better on the iPad, iPod and iPhone but the changes could break anything for anyone. If you see problems today it may well be something we introduced but did not find in our testing.

Please report any bugs you see

Changes include:

  1. Better support for VoiceOver. We’re hoping to make it work well enough that children who are visually impaired will be able to use the site.
  2. If you run in App mode on the iPad/iPhone/iPod and switch away to another App (for example to download an EPUB) it will resume where you left off when you come back.
  3. We have added support for Italian and Spanish in the user interface. See the language switcher on the front page.

Photo Credits Have Moved

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I have moved the Photo Credits link from below the picture on each page to the Reading Controls page. Simply click the Settings (gear) icon and select More… The Photo Credits link will be near the bottom of the page.

I’m doing this to unclutter the page visually and audibly for screen readers.

New features and bug fixes

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I’ve made several changes this weekend.

  1. EPUB downloads now include speech if you have a voice selected before you download.
  2. You can now read your published books from the Your Books page.
  3. You can create a new version of an existing book by selecting More… from the Settings menu to get to the Reading Controls page and then selecting Create a new one like it below Change this book. If you own the book, you’ll see an Edit link there also.
  4. PowerPoint downloads should work better with PowerTalk now.
  5. Several people lost their drafts when Save Draft failed. I apologize. I think it is fixed now.

Thanks to Patrick, Heather, and Paul for the suggestions.