Tar Heel Reader

A bug in the writing page

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I introduced a bug in the write page with a change that was supposed to be innocent. Thanks to a report from one of our users, I have now fixed it.

You’ll likely need to reload the page twice to fix the problem. The issue is the way pictures appear when you click on them to zoom them up.

Hotmail hates us!

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The hotmail email service hates Tar Heel Reader and throws our messages away without notifying us or you. This results in me getting inquiries from new users who have attempted to sign up but never got our password message.

I have modified the registration process to reject hotmail addresses. You’ll need to use some other provider to sign up with us.

Big fonts temporarily disabled

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The changes I made to implement big fonts may be causing problems for some users. I don’t understand what is happening so I am stepping back to the state we were in before 24 February to see if the errors go away. I apologize for the issues with “parse error” some of you have been seeing.

Those who need big fonts can still use them at http://test.tarheelreader.org.

I’ll do my best to get them working again on the production site.

Large fonts when reading books

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Based on a request from a teacher, I have implemented an experimental large fonts feature for readers who can’t quite see the text in our normal format. To activate the feature press the z key (that’s zed) while reading a book. It will cycle through three font sizes and then back to normal. In this mode you’ll first the the normal page layout, then when you go to next you’ll see a version of the same page with large fonts and a small picture. Selecting next again will take you to the next page again in normal format. I think of it as a bit like the book doubling in length with pages devoted to pictures and pages devoted to text.

I’d appreciate your feedback on this design. How does it work for your students? What could be improved?

Bad Language bug

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I just found and fixed a bug that resulted in some of you getting an error message about “Bad Language”. The issue wasn’t the use of foul language in your books; it was a bug in the code.

Thanks to Lori and Paige for reporting the issue.

You may need to force your browser to refresh TWO TIMES by pressing the F5 key or pressing the little circular refresh arrow near the URL bar in order to get the updates.

New features at Tar Heel Reader

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This morning we released a new version of Tar Heel Reader that has been in development for over a year. It brings several new features and possibly a few bugs.

  • New voice: Those of you using modern browsers should see a new option Built in in the Speech menu. This will use the built-in text-to-speech capability on your computer and my sound better than the old speech engines we have on the site.
  • Reading offline: On modern web browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox you’ll have the option of saving books into local storage on your computer so that you can read them when you are offline. Simply add books to your Favorites and then go to the Read offline page to add them to your locally stored books. You can even have speech when offline by using the Built-In voice.
  • Draft books in Favorites: Now you can add books that you would rather not publish to your Favorites page. Simply read your draft book from the Your Books page and then click the Heart icon in the upper right of the first page of the book to add it to your Favorites. We hope this will make it easier for your students to read unpublished books.
  • Passwords: Probably the most requested feature has been the option to change your password; that should now work.

Let us know by sending mail to tarheelreader@cs.unc.edu if you run into issues with the new version.

Tar Heel Gameplay

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Check out our new site Tar Heel Gameplay with games everyone can play. You’ll find a growing collection of games made from YouTube videos. The games are accessible using switches, mouse, or touch screens.

You can create and share your own games using the Create page. You can have a simple gameplay going in just a few seconds using the Basic creator. The Precise creator allows you to put varied prompts at just the times you want. The Advanced creator allows you to create gameplays with multiple choices, jumps, and loops.

Down for maintenance Tuesday 30 June 2015 5PM EDT

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The university will be working on the electrical power into our building this evening. That will require all computers including Tar Heel Reader to be powered down. We should come back online early Wednesday morning July 1.

10,000 published authors!

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As of this morning we have 10,001 different authors who have written 41,125 books in 24 languages. These books have been read over 8 million times in 197 countries.

Way to go Tar Heel Reader authors!

Now available in Portuguese!

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Thanks to the efforts of Rui Fernandes of CANTIC, Tar Heel Reader is now available in Portuguese. He signed up with the Transifex translation service just this morning and his translation is already live on the site.

We’d love to have volunteers for other languages. You do all the work on the web using an easy to use interface.

Login now uses https for security

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I have modified the login process so that it will now send your credentials over https to enhance site security. Not that we’ve had any problems but our campus is beginning to audit such things and we got dinged for not following best practices.

Let us know if you see any new login related issues.

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.