Sigil Isn't Dead

From the Sigil blog:

Basically, one year go the there were no outside contributors. So for one year not much has happened. A small maintenance release happened. Bug fixes were committed but few and far between. Nothing major feature wise.

Now that all changed about a month ago when Kevin Hendricks decided to invest his time in some bug fixes. Then he decided to start working on a plugin framework for Sigil. He's been spearheading the effort to get this feature implemented. It's not ready yet but it's coming a long nicely.

CarPlay Coming to Mazda

The one piece of news that particularly caught my eye this morning was that Apple had a number of new CarPlay partners, including Mazda. Having bought a 2014 Mazda 3 earlier this year, this was one of the features that I'd desperately been hoping would be announced prior—and made me seriously consider a Honda instead. 

Unfortunately there is virtually no detail on the announcement, but I live in hope (probably delusional) that there may be an update for my car that will enable the feature. Presently I use few of the built-in Mazda features, and find the interface somewhat obtuse when compared to iOS.

Pooled Data for Mobile Devices and New Optus Offering

As someone who is a regular user of mobile data (laptop, iPad and mobile), both for work and when travelling, I have longed for a data sharing plan that would give me a pooled data allowance to use across all my devices. Tethering provided that to some degree, but has the downside of putting additional drain on my iPhone’s battery, and also isn’t nearly as convenient as having a separate data SIM in an iPad. I had heard about such plans in the US, but not in Australia until recently.

Some months ago Telstra launched a data sharing plan in Australia that allowed customers to obtain up to five additional SIM cards that could share the data allowance on their mobile phone plan. However, the plan seems to have a nasty sting in that each additional SIM costs an extra $10 per month, and that extra charge doesn’t increase the base data allowance in the slightest.

Worse, despite having to pay an extra $10 per month per SIM, the base data allowances on Telstra’s mobile plans aren’t exactly generous. At the time of writing Telstra offers the following data allowances within its mobile phone plans (charged monthly):

Cost $45 $55 $70 $95
Data 500MB 1.5GB 2.5GB 3GB

In comparison Optus has just launched a shared data plan for customers on its My Plan Plus mobile plans that offers up to five additional SIMs able to share the mobile plan’s data allowance for a one off cost of $5 per additional SIM. And the data allowances in Optus’s My Plan Plus mobile plans are significantly more generous (charged monthly):

$30 $45 $60
500MB 2GB $5GB

This seems like a significantly better deal, and one I’ll likely explore in the near future—although it will trade off the coverage benefit I currently get from having an Optus SIM in my mobile and a pre-paid Telstra SIM in my iPad (and the ability to tether to either device depending which has the better connectivity in any particular location).

Making the Optus offer even more enticing is that on their My Plan Plus plans, users who blow through their data cap are automatically provided extra data allowances in 1GB blocks, charged at $10 per GB, as opposed to the Telstra plans where the cost of additional data packs are $5 for 250MB, $15 for 1GB, $30 for 3GB or $60 for 6GB.

If nothing else, the Optus offering will increase the appeal of cellular capable tablets over wi-fi only models, having eliminated the ongoing cost associated with dedicated tablet data plans—whether they be monthly plans or pre-paid.

Apple to Replace Aperture and iPhoto with new Photos app

I woke to the news this morning that Apple is ceasing development of Aperture and iPhoto, and that both will be replaced in OS X Yosemite with the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library. As a long time Aperture user I have mixed feelings about this, most especially as the functionality to be offered by the Photos app is currently completely unknown. That said, in recent times I've struggled to find time for my photography hobby, and I'm lucky to launch Aperture a couple of times per month.

It will be interesting to see what happens, but from today's announcements it is clear that the current of Aperture will continue to be supported on Yosemite, so I'll have time to assess the Photos app before deciding whether I move to it or need to consider Adobe Lightroom (which I've never used).

As a photography enthusiast (i.e. neither a pro nor particularly advanced amateur), I'm hoping the Photos app will provide the functionality from Aperture that I currently use, as the idea of an iCloud Library that lets me add, edit and use photos from my computer, iPad or iPhone, especially when travelling, sound great. Just as long as the new paradigm isn't about iDevice photos only, at the expense of photos from my DSLR.

Omni Group Has 30,000 EPUB Downloads in 6 Months

Interesting story from the Omni Group on the public acceptance/want of product manuals in EPUB format:

Last December, we started packaging the in-app documentation for many of our OmniApps and distributing those in EPUB3 format through Apple’s iBooks Store. These books are DRM-free and freely available to anyone—not just users of our apps. To date, nearly 30,000 copies have been downloaded; thank you!

e-tax becoming MyTax - with Web/Tablet/Smartphone Compatibility

Almost a year ago I wrote about the Australian Tax Office's e-tax app coming to the Mac—15 years after its Windows release. Well, yesterday SBS News reported that e-tax is being replaced with MyTax, which appears to be an app for smartphones and tablets, and web-based for computers. The new system will reportedly be available from 1 July 2014, although won't be able to handle complex returns, such as those with rental properties, foreign income or employee share schemes.

The End of Sigil?

I’ve recently become enamoured with ePub production, and to date have settled on Sigil as my primary production tool. In fact, it’s the only half decent tool I’ve discovered to date. So I was disappointed today when I saw this blog post saying Sigil development has ceased.

Although it’s not beyond my capability to learn and build ePubs manually, it is a task that seems unnecessarily tedious for someone more interested in the content.

I did learn from the post that there is an ePub editing tool in Calibre, but from my brief look it’s not currently as useful as Sigil. So for the time being, I guess I’ll keep using Sigil until it stops working, at which time I suppose I’ll have to swap to Calibre, unless I can find another replacement.

Given the number of publishers selling ebooks in the ePub format (e.g. O’Reilly, Peachpit, everything on the Apple iBookstore—excepting iBooks Author text books), I’m really surprised there aren’t better ePub production tools. Maybe I’m missing something?