THREE PROGRAMMING BOOKS FOR KIDS

– “Lauren Ipsum” by Carlos Bueno is the story of a little girl who must find her way home by thinking like a programmer. It may do for children what Douglas Hofstadter’s “Godel, Escher, Bach” did for Joy back in the 1980s: get them excited about programming ideas. The name “Lauren Ipsum” comes from the dummy text used as filler when printers don’t have the actual text of a page yet or want to show off a font. It’s been around since the 1500s, when an unknown printer used assorted type to make a specimen book. The book’s title character tackles classic problems like “Zeno’s Paradox” and “The Traveling Salesman.” Each chapter connects to a real-life computer science lesson in […]

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THE BEST BOOKS OF 2014

Apps.NPR.org/best-books-2014 displays dozens of colorful book jackets for the best books of 2014. Hover over a book for a mini review, then click for more details. This is a very pleasant way to browse new books. We selected “Rebel Yell,” about Stonewall Jackson, for our history club.

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KINDLE OR IPAD

We were at a launch party for “Suffer No Fools,” a new PBS documentary, when a guy asked us if he should get the latest Kindle or the new iPad Mini. This is a tough question – and he was a tough-looking guy.

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PRINT THE DINNER, NOT THE MENU

If you wondered what 3D printing is really good for, get “Fabricated,” a new book by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman.

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NEW TRENDS IN BUSINESS

GetAbstract gives you summaries of the latest business books, articles and Ted talks. They put out 50 new summaries a month. Get up on the hot new trends in business – maybe you’ll learn how to kill an existing product with a new version. Starts at $89 a year.

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BUILD YOUR OWN WEBSITE

You don’t need to learn HTML coding to build a website if you use templates provided by Yola.com, Weebly and others. But to create an original, it helps to be a coder.

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STORY BUG

Story Bug  lets you share an ebook with a child from afar, while video chatting together on an iPad or iPhone. It’s free for the first two books, then $5 a month. Of course you could do this in Skype for free, but it’s kind of neat to be able to look down at a story page and in a corner of the screen there’s a small video chat window.  The books are aimed at babies and on up to age 6. Nice illustrations.

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BOOKS AND SPRITES

“Build iOS Games with Sprite Kit,” by Jonathan Penn and Josh Smith, $34 from PragProg.com. It shows you how to make games for the iPhone and iPad. You learn how to build two games that are fun: One is a pinball game and the other a version of “Asteroids.”

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GETTING PUBLISHED

Publishing your book on the Kindle or the iPad is free and open to anyone, but the steps involved can be tricky. A company called “Tablo” will do it for you.

Tablo is new to the field and charges $8 a month to publish to the iPad and Kindle, but you can use the service for free until you’re ready to publish. They assign the “ISBN” number and handle the technical parts. All you have to do is upload a Word document.

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SHARING A MOVIE, A SONG OR AN AUDIO BOOK

Here’s a $10 gizmo that should make plane rides and train trips more fun. Instead of just watching your own movie on your own gadget, watch it together with a friend or family member.

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