Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Making a book with scribus and blurb (and other open-source friends)

I like to make books to publish with Blurb, and I like to have full creative control of the process and work offline.  They have some lovely software to download, apparently, but if you click "not on Windows!", it offers you another version of the software and the button changes to "not on Mac!", and if you click button that it goes back to "not on Windows!".  Sigh.  So, for those of us taking the third linux-y way, we have the wonderous Scribus.

I'm no expert, but I've done this twice now, and thought I'd post the settings and steps that worked for me.

First a disclaimer:

I'm no photographer.  I don't care much for colour profiles except ones that make it work, and I don't much understand what I'm doing in that department.  I post settings here that have worked for me, and make no guarantees they will work for you.  My monitor is certainly NOT colour-calibrated.

So, here are the steps I go through to make a book with Scribus and Blurb.

1)  Assemble all your stuff in a folder.  Plan your book thoroughly by sorting a rough layout and choosing what goes on what page.  You could do this on paper, or I like to make a rough layout in something like LibreOffice Impress.  Anything quick to plop in some pictures.  This step helps you find how many pages you'll need for your book and I can't stress how important it is to know that before starting!  I can't imagine the bother if you decide to add more later and blurb decides your measurements need to change and you have to re-tweak the positions of all your images.  Gah!  Although probably it wouldn't change by too much and maybe you don't care about image positions to the nearest pnt...

2)  Find out what your book measurements will be.  This is on the "PDF to book" section of Blurb's website, and you need to "get specs".  You'll be invited to choose things like paper-type, book size, number of pages and cover type.  Remember which you picked because you have to tell Blurb what you chose when you come to upload your PDF.  I print this page to file for easy reference during the design process.  By number of pages, Blurb means printed sides of paper, not leaves of paper, and it has to be an even number to include the first page on the right when you open the book, and the last page on the left as you close it.  Reminds me of the argument with my husband over what constitutes a "round of sandwiches".  Anyway, I like to work in points for measurements and so does Scribus.

3)  Set up your Scribus project for the pages!  Since blurb uses single pages not traditional signatures, so choose "single page", then how many single pages you want.  First page is set to right.  The width and height should be set to the page size/trim line as your finished book will be, the extra bleed space is added with the "bleeds" tab.  Note that when working on the pages, the coordinate (0,0) is at the top left of the page trim, inside the bleed area.  The absolute top left of the pdf page will be (-x_bleed,-y_bleed).  Finally, I set margins so as to define the safe boundaries.  You're done, and Scribus displays your pages nicely side-by-side as if you opened the book: great for sorting those double-page spreads.

4)  Set up a separate Scribus project for the cover.  I use single page again, and add guides to show me where with spine and flaps are.  Add these under Page>Manage Guides, and take heed of the co-ordinate system as noted above.

5)  Set up colour management for each of your projects.  First obtain the Blurb colour profile from here.  Copy it to /usr/share/color/icc and re-start Scribus.  For each project, activate colour management from File>Document Setup>Colour Management.  I have RGB images, colours and monitor set to sRGB, and CMYK colours, images and crucially the printer set to the Blurb profile.  The other settings I left as "perceptual", "relative colourimetric" and blackpoint compensation on.  My images I left as RGB, some of which have embedded profiles (from the digital camera), some do not (from my scanner).  You can find out more about your images using the ImageMagick tool, see this page.
E.g. to find if there are any profiles:
identify -verbose myimage.jpg | grep 'Profile-.*bytes'
... omit the grep part to just see a load of stats about the image, including which colourspace.

6)  Make your pages and cover.  Scribus is nice in that you can see image resolution as you scale the image, so you can be sure not to reduce it too much below 150dpi.  Scribus also has some cool effects you can apply to your images (e.g. greyscale), but beware that the PDF/X-3 standard that blurb requires does not support transparency.  I have got round this in the past by working out how to produce the effect I wanted using e.g. gimp, then flattening transparency (removing the alpha channel to just get RGB) before exporting as an image to stuff into Scribus.  I think this is Image>Flatten Image in gimp.

7)  Export as PDF.  File>Export>Save as PDF.  Under the GENERAL tab, ensure you choose PDF/X-3.  Under the Pre-Press tab, make sure you tick "use document bleeds" to ensure they're added to your PDF page size.  Failure to do this will result in Blurb rejecting your files with page sizes that are too small!  Under "Output Intent", the output profile should be set to the Blurb CMYK profile you downloaded earlier.

8)  Preview and double-check your pages and cover documents as PDFs.  As well as checking content, check page size.  I've found that some readers (Cairo document viewer) show the wrong page size, but the right colours, while others (adobe reader) show the right page size but crazy colours.  You can get adobe to show measurements in points under Edit>Preferences>Units.

9)  Upload to Blurb and cross your fingers for a happy pre-flight check.

Final tip:  with having full control of the book design, it can be tempting to go wild with all the possible effects.  I note that this does not lead to a more exciting book, but a rather scrappy unprofessional one with no uniting theme.  I recommend to pick a style and stick to it religiously.  Exactly what I didn't do with my last book, and it shows ;-)  Remember: more fonts does not a better document make.

Hope these tips might be useful to someone out there!  Happy bookmaking.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Broken Beko washing machine spins really fast

I know this is a tedious blog about fixing my computer problems, but since I feel duty bound to give information back to the interwebs after it's helped me, I hope a post about washing machine fixes will be acceptable.

So, here's hoping this post will turn up for people google-ing for the same problems as me this morning.

My Beko WMA520W washing machine broke last night. Half way through a wash there was a "wheeee!" noise and the drum stopped. We turned it off and took the laundry out. Thereafter, every time I turned it on, it pumped water out, then spun really fast, then stopped. Even turning it off at the wall or holding down the cancel button would not re-set it, as it was convinced it was mid-cycle.

I bring you a two-part solution. First, according to this post, there is a magic raindance on the front control panel to re-set the machine:

  • Turn the power button off but leave the machine on at the wall
  • Select a 90 degree wash
  • Hold the start/cancel button down for 3 seconds and turn the power button on whilst still holding buttons down. The start light will flash.
  • Select any spin position.
  • Hold down the start/cancel button again for 3 seconds. If other buttons start to flash, press start/cancel again for 3 seconds.
Now the machine is happy to accept instruction. We tried a nice rinse cycle, with the machine empty. It filled with water okay, but when it got to tumble-time, the drum just span up to warp speed again, then stopped.

After checking various things, we removed the motor and the issue turned out to be a shattered tachometer magnet. The magnet pieces no longer rotated with the motor shaft, so there was no induced current in the tacho coil. The control unit therefore assumed the motor was not rotating, so increased the speed until it reached some safety cut-off.

In this model, the magnet appears to have been formed around a textured brass ring, so even if spares were available (and the internet doesn't seem to have any) it seems unlikely you could get a replacement on without shattering it. We opted for some Araldite Rapid Steel epoxy and have tried to glue the two pieces back together. This may not last us very long, and we don't intend to leave the washer on when we're not around, just in case! It we want a longer-term fix, it seems the only option is to buy a whole new motor which seems a bit stupid just for a magnet, but hey ho. We'll try the £5 fix over the £80 one any day. Of course, the third option is to obtain the new motor less expensively by cannibalising other Beko machines at the skip or otherwise obtaining a broken one for spares.

Other news from my fascinating journey round the Beko's guts:

We've always had to pour another 20 litres of water through the tray on a wash cycle as the machine doesn't put anywhere near enough water in. However, it looks like we can make adjustments on the fill pressure sensor (top front right corner) in the future, but let's break one thing at a time for now.

Some corners of the web mention timing wheels and other such nonsense. I didn't see any of those inside our beastie, so I conclude most of the control goes on inside the processor (an Atmega32). When that gets toasted, it'll be £50 for a new board :-(

Monday, 5 September 2011

Linux hostname

This shouldn't have taken me so long. My husband wouldn't name his new laptop after a popular British F1 driver, until I managed to change the desktop hostname to that of his team-mate. The desktop was previously so named because it was so fast (ha ha oh).

Anyway, the answer was to add
to /etc/sysconfig/network (since it wasn't already there for me to change). Alternatively, I could have done
sysctl kernel.hostname=F1driver
as superuser.

It's a win.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Equation referencing in Word 2007

It baffles me that something so essential is not simple with micro$oft word. If you are going to want to put equations in your document, of course you will want to talk about them! (Otherwise, why bother?) To talk about them, of course you will need to reference them and the best way of doing that is with numbers. Why then is there no simple way to do this? Why give an equation tool but no easy numbering method?

So: how to insert a numbered equation in Word 2007 and reference it in the text. For the first part, I follow this blog post.
  1. Insert a 3 column, 1 row table.
  2. Format the table to fill 100% of the page width, with the column widths in percent as 15:70:15.
  3. Centre the text in the middle column and remove all table borders. Make the spacing below the table the same as other paragraphs.
  4. Insert your equation in the middle column. (I use insert>object>M$ equation 3.0 since the new equation package won't work on my machine).
  5. Insert a number in the right-hand column by insert>multilevel list. You can define your own so that the numbers are formatted like (x).

Here is the nice part (ha ha). Since my "equation gallery" is broken too, I can't save these shenanigans for easy re-use. To insert a new equation later, I simply copy the whole table and paste it elsewhere and change the equation! The numbers automatically sort themselves out (hallelujah).

To reference the numbered equation in the text:

  1. Highlight the equation number and insert>bookmark. Give it a nice name.
  2. Put the cursor at the place where you want your reference inserted and insert>cross-reference. Insert a reference of type "bookmark", select the name of your equation and insert the reference to the paragraph number (full context).

There. That was a complete pain, wasn't it? And it took about 40 mouse-clicks! Doesn't your equation look horridly rendered too? Oh, I love LaTeX and I want it back.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Save excel graphs as vector images

This is a lame workaround to get excel plots as vector images.

Select your Micro$oft Excel plots. Copy. Open Micro$oft PowerPoint. Paste-special as enhanced metafile (emf) into an otherwise empty slide. Save your PowerPoint slide as an "other format" file (on the 2007 menu), and choose "emf" (an enhanced windows metafile! wow!). Import your emf file into inkscape and ungroup the object. Delect all the a4-sized crappy blank space from the image and enjoy.

Excel axis labels workaround

When making an x-y scatter plot in Micro$oft Excel 2007, there appears to be a bug which prevents the x-axis tick labels displaying correctly (at least on my machine). When you set the x-axis tick labels to text, e.g. "apple", "banana", "pear"..., the chart just displays the labels as 1, 2, 3... even when you are careful to select the cells containing the text labels as your x-data, and despite them showing up correctly in the "select data" dialogue box. This only appears to be an issue for the x-y scatter plot type.

Workaround 1:
Install linux boot disc...

Workaround 2:
Add a new dummy data series to your graph with x = {"apple", "banana", "pear"...} and y = {0, 0, 0...}, or some other value below the y-axis minimum. Select only this series, and set the chart type to area. The x-axis tick labels should now display correctly for the whole chart. Obviously delete the dummy data label from your legend, if you have one.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Stupid papersize stupid stupid

After finally getting to the stage where my thesis would compile on a different computer (see last post to install the extra .sty files), I then discover my page headers have disappeared on my pdf output. It turns out that this is due to the default ps2pdf setting being US letter paper, rather than the A4 size that the rest of my document is on. The answer (for the moment, anyway) is this:
ps2pdf -sPAPERSIZE=a4 thesis.ps
I'm forced to go a-latexin' followed by dvipsin' then ps2pdf because of some bounding box issues with my images with pdflatex that I can't be bothered to solve.
That will serve me right for having a typo in my thesis.