Random Tales of Total Geekery

Archive for September, 2007

The e-Idiotproof Solution

Posted by Q on September 30, 2007

Sony ReaderIt’s been a halcyon month for ebook-enthusiasts – esp. this one as he finally managed to shack himself up with his new Sony Reader over the weekend. In other major news, the ebook revolution has also inched a couple of paces forward with the adoption of an international standard (ePub), Amazon.com’s declaration (not the DRM free music) of entering the devices market with an e-ink based device called Kindle and miscellaneous other equipment manufacturers making proper sounds (IRexiLiad, Bookeen-CyBook et al) including Sony which has brought out an update for its PRS-500 series with a PRS-505 to be shortly available for enthusiasts.

More on Sony than the others…Electronics innovator, owner of the walkman phenomenon and darling of engineering schools around the globe, when Sony announced its foray into ebook devices, everyone stood up and took notice. Many hailed it as the ipod for ebooks (including this author) and the coming generation of ebook publishing. A year down the line, the buzz still hasn’t quite been as infectious as was believed. It hasn’t been a failure, but it has a long way to go before it revolutionizes ebooks the way ipods did for music.

As a device, the Reader is phenomenal. Crystal Clear view (not an LCD), zero strain on eyes, looks and feels like ink on paper, reads better in bright (or sunlight) than shade, is comfortable to hold, even packs in a music player in its tiny frame and provides a extra Memory slot – Adding a 2 GB SD Card (≈$30) to its equipment cost of $249, makes it a clear steal over any 2 GB iPod Nano(≈$200). Not only that, the device is also remarkably petite and easy to carry. If only it had a backlight, and could be read at night without any external sources of light, it would replace my Laptop as the insomniacal device of preference.

The only difference between the two – iTunes Vs Connect. Game Over!

To explain, let me take up an average music collection –

  1. Size – 20GB
  2. Number of files – 6000
  3. Formats – .cda, .mp3 & .wma (ogg/aac/flac anyone?)
  4. Meta tags – IDv3 (mostly unfilled and/or incorrect)

Average time taken to transfer/sync iPod with iTunes music library – 2 mins/GB (the highest data transfer rate from a USB 2.0 port is 3.6 GB/min). This average time includes the time taken to encode tracks to iPod, generating gapless playing information etc.

Average time taken to edit Meta tags – as fast as you can type.

The important thing here is that an iTunes library is scalable, I can put all my 100GBs of music on it (which would be around 30,000 tracks) and the library will still function as perfectly ok. Contrast this with the behavior of a Sony Connect

Average ebook collection –

  1. Size – 1GB
  2. Number of files – 3000
  3. Formats – doc, rtf, txt, pdf, pdb, html, lit, chm, cbz, cbr, rar
  4. Meta tags – File properties

The real trouble begins here. The reader converts all books to its proprietary format (BBeB) but it only supports conversion of rtf, txt, pdf & doc. Let me take up these formats first. Every non-BBeB book takes up about 30seconds to 1 min to transfer, every book. So, if all my books were to be transferred, it’d take me a cool couple of sleepless days before my device is fully loaded and operational. Also, don’t forget that I have to manually tag the file info because the reader does not have any support for picking up Meta from filename itself. So if I have to update my library, I’d really have to think really hard before committing such a timeless folly. And I haven’t even covered books from other formats yet.

Right, now since I’ve had the temerity to have a few books in html format, I’d have to CCP to RTF and say sayonara to its Table of Contents (which was why the book was in the damn format to begin with). Which is alright if you have one book, but isn’t so hot if it’s a short story collection and you have already read some part of it…think turning 657 pages is fun ?

Now, I am using a grand total of 6 applications – Kovid Goyal’s better than Connect’s libprs500, BBeB Binder, Book Designer, ABC Amber LIT/Palm converter & Softsnow’s HTML Book Fixer, which has made my life and reader simpler to use, easier to operate. Above all, I have decided to keep only my To-Be-Read pile in the reader, which amounts to a grand total of 30 books. But I still am stuck with a version of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptomonicon, which is one huge folder of linked html files – now this has defeated me totally. Unless I CCP all those 30 chapters individually to rtf and then convert to lrf, or generate a PDF from these and then convert the PDF using pdftolrf app, I am stuck with an insurmountable barrier of agonizing labor before I can end up reading it on screen.

Which makes me come to my point, finally. There’s no doubt that this is an outstanding device which really has been done in by a lack of understanding about the service requirements for it. The only way devices succeed is it if they are idiotproof and not a test of mental, analytical & technical acumen (can I throw in a Mensa test as well?). I cannot even begin to imagine this device being used by anyone except nerds…wonder what Sony learnt from the Librie experiment..Surely nothing that I can see.

Some DRM rumblings next time, I guess 😉


Posted in eBooks, Gadgets, Secrets of the Web | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Stairway to [link] Heaven..ah!

Posted by Q on September 4, 2007

Music Pirates! Rejoice!!! Stairway to Heaven is back, or rather should I say that I have found it yet again 😀 Musical nirvana ahead. Vixen, Stevie..here I come. Although I can see the inexorable march of HDTV links here as well, but no complaints.

SF readers rejoice too. A couple of fantastic links; freesfreader & notfreesfreader are a couple of websites run by a guy who claims to give     

Science, Speculative, Superhero, Swords, Sorcery, Supernatural, Scary and Sleuth Prose Fiction Ratings

Now comes the good part…apparently, he’d only review books by authors which are free to download.
Otherwise, he just gives a helpful rating and that’s about it. The ratings are pretty much on the ball too; I got one Accelerando from Charles Stross'(author) own site, a 5 on 5 rated book. Deserves every single bit of those stars too.

Posted in eBooks, Secrets of the Web, SF | 2 Comments »

The thin red galaxy

Posted by Q on September 2, 2007

Space Opera! Now that’s a Doll. Everyone who is anyone swears by Foundation Series, which I discovered due to the happy circumstance of my under-grad university having a huge and under-utilised library stack section (Three cheers to Dewey though, he made sure that the modern library system treated fiction like an unwanted step-child of the human brain; stacking it up in the remotest corners of the space available). To cut a long reminisce short, I was the only dude hanging around those custodians of the light and termite, rescuing those books from a dusty end.

Anyway, as I ate my way through delights like Stainless Steel Rats, Space cadets, Captain Starr, Marvin & Zaphod’s excellent adventure & the imaginatively-named Bill, amongst others; there was this feeling that where do I find more. The Nebula Galaxy yields just one great guy a year; M/s Hugo & Dick, to pardon my pun, do not uncover any Hugo Dicks themselves.

So here I stumble upon this wise man, who in spite of a few glaring exceptions (Mc Devitt, hello!!) has cobbled up a very-very readable list of Top 10 science fiction novelists of the ’00s — so far. Would strongly recommend going through this ‘un. Especially a certain Mr. Scalzi and his very readable Old Man’s War Trilogy. Super Stuff!!

Go on! It’s time Fantasy took a back-seat. And now that you-know-who is quietly and firmly lying 6 feet under; it’s time to put our feet up and step outside to the galaxy at large. Things are getting just as…magical, shall we say? 😉

And yes! Talking of spinning galaxies, we might as well pay a visit to Gallifrey; and find out how is everyone’s favorite Timelord is doing. Apparently they ran some sorta stupid contest about everyone’s favouritest Timelord of all, err time? Anyway, apparently screaming, hysterical girls of with short hemlines and shorter brain-spans voted for Tennant as the winner. Which wasn’t surprising considering the gay makeover that Russell T Davies has instilled in the series. (Apparently Queer As Folk din’t quite run for as long as expected). Btw, why wasn’t the show called Queer-assed folk, hehe. But Ecclestone’s my man, vote or no vote! And I really did not appreciate the new Face of Bo angle thrust upon us, just seems too pat, you know J

Posted in Now Reading, SF | Leave a Comment »