A few years ago I moved my private library to the cloud. It uses Calibre to catalog my books, and the Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS) to provide an Internet-capable catalog. OPDS is built in to a lot of publisher-independent e-reader software. My e-readers can generally retrieve books from Internet hosts that provide OPDS.
My latest library uses COPS to construct the OPDS catalog from my Calibre database (book list). I update my library by keeping a copy of my Calibre database and directory of book files on a web server.
Continue reading The practical digital library updated
Every cybersecurity professional knows – and almost certainly owns – this book. Ross Anderson published the first edition back around 2001. He’s starting a third edition and is using an on-line collaborative model for developing revisions. He has already posted drafts of a few revised chapters.
Ross recently pointed out a disappointing result from Edward Snowden’s releases of NSA classified documents: most published analysis has been reportage. No one has done a “deep dive” into the technical aspets of what was released. This would probably still be of technical interest. It astonishes me every day how, despite perceived ongoing radical improvements in technology, things don’t really change that much.
The trouble reported earlier with Apple Music seems to have attracted high level attention. James Pinkstone had reported that Apple Music deleted countless unique tracks he had stored in iTunes, and that an Apple service rep assured him this was correct behavior.
As he describes in a later blog post, Apple contacted him promptly. They assured him that file deletion is not an intended feature of Apple Music, and they sent engineers to try to figure it out.
This doesn’t change my own conclusion: the only way to ensure ownership of electronic media is to remove copy protection. This requires a bit of geeking around on a desktop. If your ebooks and music reside exclusively in proprietary apps, like Kindle or the Apple products, then the vendor can delete them at will. It happened on the Kindle.
[UPDATE: Apple now claims this was a bug; see the updated post]
This is perhaps the worst example of entertainment engineering I’ve ever heard. Blogger and musician jamespinkstone claims that Apple Music deleted countless unusual tracks in his music collection. It “matched” the tracks with entries in its library. Then it deleted the matched ones from his hard drive. When he tried to play a rare piano version of “Sister Jack” he instead heard a common demo version. Apple Music apparently decided the tracks were similar enough to treat as identical.
This is worse than Sony planting malware on PCs to as a sort of copy protection. I’m no musician, but I appreciate the differences in my 3 or 4 versions of early Bonnie Raitt songs.
This is why I don’t trust the big vendors like Apple or Google to host my private ebook library.
I started collecting digital content in the 1980s. Before that I was satisfied to print things out, bind them, and put them on a shelf. My graduate research produced about three linear feet of printed papers sorted by author. I wrote my first book mostly from printed references, though all the writing was online. When I started my second book, Authentication, I decided to collect, catalog, and save my references digitally. I stored everything in a tree of folders, one per author, stored alphabetically.
My library now contains several thousand items, from Gutenberg ebooks to marketing brochures to technical papers. It uses over 8 GB of storage, including catalogs and metadata. I used to read classic fiction on Palm Pilots and early smartphones. Now I read everything from fiction to technical reports on a tablet, either Android or iOS. This environment poses a whole set of challenges. I’ve found some tools to make my library work, more or less: Calibre, OPDS, and DRM-free books.
My main objective is Get it Once, Organize it Once, and Read it Anywhere.
Continue reading Towards a practical digital library