oda: zombie face on a blue-violet plane (personal)
2011-12-24 10:03 am

Ebooks and Hamster Wheels

Proof that I have a tiny hamster brain that is obsessed with tiny wireless devices: +Jenna Moran shared with me a link to the lovely library management software Calibre, I found out the trials and tribulations about how Calibre Portable isn't very, I found a more portable version on the ever-useful Portable Apps, and now I am trying to figure out how to build catalogs I can browse from my phone. (The software at Calibre2OPDS looks perfect but I haven't successfully got it to actually build anything yet, possibly because I'm running Calibre portable, or because it's a beta portable package, or because I was configuring it when I should have been sleeping.)

This would be about exactly why I never get anything done. It's rabbit trails and side quests all the way down! (This started from: "I would like to read an ePub book on my computer.) Oh yeah and I could have just used Bookworm ....

On the SAD side, Amazon let Stanza die a sudden death when IOS 5 came back out. I hear they've patched it, but the patch didn't say IOS 5 only like other 5-only apps do, so my iTouch 2 (stuck on IOS 4) got its Stanza build vaporized by the shenanigans. BOO. I don't know how to reconstruct it even though I theoretically have backups and everything, since I loaded the stuff in directly to the Touch and didn't have any library management running anywhere else, and the iTunes backup format is... opaque to say the least. Not the end of the world as I had a bunch of random Gutenberg books there and didn't read on it very often, but still boo -- I can't even get it running enough to find out what I lost. It's probably not worth doing a full restoral over, though; I also just tidied up a bunch of other apps on the iTouch, getting it ready to be more of a backup media device for both of us than a full time iPod for me. (Now using the phone for that.)

I already refused to buy Kindle books over the DRM; now I'm sad at them for buying Stanza just so they could kill it. I'm glad to see the Lexcycle programmers make good on their hard work, but I think it's awfully shoddy of Amazon to buy a very nice piece of software just to destroy it, and to vaporize my library even if it wasn't a bought library -- it still represented time choosing books. Another lesson in why it is so important to mirror everything, even if it was free and easily found -- time is a resource too! Calibre looks like it will do an excellent job at that. Open source is a good protection against those sorts of shenanigans, because loyal fans can simply fork the dead-ended project and continue support if it's popular enough, and usually it's possible to at least run unsupported legacy stuff as long as you have an OS that will support it. (NOT open source, but I'm also grooving on Good Old Games for giving us legacy software at a good price.)
oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (degoogle)
2011-12-06 10:41 am

Rambling Update, Continued Random Bits of De-Google

Prying myself out of the cloud is hard when I've continued to be too ill to get much usable time in the day. So I'm going for ambient effects. It's kind of morphing into a general 'why aren't we doing proper backups anyway?' project, too. The backup coverage is not as tragic as all that -- Dropbox and other cloud services are pretty good for covering the gaps, and my raw photos all end up in a locked flickr stream, but there's a definite dependence on external cloud services that I don't want to fix by just paying a new cloud service. (Even though that would at least be a matter of aligned interests.)

So... let's see. Thunderbird still seems useful, but I'm mostly using it for archival and not really reading mail in it. That's probably not a plus, but to be honest I'm not reading/replying to a lot of mail at all. I've noted the presence of a portable Thunderbird, which means it can be run out of a crypted space or cloud synced share or both, and that's very interesting. A synced/encrypted Thunderbird that can live in a dropbox and/or memory stick is about as handy as Gmail without being web-based, and it's very flexible about who it will talk to. The person who kindly hosts my mail has been busy, so no IMAP there yet; I imagine I will want to use Thunderbird a lot more once there's IMAP for my main mail.

I like Dropbox and I liked Mesh before it stopped working on XP, and in general I like multi-way sync, especially with versioning. I do not know if I like Dropbox enough to pay for it, especially with the privacy concerns, even with tack-ons to encrypt the contents (I would rather give money to people who get it right, as a point of principle.) I've been comparing to Spideroak for a while now... but haven't tried the Spideroak sync yet. I think I want to play around with Spideroak sync and then decide. I prefer Spideroak's ethos, and it's a true backup solution with sync tacked on, which may be more what we need anyhow. Where Dropbox really shines is around shared files, so I need to see if Spideroak can be usable that way as well.

Spideroak does seem to work pretty well, with the exception of some cruftiness with iTunes, which is the major reason I use it -- it builds up a lot of copies and I have to go in and manually delete them to make room. What I'd like to do is set up a policy to only keep certain ones, like a tiered incremental plan. It also seems to back up the entire library over and over again, rather than doing change-only partial backups as promised. Possibly because it's almost always open and iTunes isn't a very polite app and may not play well with being rifled while open? I wouldn't put it past iTunes, which has been a cranky beast since the day I installed it and hasn't really gotten much better. I do not have the brain cells to play with other music management right now, though, so I'm stuck with it.

I have also looked at Zoho -- in a very cursory manner at their mail, and deeper at their spreadsheets, which aren't a bad replacement for Google Docs, though they're showing a few buggy bits and aren't as well developed. From there I sort of toppled sideways into Creator, which I gather is a kind of Access-like (I have never seen Access so I'm not sure) forms creator which has some nice integration with Sheet -- you can export a set of records to Sheets and then operate on it in the spreadsheet. Anyhow, it seems functional and cool. I haven't looked at the plain writing app yet because I mostly write into text files. I haven't played with sharing yet. The major alternative to something like Zoho would be some sort of versioned sync that lets me share spreadsheets with my honey, since that's a major thing we do with Google Docs.

I'm actually pretty close to looking at some sort of version control like git or svn -- I've only used them in a very rudimentary fashion in the past (and mostly rcs and perforce) but version control speaks to my former-sysadminly heart in a way I cannot deny; being able to roll back to older versions was great at work and it's sort of a basic need whenever you have two or more people with their paws on the same files, even if they're both reasonably careful about it. (Google Docs and Dropbox bake that in.) Either that, or backing everything up/repositing everything on a version controlled file system, which I'm not sure is easy to do with the kind of shoestring budget I have. (A handful of random old PCs running Windows, and no brain budget to switch to a UNIX. Plus shell access to a remote UNIX box with web/mail/ssh but no PHP.)