Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Perth to Cairns

A lot has happened and not much at all since the last update. I've also put off doing an update with other things happening. More on that at the end.

I was sitting about Perth doing some preparation stuff, and a lot of procrastination. Perth was surprisingly relaxing for a city. So was easy to just go with the flow and drift into days of doing, well not much at all.  There was a lot of lazing about reading, cause I finally bought an ebook reader. 

In November I bought the Sony WiFi Touch ebook Reader. Oooh I like it. I got white, figuring that would absorb less heat in the sun when outdoors. The reading experience in daylight is really good. Never again will I be without a book to read!

On a wifi connection I could browse the internet and download and read free ebooks. What I could not do was buy a book that used Digital Restriction Management (DRM), download it to the reader and read it on a wifi connection. DRM books need a pc first. Maybe this will change if or when Sony opens their Australian ebook store. But that is not the end of the problems for DRM. 

One of the reasons I got the Sony over the Kindle was that the Sony supports epub books - the open standard, that everyone except Kindle supports. You buy a Kindle and you can only buy your books from Amazon. Your locked in. Want to read that book on a non Amazon device - well you''ll have to buy the book again. Buy a Sony (or any non Amazon ereader), and you can buy books from a number of sellers and you can use those books on any other reader (except the Kindle).  You get the picture.  One thing the Kindle does hide, is DRM. You don't see it because you cannot read your book anywhere else except on the Kindle.  But its still there. DRM means the book you "buy" isn't yours. Your buying a licence to read the book, and that's it. At some point that licence can be taken away from you. This has happened on the Kindle. 

I tried DRM books on the Sony to see how it worked, and then decided to do the sensible thing and NOT buy any more books that use DRM!!!  Sounds drastic, but isn't. Aside from how I feel about DRM itself, the using DRM experience is too annoying, and problematic for me. Adobe runs the DRM authorisation, so you need an account with them. You can download and use their software or use the Sony library software. I started with the Sony software that come with the reader, but also downloaded the Adobe software as well. What ever you do, you will need an account with Adobe. You probably will also have one with Sony, as you have to set that up to register the reader.  

Thinking back on it now, you can probably do the whole thing with just the Sony software, and the Adobe account. I stopped using the Sony software early on, and started using the far superior Calibre software to organise my ebook library. The Sony software was to me, limited, and clumsy to use. Calibre has way more options for organising books, and a far better interface. Calibre doesn't support DRM as that is only available from Adobe, but it can be used to copy a DRM book onto the ebook reader.

I was using the Abode software. You buy the book. You want to read the book. The file you get isn't the book, its a ticket to get the book. You load this into the Adobe software, and then you get the book. But you can't read the book, until you use it on "authorised hardware". You use the software to authorise the pc, then you can read DRM  books on the pc. To read the DRM books on the ereader you authorise the ereader. This is letting Adobe know that a certain PC and a certain ebook Reader are connected to your account; a list of what your allowed to read books on. Note: at this stage, that is two authorisations. You only have six authorisations in total for an account. As I travel, I have to remember to revoke authorisation of the PC if I authorise it, as there is no way to revoke an authorisation remotely. To revoke an authorisation, I had to google to find the keyboard combination, that brings up a hidden window to deauthorise the PC. The software from Adobe doesn't have it as a menu option. If you authorise a PC, and the hard disk dies - well, that is one authorisation you cannot revoke. You now have five left. Er, four, because you need one for the ereader. Buying the ereader, doesn't give you an authorisation. That can only come from Adobe. Same thing if the ereader breaks or is stolen. 

Since the Sony reader has come out, it has had some updates available for it. One of the early bugs would hang the reader, needing it to be reset. You didn't lose your books, but the authorisation was lost. I'm not sure if that used up an authorisation or not. There is no way that I can find to get a list of how many devices you have authorised. I had to reauthorise the ereader again to be able to read the DRM book I had on it. On the road, without access to a PC, a reset would mean that I couldn't read that book. If the reset is using up authorisations, then I'm one down already. I only had the problem once, and fortunately that bug has been fixed, and I haven't had to do that again. But I still can't tell how many authorisations I have left.  Once all the authorisations are gone, so are your books. You might have the file, but the words are encrypted, so you cannot read them. Luckily I'm not attached to that book.

See Wikipedia for some of the controversy on DRM. It applies not just to books, but to music, videos, games, etc.. 

I'll stick to non DRM books. Fortunately there are a lot of them. Besides out of copyright books that are DRM free (and often free of charge), there is a growing number of authors and publishing houses that sell DRM free ebooks. Yes you still pay for these books, but your buying the book - its yours to keep and read forever and no one can take that right away from you.

Currently I have over 800 DRM free books loaded my my reader, and still I have not used up all its internal storage. I don't think I'll run out of books to read for a long time... 

Enough on ebooks. Support DRM free books. 

Back to other matters:

I'd decided to stop loafing about Perth and start doing some cycling down south of Western Australia while I finished my tent. Plan was to leave stuff in Perth, only take the barest essentials and keep working on the tent as I go. More incentive to finish it when the mossies can get in..  There's now a special place in my heart for tent makers. It seemed so simple lying on my mat looking at it. How hard could it be? Not really hard, but long and time consuming,  and lots of compromises, that I hadn't thought about until I hit them. Trying to get the one perfect tent is not possible. Don't try it! 

It was a Saturday, and I was all set to cycle off on the Tuesday, when got a call from family. A family member had a fall, sustained a head injury, and was in hospital having surgery. Instead of cycling out out of Perth, I packed up everything and I flew to Cairns. 

Head injuries are tricky things. Recovery will be long and slow, and maybe not back to the stage before the injury. For now, we all wait and hope that things go well.

Since arriving, I've been staying close and trying to help out as much as I can. Doesn't feel like much, but I'm sure that it counts. I'll not be here permanently though. Mean while, I'm back to working on the list of things I hadn't finished in Perth, and planning a route south for when I leave.