Sam's Blog
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
I just thought I'd let everyone know that I've had my surgery and am doing fine. I'm pretty sore and I won't be able to do much for the next three days but other than that, life is good. Hey, I get two weeks off work!
Monday, May 10, 2004
I'm going under the knife.

I'll be going in for laparoscopic gall bladder surgery sometime tomorrow (in the morning I'm guessing, they don't tell me the time until sometime today, odd that). No need to worry much though, this is a surgery with a high high HIGH success rate (probably the only thing more successful is tonsils, joint surgery, etc.) so everything should be a-okay. I'll be up for about 10 or so days though, but otherwise, in good shape. Probably won't get to do much War Driving :-(, but that's okay.
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Sam Goes GPS

I have a terrible habit of impulse buying. Just Saturday I bought a GPS receiver and tested it by making a mass pilgrimage all around Davis. These things are the most wonderful and useful little toys.

It's the Magellan SporTrak Map from Magellan. I nabbed it for good price too considering I bought it at Radio Shack; $169, same price as offered on Amazon. I plan to use the bugger for small thrills and to provide map coordinates should I ever manage to go War Driving. My network is an open wireless network for those of you who happen to drive by my place. Remember to bring your laptop and wireless card!
Thursday, May 06, 2004
My Thoughts on Digital Rights Management

Despite being a Linux/Open Source fan and a free speech fan, I'm not all that opposed to Digital Rights Management. I support artists and creative professionals and the reality is they won't get paid much if pirating content is point and click. Laziness dictates that people in general, no matter how moral, will simply get the free illegal version if it's easy and without consequence. However, I want publishers to get it right. There are a few DRM schemes out there that suck and suck bad. Here's a comparison of what I mean.

The Right Way to Do It

Look at the iTunes Music Store. You get to burn your music to CD as much as you like (with the slight annoyance of only being able to burn a single playlist featuring bought music 7 times, you can get around this by making a new playlist) and share your music amongst five computers. The quality of service is excellent and it even provides album artwork for printing CD inserts and covers. And since you can burn the music you buy, you can then use the music with anything that accepts regular audio CDs. That's about as nice and friendly as it gets. One feature I'd really like to have is a way to authorize other digital music playing devices and software to play the encrypted content, but I can appreciate what they've given so far.

The Wrong Way to Do It

Look at Ebooks. Put simple, they mostly suck. It's not that reading off a screen is a pain in the ass--laptop LCD displays aren't so bad to read off of and ebook support is available for all popular PDA devices. In fact, there are some very nice advantages to ebooks; namely text searches, highlighting and commenting. The whole ebook thing could replace traditional textbooks, eliminating production costs and reducing paper products tremendously.

But they fucked ebooks up pretty bad with DRM. The concept of managing digital rights already seems rather fascist, and the only way it'll ever fly is by providing a very generous model that lets consumers do what they want with what they pay for, while stopping casual piracy.

Here's a list of the things publishers often choose to disable with purchased ebooks:

I'm left scratching my head as to what possible justification the publishers have for disabling these features. Ebooks have disadvantages too--nothing quite beats the simple convenience of a traditional book--so they need to leverage these advantages to the point where people would be inclined to use them over traditional books in some circumstances. Yet people high up in the publishing industry just feel that their customers don't disserve to actually use what they paid for. That must be the reasoning, because there's no way that enabling theses features would contribute to piracy. Piracy in the book industry is already prevalent with scans of books being distributed on the Internet. Here are my reasons for why enabling the above mentioned features would not make it easier for consumers to casually pirate their purchased ebooks.

1) Admittedly, most operating systems will let you print to a file. This would effectively circumvent all of the DRM protection in an ebook, by easily making an equivalent copy without the protection. However, there are two easy solutions to this. One is to integrate protection into the printing module of the ebook reader software to prevent printing to anything that isn't a printer. The other is to only permit printing of a portion of the ebook everyday. The reality is most people aren't going to print an entire novel, that takes too much ink/toner and paper. They just want to be able to print a portion of the book to read on the go, or to save their eyes every once in a while. This could be authorized over the net, so as to prevent the user from adjusting their system clock to circumvent their quota for the day. Sure, there will be plenty of ways around this and piracy will still take place, but c'mon guys, you're only ever going to stop casual piracy, the kind that Joe user does because it's easy. For the hardcore pirates, you have to resort to the Feds, that's just the way it goes.

2) As for copying text and contents, the same rule could apply. If you're only allowed to copy half a page at a time, this will effectively make it a pain in the ass to copy and paste the entire book into another document for unrestricted distribution, but will make it simple to copy and paste quotations.

3) As for disabling screen reading--I can't come up with any reason as to why this would make piracy easier. If the publishers feel this would affect the sale of audio books, they'd be dead wrong, I'll bet money on it.

If ebooks had these features as standards, I could guarantee they would sell better than they are now. You can photo copy as many pages of a regular book as you like for your own personal use. Why the heck can't you do similar with an ebook? Until that's allowed, ebooks will compare dismally with regular books and won't sell well.

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