iTunes Without the iTunes Part

I have been archiving all of my purchased media for quite some time now, I like the flexibility of a digital copy, but also flexibility to view it how and where I choose (i.e. Plex).  That usually means a lot of disc ripping, and I have set up a decent system and workflow to do it.

Most of my movies come with a digital copy, usually on iTunes.  This is handy and useful, since I can stream to most of my devices that way.  Movies on iTunes sometimes have really good deals, and it’s tempting to grab something that way.  And once in a while, my physical media is damaged – sometimes incredibly slightly – and I am just unable to rip it.

Files contained in Apple’s digital library aren’t perfect though, since if I want to watch a movie at someone else’s place, it either means bringing my precious physical media (if I have it) or bringing a device to their place to watch it!  I can’t make a more highly compressed and smaller versions for those odd times I want lots of movie in little space.  It’s the inconvenience of DRM.

After a bunch of Google searches TuneFab M4V converter caught my attention.  They claim to be able to remove the DRM from my iTunes library and give me a high quality version I can use in more ways, including the above.  I thought I’d give it a try.  They offered either a free license (for high-volume bloggers) or a 30% off coupon for a review.  I’d probably review it anyway, so I’ll try for the coupon!

They offer the product on two plaftorms, Mac and Windows – separately licensed.  The first thing I tried was to download and install a version on my Mac.  When I ran it it came up with a message stating that High Sierra was not supported.  Since Mac OS has well moved on to Mojave as of this writing, I wonder if there’s a future in the Mac version of the app?  If you only have a Mac, be careful before purchasing this.  Apparently they’re looking into it, but for now… I hope you have Windows.

I downloaded and installed the Windows version.  The first thing I discovered when launching it was a big white screen like this:

Blank-ish screen
Yep, that’s most of it

You can’t see from the screenshot but the window is slightly larger than the available screen space, was not resizable and has its own non-standard window controls (close, minimize etc).  These window controls are glitchy and vanished after moving the window around a bit… the only way to exit the app was to Alt+F4 or right-click on the taskbar icon.

Their intention was to look cool and clean but honestly it causes some major issues.  (I have 3 monitors, so likely that was the problem.  I think they could fix it quickly by not centering the window across all monitors but only the active monitor).  TuneFab is not alone in falling into that trap, most Windows apps these days seem to want to blaze their own trail and make things look unique.

The options screen is very sparse as well – though it does have standard window decorations yay!  It’s not resizeable either.

2 options, it’s very roomy though.

Wait!  Don’t give up!

But I won’t be looking at this app all that often. I have a number of extremely valuable apps that are sadly pretty ugly.  So I’ll let the UI issues slide for now.  The TuneFab team is welcome to contact me to test some fixes for this.  The more important question is… does it work?

I click the very apparent “Add Files” button.  Ah, tells me I need to download a file through iTunes first before encoding.  Fair enough, it can’t work with what it doesn’t have.  I wonder if it would be possible through the iTunes scripting interface to get a list of movies in the library and trigger a download?  Still, another compromise I can understand and am willing to make.

So I downloaded a movie and clicked on “Add Files” again.  It tells me I need to have downloaded a movie.  But I just did?  Could they add a “Refresh list” button?  Eh whatever.  I restart the app and there it is, it shows up, along with other iTunes playlists listed in the sidebar.  At the bottom have appeared three buttons labeled “Add”, “Add All” and “Cancel”…

And… just as I was noticing this, my machine threw a BSOD.  Yikes.  Windows kinda makes it hard to cast the blame.  Is it a video driver?  Is it iTunes?  Is it this app?  All three together?  If it was Mac, it would almost certainly be the app, but I can’t exactly find out.

But BSODs happen.  We’re all friends and not looking to point fingers here, but try out an app.  I reboot and relaunch, select the movie and hit “Add”.  Nice, it comes up with video and codec information. 

Codec information
Looking good so far!

Off to the right (not shown) is a gear that gives you audio and subtitle information.  I had 4 tracks (AAC and AC3 in English and French) and all of the subtitles available.

Once I did all of that, I clicked “Convert”.  Since this is the trial version I only get the first 5 minutes, so let’s see.  It’s very quick on this machine (considerably faster than real time).  I’d guess it took about 20 seconds to run through 5 minutes of movie…  and boom the movie appears in the output folder!  Quality looks great and includes multiple audio tracks. 

I was able to take that file and run it through Handbrake for another resolution so yup the DRM is definitely gone!

The only option given in the Windows media player is to open a separate subtitle file (e.g. srt).  I ran CCExtractorGUI and the subtitles are definitely there.  I don’t use subtitles, but I know some of you really need them.

Value

Listed price is $49 USD, with a (temporary?) $5 discount, so $44 USD.  Is it worth this cost?

The polish on the app UI honestly isn’t great.  I expect more for an app this cost.  Maybe this is only an issue with the Windows version?  It appears they seem to be using Qt, and cross-platform toolkits tend to have these kind of issues.  I couldn’t test the Mac one so who knows?

But value for its functionality?  Let’s figure that out.

Well, if you figure a flexible backup of your existing iTunes movies is worth $11 each, it would pay for itself in 4 movies.  Or to look at it another way, if you can save $11 per movie by buying on iTunes instead of on disc, you’d break even in 4 movies.

Or, if you rip your movies, then maybe you can calculate the time it takes and average it out that way.  For me it takes almost 3 hours to rip and encode a Blu-Ray.  I don’t mind that much but this is much easier and faster – with the consideration that you still have to take the time to download a HD movie in advance.

So, it depends on your use and value of your time.  Personally, if it was $29 I wouldn’t even bother to calculate the time, it would be worth it.  Add another 10-20 bucks and it makes me stop and figure out things like this.

Wait.  If I get the 30% off coupon… (quick mental math).  DUDE.

Bottom line:

Once I got it installed and running, it was really impressive.  Very fast with excellent results.  The UI is very buggy but the engine works great.  If you want a DRM-free copy of your iTunes movies, this may be the way to get them.

Rescuing Encrypted files on ACD

So Amazon is shutting out Linux users.  But what if I have a bunch of encrypted files there using old encfs and acd_cli scripts?

I can copy down the encrypted files using their client at any point, but how will I know which one is which?

I did the following.  First, create a temporary directory.  I did this in my $HOME on my Mac.  Find a way that still exists to mount the drive (I used ExpanDrive).  Once that is prepared, change to the mounted and encrypted ACD directory and run this command:

Let it run for a while, it may take several minutes.  This will create in $HOME/temp the identical directory structure as on the remote drive, and the identical filenames – but they will all be zero bytes!  What good is this?

Thanks to the consistency of encfs, you can mount and decrypt this skeleton directory like this:

Now, use some other tricks to find the matching filenames and you can manually download the specific encrypted files you want.

The Best eBook Reader, Again

I came to the realization a few years ago that the eBook reader Marvin was hands down, the best ePub reader for me.  Very flexible, configurable and some (still) unique features made it well worth the price.

That was, as I mentioned, a few years ago and I started to get a little frustrated with a few important (to me) missing features, such as ePub 3 features like aside (pop-up footnote) support, syncing and a few other small things.  The lack of these was one thing that bothered me.  The fact that the same developer released a second, free ePub reader app that offered these features was even worse, and quite frustrating to those that paid for the original app.

It wasn’t simply an easy task to switch from Marvin to Gerty though.  It wasn’t designed as a generic ePub reader, but rather a sort of book-journaling app.  What was the developer thinking?

It turns out he was thinking.  And working hard.  He was rewriting Marvin from scratch.  Today, he released Marvin 3.  This release adds, and far surpasses my original wish list.  Now there is full iOS9 support, including document picker, spotlight integration and split-screen support.  The icing on the latter part of that particular cake is that there is a second, nearly identical app, called Marvin SxS (“Side by Side”) that lets you have two copies of Marvin installed on the same device and you can have two ePubs open at the same time in devices that support split screen.

Marvin on an iPad
Marvin on an iPad

There are lots of great built-in fonts, whether you are a sans or a serif fan.  There is also OpenDyslexic built in.  If you aren’t satisfied with any of the bundled (and system) fonts, you can sideload others.

Margin size, line spacing, paragraph spacing, indent size are all configurable.  There are themes.  Multiple columns available in both landscape and portrait.  Textshots and auto-bookmarking on close.  Reading location syncs automatically to iCloud (zero-config).  And then there’s annotations – all those things that were in Gerty are now in Marvin 3.  You can of course highlight with a load of colors, but also add notes and photos to a book.   Apparently there are multiple map-viewing modes (you can read maps in here?)

There is native comic book (CBR and CBZ) support, and it’s really, really good.  I have, and love, Chunky Comic Reader, but in practice, there are only a few significant advantages Marvin 3 lacks – PDF comics, landscape for dual-pages and ComicStreamer support.  The page thumbnails (with long-tap to preview the page) are wonderful.  The zig-zag mode is much like Chunky’s “pan” mode.  You can scrub through the comic and have page previews show you where you are.  Given that Chunky is iPad only, I might find myself using Marvin for some of my comic reading, depending on the amount of dual-pages I might expect.

I have only touched the surface.  The only other reader that comes close regarding configurability is Moon+ Reader Pro on Android.

It is not a free upgrade.  There are two in-app-purchases to unlock full screen use and color themes, $3.99 USD for the former and a variety of “tips” for the latter, although you only get certain themes depending on the amount you “tip”. Kinda sounds to me like a purchase and not a tip… The SxS version is a full purchase without IAP unlocks – other than the themes.  To me, the regular IAP (or outright purchase) is well worth the cost.  The colours, not so much, but that is merely an opinion.

The bottom line is, if you’re looking for the best ePub reader, get Marvin 3.

AppleTV Updated

Finally, Apple decided to update the AppleTV – and promote it to the product menu bar on the main site!  This common, and popular, device had been overlooked for four years!

The changes are exactly what I was wishing for… but somehow not enough.  The main thing I wanted was apps.  It seemed kinda dumb that an iOS device (the previous AppleTV was running iOS 5) couldn’t run apps.

The internals have been improved significantly to support the load that modern apps will certainly give to the hardware.  An A8 processor (mostly the same in the iPad Air 2, with a different GPU), 2GB RAM, and 32-64GB flash storage.  Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi 802.11 ac (along with the other letters).

But Apple has never been strictly about the internals.  You shouldn’t need to know exact RAM numbers to know how the experience will be 1.  Apple has always been about the experience, even if it causes the device to be a little more expensive.

So what is the experience?  Well, the existing AppleTV experience is a gimme.  It was already very good and uniquely seamless… playing iTunes content and receiving AirPlay streams is a very satisfying experience.  The downside?  The doors were closed to anything else.  So now with apps, the experience gets much wider.  Plex is better than iTunes.  2  TuneIn Radio would be nice to have on the same box.  And then there’s games!

<record scratch>. 3

Of course there’s going to be games, when people talk about the App Store for iOS, their first thought is GAMES.  But, the App Store games have been unique beasts until now.  Odd games with ridiculously simple controls and brief (seconds to minutes) of typical game time.  Games like Threes, Angry Birds and Plants Vs. Zombies really worked on a portable, touchscreen, battery-powered handheld that you had with you anyway.  Put it on a screen with three other bored family members watching and it won’t work.

The games have to change nature, obviously.  When you fire up a game in the living room, you do so with hours, not minutes in mind.  Solo games are still fine, of course (they already succeed on the consoles, so that proves that).  But the AppleTV as a gaming device is going into the arena with a handful of potential games worth playing.  I too loved the demo of Crossy Road, it looked great… but I think I would only play it on the big screen for 10 minutes.  The Apple ad highlighted Asphalt 8, and there’s also Real Racing 3, another graphics-beautiful game that lends itself wonderfully to the controller.  And with the In-App Purchases you can…

<record scratch>.  <audience gasp>. <crickets>. 4

I bought Real Racing 2.  It was fun, if a bit unrealistic.  It was self-contained and cost money up front.  Real Racing 3 came out, and was mostly improved except it’s now Freemium… so you can play for free as long as you stop playing every few races to let it recharge.  Stop.  Playing.  Tell me if that’s going to work when you’re on the couch with a cool drink and controller in hand.  I know, there are about 1% of the players that actually pay for cubits or gemoids or coinules or whatever they have 5.

The easy(tm) solution is to charge more for the games.  I’m actually fine with that, as I’d pay $5-$10 for a really good game.  That would be kinda the upper limit, the reason for which will I will explain shortly.  So maybe that will happen.  I’m actually pretty certain(tm) that it will, actually, though I think the prices will balance out at a little more around $10-$20.

Now back to the hardware.  It has the grunt to drive these games, but there are two significant problems that stand out right away.

First, controller support is restricted to MFi controllers, so those awesome and cheap USB controllers you already have (like the ubiquitous Xbox 360 controller) cannot be used.  So you can get an AppleTV for $149 plus a controller for $49 more.  $200 USD for an unknown console with a single controller… now that’s not too bad given new console prices.  Except I could pop out today and get a PS3 with 4 really good games (Lego Batman 3 and the Sly Collection) for $219 CDN.  With 500GB of storage.

Which leads me to my next issue.  There are only two levels of storage differentiating the $149 and $199 models Is 32GB enough, or is 64GB enough?  Right now very few know.  A high-end iOS game at the moment might push 2GB, or possibly more, but recently released developer information explains that apps for the AppleTV can only reserve 200 megabytes of persistent storage each.  They can download and cache a whole lot more than that, apparently, but given memory pressure (i.e. lots of different apps, not just games) using that cache, it will be dumped and you will have to redownload it.  So the snappy performance of the device when you first set it up will probably fade.  In practice, maybe you don’t notice this much, since you’d have to run a lot of different apps to create the memory pressure required to dump the cache of one.  Most people would focus around 4 or 5 apps each.  Unless of course you’re a family.

Oh… yeah, that 6.

It would be easy to compare this to the Xbox One, because it does much of what the Apple TV promises, without the Apple integration, of course… but it’s expensive, so I won’t do that.

Let’s go back briefly to the pricing of games…  It seems to me the big competitor they’ve just walked into the ring with is Valve.  Steam sales are ridiculous.  It’s not unusual to get a significant and excellent game on Steam for under $5.  Steam games are often cheaper than their iOS ports.  But, PC games and consoles are very different things.  The other key is the Steam Link hardware that is coming out next month.  A $59 CDN box will stream your PC/Mac games to your big screen.  It supports Xbox 360 controllers as well as a few others, and they are releasing a new $59 (CDN) controller as well, that is looking promising.  So for games, it’s $119 for a game plus controller, and a TON of cheap, high-quality games.  And an online store that works really well.  It will also stream your music if you really need to (MP3 only).  Maybe movies will come soon, who knows.  While it’s true it’s a streaming-only device, and you need your computer on… AppleTV is mostly the same for movies and music.  (Yes I know about iCloud)

I think the real potential competitor to the new AppleTV is the old AppleTV + Steam Link.  $89 + $59 = $148 CDN beats $149 US by a fair margin.  Enough to throw in a controller, if you really really don’t have one.

Comparing unreleased, unknown products is often an exercise in madness.  But at least my madness is well exercised.  I think we’ll know how this all shakes out in about a year.  Mark this down.

  1.  Quick, tell me how much RAM a PS3 has!  Whether you know that number or not, you realize it doesn’t matter as much as it would on a desktop
  2. There.  I said it.
  3. For the younger set, you might have to Google this
  4. You have to add your own sound effects here.  Work with me, people.
  5. For the older set, don’t bother Googling these
  6. Won’t someone think of the poor RECORDS?

Swype and iOS keyboards

I have experimented with replacement keyboards on Android from time to time.  Though I had SwiftKey installed for a year, I mostly used it as a regular keyboard.

So it wasn’t a real thrill for me when Apple announced third-party keyboards on iOS 8.   I found the iOS keyboard quite good, the design was really good and led to fast and mostly error-free typing.

The problem with most mobile keyboards is text prediction – autocorrect can never get you entirely what you want, and more often than not it was an exercise in frustration.  I didn’t find the iOS 7 predictions too bad, but when iOS 8 came out with QuickType, something happened.  It seemed like the autocorrect was much more aggressive, and more often frustratingly wrong.  So I started looking into third-party keyboards.

Fleksy was my first look, because it was free at release – it is not a huge leap for a new user to start using this keyboard, the keys are in the same spot and you just tap to enter letters.  However, this keyboard relies heavily on prediction.  Most of the time it does really well, but when it gets it wrong, you need to remember and perform a gesture to “unfix” it, or cycle through alternate replacements.  I found this more cumbersome than just using the iOS keyboard and being alert.

SwiftKey was free, and I liked the idea of gesture-based scribble-typing.  I had used it before, so it should be a simple switch, right?  Well, it was, but it still felt very clumsy. Once again, I hadn’t gained anything, it was just different.  I found myself fighting to switch back to the regular iOS keyboard more often.

Now, Swype came to my attention the past day or so, because they made it free.  That’s evidently a great way to get me to try something I am skeptical about.  Well, right away, I was impressed.  Multiple themes, a case-changing keyboard (it shows you the characters in caps when caps is on, etc), nice optional gestures, etc.  Mostly though, I liked the comparatively non-aggressive nature of the text suggestions. When an unusual word comes up, the quick type area allows you to dynamically add the word to your personal dictionary.  The personal dictionary can be edited at any time to remove accidental additions (or those times you were SURE that’s how it was spelled).  It even includes emoji in the autocorrect suggestions!  Just type “smile” and there’s a smiley.   That may seem slower than picking it, but remember you can swipe over the characters in order to kinda sketch out a little scribble that brings a smile to your keyboard, and maybe even to your face.

On top of all that, there’s a special calculator-style numeric keyboard available under the Swype key, if you want to enter numbers more comfortably.

There’s lots going for this keyboard.  Totally worth grabbing for free right now, if the deal is still on, and if not, it still might be a worthwhile investment if it has gone back to its regular 99 cent price.

MacDVDRipper Pro 5

I was a fan of RipIt and DVDRemaster a couple of years ago, I had a nice workflow going where I could convert my DVD TV series discs into MP4s for the Apple TV  (We have a lot of discs).  I discovered MDRP since then, and I have been very happy with it, just a few clicks to rip and convert in decent quality.  I love to see an encoder max out all of my cores, too 🙂

(As a side note, it seems that DVDRemaster got purchased by the company selling MDRP, so I suppose it’s a natural upgrade path for me)

Well, v5 came out a couple of weeks ago, but I couldn’t see much that was powerfully compelling about the new features – all they said was that it was now 64-bit and embedded switchable soft-subtitles.  And something very vague about converting after the fact.  Would that matter to me?

I decided to do a face-off with a single TV season disc.  The metrics here have “buckshot accuracy” but give me an idea.  I ripped 4 episodes in v4 and the demo of v5 and compared the time-stamps… it almost appeared like v5 was twice as fast.  Yes, about 12 minutes between two episodes in v4 and 6 in v5.  WOW.  Why are they not advertising considerable speed gains?  I know the computer could have been doing a bunch more during the first encode, but surely not that much!  I ran through a couple more box sets to be sure… and yup, I can finish a disc of about 4 episodes in roughly half an hour.  Even the fans on my iMac blew at high speed for the v4 conversion and remained quiet for the v5.

This is a totally worthwhile upgrade just for that rough test.  But, I discovered the other killer feature.  Previously, you could not use .dvdmedia packages as a source – which was a drag if I wanted to distribute the ripping task to other machines using say, RipIt.  This version though, uses them just fine!  Yeah!  I didn’t find a big improvement in distributing that process though, since the convert straight from disc is so fast it’s almost not worth ripping to an image and converting from that.

The upgrade was $10 and totally worth it.

WD MyBook Live

I discovered the other day that my WD MyBook Live is a lot more capable than I realized. It is actually running some flavour of Debian and has a fair suite of default unix commands.

So what did I do with it? I didn’t go too wild… Due to the death of a previous MyBook (capacitor problems on the interface board, I think), I decided I wanted some mirroring capability on it with another drive attached to my server Linux machine. Fortunately, on the Live, I found rsync, ssh and cron, which seems like the power trio I needed.

First step, enable SSH. That was too easy, go to http://address/UI/ssh and check a box. Done! The instructions for logging in are there.

Next, log in by ssh and create a ssh key pair… Something like

Use no password on this one, and store the keys in /root/.ssh – it seemed reasonable enough (do I need to tell you that you need to guard this key carefully, as it leaves the door wide open to your server?). Next, copy the public key over to the other machine…

And on the server

Test it out on the MyBook again…

Boom. In.

Next, test out rsyncing. I found out that the directories created through the GUI and through file sharing are on /DataVolume/shares, so…

It should pull in the key and do a dry run of the sync. If it works, try without the –dry-run switch and run the real sync. This will take some time depending on the amount to sync.

The switches are -e to execute ssh, -a to sync recursively and preserve permissions and symlinks, -v to be verbose, and -z to use compression. You can remove the -v portion before putting it in cron.

Speaking of which put the above successful command line into a shell script and copy it into /etc/cron.daily. Don’t forget to make it executable.

Very cool! The Live series of drives is now called the MyCloud, and is more powerful yet, including a stronger CPU and a USB host. It’s probably worth having at least one of these devices on a local network for part of a comprehensive backup strategy.

WWDC 2014

Apple had their WWDC keynote today, and announced, well, everything.

Their user experience is converging like I couldn’t have imagined before.  Continuity lets you transfer your work from mobile to desktop just by being close to your Mac.  You can answer your phone from your computer.

Mavericks looks awesome, despite my worry about flattening things.  I was worried it would look like Windows 8, but it looks terrific.  The screen fonts make my eyes sigh.

iOS extensibility has set my head spinning.  I can only imagine my what my Mail / Pocket Informant / Omnifocus workflow will look like early next year.  How will 1Password work with Safari now?  TextExpander and Drafts will now act like steroids for your phone.  Well, even more so.

Not talked about, but on the slide was Wi-Fi calling… which might mean free cell-phone calls.

A few “about time” features, of course, like AirDrop from iOS to OS X, interactive notifications, and reasonable iCloud prices.  I’m not about to gripe that those took so long, because hey, they’re here now.

Swift is an interesting announcement, it might mean much easier app development.  It might be just as easy to do a Swift app as a PhoneGap app now.  We’ll see.

One thing notably missing was offline Siri capability, which is a shame.  I understand why they didn’t do it though.  If they did, I’m certain they would have had to cut off the iPhone 4s and even possibly as far up the chain as the iPad Mini.  This is not something that Apple wants to consider doing right now.  (Update: apparently I completely missed the reference to Siri’s “streaming recognition” which might actually mean offline.)

Did you notice, Google got referenced about, well, once, if you count the big Android onscreen.  There was OneDrive, Box, but no Google Drive icon (interestingly, no Dropbox either).  Bing translate.  Even the webmail used in the demo was Yahoo!  Spotlight is now your go-to search, and that can use whatever engine Apple chooses to use behind the scenes – which is evidently Bing.  They allow you to change your default search provider to DuckDuckGo.  Apple is mad at Google, and now they’re playing hardball.

So much new, it’s going to be hard to wait until fall.

iPad multitasking

I have no idea if this rumor has any substance to it, but it makes me wonder. I have long wanted a way to view, for example, a document alongside a stopwatch, which is a very simplistic use case, I know. Or a Bible app alongside an ePub reader.

If they do this, I can see an easy way to introduce it with a new OS that will immediately work on a) Retina devices and with b) universal apps.

First of all let me restrict this scenario to a 2/3 style layout display, i.e. One primary app and one smaller secondary app.

If you have your iPad in landscape orientation, you have 2048 pixels across. Even if you halved that resolution you could easily display a second app – as the iPhone mode, in portrait… Even with full Retina resolution. You would have 384 horizontal pixels to spare – at least partly for interface and decoration.

I think the big technical issue there would be scaling down a Retina app on a Retina screen to non-Retina resolutions. It could be done, mathematically, but it won’t be nice, as in, Apple-nice. It has precedent though, pre-Retina iPad apps and games looked just OK, and inflated iPhone apps were workable, and it all lit a fire under developers to provide nicer assets for their apps.

The advantage of using this scheme is that most apps will just work. Those devs with two non-Universal apps will have to develop them or the users might have to have both versions installed on the same device. The interface design adaptations already made for a smaller screen space will pay off immediately when used as a secondary app.

This doesn’t answer all the questions though. What about the vertical blank space on the iPhone-app side? It would seem clumsy to leave exactly 400 vertical pixels unused, not to mention the downscaling we would have already seen on the iPad-app side. Some if the groundwork has been done already, though. Apple has been pushing resolution independence for a long time now, and with the exception if games I think most apps are at least partially prepared for it – and games won’t be played split-screen (let the exceptions fly). If they said “your horizontal resolution is no longer a binary choice between 1536 or 2048” or “your “iPhone” apps will have to allow for a 1536 pixel high screen” then developers could adapt without too much concern. Responsive Web developers have had to deal with this for a long time. Universal app developers have had to deal with this for a long time too. It wouldn’t take long.

Kindle

This morning I got an email from Amazon, they are now syncing side loaded documents to their cloud service alongside Amazon-purchased books. I loaded the kindle apps on my iOS devices again and sure enough, the one test book I had uploaded showed up. With a little bit of arguing I got annotations to sync.

I wanted to see how it compared to Google Play Books, as much as I find Google’s offering on on be the most palatable, the apps are a little stale and bare-bones.

The mobile offerings were quite good. Good rendering of fonts and colors in a few books I have, and nice page-turn animations. Highlighting and annotations have a nicer interface than on Google. However… The desktop version is still outdated. No syncing takes place at all to the desktop app… So it’s just about useless to me.

I did find that second hand Kindle readers are dirt cheap though, if I was willing to stay handheld it would be a great solution.

The other thing I could hope for is that Kobo gets the message and opens their doors (even just using third-party cloud storage?). If they do that, and update their desktop app, I would be even happier in their environment.

Right now the reader landscape is so very fragmented, especially with annotations. I hope the next few years brings some sort of standardization so that e-documents will be more durable than they are today.