June 30th, 2005
Lance Armstrong sponsors UCI drug testing, said UCI chairman Hein Verbruggen in an interview with Dutch sports TV show Studio Sport today. The interview was part of a long look at the legend Lance Armstrong has become during his lifetime.
Verbruggen revealed this in an attempt to bolster Armstrong’s reputation (this shows he’s committed to fighting doping), although his opponents could of course read something else in this (he’s buying negative test results).
Although Armstrong is the most doping-tested bicycle racer of the past eight years, no-one has ever found a shred of evidence that he is taking performance enhancing drugs (he was once tested positive, but that was the result of taking a skin cream against saddle sores). Yet allegations, especially by trash-rag Le Monde (and “namesake” Greg Lemond) have been haunting him for years.
Armstrong has also helped fund drug testing in the past.
June 23rd, 2005
Looking for more info on a couple of authors whose anthology of Dutch poetry and prose I want to send Project Gutenberg-wards, I stumbled on a website called Boek Op CD (Dutch, Book On CD). Its proprietors scan in donated books, turn them into PDF (and where possible perform an OCR run), burn the results on CD and sell those CDs, usually for around 10 euro per copy. Looks like PG has some interesting commercial competition, at least in the Netherlands. So far, they have a small but interesting catalogue. They use the Bookeye planetary scanner, and (just like Distributed Proofreaders) their OCR software of choice is Abbyy Finereader.
If there is anybody who has actually bought such a disk, I would be interested to know (for purposes too nefarious to mention) if the quality of the scans really is as low as the sample book suggests.
(Er, obviously they use Bookeye, as that is their own product. The use of Mambo for both sites seemed to suggest as much. :-))
Interested in finding out more about this project, I turned to Google and nic.nl. As it turns out, the company is run by Rob Camerlink as a side project to his Easy Data company, and based on a similar British project for genealogists called The Archive CD Books Project. There is an interview with Rob Camerlink in Dagblad van het Noorden (Dutch).
June 22nd, 2005
The first amateur launched orbital space craft, the Cosmos-1, appears to be lost. The Cosmos-1 is/was a solar sail powered craft, the first of its kind to enter space, and built by The Planetary Society. Launching space-craft has been a government monopoly more or less until last year, when private space faring took off with the launch of Scaled Composite’s SpaceShipOne. Cosmos-1 was launched using a Russian ICBM.
June 14th, 2005
Dutch football star Robin van Persie was arrested yesterday on charges of rape. His lawyer, Bram Moscowitz, is convinced Van Persie is innocent. During a TV interview, Moscowitz said he was not allowed to give details about the victim, but said that her profession made her an unreliable witness. What strange profession must that be!
June 11th, 2005
The eight richest countries in the world have decided to write-off the billions in debt owed to them by eighteen of the poorest countries in the world, with nine more countries being a candidate for the same treatment.
This is great news. Every year, the well-meaning citizens of the world donate money to relief aid, but their contributions unfortunately amount to little. When Bob Geldof organised Live Aid in 1985, the campaign managed to collect ca. 250 million US$. However, the 18 poor countries of today together pay 1 billion US$ a year in interest alone. However well-meaning and useful relief aid is, it is not helping countries to help themselves.
I do feel a little bit guilty though: when everybody was giving money to help the Tsunami victims, I decided to give money to the debt relief campaign. Unfortunately, I could not find an organisation to give money to, and forgot.
June 10th, 2005
Promotional campaigns sometimes offer you a free gimmick if you buy enough of the product within a prescribed time frame: “Buy 20 packs of coffee within the month, send in the coupons (or copies) plus 50 dollar to cover shipping and handling costs, and win a free cardiac arrythmia meter”. The “or copies” statement I have always found fascinating. Is this unique to the Netherlands and based on some arcane law? Or is it a marketing gimmick; as long as people feel they can send in 20 copies, they will keep buying the product?
(The actual word used is “natekenen”, which means “copy by hand”.)
And what kind of license is this?
June 7th, 2005
I hacked together a small text to image converter for converting ebooks. Some devices that can be used as ebook readers will only display images (PSP, Juice Box). Although theoretically it is possible to write real ebook reading software for these devices, for now my GDBook program might help.
GDBook 0.1 is written in PHP, and intended to be run from the command line. It will save image files to your local file system. It does not take arguments: you need to edit the program file to change the settings.
Yes, that’s rather barbaric, but since I do not own a Juice Box or a PSP, I am not likely to develop this program further. GDBook is GPLed, so please take on its development if you like.
Things that I think GDBook does better than the competition:
- No JPEG
- Regular line endings (broken at word boundaries)
Things that JPEGBook does better:
- Slick interface
- Page numbers
- Image backgrounds
GDLib comes standard with the MS Windows binaries for PHP, but is not installed. The GDLib web site explains how to install it. Keep in mind that the extension name in the php.ini file should be the same as in your extensions directory: on my system the two differed.
Known bug: when a paragraph ends in a wide line, some of the text may spill over the border and even off the page.
The text that is used in the current configuration is The War Sacrifices of Mr. Spugg (also as readable HTML version) by Stephen Leacock. Worth reading even if you have no need for the program.
June 4th, 2005
Mattel, known mostly for the Barbie doll, and for the aggresive way in which it tries to “protect” its “trademark”, brought out an MP3/video player called the Juicebox.
Perhaps it did not catch on, because several US chain stores slashed its price from upwards of 60 dollar to just over 10 dollar.
Which made me wonder: could this machine perhaps be used as an ebook reader? The screen is 50% larger (in pixels) than that of my Palm Pilot and the price is a tenth of that same Palm Pilot. I have always felt that ebook readers should be around the 25 euro mark, because otherwise even prolific readers would be paying more for the medium than for the message.
(I can imagine a subscription scheme in which one would pay 50 euro for the first year, but get, say, a bunch of good, new books thrown in for free. A bit like the initial Ebookwise model, where you would pay 100 US$ for the reader device, and get 20 US$ worth of books free.)
Brian Pipa used JPEGbook to convert a text to sequentially numbered JPEGs, which then can be read on the Juicebox. More on the Teleread blog and at Brian’s.
Photo: Brian Pipa
The only pity so far seems to be that JPEGbook will not anti-alias the letters; the JPEG compression seems to produce pretty hefty artifacts, and of course one is limited in the font size that is usable.
It seems the Juicebox uses lots of standard components, which would imply it could be hacked to run a real reader program. The makers of the Juicebox, Hongkong based Emsoft, also produce ebook reader software, which may or may not be compatible.