From Google Books to PDF lickety-split!

So I got a Kindle for Xmas and wanted to start sticking some content on it. Google Books has some gems (some in full!) so i have just figure out this process of getting them into PDF format and then onto my Kindle. I use PDF as you get images from Google Books and not text. Somebody might wan to find a command line image-to-text converter (OSC) and stick this in at the end of this process (depending on how keen you are). There are some large text books i would consider doing it to, but for now…

  1. Use Firefox with the GreaseMonkey add-on and the Google Book Downloader script to generate a list of links to all the page images
  2. This will genarete a long list of links, one for each page, so you can then use the FireFox add-on DownThemAll! to… downlaod them all…
    • create a folder for them all to live in
    • under “Fast filter” I entered “‘books?id=” to select the book page links
    • Set the “Renaming Mask” to “*text*” (less the quotes)
  3. This should give you a folder with all the book pages as images. To convert these to PDF you will need imagemagick installed (on the Mac i recommend using Homebrew to get this installed quickly). Simply crack open the terminal/command-line:
    cd /folder/with/the/downloaded/images
    and then:
    convert *.png mynewbook.pdf

…and your done!

If you have a eBook reader them you might want to import the PDF with Calibre and upload to your respective device.

Is Minority Report the future?

Fredrik post a link to this video in response to a link on future programming interfaces that i posted.

Eyeo2012 – John Underkoffler from Eyeo Festival

He is right that the interface needs revision, we need to move on from current GUIs. I haven’t thought about the connection of the GUI and the physical input device so much but its true: scroll bars and buttons, drop lists etc are born because of the mouse pointer.

He didn’t talk about the changes top the GUI so much. All the demos for this Minority Report style interface always seem to be for visual applications. He said Spielberg wanted to get rid if the mouse and keyboard but this interface only replaces the mouse. I think voice recognition is going to be the keyboard killer.

I’d like to hear more about this ‘protein’ C++ thing for connecting screens/pixels together. I guess its just networking hardware together seamlessly. I think the web should already be doing this or it will as it replaces the OS. The next phase I guess.

Recent “job” offer

Cool job offer guy

So I was minding my own business when I little alert email from my Ubercart account came in to tell me that i had a message waiting. I haven’ been involved in the Ubercart project for over 2 years and was surprised. I was unamazed to find an job offer (since the last 10 messages from there have been individuals looking for a cheap way to get an online store happening). The job offer was fairly long and boring so I didn’t bother reading it before my first replay:

Me
where is it and whats the rate?
NorWing
You can work from home.
We’re in European Union.
The project have a fix price. We’re not interested regarding hourly rate.
Thank you for your attention!

The words “fixed price” immediately made me lose interest. Every web-geek has done her fair share of “fixed price” jobs with unfixed hours. BUT you never knew. They might have a lot of cash “fixed”…?

Me
So then what is the time frame and how much can you offer?
NorWing
Your question it’s not pretty cool..
You don’t know nothing about the project and you’re asking for money?

“cool”? I knew this guy was a serious business guy now I did. But he was right! I still hadn’t read anything about the job. So I did…

General Requirements:
• Proficiency in PHP and Javascript, preferably jQuery
• Experience with Drupal, preferably Drupal 7
• Familiarity with Context, Features and other Drupal site-building modules
• Experience with version control, especially Git
• Familiarity with Apache, Nginx, Linux, MySQL
• Knowledge of web standards, including HTML, XHTML, CSS, XML
• Creativity, initiative, follow-through, meticulous attention to detail
and impeccable organizational skills

The usual “You will know EVERY technology we can think of which may-or-may-not be relavent to this project (just in case)”. The ending was interesting however:

We request technical recommendations and technical plan for the project.
Also we want to see your projects in Drupal 7 / Ubercart 3 and recommendations from these projects!

Time frame it’s VERY VERY important! In this way, you’ll work with our team.

Payments: we’ll release multiple payments after every specified task according with oDesk policy for fixed price jobs. We don’t release upfront payments.
The contract can be divided in max. 5 tasks.

IF YOU’RE THINKING THAT YOU’RE NOT EXPERT IN THIS KIND OF WORK, PLEASE DON’T SPEND YOUR TIME AND DON’T APPLY!

WE PREFER INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPER(Engineer!), INSTEAD COMPANY!

Yes, the old “Time frame it’s VERY VERY important!” line, and they prefer individuals (because a company won’t work off the clock and demand a contract).

AND then there is oDesk. If the Egyptian Pharaohs where asked to design an online job market, they would have come up with oDesk. As they say “See work-in-progress screenshots”. You can feel the man standing over you with the whip.

Me

Not pretty cool?

I thought we were talking about business not fashion? Your the one who mass-emailed me (which is really not pretty or cool).

Yes, i’m talking money because who works for free? I guess your after a “cool” developer who works for free or around 2euros/hour. We call them suckers in the web game (or any other game really).

Besides, your the one who says “Time frame it’s VERY VERY important!”. If your paying dick then i guess it is, but you havent said what the time frame is or how much per task. I guess you thought it was important BECAUSE ITS THE ONLY PARTY YOU LEFT THE CAPS-LOCK ON FOR.

So stop pulling by cock and tell me what the story is.

NorWing
yes. 1euro/hour..is fine?

I couldn’t actually tell if he was serious at this point. Then i guess he realised that i wasn’t…

NorWing
if you’re so smart, please tell me how I can post a job in ubercart.org
thank you!
Me
Its not posting its spamming, and i would tell you but your paying a little under my usual rate. That is for sitting in front of a computer! I would, however, fart your national anthem:

  • in any key you want
  • on my back or facing downwards
  • with the last note captured in a paper bag
  • and you can watch on oDesk
  • For your 1euro/hour rate.
  • What do you say, you like? I have many customers who can recommend me for this. Thank you for your attention!

You’ll be sad to know: he didn’t get back to me.

Analysis of Kevin Baldwin playing Grab It!


Some interesting ideas here:

  • A set composition which is moved forward by live triggers.
  • Using an acoustic instrument as a controller. Possibly using pitch detection.
  • Using video, text and spoken word for “conceptional content” in combination with the abstraction of music/sound.
  • Integration of poetry medium was nice.

I wasn’t so much impressed with the actual choice of content of the piece but the delivery and the fast pace of the musical style combined was very effective. I imagine live it would have a great impact assuming you were standing close enough.

He seemed stuck behind the instrument and sheet music so would be physically constrained in meeting the audience and thus have less options with engaging them.

Ideas for future directions from here might be:

  • Gesture recognition, i.e. series of notes, a “music phrase” as triggers for navigating the composition, perhaps allowing for non-linear compositions. Also for triggering smaller sequences of visuals/spoken-word
  • Different interface to make music which allows more interaction with the audience. Perhaps wireless sensors.
  • Noise!

Composition is like Gardening which is like Surfing slow-mo

Brian Eno is famous for his generative approach to composition and in this talk, Composers as Gardeners, he talks about how he arrived at this idea. The main jist of it is that he was influenced by the book The Brain Of The Firm, The Managerial Cybernetics Of Organization in which Stafford Beer talks about what we call today Emergent Behavior

What happened in Stafford’s work was that he was talking about organization and how things organize themselves in this new way. And there was one sentence in the book which I think I still remember, he said ‘instead of trying to organize it in full detail, you organize it only somewhat and you then rely on the dynamics of the system to take you in the direction you want to go.’ And this became my sort of motto for how I wanted composition to be.

This all reminded me about a video interview with Curtis roads in which he talks about a book he was reading on landscape gardening being really about composition.

What I find inspiring about what Eno is his discovery of the “talent to surrender”

And another way I can translate that is to say it’s a repositioning of ourselves on the control/surrender spectrum…What we’re not so used to is the idea that another great gift we have is the talent to surrender and to cooperate. Cooperation and surrender are actually parts of the same skill. To be able to surrender is to be able to know when to stop trying to control. And to know when to go with things, to be taken along by them. And that’s a skill that we actually have to start relearning.

Steve Reich had a sort of orthogonal idea of Music as a Gradual Process in that he would design a generative process that would operate by itself.

Musical processes can give one a direct contact with the impersonal and also a kind of complete control, and one doesn’t always think of the impersonal and complete control as going together. By “a kind” of complete control I mean that by running this material through the process I completely control all that results, but also that I accept all that results without changes.

When looking at performance that involved generative elements i always saw this as a lack of control (and perhaps imagination). Now, instead, i see it as the skill of going with the moment, sort of like surfing on a giant chaotic wave.

Living Public

Hasan M. Elahi
I just read this article about a guy who was harasser by the FBI for 6 months because someone reported him as having explosives in storage somewhere (which he didn’t). They wanted to know everything about him for the last 6 months. SO he started to make EVERYTHING publicly available:

When I first started talking about my project in 2003, people thought I was insane. Why would anyone tell everyone what he was doing at all times? Why would anyone want to share a photo of every place he visited? Now eight years later, more than 800 million people do the same thing I’ve been doing each time they update their status or post an image or poke someone on Facebook. (Just to put this in perspective, if Facebook was a country, it would have the third highest population, after China and India.) Insane?

What I’m doing is no longer just an art project; creating our own archives has become so commonplace that we’re all — or at least hundreds of millions of us — doing it all the time. Whether we know it or not.

Last weekend i also watched ‘We Live In Public’

about Josh Harris who was ahead of his time putting every room in his house online and living in public with his girlfriend. His life became Hell.

With Facebook becoming the internet for most people, this is happening more and more. The first artist thought it was a good idea the second not so good.

As Conan the Barbarian says: “I live, I love, I slay” whats to hide :)

Mass renaming files

Nice little shell one-liner to mass rename foo*.jpg to bar*.jpg

ls foo*.jpg | awk '{print("mv "$1" "$1)}' | sed 's/foo/bar/2' | /bin/sh

Leave off the last pipe to get a preview of the output first ;)

Heres a variation I used to keep just the first part of a file name before the first space (i.e. when Finder makes a copy of a file say)

l -1 *.jpg | awk '{print("mv \""$0"\" "$1".jpg")}' | /bin/sh

Generation Why? Why Not?

I just read Zadie Smiths’ Generation Why? and it bugged me…

Zadie’s main argument seems to be based on “I don’t like Zuckerberg so therefore Facebook is also bad”.

It seems a fairly shallow understanding of Facebook and the medium in general. I don’t like Facebook but mainly for the politics of intellectual property, not because it doesn’t model a human properly. But who said it was trying to? Mobile phones are not trying to model your social life and they have a list of your friends too. He also has assumed that everyone uses Facebook the same way he does and that all relationship you have with everyone are the same (ether all shallow or all deep).

Zadie assesment is shallow because he hasn’t really looked at the Facebook medium and understood what its doing, and more importantly whats new there. The friend feed is a (the) personal feed of information on your social network, creatred by the people YOU deem worth to call friends. I personally am constantly culling this list as to me, its really only useful when it has people I care about on it. I don’t have the same self-esteem issues that Americans seem to have wrapped up in “popularity” and evidence of it (or I assume Americans have this based on Movies and all other culture they project). Whats new about it is that its a PASSIVE way to keep up-to-date with what the people you care about are doing. The reason you don’t write emails/letters/faxes/tellagrams to EVERYONE you know/care-about is:

(a) It takes to much time (but this doesn’t mean you don’t care or are less of a person as Zadie seems to imply.
(b) Now that we are in an age where we can actually keep track of all these people we are in contact with a far greater number of people than every before and 1-to-1 communication with them all would be a full time job
(c) Facebook makes it possible to stay in communication with people as they update there info (email/phone numbers/address etc) which also requires a watchful eye if you trying to keep an up-to-date address book.
(d) You writing to them in an active way DEMANDS they are also active in keeping up else you think they are ignoring you and then you take offense or start to think they are not good friends etc etc. Imagine if everyone you knew sent you an email once a week. It would be a full time job just responding.

What are the positives of Facebook that I find make it worth persisting with:

1. Passive socialising is easy and lest you stay in contact with more of the people you would like to but don’t have time normally. I’m pretty anti-social and this makes me more social than I have ever been.
2. Messaging in Facebook is spam free. Unlike email you can only receive messages from your friends and if someone sends you something you don’t like you can ban them and you never receive something from them again. As far as direct communication goes its ideal.

Also, Zadie hasn’t put Facebook into the historical context (in fact all Zadie’s research seems to be based on seeing the film), which was the birth of the idea of the “social” online. If you know anything about Computing Science or Computing Scientists you’ll immediately realise that the word “social” is as new to the field as it is to proponents (that was a joke: ha ha). If the modeling of human relations is clumbys, its only because its new to Comp. Sci. and will only get more detailed and accurate. Its not society, its just a tool!

Zadie admits that she was addicted to Facebook for awhile. This is not because Facebook is some new game. Its simply reveling something that was already there in people. I can say this because its ONLY about people. All the content is about people made by people for people to consume. Facebook is actually pretty minimal in that it doesn’t add much to what people put up on it, and they can put up everything the digital-verse has to offer. Once the first networked computer game was on the market it quickly became obvious that interaction with people will always be more interesting than with computer opponents. The internet became amazingly popular because its all content made by real, every day humans. YouTube showed us that reality TV is more interesting than the mediated TV Exec. idea of what is interesting. Human-to-Human interaction is the most adictive thing online (and offline) and thats why Facebook is addictive, it actually has very little to do with Facebook.

But there is something deeper in Zadie’s article, which is jokingly thrown around but never actually takes seriously, the smell of generation hatred (or fear) which has also wafted by when I have read about the introduction of Radio, Movies, TV (MTV) etc. Which is just conservative at its heart and scared of change.

Online Security Service idea

Facebook tracks the country you usually login from and if you login from elsewhere in the world it asked you some security questions. This is tracking location based on IP and seeing remembering where your usually at.

This service could be separated from Facebook and made a stand alone service that any large website could pay to attach to their site.

It could be enhanced to track OpenID login accounts and also made more intelligent if the account owners used something like Google Latitude so their current location could be matched automatically. This might also enhanced banks online security for credit card transactions etc.