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Old 09-01-2006, 05:42 AM   #1
Bierius
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Hmmm iRex or Sony (DRM question)

Ok now I know this topic has no doubt been covered a number of times before on this forum, but I think there’s no harm in revisiting this question as I’m sure it’s quite a common one amongst newbies like myself.

I’m very close to placing an order for the iLiad as it is much better suited to displaying journals than the Sony reader! However, I also want it to display recent eBooks purchased online etc. Now is it true that due to DRM this will not be possible with the iLiad? Is there a simple reliable way for people to read DRM content on the iLiad?

Please please give me an excuse to buy the iLiad!
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Old 09-01-2006, 06:00 AM   #2
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So-far as I am aware it's unlikely to be possible on the sony either, unless you buy a version in their specific DRM format.
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Old 09-01-2006, 09:00 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bierius
Ok now I know this topic has no doubt been covered a number of times before on this forum, but I think there’s no harm in revisiting this question as I’m sure it’s quite a common one amongst newbies like myself.

I’m very close to placing an order for the iLiad as it is much better suited to displaying journals than the Sony reader! However, I also want it to display recent eBooks purchased online etc. Now is it true that due to DRM this will not be possible with the iLiad? Is there a simple reliable way for people to read DRM content on the iLiad?

Please please give me an excuse to buy the iLiad!
Take a look at the FAQ page. DRM is not supported, but there seems to be work to get agreements with Mobipocket and possible eReader. I think they use "soon", and since the formal introduction wasn't slated until this month...

Negotiations can always break down, but at Mobipocket support under suggestions there is also a hint that there might be an announcement.

I'm hoping the lawyers get out of their own way so that customers can start buying (hint to Mobipocket & iRex, if you are lurking).
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Old 09-01-2006, 09:01 AM   #4
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DRM is mostly about cryptography, and it can change from a version of the software to another. The final result in both machines must depend on how many pressure the e-book sellers are able to put upon the shoulders of software development. Amusingly, both machines can be expected to be binary compatible for statically linked software, so in theory even third party developers could release a common DRM platform.

What there is not, is DRM specific hardware. Here is where I should put my barrier to buy a device.
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Old 09-01-2006, 11:02 AM   #5
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Well, I think you've gotten a pretty thorough answer, Bierius, I don't have much to add, except an observation about the approaches of the two companies.

Since both units use Linux, homebrew 3rd party apps are pretty much inevitable -- just look how fast these maniacs (meant in the nicest way ) started hacking their 650 Euro devices! So I think a point to consider is the approach the two companies are taking to those apps.

iRex specifically designed their device primarily to run 3rd party apps, but they seem to want to keep some control over which apps those might be. It's still unclear what they'll do with that (since that hasn't started yet), but they've said something to the effect that they want to deliver 3rd party apps via their IDS. I don't think anyone knows what they'll try to do with apps that are passed around beyond their reach. My guess is probably shrug and charge for de-bricking service as needed.

Sony, on the other hand, hasn't really said diddly about third party apps. There have been some wisps of rumour about quiet talks, but not much there. However, they also haven't (as far as we can tell) put an equivalent of the IDS in place to feed their readers apps -- we do know that they can send firmware updates out to their units via (wired) 'net connection.

Okay, here's where I get really speculative, so salt to taste. I think that you're more likely to see Mobipocket or eReader (etc.) on the iLiad through official channels than on the Sony, however, I also think that you might be slightly more likely to see "unofficial" readers for those formats on the Sony.

That's kind of a "well, duh," because iRex will officially allow new apps on their reader and it appears Sony isn't thinking along those lines, at the moment, anyway. But they're both talking some sort of SDK release, so it would appear that Sony doesn't plan to just lock us all out of their device. (shrug)

All of that being said, I think you're likely correct that the iLiad's screen size is going to make it the better choice for manuals and journals of fixed A5-ish size pages.
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Old 09-01-2006, 11:16 AM   #6
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NatCh do you think there is a way that a third party can make input possible on e-readers by plugging a portable USB keyboard?
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Old 09-01-2006, 11:27 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yvanleterrible
NatCh do you think there is a way that a third party can make input possible on e-readers by plugging a portable USB keyboard?
I'd guess it depends on the Reader hardware somewhat. The iLiad's is a full master USB, so it seems like it should be possible, but it doesn't seem that it works currently. I will be surprised if such an app doesn't appear from the, erm, ether before long.

I haven't been able to find much about the (mini) USB on the Sony, but what little I've seen doesn't make me think so. Don't put much store by that though, there's really so little info out on that point that it doesn't even make for much of a guess. (shrug)

On the bright side: who knows what the Linux community will do with such shiney new toys?
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Old 09-01-2006, 02:12 PM   #8
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hmmm I think the iLiad is definitely best for me then. Thanks for all the input Just hope they bring out some 3rd party stuff soon
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Old 09-01-2006, 02:34 PM   #9
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Fear the sony battery... maybe the librie catches fire :-)
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Old 09-02-2006, 06:40 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bierius
hmmm I think the iLiad is definitely best for me then. Thanks for all the input Just hope they bring out some 3rd party stuff soon
Keep friendly pressure upon iRex customer service! We would get some easy ports coming from the previous experience in Sharp Zaurus series and the Nokia 770. For instance, TeX has been already deployed for the Nokia.
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Old 09-02-2006, 11:45 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by NatCh
Okay, here's where I get really speculative, so salt to taste. I think that you're more likely to see Mobipocket or eReader (etc.) on the iLiad through official channels than on the Sony, however, I also think that you might be slightly more likely to see "unofficial" readers for those formats on the Sony.
I think Sony is less likely to support and/or work with other on another format simply because they plan their own bookstore - from which they presumably will take a cut of the action. iRex has repeatedly said they want to support legitimate copyright rights so will probably assist with deals (as suggested in FAQ eReader and Mobipocket have been mentioned) to increase available book sources for readers. For now at least, I have so much on the SIMM card (something like 900meg) that the debate can happily get worked out long before I run out of reading material.
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Old 09-02-2006, 02:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by VillageReader
I think Sony is less likely to support and/or work with other on another format simply because they plan their own bookstore....
Not that long ago I'd've agreed with you, VillageReader, but I've been paying a bit more attention to them lately (as I've considered how the various readers look to me), and it seems that Sony's attitude on their store is more that they want to provide a pool of content for prospective Reader buyers (who may have never so much as heard of Project Gutenberg) to say, "hey, I can get content for this easily!" -- I think that marks a difference from their past approaches. A small but significant difference.

I share your confidence that they get a cut, but it's a cut of nuthin' if there's no one out there with a Reader to buy books from them. Also, remember how insular Sony's divisions are -- the Reader is Sony Electronics' baby, I'm guessing they're going to be primarily interested in selling the hardware. Absolutely the Connect Store is going to be primarily interested in selling their content, but if there are no Sony Readers sold, then nobody will buy that content. We're all pretty much agreed that more folks will buy a Reader that looks relaxed about what file types it will handle -- that's why we were so interested to learn that the Sony handled more than just BBeB files natively. I'm just pointing out that there are some pretty good indications that Sony has seen a glimmer of 'The Light' on the matter.

If they were truly intent on cutting out other formats, I think they wouldn't support TXT/RTF/PDF, wouldn't have an SD slot, and they'd probably avoid an OS that's open like Linux is like the plague -- it's not like they didn't notice that the Librie' got hacked about as fast as its packaging hit the floor (from being ripped off the units, I mean).

Because they did choose Linux, 3rd party apps are pretty much guarantied (and they have to know it as well as we do). Shucks, if Mobipocket (for example) portals for iLiad, how much extra work would it really be to portal for another, relatively similar, Unix device? Whether Sony cooperates or not, I think the other e-book vendors will probably want to portal for the device. And I know the hacker-users will want to if the vendors don't.

But that goes back to what I was trying to say, that iLiad may be more official about it, but I think Sony has set up a system where the unofficial channels can produce remarkably similar results -- just maybe even faster than iRex's official ones.
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Old 09-03-2006, 04:52 AM   #13
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You know how you get your best ideas while on the bed? This morning, I as trying to get up and thought about porting software e-readers to other platforms.

Are there any user-made ports of Mobipocket? Of any other DRM'ed reader? I am no programmer, but I think porting a reader would probably mean breaking the DRM bit. And the moment this happens, they are gonna change the code. Look how fast Microsoft has corrected the security hole in their P(l)ay for Sure crap: from August 19th to August 28th.

Porting commercial formats to another system is only going to happen if the two parties cooperate. For instance, Mobipocket gets the SDK from iRex, AFTER they come to a formal agreement. Do I see Sony letting other formats into their baby? No, they need to control the food chain through their Connect Store.
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Old 09-03-2006, 03:14 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by lordvetinari2
Are there any user-made ports of Mobipocket? Of any other DRM'ed reader? I am no programmer, but I think porting a reader would probably mean breaking the DRM bit.
You've got a point there, but another one is that there hasn't really been a need to do so, as Mobipocket has pretty much portalled for everything so far.

I am a programmer, but not this kind of programmer, so my guesses are just that: guesses. That said, I would guess that you might be able to add a module (dll equivalent, perhaps?) to the existing software to tell it how to talk to these controls, rather than those, and never have to touch the icky DRM parts. I don't know if Mobipocket, or any of the others, is even structured in a way that that suggestion even makes sense!

I'd also guess that this hypothetical modification might be easier to do for the Sony if the software has already been portalled for iLiad. They have to be pretty similar (as far as OS goes), and they have similar types of physical controls for doing the same things (page up/down, etc.).

I'll go way out on a limb here and further guess that Mobipocket (et.al.) might be just a wee bit interested in putting their software on the most promising type of reader hardware (e-ink) to hit the market in a very long time.

But, again, those are just guesses -- salt to taste.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordvetinari2
Porting commercial formats to another system is only going to happen if the two parties cooperate.
I don't think I agree that that actual cooperation is necessary -- did Mobipocket require Palm's or MacroHard's cooperation, or did they just develop their product to run on well documented OS's?

I don't know the answer to that, but I'm pretty confident that MacroHard doesn't actively cooperate much with too many software developers. Aside from releasing developer tools & references, it seems to me that most OS's just let developers figure it out for themselves. Also, consider that the OS we're discussing them portaling for is Linux -- true, they haven't done it before (that I know of ), but I suspect they may see some increased advantage in it now, with the arrival of three separate Linux using e-ink readers. (shrug)

I really think that the OS is the more important variable here than the hardware itself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordvetinari2
For instance, Mobipocket gets the SDK from iRex, AFTER they come to a formal agreement.
iRex is releasing at least part of the SDK for free, and selling the beefed up one. I suspect that if Mobipocket wanted to, they could develop for iLiad without an agreement -- Linux is open, isn't all they really need the details of how this version of Linux interfaces with the hardware? Isn't iRex pretty much obligated to release that much by the GPL? Or am I off here?

Of course, iRex does seem to be trying to exercise some control over what apps go on the iLiad via their IDS, but I think that the reason Mobipocket and iRex are apparently talking is more likely interest on iRex's part in having the Mobipocket reader on their platform, making it more useful, and therefore more saleable. I think this, again, because I suspect that Mobipocket could likely do a port without them, though that port might never make it through the IDS....

Sony has also chosen Linux, is therefore under the same GPL requirements that iRex is as far as the OS/hardware interface, and hasn't said anything at all about 3rd party content, unless you count that we know that they are also planning to release an SDK.

For me, those things just don't add up to Sony trying to keep everyone from trying to make apps for their device. I understand that someone else may see it differently, but it just doesn't look that way to me. (shrug)

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordvetinari2
Do I see Sony letting other formats into their baby? No, they need to control the food chain through their Connect Store.
Sony is already letting other formats on their reader: TXT, RTF, PDF, mp3, AAC -- none of those is a Sony format.

As for controlling the food chain, I've already shared my thoughts on that, so I'll spare everyone a repeat.

Well, I don't suppose we can arrive at a difinitive answer at the moment, but, whichever way it is, I guess we'll know in time.
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Old 09-03-2006, 03:56 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by NatCh
...I don't think I agree that that actual cooperation is necessary -- did Mobipocket require Palm's or MacroHard's cooperation, or did they just develop their product to run on well documented OS's?

I don't know the answer to that, but I'm pretty confident that MacroHard doesn't actively cooperate much with too many software developers. Aside from releasing developer tools & references, it seems to me that most OS's just let developers figure it out for themselves. Also, consider that the OS we're discussing them portaling for is Linux -- true, they haven't done it before (that I know of ), but I suspect they may see some increased advantage in it now, with the arrival of three separate Linux using e-ink readers. (shrug)

I really think that the OS is the more important variable here than the hardware itself.

iRex is releasing at least part of the SDK for free, and selling the beefed up one. I suspect that if Mobipocket wanted to, they could develop for iLiad without an agreement -- Linux is open, isn't all they really need the details of how this version of Linux interfaces with the hardware? Isn't iRex pretty much obligated to release that much by the GPL? Or am I off here?
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html
http://www.gpl-violations.org/faq/sourcecode-faq.html

If I got it right, for everything which is somehow derived from a GPLed program (be it a modification of a GPLed program or a program linked against a GPL library), there has to be the source code available (not neccessarily in form of a download).

And GPL-violations sheds some light on the GPL and embedded devices, especially interesting is the part about programs needed to install the software (read flashing tools).
Quote:
Originally Posted by gpl-violations.org
What are "scripts used to control installation"?

After having translated software from its source code form into executable format, the program quite often needs to be installed into the system. The process of installation is often automatized by installation scripts. Exactly those scripts are referred to by the GPL.

Please note that this is of special practical importance in the case of embedded devices, since the executable program(s) need to be somehow installed onto the device. If the user is not given a way to install his own (modified) versions of the program, he has no way of exercising his freedom to run modified versions of the program.

Sometimes, the process of installation is not facilitated by scripts, but by some other means (such as executable programs). The GPL text only mentions the word "scripts". But when reading and interpreting the license, it is clearly understood that the license doesn't specifically only mean "scripts", but any kind of software programs that are required to install a (modified) version of the compiled program.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
Of course, iRex does seem to be trying to exercise some control over what apps go on the iLiad via their IDS, but I think that the reason Mobipocket and iRex are apparently talking is more likely interest on iRex's part in having the Mobipocket reader on their platform, making it more useful, and therefore more saleable. I think this, again, because I suspect that Mobipocket could likely do a port without them, though that port might never make it through the IDS....

Sony has also chosen Linux, is therefore under the same GPL requirements that iRex is as far as the OS/hardware interface, and hasn't said anything at all about 3rd party content, unless you count that we know that they are also planning to release an SDK.

For me, those things just don't add up to Sony trying to keep everyone from trying to make apps for their device. I understand that someone else may see it differently, but it just doesn't look that way to me. (shrug)
If I look back in the history of devices with embedded Linux where the source code and installation tools were first not available on the free will of the vendors, they only needed a small note from GPL-violations and from one moment to another there was the source available.
Obviously there were some cases where it needed a lawsuit, but I think everyone here knows the result.
So, either some specialists/hackers find a way to do what they want (and what the GPL allows) or the vendor makes the source available on it's own.

To make it short, I count on the fact that history often enough repeats itself.
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