My book, BeagleBone for Secret Agents, is now available

My book, BeagleBone for Secret Agents, is now available. The title is slightly misleading as you need not be a secret agent to enjoy this book. ūüėČ There are five self-contained projects involving electronics, cryptography, and various software packages but I wanted to write a book that was more than just a collection of projects. In BBfSa, I tried to motivate the social and individual importance of using software like Tor, GPG, and OTR. While the projects are cool, IMHO, I’m hoping that readers will appreciate the need for and difficulty of developing privacy enhancing technologies.

I picked projects that were explicitly more detailed than one could describe in a blog post. Most of them combine hardware and software and I would describe the projects as challenging, but attainable. If you decide to buy it hopefully you not only enjoy it, but learn something as well.

The book is available as a DRM free eBook and as a bound collection of printed dead-trees. I’ve stopped reading with eBooks readers, but there are just over 100 references, most with URLs, and I can appreciate the convenience of using one. You can visit my BBfSa page to see its availability or buy it direct from Packt Publishing.

Thanks to the many people at Packt who helped with the direction, editing, and layout. I was lucky to have very talented reviewers. Lastly, thank you Nate for writing an incredibly insightful forward and to SparkFun, without whom the projects in this book would not have been possible.

The design of the book

I’ve stopped using my Kindle. ¬†Sure, there were some convenient features that I’ll miss. ¬†For example, I enjoyed not carrying around three books on vacation and downloading books was a bit addictive. ¬†However, there were a few things that drove me crazy. ¬†Despite an impressive battery life, there were times when my uncharged Kindle stopped me from reading. ¬†Also, Amazon can modify the book you are reading, which really bothers me. ¬†It almost happened to me while reading Neal Stephenson’s Reamde.

Picture by Avi Solomon of The Strand Bookstore in NYC.  I do enjoying reading while Kindle owners put away their "hazardous" electronic devices.
Picture by Avi Solomon of The Strand Bookstore in NYC. I do enjoying reading while Kindle owners put away their “hazardous” electronic devices.

Continue reading “The design of the book”

Why the book won’t die

The NY Times is concerned about the death of Barnes & Noble.  First of all, we all know that Barnes and Noble was originally created a shell company for bathrooms for the homeless.  But despite that, there are two issues here: whether Barnes and Noble is going away and whether the book, in printed form, is going away.

The fear of Barnes and Noble dying is not totally unfounded, I mean, Border’s Books and Music is now dead (or near dead). ¬†Also, every time I go buy a book at B&N, I immediately search for it on Amazon and it is significantly cheaper there, so I usually walk out only with my coffee (from the B&N cafe). ¬†Where there are no good local bookstores, B&N is a godsend to spend a few hours walking through sections of books and realizing that I have a lot too read. ¬†But, B&N has not killed the independent bookstore. ¬†Some of my favorite books stores are indy-types where one can walk around¬†unorganized¬†or mostly unorganized¬†stacks and find books from serendipity alone. ¬†The Strand in NYC and¬†Joseph¬†Fox Bookstore in Philadelphia come to mind.

B&N’s savior, might be interestingly enough, the Nook. ¬†I am an Amazon zealot, however I do not like the reading experience on the Kindle Fire (or any backlight device). ¬†The original Kindle was meant for readers, the Kindle Fire was meant to play games and music and for people to buy books.

English: Barnes & Noble Nook
B&N Nook via Wikipedia

Given that, I actually think the new Nook is better than the Fire, but I’m not here to start a vi vs emacs war (Link for the uninitiated). ¬†The point being, I believe people are buying the Nook and it is a strong competitor to Amazon.

However, the book is not dying.  The written word has existed since antiquity on some sort of physical medium.  The book, in a codex form, has existing from the 15th century or so.  From a continuity of the medium, it has the 8-Track/record/tape/CD model beat as well as the VHS/laser disc/DVD/Blue Ray model.

So, the book has been around, so won’t the book go the way of the record? ¬†i.e. books will be for connoisseur¬†of the printed word like records while the masses will consume the eBook? ¬†I think not. ¬†Mainly because of Digital Rights Management (DRM¬†(Wikipedia)). ¬†When you buy a book, you own book; it can’t change, and as long as your eyes are still functioning, you can always read it. ¬†Enter the eBook. ¬†That book is totally dependent on the software which can unlock that DRM. ¬†Even if you can view it on your iPad, Kindle, computer, whatever, it still requires that software and you don’t have access to it directly. ¬†That book can change, under your nose, by the owner of the DRM, which nearly happened to me while reading,¬†ironically, Neal Stephenson REAMDE. ¬†DRM adds a barrier layer, the fundamentally prevents the owner / reader access to the media. ¬†Of course there are great projects like Project Gutenberg, but most new books are still published for the Kindle / Nook these days.

I enjoy my Kindle. ¬†It makes traveling great when I don’t have to lug around multiple books. ¬†Also, I love the newspaper feature on it and I feel I read the newspaper much more than I would otherwise. ¬†But, I, and I believe others, have a fundamental issue with the eBook and it is bigger than a preference of printed or electronic type. ¬†See Umberto Eco’s remarks on the preference of the book.

I think we shall see some downsizing of B&N, but I don’t think it will totally go away. ¬†After all, it does offer free bathrooms.