iBook Author – is it OER incompatible?

Important update (20 February 2012): Apple acted to change the End User License Agreement on 3 February 2012 with release 1.0.1 of iBook Author. This modified the restriction on commercial use to say “and includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author” so it only applies to the iBook version of the text. As long as iBooks is the only platform to support that format this is no problem. So I hope it fixes most of the issues I mention. Though I must admit it still leaves me a little uncomfortable and probably still needs checking out a bit further.

Original post (20 January 2012): Following today’s Apple Education announcement I was intrigued by the CNET live blog having the comment that it was HyperCard reborn so I thought it might be worth a download. (Though still not an iPad owner.) The interface looks fine and my first thoughts were positive – this could be a way to finally knock Word off its undeserved position as the default way to pass documents around. But then just before I got going to have a play with actually doing something I noticed this:

The iBooks Author export dialog explaining that Books can only be sold through the iBookstore

The iBooks Author Export Dialogue

So this says that I can only sell by Book through the iBookstore. Fine I have no intention of selling anything… BUT I think this is the first time I have come across an application that says that I can only use the output – the thing I make – in a particular way. I then went investigating into the licence that I would be signing up for if I used the software.

This shows the link to the licence conditions.

Pressing on the License Agreement button gave me this:

This text warns about the restrictions on selling iBooks

Then reading down to the small print I find this explanation of what I can do:

This shows the option to distribute for free or if a fee is charged it must be through iBookstore

So condition (ii) clearly says that if you are making any money from the iBook then it must be distributed through Apple. But what about condition (i)  – that sounds ok but I feel there could be a couple of catches.

Catch 1: the file format is .iba (not sure you can do much with that other than put it it iBooks I guess) but you can also get a PDF so maybe that is not so bad.

Catch 2: if I produce something I want to but a Creative Commons licence on it. In fact if I am producing something for a couple of projects that I work on I am contractually required to produce it using CC-BY. But then CC-BY allows anyone else to republish AND they may do so for commercial gain.

So either I have found a loophole – release with CC-BY then anyone else (which typically include you) can reuse your work in anyway they wish provided they attribute it to you. OR I have found a barrier – you cannot stick a CC-BY licence on anything made with iBook Author. The terms imply this is true even if you export it as PDF (or strictly probably even if you export as text).

The CC-BY license showing attribution

This needs the usual health warning – I am not a legal expert, what is more I can just be plain wrong :-). Anyway I don’t like this condition and I have written this blog instead of playing with the software.


No thank you for iPad

iPad showing Gizmodo site - 8-things-that-suck-about-the-ipad


Recently at work we bought a couple of iPads. These are in the hands of Martin Weller and Karen Cropper both of whom are now keen users. Last week Karen let me have her iPad to use for a week and I expected it to hook me as well. There certainly are some nice things about the iPad – it feels good to browse with it, Flipboard is a great way to follow streams, reading books in iBooks feels slick, and playing iBubble on its large touch screen is addictive. BUT in the end it was not for me and I was able to give it back into Karen’s eager hands without any great wrench.

The reasons for this I feel fall into two parts. First there was just too much that did not feel as if it worked as well as it could. This is exactly where the strengths of Apple normally lie, but on the iPad the wi-fi was too flaky and the missing camera limits possibilities. For me the disappointing capabilities of two add-ons flag up that this machine is not as good as it could be: the VGA adapter only works for some programs, and the SD card reader only allows thumbnail views.

This brings me to my second point that the iPad underperforms as a work machine. I had thought it would be great to use the touch features for collaborative brainstorming; but I could not project to the large screen. And I expected to take photos and instantly put the camera card in to show them off; but to do this I had to slowly pick and transfer the files first. In particular I thought the iPad would be great for having PDF documents loaded to replace paper in meetings; but too cumbersome to switch between the documents so I was better off with my laptop (and best off with paper!). I also was in a meeting where five other people had iPads – the effect was of looking at the top of people’s heads as they found documents or made notes. I felt more part of the meeting behind my laptop screen.

Throughout my week I kept putting the iPad to one side and using my Macbook Pro instead. The one win at work was when I had to carry out workplan approvals – a job where I needed to bring up page after page and click a button, this was much more satisfying with the touch screen rather than a mouse.

The iPad does feel like a first generation – I remember feeling just the same when I got an early model iPod Touch. That has been transformed by software upgrades and hardware improvements so that I am now a constant user of the iPhone 3GS I have (though notably it is not my phone – that remains an ancient Nokia).

At the moment then  no iPad for openpad, but I suspect I will waver in the future – though whether this time Apple has gone too far with its gradual upgrading approach and will allow others too leap ahead remains to be seen. Philosophically an openish Android would better match my views than the proprietary iPad so my colleague Liam Green Hughes may yet win in this argument!

Trying out alternatives

This started as a comment on Martin’s post about problems with Vista but grew a bit too long so I have put it here.

I have too many machines (can you have too many :-)) the one I use most is the MacBook (especially now I have discovered it is Unix really), then the little Linux Asus which is an amazing blend of very easy to use and versatility, last my Vaio with XP (in a cupboard at work for the last month). There are a few applications that are handy for the PC but otherwise somehow it isn’t the best to use. The best free stuff is in the Unix world – Mac and Linux give you access. The advantage of the the PC used to be that you didn’t need to think about how it works – but with online updates and validations then it looks like you do. I am also looking at alternatives for Word at the moment so MS is becoming less important for me – because things do not interoperate fully rather than down on the applications themselves. If Word had an uncluttered export of HTML or XML then I would be happy sticking stuff in it, but it doesn’t so that generates a whole new job of reformatting, cutting and pasting, and general fiddling with documents that should not be there. This really hits me in my role as a journal editor.

So at the moment I feel my world may be in transition and I have been trying out some alternatives – XML editors, LaTeX, Google Docs, etc. I will try to write more later but i am feeling a pull away from the institutional preferences towards alternative application mixes – and just if you are like Martin and your Vista machine refuses to let you do anything!

Drupal on a Mac – not quite as easy as I hoped

For a couple of reasons I decided to install Drupal on my Macbook: it seems to have become the prototyping tool of choice in the OU; I am thinking about using the ejournal module for the journal I edit JIME; and, I had too much real work to do so a distraction was in order. I did succeed in installing it after a couple of days but with some strange problems on the way. As usual Google searches supplied the answer but it took a few places so I thought it worth gathering the information here. To be precise what I did on 1st May 2008 was:

  • On an Intel Macbook (2GHz/1Gb/120Gb) running OS X 10.4.11 Tiger.
  • Using Mac supplied Apache 1.3.33 and PHP 4.4.7
  • Install Drupal 6.2
  • Which needed mysql 5.0.51b
  • And also I need phpMyAdmin 2.11.6

I followed the instructions at MacZealots on Installing Drupal on Tiger which starts by enabling Apache then getting the software, I installed the latest version of Drupal (6.2) and mysql (5.0.51b) rather than the older versions in the tutorial. It went fine upto this line:

/usr/local/mysql/bin/mysql -u root -p drupal </Library/WebServer/Documents/drupal/database/database.mysql

The skeleton database.mysql does not exist – so ignore the error message and carry on with the next part to enable PHP on the Mac.

But the php does not talk properly to the mysql – this is explained in an Apple support message. But a variant is needed of the steps described there – I did

  1. In Terminal: sudo cp /etc/php.ini.default /etc/php.ini
  2. Open /etc/php.ini in your preferred text editor.
  3. Find the [MySQL] section, and change the mysql.default_socket directive:
         mysql.default_socket = /tmp/mysql.sock

When it came to configuring Drupal though things also went a bit wrong. The manual configuration in the macZealots page seems to have been replaced with configuration via the browser so can be skipped. But accessing drupal as http://localhost/drupal gave some error messages. Most of these refer to permissions which can be fixed by changing permissions on files – page at drupal.org suggested chmod to give access, I preferred chown -R www – but in each case be wary of security issues (minimal on my laptop). I then hit failure with an error message referring to:

ORDER BY fit DESC LIMIT 0, 1′ at line 1 query: SELECT * FROM menu_router

Googling for this phrase took me to this forum discussion at drupal.org which has some good suggestions but did not spell out the solution which for me was to:

  1. stop using Safari and use Firefox instead for the setup (may not be vital but it is what I did)
  2. install phpMyAdmin (note instructions there are a bit vague as well but I managed)
  3. use phpMyAdmin to inspect the drupal database created earlier following the MacZealots instructions
  4. select all tables in this database and drop them
  5. open http://localhost/drupal/install.php to restart the configuration

After that things got better – a few more directories needed permission changed and I haven’t worked out how to enable the GD graphics library but I am now away and happy. Just need to work out what to do with Drupal.

I hope listing this might help someone (or me when I come to do it again). Some bits are from memory so I hope they are right.

Let down by Flickr!

I am at a conference making some blog entries across at my OCHRE OpenLearn blog. I was taking pictures to illustrate by blog about Marsha Lovett’s presentation and it was not working. Strange error messages resulted asking me to “checktickets”. Looking at the Flickr blog they know about it as their “farm1” is down. I am sure they will fix it soon but it does seem strange to have one of the major Web2.0 sites not working. I could of course find other solutions but for the moment I will wait it out and add the pictures a bit later.

Asus eee arrival

Asus eee pcThe Asus eee PC that I ordered yesterday arrrived almost exactly 24 hours later – so I now have it. It seems a very neat device with a lot of useful software installed. It looks like it could be an ideal child’s computer or as Marc has suggested perhaps a ‘third computer’ to go along with desktop and laptop. The only problem is in my case I think it is probably my seventh computer so I am not too sure why I bought it – maybe I got caught up in the launch fever and spotting that they were not so hard to buy after all. It has a built in camera so here is a picture of it taken with it.

Linux meltdown

Melted laptopWaiting for the Asus eee (ordered a couple of hours ago) makes me realise that edging towards Linux has been a background activity for me over the last year or so. However my first attempt took a bit of a set back. I checked out an old laptop from the cupboard of abandoned machines at work and install Fedora Core on it (I think it was when Core 5 was just released). After that I spent quite a lot of time getting my obscure wireless card to work. (That card was actually a prize from the AusWeb 2004 conference for guessing that I was mean to be Steve Irwin in a line-up – so some excuses for being obscure.) So I spent a happy time getting and compiling source code, installing apache, php etc. Got to the point where I had quite a nice set up with everything working… and then the computer melted! You can see the result in the picture – is this revenge of Microsoft for daring to remove their OS?

Not sure about that – maybe there is something needed to keep the fan working properly that I had removed in the process. I did persist after that and got another old laptop out of stock. This time (about April 2007) I found that the distributions had really moved on – PCLinux installed amazingly quickly but I settled on Ubuntu as a combination of slickness and facilities. The laptop is up and running – but I never did get the wireless card working again. In contrast to my first attempt when I knew that I would have to mess around tracking down drivers and modifying the kernel to get it to work, I felt that the plug and play interface should just work. I have found the same feeling when working with Macs – they are great when they work but can be hard to probe when they don’t. Here is hoping that the Asus both works straight away and lets me mess around under its bonnet and do a bit of tinkering!

Asus eee notebook – on order

I have been thinking about the way in which we work together and how we can set up an environment which is not dominated by desktop machines. So my plan was to see how we could set ourselves up to use laptops – or other devices that meant we were not tied to the desk. Two options have both become available at about the same time. The Apple iTouch and the Asus eee notebook. My colleague Mark Gaved beat me to it in actually getting one as I have seen Grainne’s pictures and I know Marc Eisenstadt has also placed an order. Anyway today I joined in and have just ordered from what claims to be available stock at eBuyer – we will see if it turns up tomorrow as promised!