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My impressions about the Reader

So I finally received the Sony reader I ordered almost a month ago. Actually the shipment was quite fast, sent on January 20, received today.

First impressions with the hardware are positive, it’s a bit more heavy that I would have thought, but it’s big enough, and the eInk display is really good. Quite a nice item. PRS-505 photos here

An half problem is having the software working. There is libprs500 which takes care of almost everything, but packaging that is becoming a bit of a challenge.

While the author is a Gentoo user, and very helpful to improve the situation, I found a bit of problems now with xdg-utils. The post-installation script of libprs500 uses xdg-utils commands to install icons, desktop files and similar stuff. Unfortunately xdg-utils is … far from perfect. 81 open bugs on FreeDesktop’s bugzilla, and a lot of gray areas.

First off, xdg-utils don’t support DESTDIR (nor does the postinst script, but that I fixed); this means that it tries to write directly on filesystem, which is not good at all for distributions, not only Gentoo. I can workaround some of these problems by setting XDG_DATA_DIRS to a modified path forcing it to use the correct DESTDIR.

Even worse, xdg-mime and xdg-desktop-menu don’t even use XDG_* variables, they install data for GNOME and KDE separately, and for KDE, they use, respectively, kde-config ’s output, and nothing, just hardcoding the path. I was able to fool xdg-mime to work as I need by faking a kde-config script, but for xdg-desktop-menu there is nothing I can do. Beside the ability to use DESTDIR, I could have fooled them enough if they at least used KDEDIR/KDEDIRS variables, as I suppose they should, but they don’t.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get a modified xdg-utils soon so that I can actually complete the ebuild for libprs500, and then add it to portage.

I’m still having one problem with the connection of the PRS-505: the SD card in the slot is not seen by Linux. It’s working, because I can see it working on OSX, but on Linux somehow it does not appear to be given a device at all. I suppose it should have a device assigned like a 50-in-1 flash card reader, but this does not currently seem to happen, and I don’t know yet why.

Beside that, libprs500 is a nice frontend, it’s complete, not rough at all, and quite appealing. The only problem with the software itself I have is that it uses a sqlite db to store the books. No, not the books metadata, but the books themselves, it saves the whole file into the database. As you can guess, this is far from optimal, considering also my pet peeves with sqlite, I’d very much like to try steering upstream to something different, especially because I want to load something like 300 MB of books on the Reader.

As for what concern the kind of books to load on it; A4 books work nicely when used landscape and zooming in; tomorrow night I’ll experiment a bit with paper types for texinfo manuals, so that I could generate GDB, Make and ELISP manuals in a suitable size for the reader itself. The conversion to the reader’s own format is not that good when you have complex PDFs from texinfo or LaTeX.

There is one non-small problem with O’Reilly’s openbooks, like LDD3: the PDF has the guides printed around the page, and the zoom function of the reader is thrown off by that (it removes the white borders, but then the white border is interrupted by the guide on those books. To read those easily on the reader, the trick would be to crop them; I should look into tools to handle that, there has to be something there able to do that.

For what I’ve seen up to now, it was worth buying.

Comments 3
  1. Hi!I am also considering to by it and have not yet found nice pictures of complex PDFs on the reader.Would it be possible if you provided some more pictures?Thanks a million, tantris.

  2. Re SD Card – maybe it needs CONFIG_SCSI_MULTI_LUN enabled in the kernel to detect the SD card – i’ve seen this in mp3 players with SD card slots in addition to internal memory.

  3. Thanks Jeff, that was it! I’ve enabled it now and it works, splendid! Thanks a lot!Tristan, now that the SD card is available I’ll see to load some interesting stuff and take a picture 🙂

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