Removing DRM From Aaron Swartz’s eBook

After his death, Aaron Swartz became one of the Internet’s most famous defenders of the free exchange of information, one of the most polarizing figures on the topic of intellectual property, and the most famous person that still held on to the ideals the Internet was founded on. Aaron was against DRM, fought for the users, and encouraged open access to information.

Early this year, Verso Books published the collected writings of Aaron Swartz. This eBook, according to Verso, contains ‘social DRM’, a watermarking technology that Verso estimates will, “contribute £200,000 to the publisher’s revenue in its first year.” This watermarking technology embeds uniquely identifiable personal information into individual copies of eBooks.

With a heavy sigh, you realize you do not live in the best of all possible worlds.

The Institute for Biblio-Immunology had a similar reaction to Verso Books’ watermarking technology applied to the collected writings of Aaron Swartz. In a communique released late last weekend, they cracked this watermarking scheme and released the code to remove this ‘social DRM’ from ePub files.

The watermarking technology in Aaron Swartz’s eBook comes courtesy of BooXtream, a security solution where every eBook sold is unique using advanced watermarking and personalization features. “A publication that has been BooXtreamed can be traced back to the shop and even the individual customer,” the BooXtream website claims, and stands in complete opposition to all of Aaron Swartz’s beliefs.

After analyzing several digital copies of Aaron Swartz’s eBook, the Institute for Biblio-Immunology is confident they have a tool that removes BooXtrem’s watermarks in EPUB eBooks. Several watermarks were found, including the very visible – Ex Libris images, disclaimer page watermarks, and footer watermarks – and the very hidden, including image metadata, filename watermarks, and timestamp fingerprints.

While the Institute believes this tool can be used to de-BooXtream all currently available ‘social DRM’ed’ eBooks, they do expect the watermarking techniques will be quickly modified. This communique from the Institute of Biblio-Immunology merely provides the background of what BooXtream does, not the prescription for the disease of ‘social DRM’. These techniques can be applied to further social DRM’ed eBooks, which, we think, is what Aaron would have done.

Making a Dropbox with a Chumby and Bittorrent

chumby

Since the Chumby servers went offline earlier this year, [Huan] found himself with a few of these tiny, extremely hackable internet devices lying around. He’s also getting tired of his NAS and wanted a way to sync folders between all his computers. Combine the two desires, and you can make a personal cloud with a Chumby, thanks to some help from the people at BitTorrent Labs.

[Huan] is using BitTorrent Sync for his Dropbox-like server. After creating a webkit interface for BitTorrent Sync, [Huan] loaded up his Chumby with new firmware, set up a few folders to be synced, and let the Chumby do all the work.

It’s not exactly fast, given the Chumby’s wireless connection and USB 1.1 for an external disk drive, but it’s more than enough to keep your personal project folders synced across multiple computers. As a bonus, it’s also very, very secure, getting around most of the security problems cloud solutions entail.

Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!

In a an obvious marketing move akin to a drug dealer offering up free samples, Urban threads is offering free badge plans for hackerspaces that have robotic embroidery machines. We’ve seen this trend of badges coming up lately and we don’t know if it is the boy/girl scout in us, or the punk rocker that makes us pine for them. You may laugh, but look at that skull with the welding goggles on. If you don’t think that’s badass… then we disagree.

The idea of giving some away free isn’t new. You can download free photoshop brushes, free fonts, free circuits and all kinds of other free stuff from sites that sell better versions as well. We just couldn’t pass up the chance to point out that skull, and helping out hackerspaces is always good in our eyes. So, who has one of those embroidery machines?

Psystar taunts Apple a second time

psystar

As if bankruptcy shenanigans and an unresolved exchange of lawsuits with Apple weren’t enough, Mac clone maker Psystar is really swatting the beehive now with the release of Rebel EFI, a $50 software package that promises a straightforward installation of Mac OS X on a variety of commodity x86 systems.

Setting up one’s own “Hackintosh” system has traditionally been a painstaking process of duplicating the OS install disc and fiddling around with various kernel extensions. Rebel EFI claims to do away with all this, bringing click-and-drool simplicity to the Hackintosh experience. The package can be downloaded free of charge in order to test compatibility with one’s hardware before committing to buy; in this trial mode, the system is limited to two hours run time. Minimum requirements include an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core i7, or Xeon Nehalem CPU.

Normally we’re all for voiding warranties, challenging EULAs, and sticking it to The Man, but some have been calling Psystar’s underdog image a charade, claiming the commercial Rebel EFI software is simply an uncredited derivative of open source efforts such as the Chameleon bootloader. Whether or not this proves true, it will be interesting to see how this whole surreal skit plays out between Apple, Psystar and the open source Hackintosh community.

iTunes LP: there’s a hack for that

fantasia

One of the most-hyped features of iTunes version 9 is the addition of “iTunes LP,” which aims to recreate the classic record album experience with artwork and photos, lyrics, and liner notes — provided, of course, that you can pony up the purported $10,000 for production and you’re not one of those filthy indie labels.

Almost immediately upon its release, folks set about dismantling the iTunes LP format and found that it largely consists of an unprotected combination of HTML, CSS and JavaScript files. Such information is now scattered about the web, but a new site, iTunesLP.net, is jockeying to be the one-stop shop both for LP creation tutorials and for fan-made LP downloads (sans the copyrighted music tracks — bring your own). The first LP available for download there is [Walt Disney]’s 1957 release of Fantasia, faithfully reproducing the original 24-page color program in all its politically incorrect glory. Check it out…quickly, before Apple and Disney lay the smack down.

Hulu Desktop for Linux . . . finally

hulu

The folks over at Hulu Labs have been busy it seems, as they have just released a version of their desktop client for Linux. Windows and OSX versions of the desktop client have been out for some time now, but Linux has been left in the dark. Functionality wise, it operates and plays videos identically to its counterparts. The Linux version can also be controlled via an IR remote. We certainly are excited to add this to our entertainment systems. The release is a bit of a surprise, but a welcome change to the usual treatment of Linux, and it’s nice to see the mainstream start to recognize it. Plus, this is just more ammunition for getting rid of those monthly cable/satellite subscriptions.

Ubuntu 9.10 beta now available

ubuntu_karmic_beta

The latest version of the world’s most popular Linux distribution is now available. Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala continues the six-month development cycle of this free OS. We’ve used Ubuntu since 2005 and, after a short adjustment period, never looked back at those other operating systems.

Never used Linux? This distribution is for you but we recommend waiting until the release makes it out of beta to the stable version on October 29th.

Comfortable with Linux and want to get your feet wet? The Hack a Day team is calling on all of you to test, report, and improve upon this community driven project. Get yourself a copy of the beta (we recommend using the torrents) and start reporting bugs. You can help fix them by joining the bug squad, or use your coding skills to become a developer.