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Austrian Professor Creates Kindle E-Book Copier With Lego Mindstorms 61

Posted by timothy
from the goldbergian-librarian dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Using a Lego Mindstorms set, a Mac, and optical character recognition, Austrian professor Peter Purgathofer created a makeshift ebook copier. From the article: 'It's sort of a combination of high tech meets low. The scanning is done by way of the Mac's iSight camera. The Mindstorms set does two things: Hits the page-advance button on the Kindle (it appears to be an older model, like the one in the picture above), then mashes the space bar on the Mac, causing it to take a picture.' Purgathofer calls the creation a 'reflection on the loss of long established rights.' Check out the Vimeo video for a demonstration."
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Austrian Professor Creates Kindle E-Book Copier With Lego Mindstorms

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  • by Culture20 (968837) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:26AM (#44783581)
    Legislation to remove the analog holes above the nose and replace then with HDCP approved hardware.
    • by _xeno_ (155264)

      That sounds overcomplicated. Clearly the correct solution is to fix the camera by adding yellow dots [wikipedia.org] to the eBooks so that the camera will know not to take pictures of them.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Or just ban lego.

      • by cruff (171569)

        Or just ban lego.

        Nooooo! Think of the children!

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Playing with lego seriously increases risk of becoming an engineer, and 10/10 rich people recommend against it.

  • how long before he get's sued / page taken down?

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)
      Sooner than that, he'll be grabbed by CIA and kidnapped to Gitmo for harming US national security.
    • by Mathinker (909784)

      Well, I proposed doing this 4 years ago [slashdot.org] and all I got was +4 Funny for my (I admit not quite Herculean) efforts.

      On the other hand, actually doing it, for the express point of showing how ebook DRM has no real effect on preventing piracy but only hurts the consumer, is much more damaging to the publishing industry. So, it comes down to whether the people who have the big red [GO LEGAL] button in front of them have heard about the Streisand Effect.

      • by wwphx (225607)
        I just finished re-reading the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMasters Bujold, and Miles uses a similar technique to tracelessly access secure information from his cousins' office half a planet away. His cousin turned his secure console to face his non-secure console's camera so Miles could read the info that he needed.

        There is nothing new under the sun, or at least nothing new that isn't covered by at least a dozen patents.
  • Peter Purgathofer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The lectures of Peter Purgathofer were one of the reasons I stopped studying computer science in Vienna around 15 years ago. Which in retrospect was big luck, since I changed to chemistry and found my calling there. Thank you, Peter!

    The second reason was a most boring lecture I ever attended, "Work sociology and organization psychology", held by a crazy women. I kid you not! No wonder real scientists are looking down on people studying "computer science" in Vienna. The people actually doing computer science

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In newsrooms, the sports desk is generally referred to as the "toy department". Maybe CS is starting to get that reputation in the engineering wing of universities.

  • Sigh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jones_supa (887896)
    I had to read the summary a couple of times and was still left wondering why would one need that fancy machine to copy e-books -- why not just copy the files, I thought. Then the three letters "DRM" popped in my mind and I realized that he had to construct that all to just circumvent that stupid protection. Ah well, at least that was probably a fun project to work on.
    • Except (at least 6 months ago) Amazon's DRM was very easy to get around. All you needed was a plugin for Calibre and you were set. Still, it seems that even with this guy's physical contraption it is still easier to copy an ebook than it is to copy the physical alternative. I mean, even the route that he took, he could still just set the Kindle on top of a photo copier and duplicate the pages that way. The key thing that was lost in the digital book revolution is the ability to lend.
      • by brit74 (831798)

        The key thing that was lost in the digital book revolution is the ability to lend.

        Lend or Borrow Kindle Books
        You can lend a Kindle book to another reader for up to 14 days. The borrower does not need to own a Kindle device and can read the book after downloading a free Kindle reading app.
        http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200549320 [amazon.com]

        • Re: Sigh... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 07, 2013 @12:45PM (#44784073)

          I think you missed the point of what the poster meant. The only reason you are allowed to lend ebooks is so amazon can trump the argument and establish dominance over physical book purchases. Once they have a large enough market share they can take the lending function away to increase sales. Nobody can ever stop you from lending a physical book. Its a matter of control of your own life.

    • by AngryNick (891056)

      why would one need that fancy machine to copy e-books

      The description from TFV says this was an art project to provoke thought, not a serious attempt to beat DRM.

      Kindle Readers and DRM aside for a moment, this combination of automated Legos and stop motion photography may require some exploration...

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Kindle Readers and DRM aside for a moment, this combination of automated Legos and stop motion photography may require some exploration...

        It's not "stop motion photography". It's a simple snapshot. It's trivial to automate, and the hardware is also very simple.

    • Others have already pointed out he did it as an art project (I admit my first response to this was also "What the fuck is the point in that?"). If you want to avoid DRM on eBooks and for some masochistic reason don't want to simply strip it - the widely-used systems are almost laughably easy to remove if you want to - it would be far easier to just take screencaps, and far more accurate since then you get a pixel-perfect representation of the page, with the subsequent improvement in OCR.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, now.
        But in the not-so-far future, you will not be able to take screenshots of DRMed material.

      • Re:Sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by plover (150551) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @12:50PM (#44784113) Homepage Journal

        The point of an art project is to get other people to recognize the problem. Ordinary people don't know they're buying DRM. They just think they're "buying e-books", but they have no understanding what that means. Their only experience with DRM is when they think about sharing the book with someone else, and then they only dimly realize the problem when they can't find a menu option labeled "make a copy for my friend".

        This puts a clumsy bunch of Lego out there, making motor noises, and getting people thinking "why is he doing all that crap?"

  • by bmo (77928)

    Then why is it powered by a kangaroo?

    "But they'll be dead soon. Fucking kangaroos."

    --
    BMO

  • by Announcer (816755) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:56AM (#44783717) Homepage

    OK, how long will it take until the DRM running on the "cloud" OCR provider recognizes what's going on, and puts a stop to this? The Mac should be capable of running a local OCR. What happens at home stays at home... what happens "in the cloud" is everyone's business.

    Overall, this would be a cool thing to set up... start it, go to work, then come home and have the whole book on your laptop. Just get rid of the "cloud middleman".

    • OK, how long will it take until the DRM running on the "cloud" OCR provider recognizes what's going on, and puts a stop to this? The Mac should be capable of running a local OCR. What happens at home stays at home... what happens "in the cloud" is everyone's business.

      Overall, this would be a cool thing to set up... start it, go to work, then come home and have the whole book on your laptop. Just get rid of the "cloud middleman".

      As others have mentioned, this is totally unecessary to get around the DRM -- if you've purchased the eBook, you've got the key and can just strip the DRM yourself. You can do your entire eBook collection in under 5 minutes. This is purely to make a statement regarding DRM and the analog hole.

    • by nashv (1479253)

      His Mac should be able to run DeDRM and finish the job in about ..let see...a few hundred milliseconds.

      It is ironic, that his art is finding artistic value because of its sheer inelegance.

  • Purgathofer calls the creation a 'reflection on the loss of long established rights.'

    The right to make a copy of a book and instantly send it to a million other people all around the world without the author or publisher receiving anything for their work?

  • Like a Mindstorm machine to digitize a paper book.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @03:02PM (#44784909) Homepage

    Amusing, of course, but irrelevant, because DRM isn't about piracy, and it certainly isn't about rewarding content creators, it's about preventing competition.

    As long as you can't read an Amazon Kindle on a Nook, DRM is doing its job. If Nooks and Barnes and Noble are getting driven out of business, DRM is doing its job well.

    An automated eBook scanner doesn't do anything to make the eBook business more competitive.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      As long as you can't read an Amazon Kindle on a Nook, DRM is doing its job. If Nooks and Barnes and Noble are getting driven out of business, DRM is doing its job well.

      Or you go legislative - aka get the DoJ to remove a competitor for you. The DoJ has effectively tore up Apple's contracts with publishers, and Apple is only allowed to negotiate with one publisher every 6 months, starting 6 months from now.

      So now, Amazon has one less competitor for the next 6 months. And that competition is forced to only hav

  • I download kindle books all the time but I don't have a kindle. I download them to my PC, strip the DRM off of them as you can do with ANY DRM. DRM is garbage the instant the content is on your machine and ANY portion of your system has the ability to decrypt the file. Well, my kindle PC reader can read the files. Which means the encryption key is on my machine. Which means all the software has to do is find the key, use it, and then I can convert the file to anything I want.

    No special equipment needed and

  • One day I was looking at a pile of papers from school I was thinking about saving digitally and recycling. But I didn't have a scanner, and I sure wasn't about to go buy one. But I did have a printer. So I used some DOS command to print a blank document, and I put my papers in the feed. And then I had a Canon camera which I aimed at the output of the printer. I then wrote a script that would print, and then sleep, and then take a picture. The only trouble was that it took about 30 seconds to get every

  • It only takes 2 hours to copy a $2.99 book. Such a deal.

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