Trying out the Apress e-book system

Full disclosure: I am currently writing a book for Apress.

As an Apress author Apress asked me to check out the Apress e-book online catalog thingie. They threw in a free e-book as an incentive, so I thought I should give it a try. I’ve done a fair few book reviews for AUUG / Woodslane over the last couple of years, so it seemed like a good idea to look further into this e-book thing anyway. Especially as I have a garage full of books that I occasionally need as references, but don’t have the space to store in the house, especially with two small kids who like to draw in books around.

So, I picked a book in their online catalog, and said I’d like to buy it. I entered the discount code, and was good to go until they noticed that I didn’t have an online account in their system. So, I had to stop my “purchase” and make one. Which meant that my place was lost in the purchase, as I had to wait for a confirmation email to arrive, and then click on a link in that email which didn’t have the stage I was up to embedded into it.

The email by the way set off my somewhat aggressive spam filtering, by not having any of my addresses in the delivery headers. I had to go digging in the probably spam folder to find it. You can read about my mail list filtering rules over here if that kind of thing excites you.

So a couple of warts. After all of this I went and found the book again, entered the discount code, and “bought the e-book”. What this gives me is an entry in the list of books I have access to on the Apress site, which means I can download the e-book more than once (if for instance I delete it in error or something). The book is a PDF file, with the slightly annoying name of “book143.pdf”. The book in question is quite long, and is about a nine megabyte download.

Oh, all of this webby stuff was with Firefox on Debian Linux, which all worked fine. The PDF file opens fine with xpdf, with a password on the file which matches the email address I signed up with. This just means that you need to remember the email address that you used when you signed up with Apress, which seems reasonable in a world with fairly permanent email addresses now. It also means that if I put the e-book up on kazaa or something, that they can tell which account did it I suppose.

xpdf seems to think that printing works by the way, although I don’t have a printer configured to actually test with.

Overall, I think it’s quite good. The e-book was very cheap ($15 US if I’d paid), I can download it lots, I don’t have to remember a crappy password, and the PDF doesn’t seem too crippled. Cool.

Tipping point: windscreen washers

Ian comments on being accosted by a window washer in the CBD, and therefore forces my hand in commenting on this part of my current reading book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In the section in cleaning up crime in New York during the early 1990’s, I was interested to note that one of the big things they did to clean up crime in the city was have the police stop people from standing on street corners insisting on washing people’s wind screens.

This was basically part of the broken windows philosophy of crime control. People apparently behave in a different way on a dirty street with lots of broken windows than they do in a nicer part of town. So, how do you stop crime? Fix the broken windows. (Hey, it worked in New York.)

Ian, worse than losing $2, you were the victim of the leading edge of a rising tidal wave of crime. Soon wild gangs will be roaming the streets.

[tags: crime windscreen washer]

Tipping Point: Gaetan Dugas, the AIDS patient zero

Page 21 of The Tipping Point mentions Gaetan Dugas, the so-called AIDS patient zero:

    "...the French-Canadian flight attendant, who claimed to have 2,500 sexual partners in North America,
    and who was linked to at least 40 of the earliest cases of AIDS in California and New York..."

Assuming this time line of the AIDS epidemic is to be believed, I’m surprised that the transition from monkey to human happened in 1930 (ish). That’s about four decades earlier than I had assumed. I might follow that thread a little more in a separate post. AIDS was a traumatic experience as a child growing up in the very late 1970s, and through out the 1980s. I definitely remember being a quite scared 10 year old when the grim reaper advert campaign came to air.

It rather sounds to me like Gaetan has some fairly serious psychological problems. Now, I’m not judgemental of the fact that he liked to shag people, but surely there is a reasonable limit that should be imposed on the number of partners you should have at any one time, even without imposing my Christian perspective on it all. Perhaps I’m also tainted by having grown up in a post-AIDS world, and having been told an awful lot as a child than more than one partner at a time was dangerous. Then again, even if we ignore AIDS for a second, there have been other sexually transmitted diseases for a long time, and those would have been spread just as easily by Gaetan’s behaviour.

This quote from a recent reader of The Band Played On, which is apparently a discussion of the initial response to the AIDS epidemic (I haven’t personally read it, but perhaps I should consider adding it to my mound of unread books) drives that home:

    "Shilts concentrates on a few people who were central to the AIDS epidemic. One such person was a
    Quebecker Airline Steward by the name of Gaetan Dugas, the so-called Patient Zero. Dugas was not the
    first person to be infected with AIDS (or detected as such). But Dugas was seen as the reason why
    AIDS was able to spread like wildfire across countries and continents. Calling Dugas promiscuous is
    an understatement. It is said that he would indulge in several thousand partners from the late 1970s
    until 1984. When his condition became diagnosed as GRID (Gay Related Immuodeficiency Disease) or
    more popularly known then as "Gay Cancer" (as AIDS was known as before it became obvious that it was
    not just a gay disease), Dugas continued to sleep with random partners. He would even visit clubs and
    after finishing his interludes, would turn the lights up and boast he had passed the cancer onto his
    partner, ghoulishly exposing his Kaposi Sarcoma lesions and his gaunt face and body. Dugas would
    eventually become an outcast in the gay community, moving back to Canada where he continued his
    promiscuity there."

Now, I can’t understand how conservative denials of AIDS as a problem, or pronouncements that it was a gay only problem could possible help the situation, but let’s ignore that altogether as something which further examination isn’t really going to help.

It should be noted that Gaetan was not the first person to catch AIDS:

    "We will surely never know who or how, but we can speculate. There was a great deal of conjecture in
    the late 1980's about Patient Zero, identified as Gaetan Dugas - a Canadian flight attendant who
    purportedly knowingly infected as many as 250 men a year on both sides of the Atlantic - said to have
    singlehandedly started the epidemic, but most of this is now largely discredited. Anyhow, no one ever
    believed he was the first to be infected. Computer models have estimated that the first human
    infection occurred about 1930, give or take 20 years. The earliest known infection of an identified
    human being dates back to 1959, found in a plasma sample taken from an adult male living in the
    Belgian Congo (later Zaire and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). As to how, most of the loose
    talk on the street seems to assume sex between a human and a chimp, as the HIV-1 virus is almost
    identical to a simian virus found in chimpanzees. A human eating a chimp seems just as likely, and
    some evidence suggests that it may have occurred iatrogenically when chimps were used in developing a
    polio vaccine for humans. For more, see Annabel Kanabus and Sarah Allen's study at"
Professor William Dunlap, Quinnipiac Univ., Hamden, Connecticut USA,5753,-27837,00.html

Gaetan was merely influential in the spreading of the disease amongst the gay community. It strikes me that it could just have easily been the promiscuous heterosexual community if someone like Gaetan had been that way inclined.

[tags: AIDS]