The Unbearable Software

Archive.org is the most beloved and most generous organization that has ever existed, but there’s a catch and it’s in the form of the software “Adobe Digital Editions” (ADE) that one has to deploy in order to read those borrowed books. One can’t have one without having the other and ADE is the perfect evil twin. It reminds me of the time when I was young. There’s not much commerce existed in the area I lived. During the summer, tomatoes, egg plants, cabbages were piled up in the only government run store. You have to bring your own big straw basket or big bag to the store and things were sold in batches of at least five pounds. The catch is that if you buy five pounds of good tomatoes, you also have to buy five pounds of half rotten tomatoes, which were almost given away for free. I guess this is a good way to get rid of the undesirable goods that one can’t sell and one’s too lazy to throw away. And ADE is such a software. The developers of the ADE software would never dare to claim such a work experience in their resume unless they desire to be ridiculed or unemployed. Alternatively, it was developed as a whimsical joke or a torture device by some deranged computer professionals. It is possible, isn’t it? I mean imagine some underappreciated software developers gathered together one day. One said people just don’t appreciate us when they use good robust software. They get things done and never a word of thanks for us. Another one said, “it is easy to remind these people of our existence. Just create ADE to make their life miserable.”

I used archive.org before, then stopped. Recently I feel that there’s the need to cut my book budget. I tried the strategy of buying books on sale, but soon realized that I bought things I don’t really read. I tried librivox, but the selection is limited and the narration is not as good as the audible ones. I have to go back to Archive.org. It has a big selections and practically saved me during the period when I was obsessed with Margaret Atwood. I love her so much that I wouldn’t mind of her deliberate rambling and her interests in the recurring theme of dystopia. I used to prefer the concise and conspicuous style of male writers when I was younger, but more and more I veer towards the effusive stream of female narrations punctuated by deadly blow of wisdom–in some ways and in certain topics, only women can be so lethal and so precise.

It’s a book of selected poems from Margaret Atwood and the difficulty of scrolling in ADE reminds me of twenty years ago, which was the prehistorical age of the internet when things were so slow that it took forever to download something. I haven’t encounter such The scrollbar cannot be moved up and down. It can only be clicked to jump little baby steps, almost one pixel after another. In many programming languages, the scrollbar is a class already existing in the library and one only needs to call it up to use it. And by default they are wonderfully easy to move up and down. Somehow the normal scrollbar has to be modified in order to achieve such an effect of pixel jumping in ADE.

If the scrollbar is annoying, the font adjustment is almost impossible. There are only three different width and font–the two has to be manipulated together through a click on the upper right corner. The font is either two small to be legible or two big for the computer screen. The next deficiency is the absence of highlight. The entire thing is an image and no highlight is possible. There is a little red mark at the upper left corner to indicate that you can bookmark a page, but I chose to mark my frustration by quitting the program rather than marking a page.

Yet I know I will crawl back, crestfallen and imaginable tail between the legs, to use the ADE again after my anger is gone. When my desire to read the book perks up again, I will start to ponder which is more painful–to spend $9.99 at Amazon.com or to spend several days to struggle with ADE. I’ve already exhausted the book budget for this month and the next month. So the choice is ADE obviously no matter how sadistic the software is. Is there a place where I can vent my frustrations and yell some insults at ADE? Actually a quick search online soon tells me that I can do that an a lot of people have done exactly that. I understand those common curse words, but this one is a little tough for me to understand: “at this point I would be happy if it let me scroll faster than my grandma after smoking a phat G of purple knurple straight to the dome”. Her grandma’s what? I really don’t understand. Also what is “lulz”? However I do understand the warning and agree with it, “Do yourself a favor and stay away from Adobe Digital Editions like the plague.”

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