TL;DR: I'm considering replacing those various Calibre compnents with...
See below why and a deeper discussion on all the features.
Calibre is an amazing software: it allows users to manage ebooks on your desktop and a multitude of ebook readers. It's used by Linux geeks as well as Windows power-users and vastly surpasses any native app shipped by ebook manufacturers. I know almost exactly zero people that have an ebook reader that do not use Calibre.
However, it has had many problems over the years:
Calibre is a complex piece of machinery, and it's therefore buggy. It manages to simultaneously ship with embedded libraries (Debian bug #872595, Debian bug #704977, Debian bug #684229, Debian bug #555352, Debian bug #555368, Debian bug #700838, most fixed in Debian) and also suffer from the *NIH syndrome. For example, it implement its own web framework instead of reusing stuff like requests or flask.
There are numerous security issues in Calibre. For example, it can execute arbitrary code while fetching news (Debian bug #873795) or plugin updates (Debian bug #640026), it would phone home (Debian bug #584334, fixed in Debian), allowed arbitrary file access via crafted files (Debian bug #853004, Debian bug #608822), arbitrary code execution in bookmark data (Debian bug #892242), and XSS vuln (Debian bug #608822), or even insecure embedded libraries (Debian bug #873660, Debian bug #787085). Some of those issues have been fixed upstream but, in my experience, it's clear that upstream does not take security seriously. The best example is probably the legendary security bug about how Calibre handled mounting partitions which upstream refused to fix properly even after a LWN article came out about it.
Incomplete Python 3 support. because of this, Calibre 4.0 was removed from Debian in 2019 (Debian bug #936270). Now a there is port in progress which is going well: only the plugins and the ebook-viewer are blocking progress right now. In the past, the author infamously claimed it wasn't necessary to port to Python3 because he could maintain Python 2 himself, but it seems he backtracked on that position since then.
Update: a previous version of that post claimed that all of Calibre had been removed from Debian. This was inaccurate, as the Debian Calibre maintainer pointed out. What happened was Calibre 4.0 was uploaded to Debian unstable, then broke because of missing Python 2 dependencies, and an older version (3.48) was uploaded in its place. So Calibre will stay around in Debian for the foreseeable future, hopefully, but the current latest version (4.0) cannot get in because it depends on older Python 2 libraries.
The latest issue (Python 3) is the last straw, for me. While Calibe is an awesome piece of software, I can't help but think it's doing too much, and the wrong way. It's one of those tools that looks amazing on the surface, but when you look underneath, it's a monster that is impossible to maintain, a liability that is just bound to cause more problems in the future.
So let's say I wanted to get rid of Calibre, what would that mean exactly? What do I actually use Calibre for anyways?
an ebook viewer: Calibre ships with the ebook-viewer command, which allows one to browse a vast variety of ebook formats. I rarely use this feature, since I read my ebooks on a e-reader, on purpose. There is, besides, a good variety of ebook-readers, on different platforms, that can replace Calibre here:
an ebook editor: Calibre also ships with an ebook-edit command, which allows you to do all sorts of nasty things to your ebooks. I have rarely used this tool, having found it hard to use and not giving me the results I needed, in my use case (which was to reformat ePUBs before publication). For this purpose, Sigil is a much better option, now packaged in Debian. There are also various tools that render to ePUB: I often use the Sphinx documentation system for that purpose, and have been able to produce ePUBs from LaTeX for some projects.
a file converter: Calibre can convert between many ebook formats, to accomodate the various readers. In my experience, this doesn't work very well: the layout is often broken and I have found it's much better to find pristine copies of ePUB books than fight with the converter. There are, however, very few alternatives to this functionality, unfortunately.
a collection browser: this is the main functionality I would miss from Calibre. I am constantly adding books to my library, and Calibre does have this incredibly nice functionality of just hitting "add book" and Just Do The Right Thing™ after that. Specifically, what I like is that it:
Calibre is, as far as I know, the only tool that goes so deep in solving that problem. The Liber web server, however, does provide similar search and metadata functionality. It also supports migrating from an existing Calibre database as it can read the Calibre metadata stores. When no metadata is found, it fetches some from online sources (currently Google Books).
One major limitation of Liber in this context is that it's solely search-driven: it will not allow you to see (for example) the "latest books added" or "browse by author". It also doesn't support "uploading" books although it will incrementally pick up new books added by hand in the library. It somewhat assumes Calibre already exists, in a way, to properly curate the library and is more designed to be a search engine and book sharing system between liber instances.
This also connects with the more general "book inventory" problem I have which involves an inventory physical books and directory of online articles. See also firefox (Zotero section) and ?bookmarks for a longer discussion of that problem.
a device synchronization tool : I mostly use Calibre to synchronize books with an ebook-reader. It can also automatically update the database on the ebook with relevant metadata (e.g. collection or "shelves"), although I do not really use that feature. I do like to use Calibre to quickly search and prune books from by ebook reader, however. I might be able to use git-annex for this, however, given that I already use it to synchronize and backup my ebook collection in the first place...
an RSS reader: I used this for a while to read RSS feeds on my ebook-reader, but it was pretty clunky. Calibre would be continously generating new ebooks based on those feeds and I would never read them, because I would never find the time to transfer them to my ebook viewer in the first place. Instead, I use a regular RSS feed reader. I ended up writing my own, feed2exec) and when I find an article I like, I add it to Wallabag which gets sync'd to my reader using wallabako, another tool I wrote.
an ebook web server : Calibre can also act as a web server, presenting your entire ebook collection as a website. It also supports acting as an OPDS directory, which is kind of neat. There are, as far as I know, no alternative for such a system although there are servers to share and store ebooks, like Trantor or Liber.
Note that I might have forgotten functionality in Calibre in the above list: I'm only listing the things I have used or am using on a regular basis. For example, you can have a USB stick with Calibre on it to carry the actual software, along with the book library, around on different computers, but I never used that feature.
So there you go. It's a colossal task! And while it's great that Calibre does all those things, I can't help but think that it would be better if Calibre was split up in multiple components, each maintained separately. I would love to use only the document converter, for example. It's possible to do that on the commandline, but it still means I have the entire Calibre package installed.
Maybe a simple solution, from Debian's point of view, would be to split the package into multiple components, with the GUI and web servers packaged separately from the commandline converter. This way I would be able to install only the parts of Calibre I need and have limited exposure to other security issues. It would also make it easier to run Calibre headless, in a virtual machine or remote server for extra isoluation, for example.
Update: this post generated some activity on Mastodon, follow the conversation here or on your favorite Mastodon instance.
This article is part of Tropes Week, in which we’re exploring our favorite tropes from cinema history. Read more here.
Picture this: The year is 1491. The location is Prague. A priest is leading a protest outside of a local town hall, demanding prisoners to be released from custody. A rock then emerges from the window of the building and hits the priest. Understandably, the holy man and his posse are pissed off, so they enter the town hall, grab the judge and members of the council, and throw them out of the windows.
Although there had been several incidences of defenestration before that riotous event, known as the Defenestration of Prague, coined the term. Centuries later, it’s also now a cinematic trope. From the days of silent films to modern blockbusters, scenes in which people are thrown out of windows have been commonplace in motion pictures, and they have been used for a variety of purposes.
Sometimes these scenes are the culmination of a brawl between a hero and a villain, with windows proving to be the deciding factor between a victory and a loss. Other times, they’re the result of a sudden act of aggression, usually carried out by an antagonist to establish their cruelty toward other human beings.
In some cases, defenestration is accidental because people are just clumsy and fall through windows sometimes. This is called self-defenestration, and it also applies to scenes depicting people purposely throw themselves out of windows — either as a means to escape from a perilous situation, or because they’ve had enough of life and want to end it on their own terms.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some great defenestration scenes that are notable for unique reasons. This isn’t a “best of” or “coolest” list, per se; instead, the aim is to explore what makes these moments stand out from the pack when they’re put up against their counterparts. Enjoy.
No list about people falling out of windows would be complete without Buster Keaton. As one of cinema’s pioneering stunt performers, he was no stranger to crashing through glass, and he put his life on the line every single time.
In Sherlock Jr., Keaton comes flying off a motorcycle and straight through a window. This scene is a great example of a reverse-defenestration, which involves performers crashing through a window from the outside. It’s not defenestration in the common sense, but the scene deserves to be celebrated for paving the way for the abundance of window-smashing stunts that came after.
For a more traditional defenestration scene featuring the legendary performer, Three on a Limb sees him tossed out of a window onto a fire escape. Compared to some of Keaton’s other stunts, the scene is very tame. But that doesn’t make it any less commendable. Without Keaton putting himself through hell to entertain moviegoers, action cinema wouldn’t be the same today.
While defenestration scenes tend to be violent, they rarely incite societal outrage. In this surrealist comedy from Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel, however, the trope was employed as a way to stick it to the Catholic Church and powerful people who oppose sexual freedom.
The scene features a bishop being tossed out of a window, which, in 1930, wasn’t exactly deemed acceptable and easy to overlook among good, God-fearing moral folk. That said, it’s one of many notable moments in the movie that resulted in it being trashed by the right-wing press and banned in several countries for decades.
The bishop doesn’t die after landing on the ground outside, nor is the scene one of the coolest in the grand pantheon of cinematic defenestrations. However, it made a bold statement about the destructive value systems that are inherent within religious institutions. Whether you agree with its message or not, there’s no denying that the scene got its point across.
Of all the self-executed defenestrations in the history of cinema, this is by far the most powerful. Usually, suicide is depicted as the ultimate form of hopelessness, an escape from life’s torment when there’s no reason to go on. In the case of Damien Karras (Jason Miller), though, he takes his own life in order to save the soul of a child.
In the scene, the priest convinces the demon who’s possessing Regan (Linda Blair) to leave her body and enter his instead. When the hellspawn accepts his invitation, he hurls himself out of the nearest window and plummets to his death via a set of concrete stairs.
It’s a powerful ending, both tragic and uplifting. Self-sacrifice is an admirable trait in a human being. There’s an emotional weightiness to this scene that few other movie defenestrations have been able to capture since, which is why it’s one of the most memorable of the bunch.
Gremlins is the best horror-comedy of all time. Even if you disagree with this statement, you can at least admit that it’s a special movie. There are several scenes that make Joe Dante’s festive frightmare a classic, but the one in which the titular pint-sized creatures wire an old lady’s stairlift so that it launches her out of an upstairs window is quality cinema.
Defenestration is often used for comedic effect in movies, but this scene is the only example where tiny monsters — dressed in adorable winter scarves and holiday hats — cause an old-age pensioner to go flying with a device that’s supposed to help her move around. Not only is it hilarious, but it’s also one of the most original window-shattering scenes you’re ever likely to see.
Throwing people out of windows is frowned upon by the law. If any of us had to do this to someone in real life, the police would at least ask us a few questions about the incident. In Beverly Hills Cop, however, Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is arrested after being thrown out of a window by some office security guards.
The best part of the scene is that the goons could have opened the doors next to the window and tossed him onto the street without damaging any property. They wanted to rough him up, though, and hurling a human being through a glass surface is a powerful method of accomplishing that.
Of course, the funniest part of the scene is when the cops show up and accuse Foley of disturbing the peace. He responds by saying: “Disturbing the peace? I got thrown out of a window! What’s the fucking charge for getting pushed out of a moving car, huh? Jaywalking?” The whole scene is gold, but Murphy’s comedic timing makes it special.
One popular method of sending someone out of a window doesn’t even require physically grabbing them. Sometimes all it takes is a loaded gun. In RoboCop, the titular law enforcement machine decides to relieve the corrupt corporate figurehead Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) of his duties by blasting him out of a skyscraper window, causing him to fall to his demise with a loud scream.
This was a common trope in ‘80s action blockbusters. For example, Die Hard’s Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) is disposed of in a similar fashion. John McTiernan’s classic features the more iconic defenestration scene, but RoboCop makes the cut because this moment is a big middle finger to corporate corruption. On top of that, Murphy/RoboCop (Peter Weller) earns his revenge after being murdered and brought back as a slave to the man.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s tale of corporate mobility revolves around a nobody (played by Tim Robbins) who suddenly becomes the president of a massive company. His appointment comes after the previous president, Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning), steps down from his position — by jumping out of a 44-story window during a board meeting.
This defenestration scene is noteworthy because it completely skews corporate power structures. Furthermore, Durning running across a table and leaping out of a window is a memorable sight. The best part comes after his character’s death, however, when the other board members immediately get on with the business of replacing him with someone they can control. They barely even react to the tragedy that just took place before their eyes.
These suits only care about staying on top, and when their time is up, jumping out of a window is more appealing than a life without power.
Villains often throw their own people out of windows whenever those people let their side down. These scenes are effective because they highlight just how easy it is for the bad guy to take a human life while also declaring that failure and disagreements will not be tolerated.
The cruelest example of one of these scenes happens in Braveheart, when King Edward Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) grabs his son’s friend — and implied lover — and throws him out of a castle window. Why? Because he spoke to the king while His Highness was on the verge of snapping.
The scene is also effective because it shows that the king is ashamed of his son and doesn’t care about his feelings. Victory and power are the only things that matter. No other defenestration scene out there exemplifies authoritarian cruelty as brilliantly as this savagery.
If you want to see the art of defenestration at its most insane and brutal, then Indonesian action movies have you covered. In The Raid: Redemption, the hero, Rama (Iko Uwais), pulls a criminal goon out of an apartment window and uses his body to break his fall on a balcony below. That scene merits a mention, but there’s an even better one from a similar movie that deserves your attention.
In The Night Comes For Us (which also stars Uwais), a character named Bobby (Zack Lee) slits an assassin’s throat on the shards of a broken window during an apartment brawl. Afterward, he thwarts an incoming attacker by flipping him over his shoulder, causing him to fall on a concrete block below and most certainly die a physically broken man.
The Night Comes for Us boasts the ugliest and nastiest defenestration scene out there, and I mean that as a compliment. The brawl in question is the epitome of cinematic chaos, and the window drop is merely one small moment in a riot that just keeps going until no one is left standing.
The post A Celebration of Great Movie Defenestrations appeared first on Film School Rejects.
I volunteer one of my robots to be the new president pic.twitter.com/AvvAe84eRY
Usually, Valerie Ettenhofer and I do the Midyear TV Report together, but this year we’re doing things a little differently, and a little more democratically. We polled the entire FSR team on their favorite shows, we crunched the numbers, and we came up with a list that represents the whole tv landscape… or at least 25 parts of it.
And those 25 parts feature not just the best stories, but also the stories we need to hear the most. There are frightening and heart-wrenching and challenging shows on this list, to be sure. Some of them are right at the top. But many more are bright and warm and filled with love in all its forms — love among friends, love within families, love between couples, and love for the world.
Our #1 pick is a self-described love story, with a main character whose love has been displaced and left her lost. “I don’t know what to do with it,” she says. “With all the love I felt for her. I don’t know where to put it now.” It’s a loss everyone has felt, even if they couldn’t find the words.
At least on our end, we’re putting it in TV.
Made with science and magic and lots of Excel algorithms, here’s the FSR team’s definitive ranking of the best TV the first half of 2019 had to offer.
It’s been nearly thirty years since the publication of Good Omens, the beloved account of the endtimes co-authored by Neil Gaiman and the late, great Terry Pratchett. And now, with Gaiman himself at the helm, the novel has finally come to the screen in an adaptation that’s remarkable for being what so few things are: utterly true to its source material. And best of all is the unmatched chemistry between David Tennant and Michael Sheen as Crowley and Aziraphale, a demon and angel who love Earth and each other and would rather not do the whole apocalypse thing, thank you very much. While the show occasionally glosses over some details or dwells on others, on the whole it’s a delight. Book lovers will be thrilled and, most importantly, Terry Pratchett would surely have been proud. (Liz Baessler)
It’s been a particularly anxious and apocalyptic year for storytelling in both movies and TV, and yet nothing could have prepared audiences for the loud and seismic arrival of Euphoria. Deceptively billed by the headlines as an explicit but empty flash in the pan that is the teen genre, the show is instead a visceral and empathetic portrayal of modern teenage life, with a heady tone that suggests desperate times create desperate young souls. Viewers might be turned off by its lightning-speed pace and bleak atmosphere, but this is the first teen drama that refuses to settle for a simple, nostalgic retreat to the awkwardness of high school, instead fueled by a clear intent to capture the current realities of a generation raised on Internet cynicism and Pornhub. And based off its first four episodes, these kids are too busy chasing highs and navigating thrilling situations to simply wallow in despair. When a show opens in utero, follows almost a dozen different characters, and has a mid-season climax shot in long takes at a giant carnival, you know you’re dealing with a new breed of coming-of-age TV. (Fernando Andrés)
It can be a cruel, depressing world out there, and when you’re feeling down there’s nothing quite like the Dan Goor/Michael Schur brand of “nicecore” comedy to take the edge off — which is why last year’s news of Fox’s cancellation of their beloved police sitcom inspired outrage across the internet. Luckily, NBC came to the rescue. While season 6 might have been a little shorter than its predecessors, Brooklyn Nine-Nine remained the same hilarious, wholesome content viewers know and love, no worse for wear after its move. Chelsea Peretti’s departure marked the first exit of a principal cast member, and while Gina will never be replaced, the rest of the 99th Precinct kept going strong throughout the season with a little help from an excellent slate of guest stars including Lin-Manuel Miranda and Sean Astin. Not every sitcom can stay funny after six years, but as the latest season came to an end with more than a few hints towards what’s to come, all signs point to Brooklyn Nine-Nine remaining one of the most consistently enjoyable, warm-hearted sitcoms on television. (Ciara Wardlow)
The brainchild of BoJack Horseman producer and production designer Lisa Hanawalt, it’s tempting to approach as Tuca & Bertie as “female BoJack.” And it’s true that the show shares many of BoJack’s best qualities, namely an absurd but devastatingly frank examination of the human condition… with animals. But as distant as BoJack is with his tv career and Hollywoo mansion, the titular Tuca and Bertie (Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong) are utterly relatable as they deal with anxiety, sobriety, career ambitions, and what it feels like, in seemingly minute but monumental ways, to be a young woman in a man’s world. I’ll admit that I don’t know what it’s like to watch this show not as an American woman in her thirties, but I’d go so far as to call it required viewing for everyone who isn’t. The show starts a little heavy on the kooky side, but stick with it — there are devastating and vital depths in store. (Liz Baessler)
The multi-cam sitcom is a vivid mix of comforting throwbacks and clever subversions, with a big heart and boldly asserted moral compass. The series follows the Alvarez family; single mom and PTSD-suffering veteran Penelope (Justina Machado), hard-headed queer activist daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez), cool kid brother Alex (Marcel Ruiz), and spirited, traditional grandmother Lydia (Rita Moreno), along with their friends, neighbors, and love interests. As with other seasons, the third’s most memorable moments were teachable ones, like when Elena and her nonbinary partner reveal that they’ve been staying inside because of a threatening experience they had with homophobic strangers, or when reformed addict Schneider (Todd Grinnell) falls off the wagon in a big way. But it’s the smaller moments — casually spoken Spanish with no subtitles, universally embraced gender pronouns, and the like — that made ODAAT a truly progressive show, one that will always have a home in our hearts. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
The post The 25 Best TV Shows of 2019 So Far appeared first on Film School Rejects.