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Went to my favorite annual event today The Cairo Book Fair, where you get to ogle at books too expensive for you to buy, eat some of the worst food in town and then slum with the masses while buying used books at SourAlAzbakeya (the wall of Azbakeya: Cairo's ancient but still kicking used books market, one of the main sources of culture for the poor, the not so poor and basically anyone who isn't rich).
but every year we manage to find some decent books, the standard fair of paperbacks and comics, a couple of cheap Indian edition computer books that aren't way outdated and the occasional gem.
This year we found a real gem.
The Kuwait National Culture and Art Council has a monthly series called Alam Al Ma'refa (world of knowledge), the series is very popular, it publishes books on all sorts of topics (science, history, philosophy, politics, etc), covers translations from all over the world and Arabic works from all over the Arab speaking world and introduced some very important books to the Arab Reader.
This series is actually subsidized so it sells very cheaply, and the subscription cost is ridiculously low (25$ for individuals in Arab countries).
but with 307 titles and new books coming every month it becomes a bit difficult to track all the titles, keep them in one place, search through them for that piece of information you need right now, share them with friends etc.
each year in The Fair Kuwait has a small section where they sell all the issues of the series, each year I buy a bunch and plan to complete the collection one day, but this year we where in for a treat.
they now sell a CD with issues 1-267 of the Alam Al Ma'refa series in standard pdf format and all that for just 70LE (slightly less than 12$).
turned out the PDFs had the CopyText feature disallowed, but using the pdftk tool I managed to remove this stupid restriction ''(hey I need plain text to grep through, I need to quote the stuff without having to retype it and I get to choose the format of my books and why does XPDF respect these stupid DRM bits anyway?)''
for convenience sake I put the unprotected PDFs on a torrent, enjoy them.
but think about it; 25$ a year for 12 high quality books at your doorstep is nothing and 70LE for 267 high quality ebooks is more than nothing so please consider buying these.
want to know more about the series? here is an index with all the titles
want to know even more about the series, or can't read arabic Whirlpool is maintaining a list of the translated books in the series, some with interesting wikipedia links (someone should work on amazon links)
nowadays this constitutes most of the music I listen to, there is lots of great stuff out there, it tends to be refreshingly original and its never overproduced (for obvious reasons).
the number of places you can download music from seems to grow exponentionaly, which is where Irate Radio comes in.
this wonderful little tool helps me find new music, most of 2004 was spent listening to music through Irate.
Irate is a Java app, but before you run away screaming (this is what I do when Java is ever mentioned) it can be compiled using GCJ which means you don't need to use non Free Software and you don't have to sacrifice all your systems resources to the JVM.
Basically what it does is push random legally downloadable music at you, you rate the stuff, a central server aggregtes all user ratings and based on the ratings of others tries to find music that will match your taste, after rating roughly 100 songs it works great for me.
now all of this time I've been listening to this music I did not pay a dime for it, so I think its time to put my money where my ears are and buy some of that wonderful music.
so today I started parsing the Irate XML file to get a list of Magna Tune artists I like, I'll download all their work and decide on 4 albums to buy, at 5$ an album the price is cheap, I get lossless audio files, the artists get half the money which seems to be the best deal they could get anywhere and the license is just about perfect.
one day I will write a drupal module that displays my Irate ratings for the world to see.
if you're interested in this kind of thing, there is a blow by blow account of how I extracted the info I needed from the Irate XML file.