Archive for December 14, 2023

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Standard Ebooks

Standard Ebooks (via Jason Kottke):

Standard Ebooks is a volunteer-driven project that produces new editions of public domain ebooks that are lovingly formatted, open source, free of U.S. copyright restrictions, and free of cost.

Ebook projects like Project Gutenberg transcribe ebooks and make them available for the widest number of reading devices. Standard Ebooks takes ebooks from sources like Project Gutenberg, formats and typesets them using a carefully designed and professional-grade style manual, fully proofreads and corrects them, and then builds them to create a new edition that takes advantage of state-of-the-art ereader and browser technology.

Google Reneges on Unlimited Storage and on Read-Only Preservation

Mike Masnick (Hacker News):

We’ve written a few times about independent journalist Tim Burke. Earlier this year, the FBI raided his house and seized all of his electronic devices after he had obtained and published some leaked video footage from Fox News. As we noted, this seemed like a pretty big 1st Amendment issue. Burke is also facing bogus CFAA charges because he was able to access the footage by using publicly accessible URLs to obtain the content.

But, with all of his devices seized, Burke at least still had Google Cloud to keep all of the massive troves of (mostly video) data he’s collected over the last few years of reporting. Burke said he paid Google “a lot of money for a long time” for an “unlimited” cloud storage account. This was a plan that was offered to Google “Enterprise” Workspace customers for a while. However, in the last year or so, they simply phased out that plan, which really sucked for those who had a ton of data.


[They] told those who had formerly used a ton of storage on their unlimited plan, that their account would go into “read-only” mode and they wouldn’t be allowed to upload any more data. Tim Burke and his 237.22 TB of video files were among those put into read only mode, which he assumed meant that, at least, that content would be kept safe (hopefully until he could get the feds to return all of his computer equipment).

Instead, over the weekend, Google reached out to say that since he’s using too much storage, they’re going to delete his entire account in seven days (later this week).

That doesn’t even seem like enough time to download all of the data, even if he had the equipment to do so.

Nick Heer:

Blaming people for not having local copies of everything is such a lazy slight. Google markets Drive as a “secure place” to “use less of your PC/Mac disk space” by keeping files only in the cloud. After all, is that not the point of cloud storage? The software encourages us to go beyond just synchronizing our files between computers and entrust it as an extension of our local storage, so of course people are generally going to treat it as just another disk.


If you search the web or Google’s forums, you will find other stories of users consuming large amounts of Google Drive space suddenly being told they must delete files. It is an unfair bait-and-switch. These are certainly a minority of users and are extreme in their data requirements, but it seems impossible that Google would not consider that this would happen — that is to say Google did, in all likelihood, recognize that some people would take up dozens of terabytes of cloud storage when offered the opportunity, and the company either did not have a plan or, worse, its plan was to shut off unlimited access and tell people to delete stuff.

One can be forgiven for trusting what Google said, especially when paying for an enterprise plan. This sounds very different from the consumer-oriented Amazon Cloud Drive. But I think people need to learn that no unlimited plan is actually unlimited. The real crime here is that Google didn’t provide reasonable notice that it was reneging the second time.


Proton Drive for Mac

Tim Hardwick:

Swiss-based privacy startup Proton today announced the availability of its end-to-end encrypted cloud storage service for Mac users with the launch of its macOS app.

Proton Drive lets users sync files between Mac and the cloud, access files offline, and free up space on local drives. Unlike iCloud, all data (including metadata) is end-to-end encrypted by default, so that no-one – not even Proton – can see the files.

Richie Koch:

The main issue with Google Drive is it does a good job preventing external attackers from gaining unauthorized access to your files, but security should also mean that no one besides you and those you’ve shared a file with can access it. As this article explains, Google always retains access to your files and can share them with third parties, like law enforcement, at any time without your knowledge.


By using Google Drive, you give Google permission to scan and potentially remove your personal files at any time.


Google also uses this access to your data to train AI services, like its spell check and autocomplete features. There is no way to opt out of having your personal data used to develop these services, although Google says it anonymizes data before using it.


iCloud Drive in Sonoma: FileProvider and Eviction

Howard Oakley:

Prior to Sonoma, one of the features in iCloud Drive that hasn’t behaved as documented is Optimise Mac Storage. This has changed in Sonoma, as it now effectively switches between two different types of file provider: a replicated file provider, which syncs between local and remote copies of all files put in the cloud, and a nonreplicated file provider, which hosts and manages files that can be stored locally or whose data may only exist in the cloud.


It’s essential to remember that, in the new iCloud Drive, changing Optimise Mac Storage results in a major change in behaviour, and as far as FileProvider is concerned, it effectively switches between two different versions of iCloud Drive.


Update (2023-12-29): Howard Oakley:

None of this guarantees that iCloud Drive won’t sulk when it should be syncing, and plenty have suffered traumatic conversions to this new FileProvider architecture. But experience so far is encouraging. Most importantly for us, it puts Apple’s service on a par with other cloud services. If they’re affected by problems in the FileProvider mechanism, then Apple has great incentive to fix them, as they’ll most probably also affect its own service. And what could have been considered unfair advantages of iCloud Drive are removed, integrating all cloud services with similar benefits in macOS.

In the longer term, it could open up some cloud services that haven’t yet been fully realised on Macs, such as backup to the cloud, a feature conspicuously absent from iCloud even though it was provided in Apple’s older services such as .Mac way back in July 2002.