Still Alive

Hello … hello? … is this thing on?

Ah there you are. Yes, it’s been ages. Far too long in fact, for which I apologise. There isn’t any one good reason for RetroPDF’s being effectively dormant for nearly a year and a half, but the front runners are:

  • Apple – now I love my Mac, nearly as much as I used to love my Amiga (OK, maybe not that much). However, OS X’s “Preview” – the system default viewer for PDFs – broke my heart. At some point in history, Apple introduced a bug into Preview: it was very subtle and would have gone unnoticed by most people. It manifests itself like this: if the user opens any PDF/A (the “Archive” version of PDF that I habitually use) and makes ANY minor change to the PDF – like rearranging pages or editing the metadata – Preview will silently corrupt the text stored in the PDF.

    The graphical part of the PDF is unaffected, and the corruption is unnoticeable until you try to copy or search the text: rather than the text reading:

    “Ken is great, you should donate some money to RetroPDFs right now!”

    the document actually contained:

    􏰽􏰃􏰝􏱁􏱁􏰽􏱎􏰃􏰝􏱈􏰃􏰺􏱒􏰿􏰺􏱆􏱈􏰝􏱁􏰃􏰒􏱆􏱀􏱏􏰺􏰃􏰿􏰽􏰃􏰳􏰺􏰃 􏰊􏰽􏱎􏰺􏱆􏰃􏰖􏰽􏱇􏱂􏰺􏰃

    Yes, little squares (which bizarrely present themselves on the Mac as little alien faces – honest).

    Worse still is OS X’s newfound habit of saving documents for you as soon as you so much as click on them – a dozen or more of my newly scanned Amiga Shoppers were affected, and when Stone Oakvalley alerted me to this fact I have to admit I cried. And then swore a lot.

    I spent days dicking around with the internals of PDF documents, learning about glyph mapping and font tables, trying to find if there was any way to reverse the damage, but there isn’t. I reported the bug to Apple, and then went in the huff.

    The bug is apparently fixed, and I have the replacement Amiga Shoppers nearly ready to put in place. More importantly, I need to go through all 6 squillion other PDFs and see if any others have been apparently affected. At this rate, I’ll be able to put “AppleScript” on my CV.

    and talking of bugs …

  • PDFPen – One of the tools in my arsenal is Smile Software’s PDFPen, which is a lovely program for fiddling around with PDF’s. Unfortunately, large PDFs, OS X Mavericks and PDFPen have had a fallout, and they’re currently undergoing counselling. As soon as they all get along together, I can start cranking out the updates.
  • Storage – the reason for choosing BitTorrent as a distribution system is that it seemed to be the best way of getting large files out there without resorting to the MegaFileUploadStoreZone.com-style sites – you know, the “click here for a SUPER FAST DOWNLOAD, click here to wait 30 seconds on a really slow download with lots of adverts and popups” dodgy corners of the internet. And Torrent works fine for me, but I’m aware that it’s not for everyone, and I’m concerned that might be putting some of you off. So if anyone can recommend a stable, fast, unlimited, advert-free and very very cheap/free place to hold the RetroPDFs files, please let me know and I’ll happily add that as an option.

    Fun Fact: I’ve personally seeded over 6 terabytes of PDFs in the last 18 months. That’s a lot of nostalgia.

  • Secret Project – I’ve been working on scanning in a non-computing magazine; this is a long-term pet project of mine, and will take me years to complete. It’s not “retro” so I won’t sully these pages with any more talk of it.
  • Laziness – it’s taken me weeks to get around just to typing this.
  • So add all that up, with a dash of real life, hot summers and some apathy and you have the first update of 2013 nearly at the end of it. But I’m back now, honest: as soon as Smile fix PDFPen I’ll have MicroAdventurer uploaded, and then we’ll see what else I can find in the “pending” folder – it’s currently 77Gb in size so I’m sure there’s something in there 🙂

    As always, feel free to drop me a mail or comment if there’s something you’d like to see bumped up the list.

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    4 responses to “Still Alive

    1. Hi ! ^^
      I’m really happy to hear from you and one more time i’d like to thank you for the great great work you’re doing with the scans ! Hope you will continue forever 🙂

    2. Just glad to have you back. This is a vast enterprise that you have undertaken and I for one am very grateful for the work that you have put in. I am really looking forward to the Micro Adventurer magazines as text adventures (or Interactive Fiction as they like to be known in sniffier circles) were very much my thing – not that I ever completed any.

      Thanks for your hard work.

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