Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Free time and gutenberg

Jamie's now at nursery five mornings a week, so I've got some time on my hands. A while ago, I started working on some Gutenberg-related code. I'd heard from various people that it was difficult to find books in Qatar. Personally, I've found Amazon to be fairly reliable if you're willing to wait a couple of weeks for delivery. However, there aren't many local sources of English books. The supermarkets stock a very strange selection, and the Jarir bookshop in Doha is similar to the UK outlet WHSmith - good for stationery and bestsellers, but not for bibliophiles.

Anyway, my plan is to take the 19,000 texts from the Gutenberg project and typeset them into a more friendly format. I don't know anyone who's prepared to read a whole book in plain-text format (try it if you're not convinced). A couple of friends have volunteered to review my efforts and suggest improvements.

At the moment, I'm working on improvements to a pretty obscure piece of code, known as RDF::Core. The Gutenberg catalog is published in RDF/XML format, which should be easily manipulated. However, the RDF::Core code is memory-hungry and slow, so I've been forced into fixing someone else's software before I can continue on the main project. These things happen all the time when you're writing software - either you work around the problems or fix them.

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