Archive for May, 2020

Movies about Disease Outbreaks

Monday, May 25th, 2020

I’ve been collecting movies about disease outbreaks, since this February 2020. I already had a few of them, and I started to look for more.

The criterion was basically: I’ts about disease outbreak from a virus or a bacterium which does NOT turn the victim into a zombie and certainly does NOT induce physical transformation into some sort of monster. So all zombie-movies immediately disqualified, as did a lot of horror- and monster-movies such as: The Thing (1982, 2011), Virus (1999), Also disqualified was anything not related to viruses or bacteria, outbreaks that relied on insects, parasites, the supernatural and so on. Like The Thaw (2009), The Signal (2007), The Faculty (1998), Shivers (1975) and all vampire movies. Which actually leaves us with a pretty short list.

  • The Andromeda Strain, 1971 (USA). An alien biological lifeform crashes to earth with a satellite and nearly all residends tof a town die. Not too realistic, but a pretty good movie (and book) anyway.
  • The Crazies, 1973 (USA) This is a Virus that’s modeled after the rabies, inducing permanent insanity and most often death.
  • Virus Fukkatsu No Hi, 1980 (JPN). This is more an “apocalypse”-movie than a disaster-movie. Their “Virus” is an impossibility, as it apparently can multiply without host, even at freezing temperatures; and stay airborne for months. It also co-opts other viruses and infects and kills all vertebrae and nobody is immune. To add to the troubles, some automatic retaliation systems threaten to launch nuclear strikes because of earthquakes. It’s not a bad movie, but extremely unrealistic.
  • Warning Sign, 1985 (USA) Outbreak in a biotech-lab. The whole movie plays in and around it.
  • Outbreak, 1995 (USA) Their depiction is pretty good, it depicts a kind of Ebola-type outbreak.
  • Twelve Monkeys, 1995 (USA) A man is sent back from the future to gather intelligence on a virus that wiped out most of humanity.
  • Adrenalin: Fear the Rush, 1996 (USA) In some kind of closed up ghetto, someone kills people. Apparently it’s the first stage of a disease, and he will turn ebola-like infectious in the next stage, but that’s not in the movie. Police hunt it in underground tunnels. Basically “Alien” and not a movie about a disease outbreak.
  • Virus, 1996 (USA) aka “Spill”. Classic nineties action cinema, where every car explodes. Virus is airborne, but can survive days in water; can be fought with the common cold. I don’t think they really thought a lot about it, it’s just a ploy for action cinema.
  • Pandemic, 2007 (USA) Two-part TV movie. This depicts an Ebola-type virus which somehow only affects Los Angeles and behaves more like avian flu. Also, some escaped drug lord hijacks deliveries of anti-viral medicine, and holds the city hostage. On the whole, not terribly believable.
  • Kansen rettô, 2009 (JAP) This is rather gritty, as the heroes of the movie are medical doctors. They’ve overdone it a bit with regards of dissolution of order, and underestimated global proliferation. But all in all, nicely done. The virus depicted feels plausible.
  • Carriers, 2009 (USA) A road movie in a disease-devastated land. The diesease is probably modeled afer H1N1 or something like that. It’s mostly about the cohesion of the group, and how it falls apart.
  • The Crazies, 2010 (USA) Bascially a remake of the 1973 movie; but with a quite different plot. Enjoyable but not outstanding. The ending is pretty unconvincing.
  • Virus X, 2010 (USA) Rogue scientists in meager personal protection and overly dark labs engineer a dangerous H1N1 strain which is more like Ebola. The most ridiculous thing is that everyone still is smeared with blood after hours and days in a lab, despite there’s no lack of water and cleaning utensils. Everything is utterly unconvincing.
  • Contagion, 2011 (USA) Depiction of the virus is rather good; social dissulution is exaggerated.
  • Gamgi, 2013 (KOR) I can’t really understand why they thought anyone would try to stop the spread of a virus by concentrating the whole population of a city in a central ghetto. Otherwise it’s quite ok, but a bit kitschy.
  • The Last Ship, 2014-2018 (USA) This series is also about a world-wide pandemic of an avian-flu type virus that is extremely fatal. But there are immunes. It’s rather militaristic, and suffers from a Star-Trek-bridge-crew-goes-everywhere syndrome. The virus depiction is pretty ok; the social dissolution exaggerated. Meh.
  • The Carrier, 2015 (UK) Here, the disease is caused by a bacteria, which spreads by touch and causes leper-like symptomes, with a near 100% fatality rate due to organ failure. The movie is about an air crew that tries to fly to saftey where none can be found, and how their group disintegrates. Pretty good.
  • Epidemic, 2018 (USA) A small budget movie, and a very small outbreak of some disease, initially stolen from a lab, that produces hallucinations, vomiting, necrosis and death.

Since the description of these were not clear about the kind of a disaster they are about, I did watch them. They are not really about diseases. One was a mistake;

  • Pontypool, 2009 (CAN) This is about, well, more a semantic virus. And the movie is great. Heartily recommended.
  • Skybound, 2017 (GER) Some rich kids fly in a swiss-registered Hawker 800, on the outside at least, from NYC to LA. Or something; the plane is bigger on the inside, but don’t worry, compared to the illogical behaviour of the people in it, that’s nothing. Don’t waste your time.
  • COVID-21: Lethal Virus, 2021 (Spain?) Despite the title, this is a zombie movie. Where daytime lasts 30mins apparently. It’s bad.

Removing Adobe DRM from Books

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

Digital Restrictions Management is an abomination. I try to avoid it, but ever so often you stumble upon something, and you need it in readable, unrestricted form. Turns out, the mechanisms for removing DRM are just as an unholy mess of outdated software and scripts for proprietary systems as the DRM systems themselves.

The first thing you get when stumbling upon Adobe DRM is an .acsm (Adobe Content Server Message) file. It’s an XML that tells Adobe Digital Editions (and Apps that implement it) where to download the data.

Apparently, there’s several versions of Adobe DRM, and you can enforce an earlier one with a downgrade attack, by using Adobe Digital Editions 2.01 for Windows, apparently still available from Adobe, as it’s the last version to run on Windows Vista and Windows 7.

And yes, you need to create an account at Adobe to use these.

I actually tried ot the newest one (4.5.11) as well. Installation is straightforward:

WINEPREFIX=~/.wine.ade4 winetricks corefonts dotnet40; \
WINEPREFIX=~/.wine.ade4 wine ADE_4.5_Installer.exe

According to this should work, but upon trying to download anything with it, it returned E_ADEPT_DOCUMENT_TOO_SHORT.

ADE 2.01 is a bit trickier, it needs a 32bit wine prefix, and dotnet 3.5, servicepack 1. As 4.5.11 it needs corefonts too.

WINEARCH=win32 WINEPREFIX=~/.wine.ade2 winetricks corefonts dotnet35sp1; \
WINEPREFIX=~/.wine.ade2 wine ADE_2.0_Installer.exe

Again according to this should work as well, but also returned E_ADEPT_DOCUMENT_TOO_SHORT, which might point to some network-problem, winbind-error, crypto-library too new or somesuch. In any case, you can’t find anything useful by searching for the error.

So I’ve been looking for other apps, some open source on github or somesuch, that could use .acsm files for download. And I found at least one: Aldiko, on Android. It’s apparently also abandoned, but it still can be found on Google Play. I got myself Aldiko Classic 3.1.3.

Upon loading a .acsm File in Aldiko (from anywhere, basically, I copied some I downloaded with the Browser on my Workstation into /sdcard/Download), you get prompted to enter your Adobe acocunt; after that it downloads the books to /sdcard/eBooks. And you can copy over these to any device that has the keys for your adobe account. Like your wine-prefix.

I initially tried to get DeDRM working standalone or with my Calibre on Linux, but it turned out this thing is a collection of dozens of scripts, which all demand python 2.7. Which is EOL, and which no sane person should use aynmore. As you can see from the pull-requests and issues, there’s some efforts of making these work on contemporary python, but these went nowhere so far (“Python tests (2.7) failed” — duh!).

Also, as it turned out, after I fixed one of the scripts to run with python 3, these things rely on the existence of ADE on your system; and you either need to somehow convert registry-entries or get files from MacOS to get the device key and the licence key. Which then are pumped through some assembler(!) to get a useful .der file. All in all, too complicated,

What I did instead was to install python-2.7.msi, pycrypto-2.6.win32-py2.7.exe and calibre-3.48.0.msi into the wine-prefix and run from there:

WINEPREFIX=~/.wine.ade2 wine msiexec /i python-2.7.msi; \
WINEPREFIX=~/.wine.ade2 wine pycrypto-2.6.win32-py2.7.exe; \
WINEPREFIX=~/.wine.ade2 wine msiexec /i calibre-3.48.0.msi

Within calibre, finally, in “preferences -> Plug-ins -> Load Plugin from file” I installed from

The books downloaded with Aldiko on Android and copied over can now be added to the collection in calibre, and have their DRM removed automatically.

Making xpdf usable on HiDPI with .Xresources

Friday, May 1st, 2020

I now have a 4K-screen, and immediately some programs became unusable. Everything KDE just worked. URxvt and XTerm just needed an OpenType font specified instead of the old “fixed” one.

Like this:

xterm*faceName: Monospace
xterm*faceSize: 10

and this

URxvt.font:     xft:bitstream vera sans mono:size=14:antialias=true
URxvt.boldFont: xft:bitstream vera sans mono:bold:size=14:antialias=true

But some were more elusive, most notably, because they’re badly documented on the net, and information is difficult to find because the motif-toolkit is very ancient. One of them is xpdf. Whose UI sported tiny fonts.

But I managed to produce a somewhat decent .Xresources (either put them into .Xdefaults; or put them into .Xresources and merge in via xrdb -merge .Xresouces).

The font really needs to be specified in the old fontList way, and I couldn’t find out how to make it use a modern OpenType font.

The rest is mostly to turn off superfluous borders and heavy shadows.

Xpdf*fontList: -*-lucida-medium-r-*-*-20-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
Xpdf*XmText.background: #ffffff
Xpdf*XmTextField.background: #ffffff
Xpdf*XmList.background: #ffffff
Xpdf*GraphEdit.background: #ffffff
Xpdf*shadowThickness: 1
Xpdf*borderThickness: 0
Xpdf*?*arg*shadowThickness: 1
Xpdf*?*arg*borderThickness: 0
Xpdf*?*buttons*shadowThickness: 1
Xpdf*?*buttons*borderThickness: 0
Xpdf*XmToggleButton*shadowThickness: 0
Xpdf*XmToggleButton*borderThickness: 0
Xpdf*menubar.shadowThickness: 0
Xpdf*menubar.borderThickness: 0
Xpdf*XmMenuShell*XmTearOffButton*ShadowThickness: 2
Xpdf*main_window.?.borderThickness: 0
Xpdf*main_window.shadowThickness: 0
Xpdf*cutCopyPasteBindings: KDE
Xpdf*selectAllBindings: KDE
Xpdf*buttonColorKey: c
Xpdf*FlatButtons: on

And you especially want it to start in a decent size. You can set this in .pdfrc, but this replaces it:

Xpdf*initialZoom: 200