iPod Touch E-book Reader

Relates to Apache and iPod Touch

No, don't get excited as this is not a blog about a great new e-book reader application for the iPod Touch post jailbreak. It simply outlines how I organised my e-books on my local network so I could access them efficiently from Safari on the Touch.

Currently I have chosen not to jailbreak my iPod Touch since it will invariably lead to far too much time preoccupied with installing and testing 3rd party applications! After all it is an MP3 player not a phone so do I really need all those extra applications?

But the one thing I do really need is an e-book reader and this was one of my main reasons behind investing in an iPod Touch to allow me to read my e-book collection on a more portable device than my iBook. Accessing PDF files on the Touch is simply a case of visiting the PDF URI in Safari. This is fine for my purposes and the clarity and sharpness of the screen make reading PDFs very enjoyable. A few important features such as bookmarking are absent but this serves as an adequate stop-gap for me at present. So I just had to find a simple way to access all my PDF files from my iMac harddrive. Fortunately this wasn't too hard since I have recently been test driving the excellent Papers for archiving all my e-books and journals and have them indexed in a library directory with sub-folders for each year of release.

So, I just needed to configure Apache to access that directory so I could load up my e-books in Safari on my iPod Touch. Since my apache server also serves my sandbox for web development I wanted to keep access to my e-books separate. The normal approach to this would be to create a new name-based virtual host and update the machine entries in NetInfo Manager. But without jailbreaking my iPod Touch there is no way to override the local DNS (i.e. lack of a NetInfo Manager and shell access to lookupd).

Instead, the best solution was to enable another port in the apache configuration, and then all requests on this port can redirect to the e-book directory:


Port 99 seemed like a nice easy number to remember. So after enabling port access in the firewall and a little bit of Apache virtual host configuration later:

NameVirtualHost *:99
<VirtualHost *:99>
        DocumentRoot /Path-to-Papers-Library

        <Directory /Path-to-Papers-Library>
          Allow from all        
          Options FollowSymLinks Indexes
          IndexOptions +SuppressHTMLPreamble +FancyIndexing +NameWidth=* +SuppressDescription
          IndexIgnore *.papers* Unknown .svn ._* .DS* Spotlight

The virtual host is enabled on port 99 and the root directory for this site will point to the Papers library. I then just used a few rules from the mod_autoindex module to make the directory index available in a simple to browse layout.

Screen capture of the browser window with index of year folders

And there it is. I can now load up Safari on my iPod Touch and browse to on my local network and have ready access to all my e-books. Of course this requires I am within range of my local network. Taking my e-books away with me would require hosting on a network available outside my LAN.

Posted on Tuesday, Oct 30, 2007 at 13:43:10.

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