Sunday, October 30, 2005

Text message & concerts

In the Sunday Omaha World-Herald, I read an article about how kids these days are using their cell phones to text message at concerts. For more on this idea, look here.

The article in the World-Herald touches on intellectual property as a reason why some musicians have banned cell phones. According to the article, Bon Jovi is coming to Omaha and will allow this text messaging. Book your flights now! :)

I thought the idea of text messaging to a huge screen at a live venue was a very interesting idea. Here's a pretty cool application of this idea that happened back in August.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Nonviolent Games

Thanks to ultraviolent titles like Quake and Grand Theft Auto, the video-gaming industry isn't exactly known for its high-minded political insight. But Ivan Marovic, one of the founders of the influential Serbian student resistance group Otpor, is hoping to change that perception. Mr. Marovic is working to design a game -- called A Force More Powerful -- that teaches the tactics of nonviolent conflict, not the art of the shoot'em-up. (Wired News)" -- source The Chronicle

Isn't it about time though? I'm so tired of violent games. Haven't we had enough of violent games?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pointless and yet impressive

Check out the site Toogle

In the search box I started out with King Henry the eighth. Whoa. see what it spits out.

Did fine with yellow roses

But try a query with just the word scrapple.

Somebody has an awful lot of time on their hands.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Google, Google, Google. Those guys are everywhere doing everything.

Word is they are about to go live with their Google Base. They let you put anything you want up there, tag it, sell it, whatever. Three bog entries that popped up in at base

ZDNet says they got confirmation Tuesday from a Google Spokeswoman.

There entries in flickr for screenshots of the new service

ArsTechnica (Ken "Caesar" Fisher's blog) says it's almost up and goes on to speculate:
There's another level to this as well. By letting people post nearly anything, Google will get their hands on a massive database of items that have been given user-created attributes. Google then can use that data to try and generate a kind of universal tagging schema for information and items, which could then be used to classify information across the net.
Ohmigod, one uniform language for describing things! These guys are pathologically hopeful.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wisdom of The Crowd

WARNING: This is more of a rant than news and it's really only scrapple-related. I've been reading some stuff that's really, really irritating me.
The wisdom of The Crowd is a very popular notion just now and I'm in agreement with the idea in many situations--but not all.

Let's remember that Nazi Germany was brought to you by The Crowd. They didn't vote for Hitler but they voted for the guy who handed the government over to him.

I, for one, do not want a free-for-all discussion in the operating room on how to proceed with my surgery. I'd like one, single, very well educated, highly trained, expert on my problem to be in charge, to be wielding the knife and to be calling the plays.

I don't want riders on the bus debating whether or not we can make it across the train tracks before the train arrives.

My point is that we don't want to take an idea that's good in some situations and try to apply it everywhere. That kind of 'Well, it worked before, it ought to work now' thinking leads to abominations like Rocky XXXIV.

There is a time and a place for expertise. And you really shouldn't depend on volunteer work to develop a body of complex knowledge or make time limited decisions.

I'm just calling for a bit of balance.

But maybe you disagree...

EDUCAUSE review editorial scolds librarians

The editor of EDUCAUSE review, Paul Gandel, has published a short but severe scolding to librarians for not getting with it. Says the commercial front is going to overwhelm us and we will disappear off the face of the earth. Or something like that.

In some ways this guy is just another Chicken Little, but he is pointing out some of the issues we need to be thinking about. And some of them are larger than just the library world.

I'll stop here and put my ranting in a comment so that you can skip on to the next item in your overly busy day.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Big wheels on a tiny car

PC magizine reports that James Tour's group, from the chemistry dept at Rice have developed a one molecule car. It's got suspension and big wheels (relatively big, that is). Why would you want a one molecule car? To tote molecules around and put them where you want, of course.

Think of building a chip using lots of little bitty cars. Take this molecule 5 nanometers, turn 45 degrees right, go another 150 nanometer, put the molecule down and then go back home. If you could do that you could make really small circuits.

OK, I'm confused. Can anyone out there explain?

The NYT says universities and EDCAUSE are complaining about the FBI's requiring some universities to upgrade their networks to make surveillance easier.
It would require universities to re-engineer their networks so that every Net access point would send all communications not directly onto the Internet, but first to a network operations center where the data packets could be stitched together into a single package for delivery to law enforcement, university officials said.
That sounds like humongous deal. Various university folk are saying they would have to redo all their access points, that we're looking at major expenses--enough to drive the cost of tuition up $450 annually.

On the other side the article quotes 'some government officials' as saying that it's not really that big a deal because they wouldn't be picking up the Intranet traffic, only the stuff that goes off campus. Basically "schools would be required to make their networks accessible to law enforcement only at the point where those networks connect to the outside world."

So which is it? Does every single switch in every single closet have to be replaced? Or could they route everything out of campus through a single line. Then, at that one point where the campus meets the world, they could pull traffic off and examine it there? Would this do anything to speed?

Or, is it something else? Or maybe both? Can you really tell from the article?

BTW, if this is an accurate quote about only caring about what goes off campus, it represents a serious lack of understanding of the nature of university work.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Velociraptor Bad At Disemboweling -- nrs

That's the title of a posting in Slashdot. Some MechE Brits did robotic modeling and found that a claw on this dinosaur was better at pinning things down than ripping them apart.

The posting itself is not half as good as the title. Sorta like this one.

Never underestimate the power of a good headline
-- it can draw readers into almost any material.

nrs [not really scrapple]

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sound bites bite

Goodness knows, I'm not cheerleader for Microsoft but this is truly slanted writing.

A Slashdot item this morning read "Microsoft Thinks Africa Doesn't Need Free Software." My immediate reaction was what kind of lunacy is this? And, since it was about Africa (which by the way is an entire continent, not a country) I had to pop over and read it on ZDNet. The tag line above the article reads,
"You can give people free software, but they won't have the expertise to use it, says Microsoft Nigeria's manager."
Well, duh. OK, that makes sense and I expect that MS is in fact supporting training. (After all, Gates is big into support for conquering malaria). Then the lead paragraph flips back to the sound bite,
"Microsoft has claimed the cost of software is not an important issue in the developing world."
Back to the lunacy. But read on. The next paragraph begins
"In response to a question on the role of open source software in Africa, Gerald Ilukwe, the general manager of Microsoft Nigeria,..."
Key points are
  • They are focusing on Open Source so the discussion appears to not be so much about the ability of peoples in developing economies to afford it as it is a response to the notion that Open Source is a good thing there. So that explains why MS is saying this.
  • The quote is from an office in Nigeria. Nigeria is a much, much richer country than its neighbors. Oil profits make it unlike any of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa. What I'm saying here is that a person working out of an office in Nigeria is not the best person to look to for an economic analysis of the financial worth of the vast majority of people living on the continent.
Next we get the meat of the article that includes some paragraphs quoting the head of MS for Europe, the Middle East and Africa about how MS is hitting on all fronts--equipment and training. So they are doing good, right?

Don't get too comfortable because the final paragraph is all about organizations that are offering Open Source software training. In that page there are a number of links to those organizations and those links draw your eyes to that part of the page.

So, if you read the whole article you get a subtler understanding of the players, the context and the details of their arguments. But the thinking in journalism is that as people skim through the news they often only read the first and maybe last paragraph. If you'd done that here you'd have only picked up the 'sound bite' version and as a result gotten a very skewed understanding.

This is the print equivalent of those talking heads whose idea of a political debate is to name call the opposition and it drives me crazy. I don't care which side of the fence you are on--commercial or Open Source--this is just lousy reporting.

At the bottom of the page are links to two other articles.

Microsoft 'lends security expertise' to Nigeria Emerging markets a priority for new Microsoft head

Did I follow the links? Naw, they looked like puff pieces -- minimally re-writen versions of PR releases. [insert grin face icon here]


And, BTW, I'm always irritated when I see people write about Africa as if it were a single country. It's a hugh place! Three times the size of the US at least. Thinking all Africans are alike makes about as much sense as saying that all North Americans are alike. Try telling an Alberta cowboy that he's just like a Mayan Indian in Guatemala. Arghhh.[flame off]

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

OK, it's not really scrapple...

But I can't resist posting a BBC article about 'Zombie worms' off Sweden. They feed on whale bones and are also called -- and this is the great part -- "bone-eating snot-flowers". Really. And the reason they are called that is because part of the worm looks like a flower and the section that is exposed to the water is "covered in a ball of mucus, so they are quite snotty."

Cool. Who knew they let 8 year olds name worms.

Electronic Paper . . . At long last

I can't believe it. E Ink announced today that they have really produced e-paper. The basics of this technology have been around at least since 1997. At that point the resolution was lousy. They made a big banner that Sears in Worschester, MA used for announcements. Now, though but they finally have produced a 10.1" flexible electronic paper display.

This technology, combined with The British Library's "Turning the Pages" project and you've got a good start on finally mastering print.

Copyright & Blackboard

Hello everybody. Did you all get the mass e-mail about Blackboard adding a copyright permissions building block? The e-mail links to an article in "Inside" that says:

"The Copyright Permissions Building Block...will allow professors at the 1,200 colleges that use Blackboard's course management system, to automatically tap into the copyright center's authorization make it easier for get permission to use the materials they chose."

Forgive all the ... but I just wanted to put in the necessary to text to convey the author's meaning. Seems like he is saying that Blackboard will have a component that will let users tap into the Copyright Clearance Center's approval process for copyrighted material.

Anybody looking into this at Hopkins? Seems like it would be useful to allow faculty to post articles directly in Blackboard. Are there any cons to it I wonder?

What would Ray Crock say?

BBC reports that McDonald's currently offers for-fee wi-fi in some of it's joints but now they are working with Nintendo to provide free internet access for Nintendo DS handheld games consoles. It gives Nintendo a gateway for kids to play online who might not otherwise have access to the internet. McDonald's presumably gets lots of kids buying lots of food.

May be a smart move; might not. I sure wouldn't want to be the manager of a McD's where kids could come to hang out and play games.

Ray Crock, the original owner of McD's had some very strict ideas about what's allowed and what isn't in a McD. Vending machines were out of the question because he didn't want any of his stores selling cigarettes. Something tells me he wouldn't have been thrilled with this development.

Regardless, it will be interesting to see if it flies. McDonald's Hamburger & Internet Cafe?

BBC's related stories include:

Xinhua News Agency Nintendo to offer free wi-fi access at MacDonalds - 2 hrs ago Ronald, Meet Mario: DS To Get Free Wi-Fi At McDonald's - 4 hrs ago
United Press International Nintendo with those fries? - 13 hrs ago
CNET Will free Wi-Fi 'Supersize' obesity rate? - 15 hrs ago

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm not sure this is what they had in mind...

Remember when the President of the French National Library was grousing about how American literature would overwhelm that of other countries with the advent of Google Print? Well, Google is now opening sites in 8 European countries to run projects like their Google Print. Gonna announce it at the Frankfurt fair this year.

It will be along the lines of the American business project rather than a French academic site but what the hey. We blend when we enter new markets.

Don't they sell rice instead of french fries at the MacDonald's in Japan? I know I remember that T.R. Reid once said that the Japanese celebrate Christmas by going to Kentucky Fried Chicken -- sit down tables with linen and everything. Apparently you have to make reservations well in advance.

Susan, what do they serve at Mikey D's in Indonesia?

More info more good? not everyone agrees

I have to say I wondered about this myself. Some governments are complaining that Google maps show too much detail and could be of use to terrorists. OK, I wasn't thinking terrorist but just the general issue of security.
Google defends themselves on two points:

  • the maps aren't all that current
  • they are all from publically available information
India's President Kalam has voiced major concerns. Before he became president he was scientist who guided India's missile program.

BlogSpot sites could get filtered out of blogsearches

Not that I care. I do this for myself and my friends but Tara Calishain at ResearchBuzz gripes that the volume of Spam that comes from BlogSpot sites is ruining her searches.

"At the moment you can get around it by appending -site:info to your searches on those search engines that will allow it. Which unfortunately isn't all of them, but cleans up Feedster and Google Blog Search at least."

For those of you tracking tech lexicon she tells us that blogs that are essentially spam as splogs. And, although she refers to BlogSpot as SplogSpot, there is actually a site that you can use to filter splog.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Google-Print's-not-so-bad article

ARL Bimonthly Report 242
October 2005
The Google Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis
by Jonathan Band

This guy is a lawyer who "does not represent any entity with respect to the Google Print project. He may be contacted via his Web site"

He argues that what Google is doing is absolutely legitimate and that Pat S & her group are over reacting. He cites a number of different legal cases and I have to admit I lost interest before he got too far into that stuff but what I read of the article was persuasive.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Some one on a listserv pointed out this link...I think I've used this before, but it was interesting to play with this site again. You can compare academic libraries by region, expenditures per FTE, collection size, and so on:

A very useful tool. Especially if you want to compare your library to peer institutions...


Anyone going to get one of those new video IPODs? I have to say, I haven't been too tempted to get an IPOD before but this just might do it for me. I would love to catch up on my favorite TV show, which since Jonathan we've more or less banned TV while he's awake.

If NBC signs a deal to license the Apprentice (the Trump version), I'm so there.
How much will I pay to download each episode? They might as well make seasons available for download at a slightly discounted price. I think they said it's $2.99 per episode without the commercials. Will be interesting to see how advertisers react.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hopkins prof in US News

Richard Shingles of the Bio dept leads an article in US News about using technology in the classroom. Apparently his students use some sort of wireless device to 'vote' on the answers to questions he poses. More from the active learning front.

WorldCat to become a Wiki?

OCLC is starting a pilot project to let users add content to OpenWorldCat. But have plans to bring this up in regular WorldCat.

" OCLC will first offer this service through Open WorldCat and later expand it into the WorldCat database in FirstSearch."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Many Hats

So in addition to supervising catalogers and dealing with cataloging policy and serials issues, I've been drafted to help with developing the catalog- and index-related questions for our web-usability survey. We have a survey that pops up occasionally when people use our website, but the catalog-related questions are general enough that the answers provide very little in the way of useful data for us. (Well, except for the almost universal comment of 'We want full text online!')

This is a completely new thing for me, and since I know some of you Scrapple folks have done more of this than I have, can you point me to some good resources on developing library-related web-usability surveys? Right now, it looks like most of our data is being gathered in the form of free-text entry fields, and I'm thinking we'll want to phrase more questions as yes/no or multiple choice in order to give us data that's easier to analyze. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

More on municiple wireless networks

Earthlink is going to build a wireless network in Philadelphia
Philadelphia plans to offer free Internet access in public spaces such as parks, covering about 10 percent of the city, but outside of these areas, monthly subscriptions will cost from $10 to $20.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The name for @ in many languages

It's not new (1997) but I just stumbled across a site that lists some of the many different names for the @ in other languages.

My favorite? Pickled herringg. In Slovak and Czech one calls the @ sign a pickeled herring. Thus my e-mail would be:

woodson pickeled herring jhu dot edu

Mapping VS searching

CD|Net has added a Vivisimo-like mapping tool to it's web site. When you pull up one of their articles you also get The Big Picture, in the right-hand frame of the screen. The big piture is a mapping tool that draws a kind of star-like image with the current article listed at the center of the page & other related citations attached like rays to the center.

I'm still not sure what I think about these tools. They don't do anything for me but maybe it's just my unfamiliarity with them.

Fluwiki: Wisdom of the Crowd VS Science?

Check out David Mattison's blog for a discussion of the Fluwiki. Call me crazy but I don't think public health is one of those areas where everyone has an equally good chance of getting it right.

Someone writes in something wrong, I look at the site, it's corrected a few minutes later...I still got wrong info and more importantly, I don't know I have wrong info.

Yahoo tests the digitizing waters...

Yahoo Works With 2 Academic Libraries and Other Archives on Project to Digitize Collections

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Communication aid for paralysed

Japanese scientists have developed a headband that can help people who can't move any muscles express their wishes by reading the flow of blood in their heads. To answer yes you focus your thoughts -- try to solve a math problem or remember the words to a song. That pulls the blood to the front of your brain. Relaxing and thinking of nothing leaves the blood as is. The headband has a little gadget that uses near-infrared rays to measure the flow of blood. In about 30 seconds you have your answer. It only works about 80% of the time but patients' families are glad for that.

I'm just wondering how you know whether a particular answer is one of the 80% or one of the 20%.

Subway maps on your ipod

William Bright has a web site where you can download miniaturized versions of subway maps that you can view on your iPod. New York and San Fransisco have sent him 'cease & desist' letters but you can still download maps from:

Berlin, Germany
Bilbao, Spain
Boston, MA
Hong Kong
London, UK
Los Angeles, CA
Lyon, France
Melbourne, Australia
Milan, Italy
Montreal, QC
New York, NY
Paris, France
Philadelphia, PA
Salt Lake City
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA
Seoul, Korea
Tokyo, Japan
Toronto, ON
Vancouver, BC
Washington DC

They don't let you smell mimeograph ink anymore, either

Now, truth be told, I never bought an honest-to-god new car but I know a lot of people say the smell of a new car is wonderful. Well, before too long we won't be able to smell that smell anymore. Toyota is taking the lead in getting rid of the smell which, it turns out, is a toxic cocktail of
volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that leach from glues, paints, vinyls and plastics in the passenger compartment. The fumes can trigger headaches, sore throats, nausea and drowsiness.