Archive for May, 2005

Not a good way forward?

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

I’m posting this because RateYourMusic has disappeared Jenny’s comment function and comments once again…for me, at least, for the moment. (I hope it’s a great comment system, because it sure does come and go.)

The Shifted Librarian has an interesting post about her thwarted attempt to show how library resources could be integrated into appropriate net media, in this case Wikipedia. You should read the whole thing and follow its links as appropriate, but here’s the key discussion:

As an example, I edited the entry for The Da Vinci Code and under External Links, I added “Find libraries near you that own The Da Vinci Code” (snapshot).

Seventeen minutes later (that’s 1–7 minutes later), Violetriga removed my link, citing the very vague reason “ ‘find a library’ link isn’t a good way forward.”

WTF? Needless to say, I was beyond irked. It’s one thing to remove the link; it’s another to say it isn’t “a good way forward.” It isn’t a good way forward for whom? To where? And why not? I needed answers.

She posed that question to Violetriga. So far, days later, there’s been no response (although Violetriga’s been responding to other questions).

I have an idea, although it may be unfair. I’m guessing some folks out there on the Bleeding Edge think of libraries in general as being Boring Old Analog Institutions with no real role in the digital future–after all, the “good way forward” is for all knowledge to be freely available to everyone, organized via Wikipedia. (That latter is a mild paraphrase of direct statements I’ve seen from some digital warriors.)

I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s a simple misunderstanding or an issue of who can and can’t get linked to from Wikipedia.

Paragraph deleted because my idea was, in this case, wrong and probably unfair–at least for the Wikipedia honcho involved in this incident. The reality, as brought forth in comments, makes it clear that “Wikipedia honcho” is not a meaningless term; Wikipedia has Animal Farm equality. (Probably necessary, to be sure.) The bad here is that the honcho failed to provide a reason for the abrupt pulling of the link…well, and maybe that Wikipedia’s ISBN-based search page is such a monstrosity. (Sure, it’s there, but…)

The present’s so bright…

Monday, May 9th, 2005

One of the odd and largely unheralded developments in technology over the past few years is paper. To wit, inexpensive paper for printers, especially inkjet printers and cases where you might be using either a laser or an inkjet printer.

I was reminded of this just now. I finished up a ream of “boring old paper” that I’d purchased when we picked up a (cheap at the time, probably $300) HP ThinkJet for my wife’s computer, probably four or five years ago. She never used the computer much (she’s a full-time systems analyst who taught computer programming when she was in college, so it’s not a lack of computer skills: she has better things to do at home). So I had this ream of Champion InkJet paper, which probably cost at least $7 back then. “Specially designed finish for ink jet printing” and “Bright for crisp contrast.” Also labeled as “High bright.” But there’s also the number: 87 brightness.

Five years (seven years?) ago, 87 brightness probably was “high bright” and came at a premium.

Today? I think the CostCo copier paper we use at work (in copiers and lasers alike) is 87 brightness and the same 20 pounds. It sure doesn’t cost any $7 a ream.

At home, I checked the other paper I’ll be moving to.

  • There’s Office Depot Multipurpose Paper, “ideal for use in copiers, printers and fax machines.” Acid free (which isn’t specified one way or the other on the Champion ream), I think around $2.50 a ream.
  • Or the HP Printing Paper I’ve had for a while (there was a good deal, five 600-count super-reams for $15 or so, which comes out to about $2.50 a ream). Also acid-free, it’s a 22lb. paper (almost uniquely), 92 brightness. According to the chart on the pack (at least a year old already), HP doesn’t sell paper with brightness below 87, which is what their recycled copier paper measures.
  • Or Office Depot’s Premium Inkjet Paper, which I got free when buying TurboTax (it costs $3.25 a ream otherwise, when it’s not on sale): 24lb., 104 brightness, 35% post-consumer content–and, of course, acid free. No chlorine used in the production.
  • Or if I wanted to get fancy, there’s the $3.50-ream (on sale) Office Depot Color Inkjet Paper, 24lb. 99+ brightness, acid free. (That’s been around a while; at the time, I think “99%” was the maximum brightness rating you could use.)

Back in the day, when I was producing camera-ready copy for books on my laser printer (the first and second of which cost 15 times what my current Epson multipurpose device cost, ignoring inflation), I had to seek out paper of the right opacity, brightness, and finish. It wasn’t cheap.

I miss those days not at all. I’m delighted that companies can get paper with substantial recycled content very white without using chlorine.

Of course, “inkjet specificity” has largely gone away, except for special cases such as transparencies. I print leftover “laserjet labels” on my inkjet without difficulty. A little more daring, but so far uneventful: strips of 12-up pin-feed labels (one label wide), perforated as part of a continuous feed, obviously purchased for the dot matrix printer I had what, 15 years ago? Yep, they print just fine–the joy of a straight-through paper path. (I would never put those labels in an HP or any other printer with a U-path!)

ALA reporting?

Monday, May 9th, 2005

ALA Annual is only seven weeks away, and it’s time for a reminder:

Cites & Insights is still accepting conference and program reports. If you’re interested, take a look at the reporting guidelines and let me know.

Or you can just submit a report. Advance warning isn’t needed, although it’s convenient. I can put people in touch with each other if two people say they’re planning to cover the same session–but for the first 10 days of June, I may not be doing that.

There will also be various blogging opportunities at the conference, to be sure. I think that blogged reports and after-conference writeups serve somewhat different purposes, but I’m not convinced both are needed. If you’re happier blogging, more power to you. If you want a publication credit, minimal editing (if that’s feasible) and reasonably wide readership, Cites & Insights may be a good option.

Clarification: Any good group conference blog will include credit for its contributors, certainly including the PLA blog–which I expect to be quite good, based on its strong start at Midwinter. C&I is a journal, with ISSN and all that, and I like to think that it’s citable as a publication credit in a way that conference blogging wouldn’t be. But I’m not sure that’s true.

Aprium: A proper Saturday post

Saturday, May 7th, 2005

We were grocery shopping today, as usual–and as usual around this time of the year, my wife (the produce, fruit, and meat expert: I’m good at pushing carts and choosing my own weeknight dinners) was having trouble finding good fruit. (Apples give her trouble, ditto oranges; at the end of April/beginning of May, most pears are past season, the mangos and papayas have been lousy lately, Texas pink grapefruit seem to have disappeared from our markets, and it’s too early for summer stone fruit. There are almost always kiwifruit, to be sure, and Ataulfo mangoes are sometimes OK…and, to be sure, the organic strawberries are good). We’re both too busy to seek out fancy produce markets, but this is Northern California, where regular supermarket produce is usually plentiful and varied.

To our surprise, we saw a small display of apricots–and they looked good.

Understand: I grew up in apricot country. I know what real apricots–fresh, just-off-the-tree, apricots (esp. Blenheims)–taste like. Apricots just don’t ship very well; other than dried, canned, or frozen, what makes it to market is generally either unripe or just bad. We won’t normally even bother. We’ve planted a Blenheim tree, and hope to have some of our own later.

But these looked plausible. End of the first week of May? Awfully early, but…
And we do try to buy local produce whenever possible. We asked: These were from California. One of the knowledgeable produce guys said they’d just come in. Not badly priced at $2.99 a pound.

My wife tried one this afternoon, and gave me half. It was excellent–not the dead-ripe sweetness you sometimes get just off the tree, but nonetheless excellent. But there was something odd: The aftertaste wasn’t that of an apricot. It was the dead-on aftertaste of a plum.

Aha! The little labels on the fruit said “Aprium,” which we assumed was just another apricot variety. After all, we’ve had plumcots (straight plum/apricot crosses) and Pluots (a trademarked plum/apricot ‘interspecies’), and found them to be plums with no particular apricot flavor. Not bad, but not apricots.

Checking online, I find that an Aprium (somehow, “Apriums” just sounds wrong and “Apria” is unlikely) is indeed an apricot/plum ‘interspecies’–from the same company in my home town that developed Pluots. The Aprium looks like an apricot and tastes like an apricot with an overlay and aftertaste of plum. I’m guessing that it ships better than an apricot. (That wouldn’t be hard.)

(My home town is Modesto: heart of the Great Central Valley, heart of the world’s richest agricultural country, with too much hyper-productive land being turned into subdivisions for people crazy enough to spend 3 or 4 hours a day on a Bay Area commute. George Lucas was a high school classmate. I never knew him. End of digression.)

If you’re opposed to all hybridization, you’ll want to avoid the Aprium. But you’ll want to avoid almost all modern fruits and many flowers and other plants anyway. My cousin grows almond trees–but he makes more money selling cuttings of his blight-resistant hybrid almond tree, which he developed, than he does selling almonds. Hybrids and interspecies have been around for a very long time.

And a tiny little semi-blind item that will tell a few people a little more about my down-to-earth taste in television (this time via VCR, since I don’t stay up until 11 p.m.): It’s pretty clear that UW’s philosophy department has one less student than it used to.

The scourge of conversations

Saturday, May 7th, 2005

Sigh. Yesterday, at C&I Updates (which you don’t need to consult if you read this weblog)–a Blogger blog done in 5 minutes–I clicked on choices to hide all existing comments and reject any new comments that don’t come from “members of the weblog”–which means me.

In other words, I turned off commenting retroactively.

And I’m seeing more moderately high-profile weblogs that don’t allow comments–Jessamyn and Jenny (at least on Firefox), for example, as well as Dorothea and others. (I’d guess that most general-community A-listers don’t allow comments, but I could be wrong: I don’t have the time or patience to find out.)

I suspect their reasons are similar to mine. In the case of C&I Updates, it was only one spam comment, but of such a nature that I suppressed it as quickly as possible, then went and washed my hands. I don’t see any provision in Blogger for deleting specific comments, and this a**le has a Blogger identity, allowing immediate commenting privileges, so the only way out was to turn it off altogether. C&I Updates is an announcement blog, so I don’t feel badly about that.

So far, I’ve taken considerable delight in the conversations and feedback on Walt at Random. If I use the same multiplier as appears to hold for Infothought (180 Bloglines subscriptions projects to around 510 overall readers), then this weblog probably has around 380 readers. (I know, I know: That kind of projection is absurd on its face. Let’s say “somewhere between 134 and infinity, with the probability nexus being somewhere between 200 and 400.”) Given that nicely modest readership, the range and thoughtfulness of comments–and the range of commenters–has been gratifying. You’ve made me think, you’ve raised worthwile new points, and I find that there’s rarely reason to comment on comments because they’re so well done.

In other words, I really don’t want to make commenting difficult or impossible here. I’m using roughly the WordPress defaults (although one of them doesn’t seem to work as it apparently should, and that’s just as well): You have to provide an email address (which nobody but me can see), I have to approve any comment that contains more than one link or that includes words on WordPress’s “likely spam” list, I *can* (and will) delete comments, and I can (and will, if need be) prevent some domains or users from commenting at all. I hope that’s enough to deter the worst spam. I suspect that having a relatively small audience is the best defense: Jenny and Jessamyn each probably reach at least 10 times as many people, possibly 20 times or more, so they would be much more inviting targets.

Enough of this rambling. If you offer suggestions as to how I can make this weblog better known, you now have another reason I’ll ignore them: I don’t want this weblog to have anything like Cites & Insights readership, both because it really is just random noodlings and because I want to enjoy the conversations.

If spam becomes a problem, I’ll try to cope with it. If that doesn’t work, I’ll either turn off comments (reluctantly) or abandon the weblog (slightly more reluctantly). I hope it doesn’t come to either of those.

Added later that day, for reasons obvious in the comments: I misspoke about Jenny’s weblog. Although I would swear that the last two times I was there–one time really wanting to leave a comment–there was no “comments” indicator under the posts, it’s there now. She uses something from RateYourMusic as a comment system; I wonder if it disappears at times.

Broadcast Flag: This time, sanity reigned

Friday, May 6th, 2005

Just a quick note, because I have yet to read the decision itself or the apparently-voluminous commentary: ALA and its allies won their suit against the FCC, halting implementation of the Broadcast Flag.

Full credit to Jessamyn West for the first post I saw on the topic–mostly because Copyfight, which is also on my Bloglines list, is in the “second group.”

I’m sure I’ll have something to say in a future C&I if not here. I’ve certainly blathered on about it enough before now, possibly because it’s such an important topic.

The orphan defense

Friday, May 6th, 2005

I can’t help but comment on a California trial that ended a couple of days ago, where a nanny was found guilty of murder for running down two kids while driving her gold Mercedes after taking at least eight pain pills and, apparently, a fair amount of alcoholic liquid refreshment.

Then fleeing from the scene and hiding out for two days before coming back. And mouthing off about how this accident might be bad for her career as a nanny.

All of which is very sad, but not the point of this entry.

I was struck by a key defense argument–apparently the key defense argument, since there was no question at all that she ran the kids down (jumping a curb at 30mph to do so, as I remember), or that she fled the scene.

The argument was that she couldn’t be found guilty of murder (as opposed to accidental death) based on her being drunk or high–because there was no toxological report.

There was no toxological report because she fled the scene for two days.

It’s a variant on “the orphan defense”–why you shouldn’t convict a child who kills his parents of murder because, after all, the child is an orphan. “Always flee from an accident if you’re drunk, because then they can’t get you for drunk driving.” What a principle!

The jury wasn’t buying it. It took them less than four hours to return a guilty verdict. Note that this was a California jury, for what that’s worth.

Sorry for the downer Friday post. Maybe I’ll do something more upbeat and “relevant” later…

The celestial jukebox: Be careful what you wish for

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Jenny Levine has a poignant post on the perils of DRM for downloaded digital data (four Ds!), in this case MovieLink (and also Rhapsody).

You really should read the whole thing. Here’s a portion, coming after she decided to try MovieLink’s “the first one’s almost free” offer (the old dope peddler taught us well!) to watch a movie on her notebook during recent travel:

Cut to the airport, I’m on the plane and approved portable electronic devices can now be used. I whip out the laptop and bring up MovieLink to watch my movie. Except that I get an error message that my software has not been authorized for the proper security rights and needs to be upgraded. It will now connect to the internet, and this may take a few moments. But of course, I’m 30,000 feet up in the air with no internet, so now I can’t watch my movie. Bah humbug. So I figure that for whatever reason, the software didn’t authorize properly last night, even though it said it did. It lied. I’ll just have to authorize it when I’m online before the presentation, and then I’ll watch it on the flight home.

Yeah, right.

I tried to authorize it during the day, but it kept trying to connect to their server for authorization and ending with an error message that it couldn’t authorize my software. Double bah humbug. So now I don’t get to watch the movie on the way home, either. And with MovieLink, you only get 30 days to watch the movie, and once you start watching it, you only have 24 hours to finish it. Then it goes bye-bye.

So I get home and the next day I use their online chat to talk to technical support. The rep was incredibly nice and empathetic, but no matter what we tried we couldn’t get it working. Mainly because we couldn’t find a folder called “DRM” that was supposed to be on my hard drive. My contact information was taken, and it was promised a rep would get back to me for more detailed support.

There’s more, and it gets worse–when she uses the new Rhapsody, she ends up with her notebook half-crippled.

I think there’s a specific lesson here, although I’m tempted to lard it up with secondary issues.

The specific lesson, at least for those who’ve been enthusiastic about “the celestial jukebox”–the idea that you rent your media and have instant access to everything, and that this is a wonderful idea:

Be careful what you wish for. The celestial jukebox implies DRM, absent socialism or some offensive universal payment system that forces everyone who’s not using the celestial jukebox to pay for it anyway. DRM tends, frequently, to interfere with your computer. (After all, that’s what it’s really all about: Locking down your system so you can’t misuse copyright content.)

I believe that the celestial jukebox can only work “properly” if Big Media gets their way and open PC platforms are done away with, with locked-down systems in their place.

Other issues?

Mostly this one: Why would you pay MovieLink $1.99 to $4.99 (after the first hit to get you hooked) for a 24-hour viewing slot of a degraded version of a movie (I’m just assuming here that the downloaded movie is an overcompressed MPEG4 version–that they’re not downloading 4.7GB of data for a movie), when you could rent the movie from NetFlix (or, if you must, Blockbuster or–no, I can’t even say the W-word) for what should turn out to be no more than $2 if you watch 8-9 movies a month, and keep it as long as you want, with all the extras on a typical DVD and full DVD-quality video and sound? Don’t most newish notebooks have DVD slots?

I guess I just don’t get it. I see the benefit of track-by-track downloading for music, when you may only want one or two tracks from an album–but then you’re buying the music (if still in degraded form). If someone was offering an “all the movies you want, watch them as often as you want, as long as you’re paying us $20/month” service (like the new for music), I guess I could see the point.

I’m sure some of my wonderful readers will tell me why inferior video and no extras is worth paying more for because it’s downloaded rather than mailed. And why that’s worth screwing up your computing environment for. Or, maybe, how DRM is suddenly going to become sweetness & light–but, you know, I’m not going to believe those comments.

Buying a subnotebook

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

I gave in. I realized I was coming up with good ideas for weblog entries or C&I perspectives or mini-perspectives, and losing the ideas by the time I’d sat down at the PC. Maybe it’s a consequence of being (no, Steven, I’m not going to use the word) almost 60. Maybe it’s a consequence of today’s hectic life…

So I decided I needed to have something portable, that I could use to note an idea whenever it strikes me–and maybe even note appointments and items needing purchase and the like.

Not really a PDA. I picked up a true subnotebook.

3″x5″, weighs about 2oz., cost $0.99. Batteries not included or needed. Wire spiral to hold the 90 sheets together. Looks to be perfect for the job.

What? You thought I meant a subnote PC? Not just yet, not real soon. We may be buying a notebook PC soon, but it won’t be for me and won’t be a subnote. Just don’t have the need…for anything more than a place to jot down the occasional topic or reminder.

Reasonable people

Monday, May 2nd, 2005

So I decide to give Business 2.0 another try. And get to the “Wheels” section of the April 2005 issue, with a review of the Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. And these sentences:

The CL65 AMG is, in fact, everyone’s kind of car. There is not a single aspect to the vehicle that a reasonable person could find fault with.

Bwahahah….Let’s see now:

  • Fuel economy: 12mpg city, 19mpg highway. I find a lot of fault with that, since the car I drive (not a hybrid) gets better than twice that mileage in both cases. Maybe the writer’s world will never run out of fossil fuel; must be nice to live there.
  • $186,520: Almost precisely 10 times what we paid two months ago for my wife’s brand-new top-of-the-line Civic EX. Enough difference to pay for 16 high-end cruises or a vacation home in many parts of the country.
  • …for a two-door coupe that weighs 4654 pounds and is 196.6 inches long: A big, heavy, beast of a car with wide doors combined with rough access to the rear seat. The review doesn’t comment on turning radius, but I have my suspicions…
  • The speedometer goes to 220, but the top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. The point being, I presume, that this overpowered beast (604HP) could go at an even more absurd rate of speed if it wasn’t “locked down” to something over twice the top speed limit in the U.S.

Not mentioned in the review, of course: It’s a Mercedes-Benz, which means you’ll spend a fortune on service, given the uniformly lousy reliability ratings and high servicing costs of the brand.

I guess I’m just unreasonable. I’m not going to shame anyone else for buying this car–heck, it gets better gas mileage than a Hummer, at least–but nothing to find fault with? In your dreams.