Archive for October, 2006

850GB for $48!

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

If you believe this item at PC Magazine’s online comparison service, we have two miracles in one:

  • The biggest single internal disk just jumped from 750GB to 850GB, and it’s not from Seagate, it’s from IBM (also, it’s not SATA, it’s IDE/EIDE).
  • It costs a whopping $48, or less than six cents a gigabyte–quite a drop from the fifty cents or so that you’ll pay for that shrimpy little Seagate 750GB drive.

Ready or order a few? Not so fast. As with most things that look to be too good to be true, there’s a problem here. Set aside the 1.5-checkmark rating for the store. Drop down to the ads below the detailed description. Click on the link for the same model number–from the same vendor.

Hmm. It says 850, to be sure, and it says $48. But the suffix is MB, not GB. (And it’s IBM Lenovo, not IBM, but that’s irrelevant.)

$48 (including shipping) for a teeny-tiny drive (it’s 3.5″, notebook size, but by today’s standards 850MB is pretty scrawny, and you could get a higher-capacity USB flash drive for that money) doesn’t seem all that great: $56 a gigabyte.

This would simply be amusing–except that, if you do a search on the model number, most of the early results show the same “850GB” capacity, even though they lead to lots of “different” shopping services and review compilations. All of which seem to offer up the same item at the same price, some (but not all) with the same single review noting that it’s not as described.

As noted in a commentary on Wikipedia in the new Cites & Insights, at least one writer has praised Wikipedia for making it clear that truth is whatever most people think it is. (I’m paraphrasing, but not by much.)

On that basis, then, if we can substitute “most first-page results from a search” for “most people,” this drive really is an 850GB drive. That’s the truthiness of the situation.

Just don’t try to store more than one-tenth of one percent of that much data on it: That gets involved with that old-fashioned truth, the kind that has to do with physical facts.

Cites & Insights 6:13 available

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large 6:13 (November 2006) is now available for downloading.

The 26-page issue (PDF as always, but major essays are also available as HTML separates from the home page)

  • Bibs & Blather: Should I Care About What You Write? – printability revisited
  • Net Media Perspective: What About Wikipedia? – The saga of Wikipedia, Britannica, and Nature; various commentaries on Wikipedia; and early stuff on Citizendium (plus two good notes on library-related wikis)
  • Trends & Quick Takes – three mini-essays, four quicker takes.
  • Old Media/New Media Perspective: Tracking Hi-Def Discs – what’s happening with HD DVD and Blu-ray and why you should(n’t) care
  • PC Progress: February-October 2006 – 27 group reviews in 14 categories
  • Copyright Currents – catching up on fair use and infringement, DMCA, orphan works and the analog hole.
  • My Back Pages – three snarky little essays (one of them not really snarky at all)

Editing other people’s words

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

…is so much easier than editing your own, at least in some cases.

Trivial example: (this is a trivial post, with probably more language-related posts to come)

Reading the October 13 Chronicle of Higher Education–the fun part, Section B–I get to the letters, one of which is about deadly sins of bad writing and adds two more, one of which is “wordiness”

(For example: “Here it is very important to note that in this case the hippopotamus in question was a midget.” How about: “Note that, in this case, the hippopotamus was a midget.”) [Stacey C. Sawyer]

Very good–and I wish I could consistently do as good a job with my own prose. But looking at the particular string of words and any plausible context or meaning, I found myself saying:

This hippopotamus was a midget.

From 18 to 10 to 5. Don’t expect me to do as well on my own stuff. But then, neither have outside editors (although they almost always improve “my” prose).

Sophisticated argumentation

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

New headnote: I’m reverting most of the other changes because the post gets too confusing. I’ll add my caveats at the end. However, it is now clear, thanks to this excellent comment from Phil Bradley, that I misinterpreted the situation based on sketchy reporting. I’m restoring the original post so that the comment stream makes sense [End of new headnote]:

It seems that a big-name speaker in a big-name conference settled the issue of whether terminology matters, at least within one current movement/set of tools/hypefest/truly good idea set, by displaying a slide containing the Answer:”I don’t care.”

Presumably implying that nobody else should either. Where I’ve seen this noted in reports, it’s with considerable enthusiasm.

It strikes me that sophisticated argumentation at this level deserves appropriate response. To wit, those who think that language doesn’t matter are, to some extent, telling us that their words don’t matter. So an appropriate response to their posts, articles, whatever, might well be

“I don’t care.”

Or is it only language that they disagree with that should be dismissed in such a manner?

Actually, I’m charmed by librarians arguing that language and wording don’t matter. It sets such an interesting tone for the future.

OK, that’s the original post. I did not name the speaker, deliberately…in part because I saw this as another example of what I’d seen much earlier from another source (see the comments for links), and thought it was possible that I was misinterpreting the speaker. It is now clear that this was the case. It’s also clear that the misinterpretation was based in part on the reporting of the session, specifically this commentary:

“My favorite slide was Phil Bradley’s, in response to all the discussion about semantics and buzzwords. It simply said:

“I don’t care”

I LOLed”

[The link is in the comments.] Note “in response to all the discussion about semantics and buzzwords.” Note the lack of “After a slide saying ‘So what do I think?’ and a commentary that made it clear that both sides had merit.” At that point, as Bradley says, the slide wasn’t intended as argument; it was a personal comment. And entirely appropriate as such. I probably would have laughed too.

Note that I did not name Phil Bradley, deliberately. It was a blind item because I was noting a problem I’ve seen more than once. This did not happen to be an instance of the problem.

As for the courtesy of always asking someone before commenting on anything they’ve said in public, or that has been reported that they’ve said, or before interpreting what someone says…well, that’s an interesting idea. It’s certainly not a courtesy I’ve been provided. In fact, I’ve seen deliberate rewordings of what I said. For example, the post above does not say “someone at some conference in some speech attempted to preclude discussion of the language/term.” Nor did I “deny the man a slide with his personal opinion”–where above do I say “The speaker should not have been allowed to put up that slide”? Those are both deliberate misstatements, not just misinterpretations.

To sum up: I misinterpreted what went on at the conference based on (a) selective reporting and (b) my own long experience with the person who’d done the selective reporting. It was a reasoned comment that happened to be wrong. I did not mention the speaker by name because it was used as an example (and because I knew I might be wrong). I wrote a short and angry post because I’m tired of the real instances (which this wasn’t) of argument-by-trivialization.
Again, my genuine apologies to Phil Bradley–not for failing to contact him, but for misunderstanding the sketchy report. And my genuine thanks for his clear, calm, lucid commentary. Next time I see reporting on his speeches that seems askew, I will check first.

PageRankled: A Friday post

Friday, October 13th, 2006

Update: This essay is mostly pointless, for reasons explained by Seth Finkelstein. See his comments or the update in midstream. (A pointless essay at W.a.R.? Well, no earthshattering surprise here…) For the record, though, I’ll leave the essay in place.

It’s been almost three months since Cites & Insights moved to its new home.

Three months and three issues.

Readership? OK. Hard to be sure how it compares; Urchin and Weblog Expert measure things differently. I know that the old site’s still getting a fair number of hits–actually, the average visits per typical day hasn’t dropped all that much, but there aren’t the usual issue-publication spikes. That’s reasonable: The new issues aren’t available at the old site. (Overall traffic on the old site is only down about 20% in the months since the move as compared to the months prior to the move.)

I think there are fewer readers for the most recent issues; it’s hard to be sure. There are more than enough to keep me writing. And readership for any given issue continues to grow over time. It’s likely to be a very long time before I ever have another essay that appears to have more than 19,000 readers (most of you can guess which 23,000-word, entire-issue essay that was).

But I was reminded today of just how much of one non-negotiable currency went away with the move. I got around to loading the Google Toolbar on my current version of Firefox (and have since moved the desired Google Toolbar items to the Bookmark toolbar or the Navigation toolbar, so I can keep the number of open toolbars down).

One amusing/impressive/terrifying portion of the Google Toolbar is the PageRank item.

This blog has a surprisingly high PageRank (6 at the moment), just as it has a whole bunch more daily visits than make any sense to me.

Cites & Insights had an even higher PageRank: 7, the number that search engine optimizers are supposedly willing to donate limbs to reach. Why not? Librarians are heavy linkers, and C&I has been around for a while.

The new site? Zero. Nada. Not even up to 1. See next paragraph: It’s really dropped from 7 to 6.

Update, Sunday, October 15: While I’ll leave this essay in place, turns out that the toolbar PageRank is out of date. Seth Finkelstein pointed me to a tool that checks Google’s data centers; they consistently show a PageRank of 6 for I’m not quite sure what 6 means in the scheme of things, but I know it’s plenty good enough. (This blog and my home page have the same rank. Eventually, I expect that the new C&I site will make it back to 7. No hurry.) Thanks, Seth–and as for the essay in general, the right summary may be “Never mind.”

I‘ll check every six months or so and see how long it takes to reach a nominal PageRank.

Fortunately, PageRank really is non-negotiable in this case. I’m not planning to add external ads to the C&I home page (if there are ads, they’ll be for my own books, if I ever get around to doing them). I took the ads off W.a.R. because they were taking up space and not yielding worthwhile revenue. For the highest-readership issues, most people don’t arrive via the front page in any case: They go directly to a PDF download or an HTML essay.

Metablog: A comment on “Still no comments.”

Friday, October 13th, 2006

CavLec doesn’t have a comment function.

CavLec does have a readily-available email address, with the note that email to that address can be posted or commented on at CavLec.

This post discusses the no-comment situation and why Dorothea Salo runs the blog that way. Along the way, Dorothea notes that some people think CavLec isn’t really a blog because it doesn’t support comments–and points to an, um, er, interesting comment stream at another blog. (Let’s just say that reading that stream was about as depressing as visiting /., if you know how I feel about /. )

CavLec continues to be a great blog. That’s because Dorothea Salo thinks well, writes well, and has the same internal-censor problem I have (that is, she says what she means and what’s important, without being sufficiently careful not to say anything that might come back to haunt her).

Saying CavLec isn’t really a blog because it doesn’t have comments is, in my not so humble opinion, nonsense. That’s like saying a wiki that isn’t open to anonymous editing/trolling/graffiti isn’t really a wiki.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one definition of “blog” that makes any sense:

A blog is an online publication with individual entries arranged in reverse chronological order.

That’s it. Period. Full stop, if you’re British. “Online” doesn’t even necessarily mean “on the open web”–you can have intranet blogs.

The 250+ spamment attempts last night remind me that comments are a nuisance in one way. One particular interchange on a really off-topic post reminded me that they’re a nuisance in another way. Some days I’m tempted to turn on full moderation or go look for another Capcha routine. Most days, though, I’m not.

For Walt at Random, comments make the difference between a blog with infrequent posts but some great conversations, and probably no blog at all; without the feedback, I’d probably have stuck to commenting at other posts. (Oh yes: And writing a quarter-million words a year in a different kind of online venue.)

For CavLec, not having comments apparently makes the difference between a robust, interesting, worthwhile blog that’s also becoming an essential resource for those interested in OA repositories, and probably not having that blog at all. Seems to me that’s a fair tradeoff.

Blogs would be a whole lot interesting if they were all alike. How comments (and trackbacks) are handled is part of that variety. To cite the apropos title of a group blog run by some colleagues and friends: It’s all good.

Hard disks and the good old days

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Thinking about this post (does LaCie actually manufacture disks? do they actually make a one-platter 1-TB disk, or is their external unit a two-disk combo?) brought back memories of the first hard disk I had direct access to.

Late 1970s. UC Berkeley, Doe Library. We had a local area network of sorts, with three or four semi-intelligent terminals running off one central unit, to support data entry–for serials checkin, I think. I wrote the 24-hour oversight system. Once a week, we gathered up all the data to transmit to the data processing center we were using (via tape, as I remember). The data was gathered on a removable disk cartridge.

The system worked reasonably well (and slight glitches in the weekly process were key to my personal life: That’s how I met my wife). Given the technology involved, it’s amazing that it worked at all. Consider:

  • The central unit was a Datapoint “minicomputer,” with a Z80A CPU running at 2MHz, and with (I believe) 128K of RAM. If you know the history of micros, the Z80A was an 8-bit chip, somewhat comparable to the Intel 8088. The operating system and primary programming environment was Databus, a remarkably robust OS with a flexible database system built in. Not terribly fast, to be sure, but a whole lot better than you’d expect from such a primitive CPU.
  • The removable hard disk held 10 megabytes. That’s mega, not giga. It was a 14″ device, and I’m pretty sure it had multiple platters within the case. I don’t remember the replacement cost, but it was high enough to encourage us to take extremely good care of it.
  • If I recall correctly–and this was almost 30 years ago, so that’s unlikely–we actually ran it as a straight multiterminal time-sharing system, but we could have run a LAN. If we had, the LAN would have been ARCNet, not Ethernet. ARCNet was a token network and worked extremely well particularly given the limited processing power and bandwidth at the time (and was used in thousands of back offices in businesses, frequently without the business’s IT department even knowing about it).

Ten megabytes on a multiplatter 14″ drive. Right now, you can get 750 gigabytes–75,000 times as much storage–on a 3.75″ single-platter drive. Running several times as fast, and probably with 8 megabytes RAM as a buffer. For a few hundred bucks.

Do I look back longingly at the Datapoint days? Not a chance. You could do remarkable things–for the time and the power–with Databus, but it still had some of the characteristics of a chess-playing bear.

50-Movie All Stars Collection, Disc 11

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

It’s that time again: Four TV movies (although one of them may have had theatrical release), all from the 70s.

Evel Knievel, 1971, color, Marvin J. Chomsky (dir.), George Hamilton, Sue Lyon, Bert Freed, Rod Cameron. 1:28.

Even the sleeve blurb (which spells Knievel’s first name “Evil”) has to take a slap at Hamilton, “The ever-tanned and charismatic,” who also produced. George Hamilton as Evel Knievel? Surprisingly, at least as I watched it works pretty well—and it’s a nicely done movie. The blurb says Vic Tayback was in the movie, but if he was, the part was so small it’s not credited in IMDB or listed in the movie’s credits. Some damage reduces what’s otherwise a pretty good flick. $1.25.

Stunts, 1977, color, Mark J. Lester (dir.), Robert Forster, Fiona Lewis, Ray Sharkey, Joanna Cassidy, Bruce Glover. Richard Lynch. 1:29.

Death and peril in stunt work on an action flick where the director’s wife is sleeping with stuntmen. Gee, who could the real murderer be? Interesting stunt work, not much else. $1.00

Murder Once Removed, 1971, color, Charles S. Dubin (dir.), John Forsythe, Richard Kiley, Reta Shaw, Joseph Campanella, Wendell Burton, Barbara Bain. 1:14.

A slick triple-cross murder mystery, with Barbara Bain in a classic femme fatale role and John Forsythe as a doctor who has a bad habit of killing off patients for his own gain. There’s more to it than that; for plot and only slight overacting, I’d give it a higher rating but for damage. $1.25.

The Strangers in 7A, 1972, color, Paul Wendkos (dir.), Andy Griffith, Ida Lupino, Michael Brandon, James A. Watson Jr., Tim McIntire, Susanne Hildur. 1:14.

The blurb calls Griffith’s role “uncharacteristically sleazy”—but although he plays a discouraged, married apartment building super willing to be seduced by a hot chick in a very short skirt (and Griffiths groupies, if any, get to see him shirtless), he winds up being the hero nonetheless. (The blurb also says he’s a landlord, which is a hugely different thing than a super!). Reasonably well plotted, and Michael Brandon makes a pretty good villain, but it’s all a little tired. $1.00.

Terabyte drive: Still coming

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Just saw a blurb about Western Digital’s new MyBook Pro II, a one-terabyte external drive for a ridiculous $549. (Ridiculously low, that is!) Here’s the skinny.

This isn’t the one terabyte drive that we should see before the end of the year–because this critter has two drives. Which also means that for $549 you can have a fully-mirrored 500GB RAID box with USB2 and FireWire connectivity (and backup software). That may be a more sensible use for this kind of capacity at this modest a price. For now.

As far as I can tell on coffee-break searching, Seagate still has the largest single disk, their 750GB unit. WD appears to top out at a mere 500GB per single disk.

The year still has three months to go.

Beware the “family” organization

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

I don’t do political posts much. Not even ALA politics. But sometimes…

My local paper has this article today on the Foley scandal. I’m not going to recount what’s there.

What I can’t help but note, however, is the way Tony Perkins of the “Family” Research Council spins the story, all too typical of various “Family” groups (I use scare quotes because these groups use such a narrow definition of family):

Perkins said neither party “seems likely to address the real issue, which is the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse … ignoring this reality got the Catholic Church into trouble over abusive priests, and now it is doing the same to the House GOP leadership.”

Isn’t that sweet? Either Perkins is accusing Mark Foley of being gay (from FRC, it’s an accusation, not a label) or Perkins is just trying to shift the focus from a specific and real situation to FRC’s phantom devils.

I don’t use the word “evil” much. Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid the word.

Update: If Slate is to be believed (not always a given), Mark Foley may be a closet gay. That really doesn’t change the situation. The story is about pedophilia and power relationships; Foley’s sexual orientation is irrelevant. [Perhaps not to some fraction of Republican voters, which may have a lot to do with “closeted,” but that’s a different story. What he does on his own time with consenting adults is entirely his own business.]