Ed Bilodeau

This weblog had moved: http://www.coolweblog.com/bilodeau/

# Notice (Oct 19/05): So ends my stay here on Blogger. This morning Google implemented an anti-spam 'feature' that forces me to answer a challenge phrase when I want to post to my own blog. No notice of the change, nothing. Worse is that it doesn't even work! I type the phrase, submit, "An error occured", post deleted. Damn you, Google. Chances are I will revive my blog somewhere else, sometime soon. I'll post the new coordinates here as soon as they become available. (BTW, I'm unable to post anything to my RSS stream, so I'd appreciate it if readers could spread the word and ask people to take a look at this notice)

Update (Oct 19/05, ~noon): After a frustrating few hours (and not just trying out alternatives to Blogger), I've decided that this is a good time to take a break from all this. A day? A week? Who knows. But I need to step away from it before I pass a heavy magnet over the whole mess.

Update 2: According to this post, the reason I'm seeing the CAPTCHA (challenge phrase) is that Blogger has classified my blog as spam. Thanks. User for five years and now I'm spam. I searched the Blogger site, but there is no mention of how to get the spam flag turned off. There is also no way of contacting anyone at Blogger. Wow. Spam they say I am, so spam I must be. Maybe it is time to take a break.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Selenium :
Selenium is a testing tool for browser-based testing of web applications. It can be used both for functional and compatability testing. Selenium tests run directly in supported browsers, just as real users do.
The clean-out continues : In preparation for next spring's move, I've decided to get rid of a lot of stuff that at one time was firmly in the 'sacred' pile, never to be thrown out. This includes:
  • Textbooks (mostly math and physics, but probably others)
  • Fanstasy novels (pocketbooks mostly)
  • Lots and lots of RPG stuff (AD&D books, modules, etc, etc, (1st ed, some 2nd ed))
This stuff is heavy and so probably not shippable, but who knows. I'll post lists here once I've decided what goes. Interested folks will be able to get in touch with me and we'll be able to work something out. This is stuff that I would rather not see in a dumpster, so I'll probably end up giving it all away.

Friday, October 29, 2004

IT community of practice a scary proposition for some :
Elisabeth Richard, director of e-government partnerships in the IT services branch of Public Works and Government Services Canada, will give a presentation titled Online moderation and facilitation: The role of public servants. Richard says the Internet permits small discussion groups of interested parties from the private sector and non-governmental organizations to participate in policy discussions, but there are pitfalls. 'It's an environment that often fosters extreme views,' Richard says. 'It can be a scary environment for a public servant that's trained to be very neutral and very factual in their information.'
Business Plan Archive : A few drawbacks: You have to register to access the archive, and you have to dig a bit to find a company that has full business plans available. But overall, its an interesting site.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

NYTimes: New Food for IPods: Audio by Subscription : Fluff article on ipodding, but I liked the photo of the DotNet Rocks gear set up. Here's a similar shot and more complete description of the gear behind IT Conversations. My guess is that Mr. Curry's gear is similarly sophisticated (though probably less so).

To do audio well, you need (a) specialized equipment, and (b) skill to get it all to work. Now, I've experimented with my own set up (laptop w/ built-in mic and some freeware software) and had no problem recording my own voice and tacking some intro and outro music clips. So for the individual to put this kind of thing together isn't difficult. (I'm guessing its even easier on a Mac.) But if you want to get fancy and include interviews, etc, etc, the barriers to entry are a bit higher.

Or not. It may just be that the examples I've looked at are folks with money looking for excuses to buy and tinker with a lot of new hardware. It will be interesting to see what kind of 'solutions' people put together to make audio recording and distribution as easy as text blogging.
Listening to... : Jeff Buckley's Sketches (For My Sweetheart the Drunk). I bought this album a long time ago, listened to it a few times, then forgot about it. This morning I felt like listening to it again. Wonderful album.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Channel9 Videos : I was very impressed with Channel 9 when it first launched, but soon stopped visiting due to the difficulties I had watching the streaming video. Now I see that they've made a few changes. The video posts are all conveniently listed on one page, and there is an option to save the video to my client machine. Nice.

This demo caught my eye: Building Outlook UI in 100 lines of code with Winforms.

Monday, October 25, 2004

McGill's next course learning management system : I just attended a presentation by Laura Winer, Senior Educational Technologist here at McGill, about the status of McGill's selection of its next learning management system. The decision is down to WebCT Vista or Desire2Learn. A decision is expected before the end of November, with full implmentation expected for Fall 2005.

Here are the points that stood out for me:
  • The decision to switch was primarily driven by the fact that WebCT Campus Edition is not capable of supporting our level of usage.

  • The system is used 24/7, but support is only available 8/5. The university is looking at improving this.

  • Making course materials publically available is not high on McGill's list of requirements. The new systems do allow instructors to create guest accounts, but supporting something like MIT's OpenCourseWare is not in the works.
The presentation was streamed live and should be archived for later viewing. Once a link is avilable, I'll post it here.
MT weblog is back : Not only has access to my MT weblog been restored, but the engine has been upgraded to 3.0. Nice.

I plan on keeping this blog (i.e. bilodeau.blogspot.com) as my primary weblog. I do have a few ideas for the MT blog, but still haven't decided how I'm going to split my blogging between the two. I'll post any developments here as they occur.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Diary notes : I spent this morning working on chores around the apartment. General tidying up, along with most of my ironing for the week. We also started throwing stuff out. We're planning on moving in the spring, and our plan is to throw out as much as possible between now and then. Today's victims: a few feet worth of magazines, a few bags of clothes, as well as most of my jackets. Out, out, out. (I love throwing stuff out.)

Now we're getting ready to go out. Nathalie is going to a talk in Westmount, and I'm going to tag along and do some work at the Westmount Library. We'll probably also take the opportunity to take a short walk around our old neighborhood, have a nice cup of coffee, and make the most of the outing. The week ahead is a busy one, so I don't feel bad if I don't get in 8 hours of reading today. I need to rest and recharge more then anything else.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Productive ADD : This afternoon, and now this evening, I've been slowly, slowly grinding through some reading (Boyatzis et al., Innovation in Professional Education). Slowly, because I'm having a hard time concentrating on the text, a hard time getting into some semblance of flow.

Every time I try to focus, my mind flutters away onto another topic. Fortunately, my attention is usually drawn away by a new idea that pops into my head. Ideas on my phd research, ideas for my teaching, for the e-commerce program I'm developing. Really good ideas. So I stop, I write down the ideas, then get back to the book. Grind, grind, grind...

Reading as slow as I do, I get caught in a loop. I realize I'm not focusing, I'm reading too slow, I'm not retaining enough, I have so much more to read, I have to read more, I have to retain more, Do I really need to read this book? I need to read more, faster, more faster...

Stop. I close my eyes, a deep breath... relax... back to the top of the page, relax... start over...

Friday, October 22, 2004

GMail Drive shell extension :
GMail Drive is a Shell Namespace Extension that creates a virtual filesystem around your Google GMail account, allowing you to use GMail as a storage medium.
Now all they need to do is make it possible for you to make these files publically accessible, and lots and lots of people suddenly have 1GB of (static) hosting. You could put a cap on the bandwidth, etc to keep things reasonable.
North American Blender Conference (Montréal) :
The computer lab will open at 8 in the morning and will stay open untill 5:30 in the afternoon. If you can't come for the opening, feel free to come in throughout the day. We'll have modelling, texturing, lighting, animating and pythong programming session during the whole day. There is NO price for attending at the conference, it's absolutly free.
I won't be attending myself, but I thought this might be of interest to others. There is contact info in the post linked to above re: location, time, etc.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

MLISSA Speaker Series Kick-Off : Today was the first talk in the speaker series that I’ve been working on for GSLIS. Professor Andrew Large gave a presentation titled Web Portal Design: Children in Charge. He gave a great overview of the work he’s been doing on getting children involved in the design of subject portals to support their school work.

The turnout was great! There were about 40 people in all who attended, which is more then I expected or dared hope for. There were students (Masters and PhD), faculty, and at least one person from the library staff. Considering we only started promoting the event Monday, I say we did a pretty good job! My sense is that people are hungry for this kind of event.

At the beginning of his presentation, Prof. Large mentioned how in the years he’s been working on this project, he and Prof. Beheshti (co-investigator) have presented and talked about their work at conferences all over the world, but never before in GSLIS, their own school! He said he really appreciated the opportunity to do so. I'm hoping that the other faculty in the school feel the same way.

I’m more convinced then ever that this speaker series is the right thing to do, and well worth the effort that I need to put into it. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue this initial success into a string of great talks and presentations.
Montreal rides wave of digital movie-making :
"University labs are helping to produce some of world's best computer graphics artists"

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Neal Stephenson Slashdot Q&A : Reading through this great interview, I thought I'd mention that I finally picked up the paperback version of Quicksilver. In the back, Stephenson talks about how he wrote the entire trilogy out by hand, then transcribed it and typeset it using emacs and TeX.

I had heard of this feat earlier when the hardcover was first released. I imagined page after page of flowing, gorgeous text, with a few decisive slashes, insertions, and other edits in the margins. Over the past month or two I've been taking my own notes longhand, and that image kept coming back to me. I'd look down at the scratching on my own loose-leaf page (hardly the 100% cotton paper Mr. Stephenson was able to use), and feel less then satisfied with myself.

So it was with some relief that I discovered the examples of Stephenson's handwriting. Its OK to scrawl out the words, regardless of the quality of the paper or pen. Obvious in hindsight, but at least I can write easier now.
IT Conversations: Doug Kaye :
"IT Conversations host and producer Doug Kaye is interviewed by Rob Greenlee for WebTalk Radio. Rob asks Doug about the birth of IT Conversations, web-audio business models, and what multimedia content formats work best. They discuss related topics such as the impact of Podcasting on IT Conversations, traditional broadcast radio and satellite radio, and whether audio streaming will flourish or die."
Stupmed in posting audio : I thought I would try a few audio posts to this site, but ran into a brick wall when I realized that I can't upload files to this free Blogger account.

I'm going to have to try to find some server space somewhere here at McGill. There have been enough times now that I've wanted to do some public web stuff (i.e. wiki, etc) that I should be able to make a case to get some sort of virtual hosting space. I could probably do it under everyone's radar, which from a bureaucratic point of view might be wiser easier. Still, I don't know if I feel like clashing with the powers that be later down the road, either.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

[CTRL] Conference: McGill, Montreal // October 22-23, 2004 :
"The [CTRL] Controlling Bodies/Controlling Spaces conference is a timely intervention which aims to foster critical dialogue interrogating emergent modes and methods of control and their impact on individuals, institutions and intellectual thought."
Timely intervention? That was so written by a grad student. Still, sounds like a good time. Unfortunately, too short notice for me. (Not really my area of study anyway.)
Last 100 podcasts : Right now, the average size of the 100 MP3 files being listed is around 13MB. While I don't think these files will be pulled down with the same frequency as text-only posts, this can't but add up to a non-negligible increase in bandwidth for people hosting this conent.

Mind you, I assume that anyone hosting large MP3 files and pinging audio.weblogs.com is ready for the spike in traffic that is inevitable. My guess is that as more and more people start doing this, we'll begin hearing stories of people with astronomical hosting bills asking for donations, etc.
Aaronland: Phrases that should never have been written but deserve to be repeated #1 : "He entered my mind like a weapons inspector."

Monday, October 18, 2004

Discovering del.icio.us links : I wish there was an easier way to discover del.icio.us links. Ideally, any blogger who has one will publicize the link on their weblog (for those old-fashion folks like me who still actually visit their blog and not just their RSS feeds). But I don't think that is the case.

Although I realize this isn't the primary use of delicious, they do have a feature to subscribe to other delicious link-flows (?). I like that feature. I just wish it was easier to locate the delicious links of people I know.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Conference dev site done : There. Finally done, and I blew most of the weekend doing it. Not good, but I guess it will give me that much more free time over the week. Again, I set my expectations a bit high for exactly how much I would get done this weekend. Its hard not to be disappointed, but there's not much I can do now but make the most of the time ahead.
Adding Dublin Core support : Some of the feedback I've received from one of the other conference organizers is that we need to have Dublin Core metadata on our site. I've agreed, though I see it as mostly an issue of principle, i.e. that the web site for an LIS conference should have the proper metadata tagged to it. Since no one is actually going to use it, though, I can't help feel as if it is a waste of time.

I was able to dig up a few references and examples on coding DC into a web page. The information is surprisingly incomplete, at least for someone like me who understands the basics and just wants to know what I have to code and how. It's like trying to learn XHTML by reading a W3C spec!

I've added the DC metadata to the home page of the site. Now I'm trying to decide if I should (a) add the same metadata to all pages on the site, (b) add customized metadata to all pages on the site, (c) only have the metadata on the conference home page, and get on with other, more important work. Any thoughts or ideas that you the reader may have on this would be appreciated.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Deleted posts : I deleted the last few 'links and pullquotes' posts that I had made and reposted them to my delicious links. I've been paying more attention to how other people use their weblog, delicious, and other tools, and am trying different things out to see what works for me.
Coding : I've spent most of today working on coding a real site (as opposed to this weblog or the main CMS-driven McGill ContEd site). We're hosting the Connections 2005 conference this year, and I volunteered to, among other things, code the web site. It's a fairly simple site, and I had a base of PHP code for the proposal submission form. Still, I decided to take my time and make sure I got things right the first time around (instead of having to debug and recode).

Overall, it has gone pretty well. I was reminded of how good TopStyle Pro is as an editor. I was also reminded that I should probably try to do more coding on a regular basis, even though it isn't my main job.
resize --> 800 x 710 : Even though I don't do much in the way of real web development these days, I still find the Web Developer extension to be very useful. One of the most common features I use is the "Resize" features, to automatically set my browser window to 800x710. This allows me to see and use some of my desktop as a work area, even when I'm away from my desk and limited to my laptop's 1024x768 display. It also shows which sites have failed to design for resolutions lower then 1024 x 768 (a small but significant number of the sites I visit regularly).
Weekend : Outside, it is overcast, a bit cool, damp. The trees are in full colour, and there are leaves everywhere. Over breakfast, we decided that we just had to go for a walk before getting to our chores and our homework. I'm really glad we did. It isn't healthy, or productive, to work all the time.

Friday, October 15, 2004

New Singer for Van Halen? : Onthe bus ride home this afternoon, I thought I saw something in one of our local free daily's about Van Halen having a new lead singer. I think the guys name was something like 'Jonas,' a Montrealer of all things, and someone I've never heard of.

I haven't been able to find much on the net, just this one baseless rumor: Van Halen and Sammy Hagar at odds (Oct 16). So who knows. It's probably nothing.

Mind you, I was reading this newspaper over the shoulder of the person in front of me, and it was in French, so this Jonas character may just be the opening act for Van Halen's upcoming Montreal tour date.

(BTW, if you hear any news on this, please post the details or links as comments to this post. Tks.)
Powertoys WebLog : A weblog for add-ins and other tools to improve the productivity of developers working with Microsoft's Visual Studio IDE.
Reading very few research-related blogs : Going through my blogroll, I noticed that a read very few blogs that are related to my research area. I'm not sure why that is. Part of it has to do with the fact that in my mind research and blogging are still two very different things. Blogs are not where I need to go for my research. They are not part of 'the literature'. Engaging with these blogs (some of which are admittedly good) in any real way would sap too much time and energy.

Also, the act of engaging with research-related blogs does take signigicantly more brain-power (i.e. they impose a higher cognitive load, to use the lingo), that I probably shy away from them during my blog surfing. Blogs are still much more of a diversion for me. A distraction. Procrastination. Entertainment.

All except my blog. This blog here is very serious, and well worth reading.
Busy day : Mostly meetings and time in the library. I good day, but almost none of it spent surfing or blogging. I'll prob spend some time tonight catching up, first on my email, next on the surfing/blogging.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

del.icio.us/ebilodeau : Earlier today, I couldn't access my delicious bookmarks. It looked like my account had been deleted. I couldn't log in. I thought that everything was gone. A few minutes later, everything was ok.

It made me think that, although delicious is cool, it might not be the best idea to have my links only stored there. I've posted 164 links there so far, so I think I need to decide if I want to keep using the (unguaranteed) service, or if I should go back to filing them as bookmarks.
Listening to... : Rufus Wainwright's self-titled debut. Highly recommended. Reminds me that I still haven't picked up his latest.
Wanted: A Simplified IDE for Web Development : The October 2004 issue of Dr. Dobbs has an article on an interesting project called Penumbra, a simplified version of the Eclipse IDE. In the article, Frank Mueller and Antony Hoskin describe how they were able to customize the Eclipse IDE to make it a better for teaching Java to Computer Science students.

Eclipse allows you to define a particular configuration of the user interface (menus, toolbars, etc) as a perspective. Like many applications, Eclipse contains a wide array of functionality so that it can meet the needs of the widest range of users. A large part of the Penumbra project involved developing a perspective that provides users with a simplified IDE, hiding much of this complex functionality.

Along with a simplified interface, Meuller and Hoskin developed a few other features that improve Penumbra's ability to meet the needs of the classroom environment. These features include fully automated integration with CVS, as well as a heirarchy view which "provides users with a view that would visual the heirarchy of classes and interfaces in a project." For beginner developers, this kind of view is a great aid in understanding what is going on in their code.

Reading about this project, I am convinced that Eclipse could be used to develop a simplified IDE for teaching people how to develop web pages. The basic functionality of such an environment would include:

  • basic text manipulation
  • find/replace in and across multiple files
  • syntax coloring and highlighting for XHTML, CSS, and JS. Plug-ins would allow for other languages (ex. PHP) to be supported as well.
  • the ability to collapse tags
  • context-sentitive help on all markup tags and properties

The IDE could also provide a heirarchy view that allows the student to view their XHTML document as a heirarchy of nested tags. This would be useful in emphasising the structural aspects of XHTML.

Our simplified IDE would of course benefit from integration with existing tools such as HTML Tidy and the W3C's validation tools. CVS integratation like that in Penumbra would be useful, as would FTP support.

Firefox would be the idea default browser to integrate into our simplified IDE. Combined with the Web Developer extension (WD), it provides students with a quick browser with very good standards compliance. You could even enhance the integration between our simplified IDE and Firefox/WD. For example, a student might be viewing their pages in Firefox/WD with block elements and class/IDs displayed. In our integrated environment, clicking on a class or ID in Firefox would go to the class or ID definition in our editor.

Like Penumbra, this application would be open source, free to use, and open to further modification and enhancement. It would only take a small number of educational institutions ro provide the resources (mostly developer-hours) necessary to make this a sustainable project. (Example of OSS projects supported by a group of academic institutions include (but are not limited to) uPortal, Sakai, DSpace, and Lionshare).

I'm interested in hearing what others think of this idea. Please add a comment to this post with your ideas, suggestions, or links to similar or related projects. If you think this is a good idea, I ask you to share a link to this post so that is gets the widest possible visibility.

In the meantime, I will continue my research into the Eclipse environment (as well as the starting and management of OSS projects!).

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Jonathan Briggs: Books about dotcom period of ecommerce history : Nice list. Hmm... I haven't read any of these. Note to self: Check to see if we have them at McGill.
A Tale of Standardization II :
The Stockton and Darlington had been laid down on a gauge of 4 feet an 8 1/2 inches, which was common among the tram roads in its neighborhood and which avoided the necessity of a few and different type of coal-waggon. Since there was no ground for dissatisfaction with this guage, it was adopted on the Liverpool and Manchester and the London and Birmingham, and there was naturally an advantage in using it also for all lines which might connect with them. Brunel, however, persuaded the directors of the Great Western to adopt a gauge of 7 feet. The broad gauge may have enabled greater speed to be attained with safety and more comfort to be provded for passengers; but, by requiring more land, it made construction more costly; and the existence of different gauges hindered co-operation and co-ordination of railway enterprises.
G.P. Jones and A.G. Pool (1940) "A Hundred Years of Economic Development in Great Britain," p.47-48
Netscape's original browser press release :
"Netscape Communications Corporation today announced that it is offering its newly introduced Netscape(TM) network navigator free to users via the Internet. The new Internet navigator, developed by the six-month-old Silicon Valley company led by Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark and NCSA Mosaic creator Marc Andreessen, is available immediately for free downloading by individual, academic and research users."
Slashdot: Advice On Notebook Backpacks? : I agree with the advice to avoid anything that looks like a laptop bag (i.e. most Targus models).

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

FixedScopeMirage :
"A fixed scope contract only is fixed is the contractor really understands the requirements. But such knowledge is so rare that you can win by banking on its absence. Such contracting companies deliberately low-bid the fixed price, with the explicit plan of making a profit on change requests. Indeed some firms actually incentivize their sales and account managers based on how many change requests a project receives."
HTML 4.01, une star bien mal comprise :
C'est pour cela que je dis, de façon un peu provocative, que HTML 4.01 n'est pas implémenté car dans la plupart des cas, la sémantique des éléments n'est pas utilisée et donc ne donne aucun bénéfice à l'utilisateur.
Kottke on the Web 2.0 conference :
"Everyone at the conference had their own definition of what Web 2.0 was about, but I think Bezos got it right when he said it was about machine to machine communication versus the machine to human communication that typified the early days of the Web. And that's nothing new..it's just that it's starting to really take off as an idea that people are buying into, both literally and figuratively."
S5: A Simple Standards-Based Slide Show System :
S5 is a slide show format based entirely on XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript. With one file, you can run a complete slide show and have a printer-friendly version as well. The markup used for the slides is very simple, highly semantic, and completely accessible.

Very interesting. My lecture slides tend to have several diagrams in them, so I'm not sure this would work for me. I could include them as images, though. Hmmm. Attempting to convert my slides at this point would be mostly procrastination on my part, but I might try it out for the winter semester.
Pho Toast : i want a digital camera i want a digital camera i want a digital camera i want a digital camera i want a digital camera i want a digital camera i want a digital camera i want a digital camera i want a digital camera i want a digital camera i want a digital camera.
A Tale of Standardization I :
Nevertheless, however well it may have answered the needs of the eighteenth century, the system of inland navigation was in several respects inadequate for the nineteeth, largely because it had not been thought out as a whole and in relation to probably future developments. Thus, the various acts enabling parts of the system to be constructed had not imposed uniformity in depth or breadth, with the result that a consigner could not be sure of sending his goods in the same vessel if they had to pass from one canal to another on the way. Indeed, not only was uniformity lacking as between one canal and another, but, with regard to the dimensions of the locks, it might be lacking between different parts of the same canal. Reliance on optimistic private enterprise resulted, in some instances, in very heavy costs being undertaken in cutting canals where there was insufficient prospect of remuneration. It is thus not astonishing that, even before railway competition began, some canals made very small profits or none at all. To this fault--the lack of plan and control--which might have been avoided, another was inevitably added. Since the earlier canals were cut before Watt's engine had ben patented and long before Stephenson's locomotive had been invented, the possibility of steam traction could not be forseen, and the depth and breadth of canals in general were calculated only for horse traction.
G.P. Jones and A.G. Pool (1940) "A Hundred Years of Economic Development in Great Britain," p.38
A Wonderful Fall Day : Back at work after the long, Thanksgiving weekend. Nathalie and I spent most of it studying, although we did take a break last night to have a traditional supper with her parents and sister. I headed into town this morning feeling refreshed and ready for the week.

The morning is crisp, cool, and colourful. Fall is in full swing here in Montreal. After dropping Nathalie off at GSLIS, I took my regular morning walk across the campus. It was such a perfect campus morning that I decided to have my morning coffee on the front steps of Arts instead of at my desk. Sitting, watching the students shuffling to class, the early-morning professors and grad students walking up to their offices or off to the library, steam coming off my coffee, the sun poking over the buildings of the downtown core, warming the cold stone steps.

Every morning the buildings, the people, the walk across the university grounds awaken my motivation. This morning, however, the campus outdid itself. I have so very much to be thankful for.

Friday, October 08, 2004

MIT World: Strategy for High Tech Companies - What to Think About : Video of lecture given by Michael A. Cusumano on June 5, 2004 at MIT's Sloan School of Management.
Class Post Mortem : Class last night was ok. I feel better about it this morning then I did last night.

The topic was design concepts. Based on what I heard listening to the group discussions as the class discussion that followed afterwards, few people in the class prepared the assigned readings. I doubt they even read them. Considering the readings were relatively light (the first 100 pages of Krug's Don't Make Me Think, which if you know the text, is not at scary as it sounds), it is a bit hard to understand. True, I didn't ask them to write up and hand in their reflections and thoughts on the readings (as I usually do), but I still expected them to be interested and motivated enough to do the work.

Needless to say, I was quite disappointed. I was tempted to just end the class then, giving them the rest of the night to catch up on the readings. Instead, I pushed forward with the lecture. Feeling no energy from the class, it was long and hard. At the end I was exhausted, unsatisfied with my own performance, glad it was over.

A good night sleep, time with Nathalie, some good coffee and better music has (thankfully) lifted my spirits.
Design Observer: writings about design & culture : A great weblog that I came across c/o xblog.
Disabilities Act doesn't cover Web, court says :
"Acting largely on procedural grounds, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court's decision from October 2002, which concluded that Web sites cannot be required to comply with the 1991 disabilities law. An advocacy group for the blind had sued Southwest Airlines, seeking a redesign of its Web site."
Economist.com - Business Education : The Economist has an interesting collection of articles on the state of business and management education.
For the grad student, blogging is a waste of time : Alex Halavais, in my opinion, nails it:
Now, the thing is, I know that it’s good for grad students to do this. I know that you need to network with other scholars and share ideas and do all the kinds of things that blogs end up being great for. I love what some of my new grad students this year are doing in their blogs, and I know that it will be good for their careers.

But I also know that the senior faculty are right. You don’t get tenure without funded research, and blogging is a waste of time.

...which does nothing to explain why I spend my time doing this!
Can't run iPodder : This morning I tried to use iPodder, but all I got were a bunch of Python error windows saying that I didn't have permissions for some file or another. I tried running the iPodder program as an administrator, but it didn't fix the problem. So much for that. I guess I'll go back to downloading my audio shows the old fashion way.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

IT Infrastructure Library :
ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) is the most widely accepted approach to IT Service Management in the world. ITIL provides a cohesive set of best practice, drawn from the public and private sectors internationally. It is supported by a comprehensive qualification scheme, accredited training organisations, and implementation and assessment tools.
What do developers want? : Infoworld's annual survey gives a picture of what developers are up to: Java, .Net, XML, Microsoft, relational databases and web apps, and not all that worried about offshore development.
Fine-Tune Your Web Site for Windows XP Service Pack 2 : Information for all those web developers who have made use of MS technolgies in their web sites. For those of you who stuck to open standards, move along. There is nothing for to see you here! :)

(The exception is those of you who use open standards to create pop-up windows. You need to read this, too. That's the price you pay for doing bad things.)
iPodder.org : I've downloaded the iPodder software and set us a few feeds just to test it out. I like the idea of having the audio of my favorite shows downloaded automatically to my laptop. I still don't know how these sites are going to deal with the bandwidth drain.
High blood pressure related decline in cognitive function affects adults young and old :
"High blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 83 is associated with a measurable decline in cognitive function, according to a report published today by University of Maine researchers in the pre-publication online edition of the journal Hypertension."
The New Face of Ars : Ars Technica redesigns, abandoning the white-text-on-black that they have had for so long. I like it. Ars has been a quality site for a long time, and its good to see them evolving in this direction.

The link above is to an article on the redesign itself. Well worth reading if you are at all interested in web development. It was also interesting to note that they switched their server platoform back to Windows because of .Net.
We ran Linux until March of 2004, when we made the move to Windows Servers. Linux and Apache had served us quite well, but when we turned to look at building our new CMS, .NET was simply so attractive for our needs that we felt it warranted the switch.
Data management’s misconceptions :
"Pascal is extremely critical of Extensible Markup Language in database administration and data exchange. A self-described contrarian, he also has bad things to say about Structured Query Language and commercial implementations of the relational database model."

Here is a link to the Database Debunkings website mentionned in the article: http://www.dbdebunk.com

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Google H4x0r interface : I happened across this last night while doing a Google search on 'hacker', interestingly enough. Too bad it doesn't translate the search results into hacker-text as well!
Public Access to Robotic Camera Fosters Discourse :
By combining today's most advanced networked robotic camera with a new visual database engineered by the Alpha Lab, Demonstrate is the first surveillance system whose software allows multiple remote users to simultaneously control a single robotic camera.

You can try the system here: http://demonstrate.berkeley.edu
Great Lakes at Risk : Another sign that the Great Canadian Water Sell-Off is well underway. By the time this becomes a big issue, it will be too late. The deals will be signed, and the damage will be done.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Hacker : This evening I brought my laptop home to work on a few documents and my e-mail backlog. I intended to work offline and sync up in the morning when I get back to work. However, as I was working, my laptop automatically detected and connected to a wireless network. This happens pretty regularly, as I've mentionned here before. The signal is usually too weak to be considered reliable, but sometimes it maintains its strength long enough to do something useful.

For some reason, when I saw the icon flash telling me that I was connected to the wireless network, I thought I would see if I could establish a VPN connection to McGill's network. I headed over to Network Connections.... and noticed a few shared folders that are usually not there:


I double-clicked on the 'c' folder, and sure enough, I was browsing my neighbor's hard drive. I closed the window, touching nothing. I then double-checked my own laptop to make sure all my file sharing and doors were locked down tight (they were), then got back to work. (I was tempted to leave a txt file letting them know their PC is wide open, but that would most likely just cause more problems.)

I've read about this kind of zero-security setup many times, but it was the first time I encounted it myself. Scary to think about how many other people have unknowingly opened their PC's when they clicked through their wireless router's install process. (FWIW, the reason I didn't buy a wireless router for our home was that I didn't want to spend the time and energy necessary to make sure our home network stayed secure.)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Amateur Revolution : One question: Would you be willing to make use of the services of a pro-am lawyer? A pro-am architect? A pro-am doctor?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Nice display : After seeing an ad in a trade magazine, I decided to spend a bit of time poking around Viewsonic's site to see what kind of LCD displays they offer. The VP230mb (23", 1600x1200) is nice, but I'd need a new computer to drive it properly (my X30 laptop tops out at 1280x1024). Not cheap at $2600 USD, though. If I was going to buy a new display and a new computer to drive it, I'd probably get one of these.

Friday, October 01, 2004

McGill aims to hike tuition fees :
The Charest government has promised to maintain a freeze on university tuitions throughout the Liberals' first mandate.

One way or another, McGill needs more money, says McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum.

"We estimate that McGill University — as against other research-intensive universities outside of Quebec and Canada — is underfunded by about $100 million a year."

That shortfall needs to be filled, either by more government funding, or higher tuitions, Munroe-Blum says.
This is negligence : What it is is a great post by 'moebiusstripper' on the trials and tribulations of teaching math. It had me laughing out loud while at the same time giving some thought to the serious problem.

“So here, for example,” I said, “You multiply the second row by three. So the coefficient of the y term is now three times eight.”

“Right,” she said slowly.

“Which is…?” I prompted.

She stared blankly at me. “I left my calculator in my car.”

There are aspects of this job that could - should - earn me Academy Awards. For instance, at the news that computing three times eight was not only something that couldn’t be done instantaneously, but was in fact something that could not even be done with a minute to think about it - I did not weep, or choke. I did not tear my hair, rent my clothes, or curse the heavens. I merely stared ahead for a second.

Or perhaps more than a second, because my student then giggled - ostensibly to lighten the mood - “Seriously, it’s really bad, I use my calculator to do five times one.”

Go now, read the whole post, read the comments, read it all. Great, great stuff.