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.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Chilly morning : Chilly morning
Mighty Mouse? : I've heard rumblings that Apple's Mighty Mouse is crap not very good. Has anyone heard otherwise?
McGill News : Schulich School of Music: "McGill grad Seymour Schulich stepped forward and raised the bar for private giving in Canada by generously donating $20 million towards the Faculty of Music, which is now called the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in recognition of his extraordinary philanthropic gesture."

Here are a few of my pics of the new building from a while back.
Breathe : Jut got back from call centre training... I need to go for a walk in the sun.
Tristan Yates : How IBM Conned Our IT Execs Out Of Millions
Brrr : Cold out this morning, the first time this fall that I can see my breath. I love it!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

GSLIS floor : GSLIS floor
jobpostings.ca : What you need to know about IT. Good advice for people looking to understand the current and near-future state of the IT job market.
Environment: : Arctic ice 'disappearing quickly'
Not clever : A Hundred-Dollar Laptop for Hungry Minds. I suppose some editor through they were being clever, but I personally find this article title to be in poor taste.
Tips for iPod owners : Restore your iPod nano to new condition with a $4 can of Brasso
New word for our lexicon : Splog. Sites like these are all that I ran into last time I tried to use sites like Technorati. We need a better trust network mechanism that each of us can use to filter these kinds of sites out.
Nice : Garret has some amazing photography over at photo-secession.org.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Morning bus stop : Morning bus stop
Waiting an hour for five minutes : I just got back from the last of my follow-up appointments after my hernia operation in August. Everything is ok, which I already knew (just like I knew I had a hernia and needed an operation before I went to the CLSC back in the early summer).

In any case, everything is ok. My swimsuit modelling career is over, but the calls had dried up of late anyway...
iPod Nano update : Apple admits to iPod Nano faults, citing a bad batch where a high-rate of screen cracking has been discovered. However, according to a company spokesperson, "'the iPod Nano is made from the same high quality polycarbonate plastic as the very popular fourth generation iPod." In otherwords, having the thing really scrated up after owning it a few hours is normal and to be expected.

I know of at least one person who thinks the people complaining over the scratched Nanos are a bunch of weenie winers (I'm paraphrasing), and I guess he's right.

The problem is that the Nano looks like you could carry it everywhere, and people expect to be able to do so. Jobs carries his in his pocket (if the stained-glass imagery is to be taken as fact, and not just the artist's interpretation of reality); I want to carry it in my pocket, too!

People expect it to get scuffed up, but maybe not the same day they forked out a few hundred bucks for it.

The iPod Nano is not just an MP3 player, it is a symbol, a phylactery, a reminder of their belief and their committment, a connection to someting larger then themselves. And there is it, in the palm of their hand, once coveted, and now soon, too soon, scratched and maimed, imperfect. NO! The rapture of the purchase is still fresh in their minds, the possession still not taken for granted. Too soon! TOO SOON!

But the iPod Nano requires special care. Shelter it, protect it. It is small and powerful, but vulnerable, so vulnerable. You who have taken not heeded this warning have seen what unthinking action brings. The folly!

(The other day on the train ride home I saw a guy booting up his titantium Powerbook. He opened it and, before he began to type, removed the protective fabric that he had placed between the keyboard and the screen. This he folded in four and placed carefully in the Powerbook's carry case.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Defiant : Defiant
Is It Time to Shut Down Engineering Colleges? : The author of this recent article uses the disaster in New Orleans to leverage his position of curriculum change in engineering. Again, as is usually the case, learning opportunities are thought of strictly in terms of the formal curriculum: we need to cut the "bad" classes and put in the good ones that teach engineers how to behave ethically:
"How do we make room in the crowded undergraduate engineering curriculum for students to explore disciplines outside math and science --– literature and economics, history and music, philosophy and languages -- that are vital if we are to create a competitive new generation of engineering leaders? By scaling back the number of increasingly narrow, and quickly outmoded technical courses students are now required to take -- leaving only those that teach them to think like engineers and to gain knowledge to solve problems. Students need to have room to in their schedules for wide ranging elective study."
I don't think it is accurate to blame what happened in New Orleans on the engineers. Not only is it way too early to have the proper information to make such an assessment, but more importantly this line of reasoning assumes that the engineers are in a position of authority to make the final decision on how funds are allocated, what the priorities are, etc. They are not. Their clients, the politicians are. We have heard how the engineers for years have been saying that something needed to be done, but the politicians decided against it.

Having said that, adding courses on "ethics", etc, etc doesn't work, at least not in the way people seem to think it does. To "learn" ethics is to integrate it into your being, your identity as a professional and as a person. This kind of learning can only happen in a social context, grounded in practice. It will not happen in the classroom.

Currently, this kind of learning opportunity only presents itself in the workplace. Here, students learn from practitioners, their peers, how to behave: what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour, what the values of the profession are, etc. The learning takes place in the real, high-pressure reality of the workplace, a context that is often so far divorced from the clean, idealized world of the classroom that students are unable to link what they learned in ethics class, for example, to the decisions they are faced with.

Universities have a responsibility, I believe, to look for ways to provide students with learning opportunities outside the classroom, social contexts that begin to introduce them to the practice of their profession, and to give them guidance on how to deal with the complexities of actual practice before they are immersed in it.
Misleading : What the magazine ad says:
As a paid subscriber to Dr. Dobbs Journal, you now have unlimited online access to ALL ARCHIVED AND CURRENT CONTENT for FREE!
What the web site says:
Current paid subscribers to Dr. Dobb's Journal or C/C++ Users Journal or subscribers to Software Development magazine qualify for a 6 month FREE upgrade to the All Access membership!
Nowhere in the original ad does it say anything about the six-month limitation. This, my friends, is what we call the bait-and-switch, also known as false advertizing.
  1. More rights are wrong for webcasters
  2. Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR)
  3. Best University Website Awards
  4. Keeping track of virtuous behaviour
  5. What do managers do and how big should my team be?
  6. The craftsman-to-manager paradox
  7. Battling Google, Microsoft Changes How It Builds Software
  8. Attensa
  9. The GNU GPL Is Here to Stay
  10. Welcome to Jackson Dodds.com
  11. Camp Jackson Dodds News
  12. Matthew Good
  13. Dan Bricklin Log
  15. Examples of Instructional Materials on the Web
  16. The Psychology of Information, or Why We Don't Share Stuff
  17. Questioning RDF
  18. Clay Shirky's Viewpoints are Overrated
  19. Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines
  20. Best of the Web Special Report and Survey Results
  21. Typetester – Compare fonts for the screen
  22. Faceted Classification
  23. Activating the Right Layout Mode Using the Doctype Declaration
  24. Color photos of the US 1939-1945
  25. How do I download and install the LAME MP3 encoder?
Patrick Watson : Let all Canadians redefine CBC. This long lock-out has had surprisingly little effect on my media consumption. I've found alternatives on radio, and never watched much of the TV anymore anyway. I agree with the essense of Watson's suggestion, that the CBC as-is be scrapped and reworked as a proper public broadcaster.
Strengthening communities : Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), via Garret.

Monday, September 26, 2005

First to fall : First to fall
Thinking about switching to Open Office : After spending some time looking over the new interface in Office 12, and about Vista in general, I think there may be a change in the office application I use on a regular basis.

Right now, I'm an Office 2003 user. I've tried Open Office 1.x, but found it to be lacking polish, and more importantly, not truly compatible with MS Office. For me (at least at the time) the biggest problem was the lack of compatibility with Word's annotation features. I don't use collaboration often, but as it happens, this year I've been making extensive use of it for a program proposal I am working on.

I also felt that Open Office was creating its own silo, that my documents created in Open Office would be similarly inaccessible unless I had open office installed. I know they are in XML, but they might as well be binary for all I'm concerned.

Now, that was probably too harsh an assessment, but at the time, combined with the other problems, I felt it was better for me to go back to MS Office, and so I did.

What does this have to do with Office 12 and Vista? In my mind, Vista and Office 12 are both a break with the software that I am using now. Vista will require a new computer, both at work and eventually at home. Although the technology looks interesting, I'm still not confident that someone in MS product marketing is going to screw it up and try to position Vista as opportunity to sell me X service subscriptions for software, etc, etc. Or they are going to sell me a platform for enterprise software. I'm worried they are going to try to sell me an OS that is a platform for other people to sell me stuff. In addition, they are going to sell me something that is locked down, limiting the software and content that I can use. They are going to make me pay for it up front (and a lot) and to continue to pay on a regular basis to keep my system up to date, clean of viruses, etc, etc. Maybe that's just the future, or a future, but I don't have to like it.

Up to now, I've rationalized my choice of software based on using the same software as we use at work. However, I have to think: how often to I really exchange office documents with others? Looking back over the email I've sent since November 2004, I get the following stats:

Of 1663 messages sent: 44 .doc, 9 .ppt, 9 .xls
Of 3875 messages received: 303 .doc, 16 .ppt, 9 .xls

While not complete, I think this gives a good idea of how much office document interop I need, which is to say, not much. Consider also that all the documents that sent could be sent either as plain text, HTML, or PDFs. Similarly, everything I received from elsewhere could prob be opened in Open Office. Now, my collaboration document would still be a problem, I'm guessing, but that situation isn't really representative of how I use documents.

Having said that, I'm not planning on switching to Open Office at the moment (even though version 2.0 looks promising). MS Office 2003 is working fine for me right now. But I'm thinking about it for the future. Next year? The year after? Not sure.

What pressures will be on me? The choices made by the folks at work will be a factor. Will we go to Office 12 "blindly", or will they, like many organizations take the opportunity to revisit their decision. Choosing Office 12 will mean licensing and training costs, as well as continued lock-in to the MS Universe (unless Office 12 will be spitting out Open Document Format documents by default, which I doubt). If more governments begin to standardize on Open Document Formats, the university may feel pressure to do the same (if only in the name of interoperability). Maybe the university archives would also put pressure on the administration as well, to ensure access of university documents into the future (note to self: talk someone about this)?

The point is that the choice isn't forgone conclusion. The move to ODF is changing the requirements of office software, ones that MS Office doesn't meet. The availability of real alternatives with no licensing costs makes the selection process something more then a rubber stamp. Maybe in the future you could get fired for choosing MS Office.

Personally, I need to decide where I want to be in the change-wave. Do I want to be (a) an early adopter, and deal with all that means, but with the benefit of being ready when the mainstream arrives, or (b) part of the mainstream, and wait for the memo from the powers that be that we are making the change.

Where are you going to be?
McGill Bookfair : October 19th and 20th. Mark your calendars!
LazyWeb request: RDF viewer : can anyone recommend a good (i.e. simple and free) RDF and/or XML viewer so that I can look at things like this?
XML-Deviant closing shop : I was browsing though some old bookmarks, came across XML-Deviant, and remembered that I had wanted to add that to my liost of regular reads. Of course, it ceased publication last week. :(

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Me : sept252005 018
Public library use in Montreal on the rise : Apparently, there has been a small up-tick in lending at Montreal's public libraries since the Grand Library (i.e. la Grande Bibliotheque) opened its doors last spring.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

New Rush DVD in November, new album in 2006 : News via Hardradio.com. Great!
iPod Nano scratches too easily? : Apple is going to have to do something about the scratching

Friday, September 23, 2005

Watching Google : Karl has been keeping track of recent Google(evil!)hirings over on Boris' blog, specifically in the comments of a post on "Trust".

Karl also sent me a few related items of Google(evil!)news:
Is Google Building Alternative Internet?
Google Eating Fiber for Optimal Growth


I think at some point, I'll be moving to the country to a house on a hill (to avoid the rising waters) to farm turnips, which I will nurture and watch over, and sell to people I know, at a small stand in the market on Tuesday mornings.
Windows Update breaks AD/Novell signon : I wrote awhile back about how our IT folks came around and spent an hour fiddling with my computer to set it up so that when I logged in, I would be logging into both Active Directory (exchange login) and Novell (file and print services, for now until they get migrated to AD) at the same time. A recent Windows Update appears to have broken that setup, since I now have to manually log-in to Novell.

Aside from the hassle, it means that my automatic mirroring of documents to the file server won't happen unless I remember to login to Novell.

I can only hope the full migration to AD happens sooner rather then later.
Camp Jackson Dodds : Status: Closed. And just recently, too. There is a dearth of information on this on the web, other then a few mentions of the closing. I worked there for three great summers, and regret now having never gone back to visit while it was still a scout camp. Anyone with information or feedback on the camp closing is welcome to post information as a comment.

Note: The link above is to a Google(evil!)cached page on a site called Scoutdocs, which appears to be down. I'll try to update this post with more relevant links if I find any.
Nobody is happy with us these days : Terrorists at McGill?
Shopping notes : Indigo's downtown has moleskine's and 2600 magazine.

There's a paper store in PVM that also carries moleskines.

At the Eaton center, top floor, there is a new Games Workshop store that looks pretty cool.
Zombies!!! : sept232005 014
Globe and Mail : Student quits McGill over hazing
Not everyone is satisfied with their switch to a Mac : Russell Beattie: Why I Might Switch Back:
Standing up for open formats : Tim Bray has posted notes from a recent meeting in Massachusetts where government and industry people discussed the state's recent decision to standardize on the Open Document Format. There is a lot of interesting reading here. A few things that I particularly liked:

Eric Kriss (Secretary for Administration and Finance for the state of MA), made the following statement in his opening comments:
The business that the state conducts lies in the public domain... electronic forms must not be restricted by proprietary impediments
Here's another good part, where Microsoft's representative makes his position clear, and is quickly rebuffed by the state:
MSFT: This appears to be an assault on the intellectual property of the private sector.

Kriss: Sovereignty trumps intellectual property. Companies certainly have the right to own their own intellectual property. We're all for IP in implementations, just not in interchange formats.
In other words, you can have your intellectual property, but you can't force us to use it.

Note: The quotes above are from Tim Bray's note, and are probably not verbatim.
Library Juice : Farewell Message. Thanks to Rory for the work he's done over the years. I can appreciate the need for a change.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

icWales : Firm blames Jamie (Oliver) as profits plummet: "Canterbury Foods saw sales of burgers, sausages and other meat products drop by 2.7 million [pounds] during the first six months of this year because of the revolution in school kitchens." Good!
The Globe and Mail : Universities try to cope with students lacking basics. "I can't read and I can't write now..."
The whole day was a blur : The whole day was a blur
Improved wireless : Hmm, looks like they have improved the strength of the wireless network in the classrooms in GSLIS. Nice!
Morning : Pause before begin
Class starts at 10am (very soon, I see), so I managed to get a bit of work before. Always a good way to start the day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tech jobs : Where jobs are and students aren't. Students are moving away from careers in tech, but the industry is growing. Unfortunately, the article focuses on computer science programs, which have almost nothing to do with jobs in IT.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Man on the bridge : I wasn't going to write about it, but I've come across the story a few times, and since this guy already wasted 30 minutes of my life, I might as well give him 30 minutes more, and hope that something might come out of it.

In a nutshell, yesterday morning at around 6am, some guy climbed up the superstructure of one of the bridges to the South Shore. The bridge was shut down for twelve hours while police tried to get him down, resulting in a messy morning and evening rush hour as traffic was diverted to our other bridges.

Why did the guy do this? To raise awareness for Fathers-4-Justice, an organization that supports the father's right to raise his children.


(Go ahead, ask me if I or any of the thousands of people affected by his stunt are feeling particularly sympathetic towards him?)

"Vas-y, saute!" a crié hier matin un automobiliste qui circulait près du pont Jacques-Cartier.

According to the news item linked above, the police are still deciding if they are going to press charges. WTF!?!

If it were up to me (and thank God it never is), I would sentence this fellow to the following: (1) He must serve time in prison equal to the time he stole from everyone stuck in traffic. Let's be conservative and guess that 50,000 people lost about an hour each. That's about 5 years. Sounds good. (2) Fine him for an amount equal to the amount of extra gas that was consumed by those cars. Again, let’s make a wild estimate: 50,000 cars idling for 1 hour, which based on some data I dug up, works out to about 82,000 liters of gas wasted. At $1.30/liter, that's just over $100,000. Hmm. Not too impressive, but I guess it will do.

So there you go: five years and a $100,000 fine.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Should he be charged at all?
bopuc : Google swallows the internet whole, and you with it
Opera; Why we are going free : Good news. At first, I couldn't figure out why they would go free (and ditch ads from their free version of their browser), so I visited their web site and checked out their financials. Revenue from PC browser sales is declining, and is somewhat less then what the company makes selling versions of their browser for devices (i.e. cell phones, etc). I guess they decided to cut into that revenue to drive up market (and mind) share. Probably not a bad idea, although I don't intend on trying it out right away.
Update : This morning was Cataloging. A bit rough, although that's probably because I'm a bit behind on my reading and my labs. And by rough, I mean that the stuff makes sense in the lectures, but deep down, I know that when I try to actually do this stuff, I'm going to be left scratching my head.

Catching up will have to wait until this evening, though. Right now I have some class prep work to get to.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I could have written this : Voidstar: "Now it looks like I'm going to be due a machine upgrade round about the time of the Longhorn release. And by chance that coincides with when Apple-Intel laptops should be available. So finally I'm being forced into making a choice that I otherwise could have put off for a bit longer. Will I stay with MS for another cycle or is this the time I jump ship? Will all the endless annoyances of windows being added to by another load of DRM and control finally tip me over the edge?"
Outlook 12 - About time! : I was watching the Outlook 12 features video over on SuperSite, and it looks like MS will finally be allowing you to view email and tasks in the same view! </sarcasm> This is something that should have been in Outlook from Day 1. The fact that it is being promoted as a fancy new feature (which will only be here in > 1yr, assuming it doesn't get cut) is pretty sad.
Shirky smackdown : Thanks to Karl for pointing to Peter M.'s recent post, Clay Shirky's Viewpoints are Overrated. It is good see a relatively high-profile IA person bridging the gap (or, more accurately, reinforcing the bridge) between IA and librarianship.
Another Apple reality check : Apple File Formats: "The whole world has been giving Microsoft a hard time over their Office XML file formats; it turns out that there are far worse sinners. Apple, for one."
What's wrong with me? : Its half-time during Bibliographic Sources, and here I am, reading blogs instead of getting a fresh cup of coffee. Well, I'm going to go get that coffee, class be damned! :)
Crisis averted! : Canada, Danes thaw Arctic fight: "Canada and Denmark will call a truce Monday in the war of words over disputed Hans Island, a patch of Arctic rock each country claims as its own."
You can pry this painting from my cold, dead fingers : New Orleans meuseum brings in guards armed with assault rifles to protect paintings: "That the museum can even contemplate reopening is a testament to the dedication of its staff." Well, its a testament to something.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

You might not want to look at this : Real-world stress testing the iPod nano
Major wireles network deployment in Canada : Rogers, Bell Canada team up: "Bitter rivals Rogers Communications Inc. and Bell Canada have agreed to jointly build and manage a wireless high-speed Internet network that is expected to reach more than two-thirds of Canadians in less than three years."
Retire as a teacher : I.B.M. Unveils Plan to Train Employees to Be Teachers: "I.B.M. employees accepted into the program will continue to work for the company while completing coursework required to become a certified teacher and will be granted a paid leave of absence to complete three months of student teaching."
Wal-Mart facing union pressure in Quebec : Wal-Mart pourrait devoir indemniser ses "associés". Employees unionize, Wal-mart shuts down the store, judge decides Walmart will have to pay.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Keeping track of software : I have a delicious tag called myconfig that I use to keep track of software as I install it on my PC. Not the big stuff (like Office, etc), but all those smaller apps that you download and install and then forget about. Not that you forget about the app, but you use it so often you forget it isn't part of your base install. This makes it a lot easier to set up a new machine.
Progress : "What is good web design?"

I asked my students that question in our first lecture last night. One student put his hand up right away:

Student: "Standards-compliant!"

Me: "What do you mean?"

Student: "The site should conform to the standards of the W3C"

Looks like we may be getting somewhere! :)
PhD Advice : Words on Paper: "I have this one final bit of advice that is either hopelessly pessimistic or brutally honest, depending on your point of view: nobody is really going to care about what you write."
Hurricane Study : Hurricanes Are Getting Stronger: "The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide has nearly doubled over the past 35 years, even though the total number of hurricanes has dropped since the 1990s, according to a study by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)."

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Apple = Closed : Here's Apple new Developer Transition Resource Center for helping developers migrate their apps to the Intel platform. Alas, some of the content is only available to people who have (paid) memberships to the Apple Developer Connection. Compare to MSDN, where most if not all of the information is available to anyone (I beielve), along with free software downloads, etc. (There is a paid MSDN membership available as well, the primary benefit of which is to get access to lots of prerelease software).

Check out Channel 9. Check out Microsoft's blogs.

Where is Apple? Busy trying to trademark "iPodcast".

I know this won't matter one iota to folk who already have religion, but when is comes to openness, Microsoft is eating Apple's lunch.
New project : This week I got the go ahead to start work in a project to update the Centre's web presence. This is a project that has been in the works since the spring. But given that nothing (i.e. very little) happens here over the summer, and my (at the time) impending medical leave, we decided to wait until the fall to get started. Well, I'm back, so its time to get started!

Here is the current site. The objective of the site is to act as a portal to all the opportunities at McGill for people to continue their education. This is a newish mandate from early 2005. Before that point, the web site was to serve only as a portal to the Centre's programs and courses. When the mandate changed earlier this year, under short notice we added in the topical selector (referred to internally as the "Find it Fast thingy"). We knew it was bit of a patch, but it got the job done within deadline. We also resolved to revisit the issue at some point in the near future. That's what I'm working on now.

The main challenge, as with many university sites, is to meet the needs of a rather diverse group of users. We have prospective students, new students, and existing students. A non-negligible portion of those users are international students. You also have students that are interested in professional certification. To complicate matters, web publishing at the Centre follows the same decentralized model as the rest of the university: each department is responsible for their own site. While the departments are all open to working with us to make necessary changes, more effort is required to coordinate everyone's efforts. (And, of course, everyone wants their content on the home page...)

For a long time I've felt that our home page could use a overhaul, so I'm glad that I'm being given the chance to make that happen. Formally, I'm the project manager on this project, but it would be more accurate to say that I'm the project manager/IA (a typical situation, I think). I'll be relying on some internal resources to take care of markup work, as well as the WCG (McGill's web group) for guidance on how to make the most of our publishing system.

To make this project possible, I've had part of my plate cleared. I'm still teaching and coordinating the e-commerce program, but my other work responsibilities have been put aside until 2006. In other words, I've been given everything I need to do a good job. As with most projects, the technical implementation is going to be the easy part. Coming up with a design that meets everyone's needs will be the hard part. But I'm sure that by the end of the year, the Centre's web presence will be greatly improved.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Update : Spent most of the day and this evening getting ready for my first lecture tomorrow night. Took a bit longer then expected due to (a) having to figure out how to do everything in WebCT Vista, and (b) doing a bit more prep work then I had originally intended. However, everything is more or less go-to-go at this point, which is a relief.
Google BlogSearch : The Blogger version (via robotwisdom).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Office 12 : I haven't watched it yet, but there is a video up on Channel 9 re: the new Office 12. I've seen screenshots of the new UI, and it looks pretty good. Hopefully the video will give a better idea of what we can expect from the new apps (still > 1 year away, btw).
IA Summit 2006 Call for Papers : The ASIS&T 2006 Information Architecture Summit will be taking place March 23-27, 2006 in Vancouver, BC. Another Canadian venue! Whohoo! Last year was great, so I might get organized enough to go to this one as well. Now I just need to come up with something to talk about!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Windows Vista Product Editions : Seven editions? Didn't Apple get killed in the 90's because of their "too-many-SKUs" strategy? My guess is that this will be simplified quite a bit before Vista goes gold.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

SafeDocs : Came across this short writeup of the new backup utility to be included in Vista called SafeDocs. What I want to know is whether or not it will syncronize my documents folder with a folder on a network volume. [Update: I'm pretty sure it won't. From what little additional info I've been able to gather from the MS web site, PC's on a network should just work from a network volume. SafeDocs is for folks not on the network. What about mobile users with intermittent access to their network volumes?]

In my opinion, backing up to a network volume (itself backuped by sysadmins) is the only thing that makes sense. Mirroring to a secondary HD is also good. Writing to CD or DVD, though, is not going to happen, especially since the trend seems to be towards minimalist file management (i.e. just dump your files wherever and use Foo's Desktop Search to find what you are looking for).

Even on my puny laptop I have a 20GB HD and only 1GB of storage on the network server. 1GB is good, but it isn't enough for me to run hands-off backups/mirroring of my data every day. I don't back up music or photos (music, I own the CDs, and photos, well, the good ones I upload to flickr)

The effective space of our hard drives is equal to the space we have for backups. Mine is 1GB. Yours?
What would you put in a Computer Science Curriculum? : Read through the comments after the article, and you'll see that we are starting, only starting, to see a glimmer of understanding that what is most needed by industry are software engineers, not computer scientists. It will take many years for univeristies of adjust to this reality, but eventually, it will happen.

To help the process, companies can stop hiring computer science graduates to build production software systems.
GTD : I know you can do all this with MAME, but having great classic games like 1942 only a click away rocks.
When to listen to podcasts : Recently I've taken to dropping my MuVo MP3 player in my shirt pocket and listening to podcasts while doing chores around the house. Bus and metro travel times are also good for me, although sometimes I prefer a musical soundtrack to those experiences. And of course, I sometimes listen to podcasts off my PC in the background while I surf or work on something else.

What about you? When do you listen to podcasts?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mammatus clouds : If looking at small pixilared photos give me the creeps, I can't imaging how I would react at seeing the real thing overhead!
Back to School time? : Just noticed that the Cornell Note Taking Method is high up on the page of delicious' new items. Nice to see everyone buckling down!
McGill University Libraries Digital Collections : All conviently listed on one page.
Montreal developer wins Primetime Emmy Award : "Joan Vogelesang, CEO of Montreal-based software company Toon Boom, has had a lesson in just how important the things you don't necessarily see can really be. One of her products, called USAnimation Opus, has just won a Primetime Emmy Award for engineering, an award she is picking up Sunday night." [Full-story]
BPL developments : Motorola has been working with the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to test their new broadband over powerline (BPL) technology, one that is supposed to minimize interference with radio communications. The first results of ARRL tests look promising. Here's a backgrounder on the amateur radio community's concerns with the technology.
Blogger for Word : Although I pooh-poohed it at first, I've been using the Blogger for Word add0in to post to this blog for the past week or two (mostly for the longer posts) and I have to say that it works quite well. Recommended.
Retro : I decided to rejigger the layout of the site with a look I'm calling "Retro". Those of you who have been around long enough may recognize it.

Yesterday was a bit of a "Delete this blog? (y/n)" day. An anxiety attack of sorts, I think, brought on by the thought of returning to work on Monday. Of having to again take on the complexities of juggling my work, my studies, my home life, and myself. For the past three weeks, I've been focusing (almost) exclusively on the last two. I'm anxious to see how well I weather Monday.

On a slightly tangential matter, I just realized that, although it is the weekend, today marks my four-year anniversary working full-time at McGill, easily the longest I've worked anywhere.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Oops : OOps. There was a malfunction. I tried to do something, but it (obviously) didn't quite work out as I had intended. Once I figure out what the problem is, I should be able to fix it and get things back to normal.
Inhale : "Please report for call centre training."

I spent some time today going through my work email in preparation for Monday's return. Three weeks off, and I was looking forward to getting back to work. Ahh, but the power of email, to carry a simple message, a string of characters, a pointer to a memory, remembering that it is going to be harder then I may be ready for.

"Please report for call centre training."

The key to happiness is to lead a simple life. On Monday, my life is going to get a lot more complicated. Already I feel as if I'm teetering on the edge of that rut, arms outstretched, short, shallow breaths.

"Please report for call centre training."

I'm looking forward to the teaching. Preparing my lectures, interacting with the students. Even the correcting. The rest of it is... complicated. Very complicated.

"Please report for call centre training."

The operation was a big deal for me. I made promises! Things would be different. They have to be different. But I can't forget how tenuous things feel, like running on a log in the water. Pushing back is just as likely to drop me in the drink as it is to change things around me.

"Please report for call centre training."
"Please report for call centre training."
"Please report for call centre training."
IBM Canada opens research centre in Montreal

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Test screen : Test screen

These things certainly do spend a lot of time down.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

iPod nano : Slick. While my MuVo is great, but between a handful of padcasts and my own recorded audio and only 256MB of memory, I sometimes find myself having the shuffle files on and off the device. Having a 5GB player would be much better. What, no built in mic? Is there an accessory? Not sure? Hmmm... Not sure I'm interested! :)
Malazan Book of the Fallen : A week or so I went by the public library to find a good fantasy series to dig into. The library doesn't have many, but I decided Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series another go. I had read Wizard's First Rule a while back, but couldn't remember it, so I took it out again.

A few chapters in, and I had to abandon it. The story and dialog was too bland for me. (The great wizard is missing. He left our land a long time ago and came here. Let's go talk to your friend the old wise man who lives in the woods to see if he can help us...) After reading George R. R. Martin, I just couldn't go back. Save me.

Yesterday, I decided to head over to the bookstore to see if there was anything interesting. I noticed that Glen Cook has a new book out (The Tyranny of the Night). Not a Black Company novel, but definitely a must buy. Not yet, though: I'll wait for the softcover (easier to carry on the bus).

I decided upon Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon. It looked good, and there seemed to be a number of books in the series already out (I hate waiting). At 13$ for a softcover, it was a risk, but in the end, more then worth it. The book is great. Reminds me of Cook's Black Company in a few ways, but not enough to even be derivative. Its one of those dangerous "just one more chapter" kinds of book. HIGHLY recommended.
Time to reboot : Time to reboot
Photocopying textbooks : While most university web sites note that it is illegal to photocopy a textbook, I can't find any information on what happens if a student is found to possess such a copy.

For example, if a teacher notices that a student is using a photocopy of a textbook in their course, what should or can they do?

Should they file a compliance complaint?

Any pointers, anecdotal stories, opinions, etc appreciated (pls post as a comment)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

GLIS 607, Lecture 1 : Today was my first class of the Fall 2005 semester, GLIS 607 Organization of Information, which is basically about cataloging and classification. It is one of the core courses in librarianship, one that I skipped over so far because (a) I started in winter, (b) I was taking courses part time, and (c) it wasn't deemed necessary when I fast-tracked to the PhD. Now that I've dropped the PhD to go back and finish my MLIS degree, there is no getting around it.

The class started well enough, although as soon as the teacher started speaking, I realized that I had forgotten something very important: my coffee! Ah, I made it though.

The class was mostly administrivia, along with an overview of the topic of cataloging and classification. Mostly straightforward. We talked briefly about encoding the cataloging data. Strange looking at something that other then XML. It will be interesting to see if anyone will dare ask "Why isn't this done in XML?" Hopefully there will be a techie or two in the class and we can have a good run at it.

I looking at a MARC21 record after class to see if I could make sense of it, if the data was human readable (i.e. by someone who has not yet invested many hours learning the syntax and grammar). The answer is: NO! (at least not for me). Keep in mind that the example was labeled, saying what was what, and still, I couldn't make out all the logic. (Here's an example of MARC21)

I have to admit that I'm more then a bit intimidated by the amount of detail I'm going to have to know for the course. At the same time, I will feel more comfortable with my MLIS having doing the course.
Moleskines in Montreal : For those who have asked, if I'm not mistaken, I bought my Moleskine at a store called Papillote [1126 Avenue Bernard, Outremont, QC].

If anyone knows of another place to buy moleskines in Montreal, please post the location as a comment.

Monday, September 05, 2005

I miss Peter Gzowski.

I'm thought of him this morning, Labour Day morning, the day that traditionally Gzowski returned to the microphone after the (too) long summer absence. It was the event that, for me, marked the end of summer, the beginning of Fall and all that is good.

Morningside was, and remains, probably be best radio I have ever experienced. I started listening probably in the late 80's - early 90's, and was hooked. It was entertaining, motivating, and (usually) wonderful to listen to.

On Labour day, I made a special point of savouring the return of Gzowski. Ideally, I'd grab my walkman and go for a walk on the mountain, where I'd find a bend and drink tea from a Styrofoam cup, listening to the flourish of notes and Gzowski's familiar voice. It was like wrapping myself in a warm blanket.

Like most people, I took Morningside, and Gzowski, for granted. I miss them both dearly.
French Quarter holdouts create 'tribes'. I'm hoping to hear more about this kind of self-organizing. These are the stories that leave me feeling the most hopeful.
Labour Day : Jay Cross suggests that we rename Labour Day, since "knowledge work and service work have largely supplanted manual labor." I disagree.

Most of the work done by people on planet is still manual labour: hard, physical work. And while the productivity of those of us who work in the knowledge and service sectors may not be as dependant on physical exertion, I believe there is still a strong physical component to what we do.

It isn't the same as working in a field, a mine, or even a factory (although some days...), but our jobs are physically demanding. Stress, lack of sleep, often on the move, or not moving at all for long periods of time, carrying our offices on our backs (or over our shoulders). I think one would be hard pressed to find a knowledge or service worker who didn't feel physically drained at the end of the week.

(And when does the work-day end? The work-week?)

So, yes, Labour Day, a day for all of us.
Reviewer writes negative review of Subaru B9, gets canned. Not that I am at all surpised that a media that relys on advertizing dollars would allow their advertizers to influence their content.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

oh NOOOO!!!! : Green Day at Parc Jean-Drapeau Sept 4. So that's what that horrible, loud noise is. Guess no early bed-time tonight.
BlogWalk Montreal? : Would anyone be interested in a BlogWalk Montreal? I'm thinking about what kind of talks and events I want to put on int the coming year, and this is one of them.

If you are interested, please post a comment here. No commitment. I'm just trying to get a feel for the level of interest that exists here in the city,
Grant points to five Netwon's being raffled off on ebay; proceeds go to Red Cross.
Common Dreams: The US is setting up permanent shop in Iraq
"The U.S. Air Force's senior officer, Gen. John Jumper, stated U.S. warplanes would remain in Iraq to fight resistance forces and protect the American-installed regime 'more or less indefinitely.' Jumper's bombshell went largely unnoticed due to Hurricane Katrina."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Blo.gs ghost updates : Michael posted recently about seeing "ghost updates" on blo.gs, that is, blog.us indicating that a site has updated when in fact it hasn't. I've noticed the same thing, and decided to poke around a bit.

I decided to take kottke.org as an example, since Jason wrote that he was taking a few days off publishing anything new on this site. When I saw his site show up today on blo.gs as having been updated, I went, "Hmmm..."

According to blo.gs, kottke.org was updated today (September 3) at 12:32pm. However, visiting the site, I see that the last post was actually September 1 at 8:55am. So what gives?

Blo.gs runs off the RSS feed, so lets look there. Hmmm, this snippit looks interesting:
<lastBuildDate>Thu, 01 Sep 2005 08:55:16 -0500</lastBuildDate>
<pubDate>Sat, 03 Sep 2005 11:54:47 -0500</pubDate>
That part is referring to the RSS feed. The last post does indeed have the correct timestamp:
<pubDate>Thu, 01 Sep 2005 08:55:16 -0500</pubDate>
It appears that blo.gs is assuming that the date/time the RSS feed was last published is the date/time something new was added to the site. I think that assumption is flawed. If the RSS hasn't been rebuilt (i.e. modified) since date/time X, who cares when it has been published? Blog.us should be looking at lastBuildDate. (Especially since, according to the RSS 2.0 spec, lastBuildDate refers to "The last time the content of the channel changed.")

My other question: why is the RSS feed being republished if it hasn't been rebuilt?

Friday, September 02, 2005

IMLS: "preliminary list of links to first reports on museum and library related damage, recovery information, and more"
Channel 9: WinFS beta 1 team meeting. Well worth watching.
I'm getting tired of this : In reading up on the wake of Hurricane Katerina, I've come across a sentiment that runs counter the idea that the blame for the impact and lack of recovery should be laid at the feet at all level of governments. My own experience with the ice storm we had a few years back resonates with this: to place all your trust in the authorities, to assume that someone is taking care of it, that there are proper contingency plans in place, and that the will and the means to carry them out exist, is a mistake. You can punish them in the voting booth, but for the moment, the only person that is going to save you is you.

Having said that, I believe that the governments must be held accountable, since it is their responsibility to do whatever they can to minimize the risk of such situations occurring and to react in an effective manner if they do. This has clearly not happening in the case of New Orleans. The lack of both leadership and action is disgusting, and the appropriate people should be held accountable.

Aside: Anderson Cooper looses it on head-in-the-sand suck-up politico (mov, via Robot Widsom)

Part of the problem, I believe, is that bureaucracies, by their very nature, are not sympathetic to individual cases. They look at the big picture. How many people live in New Orleans? About 1.3 million (in the greater area). How many people are stranded there? 50,000? (I can't get an accurate count... there are apparantly ~30k at the Superdome...) That under 4% of the population, and may also consist of people who arguably bear some responsibility for not having evacuated when they were told to. "Well, we DID tell them to leave!" From the bureaucratic perspective, detatched from the reality that these people are suffering, this must be an acceptable situation. No need to freak out, everything is ok.

Look, it's either that or the government organizations are grossly, almost criminally, incompetent.
Montreal news :

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Flickr: The Ministry of Reshelving
Fall 2005 semester begins (for most) : Although school typically starts after labour day, this year it starts today. And I'm missing it.

Originally, tonight was to be my first lecture of the new semester, but I've had to cancel due to my continuing convalescence. I feel OK, but not ready to give a three-hour lecture. I'm off next week as well, so I'll have two lectures to make up. The old me would have grimaced at the thought, popped a few pain killers, and said, "let's get it over with." The new me? Not worth the risk. Relax. Heal. Everything in its own time.

My classes (i.e. the ones I am taking) are a different matter. They start next week, and I'm seriously considering attending. I don't think I could afford to fall behind one week, even if it is the first week of classes. But is that just the old me talking? I'll guess I'll see how I feel next Tuesday.

The beginning of the fall semester is my New Year's, truly a fresh start. By the end of August, the low-energy of summer usually has me chomping at the bit, ready to launch into my classes, my work, everything. This year I've had to hit the pause button, and being off campus has left me out of sync with the energy the students bring.

Although I'm enjoying my time off, I am starting to look forward to getting back on campus.