Kansas City is an interesting place. I was there once for a couple of days. First, it’s very hilly, in a way that reminds you of San Francisco. Second there are actually two KCs. KCKa is Kansas CIty , Kansas and KCMO is Kansas City, Missouri. KC is famous for its jazz bands back in the ‘Twenties and for a special kind of barbecue.The old Pendergast political machine ran the place for a long while, and that’s an interesting story in itself. Google approached the Burghers with a deal: we’ll give Google Fibre to all those persons and places signing up before Sept. 9, 2012. Fibre will offer internet service that is 100 times faster than what’s on the market now and it would be free. Who could pass up that? Well, as is so often the case, technological problems are the easiest to handle while the surrounding non-technical problems can be much tougher. The school district in the KC area for instance must choose which schools will get Fibre. It’s starting to look as though the more affluent schools, mostly in Mo, will benefit and the poorer one, mostly in Ka will be by passed. Then there is the matter of content filters to screen, well porn mostly. Now they are applied centrally, but with Fibre each school would have to have its own. I guess Google wanted a test bed. I don’t know if they had any idea of what they were getting into. None of this refelects badly on Google. But, the story does show how elements in the sociocultural atmosphere, so to speak, can affect what seem to be purely practical decisions.
Ars Technica has a review, or rather an enumeration of specs and features, of several new machines being lofted by manufacturers to handle Windows 8. Samsung, Sony, Asus. Dell and Toshiba devices are profiled. Some of the new hardware looks quite interesting and innovative. There are tablets, laptops and things that are sort of a little of each. A twist involves the provision of a docking station, which is also an external keyboard as an optional feature on some machines. Samsung seems to be the market leader at least from the point of view of number of new machines on offer. Not much is known about pricing, yet anyway. All the manufacturers are being coy about that, waiting to see what Microsoft does with the prices for its new SURFACE line .
A real ‘review’ implies that somebody has secured a machine, made it do different tasks, and then evaluated the outcome on the bases of expectations derived from current equipment and on performance comparisons of similar machines. That won’t happen for a while yet, so everything you see will be presented as the views of somebody working at a distance and from company spec sheets. This fact does not rule out shrewd guesses about how the gadget will work. Some industry observers are pretty canny dudes, well able to add two and two. But, an actual review must wait.
Amazon has done a lot to re-shape the publishing landscape. Apart from selling books at prices few book stores could approach, let alone match, Amazon launched the KINDLE, the first really useful and practical e-book reader. In that one action, the company put an end to a decade or so of failures and false starts in implementing what had always seemed to be the promising future of electronic publishing. Actually, the ‘one action’ comprised a very big re-shuffling of the companies inventory to make books down loadable and deploy-able on the KINDLE, and that in turn required a lot of heavy arm-twisting with publishers to get them to go along. So there was a lot more involved then crafting piece of gear. Amazon has also become a large-scale online retail sales force, one which sells everything imaginable, and at lower prices. Recently, the company joined forces with some convenience stores to allow the installation in those stores of what is being called Amazon Lockers. biggish locked boxes into which your order for roller skates and bench top table saw can be placed, and left secured until the customer comes to pick it up. This latter step is an experiment. So the article in a recent edition of the New York Times about how advanced Amazon’s penetration of the ‘cloud computing’ market has been should surprise nobody. Actually, Amazon’s Web Services or AWS has been a part of the company’s business efforts for some time now, but that part of the business has not seen much publicity. But, as you can see from the story linked to below, AWS is a very big force in cloud service is and poised to get bigger yet.
The Scholarly Kitchen offers a post musing on the citation fate of one particular kind of academic writing, the chapter in an edited book. This is a fairly common genre, in both the sciences and the humanities. Doaks is asked to edit a multi-contributor work on, you name it. Doaks recruits contributors, and shepherds their various submissions into publishable form. The final book emerging from the project may be very good. But, the citation history of the individual chapters, each of which required at the least the same amount of work as the preparation of a manuscript for a journal article, is generally poor. In the Kitchen post, there are some suggestions about why this is so and what can be done to change matters. After all, the individual authors have worked quite hard on their chapters, and they often produce succinct and useful work. So, why don’t these forms of academic writing compete on the same footing?
The Samsung Galaxy tablet got some good reviews, and the company is anxious to build upon that success with a follow-on device that will incoporate some improvements and offer a bigger screen. A launch date in the very near future is expected.
I cribbed that line from Sunset Boulevard, one of the few really, really good movies made in the USA. I also modified it a little. If you’ve never seen the flic, do. In doing this, I was looking for a hook on a story about the rather odd wavelet of interest in the life of Nikola Tesla, an authentic genius and the inventor of alternating current electricity, plus who know how many other things. The people who are interested are film makers, and a couple of them are working on projects that will bring Tesla’s life and work to an audience outside engineering and physics. Tesla was not the kind of guy who would attract movie makers. Or, at least, I don’t think he was. His life was in the lab and in his head. There wasn’t much that was ‘cinematic’ in the way he lived, and his work was abstract and difficult to portray on screen. Tesla was also an eccentric and had some rather odd mannerisms. But, what do I know? If these guys can come up with a decent movie or two, I’ll pay to see it. David Bowie turned in a respectable performance on NT in a minor role in the movie The Prestige, which I liked a great deal. The current docu-dramd is called Electricity: the story and life of Nikola Tesla, and you can get a better idea of it from the link below. Note too that the story mentions a more Hollywood-ish project called
Hey guys and gals! Are your tired of having your manuscript bounced around like a basketball by this Third Reviewer guy? One bright chap has found, or so he thought, an amazingly simple solution to that problem: he was his own third reviewer! How do you lke that? Talk about flattening the organization, let me tell you! The dude in question submitted some possible reviewers as part of the manuscript approval process. He supplied contact addresses and institutional affiliations for them. He was shrewd enough to pick real people in many cases, so that a web search on their names would turn up looking legit. But, in some cases he helpfully submitted himself under various online aliases and dummy email addresses created just for this purpose. Sometimes he recruited colleagues and friends into playing the role, but at others he seems to have just faked it. An editor started to get suspicious when requests for comment repeatedly came back answered within 24 hours. How often does that happen? About never times in human history I would guess. When it happened repeatedly, somebody started to ask questions. Soon it was all out. As it turned out, this gentleman seems to have been no stranger to the retraction process, having been down that highway once or twice before, on a different beef. http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/korean-plant-compound-researcher-faked-email-addresses-so-he-could-review-his-own-studies/#more-9316
The wave of the future, right? No force can resist an idea whose time has come, right? No and No. That’s the score with e-books for course work, according to the attendees gathering for a discussion of whether and if so how digital books are penetrating the scholarly text book market. Perspective were shared by both librarians and academic publishers. Some highlights: academic publishers gain about 10% of their revenue from digital books. You do the math. Academic publishing houses, even big ones, are generally small potatoes compared to the commercial one, so spending a lot of the outfit’s resources on services aimed at 10% of the revenue base is not a good idea. Some technical issues still linger. One house for example specializes in translations of foreign language literature. And they produce facing-page editions: original on one side, translation on the opposing or facing page. This is hard to do in the current state of e-book technology. Publishers are having trouble with rights agreements. This is probably the biggest stumbling block. The other matters will yield to determined attack backed by enough resources. But before that happens, rights matters have to be smoothed out. Patron driven acquisition is a scheme being tried at some colleges, in which a portion of the resources budget is sequestered to use in buying access to those texts suggested by library users. The outcome is not clear. Some say yes, some say no.
It’s still early in the game. E-books have come a very long way in five years. Hang on. The movie isn’t over.
You may not have heard much about this, but Apple is fighting Samsung in a court battle on the charge that Samsung copied features of Apple products. The case is being heard in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, CA. And, I think both parties are beginning to wonder if they should have never learned the way to San Jose. Presiding Judge Lucy Koh is distinctly unsympathetic to counsel from both sides, and has repeatedly urged the parties to settle outside. The judge is also insisting on moving the trial along and has set strict time limits for both sides in which to present the case and cross-examine witnesses. She has shown no inclination to budge on this point and it’s clear that their Attorneyships don’t like it. They are used to more, well, what? Deference I guess. The names Apple and Samsung generally conjure up a fair amount of bowing and scraping, but the judge here is treating the battle of the Tech Giants like a fender-bender case of Moe vs. Schmoe, and if she has bowed it was only to tie her shoelace. But there is big money at stake here, and a chance, perhaps, to really hurt a major competitor through a favorable verdict. So, the contenders have ignored the judge’s very strong suggestion and are pushing for a jury verdict.
You were driving along, minding your own business, obeying all applicable laws and statutes, your mind a million miles away from criminal or felonious thoughts of any sort, and… how many license plate recognition systems did you pass through on your way here today? How many? I didn’t even know there was any such thing, but it seems that yes indeedy the next step toward full implementation of the Surveillance Society us well underway. Jurisdictions all over the Land of the Free are installing such systems so that all those entering and leaving Pottersville, East Armpit, Nowheresville or any other locale where the locals have the inclination and the cash to ‘monitor’ arrivals and departures of people on the road, in addition to more or less complete records of which residents go where and do what. It’s the Inner Party’s delight, and it’s being introduced without too much in the way of deliberation it seems, and with almost no oversight about how long the data is kept, who can see it, under what circumstances etc, etc.