Trying to catch up on what’s been happening since Feb. 6 has been a job. I have had to scour through a number of sites and and try to pick out the most interesting and most to the point of our forum here. One thing on The Scholarly Kitchen did jump out at me. A new version of something called E-PUB 3 has been released. This is a format in which digital materials can be composed and released. Prepared by the International Digital Publishing Forum ((IDPF), EPUB 3 was launched as a platform for digital books, some 16 months ago. But the version 3 release has features which may prompt some journal publishers to consider this specification for distributing scholarly articles. If the new format gains any following, it will be at the expense of the venerable PDF format, which has pretty much owned the place for a while and was viewed as some kind of ultimate, at least by some people. Alas, the twenty years we have just rocketed through have certainly proved that ‘ultimates’ of any kind don’t last very long. All early days yet. But it’s worth keeping an eye on this newcomer.
Well, as the theater people say, the reiviews are in. BlackBerry seems to have hit a homer with the release of its new phone Z10…it’s pronounced Zed Ten, because that’s the way Canadians pronounce it. Ars Technica has a review, sort of, since handling time with the two products was limited. But the writer thinks the company has done it.http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/01/the-keyboard-weve-been-wishing-for-hands-on-with-the-blackberry-z10/
This morning also the Times’s tech writer David Pogue had an article on the new things and his tone was favorable.
Now all that needs to happen is for people to buy the thing. Maybe the wait was actually worth it. It’s nice to have another competitor in the ring. It was looking too much like a one horse race for a while there. Now Google and Samsung are in it, and BlackBerry makes a compatible fourth.
If you’re not in Show Biz, you’re not in Biz. I don’t know who said that, but there does seem to be kind of logic in it. At least, it seems to be the case that corporations have gone the glitzo-schmitzo route when launching new products. The CEO is on stage, casually dressed, in the style made mandatory by the late Apple Chairman. Notice I said stage. It’s a show, with an audience, cast, production values ( lights, music, smoke from dry ice packs for all I know). The star is not the CEO, who is more like the Stage Manager in Our Town. The star is the Wonderful Gadget, or WG for short. There is a script, the proceedings have been rehearsed, more than once probably. Somebody recounts the story of the WG’s coming into existence. Somebody else describes the WG’s marvelous feaures, etc, etc, etc. All that is going on today as the new BlackBerry WG was unveiled at a lollapallooza in downtown New York. Simultaneous events were staged in Dubai, Toronto and a couple of other places. so that BlackBerrians world wide could testify to their excitement. All id all up, and if it ain’t Show Biz, then what is it? The guy from MIT was live-blogging the proceedings and you can review comments at the link. It seems that there are some interesting features to the new device. None of the observations or any of the gush can be taken as a ‘review’. That won’t happen for a little while, but, the great interest surrounding the new BB and the ‘back-from-the-grave’ character of RIM’s comeback will certainly mean that reviewers get busy and start producing analyses of how the BB10 works, with strengths and weaknesses.
From Ars Technica, sidebars on the left
Marissa Mayer was brought in as CEO of Yahoo, a move some thought equivalent to letting the fox own, manage, landscape, paint and scrub floors in the hen house. After all, she was a really Big Noise at Google, in fact she was one of the First Few Founders, that little band that began it all. Well, the lady has been in charge for a while now and according to the news today Yahoo is looking a little bit better, in fact, quite a bit better. MM was on a conference call with financial types and industry ‘observers’, and she laid out a kind of agenda for the next steps. Yahoo has to move into mobile technology more aggressively, clean up its home page, improve its mail system, and get a whole lot better at search. I’m anything but a financial type and not much of an observer, but nobody can argue that she’s wrong. I use Yahoo mail because it was the first non-corporate account I set up, and laziness keeps me there. I can’t speak about mobile technology, since making phone calls is about as far as I’m prepared to go. I rarely use search, since I don’t want to be tracked, so I use an engine that promises not to. The home page is familiar, and they do seem to keep tinkering with it, but maybe it’s time for a redo. So MM is clearing the decks. It’s long term, will cost, and will be disruptive. But that’s what the Yahooligans wanted, no?
Research in Motion (RIM) is based in Waterloo, ON, Canada. It’s a nice little city, and it’s home to the company that designed, built, launched and supported the BlackBerry cell phone. The incoming President of the USA, one B. H. Obama, was a dedicated BlackBerrian, and the Secret Service and other spook agencies had to be sure that the Prexy’s gadget was really, really secure. The Prez had lots of company, since enthusiasts for the the BB were legion and their devotion fierce. So, it was bad news when the high-flying company ran into very stiff storm winds in the form of phones from Apple and Google and Samsung and all. RIM was not ready with a comparable product and the design/production schedule started to slip. As vultures began to circle, industry observers were not cheery about the outlook. But, according to a piece today in Technology Review, the embattled Canadian Empire may be ready to strike back, hard. RIM has a new phone, the BlackBerry 10, which can/should/might go a long way toward retrieving RIM’s sagging fortunes. You can review the tech specs at the link, but what I found interesting were two points: despite the drop in subscribers, RIM still has almost 70 million customers, and these customers are very loyal. They really like the device and the secure email feature, which was one of RIM’s major strengths. It seems that a lot of the BB owners did not abandon RIM when the going got rough and the other options seemed very glitzy, simply because they like their BBs and were hanging on, confident that RIM could catch up. That’s real faith. So, be on the watch for BB10.
Well, it does sometimes anyway. And that’s good.The G demands a warrant showing the Organs of State Security have reasonable cause to request the materials. Certain types of information are released with warrants, and the Federales and their “requests” are pretty generally not covered…the “Patriot” Act dontcha know…the one that nobody in Congress read before they voted on it, the one that suddenly materialized right after the 911 attacks, all those pages, just suddenly conjured into existence. Hmmmmm… Google’s position is made possible by the conflicting appellate court decisions on whether the Organs need warrants. Some seem to imply yes and others seem to imply no, and the Supremes have not yet been drawn in and nobody is anxious to do push it. For my money, the Nine would roll over and bow down to the Executive, as they consistently have in “security” matters.
Maybe, just maybe. There have been some intriguing experiments in which various documents have been encoded in DNA sequences and then recovered by appropriate means. I admit to a certain difficulty in visualizing this. By that I mean, it’s hard for me to form a mental picture of how that would work, even if the Boffins and smart guys tell me that it would, and has. But, that’s enough about me. This is all interesting news because the problem of data storage is a very serious one. People are casting about for new ideas on how to accomplish high-density storage of large files, and how to recover them when needed, in some reasonably timely fashion. The existing methods are starting to bump up against their practical limits, so something else has to be made available and fairly soon. DNA as a storage medium may just be the ticket. It’s not the only pony in the race. Other, more ‘physical’ methods are being researched as well, and perhaps a lot depends on who comes up with a good method, if not a perfect method, most quickly.
Dell Computers is a publicly traded company which fact the outfit’s owner, Michael Dell, wants to change. He wants to take it private: that means, he wants to get out of the whole stock, stockholder, forecast, quarterly earning reporting rat race. There are reasons to do this, and not the least of them is to gain freedom to do what you think is needed to put the company where it ought to be, at least in your estimate. This is all a rather complicated process, with lots of hoops and loops and a large number of people to placate. Essentially, Dell would buy back all its stock and pay its investors off in real money. Raising that much cash requires more that passing the hat at Yankee Stadium. Dell has to find some folks with big dough who agree this is a good idea.They, of course, would want something. One of the “Theys” mentioned by name recently as a possible source for financial cavalry at this crucial time in the struggle is Microsoft, which has indicated that it might be willing to go along for, oh, say, 2-3 Bil. The crowd at Redmond are not noted for corporate open-handedness, so people are starting to ask “what’s the catch?” The analysts have been pondering this move since the announcement and some see it as a strong bid to keep MS products alive somewhat longer. Helping Dell might mean helping MS keep a strong field of WIndows-based machines, which means more software licenses which means more money for that deserving company in Redmond, yes, Microsoft, that’s the one. MS is a little concerned over all this talk about a ‘post-PC’ computing era. PCs, desktop war horses and the programs they run are a major element in the MS revenue stream, so the company wants to keep the stream running along as merrily as it can. It could be that. At any rate, 3 Bil ain’t hay. All will be revealed.
The folks at Pew Research have released the results of a survey on the use of libraries in the USA. Use is up and people go to libraries for access to the world on Internet services and connections which they may not be able to afford, or may simply not want to bother with at home. That’s a perfectly legitimate response, and there are probably more of these folks than one might think. We have become too used to Young Demographic in thinking about Internet use. As long as people are employed, their occupational setting gives them access, and can be used as a kind of electronic tether to the Job. Once the connection to the Job is broken for any reason, people look around for substitutes. American public libraries have a splendid tradition of service to their communities. They are continuing that dedication to service even as the accustomed instruments and agents of information undergo enormous change. Keep it up, Pls!
Elsevier is in the view of some that ‘roaring lion, seeking whom he devour; as the Scripture puts it. The tender gazelle being stalked is Mendeley, described as a science sharing social network. A number of these have sprung up over the years, but some of the earlier offerings are being wound up or incorporated into other packages. CONNOTEA and UNIphy have already shuttered or are about to. One of the hottest tickets in this market is a package called Mendeley, which claims to have a very large number of associated scientist members, and its representatives have been very active in calling on scientists to join up. All these scientific social networks offer the opportunity to ‘share’ materials with others. In some cases, publishers have watching with slitted eyes as this sharing seems to have skated close to the line of unauthorized distribution of copyrighted documents. A scribe for The Scholarly Kitchen notes these and other points about science social networks in general and Mendeley in particular as part of a longer post on what has come as a kind of mini bombshell, if you can have one of those. Earlier in the week, there was an announcement that Elsevier and Mendeley were deep in discussion about an acquisition. Elsevier was said to be offering 100 million USD for the company, which would become part of the publishing giant’s stable of products and services. It’s not entirely clear how the announcement came about and even whether it’s accurate. Some comments in the Kitchen post express doubts about the price, for one thing, which is considered much too high by some, but not so very high by others. More interesting is the series of observations about what could happen afterwards. If Mendeley is acquired by a billion dollar company, possible legal actions for infringement look more enticing. Then too, the service, once absorbed into the corporate umbrella becomes JAC Just Another Company, and loses its edgy, outsider image. Way too soon to pontificate, but as is usually the case, a post on the Kitchen is worth reading and thinking about.