Thursday, May 30, 2002
"Just as Clear Channel has a monopoly on American radio Ticketmaster has a monopoly on ticket sales.
Check out Dave Marsh's article on Ticketmaster's Stranglehold over Music & Politics where he examines Ticketmaster's new cap 8% cap on 'fan club' tickets (which don't have those up to 60% convenience fees tacked on). Also check out Nancies.org to see how this affects an act like Dave Matthews Band." [Matt Goyer]
This is a great article that any concert goer will appreciate. It's difficult to believe that the government doesn't view Ticketmaster as a monopoly.
Tracking Technology Helps WTC Cleanup
"PowerLOC Technologies, a Toronto-based company that makes 'L-Biz' tracking technology, has been credited with dramatically improving the recovery process by organizing the flow of cleanup operations.
Using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and wireless devices, PowerLOC was able to coordinate and track the scores of dump trucks used in the recovery, track the dump loads for billing purposes, and prevent traffic jams. At one point, over 120 trucks were fitted with tracking devices that communicated with 24 satellites circling the earth, sending the vehicle's exact location to a central dispatcher.
The efficiencies allowed the city to go from using over 120 trucks at a time to less than 50, according to Yoram Shalmon, the company's director of product management. The trucks also went from hauling four loads a day to hauling 10 loads a day, he said. The scope of the destruction was still amazing, Shalmon said....
Initially it was estimated that it would take $7 billion and a year's worth of work to remove the 1.8 million tons of debris. The work was completed in just eight-and-a-half months and cost just $750 million, according to state and federal officials....
PowerLoc's customers include a bakery that ensures fresh delivery of its bread by monitoring trucks, but Shalmon said the World Trade Center job showed it could be used by government agencies to track anything from city meter readers and garbage trucks to vehicles hauling hazardous material.
'We can make sure a truck headed for the border isn't taken over or filled with contraband,' he said, citing the system's ability to monitor minute details like the opening and closing of doors, the state of an engine, and even turn off an engine remotely." [CNET News.com]
'Are We There Yet?' Becomes 'Where's the Barney Tape?
"...These days, the car, or in many cases, the S.U.V., has become a mobile theater, where back-seat passengers can watch television shows or movies, listen to music or play video games, all without disturbing the driver.....
Those who have the systems say they don't know how they survived without them. And they certainly don't long for quainter times....
While none of the car manufacturers offer video entertainment for front-seat passengers, it is possible to buy them from car-stereo retailers and have them installed after buying a car. Some car owners are buying adapters that allow them to convert dashboard navigation systems into DVD players. Others are buying small dashboard-mounted monitors for video entertainment, despite the ideal of actually watching the road while driving." [NY Times: Technology]
We have a VCP in the minivan, and the kids love it. They don't get to watch it all of the time, but it's certainly been great on road trips. Brent hasn't figured out yet that we can plug video game consoles into it. My advice to anyone thinking of getting one of these is to get the ceiling-mounted screen. It's much easier on the neck, and the kids can lean back and look up to watch, instead of straining forward and down. Plus, it's easier for folks in the third row to see the screen.
We've discovered that the second most useful application of these systems is when you have to wait somewhere for longer than a child's patience will last. For example, when we have to take the kids to the doctor or to the hospital and you have to wait for an hour to see the doctor, sometimes it's worth it for one parent to sit in the waiting room with a cell phone and the other parent (with a cell phone) to take the kid(s) out to the car to let them watch a video. If you've ever had to wait forever in the waiting room with two young kids, you know exactly what I mean.
And it's not just kids. On a recent day trip to Springfield for a meeting, some co-workers and I took our minivan instead of a company car because of the number of travelers. As a bonus, the folks in the second and third rows got to watch movies on the ride there and back. One person commented that it had been the most enjoyable such trip she'd ever taken. :-)
Overall, though, it's strange to realize that my kids will grow up thinking that televisions belong in cars. You can get XM Satellite Radio now... how long will it be before you can realistically (and financially) get XV Satellite TV? The kids don't totally grok the difference yet. Every once in a while, Brent will ask us to change the channel to "4-7" (Cartoon Network in our area). We should be able to accommodate soon enough.
NIH Announces Change in Research Guidelines...
"The National Institute of Health (NIH) announced last week that they were going to start using lawyers instead of rats in their experiments. Among the beneficial reasons that the NIH gave for the change were the following:
[Ernie the Attorney]
- Lab assistants don't mind hurting the lawyers.
- There's a better supply of lawyers, and
- There are some things even a rat won't do."
"Yesteday I got about double my usual number of hits and I ahve no idea why. I have also noticed that nobody really links to me. I just get lots of hits from Google. I know some people are reading my RSS feed... I just wish I knew how many. I actually have the code laying aroudn that would allow me to figure that out. Maybe I should implement it." [weblog.masukomi.org]
Yes, YES, and YES!! Us non-programmers would be eternally grateful. :-)
Text -> Speech -> Flash
"Robert Hall highlights some of the cool text -> speech -> Flash stuff that he has worked on. Check out the forums, where you can have messages read back to you through Flash." [mesh on MX]
This is way cool! Plus, I like how the cursor turns into an actual picture of a hand. :-)
Major flashback: I just saw the video for Alphaville's song Big in Japan on one of the VH1 channels! I was immediately transported back to my college years, and I wondered if you could still buy the CD it's on (Forever), so I surfed on over to Amazon to check it out. Turns out you can, although it costs $12. The sales rank on this item is 4,642. How much money is Atlantic really making off this disc that it still costs $12 after 18 years? The audiocassette costs only $8. Does anyone know how much it costs to produce and distribute a CD versus an audiocassette?
Here's the really fun part, though. The "great buy" combo deal on the Forever CD is $24.96... drum roll, please... Celine Dion's A New Day Has Come.
Side note: turns out I was supposed to hear this song this summer, so it's someone else's turn now.
Do any RSS aggregators use the HTML link element? [via Joe Gregorio: Ideas, Ideas, Ideas]
This sounds like a fantastic idea. Specifying the location of your RSS feed in a standard machine-readable format would solve a real problem. And as far as I can tell, it's actually using HTML the way it was intended. (The specification doesn't mention RSS explicitly; it just open-endedly says that you can use the link tag to
designate substitute versions for the document in which the link occurs. This would certainly seem to qualify.)
The only thing I would add is a title:
<link rel="alternate" type="text/xml" title="XML" href="http://diveintomark.org/xml/rss.xml">
Lynx renders the title as a link to the referenced document. You can (and should) use the same technique to link to print-friendly pages, too. And translations, if the page is available in multiple languages." [dive into mark]
'Star Wars' Franchise Needs Helping Han
"I realized after seeing 'Episode I' what was wrong with this new 'Star Wars' series, despite its visual wonders: No Han Solo. The new series has no everyman, no skeptic. Who am I to relate to? Where am I up on that screen?
We viewed the action in the first Star Wars trilogy through the eyes of the guy who didn't fit in, who was only in it for the money and wasn't too sure about this 'Force' stuff. This new trilogy leaves a lot of viewers at the station.
- Dave Arnold, Sheridan, Ore." [Chicago Sun-Times, via Webcrumbs]
FBI Given Broad Authority to Monitor
"The Justice Department sharply eased restrictions on domestic spying Thursday, handing the FBI broad, new authority to monitor Internet sites, libraries, churches and political organizations for clues to terrorist plots....
Ashcroft, claiming FBI agents in the field have been hampered by a range of bureaucratic restrictions, said the new guidelines would help them to do their jobs....
He said, for instance, that under present guidelines, FBI agents 'cannot surf the Web, the way you and I can,' and cannot simply walk into public events to observe people and activities.
The new guidelines give FBI agents more freedom to investigate terrorism even when they are not pursuing a particular case." [Yahoo News] (Emphasis mine.)
At what point are we as a society going to decide that giving up our right to privacy is NOT worth the trade-off of possibly finding a terrorist somewhere, someday. It's bad enough that the FBI can walk into any library and get patron records without having to prove just cause (and the library can't even tell anybody about it), but now agents can investigate anyone, anywhere, with no cause what-so-ever. And not just libraries.
Where is this going to end?
Addendum: more from The Washington Post [via LIS News]
"But as word of the new guidelines circulated yesterday, some civil liberties groups expressed fears of a Big Brother government monitoring its citizens.
'The FBI is now telling the American people, 'You no longer have to do anything unlawful in order to get that knock on the door,' ' said Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office. 'You can be doing a prefectly legal activity like worshiping or talking in a chat room, they can spy on you anyway....'
The new rules will allow agents to surf the Internet for Web sites that might give hints to terrorist activity, according to the description. The new guidelines will allow investigators to seek out and 'identify sites and forums in which bomb-making instructions, preparations for cyberterrorism, child pornography, and stolen credit card information are openly traded and disseminated....'
The ACLU's Murphy said, however, that the new guidelines could open the door to the same kind of problems evident in the FBI's aggressive surveillance and harassment of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr."
How long before that list includes actions John Ashcroft finds personally objectionable (euthanasia, adult pornography, abortion, etc.)?
Maine Laptop Funding Threatened
"A $180-million budget shortfall in Maine is threatening a statewide laptop program for middle schools, just as teachers are seeing initial success with their students.
In December, the state signed a four-year, $37.2-million contract with Apple Computer to provide wireless iBooks to all seventh- and eighth-grade students and teachers in Maine.
Governor Angus King spearheaded the controversial program, considered the largest educational technology purchase by a state.
But with the shortfall, some legislators believe that money for the laptop program would be better spent elsewhere....
King recently visited Pembrooke Elementary –- the most rural of the demonstration schools, located in an economically depressed area -- and saw results of the laptop implementation.
'The success is just unbelievable,' King said.
King said the program has all the benefits that laptop proponents predicted: Students are becoming more comfortable with technology and have access to tools they need to learn.
And pilot schools are having fewer problems with attendance and discipline, which is an unexpected benefit.
'What teachers are seeing more than anything is engagement,' King said. 'You don't see the looking out the window and giggling and stuff....'
'We have nothing but success stories here,' said Paula Smith, principal of Pembroke Elementary school, whose 25 seventh-graders are part of the pilot program. 'I haven't had a student in the office since the laptops.'
'This is the one way we're equal to every other seventh-grade in the state,' Smith said. Students 'have a real appreciation of what doors it's opened for them.' " [Wired News]
Follow up to Glenn's discussion about this program, for better or worse.
No Cool Ringtone, No Style, Says Survey
"If you don't customise you mobile phone with an up-to-the-minute ring tone you're liable to be called 'boring' by your friends.
So says an 'independent survey' by mobile phone entertainment outfit WapOneline, which found that 15 per cent of those interviewed with a traditional 'ring ring' ring-tone said that they had been accused of being 'boring'.
It seems being able to customise your phone - whether by downloading annoying new ring tones or by clipping on garish casings - says as much about you as the clothes you wear or your haircut....
Hang on though, it gets worse. The survey also found that seven out of ten people would rather lose their wallet than their mobile.
And nine out of ten people claim they are 'addicted' to their mobile phone, claiming to suffer anxiety pangs if they go out without it." [The Register]
Keep in mind that this is true in Europe and Asia more so than in the U.S., but it's coming. And in the future, your mobile phone will probably be your wallet. If you laugh about all of this, think of it as the equivalent of how obsessive Americans are about our cars and how they relate to individuality and status.
Special Sneak Preview
"BBSpot: Copies of Spider-Man 2 Already on the Web.
These criminals, by releasing the film before it has been released, are not only stealing revenue from the producers but also ruining the movie goers magical experience, MPAA President Jack Valenti did not say.
If the pirates do this to enough movies then the summer blockbuster season will seem like a cavalcade of unoriginal dreck, which I admit isn't much of a change, but still, he did not continue." [dive into mark]
Mass-Appealing, And Sometimes Appalling
"It has become my annual rite of spring -- surfing high-traffic, little-known Web sites to see what other folks are doing online that I'm not. For the third year in a row, I spent several days exploring niche Web sites to get a feel for where people are hanging out besides big portals like Yahoo....
Despite the death of many commercial Web sites, hundreds continue to attract big traffic. Media Metrix changed the way it counts site traffic last October, so the firm can't say exactly how many sites are drawing more than 1 million visitors this year compared with last spring, when about 640 sites earned that distinction. But the company says the number of sites people typically visit in a month jumped 25 percent last year. The average Internet user went to 71 sites from home in February, vs. 57 a year earlier....
Among the innovations gaining steam this year is Web logs, a personal publishing format millions of people are using to post their daily thoughts and tirades. One site offering free Web logging software, LiveJournal.com, drew more than a million visitors in April, while Blogspot.com, another, pulled in more than 600,000." [WashTech]
The overall theme of the article is that web surfers are visiting more sites than ever. For those using news aggregators, the characterization is a little different, but an informal poll (and a not-very-scientific one I'm conducting right now) show that these folks read even more sites on average.
Imagine when the two trends meet. When news aggregators are as easy to use as Microsoft Word, they'll become more mainstream. (Please don't throw any stones for that example, because I already know what you're going to say. But even my daughter can use it so it has some validity as an example.)
Would you rather have someone visit your site or read your content? It depends on your mission and goals, although any site interested in disseminating content will need to shift to be available in aggregators.
Wifi: How to Read More Blogs
"Yet again LinkSys has made me a happy customer. I keep hearing about Wifi from people and I'm jealous of Natrak who can blog from his deck so I took the plunge. I've even been told: "I know all about it , even my gf has WiFi" by a reader. Clearly my "geek street cred" was being threatened. A quick trip to my favorite mail order place, www.pcconnection.com, a wireless PCMCIA card and a WiFi hub and I'm now blogging from the kitchen table instead of my desk chair. Sec...
Now I'm blogging from the front porch.
Now, here's the beauty of it all -- I can read content in the aggregator -- without being at my desk. Now that's how to read more blogs. Wicked cool.
Worked like a champ. Literally plug and play. Install a driver and away I went. It took longer to restart Windows than it did to get connectivitity. I just love LinkSys. I've never had a bad LinkSys experience. How many companies can you say that about? And, no, I don't own stock (not even sure if they are public or not)." [The FuzzyBlog!]
Aggregators are only one piece of the puzzle. Wireless is another big one. Put the two together and imagine being able to read your aggregator anywhere, any time on your smartphone/PDA/portable-computing-device. Adam Curry's doing it now, and it's in the future for the rest of us, too.
"The © Primer is an introduction to issues concerning copyright ownership and use of information. The interactive tutorial overviews the underlying principles behind copyright in the United States, outlines the requirements for copyright protection as well as discusses the parameters of use and access of copyrighted material.
The © Primer is intended to introduce both creators and users of information to the nuts and bolts of copyright law. Consisting of twenty-one questions and answers, the © Primer includes illustrative scenarios and resources for further information and study - Center for Intellectual Property and Copyright, University of Maryland University College." [Library News Daily]
Sound and Fury of HyperMacbeth
"In an attempt to "render Macbeth into a new medium," in the spirit of experimentation and by way of tribute to the Bard, dlsan's HyperMacbeth combines looping electronic music and garish graphic strips with dislocated mouthfuls of text from Shakespeare's play. Adding insult to injury for those who like their Shakespeare as close to the original as possible, dlsan not only hacks Shakespeare's hallowed speeches into pieces, but presents them simultaneously on the screen in Italian and English.
Unlike the original play, which follows a relentless path from Macbeth's encounter with the witches to his blatant disregard for their prophesies, HyperMacbeth is somewhat less predictable. As the user navigates through a selection of the play's speeches by clicking on hyperlinks, random combinations of graphics, text and music invade the screen. Clicking on the line, "The queen, my lord, is dead," carries the audience in any number of directions, from a capitalized "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow," stark against a flashing purple background, to the Italian equivalent, "Domani, e domani, e domani," enveloped in a throbbing sound-scape and flickering crimson graphics....
In fact, HyperMacbeth works as a kind of pastiche on the conventions of annotating Shakespeare on the Web. Whereas in scholarly Internet editions of The Complete Works, following a link will lead the reader to an explanation of an obscure Elizabethan word, dlsan's hyperlinks might change the shape, size and color of a phrase, lead your eye to a new line in another part of the screen or morph into a completely new speech.
"HyperMacbeth looks at Shakespeare's text as a form of remixable poetry," said Christiane Paul, curator of new media arts at the Whitney Museum in New York. 'The use of hypertext turns out to be very effective due to the power and beauty of Shakespeare's language, which can stand on its own even if it is broken up into sentence fragments....'
From William Hogarth to John Singer Sargent, Shakespeare has inspired visual artists for centuries. The tradition has continued into the Internet era. Web-based works such as Andy Deck's bardcode, which translates lines from Shakespeare's plays into the black and white vertical barcode stripes, and the Quicktime version of Hamlet at Computerfinearts.com, recontextualize Shakespeare for today's audiences. For dlsan, representing heavy, unbroken speeches from Macbeth in the Web format was too risky -- fragmentation seemed like the best way to create a sense of drama in the Internet medium." [Wired News]
This reminds me of the Entertainment Weekly article I read a few years ago (but still haven't been able to find or I'd cite it) about the new generation of movie directors that think of and approach their works in less linear, more "drag-and-drop" ways (Memento, Moulin Rouge, and Time Code are all good examples).
If this counts as an ebook, how do libraries catalog, preserve, and circulate it?
"A few days back, I credited J.C. Herz with the four types of gamer analysis she outlined in her talk. Peter writes in and says that she actually attributed it to Richard Bartle, author of Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs: 'So, labelling the four player types abstracted, we get: achievers, explorers, socialisers and killers. An easy way to remember these is to consider suits in a conventional pack of cards: achievers are Diamonds (they're always seeking treasure); explorers are Spades (they dig around for information); socialisers are Hearts (they empathise with other players); killers are Clubs (they hit people with them).' Fascinating article." [Kottke.org]