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Dept. of Bad Ideas

Something to be Thankful for

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 12/28/09 (10:42am)

With all the troubles in the world, at least we don't have these people running around anymore:

Chicago Tribune (12/6/1909): The call to arms for the Gettysburg of the war against the saloon was sounded in a hundred churches of Chicago yesterday by the militant leaders of the National Anti-Saloon league.

Overpriced E-Books No Bargain for Students

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 12/5/09 (6:57pm)

Chicago Tribune logoI missed this article on ways to save money on college textbooks when it first came out. Most of it your average college student would know by heart after the first quarter or semester -- they'd know it that is, if they wanted to avoid bankruptcy. But what really caught my eye was this final warning from 'textbooks advocate' Nicole Allen about e-books:

The one option Allen warned students against buying was e-book versions of texts. A number of publishers offer online books for purchase, she noted, but they are one-year rentals.

By and large, the e-books are available only through an Internet connection, and many restrict the number of pages you can print at one time.

In this case, the calculus e-book cost $100, about $40 more than Chegg's rental and only about $20 less than buying a used hard copy. And you have nothing to resell. [Kristof, Kathy M., "Turning the page on pricey textbooks", Chicago Tribune (9/4/2009):1,29.]

Basically they're saying, why should you rent it for a limited time when for just $20 more it can be yours forever? I think this kind of calculation is absolutely de rigueur not only for students but for institutions thinking of investing in these potentially ephemeral yet costly products.

UW-Madison Dumps Kindle in Favor of Laptops, Netbooks & Smart Phones

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 11/16/09 (10:25am)

Actually they didn't but you'd think they would have right after their library director made the following comment to CNET:

[Library Director Ken] Frazier added that a suitable device would include better "accessibility, higher-quality graphics, and improved navigation and note-taking. I think that there will be a huge payoff for the company that creates a truly universal e-book reader."

Hmm, "accessibility, higher-quality graphics, and improved navigation and note-taking"? When, oh when, will we ever get a device like that? [/irony]

Of course, he forgot to include, a device 'already owned by 93% of the student body'.

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Best Most Outrageous Bank Fee Ev-a

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 11/7/09 (8:52am)

Just noticed that the scoundrels at Chase are now charging me on an account that I don't use much a $6 monthly "Inactivity Fee". (Larger image.)

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Amazon Kindle: Why Get It for Free If You Can Pay for It?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 9/5/09 (11:22pm)
great_slump_amazon_kindle_edition.png

This is so unfair! 'The Great Slump of 1930' by John Maynard Keynes which goes for the outrageous price of 'free' at Project Gutenberg Canada is being offered by Amazon to Kindle users for a mere $4.25. How does Amazon get away with it?

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Why I Hate Netflix

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 8/29/09 (2:39pm)

Because I'm sick and tired of their ads popping up on every other website I visit.

History Repeats Itself as U of I's Global Campus Goes Belly Up

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 5/21/09 (10:19pm)

NYUonline (2001):

New York University is closing down its for-profit electronic learning operation, NYUonline, and moving some of its curriculum and staff into its School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

U of I Global Campus (2009):

[University of Illinois] trustees meeting in Chicago voted to follow a faculty task force plan to scrap much of the current version of Global Campus.

NYUonline (2002):

In two and a half years of operation, NYUonline received nearly $25 million from the university, but enrollment remained anemic at best: just 500 students at its peak.

U of I Global Campus (2009):

The $10 million program had only attracted about 360 students as of last month.

NYUOnline (2001):

The university blames last month's closure of the distance-learning company, called NYUonline, on the economy.

U of I Global Campus (2009):

...[Prof. Nick Burbules] said, a global recession has changed conditions under which the older initiative was established.

NYUonline (2001):

"I believe that the value of our work -- some of which will continue to be carried on by the university, and some non-academic portions of which may be acquired by third parties -- will become even clearer with time," [NYUonline CEO Gordon] Macomber said in the release.

U of I Global Campus (2009):

Burbules said the 2.0 model draws from the UI's experience with the initiative. "I think what is driving this process is the belief that the mission of expanding the online offerings is important," he said. "I give [U of I President White] full credit for inspiring this work, and I personally believe it is the future of higher education."

Note, there were significant differences between the programs, though stated goals tended to shift over time. Nevertheless, what the two shared was an inability by the people in charge to truly understand what the technology was capable of and what it wasn't. Decision-makers themselves had no strong background in online content development for higher education. This lack of background made it hard to evaluate alternative strategies. Instead of identifying successful initiatives already in place and extending those, they chose to concoct their schemes out of whole cloth.

The outcome should come as no surprise.

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MLA Issues New Handbook, Still Insists 'Website' is Two Words

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 3/10/09 (5:00pm)

mla_handbook.jpgThe seventh edition of the MLA Handbook has just come out. The Chronicle of Higher Education points to the considerable effort the publishers have made to give this "bible of the undergraduate paper-writing process" a substantial web component. They have a password-protected website that contains the full text of the manual along with a whole ton of support material.

Good for them! It's great they're making such an effort. But what I want to know is why they still refuse to acknowledge that 'website' consists of only one word. Doing so would be a sign of true progress.

UPDATE (2020): Just ask Merriam-Webster...

AT&T is the Death Star (HTC Fuze Edition)

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 11/29/08 (12:34pm)

Just got my new HTC Fuze from AT&T. Going through the always helpful forums at XDA-Developers, I came across the following cry of pain:

Why did AT&T (and others like Verizon) have to make changes to it?

Why can't they just leave it as it is as the Touch Pro? I can't stand the fact that they had to change the keyboard to be different!

No tab and Ctl key.....come on!!!!!

The guy has a point.

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eBook Readers Suck as eBook Readers

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 8/8/08 (10:53am)

First people, please don't mention the Kindle and the future-of-print in the same breath. That would imply that one has something to do with the other and why do Amazon's marketing for them?

But ignoring that for a moment, I think the whole concept of a dedicated "ebook" reader is somewhat dodgy. I mean, if that's all they do, why bother?

You can't copy out bits and pieces of the text, import them into something you're working on, share them with friends, blog about them -- or do any of the million other things you're used to doing on electronic devices that are increasingly just as small and inexpensive.

In other words, an 'eBook' reader completely sucks as an 'eBook' reader because it treats what you're reading as a complete digital dead-end.

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