At the Ref Desk (11/18/17): Lots of phone requests today. Wonder why... :-) [more...]
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Dept. of Bad Ideas

Second Life - Stick a Fork in It

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 8/12/07 (4:59pm)

This isn't a post trashing Second Life. (For that, go here...)

Rather it's about allocating resources in the face of constantly changing technology. It's about which pony to bet on in the race for relevance. We can't bet on all the ponies so what should we look for when choosing a favorite?

(more after the jump...)

American Libraries Direct: Getting Carried Away?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 5/30/07 (5:21pm)

AL Direct

It's nice getting the American Libraries Direct newsletter but I have to wonder if they're not getting a bit too carried away with things.

This week under the heading "Tech Talk" (of all things), they've got a post on a laptop from Dell, a cell-phone for "Boomers" and a link to a review of "point-and-shoot cameras". The question is, do we need a discussion of consumer products coming from a publication of the American Library Association to its members? Would this be any more appropriate in American Libraries (i.e. the monthly print issue) -- and if not there, why here?

Editorial restraint should be observed whether online or in print. Publication of something like this shouldn't be the moment that you lose it all -- just because the thing's going out via email.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (Not in Illinois)

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 5/16/07 (10:56pm)

Mayor Daley has famously said that the law banning fois gras in Chicago is the "silliest ordinance that was ever passed".

I kind of look at the recent vote by the Illinois State Senate banning horse slaughter in the same light.

The head of the Illinois Department of Agriculture says horse slaughter "is inhumane because our society considers horses to be companion animals or pets".

That's one perspective.

My approach comes from the years I spent in Paris when they served it on a regular basis in the student university restaurants. I was short of money and this meal would literally be my only one of the day. Sometimes they'd serve something really gross like rognons, tripes or cerveaux fouettés which I was unable to eat no matter how hungry I was.

So you can imagine my relief when they'd have something like cheval which kind of resembled boeuf in color if not completely in texture. The truth is, I ate it with relish.

I haven't had the dish since then but it doesn't strike me as the end of Western Civilization to contemplate it being produced here and sent out to the four corners of the world. At least we've got something we can still export.

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It's Curtains for Clippy

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 2/12/07 (2:39am)

Few animated characters have raised the ire of so many as Clippy, the erstwhile tech assistant for MS Office starting in 1997. Literally at the drop of a hat, and for no apparent reason, Clippy would jump out and offer his unwanted services.

For ten long years, we have had to live with Clippy. Now he is no more. Read the details of his demise here... (h/t Slashdot)

DRM Down the Drain?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 1/2/07 (1:49pm)

'DRM' stands for 'Digital Rights Management'. It's a way for content owners, particularly in the music industry, to control the way a product is used after it's been sold to the consumer.

Needless to say, for most consumers this really means 'Digital Restrictions Management' and most don't like it. Nevertheless, the music industry has seen fit to shove it down our throats no matter what. Apparently their approach isn't working:

Revenue from digital downloads and mobile content is expected to be flat or, in some cases, decline next year. If the digital market does in fact stall, alternatives to DRM will look much more attractive. (Reuters 1/2/07)

So what's the solution? Things are getting so bad for the music industry that they're actually thinking about dumping DRM and releasing their music as mp3's! Yes, the single most popular digital format on the planet and the recording industry is only thinking of embracing it now -- and then only as a form of market capitulation. Oh brave new world!

eBooks are from the Department of Bad Ideas

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 12/10/06 (12:36pm)

Sony eBook Reader Someone asked about eBooks on one of the library lists I'm on. They wanted to know what the prospects were. I responded on the list but I thought I'd share my opinion here as well.

I've never really understood the rationale behind these devices. I mean, I already have something that reads "electronic books" -- it's called a laptop. If I wanted something even more mobile, I'd get a smaller laptop -- or maybe use my PDA. The advantages of using my laptop -- besides the fact that I already own it -- is that I can play most formats on it, and not just one.

Hallmark of Failed Techonogy: Sony Memory Stick Walkman (NW-MS7)Furthermore, my laptop can do more than just "read" the thing -- I can cut out parts, re-use it, send it to friends and colleagues. I can link to the file, 'digg it', list it on del.icio.us. In other words, I can do everything I've become accustomed to do on a computer in a networked environment. Why would I want something that could do anything less?

I think if the sole purpose of a device is simply to serve as a platform for a proprietary format, it's doomed. This kind of "lock-in" is not popular with consumers. Just ask Sony how its own version of the iPod is doing.

Institution: 

Hallmark of Failed Techonogy: Sony Memory Stick Walkman (NW-MS7)

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 12/10/06 (12:31pm)

Sony launched this unit amid much fanfare and expectations on the auspicious occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Walkman. Forget the iPod, which didn't even exist at this point, this player was supposed to be the successor to the fabled Walkman. Unfortunately because it only played Sony's proprietary format and showed more innovation in Digital Rights Management than features, it never got off the ground.

Sony showed it hadn't learned anything when four years later it released the Network Walkman NW-HD1, its 'iPod Killer' that also failed to gain any market acceptance.

Institution: 

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