Daily Archives: November 14, 2007

Video of Eben Moglen’s Talk at IBM Research Now Available Online

[Update (November 21,2007) Ogg-Theora format at http://blip.tv/file/492875

I just got a note from Joe Latone of IBM Research that brought the happy news that the video of Eben Moglen’s talk Copyleft Capitalism, GPLv3 and the Future of Software Innovation, given at at IBM Research on October 29, 2007, is now available online:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2408787365037153871

it was too long for youtube, so i put it on google video.

I was able to view it using my Ubuntu box running 7.10. The video is a bit grainy, but the audio quality is very good, and that is what counts.

Joe can be seen at the start in his spiffy leather jacket introducing Eben. [1]

You can see two of the Tuxers on the podium in front of Eben. (I suspect they went up so close so that they wouldn’t miss a single word of his speech. I learned later they enjoyed it even more than I did.)

Notes:

1. Joe commented on my post that included a picture of me selling baloons “back in the day,” over thirty years ago, that my mustache made me look like a cross of Dan Ackroyd and Borat. Here’s back at you, Joe.

Promoting Open Technologies in Libraries

I am to give a presentation to some of CUNY’s librarians in less than two days. When I spoke with my host, Steve Ovadia (he is a librarian and also a blogger) about the content of my presentation a few weeks ago, I said I would base it largely on my presentation this past May to k12 educators, Open Technology Solutions for K-12 Education. I also said I would talk about the then upcoming K12 Open Minds Conference.

However, as I started to put together the presentation I found myself creating much new content, much more content than I would have expected, and that content will comprise the core of my presentation:


Written in October:

TWWP Puzzler: Name The U.S. Presidents Known To Have Made Use of The Library of Congress

On Thin Clients and Hospital Waiting Rooms

K12OpenMinds07: Trip Report

On Education, Innovation, OLPC, And Open-Source

On Open Content: Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web

The Long March Up From Obscurity: Technorati Authority Now 40, Rank 199700

What Are Your Favorite Web Sites or Blogs?

Announcing The Women In Technology Project

I’ve Been Grokked

Open Source Divertimento K. 2007

Golden Oldies With a New Sparkle

Can you explain open-source in one sentence?

Written this November:

The Vanished Posts

Goodnight Windows, Goodnight Mush

Ubuntu 7.10: Inflection Point or Tipping Point?

New York Botanical Garden: Kiku

December 1999: Three Predictions

An Open-Source Experiment: Google Enters the Wireless World

Time-ly Technology

New Life Forms in the Open-Source Ecosystem: Redmonk, Mellon Foundation, And Some Newbies

An Authoritative Opinion Comparing Security in Linux and Microsoft Windows

An Authoritative Opinion on Libraries and Authoritative Opinions

On Libraries: The Ernie Pyle Memorial Home/Library

On Libraries: The Library of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester

On Libraries: On Searching for the Meaning of “Sabbath Kristallnacht”

k12openminds07: I just ordered my XO Laptop. Have You?

Search Engine Terms for November 12, 2007

Thomas J. Watson Library: The Gates of Paradise”>

The Two Hundred Dollar Computer

Software cost now equals hardware cost

Annus Horribilis, Annus Mirabilis

First Memories of Reading And of Being Read To

dsandroid count now 2

On Authors: Ira Levin, of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ Dies at 78

On Unexpected Authority: Recent Examples

Technorati Authority Now 50, Rank Now 154,301

On Authority and Rating Programmers. Making Linus Number 1

On the Authority of Librarians

Technology and the Library

Written in November as part of the Rabbi Chaim Stern Project:

Shabbat Kristallnacht in the Library of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester

On Searching for the Meaning of “Sabbath Kristallnacht”


Of course I can not go over all these posts, nor would I even attempt to do so.

I had a lot of fun writing these posts, and I draw the following conclusions from what I learned writing them:

  • Librarians are also educators, but they have their own distinct mission and associated responsibilities
  • Librarians are also amongst our key arbiters of authority. I did not fully appreciate this until I wrote these posts, and I think it fair to say it emerged as a dominant theme;
  • While librarians face many of the same challenges in learning about and effectively deploying open techologies as do our educators, they have their own unique challenges and responsibilities;
  • They need as much help as do our educators, and they are equally fun to learn about and to work with.

I have a two-hour slot, but do plan to spend as little time as I can muster presenting my own thoughts, as I would like to spend most of the time in an open discussion about their view of the challenges they face, and how best they can make use of the available open technologies such as open-source to become more effective in their vital mission.

I hope the presentation is not too far from one of the CUNY libraries, for I have spent many of the best moments of my life in a library, and so would like to visit one of theirs.

Technology and the Library

The most significant invention of the last thousand years — at least in my view — is the invention in the 1400’s of movable type and the printing press. This innovation allowed the production of books at a low cost, a cost so low that it enabled the mass distribution of information to the general general public for the first time.

That innovation led to another innovation, for a place had to be found to house and categorize those books. That innovation was the modern library as we know it today.

These innovations have led to the other innovations and discoveries that have shaped the course of our civilization ever since.

Here are just a few of the numerous inventions that relate directly to printing and libraries:

  • The Typewriter
  • The Linotype
  • The High-Speed Printing Press
  • Microfilm Cameras and Viewers, including Microfiche
  • The Xerox Copier and its descendants

Each is of course worthy of one or more posts on its own, but for now let me just remark on two of them: the typewriter and the copier.

I first visited Russia in late 1973, just a few days after the end of the Yom Kippur Way. My wife and I traveled alone. I had enough Russian that we didn’t need to rely on a tour-guide and translator, though we did have to pay exhorbitant rates for hotel accomodations and the occasional official tour.

For the large part we fended by ourselves. For example, we met a young couple while taking the train from Moscow to what was then called Leningrad, and is now known as St. Petersberg. They offered to take us on a tour of Leningrad, and we met them about 8PM near the Peter-and-Paul Statue. Their car stopped suddenly, and we were whisked inside. We then sped off, and I started to worry a bit, as I knew no one else would know where we had gone, or with whom.

It turns out they just wanted to talk about America, but they knew the authorities strongly discouraged contact with foreigners, especially Americans.

We also visited some of my wife’s relatives in Kiev. Both her parents were born in Russia, and each came from large families. The families were separated according to the age of the men. Those of age that could serve in the military had to stay behind; the younger ones could leave. We were met at the Kiev train station by the descendants of those who had to stay behind; there were about forty of them.

It was during a visit to one of their homes that I first saw real samizdat, “underground” writings prepared by using a typewriter and carbon paper. That was the only technology available to most writers, for the few copying machines then within the Soviet Union were carefully locked up and guarded.

I also recall once, while sitting in a relative’s living room, asking if any of them ever went to the Synagogue. They refused even to answer, while in their own home, for fear the conversation might be overheard. It was then I first fully appreciated that Anti-semitism was a worldwide phenomenon, not one confined to Germany and Austria.

In the last few decades we have seen the arrival of a host of new techologies, technologies that will over the course of time have a collective impact as great as that of the printing press:

  • The computer
  • Disk drives that have now grown so cheap as to be essentially free
  • The Internet
  • The Web
  • Digitized information: pictures, photos, recordings, films, and so forth
  • The laser printer
  • The XO Laptop (the most recent arrival, and a harbinger of world-wide access to computing) techology
  • Wireless

A key part of many of these technologies is software. For example, most of Lexmark’s printers use Linux to drive the printing engine.

And thus a key question is how to best make use of that software to help our librarians, especially the software that is available in free and open-source form, since libraries — as is the case with our schools — never receive the funding and recognition that should be their due.

I wish I had the answers. I don’t yet, but I do know that I plan to spend as much time as I can in the coming years seeking ways to apply open technologies such as open-source, open-standards, and — especially — open document formats, in order to assist educators and librarians in their vital mission.

On the Authority of Librarians

Our librarians are among the key custodians of our culture, for they are the people whom we charge to decide what books and writings are to be found in our libraries, and of course also what books and writing are not to be found in our libraries.

Their authority goes both ways, especially in their constant struggle against those who seek to make them our censors. See for example The Internet Public Library: Censorship.

For the most part they go about their job day by day, making judgment calls as best they can.

Some of those calls can change a life in an instant, as once happened to me.

I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. [1] I spent much of my first few years there reading books that could be found in my neighborhood library, as I have described in On Libraries: The Ernie Pyle Memorial Home/Library.

I exhausted that library by the time I was twelve. I next worked through the main branch of the Albuquerque Public Library.

I’m going to take a little detour here. I just looked up the web address of the ABQ library system and found it here. I soon noticed the link Albuquerque Historical Postcards.

Thank you, Albuquerque Librarians, Thank You!

I found a postcard of the Ernie Pyle library via eBay a few days back, and I have been waiting for it to arrive so I could take a picture of it and put it up in my post on my favorite childhood library. However, I see there is a section on Schools and Libraries.

Here, courtesy of the Albuquerque Libraries, are some of the buildings of my youth:

Albuquerque Public Library Main Branch: “This unusual building in Pueblo architecture is the Albuquerque City Library, one mark of the culture and progressiveness of this fastest-growing city in the Southwest.”

I spent a lot of time in this library, most of it in the green steel sections that contained the non-fiction works.

I spent a lot of time reading magazine, including every issue of Reader’s Digest, from its start to about 1957 or so. My favorite story was the one about the Great Molasses Flood in Boston that occurred around 1918. I also went through most of the issues of Life Magazine

Kimo Theater: “Kimo, America’s Foremost Indian Theatre, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Kimo Theatre Building expresses architecturally, in its composite design, the traditions of New Mexico and the old Southwest. One of the few typically American Indian architectural expressions, with a suggestion of the Spanish in its contours, this unusual edifice, both inside and out, provides an atmosphere of historical romance unequalled elsewhere in America.”

I saw many a movie in the Kimo, at no cost, since my mother worked for the local theater chain.

Luminarios: “Luminarios are one of the loveliest of the old customs still followed today in the southwest. They are small brown paper sacks, half filled with sand and a candle placed in the sand. On Christmas Eve these are lit, it will help in guiding the Christ child to this home.”

How I miss them. They are a unique part of celebrating the Holidays in the SouthWest. We once spent a Christmas in Sante Fe, and attended Christmas Mass in the Cathedral. A tradition then, and I expect now as well, was to have posole, a hot chili stew, after attending the service.

Downtown, 1952. The Kimo can be seen on the left. The large brown building on the right is the Sunshine Building, home of the Sunshine Theater and also the place where my mother worked.

And here is an image of the library I want to write about, that of the University of New Mexico:

The University of New Mexico Library, 1938: “The University Library – contains more than 125,000 volumes with a total capacity of over 300,000. Of Pueblo-style architecture, this beautiful building was opened April 1, 1938. The carvings are in the symbolic Indian motif and the furniture and other ornamentations are entirely authentic of the Southwest. The Great Chandelier – in the reference room is said to be the largest of its type ever made by hand. It follows the design of the lamps used by the early Spanish conquistadors. ‘From the Land of Enchantment'”

I can remember the chandelier in the main reading room. It was a wonderful place to read.

You can see the library has several stories in a central tower. As I recall, there were nine stories above ground level, and each story had books arranged using the Dewey Decimal System: 900’s on the top, 800’s on the floor below, and so on down. I just loved that arrangement, for I would wander about the library by first deciding a starting floor, and then I would move downward, shelf by shelf, floor by floor, taking books off the shelf to see if they were worth reading.

The moment I am writing about came on the fifth floor, when I paused to pick up a book of photos with a title that contained the words “Nuremberg Trial.”

When I opened that book, I saw for the first time photographs of the Nazi Death Camps.

My life changed forever and irretrievably, in that single moment.

For that was the moment I realized that True Evil could be found on the face of the earth, and at the hands of man.

My world hasn’t been the same since. I do wish I could have retained more of my childhood innocence, though I know — as do we all — that this is one of the prices we have to pay as we grow up:

The Loss of Innocence

Notes:

1. I still remember the moment I finally knew how to spell Albuquerque without having to copy it out. It came on a Saturday night, and I had practiced over and over, saying to myself, “A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E.” The hard part was getting the Q’s right and knowing there was just one “R”.

I have a similar memory of learning directions. When standing in the playground at Bandelier Elementary School, I came up with the image “Sandia Mountain is East, Santa Fe is North, Mount Taylor is West, the other direction is South. I can still recall the moment vividly, and it often came to mind in later years when I had to orient myself.

I also used that image to tell left from right. Left was Sante Fe, right was towards Socorro.

I loved living in New York City in part because my address was so short, “Shields, Apt 4B, 134W93, NY NY, 10025,” It’s harder in Chappaqua, and I find it ironic I once again require a “Q” to name my city, though at least Chappaqua only has one of them.

My childhood addresses mostly ended in “1/2,” for we for the most part lived in garages that had been converted into apartments: “505 1/2 Richmond, “407 1/2 Girard,” and so forth. I only appreciated when I went to college that most folks didn’t have addresses that ended in “1/2.”

On Authority and Rating Programmers. Making Linus Number 1

I had two fascinating conversations a few weeks back with Scott Collison,co-founder and currently “chief business person” of ohloh. Each went over an hour, and we will meet in person for the first time in a couple of weeks when Scott is next in the New York area.

I joined Ohloh soon after first talking with Scott. I am known there as “daveshields, ” and my Ohloh entry can be found here

Ohloh has a measure of authority called “kudos.” One member can give a kudo point to another, as a sign of recnogition of their programming skills.

I currently have a Kudo rating of 6, and I am Ranked 19101 of 74909. I assume this is based on my Jikes coding days, as I last worked on Jikes in late 1999.

During one of our conversations, Scott mentioned that Linus Torvalds joined Ohloh in September. You can find Linus’s entry here.

Linus has Kudo number of 10. I just took off a moment to send one his way — no surprise in that — though I see it hasn’t yet changed his number, suggesting the Kudo algorithm is more than just a sum. (Indeed it is. See Kudos.)

Linus is ranked 34 of 74909.

That’s not bad, but it is also, at least in my view — and I expect also in the view of all the programmers who are familiar with Linus’s contributions to Linux — wrong. Very wrong.

34? 34! 34!? 34?! [1]

Can you name the thirty-three programmers more skilled than Linus? I sure as hell can’t.

At least that’s what I suggested to Scott in our last call. I said he should use his authority to do whatever it takes to make sure Linus is Ranked #1. I suggested this not to give Linus false credit, but to spare the currently thirty-three folks who are listed as better programmers from Linus from having to come up with an explanation of why they are better programmers than Linus. They have better things to do, writing code being the most important.

Some might view this as an abuse of authority, but what use is authority if you can’t make use of it?

Notes:

1. This called for an Interrobang. Written “?!” or “!?”, depending on the whimsy of its user, the Interrobang was one of my mother’s favorite punctuation marks. She liked it so much she had a special rubber stamp made up.

On Volunteerism: A. F. Hawkins, Civil Rights Lawmaker, Dies at 100

Today’s New York Times brought news of the death of A. F. Hawkins, a man I first learned about only by reading his obituary, which was written by David M. Herszenhorn, A. F. Hawkins, Civil Rights Lawmaker, Dies at 100..

The notice reads in part (emphasis added), with my comments in italic:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 — Augustus F. Hawkins, who was California’s first black representative in Congress, serving 14 terms in the House, and who had a hand in important civil rights legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, died on Saturday in Bethesda, Md. He was 100 and had lived in Washington since retiring from Congress in January 1991.

He retired in 1991, at a time when Congress actually tried to pass meaningful legislation. For the last several years it has made its principal business speeches, the release of press releases, and the every-growing activity of corruption.

Mr. Hawkins, who was known as Gus, represented south-central Los Angeles, including Watts. When he was first elected in 1962, he became one of only six black members of the House. After the elections in 1970, he helped found the Congressional Black Caucus, the influential organizing body for black lawmakers.

He was one of the first black members of the House. Shame on us.

But as he prepared to retire from the House, at the age of 82, he expressed some disillusionment with Congress and with his fellow black lawmakers, who he said often pursued individual interests instead of working as a cohesive group. “You could get frustrated by staying here,” he said in an interview in 1990.

You can get even more frustrated watching how those who have stayed there go about their business, which is, sad to day these days, not our nation’s business.

“Congressman Hawkins left his fingerprints on a host of historic pieces of legislation,” Representative Carolyn C. Kilpatrick, Democrat of Michigan and the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement.

Today, Congressmen leave their fingerprints on pork-barrel legislation and in the police stations when they are arrested.

Unlike other major civil rights figures, who used their advocacy as a platform from which to seek public office, Mr. Hawkins entered public office first, then used his increasing seniority to advance the cause of civil rights.

“By the time Martin Luther King became a national leader, Hawkins was already on the inside,” said Ben Highton, a political scientist at the University of California, Davis.

That’s why I write this piece. He entered public service to serve the public, not himself. This makes him a volunteer, just like all the others who serve us each day, whether in the military, police, firehouse or in an ambulance corps.

A. F. Hawkins — May His Memory Be a Blessing, And Also An Inspiration To Our Public Servants.

On Unexpected Authority: Recent Examples

I’ve written recently about the unexpected authority I seem to have achieved. See An Authoritative Opinion Comparing Security in Linux and Microsoft Windows and An Authoritative Opinion on Libraries and Authoritative Opinions.

Here are two recent examples.

I have noticed an increasing number of views of my post, A Brief History of Operating Systems. [1] Someone reached my blog today via this search, and if you examine that link you will see, as I did, one of the reasons this post is getting more views. (There have been 140 views to date of this post, most of them in the last week.)

For another, look at this search, which combines two of the most important words of contemporary Judaism, “Shabbath” and “Kristallnacht.”

Astounding.

My most viewed post to date can be found here. It contains the sagest advice, courtesy of Ms. Leigh Ann Tuohy, I have seen in recent decades on dealing with wealth:

“God gives people money to see how you’re going to handle it”

This leads to the corollary observation:

“Google gives people authority to see how they’re going to handle it”

I haven’t a clue how to answer this one.

Do you?

Notes:

1. I take some satisfaction in that this brief history includes no history of Microsoft’s operating systems.

I don’t believe I have the skills to answer this question properly.

Experience suggests that Microsoft, lacking the skills needed to write a good operating system, is not qualified to write its own history of its middling efforts in this area.

Shall I tell them it is only a week until Thanksgiving?

My most recent post, On Authors: Ira Levin, of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ Dies at 78, makes mention of a stroll I took in Central Part thirty two years ago.

Some of the indigenous residents of the woods that are adjacent to my office on the back porch strolled by early this morning:

Turkeys obscured by screen
Strolling turkeys obscured by screen

There are about six turkeys in this photo. As soon as I saw them, I went downstairs to retrieve my camera and silently made my way on to my back porch office. Unfortunately, the camera flash went off and the light reflecting from the screen thus obscured the view of the turkeys, the closest of which was just a few feet on the other side of the screen.

This is the most turkeys I have seen at one time on our property. At first I saw just five, but then two more flew down off the porch roof to join the others, so I can vouch that turkeys can fly.

The best local seafood store is Mt. Kisco Seafood. They feature a daily trivia contest, and one of the recent questions was, “What animal is used by gas companies in Arizona and California to detect gas leaks?”

I didn’t get it, but I expect you have already guessed the answer: Turkeys! I didn’t know turkeys had such a keen sense of smell.

One of my Tuxers pointed out there was also a deer lurking nearby in the woods:

Tuxer looking at visiting deer
Tuxer saying hello to visiting deer.

The deer was similarly obscured, though you may be able to find it just to the left of the post (I can’t.)

I let our poodle Scout for a walk a few minutes later, and led him to where the turkeys had been strolling, knowing he would sieze on their smell:

Tuxer watching Scout sniffing where the turkeys strolled
Tuxer watching Scout sniffing

Scout sniffing where the Turkeys strolled
Scout sniffing where the Turkeys strolled

The Tuxer also noticed a mushroom was trying to make its way on to the porch:

Tuxer investigating porch intruder
Tuxer investigating porch intruder

Smart animals, those Tuxers. Like myself, they are always looking for new life forms in the neighborhood.

I thought of warning the turkeys that Thanksgiving was only a week away, so they should be cautious on their travels. Then I realized the discharge of firearms is forbidden in Westchester County; only hunting using a bow and arrow is allowed.

So they can enjoy their strolls about the neighborhood in safety, confident that the only shots that will come there way will be from a camera.

Would that Americans in Iraq were so fortunate.

PS: Dsandroid count is now four.

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