• Apple,  Commentary,  Conferences

    WWDC 2002 Keynote

    I thought I’d be able to report on at least the keynote, but Steve Jobs opened the WWDC 2002 keynote by saying everything we were seeing and hearing was non-disclosure stuff. Now, some of the folk here think he was being disingenuous, but whether or not he was, I take NDAs seriously. I notice that Apple has released several press releases so I can at least talk about those. Then there’s always the coverage by MacCentral.

    The keynote featured, as Apple had announced, Jaguar, the next “big” release of OS X. The two things that I found most interesting are in the latter half of the press release—Rendezvous, and Ink. Rendezvous, also known as ZeroConf, or Zero Configuration Networking, is based on an open standard that relies on IP networking. What Apple has created for OS X 10.2 that’s noteworthy is an interface for IP networking that doesn’t require a user to lookup an IP address in a Preference panel and enter it in another Preference Panel—they’ve created a “smart” application in Rendezvous. Devices (not just computers!) with IPs can be “seen” by the Rendezvous application, and presumably, other third party applications that make use of the prorocol, and their users, who choose the device to share from a list that Rendezvous automatically lists. The release describes two users on separate computers in a home “sharing” their respective iTunes libraries. Notice that’s “sharing.” Not copying. It’s a nice idea. And yeah, the RIAA will be all over it, and I bet they’ll claim it’s “broadcasting.”

    Ink, the built in handwriting recognition, has me salivating. There’s lots of potential for this—I hope it supports Japanese, Korean, Chinese and other double byte languages soon, if it doesn’t in the formal release. Think about teaching students to write Japanese using a graphics tablet and pen. Their awkward scrawls will be turned into Apple’s gorgeous Japanese fonts. Now, you still want students to learn writing the “old fashioned way” but there’s an inducement to write when you can start sending email to native speakers, who write back—and maybe even use iChat to send you iPhoto images, or short audio files.

    The Universal Access support is long needed, and I’m very glad to see it (remember StickyKeys and CloseView? They’re baaack, and much better). Being able to Zoom in on a screen until it’s large enough for vision impaired users to really see, or to have the Mac read aloud text you point to, is very helpful, especially when it’s built in to the OS. I hope developers will take advantage of the opportunities Apple is creating for incorporating universal access. If these OS X apps work like the previous equivalents, then developers don’t have to do much beyond following Apple’s guidelines and the apps will just work.

    I’m really pleased about QuickTime 6, and hope to see it soon. I already explained why I’m excited about QuickTime 6here, but you might want to pay particular attention to Broadcast, the free streaming server for “live” streaming.

    The new features and apps in Jaguar that Apple is touting include the “iChat” AIM-derived instant message client, the revamped Address Book, and Sherlock III. iChat is a nice idea, and I like the fact that AOL/AIM and Mac.com names work with it. It’s good that the Address Book is integrated with iChat and Mail in that you can “see” when a “Buddy” (I really hate the AOL jargon) of yours who sent you mail is online (yeah, AOL does that), and the way Sherlock will fetch a map for an address is way cool (by the way, anyone else notice how much Sherlock III is like Watson?). That’s not so cool, imitation and flattery references aside, it seems . . . odd.

    One thing that struck me about all three of these apps (Rendeavous, iChat, Sherlock III) is that they are engaging in the sorts of information exchanging and fetching that Dave Winer at Userland keeps writing about. This sort of information finding and fetching is part of what I think is cool about Radio—and it’s called Web Services. Web services are a core part of Radio. Webservices rely on protocols like SOAP, and RSS, as well as XML, allowing a user (and I mean the ordinary user like you, or me or my mom) to gather the public information or news we want in a way that suits us, from a variety of sources, automatically. Once the information is gathered, nicely tagged and formatted because of XML, we can then “do stuff” with it. It’s Web services that makes things like the Google APIs Dave wrote about or the neat way you can get a Radio “feed” from the New York Times be displayed on your blog, web page, or web services savvy news reader.

    I noticed a few weeks ago that Apple had quietly posted some really interesting Web Service AppleScripts, and have been meaning to get back to them. It looks now like those scripts were an indication of serious interest in web services on Apple’s part, and an interest in making things like Soap and XML easy for users and developers alike to use. The support in AppleScript is particularly exciting because it makes web services available for non-programmers.

    Another thing that struck me is that there’s another level to the “Mac as digital hub” strategy that Apple has been promoting, a level that I, as a long term Mac user, have pretty much taken for granted.

    Mac applications communicate with each other. They allow us to almost seamlessly swap data between applications—and we expect them to behave this way. I assume that if I copy some text from one application, or even the Finder (pre-OS X) that I can paste it in, with formatting, into pretty much any application. I expect that I can open a QuickTime Movie in my browser, email, or word processor. I assume that the images in iPhoto can be dragged and dropped into AppleWorks or MSWord. I just expect it to work. These new OS X/Jaguar applications and features, as the press release makes clear, are swapping data. iChat and Mail.app share data, for instance. Address Book, via BlueTooth, (or SMS—Short Message Service) can communicate with other devices. That means that it’s easy for users to swap data too, data in the context of particular applications, even.

    It strikes me that Apple’s underlying agenda, beyond that of the Mac as the digital hub, is “your data, where you want it, when you want it.” The basic functionality and ease of use of iPhoto (just plug in your digital camera, and it mounts on your desktop and your images are magically imported into iPhoto) or iMovie (pretty much the same experience for a Fire Wire enabled video camera) or iTunes and iPod certainly support the idea that Apple wants users to have control over their data. I’m not sure (yet) that Apple is also thinking about “your data, how you want it,” but I suspect they are.

    Aside from the obvious problems for instruction—students IMing each other wildly, for instance—I’m not quite sure, yet, what all of this means for instruction.

    Buy me a Coffee! If you find this post or this site interesting, and would like to see more, buy me a coffee. While I may actually buy coffee, I’ll probably buy books to review.

  • Commentary,  Culture and Society

    Copyright—Yes Virginia, the Idiots are Still With Us

    Jamie Kellner, the Chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting was recently interviewed by Inside. Among several truly idiotic and woefully uniformed statements, he uttered the following witless gem about “ad skipping,” fast forwarding through ads on television, or (horrors!) using Tivo or the like. Ad skipping, according to Kellner:

    It’s theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you’re going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn’t get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you’re actually stealing the programming.

    Contract? What contract? There is none, implicit or implied. For someone in the business of selling content, Kellner just doesn’t get it. If you want consumers to watch ads, then make them interesting or useful to consumers, or find another way to generate revenue besides selling ads. It’s pretty simple.

    It’s odd the way some large scale publishers and distributors of content are trying to make copyright function like farming subsidies. If my rant his piqued your interest, take a look at Top Ten New Copyright Crimes”, a link spotted by Dave Winer.

    Comments Off on Copyright—Yes Virginia, the Idiots are Still With Us
  • Conferences


    Yeah, I know, it’s been a while. I’ve been working on my dissertation, which means less time for the web.

    A few notes:

    I’ve been using Mozilla for Mac OS X and 9 and like it very much; it’s become my main browser.

    I’m off to Apple’s 2002 World Wide Developer’s conference, on a student scholarship, thanks to Apple. This year there’s a much stricter NDA, so I’ll likely only be able to write about the Keynote. What’s more, I notice that they aren’t mentioning support for Airport, Apple’s wireless technology, so I may not even be able to get a decent connection to the net. Airport support last year was wonderful, as it was at QuickTime Live. You could log on to an Airport base station just about anywhere at the convention.

    In the meantime, you can read what I wrote about last year’s conference

  • Commentary,  Software

    Blackboard coaxing WebCT users to Defect

    In this press release BlackBoard urges WebCT users to come to the mother ship with promises of “conversion kits.”

    You know they aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, which makes me wonder just what kind of “conversion” and support they are offering. I’m not going to speculate about why and what a user would be converting. After all, both companies purport to use open standards right down to their meta data. It’s also likely that that the sites to be converted are would need to be fairly vanilla, that is, template driven, “course module” using sites, rather than anything more instructonally appropriate or useful.

    The release is an interesting example of marketing drivel. The name of the “web based” conversion kit is “EasySwitch.” The release alludes forebodingly to WebCT’s announcement of ceasing support for the “standard edition” in favor of the more kitchen-sink “Campus Edition,” which costs more, as the release implies, and then, near the very bottom, refers to BlackBoard as “a single reliable learning solution with long term viability.” Implying, of course, that WebCt is neither reliable nor viable—and it may well be neither, but I’m not sure BlackBoard is any better.

    Were it me, I’d spend the money on smart people, including using trained graduate students as support staff and HTML folk, working with trained undergraduate HTML folk, and look at things like NNTP for discussion boards, Radio, Manilla, Perl, Apache, and MovableType–which looks like a super application for web-writing. It’s got me thinking about finding a web host that will let me use Perl.

  • Apple,  Culture and Society

    On Ripping CDs

    Yes, you can buy a CD and “rip” or copy the files quite easily. Apple’s iTunes, bundled with every Mac, and available for free downloading, is designed to make ripping and burning easy—and it does. There are similar applications for just about any personal computer operating system.Yes, people do that”rip” files all the time. Yes, some people put those files on the Internet and others download them.

    The operative word there is “some.” I’ve never posted an illegal mp3 file on the ‘net. I do have an iPod though, and it contains MP3s of about 60 CDs that I purchased. Given that there are other real world models for this activity in that you can photocopy a book you own for personal use—it’s the distribution of that copy that’s a problem—it’s pretty daft to argue that users shouldn’t be able to make digital copies for personal use of cds they own—just as they can make casettes of vinyl albums (remember records?) or other personal use copies.

    During Napster’s thriving period CD sales went up. It’s possible that Napster actually drove CD sales. Sales have dropped—for both concert tickets and CDs—post Napster. People downloaded a song they liked, often discovering new artists, then bought the CD. Humans are acquisitive by nature. We like bright shiny objects, and want to own them in a physical form. Moroever, by enhancing the data with an attractive cover and liner notes, not to mention the benefits of enhanced CDs, CD producers are giving the physical object added value—making us want them even more. If they had a clue, the RIAA could drive sales by making it easy to legally obtain MP3 files—and pay the artists involved.

    Given how many hours I spend working in front of computers, I darn well want to be able to either listen to MP3’s on my iPod or play a cd in my CD-ROM drive—both things the RIAA doesn’t want me to do. And, at the same time Eisner and others are complaining to Senator Hollings about consumers “stealing” from them, the RIAA is not paying the artists. I think Tim O’Reilly was being too polite when he described them as being disingenuous. It’s worth reading the thoughts of Andy Grove, someone who understands profit and technology, as well as the need for innovation. If publishers want to sell more, maybe they should find out what consumers want.

  • Commentary,  Publishing

    CD-Audio Boycott

    The latest copy protection idiocy is a Celine Dion CD that not only won’t work in your CD-ROM drive, it can damage it.

    My spouse and I, both proud owners of iPods haven’t bought any new CDs this year. We’re not planning to either, though we usually buy about fifteen a year for personal use and another ten or so for gifts. We’re perfectly willing to pay artists for CDs or MP3s, but we refuse to be told where, and how, we can listen to them, or what we can do with our property. We also resent being treated as thieves.

  • Commentary

    Efforts to Extend and Enforce the DMCA

    But wait—there’s more. Not only are publishers turning on libraries and librarians, now the music industry is trying to tell us what we can do with our CDs. One of the problems with the DMCA is that it isn’t very clear. Against a backdrop of challenges to the DMCA, Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina held hearings on standardizing digital copy-protection technology in nearly all PCs and consumer electronic devices. Hilary Rosen of the RIAA was one of those who testified. This is a really stupid idea for any number of reasons. The technologically ignorant aren’t the people to create standards, particularly when those standards would restrict innovation, and place control of intellectual property with a few large corporations, corporations that are potentially immortal.

    There are more intelligent ways to go about protecting rights holders, without assuming all consumers are thieves, and without restricting reasonable use of personal property to make copies for personal use. DigitalConsumer.org has some good ideas, including a Consumer Bill of Rights.

  • Commentary


    The DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act has essentially removed the concept of “fair use” from consideration when using digital assets. The implications of this restriction, coupled with the 1998 Copyright Extension Act, for libraries and schools are horrific. This Business Week article about Brewster Kahle’s efforts to expand the Internet Archive reveals the problems of excessive copyright limitations. (Kahle filed an amica curiae brief in support of Eldred.) U.S. Representative (Virginia) Rick Boucher explains better than I can why the DMCA act serves to stifle the exchange of information. The idea of restricting users ability to copy media they have legally purchased for personal use is not even technically sound. John “maddog” Hall, of Linux International, offers a reasonable solution: “fix the DMCA, then enforce the laws we have already,” pointing out that “We’re not all criminals.”

  • Commentary

    Why the Bono act is Unconstitutional

    Michael Reinhardt in an interesting thread in TidBits discussion board TidBits Talk summarized the rationale for the challenge to the Sonny Bono act. Basically, as he points out (and I’m cribbing here), Congressional power to enact law is based on specific permissions or “grants” in the Constitution, primarily found in Art. I, section 8. The clause which authorizes copyrights is Art I, Sec. 8, Clause 8: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
    Reinhardt adds “The crux of the argument being used to challenge the Sonny Bono Act is that extending existing copyright terms does not promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts, and therefore Congress had no authority to pass the act (the act is unconstitutional).