Month of November, 2005
In a column called
Dead Media Everywhere, writer John C. Dvorak highlights a problem we at FGI have written about before - proprietary digital formats that quickly become unusable. In this case, the propritery technologies are late 1990s digital cameras and their associated proprietary file formats:
So I'm digging around the archives (aka closet) and I find two old digital cameras that cost $500 to $1,000 when new and now cannot even be used unless I can find the old software and cables. This is a new form of dead media: old digital cameras. I was actually hoping to take some pictures with these "antiques" to post on my blog. No dice.
The first camera is the fascinating Agfa 1680. It still works, but so far I have been unable to find any way to read its SmartMedia cards, since the camera uses a strange file format. And I have long since lost the cables that would let me transfer the photos directly from the camera. The other classic I unearthed was an old Olympus D300-L. This 1996 camera has no removable media. I was never a fan of this, but was always assured that it wasn't important. Yes, it's not important if you can ever find the extremely weird cable that hooked to the camera to transfer pictures (slowly). See the images here: http://www.dvorak.org/blog/?p=3409.
GPO has announced a new service. The announcement says, GPOExpress is "a nationwide convenience printing contract that allows Government personnel to walk into a printing company, day or night, at any of the thousands of locations throughout the United States and Canada -- to take care of small printing needs." Sherburne quotes Bruce James as saying, "This is GPO's next step in streamlining small printing procurements while increasing flexibility for our customers."
- Coming Soon... The GPOExpress Program Government Printing Office, November 22, 2005.
- GPO Awards Contract to Kinko's: Launches GPOExpress with FedEx Kinko's November 29, 2005 -- (WhatTheyThink.com Exclusive, By Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor)
In his recent Depository Library Council Plenary Address, Public Printer Bruce James compared the curent changes in the documents world (paper to digital) to the Government Printing Office's switch from steam power to electric power in the early 1900s, and to the abandonment of horse drawn wagons in favor of gas powered delivery trucks.
I've been thinking about that a lot, knowing that outside the government documents world, digital takes its place alongside print but hasn't come close to replacing it. Even today, e-books are an insignificant fraction of the $28 billion spent on books in 2004.
Maybe we need a new metaphor in thinking about the distribution of government information. Instead of buggies vs. cars, let's think of trains, trucks and planes.
As most of us know, the Pony Express was replaced by mail trains in the 19th Century. Horses simply couldn't compete in terms of speed. But when the Post Office aquired trucks in the early 20th Century (or therebouts), they didn't stop using trains. Trains still had a purpose in the postal distribution system. Later in the 20th Century, airplanes became available but that didn't put the trucks or trains (or boats, in Alaska) out of business. Each mode of delivery survived not because of misplaced nostalgia, but because each mode had at least one application not well served by the others.
Could that not be a parallel for print and digital? Tell us what you think!
A Risky Gamble With Google, By Siva Vaidhyanathan, Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/2/2005, Section: The Chronicle Review, Volume 52, Issue 15, Page B7. [subscription required]. Also available without subscription here.
Siva clearly identifies the problems of relying on Google as a replacement for libraries: it "offers us at least three reasons to worry: privacy, privatization, and property."
This particular project, I fear, opens up more problems than it solves. It will certainly fail to live up to its utopian promise. And it dangerously elevates Google's role and responsibility as the steward â€” with no accountability â€” of our information ecosystem. That's why I, an avowed open-source, open-access advocate, have serious reservations about it....
We need services like that provided by Google Library. But they should be "Library Library" projects. Libraries should not be relinquishing their core duties to private corporations for the sake of expediency.
Siva is assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University and author of Copyrights and Copywrongs and The Anarchist in the Library.
While Adobe publishes the specification for PDF (portable document format) documents, allowing others to write software that creates and reads PDF documents, there is concern that the specification in not truly open. The first two links below give information about the PDF/A long-term preservation format. The third item is a short note about why the published Adobe standard is not truly open.
Science.gov is a gateway to authoritative selected science information provided by U.S. Government agencies, including research and development results. It searches across 30 databases and 1,800 Web sites. and 47 million pages in real time. The Science.gov Alliance is composed of 17 organizations within 12 federal science agencies and the Government Printing Office.
- Introducing Science.gov 3.0 and a more precise search! (Science.gov introduction page)
- Science.gov goes 3.0, By Joab Jackson, Government Computer News, 11/21/05.
Version 3 ... incorporates bibliographic information into its searches. The feature, dubbed "MetaRank," ranks the relevance of data to the search term by using title, author, date, abstract and other keyword identifiers.
GPO considers CIO Council request to create XML template By Rob Thormeyer, Government Compuer News, 11/23/05.
The Government Printing Office is mulling a request from the CIO Council to develop a standard Extensible Markup Language vocabulary that all agencies can use to disseminate information online.
Mike Wash says:
"We're still considering" the CIO Council's request. "It's not a question of whether it's the right thing to do, but it's a matter of whether we can do a good job with it because of everything else we're doing."
How good is broadband access in the United States? Two reports give us some perspective. The Wall Street Journal article says that access costs about $20 per megabit in the U.S., compared to $1.80 per megabit in France. It notes that, while the White House and the FCC say they want universal, affordable broadband by 2007, "the policy is being left in the hands of the cable and phone companies that control at least 93% of the country's broadband market."
The ITU Digital Access Index (DAI) "distinguishes itself from other indices by including a number of new variables, such as education and affordability. It also covers a total of 178 economies, which makes it the first truly global ICT ranking." Apart from Canada, ranked 10th, the top ten economies are exclusively Asian and European. The United States ranks 11th.
- For U.S. Consumers, Broadband Service Is Slow and Expensive by Jesse Drucker, Wall Street Journal, Nov 16, 2005. (Eastern edition) pg. B.1. [subscription required]
Update by Daniel 7/7/2009 - Dr. Maret is as good as her word. She is now up to the fourth edition, which has 431 pages:
Maret, Susan L. On Their Own Terms: A Lexicon with an Emphasis on Information-Related Terms Produced by the U.S. Federal Government. 4th edition, June 2009,
Thanks to Dr. Maret herself for notice of the update.
On Their Own Terms: A Lexicon With an Emphasis on Information-Related Terms Produced by the US Federal Government by Dr. Susan Maret, November 2005. (pdf, 304pp, 1.3 meg).
Steven Aftergood says this 'excellent new publication helps "the outsider," i.e. the ordinary citizen of the United States, to comprehend the vocabulary of government information policy, and to discover its genealogical roots in official documents. From "access" and "accountability" to "Yankee White" and "Xn," author Susan Maret, an adjunct professor of library science at the University of Denver, provides a concise definition of terms as well as links to official sources.'
Maret says the lexicon will be updated and revised "on a regular basis." It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License.