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September 5, 2008

[ae] Wireless, open Linz

I’m listening to Leon Dubosch via a translator. (German is my best not-English, but it’s not good enough.) Leonard thought about projects that could be done in Linz.


Thomas Gegenhuber now speaks. Art reuses what has been created before. (He quotes Lessig.) What can a municipality do? Linz’s homepage is published under CC. Artists who publish their works under a free license gets more money from the government than those who don’t use free licenses. CC here is the default option, and that should be true for cultural funding.

Jakob p[missed last name] says free software is a matter of rights Protecting free software is a human right. Munich uses platform-independent software. It’s free to adapt it, free to partner, free to disseminate it, and has no license fees to pay. What will Linz have to do to be as free Munich: Decide to use open source software in administration, the business, and in education. Right now, all software in Austrian schools is Windows. Instead, schools should teach skills, not applications. Schools ought to have open source software.

Barbara Hofmann talks open courseware. She points to MIT and open coune.rseware. There are 200 schools that are members of the open courseware consortium. The Univ of Klagenfurt in Austria is a member. It takes institutional interest and organizational backbone.

Stefan Powel talks about web science at Univ of Linz. They want to pull together multiple disciplines, initially for a masters degree, by 2010. Bachelors degree by 2012.

Manuela Hiermair talks about overcoming the digital divide. We need free wifi. Communities can provide free access. In Linz, there are over 100 free wifi access points, and a public internet service provider.

Christian Forsterleitner talks about Digital public space. Every resident should receive a bit of Linz’s publis space, free. There are free storage offers from Google, Flickr, MySpace, etc. NBut you give up your rights and are subject to censorship. “We want public authorities to provide this basic service.” “We consider the Webspace to be a citizen’s right.”

[Time to move to Linz? :) ]

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August 23, 2008

A word processor I want

Typewriters were terrible tools for writing drafts if only because they had no facility for crossing sections out. At least with a pen, you could make a quick line through an entire paragraph that failed.

Word processors still act as if we know what we’re writing. Oh, they’re obviously much better than typewriters, for which I have zero nostalgia. (“Ah, remember the month I spent locked in my room, typing the final draft of my dissertation? Sweet!”) Word processors let you swiftly delete failed paragraphs, let you undo mistakes and re-do mistaken mistakes, and awkwardly track revisions. But they’re not designed for writing when you’re unsure of what you’re writing.

When you’re writing something hard, you probably work the way you do with a music composition system. You try out some notes. You play them back. You make a change. You shave and fit the pieces together. The same when you’re writing words. You try out a phrase, a sentence, a transition, a motif. You see how that affects the words around it. You make a change elsewhere, and now you have to hear how it presses on the ideas, words, and rhythms around it.

Word processors don’t recognize that way of working. They treat drafts as continuous improvements, not as tentative attempts. They don’t let you toggle quickly between two versions of a paragraph, side by side or back and forth, so you can see how each works, the way you might weigh two photographs to see which one you want to keep.

I don’t have a set of features I want. I’m just saying that word processors don’t work the way we write.

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August 6, 2008

Up to 30% off, and more!

In two separate reports of the eleven deaths in the K2 disaster, I’ve seen a version of this sentence:

The reported toll from the avalanche was the highest from a single incident on K2 since at least 1995, when seven climbers perished after being caught in a fierce storm.

If eleven is still more than seven, then that sentence is incoherent. (It comes from an AP report by Stephen Graham.)

And, yes, I do understand that grammatical errors are less important than mountaineering deaths. And, yes, I do seem to having a crotchety day :(

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June 30, 2008

Favorite Microsoft instructions of the day

My Windows Vista Ultimate 64 installation is now telling me that my license will expire in 14 hours. This is confusing since the Control Panel tells me that Vista is activated and gives me a product number.

I tried to use the Windows support chat, but when I entered the n-digit product number, it told me the support period was up…yet another indication that my product is indeed activated.

So, I called telephone support, hoping they wouldn’t charge me the required $59. After asking me too many questions, they transferred me to Windows Activation, with the instruction — and this is the part I like — to answer the telephonic robot’s questions:

Yes
Transfer me
Transfer me
Transfer me anyway

That worked fine, except after telling me that it was transferring my call, the robot hung up on me.

Sigh.

So, I tried to get the Activation Support center’s phone number, but for that you have to use the Windows Activation program on your PC … which isn’t where it’s supposed to be … because I already activated my product.

Another call to Windows Support, another round of answering questions, and they actually gave me the number for U.S. Windows Activation: 866-740-1256.

Unfortunately, that group was unable to help. They gave me the phone number for the first tech support group.

I only use my Vista machine for home accounting and for games. Is Microsoft purposefully trying to discourage casual users like me?

Eventually, a tech support person told me that the problem is that I installed Service Pack 1 in January or February. If you did, you have to uninstall it (find Windows Update and click on Installed Updates. Select the service pack and uninstall it. Then, when that doesn’t work, you’ll have to uninstall it by hand.) I’ve spent two hours uninstalling and trying to reinstall:


– Don’t forget to run the System Update Readiness Tool.
– Don’t forget that the System Update Readiness Tool doesn’t have a file name that’s intelligible by users
– Don’t forget that when you run the System Update Readiness Tool, it will call itself something else. I think.
– Don’t forget to run sfc /scannow. (Didn’t work? Run it as admin.)
– Don’t forget to run msconfig and turn off the right start-up programs.
– Don’t forget to yes, transfer me, transfer me, transfer me anyway.

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The next day, someone called from Microsoft to make sure that my problem was resolved satisfactorily. Ten minutes later, his manager called to make sure that the guy who checked on whether my problem was resolved was himself courteous and thorough. I told both of them that Naveen – the tech support person who solved my problem – was fantastic, but the first five people I talked with ought to be taught what Naveen knew about diagnosing my problem.

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June 13, 2008

Open up Google Docs?

I’ve found myself using Google Docs more and more. It’s about a Bronze Age word processor at this point, but it makes collaborating easy, I like being able to get at my work from anywhere (even when offline), and the continuous backup and versioning is comforting.

But, not only is Docs way under-featured and butt ugly, Google is fixing it up really slowly.

What would Google have to do to enable The Community to enhance it?

We presumably (i.e., I don’t know what I’m talking about) could write an enhanced system that uses Google Docs for storage, but that slaps a new UI on it and adds features. In fact, maybe this is something that Adobe’s beautiful Air-based word processor, Buzzword, should be (or is?) looking at.

Even better: Google could make Google Docs as amenable to add-ons as Firefox is. Of course, I have no idea how hard that would be, and what the possibilities of terminally screwing up your docs might be.

At the very least, while Google Docs is getting better at allowing us to redefine existing HTML elements, to create new classes, and even to create new elements (albeit without giving us a UI to use these classes or elements, other than entering into HTML editing mode), letting us attach CSS style sheets seems like an obvious and non-destructive improvement.

But, IDKWITA (I don’t know what I’m talking about … and why isn’t that a standard Web acronym?), so there may be obvious technical issues mooting all of the above. But I’m sure that won’t mute you from telling me what I’m missing.

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Marco Barulli at Clipperz (a password manager) blogs about what it would take to get more freedom and privacy from the providers of Web apps. He has a three-part solution…

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May 6, 2008

Keynote 08 to Powerpoint 08

The latest version of Keynote exports files in Powerpoint format that the latest version of Popwerpoint can’t read. Charming.

A discussion board pointed out, however, that if you strip out all the presenter notes from your Keynote file, the exported Keynote file will indeed open in Powerpoint. I tried it on one small file, and it worked.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to strip out all those notes. And I haven’t seen anything from Keynote about an update.

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April 30, 2008

Mac issue: Where’d my network go?

My new new Mac (a white one) is well, except Finder doesn’t see my family network. To be more exact, there’s no “Network” icon listed in the sidebar of Finder. If I go to Finder’s prefs and toggle “connected servers” or “bonjour computers” on and off, there’s no change. But, if I go to Connect to Server and tell it to connect to smb://192.168.0.134, which happens to be the static IP of a network storage device, it finds it fine, and shows it to me in the Finder. It likewise finds smb://honkervista, which is my big, Vista-crippled machine.

I’ve tried making random alterations in the system config network panel, since that traditionally has forced empty network panes to fill up properly. Not in this case.

Should I really have to be mounting these machines by hand?? TIA…

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April 23, 2008

My life as a counter-indicator

Apparently, the traits I like in a candidate are the traits most of the country dislikes. I am therefore a counter-indicator. And also pretty depressed.

Pity me.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that the candidate I prefer (= am in love with) has in fact “closed the deal” with the majority of Democratic voters and delegates. So, maybe you shouldn’t pity me.

Yet.

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April 17, 2008

A phrase I’d be ok with never hearing again

Baby bump.

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March 29, 2008

Third motherboard, same crashes

For those who are keeping track (= me), the new new motherboard on my MacBook has not prevented the same old problems from recurring. I still am getting random app crashes, most well-behaved by an occasional crash to blue. (Actually, only Keynote crashes to blue.)

I’m feeling pretty certain that we’ve eliminated the mobo as the source of the problem. Since these same problems have occurred in two separate operating systems, including through a clean install of the second one, I don’t think it’s an OS thing. Since they’ve persisted through the creation of a clean user account, I don’t think it’s a software thing. Because the RAM has passed repeated testing by me and by the service professionals, I don’t think it’s a RAM problem.

I am therefore taking it personally.

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