Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Is it a 10-7 for 10-codes?

Anyone old enough to remember TV shows such as Dragnet or Adam-12 knows that in police-speak the phrase "10-4" means "OK." The use of the 10-codes dates back in the 1920's the police radio band consisted of only one channel. In order to communicate effectively the 10-code system was developed to describe most police actions.

Each law enforcement agency began to adopt their own version of the codes. For example, a 10-32 in Whitfield County, GA means "subject with firearm" while in Volusia County, FL it refers to "breathalyser available." A 10-34 in Whitfield means "open alcohol" while in Volusia it means "jail break."

In the aftermath of Sept 11th, the Department of Homeland Security began to "encourage" local authorities to drop 10-codes in favor of plain language in an effort to facilitate communications between law enforcement agencies.

Soon, people that hear someone say "10-4" will have no idea what it stands for. That is unless CB radios make a comeback. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"TANK U" Very, Very Much!

I know this has been posted elsewhere, but it is such a great idea that it deserves plenty of coverage. A prototype download station, called TANK U, was presented at a November seminar in the Netherlands by Edo Postma of ProBiblio and Eppo van Nispen tot Sevenaer (Delft Public Library).

TANK U is a physical station that downloads information onto mobile phones. After selecting the content requested, the data is transferred to the mobile phone using Bluetooth and is immediately ready for use. The content could consist of music, e-books, film trailers, audio books, lists of new additions in the library, college lectures and audio tours. The content is selected by the library and is meant to give the customer an idea of what the library has to offer.

I see it now. Download vending machines are placed outside of lecture halls. Audio/video of the lectures is uploaded into the machine in real time and available for immediate download. Students capture the content on their Bluetooth devices without needing to find a network connection.

What a great idea!


As I have been thinking about being Lorcan Dempsey's "in the flow" I have been limiting myself to the online world. This changes my thinking a bit. This type of technology puts the library into a customer's physical flow. There are plenty of places where potential library customers people gather or wait, such as in hospital waiting rooms. Such kiosks not only give another distribution point, but provides a great deal of marketing exposure for the library.
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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Look Out Web 2.0, Web 3.0 is Coming ! (Is Here?)

From the "only constant is change" department....

Late last year I started seen some mention of the concept of Web 3.0 on various blogs. After all, such a designation is the logical next step in an era of everything "dot oh. Personally, I am not a big fan of "dot oh" since it it forces individuals to think in a linear manner, which in turn forces individuals to think about steps required to transition to the next level, which in turn.... well, I digress.

The concept of Web 3.0 is really just a re-branding of the semantic web for mass consumption and is the next step in Web evolution. Those who have discussed this next phase see it as an era where Web applications will (finally) start to do some seemingly intelligent tasks with the software itself discovering and make associations between far-flung bits of information. In other words, the mark-up language used to create each Web page would be written to dynamically cross-reference countless other data sources. The content itself will be able to convey more meaning and interactivity than the relatively static sites of today.

For example, an attendee visiting a conference Web site could select a session from the online program and immediately transfer the date, time, and location to an electronic calendar. The location of the conference itself including address, latitude, and longitude could be sent to a GPS device. The names, biographies, and contact information of other attendees could be sent to an instant messenger contact list.

The problem I see is that commercial library vendors have development cycles that move at glacier-like speeds. Our reliance on commercial vendors means that libraries will start seeing application which take advantage of semantic Web concepts some time after Web 4.0 talk is well underway. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 08, 2006

Is MS Office OpenXML Document Format Nirvana?

The other day I was weeding my office and came across a handful of old 3-1/2 inch floppy discs. After finding a box that actually had a floppy drive, I opened the contents for viewing. To my surprise I found some old WordStar documents. They would not open in Word.

While there are support groups and projects like the Long Now Foundation's Format Exchange that provide tools would have helped me to open the files, the experience started me thinking about how many documents would be lost simply because the formats will become obsolete.

Microsoft has been getting some press since it received recent approval for its Office OpenXML (OOXML) format to be sent to ISO for consideration an international standard. Microsoft's OpenXML format is based on open standards and is available royalty-free. However, OOXML is not the only option to office document compatibility nirvana.

The Open Document Format (ODF) is actually winning in the overall standards race. On Dec 1, 2006 ISO ratified ODF as one of its official standards: ISO/IEC 26300:2006. This standard was developed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), a global consortium and is based upon the XML format originally created by The OpenDocument specification is available for free download and use.

Corel, the maker of the WordPerfect Office suite intends to support both OOXML and ODF and in future versions.

While the debate between the OOXML and ODF is likely to go one for the next couple years, the discussion will certainly pressure vendors to ensure that documents we create today will be accessible tomorrow, providing we can find a device to read the media they are stored on. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, December 04, 2006

McMaster U Getting Out of Cataloging Business

When looking for interesting ideas and trends I often look up north to our friends at McMaster University Libraries. It seems like they are always doing something when most libraries are still just talking about it.

It was therefore no surprise that this morning brought the post Getting Out of the Cataloging Business. McMaster is reallocating their cataloging staff to support emerging services. Original catalogers will be moving to “tiered reference”. Copy cataloging will cease. Staff will be provided new titles and responsibilities:

Digital Strategies Librarian: This position will be responsible for developing their digital library program including the digital infrastructure, implementation of an institutional repository; and developing strategies to align them with programs at the provincial and national level.

Systems Librarian: Responsible for managing systems and emerging technologies.

E-Resource Librarian: This position will be responsible for managing e-resource licenses.

Training and Development Librarian: This position will assist with staff development and work with the librarians to develop an understanding of curriculum development. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 01, 2006

Blackboard's Patent Being Challenged

An article by Dan Carnevalle (subscription required) appearing in today's Chronicle of Higher Education discusses a request presented to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Software Freedom Law Center to re-examine Blackboard's patent (U.S. 6988138) for Internet-based education support systems and methods. A press release also appears on the Center's web site.

The patent grants Blackboard a monopoly on most educational software that differentiates between the roles of teacher and student until the year 2022. The Center provided examples of "prior art," a patent law term that refers to similar technology created earlier by a different party and that could be used as evidence to undermine a patent. In this case, the evidence consists of similar software that existed before Blackboard filed for its patent in 1999.

Blackboard's patent contains 44 claims, two of which are independent (#1 and #36). Each claim in a patent is either an independent or dependent claim. Independent claims stand alone while dependent claims are used to narrow the scope of the independent claims. A product that does not infringe on the independent claims by definition does not infringe on the dependent claims. If Independent claims are not infringed then the patent is not infringed. The independent claims are:

1. A course-based system for providing to an educational community of users access to a plurality of online courses, comprising: a) a plurality of user computers, with each user computer being associated with a user of the system and with each user being capable of having predefined characteristics indicative of multiple predetermined roles in the system, each role providing a level of access to a plurality of data files associated with a particular course and a level of control over the data files associated with the course with the multiple predetermined user roles comprising at least two user's predetermined roles selected from the group consisting of a student role in one or more course associated with a student user, an instructor role in one or more courses associated with an instructor user and an administrator role associated with an administrator user, and b) a server computer in communication with each of the user computers over a network, the server computer comprising: means for storing a plurality of data files associated with a course, means for assigning a level of access to and control of each data file based on a user of the system's predetermined role in a course; means for determining whether access to a data file associated with the course is authorized; means for allowing access to and control of the data file associated with the course if authorization is granted based on the access level of the user of the system. "

36. An method for providing online education method for a community of users in a network based system comprising the steps of: a. establishing that each user is capable of having redefined characteristics indicative of multiple predetermined roles in the system and each role providing a level of access to and control of a plurality of course files; b. establishing a course to be offered online, comprising i. generating a set of course files for use with teaching a course; ii. transferring the course files to a server computer for storage; and iii. allowing access to and control of the course files according to the established roles for the users according to step (a); c. providing a predetermined level of access and control over the network to the course files to users with an established role as a student user enrolled in the course; and d. providing a predetermined level of access and control over the network to the course files to users with an established role other than a student user enrolled in the course.

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