Internet Revolution or Internet Bubble?

The technology that helped usher in an internet revolution and democratic change in Tunisia and Egypt may be just as damaging to democracy as it is helpful. In March of this year (2011), Eli Pariser made this argument in his TED talk (watch below).  Based upon his book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, he describes an Internet that reflects back to the user exactly what he wants to see.

Within 24 hour of this being sent out by moveon.org, (of which the author is affiliated) the four copies within my library system went from available to checked out. Right now, I am waiting on a waiting list to read the full argument. See if your local library has a copy here: WorldCat

 

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Source: www.ted.com

Help Kill IE 6

Every time I have to think about, or work with, Internet Explorer 6 (IE 6) I have  a bout of the blurts. It is mostly four letter words that I blurt out. You know, words like f@$!, s@$!, and d@$!. But I may be getting ahead of you. Let me backup. If you do not know the difference between IE 6, 7, 8 or 9, there is not much. From a web developers perspective (mine) each release of IE has only gotten better at not entirely screwing up web standards.

Microsoft’s long domination of the browser came to its pinnacle with a combined IE 5 and IE 6 market share of 85% in 2003.1 Thankfully, the second browser wars freed us form Microsoft’s monopoly. Un-thankfully, many people do not know about the wars and that there are choices when it comes to their browser.

IE 6 was launched in 2001 and for five glacial years Microsoft did not update it. Another five years have come and gone, and in 2011 IE 6 is still supported by Microsoft (depending upon if your OS and service pack are still supported by Microsoft).2 If the overextended support of a ten year old piece of software is not mind-blowing, try this. Microsoft does not force users to upgrade from IE 6 to the latest release of IE.

If you are wondering how the use of IE 6 might affect you, there are all kinds of concerns with a ten year old browser including–but not limited to: security threats, speed related issues, and privacy concerns.  If you have a website,  there are  added web development costs.  IE 6 is notorious for not properly implementing web standards,  this adds hours—if not days—of additional work when a website template is created or a website is updated.

Thankfully, there are companies that have common sense. In March of 2010, Google stopped supporting IE 6.3 With 3% of the browser market, as of March 2011, it is time for IE6 to die. As it was nicely put by Microsoft’s own general manager for Internet Explorer, “Friends don’t let friends use IE6”.4 So how do we help our friends? If you are a library with a website ask your web developer to add anyone of these pieces of code to your website:

 

​1) Use the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown’s banner code to target IE 6  specific users with a banner informing them of the need to upgrade.

​2) Use the ie6-upgrade-warning hosted at Google Code. If your website runs on Joomla, there is a extension for this.

3) Use this code from ie6 no more to target IE 6 specific users with a box centered on the page informing them of the need to upgrade.

 

Please help make sure your friends and patrons are safe on the internet highway by sending them the IE 9 download link.

P.S. If you missed IE 6’s funeral, check out ie6funeral.com

  1. Internet Explorer Browser. (n.d.). W3School. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_explorer.asp
  2. Support for Internet Explorer 6 Continues Following the Release of Internet Explorer 7. (n.d.). Microsoft Support. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifean24
  3. Tom Krazit. (2010, January 29). Google Phasing Out Support for Ie6. Cnet News. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from http://news.cnet.com/8301-30684_3-10444574-265.html
  4. Gregg Keizer. (2009, August 17). Microsoft: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Ie6’. Computerworld. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9136739/Microsoft_Friends_don_t_let_friends_use_IE6

The Future of E-Readers: The enTourage eDGe

source: enTourage eDGe

source: enTourage eDGe

A few weeks ago, I posted on Sony’s new economical Pocket Edition e-reader.   With a price tag of $199.99, it makes the move from pulp-based paper to digital e-paper bearable.  In that post, I noted that my concern with e-readers has always been their lack of functionality and versatility.  They are mostly designed for one thing: reading books.  However, a truly unique device will be hitting the market in the next few months.  The enTourage eDGe is the first dual netbook and e-reader device in one.

At $490, the price is relatively significant, but the functionality is impressive. It has a clam like case that opens to reveal two separate screens.  One is a dedicated e-reader and the other is a dedicated netbook. Powered by Google’s Android operating system, one can browse the web, send and receive email, listen to mp3’s, and watch videos on one screen, and on the other screen read a book, takes notes in the margins, or write, with a stylus, their thoughts and notes on a lined piece of e-paper. This is the most innovative and promising e-reader device that I have seen.

The Titanic Problem of Information Overload: Its Scope and Scale

“Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink”, 18th century words that have 21st century relevancy. In Samuel Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the mariner is in an ocean of water, but cannot find a drop to drink. In the 21st century, the mariner is all of us. In an age of vast seas of information, all of us must navigate the information that surrounds us all day—every day—to find the few drops of information that are consumable and usable.

In the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, the oceans of information we produce and consume are titanic. In 2008, Americans consumed 3.6 zettabytes of information. Let me break that down. One zettabyte is equal to a million million gigabytes. As a number a zettabyte looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That is twenty-one zeros. Yes, twenty-one zeros. If 3.6 zettabytes of information were printed in the form of a textbook, all of the continental United States and the state of Alaska would be covered with a seven foot stack of books.1

This all raises the question, how is information measured? There are many ways to measure information. In the digital age, information can be measured as the flow of bits and bytes. On a computer, a binary bit is equal to either a 0 or 1. Taken together, many bits convey meaning.

What about information that is printed and consumed in hard copy? Well, A typical character is equal to 1 byte which is equal to 8 bits of information. After doing some math, one would find that the typical book is roughly equal to 1 megabyte of information.

The information that Americans consume every year comes from a myriad of places: television, print, radio, phone, internet, movies, and music. Interestingly, though, despite the pervasive presence of the internet in our lives, it only accounted for about 25% of the information consumed (in word format and time wise) in 2008. Americans consume about 12 hours of information every day, of which 60% of that time is spent listening to the radio and watching TV.2

Netcraft’s January 2010 Web Server Survey puts the number of website online at 206,741,990 sites (this includes top-end domains and their sub-domains).3 All of which contain about a trillion webpages. That is a lot content, and that is just the web. In 2005, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt estimated the internet’s size to be five million terabytes of information (a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes). Eric Schmidt went on to say that from 1998 to 2005, Google indexed .004% of the internet and that if the internet stopped all growth and became stagnant, at its 2005 size, it would take another 300 years for Google to index it.4

Beyond interactive bits and bytes, many of us still consume our information from hard copy sources. I love books, but can there be such a thing as too many? Take the Library of Congress, it is the largest library in the World. It houses over 100 million items, adds 7,000 new books to its collection each day, and has over 530 miles of shelving. Looking at the question from a global scale, in all of the world’s libraries there are 16 billion volumes, or 2.5 times as many books as people on the planet.5

The world’s library collections are enormous in scale, but the publishing industry is not far behind. According to Bowker publishing, during the year 2008, there were 275,000 new titles and new editions published. That is down 3% from the year before.6 With numbers like these, interlibrary loans and system holds are critical library tools.

In the 21st century, consumers are besieged by a cacophony of information that is at times dizzying and overwhelming. From 1960 to 2008 the per capita time spent consuming information has gone up by 60%: from about seven hour a day to about twelve hours a day.7 However, as the idiom goes: garbage in, garbage out. Quantity does not equal quality, and for this reason librarians will always be in demand.

  1. Roger E. Bohn, & James E. Short. How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from http://hmi.ucsd.edu/howmuchinfo_research_report_consum.php
  2. Roger E. Bohn, & James E. Short. How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from http://hmi.ucsd.edu/howmuchinfo_research_report_consum.php
  3. January 2010 Web Server Survey – Netcraft. Netcraft. Retrieved January 14, 2010, from http://news.netcraft.com/archives/2010/01/07/january_2010_web_server_survey.html
  4. Thomas H Forthe. (2009, May 12). How Big is the Internet, and How Does One Measure a World Wide Phenomenon? Retrieved January 14, 2010, from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1728454/how_big_is_the_internet_and_how_does.html?cat=15
  5. Libraries: How They Stack Up. (2003). OCLC. Retrieved January 20, 2010, from http://www.oclc.org/reports/2003libsstackup.htm
  6. Bowker Reports U.S. Book Production Declines 3% in 2008, but “On Demand” Publishing More than Doubles. R. R. Bowker. Retrieved January 14, 2010, from http://www.bowker.com/index.php/press-releases/563-bowker-reports-us-book-production-declines-3-in-2008-but-qon-demandq-publishing-more-than-doubles
  7. Roger E. Bohn, & James E. Short. How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from http://hmi.ucsd.edu/howmuchinfo_research_report_consum.php

Sony E-book Reader for Cheap (Sort of)

Source: snoeystyle.com

Source: soneystyle.com

For a long time, I looked askance at e-readers. Before the Sony Reader, Amazon’s Kindle, and now Barnes & Noble’s Nook, there was over a decade of hype and failed products. There is also the price barrier. The top end Sony Reader (Daily Edition) retails for $399.99. For a long time, I thought why pay a substantial sum for a dedicated machine when for just a few hundred dollars more I can have a multifunction laptop on which I can read a book, surf the web, and do my finances all at the same time.(?)

However, the Sony Reader Pocket Edition has caused me to rethink my position. For those who are as financially challenged as myself in these tough times, it retails for $199.99. A much easier number to absorb, it weights 7.76 ounces, includes a 5 inch display, and with 512mb of memory it can carry up to 350 books at a time. Thanks to this machine, my e-reader prejudices are starting to recede.

19th Century Mechanical Computer is Finaly Built

ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) was the first general purpose electronic computer of the 20th Century.1 Before ENIAC and the electronic computer, there was the mechanical computer.  An obscure concept that is difficult to embrace in the 21st Century, but before the laptop powered by the lithium-ion battery, before the days of Edison Electric Light Company, or electricity itself, there existed mechanical computers.

Source: Computer History Museum

Source: Computer History Museum

The work of Charles Babbage (1791-1871), the father of computing, has been resurrected and is temporarily on display at the Computer History Museum.  A pioneer in computing theory, Charles Babbage designed the first machine able to automatically compute numbers.  While Babbage innovated and conceived of the concept of the automatic computing machine, his prickly personality and financial difficulties resulted in the father of computing never actually building a computer.

Exacerbated by inaccuracy in printed tables, Babbage wanted to remove fallible humans from the process by developing a machine that could automatically compute numbers. In Victorian times such a machine would have made creating tables for navigation, mathematics, and many other subjects an error free process.

Over the course of several decades, Babbage developed three machines for just this purpose. The first was the Difference Engine No. 1.  This machine had 25,000 precision machined parts.  Only partially built, Babbage moved on to design the Analytical Engine. This machine was a programmable computing machine (through the use of punch cards) that separated “the memory (the ‘Store’) from the central processor (the ‘Mill’)”.2 Babbage’s final machine was Difference Engine No. 2.

Do to technological limitations and political difficulties, these machines were never built during Babbage’s life.  A century-and–a-half after Babbage conceived of his machine, a team of experts built it. After seventeen years of work,  Difference Engine No. 2 exists.  There are two copies currently in existence. One is at the Science Museum in London and the other is currently on display at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley.3

  1. Scott. McCartney, Eniac, the Triumphs and Tragedies of the World’s First Computer (New York: Walker, 1999).
  2. “The Babbage Engine.” Computer History Museum. Available at: http://www.computerhistory.org/babbage/ (Accessed December 11, 2009).
  3. Sydell, L., “A 19th-Century Mathematician Finally Proves Himself.” National Public Radio. Available at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121206408&ft=1&f=1019 (Accessed December 11, 2009).