practice


What do you do when your campus server goes down and you want to find what the heck happened? Twitter. DSU disappeared from my Web sometime around 1 p.m. and hasn’t come back yet. (I’m playing Web karma and assuming that the moment I blog about it, the problem will be fixed.)

Two in-the-know Twitter pals spread the word that someone cut an SDN cable near Lake Madison. The DSU website, webmail, and cloud apps are thus inaccessible. (If my advisor is listening, I’m not ignoring your e-mails, really!)

This outage does highlight the importance of a backup channel for communications. DSU has an emergency communications system for the folks who really need to know and coordinate outage response. Our curriculum management system, Desire2Learn, is hosted elsewhere, so profs can use that to alert students that they can’t get at the library and other other campus resources and perhaps share materials through the D2L Content pages in the interim. And we can always text each other.

As for cloud computing, we’ll have some inevitable hiccups like this using remote apps. But are they any more frequent or inconvenient than the work stoppages caused by spilling Pepsi on your laptop or having your home system go ape from that one nefarious virus that sneaks through in that e-mail from Grandma?

A cut cable is just the new blizzard, the new snow day, the new canceled flight that keeps us from getting our work done when we thought we would.

I knew open source software was just a Bolshevik plot:

Сегодня стало известно, что премьер-министр Владимир Путин подписал документ, в котором описан график перехода властных структур на свободное ПО (СПО).

…Заместитель главы Минкомсвязи Илья Массух рассказал CNews, что документ предусматривает полный переход федеральных властей и бюджетников на свободное ПО. План занимает 17 страниц, скачать его можно здесь (идея сохранить документ об СПО в формате .doc принадлежит аппарату правительства РФ) [Владислав Мещеряков, «Путин распорядился перевести власти на Linux», Open.CNews.ru, 2010.12.27].

Translation:

Today it became known that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed an order laying out a timetable for government agencies to switch to open source software (OSS).

…MinComNet [love those Soviet-style abbreviations] Deputy Chief Ilya Massikh told CNews that the document provides for a full transfer to open source software by federal agencies and budget offices. The 17-page plan can be viewed here (it’s the Russian government’s idea to save a document about OSS in .doc format) [Vladislav Meshcheryakov, “Putin Orders Government Switch to Linux,” Open.CNews.ru, 2010.12.27].

Alt Linux CEO Aleksei Smirnov tells CNews that the switch will save the Russian government money on licensing fees and software import costs while sparking innovation and economic development.

danah boyd takes her vacations as seriously as she takes lowercase letters. No blogging, no Twitter, and no e-mail. And she means no e-mail:

But the bigger issue is that I will return to a zero-inbox. Nothing sent to me during my email sabbatical will survive. All senders will receive a lovely bounce message saying that their message will never get through. In this way, no one can put things in my to-do queue while I’m trying to take a break. I need to recharge and there’s no way to recharge when the pile-up grows ever unmanageable [danah boyd, “NOTICE: Email sabbatical will start December 9,” apophenia, 2010.11.12].

Yes, she used all caps on notice. boyd really means it. And I’m with her. When you’re out of the office, you’re out of the office. You should retain the freedom to tell people that at certain times, you and your services and your attention simply aren’t available. Bounce those e-mails, shut off the voice messages, and enjoy your vacation, or just dinner and Scrabble with your family.

Intrepid English instructor Samantha Walder is teaching her journalism students at Deuel High School in Clear Lake the joys of blogging. Even more daringly, she’s inviting me to come to talk to them about blogging. On November 9, I’ll talk a roomful of eager young journalists about what makes this South Dakota blogger tick.

As I prepare for the talk, I’ll link a few articles here that Mrs. Walder and her journalism students (and the rest of you!) might find interesting. If nothing else, I’ll use this page as an example of using hyperlinks and citing sources!

  1. Robert Wright, “Privacy vs. Profits,” New York Times: Opinionator, 2010.10.19. Wright mentions that in 1996, he made $2000 per monthly column for Slate. Now such fees have dwindled, due to the deluge of online content and the inability to reach the same big audience chunks with advertising. It’s hard to be heard when everyone has a megaphone; it’s even harder to make money through advertising (and ads pay the bills, journalists!).
  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger, “Blogging as Invitation to Participate,” IgniteSD talk, Brookings, SD, 2010.04.21. If a whole class period of me is too much, try this five-minute dose.
  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger, “Pipeline Through the Heartland: TransCanada on the Farm,” Madville Times, 2009.09.04. Best original online journalism I’ve done. This post tells the story of farmers Mike and Sue Sibson and their experience with the TransCanada Keystone oil pipeline.
  4. The Dakota Day. Produced by Sam Hurst and based in Rapid City, The Dakota Day bridges the news magazine and blog genres. Hurst, a freelance journalist, writes articles that are much more like feature essays in Harper’s than the usual quick-shot blog post.
  5. Academic uses of blogs: I’ve used blog technology for teaching parliamentary procedure in speech class, distributing review materials for spreadsheet class, organizing notes for a future research project on the South Dakota blogosphere, and sharing articles for an upper-level business/IT class.

Emory econ prof Paul H. Rubin takes to the Wall Street Journal to challenge ten fallacies about Web privacy. The basic idea: Privacy trades off with information. Information greases the market. Privacy adds friction to the economy, preventing producers and consumers from getting what they want as cheaply and efficiently as possible.

Rubin’s best example: Google. Think of all the “free” stuff Google does for you: Blogger, Calendar, YouTube… oh yeah, and that search thingy. Google wouldn’t be able to pay people to design and manage those wonderful services if it weren’t able to glean oodles of info about who and where we are and what we are searching for. That info helps Google make better products and charge more money for its for-pay services. If we all surfed the Web in complete anonymity, Google would need an entirely different business model.

Rubin also makes the argument that less privacy means less risk of fraud and identity theft. If all an online shop knows about you is your password and your credit card number, stealing your info and buying a fur coat and two tickets to Geneva is easy. If an online shop knows you don’t usually spend more than a couple hundred bucks online a month, never buy fur, and place almost all of your online orders from an IP located in Colman, South Dakota, those fur and flight purchases logged from a server in Boca Raton may well send up red flags that save your credit rating.

Give Rubin’s article a read, see if you find any fallacies in his fallacy-busting.

I posted yesterday about Mike Knutson’s discussion of the importance of broadband for rural economic development. I juxtaposes this with a new analysis showing the U.S. is 23rd globally in getting broadband to all of its citizens. My neighbor the Displaced Plainsman adds that we are 27th in average download speeds.

Our laggardly broadband deployment is not simply a product of our big wide open spaces and all the cable we have to lay. Only 12 U.S. cities make the list of the 100 fastest wired cities in the world. More than half of the cities on that list are in Japan.

Check out Akamai’s cool map to visualize how far behind the United States is on broadband.

Imagine a mobile computing device that puts word processing, Web browsing, and videoconferencing in your hands for less than what you’d spend on one family dinner at Perkins. Think that might have an impact on the market?

If the Indian government has its way, we’ll find out next year. Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sabil just unveiled a prototype touchscreen tablet that could market for 1500 rupees — $35 — or less. The minister says Indian tech students and professors designed it. They cut cost by using open-source software and, of course, Linux. The device runs on a memory card instead of a hard drive (remember the advantages of solid state). For a few rupees more, you can add a solar panle, boosting appeal for remote users (and for me when I’m camping!).

Steve Jobs might not need to start quivering yet: this same ministry made a splash last year with announcement of a $10 laptop that has yet to materialize. But Minister Sibal says this new gadget is ready for production: “We have reached a (developmental) stage that today, the motherboard, its chip, the processing, connectivity, all of them cumulatively cost around $35, including memory, display, everything.”

India envisions this tablet primarily as an educatinoal tool. If this thing works, we could equip an entire classroom of kids with Web-capable devices for the cost of one good laptop. Textbooks and graphing calculators cost more than this. I’d feel a lot more comfortable requiring students to haul around a $35 piece of equipment than an electronic device so expensive the school has to require parents to buy insurance.

Next Page »