Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
January 22, 2003

Microsoft Loses Showdown in Houston "The people who run this city (Houston, Texas) recently heard a familiar pitch from Microsoft: Sign up for a multiyear, $12 million software licensing plan or face an audit exposing the city's use of software it hadn't paid for." City officials ignored Microsoft's warning, opting instead to convert city operations to software produced by a company called SimDesk, and is giving it free to tens of thousands of residents and businesses. By Byron Acohido, USA Today, January 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

... and Moncton And you know, it seems to me, I don't have to take this any more.

Costs aside (and there have been many costs over the years), I am frankly simply tired of fighting with Microsoft products. I am tired of Outlook especially - this following the unreliable and slow access to email, its many usability issues, its vulnerability to pests. But also the other stuff: Word, which simply wouldn't stop scrolling today. Internet Exporer, which chokes on non-Microsoft websites. PowerPoint, which resolutely won't let me remove the outdent that results when you remove the bullet-list format. I'm tired of Windows XP, which wouldn't let me run my legally acquired software on a new machine (I have always paid full price for my Microsoft software; I have never pirated so much as a mouse driver - hard to believe, but when you work in public service you have to follow the rules). I don't want media players that create 'protected areas' in my computer. I don't want Passport. I don't want Hotmail crashing my network via Microsoft Messenger. No more!

So: starting today, I vow to remove Microsoft from my life. I want it off my desktop in my office, I want it off my laptops (personal and professional), I want it off the three computers in my home network, I want it off my iPaq. I want it out of my life. I will happily take the several thousands of dollars I have personally spent on Microsoft software and junk it (since, after all, it's illegal to donate it to charity). No longer will I accept the argument that says, "everyone else uses it." I won't be using it. Incompatibility will become their problem (as it always should have been, when you use software that doesn't play well with others).

For those of you with an inclination to do the same, I will keep OLDaily readers posted with regular updates on my conversion. I'll talk about what I had to do in the office, on my wireless network, on my laptops. I'll keep track of the work I did and the total cost. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, January 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open and Distance Education and Learning through University Continuing Education One of the more daunting acronyms, ODELUCE is funded by the Socrates Programme of the European Community as part of a program to promote European cooperation in the field of Open and Distance Learning. Launched in 2001, it is scheduled to last three years. The site recently launched a discussion area, known as the Common Room, and hosts a news service. There's not a lot of activity yet, but the site has about 70 members. By Duncan Timms, , ODELUCE, Spring, 2001 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Internet Content in Peril in Non-Competitive World While broadband has long been a fact in Canada (I haven't had dial-up at home since 1998) consumers in the United States are still struggling to get bandwidth. This effort is reaching a critical turning point. As the author writes, "The cable and phone companies are insisting that they need vertical control or they won't provide broadband (fast) data connections to U.S. households... What's the problem if the cable and phone companies insist on being both the data- access providers and the Internet service providers? Simple: They will abuse this power." Providers - and especially small providers - of online learning content should see the implications. The vast potential online learning market could be concentrated in a few hands if preferred access is granted to only a few providers. The potential for the widespread creation and sharing of learning content would be greatly diminished. By Dan Gillmor, San Jose Mercury News, January 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Napsterize Your Knowledge: Give To Receive The primary lesson: "The more that a company shares its knowledge, the more valuable it becomes." It's astonishing how many people still don't believe this. But when I look back at the success my website and OLDaily have brought me - despite my lack of any obvious qualifications in the field - it is self evidently true. When you share your knowledge, you share your ability, and this is what makes you or your company more valuable. People prefer to hire or contract for services based on proven ability nearly every time. Moreoever, the more you share, the more people share in return (many of the items in OLDaily are the result of submissions from readers), which increases your personal or corporate knowledge base. Anyhow, this article discusses some of the benefits of sharing knowledge and then offers some advice on how to do it. (This and the next two items via elearningpost.) By Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, MarketingProfs, January 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Visible Narratives: Understanding Visual Organization Anyone designing e-learning should be familiar with the elements of visual design. This article provides an unfortunately terse outline of some of the major concepts. But I like the approach: using design to tell a story visually. This happens in the viewer's mind before even the first word is read, so a lot of information may be communicated visually. I think this is something that is under-used in web design, something that could create much more engaging web pages and online content. By Luke Wroblewski, Boxes and Arrows, January 20, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Consumer Electronics & Learning/Training You won't like this link if you don't have broadband, but if you do have broadband then this video by Elliott Masie covering the Consumer Electronic Show is good viewing. The picture quality is very good, and while there are some sound level issues the audio is clear enough to be engaging. Watch the show for at least 6 minutes if you want to see the 'cone of silence' demonstrated. According to the site, a text transcript will be posted "tomorrow" for 508 adoption (the world needs a good speech transcription from video program: typing a transcript of something like this is an absurd amount of overhead to have to undertake). The entire video is about 14 minutes (information viewers really should be given ahead of time).

What I wonder is: is this something OLDaily readers want? If I produced (more) interesting and engaging videos about online learning (or whatever strikes my fancy), would you view this be viewed as something worth doing? How about, say, a once-a-week video essay? Let me know. Please send a comment using the [Reflect] link below. By Elliott Masie, The Masie Center, january 14, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Removing the Barriers to Research: An Introduction to Open Access for Librarians As the title suggests, this article is an introduction to open access repositories. After introducing the pricing crisis in scholarly publications, Suber outlines what he calls the permission crisis: the maze of rules, regulations and licensing conditions that must be satisfied under current copyright regimes. Open access, argues Suber, cuts through the permission crisis. I think he has a point: obtaining permission to use a resource typically costs a lot more than the resource itself. By Peter Suber, College & Research Libraries News, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Googlert This service uses Google to keep track of what the web is saying about you (or your product, or your pet cat). It took me about five minutes to sign up and then the daily emails started coming. Now nobody can refer to my work without me knowing about it. Is this good? The jury is still out. By Various Authors, Googlert, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Where Next for RSS? Not exactly in-depth, this article nonetheless highlights some major (and not so major) issues facing the content syndication community: machine-specific aggregators, the choice of reading software, the traffic problem, the media-type problem and the business model problem. By Tim Bray, Textuality, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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