Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
March 27, 2003

Harvard släpper kursdatorprogram fritt The rest of the item is in Swedish, but the important bit is in English: news of a plan coming out of Harvard to distribute open source courseware software. The announcement, posted to the cyber-prof list by Jonathan Zittrain, is reprinted here in full. By Mikael Pawlo, gnuheter, March 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

I Shot the Woolly Mammoth Some Microsoft staff I met this week have tried to tell me that the software giant has changed its ways. But this item - describing how the company was forced by a South African court because its claims could not be justified - proves otherwise. "In their ruling the ASA highlighted the fact that documentation submitted by Microsoft was not 'evaluated by a person/entity, which is independent, credible, and an expert in the particular field to which the claims relate'." This is not the first time less than credible studies have been cited by Microsoft, and I have no doubt it won't be the last. If you're secure, great. If you're not secure, don't run advertisements purporting to prove that you are. By Richard Clarke, The Register, March 26, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A 21st-Century Man: Why is Dante Hot All of a Sudden? Why has Dante's Inferno suddenly gained in popularity? Perhaps it's because it is lietrature that appeals to a culture that is beginning to think in images rather than words. "Dante's poetry is made up of such visions. They have a hallucinatory power, and their emotional force is clear even to a reader bored by the Aristotelian logic that makes Dante see usury as a sin of violence rather than a sin of avarice." By Adam Kirsch, Slate, March 26, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

When a Free Download Isn't Free There's a lesson in this. When Glenn Fleishman's new book, a hefty 23 megabyte PDF file, was offered for free on his website the number of downloads left his web server staggering under the load and Fleishman facing a $15,000 bandwidth charge from his service provider. So what's the lesson? No, it's not that he should have charged money for the book; commercial sites have also faced the scourge of hefty bandwidth charges and have been unable to recoup their losses. Rather, it's that the distribution of popular resources on the internet must be decentralized. Instead of requiring that people download from his site, he should have encouraged people to copy the file and make it available on their own sites. Oh, and you should really monitor your bandwidth usage. Boy, that's a tough way to learn a lesson. By Leander Kahney, Wired News, March 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New Sun Licensing Program Offers Hope for Cash-strapped Schools Imagine what life would be life if your school's software budget were $495 per year. That's the pitch Sun is making as it offers a range of office and internet products, along with an operating system, at this price. The fee is not for the software, which is free, but for updates and support. By Corey Murray, eSchool News, March 26, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Macromedia Unveils Future Direction for Internet Applications To be released in the summer, Macromedia Central will allow Flash to be run on the desktop as well as on websites using a web browser. I don't want to be too quick to proclaim that this is the end of the browser - it's hard to see how such a general purpose tool could fall by the wayside. But it does mean that your internet access will become multidimensional, and that we're about to enter an era where we access different internet services the way we start different software applications today. Including, maybe, learning. Initial reports suggest a relatively slow uptake, but I think it'll catch on fairly quickly, especially if it launches more quickly than, say, Internet Explorer. By Press Release, Marcomedia, March 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Beyond War News, AOL's Broadband Plan May Face a Struggle AOL has been desperate to attract new revenue, so much so that it has even been selling access to video available for free from indy news sifes (Indy San Fancisco, to be precise). It is moving its online magazines into subscription-only services and has unveiled a new voicemail online service. But paid content will not salvage AOL, not while other providers give better access to the internet as a while. If anything, paid content will accelerate its decline. By Saul Hansell, New York Times, March 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

More One-line Perl Scripts Just for fun. By Teodor Zlatanov, IBM developerWorks, March 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2003 Stephen Downes
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