Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
May 7, 2002

Airport Security Lessons Goodness knows, I am the last person to be overzealous when it comes to security matters. But without becoming paranoid you can - and should - exercise some basic precautions. Like: make sure you stay near your laptop. Like: attend to alarms. Like: keep your private phone calls private. Like: don't discard company records in the airport trash bin. While we're at it: look both ways when you cross the street (even if it's a one way street), hold the handrail when you go down the stairs, and always locate the nearest exit. By M. E. Kabay, Ubiquity, May 7, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Public Spaces, Private Lives: Beyond the Culture of Cynicism Unfortunately, you have to register (free) and log in to read this review of Henry Giroux's "Public Spaces, Private Lives," but the review is worth the read, drawing clear dark lines between education and corporate culture. From the book: "We live at a time when the forces and advocates of neoliberalism not only undermine all attempts to revive the culture of politics as an ethical response to the demise of democratic public life, but also aggressively wage a war against the very possibility of creating non-commodified public spheres and forums that provide the conditions for critical education, link learning to social change, political agency to the defense of public goods..." By Kenneth Saltman, TC Record, May 7, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Linux Enables Safe Computer Donations to Schools SchoolForge spokesperson Leon Brooks issued a press release today to refute statements on Microsoft's website which have been widely interpreted as a roadblock to the acceptance of donated computers by schools and other needy organisations. Brooks argues that computers may be donated to schools with Linux software installed and that they do not need to include Windows software. Brooks also argued that "Linux removed many of the burdens, costs and legal risks of licence management and software asset auditing faced by most businesses, organisations and individuals." By SchoolForge, NewsTrolls, May 7, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Linking a Diverse Country: Mailing Lists in India A richly detailed article with dozens of stories, examples and links describing the proliferation of mailing lists in India. The author does much more than to merely survey the field, offering an analysis of why an email culture has flourished despite the relatively wide bandwidth available in India as compared to other south Asian nations. One reason is that many agencies do not have effective communication strategies. Another is the high cost of print publications. The article also looks at the effect of mailing lists on Indian society: and while internet technology has not solved the problem of poverty in that nations (and, indeed, even made it worse in same instances), mailing list exchanges provide affordable information and resources for teachers, social workers and development officers. By Frederick Noronha, Bytes for All, May, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Many Students' Favorite Professors Shun Distance Education Reading like a set of interviews of radio stars reacting to the onset of television, the theme of this article is that students' favorite professors "refuse to give up the classroom." The essential message is that "What makes such professors special... is their ability to connect emotionally with students. Because they are used to making that connection face-to-face rather than via distance education, they'd almost be the last people to be interested in it." Though the story accepts the idea of professors using new technology, it cites them as dismissing online learning as "a fad." You get the idea that these professors are in a world of their own. "I don't think we'll ever reach a point where 18- to 21-year-olds aren't going into classrooms," the article quotes one professor as saying. Well here's a surprise for him: the vast majority of 18- to 21-year-olds world-wide never see the inside of a classroom. The professorial antics described in this piece are too expensive for anything like an accessible educational system to sustain. Some days I wonder why the Chronicle even bothers with an online edition. By Michael Arnone, Chronicle of Higher Education, may 10, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Top Ten New Copyright Crimes The net is abuzz following comments from Jamie Kellner, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting. In a recent interview, Kellner asserted that skipping over television advertising is a form of theft. "Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming." Kellner's position is, as stated, extreme, but not out of line with those who want to prevent deep linking, weblogging, or myriad other forms of information sharing. By Ernest Miller, LawMeme, May 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Macromedia Aims High With MX Architecture Positively glowing review of Macromedia's new MX system (which, if you're familiar with the Register, is more than a little unusual). But assuming it all works as advertised, MX could add more than a little twist to web browsing. From the review, "To round out the picture, Flash remoting lets Flash clients invoke Java.NET or Cold Fusion server objects using an optimized binary protocol, said Allaire. For compatibility with existing standards, the whole thing runs on top of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)." This ought to make people writing complex learning content management systems break out in a cold sweat. By ComputerWire, The Register, May 6, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Welcome to Our Law School, Young Man. We'll See You in Court. A law student sets up a website - - and the law school it describes - LSU Law - sues, objecting to the domain name and suggesting (probbly inaccurately) that people might confuse this (clearly labeled) site with the real thing. The courts have come down with a mixed bag of rulings in similar cases, so there is hope for both sides. But it strikes me as a pretty frivolous lawsuit, one that creates more bad publicity for LSU than a little website ever could (some people never learn). By Adam Liptak, New York Times, May 6, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes