Monthly Archives: June 2006

IE7b3

Trying Internet Explorer 7 beta 3 on Windows XP SP2. Not as bad as one might expect. Quite a few Firefoxisms (from the tabs and RSS support to the “Find More Add-ons” mechanism). Some features are rather well-implemented (for instance the pop-up blocker in the add-on bar) and it seems like its performance is decent on a very fast connection. Despite my opinions of Microsoft, this version of IE seems quite decent. Actually, it seems to be the one browser which works appropriately with the Categories box in WordPress. Neat.

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Tiki!

Tiki Bar TV – Watch Tiki Bar – Forbidden Cocktails In A Swank Pad

One of my favourite podcasts…


Artificial Intelligence and Language Acquisition

Teaching Robot Dogs Linguistic Tricks

While written from the perspective of engineering, this short article mentions several important features of human language, including the “conventional” (or “arbitrary”) nature of linguistic signs. On the face of it, the outcome seems rather limited in that these robots create lexical items instead of linguistic structures, but the very idea that robots can learn from one another is a fascinating one (and a well-known concept for artificial intelligence).

Also, it’s nice to see that the EPFL is involved. With its new supercomputing power (one of the fastest academic computers in the world), l’EPF has other reasons to be appreciated.


Bloguer au Québec

Vu d’ici – Seen from here: So you wanna be a rockstar?: L’état de la blogosphère Québécoise:
Des notions intéressantes sur le développement de plusieurs blogues au Québec. D’ailleurs, mon entrée de blogue sur le dynamisme et la vitalité de la culture québécoise était toujours dans ma liste de brouillons mais le billet de Marie-Chantal me pusse à le publier. Elle est un peu la suite de mon QueCon Blues d’il y a un mois mais avec plus de commentaires sur la sphère médiatique québécoise (et la convergence) de mon point de vue semi-extérieur.
C’est vrai que le Québec n’est pas entré à pieds joints dans la blogosphère ou dans d’autres modes de distributions de contenus en-ligne. Mais certains blogueurs sont suffisamment visibles que l’effet du phénomène du blogue se fait sentir au Québec presque autant qu’ailleurs. Une partie de la situation s’explique par le fait d’être une société relativement petite, de la même taille que la Suisse ou la Suède, disons. D’un autre côté, nos blogues ont souvent une saveur particulière, comme semblent le souligner certaines études (voulais justement bloguer là-dessus, un de ces jours).
Pour ce qui est de la langue, c’est une grande question, évidemment. Pour ma part, elle se pose un peu moins dans le contexte de mes séjours aux États-Unis (à Northampton, MA en ce moment) et de mon travail académique en anglais. Bloguer en anglais, c’est une façon pour moi de pratiquer certaines techniques d’écriture en anglais. Et comme on le sait tous, on peut pas vraiment écrire en anglais comme on écrit en français.
Malgré tout, ça demeure mon intention de bloguer plus souvent en français. Quoique, cette intention a changé un peu. Puisque les Anglophones en général connaissent moins ce qui se passe chez les Francophones, ça me tente souvent d’écrire en anglais sur des choses qui touchent les francophones. Il y a déjà un blogue montréalais qui fait un peu ça, mais ma position est un peu plus extérieure (après avoir vécu hors du Québec un certain temps: Suisse, Mali, Indiana, Nouveau-Brunswick, Massachusetts). La nostalgie me pogne assez souvent, surtout au début de l’été! (Saint-Jean, terrasses, Festival de Jazz, gens heureux dans les rues, etc.). Parler du Québec à des gens qui ne le connaisse pas, ça me fait plaisir. Parler du Québec à des Québécois, ça vire vite à une discussion sur les faits d’actualité.
La question de la présence des femmes sur la blogosphère est intéressante. On voit souvent le Québec comme un des rares coins de l’Amérique du Nord où les femmes et les hommes sont assez souvent (vraiment pas toujours, mais assez souvent) traités de façon pas mal similaire. Plus qu’aux États-Unis, en tous cas! Mais le Québec est pas trop le royaume de la geekette. La proportion femmes/hommes est certainement plus élevées qu’elle était il y a quelques années (avant la fameuse catastrophe) mais probablement encore assez basse. Pas que c’est si différent ailleurs mais dans une société qui accorde une place relativement importante à des femmes de tête, on dirait que l’aspect technologique est un peu mis de côté.
Aussi, c’est intéressant de parler de Julie Snyder puisque c’était un des points de départ de mon entrée sur la culture québécoise. Selon l’article qui m’a poussé à envoyé mon billet, Julie Snyder a probablement plus d’influence sur la culture québécois qu’on a tendance à le remarquer. Si elle se met à bloguer (ou à podcaster), ça peut être l’élément déclencheur de toutes sortes de choses, du plus cool au plus poche.


The Vitality of Quebec Culture

[Kept this one in my draft list for about a month. But thinking of Saint-Jean-Baptiste and other issues pushes me to post it as is. To be continued…]
This is something of a follow-up on my CriticalWorld post on Quebec’s music industry.
Was reading a gushing piece on Pierre-Karl Péladeau and Julie Snyder's media convergence success story to link from my blog entry on Quebec music scenes and the CRTC. That piece was written by Globe and Mail journalist Konrad Yakabuski whose perspective on Quebec's “cultural industries,” though very business-oriented, seems rather insightful. A few months after that Péladeau/Snyder piece, Yakabuski wrote an article about the success story revolving around Quebec movie Seducing Doctor Lewis (original title: La Grande séduction). That movie is actually one of my favourite examples of what Quebec culture “is all about” these days. Not only did I really enjoy that movie, but the fact that it has won several awards implies something more than local appeal. To me, it’s a good example of something clearly Québécois, yet rather easily exportable.

Obviously, my perspective isn’t so much about the economy of it. Like music, “culture” is not a commodity.  But business-minded journalists and myself, a French-speaking Québécois and ethnographer, may share some ideas about the situation.
Quick notes:

  • Quebec is a relatively small society (by population) but is quite active in many domains, especially the part of arts and entertainment that is known as “culture”
  • Despite political incentives to say otherwise, we’re pretty secure about our culture.
  • Quebec culture is rather inward-looking and even clique-like. But the effects of this are not all bad.
  • While there might only be twenty-six “media personalities” in Quebec (a made-up number, for effect), they’re basically everywhere and constitute a very special group. The very fact that Quebec has something of a “star system” is itself fascinating. It’s not so much the case in Switzerland (which has about the same population as Quebec).
  • Montreal has a long-lasting rivalry with Quebec City but it’s not on the minds of Montrealers on a daily basis (the way it might be for some people in the capital). And Toronto’s rivalry with Montreal is not so much of a two-way street.
  • Quebec culture in general remains quite distinct from other North American cultures but it’s also much less dependent on France than it once was.
  • Cultural diversity in Quebec is much more significant than “the numbers” might imply. It signifies more in part because cultural identity has been the subject of much dialogue, debate, and discussion for at least the past 36 years.
  • This weekend is both Saint-Jean weekend and Grand Prix weekend. Woohoo!

Google Feature Overload

You know that feeling when you just realize that something really neat has been hidden in plain sight for a while and that most people had realized it before you did? It's my feeling with the current state of Google's products and features. Wasn't completely out of the loop: did learn about many features through tech podcasts and blog entries (Spreadsheets, Calendar, etc.). But some things just passed me by, like Co-Op and the Notebook browser extension (which does work on Mac OS X!).

One reason for my not noticing those items might have to do with the disparate classification of their products, tools, features. Some neat things are found in the labs, others in Web Search Features, yet others appear only as content for the personalized homepage or as gadgets/plugins for Google Desktop. What's tagged as "new" is not always so new while some seemingly new things aren't tagged as "new." And, as is well-known, Google tends to call "beta" products which appear quite stable and to not label some cutting-edge features as beta.

All in all, it's quite overwhelming.

There's certainly the perfect blog, podcast, mailing-list to learn all the important news about Google's new stuff. But that implies knowing how active Google really has been, recently. Just amazing, really. And following yet another tech company's product shouldn't be a task in and of itself for the average user.

It must all be because of their policy to have developers work on their own projects a certain proportion of the time. An excellent approach to development, certainly, and the result isn't even a lack of direction. But the task of understanding the Google universe is daunting because the possibilities are endless. Some products are still rather pedestrian but some may imply deep changes in workflow or approach to the online world.

The Google Hacks book should be updated every week… 😉


Lecturecasts (Podcast Lectures, Lecture Podcasts)

UPDATE: Purchased an iRiver H120 jukebox/recorder.

Was commenting on Tama Leaver‘s post about watching his own lecture videos on a fifth-generation iPod. There’s a lot of room for experimentation with these methods and technologies.

Apple is well-positioned in this sphere, actually. Its iLife and iWork suites can integrate content in different formats, some of which might actually work on the iPod (Keynote to Quicktime H.264, GarageBand to AAC enhanced podcast). Furthermore, Apple has this iTunes U project for hosted and protected podcast content. Not to mention the obvious point about Apple’s iPod success. Don’t have the necessary material to try it out but it should be relatively simple to create full-featured lecture podcasts using these tools. In fact, there’s already a product out meant to simply this integration (can’t try it out myself, unfortunately).
With at least three microphones for iPod 5G coming out Real Soon Now (XtremeMac’s MicroMemo, Belkin’s TuneTalk, and Griffin’s iTalkPro), life can become quite fun indeed for those of us who’d like to “lecturecast.” It’s an even better time to turn to academic podcasting with so many podcasting projects springing up at such diverse institutions as IUSB, Duke, UdeM, Brandeis, and IUB. The open-source course management system Moodle now supports podcasts. So does Sakai, the free/open knowledge management project. Of course, educational podcasting isn’t new. But it’s gaining steam.