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.
Monthly Archives: June 2006
One of my favourite podcasts…
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).
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.
[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.
- 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!
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… 😉
UPDATE: Purchased an iRiver H120 jukebox/recorder.
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.
Speaking of browsers, there's also Camino, a Mac OS X-specific Mozilla-based browser. Had used it for a while, a while ago, before switching to Firefox. Trying it again right now. It does have access to Mac OS X Services, which is quite an important feature for me, but it doesn't seem to support the global Mac OS X spell-checker, which is almost a deal-breaker for me. In fact, these two features are the ones that Firefox itself really should have.
Camino also seems quite slow in WordPress. Kept getting “unresponsive script” warnings and even typing in this box seems quite slow. No idea why but it makes the experience much less pleasurable.
So, at this point my preferences are: Flock, Firefox, Safari, Camino, and Opera. Other browsers (iCab, IE, Netscape, lynx, OmniWeb…) could be useful at times, but they add less to my browsing pleasure than those five first browsers.
Actually, one of my main reasons to switch to Mozilla browsers has been because of my switch to cross-platform environments, especially since getting my eMachines since the very end of 2005. Been using my old iBook (now my wife's) very intensively since early May and have been mostly using Firefox (and now Flock) on the iBook too. Transfering my profile from one machine to next was relatively painless and the consistency of experience from having the same history really did help. Now with the Google Browser Sync extension, the transition back to Firefox/Flock on my eMachines will be even easier. (Been using the extension on both my iBook and the desktop Dell running XP, at work. Works flawlessly and is exactly the type of feature which makes so much sense that you wonder why it didn't exist before).
The most interesting thing about Firefox is the set of extensions made for it. Been using Gomita's Scrapbook Extension extensively (thanks to a del.icio.us link from fellow linguistic anthropologist and blogger Kerim Friedman). It really helps to archive many different things and the archives can easily be transfered from one computer to another. Scrapbook has other powerful features including extensive highlighting functionalities. The Session Manager extension is also a must for Mozilla browsers, although its functionalities clash with the browser sync, to a certain extent (at least, the part about restoring pages).
If only Firefox and Flock had spell as you type!
Just started trying out Opera 9 (it was announced on the Buzz Out Loud podcast yesterday). It does have several nifty features (as Tom on BOL said) but it does have its quirks.
For instance, thee WYSIWYG mode here on WordPress doesn’t seem to work. Although items in Mac OS X’s Services menu aren’t greyed out, they don’t seem to work.
Most of the nifty features are approximate equivalent to Firefox extensions. For instance, the “Notes” feature is rather nifty, especially when you want to keep text, but it’s not nearly as useful as Gomita’s Scrapbook extension for Firefox and Flock. The session manager seems to work in a similar way to the “Session Manager” Firefox Extension, especially when combined with the trashcan feature, but it seems a bit less powerful.
Opera 9 seems a bit slow overall, especially with more dynamic (e.g. AJAX) features on some pages (including categories here on WordPress).
Look and feel is ok and Opera might be more customizable than other browsers. Still, that’s not a very important thing for me.
Opera does have a “community” which reproduces or emulates several things that have been popular elsewhere on the Web (for instance, Digg-like community rating). In that sense, it’s an integrated version of several community features. But the browser doesn’t really make the community aspects very prominent.
Opera’s website has a rather elaborate presentation/animation based on some characters representing user types. That presentation looks pretty much like ads in early issues of the Launch magazine (on CD-ROM). It seems like an obvious attempt at generating hype but it doesn’t really carry through as interacting with the animation only leads to very simple information (the accountant/blogger likes widgets…).
It might still work. Opera 9 has a lot of things that people might like and it’s quite possible that some will jump right in. But, at this point, our browsing habits are probably entrenched enough that it’s hard to switch to a new browser and not feel like something is missing in the new one. Safari, Firefox, Flock, Opera, IE, lynx, iCab, Netscape… Each of them has interesting features and you often wish one combines them all. It’s all about workflow. Once you start getting efficient in one browser, there’s a lot of inertia preventing you from switching. In my case, switching from Safari to Firefox has been something of a bumpy ride. Still wish Firefox had some of the features of Safari (especially those provided by OSX’s Services like “check spelling as you type” and shortcut to Nisus Thesaurus). Switching from Firefox to Flock has been quite easy, especially now that some important extensions (like Scrapbook) are readily available in Flock versions (concurrent with the beta release). Still wish Flock had some more Safari-ness, but Flock does have some neat features for bloggers. In fact, at this point, for me, the browser and the blogging tool should be as integrated as possible. My choice still goes for ecto but a blogging browser could eventually be a better choice.
Browser choice is quite similar to the whole OSX vs. XP thing. Yes, it’s possible to switch from one to the other. But like translating poetry with automated tool, it’s kind of missing the point.
Moira Smiley, a former member of the a cappella group Vida is releasing a new CD of Irish, Appalachian, and original vocal work.
Her other recordings are also available, including her work with Vida (which disbanded several years ago, like many Bloomington bands do).
Drs Shajan and Selvakumar now meet locals on a regular basis as they continue their work, with some older people in particular remembering picking up glass beads and pottery after heavy rains.
It does seem to be standard practise these days but it’s still an interesting part of contemporary archaeological methods, especially as it has to do with historical archaeology, and not “prehistoric” archaeology as is more common in the anthropological tradition.
The story also serves as a reminder about the ancient network between Greece (thanks to my namesake, apparently), Rome, and India. William Jones, anyone?
A commercial company has to build intellectual property, while the GPL, by its very nature, does not allow intellectual property to be built, making the two approaches fundamentally incompatible, Muglia said.
Interesting take on “intellectual property.’ Would benefit from a bit more of an explanation. Is “IP” the very foundation of any commercial company?
What's more awkward, though, is that Microsoft veep Bob Muglia talks about the GPL in the context of open-source. As he surely knows, this is exactly where the terms “open-source” and “free software” are not interchangeable. While the two are quite similar, “free software” refers to a movement in favour of free (as in speech) or “libre” development in direct opposition to the notion of “intellectual property.” “Open-source,” on the other hand, refers to a development process through which source code for software is shared by multiple developers in an open fashion, whether or not that code is meant to be protected as “intellectual property.” In fact, many open-source projects are not only interoperable with commercial software but do in fact have commercial licenses through which they protect their IP. Whichever model we prefer, free or open, they're models of very different things. The two models are quite compatible in practice. They are both used in resistance to Microsoft's hegemony. But confounding them serves little purpose in the discussion. It might not be a strategy on Muglia's part to confuse the two issues. Interestingly enough, the “free software” vs. “open source” issue wasn't even the main thrust of the Slashdot thread on the subject, at least in the beginning.
Under a blanket (or ‘compulsory’ license) for consumer downloads, record labels fear they would lose control of their hard-fought grip on physical distribution channels, and lose control over pricing. In fact, they’d simply have to work harder to gain a bigger share of the pie, and innovate to find new outlets for their copyrighted material.
A bit old by now but this one speaks for itself. Michael Geist always has interesting things to say about these.
As said a few hours ago, been trying some blogging tools and ecto looks like it might be a winner. Among other things, ecto’s interface is efficient, it seamlessly supports multiple blogs (useful in my case because of my role in Critcal World‘s own WordPress-based weblog), integrates a variety of scripts (from Perl to Bash and Ruby to AppleScript!), and allows for both categories and tags. Unfortunately, its categories/tags support doesn’t seem to work like, say, del.icio.us (which is incredibly powerful). But that might not be much of a deal-breaker. After all, there probably are scripts which creates tags from comma-separated terms.
This entry is sent through the MetaWeblog API (instead of the MovableType, which is the default for WordPress.com blogs in ecto). My hope is that through this API, blog entries show directly on the blog front page. With the MovableType interface, my previous entry was published but didn’t appear on my blog’s front page.
[This entry is about a health condition which causes some distasteful and potentially disturbing effects. Apologies in advance for the details!]
Been suffering from GERD (“gastroesophageal reflux disease” or “acid reflux”) for about ten years at this point. Heartburns are a fairly big part of it but there are other symptoms, especially after a lot of reflux episodes. GERD is very common. But it's not frequently discussed. Perhaps because its symptoms are so repelling and are unlikely to be mentioned in polite company.
GERD is easily treated, including by surgery. Haven't had surgery myself. At one point, my condition was bad enough that we feared it might lead to cancer. Things have gotten a lot better since then.
Overall, my condition has been quite stable for a long while (thanks to some well-known medication). There are days however, like today, during which things aren't as good. Not because of pain. It can be quite painful at times (like when you get a horizontal bar of pain in your back). But it's also causing a generally displeasing overall state. Had a rather acute episode today. Woke up with almost a mouthful of acidic bile. And there wasn't anything special from the past day which might have led me to expect this episode (like eating before going to bed or sleeping in too horizontal a position). But it hurt and the effects are still with me, ten hours after waking up.
One thing about GERD, for me, is that it stresses me out. And vice-versa: stress is likely to cause a reflux episode in me. It's quite annoying but it's also potentially damaging. A seemingly simple situation may become a big problem under GERD symptoms and too high a level of stress and acid reflux is likely to change my mood. It's not at all like hypochondria, AFAIK, but it's a psychosomatic connection between mental state and physical condition. It's no less real than any other physical condition or mental state, but there's a clear connection between the two.
The upshot is that stress has become a known state to me. In my experience, and it really does seem to make sense, it has little to do with having a lot to do or even with being in a hurry. But it does have to do with situations of “double-bind” in which you feel trapped. Those types of “darned if you do, darned if you don't” situations we all know on occasion. For me, it's difficult to think straight during GERD episodes. And stress caused by double-bind situations will likely generate an acid reflux episode in me. Kind of a vicious circle. It's easier if the source is physical (if the GERD starts the pattern) as it's then possible for me to convince myself that things are fine and it's best to just wait for the GERD symptoms to pass. But it's still very inconvenient.
Another aspect of GERD, which can be especially “gross,” is that it's often associated with IBS or “irritable bowel syndrome.” Not that they're intimately linked but with GERD, IBS symptoms are frequent. Haven't had IBS diagnosed in my case but it does sound as if it were the same symptoms. In such situations where IBS is apparently caused by my GERD, it's an overall uneasy feeling which is tolerable but quite annoying. Ah, well…
Life is still good.