Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 12, no. 11, November 2001

Edited by Roy Tennant

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 - http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2001/cc01.12.11.html

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Margaret Gross, Shirl Kennedy, Leo Robert Klein, Jim Ronningen, Roy Tennant

Ciccone, Karen, editor. "Virtual Reference: Today and Tomorrow Information Technology & Libraries 20(3) (September 2001) (http://www.lita.org/ital/ital2003.html). - In this theme issue of ITAL, the emerging field of network-based library reference service is covered. Most of the articles are descriptions of specific projects and their experiences forging new paths in providing real-time patron assistance remotely. In addition to case studies, one piece describes the different roles in digital reference transactions, and another identifies desired enhancements to software that supports virtual reference encounters. Given the very early stage in developing network-based reference services, this theme issue is a welcome addition to the growing literature on this topic. - RT

Ditlea, Steve "The Electronic Paper Chase" Scientific American 285(5) (November 2001) (http://www.sciam.com/2001/1101issue/1101ditlea.html). - We are witness to a persistent dichotomy — the vision and the reality — in the diffusion of information. There is the proliferation of computing devices, huge propagation of digitized data, and the promise of a paperless society. Ironically the reality has been a veritable explosion of published paper, primarily because it is accessible, convenient and easy to use. Based on future e-paper, this is about to change. In presenting an overview of two competing technologies, Steve Diltea recounts the story of two visionaries, who for three decades, albeit sporadically, have been developing technologies that aim to replace conventional ink-on-paper with paper-like electronic displays. The main advantage touted, is that these devices can be erased and reused. The two scientists are Nicholas K. Sheridon, working at XEROX Palo Alto Research Park (PARC), and Joseph Jacobson of the MIT Media Lab. Each of these organizations has spun off startup companies, Gyricon Media in Palo Alto CA, and E Ink Corporation in Cambridge, MA, respectively. Gyrocon's process employs microscopic two-tone plastic beads, rotated by an electrical charge to produce either white or black dots onto the viewing plane, thus producing lettering. Jacobson's process uses transparent polymer microcapsules containing a blue liquid dye along with white particles. Depending on the electrical charge images can be produced on a white background, or reversed onto a dark background. Both technologies have been test implemented in retail establishments. The article concludes with several related links: Information about Electronic Reusable Paper is available on the Xerox PARC Web site at www.parc.xerox.com/dhl/projects/gyricon/ - Information about SmartPaper is available on the Gyricon Media Web site at www.gyriconmedia.com/smartpaper/index.asp - What Is Electronic Ink? Available on the E Ink Web site at www.eink.com/technology/ - "The Last Book", Joseph Jacobson in IBM Systems Journal 36(3) (1997), available at www.research.ibm.com/journal/sj/363/jacobson.html - MG

Gordon, Rachel Singer. "A Course in Accidental Systems Librarianship" Computers in Libraries 21(10) (Nov/Dec 2001): 24-28. - The first generation is always such an ad hoc situation. Ford got his automotive smarts, at least initially, while still down on the farm. The Wright Brothers had their bicycle shop. Afterwards, the specialization and degrees come but until then, trailblazers are pretty much on their own. There is no course of study for becoming a Systems Librarian or if there is, the author of this piece, a self-taught systems librarian from a suburban library system didn't take it. What she then imagines is a series of courses which highlight those characteristics of the job which she has found to be important. Included are plentiful examples, many of them delightful, from her own experience. - LRK

Guthrie, Kevin M. "Archiving the Digital Age: There's a Will, But is There a Way?" EDUCAUSE Review (November/December 2001): 56-65 (http://www.cause.org/ir/library/pdf/erm0164.pdf). - In this article, the President of JSTOR, the initiative to archive e-journals, takes on questions of persistence. As he rightly identifies, "archiving is not, and never has been, an issue fundamentally about technology; rather, it is about organizations and resources." He first frames the issue, then uses JSTOR's experience to illustrate some of the economic issues of long-term archiving. He concludes by pointing out that "local motivations that have been the foundation of the current paper archive do not naturally generate the scale of resources that will be required to establish the more centralized model necessary for the preservation of electronic documents." Nonetheless, he points out that since the Internet makes centralized repositories easily available to a wide range of institutions, such costs can be spread out to such a degree that they can be less expensive and more effective than the costs of preserving print material. - RT

Heins, Marjorie and Christina Cho. Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report National Coalition Against Censorship (Fall 2001) (http://www.ncac.org/issues/internetfilters.html) - In the spring and summer of this year, the Free Expression Policy Project of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) rounded up all the studies and tests it could find that described and evaluated 19 products or services commonly used to filter out "objectionable" Web content. This report, intended as a resource for both policymakers and the general public, summarizes and expands on what the investigators found — mainly, that nearly every test "revealed massive overblocking by filtering software." The main problem, of course, is that the size and the ever-changing nature of the Web mandate heavy reliance on "mindless mechanical blocking" that checks for certain words and phrases while ignoring context. Even worse — "Where human judgment does come into play, filtering decisions are based on different companies' broad and varying concepts of offensiveness, 'inappropriateness' or disagreement with the political viewpoint of the manufacturer." The report offers some sad, scary, and downright humorous examples of erroneously blocked sites, e.g., "Net Nanny, SurfWatch, Cybersitter, and BESS, among other products, blocked House Majority Leader Richard 'Dick' Armey's official Website upon detecting the word 'dick.'" A bibliography of online and print sources is included, as are two appendices: (A) Blocked Sites by Subject: Artistic and Literary; Sexuality Education; Gay and Lesbian Information; Political Topics/Human Rights; Censorship; and (B) Blocking Categories for Different Filters Defined. - SK

Hilton, James. "Copyright Assumptions and Challenges" EDUCAUSE Review (November/December 2001): 48-55 (http://www.cause.org/ir/library/pdf/erm0163.pdf). - In this direct, clearly stated piece Hilton slays some common but dead wrong assumptions about copyright. Perhaps the biggest of these is the myth that "Copyright was created primarily to protect an author's intellectual property." As Hilton ponits out, the United States Constitution clearly states that the purpose of affording a limited set of rights to creators is to "promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts". The primary right afforded creators is a monopoly on their work for a limited time that began at fourteen years in early legislation, and has steadily increased ever since until we are now faced with a monopoly that extends far beyond the life of the author. Hilton urges academicians to use and fight for the principle of Fair Use as an essential component of copyright law, a cherished liberty, and that which underpins the academic enterprise. Without Fair Use, he asserts, a number of common academic practices become impossible. Hilton makes specific recommendations about what academic institutions should do to protect their rights to "promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts". His call to arms comes none too soon, as in this "copyright war" we've already lost most of the battles. - RT

Litman, Jessica. Digital Copyright. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2001. ISBN: 1-57392-889-5. - The prospect of reading a new book on copyright rarely makes the pulse pound with excitement. Rather, in spite of the best intentions of authors, the average treatise quickly induces a strong desire for a nap. That's too bad. There are few topics of more vital importance to information professionals, and, as electronic information becomes the headliner in libraries rather than the opening act, it will be essential that we become more ardent about copyright. If not, the halcyon days of ownership and fair use (whatever they were) will fade in the twilight, and, in their place, will be the bright new days of negotiated access rights and content in encrypted digital "lockboxes" (where have I heard that before?). We'll ask questions (Can I view it? Can I store it? Can I print it? Can I quote it? How much of it? How long can I do it?) and get answers that depend on how fat our wallets are. We'll be amazed at how many licensing permutations there can be when publishers can truly control access to every byte. Reading Litman's book could help stave off information dystopia. With chapters such as "Copyright Lawyers Set Out to Colonize Cyberspace" and "Just Say Yes to Licensing!," it's clear that this book is more lively and readable than the typical tome. Rather than just reciting facts, Litman tries to give the reader a feel for the dynamics of copyright politics and the motivations behind the whole crazy mess. And, as you might infer from the chapter titles, she definitely has a point of view. Quick, read it while it's still in print format. - CB

"The New Rules of Engagement" themed issue, Wired 9(12) (December 2001) (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/). - Before we get to the meat of this review, a lesson from art history class: in tracking cultural changes, watch for the transition from a classical to a mannerist style. The former is characterized by a need for expression of new ideas finding an effective medium for doing so, resulting in works which capture the zeitgeist, while the latter is characterized by imitation (executing "in the manner of") which adds nothing to, even dilutes, the classical period's accomplishments. This kind of change has been happening to Wired, which is turning from a unique window on a new world into a kind of style guide: buy this stuff and repeat these buzzwords and you can live the Wired life. (I propose that the transformation be completed by selling the mag to that absolute dictator for lifestyle, Martha Stewart. She recently announced that she's going to come out with her own single issue on the subject of high tech in the home, so if the response is good this could be a branding match made in heaven. Martha Stewart Wired Living!) That off my chest, I recommend looking at the December Wired if you have a morbid fascination with how info tech publications are exploiting our post-Sept. 11 paranoia. Let's face it — geeks and wannabe geeks get a technothrill from topics like surveillance, netwar and swarming theory, and can nod knowingly as easy targets like cumbersome military apparatus are shot down in print. This issue is such a mix of yellow journalism, unworkable schemes and recycled notions which long-time Wired readers will recognize, that I'm loathe to admit that there are also some intriguing ideas. That, and the fact that the mag still has a relatively large readership to influence, makes it worth watching, warily. - JR

Olsen, Florence. "Colleges Experiment With Routing On-Campus Phone Calls Over the Internet" The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 23, 2001) (http://www.chronicle.com/free/2001/10/2001102301t.htm) - Using the Internet to make phone calls, aka IP telephony, has long been one of those "sounds great, works lousy" ideas. It may, however, be finally coming into its own. One example discussed in this article is what happened after students at Columbia University tried to call friends and family in the wake of the September terrorist attacks, but were unable to get through because Manhattan's telephone system was "overwhelmed." Within hours of the attack, network specialists in the university's School of Engineering and Applied Science, managed to set up a conference room where students could make calls — both nationally and internationally — over the Internet. "Specialized telephones had been hastily configured to route outbound calls through several Internet gateways to the public telephone network." Other academic institutions are sticking their toes into the waters of IP telephony; some, in fact, are diving in headfirst. The article goes on to describe the ins and outs of campuswide IP phone networks, advantages and disadvantages, and potential cost savings. - SK

SANS Institute. The Twenty Most Critical Internet Security Vulnerabilities (Updated): The Experts' Consensus (November 15, 2001) Version 2.501 (http://www.sans.org/top20.htm) - If you had even the slightest doubt that the Internet is becoming more, not less, like the Wild West, consider that last year's version of this document was called "The Ten Most Critical Internet Security Vulnerabilities." At the top of this year's list? "Default installs of operating systems and applications." Why? Because hackers/crackers are well aware of all the unpatched services, open ports, etc. Also included are foibles such as bad passwords, incomplete or non-existent backups, logging and address filtering failures, vulnerable code (e.g., CGI), buffer overflows, and unpatched Swiss Cheese Microsoft products. The document, compiled in conjunction with the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, is valuable because "the majority of successful attacks on computer systems via the Internet can be traced to exploitation of security flaws on this list." Note that this is a "living document" that "includes step-by-step instructions and pointers to additional information useful for correcting the flaws." The document is updated and expanded as new information becomes available. - SK

Schnapp, Marilyn. "Are Tech Book Sales a Leading Economic Indicator?" O' Reilly Network (November 16, 2001) (http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/webservices/2001/11/16/indicator.html) - The short answer is yes, according to this author, who ran O'Reilly's research department in 2000-2001. She compared "sales trends of some of O'Reilly & Associates' technical books with other economic indicators, including the NASDAQ index." The article includes some intriguing charts and graphs which illustrate, for example, that sales of O'Reilly tech books at Amazon.com closely track the level of the NASDAQ, and that sales of O'Reilly Linux titles at Barnes & Noble rise and fall almost in tandum with the price of Red Hat stock. As Hal Varian — Dean of the School of Information Management and Systems, University of California, Berkeley — explains, "(T)he belief that IT was going to be a very profitable investment...drove investor behavior in the stock market and knowledge workers' investment in technical books." The findings discussed in this article, says the author, "suggests that segmenting book sales data along economic sectors might be useful in gauging future economic downturns of other sectors of the economy." - SK

Simons, Barbara. "Viewpoint: The ACM Declaration in Felten v. RIAA". Communications of the ACM 44(10) (Oct. 2001): 23-26. - This is the FAQ explaining ACM's decision to submit a declaration in support of the litigants in the Felten case. Questions are asked and answered in a sober manner and range from background information to what ACM hopes to achieve through its action. At the very least, one suspects, ACM is out to avoid the nightmare scenario where, in the words of this article, it will need to "hire attorneys to review conference and journal submissions that could possibly be in violation of the anticircumvention provisions of the DMCA." Text of the declaration itself can found at the ACM site at http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright/felten_declaration.html. [Addendum: CNET reports that the judge has dismissed the case. The judge's ruling is not yet available. (http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-8010671.html)] - LRK


Current Cites 12(11) (November 2001) ISSN: 1060-2356
Copyright © 2001 by the Regents of the University of California All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2001 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Document maintained at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2001/cc01.12.11.html by Roy Tennant.
Last update November 29, 2001. SunSITE Manager: manager@sunsite.berkeley.edu