Monthly Archives: February 2008

OOHanzi now packaged for Ubuntu

I’ve packaged all of OOHanzi for Ubuntu. I’m using Launchpad to host them. Follow the link for information about the sources that must be added to your /etc/apt/sources.list to use my repository. It is also possible to just use the web interface to download all 3 packages individually and install them one by one. If you add the repository to your configuration, just installing oohanzi (e.g. apt-get install oohanzi) should pull everything needed. If you install individually you need to install, in order:

  • java-unihan-lib
  • oounihan
  • oohanzi

Or you can issue a single dpkg -i command with all 3 listed. If the installation system complains that it cannot complete the installation, issue “apt-get -f install” after the installation.

People who have already downloaded the files individually and who would like to switch to the Ubuntu packages should first uninstall the old OOHanzi extensions and the unihan java library.

People who want to keep abreast of developments can subscribe to an RSS feed that contains only OOHanzi announcements.

Note for people who want to edit OOHanzi’s OOBasic code in OpenOffice’s IDE: If you use the Ubuntu packages, there is no way to edit the OOBasic code. If you want to install the extension so that you can modify the code as needed, you can install the java-unihan-lib and oounihan Ubuntu packages but you must install the .oxt for oohanzi manually as described in the previous release notes.

Moving from Dotclear to WordPress: no regrets

In June of last year, I moved from Dotclear to WordPress to manage my blog. I have not regretted the move one bit. This morning I quickly took a look at the Dotclear web site and found that Dotclear 2 is still in beta. If I had stayed with Dotclear, I’d still be waiting for version 2! Boy, did I make the right decision when I decided to switch to WordPress!

Buddhism comp passed!

I’ve gotten word from Karen Lang that she and Paul Groner rated my Buddhism comprehensive exam with an “enthusiastic pass”. (Those exams are not graded with letters: either you pass or you fail.) Yay!

I’m working on my Hinduism comprehensive now.

And then the methodology comprehensive.

And then the dissertation proposal.

And then 9 months of research abroad… probably Taiwan.

And then writing the dissertation and defending.

And then back in the workforce.

Pier 1’s Aggressive Direct Mailing Practices

Executive Summary: On November 28, 2007, I put in a request through CatalogChoice.org to stop receiving Pier 1’s catalogs. I visited Catalog Choice’s site on January 25th to find that Pier 1 refused my request. In effect, Pier 1 is refusing to collaborate with Catalog Choice. When I complained to Pier 1, the CSR told me that Pier 1 accepts requests to stop receiving their catalog only through the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) or if contacted directly but not through Catalog Choice. In my opinion, this clearly shows that Pier 1 has decided to adopt aggressive practices when it comes to advertising to potential customers.

Continue reading

An inherent problem with DRM

This post about Adobe’s DRM being unsupported on the Mac generated a lot of comments. A good deal of commentators made the issue an “Apple vs Microsoft” one but I think they are missing the real problem.

No information structure is ever totally impervious to eventual obsolescence. Even ASCII files will become obscure one day. However, the simpler a structure is, the more chances it has to survive longer and the more chances it has to be supported in a variety of environments. An ASCII file will still be easily readable long after everybody has stopped producing readers for PDF files and it is readable on more computing platforms than PDF files are.

There are many problems with DRM, but the one I want to focus on here is the fact that it needlessly increases the complexity of the information structure. By “needlessly” of course I mean that the person accessing the information infected with DRM does not need the DRM. The information would be just as usable without the DRM. Of course the proponents of DRM argue that DRM fulfills a need, namely the need of whoever owns the information. However, as I user of information, the DRM is just an obstacle to my goals. But here is the fundamental problem: DRM makes the information structure it infects more fragile. Implementing the external infrastructure to allow to properly process the DRM information embedded in a file is not trivial. Because of this, information structures infected with DRM are more likely to become unusable in the future than those not infected with DRM. They are also more likely to receive a narrower support across diverse computing environments. That is precisely the case in the Adobe issue reported by Consumerist: Adobe’s DRM is supported in Windows but not in Mac OS.

Now, Windows users may glibly boast that at least on their platform Adobe’s DRM is supported but they’ve got to realize that their files are more fragile than if they were not infected with DRM. They must also realize that even though they can use the information now, they still do not own it and it is only a matter of time before their DRM infected files become unusable.

OOHanzi 0.2 released

Change Log

  • Added some code to make things a bit more user friendly when a JRE is not properly installed.
  • Modified the way web browsers are launched.
  • Changed the nomenclature of menus and some functions.
  • General fixes to improve stability in Windows.

Status

This documentation deals with version 0.2 of OOHanzi. This software is very much at the Alpha stage of its life-cycle. Expect bugs. Expect nonsensical design decisions. Expect quirks.

Imagine a paper even before it is at the draft stage, when it is still just a bunch of thoughts quickly put together. Or notes taken at a conference. At this stage, OOHanzi is very much the programmatic equivalent of that paper or those notes.

Continue reading

The Impact of Dead-Tree Magazines on the Environment

Chris Anderson, editor at Wired, posted a blog entry claiming the following:

So by this analysis dead-tree magazines have a smaller net carbon footprint than web media. We cut down trees and put them in the ground. From a climate change perspective, this is a good thing.

I can’t help but read his conclusion and his post as a self-serving rationalization to a) deflect the criticism raised against paper-based publishing and b) keep the status quo in place. In other words, the message is “publishers (and magazines such as Wired) are not doing something environmentally detrimental by relying on print-media.” There are several flaws in his logic. I’m going to concentrate on only a few of them here:

  • Most of what he puts up is conjecture and a lot of it is based on vague scenarios. Some of the guesses are clearly overoptimistic. It is true that the USPS would not disappear if print magazines did not exist but he sees the impact of print media on the USPS as essentially non-existent: “we print and bind that paper into magazines, which are delivered mostly by the US Postal Service, which runs the same routes whether they’re carrying our magazines or not.” Yes, but print magazines have to be sorted and carried by the mail trucks and mail workers. I can’t believe that if magazines were eliminated the USPS would use exactly the same resources they are using now.
  • The carbon footprint is not the only environmental impact of print publishing. He focuses on the carbon footprint because he wants to talk about the climactic impact but I think this is misleading. Other forms of pollution must also be taken into account. I doubt that print comes out ahead when the entire environmental impact is considered.
  • He points out that “trees take carbon out of the air”. But then he associates that benefit with the print industry only. Somehow, cutting down a tree and then planting another one, which is what the forestry companies should ideally do, is better than not cutting down a tree in the first place.
  • Even if the claim that “print publishing is carbon neutral whereas web publishing is detrimental” were true, the reality is that magazines like Wired and publishers are not currently doing one or the other. They are already doing both. What must be demonstrated is not that print publishing in the abstract is environmentally equal or better than web publishing in the abstract but that engaging in both print publishing and web publishing at the same time is environmentally equal or better than web publishing alone. To take one element of the production line as example, the comparison is not between printing presses on one hand and web servers on the other but between printing presses and web servers on one hand and only web servers on the other.

Then he takes a study of the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm as confirmation that his guesses were right. But there are problems here too:

  • Anderson says:

    [The study] compared printed newspapers to people reading those newspapers on the web, and concluded that for the same time reading (30 minutes) the printed newspaper has a lower carbon footprint.

    However, he conveniently fails to mention that only in the European scenario was web reading for 30 minutes better than print. The researchers also crunched the numbers for a Swedish scenario and found that print was worse than everything else.

  • This difference between the European and Swedish scenarios brings to mind a problem with the study. There is no formal discussion of error. It seems to me that whatever estimates the researchers came up with should have had some percentage of error associated with them. There is presently no formal way to know how reliable their numbers are. They do not formally explain how the dependent variables would be affected by variations in independent variables that they used in their study. If they had over or under estimated the energy consumption of web servers by 1%, how would this affect the results? What about all the other variables that are part of this study? This is not insignificant because some models are very susceptible to show large variations in output even for small changes in the input values. In other words, it is possible that if their guesses are a off even by a little, the results could be dramatically different. The difference between the European and Swedish scenarios suggests to me that their model is indeed fragile.
  • How does this apply to the US situation? Given the difference between the European and Swedish scenarios, I’m not keen of extrapolating the results to the US scenario.
  • Because publishers are not about to turn back the clock and go print-only, the question for me is “is it environmentally detrimental for a publisher who publishes electronically to maintain its print publishing operations in addition to the electronic operations?” I think the answer is yes. Anderson’s musings do not convince me to think otherwise.