Monthly Archives: October 2008

OLPC Give 1 Get 1 for 2008 launches Nov 17

Tipped off by the Digital Copyright Canada blog, I heard that the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is gearing up to launch another “Give 1 Get 1” (G1G1) campaign.

This is awesome, and I think I know a number of folks who were considering getting computers for young people for the holidays and might buy in to this project. I have certainly spoken with a number of people who were disappointed they couldn’t participate in G1G1 earlier in 2008.  It’s a nice way to get an inexpensive general-use laptop, promote OSS, and make a donation all in one. And if the “get one” laptop is a gift for a young person in your life, it’s a great teaching moment about the value of openness, building the practice of making donations into your life, and the issue of the global digital divide.

Official word is:
“One Laptop per Child is launching its second ”Give 1, Get 1” [G1G1]
program starting November 17, 2008, following last year’s popular
program which received donations from over 80,000 people.  This year
the XO laptops will be shipped to donors through

The laptops feature the latest release of the Sugar window manager, running
on a Linux-based Fedora Core operating system.  For answers to frequently
asked questions, and for other XO giving programs, see the OLPC wiki.

More on G1G1 2008:
More about the XO:”

OLPC is setting up a storefront on  Giving a laptop to a child in the developing world will be $199 this year, and G1G1 (giving a laptop to a child and getting one of your own) will be $399.

I’ve seen a few librarians with the XO laptops at conferences and thought what an awesome solution it is – for those who don’t want to risk damage or confiscation of their regular laptop while travelling.

I’d think about doing G1G1 myself, but it appears that G1G1 will only be available to US residents this year.  Hopefully by the time the hand-me-down computer my son uses crashes and burns, G1G1 will be available to us Canucks too.

Now that my mind has started spinning, I am starting to think of all kinds of ways to take advantage of G1G1 here, such as a campaign to donate the “get one” computers as well, to domestic under-resourced communities, class or school fundraising to both get computers for the school and to donate to the program…anyway, pass the word!  G1G1 is back!


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Filed under globalization, inclusion/exclusion, OSS, Other blogs, technology, youth

Making sense of DRM

Here’s a confession: I don’t really ‘get’ DRM. I mean, I can describe what it is, talk about related legislation, and discuss its impacts on intellectual property law and practice, but I don’t really know the extent to which it’s present in my life.

I’m one of those people who total non-techies think is a real techie but who really is not. You may be one of us too. I maintain websites; I don’t create them (unless you want a really ugly one). At my office the line between techies and non-techies is drawn around whether you are scared by “the black screen.”  Back in the hand-coding days, it used to be whether you could write HTML code. I’m on the fence. I can deal with the black screen if you give me guidance with the DOS. I can code HTML but I’m not super fast with dreamweaver, I get lost in php, and really don’t know perl or java — although I’m confident I could learn if I had the incentive. Which is all to say, I think I’m a pretty typical North American “new librarian,” from what I’ve seen.

And yet, I am intimidated by DRM.  I have no idea whether I’ve broken digital locks.  Probably?  Or maybe not? I’m too afraid of getting screwed over to use the iTunes store, and still buy my music on physical CDs, and then load them onto my computer, and then MP3 player, because I know that if my computer crashes at least I’ve still got the physical disc in my basement somewhere. When my old laptop met its maker, I moved everything I’d loaded onto my old computer onto my new one, from my backup hard drive. I have burned copies of stuff for my kid (yeah, like I’m going to give my first grader my original BNL Gordon or TMBG Flood CDs? Ha!). Presumably, I’m a copyright criminal, although I wouldn’t swear to it under oath, because there’s a chance I’m not, just by luck.

I’d definitely be buying a lot more music these days if I felt like I could confidently do so online, but I don’t, and I’m getting used to that. I’d probably watch more “TV” too, if I felt I could easily and safely download series and movies online, but as it is it’s often not worth the time/hassle and that’s okay with me. Once I let iTunes update itself and all my loaded music went kaput, so I don’t allow Apple updates anymore. I’m aware that someday this may cause problems with the program, so I’m on the lookout for viable iTunes alternatives. Basically, I just try to avoid DRM whenever possible, and if that means limiting my intake of some media…oh well. There’s not really much music or other media I can’t live without.

My visible experience with DRM is pretty much limited to swearing at iTunes and doing policy analysis. Oh, and the fact that when I plug my personal laptop into the digital projector at one of my workplaces, it goes straight into the Vista operating system, rather than giving me my usual dual boot screen and the option of selecting the quicker, sleeker Ubuntu linux os.  I assume this has to do with the ramped-up DRM embedded somehow in Vista. But maybe it’s just some other non-DRM monopolistic technology?

See, I don’t really understand it. I don’t know how to get around that straight-shot into Vista, and because I’m just using it to project materials for teaching I don’t really care that much. But I have that niggling anti-DRM grumpiness about it, because it’s restricting my options in a way that a) doesn’t make sense to me, and b) slows me down.

Thus, putting more effort into understanding DRM is on my to-do list.  Probably not till 2009, though, since the rest of 2008 is looking seriously booked up from where I’m sitting. In light of my personal DRM experiences, I really appreciated and enjoyed a recent xkcd comic (see, I read xkcd but I occasionally have to look up the references – that’s the kind of borderline-tech-geek I am). Seeing as it’s titled “Steal this comic” and published under a CC license, I figured it was kosher to repost it in entirety here:

If you go to the xkcd site and view the original, hover over the comic to read the mouseover, which reads:

I spent more time trying to get an audiobook playing than it took to listen to the book. I have lost every other piece of DRM-locked music I have paid for.

I loved reading this, because it’s my little DRM experience amplified by someone who didn’t just decline to participate at the hint of DRM on media.

SO, here’s the interesting thing.

Last week, shortly after awesome librarian Kim Lawson of the UBC Xwi7xwa Library came to speak with my Info Policy class about traditional knowledge and intellectual property, I noticed this BBC article was posted several places. The article, titled “Aboriginal archive offers new DRM,” reports on the creative use of “DRM” to control access to the Mukurtu Wumpurrarni-kari Archive.From the project website:

The archive uses Warumungu cultural protocols to facilitate access to content. In doing so, the archive mirrors a system of accountability in which many people engage in the responsible reproduction and transmission of cultural knowledge and materials.

The example given on the About page is one of a senior male community member explaining that he is protected by the archive’s permissions controls from seeing women’s stories, which is important to make things safe. I know this type of knowledge access norms isn’t something all audiences can understand, but it’s one we really have to respect, regardless. Every culture has knowledge access rules and norms, and to me it seems a really transformative use of technology to restore control of access to knowledge to communities that have been marginalised.

I’m really excited about oft-marginalized communities being in charge of their own archives and historiography. I’m also very inspired to see the digitization tools being used both to move scholarly communication of dominant “academic” cultures into a more inclusive and equitable distribution model, and to restore to Indigenous communities the leverage to manage their own content in accordance with their own norms.

But is that DRM? I’m not really sure.  And neither are a bunch of slashdotters, apparently. From the technological specs on the website I’m not sure what makes this “DRM” and not just a web archive with permissions controls. Are all such websites now considered to be using “DRM”?  The parenting message boards with different levels of access for different user groups?  My class Moodle site with study groups set up within it? As one poster on slashdot pointed out, this access control is being imposed on users who want their access to be controlled, which is quite contrary to our usual conception of DRM to protect an owner’s financial or moral interests.

What makes access/use restrictions DRM? The type of technology? The intention behind the restrictions? Neither?  From my scoping thus far, there doesn’t appear to be much consensus. From my limited DRM experiences I tend to be fairly knee-jerk DRM-avoidant.  But I can see that whether that is appropriate really depends on the definition in use.



Filed under copyright, digitization, inclusion/exclusion, IP, preservation, technology, Uncategorized

YouTube videos on CanWest info issues

I don’t have a television, but I do love to watch stuff on my computer.  Back in the last millenium, when I did have a TV, I didn’t have cable anyway, so I am easily impressed with the amazing diversity of media to which I have access via the Internet.

As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, I am a fan of YouTube and similar video sharing sites. I love them.  I love just searching for a video to explain science concepts that we can’t demo in our kitchen (like that whole beluga whale tail-first-birth so it doesn’t drown thing- so cool!) to the kid. I really appreciate being able to watch various political debates (back in 2000 I couldn’t watch the US presidential debates b/c I couldn’t find anywhere with a TV to watch them), or just see someone’s version of the highlights if I don’t really want to watch the whole thing. I admit ot using short online videos in my teaching quite frequently.

And I absolutely adore the way people are using this medium for activism.

Of course there’s the best ever super simple explaination of net neutrality from the Save the Internet coalition. (Old news in web-time, I know, but still relevant.) Just this week, however, two different new activist videos about CanWest came through my inboxes. Since I’ve been struggling to demonstrate the ironic connection between CanWest’s attempts to muzzle others’ free expression and the company’s fight to be allowed the “free expression” to sell ad airtime to drug companies, I thought I’d highlight both new videos here.

1)Media Blackout: CanWest Global Attacks Drug Ad Laws

This came to me via a colleague’s email. Rob Wipond connects ad revenue in our corporate media with the role of the media as our major source of health information (and historic firings of journalists who deviated from media/advertiser party lines). Not content to merely point out the misleading nature and accompanying health risks of drug advertising, he calls out drug industry-funded health advocacy groups.

2) Canwest Media Bully

I saw this one in my RSS feed from the We Read Banned Books blog.  WorkingTV covers and explains the “SLAPP” lawsuit over the Vancouver Sun parody printed June 2007, making connnections between media concentration and lack of tolerance for diversity of viewpoints.

Tara over at We Read Banned Books commented:

I’m excited to see old school activists start to social media effectively.  This video feels especially appropriate as they are standing up to a mainstream media conglomerate, like CanWest and the Vancouver Sun.  I think this video has much broader appeal than a didactic pamphlet written in Times New Roman 10 point font.  My only critique is the seriously corny folk song at the end

I couldn’t agree more (sorry David Rovics – I am quite fond of you, personally). While neither of these  videos is as slick as the net neutrality clip linked above, they are FAR more engaging than a flyer handed to me on a street corner, another mass email sitting in my inbox, or a speaker that I probably can’t go to see because I can’t get childcare for yet another meeting. And I’m one of the old skool print media lovers, right? (see: no TV)

Call me dumbed-down if you wish, but keep on making these engaging videos!  I love them!



Filed under censorship, digitization, Health, Intellectual freedom, media democracy, net neutrality, Other blogs, publishing, technology, tips and tools

OA Day – of course I support it, but I’m kinda bummed about the planning

I’ve been conflicted about whether to write this post, and finally decided to just get it out there. I’m psyched about the momentum OA is gaining, thanks in large part to the years of hard work done by information folk and activists (starting long before I even considered library school as an option). I’m a fan of SPARC, ATA, Create Change, and the like.

But – and in part due to this very momentum we’re gaining – I think it’s important for those of us in the movement to look at ourselves critically, and question whether we are (to paraphrase Alice Walker) being the change we wish to see in the world.

To me, OA is at heart about fairness and inclusiveness.  (Some may disagree and say it’s all about “speeding progress” or some such, which is cool, but not what lights my fire the way justice does.)  Therefore, I want to look at the public face of the OA movement in North America where I live and work, and ask how fair and inclusive we are being.  Because I think there are a couple areas in which we could use some recalibrating. To begin with, there’s…

Open Access Day

OA day is on Sukkot; the first day of Sukkot to be exact.  I’ve complained my fair share about the Canadian federal elections being called for a pretty major Jewish holiday, but at least you can vote in advance.  And, well, Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn’t really about fairness, access and inclusiveness, so it’s not really any surprise that he’d ignore the holiday of a major world religion in his election call.

However, OA is about fairness, access and inclusiveness. So I expect better from us. You can’t really celebrate OA day in advance, when the coordinated international efforts, complete with live streaming webcasts, are happening on a day you’re hanging out in your Sukkah.

I think OA Day is a fabulous idea — kudos to SPARC and whoever else may have thought it up!  But really folks, most desk calendars these days are printed with the holidays of the major world religions on them, and it wouldn’t hurt us any to look at the calendar before sending out an international press release. We might even go the “extra mile” and google the date to see if there are any big major news media stories relating to this upcoming date, like, oh, a neighbouring country’s federal elections. When we don’t, it feels a bit like we don’t care that some won’t be able to participate in the OA festivities. Really.



Filed under inclusion/exclusion, OA, The Profession