Older blog entries for adulau (starting at number 104)

25 Oct 2009 (updated 25 Oct 2009 at 23:03 UTC) »

2009-10-25 An e-Book Reader Is Not A Book

Stacking books until...

An E-Book (Reader) Is Not A Book

or why I'm not happy with e-book readers and still read paper-based books

Every year at home, we are reading and stacking more than 3 shelves of books. As you can see on the above picture, I'm forced to stack books on the top of bookshelves (here on the top of a classical "Billy" from a well-known Swedish supplier). Looking at my own use of books, electronic book seemed to be a nice opportunity. So I tried various e-books reader (on a 2+ years period) but without any success or even positive experience. I won't make a review of all the readers I tried from free software e-book reader to proprietary physical e-book reader. While testing those devices, I took some notes describing what was the issues encountered while reading electronic books compared to the reading of traditional books. I summarized my impression (at the end, this is just my own experience of reading so this is quite subjective). My impression are based on additional cost added by e-book reader compared to traditional printed books.

the set-up cost

Book doesn't need time to boot, set-up, charge battery, refresh page, index, recover or even crash. If have 5 minutes while waiting for your friends, you'll need to open the book and start reading. With an electronic book, this is not the case. In the best case, the e-book is ready but you'll see that the battery is going low and you are stuck in your car waiting for someone without the possibility to read (and worst, you forgot the charger for the car. This happens). Right now, nothing beats a paper book on the set-up…

the social cost

An electronic book limits social interaction in the tangible and physical world. One of the classical example, if you are reading a book in a train, I can't count how many times this was the opportunity for starting a discussion. Often just because the traveller next to you was trying to read on the cover what you are reading… With an electronic book, this is a limitation factor for starting a conversation : how can the traveller read the cover of your electronic book? Today, this is not possible with an electronic book. The case is valid in libraries, book-store or at home while visitors are negligently looking at your bookshelves. You can socialize with books on Internet but shutting down your local social interaction by moving from books to e-book is not an option for me.

the comfort cost

I'm reading everywhere but my bed is one of the first place where I'm reading. Sorry but a computer or device in a bed is something strange (even a traditional book can be difficult). Reading a screen before sleeping is like having a light therapy just before sleeping. The traditional book is not emitting light, an indirect light is used to read what's written on the paper. So the comfort of a paper book is unbeatable especially while reading in your bedroom.

One of my great pleasure is to read a book while drinking tea. It happened that I spilled some tea on a book but the effect is fundamentally different with an electronic device. Water (and other liquid) is dangerous for the books but it's worst for an electronic device.

the annotation cost

I know it's bad but I'm doing annotations (margin annotation, highlighting…) in my books and often going back to those annotations. You'll need a pencil and that's it. For electronic books, this is difficult (sometime impossible the way you want it) and to query back your annotation is also a pain.

Conclusion and still living with my paper books

The cost of using electronic books is high and not bringing that's much value (at least to me) compared to a traditional paper-based book. The only useful usage of an electronic book is when you'll need a reference book and doing a lookup for a word. Beside being someone using and creating technologies, I'm still more convince to read and use all those old books. The ecological impact of printing books is high but starts to be more and more limited. It's really difficult for me to find some real and concrete advantages of using electronic books. Maybe the main advantage is the lack of bookshelves, but I would be a bit nostalgic when our guest are killing their neck by reading the title. So I'll continue to purchase new bookshelves… at least for the next few years.

Syndicated 2009-10-25 21:07:43 (Updated 2009-10-25 23:03:44) from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-09-13 An e-Book Reader Is Not A Book

Stacking books until...

An E-Book (Reader) Is Not A Book

or why I'm not happy with e-book readers and still read paper-based books

Every year at home, we are reading and stacking more than 3 shelves of books. As you can see on the above picture, I'm forced to stack books on the top of bookshelves (here on the top of a classical "Billy" from a well-known Swedish supplier). Looking at my own use of books, electronic book seemed to be an nice opportunity. So I tried various e-books reader (on a 2+ years period) but without any success or even positive experience. I won't make a review of all the readers I tried from free software e-book reader to proprietary physical e-book reader. While testing those devices, I took some notes describing what was the issues encountered while reading electronic books compared to the reading of traditional books. I summarized my impression (at the end, this is just my own experience of reading so this is quite subjective). My impression are based on additional cost added by e-book reader compared to traditional printed books.

the set-up cost

Book doesn't need time to boot, set-up, charge battery, refresh page, index, recover or even crash. If have 5 minutes while waiting for your friends, you'll need to open the book and start reading. With an electronic book, this is not the case. In the best case, the e-book is ready but you'll see that the battery is going low and you are stuck in your car waiting for someone without the possibility to read (and worst, you forgot the charger for the car. This happens). Right now, nothing beats a paper book on the set-up…

the social cost

An electronic book limits social interaction in the tangible and physical world. One of the classical example, if you are reading a book in a train, I can't count how many times this was the opportunity for starting a discussion. Often just because the traveller next to you was trying to read on the cover what you are reading… With an electronic book, this is a limitation factor for starting a conversation : how can the traveller read the cover of your electronic book? Today, this is not possible with an electronic book. The case is valid in libraries, book-store or at home while visitors are negligently looking at your bookshelves. You can socialize with books on Internet but shutting down your local social interaction by moving from books to e-book is not an option for me.

the comfort cost

I'm reading everywhere but my bed is one of the first place where I'm reading. Sorry but a computer or device in a bed is something strange (even a traditional book can be difficult). Reading a screen before sleeping is like having a light therapy just before sleeping. The traditional book is not emitting light, an indirect light is used to read what's written on the paper. So the comfort of a paper book is unbeatable especially while reading in your bedroom.

One of my great pleasure is to read a book while drinking tea. It happened that I spilled some tea on a book but the effect is fundamentally different with an electronic device. Water (and other liquid) is dangerous for the books but it's worst for an electronic device.

the annotation cost

I know it's bad but I'm doing annotations (margin annotation, highlighting…) in my books and often going back to those annotations. You'll need a pencil and that's it. For electronic books, this is difficult (sometime impossible the way you want it) and to query back your annotation is also a pain.

Conclusion and still living with my paper books

The cost of using electronic books is high and not bringing that's much value (at least to me) compared to a traditional paper-based book. The only useful usage of an electronic book is when you'll need a reference book and doing a lookup for a word. Beside being someone using and creating technologies, I'm still more convince to read and use all those old books. The ecological impact of printing books is high but starts to be more and more limited. It's really difficult for me to find some real and concrete advantages of using electronic books. Maybe the main advantage is the lack of bookshelves, but I would be a bit nostalgic of our guest killing their neck by reading the title. So I'll continue to purchase new bookshelves… at least for the next few years.

Syndicated 2009-10-25 18:05:02 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-09-13 Machine Tag Taxonomy and Binomial Nomenclature

Machine Tag Taxonomy and Binomial Nomenclature

This is not a secret that I'm interested in botany and biology in general. When I'm shooting some pictures of the wild life, I'm always trying to classify properly the picture taken. Classification is very important when you are trying to protect the life around you. Especially when you are gardening, it happens that you have some bad surprise because a plant nursery used the same common name for two different plants. That's one of the reason why the use of binomial nomenclature is highly recommended.

I have gathered some notes on my use of machine tag for biology taxonomy. So you can express easily the classification on web services using tagging (like flickr or del.icio.us) a machine tag that can be read by human and by machine (read information automated systems) :

taxonomy:binomial="Asperula arvensis"

But finding the proper binomial name and especially, the proper spelling is not always easy. So I made a hack around agrep to find the proper spelling of a binomial name using a part of the official catalogue of life provided by ITIS.

The full text dump (around 10MB) of the binomial name extracted from the catalogue of life is also available. Without having such research data available, it would have been very difficult to build such an exhaustive catalogue.That's not a coincidence if the cover page of the latest Nature is about Data in research. Data is a critical part of the future of research but it needs to be easily accessible with the proper free license (just like free software).

Tags: tagging tag folksonomy classification reference machinetag machinetags triple_tag biology life binomial

Species and Binomial Classification

Syndicated 2009-09-13 13:40:02 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-07-31-The Yin and Yang Of Information Security

Visualizing the Yin and Yang of Information Security. Working in the information security field, I had some difficulties to explain the equilibrium I tried to reach. Stuck (again) in a traffic jam, I quickly drew the following three circles representing the three kind of "information security" approach. I somehow work in the three circles and often trying to reconcile the three with some large failure but also some success.

Being in the centre is very hard, you have to balance between proper implementation (the creation part), proper implementation against "deconstruction"/attacks while keeping an eye on the scientific input.

In the chapter 46 of the Myths of Security, John Viega is nicely explaining when you are just in the academic hacking circle without going close to the two other circles. You are doing academic novelty that no one can use, implement and attack. So the impact of your academic research is only the academic circle and nothing else.

When Linus Torvalds is stating "we should not glorify security monkey", this is the classical behaviour of staying in the "de constructing" circle without trying to find something creative and/or academic to solve the security issue.

When Wietse Venema is explaining that you should write small independent without modifying existing program to not affect the integrity of the others program, it's when you are creating a new software without taking into account the "de constructing" attacks on your software or the scientific background to make your software with a good level of formal correctness.

I'm the first to make the mistake to be contained in a single circle but you must force yourself to touch the two other circles in some ways. Information security is difficult but this equilibrium (academic, creativity and deconstruction) is difficult to reach. When you are close to reach to it, this is really a great moment…

Tags: academic software infosec stability

Visualizing the Yin and Yang of Information Security

Syndicated 2009-07-31 08:34:26 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-05-16 Diversity and Stability The Case Of Hedges

For my recent birthday, I received a nice book called "Plantes des haies champêtres" (plant from the natural hedges) written by Christian Cogneaux. The book is a directory of the whole plant usually composing the natural hedges. On the form, the layout and typography of the book is clear and easy to read (the form is also important to render a book more interesting). The photos made by Bernard Gambier are really beautiful and tight to the spirit of the book. The content itself is useful (especially if you want to keep or create new natural hedges in your garden or land) and provide an exhaustive overview of the species available and common to natural hedges. But what's the relationship with diversity and stability in my blog title? good question. When reading the introduction about the importance of preserving natural hedges, I immediately thought about the scientific reason behind the conversation of natural hedges.

An natural hedge with its heterogeneity provide a nice ecological system to reach a "equilibrium stability". As demonstrated by the zoologist Charles Elton, a more diverse community provides more resilience while changes are introduced (like the introduction of new species or predators). Natural hedges provide a nice complex system with the abundance of species allowing to increase the general stability. If the topic of diversity-stability interests you, there is an excellent article from Nature on the diversity stability topic in Biology.

If you want to participate to biodiversity, when you are thinking of planting new hedges, consider to not use a single specie for your hedge. On one hand, you are introducing more risk to completely loose the hedge (e.g. when the hedge is sensible to a single predator). On the second hand, using various species help to increase biodiversity and protecting the surrounding nature. There is also nice effect of diverse natural edge : a natural edge with various species is nicer to look at than a monotonic green wall-like edge.

For the information security freaks reading my humble blog, there is the collateral discussion about diversity in information system as explained in the article : The Evolution of Security : What can nature tell us about how best to manage our risks?. But this is another story…

Tags: biodiversity ecology hedges diversity stability

cover of plantes des haies champêtres On the cover, you can see a nice Lonicera (very common on natural hedges).

Syndicated 2009-05-16 14:32:21 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-02-22 Society Economy and Metrics

Society, Economy and Metrics : Rethinking Economy In The Society

When an idea is confronted over time, there is a high risk (but that's part of the game) of destruction. If the idea is coming more and more stronger over this confrontation process, there is the possibility of the something new to be created over time. The past few months, I read again André Gorz especially Écologica and L'immatériel : Connaissance, valeur et capital. Surprised by his consistency and ability to surround the important topics in the information society, there is a common recurring concept always popping up in his works : the metric and especially the lack of universal measure (called "étalon de mesure") in the information society. Gorz pointed the issue with the capital and the operation of the economy trying to capitalize on the "intangible capital". Reading his works right now is very interesting especially that he was really pointing the risks of creating economic bubble while trying to apply the capitalism techniques of tangible asset against the intangible.

Looking back, the idea of "universal metric" in the information society was somehow already hitting my mind with the following post and projects : Wiki Creativity Index, Innovation Metric (especially that the clumsy patent system is the only metric in use) and Creativity Metrics Are Needed. Project like Ohloh is already providing a specific answer to quantify the activity in the free software community. We are still far away(?) from an "universal metric" but when it will possible to link the respective activity of a human being with an exchangeable "money" (like bitcoin), we could have the possibility of growing without impacting the natural resources and funding the society with a real citizenship.

Tags: metrics creativity positivism freedom economy society

Syndicated 2009-02-22 15:15:20 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-01-02 Google Books And Europeana Are Killing Public Domain

More than two years ago, I made a blog entry about "Google Books Killing Public Domain" where Google is adding an additional clause to render public domain works into (again) the private circle by limiting the use to private use all public domain works scanned by Google.

Reading an Interview (sorry in French) of Jean-Noël Jeanneney, Mr Jeanneney is very proud of the Europeana digital library competing with Google Books. That's nice to see competition but is it really different from Google Books? No, Europeana is also transforming public domain works into proprietary works. Just have a look at Europeana's terms of service (copying section), they make the same mistake.

I had a lot of arguments especially during a conference held by the BNF about digital libraries, their arguments is about the cost of scanning or the "add of value" in scanning those public domains works. Sorry to say that but this is pure fiction (to be polite ;-), there is nothing like "adding value" while scanning an old public domain book. If you want to create wealth for the benefit of Society, please release public domain works as public domain. You'll see unexpected use (including commercial use) of those works and that will benefit everyone even the Libraries doing the scanning.

If you want to be ahead (I'm talking to Europeana or even Google) and help everyone, please leave the public domain works in the public domain.

The Practice of Programming

Tags: google publicdomain archiving copyright europeana

Syndicated 2009-01-02 21:53:53 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

24 Dec 2008 (updated 25 Dec 2008 at 10:04 UTC) »

2008-12-24 Oddmuse Wiki Using Git

If you are a frequent reader of my delicious feeds, you can see my addiction regarding wiki and git. But I never found a wiki similar to Oddmuse in terms of functionalities and dynamism relying on git. Before Christmas, I wanted to have something working… to post this blog entry in git. The process is very simple : oddmuse2git import the raw pages from Oddmuse into a the master branch of a local git repository. I'm using another branch local (that I merge/rebase regularly with master (while I'm doing edit via the HTTP)) to make local edit and pushing the update (a simple git-rev-list --reverse against the master) to the Oddmuse wiki. The two scripts (oddmuse2git git2oddmuse) are available. Ok it's quick-and-dirty(tm) but it works. There is space for improvements especially while getting the Oddmuse update using RSS to avoid fetching all the pages.

http://www.foo.be/blog/img/git-and-oddmuse.png

Tags: wiki oddmuse git

Syndicated 2008-12-24 21:17:19 (Updated 2008-12-25 10:04:36) from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

21 Dec 2008 (updated 29 Dec 2008 at 17:08 UTC) »

2008-12-21 Scientific Publications and Proving Empirical Results

Reading scientific/academic publications in computer science can be frustrating due to various reasons. But the most frequent reason is the inability to reproduce the results described in a paper due to the lack of the software and tools to reproduce the empirical analysis described. You can regularly read reference in papers to internal software used for the analysis or survey but the paper lacks a link to download the software. Very often, I shared this frustration with my (work and academic) colleague but I was always expecting a more formal paper describing this major issue in scientific publication especially in computer science.

By sheer luck, I hit a paper called "Empiricism is Not a Matter of Faith" written by Ted Pedersen published in Computational Linguistics Volume 34, Issue 3 of September 2008. I want to share with you the conclusion of the article :

However, the other path is to accept (and in fact insist) that highly detailed empirical 
studies must be reproducible to be credible, and that it is unreasonable to expect that 
reproducibility to be possible based on the description provided in a publication. Thus, 
releasing software that makes it easy to reproduce and modify experiments should be 
an essential part of the publication process, to the point where we might one day only 
accept for publication articles that are accompanied by working software that allows for 
immediate and reliable reproduction of results. 

The paper from Ted Pedersen is clear and concise, I couldn't explain better that. I hope it will become a requirement in any open access publication to add the free software (along with the process) used to make the experiments. Science at large could only gain from such disclosure. Open access should better integrate such requirements (e.g. reproducibility of the experiments) to attract more academic people from computer science. Just Imagine the excellent arxiv.org also including a requirements in paper submission to include a link to the free software and process used to make the experiments, that would be great.

Tags: openaccess research education freesoftware

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