Sunday, January 29, 2006

the school administrators dilemma

In May 2005 the then Director of South Australian government school education, Steve Marshall, quoted Alan Kay:
"the best way to predict the future is to create it"

... with the release of the Department's Statement of Directions, 2005-2010 we have chosen to embrace similar sentiments.
On the one hand education departments are calling for innovation, change, creating the future, constructivism, more emphasis on engagement with less emphasis on content. On the other hand they are blocking one of the most important sources of the creativity (the read / write web) that they profess to crave for. Does the left hand understand what the right hand is doing? Probably not. It's far more likely that the "progressive theorists" are talking on a different wavelength to the hardnose technocrats. In short, the system is failing us.

There is a problem, but indiscriminate blocking of the internet is not the solution. Education Department administrators need to be more creative and flexible in finding solutions to real problems.

It is true that not all teachers are internet savvy. It is true that not all teachers supervise what their students are doing closely when in computer rooms. It is true that some students know more about computers than some teachers and are doing all sorts of off task and perhaps offensive searches in the computer rooms. These might be issues that the education profession does not want to talk about, but nevertheless, they are true statements.

These are real problems.

The South Australian education department has responded to these problems by imposing filtering software (N2H2 / Bess) that allows for no differentiation between teachers and students, no differentiation between primary, secondary and senior colleges and no differentiation between experienced web savvy IT teachers and teachers who are computer reticent or phobic. These settings cannot be altered. Whatever is blocked is blocked for everybody. Whatever is allowed is allowed for everybody.

Although web sites and groups of sites can be unblocked and blocked at individual campuses the problem remains that there is no differentiation on the above settings allowed within a site and this inflexibility creates huge problems.

Within each campus experienced and knowledgeable IT teachers who do know how to manage their classes searching the web are being treated exactly the same as the students on that campus.

This is an inflexible solution that in solving one problem - stop kids from finding porn on the net - creates another one - stop web savvy teachers who want to innovate and educate using some of the latest, most cutting edge web applications from doing so. It blocks and discourages creative innovation in schools.

It also puts school administrations into a difficult situation. What are they supposed to do when something goes wrong and the teacher involved has been neglectful in some way? If the blocking software was more flexible one possibility would be to permit broader internet access for teachers who are more web savvy. Less confident teachers might also welcome this option to help with a difficult management problem while they improve on their skills. However, rather than a human mediated resolution the software "solves" the problem of trust by trusting no one. School administrations may trust certain teachers to manage the situation but the software does not allow that. The "one size fits all" software takes the power out of the hands of local school administrations. So the simplest solution is to block everything that might be dangerous. Never mind if there are 99 wholesome searches of google images, the one sordid search will determine policy. Where is the trust in our educational professionals: the innovative classroom teachers and forward thinking administrators?

We also have a background environment of fear, where some groups are gearing up to pounce and sue a school when a child is exposed to porn, to create an "example" for others.

Put all this together and we have an educational disaster on our hands. In a fast changing world to delay the future is to disadvantage our students and frustrate our innovative teachers.

Web applications which require ability to write to the web are not the next big thing, they are the current new big thing. Unfortunately, those in the hierarchy who are doing this to us may not understand it. The technocrats may not understand the enormous educational potential. The constructivists may not understand the full implications of modern technology. At the very time when blogs, podcasts, photo sharing and many other web applications are coming on line the education department decides to "play safe" and block the lot. Teachers cannot even explore blogs at school. They have to do that in their own time at home. Encouragement for innovation? Forget it.

An indiscriminate piece of software is telling IT savvy teachers what they can and can't teach, even though they are quite capable of managing these issues successfully.

Since the software is not meeting the real educational needs the only satisfactory immediate option that I can envisage is to change the software.

Friday, January 27, 2006

James Gee presenting in Adelaide

Tony Forster has provided the link for the James Gee visit:

Adelaide is blessed, both Prensky and Gee

Gee is an avid game player (not a maker like Prensky) and contributed to a new theory of literacy for the digital age.

I have two blog entries about James Gee's ideas:

rather than read / write we now have recognise / produce

the latter is much broader and we need it to describe all the various multimedia genres that have become our new learning environment

I think where he is headed is that games encapsulate the enormous variety of new literacies (whereas a generation ago the book might have been sufficient), so games are now much closer to defining what literacy is for the new generation


Thursday, January 26, 2006

flash for beginners

My daughter, Lannie is doing flash this year. As well as that Prensky has recommended it. So yesterday I began to learn it.

The user interface is based around video production, timeline, stage and layers (Macromedia, as in photoshop). The hard thing was getting the hang of the new UI and the new vocabulary: playhead, key frames (open dot or black dot), symbols (reusable objects), the object types (only three - graphics, buttons, movie clip), different types of layers such as Guides. It goes on and on.

The Macromedia Help gave me clues but not solutions. I just wanted some guidance to actually build something simple that worked.

In the end I found some tutorials on the net and some were great for beginners like myself. This particular one was a life saver when I got stuck for ages on why black dots were not appearing on my key frames.

I really liked this funny account of someone having difficulties learning flash. It reminded me of when I screamed at my computer and scared my dog.

Finally I managed to get a little red ball moving backwards and forwards. It gave me a sense of achievement even.

the brain training game

... Brain training ...
So, the #1 game in Japan is a non-game.
My (shocking) conclusion: there is a huge market for new styles of games and new game players, and the gap between "games" and "apps" is getting smaller

1. There's an existing brain-training boom in Japan.
2. The Japanese don't necessarily attach stigmas to "childrens" activities.
3. It's priced really well.
4. Really, it's a fiendish trojan horse.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

learn for life: nonscholae

In 2005 educonnect internet blocking software was rolled out in South Australian schools, causing aggravation to teachers who want to use the read/write web in their classrooms. By default educonnect blocks all write access to the web. I've bundled three articles that I've written about this recently and blogged them at nonscholae.

James Farmers edublogs service was also blocked in many schools around Australia.

In response has been setup, based on a Latin saying, "We learn, not for school, but for life"
We believe that these tools (blogs, photosharing, podcasts, web hosting, educational games, instant messaging and other social software) and resources should not be blocked or banned from schools. As educators, we should be familiarising learners with these technologies, supporting and facilitating their responsible use and equipping our students with the skills to keep them safe and savvy in the online world.
I've been looking at some of the work by Darren Kuropatwa and Ewan McIntosh today who are supporting this initiative.

In his fear trilogy (fear of transparency, fear of losing control, distrust breeds fear), Darren talks about how new technology can dramatically improve human relationships but that requires some risk taking and trust from administrators. He has had a low key but fascinating dialogue with Miguel on this issue, with Miguel playing the devil's advocate from an administrators perspective. Really valuable. Darren has also opened my eyes about how to prepare students for safe blogging on the internet. Finally, I was really impressed by the fact that he has his maths students blogging about maths in both individual and group blogs. You can find all these excellent resources, with comments, in one place here.

Ewan blew me away with a presentation (28 MB) he gave about the transition from the one way web to the two way web and what this will mean for education. It is a very exciting presentation. I felt that the bit at the end where he linked 9 educational principles to the guided use of blogs, podcasts, etc. represented a bridge between the traditional and the new that could have a wide appeal. I plan to take it to school and ask who wants to watch.

maths simulations, game maker

tony forster's a great game maker programmer IMHO - go to this link and see the images of the various maths simulations he has programmed in game maker.

over the holidays he demonstrated the genetics simulation to me and roland and the AI effects he has in there are great

seriously he's just about written a whole maths curriculum in game maker on his own - but he just rolls it out in this off hand modest manner as though he hasn't done anything impressive - he's so laid back, it's annoying!! - so I'm trying to sell it for him a little bit

GMail Drive

Gmail provides us with 2.687 GB storage and growing.

bjarke has written a program that that creates a virtual filesystem around your Google Gmail account, allowing you to use Gmail as a storage medium.

Useful when travelling or an alternative to my memory stick.

Monday, January 23, 2006

free culture: "pirates"

Continuing my summary of Lessigs book

Ch 4: "Pirates"

If we define "piracy" as taking the value from someone elses creative property without the permission of the creator - "if value, then right"

Then, Lessig shows that these industries - Film, Recorded Music, Radio, Cable TV - are all "pirates" historically, to one degree or another.

For example, to escape from the patents granted to the inventor of filmmaking, Thomas Edison, the creators and directors migrated to the East Coast, California, and built Hollywood.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

free culture: catalogs

Continuing my review / summary of Lessigs book

Ch 3: Catalogs

In 2002 Jesse Jordan, a young student, modified a search engine on a network at a technology research institute in New York. This was the sort of thing he was supposed to be doing as a technology student.

The search engine accessed the public folders of the students at the institute. It so happened that these folders contained many music files.

The RIAA (Recording Industry) sued Jesse Jordan for wilfully violating copyright law for the amount of $150,000 per infringement. There were 100 infringements so the RIAA demanded that Jesse pay them $15 million dollars.

In the end this was settled by Jesse paying his life savings of $12,000.

He never admitted any wrong doing but couldn't afford to defend himself, which would cost up to $250,000.

Interview with Jesse Jordan here.

lessig slide

Lawrence Lessig OSCON 2002 keynote. Go here for the complete lessig talk and slides. It's brilliant.

If you understand this refrain, you're gonna' understand everything I want to say to you today. It has four parts:
  • Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.
  • The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it.
  • Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past.
  • Ours is less and less a free society.

free culture: "mere copyists"

Continuing my review of Lessigs book.

Ch. 2: "mere copyists"

The "mere copyists" are photographers.

It was once argued that photographers were "pirates", taking something from the person or building that they shot. But overall the Court ruled in favour of the "pirates", with some exceptions.

Photography was once too expensive for ordinary people. Similarly today, new literacies such as film and computer games are now coming within the reach of ordinary people to make, not just receive. Teachers already teach reading and writing of words. This is being extended to the reading and writing of multi media.

It is now possible for school students to make films and computer games. This involves learning new tools, new crafts, creativity, expression, collaboration and communication. This has the potential to reach students in new ways - through motivation and visual / kinesthenic learning.


Democracy has atrophied in America.
We, the most powerful democracy in the world, have developed a strong norm against talking about politics. It's fine to talk about politics with people you agree with. But it is rude to argue about politics with people you agree with. (42)
Blogs signify the potential rebirth of democracy.


The freedom people need today is the freedom to tinker with multimedia - text, images, music, film.

But that freedom is under threat from the law and technology - this argument is developed in the course of this book.

The architecture of the internet and the legal system are in conflict.
... we are building a legal system that completely suppresses the natural tendencies of today's digital kids ... We're building an architecture that unleashes 60 percent of the brain [and] a legal sytem that closes down that part of the brain.
- John Seely Brown

Saturday, January 21, 2006

snowflake collage

Leigh Blackall suggested that it was a good idea to use picasa for basic image editing. His argument was that you could do a fair bit of image manipulation quickly in picasa, whereas GIMP and Photoshop, while very powerful, take a lot of learning.

So I checked out picasa tonight and ended up making some collages.

There is an "official" informative overview of picasa features here.

It does have a variety of basic fixes, tuning, effects and fun features but it doesn't seem to have some of the basic features I want for web site development, such as ability to:
  • resize images
  • set resolution to 72px/inch
I think its more designed for a photographer than a web site developer. Still want to use it though.

free culture: introduction

I am reviewing / summarising Lessig's book Free Culture


New technology undermines old laws.

The law used to say that land ownership extended above the land and below the land. This law was changed after the invention of the aeroplane. A good outcome. "Common sense revolts against the idea" that owners of aeroplanes would have to negotiate the rights to travel over every property, despite the fact that a few chickens were harmed by low flying aircraft.

Edwin Armstrong invented FM radio in 1933 which threatened the established AM radio monopoly. This time the businesses threatened by this invention successfully lobbied the government (FCC - Federal Communications Commission) to block FM for years. Tragically, the inventor was defeated and committed suicide in 1954.

Nowadays, we enjoy FM radio, the law eventually changed.

Lessig divides culture into commercial culture and non commercial culture. Historically, the law has only bothered with commercial culture. The law has protected the incentives of creators by granting them exclusive rights to their creative work.

There was a balance between commercial culture (protected, regulated) and non commercial culture (free).

But now more and more culture is becoming digital and through the internet is effortlessly copied and distributed.

Powerful lobby groups (MPAA - Motion Pictures, RIAA - Recording Industry) are successfully lobbying to protect their property and in the process of the law being strengthened all internet culture is in danger of becoming regulated.

On the surface it appears to be a war for the protection of intellectual property against "piracy". But the beneath the surface reality is that the whole of culture is in danger of becoming regulated and unfree. There is a danger that the internet which has provided us with tremendous new freedoms could be used to take away existing freedoms. (the irony of becoming digital?)

The idea of property has the power to disable critical thought. Property is internalised by some as an absolute right, more important than ideas or culture. In a world where property is sacred, the very words that are used in this debate - piracy and property - gives the advantage to those who seek to protect their monopoly against new innovations. (there is a need to reframe the terms of discussion)

free culture: creators

I am reviewing / summarising Lessig's book Free Culture

Section One: "PIRACY"
Chapter One: Creators

Lessig suggests here that perhaps all creativity is rip, mix and burn.

True for science, true for culture. Nobody has to ask permission from Albert Einstein for permission to use Relativity. Science is too important to allow narrow interests to control it.

Just about everything that Walt Disney produced, Mickey Mouse, Snow White, etc., was ripped off from something already existing in culture. Disney mixed in his own new features.

In 1928 in the USA the average term of copyright was around 30 years. At the end of that term the work passed into the public domain.

Things have changed, "... today the public domain is presumptive only for content from before the Great Depression"

The Walt Disney's of today will sue your arse for doing what Walt Disney did.

My comment: Douglas Hofstadter has written an essay, Variations on a Theme as the Crux of Creativity (1982), which demystifies the creative process. Rip, mix and burn is a simple yet powerful phrase, which summarises the creative process.

Friday, January 13, 2006

pipe more important than contents

Interview with George Siemens, author of the Connectivism learning theory.

People often ask, "How does technology influence learning?". George reverses this question and asks: "How does learning influence technology?" What he means is that sometimes the technology to achieve something has been around for a while but the social demand has not yet arisen for it to take off in a big way. He provides the example of VOIP as a technology that had been around for ages before it actually became popular.

My comment: I can think of other examples: blogs, in fact the ability to write to the web was built in from the start but only recently has become popular.

Teemu Arina, the interviewer, suggests to George that "the pipe is more important than the content of the pipe" and draw a comparison here with the description of the internet popularised by Doc Searls and David Weinberger as the world of ends, the value grows at the edges, not in the pipe.

George agrees. Some things need to be centralised, eg. accounting, but learning is a strongly networked process. Learning aggregates concepts and many of these concepts are not necessarily internalised immediately. In learning institutions some things need to be centralised (eg. student registration) but the important parts of learning require interaction, exploration and creation are best decentralised.

My comment: I think that lecture mode can be important and useful in some situations. I'd prefer to describe it as a dialectic or continuum with lecture at one end and exploration / creation at the other. Both can be important. Educators need to walk the walk along this continuum.

Also at some stage the internalised concepts are very important. Good learners have better internalised concepts than poor learners.

In contrast to content driven courses a new alternative approach is to provide the tools required for connection and dialogue (blogs, wikis, podcasts etc.) and the learners will discover a lot of the content for themselves.

George goes on to elaborate on the changes in leaners that he has observed at Red River College where he works as an instructor in a laptop programme:
  • they are older, making a transition to a second or third career
  • that the relevant life or half life of knowledge or content is shrinking (very true, I think)
  • informal learning experiences are becoming more important - later he said 80% of our learning arises informally - an argument in favour of the idea that the course / content based model is becoming outdated
George quickly defines:
  • behaviourism: goal is to just change behaviour, don't know or care what is inside the learner
  • cognitivism: inputs may be held in short term or long term memory ( don't get?)
  • social constructivism: learning is a dialogue, learners are not empty vessels, they construct their own meaning
He then says that these theories, "come from an era when technology was not of a factor"

My comment: I hope he meant to say here, "less of a factor", rather than "not a factor." I get the feeling that George is dismissing earlier theories too much. I like his connectivism theory but would like to see it connected to the other theories, not cut off from them.

Something else he said which is intriguing: "Learning is a meta skill which is applied before someone begins to learn" (!?)

His connectivism theory grew out of a study of social networks, complexity theory, pattern recognition ("shown to be not constructivist") and self organisation.

Often learning can reside outside of ourselves. The pipe is more important than what is in the pipe. Don't attempt to build silos of knowledge, rather build pipelines of knowledge. When researching seek out different and contrasting opinions.

Connected specialisation means doing one thing and doing it very well. This can apply to both people specialist and to software (eg. skype does one thing well). Trust is a factor here, we need to trust that a particular group / person / piece of software is, in fact, expert. But in the face of the knowledge explosion we have to acknowledge that we can't be expert in everything and so have to develop more reliable ways to open ourselves up to the knowledge of experts.

The discussion moved onto social software. George pointed out that when we tag in delicious, furl or flickr then the meta data is being applied by the end user, not by the initial creator of the article or picture. The learner is driving this process, knowledge is being decentralised.

George mentions the O'Reilly infoware model, where the information that accumulates on a site (eg. amazon has thousands of readers reviews) becomes more important than the software that runs the site. He constrasts this with a content driven, closed broadcast system and sees the former as the harbinger of modern learning.

Towards the end he refers to the growing gap between the technological savvy and those who are not keeping up with technology. He is hopeful that this problem will be overcome by the technology becoming simpler and easier to learn and that this is already happening. eg. RSS feeds are much simpler than previous aggregators.

My summary: I agree with the general thesis that the pipe, being connected, is becoming more important than the content. I agree that the half life of knowledge is declining and that more and more learning is informal. These changes are corroding schools. Students are different from before and bored with lecture mode. Nevertheless, I'd see the theory of connectivism as sitting alongside the other learning theories, not taking their place.

School censorship legalities

I spoke to a lawyer (Kim from WA) about internet censorship in schools. My goal was to clarify the legal situation in Australia about student rights, parent rights, teacher rights, school rights, education department rights wrt this issue. What follows is a rough summary of some notes I took at the time and is my own interpretation of the conversation.

Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and from reading Article 13 you would expect it to provide some leverage in the direction of expanding the legal right of children to explore and use new internet communication technologies:
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Article 13

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.

2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
However, I was told that for the UN Convention to acquire legal weight then it was necessary for Australian parliament to endorse it, a further step beyond Australia being a signatory. Unfortunately, our parliament has not formally endorsed this convention. So the real situation seems to be that the Australian government pays lip service to the rights of the child but is reluctant to see this pass into law. This is a disappointment but also a possible focus for a campaign. Take the Rights of the Child seriously.

Kim drew a distinction between law and good policy.

Employers do exercise the right to block / filter / censor the internet. There is not a great deal of legal history of challenges to this in Australia. But in one case Ansett employees did win the right to receive union material at work through the internet.

Some Churches in Australia regard protection of children from porn etc. as part of Schools duty of care and have indicated that they may sue schools on this issue. This hasn't happened yet but the overall balance or political climate at the moment seems to be more on the side of censorship than freedom.

There are people in government who do want to censor the internet for the whole population and make ISPs accountable. This push was defeated a few years ago but it keeps re-emerging. One of the arguments here is that, "the filtering software is getting better."

I have argued elsewhere that censorship is not good policy but I won't repeat myself here. The purpose of my phone call was to clarify the legal situation.

In Kim's opinion the best way to proceed was through a fine grained, fact based comparative analysis of the specific blocking software. What does it block exactly? Where does the black list originate from? Document some of the absurd blocks created by the software.

I'm disappointed with the results of my phone call, particularly about the lip service paid by government to the Rights of the Child Convention. Nevertheless, I'm writing it up here because it's important to know where we are starting from.

This issue isn't going to go away because with more great web apps coming on line everyday the educational importance of student ability to write to the web will grow commensurately.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

meta tags

The meta tag is old hat and nearly but not quite useless today.
The Meta description tag allows web site owners to describe what the web page is about. Search engines such as Google still use this to display the description of a web site in the search results ... In the early 2000s, search engines veered away from reliance on Meta tags, as many web sites used inappropriate keywords or were keyword stuffing to obtain any and all traffic possible.
- from wikipedia
Another possible use of meta tags is to redirect an old site to a new URL, or to move on automatically from a splash page. But this is frowned upon by W3C for accessibility reasons.

More reliable information about meta data (not just the meta tag) in web pages at the W3C site.

So, I've just added this one meta tag to my website:
< meta name="description" content="Information about the Game Maker community in Australia, a vareity of articles by Bill Kerr and other educational material" />


Monday, January 09, 2006

why do I need a website anymore?

Since February 2005 I have been blogging, so why do I need to continue with my website? There are a few reasons.

My day job is teaching at a secondary school. My website is for educational materials, usually mine but sometimes in collaboration with others (Tony, Al).

It's for longer, more substantial articles that I write, to keep them in one place.

It's for providing an overview of the Game Maker community in Australia and things I contribute to that community.

It's a place where I can practice my CSS, XHTML, JavaScript and graphics skills and publish exemplars about that too. Even though it's time consuming I like to retain the ability to handcraft this website, to try to make it look good or whatever.

My website is for keeping more substantial things in one place. This blog is a combination of works in progress and on line diary, stuff that happens, which might lead somewhere or not.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

free speech: blogging

Spirit of America has launched the BlogSafer wiki, available at BlogSafer contains a series of guides on how to blog under difficult conditions in countries that discourage free speech ...

In past several years at least 30 people have been arrested, many of whom have been tortured, for criticizing their governments. This trend is likely to increase in the coming year.

The five guides that are currently on the wiki serve bloggers in the following countries:
  • Iran (in Persian)
  • China (Chinese)
  • Saudi Arabia (in Arabic—also useful for other Arabic-speaking regimes such as Bahrain, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia)
  • Malaysia (in English—also applicable to neighboring Indonesia and Singapore)
  • Zimbabwe (in English—applicable to English-speaking Africans as well as aid workers)
These countries were chosen because they are representative of the kinds of repressive tactics that have been used in the past several years against bloggers. These include filtering, interrogation, torture and imprisonment.
I've just read the Anonymous Blogging Guide - Malaysia and it does seem to me to be an excellent introduction to anonymous blogging. The range of technologies available to evade detection is impressive and growing. This extract from the conclusion summarises the political goal and the technologies employed. Read the whole thing and the resource guide if you want to explore or use the technologies more for yourself:
You have a right to be heard. Your voice is important to Malaysia, both for its present and its future. However, contradicting the accepted common truths of a nation can be frowned upon, and a government that is on the defensive politically can be challenging to those who wish to add their voices to the discussion of their country’s future. Someone who cares about this future can do no good mute. You must remain in possession of your voice.

To that end, we have covered basic anonymization measures, such as pseudonymous blogging and web-based email; proxies; social options, such as individual Circumventor proxies, Adopt-a-Blog and assisted blogging; Tor servers’ onion routing; and very complex email-based blogging systems like Invisiblog.
Globalisation, the internet, free speech ... they all seem like very good things to me.

The philosophy behind is exciting. It's all about providing storage for grassroots collaboration and open source activism. I've joined up. Thanks to Leigh Blackall.
Leading the effort are J.D. Lasica, author of "Darknet," editor with the Online Journalism Review, and evangelist for participatory media, and Marc Canter, a well-known technologist and open standards advocate who co-founded the company that became software giant Macromedia. This is an open-source, volunteer effort with a small team of paid developers.
I plan to publish games designed with Game Maker there soon. From reading their What's Ahead section I gather they are not quite ready for that yet but that it is in the pipeline.

They have the support of the Internet Archive, the mother of all storage.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Marc Prensky presenting in Adelaide, Australia

Details of marc prensky visit to Adelaide

Friday March 3 2006, 10am-4:30pm
at The Grand, Glenelg, Adelaide
Cost $220

Prensky is a very good advocate for the use of games in education. See my following blog entries from September 2005.

By downloading his slides and video (referenced in first blog post above) you can get a very good idea of the flavour and content of his presentation. He is a showman (admittedly, not my favourite form of presentation) but there is also a great deal of substance behind it.

As well as the analysis and hype he also actually does develop games, which is significant point IMO. (referenced in my blog entries)

shortcut icon howto

How I added a shortcut icon to my blog and website:

I made my simple K image in Inkscape, exported it as a PNG bitmap, then edited it in The Gimp so I could resize it to 16x16 and save it with the file extension .ico

I have to host the file somewhere so I uploaded it to my website.

I then inserted this code into the header of my webpage and blog:
< link rel="shortcut icon" href="http://www.imagelocation/favicon.ico" / >

Thursday, January 05, 2006

W3C web validation

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS!

Today I revisited the meaning and significance of Document Type Declarations (DTD) which appears at the top of every web page.

Something like:
< !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "" >

Browsers can display web pages in standards compliant mode (up to date) or Quirks mode (old fashioned). You need the correct DTD for your web page to look good, to display the modern XHTML and CSS that you have worked hard to implement.

One issue I looked at was whether to upgrade my XHTML 1.0 Transitional DTD to Strict or even to upgrade to XHTML 1.1 Declaration. I researched the XHTML 1.1 Declaration and found that:
All deprecated features of HTML, e.g. presentational elements and framesets, have been removed from this version (XHTML 1.1). Presentation is controlled purely by Cascading Style Sheets.
I tried this but when I ran it through the W3C validator found that it was too fussy for me. In particular, it objected to the target attribute in the anchor tag and I didn't know how to achieve the effect of opening a link in a new window (target="_blank")without using that. So I ended up sticking to XHTML 1.0 Transitional DTD, which is not too fussy.

My XHTML wouldn't validate without a UTF (Unicode Transformation Format)Declarion either, something like: < xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"? >

UTF-8 is the preferred encoding for web pages.

Finally, I also needed a name space declaration, something like:
< html xmlns="" >

There is an article at W3C, My Web Site is Standard. Is Yours? which repeats Jeffrey Zeldman's assertion that 99% of web sites are not valid.

I liked the section at the start of this document which responds to the common objections against web standards. There are nine rebuttals.

Today, I successfully validated my index.htm web page against both the W3C XHTML and CSS validators.

Why bother to validate? It provides me with the best chance for a good display of what I have produced in a wide variety of browsers. Secondly, valid XHTML and CSS is the best available platform for disability access. Finally, it enable for more (not less) creativity as some beautiful cutting edge CSS sites have demonstrated (Zen Garden, Eric Meyer).

And I like being able to put those W3C stickers at the bottom of my page.


I'm trialling (and have registered) reddit as my new home page. In the past few days it has enabled me to find some excellent articles that I would otherwise have missed. It's written in python and is recommended by Paul Graham, a LISP programmer and essayist.
What is reddit?
A source for what's new and popular on the web -- customized for you. We want to democratize the traditional model by giving editorial control to the people who use the site, not those who run it. All of the content on reddit is from users who are rewarded for good submissions (and punished for bad ones) by their peers. You decide what appears on your front page and which submissions rise to fame or fall into obscurity.

creative commons search

Creative Commons, with assistance from Google, now has a search facility where you can search for Creative Commons audio, images, text, video, and other formats that are free to share online. There are other links on this Creative Commons page which go directly to free to share Audio, Text, Images, Video, Educational Materials and Filesharing.

The same search feature is available directly through Google Advanced Search, under the subheading Usage Rights.

This is useful for busy teachers and others searching for material they can use without infringing Copyright Law.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

new threat to the internet

The existing threats are copyright law (which is being used to restrict the creative commons) and perhaps others such as altering the code that runs the internet, as explained by Lessig in his books.

The recent new threat is the attack on network neutrality by telcos, also known as, common carriers, telephone companies, ISPs

The nasty telcos are saying things like this:
SBC/AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre's comment that Google, MSN and Vonage want to, "use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them . . . these people who use these pipes [have] to pay,"
- from Business Week
and, this:
BellSouth CTO William L. Smith thinks that BellSouth . . . should be able, for example, to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc.
- from Washington Post
Up until now all internet data has been equal. But now those who own the pipes want to treat some data as more important than other data.


"As the Internet becomes more capable, Internet telephony, Internet TV and other applications are causing the old network service providers (telephone and cable companies) to lose revenue."
- David Isenberg

The phone company and broadcast TV were once dominant services but are now moribund and dying due to increased capabilities of the internet such as VOIP. Of course they will not go quietly.


Those who have felt threatened for some time by the internet include "... magazine and newspaper publishing, broadcasting, cable television, the record industry, the movie industry, and the telephone industry"

The transformation from physical or analogue transmission to digital transmission undermines the business model - selling physical or difficult to copy objects - of all of the above industries. In a digital world where copying and distribution is effortless and free all of the above industries need to change or they will die.


"The best network is the hardest one to make money running"

This follows from the End to End principle. The internet simply moves bits. All the value is created at the ends, there is no value in the middle. This is the best network design.

There are businesses who like the internet and have learnt how to make money from it. Companies such as Google, Amazon, EBay, Yahoo, Apple and MicroSoft.

A company like Google downloads the whole internet and provides search facilities. They become popular and then sell discrete advertising.

Of course, millions of ordinary people love the internet as well, with or without e-commerce.

On Sept. 15, the first major draft of proposed changes in the nation's telecommunication's laws was circulated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The draft said Internet service providers must not "block, impair, interfere with the offering of, access to, or the use of such content, applications or services." On Nov. 2, another draft of the bill came out . . the prohibition on blocking or impeding content was gone.
- David Isenberg
Network neutrality is simple. It is simply content and application agnosticism. When a network operator deliberately introduces an impairment in their network aimed at specific applications or classes of applications, that violates network neutrality.

Blocking Port 25 violates network neutrality. Introducing upstream jitter deliberately to make third-party VOIP impossible violates network neutrality. Detecting Skype and blocking it violates network neutrality. The broadcast flag violates network neutrality. Capping long downloads to discourage TV over IP violates network neutrality. These fail the content and application agnosticism test ...
- David Isenberg

Main Reference:

Monday, January 02, 2006

information slogans

Information should be free
- Peter Samson, 1959

Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy and recombine ... It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient
- Stewart Brand, 1987

... all generally useful information should be free. By "free" I am not referring to price, but rather to the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to one's own uses.
- Richard Stallman, 1990

Information wants to be free recognizes both the natural desire of secrets to be told and the fact that they might be capable of possessing something like a "desire" in the first place
- John Perry Barlow, 1994

Information wants to be free ... but it wants to keep you under surveillance
- Graham Greenleaf, 1999

Reference: Information wants to be Free ... by Roger Clarke


vint cerf
This quote explains that TCP/IP is indifferent to the content of packets, only the address on the envelope (datagram) matters. Network neutrality is built into the TCP/IP protocol.

In May 1974, they (Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn) complete their paper entitled, "A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication." They described a new protocol they called the transmission-control protocol (TCP). The main idea was to enclose packets in "datagrams." These datagrams were to act something like envelopes containing letters. The content and format of the letter is not important for its delivery. The information on the envelope is standardized to facilitate delivery. Gateway computers would simply read only the delivery information contained in the datagrams and deliver the contents to host computers. Only the host computers would actually "open" the envelope and read the actual contents of the packet. TCP allowed networks to be joined into a network of networks, or what we now call the Internet.

... In 1978, Cerf and several of his colleagues made a major refinement. They split TCP into two parts. They took the part of TCP that is responsible for routing packages and formed a separate protocol called the Internet Protocol (IP).TCP would remain responsible for dividing messages into datagrams, reassembling messages, detecting errors, putting packets in the right order, and resending lost packets. The new protocol was called TCP/IP. It went on to become the standard for all Internet communication.