The Old Scholar's Historical Thoughts

November 6, 2009

An issue from class last week

Filed under: Uncategorized — theoldscholar @ 8:23 pm

I think it was Hal who asked why there was not a standard for playing video, to which I replied “Bill Gates would love for there to be a standard, and he would like to set it.”  Then Dr. Cohen said that the new HTML-5 was defining a video element that all HTML5 browsers would have to support. I wanted to see more about the whole controversy, so I looked up HTML5 to try and understand why there wasn’t a standard. A great article by Paul Ryan discusses HTML5.

Basically the standards committee still can not get everyone to agree on the standard to be used in HTML5 and have left it open.

It boils down to Apple and Google supporting one standard (H.264) and Mozilla and Opera favoring Ogg Theora ( I don’t know where they come up with these names.) When you read further you find these standard wars hinge on two things. First is the supposed technical superiority of one (H.264) over the other. The second is Open Source vs non-Open Source software. Mozilla and Opera cannot put H.264 in their browsers because it contains code that is patented. It they included the patented routintes they would violate their Open source license to be able to share their code freely. Apple and Google say you don’t know what lurking patents are in Ogg Theora so you can’t trust that either. I’m glad we had the discussion in class of Open Source and how you could not fence off some part of the work from the patented work, otherwise these explanations would not have made sense to me.

It seems as if Google prefers H.264 for Chrome, but they will support Ogg Theora. Apple will be a bad guy this time, supporting only a patented technology. Microsoft gets around it by saying they just are not going to support HTML5 completely. Ryan said “My inner pessimist suspects that Microsoft will finally get around to implementing HTML 5 video at the same time that the H.264 patents expire, in roughly 2025.”

If you want to see how passionate people get about these debates I cut out a quote from one of the comments about this controversy from (I am leaving out the really offensive things) He said that companies make decisions about standards because they don’t want to be sued by  “some scum sucking, syphillitic pus-drinking, rotting corpse-devouring and worm-infested defecation-eating patent troll.”  I assume he is somewhat of a fan of  the Open Source movement.


November 2, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — theoldscholar @ 8:57 pm

I looked at Open Library and Google Books and agree with many of the observations of the other people in the class. I had actually downloaded a PDF copy of Greater England from Charles Dilke (1899) for another class last semester from Google Books. I found it interesting because I was able to use my full edition of Adobe Acrobat to take notes, highlight and index the book to the things that were interesting to me. I linked that into my Zotero library which allows me to have my research right there and I don’t have to go search my bookshelf for the book,  and then rummage through my notes to find what I am looking for. I find it much easier to read an honest to goodness book, but the ease of keeping track of things for research makes eBooks very useful.

Another source for eBooks is Project Gutenberg. This site allows the community to contribute to the collection. It has a tools area where you can see the different tools that people use to scan the books. The interface is not as slick as Google but it does offert some audio versions of the books.  The books are in different formats -WRITTEN text, pdf, AUDIO – MP3, Apple etc. Since I drive an hour or so per day to get to work, I’m amazed at how many books I have been able to “read” in the audio format. Getting them from the library or on-line from Project Gutenberg is a great time/money saver. Books under copyright I can get from the Library for free. Books out of copyright I can get from sites like this.

November 1, 2009

Preserving our Work

Filed under: Uncategorized — theoldscholar @ 3:56 pm

Maintenance is the hardest and most expensive portion of an Information Technology project. When computers first came on the scene the rule of thumb was that the development of a program/system was about 1/10th the total cost. Maintenance was the expensive part of computer software. Bill Gates changed that by making maintenance and upgrades a profit center instead of a cost center. The cost and effort is still there, but now the consumer pays for it, not the manufacturer.

My project is only useful if it is current. If the site becomes “The Place To Go” for the latest and greatest knowledge of metadata standards for historians, it has to have the latest information. One of the sites we looked at this week was “ The NINCH Guide to Good Practice in the Digital Representation and Management of Cultural Heritage Materials” I was pleased to see they has a specific section on “Metadata.” Actually, I was scared because this promised to be what I thought my project was supposed to be. Anyways, I went to that site and went down some of their links. What did I find? ONE OF THEIR LINKS IS BROKEN. (The one to MPEG-7)  Keeping web sites up-to-date is a never ending process.

I figure I can solve my maintenance problem by making the project a resource provided by the CHNM and then let them worry about it. (Sounds like a good idea to me 😉 )

Actually, that’s not far off. I would hope to have my grant be sponsored by GMU and work with the standards group of the W3C, in a cooperative endeavor. They are the ones working with the Semantic Web and have a users group that is developing just these types of standards. If this site could become part of the W3C overall effort, the community would have a vested interest in perpetuating and keeping the data current.

The second stage of the project – the development and melding of standards is a long term project that will only succeed as part of a consortium of W3C, the NINCH and all the other standards and governing bodies that are out there. These bodies are more than willing to participate in projects, if they see concrete results and a benefit to themselves. Therefore, an important component of the grant application, will have to be the marketing of the idea to these other organizations and the benefits they will receive by participating.

September 20, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — theoldscholar @ 5:45 pm

Well, the hard drive on my iMac is nowhere to be found. I tried to turn on the machine and I get a lovely flashing question mark. I put in my OS disk and run disk utility and there is no disk. Wonderful. My backup will come in handy when I find that elusive disk. If anyone has seen a lost harddrive please send it to my place. I’m sure it’s lonely.

July 22, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — theoldscholar @ 12:46 am

Another excursion into the world of blogging.

Blog at