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Mailing Number 29 - 19 January 2004

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Software patents - Microsoft fails to overturn court ruling. 15/1/2004 report in the Register concerning Microsoft's failure, for the moment, to overturn the August Chicago US District Court decision that Microsoft had improperly put patented Web browser technology into its Internet Explorer, infringing a patent owned by the University of California and licensed by Eolas Technologies, with Eolas Technologies and University of California awarded between them $520.6 million in damages. Also covers, briefly, (Sir) Tim Berners Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium's attempts to get the Eolas Technologies patent set aside. See also Mailing Number 26.

ALT-C 2004: Blue skies and pragmatism - learning technologies for the next decade. The UK's Association for Learning Technology (ALT), for which I work half-time, has just launched the web site for next September's Conference, in Exeter, Devon, England. Keynote Speakers include Vijay Kumar (Assistant Provost for Educational Technology, and Director of Academic Computing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Wendy Hall (Professor of Computer Science, University of Southampton, and President of the British Computer Society), and Ron Oliver (Foundation Professor of Interactive Multimedia at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia). Deadlines: Research Papers - 5 March; Abstracts for workshops, symposia, short papers etc - 26 March.

The future of computing. Interesting and readable article in the 17-23 January issue of the Economist about the next big things in computing, with a particular emphasis on:

  • web services, that is "software that resides in a big shared server computer and can be found and used by applications on other servers, even ones far away and belonging to different organisations";
  • grid computing, that is "sharing of processing power" from different computers on a particular task. (The best-known example is a "search for extra-terrestrial intelligence" project called SETI@home, overseen by the University of California at Berkeley, through which several million people in over 200 countries have downloaded a screensaver that makes their computer available, whenever it is sitting idle, to process radio signals gathered from outer space.)

Browser for people with learning difficulties. According the BBC, Widgit Software will soon launch a browser - Communicate Webwise - which will automatically turn information on web pages into plain text, or into Rebus symbols, which, it is argued, some people with some learning difficulties find easier to comprehend than text.

Metronomy. Believe it or not, venture capitalists have funded a company, Metronomy, which aims to provide free IBM PCs to people with broadband connections, in exchange for a commitment to watch up to 3 minutes of advertising per hour of use. The advertising is supplied on CDs sent monthly through the post. Instal the CD's content within 7 days of receipt to "automatically extend the life of the PC and update the ads". I wonder........

Resources [back to top]

Papers and journals. Three lists of learning and e-learning related papers and journals.

Internet. Five links, with advice, or software, or guidance on good practice.

  • Mozilla. If you are concerned about the insecurity or lack of functionality of Outlook, Outlook Express, or Internet Explorer, you can download (or order cheaply on CD) a range of highly regarded, award-winning, Open Source alternatives for PC, Mac, or Linux, from the site.
  • WebXACT. WebXACT, from Watchfire, the company that bought the rights to "Bobby", the web-site accessibility testing tool, is a free online service that lets you test single pages of web content for quality, accessibility, and privacy issues.
  • OWASP. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) was started in 2000 with the mission of creating "an open source community where people could advance their knowledge about web application and web services security issues by either contributing their knowledge to the education of others or by learning about the topic from documentation and software produced by the project". Since then its recommendations have been widely taken up, by, for example, the US Federal Trade Commission, and by companies like Sun, BT, and IBM. OWASP has published a top 10 list of the most critical web application security flaws, which has also been translated to apply to specific languages including PHP, with the OWASP Top Ten now included in the curriculum on forward-thinking ICT training courses.
  • CSS Zen Garden. The simplest and most elegant way to control the look of a web site is with cascading style sheets (CSS). I featured this thorough, convincing, non-doctrinaire, a 33-page tutorial by Bill Merikallio and Adam Pratt in Fortnightly Mailing 25. Last week, Dick Moore drew my attention to Zen Garden, which shows hundreds of visually completely different versions of the same text content, all rendered using CSS. Clearly this is the way for different organisations to brand the same learning materials, without compromising the quality of the learning materials.
  • Jakob Neilsen on email. Pithy advice from Jakob Neilsen on how to prevent an "interrupt-driven workday".


  • BBC Guide: How to get broadband. Sensible, current, consumer guide to getting broadband from the BBC's beta iCan web site, which is described by the BBC as a site "to help you do something about issues that matter to you".
  • Broadband for Learning. North London Broadband for Learning service enables organisations in North London to connect over broadband Internet connections to meet using web conferencing technology.

Oddments[back to top]

Bike-powered PCs. (From Dave Pickersgill via Julia Duggleby.) Laos villagers are to get online with bike-powered PCs, according to this February 2003 CNN article. See also items on fuel cell- and micro engine- powered PCs in Fortnightly Mailing Number 20.

Pocket-sized PC. The device on the left [22 kB JPEG] is (or rather is predicted to be, later this year) a fully featured pocket PC from OQO.

Nobody here. Click on the fish, (and elsewhere.....). Is it art? Probably.

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Last updated - 16/3/2007; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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