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University of Maryland: Benefits of Blogging Workshop (May 6, 2009)

There are still spaces available in a workshop I am giving May 6, 2009 at the University of Maryland’s iSchool. The workshop, titled Benefits of Blogging: Why you should start a blog today!, is free and open to anyone in the University of Maryland community.

This is the workshop description:

Blogging is an easy way to build your professional network, improve your writing and get your ideas out there. Information professionals need to understand how to take advantage of the promise of blogs, both to support their careers as well as a tool for institutions. This workshop will be led by an active blogger who has found great success in becoming part of a broader community via her blog. Learn about free tools, things to keep in mind and why you should start a blog today.

When: 5pm Wednesday May 6, 2009

Where: iSchool Student Lab, Hornbake South room 2108

Registration: Maryland iSchool Workshop Registration

Are you interested in this session, but not affiliated with the University of Maryland? Please let me know, either via my contact form or a comment below, and I will see what I can do about putting together another session off-campus.

ArchivesZ Poster Wins 2nd Place at GRID 2009

2nd PlaceThe title says it all. I won 2nd place in the “Smart Computers and Computing” section of the University of Maryland’s Graduate Research Interaction Day (GRID) for my poster ArchivesZ: Visualizing Archival Collections (what is in all those boxes?).

1st place in “Smart Computers and Computing” went to the fabulous Dave Levin for his presentation on TrInc: Small Trusted Hardware for Large Distributed Systems.

Overall, it was a great experience. I wish I could have been in multiple rooms at the same time so I could have seen more posters and presentations. I also wished I had understood that I could have presented with either a poster or a power point deck. That was not entirely clear ahead of time. The downside of of my choice was being tied to my poster, but the upside is that I still have the poster that can be examined by readers like you. Obviously it all worked out in the end.

A big thanks to everyone in the Graduate Student Government who worked so hard to bring this event together.

Warner Brothers Archive DVDs: Classic Movies On-Demand

The latest example of a media company finding a way to profit from their archives, Warner Brothers has launched the Warner Brothers Archive. Nestled neatly within the the website, among the TV shows and promotional merchandise, the movies from the archives include everything customers have come to expect from an online shop. We have user reviews, video clips and the ways to share links. You can browse by genre or decade. They are currently holding a vote to see what title should be added to the inventory next.

One of the films available from the archives is the 1975 action feature Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. Embedded below is a 30 second clip showing Doc Savage entering his “Fortress of Solitude”. They could have made it easier for me to embed this (I had to go figure out how to embed FLV files into this blog post) – but I am happy that they let me embed it at all. If you don’t see a video below, you probably need to install adobe’s shockwave. You can always go watch the clip on the Doc Savage page (click on Video Trailers & Clips).

Each film page carefully notes “This film has been manufactured from the best-quality video master currently available and has not been remastered or restored specifically for this DVD and On Demand release.” and then directs the customer to view the preview clip to evaluate the film’s quality.

The details comes out when we dig into the Warner Archive FAQ. It is here that we learn that the DVDs we can purchase for $19.95 are produced “on-demand”. How are they different from the DVD’s you buy at the store?

DVD’s produced on-demand are similar to, but not quite same as, DVD’s you’d buy at the local video store. DVD movies you buy at the local video outlet are manufactured from a mold via a stamping process whereas on-demand DVDs are “burned”. Each carries information read by the DVD player, but the physical properties of the two are different.

Most DVD players are compatible with both commercial DVD-Video and one or more of the “recordable DVD formats. Our on-demand DVD’s are manufactured using the most widely accepted format, DVD-R.

They also answer this question about copying the DVDs:

Q: I’m trying to make a few extra copies of my DVD, for “safe keeping” and for a surprise present to my mom. When I copied the disc it was un-playable. Why is that? And what can I do about it?

A: This DVD on-demand disc was recorded using CSS encryption. CSS is designed to prevent unauthorized reproduction of the DVD. We’re delighted that you’d like to surprise your mother with the gift of a Warner Bros classic movie. May we suggest she’d like an officially produced and packaged DVD even more? As such we welcome your visit back to the classic store at any time.

In addition to being able to purchase DVD-Rs with CSS encryption, many of the archives films permit a download option. Archives movie downloads appear to cost $14.95. The Digital Products FAQ explains the details, but these are the highlights of what comes along with that $5 in savings:

  • Downloads are protected by DRM
  • Downloads only play on MS Windows boxes – no Mac or Linus support
  • You can burn the movie to a CD or DVD, but they “are Digital Rights Management (DRM) protected, so you will only be able to watch the video on the computer or device on which it was originally purchased.”

I give a big thumbs up to Warner Brothers for coming up with a way to leverage their archives. I am less impressed with the non-open format and DRM restrictions they are placing on both the DVD-Rs and downloads. A model that states that a purchased download can be played as often as I want – but requires a specific operating system and only permits play on the same machine from which I made the purchase seems untenable. If I were to buy one of these films, I would spend the extra $5 and get the DVD-R which at least can be played on multiple machines, even if it can never be copied!

ArchivesZ Poster at UMD’s GRID 2009

Come meet me and hear my 8 minute talk in front of a poster about ArchivesZ.

My ArchivesZ poster has been assigned to the “Smart Computers and Computer Science” theme. I will be with my poster in the Benjamin Bannekar B room at UMD’s Stamp Student Union from 1:30 to 3pm. If you are attending GRID, please stop by and say hello!

Want a preview or can’t make it? Here is the poster in question:

ArchivesZ Poster

Archiving Women in Technology: A Tribute to Ada Lovelace

In celebration of Ada Lovelace Day 2009, I decided to see how many different archival resources I could dig up that document the achievements of women in technology.

My first find has me giving a big hats off to IBM. They have a page dedicated to IBM Women in Technology, but the real fun is in digging through the persona pages listed in the IBM Women in Technology International (WITI) hall of fame. You can watch oral history interviews with women like Frances Allen,  an “expert in the field of optimizing compilers”, or Caroline Kovac, who “oversees the development of cutting-edge information technology at IBM for the life sciences market”.

Beyond IBM’s offerings I ran into a classic challenge – how do you find archival collections specifically about women in technology? A visit to the American Institute of Physic’s archive found me a photo mini-exhibits of of Marie Curie and Maria Goeppert Mayer. A search for “woman scientists” on the Online Archive of California (OAC) found these:

  • Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics : Records of the UCLA Website 1912-2001: The records include documentation of the original papers in which discoveries were first reported, biographical material, including some photographs, and descriptions vetted by Field Editors.
  • Katherine Esau papers: The Katherine Esau papers represent the entire body of plant anatomy research Esau conducted from 1924 when she began research on curly top virus in sugar beets for the Spreckels Sugar Company to 1991 when she published her last article. The collection includes correspondence, research notes, photographs, biographical material, objects, and printed matter.

The challenge in finding collections like these is that you need to hunt through each institutions collections. Looking for the records of a specific individual is easiest, but finding collections in general relating to women and technology is a lot harder. The first collection listed above from OAC has the subject “Women in physics –Archival resources” assigned to it, which seems very useful until you realize that it is the only collection assigned this subject in all of OAC.

I want to leave you with the thought that preserving the notes and writing of young innovative women who are passionate about technology is what will let future generations read their words just as young women can read and be inspired by the words of Ada Lovelace today.

Want to read some of Ada’s writing? Get your hands on a copy of Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: A Selection from the Letters of Lord Byron’s Daughter and Her Description of the First Computer. Want to read something a bit more contemporary that is halfway between memoir and eclectic visit to the depths of software programming, then try Ellen Ullman’s  Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents.

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