Due to an equipment malfunction just prior to my Tablet PC presentation at NoVA Code Camp, I can now show the world what’s inside the average EM digitizer stylus.
A reader sent me a note about this product, SmudgeGuard, originally designed for lefties, then extended to artists and now Tablet PC users. It looks like it covers the pinky and goes around the wrist, covering the outter edge of one’s hand. The idea is to prevent your hand from smudging your work when you’re writing or drawing with pencil, though the web site also talks about using it to keep from smudging your screen as you write.
I’m not that compulsively neat with my tablet so I’m not sure I’d get it just for that, but being an old overhead projector teacher, my first thought was all my coworkers who perpetually had the blue-green stain on the outter edge of their hand from not-quite-clean transparencies (while I thoroughly bleached my transparencies and never had that problem). I wonder if it would work for wet-erase pens like overhead pens.
Of course, if someone wants to send me one to do a formal review…
Techdirt has had a trio of postings about MySpace relating to education and children in the past few weeks. I have a strong feeling that none of this is really new, but the new medium of MySpace makes things like this into bigger news than they should be. And do please note, as cited in the second article, that studies have shown that MySpace is relatively safe (article from EFF). All this fun stuff aside, I still have no intention of telling my students if I have a MySpace account (or an account on LiveJournal or Facebook or anything of that sort), much less any details of any such account I may or may not have.
Just in case there was any confusion about the matter, a court in Indiana has ruled that the First Amendment applies inside of MySpace just as it does everywhere else. Apparently there was actually some debate about this seemingly obvious question after a court gave a middle school student probation for posting an “expletive-laden” critique of her school’s policies on MySpace. In reversing that sentence, the appellate court noted its abhorrence of the student’s language, but agreed nonetheless that it was protected. It’s really hard to fathom the initial court’s reasoning. There’s nothing in the law to suggest that students have any less of a right to free speech than anyone else, and there’s no reason to think that postings on MySpace would make things any different. However, even though the law is settled on this issue, it’s likely that schools and will continue to go after students, only to be slapped down by higher courts
It’s no secret that MySpace has become a favorite target of politicians looking to demonize the latest threat to children. Since there have been a few instances of MySpace-borne sexual assault, it’s not hard to see why politicians latched on to the site. But, apart from a few cherry-picked examples, it’s not clear that MySpace actually poses any meaningful danger to children. The EFF points to a pair of recent studies that dispute the notion that MySpace represents dangerous territory for children. According to one of them, unwanted online solicitations are actually down since 1999, which would contradict the idea that the rise of sites like MySpace, has been a boon for those that would prey on children. The other study, which looked directly at MySpace found that the vast majority of users have never been the subject of unwelcome advances, and that those who have received them are quite capable of simply ignoring them. Of course, political witch hunts are rarely the result of anything rational, so it’s unlikely that these pesky facts will do much to deter politicians.
A high school principal in Pennsylvania has sued four students after they created parody MySpace profiles for him that listed interests such as smoking pot and watching pornography. … To his credit (or maybe his lawyer’s) he’s suing the students and not the site itself, which is the proper legal course.
I always enjoy reading posts that seem to indicate a level of cynicism on par with my own. I especially liked Always connected or always available? from The Vermont Slate because it hit on two things that have been on my mind on and off hte past few years: the notion that we’re heading toward thin-client as the model and the notion that internet connectivity is everywhere:
… my cantankerous musings today stem from thinking about the issues of thin-client computer, desktop virtualization, software as a service, the “death of the desktop” and a number of other buzzwords that are zipping around the tech media today like flies on road kill in mid-July.
I think the main thing that bothers me about these technologies, what makes me leery of them even when I can see real benefits to them, is that they all presume a constantly connected system. … And no connectivity means no data when that data is anywhere but on your computer. It will also mean no applications when those are provided by Google and hosted on Google’s servers.
Now maybe that is just because I live and work in the rural northeast, but I doubt it. I think the reality even in major cities is that connectivity really isn’t ubiquitous, it is just ubiquitous in most of the places where people actually sit down to compute. And I don’t think that (always sitting down to compute) is the future. The future rightly belongs to those who will compute wherever and in whatever position they want.
For all the talk of WWAN and 3G mobile, the notion of always-available broadband (if some of the slower technologies can rightly be called that) still seems to be limited to business road warriors who have an absolute need for that kind of connectivity by the high cost of service. I have not seen wireless broadband for anything even close to what I pay for DSL (or, for that matter, even close to double what I pay for DSL). If the prices were to come down to where DSL prices have ended up, I could easily see dropping a few hundred dollars on a WWAN card and having internet everywhere, but until the service costs come down, it just isn’t going to happen.
From the realm of I-was-too-sick-to-remember-to-post-this-morning…
Many cities’ municipal WiFi networks have been plagued with teething problems that vendors and local governments are trying to work out. While the public-private model most of these networks use means that these issues should get resolved, it’s been clear for a while that muni WiFi isn’t a magic bullet that suddenly makes a city “high-tech” or solves all sorts of problems.
This reminded me of the many conversations floating around unanswered at school about the impact on our students of the long-awaited free WiFi from the city. We currently impose a network blackout for several hours in the overnight to try to keep students from staying up all night every night online (whether or not this works is another issue), but it would be completely futile if all our students had WiFi-capable machines and free WiFi from the city.
Ted Beck, Aurora’s chief technology officer, gets about 30 calls a day from residents wondering when free wireless Internet will be available in their neighborhood.
He wishes he could give them better news, but the estimate is usually in terms of months rather than days. A number of factors have slowed the deployment of the network, although it continues to grow.
Since I’ve had more than a few conversations lately about various accessory equipment and bags and cases and whatnot, I figured I’d do one of those “what I carry with my tablet” posts. I’ll split this into two lists: what I take with me to school and what I take with me on a road trip. Note that I don’t bring an AC adapter with me to school—having two extended batteries is enough to get me through the day, even if one of the two is only half-charged; I carry the standard battery as a backup and charge the two extended batteries at home at night.
Everyday, to school:
- Lenovo/IBM ThinkPad X41 tablet
- 2×8-cell extended batteries
- 1×4-cell standard battery
- Cross/Wacom Capless Penabled Executive Pen
- Timbuk2 Medium Laptop Messenger
- Timbuk2 Rectangular Clear Zip Pouch, Large, for spare batteries
- ThinkPad Multiple Battery Charger II
- ThinkPad 56W Ultraportible AC Adapter
- Kensington Universal Anywhere Notebook 70W AC/DC Adapter
- Microsoft/Pharos USB GPS Receiver
- Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 1000
- Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000
- Slim USB 8x DVD+/-RW Drive (Sony drive in an enclosure)
HawkTour is a proof-of-concept application designed to exhibit pervasive computing in a real-world application. HawkTour is context aware which allows it to give tours of the campus center without having a live guide. More than just an application, the real value is in the underlying architecture upon which HawkTour is built as it is extensible to any environment.
HawkTour demonstrates pervasive computing, a technology that radically changes the way we think and deal with computers. Pervasive computing makes computers invisible as it seamlessly integrates computing and networking power into our environment. Using context aware applications, our environment becomes intelligent enough to interact with us in a natural way. Eventually, mundane chores can be done by smart devices letting us be far more productive.
The pervasive computing page on IIT’s Computer Science Department web site talks more about Hawk Tour in the context of pervasive computing in general:
Hawk Tour is a context aware Campus Tour application, a project conducted at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) via an Inter-professional (Ipro) team. It provides Campus information on demand. It runs on PDAs, Tablet PCs, and other mobile devices, and the content can be shown on the digital devices or on a display interface near by. IITour is supported, wirelessly, by a campus wide context-aware middleware. Once it is initiated it will be completely driven by user location and intent. Based on the current location and his/her orientation (or the PDA’s orientation) of a user, it dynamically retrieves necessary campus information and presents it to user through the user-friendly interface. It shows map of the current location and it’s associated campus information, like near room, nearby restroom, Coffee shop, a historic wall, some historic information about the building etc. The key point is, the information are presented to user based on his current location and action are taken based on it’s intent.
Having a location- and/or orientation-aware Tablet PC opens up a wealth of possible applications.
Let me preface this with the standard warning that I am not a lawyer. Any commentary I add herein is based on my working knowledge of copyright in the context of being an educator and an occasional producer of content. Furthermore, I will argue largely on the side of TurnItIn.com mostly because I believe that they have not made the strongest possible arguments so far and because I think that the students’ use of copyright law to challenging the system is ridiculous, not because I necessarily believe that TurnItIn.com is morally or ethically sound.
While I think I had been vaguely aware of these lawsuits, the first I really read about them was on Techdirt — “Plagiarism Checker Sued For Copyright Infringement”
Back in 2002 there was some discussion over whether or not, Turnitin, a popular plagiarism checker that many schools and universities use, was violating students’ copyrights. The program worked by comparing any uploaded works to a large database of previous works. However, it would then add those new works to the larger database. Many students began to question not just why they were being treated as criminals first, but also why Turnitin was allowed to use their content in its database without first licensing the works from the students. While there had been occasional stories wondering something similar over the past few years, now it appears that two high school students have decided to step up and sue the company for copyright infringement. This could get interesting for a variety of reasons. The students clearly thought this out ahead of time — registering the copyright on the papers, which gives them the ability to sue for statutory damages, rather than just be made whole. At least one also had explicit instructions in the paper that it not be included in the Turnitin database — and those instructions were ignored.
While I’d love to argue the point about being treated like criminals and being guilty until proven innocent (mostly on the grounds that TurnItIn.com is more a protection of an honest student’s work against unauthorized copying, blah blah blah…), I think that’s a debate that isn’t going to move anywhere, so I’ll try to stick to the copyright arguments.
A pdf datasheet titled “Copyright and Privacy” on TurnItIn.com says, in part:
The archiving of digital fingerprints of papers is permitted under the current laws of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, among others.
I think the first key is in the use of “digital fingerprints.” I’m not at all sure how the service could work as specified if they only keep some sort of digital fingerprint (perhaps a hash?) of each submitted paper, so right away I’m none too thrilled with this file. The full text of the file doesn’t really go much further than that in terms of actual reasons why their use of students’ work would fall under fair use.
A legal opinion document presumably written by Foley & Lardner, posted on TurnItIn.com (though rather than finding an obvious link to it on TurnItIn.com, I found it through an Ars Technica article on the lawsuits) is a bit more informative:
Hence, by itself, teacher submission of a student work to Turnitin is within the scope of the evaluation license provided by the student to the teacher on submission of the work for grading. The implied license may not extend to other aspects of the TURNITIN system, such as archiving, however, such aspects are allowable as “fair uses” of the copyrighted material.
Now, here’s where I start to get really edgy about the whole thing. My suspicion is further heightened by a Washington Post article titled “McLean Students Sue Anti-Cheating Service”:
“All of these kids are essentially straight-A students, and they have no interest in plagiarizing,” said Robert A. Vanderhye, a McLean attorney representing the students pro bono. “The problem with [Turnitin] is the archiving of the documents. They are violating a right these students have to be in control of their own property.”
Andrew Beckerman-Rodau, co-director of the intellectual property law program at Suffolk University Law School, said that although the law regarding fair use is subject to interpretation, he thinks the students have a good case.
“Typically, if you quote something for education purposes, scholarship or news reports, that’s considered fair use,” Beckerman-Rodau said. “But it seems like Turnitin is a commercial use. They turn around and sell this service, and it’s expensive. And the service only works because they get these papers.”
So, looking at all this, I see two big issues here. First, what rights, if any, do the students have to control papers they submit as a requirement of a class? Second, is the archival comparison use actually fair use?
What rights, if any, do the students have to control papers they submit as a requirement of a class?
I would claim that students have little or no rights to control this work. I think the general idea set forth in the legal opinion commissioned by TurnItIn.com is largely correct, though perhaps too narrow in saying that the student implicitly licenses their work to be graded and evaluated by the teacher. I would make the case that in the context of the class, it is entirely up to the teacher to decide on reasonable conditions under which the work is submitted—this already includes the requirement to submit the paper through a service such as TurnItIn.com and I see no reason why this wouldn’t naturally extend to saying that it is a requirement to allow TurnItIn.com to archive the paper for ongoing use. Moreover, it is not uncommon for teachers to keep archives of work submitted by previous students to compare to newly turned-in work to check for plagiarism.
Is the archival comparison use actually fair use?
I would claim that, especially due to the commercial nature of TurnItIn.com, that the archival comparison is not fair use. I think the argument against it being fair use is particularly strong if the full text of the paper is used, whereas using some sort of hash of the paper might be arguable.
In both questions, I believe that a disclosure about the use and a requirement that students agree to the use in order to submit the paper ought to be sufficient to preclude any of this copyright litigation.
Since I’m on spring break, my daily posts may tend more toward the afternoon… you know, when I wake up.
Warner Crocker at GBM picked up on a tip at Gizmodo, referencing a MacApper post about using the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean various case surfaces on various notebooks and tablets. While the concern over the chemical content/toxicity of the Magic Eraser seems to be unfounded, I might be a little concerned about the long-term abrasive effects of it, but given the results from so many people, I’d certainly give it a shot for a really dirty machine.
Those of us that own the black MacBook know that fingerprints are the devil. Smudges and fingerprints show up all over the black matte finish. Josh, over at MacApper, figured out the most efficient way to get rid of the nastiness, with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Josh put together some pretty detailed instructions about how to use Mr. Clean to tidy up that MacBook, so hit up the link and let us know how it goes, fellow BlackBook owners.
… what ends up on your fingers ends up as residue on your keyboard or your case. Greasy fingers make for greasy fingerprints.I’ve noticed this on the Lenovo Thinkpad X60 Tablet PC, just like I noticed it on my Toshiba M200. It is not a killer problem, but one of those niggling ones that drive me crazy every now and again.
A week or so ago I picked up this tip up from Gizmodo for cleaing cases on the Black MacBook and I thought I’d give it a try. Well, today during my lunch hour I picked up a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and gave the case a once over.
It works quite well in removing those greasy marks, especially on the space bar. Now if I can just find the self control to keep from eating at my desk.