Showing posts from November, 2012

Higher School of Economics

I had a leisurely morning yesterday, catching up on blogging, then met the very charming Yelena again, then Masha from the Embassy, and off we went to the Higher School of Economics (HSE). Our embassy driver was fearless. After two days of snow, then rain, it was all slush and ice. The HSE was in the older part of Moscow, which meant very narrow streets, and lots of little hills. But our driver went careening through, often inches away from the parked cars, but always under perfect control. Then we walked up five flights of stairs to meet with about 15 students of various ages. There was one librarian, a number of journalism students, and a few writers. My key topic was again ebooks. The second time through with Yelena the interpreter was fun. We worked very smoothly together, and did a better job communicating humor. I very frank about what wasn't working in the US right now (Big 5 market moves, and why that was driving us to consider new sources of content). I also talked about…

Russian State Libraries

After another breakfast buffet (salmon caviar!), I met Peter and one of his other staff people in the lobby. We walked over through the second day of snow to the Russian State Library, just a couple of blocks away. There I met Yelena, my new interpreter. The Russian library is a huge couple of buildings behind the Dostoyevsky statue, and contains some 10 million or more items. I was introduced to several key directors of the library, then they took me up stairs to a very fancy board room, where about 30 librarians from the largest Moscow libraries wandered in to listen. A tech guy set me up with my slides (bless the little wearable jump drive). My talk to this group was mainly the 5 trends talk. Then I took questions, and segued a bit into the censorship talk. I begin to see why there's such an interest in this topic here. There is in fact a list of titles that are forbidden -- mostly related to terrorism. One of the librarians asked if we'd ever experienced this interesting…

Tales from Moscow

I arrived in Moscow last Sunday around noon. On Monday I gave two talks, as noted in my previous post. Tuesday, I got to take a high speed train (100 mph, if that's what 160 kilometers per hour shakes out to) to Nizhniy Novgorod, the 5th largest city in Russia. The train was very new, modern, comfortable. The day started when I was picked up by Steve, an embassy Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer. He lived in Moscow as a student for 10 years, and his Russian is excellent. We were driven to the train station. Differences from American trains: you walk through a security gate to get in the door, then another security gate before going to the train platform. There, my passport was checked and noted by a guard. I gather that access within the country, whether for travel or work, remains subject to approvals and monitoring. Once we arrived in Novgorod, we took a taxi to our hotel, then were met by Lyudmilla, a vivacious and articulate interpreter. She took us on a walk along the Vol…

First talk: ebooks

I just finished giving my first talk in Moscow, a lecture for "students and professors" at the Russian State University for the Humanities. The topic was "The Role and Future of Books in the Digital World." I gave it in English -- the students are part of the American Studies program, headed by Marina Kaul. Having taught a class last summer with friend and colleague Sharon Morris, the setting was familiar. Bright students listened carefully and asked some great questions. Virtually all of them, as undergraduates, had read ebooks. When asked if they paid for what they read, they all laughed. Of course, a great deal of what they read is probably on Project Gutenberg. But not all. When I asked if ebooks were available from their local libraries, the consensus seemed to be that they were not. So far, I'm holding up well. I got to my hotel about noon yesterday, then walked long and fast with Nicky, my translator from Bulgaria, now teaching English in Moscow. I cr…

Disable Secure Boot to Install Linux

I just know I'm going to need this some day. In short, to get to the point where we can attempt to boot an alternative operating system we need to know our way through six steps:
1. Boot machine while pressing F10
2. Find Secure Boot in the menu tree, ignore warnings
3. Disable Secure Boot feature
4. Enable legacy boot options
5. Enable specific legacy devices, such as USB devices
6. Save and reboot while holding down F9

All of this is from a Distrowatch piece by Jesse Smith. No doubt all of this won't work when I need it either, but somebody might Google it up and find it. Some things we must pay forward. A follow-up: The currently favored solution is a workaround: a pre-bootloader signed by Microsoft (so it passes secure boot) that can then be used to load a normal Linux bootloader without further signature checking. One Linux developer, Matthew Garrett, has managed to get Microsoft to sign a pre-bootloader called Shim. You can download it today and use it to boot Linux on…

In Moscow

The flight was uneventful. Delta took off on time (a little early getting off the ground), and arrived a little ahead of schedule on the other end. I got to watch Lincoln Vampire Hunter on the way over, and that was interesting, having just seen Spielberg's Lincoln. I liked them both. Yes, Sally Fields did a great job telling off those pompous politicians. But Mary Elizabeth Winstead offed a vampire. Spielberg's Lincoln told stories. Bekmamatov's Lincoln wielded a silver-tipped ax. So on the whole, pretty balanced. The Moscow airport was airy and bright, although the sky was very cloudy, and it was gently snowing. The airport is lined with tall pines. Customs was a breeze. I got picked up by somebody holding up a card with my name, which was fun. He spoke no English, and I speak no Russian, but he was friendly, and let me sit up front so I could see better. The drive into town (I'm right across from Red Square, it seems) was interesting, too. Lots and lots of tall apa…

To Moscow!

Thanks to the recommendation of Sue Polanka (of No Shelf Required fame), I picked up a gig from the US Embassy in Moscow to go talk about American library issues. Over the space of 6 days, I'll give four distinct talks on 9 occasions. The most requested one is about ebooks. Digital publishing may be taking off in Russia, and the United States is a little ahead of the game. But I'll also be talking about 5 trends in US public libraries (a focus on early literacy, ebooks, community reference, library as place, and access to technology), censorship (as discussed in my book "the New Inquisition"), and "chasing the library patron" (strategies for increasing library market penetration. I hope to learn as much as I can about Russian libraries, and to blog about that for American Libraries upon my return.I've never been to Russia before, so that's exciting. I even get to take a train trip from Moscow to Nizhniy Novgorod and back.One would think that Moscow …

RIP Acer Aspire One

Well, I guess the time has come. The Acer Aspire One, despite my upgrading of the BIOS, doesn't want to charge its battery anymore. So it is slowly just losing its charge, and will die. And that's OK, since I have another Acer laptop that I bought back in June when my desktop computer died. I got a lot of use out of the Acer Aspire One. And honestly, how many computers does a boy need? But I will try to make sure that I've backed up everything, then reformat the internal drive before I recycle it. One can't be too careful.

Writers support libraries

I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but I continue to think about it. A lot of librarians missed this: NWU Supports Librarians' Objections to Publishers' E-book Licensing Terms. There's an interesting issue here. We all know, consumers and libraries alike, that in effect, our ebook purchases aren't purchases at all. They are licenses. We can't give the books away, we can't resell them, we can't donate them. That's a license. Yet Random House has declared that libraries own their ebooks. Here's what a lot of people don't know. I didn't. Modern author contracts call for an author royalty of 10% or so for sales. But for licensing, authors are supposed to get 50%. So you have to wonder: is Random House licensing their works, but taking 90%, when they should only get 50? Somehow, this copyright and publishing framework has become a corporate asset, benefitting neither the public, nor the creator. Calling all authors: why not publish at the…

Copyright reform?

I ran across various links today on Twitter to a Republican House Committee report on current copyright laws, and in particular, about how those laws have gone way too far. You can find one posting about it here. To quote from that article, ... [the report] goes on to look at some of the specific harms of today's copyright law, including harming remix culture and a lot of commercial activity around it, that it "hampers scientific inquiry," discouraging value added industries and others. Finally, it puts forth suggestions for copyright reform that go way, way, way beyond anything we've seen legitimately discussed in Congress, ever. I think it's clear that copyright has become a corporate property, used more often to suppress the works of others than to advance the public good, or even assure the compensation of the creator. A corollary is software patents, which are also used (as in the case of Apple and Microsoft) not to foster innovation, but to seek monopoli…

Mystery of the missing ebooks

That's the title of this Huffington Post piece by Art Brodsky. It does a very good job, in clear, jargon-free language, of telling the public just what's going on with ebooks and libraries. Not a pretty picture.

Diane Ravitch on educational reform

This piece by education historian and former assistant secretary of education under George H. W. Bush captures a lot of things I believe. I started out eager for educational reform, and concluded that the two big streams of standards and charter schools just didn't get us there. Worth a read.