Archive for November, 2008

Books are spiritual, but …

Some interesting thoughts from James Gleick How to Publish Without Perishing in today’s New York Times

For some kinds of books, the writing is on the wall. Encyclopedias are finished. All encyclopedias combined, including the redoubtable Britannica, have already been surpassed by the exercise in groupthink known as Wikipedia. Basic dictionaries no longer belong on paper; the greatest, the Oxford English Dictionary, has nimbly remade itself in cyberspace, where it has doubled in size and grown more timely and usable than ever. And those hefty objects called “telephone books”? As antiquated as typewriters. The book has had a long life as the world’s pre-eminent device for the storage and retrieval of knowledge, but that may be ending, where the physical object is concerned.

I entirely agree with this assessment. I would add text books and most scholarly works to Gleick’s list of “device[s] for the storage and retrieval [and transmission] of knowledge”. But… Read the rest of this entry »

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Wired: Open Source Hardware

In Wired’s latest magazine, there was an article on open source hardware: “Build It. Share It. Profit. Can Open Source Hardware Work?”. Massimo Banzi, co-founder of the Arduino project, posts all of the design files, schematics, and even software online, so that anyone can build their own Arduino board. It is a chipmaking robot, and 50,000 Arduino boards have been sold in the past two years. Arduino controls the brand, and this is part of the reason that they still sell any boards at all: anyone can make one, but only certain companies are allowed to use “Arduino” on their product, and they in return do have to pay a small fee. Surprisingly, this has actually helped Arduino. When other manufacturers make low-quality boards, with flimsy wiring and soldering, word gets around and Arduino sales increase.

As always, the question of money comes up. Software doesn’t cost much to make, but hardware? Arduino, like many others, sells their expertise. The boards cost $35, and Arduino makes very little off that–a few dollars, maybe. “But the serious income comes from clients who want to build devices based on the board and who hire the founders as consultants.” As far as the entire company is concerned, working for firms who want Arduino products can be relatively easy: “For example, one client wanted to control LED arrays. Poking around online, Banzi found that someone in France had already published Arduino code that did the job. Banzi took the code and was done.”
Wired really covered a lot with open source this month; online the article is 6 pages long. It has a lot of neat ideas and is really worth a read for all. Alert to bigtime hardware manufacturers: you may have to change your business style.
View article here.


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“Open Source” Prank?

The New York Times is reporting an elaborate spoof that has all the elements of the open source development model. With the headline “Liberal Pranksters Hand Out Times Spoof,” the times reported that millions of copies of a spoof edition of the Times at subway stations in New York City, Los Angeles, and other cities. The spoof is dated July 4, 2009 and portrays a liberal utopia, with the end of the Iraq war, a national health system, a recovered and green economy, and apologies and war crimes indictments for members of the Bush administration. The hoax includes a web site that almost perfectly mimics the look of the real Time’s site.

What’s interesting about this prank, is the way it was pulled off.

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