Archive for the 'blather' Category


Copyright and the pictureless Art History textbook

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Note: The misunderstandings that led to this issue have been addressed by OCAD University as detailed in the updates at the bottom of this article, however as I find out, It’s As Bad As That And Worse

There is a lot of discussion over on Techdirt about this, and I’ll post any pics of the book and its contents here when I have them.

My daughter started at OCAD University this fall.

One of her main required courses is Global Visual and Material Culture: Prehistory to 1800 which, as you might guess, requires a $180 textbook.

Students are required to buy the newest version of this textbook, presumably because as you well know, stuff that happened in the period spanning Prehistory to 1800 changes every year.

This year, however, the textbook for Global VISUAL and Material Culture has no pictures. Students have been told that the publisher couldn’t get the copyright permissions settled in time for the print run, so students will have to read the book, and see the pictures online by following along on their computer.

There is no discount on the $180 price for an ART textbook that has NO PICTURES. Devoid of pictures. Bereft of art. If I am going to have to pay $180 for an art history book that is of no resale value to next year’s students, it had damn well better be an excellent visual reference with hard cover and full colour plates, to keep around for years, festooning my coffee table and that of my heirs.

Someone has started a petition against this idiocy. I’ve signed it because I’m not particularly interested in paying any amount for an imageless art history textbook.

I’d be interested to know how this wasn’t an issue with the book last year (or any previous year for that matter), and which Renaissance painter rose from the dead to claim copyright.

I thought Canadian universities had figured this all out but it seems they’re still waffling, and if and how that relates to textbooks I’m not sure.


From what I can gather so far, this is a new book that one commenter on the petition calls “perfectly geared to this course”. I’m not sure whether that means it was specifically written and published to be used for this course, but its early incomplete release seems to be aimed at making it available for this semester. Since another book was used last year for the same course, I cannot see why last year’s curriculum could not be followed until the new book is ready rather than introducing a new curriculum based on an incomplete and rushed-out publication. How is it that the instructor is so committed to this particular text that this very peculiar choice would have been made?

OCAD Response:

Below is the relevant section from a letter to the students of this class from the dean. An open discussion has been scheduled for this week to help the students to understand the issues. I’m glad to see the school is taking steps to address the concerns raised due to the poorly communicated change in resource material.

Global Visual & Material Culture: Beginnings to 1800 is a custom textbook that basically combines three
textbooks into one:

1. Art History, 4th ed. by Stokstad and Cothren – excerpts from the full 1150-page text.
Volume One would retail for $144.

2. Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide, 2nd ed. by Drucker/McVarish – excerpts.
This volume would retail for $92.

3. A custom reader with all the additional material we have added (which includes printed images)and would cost approximately $65 – $75 (see page iii of text for list of items).

You have also been given access to electronic versions of the full Stokstad/Cothren and Drucker/McVarish texts with all the images.

The book is complete as printed and is not missing pictures because we didn’t get copyright clearance in time. If we had opted for print clearance of all the Stokstad and Drucker images, the text would have
cost over $800.


The pod bay doors are closing, Dave.

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

I was just reading about how OSX Mountain Lion is by default restricting app downloads to the App Store.

How long before the “anywhere” option disappears?

How long before you can’t avoid upgrading to Mountain Lion or its successors?

Apple is moving further down the road I predicted two years ago. Windows 8 is experimenting with similar things, but Microsoft doesn’t have the hardware lockin.

I admit it’s not evidence of the app-ocalypse, but it may indicate a slow rise to a boil. I love my Macbook Air, however I was a latecomer as a Mac fanboi, and I’ll be ready to jump back over to the Linux or BSD pots before it gets too steamy.


Knowledge as a universal natural resource

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Sara Chipps, Girl Developer points out quite rightly that there is no such thing as proprietary client-side Javascript, and goes on to opine eloquently about the absurdity of many patent lawsuits.

I occasionally find myself talking with someone about facebook chat or google chat and I’ll say “I sorta invented that” and point them to my Feb 2002 blog entry where I built and released to the wild what was one of the earliest embeddable DHTML chat windows, using my also free and open what-was-not-yet-called-Ajax library I released in 2000, about 5 years before many people came along and pushed the state of the art much further down the road.

Invariably I am told that I should be rich and that all those sites and people “stole” my ideas. I disagree and say that these were all perfectly obvious inventions to me and all the others who came after me and that it was my duty to the net to feed my work back into it such that folks could stand on my shoulders as I had stood on those of others.

That is how the net works – or at least it used to. It still does in open development circles but the content and patent industries are fighting hard to brainwash everyone that knowledge is inherently owned.

This is what it’s all about, from a pure philosophical perspective:

Anything that is knowable is a part of the universe of truth that has no owner and no bounds. The invention or discovery of anything results in the exposure of one or more hitherto undocumented universal truths to the collected human record.

The true and original purpose of copyright and patents is to create a temporary legal fiction which acts in many respects like ownership, conferring upon an individual person rights to control the use and dissemination of morsels of universal truth which they had the luck and/or tenacity to first identify, so they can be recompensed for their contribution to the universe’s growing stockpile of exposed truth for the benefit of all humanity.

The legal expansion to include corporate personhood and subsequent term extensions tending towards permanence of the legal assignment of ownership equivalence amounts to the expropriation and destruction of large parts of humanity’s natural knowledge resources.

It’s not too much different from bulldozing the rainforest.


Current Currency

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

I’ve hopped onto the Bitcoin bandwagon.

Send me money!



Ten years of blogging

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Yep, it’s been over 10 years since I first set fingers to keyboard and typed my first ever cyber-epistle.

I’ve slowed down somewhat of late but it’s a milestone worth marking. Another first on my blog was the debut of the in-browser dynamically updated chat box in February 2002.

Woohoo, glory days. I feel like Al Bundy regaling his epic 4-touchdown game at Polk High.


I love phone tethering

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Air ambulance closes highway

I’m on my way up Highway 400 from Toronto to Barrie, to pick up my daughter from college and bring her home for the weekend.

A tractor-trailer has left the road and tumbled into the ditch, and I’m stuck in the traffic jam, only 150 yards behind the crash, but completely immobile because the air ambulance helicopter has landed in the middle of the road and nobody’s going anywhere until it lifts off again.

Somebody is obviously having a wayyy shittier day than I am, so I’m making the best of the afternoon by getting some work done in the car on my macbook, tethered via bluetooth to my iphone, with full connectivity.

I never would have imagined this.


Retro Spam

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

About 4 months ago, a copy of the Toronto Sun newspaper started turning up at my door. I hadn’t ordered it, nobody had offered me a free trial, it just started arriving every day. The Sun isn’t my cup of tea (the Globe and Mail would suit me better, that is if I still cared about a daily newspaper at all), so it was only a few days before I was tired of skimming it and then throwing it out, so it started to just go straight to the bin.

After a month of this, I phoned the Sun to ask them to stop sending it. It confused them that I wasn’t a subscriber but I was canceling their service all the same.

After another month, I called again to the same (i.e. nil) effect. They said it would for certain be cancelled this time, might take a couple of days to stop.

After a third month, I called the Sun a third time, and also called the Toronto Star, from whom I do subscribe to my weekend papers, and told them to try to get the message to the delivery agent who they apparently both use, since on weekends they come wrapped together.

And still the Sun arrives every morning, as reliably as its namesake.

I suppose I shall have to take it upon myself to camp out in the morning mist on my front stoop to accost the delivery agent and personally set him or her straight. I started for a while laying out the rolled up newspapers at the end of the driveway where they would doubtless see them piled up, but it gets really depressing seeing how much paper is being senselessly wasted.

I was speaking to a colleague yesterday who told me that she has the same problem with the National Post. We wondered if we were simply two of a huge swath of non-subscribers who are counted in the newspaper industry’s inflated distribution numbers to justify their anachronistic continued existence.


The Two Trajectories of Device Convergence

Monday, April 12th, 2010

The flap over Apple’s recent iPhone OS announcements has caused me to step back from the fray and I think from a distance some clarity has emerged.

I, like much of the world, see current phone and tablet devices as an evolution of the general purpose computer getting smaller and more focused. We project on them the same expectations of openness and freedom that we’ve come to expect from computers and laptops. Standardized interchangeable chargers and cables, replaceable batteries, users and developers have administrative control over the OS, development and distribution is completely within user and developer control. Connectivity and expansion are standardized and open.

Apple sees the iPad and iPhone as an evolution of the electronic telecom or entertainment device getting bigger and more general-purpose. They project on them the same expectations of vendor lockin and control that they’ve come to expect from mobile devices, audio players, and video games. Proprietary chargers and cables, no user-serviceable parts or batteries, users have no control over the OS, development and distribution is tightly controlled by the vendor. Connectivity and expansion are proprietary and controlled.

As the two fronts of this battle advance on each other, Apple is firing their salvos from their highly fortified appliance battlements below, while other players are approaching this space from the open skies above, bringing open general purpose computing to the personal device space.

It remains to be seen whether this is a battle that will vanquish one side or the other, or whether the two approaches can carve out similar but separate markets, but it’s clear that they are different approaches and that understanding is key when choosing which side you want to follow (or for that matter, lead, which is a possibility on one side of the equation and not the other).