Saturday, August 27, 2011

When New Technologies Become Ordinary

I still get excited about using a GPS in the field. Whether to record a waypoint or navigate to a point, I am still amazed that we can do this. I grew up using paper maps and a compass to navigate in the field. 

For those who have grown up when there was always GPS, it is only normal that they take it for granted. A few days ago, at the start of one of my forestry classes, I was quizzing the students on the UTM coordinate system. I asked if any of the students had used GPS over the summer. Two of the students did, but they never bothered to read the coordinates they were following. Instead they just followed the blue dots. Someone else programmed the coordinates into their GPS receivers. 

Good practice calls for users to know what they are doing, what coordinates they are following. It's good to have a system that is so reliable that we can take it for granted. Yet it is not that good yet, even if it seems so.

Posted via email from Black Gap Road

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Fall of the Qaddafi Regime

Watching the events in Libya and the rapid fall of Muammar Qaddafi, I keep remembering the situation in Burkina Faso back in 1983/84. The coup of Blaise Campaore and Thomas Sankara had a very strong African nationalist, anti-colonial feel. Their revolution was strongly supported by the Libyan strongman, who even back then was known for his radical tendencies. At one point there were rumors that after curfew, cargo planes were flying in from Libya loaded with weapons, at the Ouagadougou airport.
The weapon of choice of the Burkinabe government was the Kalishnikov, with many presumably coming from Libya. The guns were handed out like seemingly like candy. Within a few years they were collecting back the guns, as they proved to be too dangerous to leave around!
Imagine how many other countries were harmed by the Libyan interference over the years. It' time for the Great Instigator to leave the stage.

Posted via email from Black Gap Road

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Changing Textbook Scene

The switch to digital textbooks is happening much faster now. I was checking on the GIS text that I use in my spring class. The author, Paul Bolstad, is now offering an ebook edition of his GIS Fundamentals book. It's offered at a significant discount to the printed, which isn't that expensive as far as books go. Click here to see the book's page.

My alumni magazine from the University of Maine had an article about two professors (sociology and german) who are writing books for flat world knowledge. Students can read the book for free online, buy chapters in pdf, or buy the whole book in a print on demand format.

I'm still not totally on board with ebooks, especially for something like a textbook. But if digital screens get better I can see that they will become the default means for publishing. This will certainly be true if traditional publishers keep jacking up the price by the usual means!