December 18, 2011
Browsing On A Sunday: Secret Contracts, Another Dean Goes, and Let It Snow
The story of the missing Megaupload to YouTube gets stranger as time goes on. Universal demanded of the video featuring major artists in support of Megaupload be removed. The assumption was that the takedown request was filed in accordance with the DMCA for copyright violation. That seemed a bit iffy given Megaupload’s contracts with the artists and the DMCA’s requirement that the takedown requester have ownership of the intellectual property at issue.
Megaupload sued Universal and now we find out that Universal is claiming this has nothing to do with the DMCA but a secret agreement with YouTube instead. CNET News has a story with links to the letter Universal sent to YouTube invoking the agreement. It seems as if Universal has the legal right to remove from YouTube any content it doesn’t like. I believe Cory Doctorow’s statement that Universal is unfit to wield power over free expression under the proposed SOPA still stands. See previous LLB coverage here. For whatever reason, Universal’s action may have backfired on them. The video is currently unblocked on YouTube and has not quite 2.5 million views at the time of this writing. Hey Megaupload, send me a file today, as the song goes.
Another law dean resigned a little over a week ago, and the resignation was not without its own controversy. Dean Larry Sager resigned at the request of University of Texas President William Powers, himself a former law dean at Townes Hall. The stories say that Powers had concerns on how faculty compensation was doled out. It seems there were forgivable loans and other stipends that faculty received as retention incentives, at least according to news reports. The University of Texas School of Law Foundation gave Sager some $500,000, ostensibly to equalize him with what other deans made. Powers said he wasn’t aware of the loan, “and that's the sort of thing I would remember,” he is quoted as saying. UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has ordered a review of how foundation money flows into the law school. Stefanie Lindquist has been named acting dean.
Want to make your browser a little bit more in time with the season? Open a browser window to Google and type in the words “let it snow” and watch the virtual flakes come down. Keep watching and the page goes to white out conditions. Use your cursor as a snow shovel to clean it out. Oh, and the results for the search match the query. It’s winter fun for all. [MG]
March 31, 2011
Want to Read More Than Your Monthly Quota of Free New York Times Articles?
Digital Inspiration explains how to get past the New York Times paywall. [JH]
February 16, 2011
Guide to Stripping DRM from eBook Formats for Personal Use
Tired of eReader-dependent DRM-ed eBook formats? Ebook Formats, DRM and You — A Guide for the Perplexed identifies the tools and steps to execute to strip out DRM using Calibre. Not hard to do.
Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 users who don’t want to use Calibre can use the DeDRM AppleScript, see DeDRM AppleScript for Mac OS X 10.5, 10.6. Windows users who don’t want to use Calibre will need to install Python and PyCrypto and use either the DeDRM_WinApp tool or stand-alone tools. See Windows, Python, Ebooks and DRM.
Hat tip to Charlie Sorrel's post on Wired's Gadget Lab. [JH]
January 10, 2011
How to Scrap Internet-Delivered Data for Conversion into a Database-Usable Format
"There is no data on the Internet that is actually impossible to download," writes ProPublica Nerd Blog's Dan Nguyen in The Coder’s Cause in “Dollars for Docs”. The post's intention is not to signal how easy it is to violate copyright but to present "public records gathering as a programming challenge" for journalists. The post is also the introductory lead-in by way of an illustration pointing to ProPublica's Dollars for Docs: What Drug Companies are Paying Your Doctor for a series of how-to guides for data scraping content off of web pages, Flash sites, and text-based or image-only PDF files to organize the obtained data into searchable databases.
With the exception of Adobe Acrobat, a must-have IMHO, all the identified tools in the guides are open-source. There are five guides:
- Using Google Refine to Clean Messy Data
- Reading Data from Flash Sites
- Parsing PDFs
- Scraping HTML
- Getting Text Out of an Image-only PDF
While intended for journalists, the audience for the guides certainly extends well beyond journalism. Many tech-savvy law librarians may know all the tools and techniques identified (perhaps even better ones). While being tech-inclined, I am always in catch-up mode.
In a time where requests for assistance in data scraping for lawful purposes for many and varied research projects is not an uncommon occurance, the ProPublica Nerd Blog's guides are (1) a good place to start if you do not already have the required skill set; (2) a great place to point a patron to if that's as far as your institution's mission allows; and (3) an excellent place for an overview before deciding whether you are up to the challenge to do it yourself, need to route the request to in-house tech staff, or should throw some $$ at the project by hiring someone to do the tech work. As stated in Nguyen's cover post, Scraping for Journalism: A Guide for Collecting Data, "The guides assume some familiarity with your operating system's command-line." This is the post to head to because it links to all five guides and suggested tools. Highly recommended (unless you already know all this stuff!). [JH]
December 29, 2010
Putting the iPad to Work
Tablet Legal's Josh Barrett is posting a series of iPad apps reviews for lawyers which also may be of interest to law librarians who want to put their iPad to work for them. Here's Barrett's introduction to the series. So far four of the planned posts have been published:
More to come covering:
- File Management and Use
- Microsoft Word and Excel Compatibility
- RSS / News
- Remote Desktop Connection
Check out the Tablet Legal's Apps category link for future posts.
See also Business Insider's 10 Ways People Are Using The iPad To Create Content, Not Just Consume It and The 10 Best iPad Apps for Business. [JH]
December 09, 2010
Texting in Class: Survey Findings and Recommendations (Or Why Profs May Want to Start Paying Attention to Students in Class)
Deborah Tindell and Robert Bohlander, Wilkes University psychology professors, surveyed 269 students anonymously about students texting in class. Among their findings:
- 95 percent of students bring their phones to class every day.
- 91 percent have used their phones to text message during class time.
- Almost half of respondents said it was easy to text in class without instructors being aware.
- 99 percent said they should be permitted to retain their cell phones while in class.
- 62 percent said they should be allowed to text in class as long as they don’t disturb their classmates. (About a quarter of the students stated that texting creates a distraction to those sitting nearby.)
- 10 percent said that they have sent or received text messages during exams, and 3 percent admitted to transmitting exam information during a test.
The authors offered the following suggestions based on feedback on their survey:
Have a clear, written policy about cell phone use and enforce it consistently. State that phones must be out of sight and turned off during class. Make penalties clear, such as losing points or dropping a letter grade for unauthorized cell phone use. Penalties can be applied to attendance or participation credit by assuming that if a student is texting in class, they are not “present.”
Classroom design is an important component in curtailing cell phone use. The smaller and more intimate the classroom setting, the more difficult it is to text, students say. Desks that do not permit hidden cell phone use are helpful as well. If the classroom contains columns or other visual obstructions, instructors may want to prevent students from sitting in seats that are obscured from the instructor’s view.
Instructors should circulate around the classroom, and spend some time in the back of the classroom. Teachers should avoid focusing their attention on the blackboard, lecture notes, or on projected images at the front of the room, and instead pay attention to the activities of the students, making frequent eye contact. Survey respondents indicated that it is easier to text in class when the instructor is not paying attention to the students in the class.
Hat tip to Inside Higher Ed. [JH]
November 06, 2010
How Many Emails Are in Your In-box?
Well, there are 3,117 in my Gmail account and I'm not even going try to count the number of emails in my employer's email account. Most but not all have been read. Some but not necessarily most have received a reply-back from me.
The question was posed by TechnoLawyer and, of course, it is for a pitch for an "email management strategy" app. In this case, one offered by ProLaw. If interested, you can register for a free webinar on Nov. 16 or can view an online demo.
I would be much more interested in a webinar that explains to the Blog Widow and others that a phone call is much more time efficient than multiple text messages, ditto voice mail. Hey, I'm not a Luddite. I like emails and listservs but I can live without text messaging. [JH]
October 27, 2010
Glassmeyer's Using Technology to Work Collaboratively
Early in her ORALL annual meeting presentation entitled Using Technology to Work Collaboratively, Sarah Glassmeyer mentioned that all the information she was providing was posted on her blog. Good thing because that meant I could pay attention to what she was saying without trying to jot down notes because a fair number of the 23 sites she reviewed were new to me. Sites covered web-based services for scheduling, file sharing, collaborative editing, website annotation, white boards, voice/video chat, vitual meetings and social networking (no, not Facebook!) All the sites are "free…as in beer, not as in kittens" to quote Sarah. Highly recommended; just click on the above link to check them out. [JH]
October 19, 2010
Review of Web-based OCR Services
In The Best OCR Tools for Converting Images to Text, Digital Inspiration's Amit Agarwal reviews three free and three relatively low cost web-based OCR services for converting common images formats like scanned PDFs into text. The article provides brief descriptions, identifies unique features, and evaluates each for recognition accurarcy and format retention.
Free web-based OCR services reviewed:
Fee web-based services reviewed:
By checking out the article, you might find one that suits your needs for that quick text conversion job. [JH]
February 10, 2010
Cornell LII's Legal Citation Finder BookmarkletCornell's LII Citer is a new tool for helping researchers link to law online when the text is not already hyperlinked. Do note the citation types the tool currently supports. Hat tip to RIPS Law Librarian. [JH]
February 05, 2010
Fair Use, My Ass: Tools to Identify Content Scrapers Without Permission GivenI used to be annoyed when a certain academic law librarian, who presumably knew something about copyright law, scraped the entire content of some blog posts I wrote and republished them with attribution but not with permission on his law librarian blog a little too regularly. "Fair use, my ass." Ah well, they were just blog posts and I don't get too perturbed anymore -- life is just too short. In Detecting On-line Copying…. Slaw's David Bilinsky identifies a number of tools you can use to identify scrapers who go way too far, assuming you care. They include Google Alerts, Copyscape.com and CopySentry. See his post for details. Do note the limitations he identifies for Google Alerts. [JH]
January 28, 2010
A better spam filter is on its way
Researchers in California have come up with a better mousetrap when it comes to spam. According to the Chronicle of Higher Ed:
Most spam e-mail messages are transmitted using a few infected computers that use a template-based system. The new system works by analyzing the small changes in messages that spammers make to slip past spam filters, according to the team from the University of California at San Diego and the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, Calif.
Researchers looked at 1,000 e-mail messages generated by a software bot and reverse-engineering the template. Knowing that template, researchers could block spam with total accuracy without letting legitimate messages get caught in the filter.
Christian Kreibich, a research scientist from the International Computer Science Institute, said any sort of software using the system will probably not appear in the next month or two, although it could eventually hit the market. The team is also looking into other aspects of spam, such as tracing the route spam goes through to reach users' computers.
The researchers will present their findings at a conference in March. In the meantime, you can read more about their work here.
January 25, 2010
The 3 Facebook Settings Every [Facebook] User Should Check NowI've read a lot about this topic since Facebook changed its privacy policies in December. A New York Times article, The 3 Facebook Settings Every User Should Check Now, does a nice job of summarizing actions you need to take if you care about your privacy. [BA]
January 22, 2010
Are You Using Google Wave, Yet?
Google Wave's web-based collaboration tool to manage projects, swap files and communicate in real-time is notoriously difficult to understand and use. Greg Lambert writes "Wave is a great idea that is wrapped in a frame of confusion" in If I Throw a Google Wave Party... And No One Shows Up? Well, it's definitely a BYOB party.
Getting a Grip on Google Wave. The idea behind Wave is that it could replace email or that Wave is some Web 2.0 version of real-time email. Maybe, if you can understand how to use it. The Idiot's Guide to Google Wave on Tech Radar may be a good place to start. The Complete Guide to Google Wave is a free online book that offers step-by-step instruction in some depth. Here's a Google Wave Community for more.
January 21, 2010
Format Content Online to Look Like an eReader
Give your eyes a break by re-formatting online content into the simple format used by eReaders like the Kindle. Save a bookmarklet like Readability to your browser (drag and drop the link into your browser's bookmarks, and click on Readability when you are reading a page you want to reformat. Before you save the bookmarklet to your browser, you can customize how Readability reformats the text. You can select extra-large font if you wish, change the margins, and select the background color (newspaper style produces a white background, novel style a tan background, eBook a gray background, and terminal produces a dark green background with lighter font). Get Readability here. Another bookmarklet, Readable does the same thing.
There are a couple of drawbacks. One, Readability deletes the pictures in the article--not always a good thing--but you can reformat a slideshow with Readability and retain the pictures. Two, Readability doesn't always work on a page (but sometimes Readability or Readable will work, but not both). And three, readability deletes the comments at the bottom of an article or blog post--again, not always a good thing.
Hat tip to David Pogue's Cleaning Up the Clutter Online post. -- Guest blog post by Iantha Haight, Cornell Law Library.
Editor's Note. Guest blog posts are always welcomed on LLB. Just email Mark or me your copy in the body of an email and we're reply back with a note saying when it will be published. Sure we reserve the right not to publish something, but we'll be happy to work with you if we do and if you want to offer a re-write for publication. Our emails are available in the left sidebar of the blog. [JH]
December 07, 2009
Need an Image for Your Website or Blog?Barb Dybwad at Mashable posted this handy list of 26 Places to Find Free Multimedia for Your Blog. When using Creative Commons material, don't forget to comply with the terms of the license. Material in the public domain, of course, does not require any attribution. -- Iantha Haight, Cornell Law Library.
December 01, 2009
Owner Beware: Smoking May Void Mac WarrantiesThere are at least two Mac owners who were refused warranty service for system repair because there was machine evidence that they smoked cigarettes. The story is here. Some of the comments to the story are hilarious. [MG]
October 30, 2009
Arizona Supreme Court Holds Metadata in Public Records is Public
The Arizona Supreme Court holds that metadata in an electronic document which is also a public document is part of that document and can be examined by the public. David Lake is a Phoenix police officer who alleged employment discrimination against Phoenix in federal court. He also filed a public records request for notes kept by his supervisor documenting his work performance. Lake received the paper copies and wanted the electronic versions, including the metadata included in those electronic copies. He thought that some of these documents reduced to paper may have been manipulated by backdating or other tricks that the metadata could reveal.
Document metadata comes in many forms. For Microsoft Word, the metadata is viewable by going to File and selecting properties. In Office 7, it's hidden away but still accessible. For an open document, click on the Office Logo button in the upper left hand corner of the screen, select prepare, and then properties from the next menu that opens. That will give some information. Just above the properties bar there is a drop down menu for Document Properties which opens up another choice, Advanced Properties, which when selected will bring you to the same information you can find in earlier versions of Word in two simple steps rather than the five here. Got that? The information under the Statistics tab shows things like date created, date modified, date accessed, date printed, the number of revisions, who saved it last, and total editing time. Someone editing a document such as in the Lake case can manipulate the metadata in some respects. The easiest way is to simply copy text from an old document into a new blank document as the metadata is only carried by individual files. The old metadata is wiped out. New document, new metadata. Note this, faculty and students in plagiarism cases. It takes a bit more deviousness to manipulate the system clock on a PC to affect the time and date stamps in creating and editing documents. That's something Lake's supervisor probably did not do. Then there is the possibility of getting to the text that is edited out by invoking the various undo delete features. The Microsoft Help File for Word 2007 has this handy information. The start of the help sequence reads as follows:
Inspect documents for hidden data and personal information
If you plan to share an electronic copy of a Microsoft Office Word document with clients or colleagues, it is a good idea to review the document for hidden data or personal information that might be stored in the document itself or in the document properties (metadata (metadata: Data that describes other data. For example, the words in a document are data; the word count is an example of metadata.)). Because this hidden information can reveal details about your organization or about the document itself that you might not want to share publicly, you might want to remove this hidden information before you share the document with other people.
This article explains how the Document Inspector feature in Microsoft Office Word 2007 can help you find and remove hidden data and personal information in your documents.
* * * *
But I digress. The Arizona Court noted that the public records statute doesn't actually define what in fact is a public record, but notes through court decisions and other statutes there is a broad public right to inspect those records which are relevant to government business. It also noted that the metadata does not exist separately from the main document. One exists because of the other.
¶ 13 ... It would be illogical, and contrary to the policy of openness underlying the public records laws, to conclude that public entities can withhold information embedded in an electronic document, such as the date of creation, while they would be required to produce the same information if it were written manually on a paper public record.
¶ 14 We accordingly hold that when a public entity maintains a public record in an electronic format, the electronic version of the record, including any embedded metadata, is subject to disclosure under our public records law.
I have a feeling that Arizona public entities are going to place more emphasis on understanding how metadata is embedded in word processing documents from now on.
The case is Lake v. City of Phoenix, No. CV-09-0036-PR (October 19, 2009). And in a related note, see this story in CNET about how Google handed a redacted PDF to the FCC about Google Voice that was quite electronically unredacted. Google Voice has 1.419 million users, something we weren't supposed to know, among other facts. [MG]
July 22, 2009
Google Maps Update - just in time for D.C.
Google maps has always been a great asset for finding your way, but now it is even better! Their improvements, released today, will make finding your way in D.C. even easier. After finding your walking/driving directions, you can run multiple searches on the map and display them in separate or groups layers.
For example, let's say you want to get walking directions from the Washington Convention Center to Georgetown Law Center. Run you search as usual, then when the map is generated you can search for businesses, restaurants, museums, etc., that might be found along the way. You used to have to do this in separate searches, but now you can run continuous searches on the map.
So, in the search box, you look for restaurants. And you learn that you can stop for something to eat at the four star Momiji restaurant which is just a short one block detour off your main route, and you can pin it to your map. Then perhaps you need to find a dry cleaner because you didn't want to pay extra to check baggage on your flight to D.C. and only have one change of clothes. Run another search for "dry cleaner" along your route and, voila, you learn that Gallery Cleaners is directly on your route to Georgetown.
The power lies under the blue bar on the very bottom of the left side pane (you will have to click on it to open the content). Under the bar you will see your searches for restaurant and dry cleaner. You can either layer both on your walking route, or just one, or add more.
Google maps makes AALL 09 easier than ever! (VS)
June 12, 2009
Cheap Geek's Guide to Free Online Presentation Tools
Greg Lambert writes that he couldn't live up to my reputation as the "cheap geek" if he didn't share three free online presentation tools: Adobe ConnectNow, Present.IO and Authorstream's "Present Live" feature for PowerPoints. Check out his review on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. [JH]