Thursday, December 27, 2007

Passed...

A few whiles ago I wrote a post about some legislation making its way through the congress. The basic idea is that the law would direct "the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide the public with open online access to findings from its funded research. That would make it so that those who recieved money from the government for resarch, must make those findings 'open' 12 months after they are published.

Well, I know many of you have been holding your breath. Many of you have stayed up late at nights, wondering if this legislation has passed. Or if it will pass. Or if it passed already.

Well, wonder no longer. Bush has signed it into law.

Cue the celebrating...

The Wii

I've had a Wii since September. It's been hiding in our closet and I've been counting the days until I can give it to the boys. They hadn't asked for one, or if they did, it was half hearted. I wondered if they no longer wanted one, or maybe didn't think it was possible.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

You Knol What I Mean?

Google is in the early testing stages of a new project that may aim to replace, or at least compete, with wikipedia. They've created a tool called 'knol', which stands for unit of knowledge. The idea is that a person can create a page about a certain topic. Others can add to or edit the page. The author may choose to place Google ads on the page.

Sound a bit like Wikipedia? There are a few key differences. First, a knol will have information about the author. Wikipedia allows complete and total anonymity.

Second, although others can add to or take away from the article, ultimately the author of the piece decides what stays and what goes. One person has control over the article. These two facts take away some of the complaints often raised about Wikipedia. That 'experts' aren't writing the the articles, and there is no oversight.

The third difference is that Wikipedia has never placed ads on their site. Users contribute and Wikipedia is a non-profit organization.

It's clear why Google would love to see the knol idea take off. Do a search for a noun on Google, any noun. Look at the first five listings. Chances are, Wikipedia is one of those links. I picked cat and Wikipedia was second. Just for fun, you should do a search for exploding coconuts, and click the I'm feeling lucky button.

Anyway, there are all of these people trying to find out about something, and they are being directed to wikipedia where they are not being hit over the heads with ads. That's a crying shame! One that Google hopes to fix in the near future.

Taking Lawrence to Task

So I've veered into the dangerous realm of politics before on this blog, and now I'm veering into the dangerous world of religion and politics.

I'm a Mormon. My first choice for president is not Mitt Romney (go Ron Paul), but I can't help to be a little offended when someone attacks the Mormon religion simply for political reasons. Lawrence O'Donnell went on a tirade during the most recent McLaughlin Group, in what can only be described as simple religious bigotry. You can see his little speech here.



I won't ask the obvious question like what if he had said this about Jews, or about Catholics. Instead, I can't help but point you to this interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio program. Mr. Hewitt asks Lawrence exactly the same question I would have asked him, had he made those same comments about any religion.

I thought about quoting some of Mr. Hewitts post here, but there is just so much good stuff, you really should read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

OLPC

If you know what OLPC stands for, then you're cool. If not, you're still cool, just not as cool. However, do not fear. Read on and you very soon will increase your coolness 10 fold.

OLPC stands for One Laptop Per Child. The idea is we need to get laptops, and more importantly, information and access to the internet, to those that don't have it. Originally the cost was set at $100, but due to many countries backing out of their original orders, the cost has gone up to $188, still a pretty good deal.

Of course no good thing can go without controversy. Originally Intel and Microsoft had no interest in the project. No biggie, OLPC went with AMD and Linux. But now MS and Intel see OLPC as a direct competitor. Think of it, millions of kids growing up without the joy of using Windows. Millions of kids who will never get to use that friendly paper clip to help them navigate a Word document. The horror! The kids might just discover that there are plenty of open source applications and operating systems that do just as good a job as their paid for counterparts (think Open Office vs. MS Office).

Anyway, I just came across this review of the OX computer. From the article:

" I had returned from Nigeria not entirely convinced that the XO laptop was quite as wonderful an educational tool as its creators claimed.

I felt that a lot of effort would be needed by hard-pressed teachers before it became more than just a distracting toy for the children to mess around with in class.

But Rufus has changed my mind.

With no help from his Dad, he has learned far more about computers than he knew a couple of weeks ago, and the XO appears to be a more creative tool than the games consoles which occupy rather too much of his time.

The One Laptop Per Child project is struggling to convince developing countries providing computers for children is as important as giving them basic facilities like water or electricity.

Unusually, Rufus does not have an opinion about that controversy, but he does have a verdict on the laptop. "It's great," he says. "

Currently, OLPC has a deal where you 'give one, get one'. You get a laptop, and a second laptop is sent to a school or a child that could benefit from it. If you want to be the coolest person on the block, plunk down a few hundred, get a really cool laptop, and spread the joy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I still don't agree with it, but I get it...

There are a lot of people who rail against video games. I am not one of those people. I think they are fun, can help teach kids a lot of things, and contrary to popular belief, they can help a person connect with other people, overcome fears, and even learn valuable life skills.

That being said, I don't agree when a child is given a gameboy or some other hand held video device, and that is all they do, all day long. Too many times I see kids walking in the store, riding in the car, siting at a dinner table with their nose buried in a game.

I say I don't agree with it, but I can now say I understand why some parents allow their kids to do it. I used to think their parents just didn't care. They were apathetic. It's not hard to get kids to stop. You put your parental foot down, take away the device, end of story.

But now I understand that there is a reason parents let their children play these games. We recently went on a trip to Mexico. We spent about 38 hours in the car. Let me do the math for you. Two adults + 5 boys under the age of 9 = CHAOS.

But when we gave the oldest the gameboy, something happened. He didn't complain. He didn't whine. He didn't even talk, he just sat there. And so did the brother who was sitting next to him. And when we asked him to do something, he obeyed. He wanted to do whatever we asked so he could keep playing. He was suddenly the boy we have been trying to raise. He is polite, he isn't fighting, he isn't screaming, he isn't whining, and he obeys us. Sure, his brain is in another place entirely, and he moves a little slow when he is carrying something to the van while playing the with his chin, but he's obeying. It's nice.

But now that we are home, we're putting the limits back on. One hour on Saturday, 1/2 hour on Monday. It's harder, but ultimately I think it's better. The idea is that my kids can be polite, friendly and obedient even if they don't have a carrot in front of them.