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Mailing Number 26 - 21 November 2003

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More on Software Patents. In Mailing Number 22 I reported on an August Chicago US District Court decision that Microsoft had improperly put patented Web browser technology into its Internet Explorer, infringing a patent owned by the University of California and licensed by Eolas Technologies, with Eolas Technologies and University of California awarded between them $520.6 million in damages. Subsequently the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) took the unprecedented step of asking the US Government to take action to remove the patent, showing inter alia that "prior art" existed before the Eolas/University of California patent had been filed. In response, the US Patent and Trademark Office has issued an order calling for a re-examination of all claims relating to the patent. A decision is not due for at least a year. You can follow the procedures concerning this case from, where you will have to type in the number 90/006831 to reach a summary file for the case. Further information: 11/11/2003 article by Dale Docherty; 19/11/2003 Edupage Archive.

Oldish news about Ufi. DfES has published an April 2003 review by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Quentin Thompson, the aim of which was to identify a form of relationship between Ufi and government that serves the objectives of both, and provides a firmer basis for it. According to the rubric for the report "The report aims to introduce greater clarity into Ufi's funding arrangements and makes a number of recommendations for the structure of Ufi and how it operates. These should also provide Ufi with greater operational flexibility, and link Ufi's activities more closely into the LSC's local planning arrangements". Definitely worth reading if you need to understand the backdrop to changes currently taking place in Ufi, including splitting Ufi into a public and a private operation (referred to as Ufi 2), and the imminent change in funding model for the public side of provision.

Information and Access: improving communication between publishers and academic users - seminar. Thanks to Dave Cotton for details of this Seminar in London, 2.00 to 5.00, on 4/12/2003, organised by BIC, a consortium involving The Publishers Association, The Booksellers Association, The Library Association and The British Library, which develops and promotes standards for electronic commerce and communication in the book and serials industry. Fee UKP 60 to UKP 80, depending on whom you are. The seminar is described as providing an accessible briefing to publishers and librarians on recent developments in standards - OAI (The Open Archive Initiative), Open URL, RSS (RDF Site Summary) and ONIX for Serials - for communicating information between publishers and the academic library community, and their business potential. Details, including booking form [131 kB DOC].

Large local government Open Source deployment imminent. According to the E-Government Bulletin - Issue 149, 17/11/2003 - "the largest ever deployment of open source software for desktop computers in a public sector body is set to begin this week, with Newham Council due to consider a report tomorrow on software - Open Office running on Linux, as against Office running on Windows - for all its 5,000 staff computers". Article soon visible from E-Government Bulletin web archive.

Resources [back to top]

Post-code level access to UK Census information. Use this UK Statistical Service site to view, compare or download statistics for local areas on a wide range of subjects including population, crime, health and housing.

Newly published e-Learning guides. The UK's Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN), is a network of 24 subject centres based in higher education (HE) institutions throughout the UK which aims to promote high quality learning and teaching through the development and transfer of good practices in all subject disciplines, and to provide a 'one-stop shop' of learning and teaching resources and information for the HE community. LTSN has just published 5 guides to e-learning, all of which are available for free download as PDF files.

High quality multilingual resources about online distance learning and online networks. Earlier this month I had the luck to travel to Vienna to represent the TUC at the final meeting of the Dialog-On project. Dialog-On is large EU-funded action research project organised by the European Trade Union College (ETUCO) to test the use of online networks to support international trade union work, and computer mediated distance learning (CMDL) for international trade union education. One key output from Dialog On is a comprehensive range of 9 (typically 20 page) handbooks about different aspects of online distance learning and online networking, for example Transnational communication, Animating networks, Activities and materials for CMDL. Dialog-On used First Class as its online collaboration environment, and there are a further 2 handbooks about the use of First Class. Apart from these, the handbooks, which were written by Linda Creanor - currently based at Glasgow Caledonian University's Academic Practice Unit - are not overly slanted towards First Class.

All the handbooks are available as downloadable PDF files, which are free for others to use with the simple restriction You are free to use the documents if the source is mentioned. Please also leave us a note about the context, your organisation and name. Best of all, all the handbooks are available in a wide range of European languages - typically Bulgarian, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Spanish, and Swedish. My only criticisms are that the PDF files are bloated to ~2 MB by needless inclusion of high resolution graphics, and that they are not also available in DOC format for ease of reuse. Dialog-On Handbook download page. ETUCO home page.

As an aside, the Vienna meeting took place in what is now a major Austrian trade union education centre, with one of the workshops held in the room in which was written the 23/7/1914 ultimatum from Austria-Hungary to Serbia that precipitated World War I, and in which (on 18/6/1979) Leonid Brezhnev and Jimmy Carter signed the SALT II Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, and 65 years to the day after the "Kristallnacht" anti-Jewish pogrom.......

eduSourceCanada. eduSourceCanada is the Canadian Network of Learning Object Repositories. According to its web site eduSourceCanada will be based on national and international standards; it will be fully bilingual; it will be accessible to all Canadians, including those with disabilities; and it will share and disseminate its findings with all of Canada. Clearly a heavyweight and ambitious project, which looks as if it will not be compartmentalised between the different phases of education in the way that similar learning object repositories under development in the UK regrettably are. Key planning documents for eduSourceCanada. Excellent glossary of terms [550 kB DOC file], by Gilbert Paquette, Karin Lundgren-Cayrol, Gérard Levy, and Stephen Downes.

eGov Monitor. Weekly free email newsletter describing itself as The most complete round-up of UK electronic government and public sector ICT. Subscribe.

Centre for Advanced Educational Services (CAES). MIT's CAES hosts the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives, which has several interesting, well resourced projects, including:

  • Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) - a technology enabled active learning environment for large enrollment physics courses at MIT, which will serve as a national model for such instruction;
  • Shakespeare Electronic Archive - an electronic environment for teaching and research on the works of William Shakespeare;
  • Masters' Voice - a desktop learning environment to help veteran engineers at Ford Motor Company transfer knowledge to younger, less experienced engineers.

Inaccessibility of Visually-Oriented Anti-Robot Tests. Visual verification with bit-mapped images is increasingly used as a way to ensure (or try to) that people not machines are filling in forms on web sites. According to the WOrld Wide Web Consortium (W3C) this presents a major problem to users who are blind, have low vision, or have a learning disability such as dyslexia. This W3C document examines a number of potential solutions that allow systems to test for human users while preserving access by users with disabilities, and highlights how one way to supplement visual verification is through a link that allows users to state that they cannot read the image, with site administrators then manually validating these users.

Legal Risks and Liabilities for IT Services in Higher and Further Education. Newly published paper by Christine Cooper from the JISC Legal Information Service, which attempts to bring together potential risks associated with the laws of contract and torts, employment law, privacy and data protection legislation and the newly emerging realm of Internet Law and Regulation.

Oddments[back to top]

Richlist. If your annual income is UKP 20,000 then you are amongst the richest 3% of the world's >6bn population. For those earning more, the ranking is even more extreme. See the Microaid Richlist, from Jan Robinson, via Julia Duggleby.

Urban myths. I nearly posted details of a story concerning bosses of a publishing firm trying to work out why no one noticed that one of their employees - a proof reader - had been sitting dead at his desk for five days before anyone asked if he was feeling okay. I had got this from an impeccable off-line, personal source. Fortunately I checked the story on the Urban Legends web site, to find that it is hoax.

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Last updated - 21/12/2003; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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