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Google Books As "Train Wreck" For Scholars 160

Following up on our earlier discussion, here's more detail on Geoffrey Nunberg's argument that Google Books could prove detrimental to academics and other scholars. Recently Nunberg gave a talk at a conference claiming that the metadata in Google Books is riddled with errors and is classified in a scheme unfit for scholarly use. This blog post was fleshed out somewhat a few days later in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Quoting from the latter: "Start with publication dates. To take Google's word for it, 1899 was a literary annus mirabilis, which saw the publication of Raymond Chandler's Killer in the Rain, The Portable Dorothy Parker, [and] Stephen King's Christine... A search on 'internet' in books written before 1950 and turns up 527 hits. ... [Google blames some errors on the originating libraries.] ...the libraries can't be responsible for books mislabeled as Health and Fitness and Antiques and Collectibles, for the simple reason that those categories are drawn from the Book Industry Standards and Communications codes, which are used by the publishers to tell booksellers where to put books on the shelves. ... In short, Google has taken a group of the world's great research collections and returned them in the form of a suburban-mall bookstore." The head of metadata for Google Books, Jon Orwant, has responded in detail to Numberg's complaints in a comment on the original blog post — and says his team has already fixed the errors that Nunberg so helpfully pointed out.

Virtues of Monoculture, Or Why Microsoft Wins 703

blackbearnh writes to ask, "Why does Microsoft win the development environment war so often, when we all know it's a lifetime lock-in to Windows? Perhaps it's because the open source community offers too much choice." From the post: "Microsoft offers the certainty of no choices. Choice isn't always good, and the open source community sometimes offers far too many ways to skin the same cat, choices that are born more out of pride, ego, or stubbornness than a genuine need for two different paths. I won't point fingers, everyone knows examples... The reality is that there are good, practical reasons that drive people into the arms of the Redmond tool set, and we need to accept that as a fact and learn from it, rather than shake our fists and curse the darkness."

Beryl User Interface for Linux Reviewed 271

techie writes "OSWeekly.com has published a review of Beryl, a very cool looking UI for Linux. Matt Hartley writes, "This release, in my opinion, was the most over-hyped and bug-filled to date. You will have to really hit Technorati to see more of what I'm talking about, but Feisty is as buggy as the beta I tested a short time ago. After completely tossing into the wilds of the ubber-buggy "network-manager," anything running with Edgy supported RT2500 driver shows up, but it will not connect without a special script. Those of you who are on Feisty and need help with your RT2500 cards are welcome to e-mail me for the bash script."

Biofuels Coming With a High Environmental Price? 541

DurandalTree writes "With the spectre of global warming on the horizon, biofuels have been touted as the solution to motor vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions. But with biodiesel use on the increase, it appears a distinctively environmentally unfriendly footprint is being left behind by some of its prime sources; affected food prices are surging out of reach of the poor and rainforests are being destroyed to create larger plantations."

The two most common things in the Universe are hydrogen and stupidity. -- Harlan Ellison