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Comment Such a quaint definition of college... (Score 2) 171

the mission of the university as a place of refuge, contemplation, and investigation for its own sake

It was really nice when the college's mission used to be refuge, contemplation, and investigation for its own sake, but in today's shrinking economy that is (more and more) no longer the case. Now-a-days not only does the college as a whole feel immense budget pressure, but if individual departments don't ante up each year then they'll be on the chopping block

Comment Employees vs. The Firm (Score 4, Insightful) 210

While staff in many industries might object to a plan that expects them to sleep in their office, data center firms have a primary calling of keeping their facilities operational at all times

I love how the summary neatly dismisses the objections of the employees by citing the goal of the corporation. I can see this working well for a variety of other problems that the data center firms face, but let's just jump to the one the MBAs are salivating over:

While staff in many industries might object to working without pay or benefits, data center firms have a primary calling of keeping their costs low and profits high

Comment Neighborhood Watch? (Score 1) 508

I know that you're looking for a nerdy techno-solution, but have you looked into a neighborhood watch? If your house has been broken into then the thieves / backyard guests are probably stealing / visiting your neighbors, too. If there is someone who works from home (even occasionally) they can keep an eye out and call stuff in. I don't have the source handy, but I seem to remember the Seattle PD saying that something like 90% of their residential burglary- & trespassing- type arrests come from neighbors calling stuff in.

In Seattle we've actually got a Crimewatch coordinator position on the police force - an officer like that can answer your questions about how to secure your property & neighborhood, and will even drop by your neighborhood watch meeting once you've got 10+ people or so. They don't stop the guy directly but they know a ton about how to deter thieves & make it easier to catch them.

As an added bonus it'll get you talking to your neighbors. There's really no reason to talk to your neighbors in modern America (except for stuff like this), and a shared threat really makes people come together. Our neighborhood watch started out banding together against the 'troublesome houses', and expanded to neighborhood cleanup days.

Comment Re:Long-term sustainability of this model? (Score 1) 75

academics themselves get practically nothing for writing textbooks. Almost all of the money goes to the publishers.

I've never written a book myself, but people who have have told me that your statement is absolutely right.

That still doesn't change the underlying question - if there are textbooks out there for free, will publishers leave the market because there's no money (no incentive) for them to stay?
And if they do, will there be enough other incentive to keep people working on the maintenance of the free textbooks?

Another interesting question just occurred to me: O'Reilly seems to be doing ok (at least, that's my impression). If there's all these Awesome Free Resources on the web, how does O'Reilly stay afloat?

Comment Re:Long-term sustainability of this model? (Score 1) 75

Thanks for the links - these are definitely interesting!

Some of these look good (I had forgotten about 'Eloquent JavaScript'), but many don't ("Introduction To Computer Science", at http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Introduction_to_Computer_Science (linked to from http://oerconsortium.org/discipline-specific/) contains hardly any material at all).

a professor is going to put together the equivalent of a textbook in handouts and lecture notes anyway, over the years

From what I've seen this is not true. Instead the professor puts together the handouts and lecture notes for their specific course(s) over the years.

The difference between that and a textbook is actually huge - the textbook fills in everything that's needed for someone to pick the book up & understand it without going to the professor's classes. Why would anyone do that when the target audience is people who (by definition) will be going to class? And it's this last 10% of the work that will take 90% of the effort.

All of which brings me back to my original point - will these free / OSS books actually be maintained over the years? Looking at http://oerconsortium.org/discipline-specific/, under "Computer Science", there's several books about OpenOffice and MS Office that appear to have been updated as new versions came out, but I can't quite tell if these are normal, or exceptions.

Comment Long-term sustainability of this model? (Score 2) 75

On the one hand I really like the idea of keeping incidental costs of education down by doing things like making textbooks available for free. On the other hand I'm mature enough to realize that nobody is going to create a (quality) textbook for free*.

So my concern for the long-term sustainability of this model is this:
1) One-time grant money is made available to create a free textbook
2) The free textbook reduces the profitability of the proprietary books, which then leave the market
3) Since the money in step #1 is one-time, and since grantors looooooooooove to fund New Awesome Advances but hate to fund Ongoing Operating Expenses, Maintenance and Upkeep the free textbook languishes
3.1) Making non-trivial changes to the textbook is a huge undertaking, so the already-overworked teachers using the book won't be making wholesale revisions to it regularly
3.1.1) Maybe I"m wrong on 3.1, and I've love to see links to projects that contradict 3.1

4) The textbook market is now gone but the free textbooks aren't being maintained either.

I'd love to hear discussion on this, but I'd particularly like to see established, free textbooks that are genuinely self-supporting.

* Yes, yes please do feel free to reply to this post with whatever online, free books you know about. I look forwards to seeing your list

Comment Are any of these actually good? (Score 1) 120

(This is not intended as a troll - my apologies in advance if it's read that way)

The beautiful thing about OSS is that anyone, anywhere can contribute. Just throw together a project, put it on the web, give it the right license, and BAM! You've contributed an open source project. Producing a high-quality, production-ready OSS project, on the other hand, takes some doing.

I ask just because I looked at a couple of these frameworks and got the impression that they have potential, but they're 'not there yet'

Maybe the real news here is that big, established company has decided to devote resources to really doing this right?

HP

Submission + - SlashcAliister: How HP and open source can save We (infoworld.com)

MikeTheGreat writes: Ian McCallister has another insightful article (print version here), this time discussing how HP has announced their intention to open source the ill-fated WebOS tablet operating system. He brings up some good points about whether HP is simply trying to "offload the cost of developing and maintaining" WebOS, and how committed HP is to ensuring the success of an open source WebOS.

Comment Slash-CAllister (Score 4, Funny) 421

Is it just me, or has almost every article by Neil McAllister made it to the Slashdot front page?

I propose
1) a "slashcallister" because it rolls off the tongue, and can be used to tag these articles (as part of the greater "slashonomy"), so that
2) McAllister's articles be picked up by Slashdot's server-side RSS reader and auto-posted & auto-tagged, thus creating the Official Slashdot Neil McAllister Channel

Comment Video != list of still images (Score 1) 61

I have to admit that I enjoyed watching the video, and the very idea is pretty cool. I was disappointed that the cardboard support never goes away (isn't he ever going to eat the thing?) but seeing all the 'ginger snap, not gingerbread' postings above helped remind me why I keep coming back to /.

That said - the video seemed less like a video, and more like a collection of chronologically-arranged stills. I guess if you're providing the video as help, given the people making it, then you can assume that they'll all have VLC media player installed & know (or look up) the 'advance 1 frame' feature, but still.

Anyways, awesome article, regardless of my picayune carping :)

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