Wednesday 28 January 2015

ABA Journal on drones

The ABA Journal has an interesting article titled "How should states regulate drones and aerial surveillance?" in which the author reviews federal and state regulation - or non-regulation - of drones used as "aerial surveillance".< According to the article, According to the National Conference of State Legislators, more than 20 states have passed laws related to drones. Some limit law enforcement’s use of drones or other unmanned aircraft. One question that may arise from drone regulation is the difference between state and federal privacy protection. For example, the New Mexico Court of Appeals interpreted the state constitution as more protective of privacy than the U.S. Constitution. According to John Whitehead, president of a Charlottesville, Virginia-based nonprofit legal group called the Rutherford Institute, “Technology has outpaced law in this area. Traditional search warrants won’t work with drones. They have the ability to hack into Wi-Fi and use scanning devices from airspace. They represent the essence of a surveillance-police state.”

Friday 23 January 2015

Zeta wins award

The Zeutschel Zeta bookscanner, which the Barco Law Library offers for the use of students and faculty, has won gold and silver awards from the 2015 inaugural Modern Library Awards, created to recognize the top products in the library industry. First released in 2011, the Zeutschel Zeta is a walk-up scanner for students and faculty.  Easy to use, the Zeta saves money on paper and ink, reduces staff time (no paper jams; intuitive operation) and allows patrons to use the same information technology in the library that they use at home.

hat tip: Karen Shephard

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Smithsonian offers access to Selma Freedom March songs

Carl Benkert was a successful architectural interior designer from Detroit who had come down South in 1965 with a group of local clergy to take part and bear witness to the historic march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. In addition to his camera, he brought a bulky, battery-operated reel-to-reel tape recorder to capture the history all around him, in speech but also in song; songs of hope, defiance and unity were directly captured and documented. In their struggles to make a stand against inequality, Benkert wrote, “music was an essential element; music in song expressing hope and sorrow; music to pacify or excite; music with the power to engage the intelligence and even touch the spirit.”
The Smithsonian offers free access to the sound recordings of the music of the freedom march. Note that a Spotify account is needed, but there is no charge to listen to the recordings.   

Tuesday 20 January 2015

New Search Engine for USDA Research from the National Agriculture Library

The National Agricultural Library (NAL) has launched PubAg, a user-friendly search engine that gives the public enhanced access to research published by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. NAL is part of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). PubAg is a new portal for literature searches and full-text access of more than 40,000 scientific journal articles by USDA researchers, mostly from 1997 to 2014. New articles by USDA researchers will be added almost daily, and older articles may be added if possible. There is no access fee for PubAg.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Gender gap in online class discussions

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog has a post titled "In STEM Courses, a Gender Gap in Online Class Discussions." The author describes the results of a recent study, and though it specifically looked at STEM courses, it also talks about the results in other classes. Some of the results:

  • Women are more likely than their male classmates to answer Piazza questions (Piazza is an online discussion platform used in many colleges) anonymously in computer-science and other STEM courses.
  • On average, women answer fewer questions than men in STEM and humanities courses, but more questions in social-science and business courses.

  • The study's authors suggest that the differences in behavior by gender represent a “gap in confidence” between women and men enrolled in courses.

    2014 Tech Fails

    MIT Technology Review has an article titled "The Top Technology Failures of 2014". The author explains that :Success means a technology solves a problem, whether it’s installed on a billion smartphones or used by a few scientists carrying out specialized work. But many—maybe most—technologies do not succeed, typically because they fail to reach the scale of adoption that would make them relevant. The reasons for failure aren’t predictable. This year we saw promising technologies felled by Supreme Court decisions, TV cameras, public opinion, and even by fibbing graduate students." Among the failures they note: Google Glass, Bitcoin, and sapphire iPhone screens.