The Scout Report — Volume 19, Number 17

The Scout Report

April 26, 2013 — Volume 19, Number 17

A Publication of Internet Scout

Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison


 

Research and Education

Documenting the American South: Colonial and State Records of North Carolina

Impact: Earth!

PSU Case Studies

National Science Foundation: Publications

Cornell University Cooperative Extension

Urban Institute: CHA Families and the Plan for Transformation

Scitable

The Concord Consortium: Projects

General Interest

Stellarium

Arkansas Heritage

Engineers Against Poverty

Digital Arts

Matthew Brady’s Portraits of Union Generals

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Dartmouth Digital Collections: Films

Women Who Rock Oral History Archive

Network Tools

PC Image Editor 5.2

SoundCloudNav

In the News

Old recordings allow researchers and public to hear the voices of the past


 

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Research and Education

Documenting the American South: Colonial and State Records of North Carolina

http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/

The Documenting the American South collections from the University of North Carolina are a veritable cornucopia of material about the vast cultural and historical legacy of this complex region. The digitization project was made possible by a Library Services and Technology Act grant distributed through the State Library of North Carolina. Visitors can delve into the colonial and state records of North Carolina by looking over 26 volumes of material. These volumes were originally published between 1886 and 1907 and feature a four-volume master index. Visitors can search the entire archive via the search engine or click on the small icons to open documents like “A New Map of Carolina” from 1690 or the engraving titled “Governor Tyron and the Regulators”. Also, users can click on the Browse CSR tab to look around by volume, date, or creator type. [KMG]

Impact: Earth!

http://www.purdue.edu/impactearth

What would happen if a large meteorite or other object hit the Earth? It’s something that has engaged the minds and talents of astrophysicists (and students of all ages) for decades. Now the generally curious can create their own simulated impact with Purdue University’s “Impact Earth” website. Visitors can browse the Famous Craters area to get started. This part includes some “classics,” such as the Ries Crater and the Tunguska Fireball. Of course, visitors really must use the handy interface to craft their own impact, projectile, and target parameters to get the full effect on how such an event plays out. Also, the site includes a complete Documentation file (a peer-reviewed article) and a detailed glossary. [KMG]

PSU Case Studies

http://www.engr.psu.edu/ethics/casestudies.asp

How does one teach ethics? It can be a difficult subject and different fields (medicine, law, and so on) all have different ethical considerations and issues. This fine collection of engineering case studies from the Pennsylvania State University College of Engineering brings together resources from a variety of universities that have worked to address this matter. The cases are divided into separate areas that include Developing and Using Case Studies, General Science Cases, and Research Integrity Cases. Visitors shouldn’t miss the bulk of the material covered in the General Engineering Cases area, which includes high-quality and contemplative materials on engineering practice ethics from SUNY-Buffalo and the National Science Foundation. The site is rounded out by a number of helpful cases developed in-house by Penn State engineering students. [KMG]

National Science Foundation: Publications

http://www.nsf.gov/publications/

Every year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) researches a broad swath of topics ranging from graduate education in geography to the viability of sustainable agriculture. Visitors can scan through these documents here, on a website which includes recent publications like “Collections in Support of Biological Research” and “Baccalaureate Origins of U.S.-trained S&E Doctorate Recipients.” The archive contains over 3,200 documents, which visitors search by publication type or specific organization within NSF. Visitors can also elect to sign up to receive notices about newly added publications via RSS feed or email. [KMG]

Cornell University Cooperative Extension

http://www.cce.cornell.edu/Pages/Default.aspx

The Cornell Cooperative Extension program brings Cornell University’s land-grant programs to citizens across the Empire State. This website is part of the Extension’s rather impressive public outreach efforts. Clicking on the Program Areas tab allows visitors to learn about various thematic work on subjects like Agriculture and Food Systems and Community and Economic Vitality. Each of these areas includes resources culled from various state agencies, such as databases and fact sheets. In the About area, visitors can learn about the organization’s long-term strategic plan and also about local offices across the state. Finally, the News area brings together press releases, videos and blog posts that deal with new innovations in agriculture, community outreach work, and so on. [KMG]

Urban Institute: CHA Families and the Plan for Transformation

http://www.urban.org/housing/Transforming-Public-Housing-in-Chicago.cfm

The Urban Institute provides high-quality research on economic and social policy, addressing topics such as education, employment, crime, and governance. This clutch of documents looks at the transformation of the Chicago Housing Authority and the provision of public housing in the city. The five briefs “describe key successes and challenges faced by CHA and its residents.” Titles address topics like “How Chicago’s Public Housing Transformation Can Inform Federal Policy?” and “Chronic Violence: Beyond the Developments.” Along with these insightful documents, visitors can also look over the Previous Briefs area. Here they will find “The Health Crisis for CHA Families,” “CHA After Wells-Where are the Residents Now?” and a dozen other briefs. [KMG]

Scitable

http://www.nature.com/scitable

Scitable is a completely free science library and personal learning tool created by the Nature Publishing Group. The work is currently focused on genetics and cell biology and covers topics such as evolution, gene expression and “the rich complexity of cellular processes shared by living organisms.” At the Inside Scitable area, visitors can browse ad search hundreds of science articles, use the discussion board, build an online classroom, and also contribute and share content. First-time visitors should head on over to the Spotlight area, where they can read quality pieces on World Teacher’s Day, nanotechnology, and other topics. Also, visitors shouldn’t miss the Labcoat Life area, which contains musings on topics like “Tackling Mental Illness in Africa” and “Is Global Warming Chiefly Manmade?” [KMG]

The Concord Consortium: Projects

http://concord.org/projects

The Concord Consortium was founded in 1994 by Bob Tinker and Stephen Bannasch, who have since then worked to craft a multitude of technological innovations to help with the educational process. They share some of their findings right here on the Projects section of their website. The projects are divided into three areas: Active Projects, Archived Projects, and A-Z. Currently there are about 20 projects available in the Active Projects area, including Electron Technologies and Molecular Workbench. Each project comes complete with a project portal, featuring activities, teaching materials, and curriculum information. It’s a remarkable collection, and visitors with an interest in pedagogy, science instruction, and related topics will find much to enjoy here.[KMG]

General Interest

Stellarium

http://stellarium.org/

While looking up at the night the sky, humans throughout the millennia have asked that age-old question: “What’s out there?” Stellarium provides entry into the world beyond Earth by offering this free open-source planetarium. The program includes over 600,000 stars, along with additional functionality that allows users to download data on over 210 million stars. Also, the program contains illustrations of the constellations and images of nebulae. The user interface is quite easy to use, as it gives users the ability to zoom in and out or use a fisheye projection as a way to experience a bit of that true planetarium feel. Also, the program offers users the ability to add new solar system objects from online resources and even create new effects, such as star twinkling and shooting stars. It is compatible with most operating systems. [KMG]

Arkansas Heritage

http://www.arkansasheritage.com/

The mission of the Department of Arkansas Heritage is “to identify Arkansas’s heritage and enhance the quality of life by the discovery, preservation, and presentation of the state’s cultural, historic, and natural resources.” This umbrella site brings together the activities of a number of state agencies, including the Old Statehouse Museum, the Historic Arkansas Museum, and Arkansas Arts Council. It’s a great idea to get started by clicking on the Discover Arkansas History tab. Here visitors can explore narrative essays that include “Natural Environments,” “Culture,” and “Politics.” All of these sections contain helpful lesson plans and activity sheets, which is a nice bonus. Visitors shouldn’t miss the Calendar area for up-to-date information on talks, fairs, and other events sponsored by any of these agencies. [KMG]

Engineers Against Poverty

http://www.engineersagainstpoverty.org/

Engineers Against Poverty (EAP) is a non-governmental organization that works in the field of engineering and international development. EAP works to harness members’ combined skills to alleviate poverty throughout the world and work on the challenges involved with sustainable development along the way. The materials on the site are divided into five sections, including Major Initiatives, Key Issues, Publications, and EAP’s Programme. A good place to start is the Major Initiatives area. Here users can learn about some of the key issues and challenges in the domain of engineering, poverty reduction, and more. The EAP’s Programme area has information and working papers on the organization’s work in transforming extractive industries and infrastructure projects. Finally, the Publications area contains works like “Employment Intensive Road Construction” and “Climate Compatible Dev
elopment in the Infrastructure Sector Overview.” [KMG]

Digital Arts

http://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/

The Digital Arts website was designed to offer “inspiration for digital creative.” It does a fairly standup job of that, offering news updates, tutorials, reviews, features, portfolios, and information about upcoming competitions that will be of interest to those working in a range of industries. First-time visitors would do well to look at the Short Cuts area to learn about new design websites, watch artists work on compelling large format projects, and pick up scuttlebutt from experts in their fields. Moving on, the Tutorials area offers helpful guides such as “How to stop photo noise,” “Add texture to retro styled artworks,” and “Create X-ray vector art.” Finally, the Guides area contains helpful overviews of key fields and programs like Adobe Creative Suite 6, animation, graphic design, and interactive design. [KMG]

Matthew Brady’s Portraits of Union Generals

http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/uniongenerals/

In the 21st century, photographer Matthew Brady (ca. 1822 – 1896) is widely remembered as a chronicler of the Civil War, but by the time the War began in 1860, Brady and his studio were already well-established as portrait photographers. This show, from the National Portrait Gallery, presents 21 of Brady’s portraits of Union Generals. The introduction on the website is illustrated with a view of Brady’s studio in New York City, showing customers browsing large format portrait photographs hung on the walls. However, the hundreds of generals photographed by Brady and his team preferred the smaller, calling card-size photographs known as cartes de visite, and the web exhibition consists of digital reproductions of modern prints made from Brady’s carte-de-visite negatives. Each general’s image is accompanied by a short history, such as the story of General Joseph Hooker,
who was defeated by Robert E. Lee’s much smaller army at Chancellorsville, Virginia in 1863. The histories will be familiar to Civil War buffs, but even the uninitiated can get a crash course in military history by viewing the Generals’ images and stories at the site. [DS]

Mount Auburn Cemetery

http://www.mountauburn.org/

The bucolic grounds of Mount Auburn Cemetery are fascinating, and have provided solace to thousands of departed souls since 1831. The grounds are also quite historic and the cemetery’s website provides ample information for historians, sociologists, and others who might be interested in studying this unique place. New visitors should read the reminisces offered by persons of note in the “What Makes This Place Special?” There are paens offered up by William Ellery Channing, Emily Elizabeth Parsons, and Dorothea Dix. Moving along, the Visit section offers information on guided walks, birding tours around the grounds, and special events. Of course, there is also information on the more traditional activities and ceremonies associated with any cemetery available under the Cemetery link. [KMG]

Dartmouth Digital Collections: Films

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~library/digital/collections/dartmouthfilms/

The Dartmouth College Library has crafted digital collections celebrating some well-known alumni (such as Dr. Seuss) and other topics. This particular collection brings together a very fine set of films documenting activities and events that took place on the campus. The items here are divided into two sections: Historical Films (1930s-1960s) and Contemporary Films (2008-2012). The Historical Films include Green Flashback, which offers a compilation of color films of student life from 1946. Also quite intriguing is the 1956 film “Dartmouth Visited,” which is a promotional film for potential applicants. The contemporary films include a nice tour of the Dartmouth College Library and an exploration of the library’s wonderful bell tower. [KMG]

Women Who Rock Oral History Archive

http://content.lib.washington.edu/wwrweb/

The University of Washington Libraries has created this ambitious and culturally compelling digital collection of “Women Who Rock.” The collection brings together “scholars, musicians, media-makers, performers, artists, and activists to explore the role of women and popular music in the creation of cultural scenes and social justice movements in the Americas and beyond.” The site includes oral histories, photographs, and films. It’s a good idea to start with the Oral Histories area to learn about thirteen fantastic women who are artists, writers, and performers from the Pacific Northwest and beyond, like Medusa and Maylei Blackwell. The Photographs area contains over 370 photos documenting the lives and experiences of these women. It’s a remarkable set of materials, and more documents will be added over the coming months. [KMG]

Network Tools

PC Image Editor 5.2

http://www.program4pc.com/image_editor.html#page=page-1

This image editor is one of the better ones available, and it is designed to be used by everyone from amateur shutterbugs to seasoned professionals. This editor supports eleven image formats, image alignment, color adjust, image dimension manipulation, and more. This particular version is compatible with computers running Windows XP and newer. [KMG]

SoundCloudNav

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/soundcloudnav/nopkchcbhjjeaacnipimcelfchiifaip/

For people who like to use SoundCloud to control their musical selections while working, this helpful plug-in will be a welcome find. SoundCloudNav will allow users to explore different tracks and manipulate them as they see fit. This version is compatible with all computers utilizing Google Chrome. [KMG]

In the News

Old recordings allow researchers and public to hear the voices of the past

We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until Now

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/We-Had-No-Idea-What-Alexander-Graham-Bell-Sounded-Like-Until-Now-204137471.html

Playing the Unplayable Records

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/multimedia/videos/Playing-the-Unplayable-Records.html

Curators discover first recordings of Christmas Day

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20772246

Listen as Albert Einstein Reads ‘The Common Language of Science’ (1941)

http://www.openculture.com/2013/03/listen_as_albert_einstein_reads_the_common_language_of_science_1941.html

Extracting Audio from Pictures

http://mediapreservation.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/extracting-audio-from-pictures/

The Library of Congress Recorded Sound Reference Center Online

http://www.loc.gov/rr/record/onlinecollections.html

Photography has been around for a long time, and portraiture even longer. Some written sources date back millennia. We gather a great deal of information through analysis of artifacts, skeletons, and very old trash. In these ways, we have a good idea of what our ancestors looked like, what they thought about, how they lived, and even what they ate. However, the sounds of their voices have long been lost. To re
medy this gap in our knowledge somewhat, researchers have be!
en worki
ng on a variety of ways to hear recordings previously thought unplayable. These early recordings, many of which survive on delicate wax discs or only in photographs, were often designed for unknown playback mechanisms, or are too fragile to stand up to the rigors of being played. Nevertheless, there have been recent breakthroughs, including those by physicist Carl Haber and colleagues, who scanned very old recordings and converted them into computer audio files. These have allowed us to hear a variety of voices from times past, including for the first time the renowned Alexander Graham Bell. [CM]

The first link leads visitors to a Smithsonian Magazine article on the rediscovery of Alexander Graham Bell’s carefully enunciated voice. The second link explores the idea of “playing the unplayable” in a short video also from Smithsonian Magazine. After clicking on the third link, interested parties will be able to hear some of the first recor
dings of a family’s Christmas Day – in 1904. The fourth link leads to a recording of Albert Einstein reading his full essay “The Common Language of Science,” which is a delightful listen. The fifth link describes the process of recreating sound from an image of a record, which is sometimes all that remains when original recordings are lost to time or damage. Finally, the sixth link goes to the Library of Congress Recorded Sound Reference Center, which features 21 collections of old, rare, and curious recordings from the Library’s archives.

 


 

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Cookie Law aka The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2011

list of ingredients for computer cookiesAs a small business involved in ecommerce and online marketing I’ve spent a lot of time looking into the cookie law to understand what we need to do to successfully comply with the law and, unfortunately,  there is no clear answer, only case law will make it more manageable to understand, what is or is not allowed or, alternatively, the people whom will police the law (the ICO) put a stake in the ground and set a level playing field for everyone to work to.

The Cookie Law

First things first, so we don’t get confused further! the cookie law as it is generally referred to was amended from it’s previous incarnation and now reads, with the amendments (at date of publication: May 2012)

THE PRIVACY AND ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS (EC DIRECTIVE) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2011 Regulation 6

6. Confidentiality of communications

(1) Subject to paragraph (4), a person shall not store or to gain access to information stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user unless the requirements of paragraph (2) are met.

(2) The requirements are that the subscriber or user of that terminal equipment-
(a) is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of the storage of, or access to, that information; and
(b) has given his or her consent.

(3) Where an electronic communications network is used by the same person to store or access information in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user on more than one occasion, it is sufficient for the purposes of this regulation that the requirements of paragraph (2) are met in respect of the initial use.
(a) For the purposes of paragraph (2), consent may be signified by a subscriber who amends or sets controls on the Internet browser which the subscriber uses or by using another application or programme to signify consent.

(4) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the technical storage of, or access to, information-
(a) for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network; or
(b) where such storage or access is strictly necessary for the provision of an information society service required by the subscriber or user.

This law came into effect in the UK on 26th May 2011 although the ICO, the body that police the law gave a year’s grace for companies to become compliant thus after 26th May 2012 they will start to actively respond to complaints regarding the new law.

Am I exempt from the Cookie Law?

Exemptions from the right to refuse  placing information on your device:

The Regulations specify that service providers should not have to provide any information and obtain consent where that device is to be used:

‘where such storage or access is strictly necessary to provide an information society service requested by the subscriber or user’.

In defining an ‘information society service’ the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 refer to ‘any service normally provided for remuneration, at a distance, by means of electronic equipment for the processing (including digital compression) and storage of data, and at the individual request of a recipient of a service’.

Given the above it seems to boil down to what parts of your web site and information you store on their device are part of the service they have asked for and if so is it strictly necessary?

This can get really difficult to define; for a normal web site what constitutes a request? If you assume that clicking from a search engine onto your website is a request what happens if it’s not i.e. the information the search engine provides fails to detail what you provide whose fault is this!

Informed Consent

The Law makers have stated that informed consent is what they are aiming for, this means providing enough information to the visitor to enable them to make a decision on whether to accept the information or not.

You can view this detail from a speech made by the Head of Telecoms Regulation and E-Privacy at the Department for Culture, Media and Sports. here: Cookie Law Vid

I’ve seen lots of arguments over when consent should be obtained, the ICO believe best practice is to obtain consent up front, this appears to be interpreted that you need clear sign posting to getting consent at initial contact and before the user continues on their journey on your site. Interestingly in the video above the Head of Telecoms Regulation and E-Privacy references consent to be the same as that for the data protection act which relies on the web sites privacy policy to impart the information.

A point to note: You should only use further information sites that do not drop cookies otherwise the user will not be able to read more without actually having to compromise their privacy to get an informed decision as the information will not be available without having to accept more information onto their device.

Cookie Gotchas

How do you identify a real “user”? How do you distinguish other bots and spiders from users? Those who blindly require all users to ‘tick a box or see no website’ could find themselves deindexed from various search engines as the will have no content on their page.

How do you identify a different user of the same device? The majority of browsers nowadays have separate caches for users however exceptions exist certainly with home PCs which are set up tin the corner of the house and anyone uses so you cannot guarantee the users is always the same.

This is a real gotcha! If the user has previously visited your site and accepted cookies the old cookies remain on their device until manually deleted. The law states that the information cannot be read without consent so how does anyone prove whether they have been to your site before as you are not allowed to access their device until you get consent!

Using Javascript solutions will not resolve the problem

The problem with javascript solutions is that a lot of people do not allow it for example NoScript is a common FireFox extension installed and I think there are options in other browsers. The law does not differentiate, you need permission, just because they have disabled javascript will not excuse you!

Good luck, I’m off to check my insurance to see if I’m covered for investigations under this law!

It’s about Privacy

Don’t get hung up on the technical side of it (i.e. Cookies) it is not only about cookies it is about not placing information on a users device that can reduce a person’s privacy online.

If you are a normal Internet web site providing information and products you should less worried about the law than if you actively track users across the Internet and use re-marketing techniques.

A good start is to understand what information you place on a device and why. This is not only you directly but any third party you use from your web site, the most cited example for this is Google Analytics however as this is just analytics then you can be a little less worried.

If you use Google Adsense however you need to be worried as this uses all the tracking, retargeting and re-marketing techniques this law was designed to curtail. You can however adjust your business settings to prevent tracking as can the user of the device.

If you use a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress you are reasonably safe as it is only when someone registers will higher level privacy information be placed on the device, this can be covered off during the sign up process.

The gotcha in the CMS systems is with regard to plugins, or apps designed to expand the basic functionality of the CMS system, during an audit of one of our sites we found a plug-in that placed a cookie on the users device automatically (they even called it tracking cookie!) it was a image slider and this was not mentioned in their blurb about the plug-in at all hence the real need for an audit!

It’s fundamentally flawed

Technically the law states you cannot store anything on a users device without consent unless ‘strictly necessary’ if this is interpreted at face value you should not download any part of your web site until you have obtained permission from the user of the device.

This is not only cookies it’s images, html files, css files, javascript files basically anything that constitutes a web site as, until you obtain consent, you have no right under this law to store information on their device. This is as, technically, to obtain consent none of these are necessary.

With the move to IP6 version addressing on the Internet it will become extremely difficult to not identify the device being used as each will have it’s own id thus users will need to understand how their data is processed within a business to become fully informed.

Will I get Prosecuted if I break the Cookie Law?

Quite possibly is the simple answer, however as the ICO have stated it will depend upon the severity of the transgression and your intent as to what will happen to you. They have stated that things such as analytics are caught however given the level of private information contained within the data you are unlikely to be severely punished.

Further Issues:

Does Rome I or II come into play, have other European countries passed similar laws that you would have to comply with. If you cater for traffic from other European countries then you need to ensure you comply to their cookie laws when they implement them.

Will continually asking for permission constitute harassment? Maybe not but it’ll sure annoy your customers especially when web sites not based in Europe do not have to worry about the law

To Sum up

This is a new law and case law does not exist yet to define what ‘strictly necessary’ means with respect to this law, their view as with anyone else’s view including the ICO/Lawyers/Mine/yours is arbitrary at the moment. Only when the law is tested will businesses truly understand what is required. The trick is to not be the person who has to test it!

From our point of view we have carried out an audit of our cookies and will be updating our privacy policy to reflect this, we’ve adjusted our Google Adsense use and have a technological solution that will put the cookie consent question on every page for every new user however at the moment this relies on javascript so is not fully compliant. We are holding off using this at the moment as it will impact the customer experience especially as the level of knowledge about this law in the user base is very low.

Although we have taken legal advice for our situation and are developing our plans as appropriate none of the information here should be construed as legal advice as it is not and we are not lawyers!

Further References and reading;

Silktide Cookie eBook

http://www.glovers.co.uk/news.aspx?id=422&Page=2

http://www.forbessolicitors.co.uk/blog/forbusiness/2011/07/computer-cookies-and-the-privacy-and-electronic-communications-ec-directive-amendment-regulations-2011/

http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/author/dafyddbach/

http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/2012/01/12/cookies-on-the-beta/

http://www.consumerfocus.org.uk/cookies

http://www.international-chamber.co.uk/components/com_wordpress/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/icc_uk_cookie_guide.pdf