Archive for August, 2006

On avoiding death-by-PowerPoint

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Just enountered this engaging blog: Presentation Zen.

Google Book Search grants some PDF downloads

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

from ars technica:

Google went ahead and did it. Books no longer in copyright are now available for download from the Google Book Search site. If you’re looking for something tasty, might we recommend an early English translation of Montaigne’s provocative essay “On Some Verses of Virgil”? (Hint: the naughtiest bits are in the Latin epigrams, the worst of which aren’t even translated).

There’s plenty of precendent for this sort of thing. Project Gutenberg provides access to 19,000 classic books, but in a text-only format. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library offers both text and PDF versions of a massive collection of source material, but only one one particular topic. There’s also the Perseus Project, which offers ancient and Renaissance texts. Google could top all of these projects by providing fully-searchable versions of a much wider selection of books, many of which can also be downloaded as PDFs that are ready to print.

While this only applies to older books, it’s still a great way of democratizing access to the world’s knowledge (in English, at any rate), and it can’t raise any objections from publishers. Books which were before available only on the shelves of large academic libraries are now available to anyone with a Web connection and some curiosity. Scienta vincit omnia!

But not everyone is thrilled with the results so far. From Planet PDF:

There’s no doubt Google needs to be applauded for the idea, but the execution (i.e. the books they’ve produced) could definitely do with some work. The PDF books are difficult to download, large in size, of such low resolution they’re difficult to read, unsearchable, and do not allow the user to copy text from them. It’s left me wondering what Google expects people to do with the books.

And more critique here.

Interesting announcement by the NEH today

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Part of a message that came around entitled 2006 Changes to Collaborative Research and Scholarly Editions Guidelines:

“In keeping with the goals of the NEH Digital Humanities Initiative (see CURRENT SPECIAL INITIATIVES below), the Scholarly Editions Program requires that applicants employ digital technology in the preparation, management, and online publication of all critical and documentary editions. Projects that include TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) conformant transcription and offer free online access are encouraged and will be given preference.”

EDUCE funded by NSF

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

The National Science Foundation has just announced a three-year award for a total of $1.2m to the team of Brent Seales (PI), Joseph Gray (co-PI), James Griffioen (co-PI), and Ross Scaife (co-PI) for EDUCE: Enhanced Digital Unwrapping for Conservation and Exploration.


This proposal is to develop a hardware and software system for the virtual unwrapping and visualization of ancient texts. The overall purpose is to capture in digital form fragile 3D texts, such as ancient papyrus and scrolls of other materials using a custom built, portable, multi-power CT scanning device and then to virtually “unroll” the scroll using image algorithms, rendering a digital facsimile that exposes and makes legible inscriptions and other markings on the artifact, all in a non-invasive process. Preliminary work has demonstrated proof of concept. The project is intensely interdisciplinary, requiring expertise in multiple domains. The project is complex and presents significant intellectual and technical challenges to information technology research, materials research, engineering and the social sciences. The potential broader impacts of the project are significant and immediately useful across a large set of scholarly applications and institutional practices. Successful implementation of the described system will enable non-invasive, non-destructive examination of fragile texts and artifacts which contain a wealth of information, allowing holders to share the intellectual content of precious assets with individuals and other institutions.

We’ve begun a new site for dissemination of information about the project here.

Chris Francese reading Latin aloud

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Chris Francese has posted some well-made readings of Latin poetry on a server at Dickinson College.

(hat-tip Rogueclassicism)

When is a wiki not a wiki?

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Thoughts on impending changes at Wikipedia.

Churning through

Friday, August 25th, 2006

In a must-read article, the CHE reports details of the Google contract with the U of C libraries. Among other things, it seems as if the goal is to scan as many as 3000 books per day. So — will the Classics-related holdings be done within a week or two? Maybe a little longer…

Under the contract, the university agrees to pay for pulling and shelving the books, bandwidth and hardware to store digital copies, rooms in which to do the digitization, and transportation of materials to those rooms, among other things. Google will cover its own labor, hardware and software to do the scanning, space in which to do scanning, and transportation to its spaces, along with other costs.

Both the university and Google will get digital copies of the scanned works, but there are some restrictions on how the university can use its copies. The university can offer the digital copy, whole or in parts, “as part of services offered to the university library patrons.” But the university must prevent users from downloading portions of the digital copies and stop automated scanning of the copies by, for example, other search engines.

Entire works not covered under copyright can be distributed to scholars and students for research purposes, but there are limits on in-copyright material. The university retains a right to distribute no more than 10 percent of the collection to other libraries and educational institutions for noncommercial research. Before receiving the digital copies of works, other institutions have to enter a written agreement with Google regarding the use of the copies and provide indemnity to Google.

GE helps in planned move of Ramses II

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Nothing too earth-shattering here, perhaps, but I’ve always been oddly fascinated by the sight of very large objects being moved carefully through urban landscapes.

Professors, Start Your Blogs

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Dan Cohen’s blog entries at Digital Humanities are few but roses.  Here’s yet another great post.  An excerpt:

When I was in graduate school, the Russian historian Paul Bushkovitch once told me that the key to being a successful scholar was to become completely obsessed with a historical topic, to feel the urge to read and learn everything about an event, an era, or a person. In short, to become so knowledgeable and energetic about your subject matter that you become what others immediately recognize as a trusted, valuable expert.

As it turns out, blogs are perfect outlets for obsession. Now, there’s good and bad obsession. What the critics of blogs are worried about is the bad kind—the obsession that drives people to write about their breakfast in excruciating detail.

Yet, as Bushkovitch’s comment entailed, obsession—properly channeled and focused on a worthy subject—has its power. It forges experts. It stimulates a lifelong interest in learning (think, for a moment, about the countless examples of “retired” professors still writing influential books). The most stimulating, influential professors, even those with more traditional outlets for their work (like books and journals) overflow with views and thoughts. Shaped correctly, a blog can be a perfect place for that extra production of words and ideas.

Five Weeks to a Social Library

Monday, August 21st, 2006

This sounds really cool.

Site for Archimedes Palimpsest

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

The Archimedes Palimpsest, much in the news lately, has an informative web site that describes some of the technologies being applied, significance of the work, and so forth.

3D Egyptian Archaeology in Second Life

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

Some very nice 3D recreations of Egyptian buildings and artifacts have been built and showcased in the Themiskyra land in Second Life (the user-led MMORPG). See a Flickr gallery of some of the objects at or teleport straight to Themiskyra from (Second Life software required.)

There was some talk of a Roman theatre project moving their 3D buildings into SL at one point, but I’ve never seen it in there. Any news? There’s a lot of scope for this sort of thing.

Google’s Writely now available (again)

Friday, August 18th, 2006

from Ars Technica:

Editing is straightforward enough, and not noticeably different from working in good old MS Word or OpenOffice. Tables, images, the ususal lineup of fonts—it’s all there. The right-click menu tends to be obscured by the browser’s equivalent. That’s slightly annoying, but you can work around that by hitting ESC once, and the menu isn’t all that useful to begin with. You’ll likely do fine with just the toolbar buttons and pulldown menus at the top of the editing window. The usual keyboard shortcuts work, too—CTRL-S for save, CTRL-Z for undo, et cetera.

The most notable feature of the editing process is the AJAXified collaboration. You can invite others to co-edit your document and see their additions or subtractions with a slight time delay, live in your window. The editor autosaves every ten seconds, which pushes out changes and pulls down new versions from the central repository. That could certainly come in handy. You’ll also always see who else is working on your document right now because they’re listed at the bottom of the screen. Writely keeps a revision history, and you can revert to any earlier version you like.

When you’re done editing, you can download the document in .doc, .rtf, or .odt formats, as a PDF file, or as a self-contained zipped HTML files with all images included… You can also publish the document and send a link to whoever you want to read it, or publish an RSS feed of document revisions.

MuGeum: Roman Forum and Vicinity

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

A MuGeum is a museum of places that are described by their geographic coordinates (latitude, longitude and altitude). A MuGeum can span any distance. A MuGeum may deal with one specific historic event (such as a discovery or a battle), or deal with a much broader topic or period of time (such as Bronze Age settlements in north Africa, or the development of literary traditions in China)…

KML files for Google Earth are now automatically generated for every MuGeum.

The image below is from curator Bill Storage’s MuGeum of the Roman Forum and Vicinity. Bill’s beautiful, original photography and detailed descriptions combine with the excellent satellite imagery and geospatial navigation of Google Earth to create a gorgeous bird’s-eye preview of this MuGeum. Pack your bags! Next stop, the Eternal City!

Google Earth example


Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

From Infocult:

A recent Wired article makes the case for “crowdsourcing,” the practice of getting people from elsewhere to help you with a project.  It’s different from open source, in that outsiders aren’t contributing code, but ideas or media.

Know it all!

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

The New Yorker has a worthwhile piece by Stacy Schiff on Wikipedia, full of interesting factoids and historical context.

There are Aspergian Wikipedians (seventy-two), bipolar Wikipedians, vegetarian Wikipedians, antivegetarian Wikipedians, existential Wikipedians, pro-Luxembourg Wikipedians, and Wikipedians who don’t like to be categorized. According to a page on the site, an avid interest in Wikipedia has been known to afflict “computer programmers, academics, graduate students, game-show contestants, news junkies, the unemployed, the soon-to-be unemployed and, in general, people with multiple interests and good memories.” You may travel in more exalted circles, but this covers pretty much everyone I know.


Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

Via Scribblings and Musings, word of an interesting new blog, if:book, sponsored by the Inbstitute for the Future of the Book.  One of the entries in the if:book blog references a chapter Clifford Lynch has written entitled, “Open Computation: Beyond Human-Reader-Centric Views of Scholarly Literatures” for an upcoming book on open access edited by Neil Jacobs of the Joint Information Committee.  Here among other things Lynch references data-mining and text-analysis efforts at Perseus.

Photos of Atiz Bookdrive DIY

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

I see new pictures of the Bookdrive DIY at the Atiz website since last time I looked.

And speaking of book-scanning, there’s this from Peter Suber:

Bob Thompson, Search Me? Washington Post, August 13, 2006. One of the longest and most detailed accounts I’ve seen on the background of the Google Library project and the copyright controversy it has spawned.

The Classical Association Annual Conference 2007

Friday, August 11th, 2006

The website for the 2007 Classical Association Conference can be found at:

This is being held at Birmingham (England)  12 – 15 April 2007.

If you look at the Call for Papers you’ll see that one of the categories is Digital Classics (originally it was Digitising the Classics – that’s still how it appears on the CA website – so that’s an improvement). The Digital Classicist has proposed two panel sessions at this conference. If anyone would like to participate please get in touch or alternatively put in your own proposal.


xcavator — image search and sort

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

from John Battelle’s SearchBlog:

xcavator is a new and exciting technology for searching and sorting images. With all the control granted to you, it makes image searching easy and specific. It’s very much like text-based searching in Google or Yahoo! but instead of selecting keywords, in xcavator you choose key points to define the type of image you are looking for. xcavator is connected to flickr to create a cool demo. The next 2 pages are a quick intro so that you understand the interface and can immediately take full advantage of the power ofxcavator!

Google maps for timelines

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

From Semantic Humanities:

Simile at MIT have recently come up with a timeline widget api – google maps for timelines. It lets you plot events and time ranges (taken from either XML or JSON) onto timelines, and it’s all pretty darn good.

Good question!

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

What’s wrong with this picture?

By Peter Suber

The UK National Archives has digitized The Domesday Book, “the earliest surviving public record” in British history.The book is in the public domain and the digitization was done at public expense, but the National Archives charges £3.50 per page to view the results.

DAI Archaeological Bibliography goes OA

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

Sayonara, Dyabola:

We would like to inform you that the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) compiles the four most important Bibliographies on archaeology:

  • Archaeological Bibliography (Realkatalog)
  • Bibliography of the Archaeology of the Iberian Peninsula
  • Subject catalogue of the Roman-German Commission
  • Bibliography of the Archaeology of Eurasia (completed bibliography)

You are now able to search through the Archaeological Bibliography, which will be permanently updated, free of charge at the website of the DAI (previously accessible via Dyabola). Please take a look at our central online catalogue ZENON: .

We are also very pleased to inform you that the English version of the revised “Guidelines for Contributors to Publications of the German Archaeological Institute” is now available at the website of the DAI under RESEARCH Guidelines for Contributors to Publications. Please, take note of the general remarks of the editors and the several lists for detailed information (checklist, keyword list, list of abbreviations). The guidelines may be viewed online or can be downloaded as PDF-files, they are valid immediately.

Network links for showing geotagged photos in Google Earth

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

I think it would be interesting for an ASCSA regular member to use this techique with photographs taken during the fall and winter trips.

Creating ebooks with open source tools

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

The TeleRead blog points to what looks like a useful Newsforge article about the the Sunrise desktop conversion tool and the Plucker reader.