NY Times movie Page One a snooze

I was looking forward to seeing Page One – Inside the New York Times but I found it mostly dull and disappointing.

The fly-on-the-wall conversations between journalists seemed vague and even the daily story meetings lacked passion and urgency.

And what I really wanted to know – how the Times plans to survive in a digital age – was never really addressed. There was one scene where the Media Desk editor told a reporter “Don’t put that on the web yet.” In this case it was probably a good call (the story needed further work) but I was left wondering how, or if, the digital operation was integrated into the Times’ strategy and culture.

Times media reporter David Carr steals the show, with his intense, sardonic style, and staunch devotion to the paper. And his colleague Brian Stelter shows what the Times can do when it embraces tools such as Twitter.

Overall though, the tone was lethargic and uninspiring. I actually heard two people in the audience snoring.

GPS needs TLC

Trainee using sextant - US Library of Congress

There’s no question that the Global Positioning System is a great tool, although I confess I’ve never used it (unless you count sitting in the back of a taxi while the driver finds his way down unfamiliar roads via a little electronic map on the dashboard).

Coming on the scene in 1995, it wasn’t available during my days as an ocean navigator, when the trusty sextant, an almanac and a lot of arithmetic, were the most reliable system for position-finding, at least when the sky was clear.

But today’s news that the GPS satellites need investment to keep them operating beyond next year shows how far we’ve come in making navigation part of the average person’s life. GPS devices have become so good, and cheap, that they are used by many people to complement road signs, maps, and asking a “local” for directions.

GPS, or similar alternative systems provided by Russia or being developed in other countries, will be the foundation of so many new services provided via mobile devices. One way or the other, we all need to know where we are.

If Moses had gotten the Ten Commandments on a floppy disk

Floppy disk and USB flash drive

David Pogue of nytimes.com has a reminder about the fallibility of current data storage systems in this interview with Dag Spicer of the Computer History Museum.

To quote Spicer: “If Moses had gotten the Ten Commandments on a floppy disk, it would never have made it to today.”

Bottom line: paper seems to be one of the better methods for archival storage. That data you laboriously transferred onto CDs and DVDs may only last a few years.

Computer punch cards

Ironically, back when I was studying Computer Science at university, we did use paper storage media: perforated tape and punch cards. Not that any of my assignments were worth saving. 😉

Photos by Aldoaldoz (top) and BinaryApe on Flickr

Advertising ban uncovers the good and bad

Effective the beginning of this year, South America’s largest city, Sao Paulo, banned all outdoor advertising.

By all accounts, the billboards – most of them illegal – were truly blotting the landscape. And residents of this city of more than 11 million now seem happy with the uncluttered look and uncovered architecture (unless they work in the advertising industry, one assumes).

In an audio feature, local journalist Vinicius Galvao tells On the Media that the advertising ban has uncovered some other problems in the city, such as the exploitation of migrant workers and the existence of a shantytown. Both issues had been literally hidden by walls of advertising.

Here in Toronto, outdoor advertising is frequently critiqued at spacing.ca , with one of the hot topics at the moment being plans for advertising-funded street amenities. And the battle against illegal billboards has spawned a dedicated website at illegalsigns.ca.

The feed works

I finally got around to fixing the RSS feed (a simple matter, once again, of tracking down the problem via the well-indexed WordPress forums). A link to the feed is near the bottom of the left hand sidebar, or you can just copy this address to your feed reader: