Computer lust? Eee!

For the first time ever, I am lusting for a computer other than a Mac. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to buy one of the new MacBook Pros. It’s just that I saw something come out of left field that really appeals to me.

So what has my fancy? The ultra mobile Asus Eee PC.

Here’s the best article I’ve found so far detailing the Eee PC.

In a nutshell, this puppy weighs less than 2lbs., has a 7” screen and boots Linux in 15 seconds. It does the basics from wifi surfing and Skype video calling to music and OpenOffice. It runs an Intel 900mhz Pentium M chip with 4-16gb of flash storage and 512mb RAM.

For an ultra-mobile PC, the capabilities seem decent and the mobility factor is good, but here is what really hooked me — the price of $199. No fooling.

UMPCs have been running $1000 and up which is why even the new Via Nanobook seemed fantastic at $600. But at $199, the whole market changes and all kinds of possibilities open up. This could be the one laptop for every child for the rest of us.

OK, let me put on my techie librarian’s hat. A few years ago I wrote and received a federal grant for wireless service in our library. We always hoped to offer laptops for in-library use. However, with cheap laptops running $700 to $1,000, we could never afford them. We always worried how we’d recoup our costs if someone dropped one. However, at $199, we might suddenly be able to do something. It might be a pain to write a full paper on this puppy, but I suspect it would be a great library research companion.

There are a boatload of things I could imagine using the Eee for, but I think imagining the possibilities only became possible when I saw the price tag.

Unfortunately, the Eee doesn’t hit the states until August. It’ll be interesting to see if the actual machine can match up with my expectations.

Hey, Asustek! Do you think you’d be willing to offer a library/librarian discount?

Posted in Mac-Tech

Poor Nashville Metro Council...

After they deal with the “apron string revolutionaries” they won’t know what hit them. (I hope)

This is a funny and sad story about library funding from the Nashville Scene.

Posted in Library

Great online comics at least...

The last few days I’ve been fighting the “Ohio Valley Crud.” At least that’s what they call any generally unidentifiable malady around here.

While in this snot-for-brains state, I fortunately stumbled across a listing of the 2007 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards nominees.

Thus, while fighting the crud, I became hooked on reading the nominees in the digital comics category. This was admittedly not a hard thing for me as I have loved comics since I was knee high to a wallaby (grasshoppers are too small).

Nonetheless, I was amazed by the quality of the work. The story lines were addictive and the art is beautiful. Here are the nominees I’ve read so far…

Motel Art Improvement Service by Jason Little, features 18-year-old Bee who stumbles on this guy who goes from motel to motel secretly altering paintings on room walls. Little offers this strip to alternative newspapers as well, though I have never seen it in print.

Girl Genius, by Phil and Kaja Foglio, is steampunk at its geeky best. G.G. follows the wild adventures of Agatha Clay who is a “Spark” — essentially a talented mad scientist/engineer of very special lineage. This would be a great addition to Young Adult graphic novel collections as printed compilations are available.

Minus, by Ryan Armand, is about a young girl with magical powers. Minus is a neat character, but the real winner here is Armand’s artwork. Instead of using a computer graphics program, he hand watercolors his work and the results are wonderful.

Finally, Shooting War, by Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman, takes place in 2011 during President McCain’s second term. A live-streaming video blogger accidentally films a terrorist attack and soon finds himself in Iraq covering the long war as a journalist for a 24/7 terrorism coverage news network. The comic combines artwork with actual photographs for a real/surreal on-the-spot feel. Unfortunately, the online version is a huge tease for a graphic novel to be released this fall. I’ll have to buy it, so it was a very successful tease.

For readers who only like their comics funny, note that Shooting War and Motel Art are edgier works that include violence, nudity and drug use.

Other Eisner nominees include Phables, by Brad Guigar, and Sam and Max by Steve Purcell. However, I haven’t had a chance to read them yet.

Finally, here’s a list of other digital comics I’ve recently enjoyed:

If there are any digital comics you’d recommend, let me know. I always enjoy discovering a new cartoonist.

Posted in Culture

Apple/EMI, DRM and libraries

I found hope in today’s press conference where EMI announced it will offer its music catalog on iTunes without the digital rights management.

I develop our library’s music and video collections and have been disappointed with the options available for “lending” patrons digital materials because invariably the digital rights management locks out Mac, Linux and iPod users. My hope is that EMI’s decision will reverberate through the system to where libraries will be able to better serve these minority platforms.

Last year I talked with the leading suppliers of digital materials— Recorded Books and Overdrive. While Recorded Books provides a nice instant collection on a subscription basis, it can only be used by Windows users. Overdrive, meanwhile, is also Windows-based, but at least the company allows personal CD burning.

I like that the CD burning capability opens the service to patrons who don’t even own media players. In theory, you could take the CDs and rip them for use on iPods. However, even with this more liberal policy, minority platform users are still locked out of the service.

While I do not know how digital “lending” would work without DRM, I am hoping that the Apple-EMI announcement will eventually clear the way for companies to offer services that I in turn can offer to all digital patrons— not just those using Windows.

For our library DRM is statistically not a deal breaker, merely a royal pain.

Less than 10 percent of our users responding to an online poll are iPod users. Similarly, according to our website statistics, minority platforms are under 6 percent and dialup users are just under 20 percent. Thus, a good number of our digital patrons could use these services.

Nonetheless, why can I not serve all my patrons?

For the record: I use Macs and iPods and this issue indeed frustrates me on a personal as well as professional level.

Posted in Library

An Old Possum's Podcast of Practical Cats

I just finished a homework assignment to create a “booktalk” for a juvenile or young adult poetry. I chose “The Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” which is one of my childhood favorites.

After I wrote the script, I decided to have a little fun and recorded it using a cheapy microphone and Apple’s GarageBand program. The process was fun and relatively easy.

The result is an audio file that comes in at 3 minutes flat. I’d call it a podcast, but if I understand correctly, a true podcast is downloadable via RSS 2.0.

Either way, if you have iTunes, you might try this link to the AAC version which comes in at 1.5mb:

Otherwise, here is the link to the mp3 file which is 3.4mb.

I figure a school media specialist can go into the classroom and throw out a couple booktalks to a captive audience. However, public libraries do not usuallly have that advantage. Thus in the 21st century we have to go where the kids are. I imagine kids, armed with mp3 players, just might be convinced to download the latest booktalks if we do a good enough job.

On my first attempt here I doubt mine would make the cut for some kid’s iPod, but in general we can always hope.

Posted in Library

mjcpl.org... the first few days

I have been amazed with the response to our brand new library website.

Right out of the gate, people flooded us with purchase requests and questions. That is good.

Yet, a bunch of people kept asking the same question, how to log into their account. So it finally dawned on me to see if I had correctly written the instructions. So I went to the page describing how to use the system and…. (no surprise here)... the link was dead. aarrrgggghhh! So I fixed the link and I have not received the question again. Hey, you learn. You squash bugs and you learn.

I also learned about the extra line feeds Windows puts into text documents. Our web forms are driven by a perl script. Once I started receiving the boatload of mail from the site I realized I forgot to change the subject lines on the various versions. Thus the purchase requests, the ILL requests and the reference questions all looked the same. I went in to change the script and and Windows inserted extra line feeds. The scripts failed as a result and type 500 server errors were flying everywhere. Fortunately, Thursdays our tech guru comes to visit and showed me how to fix the problem. Thankfully, the fix was easy.

Meanwhile, the website received a front page article in our local paper. (Finally, I’m on the front page for something other than our historic district board of review). I also received an interesting mention from Thomson-Peterson’s Syndication for Higher Ed blog.

A library director from up river asked my director is she could hire me to do their website (too bad I can’t right now, that’s be fun).

Meanwhile, I took a peak at our bee naming contest results and it is indeed going to be a tight race.

Posted in Library

Website premieres

Last semester, as part of my Information Architecture class, I had to create a website for a “real client.”

Well yesterday, that project became a “real website” and is now serving the library where I work. There is still alot of work, but I’m really happy with how it is turning out.

Check it out over at www.mjcpl.org and let me know what you think. Constructive criticism is very welcome.

The website will also give me some serious writing duties on our new blog Library Buzz. There are a number of entries, but I’m still getting my sea legs with it. We’ll have library news and staff and patron reviews, but beyond that I’m still working it out. If anyone out there does a public library blog, let me know what all you include.

While you’re over at the site, feel free to vote in our library bee mascot naming contest. We held the first phase of the contest last month when we asked for name suggestions. We received more than 200 entries. The staff and director narrowed the list to six names and now everyone can vote. The finalists are Booker Bee, Libbee, Booksbee, Billie Bee, Bee A. Reader and Readmore.

Some day once the contest is over, I hope to get permission to publish the entire list because some of them are really wonderful, but didn’t make the cut for various reasons.

Posted in Library

Previous Posts