Our library's Christmas party...

I just came back from our library’s annual Christmas party. Of course we do the Secret Santa thing.

Our staff always exchanges fun stuff because they’re all creative and many share handmade gifts. Actually, I was probably the worst gift giver of the bunch. I did my shopping two hours before the dinner (but hey, at least I did do my own shopping).

Either way when I opened my gift I laughed my head off. I told everyone what I received but no one got it. Of course they wouldn’t — it was the ultimate geek gift.

It was a geek gift because our network/hardware guru got my name. Andre’s great to work with because he knows everything I don’t so we usually manage some serious damage as a result. But he gets brownie points for thoughtfulness.

So what is this awesome geek gift — an original Bondi Blue 233ghz G3 Apple iMac. It’s a landmark computer that changed how computers were sold. From the moment Apple introduced the computer design mattered. Arguably, it’s the computer that saved Apple Inc.

But what had me laughing so hard? He had installed Debian Linux on the puppy!

Admittedly, that almost an inside joke. I’m doing a presentation on open source software in April and now I have my very own Linux box to play with. It’ll be a blast to see what I can manage to do with this old computer.

Posted in Life

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

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

Google Reader beats Bloglines

After trying about every web-based feed reader on the market I kept coming back to Bloglines as fast and efficient (albeit it with an ugly shade of blue). Speed was the biggest reason—if I wanted to wait for pages to load, I would have visited the website to begin with. Indeed, several readers did just that—load the original website in the article pane once you’ve select an article. It should not work that way.

However, Google’s new revised reader is even better and this time I’m not going back. Other than an inability to sort the feeds I have found Google Reader to be fast and friendly. I like easily switching between list and expanded mode as there are some feeds I skim and others I read. I can also sharing my favorite read on my site here.

It’s amazing how many Google products I’m now using and they all just work—Gmail, calendar, reader. I’ve also played with their office suite. It can’t replace Word (no header/footer that I noticed), but for general or collaborative writing in multiple locations, it looks promising.

Posted in Mac-Tech

iTunes 7... Eureka!

Two recommendations in one.

First download Apple’s new version of iTunes. The fit and finish in this new version is quite good. First, they integrated cover art downloading for any CD (not just the ones you purchase from the iTunes Store). You can then “flip” through the images like you would flip through your CD cases in a drawer. It’s pretty slick.

Also, they upgraded the content on the iTunes Store. Yes, they’re now selling Disney movies, but equally importantly is they have upgraded the television shows. The width increased from 320 to 640 pixels wide which, with their latest codec, looks very good blown up to full screen on my laptop—close but not quite DVD quality. I’d be interested how it looked on a TV screen.

My iTunes test drive was the pilot for Sci-Fi network’s new show Eureka (this link will open up iTunes). That is my second recommendation. The acting is good and the story line is quirky and you can’t beat the price—free. I’m sold on the show and it will take some self control to not immediately buy the season.

In a nutshell, a U.S. Marshal transporting a young woman to L.A. gets lost and stumbles across a secret town where America’s scientific geniuses are socked away to live, work and sleep science. Instantly he is sucked into an investigation of missing boy that is really a question of space-time disintegration.

My favorite description of the show is that it’s a twist between Twin Peaks, Star Trek and the Andy Griffith Show.

Posted in Mac-Tech

OK...let's welcome the dwarfs?

OK, so we’re now down to eight planets. The astronomers finally kicked our solar system’s odd-ball out of the house. But did they have to go as far as calling Pluto a dwarf?

Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight … Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of “dwarf planets,” similar to what long have been termed “minor planets.” The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun—“small solar system bodies,” a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.

It just seems so demeaning. It’s not about political correctness. I just feel bad for the Plutonian people. They’re now like the residents of the District of Columbia. They live in the solar system and pay taxes in the solar system, but they don’t get representation.

Pluto license plate

Posted in Mac-Tech

New photo page on the river's edge

My opportunity for futzing with my website is coming to an end. My online class starts Wednesday, Darlene has some appointments and sinus surgery coming up this week and I have class on Friday in Indy. Thus, no more futzing.

Either way, my latest futz is a new photo page that falls within the template of the overall blog. Before the galleries were off site. I’m not entirely happy with the results, but it’s not bad. Creating the gallery is simple. The photos, on the other hand, take forever to prep. I’m just thinking there is an easier way of doing it.

The first two galleries are from a recent weekend getaway to New Harmony, Indiana.

So why are you still here? Go over to my new photo page.

Posted in Life

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