December 30, 2008

Whither CDs?

Recently, we wrote about the end of the VHS tape.

Are CDs far behind?

[via Stephen’s Lighthouse]

Technology and Change

A thought provoking, five-minute video on how much the technology revolution has changed our lives in just the past few years:

Did You Know 3.0

[via Stephen’s Lighthouse]

December 29, 2008

Another Great Resource for Researching Family History

Many of you who do genealogy know about, a great online source for family history information with more than 7 billion names and 26,000 searchable databases.

But did you know has it's own blog? Started in September 2007, the blog features short articles about products and publications, database updates and webinars (online seminars).

For those of us who use for family history research, the blog adds a layer of up-to-date information which may just help you find that elusive ancestor. Check it out

And remember, is available from the Troy Library computers, free-of-charge.

December 28, 2008

DataPlace: A One-stop Resource for Demographic Information

Looking for an easy way to find census data, statistics and other information about a city, zip code, or state? Take a look at DataPlace. Enter the place name or zip code and a whole list of demographic statistics about your place is returned, including population, age, ethnicity, race, household size, education, income, employment, and mortgage information.

Plus, the site gives you tools to analyze and interpret the data. You can compare one place to another, see where your place ranks against other areas in the United States, and view a map of the statistics overlaid on the place.

A great one-stop resource for demographic information about your community, your region or the nation.


December 24, 2008

Notebok Computers Outsell Desktops for the First Time Ever

Information continues to become increasingly mobile. This from Cnet:
“Global notebook shipments exceeded desktops on a quarterly basis for the first time ever…

Notebook PC shipments rose almost 40 percent in the third quarter of 2008 over the same period in 2007, hitting 38.6 million units, said iSuppli, a market research firm….

Desktop PC shipments… fell by 1.3 percent in the third quarter over the previous year to 38.5 million units...

E-book Sales Still Small, But Growing Quickly

Recently, The Tech Desk has been covering the switch from print to digital format in the news business. Whether or not you are ready, more and more media are reducing or eliminating print and moving to all online, electronic publications.

But what about the book publishing business? Will book readers really forgo their paper texts for digital ones, viewable on Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s Reader, or one of the dozens of other devices now available?

Well, increasingly, evidence shows that they will. According to a recent article in The New York Times:
“For a decade, consumers mostly ignored electronic book devices, which were often hard to use and offered few popular items to read. But this year, in part because of the popularity of’s wireless Kindle device, the e-book has started to take hold…

Many Kindle buyers appear to be outside the usual gadget-hound demographic. Almost as many women as men are buying it… and the device is most popular among 55- to 64-year-olds.

So far, publishers like HarperCollins, Random House and Simon & Schuster say that sales of e-books for any device — including simple laptop downloads — constitute less than 1 percent of total book sales. But there are signs of momentum. The publishers say sales of e-books have tripled or quadrupled in the last year.

Amazon’s Kindle version of “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski, a best seller recommended by [Oprah] Winfrey’s book club, now represents 20 percent of total Amazon sales of the book, according to Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide.

So you want to give electronic books a try? The Troy Public Library has e-books that you can download to your computer. Visit our website at, and click on Downloadable eBooks, Audiobooks and Videos in the left side frame. From here, you’ll be able to access our OverDrive and netLibrary collections, each of which has hundreds of ebooks for you to download and view.

Let us know what you think.

December 23, 2008

Internet Overtakes Newspapers as News Source

According to a December 3-7 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the Internet has now surpassed all other media except television as a main source for national and international news.

Currently, 40% of respondents say they get most of their news from the Internet, up from 24% in September 2007. Thirty-five percent say they rely on newspapers for their news, while 70% rely on television.

For Americans under 30, the Internet now rivals television as a main source of news. Fifty-nine percent of young people say they get most of their news online; an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied on television for news as the Internet (68% vs. 34%). This mirrors a trend seen earlier this year in campaign news consumption. (See Internet Now Major Source of Campaign News, October 31, 2008.)

According to the survey, 23% of the public says they get most of their news from CNN, while 17% says Fox News; smaller shares mention other cable and broadcast outlets.

Blog Readership and Influence Grow

According to a recent study commissioned by BuzzLogic – a company that analyzes social media and runs an Internet advertising network – from 2004 to 2008, blog readership increased a whopping 300%. Today, 47% of online consumers read blogs.

The study says that half of blog readers found blogs useful when they were considering what purchases to make, and more than half of that group said they looked at a blog just when they were about to buy something.

[via The New York Times]


The VHS tape – the format that popularized the copying, replaying, sharing and storing of media and ushered in the era of the home theatre – is no more.

According to Geoff Boucher, writing in the Los Angeles Times:
Pop culture is finally hitting the eject button on the VHS tape, the once-ubiquitous home-video format that will finish this month as a creaky ghost of Christmas past.

After three decades of steady if unspectacular service, the spinning wheels of the home-entertainment stalwart are slowing to a halt at retail outlets. On a crisp Friday morning in October, the final truckload of VHS tapes rolled out of a Palm Harbor, Fla., warehouse run by Ryan J. Kugler, the last major supplier of the tapes.

"It's dead, this is it, this is the last Christmas, without a doubt," said Kugler, 34, a Burbank businessman. "I was the last one buying VHS and the last one selling it, and I'm done. Anything left in warehouse we'll just give away or throw away."

Read VHS Era is Winding Down.


Newspaper Shuns the Internet and Survives

From The New York Times, this story about the triCityNews of Monmouth County, NJ, a newspaper that has shunned the Internet and is thriving.

December 21, 2008

Top Ten Tech Toys

What holiday gift should you buy for your favorite techie this year? For your active friends, how about a Wii Fit? It provides you with a strenuous workout and keeps track of your weight. Your college student will appreciate the Apple Macbook, with its new aluminum chassis sure to survive any student's abuse. Buy a Netflix Player for your favorite movie enthusiast and make snail mail a thing of the past.

Click here to read about 2008's top 10 tech toys, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

December 17, 2008

Best of Office Online: 2008

Microsoft has released a list showing their most popular Office Online resources for 2008. Categories include templates, clip art, training courses, and columns. This list includes resources for both Office 2003 and Office 2007.

How Stuff Works

The holidays are coming soon and Santa may be bringing many of you the latest and greatest tech toys that are coming out now. If you're like me and want to get the story behind the gadgetry, you need to check out the website, HowStuffWorks. It's fun and informative and can answer all kinds of questions in a very clear and easy to understand manner.

Microsoft to Fix IE Security Hole

Microsoft Corp. is issuing an emergency fix for a security hole in its browser, Internet Explorer, which was reported yesterday.

The hole has exposed millions of users to having their computers taken over by hackers.

According to The New York Times, Microsoft said it plans to ship a security update, rated ''critical,'' for the browser on December 17. Those with the Windows Update feature activated on their computers will get the patch automatically.

Microsoft said it has seen attacks targeting the flaw only in Internet Explorer 7, the most widely used version, but has cautioned that all other current editions of the browser are vulnerable.

December 16, 2008

Microsoft Admits Security Flaw, Reports CSM

According to Andrew Heining, writing on the Christian Science Monitor's technology blog Innovation:
There’s a critical security hole in Internet Explorer, the world’s most popular web browser.

The unpatched vulnerability, first discovered by hackers and recently acknowledged by Microsoft, could allow someone to gain access to a computer through a website that executes a malicious code. Some 10,000 sites have been compromised so far, putting passwords, financial data, and other sensitive information at risk.

In a lengthy security advisory memo on its website, Microsoft urges users to change their “Internet zone security setting” to “high” and to run the browser in “Protected Mode.”

According to the post, savvy surfers can protect their machines, "[b]ut the easier solution may just be to drop IE."

With alternate browsers Firefox and Google's Chrome gaining in popularity, Microsoft's dominance of the browser market may be at an end.

Your Digital Crib Contest Winners

Last month, I blogged about a contest, sponsored by Cicso, to create a video of your home computer space -- your "digital crib." The company wanted to know whether your crib was "heaven" or "hell." Here are the winners:


Grand Prize Winner ($10K):
Totally Integrated Digital Home!!! by Ryan Leetsma

5 Runners Up ($500 Gift Card):
The Power to Connect... The Power to Succeed by Eric Michael Hopper

Digital Living by Blake Krone

Wireless Media Paradise at Home and On the Road
by Jason Olmstead

A Real Digital Crib by William Urbina

Sixty Seconds in Digital Heaven by Brett Slater


Grand Prize Winner ($10K):
My Multimedia Dilemma by Angpao Martin

5 Runners Up ($500 Gift Card):
My Digital HELL by Chris LaMartina

Cyber-Highway to Hell by Daniel DeLancey

Digital Cribs Hell by Alex Mooney

Cool Technologies by Joe Wood

David's Digital Hell for Design by David Eastwood

Congratulations to all the winners!

Detroit News and Free Press Considering Cutting Back Home Delivery, Focus On Web

News is coming from multiple sources that the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News may be ending daily home delivery and promoting their websites instead.

Courtesy of Yahoo Finance:
[The Wall Street] Journal said home delivery would be limited to Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with an "abbreviated" print edition available at newsstands on other days. Readers would also be directed to the papers' Web sites.

The changes likely would mean major job cuts, the Journal said.

The Free Press, owned by Gannett Co., had a daily circulation of 314,554 at the end of March; 618,324 on Sunday. The News, owned by MediaNews Group Inc., had daily circulation of 178,280. It does not publish a print edition on Sunday.

Bassett said the papers recognize the "tremendous importance of digital communication and finding ways to better deliver news and information to people in ways that are most convenient to them."

Reporter M.L. Elrick, vice chairman of the Free Press unit of the Detroit Newspaper Guild, said there's anxiety in the newsroom.

"Everyone here is afraid we're going to have staff cuts," he said. "I wish I had my sources call me as often as my colleagues have called the past couple days. No one knows where this is going to end up."

This news follows the growing trend started by the Christian Science Monitor, and more recently PC Magazine, of newspapers pushing towards digital. Unfortunately, this news from the Free Press and News, show the downsides of switching to a more digitally focused medium, as workers fear for losing their jobs.

Ultimately this decision, if made, will benefit the consumer by providing more up to the minute news, and easier delivery. Though it appears that the effect on the workers may be more negative, with job cuts and layoffs in their future. According to, the Detroit newspapers will have a major announcement at 11 am. This post will be updated with the breaking news as it happens.

Who knows, we might all be holding Kindles in our hands sooner then we thought...

December 15, 2008

All the News Fit to Tweet

The Twitter phenomena -- microblogging bursts of 140 characters maximum instantly to your subscribers -- is now the preferred method of communication to keep up with changes in the media and public relations industry, according to this article in The New York Times.

In essence, you are having an online conversation with dozens -- hundreds? -- of your friends simultaneously.

With Twitter, and other social networking sites providing breaking coverage of the events in Mumbai last month, even blogging seems like so last year.

SOCRRA Now Recycles CDs, DVDs, and Tapes

SOCRRA – the municipal corporation that coordinates recycling in Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Troy – now accepts CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, and cassettes for recycling at its Drop-Off Center, 995 Coolidge in Troy, between 14 and 15 Mile Roads. The Center is open Monday-Friday, 7:00 am - 6:00 pm, and on Saturday, 7:00 am - 2:00 pm.

December 14, 2008

The Future of the Internet, Part III

From the Pew Internet and American Life Project:
A survey of internet leaders, activists and analysts shows they expect major tech advances as the phone becomes a primary device for online access, voice-recognition improves, artificial and virtual reality become more embedded in everyday life, and the architecture of the internet itself improves.

They disagree about whether this will lead to more social tolerance, more forgiving human relations, or better home lives.

Here are the key findings on the survey of experts by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that asked respondents to assess predictions about technology and its roles in the year 2020.

For a complete report (.pdf), The Future of the Internet III.

BP Announces Plan to Add Free Wi-Fi to Stations

Did you ever stop for gas and feel the urge to check your email? Or renew your library material? Or buy an on-line product?

If so, you may soon be in luck. On December 15, British Petroleum will announce that it has reached a deal with two technology companies, Ruckus Wireless and HarborLink, to start equipping its 9,000 North American gas stations with wi-fi.

According to David Callisch, a spokesman for Ruckus Wireless, quoted in this article in The New York Times, the company is trying to create a “sticky” situation: “People go to the gas station and you can get them to stay longer,” he said. “Wi-Fi quickly becomes a money-making opportunity for [the stations].”

December 13, 2008

The Kindles Are Coming, The Kindles Are Coming!

While I remain highly skeptical of how technology will deliver a death blow to the printed newspaper (not to say it won't force dramatic evolutionary changes), news such as this adds fuel to the other side's argument.

Of course at about $359 a pop, the Kindle remains a luxury for most. For interesting commentary make sure to read the posted comments under the article. Don't miss numbers 10, 11 and 16 for thoughtful additions.

December 11, 2008

The Value of Libraries in Tough Times

A nice video, reported by Brian Williams, on NBC Nightly News:

Libraries Offer Free Relief in Tough Times.

[via Libraries & Life]

Online-only Publications Now Eligible for Pulitzer Prizes

According to Brian Stelter, in The New York Times:

Bowing to the rapid rise of news distributed digitally rather than on paper, the Pulitzer Prizes will begin immediately accepting submissions from online-only publications.

The Pulitzers, administered by Columbia University, are widely regarded as the most prestigious awards for American newspaper reporting and commentary. Beginning with the 2009 prizes, which cover work done in 2008 and which will be presented in April, Internet newspapers and other news organizations that publish online will be considered for all 14 of the journalism awards, from international reporting to criticism.

Best and Worst of Tech in 2008

Here is one more list to add to the end of the year lists appearing now:

The Best and Worst of Tech in 2008
, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Troy Times from 2002 Now Available Online from Troy Library

Full-text issues of The Troy Times, from January 2, 2002 to the present day, can now be found in the Access World News database, provided by the Troy Public Library.

To connect, go to the Library's website and click on the Information on Demand -- All Day, Every Day link in the middle of the page. That will take you to our Databases and Electronic Resources list. Click on Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers, and finally, click on Access World News. You will then be asked for your Troy Library card number.

From there, you can click on the Troy Times link within the shortcut menu on the left side, or click through the map until you get to the listing of Michigan newspapers.

December 10, 2008

List of Lists

For me, this is one of the best times of the year. No, it is not because of presents and holiday gatherings, although those are nice. Instead, it is because this is the time when publications release their "best of" lists. Everyone from Time, NPR, and the New York Times, have their opinions on what was the "best". Also, year end review lists make for excellent debate and watercooler conversation, and help you find interesting things you may have missed during the year.

With so many lists covering so many categories, it is easy to miss several that you are interested in. Luckily, Rex Sorgatz compiles a list of "best of" lists for everything from architecture, music, movies, food, and more. Check it out at his blog here.

TPL 2007-08 Annual Report

The Troy Public Library's 2007-08 Annual Report is now on-line.

Go to our web site at, and click on Annual Report in the left frame.

Or click here. (pdf)

December 9, 2008

Gmail Adds Tasks for On-Line To-Do Lists

Yesterday, Gmail, my personal favorite web-email client, added the ability to add tasks via Gmail Labs. This is big news for me, as I had been using Remember the Milk (RtM) (with Gmail integration) for a while now. After using Gmail's Tasks, I can already tell that I'll be making the switch to Gmail for my online To-Do list.

Here are a quick rundown of some of the pros and cons of Gmail's Tasks:


- Direct and clean integration with Gmail: This is the most important feature for me, as I already use Gmail, Google Calendar, Picasa Photos, and Google Reader on an everyday basis.

-Straightforward and simple design: One of my problems with RtM is the over complexity of the design. With Gmail's Tasks, everything is straightforward and simple to use.

- The ability to add emails to your Task list. This is another killer feature for me personally, as I often like to remember "To-do" certain things that are listed in an email.

- Many other features that are built in are pretty standard in most To-do managers such as due dates, notes on tasks, and the ability to view completed tasks.

- Finally, the ability to create individual lists is an excellent feature. This way, you could have lists such as "Work", "School" and a general "To-Do," if you liked.


- No Google Calendar integration. This one is a bit surprising, though I expect the integration to come soon.

- The lack of the ability to add tasks via phone. This one is probably the biggest con for me, as I frequently text RtM to add tasks on the go.

- Over-simplistic design, might be too simple for some.

- Lack of the ability to prioritize tasks.

While Remember the Milk has all of the features listed in the cons section, it lacks the ability to add email's as tasks, and also the tight single sign-in, Google account integration. These two major features are what are pushing me to use this as my new online to-do list.

Note: As mentioned earlier in the article, this feature is still in the Labs section in the Settings area of Gmail and must be enabled.

Avoiding Online Scams This Holiday Season

The Oprah Winfrey Show recently aired an episode dealing with online scams and how to avoid them. The show covered everything from those infamous emails saying that you won a foreign lottery to common eBay scams. Don't become a statistic! Read more about it here.

December 8, 2008

Another Look at Citywide Wi-Fi

According to Andrew Lavalle, writing in The Wall Street Journal: "For proponents of citywide Wi-Fi projects, this has been a tough year -- and one of fresh promise.
The idea of setting up networks to beam wireless Internet access across entire cities and towns has been touted for years as a spur to economic development. It also has been promoted as a way to help bridge the so-called digital divide -- the gap between those who have access to all the advantages of the Internet and other digital technology and those who don't, mainly because of lower income.

Progress on such networks has been halting, however, because of financial, technical and political hurdles. And over the past year or so, there have been a string of reversals. The companies that built and maintained some of the most prominent municipal Wi-Fi networks abandoned them, and other projects stalled or were scaled back.

At the same time, though, a handful of communities have applied lessons learned from the first round of failed projects and are developing Wi-Fi networks that are more realistic in their ambitions and business models.

[ via]

Video Gaming Among Adults

The latest study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports on video gaming by adults:
More than half -- 53% -- of all American adults play video games of some kind, whether on a computer, on a gaming console, on a cell phone or other handheld device, on a portable gaming device, or online

Age is the biggest demographic factor in game play by adults. Younger adults are significantly more likely than any other game group to play games, and as age increases game play decreases. Independent of all other factors, younger adults are still more likely to play games.

Among older adults 65+ who play video games, nearly a third play games everyday, a significantly larger percentage than all younger players, of whom about 20% play everyday.

Age is also a factor in determining an individual's preferred game-playing device. Gaming consoles are the most popular for young adults: 75% of 18-29 year old gamers play on consoles, compared with 68% who use computers, the second most popular device for this age group.

Out of all the gaming devices, computers are the most popular among the total adult gaming population, with 73% of adult gamers using computers to play games, compared with 53% console users, 35% who using cell phones, and 25% using portable gaming devices.

Click here for the complete .pdf report, Adults and Video Games.

Libraries as Local News Aggregators

As we have been talking about the future of print media recently, here is an interesting post from SirsiDynix VP of Innovation, Stephen Abram:
Some pretty dire predictions on the health of the newspaper industry.

One report by financial ratings firm Fitch put out a report predicting that "several cities could go without a daily print newspaper by 2010."

"Fitch believes more newspapers and newspaper groups will default, be shut down and be liquidated in 2009 and several cities could go without a daily print newspaper by 2010," the Chicago-based credit ratings firm said in a report on the outlook for U.S. media and entertainment."

So, if you're in a public library and your town is potentially dependent on the McPaper or a major national (If the NYT survives), what could you do? Can you use RSS feeds to assemble a local news source from smaller independents? Can you surf the local blogs and aggregate? Would your town miss local news in print? or have they already gone 'e'?

Seems like an opportunity. You might even be able to hire some of the folks being put on the street by the big conglomerates as they lay off folks.

Nearly Half of Teen Activities Are Driven By Technology

Interesting recent study by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), about teens and consumer electronic products:
Today's teens were introduced to technology as toddlers and rely on consumer electronic products like computers, cell phones and MP3 players that make their lives easier, according to new research released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Teens say technology helps them keep in touch with friends and family, although three-quarters of teens said they do not spend less time with people because of technology.

"Teens are comfortable with technology and value the improvements technology makes in their lives," said Steve Koenig, CEA's director of industry analysis. "As this generation looks for all-in-one features and bigger and better products, they will fuel the growth of the consumer electronics industry."

CEA research shows the average teen expects to spend around $312 on consumer electronic (CE) devices in the next six months. Teens are well versed in a number of CE products and spend approximately four hours per school day devoted to technology related activities. Personal ownership of CE devices among teens is, as expected, low because they live at home where many electronics belong to parents. Exceptions include lower cost products such as headphones/earbuds, cell phones and MP3 players, of which teens claim sole ownership.

When asked how they spend their day, nearly half of teen's activities were driven by technology. Four of their five top activities were technology driven, with listening to music as the most popular activity among teens. Purchasing (58 percent), borrowing (56 percent) or receiving a CD (52 percent) as a gift are still the primary sources teens get music, with online stores (51 percent) being a secondary source. Purchasing music through online stores has increase 10 percent since 2006 and teens are accessing music through online sources like YouTube (47 percent). As teens increase their online time, there is expected growth in online consumption of music.

A quarter of teens expect to purchase a new cell phone within the next six months, making it teens' most popular consumer electronic product. When asked to choose only one technology to use for an entire day, teens chose cell phones most often. Not just used for talking, seventy percent of teens use their cell phones for texting. Teens also use their phones to access mobile entertainment, shoot videos, listen to music and watch videos. Over one-third of a teens' cell phone activities are spent accessing and creating content. Based on teen's current cell phone usage and interest in more advanced features, growth can be expected in teen ownership of smartphones.

Looking specifically at what CE products teens want, an upgraded cell phone (a smartphone) and an MP3 player were at the top on their list. Additionally, higher ticket consumer electronic products like computers/laptops, video gaming systems and digital cameras would make popular gifts for the holiday season.

December 7, 2008

Google Buys 20 Million Archived Newspaper Pages

According to Lifehacker:

Google has upped its commitment to bringing newspaper archives online, first announced in September, by buying 20 million historical pages from Paper of Record, covering the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Europe. Good news for scholars, students, and "Day you were born" print-out gifts.

More Monty Python?

First, a youtube channel, and now a social networking site for Monty Python, the 1970s -1980s British comedy-troupe.

According to Bouglas Quenqua, writing in The New York Times:, a social network and digital playground, offers clips of old material that people can use to make mash-ups, perhaps inserting their own pet in the killer-rabbit scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The home page has a blog format with news about the surviving Pythons; elsewhere there are chat boards and e-mail forums. Membership is free.

Obama's Online Opportunities

According to the latest report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project:
There is no shortage of suggestions to the incoming Obama administration about what to do about communications policy in the United States. The body of research from the Pew Internet Project, dating to 2000, indicates that online Americans might have one more suggestion: Make sure the Internet remains a place where users define what it means to be digitally connected.

The report concludes:
In a broadband and increasingly wireless Internet, it is not just about trying new things, but, for many users, also reworking and using them in new ways. Our research into Internet use suggests that maintaining such an online environment will give users the wherewithal to continue to innovate and surprise.

For an copy of the report: Obama’s Online Opportunities.

December 5, 2008

Fun Friday: Gmail Stickers

Do you regularly use Gmail, and wish there was some way to show others that it is your favorite web-based email service, other than constantly sending them invitations to join? Now you can, courtesy of the folks at Google.

Go here to get your free Gmail stickers!

December 4, 2008

Gaming at the TPL

A couple of weeks ago, our Technology Librarian John Robertson reported that the Troy Library had launched our new video game collection.

We've now added a link on our web site, which takes you to a list of the games and platforms we have. Go to our web site at, and click on Video Game Collection in the center of the page. Or click here.

Suggestions for games? Email our Teen Services Librarian Judy Franklin at

Library 3.0?

More fuel for Phillip's view the death of paper publishing is upon us. Seems the Kindle is doing very well. J.K. Rowling's feeling's aside, not to mention current cost considerations, but what are the long term implications to the vast shelving requirements of your favorite library? Will the library of the future simply be a server with electronic titles, databases of information, and social networking cafes. Sounds efficient and cheap. And sterile.

Maybe of more concern should be this ongoing study. Does anyone really believe this process does not effect the outcome of learning? What do you think? What do we gain? What do we lose?

December 3, 2008

A Reason for Print?

As I bought my cup of coffee this morning on my way into work, I did something I haven't done in years:

I bought a copy of the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, this area's two big daily newspapers.

I am a news junkie, and I have converted about 90% of my intake to electronic format. At work, I have aggressively promoted replacing as much print with electronic as possible. I have blogged about the changes in the news industry. Buying something in print was an extravagance not really necessary in this economy.

Nevertheless, I was seduced by the "tabloid-type" headlines and layout of the automobile industry bailout stories.

Have I read them? No. They sit in my bag, along with a bill to mail. Will I read them tonight after work? Perhaps.

Unless I read the articles first today on the Internet.

December 2, 2008

Television vs. The Internet

According to Jon Stokes, writing on Ars Technica, Americans still watch television more hours per week, then they spend on the Internet:

"If a new study by Nielsen is accurate, reports of the video star's death at the hands of the Internet have been greatly exaggerated. The ratings company tracked the time that Americans spend with the three main "screens" in their life — TV, Internet, and the mobile phone — and found that TV still rules. The study claims that Americans broke new records in TV watching during the 2007-2008 season: households averaged 8 hours and 18 minutes per day, or an average of 4 hours and 45 minutes per person per day. These figures are the highest on record, and they represent a quarterly increase in addition to a yearly increase.

Both regular and time-shifted TV viewing are on the rise, with time-shifted viewing posting a whopping 52.5 percent year-over-year increase from the third quarter of 2007 to the third quarter of 2008; regular viewing was up only 4.1 percent."

[via Stephen's Lighthouse]

The Librarian on TNT

Not really technology-related, but:

The third episode in The Librarian series -- Curse of the Judas Chalice, staring Noah Wyle -- is on TNT on December 7, at 8 p.m. ET.

November 30, 2008

Mumbai Tragedy Shows Rise of Internet Citizen Journalists

The tragic events in Mumbai this past week have “served as another case study in how technology is transforming people into potential reporters, adding a new dimension to the news media,” according to Brian Stelter and Noam Cohen in their New York Times story, “Citizen Journalists Provided Glimpses of Mumbai Attacks.”

Stelter and Cohen write:

“At the peak of the violence, more than one message per second with the word “Mumbai” in it was being posted onto Twitter, a short-message service that has evolved from an oddity to a full-fledged news platform in just two years.

Those descriptions and others on Web sites and photo-sharing sites served as a chaotic but critically important link among people across the world — whether they be Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn tracking the fate of a rabbi held hostage… or students in Britain with loved ones back in India or people hanging on every twist and turn in the standoff while visiting relatives for Thanksgiving dinner.”

Noah Shachtman, posting on on the first day of the attacks, shows the breadth of coverage by such citizen journalists:

“First-hand accounts of the deadly Mumbai attacks are pouring in on Twitter, Flickr, and other social media.

Twitter has fresh news every few seconds, on Mumbai, Bombay, #Mumbai, and @BreakingNewz.

"Hospital update. Shots still being fired. Also Metro cinema next door," tweets mumbaiattack. "Blood needed at JJ hospital," adds aeropolowoman, supplying the numbers for the blood bank.

A Google map of the attacks has already been set up. So has a shockingly-current Wikipedia page, which features a picture of one of the gun-toting attackers.

The local bloggers at Metblogs Mumbai have new updates every couple of minutes. So do the folks at GroundReport. Dozens of videos have been uploaded to YouTube. But the most remarkable citizen journalism may be coming from "Vinu," who is posting a stream of harrowing post-attack pictures to Flickr.”

To me, this is the web’s social networking at its best: democratic, grassroots, newsworthy, and life-changing.

November 26, 2008

Virtual Unreality

I've been around computer technology a long time. Most of my career has been in support of and delivery of computer-based software and service solutions. And I was raised in a house with a father who started in "data processing" at the Department of the Navy in 1948 (widely considered the birthplace of the first application of modern computing outside of academia) and who then spent the following 20 years at IBM and then two additional decades at other computer-related service entities. So I spent all my early years listening to grand visions of an electronic future without paper, electronic transactions, and more leisure time due to all the time-saving elements.

One might then expect me to be a mindless proponent of all things technological. Uhm, no. Don't forget the paperless society was supposed to be upon us back in mid-70's. Does anyone actually think we print less paper today? Electronic transactions were supposed to free us from the stress of writing checks, but actually imposed greater limits on how long it takes our creditors to grab our cash directly from out accounts. And what happened to all that free time? In other words, the law of unintended consequences must always be considered and in the technical realm that consideration is oftentimes more complicated than we wish to recognize in our excitement over the latest advance.

All of this is a preface to my stating my intention to occasionally weigh in here with a cold bucket of water for those who fail to ponder the larger societal implications of the technology revolution. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a big believer in the power of technology to improve our lives. I just don't happen to believe it all does, or that even when it does it shouldn't be seen in a vacuum. Does doing something faster mean better, or am I missing something of the process? Do I really need a Tom Tom or Garmin GPS device to tell me to "turn left" when there is a street sign there that tells me this is the road where I am supposed to turn left? See what I mean?

Okay, enough blather about why I think what I think. Today's issue is social networking and why, maybe, it's not such a great thing. Or in the least is greatly oversold, if not dangerous to our consideration of who we are and who are friends really are. Check this out for a very interesting perspective. Thought provoking, no? I mean, whatever happened to, "Do you come here often?"

YouTube Goes Widescreen

Today, many people have noticed the change at YouTube to a widescreen viewer for all of their videos and even increased quality on some of the videos offered.

From the YouTube blog,

Over the years we've heard a lot of feedback from you about what you'd like to change about YouTube, and the size of our video player is always top of mind. That's why today we're excited to announce a bigger YouTube player.

We're expanding the width of the page to 960 pixels to better reflect the quality of the videos you create and the screens that you use to watch them. This new, wider player is in a widescreen aspect ratio which we hope will provide you with a cleaner, more powerful viewing experience. And don't worry, your 4:3 aspect ratio videos will play just fine in this new player.

As always, we welcome your feedback and encourage you to share your thoughts with us on this exciting, new change happening for all videos on YouTube.

Have fun watching!

The YouTube Team

To see a great comparison of the different viewing quality of the old videos vs. the new videos you can check out webmonkey's
great comparison.

Fun Friday: Zoso

Happy 40th, Led Zeppelin:

Create Custom Maps using Google Maps

Are you planning a wedding, and would like to show out-of-town guests where the church, reception hall, and nearby hotels are? Perhaps you are planning a convention, and would like to have a map that shows local attractions. Or perhaps a map all of the places you visited during the year. You can do this easily with the My Maps feature of Google Maps.

To create custom maps, you will need a Google account. If you already use Google services such as Gmail, Google Reader, Blogger, etc... you already have an account. If not, go here to register.

After that, go to Google Maps at and sign in. Click on My Maps then Create new map.

After that, name your map, give it a description, and choose if you want to make it available to the public or keep it unlisted. Now all you need to do is add add points to it. Type in an address, and when the location is found, click on Save to My Maps.

After placing points on the map, be sure to click on the Link button on the right hand side to get the address for your custom map.

For an example, go here to see a map I created showing the locations of the top 40 best burger places as ranked by the Detroit Free Press. Also, to see a demonstration of additional ways to create custom maps, watch this video.

November 25, 2008

Find Your Next Book With BookLetters

Not sure what to check out next? Troy Public Library staff members bring their readers advisory to your home with BookLetters -- a website featuring book, audio-book and DVD lists created just for you. Use these lists to browse areas of interest, read reviews, preview items and place holds on items you would like to reserve.

BookLetters lists are created by staff and are updated regularly, either monthly or every other week. To receive updates you can subscribe to as many lists as you like, by email or by RSS feed.

Whether your interests are mysteries or biographies, business or cooking; whether you're looking for books on CD or DVDs; whether you are a child, a teen or an adult -- we have something for you!

Check out TPL's BookLetters listing by going to our website and clicking on "Find Books and Reviews." Don't forget to visit the BookLetters listing page often, as new lists are added regularly to meet your requests.

Need help getting started? You can watch this tutorial on placing a hold through BookLetters:

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Also, this tutorial on subscribing to a BookLetters list:

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Compfight - A Great Flickr Search Engine

I love using Flickr, the photo posting and sharing site that is owned by Yahoo!, but I've always felt its search feature was lackluster at best. Today, I've found a great search tool that surpasses the one provided by flickr and is free and easy to use. The name of this search engine is called Compfight and it searches flickr for both commercial and Creative Commons approved images in an easy to use interface.

Some of the other great features of the site are:

  • The ability to search by tag or by all text
  • The ability to search for images that only have their original sizes
  • Compfight also provides a "Safe Images" only filtering tool that is helpful for searching for safe for work images only.
Compfight is free to use and a great way to find that perfect picture to match your blog post or research paper.

November 21, 2008

Fun Friday 3: And Now for Something Completely Different

From Lifehacker:

"Claiming to be tired of seeing poor-quality "rip-offs" of their ridiculously acclaimed TV series and films, the Monty Python troupe has created an official YouTube channel to post free, high-quality clips from their vaults, with only Amazon merchandise links for advertising."

Fun Friday 2: Let Me Google That For You...

Let Me Google That For You Passive-Aggressively Helps your Friends

(via Lifehacker)

Fun Friday: New Evidence of Life on Mars?

Ever wonder what the government hides from us?

Like NASA, for instance. Who doesn't believe that we haven't been in contact with aliens?

Check out these Martian photos that, until now, had not seen the light of day.

(via Gizmodo)

November 20, 2008

Goolge Puts Life Magazine Images Online

Google announced on November 18 that it will upload 10 million of Life magazine's photos and etchings dating all the way back to the 1750s, to its Google Images site. Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published.

So far, about 2 million images have been digitized and uploaded.

According to the company blog: "This effort to bring offline images online was inspired by our mission to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Search the images here.

Good job, Google.

(via Lifehacker)

Microblogging Takes Off at Work

According to this recent article by Stephen Humphries in the Christian Science Monitor, twitter-like microblogging sites are now used at the workplace as “internal-communication services allow multitasking employees to update each other via short, blog-like posts.”

“By blasting haiku-length updates to a central hub, workers can post status bulletins, share ideas, ask questions, post news, and pass along links and information. The upshot: Microblogging has the potential to facilitate collegial collaboration and help organizations collect, share, and disseminate knowledge,” writes Humphries.

November 19, 2008

Socializing on the Internet is Not So Bad

According to a new study by the MacArthur Foundation, reported in The New York Times by Tamar Lewin, all those hours teenagers spend socializing on the Internet are not a bad thing.
It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages,” said Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, Living and Learning With New Media. “But their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page…”

“It certainly rings true that new media are inextricably woven into young people’s lives,” said Vicki Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and director of its program for the study of media and health...

“The concerns about predators and stranger danger have been overblown,” Ms. Ito said. “There’s been some confusion about what kids are actually doing online. Mostly, they’re socializing with their friends, people they’ve met at school or camp or sports.”

PC Magazine Ends Print Edition; Goes All Digital

One of my personal favorite publications, PC Magazine, will be no longer sold in print format. Editor-In-Chief, Lance Ulanof, announced today on his site that the magazine would be going 100% digital in February 2009.

From the PC Mag site:
An Open letter to PC Magazine (Print) Readers:

The January 2009 issue (Volume 28, Issue 1) of PC Magazine will mark a monumental transition for the publication. It is the last printed edition of this venerable publication. Of course, as with any technology-related enterprise, this is not the end, but the beginning of something exciting and new.

Starting in February 2009, PC Magazine will become a 100-percent digital publication. So, in addition to our popular network of Websites, which includes our centerpiece,, as well as ExtremeTech, blogs like Gearlog and AppScout, and audio and video content that includes PCMag Radio, Cranky Geeks and DL.TV, we'll offer PC Magazine Digital Edition to all of our print subscribers. The PC Magazine Digital Edition has actually been available since 2002. So for thousands of you, the benefits of this unique medium are already clear. And those benefits will continue to multiply in the coming months, as we work hard to enhance your digital experience.

Ulanof goes on to say that PC Magazine will now be accessible through the site and will be available for all current subscribers . For now, readers can get a free issue and see what the new format will look like by visiting this site

This follows in the wake of the Christian Science Monitor's October announcement that, beginning in the spring 2009, it will be ending its print publication for a 100% digital publication. It is amazing to see how the way we read is changing daily with more and more magazines and news publications switching to all digital.

Downloadable Audiobooks for Macs Now Available

Do you have a Mac, and wish that you could download audiobooks to which the Troy Public Library subscribes? Now you can.

OverDrive -- one of the vendors that the Library uses for downloadables -- announced today it has released OverDrive Media Console for Macs. Using this software, Mac users will be able to download items in the OverDrive MP3 audiobook format to their Mac. These items can also be transferred to an iPod. Unfortunately, audiobooks in the OverDrive WMA format can not be used with Macs because of lingering digital rights management issues.

If you are not sure if an item will work with your particular system or device, check the icons that are listed with each item in OverDrive.

You can access OverDrive by going to the Library homepage and clicking "Downloadable eBooks, Audiobooks, and Videos" in the left side menu.

OtherInbox: My New Favorite Spam-Annihilator

If you are one of the many millions of people that suffers from spam or general inbox clutter, then you may be interested in a new email service at

Otherinbox takes a different approach to email by allowing the user to create custom email addresses for each of his or her different social or shopping sites. Otherinbox organizes your email by site in an effort to manage spam and keep control of your inbox.

Here's a better description from the site:

OtherInbox is the email address I use for all the stuff I don't want coming to my main email address -- mostly shopping, news and social networking. Pretty much any time I'm not giving my email address to a real person I use my OtherInbox. That way, my main Inbox only has important stuff in it and everything else is in my OtherInbox. Once it's in there, OtherInbox automatically organizes everything for me into folders for each website. This saves me time because I can jump right to the messages I care about and easily ignore the ones that I'm not interested in reading right now. It also shows me what's really going on with my email address; if someone sells my information to spammers I know right away and can stop it.

How does it work? Instead of just having one email address, such as, I have unlimited email addresses at my own domain name, I don't have to set them up ahead of time, I can just make them up as I go along. I give out a different email address to every website: Amazon gets and Facebook gets This way OtherInbox can reliably sort everything coming back into folders. If anyone sells my email address I will know exactly who is responsible and I can Block that one email address so that I never see their emails again. It's powerful!

I've been using the site for several months and it is absolutely fantastic. The benefits to this system is that I can actually see who is spamming my email with unwanted messages, and block them from continuing.

The only downside to the program is that its in private beta still. Fortunately, for The Tech Desk readers, we have been given beta invites to give-away!

To get started visit this site and register for a free account. Then say goodbye to spam!

November 18, 2008

Video Games Now Available at the Troy Public Library

The Troy Public Library is pleased to announce that we now offer video games for checkout. We have titles available for the following systems: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, PSP, and Xbox 360. Games have a $5.00 fee, and can be checked out for 2 weeks.

Feel free to come in and browse the shelves or search our catalog to see what titles we offer. In our catalog, click on Power Search (under the Search for box), limit the library to Troy Public Library and the type to Video Game.

Rock & Roll: Another Reason to Love Excel

According to, Phil Clandillon and Steve Milbourne, who work at a digital design boutique division of Sony/BMG in London, have put together what they call "the world's first music video in Excel format," for the rock group AC/DC. They decided on this unusual format because they wanted the video to penetrate most corporate firewalls. By including AC/DC's music in an Excel spreadsheet, the video is able to be emailed to anyone.

Download the video in its Excel format here. Make sure to save the file to your hard drive so that the wave sound file for the song "Rock N Roll Train" is downloaded as well. Note that the Excel version won't run on Macs, and you'll need to enable macros after opening the file.

November 17, 2008

Nearly 50% of Us Need Help with New Technology Devices

Are you frustrated when your new laptop, cell phone, or personal audio player doesn’t work like you thought it would? Do you have to ask for help from your family, friends, or professionals?

If so, you are not alone, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project:

Although information technology is well integrated into the lives of many Americans, gadgets and communication services require, for some, a call for help. Some 48% of technology users usually need help from others to set up new devices or to show them how they function. Many tech users encounter problems with their cell phones, Internet connections, and other gadgets. This, in turn, often leads to impatience and frustration as they try to get them fixed.

New research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that:
• 44% of those with home Internet access say their connection failed to work properly at some time in the previous 12 months.
• 39% of those with desktop or laptop computers have had their machines not work properly at some time in the previous 12 months.
• 29% of cell phone users say their device failed to work properly at some time in the previous year.

“Struggles with modern gadgetry mean less engagement with the services they enable,” said John B. Horrigan, Associate Director of the Pew Internet Project and co-author of the report. “Time spent dealing with set-up or outages means less time using modern communication services to connect with friends or find information that might help people be more productive.”

Although tech users can usually fix the problems by themselves, with the help of friends, or by calling upon user support, some say they cannot fix tech problems at all. Here are some of the ways device owners fixed their broken technology:
• 38% of users with failed technology contacted user support for help.
• 28% of technology users fixed the problem themselves.
• 15% fixed the problem with help from friends or family.
• 15% of tech users were unable to fix their devices.
• 2% found help online.

“In an age in which new technologies are introduced almost daily, a new gadget or service can become popular well before the technology itself is understood by the average user,” said Sydney Jones, Research Assistant at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and co-author of the report. “Naturally, some users catch on to new technology more quickly than others, and those who have more trouble grasping the technology are left confused, discouraged, and reliant on help from others when their technology fails.”

Not only did users find different solutions to their device failures, they reported varying attitudes during the course of trying to solve the problem. Overall:
• 72% felt confident that they were on the right track to solving the problem.
• 59% felt impatient to solve the problem because they had important uses for the broken technology.
• 48% felt discouraged with the amount of effort needed to fix the problem.
• 40% felt confused by the information that they were getting.

Adults who are most likely to be impatient to fix their devices are those who had the most devices fail, those who use their devices most, and those who rely more heavily on their devices for work or information.

November 16, 2008

Musebin: New Music Review, Micro-Blogging Social Site

I was excited to read this story on Wired, which talked about Musebin, a new social networking site. Musebin combines micro-blogging – like Twitter – with Reddit-like music reviews.

Like Twitter, Musebin limits each album review to a single, 140-character line. And like Reddit, it allows users to rate those reviews up or down using Yea or Nay buttons. The result, according the Wired, is: “a fresh and compelling way to share opinions and be entertained while discovering music.”

I was all set to forward this article to the other two Technology librarians here – Lauren, a Twitter proponent, and John, a musician – when I realized that Musebin is in private beta with a limited user base. Currently, there are around 200 users who have posted about a thousand reviews.

I requested an invitation, but have not, yet, heard.

If anyone has used Musebin, I would be interested in your thoughts.

November 13, 2008

A Great Website for Kids

The Library of Congress website is packed with fascinating and useful resources about science, American History, music, theater, dance and more. Did you ever wonder why a camel has a hump or why our joints make popping sounds? Click here, play around, learn something.

November 12, 2008

More Hard Times for Technology Industry

In the wake of Circuit City's announcement that the company was filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11, more bad economic news from The New York Times:

Best Buy Cuts Outlook for 2009
"Best Buy, the electronics retailer, cut its fiscal 2009 earnings outlook on Wednesday and said it was being hammered by the worst retail environment in its 42-year history."

Led by Intel, Chip Makers Cut Outlook
Intel, the world’s largest producer of computer chips, warned on Wednesday that its sales could fall as much as 19 percent in the fourth quarter. Other major players in the chip industry, including Applied Materials and National Semiconductor, offered their own bleak outlooks.

Together, the gloomy forecasts suggest that the technology industry is about to enter a slump that will rival or possibly exceed the dot-com bust of 2001.”