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.”

Thousands of Free Fonts from and

You know one of the things I love most about the Internet?

All the free stuff.

Like, which offers 6,500 fonts for free.

Or, with 8,431 fonts arranged by themes: Gothic, Fancy, Script, Techno, and Dingbats, among others.

Now, if you design material as part of your job, this is like finding gold at the end of the rainbow.

Browse these sites; you will find several you like. I did.

BookPage Offers Free Book Reviews On-line

Are you an avid reader, looking for reviews of the best books published? Then you might want to check out BookPage.

Since 1988, BookPage has been publishing a monthly, print edition, available in many bookstores and libraries, including here at Troy. Now, BookPage is available as a free, on-line publication at

Each month, recommends the best books for readers of all types, whether you're interested in literary fiction or romance, history or science fiction, cookbooks or children's books. It focuses on new releases and tailors reviews for the general reader -- the true booklover always on the lookout for recommendations on what to read next.

And now, you can receive twice-monthly BookPage news and reviews delivered to you via email. Click here to sign up.

November 11, 2008

Find a Book Series Easily in iBistro

Today we received a call at the Library from a patron who wanted to find a book series online from home through our iBistro catalog. The patron was searching for the Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz. The patron tried searching by the author and found over a hundred titles, as Dean Koontz is a prolific author.

In order for her to find the series, I told her to do the following:

1) Click on iBistro from the TPL homepage.
2) Type in the main character's name from the book series into the search box.
3) Hit "Enter" or click on the "Words or Phrase" button beneath the search box.

She instantly was presented with all of the books specifically for that series and author. This works for most fiction book series, such as the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child or the Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz.

If you are searching for a series of non-fiction titles, try this:

1) Click on iBistro from the TPL homepage.
2) Type the name of the series into the search box. (Ex: "Opposing Viewpoints")
3) Click on the "Series" button beneath the search box.

Check the video below for how to search for a fictional book series by character name.

November 10, 2008

New Review Site for Technology-Related Books

Attention librarians and those interested in technology-related books: Rachel Singer Gordon has launched a new blog – The Tech Static – which will review current computer books, DVDs and ebooks; contain prepublication alerts and publisher press releases; and publish articles for librarians who maintain collections of computer titles.

The need for such a resource became apparent when October 15, marked the last installment of Library Journal’s “Computer Media” review column, which Singer Gordon had been writing since 2002. This left a gap in the library literature: No other librarian-targeted publication currently reviews computer books on a regular basis. To fill that gap, The Tech Static was born.

“I’m pleased to continue providing — and expanding on! — coverage of technology titles,” said Singer Gordon. “Anyone involved with collection development in this area is invited to subscribe to this new free resource.” The Tech Static is available online at; readers can also subscribe via RSS or email.

The Tech Static is also currently seeking writers for technology-related collection development articles.

Contact Rachel Singer Gordon with any questions or comments at

November 9, 2008

Year-Round Adult Reading Program

Great news for readers: Due to the popularity of our Summer Reading Program we've created a year-round reading program for adult patrons (ages 18 and up).

To participate, go to the TPL website and click on Year-Round Reading Programs. This link will take you to the TPL Reading Programs website. From there you can register, and begin logging books.

For those of you familiar with our Summer Reading program, this is the same process. Read books, log your books on the website, and win prizes. The prizes for this program include gift certificates to the Somerset Collection, the TPL Friends Gift Shop, and the TPL Friends Book Shop. The more books you review, the more chances you have to win.

For more information email or call the Tech Desk at 248.524.3542.

Google Boss Won't Be New Tech Czar

Speaking of Eric Schmidt: the Google CEO announced recently that he will not take a technology czar position in the new Barack Obama administration. Schmidt has been promoting such a position for months, and it was rumored that he might be first in line.

Google boss won't be Obama tech Czar (via techradar)

November 8, 2008

New York to No Longer Mail Tax Forms

New York has become the first state to announce that it will no longer mail tax forms to its residents. The State's Department of Taxation and Finance made the announcement on October 16, saying that with 93% of residents now paying their taxes electronically, this move will save about $1 million in mailing, printing and processing costs.

The State reminded those who still file their taxes by mail that printable forms can be found on the Department's Web site,, and that most common forms will still be found in print at many local libraries.

Google at 10

An interview with Eric E. Schmidt, chief executive at Google, about all things Google.

Google at 10: Searching Its Own Soul (via The New York Times)

Blogging and Social Connections

Interesting interview with University of Michigan School of Information Professor Paul Resnick, about the past, present and future of blogging.

U-M prof talks about blogging, social connections
(via Ann Arbor News)

November 7, 2008

Your Home Computer Space: Heaven or Hell?

Is your home computer space -- your "digital crib" -- a technological paradise or your worst electronic nightmare? Cisco wants to know.

The company is looking for short (up to three minute) videos showing off your digital heaven or hell. Show how clever and efficient you are with consumer technology and your home network or issue a plaintive cry for professional help. Submit a video, and you will have a chance to win a top prize of $10,000 (in each category) or one of ten $500 gift cards.

All submissions will be hosted on Cisco's Digital Cribs website and be viewable by the public. Winning is weighted toward the most viewed and highest rated videos, so submit early and share with all your friends to improve your chances. Check back regularly and cast your vote for the best or worst video you see.

Submissions will be accepted no later than November 26, 2008. Winners will be announced on December 8, 2008.

For more information and complete rules, click here.

Fun Friday: Book Covers Redesigned

The Guardian recently had a contest (inspired by a similar contest at to redesign covers for classic novels so that they would fit today's bestseller lists. Go here to see the winners.

My favorite redesign: The Iliad, by Homer.

Easy Training Videos with Camstudio

As I mentioned a few days ago, one of the cool tools I learned about at this year's Michigan Library Association conference was -- an open source ware that is, as, its website says: "able to record all screen and audio activity on your computer and create industry-standard AVI video files and using its built-in SWF Producer can turn those AVIs into lean, mean, bandwidth-friendly Streaming Flash videos (SWFs)."

I downloaded camstudio one day last week at work and started playing with it. It is a great tool! I have already made two staff training videos -- one of which we are actually using -- and I just made my first training video for the public on how you can log into your Library accounts on our website to check your holds, renew your material, etc.

Camstudio is quick to download, and simple to learn. Though I am no Fellini, nor Antonioni, nor even Roman Polanski, I was quickly able to make pretty good 2 or 3 minute videos.

Here's the one I made for the public. Click on the picture of our web site and turn up your volume. Take a look and let me know what you think.

The only drawback is that the video files are huge. However, I used another site I learned about at the conference to store the 50+ mg videos in the clouds: Offers Local Restaurant Reviews

I like to read about restaurants, and restaurant reviews, on the web. There are many sites and a lot of user-generated reviews; not many of them are very complete or very good.

One, of note, is Sometimes, though, I find chowhound too unfocused.

A new restaurant site I recently found in The New York Times, is According to The Times, is one of the fastest growing restaurant sites, with an active social networking component.

I created a free account in minutes. Then I searched a few zip codes with which I am familiar. I am pleased to say that several of my favorite restaurants -- including my local coffee shop and my favorite pizza and bagel places -- already had several reviews.

If you like to read and review restaurants, check out

November 6, 2008

National Book Award Winners Announced Online on November 19

The National Book Foundation believes that literature is a vital part of American culture. Working with writers, publishers, libraries, and booksellers, the Foundation celebrates the best of American literature to help expand its audience and enhance the cultural value of good writing in America.

Each year since 1950, the Foundation has granted the National Book Awards to the best in American Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry and Young People's Literature. This year, the winners of the Awards will be announced on November 19, on the Foundation's website

You can also go to the website to view a full list of National Book Award winners and finalists from 1950 to the present.

Best MP3 Players for Audiobooks

Recently, published an article listing their choices of the best MP3 players to use with downloadable audiobooks.

The Troy Public Library currently subscribes to two different providers of downloadable audiobooks: NetLibrary and OverDrive. Both of these services offer audiobooks in different formats that are not compatible with all MP3 players currently on the market. Compatible MP3 players for NetLibrary can be found here. Compatible players for OverDrive can be found here.

Of CNET's reviewed players, the Creative ZEN supports downloadable audiobooks from NetLibrary and both OverDrive audiobook formats (MP3 and WMA). Both SanDisk players and the Microsoft Zune work with both OverDrive formats, but are not listed as compatible players for NetLibrary. Apple's iPod is only compatible with OverDrive audiobooks in the MP3 format.

Have you used any of these players to download audiobooks? Have you had success with others? We'd love to hear about it! Let us know in the comments below.

November 5, 2008

FCC Votes to Open "White Space" Spectrum to Wireless Internet for the Public

As Sirsi/Dynix VP Stephen Abram reminds us, there was other news yesterday, even in the United States.

The Federal Communications Commission voted 5-0 to open up the "white space" spectrum -- the unused airwaves between broadcast television channels -- for public wireless broadband service. Abram says that this decision will transform technology in 2009 and beyond, and quotes Google co-found Larry Page as saying: "This is a clear victory for Internet users and anyone who wants good wireless communications."

Read the entire post on Stephen's Lighthouse.

Newspaper Front Pages from Around the World

With Barack Obama being elected the next President of the United States, you may be interested in how newspapers, both nationally and from around the world, are covering this historic day in American politics. What are their headlines? What pictures do they use?

Go to the Newseum's website. From there, you can see scans of front pages from over 600 newspapers from the United States and around the world.

President-Elect Obama and the Internet

Most interesting one sentence analysis of the election, so far:

"Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States Tuesday night, crowning an improbable two-year climb that owes much of its success to his command of the Internet as a fundraising and organizing tool."

Read the entire story from

November 4, 2008

Track The Races You Want on

Are there some specific national or statewide elections in which you are interested in following tonight while you are surfing the net? Go to and click on Track Your Races. You'll be able to designate up to 35 races on which you will receive regular updates. This is especially useful for sometimes-hard-to-find statewide information on Senate, House, Governor or ballot elections.

One catch: the updates will only be available to you on the cnn site, so you'll have to leave a tab open for cnn.

The Future of Search Engine Results?

Search engines, since their inception, have followed the same basic design.

A user types in his or her search terms, and a set of results are retrieved and shown as a text-based list. While the algorithms that power search engines have gotten much better over time, users still have to read through a text list to see their results.

Searchme is a search engine that changes all this. After you type in a search term, Searchme displays search results as full-page previews. You can then easily flip through the results. This way, you can see if the content is suitable for your search.

Currently, Searchme does have limitations and it is not as powerful as Google. However, as an alternative to search engines of the past and as a possible glimpse of the future of searching, it is worth a look.

Classic Reader Offers Classic Books for Free Online

Looking to read a classic book but your local library is already closed for the day?

Take a look at, a site dedicated to providing literary classics for free online. They host a massive catalog of over 3,469 classics and 343 authors, including everyone from Shakespeare to Jules Verne to Edgar Allen Poe.

I noticed that the site does have some minimal advertising, but it was not blatantly obtrusive in any way.

If you are interested in reading books online, feel free to check out our website for information about NetLibrary and OverDrive, our ebook and audiobook online providers. If the sound of NetLibrary peaks your interest, be sure to stop by the Library to register for a free account. All you need is a Troy Public Library card.

So go out there and get reading!

November 3, 2008

Google Settles Book-Scanning Lawsuits

According to an October 28 article in The New York Times – by Miguel Helft and Motoko Rich Google and book publishers have agreed to a settlement in two copyright lawsuits brought by the publishers against the company.

In the settlement, Google will pay publishers and authors $125 million. In exchange, the company will resume scanning copyrighted, out-of-print books, and provide up to 20 percent of the text on-line at no charge, under its Google Book Search program.

In addition, the settlement creates a method for how Google, publishers and authors will share the profits of digitized versions of printed books. The company will take 37 percent of the revenue, leaving 63 percent for publishers and authors.

The Times quotes James Gleick, the author of five books and a member of the board of the Authors Guild, one of the plaintiffs in the suit: “This huge body of books that were effectively lost to the marketplace are being rescued.”

This is a good thing. In the end, more material will be available to more people, more easily.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, however, not everyone agrees.

In her article, Harvard Says No Thanks to Google Deal for Scanning In-Copyright Works, Jennifer Howard writes:
"Harvard University has examined Google’s recent legal settlement with publishers and authors, and found it wanting…

Harvard’s concerns center on access to the scanned texts — how widely available access would be and how much it might cost. “As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher-education community and by patrons of public libraries,” Harvard’s university-library director, Robert C. Darnton, wrote in a letter to the library staff...

In a statement, Harvard said it would re-evaluate its position as the settlement moves forward."

What do you think?

On Tuesday, Make Sure Your Vote is Counted

If, for some reason, the poll worker says you can't vote in this election, but you are sure you can, tell him or her that you want to cast a provisional ballot, to guarantee your right. tells you how.

Voting Machines in Four Oakland County Communities Fail Pre-Election Accuracy Tests

According to, voting machines in four Oakland County communities have failed pre-election tests to ensure accuracy:

"Optical-scan machines made by Election Systems & Software failed recent pre-election tests in a Michigan county, producing different tallies for the same ballots every time, the top election official in Oakland County revealed in a letter made public Monday.

The problems occurred during logic and accuracy tests in the run-up to this year's general election, Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson disclosed in a letter submitted October 24 (.pdf) to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The machines at issue are ES&S M-100 optical-scan machines, which read and tally election results from paper ballots.

Johnson worried that such problems -- linked tentatively to paper dust build-up in the machines -- could affect the integrity of the general election this week.

"The same ballots, run through the same machines, yielded different results each time," she wrote, adding "This begs the question -- on Election Day, will the record number of ballots going through the remaining tabulators leave even more build-up on the sensors, affecting machines that tested just fine initially? Could this additional build-up on voting tabulators that have not had any preventative maintenance skew vote totals? My understanding is that the problem could occur and election workers would have no inkling that ballots are being misread."

Tuesday's election is expected to be the busiest ever, and ES&S tabulators -- both touchscreen machines and optical-scan machines -- were responsible for counting 50 percent of the votes in the last four major U.S. elections, according to the company. Some 30,000 of the company's optical-scan machines are now deployed in 43 states and around the world...

Johnson closed her letter by urging the Commission to investigate whether vote totals could be affected by the failure to perform regular cleaning and preventative maintenance on the machines. She requested a "federal directive or law" that would allow county clerks to conduct random audits to test machine accuracy using machines that have had preventative maintenance performed in the last year. She also urged officials to develop a plan for accurately canvassing election results.

"I believe this matter, which is not a partisan issue, but an issue of integrity, needs your immediate attention and I would urge you to investigate as so much is at stake," she wrote...

The Election Assistance Commission, which quietly posted the letter to its web site today, did not send an announcement about the issue to election officials but simply included a link to the letter in a routine newsletter that it distributed by e-mail to election officials shortly before 5 pm Eastern time, less than 24 hours before voters around the country arrive to the polls.

EAC spokeswoman Jeanne Layson said the Commission received Johnson's letter late in the afternoon on Wednesday after EAC chairwoman Rosemary Rodriguez, to whom the letter was addressed, had left to conduct an interview with ABC's 20/20 program. She said Rodriguez was out of the office Thursday and Friday and only saw the letter today when she returned.

John Gideon, co-executive director of Voters Unite, an election integrity group, said he was troubled by the Commission's lack of urgency over the matter...

The Election Assistance Commission was created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to serve as a clearinghouse of election administration information and to oversee the federal testing and certification of voting machines, but it has yet to certify any voting system under its testing program, which was launched in early 2007.

The Commission has often been criticized by voting activists for failing to monitor problems with voting machines and share crucial information that election officials need to have."

November 4 is Election Day: Be an Informed Voter!

Election Day is tomorrow and the media has been flooded with political campaign ads that can leave some voters overwhelmed and confused.

I wanted to remind you of a great source of information that helped me with my voting decisions and, I hope, can help you with yours: the Michigan eLibrary Election Information page.

I was able to read the full text of Proposal 1 and Proposal 2 for myself instead of relying on ads to tell me what they were about. I was also able to view the entire list of candidates that are going to appear on the 2008 ballot. Many of the names had a link to their website. If you do not recognize a name or know where a candidate stands on an issue, you can click on his or her name and read all about him or her.

To access this information, go to the Library's home page at Click on "Election 2008: Be An Informed Voter." Then click on the link that says "Michigan eLibrary Election Information." This will take you to a page where you can read all about State-wide proposals and find a link to the "2008 Official Michigan Candidate Listing."

See you at the polls!