January 30, 2009

Fun Friday: Read a Newspaper on Your Home Computer!

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away -- 1981 in San Francisco, to be exact -- computer geeks actually suggested that we might be able to read daily newspapers on our home computers, "in a few year."

Imagine that!

Note the reporter's final comment: "Well, it takes over two hours to receive the entire text of the newspaper... and with an hourly use charge of $5 per hour, the new telepaper won't be much competition for the 20 cents street edition."

January 29, 2009

BBC to Put 200,000 British Paintings Online by 2012

The British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) has announced that, in partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation, it will put every one of the 200,000 publicly-owned oil paintings in the United Kingdom on the Internet. The BBC plans to have all the works – 80% of which are not on public display – on the Internet by 2012.

The Corporation also plans to establish a new section of its bbc.co.uk website, called Your Paintings, where users could view and find information on the UK's national collection.

In addition the BBC said it considering giving the public free online access to its broadcast archive for the first time, including its wide-ranging film collection dating back to the 1950s.

[via .boingboing.net]

53% of Adult Internet Users are Between 18 and 44 Years Old

According to the latest survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, over half of the adult Internet users are between 18 and 44 years old. But larger percentages of older generations are online now than in the past, and they are doing more activities online, according to surveys taken from 2006-2008.

Pew’s Sydney Jones and Susannah Fox write:
"Contrary to the image of Generation Y as the "Net Generation," Internet users in their 20s do not dominate every aspect of online life. Generation X is the most likely group to bank, shop, and look for health information online. Boomers are just as likely as Generation Y to make travel reservations online. And even Silent Generation Internet users are competitive when it comes to email (although teens might point out that this is proof that email is for old people)."

See the full report (.pdf) here.

And Google Laughs

Google always seems ready to respond to anything Microsoft can throw at it -- instantly. The two giants will be duking it out for the foreseeable future. My money is on Google given that "Philosophically... Microsoft remains firmly tethered to the PC, while Google wants to move as fast as possible to Web-based applications." As we've covered here previously, cloud computing is real and to a large degree here now.

The Empire Strikes Back

Microsoft responds again to the Google threat.

January 27, 2009

Is Internet Access an Economic Stimulant?

Last week, we blogged about a Pew Internet and American Life report that concluded that 10% of Americans would connect to broadband Internet access if it was extended to their areas at an affordable price. At that time, there was talk that the new U.S. Administration would include money for extending broadband it its economic stimulus package.

What a difference a few days makes. Now, according to Yahoo's tech/ticker, increased high-speed Internet access might be off the table.

Maybe Big Brother Really is Watching

If you've had a bit too much inaugural coverage (I have) and the coming of the new age (looks like the old age to me), then I apologize for adding one more "you have got to see this" moment. But really, you have got to see this. Go ahead and zoom in on someone waaaay out in the Mall and the implications slowly dawn that his technology, cool as it is (and it really is) is kind of scary too. BTW, what do you think Clarence Thomas is thinking?

Five Most Popular Facebook Fan Pages

In case you are wondering which Facebook fan page is the most popular, it is President Barack Obama’s, with just over 4.5 million fans.

The runner-up is Coca-Cola with 2.28 million fans, edging out Homer J. Simpson with 2.23 million fans.

Fourth and fifth most popular fan pages belong to Nutella (2.1 million) and Pizza (2.05 million.)

How can Nutella have more fans than Pizza?

[Statistics courtesy of AllFacebook, “the unofficial Facebook blog,” via Techcrunch]

Kindle 2 eBook Reader to Be Released Soon

According to several technology blogs, Amazon will announce its new Kindle 2 eBook reader at a February 9 press conference at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.

Writes Techcrunch: “It’s a longer device but not as thick as the original Kindle, and fixes some of the button issues that plague users (like accidental page turns)... If our sources are correct, the new Kindle will be quite a bit nicer than the original model. It was originally described as being what the iPod Touch was to the original 1st gen iPod - a quantum leap in gadget styling and technology.”

We've followed the growth of eBooks and their readers on The Tech Desk. Will the Kindle 2 be as big a hit as its predecessor?

Stay tuned.

Worldwide Internet Use 1-1.5 Billion

The number of people on the Internet surpassed one billion in December, according to comScore. Internet World Stats counted nearly 1.5 billion Web surfers worldwide as of June 30, 2008. Between 15 and 22% of the world’s population is on the Internet.

Here is the breakdown by country and region, in unique visitors as of December, 2008:

Top 15 countries, by Internet population:
  • China: 179.7 million
  • United States: 163.3 million
  • Japan: 60.0 million
  • Germany: 37.0 million
  • United Kingdom: 36.7 million
  • France: 34.0 million
  • India: 32.1 million
  • Russia: 29.0 million
  • Brazil: 27.7 million
  • South Korea: 27.3 million
  • Canada: 21.8 million
  • Italy: 20.8 million
  • Spain: 17.9 million
  • Mexico: 12.5 million
  • Netherlands: 11.8 million
Worldwide Internet Audience
  • Asia Pacific: 416 million (41.3%)
  • Europe: 283 million (28.0%)
  • North America: 185 million (18.4%)
  • Latin America: 75 million (7.4%)
  • Middle East & Africa: 49 million (4.8%)
[via Techcrunch]

Twitter Valued at $250-$500 Million

Twitter -- the fast-growing, microblog network site -- recently turned down a $500 million acquisition offer from Facebook, according to Techcrunch.

The site, which is said to be valued at $250 million, is trying to raise $20 million in venture capital.

Not bad for a company that has no revenue.

File Your Federal Taxes Online for Free

According to lifehacker.com, everyone can now file their federal taxes online free:
“You used to have to make less than $56,000 per year to use the IRS' Free File program to submit your income tax forms online... Now everyone can e-file for free this year... As the Consumerist blog points out, you'll have to know pretty much exactly what you're doing with the right forms, since those making more than the $56K limit won't be given any pointers on what goes where. But if you're a DIY type… Free File has opened up the doors to any and all.”

I still prepare my taxes on paper myself, so I have never tried the Free File program. But I might try it this year.

In the meanwhile, if anyone has any experience with the IRS' Free File software, drop a comment.

January 26, 2009

Great List of Free Software

Looking for some new software for your computer, but don't have money to spend? PC Magazine has released a list of the best free software for 2009. Many different categories of software are covered, including web browsers, RSS readers, office productivity, graphics, and more. The list covers software for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

The Best Free Software of 2009

[via PC Magazine]

Tax Resources Available Through the IRS

It's tax time again, and the Internal Revenue Service has resources to help you out:

  • Are you an owner of a small business? Download a free 2009 calendar that has important tax articles for small business and also lists important tax filing dates.

  • Need help filling out and filing your taxes? In addition to information on the IRS website, telephone assistance is also available by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). More information about help available from the IRS can be found here.

  • Please be wary of emails and websites saying they are from the IRS. Remember, the only legitimate website for official IRS information is www.irs.gov. More information on how to avoid phishing and scam attempts can be found here.

The Benefits of Print Media?

Recently, The Tech Desk has been covering the switch from print to digital format in the news business. It seems more and more media are reducing or eliminating print and moving to all online, electronic publications. One publication that seems to want to keep a foot in both worlds is Entertainment Weekly. This ad recently appeared on the magazine's website, touting the benefits of print media.

Other ads on the site encourage readers to use the hard copy magazine as a keepsake to remember significant events (the passing of Paul Newman, the release of the Twilight movie).

Personally, I utilize both forms of the magazine. I read my hardcopy of the magazine during my daughter's dance class, but I also read the ew.com website for original content, such as recaps of popular TV shows and literary theories regarding the labyrinth that is Lost.

Weigh in on the debate. Do you prefer to read newspapers and magazines in their original paper format, or do you curl up in front of a computer screen to read your favorite periodical?

January 25, 2009

In the Battle for Number One, Wikipedia and Britannica Look A Little More Alike

In a move suggestive of its main online competitor Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia Britannica is inviting the public to edit, enhance and contribute to its online version, according to The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald [via slashdot.org].

Any changes made to the online content would be passed by the EB’s editors. The company has promised a 20-minute turnaround time on any changes. Many of the changes will eventually appear in the printed version of the encyclopedia, which is published every two years.

Britannica's president, Jorge Cauz, said the changes were the first in a series of enhancements to the britannica.com website designed to encourage more community input to the 241-year-old institution and, in doing so, to take on Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Wikipedia may restrict the public’s ability to change entries.

Noam Cohen writes that the site has come under fire recently after vandals changed Wikipedia entries to erroneously report that Senators Edward Kennedy and Robert Byrd had died. This information appeared for five minutes before it was taken down.

In response, the site appears ready to introduce a system that prevents new and anonymous users from instantly publishing changes to the online encyclopedia.

Only registered, reliable users would have the right to have their material immediately appear to the general public visiting the site. Other contributors would be able to edit articles, but their changes will be held back until one of these reliable users has signed off of the revisions.

The system, used by German Wikipedia since May 2008, is slow. Although more than 95% of the article changes have been dealt with, it has sometimes taken as long as three weeks before revisions appear to all visitors.

According to Cohen: “The new system, would mark a significant change in the anything-goes, anyone-can-edit-at-any-time ethos of Wikipedia, which in eight years of existence has become one of the top 10 sites on the Web and the de facto information source for the Internet-using public.”

Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, said the organization did not yet have a fixed timeline on when the new approval system would be adopted, as “implementing this functionality is really a volunteer community decision.”

From Monty Python, A Valuable Lesson in Selling the Product

Just a few months after British comedy troupe Monty Python put all of its material free on youtube, mashable.com is reporting that sales of Monty Python DVDs sold on Amazon, have increased 23,000%. Mashable notes that Monty Python’s DVDs climbed to the #2 spot on Amazon’s Movie’s and TV Bestseller List.

The Python crew knew what they were doing. In launching the youtube channel, they said, “We’re letting you see absolutely everything for free. But we want something in return. None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.”

Devindra Hardawar, writing on slashfilm.com, makes an interesting observation about this success:

“Could it be, despite all of the [recording industry’s] clamoring about piracy killing their business, that free and less restrictive content is actually the answer to their woes? We’ve seen other entertainment artists have similar success with free content… Offering a certain amount of content for free (as we see on Hulu, Last.FM, and countless other sites and services) seems like one of the best ways to convince consumers to actually pay for media.”

Still Time to Download a Beta Windows 7

Microsoft has once again extended the deadline for which you can download a beta version of its new operating system – Windows 7 – to February 12. There are several conditions, though. Read more about them on this post from lifehacker.com.

For an early look at Windows 7 – which Microsoft hopes will make everyone forget about Vista – see this review by The Tech Desk’s Chris Hunsanger.

January 23, 2009

Michigan to Boost Phone, Online Unemployment Filing

According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is adding 276 more employees -- a 50% increase -- and 200 additional phone lines to handle requests for unemployment claims from State residents.

Forbes reports that the State’s unemployment system is helping 12,000 jobless a day with claims. However, the phone system has been getting 1 million attempted calls a day, clogging phone lines. And unemployed who have turned instead to the State’s website often have found it slowed by heavy volume. Michigan’s 20-year-old unemployment system computers are in need of replacement.

Many people come to the Troy Library to search for jobs or for help with filing for unemployment. I can attest to the impact that the State’s collapsing economy has had on these folks.

Since the beginning of the year, I have helped several Technology Center computer users with the State’s unemployment website. At best, the site is painfully slow; many times it crashes, wiping out entered data. This has caused distress, frustration and anxiety among those filing for unemployment, many of whom have marginal computer skills to begin with.

I am glad that the Governor is attempting to alleviate this problem in the short-term.

Of course, putting Michigan residents back to work is the real long-term challenge.

Oakland County Budget Online

Oakland County has just posted its FY2009-2010 budget on its website. Included are financial summaries and reports for operation and capital budgets. The site also includes budgets and financial reports going back to 2001.

According to County Executive L. Brooks Patterson: "The budget has been placed on our website to promote greater transparency in government so County taxpayers know where their hard earned tax dollars are being spent."

Fun Friday: Obamicon Me

Paste magazine has created a site where you can upload your photos and have them stylized like the famous Obama poster by Shepard Fairey.

Check out Obamicon Me here.

January 22, 2009

Publishing at the Crossroads

The February 2, 2009 issue of Time magazine has an interesting article by Lev Grossman about the future of the publishing industry. He sees the rise of e-books and the ease in which authors can self-publish their material creating a major shift in the publishing world. Anything that happens in publishing has a direct link to libraries, and it will be interesting to see how this change will impact libraries in the future.

The complete article can be found here.

YouTube as a Search Engine

According to a recent article by Miguel Helft in the New York Times, it appears that the way many users look for information on the Internet is changing.

Instead of using a traditional search engine such as Yahoo or Google that yield mainly text based results, many people are using YouTube as their primary search engine, not only for viral videos, but increasingly for reference.

At First, Funny Videos. Now, a Reference Tool.

Increasing Broadband Users Through Economic Stimulus

According to the latest report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, investment in broadband Internet access has become part of the broader discussion about President Obama's economic stimulus package.

How easy will it be to increase the pool of broadband subscribers or to encourage existing ones to upgrade their connection speeds?

Pew’s answer?
So, if more and faster broadband is provided, will people come? The analysis here suggests that the answer is “yes,” but that it may take longer than some advocates anticipate. To be sure, targeted efforts to address infrastructure gaps and cost barriers could, within a few years, boost broadband adoption by as much as 10 percentage points. And one-third of existing broadband subscribers are low hanging fruit to adopt faster broadband soon after it is available. However, one-in-five Americans currently don’t have broadband for reasons that won’t be addressed by price cuts or a fiber node in the neighborhood. It will take time to get them up and running on broadband -- probably longer than the impacts of the stimulus package are intended to last.”

Read the full report.

Microsoft Announces 5,000 Job Cuts

The declining economy continues to take its toll. This morning, Microsoft announced that the company's December earnings were flat, and that it would layoff 5,000 employees -- the first ever company-wide layoffs.

Read Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's memo to his employees, announcing the job cuts.

[via Yahoo Finance]

January 21, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Shuts Door on Child Online Protection Act

U.S. Supreme Court Shuts Door on Child Online Protection Act:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that a law designed to shield children from pornography on the Internet violated the constitutional right to free speech.

The move by the highest court, which let the ruling stand without comment, would appear to mean the end of the road for the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which was passed by Congress in 1998 but never enforced.

Rights groups welcomed the Supreme Court decision not to hear the Bush administration's appeal of the ban on COPA, with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) describing it as a "clear victory for free speech."

The ACLU has been among the groups which filed legal challenges to COPA on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment right to free speech.

"For over a decade the government has been trying to thwart freedom of speech on the Internet, and for years the courts have been finding the attempts unconstitutional," ACLU senior staff attorney Chris Hansen said Wednesday.

"It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet," he said in a statement. "Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families."

Governing during the Internet Age: Whitehouse.gov Receives a Makeover

At the same moment that Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, whitehouse.gov – the official website of the President – received an extreme makeover. The site will now allow users to find the President’s schedule, video addresses, executive orders, and other news. And, of course, the revised site comes with a blog.

President Obama used the Internet to an unprecedented degree during the campaign, as a media and organizing tool. For some of the challenges he will face governing during the Internet age, see Wired.com’s, The Wired Presidency: Can Obama Really Reboot the White House?

January 20, 2009

Video Game Sales Top $21 Billion in 2008

Despite the slumping economy, one sector of the U.S. economy remains strong: video games.

According to a recent story in The New York Times:
"Americans bought $21.33 billion worth of video game systems, software and accessories [in 2008]. This is a big jump from the previous year's roughly $18 billion... "While industry growth has not continued at the blistering pace we saw during the second and third quarters, December's 9% increase over last December brings the year in 19% ahead of last year, and sets a new record for total industry sales," said market researcher NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier.

"December marked the first time that the gaming industry's revenue topped $5 billion in a single month, she noted. In comparison, it took all of 1997 to hit industry sales of $5.1 billion."

Inserting Youtube Videos Into PowerPoint

Over at Digital Inspiration, they did a fantastic write-up on how to embed YouTube videos into PowerPoint presentations.

One method discussed in the article uses a "YouTube Wizard" plugin which can be found here. After downloading and installing the plugin, check out the brief video on how to use it, courtesy of Digital Inspiration.

To see the rest of the methods, feel free to check out their full post.

The Future of Book Buying?

Today's issue of Shelf Awareness has a very interesting letter by author M.J. Rose describing her experiences using the Amazon Kindle to buy and read e-books. Though e-book readers are not widespread yet, this article is a great glimpse of how they will affect traditional book publishing as they become more available.

E-Book World: Quandries and 'One Hell of an Exciting Time'

Use of Social Network Sites Increases Among Adults; Such Sites Prove Safe for Minors, Too

Two interesting studies on Internet use were released this past week.

In the first, the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that the share of adult Internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years -- from 8% in 2005 to 35% in December 2008.

While the media and policy makers focus heavily on how children and young adults use social network sites, adults still make up the bulk of the users of these websites. Adults make up a larger portion of the US population than teens, which is why the 35% number represents a larger number of users than the 65% of online teens who also use online social networks.

Still, younger online adults are much more likely than their older counterparts to use social networks, with 75% of adults 18-24 using these networks, compared to just 7% of adults 65 and older. At its core, use of online social networks is still a phenomenon of the young.

View the entire report. [.pdf]

The second report, released by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, says that the Internet -- specifically, social network sites -- might not be such a dangerous place for children after all.

The Task Force, created by 49 state attorneys general, was charged with examining the extent of the threats children face on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, amid popular perception that adults were using these sites to solicit children for sexual activity.

The Task Force found that children and teenagers were unlikely to be propositioned by adults online. In the cases that do exist, the report said, teenagers are already at risk because of poor home environments, substance abuse or other problems.

According to Task Force member John Cardillo – chief executive of Sentinel Tech Holding – quoted in The New York Times: “Social networks are not these horribly bad neighborhoods on the Internet. They are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons.” Sites such as MySpace and Facebook “do not appear to have increased the overall risk of solicitation.”

The report concluded that online solicitation of minors by adults is not a significant problem. According to the report, bullying among children, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than such solicitation.

Motown Gold: Aretha Franklin Performs "America" at Obama Inauguration

It is always nice to have your hometown represented at a history making event:

Preserving Your Piece of American History

A long, but useful, post on how to preserve physical artifacts from today's historic inauguration, passed on by Carol Fink, Rare Book Curator of the Library of Michigan:

Six Tips to Preserve Your Election Collections

Across the nation, Americans are saving newspapers, posters, buttons, and bumper stickers to commemorate the historic election and inauguration of Barack Obama, America's first African American president. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), encourages citizen-collectors to make sure that their presidential inauguration collections will be preserved long into the future.

"The election day newspaper -- cared for properly -- will still be there years from now to remind us and future generations of this singular moment in American history," Radice said. "This is a great time to raise awareness of the need to protect election and inauguration-related items from common threats such as high temperature, humidity, and light exposure."

This guidance was excerpted from Caring for Your Family Treasures by Heritage Preservation, IMLS's partner in Connecting to Collections, a multi-year, multi-faceted initiative that aims to help museums and libraries save their collections from poor storage conditions, pest infestation, and exposure to light, humidity, and high temperatures.

Follow these simple preventive steps to keep your treasures safe and sound for the next generation:

1. If you feel comfortable, your treasures will be comfortable. When you feel hot or cold, damp or dry, so do your treasures. You wouldn't feel comfortable living in the basement or attic and neither are they. You feel better when there is good circulation; so do they.

2. Avoid extremes of temperature and humidity. Strive to maintain as moderate and stable a level (72 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent relative humidity) as practically possible. When choosing where to display or store objects remember that the conditions of the interior walls, room, and closets are more stable than those on the exterior.

3. Create micro-climates and use protective covers. Matting and framing with proper materials creates protective micro-climates, as do chemically stable boxes (even boxes within boxes). Use dust covers on stored objects and polyester liners on wooden shelves to protect your treasures from dust and pollutants.

4. Limit light exposure. The damaging effects of light are cumulative. Take precautions with the amount and type of light to which your treasures are exposed.

5. Inspect your treasures regularly and tend to problems as they arise. Regularly checking your treasures will help you monitor and tend to problems as they arise. A water condensation problem might not be present in the summer, but left unattended during the winter, could cause serious damage.

6. Be sure that any alterations are reversible. Respect the original historic materials and structure. Don't cut an artwork to fit a frame. And if you must clip a photograph for your scrapbook, do it to a copy and keep the original intact elsewhere.

For more information on preserving your collections, please go to the Guide to Online Resources section on Care For Collections.

January 17, 2009

And a Danish To Go

I was enjoying my second cup of coffee this morning, when I spotted this -- admittedly non-technology-related -- article:

Big coffee drinkers hallucinate more: study.

Who said that?

January 16, 2009

Is This Real?

Amazing if true: it looks like someone caught the US Airways jet splashing into the Hudson and then Twittered it to the world:

[via ireport.com]

Want to Be More Productive at Work? Get a Second Computer Screen

Need to be more productive at work?

According to Farhad Manjoo, writing in The New York Times, you might want to convince your boss to buy you a second monitor for your desktop computer.

Manjoo writes that, in a recent study commissioned by the electronics company NEC, researchers at the University of Utah found that office workers who used two 20-inch monitors were 44% more productive at certain text-editing operations than people using a single 18-inch monitor.

The author, who tried the experiment himself, writes:

“As every office worker knows, trying to get anything done on a computer that’s connected to the Internet can be a test of wills. On my old desktop monitor… the Web was a wormhole that routinely pulled me off track. I’d switch over to a browser window to look something up, but as soon as I did so all traces of my work would disappear from the screen and I’d forget about the task at hand. A half hour later, I’d wake up from a deep browsing trance, wondering how I ever got to, say, a page recounting the history of Adidas, or some other topic having nothing at all to do with my work.

A huge desktop didn’t remove all distractions, but it blunted their force. Now I could keep my e-mail and the Web open on one screen while my Microsoft Word document ran on another. This kept me on task. Even if I did go off to the Web, my document was always visible, beckoning me to come back to work.”

But it is not just reducing distractions that improve productively. The author cites the ease of cutting and pasting – a common computer task – when you are working with two monitors. In addition, not needing to have your eyes readjust to different screens as you toggle back and forth on one monitor also improves your productivity, and decreases your eye strain and fatigue.

Now all I need is a bigger – or less cluttered – desk.

Lists of the Best Books of 2008

Looking for the best books of 2008, according to The New York Times or the Boston Globe? How about author Stephen King's or comic Amy Sedaris' favorite reads of last year? Or maybe the best mysteries, best teen titles, or best cookbooks published over the past 12 months?

You might want to take a look at The Reader's Advisor Online Cumulative List of Lists of the Year’s Best Books. The List of Lists has a best books list no matter your reading taste.

People of the Screen?

Maybe the question shouldn't be "Are we killing books?" but "Are we killing reading?"

This wonderfully in-depth column on implications of our new media and its impact on the mundane task of reading is thought-provoking. We've been debating a bit here in the Tech Center about the differences in reading online versus the printed page and I think this column makes a very persuasive case that we're underestimating the risk of something very basic as we plunge ahead in our love affair with technology with a seemingly tacit acceptance that any change is good change. Things change. People evolve. Get used to it. I find this attitude, especially in a library, to be rather odd and this really gets to the heart of my side of the argument.

From the column:
How strategic and targeted are we when we read on the screen? In a commissioned report published by the British Library in January 2008 (the cover of which features a rather alarming picture of a young boy with a maniacal expression staring at a screen image of Darth Vader), researchers found that everyone, teachers and students alike, “exhibits a bouncing/flicking behavior, which sees them searching horizontally rather than vertically....Users are promiscuous, diverse, and volatile.” As for the kind of reading the study participants were doing online, it was qualitatively different from traditional literacy. “It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense, indeed there are signs that new forms of ‛reading’ are emerging as users ‛power browse’ horizontally through titles, contents pages, and abstracts going for quick wins.” As the report’s authors concluded, with a baffling ingenuousness, “It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.”

I think there is a legitimate point here. Now I wouldn't argue that reading online (if that's what we can call it) is bad, just very different. And hopefully in some ways it's better. But I would argue that clearly, in some very specific ways, it's worse. Much worse.

Take the time read the full column. Hopefully it will create a good debate.

What is the Troy Library Worth to You?

During these hard economic times, people turn to the library. Whether you are looking for books or DVDs, attending a concert or computer classes, or using the Internet, the library provides free services to make your dollar stretch.

Ever wonder just how much money you save each month by using regularly the Troy Public Library?

Check out our Library Value Calculator; you might be surprised!

Microsoft Office 14 Coming in 2010

Finally comfortable with Microsoft Office 2007?

Well here is something to which you can look forward: According to Lifehacker, Microsoft is getting ready to release a new Office -- Office 14 -- in 2010.

Stay tuned!

January 15, 2009

Libraries in the News

The Wall Street Journal today has a front-page article about libraies and the financial crisis:

Folks Are Flocking to the Library, a Cozy Place to Look for a Job.

January 14, 2009

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma Sponsors Online Music Competition

Ever dream of accompanying a famous classical musician? Well, now your dream might come true.

World-famous cellist and 15-time Grammy winner Yo-Yo Ma is hosting an online competition, inviting listeners to add their own accompaniment to his performance of the traditional hymn “Dona Nobis Pacem,” from his album, Songs of Joy & Peace.

In October, according to Wired.com, Ma posted his cello solo to the online site Indaba Music. Since then, Indaba's users — amateurs and pros alike—have used the site's free Flash-based mixing board to add their own variations and countermelodies. In January, Indaba users will vote for their favorite arrangements, with the winner receiving a recording session with Ma that will be featured on both Indaba and the cellist's own site.

"Just releasing a CD is constraining to an artist," Ma told Wired. "You know: 'I'm the product, you're the consumer' — it's no longer like that. Technology lets you share ideas. By sharing and learning and teaching, you expand your imagination."

In the past, plenty of indie, hip hop, and pop artists have welcomed others to remix their songs online. Now classical music lovers can get in on the act.

Still Time to Download Windows 7

Interested in downloading a beta version of Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 7, but missed doing it last week?

Microsoft has announced that the new operating system -- the company's answer to its much-criticized Vista -- will now be available to anyone to download through January 24. Start the process by clicking here.

Before you do, you might want to read The Tech Desk's review of Windows 7.

January 12, 2009

Happy Monday

This was taken outside the Troy Library this morning

One, you have to love digital cameras.

Two, there was no pot of gold found in the parking lot of the Troy Marriott!

photo taken by Juliet Moy

Health Information on Household Products

Do you want to know health and safety information on any household products? Here is the link that allows you to navigate easily and find out the information on any household products.


Happy Birthday, Motown

On January 12, 1959, Berry Gordy, Jr., borrowed $800 from his family and founded the Motown Record Corporation on West Grand Boulevard, in Detroit.

Take a minute to relax, sit back, and enjoy the Motown sound.

And when you're done, come by the Troy Public Library and check out our Motown display of books, music, and DVDs, ready for you to take home.

January 9, 2009

Quickstart Guide to Using Google Reader for RSS Feeds

Interested in using a RSS feed reader, but not sure where to start or how to set one up? Google Reader is an excellent choice for starting out.

Watch the following video and, in no time at all, updates from your favorite blogs will be sent to you automatically, instead of you having to visit each site to see if something new has been posted.

You can start using Google Reader by subscribing to this blog, The Tech Desk. Scroll down until you see Subscribe To on the right side of this page. Click on Posts, then Add to Google.

Fun Friday: The Next Senator from the State of Minnesota

Al Franken Does Mick Jagger:

[via Boing Boing]

January 8, 2009

More on Windows 7 Beta Download

If you plan on downloading a copy of the Windows 7 beta on January 9, be aware of the limitations on the download. The new operating system will be available for a limited time that day, but the time has not, yet, been announced. And it will be available to only the first 2.5 million people who download the software.

For more information on this download, read How to Get Your Windows 7 Beta 1 on Friday from Wired.com.

Visit the on Microsoft's website for the download link.

An Early Review of Windows 7: Will Be a Game-Changer For Microsoft?

Although Windows 7 is going to be released on January 9 to the public, I have had the good fortune to be able to use it for over a month. I thought I would give everyone a brief taste of what is in store for Microsoft's next operating system.

First, I would like to point everyone to my favorite source for everything Windows, Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows. Paul has great knowledge about Windows and has an exhaustive list of screenshots and information about Windows 7 which can be found here .

Here are some of my own personal impressions about Windows:

1. The New Taskbar

The taskbar is one of the first and most obvious things that has changed in Windows 7. By default the taskbar is strictly "iconized" as I like to call it, meaning that all you see is icons.

As one can see even when applications are in the start menu, there is no text beside the icon. This can be changed through the settings to revert back to the "normal" windows behavior (which is what I did).

One might notice the icons that remain on the taskbar, despite not being opened in windows. These icons are now "pinned" to the taskbar. This pinning of icons replaces the previous Quick Launch feature in XP and Vista.

Another feature of the new taskbar is the small, closeable, live window previews that are accompanied by the icons. For example, if multiple Firefox windows are opened, it will look like this in the taskbar when you hover over the icon.

2. The addition of Libraries as opposed to strict folders.

One of my favorite features of Windows 7 is the addition of Libraries (a bit ironic I know). Libraries are separated in a similar format to the My Documents, My Videos, My Pictures, and My Music folders of XP, except they are not just limited to a single folder. Instead, the Libraries allow you to add as many folders as you like to them and keep your documents, music, photos, and videos in one place, even if they are physically located in separate folders. This is especially intuitive with regards to networking, as networked folders can be added to these Libraries.

3. The New Start Menu

Those who have used Vista will recognize the improved start menu in Windows 7. The search function is still built right into the menu box and only one major change is noticeable, which is the new hover options available to users.
When hovering over a program that works with this feature (Office products, IE, Sticky Notes, etc...), a mini-list of options will appear to the user. See above screenshot.

4. One-click Wireless Networking

Another favorite feature of mine on Windows 7 is the one-click wireless networking. By simply clicking on the wireless network icon in the system tray, you can instantly connect to any network that your wireless connection sees. This is a small but helpful feature.

5. No more Windows Movie Maker, Outlook Express, Windows Messenger.

One of the most interesting things that Microsoft has done with Windows 7 is removing some of the formerly key applications. Instead, Microsoft is going to require that you download the Windows Live Essentials Pack. In the Windows Live Essentials Pack, you will be asked if you would like to install programs like:

Windows Live Movie Maker (Replacing Movie Maker),
Windows Live Writer (a blogging program),
Windows Live Mail (Replacing the clunky and unintuitive Outlook Express,
Windows Live Photo Gallery (Replacing Windows Photo Gallery in Vista)
Windows Live Messenger (Replacing Windows Messenger)

These programs are immensely better then the previous offerings by Microsoft, and the the best part is that they are free and available now to XP, Vista, and Windows 7 users.

Some other changes to notable Windows programs include the revamped user interface of Microsoft Paint and Microsoft Wordpad, which now include the Ribbon interface made popular by Office 2007.

6. Overall Feel

The overall feel of the operating system is much snappier then both Vista and XP, assuming you have the hardware to run it. I'm currently using a laptop with 4 gb of RAM and a dual-core processor, so I'm running it without any problems. I've read that people trying to run it on slower machines are still running into difficulties.

Overall though, the system boots up faster, shuts down faster, and is generally very quick to respond.

Some Notes: I have merely touched on the new features of Windows 7. I encourage you to check out Paul Thurrott's site for more details. Also, while Windows 7 has been a great experience for me personally, it is still in beta. Beta means that Microsoft still has some bugs to squash and some errors to correct. I have only run into some minor errors every once in awhile, but I still do not recommend that users completely switch to Windows 7 without previously doing a backup of all of their files.

I'll end this post with a full screenshot of my Windows 7 desktop with the default wallpaper. Be sure to click on it for a full-size picture.

If you have any specific questions about the operating system feel free to comment, and I will try to answer as best I can.

Microsoft 7 to be Released in Beta Version on January 9

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2009, that Windows 7 – the new Microsoft operating system that replaces the much-criticized Windows Vista – will be available as a public beta on January 9.

This means that the software is still in the testing phase, but you can go to the Microsoft web site, download it and run it on your computer. Often, user feedback from software beta versions has resulted in major changes to the software when it is finally released.

Microsoft is eager to get Windows 7 into people's hands given the negative reaction to Windows Vista, released in 2007.

According to Wired.com, Microsoft promises that Windows 7 will have "faster startup and shutdown times, fewer security alerts, and will provide better power management leading to improved battery life on laptops.. [It will allow] easier management of peripheral devices such as cell phones and digital cameras... [and] have an updated taskbar, new animated desktop effects, context-sensitive menus and a smarter desktop search tool. And it will be svelte enough to run on a netbook with as little as 1GB of RAM and a 1GHz processor.”

See Library staff member Chris Hunsanger's early review of the beta of Windows 7.

January 7, 2009

Playing Tetris Wipes Away Bad Memories After Trauma

More good news about video gaming, this time from Lifehacker.com:

According to researchers at Oxford University, playing the popular, classic puzzle game Tetris after a traumatic experience could significantly reduce emotional scars. Apparently Tetris — which requires serious brain power on your part — blocks your brain from storing those bad memories. The catch: It needs to be played immediately following the traumatic event, so break out your old Game Boys and stick 'em in your emergency kit.”

Have One Tax Question Answered for Free (Before January 31)

If you are dying to finish your 2008 federal taxes, but have one nagging question that you are unable to answer, you might try FreeTaxQuestion.com, brought to you by Intuit – the company behind Turbo Tax software.

Leave a message on the site and a tax expert affiliated with TurboTax will call you back within 24 hours. The expert will answer one question for you, or provide you with guidance on how to have the question answered. Questions will be answered only on federal tax forms – specifically forms 1040 (personal) and 1065, 1120, or 1120S (business) – not on any state forms.

This offer expires January 31.

Note: You might have to listen to a product push from the caller.

[via Lifehacker.com]

January 6, 2009

Downloadable eBook and Audiobook Use Soars in 2008

OverDrive, one of the suppliers of digital downloadable ebooks and audiobooks to the Troy Public Library, just announced that 2008 was a record-setting year for its service.

Checkouts of OverDrive downloadable audiobooks, ebooks, music and video exceeded 10 million items in 2008. This included 4.2 billion minutes of digital spoken word audio -- the equivalent of 47 million audio CDs.

The number of new users increased by 45% over 2007, and patron sessions grew 63% to over 30 million. The OverDrive digital catalog grew to 150,000 titles, including 5,500 iPod-compatible MP3 audiobooks.

The most downloaded OverDrive audiobooks in 2008 were:

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
2. The Appeal by John Grisham
3. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
4. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
5. 7th Heaven by James Patterson
6. 1st to Die by James Patterson
7. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
8. 24 Hours by Greg Iles
9. Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts
10. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The most downloaded OverDrive ebooks for the year were:

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
2. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
3. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
4. Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
5. Because You're Mine by Lisa Kleypas

To take a look at the Troy Library’s OverDrive collection, go to the Library’s home page at www.libcoop.net/troy, and click Downloadable eBooks, Audiobooks, and Videos in the left-hand frame. While there you can also read about our other downloadable collections.

Picasa Coming to Mac!

Picasa, the popular and free photo management and editing software from Google, is coming to the Mac. Here at the Library, this is one of our favorite photo editors as we have it installed on all of our computers in the Technology Center.

Take a look at the following video from Google to get a sneak peak of what to look forward to in the upcoming release:

January 5, 2009

Library of Congress Flickr Project A Success

This from Jessamyn West, via librarian.net:

"The Library of Congress has finished a report (full report and shorter summary in pdf) summing up what they’ve learned after the first nine months of their experimentation with Flickr. Here is an excerpt from the summary. Look at these numbers.

The following statistics attest to the popularity and impact of the pilot. As of October 23, 2008, there have been:
  • 10.4 million views of the photos on Flickr.
  • 79% of the 4,615 photos have been made a “favorite” (i.e., are incorporated into personal Flickr collections).
  • More than 15,000 Flickr members have chosen to make the Library of Congress a “contact,” creating a photostream of Library images on their own accounts.
  • 7,166 comments were left on 2,873 photos by 2,562 unique Flickr accounts.
  • 67,176 tags were added by 2,518 unique Flickr accounts.
  • 4,548 of the 4,615 photos have at least one community-provided tag.
  • Less than 25 instances of user-generated content were removed as inappropriate.
  • More than 500 Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) records have been enhanced with new information provided by the Flickr Community.
Between January and May 2008, the Library saw an increase in hits at its own Web site. For Bain images placed on Flickr, views/downloads rose approximately 60% for the period January-May 2008, compared to the same time period in 2007. Views/downloads of FSA/OWI image files placed on Flickr rose approximately 13%. Average monthly visits to all PPOC Web pages rose 20% over the five-month period of January-May 2008, compared to the same period in 2007. For additional information, see the Outcomes section in the full report.

Not only is that data good news about the project but being able to say “Hey when the Library of Congress opened up their photos to commenting and tagging, they only had to remove 25 inappropriate tags/comments out of 75K instances of user-generated content” thats a big deal."

Free Tech Support Online

According to Azadeh Ensha, writing in The New York Times: “If you’re like me, odds are that you’ve… found yourself with a tech problem that was made worse by the lack of ready, available — and perhaps most important — useful [phone customer support]. But with the Internet, there’s no need to have to wait on hold.

"There are hundreds (if not thousands) of other users out there, sharing their experience and wisdom, often free. So instead of getting on the phone, get online and start crowdsourcing your tech support needs.”

Ensha then reviews several free tech support web sites, for PCs, Macs, and smartphones, such as the BlackBerry and the iPhone.

Some good advice if you are looking to find high quality tech support from co-users without a cost or a wait.

Top 20 Social Networking Sites of 2008

What were the top social media sites of 2008?

According to ComScore, reported by Techcrunch, Blogger is number one with an estimated 222 million unique worldwide visitors (up 44 percent). Facebook is on target to pass it soon with 200 million visitors (up 116 percent). MySpace is steady at 126 million visitors. Wordpress is a close fourth and gaining with 114 million (up 68 percent). And Windows Live Spaces is down 22 percent to 87 million visitors.

Writes Techcrunch: “While the audience for blogs is still showing healthy growth overall, Facebook stands out as the social gorilla taking share from not only other social networks but blogs and other social media as well.”

Below are the top 20 sites on ComScore’s social networking list.
1. Blogger (222 million)
2. Facebook (200 million)

3. MySpace (126 million)

4. Wordpress (114 million)

5. Windows Live Spaces (87 million)

6. Yahoo Geocities (69 million)

7. Flickr (64 million)

8. hi5 (58 million)

9. Orkut (46 million)

10. Six Apart (46 million)

11. Baidu Space (40 million)

12. Friendster (31 million)

13. 56.com (29 million)

14. Webs.com (24 million)

15. Bebo (24 million)

16. Scribd (23 million)

17. Lycos Tripod (23 million)

18. Tagged (22 million)

19. imeem (22 million)

20. Netlog (21 million)

January 4, 2009

Create Your Own NPR Podcasts

National Public Radio (NPR) is a daily source of information for many people. However, there are times where you may not be able to listen to stories that you wish to hear, or you may find yourself listening to stories that don't interest you. Now there is a way to create podcasts of only stories that interest you. Etan Horowitz of the Orlando Sentinel shows you how here.

January 3, 2009

NASA Rovers Celebrate 5 Years on the Red Planet

I have always been interested in the planets and stars, so this report from the BBC caught my eye: the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is celebrating the 5th anniversary of the landing of two moving robots (rovers), Spirit and Opportunity, on Mars.

The rovers -- which landed on January 3 and 24, 2004, and which were suppose to last about 90 days each -- have been sending back photos and reports from the Red Planet for five years. Among other things, they have gathered more evidence of water on Mars.

Watch some NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory staff speak enthusiastically about the project.

Even more remarkable to me, the rovers have existed this long on solar power. It seems that a solution to our oil dependence might be buried somewhere in there.

166 Million Text Messages in Great Britain on New Year's Eve

As Vonda Shepard croons in that memorable episode of Ally McBeal, “What are you doing new year’s eve?”

If you are like many people in Great Britain – and, presumably, the United States – you were text messaging.

According to a recent post in engadgetmobile.com, O2 UK – a large, British provider of mobile phones – recorded 166 million text messages over its network between 7:30 a.m. on December 31, 2008, and 7:30 a.m. on January 1, 2009. That’s about 1,900 messages per second. Or, put another way, three messages for every man, woman, and child in the country.

Though no numbers have been released for the comparable period of time in the States, some analysts say we send twice as many text messages as those in Britain.

Any cures for thumbs with text hangovers?

January 2, 2009

Fun Friday: Garfield Minus Garfield

What if you had Hamlet without Hamlet? Romeo and Juliet with no Romeo? Batman and no Bruce Wayne? The Sopranos with no Tony Soprano?

How about Garfield Minus Garfield?

Things take on a much different twist.

January 1, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

It's time once again to make resolutions for the new year. Here are some technology-related resolutions you may wish to consider:

1. Check out electronic business reference sources available at the Troy Public Library
Researching businesses and stocks? We subscribe to many comprehensive business databases, including ValueLine, Morningstar, Standard & Poor's Net Advantage, thestreet.com and Mergent Online. Need to find information about a particular industry? Check out Plunkett Research Online. Looking for contact information for a particular business? Try Reference USA. You can access these databases by clicking the "Information on Demand" icon on the Library's homepage.

2. Use research databases available from the Troy Public Library
Everything from full text articles from Consumer Reports, Time, and Newsweek to Environmental Nutrition, Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Development Law, and Mathematics Education Research Journal can be found in databases from the Library (all of these publications can be found in Academic OneFile). You can access these databases by clicking the "Information on Demand" icon on the Library's homepage.

3. Check out an eBook or eAudiobook
The Troy Public Library subscribes to two services (NetLibrary and OverDrive) that provide downloadable eBooks and eAudiobooks. You can access these services here. Try them out! (Note: first-time NetLibrary users will need to register for an account in the Library).

4. Use snopes.com
Before sending money to Nigeria, deleting JDBGMGR.exe, using Listerine to kill mosquitoes, or other things that forwarded emails tell you to do, check out snopes.com. Snopes is a site the debunks urban legends and misinformation that often comes in emails. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true in an email, it probably is.

5. Keep your anti-virus software updated
Anti-virus software is only as good as its last update. Make sure your software is current so that your computer is completely protected. Also, be sure to scan your computer on a regular basis.

6. Use an RSS reader
Do you get frustrated when you check out a favorite blog, and there is no new information? Instead of wasting time checking sites to see if they have been updated, have the updates sent to you automatically by using an RSS reader. For more information, check out this video.

7. Recycle or donate old electronic equipment
So you bought a new computer, printer, cell phone, etc...? What are you going to do with the old one? Instead of throwing it away, consider donating or recycling it.