February 28, 2009

Times to Launch Blog Network

One thing about which we have been talking here at the Library, is the accelerating move from print to electronics in the news industry. Just yesterday -- touched off by this item about the Rocky Mountain News -- we were wondering why the traditional print media has so badly adapted to the web. It is not like they didn't receive fair warning. Like the automobile industry, the print news industry sometimes seems unaware of a new reality.

Perhaps The New York Times has finally learned a lesson: the Internet is here. Use it before you die.

This from TechCrunch.com: The New York Times Expected To Launch Local Blog Network.

Improve Your Computer Skills with Troy Library Internet Classes

There are still plenty of seats in Internet classes taught by the Technology Department staff at the Library. You might want to register for one of these:

Navigating the Internet
Do you need to pick up your pace on the Information Highway? This class will show you what the Internet is and how to use it effectively to make your information searches more successful. This is a two-part class; plan to attend both parts.
Tuesday, March 24 and 31, 10:00 am, or Tuesday, April 21 and 28, 6:30 pm

What is Web 2.0?
Whether you want to share your thoughts on a blog, organize a family event using a wiki, read news as it happens on an RSS feed, or swap information with family and friends on social sites, this workshop is for you. You will be introduced to all the latest Web 2.0 technology -- to keep you on the cutting edge.
Wednesday, March 11, 1:00 pm, or Thursday, April 30, 10:00 am

Blogging for Beginners
Do you want to publish a blog? Learn the basics: setting up a blog, changing colors and designs, posting and commenting, uploading images and web links.
Monday, March 23, 6:30 pm, or Wednesday, April 8, 1:00 pm

Library Resources on the Internet
Learn how to access all the Library’s resources at home, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! Read book reviews, check your account, and place holds on items; download audio books and movies right to your computer or portable device; and search magazines and references on any topic under the sun, all from the Library’s web site.
Wednesday, March 25, 1:00 pm, or Thursday, April 16, 10:00 am

Register here.

For more information, call the Technology desk at 248.524.3542 or email us at techroom@troymi.gov.

Newsday to Charge for Website

According to Yinka Adegoke, writing for Reuters on Wired.com:
"Cablevision Systems plans to charge online readers of its Newsday newspaper [which covers Long Island], a move that would make it one of the first large U.S. papers to reverse a trend toward free Web readership…

"Our goal was and is to use our electronic network assets and subscriber relationships to transform the way news is distributed," Cablevision Chief Operating Officer Tom Rutledge said. "We plan to end the distribution of free Web content and make our news gathering capabilities a service for our customers," he added."

Read about Newsday’s plans.

February 27, 2009

Fun Friday: Future Man Explains Twitter

Somehow, this found its way into my email this morning. Click on image for a readable view:

February 26, 2009

Newspapers Grow Online, Shrink in Print

According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Newspapers Face a Challenging Calculus:

The trend is unmistakable: Fewer Americans are reading print newspapers as more turn to the Internet for their news. And while the percentage of people who read newspapers online is growing rapidly, especially among younger generations, that growth has not offset the decline in print readership.

In the Pew Research Center's 2008 news media consumption survey, 39% said they read a newspaper yesterday -- either print or online -- down from 43% in 2006. The proportion reporting that they read just the print version of a newspaper fell by roughly a quarter, from 34% to 25% over the two-year period.

Overall newspaper readership declined in spite of an increase in the number of people reading online newspapers: 14% of Americans said they read a newspaper online yesterday, up from 9% in 2006. This includes those who said they read only a newspaper online (9% in 2008), as well as those who said they read both print and Web versions of a newspaper (5%). These numbers may not include the number of people who read content produced by newspapers, but accessed through aggregation sites or portals such as Google or Yahoo.

Let PlantCare.com Put You in the Mood for Spring

Now that spring is starting to turn, it is hard not to think about gardening. PlantCare.com has some great information, whether you are a novice or an experienced gardener, indoor or out.

At PlantCare.com you can search an extensive plant database to find information on thousands of outdoor and indoor plants, participate in and discuss your favorite topics in the plant forum, shop for home and garden products, and expand your plant knowledge with hundreds of gardening tips and guides.

I hope to use the information I found under the plant type cactus to improve the Technology Department’s cactus garden:

[via metafilter.com]

Video Gaming in Libraries Under Investigation

With video game sales topping $21 billion last year, and video games becoming a major entertainment source for everyone from children to senior citizens, one wonders why officials in Nebraska wanted to investigate librarians for buying and learning to play video games so that they could run video game programming in their library.

Libraries today must respond to the needs and wants of their community, and today offer not just books, but also many other entertainment options, from DVDs, CDs, downloadable materials such as e-books and e-audiobooks, and yes, video games. Even the American Library Association last year sponsored a National Gaming Day @ Your Library.

You can find video games and video game programming available at the Troy Public Library by searching our catalog or by clicking on the "Sign up for exciting classes and programs" link on our website.

Video Lectures from Top Universities Online at Academic Earth

Interested in learning from some of the world’s top scholars? Academic Earth has hundreds of video lectures from professors at Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale.

You can subscribe to courses through RSS or add the podcasts to your iTunes library. Users are able to grade both the lectures and the courses, viewable by other users.

Academic Earth is an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education, by using technology in innovative ways to increase the ease of learning. AE hopes to “bring the best content together in one place and create an environment that in which that content is remarkably easy to use.”

[via metafilter.com]

February 25, 2009

How to Qualify for a Broadband Stimulus Grant

Interested in receiving a piece of the $7.2 billion economic stimulus package earmarked for broadband development?

You might want to check out the Freedom to Connect (F2C) conference in Washington DC, March 30 and 31. The conference will feature a workshop titled How to Get and Spend $7,200,000,000.00: What the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or 2009 Means for Netheads.

This session will cover how to qualify for the Act’s $2.5 billion from the Agriculture Department and $4.7 billion from Commerce. Local governments qualify, as do non-profits, coops, and other entities. Disbursement of funds begins in May. Most monies must be disbursed within 18 months.

F2C is a meeting of people engaged with Internet connectivity and all that it enables, including vendors, customers, regulators, legislators, analysts, financiers, citizens and co-creators.

[via Muniwireless]

New Hampshire Library Offers Kindles to Library Users

The Howe Library in Hanover, New Hampshire, has three Amazon Kindles ebook readers that it is loaning to Library users. Though each device holds approximately 200 titles, the Library is offering a limited number of titles because its goal is “to simply give our patrons the opportunity to try out new technologies.” The readers circulate for a one week period and can be reserved.


[via librarian.net]

February 24, 2009

Early Look at Apple's New Snow Leopard OS

The Tech Desk has spent a lot of time covering Windows 7 -- Microsoft's new operating system, set to be released in the fall.

In the interest of equal time for our Mac users, here -- from Wired.com -- is an early review of the next generation of Apple’s OS X operating system, dubbed Snow Leopard.

No release date or cost for Snow Leopard, yet.

Jon Stewart and Jeff Bezos on Kindle 2

Amazon's Jeff Bezos appeared on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show on February 23, the day the Kindle 2 began shipping.

Take a look.

[via Christian Science Monitor blog]

More Kindle 2 Reviews

Two more reviews of the Kindle 2, Amazon's second generation ebook reader.

Kindle 2: a Nifty, Costly Second Act, from Detroit Free Press.

The Kindle: Good Before, Better Now, from The New York Times.

Using Social Network Sites in Your Job Search

Here is an excellent post from Mashable about using social network sites to help in your job search.

Author Dan Schawbel explains:
Some of these sites allow you to craft a resume, while others are networking platforms that contain job listings. By signing up for all ten, you increase your chances of getting a job and decrease the amount of time you’ll spend searching for a new one. Three of the listed sites can be combined with other sites to be more impactful. In addition to joining, creating profiles and searching for jobs, I encourage you to support these sites with either a traditional website or blog, so that you have more to present to employers, in addition to your profile.

Social network sites are the way to find a job today. Foot, phone and paper are things of the past.

Another example of how social network sites are growing up.

Google Thoughts

Here's one to make Phillip's heart go aflutter. Jonathan Rosenberg of Google posts on the Google Blog his vision for the future of searching and the ubiquitous nature of information. It's very compelling, but also, as usual, a little unnerving for anyone with quaint notions of privacy and the value-added expertise of professionals, like, oh I don't know, maybe... librarians!

Rosenberg states rather placidly: "Why should a user have to ask us a question to get the information she needs?"

This is a big part of Google's vision, to build profiles of individual user usage and interest indexes that would, by definition, require them to know who you are, what you are doing, and when you are doing it. That strike anyone else as a wee bit frightening? But one cannot use these technologies and come away unimpressed. The question for me, however, is at what cost do these impressive tools come?

I am encouraged, though, by thoughts like these:
This is both good and bad news. No one argues the value of free speech, but the vast majority of stuff we find on the web is useless. The clamor of junk threatens to drown out voices of quality.

But make no mistake, Google intends to make all the added-value determinations of what is quality and what matters to you. Here my concern could be more broadly interpreted as lowest common data denominator, which I'm certain Google will argue is not the case. I certainly hope not. Regardless, this is a fascinating company doing some incredibly fascinating things that anyone interested in how information is owned, shared, and disseminated should follow very closely. We will.

Ann Arbor District Library One of the Best in the Country

Congratulations to the Ann Arbor District Library, which has been named one of the top libraries in the country in a new survey by Library Journal. The inaugural LJ Index of Public Library Service is based on 2005-2006 data for circulation, visits to library, computer use, and program attendance.

Of the 7,115 libraries nationwide evaluated for the report, 88 received the highest possible ranking of five stars. The AADL was one of 10 libraries with a five-star ranking in its budget bracket (libraries with an annual budget of $10 million to $29.9 million).

[via Mlive.com]

Track the Stimulus Money via RSS Feed

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- the stimulus package -- recently signed by President Obama, requires that each government agency reports the money it gives out via RSS, according to Raw Thought. For each of the near term reporting requirements (major communications, formula block grant allocations, weekly reports) agencies are required to provide a feed of the information so that content can be delivered via subscription.

This, to me, is an example of using the technology appropriately to provide more open government.

[via boingboing]

National Film Board of Canada Archives Now Online

Here is one for movie fans:

The National Film Board of Canada has put more than 700 films, clips and trailers on the
Board's new website launched in January. From shorts and cartoons, to deeply moving or disturbing documentaries, all are there for free. Take a look -- there is sure to be one of interest.

[via boingboing]

February 23, 2009

BookLetters: Over 400 Patrons Served

Back in November I posted an entry about BookLetters -- a readers' advisory service TPL uses to recommend books, audiobooks and videos from our collection. We have since added five new lists, bringing the total up to 30 regularly updated booklists. Anyone can subscribe to these booklists by email or RSS feed, receiving direct updates as new lists are created.

In addition to our five new booklists, we now have over 400 patrons subscribing by email. Our most popular list,
Staff Reads, has 100 subscribers. Another list to keep an eye on is our Newly Arrived DVDs newsletter which features popular movies recently added to our collection. Teens and adults alike can enjoy Caution! These Novels are Graphic -- a list of our newest and greatest graphic novels. Among the many lists for children, our patrons love How the World Works -- a monthly updated list of children's titles to capture a broad scope of interests.

If you would like to partake in this free readers' advisory service, you can view all of our custom booklists by clicking on "
Find Books and Reviews" on our homepage. Among our 30 lists for different ages, interests and formats (books, playaway audiobooks, DVDs and more), you're sure to find something you like.

Do Social Sites Make Us Nicer?

Do social network sites make us better people?

Pete Cashmore from mashable.com argues that they might.

Cashmore writes that the “immediacy and accessibility of Twitter messages that make private conversations public; tools that open up the very real possibility that every action you take, whether in a public space or in seemingly private emails and text messages, is being logged and possibly shared with thousands of people… How does this change the way we act? Might it actually make us…nicer to one another?”

The author then cites several recent events where bad behavior was broadcast on social sites and called out, resulting in web-wide discussions on behavior.

Is this the dawn of a new social conscience?

February 21, 2009

50 of the World's Best Food Blogs

While I am on the subject of best blogs, here is a list of 50 of the world's best food blogs, according to the Timesonline of London.

[via Metafilter]

February 20, 2009

Time's 25 Best Blogs of 2009

Time magazine has just published its list of 25 Best Blogs of 2009.

Among them are some of my favorites -- Lifehacker, Metafilter, and boingboing -- and some others at which I am eager to look -- Said the Gramophone, Bad Astronomy, Got2BeGreen, Mashable, and bleat.

Find any of interest to you?

Final Stimulus Plan Includes $7.2 Million for Broadband

According to the American Library Association Washington Office, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, recently signed by President Obama, includes $7.2 billion for broadband Internet access: $2.5 billion for Rural Utilities Service and $4.7 billion for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) broadband grant program to increase broadband access and usage in underserved areas of the nation. The latter includes $200 million in competitive grants for expanding public computer capacity at public libraries and community college libraries.

For more on broadband as an economic stimulus, see here and here.

The Positives of Social Networking

Social networking has been a hot topic recently here at The Tech Desk. We have published about the positives of Twitter, possible negatives of Twitter, and the rise of microblogging in America.

So, where does this all lead? Are people truly connected through these online social networks? In September 2008, The New York Times posted an excellent story by Clive Thompson discussing how social networking is impacting our relationships. One of the most interesting things he brings up:

This is the ultimate effect of the new awareness: It brings back the dynamics of small-town life, where everybody knows your business. Young people at college are the ones to experience this most viscerally, because, with more than 90 percent of their peers using Facebook, it is especially difficult for them to opt out. Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who has closely studied how college-age users are reacting to the world of awareness, told me that athletes used to sneak off to parties illicitly, breaking the no-drinking rule for team members. But then camera phones and Facebook came along, with students posting photos of the drunken carousing during the party; savvy coaches could see which athletes were breaking the rules. First the athletes tried to fight back by waking up early the morning after the party in a hungover daze to detag photos of themselves so they wouldn’t be searchable. But that didn’t work, because the coaches sometimes viewed the pictures live, as they went online at 2 a.m. So parties simply began banning all camera phones in a last-ditch attempt to preserve privacy.

“It’s just like living in a village, where it’s actually hard to lie because everybody knows the truth already,” Tufekci said. “The current generation is never unconnected. They’re never losing touch with their friends. So we’re going back to a more normal place, historically. If you look at human history, the idea that you would drift through life, going from new relation to new relation, that’s very new. It’s just the 20th century.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

February 19, 2009

Wii Cool

Now this is very cool: The Wii meets Google Earth. This is what happens when technologies marry into something completely new.

It doesn't take much imagination to realize that we're not far off from virtually skiing down slopes from any mountain right in the comfort of your living room. For now you'll just have to be satisfied with surfing the planet. So cool.

The Kindle is So Yesterday...

Technology marches on. Today, the Kindle. Tomorrow -- literally -- Plastic Logic? Yep. Sorry Jeff Bezos of Amazon, but your 15 nano seconds of fame concerning reader technology appear to be up.

Imagine what comes after tomorrow.

[Hat tip to coolhunting.com]

February 17, 2009

Another Look at Twitter: It's Where Things Happen

Last week, Tech Desk staffer Barry Hyland blogged about some [negative] social implications of Twitter, the microblog site which is all the latest Internet rage.

He cited Yves Smith, who wrote that "Twitter feeds that... false sense of urgency. Most things can wait. Indeed, a lot of things are better off waiting. But we are encouraged to be plugged in, overstimulated all the time, at the expense of higher quality human relations."

Now, another -- more positive -- point of view from TechCrunch, in
Why We Often Write About Twitter And Will Continue To Do So:
"Twitter has grown into far more than just a messaging or status updating service, and anyone who really uses it or develops for it knows that. It’s where news gets broken and what more and more celebrities openly turn to to start getting social with the community... It’s a place where companies can do business while people can choose to engage only with their peers instead. It triggers and support the organization of worldwide charity events...

Basically, it’s as social as social networking services can get."

February 14, 2009

Seven Things to Hate about Windows 7

In January, The Tech Desk reviewed Windows 7, the new Microsoft operating system set to be released later this year. Staffer Chris Hunsanger gave the OS -- which is replacing the much-criticized Windows Vista OS -- a generally positive review.

But we know nothing is perfect.

Here, from Gizmodo -- the gadget blog -- are 7 Things We Hate about Windows 7.

11% of American Adults Microblog

According to a December report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 11% of online American adults said they use a microblog like Twitter or Yammer, or the microblogging feature on one of the other social network sites to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others.

These services have been most avidly embraced by young adults. Nearly one in five (19%) online adults ages 18 to 24 have ever used microblogs, as have 20% of online adults 25 to 34. Use of these services drops off steadily after age 35 with 10% of 35 to 44 year olds, 5% of 45 to 54 year olds, 4% of 55-64 year olds and 2% of those 65 and older using Twitter.

These “status updaters” are also a mobile bunch; as a group they are much more likely to be using wireless technologies -- laptops, handhelds and cell phones -- for Internet access, or cell phones for text messaging.

View the report, Online Activities and Pursuits.

Meanwhile, while you are not tweeting, you can read about last week's Shorty Awards, which honored the best tweeters, as determined by a popular vote from from Wired.com.

Free Demographic Information Available from American Community Survey

Interested in a broad range of U.S. social, economic, and demographic information on-line? The American Community Survey might be of use to you.

Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the Survey, asking three million of us about our income, occupation, place of work, health insurance, marital status, ancestry, citizenship, language spoken at home, disability, housing, etc. etc. etc. This information is compiled and presents a snapshot of life in the United States at any given time.

You can access the American Community Survey by going to http://factfinder.census.gov, then clicking on Data Sets (on the left side), and then American Community Survey. Or click here.

The Census Bureau publishes a series of online handbooks (.pdfs) on how to use the Survey. There are handbooks for general users, business users, teachers, media, state and local governments, and researchers.

February 13, 2009

Twitter Me a River

Interesting thoughts from Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism regarding Twitter and the compression of communication and thought, and some social implications that should give all pause. Yves seems sadly resigned to it. (Hat tip: andrewsullivan.com)

Foreclosure Information Available from Michigan eLibrary

Looking for foreclosure information?

Check out the Michigan eLibrary (MeL) Michigan Personal Finance Resources page.

This page has information on dealing with mortgage foreclosure and debt counseling, and includes links to resources from the the Royal Oak Public Library, the United Way's Michigan Foreclosure site, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority's Save the Dream Campaign.

Next week, MeL will be adding information from the Commerce Township Community Library's Foreclosure Prevention Packets Workshop.

The Michigan eLibrary is a service of the Library of Michigan.

February 11, 2009

Apple to Unveil $99 iPhone

Interested in an iPhone, but not in the iPhone's $200-300 price tag?

According to Silicon Alley Insider, Apple will start selling a cheaper, "entry-level" iPhone sometime this summer for around $99. The main cost reductions would come from fewer features -- a lower-resolution camera, no GPS, etc. But the less expensive model would keep the iPhone look and feel, and such features as the multi-touch screen.

Some analysts think that Apple could sell 20-30 million of these cheaper iPhones in 2010, boosting the company's smartphone market share to almost 20%.

Kindle 2 Reviewed

Now that gadget geeks have had their chance to take a look at Amazon's new generation e-book reader -- Kindle 2 -- released two days ago, the Christian Science Monitor blog has gathered some early reviews:

Review round-up: Amazon Kindle 2

More Free Software

Looking for free and open source software? You might want to take a look at Open Source Living.

Whether you are interested in audio players, project management, blogging, .pdf creators, video editing, e-commerce, or many other types of software applications, OSL has links and reviews of dozens of open source products.

The site is community-driven, so the number of applications grows regularly.

Open source software might be a good alternative for some of your applications, during tough economic times.

[via LibrarianInBlack]

February 10, 2009

The State of Blogging in Libraries

Here is an interesting snapshot of blogging in the library world: Shiny Toys or Useful Tools? It was originally presented by Walt Crawford -- noted writer and speaker on libraries and technology -- at the 2009 Ontario Library Association SuperConference in Toronto.

Crawford writes:
"Blogs and wikis aren’t shiny new toys for libraries and librarians any more. They’ve moved from toys to tools. As with most tools, they’re not magic, they’re not right for everything or everybody, but they can be powerfully effective in many situations."

[via librarian.net]

Check Out MeL Jobs and Careers for Tips on Finding a Job

Unemployed? Take a look at Michigan eLibrary (MeL) Jobs and Careers site.

Created and funded by the Library of Michigan, MeL Jobs and Careers includes links to web sites on how to write cover letter and resumes, employee satisfaction rankings, internships, and job postings. MeL also includes information on starting a business, finding financial aid for school and job training, exploring career preferences, and learning about new occupations.

If you are unemployed, it is worth a look.

Broadband Expansion Removed from Economic Stimulus Bill

According to CNN, $2 billion allocated for broadband development has been removed from the Senate’s version of the economic stimulus bill.

[via Slashdot.org]

February 9, 2009

The Growth of Social Networking

eMarketer estimates that in 2008 nearly 80 million people, 41% of the US Internet user population, visited social network sites at least once a month, an 11% increase from 2007. By 2013, an estimated 52% of Internet users will be regular social network visitors.

[via Stephen's Lighthouse]

Amazon Announces Kindle 2

Amazon has announced the release of Kindle 2, a new, updated version of its popular e-book reader. To celebrate the new reader, the company also announced that author Stephen King has written a Kindle-only novella – Ur – specifically for Amazon.

The Kindle 2 is slimmer (.36”), lighter (10.2 ounces), and sleeker, and has a longer battery life than the original. It can hold more than 1,500 books, and can convert any text to audio, so it can "read" books to you.

However, the Kindle 2 still cannot use e-book formats other than Amazon's.

The Kindle 2 will start shipping February 24.

To read more, see Wired.com’s Amazon's Kindle 2 Slims Down, Adds Audio.

February 6, 2009

$10 Laptops Not a Reality

Last week's claim by the government of India that it had developed a $10 laptop computer seems to be a bit of an exaggeration. According to The Industry Standard:
Several media outlets, including The Industry Standard, cited a Times of India article that last week stated India would be unveiling the laptop as an educational tool for children across the country. .. Now it turns out that the project actually centers around a 2GB hard drive with wireless capabilities... Fast Company reports that the device appears to be nothing much more sophisticated than a specialized digital storage hub/net access point for educational media."

Fun Friday: What Personality Does Your Blog Have?

Want to know what personality your blog has? Check out Typealyzer.com.

Typealyzer.com analyzes the text of your blog, and compares it to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a well-knows personalty test. The site then tells you into which of the Myers-Briggs categories your blog falls.

I tested The Tech Desk. According to Typealyzer, we are
ESTJ - The Guardians:
The organizing and efficient type. They are especially attuned to setting goals and managing available resources to get the job done. Once they have made up their mind on something, it can be quite difficult to convince otherwise. They listen to hard facts and can have a hard time accepting new or innovative ways of doing things.

The Guardians are often happy working in highly structured work environments where everyone knows the rules of the job. They respect authority and are loyal team players.

I guess I like that we are organized, efficient, set goals, and manage our resources well. Not so cool that we "have a hard time accepting new or innovative ways of doing things."

And, as the supervisor in the Department, I'm glad that we "respect authority and are loyal team players!"

What about your blog?

February 4, 2009

Spam, Spam -- Wonderful Spam?

According to our Information Technology Department here at the City of Troy (the Library is a department of the City), in a typical week, the City receives 234,251 spam emails. Our spam-blocking software stops 93% of the emails, but that still leaves over 14,000 that get delivered.

That's 88 spam emails per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, spread over 600+ Troy email accounts.

That's a lot of spam!

Google Earth to Map Oceans, Seabeds

Google has just announced that it is adding underwater imagery and seabed maps to the Google Earth project, according to The Guardian of London. The site will also provide detailed environmental data on the impact of climate change in the world’s bodies of water. The move will take Google Earth closer to its aim of creating a complete digital representation of the planet.

The existing site, accessed by 400 million people, already includes three-dimensional representations of large cities around the world and includes images from street-level and aerial photography covering thousands of miles across the United States and elsewhere.

Another new feature of Google Earth, Historical Imagery, provides the ability to scroll back through decades of satellite images and watch the spread of suburbia or erosion of coasts.

More, from The New York Times.

Minneapolis to Become Largest Wireless Area in the U.S. -- Soon

According to James Anderson, writing in the Minnesota Daily – the student-produced newspaper on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis is about to become the largest municipal wireless area in the country.

The plan, which is about a year behind schedule, is targeted for completion by spring 2009. It was delayed when several densely populated areas needed additional poles installed to hold the transmitters for the signal.

This is not a city-owned nor -operated system. USI Wireless, a private company, is behind the project. Minneapolis, however, is one of USI’s biggest customers; the City will run its police and fire public safety network over the new wireless system. City representatives hope that this network will provide them with greater bandwidth and quicker connection speeds.

USI currently has 11,000 paid subscribers to the network that offers one, three and six megabyte packages. According to the article, a one-year subscription to the largest package will cost less than 50% of the service now provided by Comcast.

Are You Ready for Video Books?

HarperCollins Publishers announced yesterday their publication of a "video book" edition of Jeff Jarvis' What Would Google Do?

From the HarperCollins
press release:

"Advances in digital technology and distribution are creating exciting and new opportunities for book publishers and authors every day," said Brian Murray, President and CEO of HarperCollins Publishers. "Part of our mission is to help authors find new and complimentary ways to present their ideas to consumers through multiple platforms, formats and channels. A video edition of Jeff's book is a terrific example of a new product that is both a viral marketing tool and hopefully a new revenue stream."

You can see a 2 minute sample of this title through Amazon.com
Is this just a gimmick? A good companion to print material? Just another name for "lecture" or "documentary"? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

February 2, 2009

Gmail's Tasks Heads to iGoogle, iPhone, and Mobile Phones

Google announced today that they are adding on to the functionality offered by Gmail's task feature, which I wrote about previously.

Google has added the ability to access Gmail's Tasks from your iGoogle page, the iPhone, and any other mobile device by simply visiting http://gmail.com/tasks in your mobile browser.

Check out the Official Gmail Blog for more details on the new features. Google seems to be committed to making this product more flexible and mobile, and these new features seem to reflect that.
Take a look below at the Google video about the Gmail Task's iPhone application.

Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1 Available for Download

On January 26, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1 (IE8 RC1). In addition to upgraded security, what are some of the new features in this version of Internet Explorer?
  • Autocomplete within the address bar -- Much like Firefox 3's "awesome bar," typing terms in the address bar will search your web history and favorites to find sites you may be interested in.

  • InPrivate Browsing -- New browsing mode prevents information such as web history, temporary Internet files, and cookies from being retained by the browser.

  • Accelerators -- Don't you hate the multiple steps it takes to map an address or define a term within a website? You have to highlight and copy the information, go to a different site, then paste it in. Accelerators make the process easier by not having to navigate away from your original page. When you highlight a text in a website a blue Accelerator icon will display above the text. Click on this icon, and you will have a list of options you can do, such as define the term, map the location if it is an address, search for it, etc.
Should you upgrade to this new version at this time? A release candidate is typically the final test version before the official release of a piece of software. All of the major features of the final version are included, and in the release candidate stage few bugs should be present.

In terms of IE8 RC1, PC Magazine's Michael Muchmore says "based on this code, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend that any IE7 user upgrade to IE8". You can read his full review here.
Please note that if you upgrade to IE8 RC1 you will not have access to Internet Explorer 7.

Have you upgraded to IE8? If so, leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

Online Video -- Both Short and Long Form -- Skyrockets in 2008

And one final set of statistics from the comScore 2008 Digital Year in Review (requires registration and .pdf download):
"Online video viewing continued its rapid ascent in 2008, with 6% more people in the U.S. viewing 34% more videos versus a year ago... By November 2008, online video viewing accounted for 12.5% of Americans’ total time spent on the Internet, up from 8.5% in November 2007.

YouTube, with 40% market share in November 2008, continues to be a significant driver in the U.S. video market… the site generated 5.1 billion U.S. video views during the month, representing a 74% increase versus year ago.

Another developing trend in online video is the move from primarily short-form, user-generated content to more longform, professionally-created content, including full-length movies and TV shows. Hulu, the joint video venture of Fox and NBC, stormed onto the scene in 2008, generating a 57% increase in videos viewed during the past six months and currently ranking as the #6 video site by both unique viewers and videos viewed. Hulu also had an average viewing time of nearly 12 minutes per video in November, substantially higher than any other top video site and a major contributing factor to the increase in online video duration from 2.8 minutes per video to 3.1 minutes per video."

More Use the Internet to Search for Jobs

Another from the comScore 2008 Digital Year in Review (requires registration and .pdf download):

The top-growing Internet site category in 2008 was Job Search, growing 51% to 19 million visitors in December. Category leader, CareerBuilder.com, jumped 78% to 9.1 million visitors.

As another sign of the worsening economy, Coupon sites witnessed a 46% increase during the year, reaching more than 31.5 million Americans in December. Women’s sites -- the largest category with 100 million visitors -- also increased 46% for the year.

And, as we have blogged about, the presidential election was played out, in large part, electronically: the Politics category went up to nearly 12 million visitors. BarackObama.com attracted an average of three times as many visitors as JohnMcCain.com during the course of the year on the road to victory.

February 1, 2009

October Release for Windows 7?

It looks like Microsoft is speeding up its release of Windows 7.

According to arstechnica.com, Microsoft employees are predicting that the new operating system – set to replace the much-criticized Vista – will be released on October 3, 2009. That would be about three months ahead of Microsoft’s official schedule.

You can still download a beta of Windows 7 until February 10 at the Microsoft site.

For a review of the new OS, check out Tech Desk staffer Chris Hunsanger’s post.

Google Dominates Internet Searches

Almost two-thirds (63.5%) of all Internet searches are done on Google, according to the comScore 2008 Digital Year in Review. (Requires registration and .pdf download.) That’s up from 58.5% the previous year. Of the 137 billion estimated total searches performed in the U.S. last year, 85 billion were done on Google.

What is even more impressive is that Google accomplished this growth while all other search engines statistics were flat for the year.

[via TechChrunch]

Indian Government Developing $10 Laptop

According to Slashdot.com, the Indian government is going to release a prototype of a $10 laptop on February 3. The computer, developed by the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) and the Indian Institute of Technology (Chennai), will have 2 GB RAM and a wi-fi card, and will run on 2 watts of power. The computer is part of an Indian government project to extend computer infrastructure and connectivity to over 18,000 colleges in the country.

Read the Times of India story.