March 31, 2009

iPod-Compatible Audiobooks Now Available for Download from NetLibrary

NetLibrary, one of the downloadable services to which the Troy Public Library subscribes, now offers over 800 downloadable eAudiobooks in the MP3 format, which can be downloaded to iPods. Previously, all NetLibrary eAudiobooks were only available in the DRM-protected Windows Media Audio format. These titles could not be transferred to iPods.

Authors whose works are available in this new format include Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Elizabeth Peters, and many more. Nonfiction items from Recorded Books' Modern Scholar series are also available.

To access NetLibrary, you will need to have a Troy Library card. You also need to come into the Library to register for a NetLibrary account.

After you register, you can access NetLibrary at home by clicking on the "Downloadable eBooks, Audiobooks, and Videos" link in the left-hand menu of the Library's website. Click here for a list of supported devices to which NetLibrary MP3 format eAudiobooks can be transferred.

March 30, 2009

New Website Helps You in Looking for a Green Job

Looking for a job in a green industry? You might take a look at

The site, created by job recruiters Ryan Drummond and Chris King, hopes to serve the emerging green economy. The site’s name comes from President Obama’s pledge to create 5 million green jobs in the next ten years.

The site already boasts jobs from more than 60 companies. In the future, the creators plan to include a section to connect military veterans with green jobs after they return to the United States. Other sections will allow for social interaction between job seekers.

[via Got2BeGreen]

Elvis Jams with Jimmy Page, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Keith Moon

What a great commercial from the BBC!

[via boingboing]

Will Federal Data Be in the Clouds?

Some of the largest technology companies -- including Amazon and Microsoft -- want federal government agencies to house data on the companies' servers, "in the clouds," instead of on government servers, according to Kim Hart writing for the Washington Post. The companies argue that such outsourcing of data storage is a way to cut costs and boost efficiency.

The housing of much personal government data on corporate servers makes me nervous. I think that the new Administration in Washington should consider a technological makeover of municipal, state, and federal government. That would be a spending bill that, I believe, would have merit.

March 29, 2009

Wikipedia as an Internet Metropolis

In seven years, Wikipedia – the collaborative, online, free encyclopedia – has become one of the top 10 global websites. While it still has many fewer visitors than Google, Wikipedia’s 60 million visitors a month put it within striking distance of such Internet heavies as Amazon and eBay. Hundreds of thousands of people have thus far come together to collaborate.

With its 2.8 million English-language articles is Wikipedia close to being “complete?”

No, argues Noam Cohen in The New York Times. Cohen writes:
“Wikipedia can no more be completed than can New York City, which O. Henry predicted would be “a great place if they ever finish it.” In fact, with its millions of visitors and hundreds of thousands of volunteers, its ever-expanding total of articles and languages spoken, Wikipedia may be the closest thing to a metropolis yet seen online.”

Read “Wikipedia: Exploring Fact City.”

Google Offers Summer Stipends to College Students to Work on Open Source Projecs

Google has just announced its fifth annual Summer of Code. The company will hand out $4,500 stipends to 1,000 college students, to encourage them to spend this summer contributing to open-source projects.

Among the projects that Google has included in the program is NetSurf, a Web browser which is competing with Google’s own browser, Chrome.

developed a new open-source scheduling system, called Melange, to help the students manage their open-source work. The company is making that software available to others who want to sponsor similar projects to support open-source development.

Applications for the Summer of Code are due April 3.

[via Chronicle of Higher Education]

U.S. Cities and Counties with Wi-Fi Networks

Traveling with a laptop this summer?

Here is an updated list of U.S. cities and counties that have citywide Wi-Fi networks, and Wi-Fi hotzones. Included in the list are those that are planning large city wireless networks.

A word of caution from the author of the list:
“The list may not be as accurate as I’d like it to be. I’m hoping people will post comments to correct the entries. The section city and countywide projects are cities or counties that have issued RFPs or were building out the network in January 2008. This list may have to be amended significantly as many municipalities have decided not to go on with these projects.”


March 28, 2009

The End of the College Computer Lab

The University of Virginia has decided to shut down its student computer labs and put the money to more productive uses, since 3,114 of 3,117 incoming students own their own computer.

Of those student-owned computers, 3,058 are laptops, with about 26% being Apples.

Compared to just a decade ago, the numbers are amazing. In 1997, 74% of incoming students owned computers, but only 16% were laptops, and 6.6% Apples.

The University is now trying to figure out how to provide things like community printers and specialized college software.

[via arstechnica]

March 27, 2009

Fun Friday Bonus Edition: Odd Book Titles

The winners for the Bookseller/Diagram Prize have been announced. The Diagram Prize is an annual award for the oddest book title of the year. This year's winner is The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais. Want to read it? It will only set you back £795 (or $1,136.00), and no, the Troy Public Library is not going to be purchasing this title.

For more information about this year's winner check out this story from the New York Times. For a list of previous winners, go here.

Another Twitter Primer

Gosh, it has been an entire week since I last wrote about Twitter, the microblog darling of the Internet, which, as TechCrunch tells us, turned three last week.

Unfamiliar with the Twitter craze? Here is a nice, brief primer from the Christian Science Monitor, complete with etiquette, slang, and suggestions.

If you are interested in trying it out, go to and sign up. It only takes a minute.

Then send me a tweet to @pjkwik.

Fun Friday: A Reason for Print? Part II

I have to agree with these folks; part of me is going to miss the newspapers.

March 26, 2009

How Big of a Mess is the Internet?

Is the Internet a mess that needs government regulation to clean it up?

Or does it function just fine the way it is?

Read a commentary from the American Library Association TechSource blog that argues the first point: "Like the economic crisis, the Internet is... a giant mess that no one really understands... In the United States, can we point to any government or private agency that is truly in charge of regulating the Internet? Is anyone truly charged with the task of preventing online piracy, identity theft or child endangerment that can come from Internet use?"

What do you think? My thoughts can be found in the comments section of the ALA post.

President's Online Town Hall Meeting a Good Use of the Technology

I watched part of President Obama's online town hall meeting this morning. In all, 92,933 peopel went online to submit 104,077 questions and cast 3,605,999 votes on which questions should be answered by the President. Five questions were chosen.

Though there were no new policy announcements made, the online meeting was an interesting political event. It was well-choreographed and excellently streamed, and a nice use of social networking media.

While I would have preferred a real-time online meeting, I think that the Administration made good use of the technology. If this will lead to more openness and transparency in government, it will be a good thing.

Free Practice ACTs and SATs

It's that time of year for high school juniors. To gain admission to the college of their choice, students are going to need to excel on the ACT and SAT tests. The Princeton Review of Ann Arbor is offering free practice tests on May 16 in the metro Detroit area. They also offer a follow-up session for improving scores. Click here for more information.

Great Computer Videos in Plain English

I love the Common Craft In Plain English videos. In particular, I have used RSS in Plain English and Blogs in Plain English in the Web 2.0 classes I teach. They are excellent, brief, funny, and “in plain English,” suitable for beginners and those exploring new topics.

Here’s the latest from Common Craft, Computer Software in Plain English.

Two thumbs. up.

EBook Readers Compared; Selection Grows

Amazon made news last month when it released its Kindle 2 ebook reader.

Though the best known, the Kindle isn’t the only ebook reader out there. Here is a roundup of the pros and cons of seven of the most popular readers available today, from Wired.

On a related topic, Sony – one of Amazon’s main competitors – has reached an agreement with Google to offer 500,000 public domain titles available from Google Book to Sony’s ebook users. This is the largest collection of any kind available for any ebook format.

President to Host Online Town Hall Meeting on Economy at 11:30 am, March 26

Last week, I wrote about a project of The Nation, The Washington Times, and the Personal Democracy Forum, called Ask the President, a website on which users submit questions and then vote on the questions they would like to see asked President Obama at a press conference. The most highly voted questions will then be given to a credentialed journalist, who will ask the most appropriate one if given the opportunity.

The Administration has created its own version of this – with a little more presidential control.

In what is being built as on “online town hall meeting,” President Obama will answer questions about the economy which were submitted to the Open for Questions page on, and then voted on by others.

The president will answer the most popular questions on March 26, at 11:30 a.m., live on

As of about 12 hours before the event, 64,243 questions had been submitted. You can still submit your question until 9:30 a.m.

March 25, 2009

Wireless Users Are More Engaged in Web 2.0

Those of us who use mobile technology – cell phones, laptops, PDAs – are more electronically active in digital life and more involved with Web 2.0 tools than those who use wires to plug into the Internet.

According to the latest Pew Internet and American Life Project report, The Mobile Difference, 39% of Americans have positive and improving attitudes toward mobile communication devices, which in turn draws them further into engagement with digital resources.

The report, based on data collected in December 2007, found that:
  • 8% of adults use mobile devices and broadband platforms for continual information exchange to collaborate with their social networks;
  • 7% of adults actively use mobile devices and social networking tool, yet are ambivalent about all the connectivity;
  • 8% of Americans find mobility lighting their information pathways, but have comparatively few tech assets at home; and
  • 16% of adults are active conduits of content and information.
The remaining 61% are anchored to stationary media; though many have broadband and cell phones, coping with access is often too much for them.

March 24, 2009

How to Save the News Industry

We have written a lot about the decline of the print newspaper industry as more and more Americans find their news online. The industry seems to have been caught completely off-guard by the rise of the Internet as a vehicle for news.

There are some signs of hope, as a few news outlets and media strategists are trying to create a new business model for the industry.

The British Guardian, for example, will let anyone use the content on its website for free. How does the company plan on making money? Instead of trying to charge for content that can easily be duplicated, the Guardian will let anyone duplicate and use its content and then slap ads on top of everything.

The Financial Times of London has launched Newssift, a semantic search engine that sifts through business news across the Internet. It returns impressive results, especially for bigger companies and broader topics.

Meanwhile, social media strategist and blog author Woody Lewis, writes on five ways newspapers can avoid extinction for

Several Daily Michigan Newspapers to Consolidate or Fold

Not only are big city newspapers in trouble.

According the Detroit News website, eight Michigan daily newspapers have announced plans to cut home delivery or close for good.

In July, the Ann Arbor News will close and be replaced by, which will produce news and other content daily on the Web and twice-weekly in print.

Starting June 1, the Flint Journal, the Saginaw News and the Bay City Times will publish print editions only on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, while maintaining a daily Web presence. Four other papers -- the Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, and Muskegon Chronicle -- will publish daily but consolidate some operations and reduce wages and benefits.

The local newspaper industry has mirrored the chaos in the national industry. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press are reducing their print subscriptions to three days a week, and in March, the publisher of the Oakland Press, the Macomb Daily and Royal Oak's Daily Tribune, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month.

It will be interesting to see the state of Michigan newspapers at the end of 2009.

Google Voice - The Future of Voicemail?

Over the next couple of weeks, Google plans to unveil an all new service called Google Voice, which hopes to be your voicemail of the future and a central hub of all of your calls. The features of Google Voice are many, especially when compared to regular voicemail.

Here is a quick rundown, courtesy of Google:

Google number -- One number for all your calls and SMS
  • Call screening -- Announce and screen callers
  • Listen in -- Listen before taking a call
  • Block calls -- Keep unwanted callers at bay
  • SMS -- Send, receive, and store SMS
  • Place calls -- Call US numbers for free
  • Taking calls -- Answer on any of your phones
  • Phone routing -- Phones ring based on who calls
  • Forwarding phones -- Add phones and decide which ring.
Google voicemail -- Voicemail as easy as email, with transcripts
  • Voicemail transcripts -- Read what your voicemail says
  • Listen to voicemail -- Check online or from your phone
  • Notifications -- Receive voicemails via email or SMS
  • Personalize greeting -- Vary greetings by caller
  • Share voicemail -- Forward or download voicemails
Voice features -- More cool things you can do with Google Voice
  • Conference calling -- Join people into a single call
  • Call record -- Record calls and store them online
  • Call switch -- Switch phones during a call
  • Mobile site -- View your inbox from your mobile
  • GOOG-411 -- Check directory assistance
  • Manage groups -- Set preferences by group
The features that stand out the most to me are the voicemail transcription and the central phone hub features. I have been using a free service called Youmail which provides similar functionality to what Google plans on offering (limited voicemail transcription, online voicemail management, custom greetings), but that service is clearly more limited.

This new service from Google seems quite exciting but may be a bit scary for the privacy concerned.

For more information, as well as a great review, check out Gina Trapani's post at her new blog,

March 23, 2009

Find the Right Color in Google Image Search

You have probably used Google Image Search to help you find images on the Internet. Now, according to blog Google Operating System, you can filter your results by color.

Once you perform your image search, type &imgcolor=colorname at the end of the resulting URL, where colorname is a color of your choice. Then, redo your search.

So, if you want pictures of orange kitties, search "kitties" in Google Image Search. The URL of the results page is

Then, add &imgcolor=orange at the end of the URL and search again. You’ll receive 36,000 results – many fewer than that 2+ million of the original search.

Nice tip if you need a specific image matched to an existing color scheme.

[via Lifehacker]

Baby Boomers Are Adopting New Technology Faster than Others

A new Consumer Electronics Usage Survey from Accenture indicates that Baby Boomers (those over 45 years old) are adopting consumer technology nearly 20 times faster than younger generations. Meanwhile, use and adoption by Gen Y (18-28 years old) seems to have leveled off.

According to the report, Boomers:
  • increased reading blogs and listening to podcasts by 67% year over the year; nearly 80 times faster than Gen Y (1%);
  • posted a 59% increase in using social networking sites — more than 30 times faster than Gen Y (2%);
  • increased watching/posting videos on the Internet by 35% — while Gen Y usage decreased slightly (-2%);
  • accelerated playing video games on the go via mobile devices by 52% — 20 times faster than Gen Y (2%); and
  • increased listening to music on an iPod or other portable music player by 49% — more than four times faster than Gen Y (12%).

[via iLibrarian]

March 22, 2009

Sagan's Cosmos Series Online on Hulu

Here is a good resource for teachers, from Bad Astronomy.

Hulu is carrying the entire popular and highly acclaimed Public Broadcasting Service series Cosmos. First broadcast in 1980, Cosmos won an Emmy and a Peabody Award, and popularized astronomy to more than 600 million people in 60 countries. The series made its narrator, astronomer Carl Sagan, a household name.

A Blog from Space

A fascinating account of relaxing and watching the world go by -- literally -- by International Space Station Astronaut Sandra Mangus.

[via Bad Astronomy]

Reopen Closed Tabs in Firefox

For those of you who use Firefox in your Internet browsing, here is a tip I just learned from Lifehacker: if you accidentally close a tab that you still need to use, just click Shift+Ctrl+T and the last tab you closed will reopen.

I often have a dozen or more tabs open, and inevitably, close one I still need. I have used this shortcut several times in the past few days, saving me from retracing many steps.

Ten Social Sites to Improve Your Resume

Looking for a job?

Here are ten social sites with features that let you create your own resume-like profile, edit your resume online, get it reviewed by experts, print it, and share it on social networks.

[via mashable]

Improve Your Vacation with Social Networking Sites

Now that summer is coming soon -- it is, right? -- I am sure you are starting to plan your summer holiday.

Mashable has some suggestions for how to use social media to make the most of your next vacation.

Design an Evening Post Cover for the Detroit Insitute of Arts

In conjunction with its Art of Norman Rockwell exhibit, which runs through May 31, the Detroit Institute of Arts has invited everyone to draw their own DIA Evening Post covers answering the question, "Who's your family?"

See the creative results on the DIA's Flickr page.

For exhibit ticket information.

March 21, 2009

Ask the President at a Press Conference

Have you ever wanted to leap to your feet at a presidential press conference and ask a hard-hitting question? If The Nation, The Washington Times, and the Personal Democracy Forum have their way, you might have your chance.

Sort of.

The three organizations have teamed up to launch Ask the President, a website that hopes to get President Barack Obama to answer questions from regular folks during his press conferences.

On Ask the President, users submit questions and then vote on the questions they would like to see asked. The most highly voted questions will then be given to a credentialed journalist, who will ask the most appropriate one if given the opportunity.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the journalist will be called on, as The Nation explains: “The East Room press conferences are among the most exclusive and least democratic public gatherings in American politics; the White House controls who attends and who gets called on. So the coalition is appealing directly to the Obama administration to admit and call on the journalist armed with citizen questions.”

The President has pledge a more open and innovative government. Ask a President could be a step in this direction.

[via mashable]

Riding Out the Recession in a Virtual Classroom

As layoffs mount and workers look for ways to boost their resumes or reboot their careers, many are turning to online education to ride out the recession. Schools offering online degrees or professional certifications are thriving.

Read the full report from

March 20, 2009

Microsoft Releases Internet Explorer 8

Microsoft has released the latest version of Internet Explorer – IE8 – as a free download for Windows Vista and Windows XP. IE8 is a manual download now, but will be pushed out to all Windows users running Windows Updater later this spring.

The company has promised that IE8 improves speed, stability, security, standards and search. Among the enhancements are: a new bookmark manager, the ability to isolate and print a specific part of any page, right-clicking on addresses to go straight to a map without leaving your page, and putting keywords in the address bar to recall sites visited related to that word.

Read more from and from Arstechnica.

I have not, yet, downloaded IE8, but I plan on soon. In the meantime, if you have tried it, I would like to hear your thoughts.

Undo Embarrassing Emails with Gmail's Undo Send

Tired of sending emails that you really should not have sent?

A few months ago, I wrote about Mail Goggles – a feature in Google’s gmail that, when enabled, will ask you a series of math questions before sending your email. The idea is that if you are not in the right state of mind to solve a few math problems, you might want to reconsider sending the email you just wrote.

Now Google has added another feature to gmail – Undo Send – that puts a five to 10-second hold on all outgoing messages. So if you sent an email with a typo, or to the wrong person, or one in which you said something you should not have, Undo Send can help you out.

Gmail users can enable the Undo Send feature by going into their Labs settings (the green flask at the top of the screen) and turning it on. When enabled, every time you send an e-mail, you'll see an undo link at the end of the confirmation message that appears at the top of your inbox. Do nothing and the email is sent. Click undo and the email reverts back to your compose screen.

Undo Send cannot pull back an email that has already gone out. But using it with Mail Goggles should help you stop sending embarrassing – or costly – emails.


March 19, 2009

Library of Michigan Hosts Genealogy Seminar on April 4

Genealogists and family history researchers can discover tools and tips to make their search for ancestors more productive at Learning More at the Library of Michigan: Online Genealogy, on Saturday, April 4, at the Michigan Library and Historical Center in Lansing. The Library houses one of the top 10 genealogy collections in the United States.

This free annual seminar – which typically attracts 300 Michiganians interested in exploring their roots -- will highlight the growing number of free Web sites and subscription databases for family history research.

Among the topics to be discussed are: Effectively Using HeritageQuest Online; Finding Free Vital Records; Ancestry Library Edition; Utilizing Footnote at the Library of Michigan and from Home; Seeking Michigan Death Records? A New Digitization Project; and Accessing Obituaries on the Internet.

The free, half-day workshop runs from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Michigan Library and Historical Center, located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St. Free weekend parking is available at the Library's parking lot off Kalamazoo. Seating is limited, so registration is recommended. Sign up online at For more information, phone at 517.373.1300.

More Information on the Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Following the progress of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 – the stimulus bill? Check out these sites:

view a map with links to each state's recovery web page, that helps explain how they are spending funds allocated by the Act;

the Department of Education's economic stimulus webpage; and

the Department of Labor announced funding for employment and training
under ARRA.

March 18, 2009

Free Tax Help on Saturday, March 21

On Saturday, March 21, the IRS is offering free tax assistance and preparation at several sites across this country. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman notes:
“Because of the economic downturn, many financially distressed taxpayers may be in need of free services. Our Super Saturday service will make it a little easier for people to get that help. Although our Taxpayer Assistance Centers are not normally open on Saturdays, we’re trying to go the extra mile in these difficult times. Our Super Saturday service will help people get their refunds quickly. Also, if you think you owe taxes and can’t pay, please come in and talk to us about it. There are steps we can take to help.”

For more information about Super Saturday and a list of qualifications for free tax preparation, go here. For a list of locations and times of Super Saturday sites in Michigan, visit here.

March 17, 2009

Twitter Use Explodes; Facebook Increases Lead on MySpaceUse

Use of Twitter -- the microblog darling of the Internet -- continues to explode.

The latest numbers from Nielsen Online indicate that Twitter grew an unbelievable 1,382% in one year -- from February 2008 to February 2009 -- with over 7 million unique visitors in the United States. From January to February in this year alone, Twitter grew from 4.5 million to 7 million visitors, a 50% increase.

Meanwhile, Facebook, with 65.7 million unique visitors, increased its lead on MySpace, with 54.1 million visitors.

According to Adam Ostrow, writing on Mashable:
"While Facebook remains several orders of magnitude bigger [than Twitter], its recent move to a real-time homepage and its overhaul of Facebook Pages is seen by many as a move to thwart Twitter’s continued growth. It will be a few months until this shows up in the numbers and gives us some sort of indication as to whether or not that strategy is working, but for now, both networking sites are enjoying tremendous growth."

Spectacular Second Novels, Cursed Second Novels, and One-hit Literary Wonders

Here, from the timesonline, are lists of ten spectacular second novels, ten cursed second novels, and ten literary one-hit wonders.

[via boingboing]

Write Better with Microsoft Word Readability Statistics

I write a lot in both my professional and in my personal life. I like to write, so I look for ways to improve my writing.

One way that I have improved my writing is with a Microsoft Word tool called Readability Statistics. Readability Statistics is that gray box that pops up after you do a spell check in Word. Many people ignore this pop-up. But if you want to improve your writing, pay attention to it.

First, you have to make sure you turn on the Readability Statistics tool. That’s simple.

In Word 2007, click on the Windows button in the top left corner of your screen, and then on Word Options. When you are in the Word Options pop-up, click on Proofing on the left, and then under When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, make sure that Show readability statistics is checked.

In Word 2003, click on the Tools drop-down menu, then Options, then the Spelling and Grammar tab. Toward the bottom of the tab, under Grammar, make sure the Show readability statistics is checked.

Now, after you spell check your document, the Readability Statistics will pop up.

The pop-up has three areas.

The first – Counts – tells you how many words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences are in your document. Though you might not need to know how many characters your document has, knowing how many words it has is often helpful.

Say you are writing an article, and your editor is saving space for your 1,500 word masterpiece. She won’t be pleased if you turn in only 400. Or say your boss asks you to read an article and write a 250-word abstract he can digest before a big meeting. He won’t be happy if you give him 2,000 words.

Writing to a specific length is not easy. Knowing how much room you have to say something and then hitting that target takes practice.

Averages – the second area of Readability Statistics – shows you how many sentences you have per paragraph, how many words per sentence, and how many characters per word. I’ll admit it: Not all that interesting.

But the third area of the Statistics – Readability – is very useful. Under Readability, you will find what percentage of your sentences is in the “passive voice.” The passive voice means that the object of a sentence has something done to it. (i.e., “The ball was thrown by Jim.”) This differs from the active voice, where the subject is doing something. (i.e., “Jim threw the ball.)

Though there may be times you want to use the passive voice, too much use of this voice makes your writing slow, plodding, and uninteresting. With Readability you can find your passive sentences, and change them into active, action sentences.

Under Readability, you will also find the Flesch-Reading Ease score and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score. Both tell you toward what level your writing it geared. The first is based on a 100 point scale. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand your document. The second is based on U.S. school levels. A score of 8.0, for instance, means that your writing it geared toward an eighth grade reading level.

So if you are preparing a lesson plan for your 4th grade class, and your Flesch-Kincaid Grade score is 11.5, you might want to rewrite: make your sentences shorter, use fewer big words, etc. Likewise, if you are finishing up your doctoral thesis, and your Grade score is 4.0, you probably need to beef up your text.

If you want to improve your writing, and more closely gear it toward your audience, keep an eye on the Readability Statistics.

By the way, this post has 626 words and is geared toward a 7.6 grade reading level.

2009 Movers and Shakers in Libraries

The Librarian by Day blog has posted information, websites and blogs for Library Journal's 2009 Movers and Shakers in the library profession.

If you are interested in the leading innovators and innovations in libraries today, take a look.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Goes All Online

As I wrote might happen, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ended its print edition today and has become the latest big-city newspaper to go all online.

[via boingboing]

Seeking Michigan Digitizes Michigan History

Interested in Michigan history? Take a look at Seeking Michigan, a new website of digitized documents, maps, films, images, oral histories and artifacts, which tell the stories of the State's families, homes, businesses, communities and landscapes.

Seeking Michigan includes one million death records covering the years 1897 through 1920. These records -- never before available electronically -- are indexed for searching by name, death date, location and age, and hold tremendous research opportunities for genealogists, historians and students.

In addition, the site currently has:
  • more than 100,000 pages of Civil War documents;
  • approximately 10,000 photographs;
  • a variety of Michigan sheet music;
  • a rich section about Michigan's 44 past governors;
  • Works Progress Administration data (circa 1936-1942) about land and buildings throughout rural Michigan; and
  • oral histories with notable Michigan residents.
According to Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center, Seeking Michigan moves the archives and library experience outside of the bricks and mortar of the building in which the collections are housed. By employing the latest Web technologies and social media, the site aims for an enhanced user experience.

Seeking Michigan is a project of the Archives of Michigan and the Library of Michigan. Funding is from the Talbert and Leota Abrams Foundation, a Lansing-based nonprofit that has provided more than $2.5 million toward the development of the Library of Michigan's and Archives of Michigan' genealogy collection. The National Historic Publications and Records Commission provided additional funding.

March 14, 2009

Death in Physical World Doesn't Mean Death in Virtual World

With the rise of virtual worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft and social networking sites such as Facebook, people today often have two sets of acquaintances. When a person dies, it is relatively easy to track down real world friends and family.

However, how do you contact that persons "virtual" friends, people who may only know the person through "tweets" or as a character in a virtual world? The Associated Press, in an article called Death of Gamers Leave Their Online Lives in Limbo discusses this growing problem.

March 13, 2009

An Insider's View of How the News Industry Will Survive

At The Tech Desk, we have been covering the state of the print news industry as we near the end of the first decade of the 21st century. It is not good.

An insider, Nick Bilton, an editor in The New York Times research and development lab, tells Wired how he believes The Times will survive:
"In-depth reporting can get a second life being re-packaged as a standalone e-book. Stories can be made to work with networked televisions, letting people see video interviews, high-res pictures, map views and timelines. They could even read excerpts from or even buy books written by experts quoted in a story.

"Paper is dying, but it's just a device. Replacing it with pixels is a better experience."

Fun Friday: Books and Music That Make You Dumb

Here are some books and some music that make you dumb, according to Virgil Griffith, a PhD student at CalTech.

As you take a look, I'll be reading 100 Years of Solitude and listening to a little bit of Beethoven.

[via MetaFilter]

New Mac OS -- Snow Leopard -- Expected this Summer

9to5 Mac has reported that the newest operating system for Apple Macintosh computers -- Snow Leopard or OS X 10.6 -- will be released in early June.

[via Lifehacker]

March 12, 2009

Delete Old Accounts from Social Sites

More people are visiting social network sites. This means there are more profiles out there, and more that have been abandoned.

If you have decided not to use a social network site for which you have created an account, here is a handy article by Eric Griffith at PC Magazine that will show you how to delete an account from any website. The author provides step-by-step instructions, phone and fax numbers, links, and tips for how to delete your profile from the most popular sites including, Facebook, MySpace,, eBay, iTunes, Netflix, PayPal, Twitter, Flickr, AOL/AIM, and Yahoo.

[via iLibrarian]

Getting the Most Out of Your Library

Here’s a great article from U.S. News and World Report, geared toward college students, on getting the most out of the 21st century library, written by Alice Sneary, head of the community team at the Online Community Library Center library cooperative, known as OCLC.

Among her tips, good for all library users to keep in mind, are:

Use the library’s website – the virtual library. It is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Don’t miss the databases. “There’s a world of knowledge beyond the quick Google search, including scholarly content that your library pays for that is NOT indexed in search engines,” Sneary writes.

Take advantage of Audiobooks. The author advises: “Audio versions of classics like Shakespeare's works are entertaining and can help unlock meanings you might miss on the page. E-audiobooks can also help with learning foreign languages. Transfer titles to a portable device, and take them with you.”

And, finally, Sneary's most important tip: “Ask for help. Take a tour, and get to know the librarians on staff. With your GPA and those tuition dollars at stake, it’s time well spent. Librarians are trained professionals who are there to help you find and make sense of information. Plus, many university libraries have subject specialists with advanced degrees in your field. Use them.”

[via stephenslighthouse]

More Bad News for Local Newspapers

As many major big-city newspapers appear ready to collapse, more bad news for the print media industry: according the weekly News Interest Index, conducted March 6-9, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, fewer than half of Americans (43%) say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community "a lot." Even fewer (33%) say they would personally miss reading the local newspaper a lot if it were no longer available.

When it comes to local news, more people say they get that news from local television stations than any other source. Sixty-eight percent say they regularly get local news from television reports or television station websites, 48% say they regularly get news from local newspapers in print or online, 34% say they get local news regularly from radio and 31% say they get their local news, more generally, from the Internet.

Happy Read an E-Book Week!

Not only is it Teen Tech Week, March 8-14 is also Read an E-Book Week. Check out for all sorts of information about e-books, e-book readers, places to purchase or download free e-books, iPhone apps to turn your phone into an e-book reader, and more.

Remember, the Troy Public Library offers 2 sources for free e-books: NetLibrary and OverDrive. You can access these services here.

Listen to an AudioBook During Teen Tech Week

The American Library Association has designated March 8-14 as Teen Tech Week. Checking out the many audiobooks available at the Troy Public Library would be a great way to celebrate it. Go to YALSA's 2009 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults for titles that might interest you.

To see how we are celebrating TTW at the Library, click here.

Social Networking Outpaces Email Around the World

More evidence that social networking is becoming one of the main reasons people access the Internet.

New statistics from Nielsen Online show that by the end of 2008, social networking had overtaken email in terms of worldwide reach. Sixty-eight percent of Internet users around the world used social network sites last year, compared to 65.1% for email. The most popular online activities remain search and Web portals, with around 85% reach, and the websites of software manufacturers.

This growth is led by Facebook, which is outpacing the growth of all other social network sites by ten times.

Social networkers spent 63% more time on member communities than they did in the previous year. Again, Facebook led the way, with its members spending 566% more time on it than in 2007.

Read the full report on

March 11, 2009

Ten Major Newspapers to Fold or Go Digital in 2009?

The restructuring in the traditional print media business continues.

From Time magazine, here is a list of ten major newspapers that will either fold or go digital next. Analysts expect that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer -- Seattle's oldest daily -- will make the choice within a few days.

On the list are some powerhouses of print: the Detroit News, the Miami Herald, the Boston Globe, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Writes Time, "It is possible that eight of the fifty largest daily newspapers in the United States could cease publication in the next eighteen months."

March 10, 2009

Want IE Rendering in Firefox? Check out the IE Tab Addon for Firefox

Firefox has been and continues to be my Internet browser of choice. Unfortunately there are times where I run into a web page that only works in IE or loses its functionality in Firefox. A perfect example of this is with Outlook Web Access (OWA). In Internet Explorer, you are able to have the full functionality of the site, where in Firefox you receive a "lite" version of the same website.

Now, with the IE Tab Add-on, you will be able to get that full functionality back into your Firefox browser. All you have to do is follow these steps:
  1. Go to the Firefox Add-ons page
  2. Click on Add to Firefox (Windows)
  3. Click on "Install Now"
  4. Restart Firefox
  5. Go to Tools and click on IE Tab Options
  6. Under the "Sites Filter" tab, enter in your OWA web address or whatever site you want to be rendered in Internet Explorer.
  7. Test it out!

Daniel Schorr on Twitter and Web-based Media

Recently, National Public Radio's social media strategist Andy Carvin spent a Saturday morning with NPR's 92-year-old senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, explaining to him the ins-and-outs of Twitter, the latest Internet microblogging trend.

Carvin writes:
"There we were in the studio — Schorr, Scott Simon and I, three generations of people who each grew up with vastly different experiences when it comes to journalism and technology. When Dan filed his first story in the late 1920s — no, that's not a typo — he had to scramble to find a telephone in the neighborhood to get it to his editors, who then worked the text into something that would be read the next day by people throughout the Bronx, N.Y. Flash forward to 2009, and I'm standing on the National Mall filing from Barack Obama's inauguration using tweets and text messaging, interacting directly with people around the world in real time."

Schorr's observations are worth reading:
"It somehow reminds me... of something in ancient Greece, the agora, the marketplace. You come out and you say things at the marketplace and everyone can hear. And every person now seems to be a network."

When Carvin asked Schorr what he thinks we are losing in web-based media, Schorr replied:
"What we are losing is editing. I grew up and nothing could be communicated to the outside world that didn't go through an editor to make sure you had your facts right, spelling right and so on. Now, every person is his or her own publisher and/or her own editor or her own reporter. And the world is full of people who are sending out what they consider to be news. It may be, it may not be, it may be made up and it doesn't matter anymore. That, to me, is the worst part of this. The discipline that should go with being able to communicate is gone."

Carvin's response?
"I offered up two recent examples of breaking news stories that played out on Twitter: the attacks in Mumbai and the riots in Greece. Occasionally, you'd see stories circulating on the Internet — or even on air — that weren't necessarily true but because it was happening so fast it was hard to keep up with it. And then people on Twitter and Facebook started asking, 'Are you really sure about that? Did you see this yourself? Did you get this from a news source? Did you get this from a blog?' And so, in a way a system of checks and balances kicks into high gear with people who are just innately very skeptical — wanting to get to the heart of a matter. And sometimes stories actually get debunked that way."

Despite what he sees as drawbacks, Schorr, like a trooper, decided to try out Twitter. You can follow him at @danielschorr.

March 9, 2009

Check Mittenlit for Books about Michigan and Michigan Authors

Interested in books about Michigan? You might want to try

Mittenlit gives you up-to-date information about new books by Michigan authors, books about Michigan, and news of authors touring in Michigan. It includes author interviews, upcoming literary events at bookstores and libraries, and more.

Mittenlit is written by Bill Castanier, a literary journalist for Lansing City Pulse, and Ben Castanier, an on-line bookseller and reviewer from Ann Arbor.

Magazines: Hard Copy or Electronic Copy?

The debate about whether you like to read your magazines in their original hard copy form or in their electronic form is becoming a moot point as more and more magazines are closing shop.

Effective in March, Country Home, the popular country-style magazine, will permanently shut down. In addition, the magazine's website will also go dark. The Meredith Corporation made the announcement in January. Meredith blames the economy for Country Home’s demise.

Last year, Hearst’s O at Home, Condé Nast’s House & Garden, and Time Inc.’s Cottage Living all stopped producing issues and shut down their websites, victims of the poor economy.

Really "Free" Credit Report

By now, everyone has heard and seen the commercials for While the jingle is catchy, you may be surprised to learn that by using you are signing up for a credit monitoring service. From their website:
"When you order your free report here, you will begin your free trial membership in Triple AdvantageSM Credit Monitoring. If you don't cancel your membership within the 7-day trial period, you will be billed $14.95 for each month that you continue your membership."

For a truly free credit report, use This site is recommended by Federal Trade Commission.

Remember, according to federal law you are entitled to a free credit report each year from the three credit reporting agencies (
Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). For additional information, please see this FAQ from the Federal Trade Commission.

Superbrain Yoga

Do you want to know how to be smart and do well in school?

Watch this video that tells how to make your brain a "Super Brain" through yoga exercises.

Twitter Explained

Julia Angwin has written an excellent primer on Twitter for the Wall Street Journal.
"When I first joined Twitter, I felt like I was in a noisy bar where everyone was shouting and nobody was listening.

Soon, I began to decode its many mysteries: how to find a flock of followers, how to talk to them in a medium that blasts to lots of people at once and how to be witty in very tiny doses...

Twitter is useful precisely because so many people are talking about different things at once. When he was president of Sling Media, for instance, Jason Hirschhorn constantly monitored the keyword "sling" on Twitter. "It's an up-to-the minute temperature of what people are saying about your brand," he said. He left the consumer electronics company last month."

[via iLibrarian]

Book Lovers: Here's 10 for You

Attention book lovers: Here, from iLibrarian, are 10 websites that you might not have heard about.

Free Alternatives to Photoshop

If you use images and photographs a lot in your work, Adobe Photoshop is a great tool which allows for better graphics and increased productivity. However, with it's hefty price tag ($200) it is not always affordable for individuals or small institutions.

Here, from are 10 excellent open source and free alternatives to Photoshop.

Good Morning America Catches Twitter Fever

Twitter is all the rage. It seems that everyone from Ashton Kutcher to MC Hammer is tweeting. Good Morning America recently featured a segment on Twitter and briefly talked to Biz Stone, founder of Twitter. Take a listen to what GMA had to say about Twitter.

Free Resume Printing at FedEx Office (Kinko's) on March 10

If you are a job hunter, here is a good suggestion from Lifehacker on how to save a couple of dollars:

FedEx Office (formerly Kinko's) is giving away free resume printing Tuesday, March 10. They will print 25 one sided, black and white sheets on resume quality paper for you for free.

Most jobs require you to send your resume electronically, but if you are going to an interview or have another need for paper resumes, this is not a bad deal.

March 8, 2009

Power to the Peeps!

I am not a fan of Peeps – those brightly colored, marshmallow, chicks and rabbits that appear every spring, as a harbinger of better days to come.

However, enough folks must be to have prompted the Washington Post to sponsor a Peeps Diorama Contest, now in its third year. According to the Post:
"We want you to make a diorama of a famous occurrence or scene or concept. It can be a historic, current or future event. It can be a nod to pop culture. It can be an evocation of an idea or abstraction. The one rule is that all the characters in the diorama must be played by Peeps..."

To read more and to enter, go to Power to the Peeps.

And to be inspired, see last year’s winners.

Deadline is March 15. You might win $100.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer to Go All Online?

According to Reuters [via], it looks like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the longest-published newspaper in Seattle, is going to stop publishing a print edition and go all-online.

Several reporters said they had received offers from the paper’s owner, the Hearst Corporation, to work for an online-only successor to the print edition. One reporter was quoted as saying that an online-only paper would employ about 20 people. The newspaper now has a staff of about 150.

Hearst said on January 9, that it would close the paper or go all-online if it could not find a buyer in 60 days. No buyer has emerged and an announcement on the paper’s future is expected next week.

March 6, 2009

Compare Internet Browsers of Today and Tomorrow

Recently, I posted how Windows 7 -- Microsoft's new operating system due out later this year -- might allow you to remove Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) web browser from your computer, if you use one of the alternative browsers -- Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, Opera, etc. Today, about 1/3 of Internet surfers use a browser other than IE.

It occurred to me that many of you might be interested in an alternative to Internet Explorer, but might not know what other browsers exist or whether or not they are any good.

For you, here is a nice little review of 9 existing and beta browsers,
Browser Battle: Nine Browsers of Today and Tomorrow Compared, from

[via Lifehacker]

Museum of Modern Art Recreates Itself Online; Add Large Social Network Component

The New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has redesigned its website after seven years.

The site,, which debuted today, is, according to Randy Kennedy writing in The New York Times, "an almost complete reconstruction of how the museum presents itself online. It features livelier images from its collection and exhibitions, increased use of video and the new interactive calendars and maps... the museum wants the site to transform how the public interacts with an institution that can sometimes seem forbidding and monolithic."

The site will now include a high degree of social networking: There is a “social bar” at the bottom of the page, which when clicked will expand to show images and other information that users can “collect” and share after registering for a free account at the Web site.

Again according to the Times:
“A user could build a portfolio of Walker Evans photographs or Elizabeth Murray paintings and send them to friends... The site will also eventually make it easy for users both casual and scholarly to trace lines of interest, digging up more information about works from publications and curators…

The new site includes an area called MoMA Voices that [museum officials]… see as a place where blogs will begin to form and where new ideas about how to have conversations will grow organically.

Museum visitors with cellphones will be able to text the number associated with an artwork to an area on the museum’s Web site. In this way they can later review and organize what they have seen.”

Facebook Reality

The Economist has an interesting article about Facebook and "friends." Money graph:
Put differently, people who are members of online social networks are not so much “networking” as they are “broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who aren’t necessarily inside the Dunbar circle,” says Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a polling organisation. Humans may be advertising themselves more efficiently. But they still have the same small circles of intimacy as ever."

So if you have a half-dozen friends in real life, you're likely to have no more in Facebook. Hmm.

Streaming Video Grows; YouTube Reports 6.3 Billion Videos Viewed

Two stories about the rise of streaming video on the Internet.

In the first, John Biggs writing for ChrunchGear, discusses the shift from optical video to streaming video in just the past few years, resulting in complete dominance of the latter. The Internet is full of streaming video. It is everywhere, on every page. Interesting.

To back that up, comScore’s online video numbers for the United States in January are out, and YouTube reported 100.9 million visitors, who viewed 6.3 billion videos, surpassing the 100 million viewers milestone in the United States for the first time. [via mashable]

March 5, 2009

Play Rock Band with the Beatles -- Soon!

In case you ever dreamed of backing up John Lennon and Paul McCartney:

According to Rolling Stone, MTV, Harmonix and the Beatles’ Apple Corps, Ltd.. announced that they will partner to create a video game for Rock Band, based on the music of the Beatles, to be released in 2009.

The game will take the player on a musical journey of the Beatles music, from Please, Please Me to Abbey Road. It is the first time that
Beatles music has been presented in an interactive, video game format.

It is not clear at this point whether Beatles content would be available for Rock Band or whether the game would feature avatars of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

Celebrate Teen Tech Week at the Troy Library

In honor of this year's Teen Tech Week, March 8 - 14, the Troy Public Library will sponsor a teen scavenger hunt that will highlight the Library's databases, downloadable books, and other electronic resources.

All young people between the ages of 13 and 18 who have a Troy Library card are eligible to participate in the hunt. There will be a drawing of prizes of Visa gift cards, video game rentals, and flash drives, for those who successfully finish the hunt.

For more information, contact the Library's Teen Librarian Judy Frankin, at The scavenger hunt ends on March 16.

Teen Tech Week is an annual event sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association to celebrate and showcase the technology and non-print resources that teens can use at the library.

Text Message Slang Might Not Be So Bad

While some parents, educators and language traditionalists argue that slang used in text messaging – either emoticons (such as :) ) or textisms (shortcuts like “b4” for before or “2nite” for tonight) –are eroding English skills among young people, a new report published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology tells a different story.

The study, conducted on 88 grade-school students by researchers at Coventry University in England, found no evidence of a relationship between frequently typing in textisms and diminished spelling ability.

In fact, the more textisms students used, the higher they tended to score on measures of word-based learning and vocabulary. This suggests that when young people use text message lingo, they are actually being artful – not just lazy – and building a heightened awareness of letter patterns and sounds.


[via Christian Science Monitor]

Remove Internet Explorer from Your Computer with Windows 7

Windows 7 – the new Microsoft operating system set to replace Vista later this year – can be used to remove Internet Explorer from your computer, according to the AeroXperience blog. Up to this point, it has been impossible to remove easily Microsoft’s web browser once it is installed.

There is a small but growing percentage of Internet users (estimates of over 30%) who have sworn off IE, in place of Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari or one of the other browsers. Errors and security holes in IE have lead to the increase in alternate browsers.

If you are ready to leave Internet Explorer for good, Windows 7 might help you out.

[via Lifehacker]

March 4, 2009

Readability Makes Reading Websites Easier

Have you ever tried to read a story on a website that had video streaming on one side of the page, boxes popping up as you moved the cursor on the other side, and ad images and links breaking up the text of the story?

Worse yet, have you ever tried to print such an article? Ads print incorrectly, text runs off the side of the page, and you are never sure if you have the entire story.

If so, you might try Readability, a simple tool that strips away the clutter around the text on website, making it easier to read – or to cut and paste – the content.

All you do is go to Readability, select how you want the text you read to appear – in small, medium or large size, with narrow or wide margins – and then drag the Readability icon to your browser’s tool bar.

Then, when you visit a page you want to read, just click on the icon in the toolbar.

Readability turns this page:

Into this:

[via metafiler]