The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Monday, September 23, 2002

I'm almost back to where I was in July. Email appears to have been restored, although I refuse to re-install it on my main PC for another day or so just in case. However, I'm still experiencing intermittent lapses of internet service, even though the new cable modem is in place. That means I sometimes post during the day but it doesn't appear until I get home and can re-start Radio. Other times I can't blog even when I am home. Of course, this is almost nothing to me now, and I take it in stride. I'll call on it tomorrow, though.

Also, I've bought a 60GB external hard drive for backups. I want to mirror specific directories to it in real-time. It came with Retrospect software, but their usability leaves much to be desired, and I can't even tell if it will do this. Can anyone recommend a good (and relatively inexpensive) program? Thanks!

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I Don't Know Why I Find This So Funny, But I Do

Transit Cops Turn to Music to Fight Crime

"Boston transit police have enlisted the late American composers George Gershwin and John Philip Sousa in their fight against crime.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police are piping in a mix of show tunes and marches at a city subway station in order to drive away the large numbers of aggressive teens who used to loiter there after school, the Boston Globe newspaper reported on Sunday....

MBTA officials said the sounds of brass and strings blaring over the newly installed speakers are already having their desired effect, reducing crowds at the Forest Hills station, where there had been two to three fights daily." [Excite News, via MP3 Insider]

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Archos Multimedia 20

The Revolution Will Be Televised

"Last week, I experienced that same thrill yet again when I was testing the Archos Jukebox Multimedia 20. This all-in-one, portable, digital entertainment system has a 20GB hard drive, a color LCD, add-on modules, and a bunch of ports that have never before been combined on such a device. The result: A portable digital audio product that plays videos and takes photos. You can use the Multimedia 20 to download movies from the Internet and watch them either on the device's small screen or any television--all for the same price as the new iPod.

One of the best ways to test a portable player is to commute with it. So there I sat on the subway, watching a German version of The Simpsons on the Multimedia 20's little color screen and listening to the dialogue in MP3 format. When I noticed the San Francisco Chronicle on an adjacent seat, I decided to switch the Archos to music mode and have a read....

So in terms of video convergence products, Norr is generally right--the big players are indeed waiting for Congress to give them approval to control what we do with video content before they bridge the gap between PCs and TVs. But I don't think that consumers are going to wait, not when companies such as Archos are already giving them what they want. Over the next year or so, I expect a rash of video-enabled portable entertainment devices to hit the market. It'll be interesting to see which gadgets consumers choose: devices such as the Multimedia 20, which let you do whatever you want wherever you are, or devices that most likely include some sort of onerous copyright protection, such as the one that Sony folks alluded to in a recent call to me.

Regardless of which companies end up controlling this new category, it's time to brace yourselves--the video version of the MP3 revolution is underway, and it could be as unkind to the big companies as the portable digital-audio market has been to them. For the moment, Archos has the front-runner with its groundbreaking Multimedia 20. You probably need one." [MP3 Insider, via Gizmodo]

My only issue with this article is the use of the word "probably." It must be rhetorical.

I've been lusting after one of these ever since it was first announced, and I'm starting to think I should buy one before Holywood succeeds in getting these types of devices pulled off the market. As much as I love the iPod, I'd get the Archos Multimedia 20 first. Now if only Audible books would work on them.

For multimedia blogging, I guess what we really need is a cross between this Archos and an iPod, although I suppose an OQO would work just as well.

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GPS Set To Invade Devices

Motorola: New Chip Will Bring GPS to All

"The company is unveiling a global positioning system chip it says is the first GPS device small enough and cheap enough for practical use in gadgets such as cell phones and notebooks....

'All of a sudden, starting 10 or 15 years ago, every electronics device had a clock,' said Tim McCarthy, business director for GPS at Motorola's Automotive Group's Telematics Division. "I see position awareness going down that same path. It's just a question of how long it takes."

Cellular phones with Enhanced 911 will likely be the first devices to adopt the Instant GPS chip, which Motorola is set to announce Tuesday. The chip could also be built into PDAs or laptop computers to aid in reading maps, and it could be used in walkie-talkies to provide an extra margin of safety for outdoor activities such as skiing." [CNET News.com]

This reminds me of a quote I once read from someone at GM, an executive of some sort within the company. He said, "Don't worry about On-Star. You'll be On-Star."

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RSS News Roundup

FOAF - "Friend of a Friend"

"In short though, FOAF is a way to describe yourself -- your name, email address, and who you're friends with -- using XML and RDF. This allows software to process these descriptions, perhaps as part of an automated search engine, to discover information about your and the communities of which you're a member. FOAF has the potential to drive many new interesting developments in online communities. In this way it's closely related to RSS, and 'blogrolls' on weblogs: exposing data in a machine-processable format enables a wide variety of applications to be constructed with some very interesting results.

The FOAF-a-matic is being provided as a quick and easy way for you to create your own FOAF description. Simply work through the forms on this page and complete whichever entries you'd like to add to your description. At a minimum you'll need to supply your name and email address, and similarly for any friends you might add. It's worth adding a few friends to your description (but feel free to add as many as you like) because then when FOAF harvesters index your FOAF description, they'll be able to tie you all together as a network of individuals."

Yahoo Finance RSS Beta. Got a stock ticker for which you'd like to have an RSS news feed? Help test the beta RSS feeds we've put up on Yahoo Finance. Take your favorite ticker, say YHOO, and put this URL in your news aggregator:... [Jeremy Zawodny's blog, via Jon Udell]

The continued grassroots work in this direction confirms that folks are getting impatient. Meta tags have never lived up to their promise, and folks want to RSSify their information worlds NOW. Both of these efforts are part of the current push for new forms of information discovery and aggregation.

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NetFlix = Disney, U.S. Post Office = AT&T?

Snail Mail Still Winning The Bandwidth War

"LR_none writes 'Today's New York Times has this short piece suggesting snail mail is the leading broadband technology, at least for video movies on demand. The article states that the 8 to 9 gigs of data on a DVD would take two weeks to download at 56kb, making Netflix' three-day distribution by mail seem speedy. (Since they can send three or more movies at once, Netflix compares favorably with DSL download speeds, too.) The author estimates Netflix alone distributes 1,500 terabytes a day, which is impressive considering the Internet carries 2,000TB a day (by estimates cited in the article). The 'immediate gratification' aspect of Internet consumerism has given a huge boost to companies like FedEx and UPS, but it's surprising to think of the post office as being the leading infrastructure provider for digital entertainment, in terms of market share and efficiency, for the forseeable future. (Disclaimer: I don't work for Netflix or the post office.)' " [Slashdot]

I'd have to agree with this assessment. I just received two NetFlix discs in the mail today, and I'm thrilled with their service. I would never in a million years get this selection, ease-of-use, and consistency from a movie company online, telco middleman, or P2P video sharing. Why can't Hollywood focus on how successful the DVD format has been and look at the digital cup as half full?

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MARGI Finally Comes To Clies!

PowerPoint Via Memory Stick

"Margi Systems--the folks behind a family of PowerPoint adapters for Palm OS and Pocket PC devices--announced this morning that Presenter to Go will soon be available in Memory Stick form for the Sony Clie. That means Clie users will now be able to send 1024x768-pixel PowerPoint presentations directly to VGA projectors via the Memory Stick slot. Presenter-to-Go for Memory Stick will be available in October for $199." [PDABuzz.com]

This would be so suh-weet! I'll be at the Illinois Library Association conference on Wednesday as part of a panel with Teri Ross-Embrey and Tom Peters (moderated by former Handheld Librarian Lori Bell). Our topic is PDAs, and I'm going to give a brief presentation about  the future of PDAs. Tomorrow I'll have to burn it onto a CD and either take my own laptop or hope to use someone else's. It would be so much easier if I could just take it on my Clie, which I'll already have with me anyway.

I'll have to quote the slogan on their site: "Laptops are so 20th century."

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Microsoft and DRM

All Your Bits are Belong to Us

"As anticipated, Microsoft has begun to integrate the Digital Restrictions Management systems built into XP through hardware output devices. Creative Labs' sound cards are no longer on your side." [winterspeak.com]

I'm posting this as further evidence to convince my parents that yes, the [digital] sky is in danger of falling and that they should be tracking this issue (as should everyone).

BTW, this came through my aggregator because Zimran added an RSS feed for his site so I can keep up with him now!

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It'd Be De-Lovely

"When is someone going to create AUDIO FONTS for Christ's sake. I'd love to write email and then put a Katherine Hepburn audio font all over it, if I were in that mood. Or maybe Dolly Parton. Or, hell, go all the way and add a little Bridget Bardot.

If they had audio fonts, Kevin could highlight his email with a little bit of a Pierce Brosnan accent and a girl could get a clue. I mean Helvetica Bold is nice visually., but I need some audio enhancement." [Halley's Comment, via Scripting News]

I second that emotion!

Now when you read that, didn't you momentarily sing the line in your head - yes, Mr. Smokey Robinson. While I would l-o-v-e to audioblog or convert pieces of my email messages using Katharine Hepburn's voice (along with making her brownies), I also want more comedic voices. For example, there should be an embedded standard that every instance of the word "spam" would use Terry Jones voice from the Monty Python skit. I want the Curly from The Three Stooges when I write "why soitanly" and Senor Wences when I write "S'alright."

Come to think of it, these should be standard icons with audio effects in Trillian so we'd get these in chat, too. Not to mention how cool this would be with cell phones.

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So Many Words, So Little Time For Buzzword Bingo

The Hellatine Dictionary of Bureaucratese

"hellatine;
n., a person who coins or habitually uses words of inappropriately mixed derivation, often Greek and Latin, and usually in an attempt to impress the listener or reader; Also hellatinism, hellatinize.
(Gr. hellen: a Greek + L. latinus : a Latin) " [via blogdriverswaltz.com]

We're going to have great fun with this list at my office. If nothing else, I wonder if I could implement a script to post random definitions on the intranet....

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Virtual Exercising

Get the Burn Without the Boredom

"The marriage of fitness machine and competitive computer games seems a natural, yet the British-made Exertris interactive workout cycle seems to be the first to put them hand in hand.

Debuting in the United States next month at the Club Industry 2002 convention in Chicago, Exertris attempts to beat the often mind-numbing boredom of riding in place by adding a flat-screen computer for video games that are both interactive and physically engaging.

A player's success in any of four programmed games is determined by effort: In "Space Tripper," firing lasers requires persistent pedaling; other weapons in the arsenal demand even more sweat. In "Solitaire," cards are moved depending on how fast you pedal; picking them up increases resistance. "Orbit" offers a multiplayer option so you'll feel the burn when your opponents are toast.

Exertris CEO Gareth Davies says the cycle has been selling in the U.K. since March to "fantastic" response among gym clientele. He expects to begin shipping stateside in November. The Exertris is a commercial-grade product that sells for about $7,800, but the company is "absolutely expecting to develop a home version" within about 18 months (www.exertris.com)." [Chicago Tribune, free registration required]

I'd definitely buy one of these if it was reasonably priced, because I'm getting worse at exercising regularly and this would provide more incentive. Video games are going to [continue to] be such a driving force in our society, spurring technological advances in cell phones, connectivity, and grid computing. The Sims Online will only be the beginning....

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Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Star

Forget Mars Bars, Twinkies Now the Deep-fried Treat

"Move over, Krispy Kreme doughnuts. A new artery-clogging, belt-busting obsession is sweeping the Unites States: Deep-fried Twinkies....

'We sold 26,000 Twinkies in 18 days. People drove for hours just to taste our Twinkie,' said Rocky Mullen, who sells the deep-fried, cream-filled treats for $3 (U.S.) each at the Payallup Fair, 50 kilometres south of Seattle.

As if Twinkies are not sweet enough already, vendors such as Mr. Mullen add chocolate or berry sauce and sprinkle powdered sugar on top....

All of this has come as a surprise to the dessert's inventor, Christopher Sell, a 36-year-old Brit who owns the Park Slope ChipShop in Brooklyn, N.Y.

His fish-and-chips restaurant was already serving up deep-fried Mars, Snickers and other chocolate bars -- treats that originated in Scotland and have since become a staple at U.S. fairgrounds -- when his general manager suggested he toss a Twinkie into the vat of oil. Just to see.

'So we did, and it was good, and we put it on the menu . . . as a joke almost,' he said. It might have ended there, except that a New York Times food writer tried one and wrote a positive review last May. Soon, the Food Network and CNBC were calling.

The secret to making a deep-fried Twinkie, he says, is to place it in the fridge first to give it more stability. He then rolls it in flour, covers it with batter -- the same that he uses on fish -- and plunks it into the oil.

Hearing about Mr. Sell's invention, Hostess, the company that makes the 71-year-old snack, started promoting deep-fried Twinkies to state and county fairs, where a captive population of junk-food addicts began gobbling them up between pig races and tractor-pull competitions.

How bad are they for your health? After deep-frying, a Twinkie packs an estimated 400 calories and 28 grams of fat." [The Globe and Mail, via Boing Boing Blog]

Gloria first told us about them sometime this summer. Apparently they were a big hit at the Illinois State Fair. I've always hated Twinkies because there's no chocolate outer coating, but this I would try!

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Pop On Over To PopTech

Buzz reminds me that PopTech, The Blog is up and running. I wish I could attend this year, but I'm already attending three conference between October 21 and November 7, with yet another one later in November. Next year, though!

P.S. If you can make it to PopTech this year, you can meet Howard Rheingold among others! The conference runs October 18-20 in Camden, Maine.

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Wireless Networks in Libraries

Last Friday, Marshall Breeding was here at SLS to give a workshop on wireless standards and implementations. I really wanted to sit in on it, but I'm treading water as it is, so I could only afford a couple of brief stops to listen in from time to time. Marshall has a way of making the alphabet soup and security issues surrounding wireless more coherent for the average person, so I think the workshop went extremely well (and the evaluations bear this out). You can view Marshall's presentation from his web site. The only thing I would have added would have been a discussion of why public libraries might want to offer access to their WLANs to the public.

The best part for me, though, was finding out that one of my own libraries has already implemented an 802.11a network! The Prairie Trails Public Library did it last month, although they are not offering public access as of yet. I'm hoping to talk them into it, though, as a model. I also plan to have them write an article for the SLS newsletter about their experiences, so I'll link to it once it's available online.

Way to go PTPLD!

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