The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Thursday, January 09, 2003

Okay, just one more, because it sounds so damn cool: Trek Puts a Camera on a Key Chain.

"Key chain USB drives have a place in the hearts and pockets of many geeks. But simply storing files isn't enough; the next generation of Trek's tiny ThumbDrive devices, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show here, can take photos and play music.

They join a growing selection of key chain USB devices seeking to distinguish themselves with extras like recording functions, enhanced security, and cameras.

The ThumbDrive Camera from Trek, for instance, combines flash memory with a digital camera in a package about the size of a couple of packs of gum.

The prototype Trek is demonstrating at the show takes distinctly blurry photos, and with a maximum resolution of 640 by 480 pixels, it won't replace a dedicated digital camera. But Trek doesn't intend it to: The ThumbDrive Camera is aimed at casual photo snappers who value convenience over image quality....

When not connected to a PC, a single AAA battery powers it. And like previous ThumbDrives, the camera version doesn't need drivers, so you can plug it into a PC in a hotel or cyber café and access the photos or files stored on it. The ThumbDrive Camera is scheduled to ship in February priced at $179.

For the more musically inclined, the ThumbDrive Music is a combination of key chain USB drive and digital audio player. It has 128MB of memory, can play MP3 or WMA digital audio files, and can run for as long as 12 hours powered by a AAA battery. It is scheduled to ship in February as well, with a $169 price tag." [PC World]

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There were a ton of very cool hardware announcements today, but I'm tired and I'm gonig to bed. I'll try to blog them tomorrow. For now, I'm just going to point Kate to a NY Times article titled Not a Professional? No Problem.

"Now, however, relatively low-priced electronic tools can give the casual mechanic the same kind of diagnostic information available to the professionals. These new gadgets make it easier to identify a car's problems by glancing at a computer instead of popping the hood.

The devices, which cost about $150 and up, link to the engine through a connector in the passenger compartment, usually near the steering wheel.

They record the electronic diagnostic codes generated by the car, providing a real-time display of parameters - like engine speed, oxygen sensor readings and coolant temperature - on a laptop or hand-held organizer or storing the information in flash memory for later analysis....

Jason Simmerman, a home mechanic in Arlington, Va., who has used an Autotap OBD-II device ($200 to $490, at for over a year, says he watches 'several gauge and sensor readings in real time, which can be handy when looking for that one little quirk that happens only when a certain condition is made.'

The simplest OBD-II tools read the generic codes shared by all manufacturers while the more expensive ones come with information on each manufacturer's proprietary codes.

Even the generic information can be quite useful for finding problems with the car and the driver. The Davis DriveRight CarChip, for instance, ($139 to $179; is a plastic module a bit larger than a thumb that records the value of up to four generic codes every five seconds in flash memory....

William P. Turczynski of Warren, Mich., who uses an AutoXray EZ Link kit with the PC Link software ($449 at on his Ford Ranger, notes that while the device is useful, it is only a diagnostic tool. It will not fix the problem, he said: 'It just tells you what you've got to get dirty.' "

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New eBook Catalog Online

Cimarron Buser from sent me the following information:

"I wanted to make you and your readers aware of ('MSLIT'). The site provides an easy way to find Microsoft Reader eBooks (also known as 'lit' format eBooks). This catalog includes both free and commercial eBooks representing adult and juvenile trade books, short stories, and articles. It has over 15,000 unique titles mapped directly to over 120,000 web locations, making the largest catalog of Microsoft Reader eBooks available.

There is a large collection of free eBooks - over 1,500 at last count. This area is directly accessible at

Now, there are obviously other formats for eBooks - Adobe, Palm, MobiPocket, etc. But, this site, although 'format specific', was designed to help people quickly find and get to books for Microsoft LIT format. For a PC user, or someone with a 'PocketPC' type device, this is helpful.

The site is operated by Texterity in partnership with Microsoft Corporation and cooperating distributors, retailers, and publishers."

I don't have a PocketPC, and I haven't played with Microsoft Reader much. It's interesting that Microsoft is providing an ebook catalog, and maybe this will provide some incentive. If you browse the free titles, look closely before adding one to your cart because I found at least one title that shows in the "free" search results but isn't free when you follow the links.

11:27:48 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!

Spot-free Show Nears Deal with WB: All Commercial Messages Would Be Woven into Content

"It would be a television first. "Live From Tomorrow" would skip commercial breaks and work advertisers into variety and news segments. With Pepsi and Visa under its belt, the new show is nearing a deal with the WB." [The Lost Remote]

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You, Too, Can Join the HipTop Nation

T-Mobile Sidekick

"The T-Mobile Sidekick is available for $49.99 on Amazon until January 27, 2003 [with service activation, you must mail in rebates, etc.]! It also qualifies for free shipping. If you're looking to get this gadget, now's the time to move. The price is so low because there are two different rebates for it, both of which will be gone by the end of the month. It even comes with the camera attachment, so you'll be photoblogging and moblogging in no time. [tip via Mena]" [megnut]

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SanDisk introduces Compact Flash Wi-Fi

"Alan Reiter writes up SanDisk's announcement at CES of their Cmopact Flash-based Wi-Fi cards that are available in configurations with 128 Mb and 256 Mb or no memory. The memory plus Wi-Fi combination is particularly useful because in cameras that could be upgraded to handle Wi-Fi networking support, for instance, it would require much more engineering to add double Compact Flash slots." [80211b News]

Digital cameras with lots of memory and Wi-Fi.... I need a sound icon of Homer drooling over donuts....

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LibraryLookup Gets A Little Library-Related Press - We Need More!

"Jon Udell is getting record flow on his weblog. The librarians are figuring out what he's doing. Nice." [Scripting News]

Of course, what I want to know is how do we keep evolving this. What can librarians do? Is there a way for us to implement the ISBN-mapping Web service Jon describes? Jon isn't a librarian and look at what he's been able to come up with. What's our next step?

I've been remiss in noting Jon's other recent articles about his work in this area. They're all worth your time:

ISSNs and Z39.50
The Disruptive Web
Genus, Species, and ISBN
Where Angels Fear to Tread

Update: Here's an article about it from

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It's the Convenience, Stupid

Sony Predicts Rebirth of Television
"A key executive at the consumer-electronics giant takes the stage at CES, proclaiming that television is still in its infancy and will be the center of home entertainment networks." [CNET]

Dell: PCs Still Rule the Roost
"In a gentle slapback to remarks from Sony's president, Michael Dell tells CES crowds that the PC will become the center of the digital home entertainment universe--not the TV." [CNET]

Remember, convergence isn't just for phones and PDAs! They're still trying to figure out which appliance will serve up your media. Yet another race, but the question is which group will focus on the single biggest concern of consumers? Convenience is the key, and so far no one has found a way to make DRM easy, which is only going to stall the fun part.

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Myst MMOG Details Announced

"Ubi Soft and Cyan announced the title for their upcoming online game. Uru: Online Ages Beyond Myst , developed by Cyan Worlds, Inc., is slated for release late this year. From the press release, "Uru will take advantage of broadband to deliver a continually updated, immersive environment and storyline, with content that grows, changes and evolves constantly. It will also be the first persistent world to support real-time voice communication." Sounds like a different road than online games like The Sims Online and Star Wars Galaxies are taking, with the entertainment consisting in exploration and storyline rather than in player status and achievement." [Slashdot]

Coupled with the previous story about in-game wealth translating to real world bartering, you can start to sense just how big an impact mobility and fast connections are going to have on Net Gens.

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The Unreal Estate Boom

"The 79th Richest Nation on Earth doesn't exist. The population is 225,000, the hourly wage $3.42. Welcome to virtual paradise, where a carpenter can live in the castle of his dreams - if he doesn't mind an 80-hour workweek double-clicking pig iron and hoarding digital dung.

Not long ago, a 43-year-old Wonder Bread deliveryman named John Dugger logged on to eBay and, as people sometimes do these days, bought himself a house. Not a shabby one, either. Nine rooms, three stories, rooftop patio, walls of solid stonework - it wasn't quite a castle, but it put to shame the modest redbrick ranch house Dugger came home to every weeknight after a long day stocking the supermarket shelves of Stillwater, Oklahoma. Excellent location, too; nestled at the foot of a quiet coastal hillside, the house was just a hike away from a quaint seaside village and a quick commute from two bustling cosmopolitan cities. It was perfect, in short, except for one detail: The house was imaginary.

Equally unreal were the grounds the house stood on, the ocean it overlooked, the neighboring cities, and just about everything else associated with it - except Dugger himself, the man he bought it from, and the money he shelled out. At $750, Dugger's winning bid on the property set him back more than a week's wages and was, on the face of it, an astonishing amount for what he actually bought: one very small piece of Britannia, the fantasy world in which the networked role-playing game Ultima Online unfolds.

Yet there was nothing particularly unusual about the transaction. On any day you choose, dozens of Britannian houses can be found for sale online at comparable prices. And houses are just the start of it. Swords, suits of armor; iron ingots, lumber, piles of hay; tables, chairs, potted plants, magic scrolls; or any other little cartoon item the little cartoon characters of Britannia might desire can be had at auction, priced from $5 for a pair of sandals to $150 for an exceptionally badass battle-ax to $1,200 for a well-located fortress. A simple, back-of-the-envelope calculation puts the estimated sum of these transactions at $3 million per year....

Last year - in an academic paper analyzing the circulation of goods in Sony Online's 430,000-player EverQuest - an economist calculated a full set of macro- and microeconomic statistics for the game's fantasy world, Norrath. Taking the prices fetched in the $5 million EverQuest auctions market as a reflection of in-game property values, professor Edward Castronova of Cal State Fullerton multiplied those dollar amounts by the rate at which players pile up imaginary inventory and came up with an average hourly income of $3.42. He calculated Norrath's GNP at $135 million - or about the same, per capita, as Bulgaria's.

In other words, assuming roughly proportional numbers for Electronic Arts' 225,000-player Ultima and other major online role-playing games - Mythic's Dark Age of Camelot, Microsoft's Asheron's Call, Funcom's Anarchy Online - the workforce toiling away in these imaginary worlds generates more than $300 million in real wealth each year. That's about double what the game companies themselves make in subscription revenue, a fact that poses them a single, nettlesome question: How - and whether - to grab a piece of the action?" [Wired, via ...useless miscellany]

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New Audio eBook Format, High Profile Release

James Patterson's New Release Breaks New Ground

"Time Warner AudioBooks (a division of AOL Time Warner Book Group), AFB Talking Books (a department of the American Foundation for the Blind) and Dolphin Computer Access partner to produce the first commercially available audio e-book.

Best selling author James Patterson will release his new novel, The Jester, as an audio e-book in conjunction with its standard print, audio and e-book releases.

This new technology offers many features that allow people to enjoy books in a unique and exciting way. Readers can display the text of the book on the computer screen, fully synchronized with the audio of a professional narrator, or they can switch back and forth between the text and the audio. The ability to 'toggle' between print and audio versions of the same work increases the functionality and accessibility to consumers.

There is particular broad appeal for travelers and commuters who may wish to read the text and listen to the audio independently or simultaneously depending on their environment. Those who are blind, visually impaired, or dyslexic may access the text via audio or on screen in large print or in braille. Additionally, the user's experience is enhanced with features such as the search function, in which the entire text and audio may be searched for keywords and phrases.

This audio e-book will be available on an additional CD included in the unabridged CD audiobook version of The Jester, available from Time Warner AudioBooks in March of 2003. The book will also be displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center from January 9 - 12 of 2003 (located at the Convention Center in the South Hall, Upper level, Booth #35225). Dolphin's EaseReader software uses the synchronization technology to play and display the audio e-book through a player with an expanded screen, accessible on desktop and laptop PCs....

'We are proud to have produced the first commercial release of an accessible audio e-book for Time Warner AudioBooks,' said American Foundation for the Blind President and CEO Carl R. Augusto. 'This new technology opens up a world of possibilities for people who are blind or visually impaired, while simultaneously offering new options to sighted readers.' " [via the DTB-Talk mailing list]

The My Time Warner Audio site also lets you listen to streaming samples of some of their audio books. There's some other interesting stuff on their site (like Tyger E-Greeting for PDAs), but it's nearly impossible to access on my monitor with all of the frames getting in the way. This audio ebook version of Patterson's book costs $19.98, and the "Hi-Fi" version is 285MB.

I haven't even read through it thorougly enough to understand what a library or patron would need to circulate it. Still, this is an interesting development, and I'll look into this further if I have time. I'd love to see how it looks, feels, and sounds.

11:46:14 AM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!

Google on OCLC

I just realized that OCLC bought the Google Search Appliance to search its web site. Interesting. Weren't they using their own SiteSearch software before?

"Our new search engine, powered by Google, delivers faster results with better matches."

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Free eBook to Circulate

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Is Out!

"My first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is out! Yee-haw!...

As I promised, I've released the complete text of the book (in ASCII text, HTML, and printable PDF) under a Creative Commons license. Download it, share it, email it, post it to your site, drop it in your P2P file-sharing cache!

I've also prepared a list of meatspace and cyberspace booksellers around the world that are carrying the book. Please email me if you can suggest good indie bookstores that are carrying the book -- I'd like to mention as many as possible.

All the info about the book -- reviews, news, signings, etc -- are gathered up on a Movable Type blog that Mena and Ben were kind enough to design and set up for me."  [Boing Boing Blog]

Hey, Cory - how about an audio version, read by the author? The license on this book means libraries can circulate it, so feel free to grab your copy now and add it to your catalog.  I wonder which library will be the first to circulate it. Cory's an established author, and I haven't read a bad review of the book yet.

Update: I've confirmed with Cory that a library could include a bib record for this title in its catalog and link directly to his site so that patrons can download it themsleves. Who's going to put the record in WorldCat? Hey, David....

The site is getting hammered at the moment, so I can no longer get through to it. Keep trying, though.

7:59:12 AM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!