The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Wednesday, May 05, 2004


Best of What's Next 2004 - This PDA Is a Real Pocket PC

"Call it the smart communicator. In a few years, the functions in today's personal digital assistant (PDA)--notebook, to-do list, calendar, contacts--will be the least of it. Thanks to a variant of Moore's Law that says data-storage density doubles every 18 months, tomorrow's smart communicator will hold 250GB--enough to store 55 movies.

Indeed, video--both viewing and recording--will be a killer app. One reason: 'There will be phenomenal leaps forward in display technology,' says Hank Nothhaft, chairman and CEO of Danger Labs, maker of the SideKick PDA. Say good-bye to your PDA's power-greedy liquid crystal display (LCD). Say hello to the smart communicator's energy-efficient, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display....

Another leap: high-speed wireless connectivity. As data-transfer speeds of 400 Kbps become standard, high-quality streaming video will become a reality. The potential of Bluetooth, a wireless technology with a range of about 30 feet, will also bloom on the smart communicator, giving it the ability to connect to remote keyboards and displays. 'You'll carry your whole life in your PDA,' says Scott Summit, designer of the award-winning Tapwave Zodiac PDA. 'And any device next to it--a computer, a TV--will reconfigure to run from it.' Business travelers will be able to use it with screen-and-keyboard combos in hotel rooms and airports, where the device's expanded mode, complete with projected keyboard, might be awkward.

The smart communicator will have its own nervous system: sensors that assess the outside world and adjust the device's behavior accordingly. A built-in RFID (radio-frequency identification) reader will pick up data stored on RFID tags in nearby objects, so the PDA will automatically embed identification labels in the photos it takes. The onboard eye scanner will let you navigate pages with a mere glance at the menu bar. Light, heat and motion sensors will enable the device to know whether it's in your pocket or your hand, and pump up its cellphone's ring tone if needed. A tilt sensor will trigger the display to shift between portrait and landscape mode, and it'll offer finger-free scrolling. The microphone will measure ambient noise and adjust the volume to compensate in a loud restaurant. The GPS will detect when you're nearing home, and the communicator will signal ahead to turn on the heat or AC. Once you arrive, the Bluetooth network will automatically synchronize data between your communicator and your PC.

With so much personal information packed in it, you'd think your smart communicator would be worth 10 times its weight in platinum to an identity thief. And it would be, if not for the combination of software encryption and biometrics it will employ to keep criminals out. If you lose it, the thumbprint-sensing power switch will cause the screen to display a message asking the finder to return it to you. It'll also secretly transmit its location via any available wireless network, so you can track it on a Web-based map. Don't be surprised if the map's blinking green dot is over your house--it just means you need to retrieve your smart communicator from under the sofa cushion." [Popular Science, via PDA 24/7]

So what will library services look like to someone who carries their whole life in this smart communicator? Will our networks and peripherals be ready to interact with these devices when they enter the building?

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Moraine Valley College Library Making the Most of Blogs and RSS!

While I was gone last month, the folks at the Moraine Valley Community College Library (one of my members!) did something very cool. Larry Sloma and Troy Swanson saw me speak about blogs last year, and they both immediately grasped the power of them. They asked me to install an instance of Movable Type on the SLS server so they could play with it, and the next thing I knew, they had multiple blogs up and running. Larry has also done extensive work customizing the interfaces, which helps illustrate how a library can make its blogs look more interesting and attractive beyond just the standard Movable Type templates.

In addition, Troy and Larry also learned about RSS and again immediately understood the potential. They have now implemented a solution that automatically displays content from the blogs hosted on my server back on the MVCC web site which is hosted on their server. So now they're blogging on the SLS server, and the content is appearing on their web site in one aggregated page. Nice!

But these two guys didn't just go off on their own and stealthily implement all of this. No, they created the proof-of-concept and then showed it to their bosses, who then approved the project. The best part is that they also created policies, guidelines, and documentation for all of this. Contact Troy Swanson if you're interested in learning about how they did this and what they went through or if you'd like to get copies of their docs.

View their hard work:

See, you don't have to be at a huge university library to make something like this work! That's the great thing about blogging and RSS!

Great job, Troy and Larry, and kudos to the administration at the MVCC Library for being so willing to try something new!

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