Monday, February 28, 2005
IBM is initiating a new program for helping us maintain computers. The Global Services division has begun a program in which IBM acquires hardware from any vendor you choose. Then you can choose from a menu of services. IBM could deliver the hardware, provide image management, maintain customized software, deploy and update applications, provide data backup and recovery, migrate data from old to new systems, provide security services, provide help desk service, as well as computer disposal. According to the CNET article I read, this could cost from $3-$4 per seat per month up to $50 per seat per month. I think I found information on the IBM web site about this, but the article didn't give a direct link, so I'm not positive this is it -- but it looks promising.
If you haven't seen it yet, you should check it out. The North Texas Regional Library System and the Texas Library Association funded this project. As it says:
Library technology news and product reviews written by library people for library people.In the Winter 2005 issue, they have:
- an article describing basic security for public access computers
- a review of antivirus software (Norton Antivirus, McAfee VirusScan Professional, Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus)
- a review of spyware (Spybot - Search & Destroy, Spy Sweeper, Ad-Aware)
- a review of firewalls (McAfee Personal Firewall Plus, Norton Personal Firewall, Outpost Firewall Pro, Sygate Personal Firewall Pro, Windows XP Internet Connection Firewall, ZoneAlarm Pro)
AOL has implemented its own local search. You can set a location (address, city, zip code) and then search within that locality.
Local Search allows you to find businesses, restaurants, bars, events and movies near where you live, work and travel. Local Search can be used for planning an evening out, looking up the phone number of the hardware store down the street or finding a plumber to fix that leaky faucet.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
If you haven't yet updated Windows XP to Service Pack 2, it will happen automatically after April 12th unless you are part of the Software Update Service. Microsoft has two lists that can help you get ready:
- Programs that are known to experience a loss of functionality when they run on a Windows XP Service Pack 2-based computer
- Some programs seem to stop working after you install Windows XP Service Pack 2
Sunday, February 20, 2005
LLRX.com has a great article on the security of laptops -- physical security. As it states, this is all common sense, but it is good to be reminded:
- Use a lock.
- Buy a bag which doesn't advertise the fact that you are carrying a laptop.
- Register your laptop.
- Keep it close.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Opera, an undiscovered gem of a web browser, allows you to see what a web page would look like on a handheld device. Just open a web page and press <shift> <F11>. I've been playing with this using web sites I work with, as well as well-known sites. While it's been interesting seeing how the web pages transform themselves, what I've noticed is that a handheld user usually has to go through a number of navigation links before getting to any content. Just think about it -- most web pages have their navigation on the left side under a banner. So, the handheld would read the banner first and then move back to read the left column -- the navigation -- before moving to the next column. This problem is the same one those that use screen readers have. If a browser is reading the web page to you, it will be read in the same sequence. There's something to be said about moving navigation to the right side or providing a link to skip it all together.
The Joint Photographic Experts Group originally created the JPEG standard. In the 1990s, they worked on JPEG2000, a standard that this group hopes will replace JPEG. From the JPEG2000 in Archives and Libraries website:
In particular, the JPEG committee sought to create an open standard that provided the ability to bundle metadata with images in the same physical file, better efficiency in image compression including the option of “lossless” compression, and storage of multiple resolutions of the same image in one file.Libraries involved in the creation of digital libraries and preservation should be examining this standard and how it might be implemented into current projects.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization which defends your rights in the online environment, has written a white paper about EULAs. It describes six common terms you will see in EULAs, what they mean and how they can be used:
- Criticism of the product
- Product monitoring
- Using this product with other products
- Future changes in EULAs
- No liability for faulty software
Friday, February 18, 2005
The Cascading Style Sheets Level 3 module for borders and backgrounds has been published in draft form. As a draft, it has not yet been endorsed by the World Wide Web Consortium. However it includes some new functionality:
- "background-size" specifies the size of background images. You should be able to stretch or reduce the size of these images.
- Layer multiple background images.
- "border-style" has additional values: alternating dot-dash, two dots and a dash, and a wavy line.
- "border-image" specifies an image to use instead of the border styles.
- "border-radius" allows you to shape the corner of a border. If you use a background-image, it follows the curve of the border.
- "box-shadow" attaches one or more drop shadows to a box.
Updated #6: HB 789 died in the conference committee. As a result, there is currently no ban on municipal wireless Internet services. There are rumors of a special session, but they are just rumors at this point. ******************************************* Update #5: Last Friday, HB 789 was removed from SB 408. HB 789 was heard at the Senate Business and Commerce Committee meeting this morning. The section concerning municipal wireless was removed. There is still the possibility of an amendment from the Senate floor. ******************************************* Update #4: Earlier this week, HB 789 and HB 3719 were both added as amendments to SB 408, the sunset legislation for the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Since SB 408 had already passed the Senate, it will not come back for a final vote. What this means is that HB 789, which still includes a ban on municipal wireless, will most likely pass to the governor without being heard in the Senate. ******************************************* Update #3: On March 24th, HB 789 was voted out of the House by a vote of 145 - 1. Pretty lopsided. The wireless Internet section was re-written. According to Save Muni Wireless, municipalities cannot charge for wireless services; existing services are grandfathered in; new services can only be offered at no charge. Municipalities have until September 1, 2006 to set up wireless service or until June 15, 2006 to let the PUC know that they have plans. After that, no other municipalities could provide wireless at all. We'll see what happens in the Senate. ********************************************* Update #2: HB 789 is now out of committee and will be headed to the Texas House. According to Save Muni Wireless, there is no mention of municipal network services. As this post states, however, we can probably expect amendments from the floor. Sorry -- I can't link to the updated language of the bill. Not only is the revised bill not available online, but the committee itself it not keeping its own website up. The only thing I can find that is current are the webcasts of the meetings. The vote to bring this bill to the House floor is available at http://www.house.state.tx.us/committees/broadcasts.php?session=79&cmte=425. It is the 3-minute meeting on 3/17/05. ********************************************* Update: According to the Save Muni Wireless blog, it looks like Rep. King will at least re-write Section 54.202 (maybe strike it, but we'll see) so that wireless in public places like libraries and parks are protected. ********************************************* HB 789, entitled "Advanced Service Infrastructure and Intermodal Competition," is the bill for this session dealing with telecommunications. This bill comes out of the House Committee on Regulated Industries, chaired by Phil King. If you look at the marked up bill, you can see there a lot of changes -- both inserted and deleted text. One of the deleted pieces of text that caught my eye was 51.001(g):
It is the policy of this state to ensure that customers in all regions of this state, including low-income customers and customers in rural and high cost areas, have access to telecommunications and information services, including interexchange services, cable services, wireless services, and advanced telecommunications and information services, that are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas and that are available at prices that are reasonably comparable to prices charged for similar services in urban areas.The focus now seems to be more on providing competitive services:
" . . . as new technologies become available, all public policy must be driven by free-market principles for the benefit of Texas consumers consistent with the public interest." "It is the policy of this state to promote and encourage the development of competitive broadband networks."Section 54.201 - 54.202, dealing with municipalities, was modified to read:
CERTIFICATES PROHIBITED. The commission may not grant to a municipality a network provider or service provider certificate. PROHIBITED MUNICIPAL SERVICES. A municipality or municipality owned network may not, directly or indirectly, on its own or with another entity, offer to the public: (1) a service for which a certificate is required; (2) a service as a network provider; (3) any telecommunications or information service, without regard to the technology platform used to provide the service.So, what could this mean? The way I read the language of the bill, the provision of Internet access, both wired and wireless, by public libraries would be prohibited. To paraphrase: a municipality may not offer information services to the public. Although the bill doesn't provide a definition for "telecommunications service," it does state that the definition for "telecommunications" should be taken from federal law. I'm assuming that we can take the definition for "telecommunications service" from federal law also. From the Telecommunications Act of 1996:
" . . . the offering of telecommunications for a fee directly to the public . . . regardless of the facilities used."Most public libraries do not provide telecommunications services under this definition. The bill does state that the definition of "information service" is the same as the one found in federal law. The definition in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is:
" . . . the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunications . . . "Here's where I think we might have a problem. The provision of Internet access by a municipality (public libraries, city-owned community colleges, school districts?) seems to be prohibited. Am I reading too much into this? Remember that after a bill is passed, the legislative intent is not always taken into consideration. If this committee meant to exempt organizations like public libraries, then it should be stated. There is a public hearing on this bill scheduled for Tuesday, February 22.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) publishes security tips about twice a month. They are brief and most of them are well-written. The topics they deal with are practical and timely. You can see tips dealing with:
- Anti-virus software
- Instant messaging
- Digital signatures
- Browser security settings
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
From CNET.com: It looks like Microsoft has decided to upgrade Internet Explorer before Longhorn comes out -- a good decision, if they want to keep a strong hold in the browser market. A beta version of Internet Explorer 7 should be out this summer, based on the Windows XP SP2 operating system. Although they are looking at users of Windows 2000, they have not yet said whether IE 7 will run on that platform. Although it seems that security is the major issue to be overcome in IE 7, Microsoft is being asked if IE will also come up to speed on web standards. No word on that yet.
Video gaming reached official academic status Tuesday when Electronic Arts endowed a chair at the University of Southern California for the study of interactive entertainment.PLA had a program in January on gaming: "OCLC Symposium: Gaming and the Signification for Information Literacy Learning." I believe LITA's Top Technology Trends had also included gaming (although I can't check right now because the page seems to be down). Something to keep an eye on.
Thanks to Lukethelibrarian, I've found that only a few Texas newspapers provide RSS feeds: Dallas Morning News Austin American Statesman Denton Record-Chronicle Galveston County News Greenville Herald-Banner I misread the list of newspapers, thinking that "Add" meant to add it to your aggregator. It actually means that we can add the URL of the RSS feed if we know it. Sorry for the mistake! ************************************************ Thanks to a post on the RSS Compendium Blog, I've found a list of US newspapers with RSS feeds. Out of that list, I've found that following Texas papers: Abilene Reporter-News Alice Echo-News Amarillo Angleton Times Arlington News Athens Review Austin American-Statesman Baytown Sun Beaumont Enterprise Borger News-Herald Brenham Banner Press Brownsville Herald Brownwood Bulletin Bryan-College Station Eagle Canyon News Cleburne Times-Review Clute Facts Corpus Christi Caller-Times Corsicana Sun Dallas Morning News Del Rio News Herald Denton Record-Chronicle El Paso Times Ft. Worth Star-Telegram Gainesville Register Galveston County News Greenville Herald-Banner Groesbeck Journal Valley Morning Star Henderson News Houston Chronicle Howe Enterprise Huntsville Item Jacksonville Progress Kerrville Times Kilgore News Herald Killeen Herald Laredo Times Longview News-Journal Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Lufkin News Marshall News Messenger McAllen Monitor Midland Reporter-Telegram Mineral Wells Index Mount Pleasant Tribune Nacogdoches Sentinel New Braunfels Herald Zeitung Odessa American Palestine Herald-Press Pampa News Paris News Pecos Enterprise Plainview Herald Plano Star Courier Port Arthur News Rosenberg Herald-Coaster San Angelo Standard-Times San Antonio Express-News San Marcos Record Seguin Gazette-Enterprise Sherman-Denison Herald Democrat Stephenville Empire-Tribune Sweetwater Reporter Temple Telegram Terrell Tribune Texarkana Gazette Tyler Telegraph Victoria Advocate Waco Tribune-Herald Weatherford Democrat Wichita Falls Times Record News I had no idea this many Texas newspapers were providing RSS -- this is great! When you look through the list, you see both large and small towns -- even better! FYI -- this list is provided Wiki-style which means that anyone can add information to it. Keep that in mind when you check for your paper -- the information may or may not be correct. Buyer beware . . .
Robert Hensing, a specialist in incident response/intrusion who works with the Microsoft Security Response Center, has written an article advocating the use of pass-phrases, not passwords. His basic premise is that the longer the password/pass-phrase, the more difficult it is to break. Windows 2000 and XP both have the capability for you to use 127 characters. So, would it be easier for you to remember a pass-phrase like: sittin' on the dock of the bay or a password like: I8tX63!r (If you are using a password like "february," you may as well not use one; it would take very little time to break.) Hensing also makes the point that you should still change your pass-phrases over time -- it may be difficult to crack a pass-phrase, but it can still be done. Lots of interesting comments attached to the article -- pointing out both the advantages and disadvantages.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Someone at www.howtocreate.co.uk has tested most of the current browsers for speed. They checked how quickly each browser:
- opened after a cold start
- opened after a warm start
- rendersed cascading style sheets
- rendered tables
- rendered multiple images
The New York Times has a very interesting article on distractions while using a computer. Researchers are finding that computer users use all types of distractions to keep from or interrupt themselves while doing focused work on the computer, e.g., checking email, looking at the weather, keeping up with your music service, making that hotel reservation, checking to see whose online in your instant messaging service, searching for information on that new appliance you want to buy. (Can you tell I have firsthand experience with this?) Some researchers are trying to find solutions that will diminish these distractions. Some of them include simple things like using smooth scrolling instead of jumpy. Others are finding ways to determine whether an email message is important enough to notify you while you are focusing. Some at Microsoft are trying to determine how a user is directing their attention (i.e., are they focused on a specific task?). Knowing that, software can determine how busy the person is and how many and what type(s) of distractions would be allowed at that time. I look at distractions in a positive way. As another of the researchers state, "I shouldn't knock distraction completely, because it can be useful. It can clear the mind and give you a needed break from a very linear kind of thinking."
Senator Feingold and others have introduced the "Library, Bookseller, and Personal Records Privacy Act," S. 317. This bill brings back the legal standard for library record requests that was in place before the PATRIOT Act:
" . . . shall specify that there are specific and articulable facts giving reason to believe that the person to whom the records pertain is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power."Mary Minow provides more relevant information on her web site - LibraryLaw Blog.
Cell phones do alot already. Companies are looking at adding even more functionality:
- Internet radio
- Document scanning
- Three-dimensional sound
Verizon has purchased MCI. I have to wonder who is next and how it will affect the telecommunications discounts and issues in Texas. Although Southwestern Bell has most of the local telephone business in Texas, Verizon has a good share, too. Verizon has a strong regional presence in some parts of the United States and will most likely be looking at expanding its services to MCI's business customers using MCI's networks. Of course, Verizon's wireless business ("Can you hear me now?") is another service that could be marketed to these business customers. In addition, Verizon hopes to cut costs by using MCI to connect calls between their local markets. CNET.com's article on the merger makes an interesting statement about data and wireless networks -- businesses are looking for a single provider for both. Cities and academia, too? We'll see . . .
Land in Jeff Davis and Presidio counties are available in 10-20 acre lots through Ebay. The Associated Press has written an article about how many people (not from Texas or the US) are purchasing this land, which has little to offer except scenery, for as little as $200 an acre. If you have a few minutes, take a few minutes to read it. If you've ever traveled through this area, you will understand the irony here.
If you work with metadata -- specifically Dublin Core -- on a regular basis, you might want to look at this proposed recommendation for the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Abstract model. This recommendation provides information on how to create Dublin Core encoding guidelines to be sure we can easily map and translate between them. From Catalogablog: They are inviting comments on this important document until 5 March 2005. Comments should be sent to the DC-General mailing list with subject "Public Comment DCMI Abstract Model".
From beSpecific: The House has introduced a bill to reduce spam and pfishing. Called "Internet Spyware (I-SPY) Prevention Act of 2005," this bill had passed the House Judiciary Committee last fall and is now back. Basically, if you access a protected computer and copy a program that does something illegal, you can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 5 years. If you access a protected computer, obtain personal information in order to defraud or injure a person, or impair the computer's security, you can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 2 years.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a program called "Logfinder." This software alerts system administrators to logs that are created and that can contain personal data. The administrator can then decide whether to turn the logging off. Thanks to Slashdot for this information!
Wired News has an article that summarizes new findings from the Nielsen Norman Group on what teens look for in web site design. You can purchase the $149 report or read Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox which summarizes its findings. A few things to consider:
- Don't make text small.
- Provide interactivity.
- Use photographs and images so that they don't see blocks of just text.
- Invest in presentation.
Google has started a mapping service similar to MapQuest or Yahoo Maps. They, as they always do, have made it more interesting and probably more helpful. You can find maps, driving directions and local businesses. Search for a specific address and you see a map of the area. When you click on an arrow to move the map north, south, east, or west, the map seamlessly moves in the direction. It's a very nice effect. You can also search for types of business around an area (e.g., restaurants in an area code, a city, or near an address you've already found) and see them displayed on a map. When you ask for directions, you can see both the map and a list of directions. Each step of the directions is numbered; if you click on the number, you can see that part of the map. This is similar to MapQuest, but it is nice to see the entire map as well as having the option of seeing each direction. It's a very nice interface. Try it and see what you think.
Monday, February 07, 2005
Another word that I'm coming to understand, but probably not appreciate as much as I should. "Folksonomy" is a cross between "folk" and "taxonomy." It is a way for folks (i.e., non-librarians?) to provide simple metadata (usually single words) for pictures, web sites, or other web content. For me, the important issue is that this metadata, sometimes called tagging, can be created at the time of need -- there is no list to check -- no authority. Tagging is becoming very popular on sites like Flickr (a site for uploading and sharing photographs), del.icio.us (a site for creating and sharing bookmarks), and Technorati (a search engine for blogs). Each of these sites shows you the most popular tags used across their sites. However, they show you in a visual way. Check these:
Those of you who are Microsoft users probably know that February 8th Microsoft will provide its monthly software update. The next day, they will provide a webcast to provide an overview of the changes and time for questions and answers.
A study of recordable optical discs was published: Slattery, Oliver, Richang Lu, Jian Zheng, Fred Byers, and Ziao Tang. "Stability Comparison of Recordable Optical Discs - A Study of Error Rates in Harsh Conditions." Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (v. 109 #5), Sept-Oct 2004, 517-524. Haven't had a chance to read it yet, but wanted to give you a heads up in case you were interested.
Beginning May 2, 2005, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is requesting that all scientists doing NIH-funded research provide an electronic version of their final manuscript to the National Library of Medicine. This is voluntary, but they are hoping that most scientists and publishers will be able to provide the manuscript, have it uploaded and freely accessible through PubMed Central within twelve months.
More jargon. I was reading a Wired article about the probability of spam becoming a problem with VoIP (Voice over IP). If you are considering replacing or enhancing your phone system with VoIP, you might want to read it. What interested me, however, was the language. Spam, of course, we all understand. Spim I've also heard about -- Spam Over Instant Messaging. Spit was totally new to me -- Spam Over Internet Telephony. So, spam over VoIP would be spit. ;-)
Six companies are working together to create an optical disc with storage of 1 tb (terabyte - one thousand gigabytes). Called the HVD Alliance, they hope to be able to transfer at a speed of approximately 1 gb/second. Read the CNET.com article for more details.
Yahoo has introduced a contextual search called Y!Q. It's in beta right now, but available for you to play with in a test version of Yahoo News. Look for the "Search Related Info" links. Click on it and you will see links to other stories/web pages that are similar. If you click on "Show All Related Results," you will see a search result screen. How? If you look at the HTML behind the test News, you will see a form with a call to a script on a Yahoo server. What is interesting is the search terms they are using. At least for Yahoo News, they are copying the title and summary from the front page and sending them to the script. Whatever the script is doing, it isn't just throwing those terms into the Yahoo search engine. The results are different. In addition to using it on the news, you can add this functionality to either Internet Explorer or Firefox. Just highlight terms in a web page and either click on the "Related Search" button (IE) or right click and choose "Query to . . . Y!Q" (Firefox). Or you can add this functionality to web pages you create. The HTML is available for anyone to use. You decide which search terms to send to the Y!Q server. You can also find a little background on this project at the Yahoo blog.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
If you are using Firefox as your primary - or secondary - browser, you may want to check out some of the extensions available. Firefox was created to be a simple, stripped-down browser as opposed to either Netscape or Internet Explorer. After having used the other browsers, there may be functions that you miss when you use Firefox. That's where extensions come in. Think of them as . . . accessories. Each extension does something very specific. For example:
- MapIt allows you to search MapQuest from a right-click (context-sensitive) menu instead of going to www.mapquest.com.
- Google Preview allows you to see a small graphic of the home page for each Google search result.
- GoogleBar is the same at the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. You can search Google from within Firefox.
- DictionarySearch allows you to right-click on a word within a web page, choose "define," and see the definition from www.dictionary.com.
- Bandwidth Tester calculates how quickly data is downloading to your computer.
This is the third time, but you never know . . . it might go through this time. Representatives Thompson (CA) and Slaughter (NY) introduced the National Computer Recycling Act. If would add $10 to the cost of each computer to fund recycling efforts. Manufacturers with existing recycling programs (i.e., Dell) would be exempt from the fee. ExtremeTech has a good article with pros and cons of this possible legislation.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
According to the New York Times, there is a restaurant that serves sushi using an ink-jet printer -- no joke! The chef creates an edible paper, runs it through an ink-jet printer which uses food-based inks, and then flavors that back of the paper.