Yes, I know it is so five years ago, but my foray into smartphone ownership does not involve an iPhone or an Android. This winter I got my very first BlackBerry.
This Christmas Eve, our beloved hellion Fergie knocked my cellphone into the bathtub with her paw. We took it apart and tried to dry the phone out overnight, but the red water detector of death had already cast its shadow over my poor Samsung. Luckily, we were able to salvage the SIM card and transfer it to a family member’s unused BlackBerry EDGE 8900. Anyone who’s ever tried to transfer data to a used cellphone probably knows that it can be tricky to wipe everything out and start fresh — but after lots of googling and finessery, we eventually got it synced with my gmail, Facebook and Twitter.
After about half an hour, AT&T texted me to let me know that they’d added a data package to my monthly cellphone bill. I thought it was a little sketchy that they just signed me up, but at least I was notified, right? The main reason I’ve avoided smartphones in the past is because of the high data costs. But I was pleased to find that I could actually scale back my text plan (which I don’t use very much anymore) and pay only $10 more per month than I’d already been paying when all was said and done. Pretty affordable!
So far, the BlackBerry apps that I’ve downloaded work really great. Continue reading
Yesterday as I was scavenging historical tidbits to share via my library’s #todayinhistory Twitter feed, I came across this treasure from the August 23, 1973 edition of the Lawrence Journal-World. I’m fascinated that this satirical piece was published long before the Internet (and especially social networks) were widespread. Viva technophobia!
To help put this in context: just five years earlier, in 1968, Stanley Kubrick had debuted “2001: A Space Odyssey” in which the computer HAL takes on an eerily human personality. In 1970, both the VCR and dot matrix printer were introduced, bringing more tangible, enduring qualities to personal technology. Then, in 1971, IBM introduced the first speech-recognition software (with a vocabulary of 5000 words), and the first synthesized computer voice was also demoed. And finally, in 1972, the floodgates burst when Atari released Pong.
Yet none of this explains the article’s bizarre fixation with marital infidelity. Ladies and gentlemen, I present:
EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW?: THE FRIGHTENING COMPUTER TREND
by Art Buchwald
WASHINGTON – Somewhere in this great land of ours there is a computer stashed full of information on you. Whenever you want a bank loan, a credit card or a job, this computer will, in a matter of seconds, give some total stranger almost every detail of your life. Continue reading
I can get pretty grumpy (kind of like this cat in a googly-eyed hat) when I think about public libraries and ebook lending. Our three biggest challenges remain: software interfaces that are too hard to use; steep vendor prices that put a huge strain on library budgets; and limited availability, including no ebooks for Kindle!! But I still believe that libraries can build a better solution.
Last Friday, Sharon Moreland from the NEKLS library system came to our library to talk to us about just that — the future of ebooks in libraries. Her recent blog post sums up many of the current issues and challenges, and I recommend hopping over there if you want to understand them better! In the meantime, I want to chronicle a few additional thoughts as part of my ongoing meditation on the issue.
- Librarians seem eternally optimistic that our vendors will fix the issues we don’t like. For instance, we wish ebook vendors would create a seamless, user-friendly interface, and eliminate “wait lists” for digital items. But we have to face that vendors are not going to invest in product development unless there is monetary incentive. And right now, we have too few ebook vendors to choose from, so they’re able to offer the bare minimum without losing library subscriptions. Continue reading
(The Daily Show does Net Neutrality, July 19, 2006)
About two weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission voted to enact a new set of Net Neutrality rules that will regulate how broadband companies are allowed to direct traffic on the internet. Although the new regulations don’t go as far as some consumer watchdog groups would like, they do represent the strongest measures taken by the FCC to date. This is great news for consumers who don’t want their Internet Service Providers to arbitrarily restrict or slow down access to their favorite websites!
To commemorate the occasion, I thought it timely to share with you the very first paper I wrote for my LIS program, just over two years ago; it’s a policy paper addressing Net Neutrality. I was still feeling a little rusty in academic writing at the time I wrote this, but I think it does an OK job setting out the issues and teasing out a few of the policy consequences on both ends of the spectrum. Click here to download the pdf, or just follow the jump below.
If you want to know more about Net Neutrality, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge are two great places to start!
Around this time last winter, I was learning how to write code in the computer language, Python. I thought that knowing how to code would make me a better librarian, and so I signed up for a grad class at the U of I. For the record, I hadn’t cried because of a class since the fifth grade, when Mrs. Recinos gave me a “late” because I forgot to ask my parents to sign my assignment notebook. But Readers, Python made me cry.
Eventually, though, I ended up with this cute little piece of code that can make collages out of pictures that you like:
My professor was really amazing, and in the end I actually did OK in the class. Having a supportive, code-savvy fiance with a knack for soothing hysterical people also helped. But librarians — even though I know I couldn’t crank out a Python program on the spot today if my life depended on it, I do know that I could sit down with a text book for a few hours and figure it out, and that I am also now equipped to have intelligent conversations with library IT staff who write code for the library. It’s nice to know that I can participate in building our library’s tools.
When I first bought my Kindle about 18 months ago, it was kind of a pain in the neck to use. Amazon offered a pretty limited selection of titles for purchase that didn’t quite suit my nerdy tastes, and I couldn’t buy titles from anyone else because they wouldn’t be compatible with my Kindle. Which was actually OK by me, because they didn’t have anything I wanted to read either.
Eventually I ended up settling for a copy of War & Peace, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, for three reasons: a) it was available, b) I actually wanted to read it, and c) it seemed like a pretty awesome alternative to carrying around 4 pounds of book (no joke!). I also experimented with converting several of Project Gutenberg‘s public domain .epub titles to Amazon’s proprietary .azw filetype using some free software that I downloaded from the Internet, but the outcome was fairly hideous. So really I had spent $375 for War & Peace.
But soon things started to get interesting. Continue reading