Archive for April, 2008

C is for Laptop

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

You know, that explains a lot…

Your Annnual Conference and You

When will Gmail hit seven gigabytes?

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

I’m going to make a prediction, based on very limited observation.

The space provided for each Gmail account will reach seven gigabytes (or, rather, 7,000 megabytes–I have no idea whether Gmail’s megabytes are “disc megabytes” or “true megabytes”) on, let’s see now:

The Fourth of July, give or take a week.

Actually, if they’re adding space at a steady rate–which is a huge “if”–then it should be either July 4 or July 5, 2008.

If I’m wrong, I will double my monthly payment for Gmail for the course of one month. That’s as much money as I ever put behind my predictions.

“Disc megabytes” as used in almost all advertising and specs for hard disk space (and, I believe, optical disc and flash drive space) are based on the decimal system–thus, a megabyte is 1,000,000 bytes, and a gigabyte is 1,000,000,000 bytes. “True megabytes” (or “RAM megabytes” if you prefer) are based on the binary system. Thus, a megabyte is 1,024 kilobytes or 1,024×1024 bytes, and a gigabyte is 1,024×1,024×1,024 bytes. It does start to add up–in this case, to roughly 73.3 million characters. You still sometimes see tiny little footnotes on ads because there have been people who sued because their hard discs didn’t have as much storage as was advertised.

Things get confusing because OS tools, at least on the Windows side, usually return “true megabytes” sizes–so, for example, the primary portion of my notebook’s 250GB drive is reported as “238,113,628,160 bytes” and also as “221 GB.” (There’s a secondary partition for recovery–“11,943,071,744 bytes” but also “11.1GB”) So do I have a 250GB hard disk or a 232GB hard disk? The only plausible answer is, of course, Yes.

Updated August 5, 2008: Well, if I’d said “give or take a month” instead of “give or take a week,” I would have been less wrong. Looks like it rolled over to seven gigabytes some time this morning.

50 Movie Western Classics, Disc 9

Monday, April 28th, 2008

In Old Caliente, 1939, b&w. Joseph Kane (dir.), Roy Rogers, Trigger, Lynne Roberts/Mary Hart, Gabby Hayes, Jack La Rue, Katherine DeMille, Frank Puglia. 0:57/0:54.

This time, Roy Rogers is the prime cowboy at a huge Alta California ranchero—and the foreman, Sujarto, is betraying the owner, Don Jose, to a band of outlaws stealing the gold received for shipments of cattle to California miners. Meanwhile, settlers are arriving—this group of wagons with Gabby Hayes in his full Gabbitude. Sujarto tries to blame Roy Rogers for the gringos holding up his people; Roy Rogers track Sujarto to a meet with the rest of the bandits—but Sujarto manages to place the blame on Rogers and Hayes, who are taken off to be hung in the morning.

It all works out—well, not for Don Jose, but for the rest of them. The plot is pretty solid for a one-hour B western, including a remarkably clever way to trap the outlaws. Rogers contributes several songs, some with a group backing, one with Hayes. There’s also a fine dance number at a fandango. The print is in very good shape except for a little dirt near the end; the soundtrack’s so-so. Those flaws reduce this to $1.

Rough Riders Round-Up, 1939, b&w. Joseph Kane (dir.), Lynne Roberts/Mary Hart, Raymond Hatton, Eddie Acuff, William Pawley. 0:58/0:54.

Roy and friends come from Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders to join the border guard, firmly instructed not to cross over into Mexico without permission. Roy and old codger friend wind up on probation because the third rough rider gets shot in a barroom brawl. Add in Arizona Jack and his band of thieves, hiding out in Mexico and raiding across the border—and robberies of an American-owned gold mine in Mexico.

Naturally, a couple of songs, including one under dire circumstances. Nothing terribly wrong here, but nothing terribly right either. Even as short Bs go, this is a little disappointing. Maybe we need Dale Evans. $0.75.

Hell Town, 1937, b&w (originally Born to the West). Charles Barton (dir.), John Wayne, Marsha Hunt, John Mack Brown, John Patterson, Monte Blue, Syd Saylor. 0:59 [0:55].

The first five or ten minutes get off to a truly rotten start. The print’s dark enough that you can’t quite figure out what’s going on, there’s a song that seems out of place—and then there’s some kind of riding gun battle involving a herd of cattle, but it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Enter a young John Wayne and old-coot friend (Syd Saylor)—who seem totally amoral, ready to join whichever side of the battle appears to be winning. Did I mention that the sound’s distorted? At this point, I was about to give up—but didn’t. (IMDB may help on the confusion: Apparently, when the flick was reissued as Hell Town, the production company “added random stock footage of cattle drives, chases and stampedes to bring the running time to over an hour.” Some of it certainly looks random!)

It gets better, sort of. Wayne’s a cowboy on his way to Montana, who has a wholly undeserved belief that he’s the best poker player west of the Mississippi—and is broke as a result. The sidekick tries to sell lightning rods, apparently as a straightforward low-buck con. The battle was apparently an attempt to rustle most of a herd of cattle (from a ranch owned by Wayne’s character’s cousin) on its way to market—and of course one of the higher-ups in the cattle company is involved. Also of course, there’s potential romance. Somehow, Wayne turns semi-heroic (although still a compulsive gambler and really bad at it). All ends well, I guess. Given the confused plot (not helped by four missing minutes), poor print and distorted sound, I’m being generous at $0.75.

The Kansan, 1943, b&w. George Archainbaud (dir.), Richard Dix, Jane Wyatt, Albert Dekker, Eugene Pallette, Victor Jory, Willie Best. 1:19.

John Bonniwell, on his way to Oregon, encounters the James Gang as it’s planning to rob the bank in Broken Lance. He drives them away but gets shot in the process. As he’s recuperating, he finds that he’s been elected marshall—mostly because of the Steve Barat, the banker and town boss, who’s counting on him to keep the town in line as he (Barat) milks it for all its worth. Things don’t work out that way, as Bonniwell proves to be a man of integrity and honor, not just the law. It doesn’t help that the bigshot’s brother Jeff, a gambling man, has a lot more honor than anyone expects. Oh, and the hotel keeper (Jane Wyatt) is involved in all this—starting with Jeff and ending with John.

It’s a strong movie, with a solid plot, some fine acting and some remarkable action scenes. A barroom brawl is about as extensive and wild as I’ve seen, even though I do believe the same chair crashed through the same huge mirror twice during the sequence. There are two negatives, one related to the print and one, I suspect, a sign of the times. The print’s damaged in spots with missing chunks, some dirt and occasional soundtrack problems. And much of the humor in the film has to do with “Bones,” a black valet at the hotel, who’s portrayed stereotypically. Even with those drawbacks, it’s worth $1.25.

Chevy starts with CH. So does chutzpah.

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

Walt at Random has the most readers of any blog in its class.*

That seems like an appropriate way to begin this little poke at a full-page Chevy ad in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. The ad’s announcing an increase in incentive money, and features three different models. The highway EPA estimate appears for each model–and for two of the three, it’s accompanied by “Best-in-class highway fuel economy” (in one case followed by “with manual transmission.” And, oh yes, there’s a footnote for each of those claims.

The mileage figures aren’t bad, but they’re also not great. Not that I’m a skeptic, but, well, I was pretty sure that the Chevy Cobalt didn’t get as good mileage as a number of other compact cars.

So I did what most readers never bother to do: I read the footnotes.

Here’s the footnote for the Cobalt:

Based on 2008 GM Compact Car 3-Door Coupe segment.

And for the Impala:

Based on Impala with 3.5L engine and 2008 GM Large Car segment.

Isn’t that great? GM’s defining “class” based entirely on cars it manufactures. I don’t know how many “compact car 3-door coupe”s GM makes, but this definitely nicely avoids comparisons with all the compact cars from Honda, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, Mazda…and even Ford and Chrysler.

Imagine if libraries had advertising budgets and the same approach to facts vs. truth. Every library could really be a star, without much trouble:

Mallsville Public Library answers more reference questions than any other comparable library^

Followed by more promotional material, followed by this substantially smaller footnote:

^Based on libraries that are not part of larger library systems, that serve between 2,000 and 2,500 people and that are located within 10 miles of the Mallsville River. Phone and IM reference excluded for purposes of comparisons.

Fortunately, libraries really aren’t businesses in some key respects…

* Based on library-related blogs written by semi-retired male non-librarians between 60 and 65 years old, living in California.

Farewell, ExLibris: It was a good ride

Friday, April 25th, 2008

I missed it by a week, but Marylaine Block has announced that she’s formally ending ExLibris. That announcement comes as #309–which includes a list of “my favorite ExLibris pieces.”

For years, I checked every Thursday afternoon to see what Block had to say this week. ExLibris was a founding member of the failed COWLZ initiative–indeed, Marylaine Block probably started the whole notion. ExLibris wasn’t always weekly (there were 309 issues over nine years), but it was fairly regular until the last year or so.

Back in the day, there were the Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues, Current Cites, Library Juice (as a periodical), ExLibris, NewBreed Librarian and Cites & Insights. Now…hmm, maybe there’s something about “Cites,” since Current Cites and Cites & Insights are the sole survivors. (Or maybe there’s something about California, or a monthly schedule…)

Marylaine Block provided a real service. I was honored to be one of the 29 “gurus” she interviewed.

Thanks, Marylaine.

Making your own web a more elegant place

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Time to do a few real posts, not the stuff I’ve been doing…but maybe not quite yet.

This one’s a good Friday post–but it may give some of you ideas.

To wit: Over the last month or so, I’ve seen most web pages (and nearly all blog posts) as a little more elegant than they were in the past–and found myself ready to read more before I click to the next post or the next site.

The specific choice I’ve made isn’t one I’d recommend for anyone else (and it wouldn’t be available to 99% of you, I’d guess), but the approach will work for most everybody.

I’m reading more of your posts because they’re in a typeface I find both elegant and readable, even though it’s really not very well suited to the screen. Namely, you’re writing to me in Berkeley Oldstyle. (Not Berkeley Book–that’s even more print-oriented, a little too light for the screen. Also, there’s no boldface in Berkeley Book, so it winds up “emboldened,” which is a little strange. You see Berkeley Book in Cites & Insights and in Cites & Insights Books publications, using Berkeley Bold when boldface is needed.)

What’s that you say? When you look at your own blog, it’s in Arial or Helvetica or maybe some other, slightly more interesting, sans serif face? Probably–and I’d guess 90% of all blogs and websites are in Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, Tehama, or one or two other sans faces. I just got tired of all that sans. Even on-screen, I much prefer serif. (You may note that this blog uses serif type–but not Berkeley, since you have to pay to have Berkeley on your computer and almost nobody’s likely to do that.)

So here’s what I did–and you can do it, too. Should you? That’s your choice. In my experience, FireFox 2 and IE7 both render well enough that doing this radical thing shouldn’t screw up too many pages. Usually, this choice will also affect printouts, although not always.

Here’s what you do. I’ll use Book Antiqua (probably Palatino on the Mac) as an example, since it’s commonly available, but you can use any typeface that suits your fancy:

  • In Firefox: Click Tools, then Options. Select your preferred typeface as “Default font” in the Fonts & Colors section. Then–this is the vital step–click on Advanced and uncheck “Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of my selections above.” Click OK. Click OK on the Options box. Shazam! Most of the type on your webpages–not quite all–will be in the typeface you prefer. You may need to change the size option a little (I use 17), as some typefaces set smaller than others.
  • In IE7: Click Tools, then Internet Options, then Fonts. Choose your preferred proportional typeface as “Webpage font:”. Click OK. Then, back on the Internet Options page, click Accessibility. Now check “Ignore font styles specified on webpages.” Click OK. Click OK on Internet Options. Shazam!
  • For IE6: First, upgrade to IE7… (actually, pretty much the same options apply, but seriously, upgrade to IE7 or to Firefox, or Opera if you prefer. I don’t have Opera, but I’m sure it has a similar override capability).

You could say this is ignoring the “design choices” made for pages–but do you really believe that everyone consciously chooses the same boring typefaces? Most of the time, that design choice is a default.

You can have fun with this, although you probably want to get to something that suits your preferences (which could very well be Arial or Verdana or Lucida–or just letting the “designer” specify the typefaces).

For current MS users (that is, Vista), there seem to be quite a few nicely readable serif typefaces, e.g., Cambria, Calisto, Constantia, as well as the old standbys Book Antiqua (used for this blog), Bookman Old Style (not my fave), Goudy Old Style and Georgia.

You could even use Comic Sans. Just don’t show me.

Or you could get silly for a few minutes, using something like Rockwell, Mistral (or another handwriting typeface), Corsiva, Matisse, or if you want pages to look like stock certificates, Copperplate Gothic or Engravers. Or, ahem, University Roman. But I can’t imagine spending much time with those typefaces…

Am I serious about this? Well, I normally leave these overrides on for my own web use, unless I’m investigating sites in a way that requires respecting their typography. You might find any such change horribly distracting. Heck, you might just love the standard typefaces that everybody uses. It’s your computer.


Friday, April 25th, 2008

What to say?

Meaningful permalinks and a brief problem

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I don’t remember who was talking about it, but some liblogger was grumbling about meaningless permalinks–the kind this blog has always had (e.g.,

So, sez I, I’ll do something about it; the settings seem much more accessible in WP2.5.

As of now, permalinks are now meaningful: the year, the month, and the post title. (I still don’t have a “permalink” text item; the title of each post is also the permalink.) That’s retroactive–but <b>internal</b> permalinks–from one post to another one within this blog–will still show up as “?p=…” and should still work just fine. I’ll start using new permalinks in future posts…

For a little while–I think just one day–there was a problem: The “named” permalinks were showing up in the blog, but they didn’t actually work because I hadn’t made the needed changes to the htaccess file. (There’s a reason for that, but you don’t need to know it.) David “medical librarian” Rothman let me know there was a problem–just a few minutes before I was planning to try to get it fixed.

Fortunately, thanks to Blake Carver, the fix was nearly immediate. So if you tried a meaningful permalink and it didn’t work–it should now.

And yes, that does apply to the link for “A really big look at liblogs.” Where you get the chance to tell me I’m an idiot (on one particular topic) with no fear of retribution.

Cites & Insights 8:5 available

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Cites & Insights 8:5, May 2008, is now available for downloading.

This 28-page issue (PDF as usual, but each essay is also available in HTML form) includes:

Texas on Tuesday

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Since a couple of other bloggers have mentioned that they’ll be at TLA (I just spell it TxLA to avoid confusion), here’s my mention–but I think the others actually live there.

I’ll be at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference this coming week–arriving Tuesday early afternoon, leaving Friday morning. Staying at the Hyatt Regency.

Presenting “Balanced Libraries: Books, Bytes and Web 2.0” on Wednesday, from 2-3:50 p.m.

No, I’m not going to talk nonstop for an hour and fifty minutes…not that I couldn’t, but nobody deserves such punishment. I’m planning to talk for a little less than an hour. The nature and flow of the talk will depend on who’s there, to some extent. The talk will certainly be based on Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change. Among other things, I expect to offer some notes on work in progress–some of which will appear in Cites & Insights a few days after the conference. There will definitely be plenty of time for discussion.

It will be my third time at TxLA, and appears to be my speaking trip for this year (although that could always change). I will be a small part of a program during ALA Annual, but I’d be going there anyway.

As always, when I speak at a state/regional library conference (my favorite kind of speaking), I try to go for most or all of the conference. I certainly plan to be at the Tuesday all-conference welcome party, spend time in the exhibits, and attend some programs. I always enjoy meeting people I haven’t met and seeing people again…

I could say “posting will be light for the next week,” since I still travel without computing technology (OK, OK, so I will have an ugh cell phone and my cute little MP3 player), but posting here is so erratic that there’s no point.

Admittedly, this all assumes that American–my favorite airline–has its MD80s fully in the air by Tuesday, since that’s what I’ll be taking between San Jose and DFW, but that seems like a pretty safe bet…