Archive for November, 2010

And we should trust our computer security to you?

Posted in Stuff, Technology and software on November 17th, 2010

I don’t know if this is a farce, a comedy, or a tragedy…

Background

When my wife purchased her Toshiba notebook (three years ago), it came with McAfee Internet Security preloaded.

When I purchased my Gateway notebook (two years ago), it came with McAfee Total Security preloaded.

We both auto-renewed for a year (I think). McAfee was obtrusive at times–the update process is the only thing I know that seems able to use 100% of both cores in my Core 2 Duo, hanging the machine until it finishes–but had, for a while, top ratings. More recently? Not so much.

Foreground

My wife’s one-user McAfee Internet Security license expires in a few days. She deliberately turned off autorenew. My three-user McAfee Total Security license expires in January. I had autorenew on.

But my wife’s doing volunteer work that requires her to visit sites that I might not choose to visit. She needs topnotch online security more than I do. So…

Well, I thought, there should be an easy way to add her to my Total Security license, so her software gets upgraded; I’ll pay the autorenew rate for both machines.

Not so easy, as it turns out. After struggling to make sense of McAfee’s online support, the only answer was for her to TOTALLY UNINSTALL her protection, leaving her computer wholly unprotected, then download Total Security after going to my McAfee page. Of course, if anything went wrong with the download, well, she’d be totally unprotected–the instructions required her to wholly remove the software before doing the new install. Provide a code so she could simply attach to my license? Nah, that would be too logical.

Well, OK. Thinking about it, and the likelihood that we’ll upgrade her notebook in the next year or so, maybe she should go ahead and renew her McAfee. I’d turn off my autorenewal and switch to Microsoft Security Essentials instead…and if that seemed inadequate, I’d definitely be able to buy a new copy of Norton, McAfee, AVG or something else for $40 or less (as opposed to the $80 McAfee wanted to autorenew my Total Security).

The chaos

My wife–who has two masters degrees, who taught computer programming at one point, who is a first-rate analyst–followed McAfee’s instructions for renewal. And wound up with an about-to-expire existing subscription and a new one-year/three-user subscription, which she’d need to download. For $70.

Huh?

So she went to technical support…an online chat, similar to the one I’d endured, but worse.

After wasting half an hour or so, she got the new subscription canceled and refunded (I’ll check the credit card account online to make sure that’s actually happened, and she does have a confirmation number).

She found a different “renewal” link on the account page. But, whoops, it seems to go to an order for a one-year subscription, not a renewal…although this time, it’s $40, not $70, and it’s a three-user subscription. Nahh…

Now, she’s turned autorenew back on. Will it actually autorenew, since she only has a few days? If not…well, if she does the renewal, it seems as though it requires her to download the product again. And avoiding all that hassle is the only reason she was willing to pay the higher price.

To sum up:

  • The link in McAfee’s email explicitly leads to the wrong place, adding a second subscription for the same software.
  • So far, we’ve been unable to find a route that actually allows you to do something that is, explicitly, continuing your subscription for another year…except by having a standing autorenew.
  • McAfee seems to want twice as much to renew a subscription as they do for a new one…maybe, or maybe not, depending on which set of links you follow.
  • Oh, did I mention that it seems to regard her fully valid Visa card has expired? It would take a new Mastercard number but not, apparently, a new Visa number.

The outcome

I don’t actually know yet. We’re hoping the autorenew takes. If it doesn’t, I’m not sure what to do. I know I can go buy an actual physical copy (CD and all) of Total Security for $40 if I do it by Saturday. I know she has a lot better things to do with her time.

And I know this: If McAfee has screwed up their renewal, pricing, link and other structures this badly, it leaves me in considerable doubt that their computer protection is as top-notch as they claim.

(I’ll add this: We used Norton for years, but at some point it became too intrusive. Norton never, never, ever had this kind of renewal incompetence associated with it.)

Postscript

If someone from McAfee feels offended by this, there’s a simple solution: You need to provide us–my wife, who I can put you in contact with–with a straightforward working procedure by which her subscription continues to be valid for another year, without having to download the whole damn package once again. Seems like that should be simple. It’s called renewal: You may have heard of the concept. Or not.

The Cover Story, Part 2

Posted in C&I Books on November 16th, 2010

disCover: The Complete Collection, cover image

Another post about the cover–and, by the way, there are still 98 chances for you to support Cites & Insights and my liblog (and other) research by buying this limited-edition hardbound collection.

This cover isn’t quite so large (9.25″ high, about 13″ wide). It was the last cover I prepared using Corel PhotoPaint before that 13-year-old program started crapping out. Now that I’ve figured out the text-placement/rotation tricks for Paint.Net, I’d use that anyway: Cleaner, simpler, faster.

The story behind the cover

In the book, I say this photo was taken on the Delta Queen while on the Arkansas River. Looking at the photo album now, I think that may be party wrong. It’s definitely the paddlewheel of the Delta Queen, as it’s driving the steamboat: for the Delta Queen, the paddlewheel (driven by an authentic steam engine) was the only means of propulsion. But I’m not sure which river we were on at the time. It may have been the Ohio River, somewhere outside Paducah. Or it might be the Arkansas River. It’s just not clear from the context of surrounding photos or the flyers included in the album (which seem to combine two different river cruises).

The Delta Queen is no longer an operating paddlewheel steamboat, unfortunately. The company that revived the three Delta Queen boats after the Delta Queen Steamboat Company went under (another casualty of 9/11) later shut them down, focusing its entire attention on the Windstar line (purchased from Holland America/Carnival). The Delta Queen itself is now a floating hotel docked in Chattanooga, Tennessee, just as the twin Delta King is a hotel/restaurant in Old Sacramento (California). It couldn’t have kept on cruising in any case: Congress did not renew the special exemption from Safety of Life at Sea regulations that allowed this wooden-superstructure boat to operate as an overnight cruiser. (Both times we were on the DQ, we had to sign special waivers.)

The DQ is a small boat with (at the time) tiny cabins–but that didn’t matter much, because you’d spend all your time out on deck and the decks were all ringed with rocking chairs. DQ and Delta King aren’t named for the Mississippi Delta–they’re named for the Sacramento Delta, since both were built in 1927 (in Scotland, reassembled in California) to run between Sacramento and San Francisco. My mother-in-law used to use the DQ for its original purpose. The engine is original, and was kept in magnificent condition: The engine room was always open to visitors and purportedly had the best coffee on board.

One of the two cruises–possibly the one this photo was taken on, possibly not–was a little odd. It was a “tramping cruise,” where only the start and end points were announced. The captain would stop at whatever places looked most interesting. A great idea in theory–but given the distance to be covered and some weather and traffic-related problems, it was a little strange in practice: We had a two-hour evening stop in Memphis (mostly to take on supplies), a Sunday morning stop in Paducah without advance warning for the Quilting Museum, so basically nothing was open…and that was it. We were on the river, and by the end of the week it was a little old, given the very limited recreational facilities on board. (A couple of younger passengers–most people were even older than we were, but there were a few under 45–were threatening to jump overboard if we were within five feet of land…)

But it was still fun, as were the other three heartland river cruises we took. I’m sad to report that the Mississippi Queen, a wonderful boat, has been sold for scrap. The American Queen, the largest passenger steamboat ever built (but still only 222 rooms), still exists but isn’t cruising: It needs a new owner. (We cruised during the inaugural season of the AQ, and loved it too.)

The Cover Story, Part 1

Posted in C&I Books on November 15th, 2010

Cites & Insights 10, full wraparound cover
No, this isn’t a sales pitch for Cites & Insights 10 (2010), although it is on sale for $40 for the next couple of months.

This is a post about the cover–and, for that matter, the only way you’ll see a tiny version of the entire wraparound cover without buying the book. I may do a few more posts about some of the other book covers I’ve put together for C&I Books. With one exception, all of them are photos taken by my wife (the actual librarian in the household, the talented photographer, and the smart person) on various travels, mostly cruises. So far, entirely taken with 35mm film cameras; when we start traveling again, they’ll be digital photos (and I won’t have to scan the prints at 1200dpi to get the cover shots).

The cover size and prep work

One aspect of wraparound covers in general, and those for Cites & Insights annual volumes in particular, is the sheer size of the image. For a 6×9 book, the cover image needs to be 9.25″ high and 12.25″+x wide, where x is the thickness of the spine. For an 8.5×11 book like the C&I annuals, it’s 11.25″ high and 17″+x wide–in this case, 18.196″. That’s a big photo–18.4 megapixels, where an 8×10 print (at the same 300dpi) would be 7.2 megapixels. For 6×9 books, the width-to-height ratio’s not much different than a standard print; for 8.5×11, it’s considerably different. To get there, I scan a 4×6 print at 1200dpi, then trim to size (mostly trimming vertically) and, usually, resize to the exact dimensions.

I’m no graphic artist…and I can’t really justify having a high-end graphics program to do two or three book covers a year. More to the point, no matter what program I use, learning retention is an issue when it’s being used so rarely. I’d been using a 13-year-old Corel PhotoPaint, but that’s stopped working entirely (really not too surprising!). I tried GIMP, but the learning cliff was too high for me to scale. My wife uses Corel PaintShop Pro, but that’s a one-computer license, and I see a learning retention issue. So I tried Paint.Net (free), and so far that seems to be a good fit. For this cover, I figured out a couple of technical issues that made life easier (using temporary layers). Actually, this is the first cover using Paint.Net; Corel PhotoPaint didn’t crap out until after I’d done the disContent cover.

I don’t really do much to the pictures, by choice–possibly flipping them for better arrangement, possibly doing a little touchup, but mostly adding text…and making sure it’s in the right place.

This particular cover

This photo is of Moorea, taken from the Renaissance cruise ship (R-3) we were on, March 26, 2001 (the third day of a one-week French Polynesia cruise). It was the first time we were in French Polynesia (we’ve since returned twice–it’s really no further to fly there than to fly to the Caribbean, given that we’re in California).

The R-3 is still operating, but not as the R-3. I believe it’s now the Pacific Princess. You’ll find other Renaissance R-class ships (all around 670 passengers, with distinctive features such as an expansive, 24-hour-a-day library space and four restaurants) cruising for Oceania, Pacific, and Azamara.

Therein lies a tale of sorts. We booked the cruise because we’d always wanted to see French Polynesia, the timing was right, and we got a really good price–much lower than we expected for a fairly small ship and a line with a fairly good reputation. Then, a couple months before sailing, our travel agent called and told us we were getting a substantial refund because Renaissance had lowered the prices (and this agency had price guarantees).

Once we were on board, we said “There is no way Renaissance can be making money with this”–the prices were just too low for the quality of food and service and the known costs of operating a cruise ship.

As it happens, we were right: Renaissance was losing money at a rapid clip. The line expanded way too fast (building eight R-class ships in a three year period after previously building another eight very small Renaissance-class ships), never really found its market niche (it was pricing below Princess levels and trying to offer near-luxury-class cruises), and went bankrupt in September 2001, two weeks after 9/11. It had been in trouble for some time; as with other marginal travel operators, the 9/11 situation was the final blow.

It was a great cruise. We saw a lot, French Polynesia (other than Papeete, Tahiti) is remarkably lovely and pleasant, really not much negative to say.

Note: Seeing this post in context, I see that the photo has right sidebar text superimposed on it. Click on the photo itself to see it in a separate window.

Cites & Insights 10: 2010, Paperback Edition Available

Posted in Cites & Insights on November 14th, 2010


The paperback version of Cites & Insights 10: 2010, is now available for purchase through Lulu.

The 419-page 8.5×11″ paperback includes all twelve issues, the indices, and an overall table of contents.

All print volumes of C&I are now priced at $50 paperback, $40 PDF, but there’s a 20% discount on all print volumes of C&I through the end of ALA Midwinter 2011, so that the paperback currently costs $40 and the PDF currently costs $32.

(No, I don’t expect to sell many copies; I produce these at least in part because it’s the easiest and cheapest way to have a high-quality bound volume for my own use. I think they’d be great for library school libraries and possibly collections on experimental publishing, but if I got even five sales for a given volume, I’d be astonished–and pleased.)

The cover is based on a photograph taken by Linda A. Driver off Moorea in 2001.

By the way: The non-issue that came out around Midwinter 2010 is not in this print volume. Given that it was entirely reprints and not widely circulated, I didn’t see the point in adding 50 pages to an already-thick volume and $1 to the production costs. Cites on a Plane 2007, an earlier non-issue, is exclusively available in the paperback version of volume 7.

disContent: The book looks great!

Posted in Passé on November 13th, 2010

I received my own copy of disContent: The Complete Collection yesterday (casebound books from Lulu take longer to produce than paperbacks).

It looks great! It’s a little unusual for a casebound 6×9 book, since it has a full wraparound color photo cover (even wrapping around to the insides just a little bit). I’m delighted with the cover, the quality of the print and the seeming quality of the binding itself.

While I get less than half the purchase price when you buy one of the remaining 98 copies, I’m counting the entire purchase price toward my informal “fund to keep on doing C&I and blog research” tally.

I think you’ll find the book not only a good product but a good read–and no essay’s very long, so it’s suitable for people with contemporary attention spans.

This issue of Cites & Insights includes the very last essay in the book. Here’s just the first paragraph of the very first essay in the book:

Have you been quoted out of context? It’s an infuriating aspect of writing, speaking, or sending e-mail—and it’s more infuriating when you’re quoted correctly. Yes, you wrote that string of words; no, you didn’t mean what’s implied in the new context in which your words appear.

For the rest of that, and one of the longer postscripts? You’ll have to buy the book.

Cites & Insights Volume 10 index now available

Posted in Cites & Insights on November 11th, 2010

The title sheet and indices for Cites & Insights Volume 10 are now available.

The PDF combines a volume title sheet, two-page index to articles cited, and 13-page general index.

That completes Volume 10. The paperback version will be announced when it’s ready.

Legends of Horror, Discs 11 and 12

Posted in Movies and TV on November 10th, 2010

It’s over, it’s over, this set is finished. What a relief. I know I didn’t actually start watching it until April, but it seems even longer than that, as some of the 1-hour films in this set felt like they’d taken whole days of my life. With the fervent hope that I never again encounter Tod Slaughter, and could actually do without ever seeing Bela Lugosi again either, here are the last two discs—one of them saving me loads of time because it’s entirely Hitchcock.

Disc 11

It’s Never Too Late (or It’s Never Too Late to Mend), 1937, b&w. David MacDonald (dir.), Tod Slaughter, Jack Livesey, Marjorie Taylor, Ian Colin, Laurence Hanray, D.J. Williams, Roy Russell. 1:10 [1:07].

This film is a horror, all right—another example of Tod “Snidely Whiplash” Slaughter’s astonishing range of acting, from V to Villainous to…V for Villainous. The excuse for this one is that it’s supposedly based on a book that exposed the horrors of 19th-century British prisons and caused Queen Victoria to clean them up. Maybe, but prison scenes (as brutal as they are, with the “visiting justices” apparently competing to see how vicious they can be towards prisoners) aren’t all of the film.

The plot? A young woman loves a young man who’s having trouble making a farm pay off. The Squire, a typically villain-tending-toward-insanity Slaughter role, wants the young woman for his own. He fails in framing the young man for poaching (which leads to most of the prison scenes, since an innocent friend of the young man “confesses” to prevent the frame), but the young man must go off to Australia to win his fortune, without which the young woman’s father will forbid the union.

The Squire, also the local Justice of the Peace, suborns the postman to assure that no letters between the two ever reach their destination, cultivates the father, and variously twirls his mustache and otherwise sneers. Oh, in the end, he fails, of course…another hallmark of a Slaughter flick. (Another: Despite his continuous sneering, debasement of others, etc., he seems to be viewed favorably by most.)

The only reason I’d give this any rating at all is for Slaughter fans (which apparently include every IMDB reviewer of this piece of…well, never mind.) In that case, I guess it’s no worse than most. As a revelation of bad conditions in prisons, it’s apparently several decades too late and mostly consists of sneering. As a Slaughter film, after which I had to go wash my hands and mind…well, kindly, $0.75.

The Bowery at Midnight, 1942, b&w. Wallace Fox (dir.), Bela Lugosi, John Archer, Wanda McKay, Tom Neal, Vince Barnett, Anna Hope. 1:01.

It’s an hour long. It stars Bela Lugosi in a role with two names. It’s…an incoherent mess, and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. The only plausible explanation I can see for the way this movie doesn’t work is that it’s a summary version of a really bad serial—but that seems not to be the case. It’s surely a really bad movie. This time Lugosi’s not a mad scientist; he’s a professor of psychology (at a campus that looks like UC Berkeley but is apparently near the Bowery) who, in the evenings, runs a soup kitchen up top and an incredibly evil gang down below—a gang that pointedly leaves one of its members as corpse at each robbery.

Or does it? The has-been doctor who’s a support person (I guess) for this gang (which, at the point of the film, has maybe two members at a time) seems to be doing things with their bodies. Near the end, a bunch of fatalities seem so be taking care of the evil mastermind. I’d say “oh good, zombies,” but the very end has one apparent fatality reunited with his girlfriend.

Awful, awful, awful. Also, portions of the print are so faded as to be nearly unwatchable, and some dialog is missing just enough syllables for unintelligibility—which, fortunately, doesn’t harm this picture all that much. (Reading some of the IMDB raves for this trash…I guess true fans are true fans.) For Bela Lugosi completists, maybe, charitably, $0.50.

Number Seventeen

Previously reviewed (September 2009), $1.75.

The Face at the Window, 1939, b&w. George King (dir.), Tod Slaughter…and what else do you need to know? 1:10 [1:04]

Mercy, I beg of you, mercy: Not another Slaughter melodrama! I tried. Honest, I did. And when the nobleman played by Slaughter attempted to woo the young woman half his age and began laughing His Laugh when informed she was in love with someone else…I snapped. No more, no more: Even 40 minutes more of Tod Slaughtering another role was too much.

The plot, from the sleeve: “The Wolf” is murdering people in Paris with no clues—and is, well, who else? I can predict the rest: The nobleman does his best to ruin the young man, does various evil deeds, and is eventually caught out, with good triumphing. Some of the same cast as The Ticket of Leave Man. Since I gave up part way through, I’ll just say that if I hope never to encounter endure another Slaughter melodrama. $0.

The Shadow of Silk Lennox, 1935, b&w. Ray Kirkwood & Jack Nelson (dir.), Lon Chaney Jr., Dean Benton, Marie Burton, Jack Mulhall, Eddie Gribbon, Theodore Lorch. 1:00.

Another one that involves a “Legend of Horror”—if Lon Chaney, Jr., really deserves that moniker. This one’s a gangster musical mystery of sorts, featuring Chaney as a nightclub owner that everybody assumes, correctly, is a gangster. The sleeve description seems entirely offbase: Everybody knows he’s a gangleader, and he doesn’t actually start killing off associates until one of them doublecrosses him.

The key, such as it is, is that he’s got locals in his pocket, making sure he’s bailed out and intimidating witnesses so nobody faults him (one sequence shows just how easy that is when anybody’s allowed into a lineup). But then the G-men arrive and things go wrong. There’s one plot line that appears to be a red herring and an undercover agent who’s accepted far too readily as being a safecracker who can also escape from jail. And there are musical numbers—quite a few of them for a one-hour flick. Unfortunately, the sound track’s extremely noisy through much of the film (the print’s also damaged at times).

Chaney Jr.’s not that impressive, and neither is the movie. I suppose it’s worth $0.75.

Disc 12

All previously-reviewed Hitchcock films: Champagne, $1.00; Juno and the Paycock, $0.75; The Manxman, $1; Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Chaney Vase, $0.55; Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, $0.

A roominar I won’t be leading

Posted in Stuff on November 10th, 2010

Turn it up to 12! A dozen social mediums methodologies you WILL utilize at this point in time to orientate your library customers and grow your brand.

What’s a roominar? It’s like a webinar, but with all the participants in the same room for better understanding of body language and more freely-flowing communication.

Thanks to LSW/FF for inspiring this title.

Cites & Insights December 2010 available

Posted in Cites & Insights on November 8th, 2010

Cites & Insights 10:12 (December 2010) is now published and available for downloading.

The 34-page issue is, as always, in PDF form. Five of the six (6! count them, 6) essays are available separately, using the links below. (As always, My Back Pages is exclusively for PDF readers.)

This is not the end of Volume 10, although it is the last issue as such. A title sheet and indices will follow, probably later in November, and the annual paperback print volume will become available at some point.

Contents

Bibs & Blather (pp. 1-2)

Announcing the publication of disContent: The Complete Collection, a limited-edition casebound. Also updating plans for The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 and repeating the same info as the paragraph above regarding the rest of Volume 10.

Perspective: Futurism and Deathwatches (pp. 2-17)

Thoughts on good and bad futurism and (always-bad?) deathwatches…including the final disContent column, “‘Is Dead’ Isn’t Dead–But Maybe It Should Be.”

The CD-ROM Project (pp. 17-19)

Kidstuff: Three CD-ROMs designed for kids, all of which I scored as Excellent back in the day. Two work, one doesn’t…the latter being perhaps the most intriguing of the lot.

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: 2. Methods and Metrics (pp. 19-26)

The draft version of Chapter 2 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, the first of several chapters to appear in C&I. Note that this link yields a 6×9 PDF, formatted as the book will be, rather than an HTML page.

Offtopic Perspective: Mystery Collection, Part 3 (pp. 26-33)

Discs 13-18 of this 60-disc 250-movie megacollection, including one classic and two near-classics.

My Back Pages (pp. 33-34)

Six snarky little essays in a bonus for whole-issue readers.

If you’re wondering, while Volume 10 is about 100 pages longer than I’d originally planned, it is not the longest volume. Volume 9 (2009) holds that honor(?), and I hope will continue to do so.

Doesn’t anyone have editors, part 18,000

Posted in Stuff on November 8th, 2010

So I’m finishing up the October Wired (read, as usual, in brief spurts in the most appropriate room for Wired). And I run into a “WiredU” feature. Much or all of which I could grump about, but that would be taking Wired far too seriously.

And then I hit “Waste Studies,” a supposed course about waste, which features as a Guest Lecturer Saul Griffith, who apparently figured out how to audit his total energy consumption, not just the household consumption. (And found, in the process, that he was a wastrel–he was flying a LOT, apparently). So far, so good.

But the big infographic on Griffith’s energy consumption has this as the total headline:

Saul Griffith’s 2007 Energy Consumption: 18,000 Watts

Which is pure nonsense. No, I’m not willing to spend half an hour on a TED talk to see what Griffith actually said. I’d be very surprised if he said “I consumed 18,000 watts n 2007.”

Watts don’t work that way, and Wired should know better

You can no more consume 18,000 watts, with no additional qualifications, then you can go on a journey that’s 60mph long.

Watts measure rate–not quantity as such. If you have a 2.5kW photovoltaic generation system (as we do), that means the system is rated to generate 2,500 watts as a maximum rate of generation (or, most likely, somewhat more than that)…just as your car may be limited to go at a maximum speed of 120mph. Speed is a rate: it’s not a quantity as such.

Calories, miles, pounds, meters, grams: Those are all quantities. The equivalent for electricity is kWh, kilowatt-hours:  One kWh is 1,000 watts for the period of one hour.

I’m pretty certain Griffith didn’t find that he used 18,000 watt/hours or 18kWh of energy in 2007: That would be incredibly low. (Our household electricity consumption over the last year was about 4,000kWh, and we run a very energy-efficient household…and that doesn’t count all the other uses of energy, including gas, transportation, etc., etc.)

It’s possible that Griffith found that his average rate of energy consumption was 18kW. That would translate to 157,680kWh for the year, and that is a lot of energy. On the other hand, the pie chart says gas and electricity only represented 6% of that, and 9460kWh for gas and electricity is actually pretty good–the average U.S. household uses more than that in electricity alone.

I’m not blaming Griffith for this. I’m about 99% certain he didn’t use 18,000 watts as a quantity. I’m blaming the Wired writer and editors. For a magazine that claims to be knowledgeable about technology, that level of sloppiness is hard to excuse.


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