Archive for February, 2007

Communities of Practice

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

I’m going through a worse than usual paucity of posting (blame the book–my notepad of post ideas is filling in), but I particularly wanted to point out this post over at BlogJunction.

There is a difference between common interests and common practice. One would hope that the first is a superset of the second–but I suppose there are practitioners who’ve lost interest in what they practice.

I’m interested in public libraries, but I’m not a public librarian. I can talk about ways to measure success in a public library initiative–but it’s a little abstract. If you’re part of the CoP, it’s real–giving you a richer, if sometimes narrower, perspective.

I’ve just started thinking about this. I note it because I was struck by the notion–and because I’m guessing that there may be W.a.R. readers who don’t read BlogJunction. In which case, I suggest you make an exception.

Wikipedia too liberal for you?

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Plug: The current Cites & Insights includes another set of comments and controversies related to Wikipedia. If you prefer mediocre HTML to well-designed PDF, you can get the article by itself..

I have a number of misgivings about Wikipedia. Liberal or “anti-American” or “anti-Christian” bias wasn’t one (or three) of them.

But one of the Schlafly clan of True Americans knows better. The result is Conservapedia. (You may have trouble getting through. The site appears to have none too robust servers. Or maybe someone came to their senses…) [Oh, and thanks to Mark C. Chu-Carroll at Good Math, Bad Math for the tip!]

I kid you not. As of right now (February 21, 2007, 5:15 p.m. PST), the entry for “kangaroo” ends with this wonderful science under “Origins”

Like all modern animals, modern kangaroos originated in the Middle East and are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah’s Ark prior to the Great Flood. It has not yet been determined whether kangaroos form a holobarmin with the wallaby, tree-kangaroo, wallaroo, pademelon and quokka, or if all these species are in fact apobaraminic or polybaraminic.

After the Flood, kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia. There is debate whether this migration happened over land — as Australia was still for a time connected to the Middle East before the supercontinent of Pangea broke apart — or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters.

I’m not making this up. Evolution–or, rather, “The Theory of Evolution”–is fairly strange, and the discussion and debate pages are nothing short of magnificent. For those of you interested in religion, you’ll want to know this fact, from the main page’s “”Today in History” for February 2:

Did you know that faith is a uniquely Christian concept? Add to the explanation of what it means, and how it does not exist on other religions.

What’s wrong with Wikipedia? Prime examples seem to be that some articles use CE instead of AD for dates after 0 and that some articles use British/Canadian spelling. Both of which sound pretty suspicious to me.

Assuming this site stays around, I’d expect conservative scientists and other thinking conservatives to denounce it or at least separate themselves from it. But maybe that’s giving it more attention than it deserves.

Cites & Insights 7:3 available

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, volume 7, issue 3, March 2007, is now available for downloading.

The 24-page issue, PDF as always, but HTML separates of some, not all, essays are available from the home page includes:

  • Bibs & Blather – Who’s out there, another language grump, and a reason for the peculiar issue.
  • Old Media/New Media – Music and video
  • Trends & Quick Takes – Five trends and seven quicker takes
  • Net Media Perspective: Wikipedia Revisited
  • My Back Pages – ten snarky little pieces.

Tiny little update in honor of children’s literature and the English language: Scrotum.

Worldcat Registry – more than I expected!

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Full disclosure: I work for OCLC, and I knew about the Registry project (some colleagues have been involved). Neither of which has any influence over my decision to write this post or what I have to say. (I think my track record’s good enough that I shouldn’t even need to say that, but…)

OCLC just introduced WorldCat Registry. Here’s the start of the extensive About page:

The WorldCat Registry is a Web-based directory for libraries and library consortia. It is an authoritative single source for information that defines institutional identity, services, relationships, contacts and other key data often shared with third parties. With it, you can:

  • Create and manage a profile that centralizes and automates information sharing with vendors and others—you don’t maintain multiple identities, and their data is always up-to-date
  • Get greater Internet visibility for your collection and services through syndication of your data over a variety of Web services including

The registry is seeded with profiles for all OCLC member libraries (and others), but it’s not limited to OCLC members–any library can add a profile (or add to their existing profile).

I already knew that the Registry could be enormously useful for some things I wanted to work on (some things in possible future work, some things at home). I wasn’t expecting the extent to which it’s been populated, however.

Namely, I did a local search–Mountain View Public Library. After choosing the California entry from the list of four results (which appear to include duplicate entries for the library in Mountain View, Missouri, probably because of orthography differences and source-material differences), I clicked on my local library’s profile and did a little exploring.

The unexpected, which I anticipate finding very useful: the “Administrative Information” page. It offers the basic funding and circulation numbers for MVPL. I found similar numbers for the Missouri MVPL (a much smaller library in a much smaller community), and assume they’re there for many institutions.

Great stuff. I can use this directly. It’s clearly set up to be useful through other applications. Turns out the MVPL numbers are considerably more impressive than I expected (the library’s well funded–better funded than I expected, and I’m delighted my tax money is going there!–and quite well used as well).

Give it a try. Lorcan Dempsey just blogged about it, which alerted me to its being in production.

Closing comments

Monday, February 19th, 2007

I just turned off comments on Are you reading this?, posted on February 16. The post more than achieved its modest ends, with 40+ comments (including my occasional response), and the situation’s changed enough since then to turn off comments.

I cheerfully returned to posting about stuff on Sunday instead of metablogging. Unfortunately, there’s some indication that the last “significant” post on Sunday hasn’t made it to some aggregators.

No, I’m not asking for comments again this time. I’ll monitor the situation–or, rather, I really won’t, since there’s work, C&I, a book, and life to deal with. I do begin to see why blogs get abandoned so much…

ZoneAlarm Pro: An update

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

I wrote this post just over a month ago, noting that I was finally giving up on Norton Antivirus and Norton Personal Firewall–mostly because Norton was adding a minute or more to startup time, and five or ten seconds each time I opened a Word or Excel file.

I chose ZoneAlarm Pro as a replacement security suite, based on ratings, even though at tax time it’s just about the most expensive alternative. (That is, Office Depot will either give me or heavily discount Norton, McAfee, or several of the other software security options when I buy TurboTax and send in lots of rebate slips–but ZoneAlarm Pro isn’t on that list.)

I noted the tricky startup, with a couple of seemingly-stalled situations, but that things had smoothed out. I also promised an update post in a month or so to say how things were going.

This is that update post. And the short answer is, I’m keeping ZoneAlarm Pro and I wish I’d made the change earlier. This isn’t a sales pitch, but it’s a good change for my system.

To wit, there’s no real scan delay on Word or Excel file opens–maybe a second or so, maybe not. Maybe it’s not scanning every file, and since there’s an automatic weekly full-system scan (which I’m leaving on, since I can pause it as needed) and all downloads are also scanned, such scans appear redundant. Also, the startup delay is less, although not zero. Generally, the system’s more responsive and I believe I’m at least as well protected.

I did make one configuration change. Originally, I was going to leave SpySweeper’s real-time protection active and deactivate ZoneAlarm’s real-time spyware protection (you don’t want to have two different real-time spyware protections running). That proved to be clunky. I’ve removed SpySweeper from startup, reactivated full ZoneAlarm protection, and run SpySweeper scans every few weeks.

There’s the update. So far, so good.

One downside: ZoneAlarm Pro is not yet compatible with Windows Vista. That’s true of a number of security suites. They’re working on it, and I suspect a compatible version will be out well before I’m ready to move to Vista.

Windows Vista: My take, for what it’s worth

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Having seen a little nonsense and a fair amount of sense on Vista, I thought I’d add my two cents worth.

What I’m saying applies to personal computers. Workplace and public-access computers have different sets of issues. I think you’ll have to make a decision within a year or so, but you don’t have to today.

First off: Suggestions that you should wait for “SP2” are absurd. Windows XP was a more secure and stable OS than Windows 98SE the day it came out (never mind the lamentable Windows ME). Vista is, to some extent, SP3 for XP; although it includes an optional dramatically different GUI and some advanced search capabilities and other new features, it’s based on the same NT kernel (as I understand it). Every report I’ve seen (that wasn’t written by Apple) says that Vista is more secure on day one than XP with SP2, and as stable assuming your system and OS version are reasonably well matched.

That nonsense aside, here’s how I see the situation.

  • You might want to read “Don’t be misled by these 10 Windows Vista myths,” . While I’ve seen much more in-depth discussions in magazines, this has the gist of the information and responds to the most widespread disinformation. (Or misinformation, but as the comments indicate, some of this is deliberate misinformation–when someone proclaims in their second comment that they will never ever have any Microsoft code on their computers, you can pretty much dismiss the “expertise” in their first comment: They can’t possibly be giving you first-hand info.)
  • The first really positive effect of Vista’s release is that fewer new computers are coming out underconfigured–but, unfortunately, HP/Compaq and a few others are still willing to cheap out with 512MB RAM to get an aggressive list price, and make up for it by configuring the Vista version you probably don’t want (Home Basic). I think such companies should be ashamed of themselves (yeah, that’s going to happen); RAM isn’t that cheap, and the fact is that XP really doesn’t work very well on a 512MB system with shared memory graphics, which all of these dirt-cheap systems have.
  • The minimum reasonable configuration for any contemporary PC is 1GB RAM. Period. RAM’s so cheap, and having enough RAM makes startup and multitasking so much faster, that this shouldn’t be an issue. You’ll find that most midrange systems now have 2GB, and if you’re doing video editing or loads of multitasking (and you have a dual-core or quad-core PC), that’s fine–but 1GB is a minimum, whether you’re using XP or Vista (or OS X, for that matter). (If you’re a happy Linux user, why are you reading this? I’m not going to try to convince you to switch, any more than I’d try to convince a happy Mac user to switch. If you like what you have, more power to you!)
  • If you’re planning to use Vista Home Premium and the snazzy Aero Glass interface–which is neato keen shiny, but won’t necessarily get your work done any faster–then you really should have a separate graphics card with at least 128MB RAM, presumably a reasonably contemporary one.
  • For that matter, a dual-core PC wouldn’t hurt–and, for any new PC, chances are any notebook over about $800 and any desktop over $600 (and some under, in both cases) will have either an AMD 64 X2 Dual-Core or an Intel Core 2 Duo or Pentium Dual-Core or equivalent. In this Sunday’s Office Depot flyer (just one example), I’m seeing $600 name-brand desktops and $550 name-brand notebooks with dual-core CPUs, 1GB RAM, Vista Home Premium and (for the desktops) 17 or 19″ wide-screen LCDs–and all of them have good-size hard disks and DVD burners as well.
  • Yes, Vista with Aero Glass runs slower than XP if you’re running one task that doesn’t do multithreading. If you’re more typical–browser open in the background, virus scanning, whatever, while you have at least one other task running–Vista appears to run a little faster than XP on a dual-core machine; it does a better job handling the multiple CPUs, apparently. Without Aero Glass, there shouldn’t be a significant slowdown even on single-tasking.
  • Vista and Office 2007 are entirely separate issues. Office 2007 will run just fine on Windows XP. Office 2003 will run just fine on Vista. I note that Microsoft’s finally stopped encouraging people to lie about their student/faculty status: Office 2007 Home and Student Edition is $149 and includes full Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • You still need security software, although at least Vista has two-way firewall protection. That may be a short-term issue if you use anything other than Norton or McAfee; it’s apparently taking a little while for other vendors to produce Vista-compatible editions.
  • If you have unusual peripherals–or maybe even if you don’t–you will want to check Microsoft’s compatibility lists. Any problems should be reasonably easy to solve, but there are always exceptions.

So what does this all add up to?

  • You’re somewhat less likely to encounter PCs that are underconfigured to the point of being barely usable. I’d like to say they’re gone, but that’s not quite true.
  • It’s always easier to upgrade operating systems at the same time you upgrade personal computers. Always.
  • Office 2007 is apparently a considerable improvement, and it uses XML for its standard file formats, and the new “ribbon” is likely to encourage people to use worthwhile features they weren’t aware of. But, and it’s not a little but, there is a learning curve–and if you save 2007 files in the default formats, you can’t read them on 2003 and XP Word and Excel, etc., until you install the patches for those applications. You can save files in the old formats, I believe…and the patches are either out already or will be soon.

Here are my own plans–but they may not mean much, since I’m now using a 4.5-year-old computer that hasn’t given me reason to want to replace it yet.

  • I don’t plan to upgrade to Vista until I’m ready to buy a new computer.
  • I’m thinking seriously about Office 2007, and if I decide it will be more than 9 months before a new computer, upgrading Office may make sense.
  • If I was buying a new PC, it would absolutely have at least 1GB RAM, a dual-core (or quad-core) CPU, a contemporary graphics card with 128MB or 256MB RAM, and Vista Home Premium–and Office 2007, either bundled or through that $149 price.

As always, YMMV.

By the way: If you’re using Bloglines and this doesn’t show up on Sunday, it’s being worked on–but I might also suggest that you unsubscribe and resubscribe using the first option from the browser-bar icon, which will get you the Feedburner feed. That seems to be working. Actually, doing that change isn’t a bad idea in general…

Are you reading this?

Friday, February 16th, 2007

If you read Walt at Random via a feed (RSS, Atom, Feedburner–just added):

Please comment (or send me email, waltcrawford, noting:

1. Which aggregator?

2. When you saw this–and if it’s later than Friday, February 16, it wouldn’t hurt to say what days you did or didn’t check your aggregator.

As far as I can tell, Bloglines just isn’t dealing with my posts at all, at least since Tuesday, and I’d like evidence of whether anything else is happening. (Yes, I’ve contacted Bloglines. No, I don’t have a response. No, I’m definitely not the Lone Ranger here, based on Bloglines forum.)

Thanks. And, of course, Aarggh

Comments closed Monday, 2/19: Thank you all. The problem seems to have been resolved, then unfixed, now morphed. I’ll keep monitoring, although I’d certainly rather post about, um, something other than posting problems.

Immigrants want to party like it’s 1950?

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

If you listen to public radio and your station carries the California Report, you may have heard this already. Otherwise…

I’m not providing the link for what should be obvious reasons, but there’s a charming website that fingers companies suspected of hiring illegal aliens.

Want to smear a company or individual? The site accepts anonymous accusations. You just have to make a case that the host considers plausible, and it sounds like the bar is pretty low. You know, someone who looks Mexican and doesn’t speak perfect English and can’t instantly produce a Social Security card…if it walks like an illegal alien and talks like an illegal alien, well…

Here’s the really charming part: To get a company or employer name removed from the site, the host requires absolute proof that there are no illegal aliens, and suggests hiring a private detective agency to do a full internal audit.

In other words, you’re guilty until proven innocent, and the basis for accusation is “sounds plausible to me,” while the basis for innocence is [expensive] proof. Of course, you can always sue the host, if you have a few tens of thousands of dollars handy, since it would have to be a slander-style suit, difficult to win in the U.S. (and the host could always claim that they’re just offering a site, ol’ Anonymous actually provided the content…so go sue Anonymous)

I wonder whether the host has a handy sheet of paper lising 205 vile employers engaged in unamerican hiring, or maybe 57, or maybe… [Oh, go look it up.]

No, I’m not calling for the site to be shut down. Just don’t ask me to shake hands with anyone involved with the site; they don’t make soap strong enough.

WorldCat Identities

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

I got a sneak preview of this a little while back, and now Thom Hickey’s writing about it in Outgoing, his blog, so I guess it’s OK for me to mention it.

I thought it was fascinating when I first saw it–not only fascinating but useful. That impression hasn’t changed.

You really should read Thom’s post and try it out for yourself. It has a summary page for each person in WorldCat–and for some animals and fictional characters as well. The summary page can be surprising and revealing. (OK, Thom, where did that review of First Have Something to Say come from? It’s not in…)

Checking Terry Pratchett, I see I’m even more woefully behind on the Discworld books than I thought, and am reminded of how many other books he’s written–and I got there from Neil Gaiman (I loved Good Omens–what can I say?), who’s no slouch either.

Good stuff. What more to say?