Archive for September, 2007

#9: Better than #8. No, really.

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Meredith Farkas just posted the results of her request for people’s “three favorite librar* blogs.”

It’s an interesting list; I’ll have to check it out at leisure to see which blogs I need to add to my already-bulging Bloglines list.

Oh, and this here blog came in #9, next to last of those actually listed in descending order (a thoughtful choice on Ms. Farkas’ part). “Favorite.” Hmm. I’m pleased and a little surprised.

That’s one lower than in the OEDb post that convinced Meredith to do her survey.

If either of these means a lot, I’m much more pleased by this #9 than by the other #8.

A key point here, though, is one of many excellent ones Meredith (or Farkas or Ms. Farkas–so I’m inconsistent…) makes about “favorite,” particularly for people like me who don’t have clear favorites (but did respond):

When forced to pick only three favorites, though, we pick the ones that mean the most to us at that particular time.

Noting one of the comments–Cool Librarian is in my Bloglines list; I do read it; I do enjoy it. It just wasn’t one of the three that sprang to mind as having been most thought-provoking over the two or three weeks prior to the survey. (I don’t remember my response, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be the same today.)

Yes, I do plan to check each link in that list, and I’m sure I’ll add several of them to Bloglines–at least for a while.

What? Two posts on a Sunday afternoon? Well, you know, this is the second day of a 16-day weekend for me, so…

OK, that’s not quite true. I like the idea of doing absolutely nothing for two weeks but clearing my mind, becoming one with the universe, going for long walks, etc. But in the real world…

  • Tomorrow: Put in hotel requests for Midwinter (yep, I’m going to Midwinter…); send in final paperwork for OCLC; deal with contract stuff for new position (I think).
  • Later in the week: Probably make travel arrangements connected to new position. Certainly go back to MVPL and start checking books out again.
  • Realistically, get at least one or two essays done for the November C&I–since I haven’t done any so far.
  • Do at least a couple of dozen blog analyses for the academic library blog project, to keep that moving.
  • Probably come up with topic for at least one column, maybe write the column.
  • Rearrange home office space to clear out old crap and leave room for new important stuff.
  • And, yes, take enough time to relax, clear my head, do even more walking than usual, and get used to a different pace.

I’m most assuredly not complaining. But taking two weeks “between jobs” isn’t quite the same as a two week vacation. Fortunately, we’re planning one of those too…for next spring or summer, that is.

Returning to ONLINE Magazine: Another upbeat announcement

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

I am delighted to announce that I’m returning to ONLINE Magazine in 2008, with a new column, “Crawford at Large.”

One of the many bright spots arising from my public job search was that Marydee Ojala got in touch and we discussed whether it would make sense to return. We’d agreed to drop “PC Monitor” at the end of 2006 because I couldn’t come up with six worthwhile PC-related topics a year to write about–in 2007, it felt like writing a “Modem Monitor” column: Maybe interesting at one point, but past its sell-by date.

The new column will cover a range of topics relating to the intersections of libraries, media, policy and technology. If you hear an echo, that’s partly right: In some cases, the new columns will be partially based on previous material from CItes & Insights, updated, further synthesized, and cleaned up to offer coherent 2,000-word standalone pieces. (ONLINE‘s columns are typically three pages.) For example, the first column is mostly new, but roughly a third comes from a three-year-old C&I discussion that’s specifically relevant to the new situation. In other cases, the material will be entirely new. In all cases, I intend to craft interesting stories that help to move the field forward.

I’m delighted to return to ONLINE. It’s been a leading magazine in the field for many years (the current volume is volume 31!) and Marydee is an excellent editor. (So, of course, is Michelle Manafy at EContent Magazine, where I continue to write the “disContent” column in alternate issues.)

[In case there’s any confusion: No, this isn’t the new core position. You’ll hear about that later…]

John Miedema on Balanced Libraries

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

Once again, I’m going to bend my promise to simply note new reviews of Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change.

John Miedema posted a thoughtful review on September 18 on his eponymous blog (well worth reading, by the way). Here are the second and sixth paragraphs (of a six-paragraph review):

Balanced Libraries is a response to the discussions surrounding Library 2.0, the movement that has tried to use Web 2.0 technologies to reinvigorate library services. Some assert that Library 2.0 is about much more than technology, with each stone in the library system being overturned and re-evaluated, hopefully leading to better service for library patrons. Inevitably, change is met with resistance. The library crowd is reasonably adept at getting at the best of the enthusiasts and the resistors, but sometimes an experienced and clear voice is needed. In his book, Crawford lives up to his blog tag-line, “The library voice of the radical middle”. It could be the bible of the Slow Library movement.

Balance is not a sexy idea, but Crawford helps makes sense of the debate, showing how both change and stasis can be troublesome for libraries, providing a fresh take on the timeless wisdom that technology must serve library the mission, not the reverse.

There’s more, to be sure; please do read the whole review. Do know that I take “It could be the bible of the Slow Library movement” as high praise–and if you think “Slow Library” means resistance to change, you need to follow that link.

What else can I say? Buy the book–it makes an important contribution to a number of continuing conversations.

28 years, three months, 17 days–and no hours

Friday, September 28th, 2007

In a very minor way, it’s the end of a (personal) era. Around 2 p.m. I turned in my “fob,” card key, corporate credit card and calling card. Around 2:30, I left with the last box of personal stuff from the office.

The post title gives the time I spent as a systems analyst (senior programmer/analyst, always the same job title) at RLG (or after June 30, 2006 the OCLC RLG Service Center), beginning June 11, 1979.

I really began working more-or-less full-time as a library systems person in 1968–June again, if I remember correctly. That would bring the total to 39 years, three months, some days. I could honestly claim “five decades as a library systems professional” (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 0s) and was hoping for six–but things change.

So for now I’m gainfully unemployed. Not for long, I don’t believe, but I’m taking two weeks before starting in on new endeavors. (I’ll announce that endeavor/those endeavors as soon as they’re finalized and approved as public knowledge.)

It’s been an interesting ride. I wasn’t part of the first generation of library automators, but I was part of the second wave. Some day I might write more about that–or maybe not.

I’ve worked with lots of first-rate people and generally enjoyed it thoroughly, learning and contributing along the way. Of course, I’ll continue to work with all those colleagues I’ve gained in the profession as a whole, since my “professional self” is the basis for most future plans.

Finding fault, finding virtue

Friday, September 28th, 2007

One victim of the on-and-off technology goblin that’s been haunting us was the scanner portion of my four-year-old Epson all-in-one. The printer was fine; the scanner was fried. That’s now an old story. I was able to return unused supplies still in sealed packaging and a colleague (for a few more hours) took the printer off my hands for a mutually agreeable price ($0).

And, based on technology magazine reviews and our expected needs, I purchased a Canon Pixma MP610 all-in-one–an oddly difficult-to-find model (the award-winning model is the MP600, but it’s been replaced by the MP610, which I’m simply assuming is nearly identical). It specced out as fast, capable, and had duplex printing capabilities–something I really wanted. (I’d talked to my wife about the desirability of adding a high-speed duplexing laser printer, but wasn’t really wild about having two printers or spending the money.)

Got the all-in-one home, set it up (painless), tried it out: Noisy scanning-head return, a little squeaky on startup, excellent print quality–visibly better even at the low-quality “fast” setting than the Epson–and, indeed, pretty fast, whether at “fast” or normal.

Until I tried duplex printing. At which point it slowed down a lot–to somewhere between two and four sides a minute, instead of the 9-11 full text pages a minute of single-sided printing.

So, I concluded, you can get fast printing or duplex printing–but you can’t get fast duplex printing. Too bad, but I can live with it.

Then, a couple of days later, it struck me. See below the fold.

I have a sleek, small (about half as tall as the Epson) scanner/printer/copier that does a sensationally good job in all three uses. It cost less than $200. It’s not fussy. The text print quality on cheapo copy paper is better than I remember getting from lasers.

Oh, and it duplexes. Automatically. Which you just couldn’t do on an inexpensive printer two years ago.

This is a wonderment. The story isn’t that duplex printing is slow–which, it turns out, is deliberate: the “text ink” doesn’t dry quite instantaneously, so the process allows five or six seconds for one side to dry before printing the other side. The story is that duplex printing works, even with cheapo copy paper, and yields excellent results.

Oh, and given that ink jet printers have traditionally been “ink delivery systems,” going through large quantities of expensive supplies at several times the per-page cost of laser printing, there’s another new development: A standard for defining per-page costs. The first group review of printers claiming to meet that standard (including the MP600, which uses the same ink) found that they do indeed meet it. And this one’s per-page cost for monochrome text is 2.7 cents a page–about 0.7 cents a page more than typical laser costs.

Let’s see. Now that I’ll be doing all my printing on that printer, including blog posts I want to save for use in C&I, I’ll probably print, oh, 500 text pages a month. A fast duplexing laser printer would cost maybe $300, maybe more. At a per-page differential of $3.50 a month, it’s highly unlikely that such a printer would ever be cost-effective.

So there’s the story: Lots of remarkable virtues, mostly simply not available at a reasonable price four or even two years ago.

One of those virtues isn’t quite as snazzy as it might be. Big whoop. If I’m doing big duplex jobs, I can always do it the way I did on the Epson: Print odd pages, reinsert the output stack, print even pages.

I’ve been doing a few slightly negative posts lately. I thought a more positive one was in order. Here it is…with the moral that even an upbeat guy like me can occasionally focus on minor faults when they should be focusing on major virtues.

Fun with computers

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

A few LSW acquaintances picked this up this morning. A colleague at work, and a colleague at my future place of work, heard about it later this morning: I might be off the air for several days.

Why? Yesterday, when I turned on the home PC (a five-year-old Gateway, 2.2GHz. P4, “only” 80GB but I’m only using half that, XP/SP2, and it generally still “feels new), it basically didn’t respond. Oh, Windows came up, as did ZoneAlarm and the other tray items–but if you clicked on anything, it might respond a minute later, it might respond two minutes later, it might not respond at all. Tried a couple of things, including trying to bring up Windows in safe mode. Nada.

Arggh. Panic. Well, it is a five-year-old PC, and that is pushing my luck, but still…

So: Came home early today (hey, I’d been working extra-long days), tried some futzing around, no help. Went to Office Depot and Best Buy looking at possible replacement computers (which still might make sense)…but could I even retrieve non-backed-up data (e.g., settings, typefaces)?

Came back and had an Aha moment: Maybe I couldn’t get into safe mode because I use a wireless keyboard–and the “F lock” key wouldn’t be recognized until Windows was operating. To the garage to retrieve the “wired” keyboard. F8 at the right time, Safe Mode…and everything runs like a champ.

Hmm. Disabled Zone Alarm autostart (and unplugged the network cable). Restarted Windows. Everything runs beautifully. But, of course, without internet access–just fine for writing, spreadsheets, photo work, not so hot for email and blog reading and blogging and checking book sales…

Our local big-newspaper tech columnist asserts that you don’t need security software anymore, that your router’s firewall and the virus scanning built into most email systems is enough. I wonder whether his PC is being used as a bot… let’s say I’m doubtful of that theory, Pollyanna though I may be.

So, just for fun, I re-enabled Zone Alarm autostart…but turned off the automatic weekly scanning. I had noted that it was trying to start an incomplete scan–and most of virus software protection should come from real-time scanning, anyway, not the full-disk scans.

And it works just fine. For now, cross fingers.

Best guess: Zone Alarm Suite does separate virus and spyware scans. If you set both autoscans for the same starting date and time, the spyware automatically follows the virus. I’m guessing that the incomplete state caused them both to start simultaneously, and that the two scans went into deadlock (just as you can rarely use two virus programs simultaneously, as they’ll go into deadlock). My wife’s new Toshiba uses McAfee, which manages to combine both kinds of scanning into a single scan…

If I start scans manually once a month, it’s really unlikely that I’ll be idiot enough to start a spyware scan while a virus scan is running.

Comments involving Apple will be cheerfully ignored. In fact, if I do get a new computer, there’s a good chance it will have the same odd boxy logo on its front as this five-year-old beast does.

Future of C&I (& this blog): blue skies

Monday, September 24th, 2007

This post appeared at the same time as the October 2007 Cites & Insights, noting some uncertainties about C&I’s future because my own future in general seemed so uncertain.

As of right now, I’m about 99% certain that C&I will continue–not because of direct sponsorship (still up in the air), but because of a satisfactory “core situation.”

I’ll provide a more complete post when the last tiny uncertainty is cleared away, and probably in coordination with the people I’ll be working for/with. I thought it was important to get this out right away, though: The future’s looking a whole lot brighter.

Andrew, not David

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

There is a typo near the bottom right of page 14 of the current Cites & Insights: The SFWA vice president is Andrew Burt, not David Burt.

Thanks to Seth Finkelstein for pointing out the error. I’ll run a correction next issue.

Update: Oh, and later in the issue: it’s Jennifer Macaulay; there’s no “e” in her last name. I know that. Sorry.

Cites & Insights 7:11 available

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Cites & Insights 7:11 (October 2007) is now available.

The 30-page issue (PDF as usual, but HTML separates of each essay are also available) includes:

The future of Cites & Insights

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

This post was part of Bibs & Blather for the October 2007 Cites & Insights (which will probably appear somewhere between this evening and Thursday evening). I removed it as part of the “copyfitting” process (in this case cutting 34 pages down to 30) and because I’ve generally kept “job search” stuff out of C&I.

Those of you who read Walt at random will be aware that my future’s been somewhat uncertain since this spring. I’ve generally kept that set of issues out of Cites & Insights, which may be a mistake. I’ve also generally said that the future of Cites & Insights was not in doubt, barring some personal or general disaster.That was true enough–on the basis that I’d have a secure job until I was ready to retire. That basis no longer exists. As I write this, my future sources of income are largely unknown. Cites & Insightsis sponsored–but (currently) at a level that only makes sense when it’s over and above my salary.Here’s what I can say at the moment:

  • Three conversations should take place in late September or early October. If some or all of those conversations poroduce appropriate results, the future of Cites & Insights will be assured.
  • If that proves not to be the case, I’ll have to do some hard thinking about the future in general.
  • The first hundred issues of Cites & Insights are assured (barring even more unforeseen circumstances). But…well, see the masthead at the end of this issue. [Insertion: That is, the October 2006 issue is Issue 95.]
  • If you care about this stuff, follow Walt at random over the next few weeks. I will certainly post something if things work out as I hope–and I will probably post several things if the future continues to be up in the air. I’ll probably write something here as well, but that’s not likely to happen until late October, and a lot can (and should) happen between now and then.

I care about C&I. I think you do too. I believe it offers significant value to the field. I hope it makes sense to continue doing it.

That’s the text that would have appeared (with the bracketed insertion added). While two of the three “conversations” don’t seem to be happening (that is, they haven’t been scheduled), the third (and possibly the most promising) does seem to be moving along.The last six months have been personally disruptive and revealing. I’ve tried to keep the problems from damaging C&I–and I believe I’ve succeeded: I think the set of issues since April 2007 has been as strong as any in the ejournal’s history. As noted, I’m now thinking it may have been a mistake to shield C&I almost entirely from what I’ve been dealing with–but it’s a little late to stop now.

Postscript Monday, January 24:: Things are looking considerably better. See later post “Future of C&I (& this blog): blue skies”