Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Firefox 1.5

Mozilla released the new version of Firefox this afternoon! Read about the new features and download it here!

One of the new features is that it lets you drag and drop your tabs to reorder them. The pop-up blocker is supposed to be better as well.

Sony CD Spyware

Apparently the rootkit isn't the only thing to worry about with Sony CDs. According to Boing Boing, many Sony CDs contain spyware (called MediaMax) that can download itself to your computer permanently even if you decline the pop-up license agreement the first time around. EFF is suing Sony over this. See the Boing Boing post for more information.

Can't get enough storage?

Maxell is working on creating a holographic removable storage drive that will be able to hold 300GB (scheduled for release in September 2006). Future holographic storage devices may be able to hold as much as 1.6 terabytes. Read the article at CNET for more information.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wonderful Firefox Extension

If you are still using Internet Explorer, quit that! Firefox is so much better! And I just found a wonderful new Firefox extension (found on Download Squad). It lets you right click over an obnoxious flashing banner or anything else you don't want to see on a website and "Remove this object"! Get the extension here. It's called "Nuke Anything Enhanced".

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

gOFFICE Revisted... Again

I finally got around to calling gOFFICE tonight to ask all the questions I had come up with after exploring the site further and thoroughly reading both their Terms of Use Agreement and their Privacy Policy. (See my previous posts here and here for my past comments on gOFFICE).

I spoke with Kevin Warnock, who is the founder and CEO of Silveroffice, Inc. (the makers of gOFFICE.com). He was more than willing to answer my questions and also had a couple for me.

One of the first things I wanted to talk about was my concern about the following paragraph in their Privacy Policy:
Sharing Information with Strategic Partners

We may enter into strategic marketing alliances or partnerships with third parties who may be given access to personal information including your name, address, telephone number and email for the purpose of providing you information regarding products and services that we think will be of interest to you. In connection with strategic marketing alliances or partnerships, we will retain all ownership rights to the information, and we will not share information regarding your social security number or other personal financial data.
To me, this paragraph states that Silveroffice has the right to give out the email addresses and telephone numbers of its registered users to third parties, who can then spam and telemarket those users. I am perhaps hypervigilant about spam and telemarketing, but thus far I have managed to avoid spam in all my email accounts (except for one which was receiving minimal spam for a while but has since stopped), some of which I have had for five or more years. Of course, I have not managed to avoid telemarketing, but I do not wish to sign up for anything that could potentially increase the volume of calls I currently receive (I am in the Do Not Call registry, so I get very few calls, but I believe that registry excludes companies to which you have "knowingly" given your phone number).

Kevin assured me that it is not Silveroffice's intention to spam or telemarket its users. The creation of the Privacy Policy was sort of a hasty affair and the text of it was a conglomeration drawn from other sources (such as other privacy policies), so its scope may be broader than necessary. He said he will remove this section from the Privacy Policy, perhaps as early as tomorrow. I will be sure to check back on that. I suppose it really concerns me because even if that is not their intention currently, having that in the privacy policy allows for it take place in the future.

Another question I had for Kevin concerned the phone number field that is required when signing up for an account with gOFFICE. I am aware that I could have put in a fake phone number (as Kevin pointed out and which had occurred to me when I first went to sign up for an account). However, what is the point of having a phone number requirement if anyone can fake it? Why have it there at all? I understand the requirement of an email address because most companies (and gOFFICE is no exception) send you a confirmation email prior to authorizing the account. This prevents companies from creating accounts for users and other such problems. Kevin's response was that they will probably be taking out the required phone number field in the next release/update of gOFFICE.

I then brought up the issue of the seeming link between Google and gOFFICE. My main issue is the Press page which contains "A sampling of web log (blog) entries that include the word gOffice". I realize that that statement alone implies that they were simply looking for the word "gOffice" regardless of context. However, it bothers me.

In my opinion, and from what I know of my own skimming tendencies, users probably look at the first 5-10 things in a list and then the last one or two. The very first blog listed is entitled "What is Google?" and the last one is "What is Google up to?" Further, the other four blogs mentioning Google occur within the first 10 blogs listed. Based on this placement, users are more likely to notice it. Kevin was a bit hedgy in response, saying that when they initially created the blog list, there were very few blog posts about gOFFICE to choose from. He also mentioned perhaps including a statement somewhere on the site clearing up the fact that gOFFICE is not affiliated with Google, although I do not think I will be holding my breath for this one. :)

As a last question regarding my curiosity about the Google/gOFFICE link, I asked about the origin of the name "gOFFICE". The answer I received was that Silveroffice would leave me to "speculate" as to where the name came from.

So I guess I will chalk the gOFFICE/Google link up to a marketing strategy. Google is a household name, and I can see why anyone would want to encourage the idea of an affiliation between Google and their product. And afterall, Silveroffice did buy the domain name before Google could snatch it up, so whether or not I agree with it, the link is there.

I think that covers the concerns I had about the site. Now on to my other questions.

Since I did not sign up for an account, I have not created any documents or PDFs. However, Kevin informed me that currently you can create a document, convert it to a PDF, and save it to your hard drive. So, I could have experimented more with the site than I have so far. I believe he said this option will be disappearing shortly, so if you are interested in checking out gOFFICE without signing up, act fast!

PDF files are apparently very easy to create using gOFFICE (as far as I understand it since I have done this). You type up your document, click on a button, and voilà! A PDF! What a nice feature!

I also inquired about the upcoming spreadsheet and presentation capabilities. These have been given various predicted release dates - I think I saw April, then Summer, and now November. Kevin said that these features are working at Silveroffice headquarters. However, they do not contain all the features that Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, and similar products have. Silveroffice has been holding back on releasing them because they want to be sure that the features are sufficient and work properly first.

This is also where Kevin asked me a few questions, and I had to admit that I just want the Spreadsheet option for list-keeping reasons, not advanced mathematical computations. I just find it so much easier to keep lists of things like articles I have read or want to read in a spreadsheet rather than a word processing document. The appeal of gOFFICE to me is that it is available anywhere the Internet is available - my office, the reference desk, and my home - and I would love to be able to access word processing, spreadsheet, or other documents anywhere without having to carry around a floppy, zip, or portable USB drive. Kevin said that Silveroffice had not really considered the possibility of someone being interested in the Spreadsheet capability for purposes other than mathematical computations (perhaps I am the exception rather than the rule, I do not know). They are having a few difficulties with the mathematical computations and are therefore hesitant to release the Spreadsheet option.

I think that pretty much sums up the conversation. I hope that I have not misrepresented Kevin or Silveroffice in any way. The above information is correct to the best of my knowledge and memory of the phone conversation (I can see why reporters like tape recorders!). Hopefully Kevin or someone at gOFFICE will read this and post any comments, corrections, or updates necessary.

I am looking forward to trying out gOFFICE and perhaps even signing up for an account (with a fake phone number of course!). This product really could be a great one for libraries to use, particularly smaller libraries who may not have the funds to purchase Microsoft Office for all their computers.

Lastly, thank you to Kevin for taking the time to talk to me and answer my many questions. Silveroffice is definitely concerned about what their users think and want!

Perhaps when I have time I will create a summary of this rather lengthy post so that all of you who do not feel like reading it (I do not blame you) can see a shorter, bulleted list version.

Research Library-Related Topics for FREE!

EBSCO has made their Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts database FREE! Check it out at http://www.libraryresearch.com. Woo hoo!

Monday, November 21, 2005

New Name for Google Print

Google Print has changed its name to the much easier to understand "Google Book Search" which is now located at books.google.com. As a librarian, "Google Print" made sense to me. However, I can see how it could really confuse people, so the name change seems appropriate.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sony did a bad, bad thing

I don't know how many of you have heard of or have been following the latest news about Sony, but a lot of the tech blogs I read have been posting about it. Very long story short (to the best of my understanding since some of this stuff is just over my head), in an attempt to reduce illegal copying of CDs Sony tried out a new software (XCP Content Protection Technology). When you play a CD with this software on your computer, it installs a rootkit, which makes your computer more vulnerable to hackers. Also, if you somehow find this program on your computer and try to remove it, it will damage you computer. Okay, so that's my best description since I really don't understand the whole rootkit thing.

Ah yes, here we go: In true librarian form I shall point you toward a resource that can explain the whole Sony problem much better than I can. Check out the article "The Cover-Up Is the Crime" at Wired News.

Here's a list of the CDs that contain the hazardous XCP Content Protection Technology, so you can avoid buying them or playing them on your computer. Sony is going to re-release these CDs without the software on them at some point. Sony's official response is here. Looks like Sony is also letting you exchange a CD with the software for a CD that is software-free.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blogs Hinder Tenure?

Alane over at It's All Good posted about an article appearing in Slate called "Attack of the Career-Killing Blogs". The author, Robert S. Boynton (a non-blogger) discusses the potential affects that blogging could have on the careers of academics.

He also addresses ways in which blogs could become peer-reviewed. This is an interesting idea, and seems to be happening to some extent already. It is not yet taking the form of the highly prestigious peer-review system found in academic journals where original research is published, but peer-review does happen in other ways.

I see peer-review occurring in the form of comments left on blogs. I think one of the signs of a good blogger is his or her willingness to alter posts (and perhaps opinions) based on comments from others. Some blogs I read are constantly adding updates at the end of their posts in response to comments that have been left.

I also have a lot of difficulty believing that the professor mentioned at the beginning of Boynton's article (Daniel Drezner) failed to receive tenure because of his blogging habits. Boynton is not arguing that this is definitely the reason but he does suggest a link. Are blogs really so poorly-received in the academic world that they would have a detrimental effect on the tenure process?

If I had only finished the article before I wrote the above paragraph:
As for Daniel Drezner, you needn't worry about him. After being turned down by Chicago, he received a number of inquiries and this fall will be a tenured associate professor of international politics at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. How did Tufts learn he was available? They read it in his blog.
What a great conclusion! And an interesting article.

As a side note: This article also mentions the Public Library of Science whose goal is to make peer-reviewed scientific and medical research freely accessible to all. I'm looking forward to checking out this site!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lone Star Statements

Lone Star Statements contains excerpts from one-star reviews found on Amazon.com for books that made Time's 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

Some of my favorites are:

“The book is not readable because of the overuse of adverbs.” - The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein

“The only good thing to say about this “literary” drivel is that the person responsible, Virginia Woolf, has been dead for quite some time now. Let us pray to God she stays that way.” - Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

“This book is like an ungrateful girlfriend. You do your best to understand her and get nothing back in return.” - The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

I have to admit that I have not read these three books, but the reviews are hilarious!

Found on LISNews

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Del.icio.us in education

I just have to blog about this, I can't help it. I was talking to a friend yesterday who was working on an assignment for class. She consulted her very wonderful librarian friend (me) for help in finding information on a particular topic. Turns out her professor was requiring the students to come up with a list of resources and then compile them using del.icio.us. How nifty is that?!

I started off using del.icio.us, but just recently switched to Blinklist because the interface is prettier (pathetic reason, I know). I haven't really had much of a chance to check it out yet, though, so its usefulness remains to be seen. It does create a very pretty cloud of your tags though. You can also import your bookmarks from both del.icio.us and your browser, which is quite nice. For your browser bookmarks, it applies tags based on the names you've given them, but you can always go in and edit them. Did I mention it's very pretty? :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Educational Uses of Podcasts

I just finished reading a very interesting article called "There's Something in the Air: Podcasting in Education." It was mentioned in Open Stacks, and I fully intended only to read the introduction but got sucked in and had to read the whole thing. The introduction sets up a scenario of how a student uses podcasts in her daily life. It is potentially over-the-top, as I know of very few students who get that excited about what they are studying, but perhaps it's not too far off the mark.

This article gives a great overview of podcasting and some possible ways it can be used in higher education. Some of these educational uses include professors requiring students to create podcasts for group projects as teasers for their later presentations during class, professors who podcast about what they have been reading in the professional literature but do not have time to cover in class, and more. The author of this article, Gardner Campbell, has created a podcast series called "A Donne a Day" during which he reads one poem by John Donne each day. He hopes that his use of inflection and voice during the reading of the poems will help his students better understand the intricacies of Donne's poetry. What a neat idea!

Do any of you have professors who podcast or use podcasting in your classes in some way or other? I'm curious if this is becoming more widespread or if it's still limited to a select few professors or institutions.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

(in)famous Kat

So the college paper published an article about me, the new Reference Librarian. They got a few facts wrong:

1. I'm not currently working on my Masters in Library and Information Science. I already have it.
2. I did not graduate from this college a year ago - it's been over 2 years.
3. I'm not necessarily the one on the other end of Ask a Librarian. Only a few hours a month may you get the privilege of chatting with me on that service.

I'm glad they saw fit to include my age. Too bad they didn't also announce that I'm single... and desperate (sarcasm, people). Anyway, I suppose it's my own fault for giving them my age in the first place. However, I will claim inexperience: It was the first or second question she asked, and I'd never been interviewed before! I panicked! I do remember thinking immediately after I answered her question that perhaps I should've said I prefer not to answer that. Oh well. It could have been much worse. :)

However, the article really is quite nice. It's great publicity for the library, and the story itself is featured prominently on the front page. The quotes were well-chosen and portray me quite accurately. So, overall, it really is a good article, it just has a few incorrect statements. :)

Thursday Fun

Fun and entertaining events taking place on a Thursday in Library Land:
  • The student who kept exclaiming "touch√©" while I was helping him with the catalog and other things. Tourette's anyone? At least I felt my help was well-received.

  • Computer services bringing back our four broken computers (supposedly fixed) only to leave them here long enough for us to discover they were still broken, but now in whole new ways! Computer services then returned and confiscated them again. Apparently, librarians can't be trusted with computers.

  • Kat hearts post-its: My student worker came into the lunchroom today holding a piece of paper and laughing at me. I'd stuck 3 post-its on it about Interlibrary Loan-related things, none of which she could decipher. And that doesn't include the other post-it I'd stuck on a different sheet of paper. The worst of it is that I'd managed to write all of these post-its in less than 24 hours. What can I say? Post-its are my friend.
Life sure is interesting in Library Land.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"Piracy is Progressive Taxation"

Today's Library Link of the Day was a December 2002 article entitled "Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution" by Tim O'Reilly. The arguments made in this article, in particular that obscurity and shoplifting are bigger threats to publishers than piracy is, are very interesting.

Another argument, or "lesson" as O'Reilly calls them, that I liked was his "Lesson 6: "Free" is eventually replaced by a higher-quality paid service". He states that free services such as local TV and limited dialup Internet are being replaced by fee-based, higher-quality services such as cable TV and dialup/dsl/cable internet. He foresees music file sharing heading in that direction as well, which we are already seeing with services like iTunes. The quality of music found on free file sharing sites is questionable so people may be more willing to pay if they have the assurance of higher-quality files. He also mentions that he thinks that an "'all-you-can-eat' subscription package" would be much more popular than a pay-per-song type deal (an opinion with which I completely agree).

How does iTunes work anyway? My impression is that it is pay-per-song, but since I only use iTunes for streaming audio, I don't really know. I suppose I could look it up - I am a librarian...

Anyway, definitely interesting stuff.