Thursday, December 13, 2007

A year of near misses.

No introduction of the CDMCA this year. Has the bullet been dodged?

open my mouth, get in trouble

Heh. Maybe I spoke too soon. Hey, citizens, do what I can't do and make a fuss. I don't have the power. Three minutes and counting...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

a little rabid over copyright

I've been thinking a lot about copyright issues the past couple of weeks -- this was a research and speaking topic of mine back in the States, but since I left the country I've tried not to think about it too much. No matter how much Canada feels like home and all to me, I don't know enough about the history of copyright and its applications here to really do anything. But two things have popped up to bring the issue back in focus for me.

1. The CDMCA, the introduction of which was delayed by the Tories after events like a burgeoning Facebook group and a showdown with the minister responsible in Calgary. Gotta admit, I was on the edge of my seat for a while with that one.

2. I'm due to give a talk here locally in January about the Creative Commons, public domain, and open access -- all three of which I feel comfortable about but not completely so. Particularly thorny for me -- Fair Dealing versus Fair Use.

Oh, and sorta-kinda related to 2: can anyone Canadian tell me any reason why I shouldn't completely hate the idea of Crown Copyright? I just think "full copyright on information produced by the government with our tax dollars" and I have to confess I see red. The US gets this one mostly right, and I never knew how much I'd miss it until after I left.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Evergreen made eas(ier)

Forgot to mention this -- two great things came out of Access 2007 regarding Evergreen usability at the install: Dan Scott's Evergreen test script, which makes sure you've got all your prerequisites in line for a smooth Evergreen install, and Bill Erickson's Gentoo/Debian Evergreen Makefile.

I've tested out Dan's script but have not messed with the makefile, but if I do any new installs or reinstalls of Evergreen, they'll likely be on Debian and I'll give it a go.

By far my biggest problem with Evergreen has been the install process, and these two go a long way towards sorting that out. If you've been reticent to try Evergreen because of the 40+ steps it takes to do an install, this might help.

this is the last Access 2007 post you will ever read, ever

Not because it's the best one, but because the conference took place well over a week ago and all the best folks have already blogged about it. In my defense, I'm coming to this slowly because on the day after the conference ended I started getting a slight sore throat which then blew up into those monstrous, death dealing colds that I seem to get about once a year. Usually right after I travel. Which may be nature's way of telling me not to go anywhere, ever. So I spent most of last week in a fugue state, mildly hallucinating and dosed to the nines on Buckley's Mixture and cayenne.

But at any rate, Access 2007 was spot on terrific, and I had a completely amazing time. Interestingly enough -- or hey, maybe not so interesting; this is basically the first professional conference I've been to -- about 10-15% of my enjoyment was derived from the actual presentations themselves. This is not to denigrate them; the vast majority of them were really top notch stuff and I'm glad I stuck around to see them -- but what I really enjoyed was meeting and talking to people. Lots and lots and lots of people. What's great about Access is that it's a very healthy mix of tech people (90% of which are way smarter than me, to my shame) and non-tech people (ditto) and you get a hell of a synergy rocking when you get a pleasant mix. Witness Hackfest, where we had two groups related to Evergreen stuff that eventually merged into one group, and had as the tech crew two folks from Equinox, the always dynamic and intrepid Dan Scott, and Brandon Uhlman from BC PINES. Also folks from Victoria were there and had great questions to ask. I was there too natch, but mostly to watch -- Access 2008 Hackfest planning is on my plate, and I wanted to figure out what worked and what could be improved.

Brandon, by the way, suffered a hell of a lot of inconvenience on his project -- installing and configuring Evergreen in a day -- not because of problems with Evergreen, but with Gentoo amd64. He eventually smashed through them and went on to have a good presentation later.

Also present: a healthy contingent of code4libers, and oh yeah, an obscure librarian from Vermont. Like I said, top notch.

A pleasant surprise for me -- a substantial presence of non-evil vendors.

On to Access 2008. You will be there. There's no other option.

Friday, September 14, 2007

now is four is four today. Happy birthday! What can I say about it, except that I keep the sum total of my recent knowledge in there, basically anything from 2004 onwards. You get a bit of it in the sidebar on the right, but that's only stuff with the library tag, not the whole burrito.

It's a little weird that just about everything I learn and know recently can be distilled into an rss feed, but it's helped me with my memory if nothing else.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

What I've learned

I've been at my new job/new country for -- hmm, a little over a month now -- and here's what I've learned. This is specifically unrelated to the library, so apologies for the departure. I'll get back on the library stuff shortly.

Things in Canada that are more expensive than things in the US:

1) Regular brick-n-mortar banks. They charge a monthly fee. To hold onto my money. Which earns no interest anyway. My mind is officially boggled.

2) Car insurance. From 2-3 times more expensive.

3) Phone service. Vonage is about 1.5x what it is in the US. This isn't counting cellphones, though, which are their own special dimension of horror.

4) Transit, at least compared to SF Muni. US$1.50 for a Muni ticket, CAD$2.25 for the almighty HSR. Although monthly passes in Canada are tax deductible.

5) Gas. ~CAD$4 per US gallon.

6) Beer. I can't tell you the amount of ribbing I've had from my otherwise excellent colleagues here about my love for Lakeport, a sort of Ontario Schlitz/Milwaukee's Best/Pabst-alogue. But the minimum price you can charge for beer in this province is a dollar a bottle, which is a far cry from paying a quarter for whatever unholy dreck was on sale at Jungle Jim's. The way I figure Lakeport -- it's brewed locally, so it's gotta be fresh, right? And it's a perfectly serviceable beer, dammit all. Plus a 28 pack comes with a free T-shirt. Free T-shirts are always the sign of a classy brew.

To be fair though re: the whole money thing, I'm still working with the old expectation of the US$.60-$.70 exchange rate. Now that the US dollar and the Canadian dollar are reaching parity -- they're probably about at Diefenbuck range currently -- things get comparatively more expensive.

One of my big psychological hurdles is trying to get myself into the Canadian mindset. This means not endlessly comparing things to how they are in the US. This includes not referring to the Celsius temperature scale as "fake temperature". Eventually, eventually.

What's cheaper in Canada?

1) Pizza. I don't know how it's done, but pizza is about half the price here as it was back in Ohio, and probably 1/3 the price of pizza in San Francisco.

2) Medical care. Natch.

Things that are about equal:

1) Food, OTC medicine, general miscellaneous sundries -- some are pricier, some are cheaper, it works out to about the same really.

2) Broadband internet.


What can I say though about the town of Hamilton itself? Completely and utterly in love with it -- yes really. It plays the Ontario version of Oakland to Toronto's San Francisco -- and probably has about the same rep in Toronto as Oakland has in SF -- smelly, dirty, unsafe, mostly uninteresting, home to rubes and also-rans. This is utterly untrue. Hamilton is exactly where I want to be, in just about every way I can think of.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

small pieces, loosely joined

Cranking like crazy to get things in order for the move so that's why I've been maintaining blog silence, although a couple things have happened in the last few days to which I want to bring some attention:

Evergreen was at ALA, with flat-out terrific attendance. Incredibly encouraging, and the slides are a must-view -- I was particularly struck by the patron reactions to having a union catalog -- something we're very familiar with here in Ohio, natch, but it's never a bad thing when (especially) rural patrons can borrow materials from nearly any location in the state hassle-free.

Amanda at Mac has posted her postmortem of their Learning 2.0 jaunt with some great observations about the planning and administration of such an audacious project.

Here's hoping it won't be so long 'til the next update.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

heading north

I haven't written about this -- bad blogger, bad! -- but I'm pleased as punch to announce here that I've accepted a new job at McMaster University Libraries in Hamilton Ontario. It'll be the first time ever that I'll be expressly charged with working with open source software in libraries, which has been my consuming passion professionally since 1995. Add that to the opportunity of working with an absolutely flat-out stellar group of people who are truly interested in exploring next generation issues in libraries in an inclusive environment, and you have one extremely pleased librarian. I'll be up there in August and I am completely, but completely excited about it.

twitter and the beauty of enforced limitations

This post is going to be about Twitter eventually, but let me start out by dividing the worlds of blogging and/or social networks into two very rough portions. There's personal blogging, which is about what you ate for breakfast, where you are right now, what's going on with your favorite TV shows, your professional activities etc... basically media about you as a person, whether that be personal activities or professional. Secondly, there's content-based media which is still "personal" in that it's generated by a person, but is less about the person than about content. feeds are a prime example. You'd be hard pressed to tell much in the way of too many personal details about someone from their feed.

These are not wholly discrete, never-the-twain-shall-meet designations -- there are many excellent blogs that combine personal and content; really, I'd argue that the best blogs are almost always a blend of the personal and extra-personal content.

I've made several stabs over the years at personal blogging; Livejournal, different Blogspot blogs, stuff like that. But I've never really been able to maintain a decent rate of post on anything that was intended mostly to be about myself. It's not that I don't consider myself an interesting person, it's just that I've always been a little uncomfortable advertising myself, at least the part of myself that concerns what I ate for breakfast. But compare my sporadic posting on this blog to my bookmarks on -- I'm coming up on 4000 bookmarks now and have more or less been plugging away solidly at it since September of 2004 with no break in activity except in times of net deprivation.

Okay, so Twitter now, right? I'm actually pretty enchanted with Twitter, and Twitter is *nothing* but personal, *nothing* but what-I-ate-for-breakfast stuff. Yet I've got well over a hundred updates on it going back to February. And I find myself posting to it a lot and reading other folks' Twitters, most all of which with scant exception are breakfast-type posts.

Now it's a bit early to tell whether or not I'll stay with Twitter at the rate I've been doing it, but I think probably yes. But why? Not because it's RoR based, although I'll admit that Twitter is probably the best example of Rails scalability. Not because of RSS feeds, AJAX, and all the other Web 2.0 stuff. All that's good, of course, but what I really love about Twitter is its enforced character limit.

In case you're not up on the whole Twitter thing, it's like blogging, except that you can't have a post of more than 140 characters. So instead of having to slog through (or God help us, to write) xxx pages of breakfast-type posts, I have to think of my breakfast with this 140 character limit. And it's completely liberating, weirdly enough. I have (yet) no problem with posting about myself or my activities with this teeny-tiny limit; I feel that I'm allowed to be ego-tastic with posts as long as I keep them succinct. Ego plus prolix = yawnsville.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Welp, I went and survived ODCE, but wouldn't you know it I forgot to come back here and talk about it. So here's what went down:

  • I had 100% attendance! Yes, this means my one attendee showed up.
  • There was another guy who was supposed to be there, and he didn't show up, and he left his 4 attendees and the organizers scratching their heads.
  • None of those 4 attendees came to my session.
  • I'm not surprised by this.
  • I like bullet points.

My one attendee was very pleasant and in good spirits re: being the entire audience, and it was extremely worthwhile for me to meet her as she comes from an academic library quite radically different from my own -- private university, very small, low budget (e.g., they haven't bought into RefWorks because of the staggering cost). So I think that she went away with some valuable information, and I went away similarly enlightened. All good, all good. Plus, I've been making (small) inroads locally on the Zotero front with one of my faculty for whom RefWorks isn't really a good choice.

All-in-all, I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My OpenID "Aha!" moment.

Finally starting to get a handle on this OpenID stuff, although I have to admit it's taken some rattling around in my head to actually get it to come together. The "Aha!" moment just came something like ten minutes ago, with this tutorial. Took me about five minutes and kapow, I could log into wikitravel, using as my ID and the fine folks at myopenid as a server.

It helped me to think of it as sorta like LDAP, which I've been using with great success on my class's Drupal-based podcast server.

In my opinion, every university with a centralized ID scheme -- like we have here locally -- should implement a OpenID server. We already have LDAP; OpenID seems like a natural progression. Then imagine not having to create accounts on each and every Super Spiffy New social network -- I've already got a text file full of what must be fifty to a hundred different logins to as many different services. Good thing I encrypt it, because.. well, I'd rather not think about it.

Anyway, if you've been hearing about OpenID and want to see it in action, try that tutorial.

Stand by for action!

As lucid an explanation of the importance of Net Neutrality as I've ever seen. Go see it if you haven't.

What if you gave a workshop...

And nobody came?

So, as I've mentioned before I've got a workshop coming up at ODCE, on electronic bibliographic management. Actually the title of it is "Options in Electronic Bibliographic Management" and maybe that title was a bit dry, because I got a phone call from one of the conference organizers last week. She told me, somewhat apologetically, that a grand total of one person signed up for my workshop. They've apparently had a low turnout this year -- the most popular workshop has drawn in a total of ten people -- probably the web 2.0 one -- and would I like to cancel the workshop due to low attendance?

No way, I said - this is fantastic. I *want* to show up. My own personal philosophy has been I'll show up anywhere even if there's only one interested party and hey, here we go. So I got the contact information for my one attendee, thanked them for signing up, and asked them what I could do to make it more appropriate to their situation. So hopefully I'll end up with a very focused workshop and one satisfied workshop attendee. We'll see.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

This is the day, and this is the hour

What a time to be a librarian!

First off I found out that I'm not dooming myself by moving from sysadmining to librarianship -- not too worried about that, but hey -- and I wake up this morning to find multiple references to something pretty damn exciting, and written in Ruby on Rails to boot.

oss4lib sez:

"In a nutshell, LibraryFind is metasearch software developed in Ruby on Rails, and released under the GNU General Public License. It does both federated and local search, provides the ability to harvest metadata collections into a local index, provides an integrated OpenURL resolver to allow for linking to full-text resources, and allows for the ability to customize the user interface (or even to build new user interfaces!)."

Oregon State's got a demo here.

This is pushing all my buttons. I'm at the ref desk currently and I've got to prep for class later today, so I can't really mess with Libraryfind in the way that I'd like to, but once I get some free time I'll be swinging away at it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Is John Blyberg a Buddha?

Okay, maybe not, but he's managed to absolutely thrill the hell out of me and have me run around my basement like a fool at 7am -- no mean feat before I've eaten breakfast. Could SOPAC be the answer? Drupal frontend plus social catalog equals holy mackinac. I am pumped, I tell you.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

the loneliness of the long-running Linux user

I've been a Linux-on-the-desktop user for a while now -- 12 years. Maybe 13 -- I actually can't remember. I usually date it from 1994, but I may have been in as early as the fall of 1993. At any rate, let's just say a *long* time and be done with it. Until recently, I've never been able to wow people on Linux, at least not visually. There's only so much you can do to point to month long uptimes and stability and etc. etc. etc. -- what people often want to see is visual gimcrackery. I was never impressed with early eye-candy window managers like Enlightenment -- it seemed like too much work for too little flash, and anyway, as a righteous Torvalds-fearing tty-addict, I sneered at attempts to turn me on to visual sweetness.

Such is the problem with zealots. And anyway, that was way before OSX. This was in the Gil Amelio Apple years, where only the really really hardcore Apple fan stayed loyal and convinced. And then Steve Jobs came back, and then OSX came along, and Apple people had something to point to again; a UNIX that impressed the hell out of the visually-oriented folks.

Recently though, I've heard some rumblings about Beryl, and last week I read something about how Knoppix, everybody's favorite Live CD, came with Beryl as a desktop option. So I pulled it down, burned it, and booted it in a public lab where we were having a vendor spiel. Man, did I get reactions. It looks seriously awesome -- flipping rotating 3d cubes for a desktop, that thing that Macs do where you can zoom out and look at every application's window, other nifty nifty 3d effects that were actually useful in addition to being pretty. Mac people who happened by were seriously impressed, as was I -- and it was running in RAM! Man. Go Knoppix, go!

Now I'm using it at the reference desk on the usually-Windows reference desk PC, and it's got all my applications that I use upstairs, and my configs are saved to my USB key, and I am one happy clam.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Creative Commons and SWON

I've been invited to give a workshop and talk about the Creative Commons to SWON. Really, I could not be more pleased about this -- I don't know any details about times or dates or (really even) at this point about content, except that all content will be CC licensed, natch.

More details as I get 'em.
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