Thoughts on Chrome OS and Libraries

With the Chrome OS announcement and reveal today, a few thoughts cropped up on this as a possibility and a threat to libraries and freedom of information.

First, in the spirit of Cory Doctrow’s ‘Little Brother’, if these catch on there are some significant concerns. Whitelisting could be embedded in the OS at a level where it would be very difficult to subvert. Our laptops and desktops today are vastly overqualified for the tasks we use them for. That’s both a problem and an opportunity.

Second, I kind of want to lock down my OPAC terminals to that level. The speed issue is great too, especially if it can take under 1GHz  computers and make them start up that fast. You could replace the current low-end enterprise desktop models with a ChromeOS thin client for the web. You could provide secured kiosks for the library system with a very minimal financial outlay.
Third, why no integration with Android apps? That seems like a major oversight. I don’t think I’d trust a web based encryption program, nor am I particularly impressed with the current state of video or photo editing online. I don’t even want to talk about the current state of the ILS ecosystem in this context.


Ditch the Twitter Client – Use Firefox

I twitter a little bit, and I use it to integrate my status updates for Facebook and LinkedIn. I’ve tried a few twitter clients, but they don’t feel very intuitive. My current social media setup is TwitterBar with the RSS Ticker addon used to pull updates from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This works extremely well for me because Twitterbar comes bundled with the One Riot search engine, when I’m looking for realtime information, a quick search is as easy as a Google search.

So, if you want my setup, here’s how to do it.

  1. Install Twitterbar
  2. Install RSS Ticker
  3. Add the RSS feeds you want as Active Bookmarks in Firefox
  4. FACEBOOK – Check out this link to figure out how to get the RSS feed
  5. LINKED IN – Check out this link to figure out how to get the RSS feed
  6. Twitter… if you can’t find this RSS feeed, turn in your Firefox card
  7. Success!


Edit – The loose nut behind the keyboard missed some links. Thanks Ahniwa.

The Scroll and the Codex: Two Different Views on Ebooks

Due to the rather unique collection in our library and our location, we depend pretty heavily on electronic journals and ebooks. I am dealing with a lot of problems with pdf ebooks for research at the moment, and I also read a lot of fiction (Mobipocket and an old Palm T|X at the moment) in ebook format, and I’m struck at the differences.

We are at a transition period in how we consume information, and it appears that we have simply carried forward the information access issues that existed at the turn of the last millenium.

I’m talking, of course, about the scroll and the codex.

A scroll is a single long sheet with words printed from top to bottom. A codex is a book as we would recognize one. I’m dealing with both in interfaces optimized for the scroll.

PDF ebooks have been particularly difficult to deal with. To have the text at a readable level, you have to zoom in significantly. This puts the top and bottom of the page outside of the viewing window of most modern computer screens, especially with the standard 17 inch screens at most workplaces. AJAXy interfaces like Library Press Display make even less sense on small screens. This is because our standard screens work best with an internet-pages, which imitate a scroll.

The small screen on my palm T|X suffers from the same problem, however using the Mobipocket reader converts everything into a scroll.

The scroll is fine for end-to-end reading. It has it’s own built in bookmarking feature. However, it is useless for reference purposes.

The codex is great for reference purposes. It bookmarks well, but not as good as the scroll. It’s more portable and durable than a scroll.

Why are we forcing something so revolutionary and different, viz the electronic book, into these two formats? Using PDF files, which force a codex form on a scroll, or plain text/mobipocket/EPUB files which roll out like a scroll, but suffer from a serious lack of precision in layout and destroy the benefits of the codex.

So, what’s the solution? I’m just a librarian, not a software engineer. Stick with the format that fits. Scroll-type ebooks are great for novels.Forced-codex PDF files are good for making sure that the text and pictures look good when they’re printed out (and very little else). Paper books still have a pretty good advantage over both despite the weight¬† and size problems. We still don’t have a format for printed words out there that takes the advantage away from the evolutionary, revolutionary, incredible paper book.

A summary of what I am thinking about and reading today

  • 00:49 trying out twitterbar #
  • 01:24 Please Snark This #
  • 12:28 testing the facebook connection #
  • 12:57 Ironic that the bastion of the Canadian free market can’t manage it’s own finances. #

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