Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Google Search by Image, and a 1982 Look at the Future of Technology

Every so often, the internet presents me with some sort of new technology that just makes me happy to live in a society capable of producing such a thing. Today's wonder? Google's search by image. You can drag any image into this little tool, and Google searches for information about the image. It's like Google Goggles (the ability to take a picture and search for information about it online) without the picture taking. I suppose it's just an easy step from that, but it still is cool enough that it makes me really excited. Here's a video--check it out:

And in other news, here's a link to a 1982 article by the New York Times that explored where technology would be by the end of the century. They got some of the specifics wrong, but as far as the broader implications of technology, they seemed to be pretty spot on to me. Makes me wonder where we'll be in another 20 years.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ridiculous Updates: Firefox 5 and Chrome 12

Porsche 911: Perfection by DesignFirefox released a new version yesterday: Firefox 5.0. For those who want to update, go for it. I have, and . . . it's pretty much no different than before. (You can update here, for what it's worth.) It's been three months since Firefox 4.0 came out, and supposedly in another three months, Firefox 6.0 is on its way.

Folks, this has to stop. Version numbers are supposed to mean something, not just be a marketing gimmick. When you go from 1.0 to 2.0, that means there's a significant upgrade. Significant enough that you'll likely have to relearn how to do some things. The speed will be faster, there'll be a lot more functionality. If the update is less than that, then the main version number shouldn't change. It should go from 1.0 to 1.1. That means some significant bump ups, but still pretty much the same experience. Even more minor changes get extra decimals. 1.0.0 to 1.0.1

That's how it's worked for years, and we're all happy with that. But then Google starts churning out new versions of Chrome every other weekday. (Seriously--they're up to version 12 now. 12?!? The first version came out in December of 2008. That means they've had a "new version" every other month or so. Come on. Get real. At this rate, we'll have Chrome 24 on its fifth birthday.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned or crotchety, but to me, this "new version" craze is as bad as the "As Seen on TV" branding of infomercials.


Anyway. Firefox 5. Yay? Update if you want to. It'll be marginally faster, and it should run some web pages better. I'm not saying you shouldn't update, but just don't think you're going to get a brand new experience.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Movie Collection Highlights: Westerns

ShaneLast week was Kurosawa films, this week I've chosen westerns to focus on. And while Mantor might not have a tremendously deep western collection, I do think we have some gems:
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--John Ford directed it, and it stars Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. "A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed."
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly--The Clint Eastwood classic. It brings shifty eyes to a whole new level of zen. "A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery."
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid--Paul Newman and Robert Redford should have been in 20 movies together. At least. But at least they were together for this one. "Two Western bank/train robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close."
  • Rio Bravo--Howard Hawks was another big figure in early westerns. This is a great example of why. John Wayne, Ricky Nelson and Dean Martin help, too. "A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy."
  • The Searchers--Another Wayne/Ford classic. "As a Civil War veteran spends years searching for a young niece captured by Indians, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable."
  • Stagecoach--The movie that put John Wayne on the map. "A group of people traveling on a stagecoach find their journey complicated by the threat of Geronimo and learn something about each other in the process"
  • Shane--You'll be saying "Shane!" over and over for at least the next three days. Probably more. "A weary gunfighter attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smoldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act."
  • Unforgiven--Eastwood returns to the western genre, older and possibly wiser. "Retired Old West gunslinger William Munny reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man."
  • The Wild Bunch--Well known for bringing gore and brutal violence to the genre. "An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the "traditional" American West is disappearing around them."
  • High Noon--Some fine suspense, and Gary Cooper. "A marshall, personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, finds that his own town refuses to help him."
There are some more in addition to that, but I didn't want to give them all away--some of the fun of a library is the joy of discovery, after all. Anyway--how about it? Are we missing any complete and utter classics that you're abhorred we've forgotten? Make a suggestion! I'm always listening. How  many of these have you seen? I'm 9/10. I haven't gotten around to The Wild Bunch yet, but I will.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Technology Updates: iOS 5, iCloud, and Tips on Buying Electronics

A few updates for you today. First off is the rumblings from Apple: a new operating system for iPhones and iPads is on the way. What does that mean? A number of improvements:

  • Better notifications
  • Integration with Twitter (which is huge--and a big blow for Facebook, who had been rumored to be in the mix for this sort of thing with Apple)
  • A way to text people without paying for texts (assuming you both have iPads or iPhones)
  • Tabbed browsing to Safari
  • The ability to update your iPad/iPhone without connecting it to a computer (at last!)
The next update is also Apple-related: iCloud. In a nutshell, Apple is entering the cloud fray at last. What's the cloud? It's the current trend to move your documents, music, pictures and more off your hard drive and on to the internet. Amazon's doing it. Google's doing it. And now Apple's joining up. With iCloud, you can write something on your iPad, and it's automatically also on your computer, or your iPhone, or whatever. Take a picture with your iPhone, and it gets pushed other places, too. More importantly, with iCloud, Apple will let you get access to cloud-based copies of all the music you own--for $25 a year. This is actually pretty huge. Amazon and Google weren't able to pull it off. With them, they'll let you upload all your music to their cloud service. When you're talking about tens of GB of data, that's a lot of time. With Apple's offering, you just show them what music you have, and they give you access to that music on their servers. No uploading required. Worth $25? Time will tell.

Finally, here's a link to a good New York Times article about where you should focus your attention when buying new electronics. Highly recommended reading, especially to people who aren't as confident in their tech-buying kung fu.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mantor Monday

While we are busy planning programming for the 2011-12 season of On Our Minds, there is one last piece of programming in the works for our "Food for Thought" theme: edible landscaping in the planting bed along the library walkway. As the season progresses, we hope you will browse among the organic Sungold cherry tomatoes, herbs, colorful edible blossoms, and assorted other veggies, and harvest yourself a yummy snack as you walk by.

I'll be checking in with more news of the "Grazing Garden" over the summer, to keep you up-to-date on how our garden grows!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Movie Collection Highlights: Kurosawa Films

Yojimbo & Sanjuro: Two Films By Akira Kurosawa: The Criterion CollectionI thought I might take today's typical "review" time to highlight some of the DVD collection we've been amassing at the library. I've made an effort to branch out in some areas of the collection--to get some films in various genres that perhaps some people wouldn't think a university would own. Today's focus? Samurai films. Specifically, Samurai films by Akira Kurosawa, one of Japan's greatest directors. Here's a list of five movies you might want to check out to get a good overview of the basics:
  • Seven Samurai--"A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help them defend themselves." It doesn't get more classic than this film. It's gone on to influence all sorts of movies, and it's one of the best movies out there, hands down.
  • Rashomon--"A heinous crime and its aftermath are recalled from differing points of view." This one isn't as much of a straight up Samurai movie, but it's still considered one of the greats.
  • Ran--"An elderly lord abdicates to his three sons, and the two corrupt ones turn against him." Samurai meets King Lear. Another Kurosawa classic.
  • Yojimbo--"A crafty ronin comes to a town divided by two criminal gangs and decides to play them against each other to free the town." More of a light-hearted movie.
  • Sanjuro--"A crafty samurai helps a young man and his fellow clansmen save his uncle, who has been framed and imprisoned by a corrupt superintendent." The follow up to Yojimbo.
So there you have it. Have you seen any of these? Got a favorite? How about another Kurosawa movie I didn't touch on? Or a different samurai film? Do share!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

iPad 2 Review

Apple iPad 2 MC769LL/A Tablet (16GB, Wifi, Black) NEWEST MODELI upgraded from an original iPad to the iPad 2, and I'm here to tell you whether it's worth it or not, feature by feature. Ready? Here we go.
  • The cameras. This was the biggest point against the iPad 2 from the reviews I'd read. It was one of my big hangups in upgrading. The cameras weren't supposed to be very good. Now that I've used them, I'll say this. If you're in poor lighting conditions, the cameras are pretty bad. If you can up the light, the cameras are completely fine. I haven't printed pics taken with my iPad, but I've posted them to Facebook (along with video), and it works like a charm. Yes, I feel like a bit of an idiot, using something so big to take a picture or film something, but at the same time, it's kind of bizarre to have that much screen to frame the shot. It really feels like doing something other than taking a picture. The cameras are great for posting things online, and I love not having to get cables out to transfer pics from my camera to my iPad. If you want a camera--and don't need a super deluxe camera--then don't listen to the naysayers on the iPad 2. It works fine.
  • The speed. I didn't think I'd notice that big of a bump. Yes, it's supposed to be faster--but it's *faster* and more reliable to boot. A lot of programs that took a while to load on my old iPad now breeze through things with nary a bump. (I'm looking at you, Friendly.) The games work better, Pages is great, browsing is faster--I notice it all the time, even now--after having used the new iPad for a few weeks--I still see speed increases. It feels faster, and that's a very good thing.
  • The feel. The case is pretty darn cool. The iPad itself is significantly lighter. Now that I'm freed from the bulkier Apple case, the whole thing is much smaller. It easily fits places the old iPad had to squeeze into before (pockets in my laptop case, for example). Again, the overall effect feels like a significant upgrade.
  • The battery. Honestly, I'd say it feels like the battery isn't quite as much of a trooper as the first iPad. It still lasts a long time, but seems to dip faster. That could be just because the battery life of the first one was such a surprise, however. No complaints about the battery--it just *feels* a bit shorter.
Summation. If you don't have an iPad, you really ought to get one. Just so we can be Gamecenter Friends (seriously--add me. My name is M34NDR. I want to see how many games you have, and if I have more achievements than you. It's all about proving my virtual worth.) If you DO have an iPad 2, I'd have to say upgrading is probably not worth it, with one exception. Are all the improvements worth another $500 of your money? Even if you sell your old iPad, it'll still probably set you back $200-$300, easy. And I don't think it's worth that.

On the other hand, if you have someone in your family clamoring for an iPad, then there's certainly no reason to wait for the iPad 3. AND--if you can count your iPad purchase as a business expense, then it's a no brainer. Totally worth it.

In any case--those are my thoughts. Any questions? Need any clarification? Ask away.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

We've got new stuff!

When doing research, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of available information - especially on the Web. You can cut down on the information clutter by learning to quickly evaluate different types of sources and the material you find there. Is it reliable? Is it current? Is it appropriate for your research? We've got a brand new tutorial to help you accurately assess information and get the best possible results for your assignments. Check out the tutorial here, on Libguides.

Also new: 111 items available for circulation! Woot! Vampires, politicians, children's books, arts and crafts, poetry and scholarly works -as always, there's a flavor for everyone. New Aquisitions can be browsed here.

And, last but not least, the 2011 -2012 On Our Minds books are in the lobby and ready to set out with you on an Appalachian adventure. If you're looking for a great hammock read, come in and grab a copy of A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How Do You Know What You Know?

KnowingI just got back from a conference yesterday, and I haven't really had the time yet to organize my thoughts. There are many blog posts to sift through and emails to answer, so I'm Otherwise Occupied for now. However, as I was going through some of my library blogs, I found an excellent post on recognizing the worth of information, by Dan Russell. Really well thought out post, and very recommended reading. Check it out.

HOW do I know to trust what I’ve read /looked-up/been told?  (I’m going to abbreviate this as RLBT, shorthand for “indirectly learned knowledge.”)  The answer is that we all develop an intuition about what we RLBT and how much to believe it. 

The problem is that this is largely automatic.  The process of RLBTing and deciding to believe something is so well-practiced that we do this constantly beneath the level of conscious perception.  When I hear something on Fox News, I’m immediately skeptical (without thinking much about why); when I read something in the NYTimes, I’m immediately believing (again, without much thinking about why). (READ MORE)
So often with technology and searching these days, we don't take the time to question what we read--and to question why we think what we think. It's important in our quest for better search tools and faster/smarter tech to not forget that in the end, it's all worthless unless we've got our minds in good working order.