Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Resources: Films on Demand (Guest post!)

[Today's nifty resource brought to you via a guest post from Tiarra LaPierre, our current library technology student worker. She's been exploring our new Films on Demand database.]

So, I’ve been spending some time playing with Mantor Library’s new database, Films on Demand, and it is definitely worth checking out. Films on Demand is basically the Netflix of educational videos, but unlike Netflix it has a variety of features that make videos far easier to access and share. For students and teachers, this is the perfect tool to enhance a class, homework assignment, group project or presentation. As of this October FonD boasts a collection of 12,375 titles available for online streaming, and includes videos from producers such as PBS, A&E, BBC, ABCNews, National Geographic, Shopware, the History channel, (and my personal favorite), TED talks, just to name a few.

I found the site was intuitive and easy to navigate thanks to a very simple page structure. The toolbar used to navigate this site offers a few different ways to search for films without overwhelming you with options. You can search by programs known as “Special Collections,” such as those listed above, or by subject, all of which are conveniently subdivided into little bite sized categories for your convenience. The catalog also allows you to search by title, keywords, or alphabetically. These features make finding a film simple even if you don’t know the title. Who knows, you might even stumble across something better than what you were looking for. You know when you’re on Wikipedia and you get side tracked clicking link after link? The same can happen with Films on Demand, it’s easy to have fun and get lost exploring videos in a subject you are passionate about.

Another awesome feature is the ability to construct playlists. Because all the videos on Films on Demand can be subdivided into smaller segments, you can add either entire videos or just smaller pieces to your playlist. This is perfect for skipping unnecessary segments, comparing and contrasting videos that might portray different perspectives on the same subject, or just offering a variety and wealth of information about any given topic. For teachers it may be helpful to know that all titles in the Films on Demand collection have a distinct playlist URL for linking in syllabi, Blackboard Vista, or other web pages. The interface allows you to organize videos into folders, individualized playlists, or electronic card catalog systems and you can even track how often which videos are being watched.

As a student I found it handy to have the citation for each video readily available in Chicago, MLA and APA seventh edition styles. Other helpful features include options to imbed the video on your own personal websites, information on available reviews and awards to let you know about the films credibility, full transcripts of the film, organization tools and suggestions for related videos. Honestly, being a lazy student has never been easier… or more rewarding.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Aftermath

One of the things that fascinates me about modern technology - and the speed of communication - is how much information we can have, even after a major weather event. In the last 24 hours, I've come across some really great resources, and more than a few that made me think about how we evaluate what's going on in our world.

To start with, the New York Times has a detailed overview of some of the impact of Sandy, including a timed map of power, photographs, and other details. also has a good summary of state-by-state effects.

More complicated than that, though, are how to judge things floating around the Internet, especially on Twitter, where there's been more than a little misinformation. There's several great articles debunking some of the fake photos (this one from the Atlantic does a wonderful job), but I also found "Hurricane Sandy tests Twitter's information immune system" (from the Poynter Institute) really well done, and it highlights the major sources of misinformation I've heard about so far.

What are your favourite sources for solid information? Or debunking of false information?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mantor Monday

Batten down the hatches! Mantor Library will be closing at 5:00 p.m. today.  If you need something to read by flashlight tonight if the power goes out, come in early and check out a good book!
Stay safe!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Good News for Apple, Bad News for Amazon

First up, the bad news. Amazon got its Kindle line into some hot water the past few days, mainly due to a customer service nightmare that cropped up. A Kindle user woke one morning to discover Amazon had closed her Kindle account, effectively eliminating her access to all the books she'd ever bought for her Kindle. She emailed to find out why, and she was told she had a Kindle that was associated with an account that had violated rules in the past. Some emails back and forth, and Amazon was just stonewalling her. (Amazon has since claimed this was all just a mix-up, and that customers should have access to all their Kindle content, regardless of their account status. To me, this sounds like damage control after the fact, but whatever.)

The point is that when you purchase all these things through a company--books, music, movies, television shows--you get access to that content through your account. True, you can often download the material and store it locally, but often it's just easier to keep it in the cloud and use it when you want it. (And we all know how easy trumps difficult almost every time.) But if the company shuts down access to that content, you're pretty much out of luck. You're suddenly at the mercy of the provider, and you need to hope that they iron it all out.

I'm not saying that's always going to happen. A lot of my content is in the cloud, and I use it all the time and love it. But when you own a physical copy of a movie or a book, no company is going to show up one day and demand it back. It's yours. You have it. That's not necessarily the case with digital content. (And what happens when you die? Your former physical possessions go on to your next of kin, but no one's really looking at former digital possessions just yet. That's an item that has yet to be wrangled into law, really. Lovely.)

So there's the bad news. (And I should note that's not specific just to Amazon. Any company could do that to you, Apple included. Google. Facebook. They can shut you out just as easily as they let you in.)

But enough doom and gloom. Some bright points today from Apple's new product line launch:
  • New, thinner, smaller versions of iMac, Mac Mini, and MacBook Pro. Because thinner and smaller are pretty much always going to happen these days. (How small and thin can we go?)
  • New software--particularly iBooks and iBooks Author.
  • New 4th generation iPad--This was a bit of a surprise, since they just introduced a new iPad earlier this year--six months ago or so. This one has a better camera and faster processor.
  • New iPad Mini--Basically a size between an iTouch and an iPad. An iPad's screen is about 10 inches. This one's about 8. Same resolution as an iPad 2, however--meaning there doesn't need to be new versions of apps developed, which is always nice. $329. Ships in November.
Apple's always tweaking their lines and prices, but it's also always nice to see things getting better and costing less. Innovation at work.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mantor Monday

On Friday, one of the events on our On Our Minds calendar is taking place during Common Time.
Author, speaker, veteran, and peace activist Paul Chappell will be giving a talk entitled The End of War - How Waging Peace Can Save Humanity, Our Planet, and Our Future.
Our book selection this year, The Cellist of Sarajevo, also deals with the themes of war and peace, art and the human spirit.
Paul's talk will be in Lincoln Auditorium at 11:45 on Friday, October 26.
Copies of The Cellist of Sarajevo are available in the Mantor Library lobby.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Video Friday: What is the Internet?

So, related to our Tuesday post: what is the Internet, anyway? Journalist Andrew Blum takes on that question, exploring the physical reality of what makes the Internet work in a TED video. In the process, he discusses the problem of squirrels, interocean cable, and building redundant connection points in Africa.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mainah Flavah

When I think of fiction with a Maine setting, authors who come immediately to mind are Stephen King, Carolyn Chute, and relative newcomer Paul Doiron: I read and enjoyed his novel The Poacher's Son a few months ago.This morning, a friend of mine sent me a link to this list of books set in Maine, along with the question:"Why do so many stories set in Maine seem to be dealing with the paranormal? Steven King Wannabees? Or does Maine just lend itself to that kind of book?" I took a look at the list (it seems quite comprehensive), and she's right: both the horror and murder mystery genres seem very heavily represented. So I'll ask you: what do YOU think is going on here? Stephen King copycats -  or is Maine just Creepsville?
While you're thinking it over, here's just a few titles from the list available at Mantor:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When Are You on the Internet?

It seems hard to believe, but apparently there are plenty of people who don't fully realize when what they're doing is "online" or not. Case in point, this article posted for the readers of Reddit, that details the difference between being online and, for example, just typing on your computer. Give it a read.

I get the basic point: everyone becoming so used to just sitting in front of a screen and typing that many people don't discern between the different flavors of programs out there and what they all do. Typing a blog post on Blogger vs. a letter on Microsoft Word these days isn't much different. They both have similar interfaces, with different fonts and colors and alignments and what not. But where the document lives after you type it makes a very big difference indeed.

Some people ask me at times, "How do I keep what I'm doing online secret?" How do I keep a blog secret. Or keep what I post to Facebook secret.

Here's the thing, folks: if you're online, it's not secret. If you don't want something to ever be revealed publicly, writing it and posting it *anywhere* online isn't the best choice you can be making. Far better to assume that anything you're writing online can and will appear in public at some point.

There's just too many ways for information online to get out. Too many holes in the sieve. Once anyone has it, then they're free to do with it what they want (not legally speaking, but practically). Even if you never identify yourself as the author, there are ways to track you--finding the IP address of the computer that wrote the article, for example.

Bottom line: the internet isn't private. It wasn't designed to be.

I wonder sometimes whether this is the sign of a growing problem society will encounter, as more and more people start being able to use technology they don't fully understand to do things they don't know it can do. As devices and programs get more and more streamlined, it becomes easier and easier to use them. Don't get me wrong--I'm all for that ease of use. It's just that I'm not realizing there could be some drawbacks to that, as well.

What do you think?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Video: Between music and medicine

I'm having one of those days where being reminded that there are so many different ways of interacting with the world is a good thing. So, for today's video, have Robert Gupta (among many other things, a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic), talking about his work with music, social justice, and human connection.

And now, excuse me. I've got some music to listen to.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Espresso Machines and eBooks

Ever heard of an Espresso Book Machine? It's basically a printing press that can fit inside a small library room, capable of printing any number of books on demand, right there, while you wait. A few years ago, they were looking like they were going to be the future of libraries or books in general. These days? The future isn't looking quite that certain.

They're amazing devices, don't get me wrong. I mean, just check out this awesome video:

So why am I not so keen on them anymore? For the same reason that Bluray players aren't sweeping the nation. More and more, digital is dominating physical. Why own something in print or on disc when you can just stream it or download it on demand? Sure, the picture quality is better, and there's something to be said for the "real"ness of a book, but there's no saying how long advantages like that will keep up. Streaming speeds will improve. Storage costs will plummet. Technology keeps surging ahead.

So it starts to look like an espresso machine--while incredible--just isn't necessary. Users can download a book for cheaper and more quickly than they can pay to print one. Which makes me kind of sad, because I really wanted to see an Espresso machine in action in person one day . . .

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How Illuminating...

Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, the fun-loving Arizona used-book-and-music Mecca, gives us this "enlightening" read-out from an assortment of banned and challenged books. Please enjoy while thumbing your nose at censorship:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

3D Printing on Your Desktop

I came across an article today about a new Kickstarter effort to fund a desktop 3D printer. Basically, it hopes to create desktop printers that can do a great job of replicating small details, all for just a couple thousand dollars. It's already gotten $1.5 million in pledges, and that's only 7 days into the fundraising drive. Clearly there are a lot of people interested and ready to put their money where their interest is.

I think this is technology that isn't getting enough attention right now. It has the potential to be a real game changer, and it's developing much more quickly than most people realize. True, right now it's limited to creating objects out of plastic or resin, but just a few years ago, it couldn't create objects, period.

I find this exciting and fascinating, and I wish I had a couple thousand dollars to spend on it. Because at the same time this technology is evolving, humans are becoming more and more connected, able to share plans and ideas faster than ever. Add the two innovations together, and the possibilities just explode.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mantor Monday

We Used To Be “Normal”: Creating a Collaborative Online Exhibit 
Weds Oct 3, 2012
Roberts, C-23
12-1 P.M.

Come see some original archive materials and learn about the Mantor Library and History Dept.’s joint grant project working with UMF students to create a Maine Memory Network online exhibit about the early history of UMF, known then as Farmington State Normal School.