Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Debating Blogs in a Facebook and Twitter World

This blog has been going on for a couple of years now. Since June of 2010, to be exact. And it's been an interesting experiment. It's morphed a few times in its existence, but on the whole, it's been quite fun. However, I'm getting to a point where I'm starting to wonder whether its continued existence is justified or not. Participation--comments, views--has been down, and for much of what we use the blog, Facebook just seems like a better fit these days. In the beginning, we started the blog to make sure we had something to put on our Facebook page. To make it seem more "alive." These days, that can be very easily done with posts and links directly on Facebook.

So I thought I'd throw this out to you, our readers. What do you think about the blog? Do you read it regularly, and just lurk? Would you miss it if it went away? What would you like to see from it?

Do realize that no response here definitely has implications for the future. :-) And thanks for reading, in any case!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mantor Monday

Are you a PC person? Do you wonder what it's like over on the Mac side of the fence? If you've ever wanted to play with an iPad, come on in and check out ours for an hour or two. The iPad, and all of the other devices in our Technology Petting Zoo are all charged up and ready to go!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mantor Monday (Tuesday edition)

Happy break week!
For those of us who are not heading to a sunny beach, library hours for break will be:

Tuesday - Friday 8:00am to 4:30 (Outside doors locked at 4:15 to facilitate closing)
Saturday - Closed
Sunday - 11:00 am to 11:00 pm.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's with that website?

We had a few questions this week from people having trouble accessing Films on Demand, one of our databases, and it seemed like a good reason to talk about why you might have trouble accessing a website (and what you can do about it.)

Cause 1: Something is affecting your connection to the Internet 

To see if this is the case, try loading a couple of other different sites (I usually try the Mantor Library page, Google, and something else - sites run in three different places). If these don't work, check to make sure you're connected to the Internet.

(And a little humor: Have you checked your input/output badger?) 

Cause 2: Something is affecting that specific site

Sometimes a specific site goes down. Large sites generally run on computers in 'datacenters' that have redundant connections to the Internet. That way, if a single connection fails, the others stay up and running, and you can still reach the site.

However, it's possible that all the connections can fail at one (which is rare but does happen, usually because someone with a backhoe dug in the wrong place and broke a lot of cables.) Or the datacenter is somewhere where there's been an extensive natural disaster.

One of the other ways a site can go down is because of a Denial of Service (DDOS) attack - this is what happened with Films on Demand. Basically it means that someone is trying to interfere with a given site and make it inaccessible. The most common way is to set up lots of computers to connect with the site they've targeted with over and over again, bringing everything to a grinding halt, but there are other methods. 

(This is why - besides protecting your own files and data - it's so important to have a virus check and other protective tools on your own computer. Some viruses and malware are designed to allow others to use your computer in a Denial of Service attack.)

To check if this is the case, you can use a tool like http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ - type in the address of the site you're trying to reach, and it will test and see if the problem is you or the site. However, in a DDOS attack, the site may be up and down for a bit while the people running it sort things out. A lot of sites also use Twitter to update about site outages.

Cause 3: It's that specific site, but it's all about you

There are some things that can affect you accessing that site. If you've installed filtering software, turned on parental controls, or installed a concentration tool on your computer, some of them may block your access to a site in a way that's not immediately obvious. If you can generally access other sites, and you've made sure the site you're trying to reach is up, this is the next place to try.

Solving it is usually a little trickier.  The best thing to do is undo any recent changes (back to before you noticed the problem.) If that doesn't work, try disabling all of the extensions in your browser (and any filtering software or parental control software) and then re-enabling them one at a time until you figure out which one is causing the problem.

Cause 4: It's that site, but it's partly you

Sometimes part of the site will load, but parts won't. If you haven't used the site for a while, there's a chance that your computer or browser needs an update. Check out the help information for the site and try clearing the cache, and see if that helps. This is especially common with sites relying on Flash to play videos or provide graphics.

(If you need help with this, try putting "clear cache" and the name of the browser you are using into your favorite search engine. Searching on "not loading" and the name of the site sometimes helps too.) 
Other tips:
- Make quick notes of what you've already tried. If you need to ask someone else for help, it'll help them figure out what's going on more quickly if you tell them what you've already done.

- If you're having problems with one of our databases, we'd love to know, and we'll do our best to help you figure out what's going on. The best way to reach someone immediately is via Access Services (ext 7210, or stop by) or at our Reference desk (stop by, or if someone is available on chat through our home page, try that.)

-  In many cases, a site that is down briefly will be up again - especially if it's a smaller, independently hosted site. Come back in 5-10 minutes, and many brief glitches will have resolved.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Office of the Future

Here's a great video with Walter Cronkite, talking about how the office of the future might look. What's most surprising to me is that they got so much of it right. Their biggest mistake seems (to me) to be that they didn't realize all those different gadgets would be able to share the same screen. True, they got the size of them all a bit off, but you can't really blame them for that, either. At the time, computers took up entire rooms. They did assume they'd get smaller. They just couldn't imagine by how much.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Mantor Monday - Welcome to the Zoo

That's right, the Mantor Library now has a Petting Zoo.
(And if I just opened childhood wounds involving camel spit or Shetland ponies nursing a deep hatred for all mankind, I apologize. Relax: this is NOT that kind of  petting zoo.)

The Technology Petting Zoo is a collection of five of the most popular personal technology devices on the market today: tablet  computers and electronic readers. We realize that comparison shopping among the different devices can be confusing. Learning to use them, for some, seems a little intimidating.  They all have different functions and features, and just as importantly, they all feel differently in your hands. If you're in the market for new technology, how do you know which one you'll like best? Get it wrong, and you've just made a very expensive mistake.

That's where we come in.  The Petting Zoo consists of an iPad, a Kindle Fire Tablet, a Nook Tablet, and Kindle and Nook eReaders.

UMF students, faculty, and staff can check out our devices at the Access Services desk, and use them in the library. All of the devices have been pre-loaded with content: books, audio books, games, apps, etc. A user's guide has been downloaded to each - and just to make it extra user-friendly, we've also included print user's guides. You can use all of the devices to compare feel and features - we've made it worry free. And if you have questions about any of our Zoo critters, we've put together a Libguide with more information and resources. You'll find it here.

So please, be our guest at the Technology Petting Zoo. We're here to prove that technology doesn't bite.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Video Friday: Polar Life

So I'm sitting here, and I'm looking out my office window, and there are a bunch of snowflakes coming down, and I went searching for a video that related to the snow. Today's video is about Paul Nicklen, a photographer who has been specialising in photographing the polar regions since 1995.

Here, he shares a number of gorgeous photos, but also talks about the power and necessity of the ice and the related ecosystem. (A few of the photos are disturbing - the cycle of life and climate change is not always pretty.)

Also, a really wonderful story about a leopard seal. (Totally worth watching and amazingly funny: it starts about 13 minutes in.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Printable Fashion? Call me "Maybe".

It should come as no surprise that a library environment nurtures creative and - yes - geeky people like a petri dish nurtures bacteria, and this library is no exception. So when things like maker spaces and 3D printers come up in conversation around here, eyes gleam and hearts pound. But I, being a fully fledged Captain-Planet-Green-Crusader, have so far been on the "meh" side of the 3D printer fence. The way I see it, the technology as it exists right now, in a format that most private individuals or maker spaces can afford, is only good for making plastic models. Is it cool? Yes. Does the world really need more plastic models? No.
But yesterday I saw a pretty fabulous argument for 3D printing:

The Little Black 3D Printed Dress.
I'm not sure if, from an environmental standpoint, printed textiles make more sense than conventional textiles. But from a design standpoint?  Something with this much creative potential just might sway me from "meh" to "maybe".

Check out Ecouterre for the full story on Iris Von Herpen's 3D printed couture.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Wonders of Browser Add-Ons

I just wanted to take a second to expound on the virtues of browser add-ons. You know what those are, right? They're little programs you can install on your computer that will let your internet browser do all sorts of cool things. Just the other day, for example, I was bemoaning how hard it was to look up the IMDB ratings of movies I find on Netflix. While I enjoy Netflix's tailor-made recommendations, I often find them to be a bit lacking, especially in determining if a movie is going to be good or just so so. (Three stars or four stars--there's a big difference there. Sometimes I'm willing to put up with a 3 star movie. Sometimes I want to be sure it's going to be good before I get into it. I find IMDB's 10 star system better at judging that, especially since the users there often tend to be better at evaluating films. No offense, Netflix.)

Well, today I came across this article. There's now an add on for Chrome that will automatically bring up IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes ratings when you're looking at a movie on Netflix's site. How awesome is that? I installed it immediately. While it still has some bugs, it works quite well for the most part--and it's free!

Add-ons will do all sorts of other nifty things. You can find out more about them here. They're generally very easy to install. (Though sometimes *too* easy. Internet Explorer users are notorious for having a slew of add-ons on their browsers. I've opened IE sometimes and had the whole computer just lock up as it tried to load them all at once. A little can go a long way. Only install the add-ons you actually are going to use.)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mantor Monday

Oh the fines, they are a-changin'. 
Or, to be more precise, it's not library fines that are changing - just when you can pay them. Due to some changes in the way the library will be staffed on weekends, we will no longer be accepting payment for fines or replacement charges on Saturdays and Sundays.
New hours for payment of fines are:
Monday - Thursday 8am - 6pm.
Friday  8am - 4:30 pm.
We accept cash and personal checks. Sorry, we can not accept credit cards or first born children.
Any fines or charges from the Kalikow Center may be paid at Mantor Library.