Monthly Archives: August 2012

Syncing and the modern computer

From Dropbox to iCloud to the new Simperium offering from the folks at Simplenote, the race is on to find the best option for synching data between the desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet and phone that you use every day. I know that without the ability to sync up data between my computer and my iPad, I’d be lost much of the time. Some of this is done through the application itself, such as my Remember The Milk application which syncs up beautifully between my browser, my iPad and my phone (as long as I pay that “premium” fee, otherwise it only syncs up weekly, I believe). Other syncing is done via one of the technologies listed above – Dropbox, iCloud or the new Simperium. To introduce the newcomer, we turn to the analysis at Read/Write/Web:

“You can think of Simperium as a post-PC circulatory system for data,” co-founder Mike Johnson says. It’s built to speak to all kinds of devices and services and be easy to implement. “The result is that developers can use Simperium like a Lego brick,” snapping together different applications and devices with data that fits, allowing “pretty much any feature where data needs to move quickly and reliably from one place to another.” (www.readwriteweb.com/archives/why-apples-icloud-doesnt-just-work.php)

A “Post-PC circulatory system for data”. That’s a lovely way to phrase it, in my opinion. It’s also quite true. The ability to have a “home” in the clouds where your stuff is kept is becoming vital these days. Many of us (and I’m certainly guilty here) have many. I use Dropbox, Evernote, Google Play and Drive, Amazon Cloud and iCloud for the big stuff and I use a bunch of smaller cloud syncing options (such as the aforementioned Remember The Milk syncing features) alongside those. I’m using mostly the free versions for all of these (Evernote and RTM being exceptions) so I have limited space. This means that I have stuff scattered all over the place.

This can be both a good point and a bad point. On one hand, if one service gets hacked, they aren’t getting my entire life – just portions of it. Google Play holds my music, but none of my documents. Dropbox is the opposite – many of my documents (but not all, because some are backed up from my iPad using iCloud and others are stored in Google Drive) are stored there, but none of my music. In this way I’ve sort of insulated myself from a complete loss of my digital treasures. On the other hand, that’s a lot of user/pass combinations to remember, not to mention remembering where certain documents can be found  – though there are services that help here – see Cue, which searches across most of those services; Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, etc. You could also take a pointer from a presentation I heard at the LibTech Conference in Minneapolis this year – use the standard “reminder/task” function that comes with your tablet or phone to sort out where you put what. The presenter used it to remember which note-taking program held which note, but you could also use it to remember which storage service holds which file…

However you choose to do it, getting by without some sort of cloud support is becoming more and more difficult in this post-PC era – I can’t even imagine trying to keep my Android phone, iPad tablet and Windows PCs all useful and up-to-date without my personal little cloud.

Using GCal to organize my life

Meal planning! I always mean to do it. Occasionally, I actually do it. Never for more than 2 or so weeks in a row, though. I just get lazy, I think. A year or two ago, I got a whiteboard so that I could write down, on the board that now hangs in the kitchen, what the week’s meals would be. This worked surprisingly well – when my son knew what I was making, he was more likely to actually be home for supper. Unfortunately, it only worked when I updated it. Leaving the same week of meals on the board for a month  seemed to make it a bit less useful than might be desired.

I’m not sure if this GCal idea of mine – to create a calendar that I use specifically for planning out my weekly menu – will be any more successful than the whiteboard has been to force me to actually consider menus in advance, but I’m hoping it will. It has the advantage of being available from my smart phone or my iPad in the store while I’m picking up groceries or from the farmer’s market while I’m picking up veggies.

What kills me is the fact that it’s taken at least a year for it to occur to me that using the GCal instead of a whiteboard in the kitchen might be a smart move. I present, write and teach about Google Apps on a fairly regular basis. This, however, doesn’t mean that I consider the best way to use them myself, apparently.

 

Watch out!! Something on the Internet is WRONG!

So, I’m reading the Seattle Times Op-Ed on libraries (not because I live in, or even have ever been to, Seattle, but because I have a Google Alert set up for libraries that I actually do peruse occasionally) and steam started coming out of my ears. The idea behind the op-ed is that libraries are relics and that library spaces and staff need to be redesigned to become “Library 2.0″ (the gentleman doing the writing doesn’t realize that Library 2.0 has been done? Pick another name, sir…). There were a couple of quite simply *wrong* statements that he makes (without any sources cited, of course) that I shall refute (with sources! and anecedata!!) that I wanted to bring to your attention.

First – “The entirety of human knowledge is never more than a few clicks or taps away.” (top of the page at http://gcn.com/Articles/2007/06/02/Exploring-the-deep-web.aspx?Page=2) In 2007, it was estimated that 94% of the web can’t be accessed from search engines because it’s behind a paywall or otherwise hidden from view. These are the kinds of resources that individual people find hard to pay for – stuff like hundreds of dollars a year for a subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary or thousands of dollars a year for access to journal and magazine article databases. The sort of things that libraries can get by pooling everyone’s tax dollars and buying them for everyone to access.

Second: “Nowadays, people come to the library to gather with friends and neighbors, to study in a peaceful environment, to watch DVDs and flip through magazines or to browse the Internet for free. As any librarian will tell you, they rarely come to read books.” – all completely true, until that last statement. Unless he means it *literally* – as in nobody comes to sit down in the library chairs and read, though the next sentence (where he discusses removing “dusty” shelves and “crusty” books) seems to argue against that interpretation. In Library Journal earlier this year, there was a story entitled “Book Buying Survey 2012: Book Circ Takes A Hit” which does say that after a decade of soaring book circulation statistics, they’ve suddenly gone flat. If you read all the way through the article, though, the author admits that if you add in circulation of ebooks, the picture looks much rosier and circulation is still up.  I know that in my occasional shifts on the circulation desk, I see MANY books being taken out of the library and MANY books being returned – there has been no dip in circulation at my particular library!

Third: “Specifically, we need to create a librarian portal, where each librarian is tagged with his or her specialty (history, sports, cooking). Whenever any patron asks a question in-person, over the phone or online, the librarian with the most expertise is automatically alerted.” Uh. This actually might be a decent idea for larger public libraries or consortia. I’ll grant him this one.

He ends by saying he’s the 22 year old son of a librarian and he’s a ” a Kindle-reading, Wikipedia-surfing, smartphone-tapping member of my generation.” and that he knows – as we all should – that the library is dying. I disagree. I think the library is changing, but not dying. People still read and they still want to use the library’s resources. Some of those resources are different than the ones his father likely presided over, but they are still valuable and still used.

I’m a 39 year old Kindle-reading, Wikipedia-surfing, smartphone-tapping member of my generation too. And some of the apps I have on that smartphone direct me to my local library. That’s the future of libraries.

Writing, writing, writing

I’ve been doing a bunch of that. Everywhere but here, that is… So far this year I’ve written book #2 (Outsourcing Library Technology) for ALA Editions, a chapter (Blogging for Readers) for Rowman Press, to be included in a book on Social Networking Best Practices and an article on Cloud Backups for Computers in Libraries magazine. What I have not been doing is writing here on this blog.

I’m not going to make a pledge to write more here – I might be able to, I might not, but I will make a pledge to at least consider, every time I go to FriendFeed to post something, if it might be better posted here, on my server and in my database of writing.  This blog may not always win out, but I’m hoping it does at least occasionally so that I can keep track of what I’m doing all the time. Also, I’m heading to the NAGW conference next month (presenting Project Management for Techs and Tips for Solo Web Workers) so the blog will undoubtedly be fired up for my travels then.

Either way, I’m going to not just default to Tweeting or FriendFeeding without thought. I will consider this blog more often, I promise!!

The post in which I explain my slightly obsessive nature.

I get obsessed by things pretty easily. My “obsessions” started back in ’95 with HTML (this is, at least, the first time I really remember getting obsessed with a topic) and has progressed through quantum physics, knitting, Ruby on Rails, Project Management,  poker and, most recently, cooking. My obsessions each generally follow a similar route – I first read everything I can on the subject – books, ebooks, audiobooks, magazine articles – I read it all. Then, if it’s something I can practice (see HTML, knitting and cooking), I do. Obsessively. While reading as much as possible about the subject. If it’s not something I can practice (see quantum physics and poker) on my own, then I just read. And read some more. Then I read a bit more, just in case I’d missed something.

My bookshelves at home are studded with large swathes of books on these subjects. I own HTML manuals from way back in HTML 2.0 days and enough poker theory books to start a respectable bonfire. I have pattern books for knitted items that I will likely never be able to get to and I have every book Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku have ever written. I get obsessed. There is just no other way to explain it.

On the plus side, while I might go on to a new obsession, I rarely completely abandon my old ones. I still read popular science books on the subjects of cosmology and quantum physics. I knit pretty regularly. I’ve been known to join in a poker game occasionally, too. I still write in HTML, though it’s a different beast now than it was in 1995. And I cook.

This is my current obsessive topic. I recognize this because Amazon has begun sending me emails that are peddling professional cooking books and books on foodie topics. I got two yesterday alone. I have 2 copies of Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything – one in hardback format on my cookbook shelf and one in iPad application format.

Besides giving you, my loyal readers, some insight into my crazy-brain, this is also a plea for help. Do you have any good cooking books (cookbooks, books about food, books about chefs, etc.) that you really love? Any that you want to recommend to me? I need another book or two or ten to round out this current obsession of mine. If you are close enough, geographically, I’ll pay you back by making you some food.