Monday, February 25, 2008

google rejected my query

Has anyone else ever received one of these 403 error messages from Google?

This is the second one I've received today. I got this first one when I tried to search for "academy awards." I also got one when I tried to search "403 error."

I'll do as they suggest and clear my Google cookie - but for now, rejected by Google! How will I ever get over it?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

classical music performances on youtube

I happened to catch a segment on Morning Edition on NPR this morning talking about classical music performances on YouTube. Here's one featuring Maria Callas:

What a wonderful to expose young people to some of the stars and performances of yore.

Monday, February 11, 2008

RSS feed widget

I ran across this widget for displaying RSS feeds on your blog or web page at Library Journal.

Apparently you can do this with just about any RSS feed.

I have to warn you that I ran into some problems copying and pasting this one into my blog, however. This is where it's helpful to know some html. I was able to fix it by just adding a tag. I'd be curious to see if this works better if you use their automatic post to blogger option.

If anyone tries it, leave a comment as to whether or not it worked.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

speaking of widgets and podcasts

I'd added this NPR widget to my Facebook page some time ago. Then I just realized it could probably be used elsewhere. This might be a way to introduce library patrons and staff to podcasts.

Add NPR to your page

Pretty neat, huh?

amazon buys audible

I've blogged previously about Amazon's innovative approach to distributing printed materials as evidenced by the Kindle. Now, I ran across a news item from the NY Times talking about Amazon's purchase of Audible.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Audible, they offer downloadable audio content largely via subscription. You pay a monthly fee and can download so much content for that fee.

I'm still not sure what the potential implications are for how libraries deliver service. But there are a lot of innovations going on in the marketplace. I think it's well worth considering what these trends might mean for us.

Monday, February 4, 2008

more on video podcasts

I decided to do a new posting on video podcasts instead of just updating the old one because video podcasts have become a lot more popular in the last year.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of technology related video podcasts.
  • A number of Tech TV alums can be found on programs from Revision 3. One of my favorites is Tekzilla. It features a half hour program once a week answering questions, reviewing hardware, software and demos. There are also daily quick tips.
  • Cranky Geeks - features discussions of tech news.
  • Lab Rats - my favorite Canadian geek duo. Plus, Andy has a couple of cute cats - Biff and Boo.
More general interest
If you browse iTunes, in particular, you'll find a lot of video content produced by National Geographic, Discovery channel, etc. Sometimes these are shorts or promos for tv programs but they're well produced and appropriate for children and adults.

A couple of things to be cautious about RE: video podcasts. There's still the issue of formats. Cranky Geeks offers the following choice of formats: H.264, iPod/PSP, MPEG4, Windows Media, iTunes 320x240, iTunes 640x480. These are generally only going to make a difference if you're planning to use a media player to watch. You'll also find Quicktime formats on occasion. Those require Apple's Quicktime software. Just be sure that you match the format with your player(s).

I'd also be a bit cautious about video podcast directories. One that I looked at showed the top searches as all adult-related. While that's not surprising, these may not be the programs you want to highlight for library use.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Open Source Software

You hear a lot of talk about open source software particularly in techie circles. And it has some real advantages - namely it's usually free. But you do need to keep in mind that open source software is created by techies for techies and is therefore not for the faint of heart.

I'll share a recent experience as an illustration. I wanted to create an audio introduction to the podcasting lesson for the Montana Library 2.0 Challenge. I decided to try out Audacity - open source audio recording software. I found it was easy to download and install and figure out how to use. I even figured out how to do some basic editing. Great!

Then I needed to save it. When I tried to just save it I got a warning that it would be saved as an .aup file that few if any other programs could use and that I might choose to export it as a different type of file. Okay, so I looked at some of my other options. One was to export as an MP3 file. Perfect! MP3 files are the common format used by podcasters. So, I chose that option and was prompted to name my file.

That's when the fun began. I got a popup box telling me that a file lame_enc.dll was required and it wanted to search my newly created folder for the missing file. Not surprisingly, it didn't find it there because my new folder was still empty. I went back to the website where I got Audacity and searched for the missing file name. I found a file called lame-3.97.tar which looked like it would contain the missing file. So, I downloaded it. When I tried to open it, I was prompted for the program. Huh? I tried Audacity and got a popup warning that it was looking for a .dll file, did I really want to use the .tar file instead? Probably not. I chose to let Windows look for an appropriate program on the web. It helpfully found a number of zip utilities that I could purchase for roughly $20-$50. No thanks! But thanks for telling me that I needed a zip utility. Didn't I already have one on my computer? Apparently not this one.

Luckily, I do have some techie tendencies so I decided to look for freeware and went to Tucows. There I found a free zip utility that was rated well - ShellZip. So I downloaded and installed it. I must add it was one of the slowest downloads in history. But I went back to the lame-397.tar file and told Windows to open it with ShellZip. And I got a whole mess of files, none of which was lame_enc.dll. Let me add just how much I hate dealing with unzipped files that I have to try to figure out what to do with.

Okay, my frustration was definitely mounting. What now? Well, perhaps I just wasn't seeing the right one in the mess of lame files (very aptly named, I might add). So, perhaps I could use the Windows search mechanism to look for lame_enc.dll? Well, it did find it - in a program I'd never heard of TC Web Conferencing. So, all I had to do was direct Audacity to look there for the required file and my MP3 file was created. But the whole saving as an MP3 process took a good hour and a couple of needless downloads to accomplish.

Like I said, this is not for the faint of heart or anyone who gives in easily to frustration. The assumption with most open source software is that you know what all the stuff is and how to use it. There are few, if any, instructions and those that you do find are seldom helpful unless you're a computer programmer or software engineer. But there are a lot of useful open source software options out there. So, if you've got a lot of patience and/or you enjoy a good challenge, it's well worth pursuing. If not, you might want to go with an off-the-shelf software product that you buy complete with support and upgrades.