Monday, July 28, 2008

gadget du jour

While this is technically an MP3 player, I think it deserves a post of its own. I've had my iPod Touch since October of last year but I've recently become enraptured by it. The big difference is the 2.0 update. I got a little whiny initially about having to update iTunes and pay for another update but this one is so worth it. The Touch now has a number of new apps available for it that really add to its usefulness in a wi-fi environment. A few of the ones I've added are: Twitterrific, Facebook, NYTimes and Pandora Radio. I found it pretty easy to get into Twitterrific in hotels and libraries and send off quick updates. Very cool!

Another feature I'm trying out is Apple's new MobileMe. This purports to allow you to sync email, calendars and bookmarks between PCs, Macs and iPod Touches and iPhones. I just set it up yesterday so I can't really offer a solid review at this point. I've noticed two things right away - one positive and one negative. The positive is that I've been able to set up a number of email accounts on my Touch. So, it will be much easier to check email when I'm traveling. I just click on Mail, choose the account and my messages are right there. And I can type quick replies. But the touch keyboard continues to make me a bit crazy. It will also open up Word docs for viewing.

The negative is that when I first synced my Touch, it erased everything on my calendar. But I'll have to play around a bit more to see if it comes back when Outlook starts syncing with iCal. When did life become so complicated that I've had 3 calendars now 4 to worry about keeping in sync? But if this works, I love the idea of being able to keep web calendars and calendars and contacts on various devices in sync.

I'll keep you posted on whether or not this works. MobileMe does have an annual fee. I get 60 days free as a new iMac owner. Hopefully, by then I'll be able to figure out if it's worth continuing.

And, I was please to see iPods now listed as being compatible with OverDrive at least for MP3 formatted books.

mp3 players revisited

As we get closer to implementation of the downloadable audio content project, I expect there will be more questions about what MP3 players to recommend. As I've covered some of the issues to be considered in previous presentations and blog postings, I have no intention of going over all that again. Instead I'll provide some updates and links to already available information:
The above links are just my advice and you can feel free to take it or leave it. I hesitate to see libraries invest heavily in just one type of MP3 player, especially before library staff have had a chance to test them out. I'd suggest purchasing a couple of different players. Try them out and/or have patrons try them out and see which ones you like best before committing to just one brand and model.

That said, if I had to choose one make and model to recommend for patron purchase, it would probably be the Creative Zen V (or Zen V Plus). They're essentially the same except for more features in the Plus model. Do note that this is a different model from other Creative Zen players. What sets this one apart in my opinion is bookmarking capabilities. These are available from many different sources. One source I'd look at, particularly for library test models is the Creative labs savings center for refurbished players. You can get a refurbished Zen V 1GB player for $29.99 as of 7/28/08. So, try a couple of different models. Just make sure they're on Overdrive's list of compatible devices.

A relatively new player that I think is worth a look is the the SanDisk Sansa Clip. It's comparable in size to the Creative Zen Stone but gets better reviews. I picked one up from Costco not too long ago and have been pleased with it's features. It does hold the place in an audiobook when you turn it off.

And I do have a couple of the cheaper replaceable battery-powered models available if you'd like to try them out for yourself. Just let me know and I can drop one in the mail.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hacking Service Economy

I’m currently enrolled in a distance learning Windows security class. There is a lot of useful information about how to manage and protect Windows systems. But they also throw in some interesting descriptions of the current state of the environment we need to protect ourselves against.

In just the past year the hacking service economy has been made available and is quite popular. The Russian mafia seems to be very entrepreneurial in this area. Let’s say your ex-spouse runs a website and you’re thinking its payback time. You contact the right person electronically and arrange to rent a botnet. You pay via Paypal. You get access to 4000 PCs that will do your bidding. You are given access to a website that gives you a control panel to manage these 4000 PCs. You make your selections that will cause these 4000 PCs to swamp your ex-spouse’s website with garbage information, which basically shuts it down. Your ex loses their job, and life is good.

This new kind of service is so popular that it is sure to be offered by other “vendors”. Have a look at this site from Harvard Business Publishing (

This is what is happening on the other side when your PC gets infected. You may become one of those 4000 PCs in that botnet. So keep your Windows updates current, run antivirus and antispyware, be very suspicious about clicking on unknown links and unsolicited email. As usual this note can also be found at the Montana Bibliotechies Blog (