Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Offline Links

Here's a list of the sessions from Offline 2010. If the presentation is available on the web, there is a link.

Feel free to keep the conversations going in the comments.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nexus One - or the next new phone to disappoint us in Montana

I recently replaced my jailbroken unlocked iPhone with a brand new Google Nexus One. I got tired of fighting with Apple over updates. My iPhone is running OS 3.0.1 and several of the new apps I've wanted to download recently require 3.1 or newer. If I had unlimited time and patience, I could probably go through the jailbreaking process every time I needed to update, but it seemed time for a phone without all the hassles. At this point, I'm angry with Apple for putting me through this because they continue to go with AT&T as their sole service provider in the U.S.

Along came Google's unlocked Nexus One. So, I bought one, transferred my Cellular One SIM card from my iPhone, put in the data settings and it worked. Of course, we don't have 3G coverage over a GSM network in Montana so it has to run on the painfully slow Cellular One EDGE network, but that's good enough to check Facebook updates, email, do web searches, etc. And much of the time, I can find a wifi network to jump on.

As for features, this is the phone that Google put all of it's cool new toys into:
  • Google Goggles - you can take a photo with the phone and Google does a search on the object. If it's a well known piece of art, you can find out the name artist. If it's a building, it uses GIS and Google maps information to identify the business. If it's a book jacket, it will give you prices at nearby stores and/or the internet. I suggested to WorldCat that they should get library info in this.
  • Google voice recognition - I hate typing on touch pads. I love the fact that Google has voice recognition down well enough that I can usually just dictate into the phone.
  • Google translator - Not that I really have a need for this at present, but you can speak an English phrase into the phone and it will translate into another language. Right now you get a written translation. I tried the Polish version and it seemed pretty accurate. I understand that soon the phone will be able to speak the translated phrase. It's the babble fish.
  • It works great with just about all of the Google's products. So, if you use Gmail, Google calendar, etc., it seamlessly updates.
  • The recent update was wonderfully easy. It was just sent to the phone. I didn't have to do anything. You have to update iPhones through iTunes. So, Big Brother Apple can check on you and make your life difficult if you're not playing by their rules.
  • OverDrive has a media console for Android and Windows Mobile devices. You still have to use the clunky search interface in a separate browser. But if you can find an MP3 title you want to listen to, you can download it directly to your phone. Now that is the promise of mobile technology! Once again, this is something you'll want to take advantage of via wifi instead of EDGE, unless you're VERY patient. EDGE is like a dialup connection.
Now for the disappointments:
  • Many of the cool new features don't work over the EDGE network. You need a faster connection. So, I find myself looking for wifi connections. I have yet to try out the turn by turn navigation on Google Maps. But if it requires a fast connection, it's not going to do me much good in Montana. Rarely do I find myself in need of direction inside a wifi enabled building.
  • A lot of iPhone apps are not yet available on the Android platform. Amazon and B&N ebook readers, various news apps, Gale's Access My Library app... And some of them that do exist don't work as well on the Android, e.g., Facebook.
  • Like many open source software products, Android is not entirely user friendly, particularly when compared to Apple products. I think you have to be a person who likes to fiddle with things to figure them out. If you're someone who just wants it to work without fiddling, you'll prefer the iPhone. For example, it took some hunting in Google's help to figure out how to get photos off the phone. I never did figure out how to remove some of the bizarre things that showed up in my photo gallery on the phone. I finally realized it's pulling them off Picasa web so graphics from Blogger show up on my phone. Apparently my customization options are limited.
  • The battery life is pretty limited. All the updating from the Google cloud takes a toll. I'm not yet in the habit of recharging every night. So, it often happens that I pull my Nexus One out of my purse only to discover the battery's dead.
  • I haven't been able to figure out how to do a screen shot of my Nexus One without rooting the device. Apple forced me into jailbreaking my iPhone by bricking it when I did an update. I'm not yet willing to risk my new $500 phone.
I'm sure there are a lot more pros and cons. I just thought I'd share a few of my initial impressions. And for anyone who reads this before Offline, you'll have some background for the Mobile Computing session.

I'd love to hear comments from people using the Android on Verizon's network that actually does offer 3G. The Android 2.1 OS is supposed to be rolled out this week. What do you think?

Update 11Feb10 - Bad news for Montanans waiting for an iPhone on Verizon. Apple just extended their exclusive contract with AT&T into 2011. That and news about 4G network developments has led to speculation that iPhone won't unlock in the U.S. until 2012. At that point, AT&T and Verizon will probably be using the same LTE standard. I know a lot of this is gibberish. But the gist is, if you're looking for a smartphone on Verizon I'd be looking at Blackberries and Androids.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Windows 7

Have you used Windows 7 yet? Are you planning to soon?

I was hesitant to jump into Windows 7 early on. I didn’t want to get too involved with it if we were going to have another distribution like Vista. Early last fall I had seen some statistics that 80% of IT managers at large firms were planning on waiting for quite a while to see how the release of this OS was going to play out. I fell into that camp.

But I had some clients that wanted Windows 7 on some PCs right away, so I thought it would be a good start and get some experience on someone else’s dime. Thanks Renee. It went pretty well. It was a public surfing PC, actually four of them, and I was able to install it on two of the four. Here is how it went.

All four PCs were Dell Optiplexes. I forget the model numbers, but two a little newer and two a little older. I did a fresh install on one of the newer ones, then installed all the standard Public PC software, which for me is MS Office, Itunes/Quicktime, Google Earth, Adobe Reader/Flash/Shockwave, Java, Picasa, and probably some other things. I should also point out that Windows 7 recognized all the hardware in the PC. All of it. I didn’t have to go to Dell Support to get any drivers.

The first glitch was with Deep Freeze, which I use on all public PCs I manage. Windows 7 needed the most recent version which is 6.61. Our maintenance contract was still live so I just downloaded and upgraded Deep Freeze to 6.61.

Then I imaged the install on the first PC and copied that image to one of the two older Dells. This brought the second glitch. It did not recognize the audio hardware and Dell said they did not have a Windows 7 driver for that hardware yet, but she thought they would at some point. You need audio on public stations so I had to pass those two up. The other two have been working fine for a few months now.

I have done several other installs and, with one glaring exception, it has gone very well. I even have some staff members running Workflows on Windows 7 and have not heard any complaints yet. Keep in mind that Sirsi still does not support Windows 7.

The glaring exception is OCLC’s Connexion. Now this is not really a Windows 7 problem. It is a 64-bit OS problem. The latest version Connexion will not run natively on a 64-bit operating system. So when I bought a bunch of new “latest and greatest” hardware for our Tech Services department and started installing all the apps they need, I hit a roadblock with Connexion. They MUST have Connexion and I had already put a lot of effort into using the 64-bit version of Windows 7, so I had to accommodate somehow. Now Connexion would have worked fine (I’m told) if I had used the 32-but version of Windows 7, but that is the old and I’m bringing in the new.

I complained vociferously to a number of folks at OCLC but they have limited resources, and we all know about that, and they’ll get to it when they get to it. They have a solution which I won’t go into here, except to say that you have to install a guest operating system. So I will have Connexion and my 64-bit OS on these boxes.

The anticipated release date for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 is this September. It looks like it’s not going to bring any big changes because Windows 7, so far, seems to be a pretty solid release. That is not to say that everyone is satisfied with all of it. Search on “Windows 7 annoyances” to see a sampling of current grumbling.

I think Windows XP released in October of 2001. I’m hoping I’ll be able to stick with Windows 7 as long as we have been using Windows XP. If I do, I’ll only have to go through one more OS upgrade before I retire. That sounds pretty good to me.