Printing: An Ah-Ha Moment

Banning of incandescent lightbulbs
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I have a love/hate relationship with printing.  Ask almost anyone I work with and they will tell you it is one of my “soap box” issues that I don’t hesitate to get up on and preach.  I haven’t given up on getting the message across that the web was not originally designed to be a print medium – it is suppose to be read on a screen not from a piece of paper.  I’m not naive, I know people will continue to print for many reasons.

I admit that I myself print things from time to time.  But it wasn’t until today that the love part of my realtionship with printing actually fully blossomed.  Our network administrator and #1 open source fan showed me a really cool feature on Linux.  When he was done I just sat there with my mouth open.  How had I not known about this before?  My life will never be the same.  Sad part is this would have been absolutely PERFECT to show my class yesterday (I was teaching our staff about our PACs and printing was one of the topics).  Alas, a day late in learning.

On my Ubuntu box he was showing me something to do with CUPS (common Unix printing system) when I asked him why was PDF listed as a printer.  He said “you can print to PDF”.  Huh?  I think I literally scratched my head and looked sideways at him.  Isn’t a PDF a form of a document how can I print to it?  What he meant is this – I can print a web site page as a PDF.

Oh the lightbulb went on, the clouds parted, the angels sang – AH HA!  I did a test.  Fantastic, just click on File – Print – select PDF.  It saves the page as a PDF on your desktop.  All those times I’ve been on a laptop, ordered something from a site, reach the confirmation screen and cant’ print (because at the time we didn’t have a wireless printer at home) are now behind me.  I’ve always just clicked File – Save Page As and wound up with a folder full of things that are required if I wish to view that screen again.  A PDF is sooooo much nicer and easier.  I can choose to NOT print it (just save it on my computer) or if I must I can print it.  Linux is just so cool.

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More Than a Marriage of Convenience

car_just_married
Oh joy, joy.  Oh, happy day.  Thanks to corephp‘s tweet I am in 7th heaven.  Two of my favorite open source products just got married.  WordPress is now available for Joomla 1.5.  This couldn’t come at a better time since I’ve been working on a Joomla 1.5 for our Choose Civility (this is the old site) initiative at Howard County Library.  Ron Nicodemus, of Nicodemus Communications Group, had suggested that we include a blog for the new Choose Civility site.  Originally we had wanted to use the blog component inherent in Joomla but to be honest it isn’t the greatest.

I have installed, maintained and tweaked 6 WordPress blogs for the library.  I use WordPress.com for my own blog.  So needless to say having WordPress be a part of Joomla (been involved with 5 Joomla sites for work) is a dream come true.  This is a great marriage and I look forward to celebrating their union.  Mazal tov!

Comrades in Arms

Yesterday we had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with 7 of our colleagues from the Eastern Shore Regional Libraries.  As comrades in the Open Source it was great to hear what they have done (Zimbra, Evergreen) and share our stories as well (DeskNow, Koha, Groovix).  We also had a conference call with Michael Pardee, creator of Open-Sense Solutions, so they could speak with him about our PAC desktop and staff desktop.  It was really great to see what we had in common besides our interest in open source.  Libraries no matter what the size or demographic of their customers still experience some basic commonality.

My boss, Amy De Groff, suggested a wonderful idea – that our two groups meet quarterly.  Let’s interact, let’s collaborate, let’s exchange ideas and help each other.  Very much what open source is based on.  Kismet that 2 ladies from ESRL as well as my boss and our web programmer will be presenting at Computers in Libraries 2009 (back to back presentations).  We look forward to forging this new partnership with our fellow open sourcers on the Eastern Shore (whether or not we can come over during crab season or not).

Ignorance Is Anything But Bliss

My iGoogle home page greeted me with an article on Slashdot that couldn’t be ignored.   When Teachers Are Obstacles to Linux in Education article is based on the Blog of helios.   As I read the blog and comments I just sit there with my jaw open.  But then I got to thinking about it.  This is a sad but true reality.  Most people who use computers for personal use don’t know the first thing about them.   Odd thing is most people have come to expect things like Blue Screen of Death, having to reboot after every update (which come more and more frequently), slow to operate, expensive software options, a native browser that doesn’t properly handle poorly coded web sites, viruses and malware directly written for a specific operating system to exploit it’s weaknesses – why oh, why should this be acceptable?

People just want it to work.  They don’t want to be “burdened” (I prefer to say enlightened) with learning a bit about the machine they so naively trust to be secure.  Problem is accepting the aforementioned “issues” as the norm is reminds me of the quote from “The Matrix”  It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. I hope that Mr. Starks is able to educate not only this teacher but many others as well.   Linux is the definitely the blue pill – take it and free not only your mind but your operating system.


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Facebook Users Beware

Interestingly enough a friend of mine who is new to Facebook got hit by this virus. It then sent an email to my husband but not me (thankfully). Unfortunately, hubby not only opened the email he clicked on the link 3 times before realizing that something wasn’t just right (virus says you need to update Flash to view video). Then to my horror I find that not only is he not using a firewall on his Windows machine he doesn’t have any anti-virus software. So at 11 pm last night I was downloading Bit Defender and running it (it caught 5 infected files but luckily they were low risk and were disposed of properly).

Thankfully even if I had gotten the email and if I had clicked on the link and if I had downloaded it I would have still been okay. Beauty of using Ubuntu (on desktop as well as laptop) – .exe files don’t work there.

So if you use Facebook keep an eye out for an email that looks legit but actually contains a virus. If you have already opened it – here is how to remove the infection. Or better yet – switch to Linux. 😉


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Windows? I Ain’t Got No Windows!

I don’t need no windows! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ windows!” to continue to parody what I learned is the one of the most misquoted movie lines from the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Over the last 3 months or so I’ve been a dual operating system kind of gal.  Not a dual boot but 2 CPU’s with 2 different OS on them.  Considering that we are an open source shop you’d be surprised to learn that I used Windows OS at all.  Because I had to use a client based ILS that only ran on Windows I was stuck.  But with our upcoming migration to Koha, an open source web-based ILS, I’ve been able to switch over to using Ubuntu (like the rest of my co-workers).

At first I found myself swiveling my chair between the Windows PC on my right and the Ubuntu machine in front of me.  Then I realized more and more I wasn’t moving from the machine in front of me.  Other than the times I need to look something up in the ILS client (e.g. customer account) or if I have to use PhotoShop (sorry, haven’t taken time to learn GIMP yet) most of the day my Windows machine stays unused.

I have my beloved Firefox, Thunderbird, Flock, and OpenOffice on the Ubuntu machine.  I have Meebo, Staff Intranet (using Joomla), DeskNow (collaborative email/file sharing/calendar software), FriendFeed, Facebook, Flickr, other Web 2.0 sites and our soon to be new ILS all in the browser of my choice.  I have TwitterFox, web developer toolbar, Stumbleupon toolbar and colorful tabs as some of my Firefox addons.  I’m in heaven on my Ubuntu machine.  Only thing I miss about my Windows machine is I had dual monitors hooked up to it.  Just need to find another monitor and I’ll be set.

What is really amazing is how quickly one can adapt if one has to or wants to.  I honestly could not help someone with an Word/PowerPoint/Excel question if I tried.  I can’t remember the last time I used them.  Ask me how to do it OpenOffice and I can pretty much answer them or at least find out how by going to Solveig Haugland’s great blog, OpenOffice.org Training, Tips and Ideas.  I had a staff member ask me about her home pc which is running on Windows XP and she uses Internet Explorer as her browser.  I haven’t used IE in years!  I was struggling to remember just where something was located on the menu bar.  I could easily tell her how to do it on Firefox.  It is amazing – you get used to what you use.  If I had remained on Windows I would have seen Linux as being a hard thing to convert to – now that I’ve been converted it wasn’t that hard at all to switch.

Do I miss Windows?  No, because the operating system shouldn’t be what’s important.  With more and more being about web-based solutions to issues the concern should be with the browser.  Do I miss Internet Explorer?  Heck No!  Matter of fact I think you do yourself and your customers/users a huge disservice to tie yourself with one operarting system, one browser.  People love choice.  If you are writing for the web you need to adhere to web standards so that your site can work in the browser of my choice (or anyone’s choice).

I can’t wait for the day that I can cut the cord to my Windows machine completely.

OCLC is to Microsoft …

… as OpenLibrary is to open source?

There seems to be a bit of buzz about OCLC becoming a monopoly (hence the reference to Microsoft).  So is OpenLibrary the equilvalent of open source?  Well according to their site the software is open, the data is open, the documentation is open, and the site is open.  The more I move around their site and read the more interested in this project I become.  Not being a cataloger I don’t understand all the implications but as someone who supports open source and free access to information this project seems to be one worthy of my attention.

Interested?  You can participate in a couple of ways.  From the OpenLibrary site – how you can help.  Or if you’d like to there is a petition to OCLC that you can sign.

Let my information go!

Give Me Libraries or Give me Amazon

Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Be they right, wrong or somewhere in between. Only caveat I would recommend is when you air an opinion you make sure that you stop and think it through. Recently someone using the username Freemarket commented on a post by Amy De Groff on Open Source – Library Life on the Bleeding Edge. I will agree with this person partially as it is true that commercial sites like Amazon have been able to provide features that library ILS or catalogs haven’t yet been able to do. However, I would like to point out that Amazon, and other commercial sites, have very different goals, missions and visions than libraries.

However, this person’s statement “I would much rather have lower taxes and no libraries than have the government steal my money and purchase books that I don’t even want. Compared to Amazon, libraries are a joke.” just didn’t sit right with me. Last time I checked the library wasn’t for one person but for all. I understand that their taxes are going to buy items perhaps that tthey don’t like, want or deem worthy. However, I’m would say there has to be at least 1 item in 262,600 titles that they care about. No one ever said that 100% of your taxes would be spent solely on programs, initiatives or things that you value. If so, then my taxes wouldn’t have gone to fund the War in Iraq and many other things that I don’t approve.

You have the right to spend your money as you see fit (purchase). You also have the right to have your taxes spent as you see fit by voting into office the people who feel as you do. You even have the right to air your opinions. However, you do not have the right to expect that 100% of your taxes will be spent on 100% of the areas that mean the most to you.

Libraries provide a lot more good to the community than Amazon does. When is the last time Amazon educated a child? helped someone recently laid off to find a job? helped a teen with homework? provide free access to all information? or many other wonderful services the library provides?

Customer Service With a Helping of Open Source

The power of the Internet. Typing away in Google docs when Meebo pops up with a message from someone coming in through my blog. The conversation started out with a few questions about what IM client I used and turned out to be a programmer from Grooveshark.  He had read my blog post about the widget and he wanted to resolve my problems with it.

I was utterly blown away.  This is what I call customer service 2.0.  Keeping track of what is said about you on the web and addressing issues right away is fantastic.  Only other company to do that was Napster.  The programmer from Grooveshark explained that they had had some issues when they first went live (boy can I relate to that) and he wanted to know if I had created any other widgets since my first one.  I hadn’t and told him I’d give it a try.

Went on to talk a little bit about open source (they use many open source applications and hope to go with more as their software matures) and my library (which is big on open source).  He liked our web site and was impressed with how fast the pages loaded.  Thanks to our web programmer genius, Danny Bouman.

This is definitely the power of the web being used for good.  Going to go back and make a new widget as Grooveshark is becoming fast my favorite music site.

How I Got Into Blogging or Be Careful Who You Tag They May Just Tag You

Well I could blame Meredith Farkas for starting this meme or fuss at the (almost) BaldGeekinMD and Julie Strange for both tagging me. Actually I’m flattered that they both tagged me but feel maybe that Maurice is getting his revenge for the “Sisters of Irony” tag teaming him on a previous meme.

To be honest my first “dipping of my big toe in the pool” came when I participated in Maryland’s 23 Things program. I then went on to try blogging more of personal with my blog about our family vacation to the land of my husband’s birth – England. Then I tried to continue with a more personal blog about things going on in my life, Something More Than Long (taken from “My Corner of the Sky” from the Broadway musical Pippin). But I didn’t seem to keep up with it and that blog died in March of this year.

Maurice knows the answer to how my latest blog came about – peer pressure! It started during the Computers in Libraries 2008 conference. Prior to the conference, I had had the pleasure of taking an 8 week online course about online training and Maurice (and Julie too) were in the class. Finding my fellow trainer soul mate in Maurice (this man loves technology and good music as much as I do) we made plans to meet up at CIL 2008. While walking to lunch or chit-chatting between sessions Maurice had the pleasure of my outgoing personality and opinions of open source vs. proprietary software. He dubbed me “The Open Source Evangelist” but I had to tell him that title was already taken by none other than Nicole Engard of Liblime. He kept nudging me to blog.

Even after the conference when I ran into Maurice virtually he’d put in a plug for me to start blogging. But what finally got me to cave in was being tagged for another meme by Michael Sauers. It was an interesting meme – teaching the next generation about your passion (which for me was open source). The flood gates opened from there.

Although my blog isn’t always about open source, quite often it is. I try to stick to some topic that comes from my experience of working 25 years in libraryland. My current slant tends to be more technology based but I tend to include rants about fashion (Project Runway), politics, and music (help with FineTune playlist). For those that read this blog I hope I provide some insight, some fun, a bit of humor and an occasional question or two to make you think.

That’s the rest of the story…..now I want to know yours – Michael Sauers, Bobbi Newman, Joshua M. Neff, and Marianne Lenox.