Tall Tales for Your Kids or Grandkids in the Near Future – The Format Wars And What Were DVDs, VHS & 8-Track Tapes!

Sam Grobart has written a very humorous piece for the New York Times titled Daddy, What Were Compact Discs which illustrates how technology has changed how we listen to music and watch TV over the last fifty odd years. I had to chuckle over the formats Grobart mentions because I too used to have not just LPs, VHS tapes and DVDs but laser discs, cassette tapes, standard CDs and gold CDs. And today, I have a handful of CDs and DVDs; however, most of the television shows and movies I watch, and music I listen too is digital –streaming to my HDTV or playing on my one of my iPods so of course there is no physical format for those movies, TV shows or albums.

And the article does indeed make the point that today music and video formats are in the process of transitioning from physical CDs and DVDs to the digital format, which unlike former formats cannot be held in your hand. Thus in the future young kids won’t understand what physical formats for audio, video and reading are unless you explain it to them because all the videos they watch, the music they listen and the books they read will be digital!

And of course I’m sure public libraries will still have physical books on their shelves so most  kids will see paper books when the visit their local public library and will understand what they are – but compact discs and VHS tapes – those will indeed be a mystery!

Here’s a link to the New York Times article:


Linda R.

Tim Cook, The Great Doc Watson & Thirteen Inspirational People Receive Medal of Freedom

I’m going to go off topic a bit today and discuss one tech related item, namely what Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the Wall Street Journal All Things Digital Conference yesterday, and two non-tech related items: noting the passing of a great American musician – Doc Watson and those persons that awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday.

What Tim Cook Relayed at the All Things Digital Conference: Apple CEO Tim Cook was the guest speaker yesterday at the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital tech conference. And while he didn’t relay any specific details regarding new, upcoming Apple products; he did hint that there is some type of actual Apple television (an actual television and not a media streaming box) in development and tantalizingly said of upcoming Apple products that he has “never been as amazed by all ‘the things I cannot talk about today!” And he noted that on his watch Apple’s philosophy will be to continue to strive to be a creative technology company. He also hinted that he would offer a few specific details about upcoming Apple products and/or updates at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference in June.

Here’s a link to an All Things Digital transcript of Tim Cook’s conversation with All Things Digital staff Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher:


And a link to a Washington Post article, tilted Apple’s Tim Cook promises ‘incredible’ products, offers no details, which offers an overview of what Tim Cook said:


The Great Doc Watson: Doc Watson, the influential flat picking guitarist and singer, died yesterday at age 89. Mr. Watson, who was born in rural North Carolina in 1923, lost his sight as an infant and began playing the guitar as a child. He seemed to have soaked up traditional American folk, bluegrass and country music and made it his own by creating a vigorous flat picking style of guitar playing. And in addition to his richly creative guitar and banjo playing Mr. Watson had an equally rich baritone voice that he used in singing heart felt ballads. Mr. Watson’s talents enriched American music for decades. If you’re not familiar with Doc Watson’s music I urge you to check it out! The library has several of his compacts discs in its music collection.

Here’s a link to Doc Watson’s New York Times obituary which offers an overview of this very creative artist’s life and work:


Thirteen Inspirational People Receive Medal of Freedom: Thirteen persons received the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday. The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award that can be given in the U.S. and the 2012 recipients include: Bob Dylan, Toni Morrison, Madeline Albright, John Paul Stevens, John Glenn, Doctor William Foege, John Doar, Dolores Huerta, Gordon Hirabayashi, Jan Karski, Juliette Gordon Low, Shimon Peres and Pat Summitt.

Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison are of course well known for their fantastic songwriting and literary writing skills respectively; Madeline Albright is well known for being the first female Secretary of State as well as for her exemplary diplomatic skills, John Paul Stevens for his decades of work as a Supreme Court Justice and John Glenn as the first American to orbit the Earth.

The less well known recipients have offered equally laudable contributions to society; Doctor William Foege was Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the 1970s and was responsible for leading the crusade to eliminate small pox in the United States; John Doar was an attorney who worked for the Justice Department during the Civil Rights era and was instrumental in bringing civil rights cases before the DOJ, for being a leader in the Voting Rights Movement and for sidetracking a riot in the making before it could get started after the funeral of Medgar Evars;  Dolores Huerta founded the advocacy group the National Farmworkers Association in 1962 and has been a leading figure in the fight for the rights of farm workers in the United States ever since; the late Gordon Hirabayashi  was an American of Japanese descent who adamantly refused to be sent to an American interment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. He insisted that the U.S. government was violating his civil rights by discriminating against him due to his racial background and wound up being convicted in a Supreme Court Case of violating the so called exclusion order which would have sent him to an interment camp and jailed (his conviction was repealed decades later). Hirabayashi famously noted of his civil rights case:  ““Surprisingly, even though I lost, I did not abandon my beliefs and my values,” he said. “And I never looked at my case as just my own, or just as a Japanese-American case. It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”* Jan Karski  was a survivor of the Holocaust who worked in the underground in Poland during World War II, witnessed and made public stories of atrocities committed by the Nazis during the war; Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of American more than hundred years ago, Shimon Peres is the President of Israel who is being honored for his diplomatic peace efforts in the Middle East and Pat Summitt, who was for years a role model via her role as the Tennessee women’s basketball coach, rounded out the list of honorees. The honors are well deserved by each of the recipients!

Here’s a link to a USA Today article, titled Obama: Medal of Freedom winners have ‘incredible impact’, that offers a more in-depth look at each of this years’ honorees:


Linda R.


* The New York Times obituary of Gordon Hirabayashi




Public Libraries Face Challenges in Offering Patrons E-Books & HDTV Basics

Public Libraries Face Challenges in Offering e-Books: NPR has a new and short podcast on its website today titled Libraries Grapple With The Downside E-Books which sums up the challenges public libraries have in offering patrons access to e-books. In a nutshell, the biggest challenges come from the largest publishers in the U.S. who either won’t allow public libraries to purchase access to their e-books for patrons or will allow public to purchase access to their e-books but either at exorbitant prices or only for a limited time. To be more precise only two of the largest publishers in the U.S., who are known collectively as The Big Six allow public libraries to purchases access to their e-books which then can then offer patrons. And the two publishers that do sell access to their e-books to public libraries, Random House & HarperCollins, sell their e-books at exorbitant prices ($80 for a new bestseller – Random House) or will only sell access to their e-books for a limited time (26 circulations – HarperCollins). And not surprisingly these restrictions are causing a bit of upheaval in the public library world.

Here’s the link to the NPR podcast:


HDTV Basics: If you’ve ever wondered what the “HD” in HDTV means than there is a new CNET article just for you! The article, titled When HD Isn’t discusses what HD* means and clues you in on simple things you can do to improve the picture on your HDTV – like using HDMI cables and making sure that you’re really receiving a high definition signal from your cable provider.

Here’s the link to the CNET article:


 *HD is short for high definition – and the higher the definition number the clearer the picture on your TV is going to be! i.e. 720 is better than 480 and 1080 is better than 720…

Linda R.

Safeguarding Kids Digital Footprints

In our modern high tech world where almost anyone can post almost anything online, including photos and opinions that create a digital footprint that the poster might later regret, the issue of how parents can safeguard their children’s digital footprints is a huge one. For example, Facebook is, as I’m sure almost everyone knows, hugely popular and all Facebook users are supposed to be over the age of 13. However, Consumer Reports reported in an article last year* that at least 7.5 million kids under the age of 13 have lied about their ages to create and use Facebook accounts. And of course kids under 13 don’t always use the best judgment when posting photos and information online. And kids and young teenagers may post information or photos online that they may later regret when their perspective employers or colleges they are applying to obtain embarrassing information about them via their online presences.  


Author James Steyer has just published a book that can assist parents in learning how to keep their kids safe while still allowing them to establish an online presence. The book it titled Talking Back to Facebook: A Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age and it offers a whole host of suggestions as to how kids can appropriately use technology and how parents might head them off at the pass when they use technology, social networking sites etc inappropriately.

The library has ordered the book and it should be ready to circulate shortly. If you’d like to put your name on the waiting list please send an email request to: reimerl@stls.org

And if you’d like to know more about the book and learn some Internet safety tips for kids check out the NPR article and podcast Keeping Your Kids Safe Online: It’s ‘Common Sense’.

 The article and podcast can be accessed via the following link:


Linda R.

*The stat is taken from a June 2011 Consumer Reports article titled Online exposure: Social networks, mobile phones, and cams can threaten your security – you can top by the library and read the article. A copy of the June 2011 Consumer Reports is available at the Reference Desk. 

How Amazon is Influencing Digital Content Creations & Larger iPod in the Works

How Amazon is Influencing Digital Content Creations: We are now in an era where it is becoming relatively easy to create digital content. Individuals can use their phones or hand held video recording devices to quickly film events and then post those video clips to their YouTube or Facebook pages within seconds of recording events. And it is also easy today for anyone who likes to write to use word processing software to type up a story and then use one of the digital publishing platforms, that can be accessed via online publishers who offer self publishing service; to quickly upload their writing to an online vendor’s site thus getting their work out there for the world to see (and people to buy). 

With all of that in mind one has to take a step back and remember that traditionally big media and publishing companies have been the ones responsible for creating and offering movies and books to vendors. And now some online vendors, namely Amazon, Netflix and Hulu are creating great waves in the digital content creation/publishing business by both offering writers a means to easily and inexpensively digital publish their works as e-books and by producing video content. Amazon is the largest online vendor currently offering customers the option to self-publish their writing as e-books and as the creator of new video content.  

CNET has an in-depth article on this subject titled How Amazon is changing the rules for books and movies and here’s the link:


And if you’re interested in knowing more about self-publishing here’s a link to Amazon’s Self-Publishing page:


Larger iPod in the Works: The tech rumor mill is abuzz with word that both the next iPhone and iPod touch will have larger screens. It seems that large screen parts attributed to production of upcoming Apple products, namely the next iPhone and assumedly the iPod Touch, have been seen by tech news reporters.  There are several sources for this report and CNET offers an article titled Taller iPod Touch Screen Parts Already Spotted in the Wild that offers more details on the subject.

Here’s the link:


Linda R. 

Off Tech Topic Posting: Notes on a Century by Bernard Lewis

For anyone interested in Middle Eastern history author, academic and scholar Bernard Lewis has an excellent new book out titled Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian. I’ve just started to read it and it is excellent. It offers insight into why so much upheaval is happening in theMiddle East and what Islamic law really says about the way Muslims should interact with non-Muslims.

The book has received Starred Reviews from Booklist & Publishers Weekly.

Additionally, NPR has a great article, titled At 96 Historian Lewis Reflects on a Century and 30 minute author interview podcast on its website regarding the book.

Here’s the link:


Linda R. 

Wireless Bluetooth Speakers You Can Take Anywhere & DOJ Denies Apple/Publishers Move To Dismiss E-Book Anti-Trust Suit

Wireless Bluetooth Speakers You Can Take Anywhere: If you are a big music fan and you’ve ever thrown a backyard barbeque and tried to play music through a portable music device so it can be heard by everyone at the barbeque; while still allowing you to hear people you are talking to (a challenge and a half!), then a new group of reasonable priced wireless Bluetooth speaker sets may be music to your ears. You can take these light brick sized speakers almost anywhere and wirelessly play music through them via a laptop, smart phone or iPod. New York Times tech guru David Pogue praises two of these new, reasonable priced Bluetooth speakers, the Soundlink Wireless Mobile Speaker from Bose and the Big Jambox, in a New York Times article titled Taking Beats Anywhere, by Bluetooth.

Here’s the link:


DOJ Denies Apple/Publishers Move To Dismiss E-Book Anti-Trust Suit: This week the Department of Justice denied a request by Apple and publishers Penguin and Macmillan to dismiss the previously filed DOJ anti-trust law suit alleging that five of the six largest publishers in the U.S.* and Apple colluded to raise e-book prices. US District Judge Denise Cote denied the request in strong and no uncertain terms and the site PaidContent provides both a short article, titled Judge comes down hard on publishers, Apple in e-book case,  illustrating the basics of the anti-trust suit, and, access to Judge Cote’s 56 page court ruling document that illustrates why she refused to dismiss the suit. The document is long; however, for anyone interested in all the whys and where-for-ofs of this situation the first 10-15 pages offer an in-depth and reasonably easy to read illumination on the subject!

Here the link:


Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Linda R.

* The five publishers named in the suit are Penguin, Macmillan, Hatchette, HarperCollins & Simon & Schuster. And notably, three of those publishers, Hatchette, HarperCollins & Simon & Schuster have already settled the matter with the DOJ and thus will not be named in subsequent legal proceedings.

Algorithms: AKA How Online Vendors Exercise The Power of the Human Mind To Tailor The Goods They Offer To Consumers

A new All Tech Considered story offers illumination on the way information is gathered today to better tailor goods and services to the online consumer. The story makes a great analogy between the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution and the changes occurring today as part of the Computer Revolution by noting: “If the Industrial Revolution was about extending the power of human muscle with inventions like the car, then the computer revolution is about extending the power of the human mind — and algorithms are the key to its success.” The story goes on to discuss how information consumers enter online is gathered by companies and used to better determine what goods and services consumers would like, and assumedly purchase, based upon their previous purchase, listening or viewing history.

Examples of this evolving type of specialized marketing of online goods offered to the paying public, based upon their interests, can be found in the search results or recommendations one gets from Amazon, Netflix of iTunes after one has purchased content from those Internet vendors. For example, if you stream* several John Wayne movies from Netflix and then log in to the Netflix site to look for other movies to watch, you’ll see recommendations from Netflix to watch other westerns available in their catalog; if you purchased the latest Paul McCartney album via Amazon’s Music Store then the next time you log in to the Amazon site to look for new music to buy you will see recommends for other Paul McCartney and Beatles albums you might like to purchase; and likewise if you buy an episode of the television series Blue Bloods from iTunes then the next time you search the iTunes catalog for new TV shows to watch you will undoubtedly see recommendations for more police procedural dramas that the algorithms predict you might like to watch too.

Here’s a link to that neat NPR article and podcast on this subject titled Algorithms: The Ever-Growing, All-Knowing Way Of The Future:


Linda R.

* The word “stream” in this context refers to people purchasing movies, TV shows and music from online vendors and then watching them via Internet connected devices like computers, laptops, smart phones and tablets.

New Kindles Coming This Year & The First Black & White Digital Camera

New Kindles Coming This Year: Barnes & Noble recently issued a new e-ink Nook, The Nook Simple Touch With Glow Light. And that e-reader is the first e-ink e-reader (i.e. black text on a light gray screen) to offer a “front lit,” or built in lighting system, so you don’t  have to buy an extra clamp on light to use with the reader and you don’t have to sit next to a lamp to be able to read. And now Amazon is getting ready to add to the e-ink reader with front lighting arena by issuing a new e-ink Kindle that will also feature a front lit lighting system. The new e-ink Kindle is slated to go on sale in July and is as of yet unnamed. And in addition, Amazon is expected to issue a larger Kindle tablet, bigger than the Kindle Fire, this fall – just in time for holiday season.

Here’s a link to a Reuters article titled Amazon aims to launch front-lit Kindle in July that offers more information on these exciting upcoming e-readers:


The First Black & White Digital Camera: The British company Leica has just announced it is issuing a new digital black and white camera called the M-Monochrom. This new camera will be made specifically to take black and white photos and unlike regular digital cameras, that you can manipulate to produce black and white photos; this camera is supposed to offer clearer photos that will show very fine details because it is made to capture pixels in black and white as compared to capturing pixels in color and then eliminating some of those captured pixels, the color pixels, in order to create black and white photos as a regular (color) digital camera does. Of course this first mainstream digital black and white camera is probably just going to suit professional photographers because of the price – it is being issued in the U.K. for £6120 which translates to about $10,000 American dollars! However, eventually we’ll likely see a consumer priced digital black and white camera and that is exciting!

Here’s a link to a MSNBC article titled Leicas Newest Full Frame Digital First to Shoot Only Black and White that gives more details on the subject:


Linda R.  

High Tech Taxi Booking, E-Book Writer’s Cramp & TV Viewing The Way You Want It

High Tech Taxi Booking: In some urban regions you can actually now book a taxi, pay for it in advance and even leave the driver feedback via an app.  Taxi booking/feedback apps include Report a Taxi, Taxi Magic, Uber and Sedan Magic. This taxi technology usage is in its infant stages but shows great promise and is growing in both popularity and usage in urban areas.

And here’s a link to a New York Times article titled Taxi Rides Are Getting Smart By The App that discusses the new high tech taxi options:


E-Book Writer’s Cramp: The popularity of e-books has exploded in the last two years and this has led to a change in what many readers expect of their favorite authors. Once upon a time a popular author could work hard through the year and publish one book per year and keep both his or her fans and publishers happy. However, in the newly evolving world of e-books where readers can access, download and be reading a new e-book in seconds readers are expecting to be able to read more than one e-book a year by their favorite authors. This new trend has bestselling authors like Lisa Scottoline, Lee Child and John Grisham working hard to write that extra material each year to keep fans happy. And some authors, like Lee Child, have taken to writing shorter works and publishing them in between the publications of their longer annual works to keep fans happy.

Here’s a link to a New York Times article titled In E-Reader Age of Writer’s Cramp a Book a Year is Slacking that offers more insight into this new trend:


TV Viewing The Way You Want It: How people watch TV shows and movies is evolving. Todays’ Internet connected TVs and media streaming devices (i.e. Roku, Apple TV, Boxee, Google TV, iPads and other tablets etc.) are allowing viewers to watch more and more video content, frequently sans commercials and on demand. In essence, the evolving Internet technology allows more people to access the videos they wish to watch when the wish to watch them and this trend too is growing in popularity!

Here’s a link to a New York Times article titled A TV Schedule in the Hands of Whoever Holds the Remote that offers more insight into this growing trend:


Linda R.