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Plant-Man Surprises Pedestrians!

This particular tech blog posting will be a short one and is rather a side-ways one topic wise as it has nothing to do with technology – except for the fact that I found a link to this clip on the tech site MASHABLE!

The article and the clip are titled Man Dressed as Plant Pranks Passersby – and I thought it would add a touch of humor to our Monday afternoon!

The clip shows prankster Ryan Lewis sitting in the middle of busy pedestrian square decked out as a large plant sitting in a pot. And Ryan’s plant-man periodically reaches out to grasp at very surprised passersby! The clip rather reminds me of the old Candid Camera clips.

Here’s the link:

http://mashable.com/2013/03/11/plant-prank/

Enjoy and have a great day!

Linda R.

References

Prakash, Neha. (2013, March 11). Man Dressed as Plant Pranks Passersby. MASHABLE! Online.

Used E-Books? Political Silencing Attempt At Blocking Report On Radical Intellectual Property Reform Backfires & The Photo Finalists in the 2013 Smithsonian Nature Photography Contest

Used E-Books?  As anyone who reads our library tech blog regularly knows I tend to get up on my soap box over the issue of digital content ownership or more precisely the lack thereof! I think the fact that you can buy a print copy of The Grapes of Wrath, buy a DVD copy of Star Wars and a CD copy of Abbey Road and actually own those items and keep them forever, donated them to your public library, bequeath them to whomever you wish in your will, sell them or give them away because you own them but that you cannot likewise actually purchase electronic versions of the same items makes no sense. It is not as if the words of the Grapes of Wrath are different if you read the printed book or the e-book, or that the movie Star Wars has a different ending if you watch a digital copy of it on your tablet or laptop or that the songs on Abbey Road are different if they are digital and played on a Smartphone, tablet or computer than they would be if you played the CD on the CD player in your car.

And as a librarian in a public library I am a firm believer that being able to own the printed word in book form is an essential thread in the tapestry of intellectual freedom. And I hold the reverse to be equally true – that the fact that you can’t own books, in the form of e-books, is a growing threat to intellectual freedom.

Of course, public libraries are known as places that protect and preserve information; the intent being that as much information is openly available to members of the public as possible. Further and in relation, the ability to own books, in the form of printed books, has traditionally been a pillar of our free and open democratic society. And the fact that anyone can go to a public library and read any of the books or journals kept there or access information online for free – that allows people access to information that they can use to think and grow intellectually and fosters creativity and depth and breadth of informed decision making regarding a great variety of issues.

For indeed, how can you research a subject be it the history of economic growth in the U.S., the reasons World War I exploded into being in 1914, the best refrigerator to buy or the best county legislative candidate to vote for without having access to books, periodicals and Internet accessed information about those subjects? And most people don’t have the money to purchase all the books and reading materials they’d need throughout their lives to research subjects for personal, academic or professional reasons; nor do a solid number of people have the option to have paid Internet access in their homes.

With all of that in mind, I think public libraries have an essential role to play in preserving and protecting information so it is available both now and in the future for anyone who might need to access that information to make an informed decision, do personal, professional or academic research, write a credible fact based report or simply to learn and grow as an individual.  And being able to preserve and protect information requires that we be able to purchase the information contained in books and journals as we have traditional done – and in the 21st century that material has to include e-books – this is essential because we are moving towards a society that is increasingly accessing the “printed” word through e-books and e-books are currently not being sold by publishers but instead are being licensed to public libraries and individuals as if they were a new version of Microsoft Word that you can license and use but not own and not give to anyone else.

Having gotten up on my soap box and said all of that – you won’t be surprised to hear me say I was thrilled to read an article in the New York Times this morning titled Imagining a Swap Meet for E-Books and Music which discusses the very point that consumers and public libraries cannot currently own digital content, in the form of e-books, e-videos and e-music titles and that this fact is being challenged by lawsuits and on the coming-soon-front the fact that both Amazon and iTunes are apparently working on used e-book stores to work into their sales ecosystems that will allow their customers to sell their purchased e-books and other e-items (music and videos); this in opposition to the way publishers and media companies have sold digital books, audio books, videos and music over the last ten years – as if they were copyright protected software.

Here’s the link to the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/technology/revolution-in-the-resale-of-digital-books-and-music.html?ref=technology&_r=0

Political Silencing Attempt At Blocking Report On Radical Intellectual Property Reform Backfires: Recently the Republic Study Committee, which is a conservative think tank housed inside the House of Representatives, directed one of their staff members, 25-year-old Derek Khanna, to write a report on the subject of intellectual property reform. And in 2013 intellectual property refers not simply to physical materials in the form of printed books, printed journals, DVDs and CDs but also to digital content in the form of e-book and electronic video and audio works.  Now I know I mentioned that this think tank is a conservative one – so you won’t be surprised when I tell that they weren’t pleased when Mr. Khanna wrote a report titled “Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it” in which he set down on the printed page the very opposite of what the conservative think tank wanted – that in contrast to current conservative political and business views that hold that strict copyright control is a good thing and fosters innovation within U.S. society that, as Mr. Khanna states in the report, the opposite is true. Mr. Khanna notes of current copyright law that: “copyright violates nearly every tenet of laissez-faire capitalism. Under the current system of copyright, producers of content are entitled to a guaranteed, government instituted, government subsidized content-monopoly.”

Of course Mr. Kannah in essence wrote what the Republic Study Committee thought was a very liberal report and they fired him for that fact, blocked him from getting another job with a different Republic group and tried to silence him by deleting the official report. Mr. Khanna has bounced back from all of this by going public with his report and doing his upmost to promote the ideal of intellectual freedom and that, in relation, our current copyright system needs major reforming. He was even instrumental in gaining attention, along with his fellow petition organizer Sina Khanifar, for the recent petition found on the official White House website that protested a proposed legal amendment that would ban consumers from “unlocking” their cell phones once their initial contract with their carrier (i.e. AT&T, Verizon etc.) was completed. In other words what conservative politicians were trying to do was make it a crime to take the cell phone you paid for that you own after your cell phone contract with the initial carrier ends and switch to a new cell phone carrier and still use that same cell phone. Oh there was little loophole in the legislation you could ask the initial cell phone company through which you bought the cell phone for permission to switch to a new carrier and still use that phone.  Somehow I sincerely doubt that the original cell phone carrier would give you that permission if there was any way around doing so!

And perhaps needless to say there is a link to an article on this subject included in this blog posting! The article is from the Tech Crunch site, and is titled How a Fired Republican Staffer Became a Powerful Martyr For Open Internet, here’s the link:

http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/08/how-a-fired-republican-staffer-became-a-powerful-martyr-for-open-internet/

And if you’d like to check out Mr. Khanna’s report regarding needed copyright reform – here’s the link to the whole enchilada:

http://www.publicknowledge.org/files/withdrawn_RSC_Copyright_reform_brief.pdf

The Photo Finalists in the 2013 Smithsonian Nature Photography Contest: And if you’ve read this far you may be pleased to see that this final topic has nothing whatsoever to do with e-books, digital content or copyright reform! I came across the photos that Smithsonian readers have picked as the ten finalist photos in Smithsonian’s 2013 Photo Contest and they are really cool!  All the photos focus on the natural world and were taken by amateur photographers and are breathtaking so I urge you to check them out!

And you can check the photos on the Smithsonian website via the following link:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/photocontest/10th-annual/10th-Annual-Photo-Contest-Finalists-Natural-World-194333591.html

Have a great weekend!

Linda R.

References

Chaffetz, Jason. (2013, March 8). How A Fired Republican Staffer Became A Powerful Martyr For Internet Activists.

Finalists PhotoContest 2012. Smithsonian. Online. Accessed March 8, 2013.

Khanna, Derek. (2012, November 16). RSC Policy Brief: Three Myhts about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it. publicknowledge.org. Online.

Streitfeld, David. (2013, March 7). Imagining A Swap Meet for E-Books and Music. New York Times. Online. 

New Roku, Tablet Use Growing & Old Fashioned Electric Moonlights

New Roku: A new Roku streaming video player, called the Roku 3, has just hit the market. All the reviews of this player I’ve seen have been positive. The player has a faster processor which is supposed to deliver video at five times the Roku 2’s speed, offers a brand new tile like interface, the ability to search for television shows or movies across all 700 Roku channels (i.e. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video etc.) and a cool new remote headphone feature that allows users to plug earbuds or headphones into the remote control and thus mute the sound on the television. Thus if one person in the room is reading and the other wants to watch a loud action film – that latter person can plug headphones or earbuds into the remote control and the sound on the TV will be muted but will come in loud and clear via the headphones or earbuds.

As a cord cutter of four years and the owner of several previous models of both the Apple TV (that’s Apple’s media streaming player) and the Roku player – I will be upgrading to the new Roku 3 shortly! I love my Roku player and actually have music playing in my home via Pandora or TuneIn Radio channels most of the time – but I also watch television shows and news via the Roku too usually via Amazon’s Instant Video store or Netflix.

Roku actually sells four models of media streaming players and they range in price from $49 for the basic entry level Roku LT to $99 for the new Roku 3 that has more of the proverbial bells and whistles.

The only caveat regarding the Roku 3 is that, unlike all other Roku models, you must use it in conjunction with an HDTV.

Here’s a link to a review of the Roku 3 by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal:

http://live.wsj.com/video/mossberg-reviews-the-roku-3/E1EC5008-E26D-43BB-A15B-F54F4E4904EB.html#!E1EC5008-E26D-43BB-A15B-F54F4E4904EB

A second link to a review of the Roku 3 by CNET:

http://reviews.cnet.com/roku-3/

And a link to the Roku site itself just in case anyone would like to compare Roku models:

http://www.roku.com/roku-products

Tablet Use Growing: Adobe Digital Marketing has just released a new report that shows that consumer use of mobile devices to access the Internet is growing and that more people are now using tablets to access the web than Smartphones. Tablet Internet access was up to 8% of total Internet access for 2012 and Smarphone Internet access came in at 7% of all Internet traffic. And while desktops and laptops still hold the largest sway over Internet access at 85% of the total Internet usage pie the fact that tablet Internet access now comprises 8% of all Internet access is notable because that figure is double the percentage it was for 2011.

Here’s a link to an Adobe blog articl  on the subject, titled Tablets trump smartphones in global website traffic, that gives more in-depth information regarding the on the subject of the growing popularity and usage of tablets:

http://blogs.adobe.com/digitalmarketing/digital-index/tablets-trump-smartphones-in-global-website-traffic/

And a link to a Mashable article on tablet usage in classrooms that talks about the new Amplify Tablet that will compete with the iPad for classroom usage – it looks like a cool tablet with special apps and separate sections for work under umbrella categories like English and Social Studies.

Here’s the link:

http://mashable.com/2013/03/06/classroom-tablets/

Old Fashioned Electric Moonlights: I never heard of “Moonlights” before and was fascinated by an article I stumbled across online on that subject. The article notes that in the early days of the electric era people wanted as much bright light at night in towns and cities as they could get and municipal leaders were having a tough time installing enough electric street lights and keeping them running – it seems the cords that plugged those lights into their power sources keep coming unplugged and could lead not just to an unlighted street at night but also to electrocution if one wasn’t careful. And so many municipalities came up with a solution of installing a number of bright lights on top of high towers. These lights were called Moonlights – the idea of course being that the light towers cast as much light as a bright moon on a dark night so you could see as you were walking down the street on a moonless night. The Moonlights did indeed bright up the night by shining light down upon cities streets but since the light came down at angles blue-tinged light was seen by passersby and of course people, buildings, trees or animals that were between the Moonlights and anything else blocked out the light; so eventually the Moonlights were replace by electric lights set up on posts at intervals – like the modern electric lights we have today.

The Atlantic features an article on the old Moonlights, titled Tower of Light: When Electricity Was New, People Used It to Mimic the Moon; and the article is cool; it features a number of photos of these early electric lighting towers and a more in-depth description of where they were installed and when they were in use.

Here’s the link

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/03/tower-of-light-when-electricity-was-new-people-used-it-to-mimic-the-moon/273445/

Have a great day! 

Linda R.

References

Fiegerman, Seth. (2013, March 6). News Corp. Education Unit Unveils Tablet to Rival iPad in Classrooms. Mashable. Online.

Garber, Megan. (2013, March 6). Tower of Light: When Electricity Was New, People Used It to Mimic the Moon. The Atlantic. Online.

Mossberg Reviews The Roku 3. (2013, March 5). Wall Street Journal: Digits Live. Online.

The new $99 Roku 3: Overhauled interface, faster chip, and private-listening mode (hands-on). (2013, March 5). CNET. Online.

White, Tyler. (2013, March 5). Tablets trump smartphones in global website traffic. Adobe Digital Marketing Blog. Online.

 

 

When Was The Last Time You Wrote A Paper Note?

This past weekend was my weekend to work at the library. And on Saturday morning our e-mail system went out. So instead of typing emails for my co-workers to receive on Monday (my day off) – I had to actually take pen to paper and write notes for three co-workers.

And actually having to take the time to write those notes made me ponder when I actually had last written a note – not just a post-it-note for someone but a real note that required me to address the note and write a few sentences to include the information I wanted to relay. And I think handwriting, that is writing a note, letter or card in cursive writing, is a dying art. I even found out while discussing the subject of handwriting notes with our Children’s Librarian that the children attending our local elementary schools no longer learn how to write in cursive in school. I couldn’t believe that fact. The kids don’t learn to write they only learn to print!

I suppose if I really think about it I can understand why — that with shrinking budgets local educators figured that almost everyone owns a computer, smartphone or tablet and so much school work is completed today by typing on a keyboard and having the printed word appear on the screen and then printed page via a keyboard – why should they waste the time and effort teaching kids how to write in cursive when they could spend the time teaching kids other more modern skills.

But still…

I cannot imagine not learning that skill. I can still remember going into my first grade classroom and seeing the cursive posters on the wall and thinking “Wow, I’m a big kid now I’m going to learn to write!” But perhaps I’m simply showing my vintage….

I do think that actually taking the time and effort to write something by hand shows that you thought whatever you wrote actually merited the time and effort you took into neatly writing it. And I think that a handwritten birthday or anniversary note certainly relays that you care to the person celebrating the birthday or the persons celebrating their anniversary more so by far than a computer typed note or email.

Now granted I love the modern technology and the way it allows us to access information and communicate with each other 24/7 but even so it seems to me that handwriting is an important skill that we should value and continue to foster and use.

What do you think?

And when was the last time you wrote, in cursive, a note longer thanan  post-it-note?

I’m sure there are some hand-written journal keepers out there somewhere!

Have a great day!

Linda R.

Internet Service Providers, The Motion Picture Association of American and the Recording Industry Association of American Set Up Their Own Internet Copyright Monitoring Agency – The Center For Copyright Information

Five of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the U.S., Verizon, Cablevision, AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Comcast, have partnered with The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to create a new group called the Center for Copyright Information (CCI). And the purpose of the Center for Copyright Information is to fight online piracy both by monitoring what consumers are viewing while online and by discouraging consumers from illegally downloading videos, music and other files from the web via their new “Copyright Alert System” and their new Six Strikes procedure. Under this new system each time an Internet user downloads an illegal file (i.e. song, document or video) the CCI will send a pop up message to the offending consumer’s browser informing them that they have violated the terms of usage service of their ISP by illegally downloading a file (i.e. video, document of MP3). And after the CCI determines an Internet user has downloaded six illegal files they will slow that individuals Internet speed or cut off that consumers Internet service.

So in essence if your Internet Service Provider is one of the aforementioned ISPs than the Center for Copyright Information will shortly be monitoring what you do online, which websites you go to and what material you download.

Now I understand that our modern technology is changing very, very fast and that as a result Internet Service Providers and traditional media companies and organizations like the MPAA and the RIAA are struggling to make a profit in the digital marketplace as the evolution of technology is increasingly changing the way consumers’ access information and media items. We are indeed in a transitional era as consumer demand for physical media materials (i.e. print books, CDS & DVDs) decreases and consumer demand for digital materials that they can access via their Internet connecting smartphones, tablets and computers (i.e. e-books, digital music and streaming and/or digitally downloaded television shows and movies), increases.

And I also understand that digital piracy is a major concern to both the Motion Picture Association of American and the Recording Industry Association of America*. However, I have four major beefs with the way this new organization, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), is attempting to curtail piracy:

1. The Process The CCI Uses To Try And Curtail Piracy: The very process the CCI uses to gather information to assist them in curtaining piracy is unethical. A partnership between two of the largest media companies in the United States (The MPAA & The RIAA) and the five largest Internet Service Providers in the U.S. has the Internet Service Providers spying on their customers to see what they are doing while they are online. And this new spying procedure is an invasion of personal privacy – it is no one else’s business which websites you visit while you’re online and whether or not you download a cranberry muffin recipe from a cooking site or rent an Amazon video to watch on your iPad. And I certainly don’t want my ISP noting, or keeping, any information they gather while I’m online and logged into my banking website site – and I don’t think it is the CCI’s business either what songs, e-books or videos I buy from iTunes or Amazon to legally watch, read or listen to.

2. Intellectual Freedom & The Possibility of Censorship: This new “Six Strikes” procedure that the CCI has enacted is a threat to intellectual freedom. Intellectual Freedom is defined by the American Library Association as “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored;” and the CCI’s new policing procedure is a threat to intellectual freedom because one of the first steps a company, individual or group of people can take to censor content is to track what content people are looking at whether that content is a printed book that some people think should be banned, a website that some people find objectionable and believe that no one should have access too or a movie that features material that is controversial.

Now granted, in theory The Center for Copyright Information isn’t indicating that they want to stop consumers from viewing or accessing content on any website; however, watching what people access while they are online is a large step down the censorship road because you can’t object to what content people access online if you don’t know what specific websites they are visiting or what specific items and formats they are downloading while they are online.

3. The Center for Copyright Information (CCI) Isn’t A Government Agency: The CCI is not a government agency and there isn’t a law on the books that says that they have the right, via their Copyright Alert System, to keep track of what information people are accessing online.

In fact – and granted I’m a librarian and not a legal expert – however, the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” – and if the government doesn’t have the right to in any way infringe on the freedom of press and the corresponding right of U.S. citizens to access any information in printed or digital form than the CCI certainly doesn’t have that right either. And as I said previously the CCI hasn’t said they intend to censor any website or material that consumers want to access or view online – but policing the Internet to keep track of what websites consumers are visiting and what digital material they are accessing online that is indeed the first step towards censorship.

4. Conflict of Interest: I must admit I find it difficult to believe that individual consumers will have an easy time being heard by the CCI & their specific ISPs if, as is unavoidable, there is a glitch in the system and they download a video or music file legally and the CCI says that legal download is a violation of their terms of service and is illegal. Further, the conflict of interest I see is in Internet Service Providers, who are cable TV providers too, being able to potentially make it difficult for consumers to buy television shows, movies and music from online media giants – like Amazon and iTunes. Imagine someone who ditched their expensive cable package from Comcast and who now buys and downloads or streams their favorite television shows, movies and music from Amazon and iTunes. Those consumers are spending money for content sold by Amazon, iTunes and via a streaming subscription – Netflix. And wouldn’t the major Internet Service Providers who also sell cable TV packages like to get that money back in their hands! So what is to stop the CCI from making it difficult for consumers to legally download e-content from online vendors to try and push those consumers into signing up for a new cable TV package with them instead of buying digital content form Amazon, iTunes or Netflix?

I see a major conflict of interest in this new partnership between Internet Service Providers and the MPAA & RIAA and I think this new Copyright Alert System is certainly a subject to be aware of as it is another case where powerful traditional media companies, with outdated business models (which is a whole other blog posting), try desperately to hang on to their profit margin and the status quo and risk trampling on the rights of consumers in the process.

And not surprisingly there were a number of news stories on the subject of the formation of the new Center for Copyright Information organization and their new Six Strikes rule this past week.

Here’s one from the Ars Technica site titled Here’s what an actual “six strikes” copyright alert looks like – that offers photos of five of Comcast’s Six Strike messages:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/02/heres-what-an-actual-six-strikes-copyright-alert-looks-like/

And here’s another article and podcast from NPR, titled Piracy alert System Raises Concerns About Fair Use, Misidentification, that has NPR host Audie Cornish Interviewing James Grimmelmann, Professor of Law at New York Law School, on the subject:

http://www.npr.org/2013/02/27/173086608/piracy-alert-system-raises-concerns-about-fair-use-misidentification

Here’s a link to the official National Archives Bill of Rights page:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html

And also a link to the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Q&A page:

http://www.ala.org/offices/oif/basics/ifcensorshipqanda

Have a great day!

Linda R.

* Not to mention publishers! If you own an e-ink e-reader (one of the ones that displays black text on a gray screen) and wonder why the library e-book check out process is a complex one when it only takes a couple of taps on your touch screen e-reader to buy an e-book from Barnes & Noble or Amazon…And if you wonder why some bestselling e-books aren’t available in the STLS Digital Catalog – you can actually take all of that up with the six largest publishers in the U.S. who make the library e-book check out process cumbersome and/or refuse to sell e-books to public libraries for their virtual catalogs. The Big Six publishers are seeing their business models change too in this new digital age and they too, like the MPAA, the RIA and Internet Service Providers are struggling to adapt to the new digital marketplace and landscape.

References

Bill of Rights. National Archives. Online.

Cornish, Audie. (2013, February 27). Piracy Alert System Raises Concerns About Fair Use, Misidentification. NPR: All Things Considered. Onlne.

Farviar, Cyrus. (2013, February 27). Here’s what an actual “six strikes” copyright alert looks like. Ars Technica. Online.

Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A: What is Intellectual Freedom? American Library Association. Online. Accessed March 3, 2013.

Got Some Free Time This Weekend? Try Out The Mango Languages Database!

Would you like to learn a new language or, if you’re an adult learner of English, improve your English language skills? If so then check out our new Mango Languages database. All you need to do is to sign up by entering an email address and password and then clicking on the registration email you’ll be sent via Mango – and then wa-lah! You’re in!

You can learn how to speak Spanish, French, Hindi, Pashto, Biblical Hebrew, Russian or even Pirate! (And many more languages besides!)

And here’s the path by which you can access the Mango registration page:

  1. Go to the Library’s website found at SSCLIBRARY.ORG
  2. Click on the Research link at the top of the page (on the spine of the green book); the Subscription Services link will display on the next page.
  3. Click on the Subscription Services link* and the list of Subscription Services you can access with your library card will display
  4. Click on the Mango Languages link and you’ll be prompted to register by entering your email address and a password and then a Mango Languages email will be sent to your email address. The email will include a link you must click to complete the registration process.
  5. Click on the registration link contained within the email and you’ll be able to complete the registration process.

And if you have any questions feel free to post comments to our Facebook page or send me an email.

Thanks & have a great afternoon!

Linda Reimer, Acquisitions Librarian, Southeast Steuben County Library – Email Address. reimerl@stls.org

* Just FYI the database subscriptions are paid for by the library – not by you! All Subscription Services databases are free to all our patrons)