Submitted by StephenK on January 21, 2010 - 11:11pm
Our indoor/outdoor tomcat is having problems. We had to rearrange things. Since I got back from the day job, the cat has been spastic. He's been far more expressive than normal with fairly strange physical antics. Here's what happened.
The space here on the farm where we record LISTen suffered some structural damage recently. I had a spaghetti pot catching the leak as water dripped down from the ceiling of that space. We just had a damage assessment that indicates that that whole space is going to have to be repaired.
Submitted by StephenK on January 14, 2010 - 4:37pm
By Stephen Michael Kellat, MSLS Head Writer, Erie Looking Productions
It has been discussed in blog posts, columns, and episodes of LISTen: An LISNews.org Podcast that regulation may not be the best way to bridge the digital divide. Some thoughts were obliquely mentioned at times as to how to carry out alternative measures for ameliorating the divide. Now is perhaps the time for some specifics for one facet.
Part of the problem with the whole digital divide view of things is that it insists upon rugged individualism in interacting with data. Quite unlike visiting a swimming pool, there are no lifeguards to jump in and save you when you drown in the sea of information. Economies of scale that can be derived from changing individual experiences into group experiences become of further interest as this drowning in information goes on.
For the consumption of online audiovisual content, it can be expensive putting personal media players let alone appropriate network connections into the use of every individual. Even the experience of having a television in everyone's bedroom in a home is a relatively recent phenomenon. As NCM Fathom has already shown through continuing to operate as a going business, people will gather together for communal experiences in watching programs. There are at least three movie theaters within easy driving distance of the eastern operations of Erie Looking Productions where one can watch the February 4th simulcast of the live production of A Prairie Home Companion.
The question then is how to do this sort of thing at your own libraries. Surprisingly some popular web video productions are available under Creative Commons licensing. Assuming you have your general ASCAP/BMI style licensing in play you may be able to show some of these programs without problem. Check with your library's legal counsel first to make sure that everything is in order, though.
The second step after you choose your content to show is to select resources in your library that highlights what is in the video content. Why leave it all to video? There is a world beyond and quite likely it is already on your shelves somewhat. This is the time when reference librarians can sharpen their group speaking skills and also introduce people to resources that would not normally be touched upon in one-on-one reference transactions.
After selecting your video, finding your books, and picking somebody to speak you still have two things left to do. First and foremost you have to promote the event. If nobody know it is happening, does it really matter outside of just being wasted labor costs?
Once you promote the event sufficiently, put your best foot forward. Popcorn might even be called for and might be something a friends organization, if it exists, could help with. The biggest thing to remember in putting on the show is that the library is but one beach on the sea of knowledge that thankfully has lifeguards the others most often do not. The key distinctive for libraries in this respect that allow for differentiation is the focus on service to the information seeker that the seeker will not be getting from a computer system like Bing or Google.
Once upon a time news reels were collective experiences where people saw moving pictures from beyond their own town. After a period of varying degrees of rugged individualism, economic pressures may make communal experiences more prevalent again. Until somebody takes the plunge and tries to implement something along these lines, though, who will ever know?
By Stephen Michael Kellat, MSLS Head Writer, Erie Looking Productions
The District of Columbia circuit is interesting among the federal courts of appeal. This is the main circuit in which the decisions and orders of federal regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Commission can be appealed. As might be imagined, the Federal Communications Commission does wind up there at times too.
The Commission presently has a proceeding underway to codify net neutrality within the Commission's rules. If the appeals court rules against the FCC, all current efforts to codify net neutrality fail. Stretching interpretation and implication to the limits to reach desired policy outcomes may backfire when it comes to the Commission's goal of preserving an open Internet.
In the midst of all this action from above it is almost totally discounted that action can also come from below. Breaking free of the notion of the Internet being an agglomerated whole is the first step. The Internet is merely a collection of autonomous systems that interact with each other. That terminology may sound rooted in the Internet's early days in the late 1970's but age does not mean it is not still true.
The time seems to have come to start changing the Internet's topology from below. If communications companies have problems with what traffic is being carried, alternative methods of data transport should be explored. While the companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable have complications with file downloading and a rich media world, older technology remains quite mature to handle less intense datagrams.
Bulletin Board Systems, UUCP(Unix-to-Unix Copy), Freenets, FidoNet, and the rest remain mature technology. Even though they are old, they do work. Before there was Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail, Internet e-mail was possible through a Freenet or even through a FidoNet-based gateway. The author's very first e-mail address from days gone by seemed a mile long and was from a Bulletin Board System that participated in FidoNet and passed traffic over the FidoNet to Internet gateway.
Removing the more "mundane" traffic from what is called the Internet today would help deflate the calls for much of these fairly aggressive network management practices. Letting the Internet become a place where only intense video game traffic and NetFlix streaming video happens would take the wind out of the sails of those broadband providers waiting to aggressively manage their networks. That such would also create an incentive to compete with their own video-on-demand offerings against NetFlix would also potentially help drive prices down. Those companies know how to provide content on-demand and would have a more level playing field upon which they could compete.
To remove the "mundane" traffic would require shifting towards different access topologies. Shifting things back to dial-up modems would mean a change for some while for others nothing would change. After all, there are still dial-up users of the Internet out there connecting to Earthlink and AOL through dial-up modems. For businesses clearing credit card transactions dial-up modems are still out there in use as backup systems in the event of the main connectivity tool's failure. There is one text published by O'Reilly detailing how community wireless networks using WiFi backbones could be created. The current access paradigm is neither inevitable nor desirable in today's world.
The easiest thing to do in this case is to throw hands in the air and claim that net neutrality is a lost cause. Libraries have long been centers of public access computing. Some even hosted Freenets back in the day. Since the imposition from above of net neutrality seems assuredly in danger of not happening it seems subversion from below is now the order of the day.
Older yet more mature tools remain viable ways to carry out the subversion. The question now, though, is whether or not there is will to carry such through. Using UUCP over an Iridium satellite telephone is just a somewhat costlier way of carrying the theme above. Worrying about the means now is far less important than simply starting to take action.
Submitted by StephenK on December 1, 2009 - 1:51pm
Rolling Back The Clock By Stephen Michael Kellat, Erie Looking Productions 1 December 2009
As a podcast presenter, I do listen to other programs out there. While the astute observer would note that LISTen: An LISNews.org Podcast leans right, my own listening does not lean always that way. One program originating from public service television TVO in the Canadian province of Ontario is called Search Engine.
This program is unique as it started out as a radio program with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, became a podcast hosted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and now is a podcast hosted by TVO. In many respects Search Engine is a program fairly similar to LISTen but originates from Canada and lacks the focus on library and information science applied issues LISTen has. The program's most recent episode is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike 2.5 Canada license which would make it appropriate to be burnt to audio compact disc for distribution to library patrons as previously discussed on LISTen in a sort of variation on slot radio.
It being Tuesday, Search Engine host Jesse Brown released another episode. This episode discussed the recent remarks by media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Although Murdoch was incorrectly identified as a citizen of Australia, which has not been the case for decades. Murdoch was bound by law to hold United States citizenship alone if he wanted to own television stations there. The Adelaide native recently presented what seemed like startling ideas. Murdoch is against cost-free content online and wants to challenge the validity of the fair use doctrine in court. Murdoch also indicated he felt that his lawyers would persevere.
Throughout the course of the episode, Brown puzzled through the matter with a guest as to what it might mean for the Internet. To a student of librarianship, this is not as troubling as it might have seemed to Brown and his guest. Indeed, Rupert Murdoch was not proposing anything new for the knowledge ecology. What Murdoch instead proposed was essentially the turning back of the clock to a time when search engines like Google and Yahoo did not exist and you had to search first with Lexis-Nexis and/or the venerable DIALOG where your access times were metered and next to nothing was free in the databases there.
Lexis-Nexis is not gone as a search tool for news stories let alone legal information. DIALOG still exists and still has quite active databases like World News Connection, produced by the CIA's Open Source Center that derives intelligence from openly published rather than covert sources, that are the public releases of data that already inform leaders like President Obama. The paradigm that Murdoch seeks is to impose the ways of DIALOG and Lexis-Nexis on the rest of the Internet. Even there, this more harkens back to the early days of information services like Prodigy and America Online/AOL than to today's Internet.
What does this mean for the future of the knowledge ecology? Unfortunately it means little until actual action is taken. Until then the order of the day is speculation.
Submitted by StephenK on November 25, 2009 - 11:42am
Although it may seem silly, it is perhaps worth it to note that there is a small bit of fudge in episode numbering of LISTen: An LISNews.org Podcast. By any stretch we are already past one hundred released episodes. The main reason that the numbering does not reflect that is that specials normally are not included in the numbered sequence and are either given date-related titles or simply bear descriptive titles. The one time a special podcast release received episode numbers was when coverage of BlogWorldExpo 2008 was released as three separate episodes in a single week.
Submitted by StephenK on November 19, 2009 - 9:59am
In the midst of the Ubuntu Developer Summit for the forthcoming long-term support release named Lucid Lynx, a new issue arose. This was an issue of intense partisanship perhaps. The GNU Image Manipulation Program, otherwise known as GIMP, was proposed for removal from the default installation on the distributed live CD.
Documentation for this is skimpy at the moment. The desktop team's blueprint does not explicitly state that this will happen. The Internet Relay Chat log for that particular session has barely any details except that the popularity contest package for measuring usage ranked GIMP on par with F-Spot. Although the session was filmed, the relevant Ogg Theora video file has not tumbled down the podcast distribution chute yet for review. A blog post at fan site unaffiliated with Canonical is what broke word for those not attending the summit.
How can the GIMP be made available for those with sub-optimal Internet access? A case might be made that stripping GIMP off the live CD would reduce access to the package for those with less than optimal access to the Internet or no access at all. Unfortunately such is anecdotal at present and there is no hard data to properly back such a notion up.
A different work-around that may work better would be to go the route of APTonCD. APTonCD is one option for off-line movement of packages that does not require access to the Internet for installing anything. A similar tool for a command-line world would be AptZip that instead may allow shifting the download burden elsewhere such as to perhaps run on a public access computer at a public library.
As an overarching shift in live CD design, the inclusion by default of APTonCD would alleviate any worries like this in the future perhaps. Backers of GIMP and other packages that might not fit on the disc but still have strong communities can make images of APTonCD discs available. This is a short run solution, though. Increasing the availability of repository mirrors in public access Internet service settings would be a far more preferable solution in the long run.
Within the Ubuntu project, this would be a matter of liaison between the NGO Team and the Desktop Team, perhaps, as it touches upon the matter of trying to make the Ubuntu experience as equal as possible between the industrialized West and the Global South. Outside the Ubuntu project, this remains a matter of knowing what is going on with what you use. Just as it may seem simple to drive an automobile, quite a lot is going on under the hood. Compared to Windows or MacOS, Linux in general is the hotrod that you can upgrade and change just as drivers in the 1960s and 1970s could fuss over vehicles from manufacturers like AMX.
Submitted by StephenK on November 7, 2009 - 11:38am
Preparatory to 1 December 2009 when new scrutiny will be paid by the Federal Trade Commission to new media outlets, it is necessary and proper to discuss where the promotional ads and other such material airing presently on LISTen originate. This relates to anti-payola measures that the federal government is taking. As the program is produced within the territory of the United States of America, Federal Trade Commission jurisdiction is certain.
As a matter of habit the first promotional item aired each week is a segment from Profile America. Profile America is an audio segment produced by the United States Department of Commerce through its Census Bureau. Profile America highlights facts from American history and is distributed without cost or payment to radio stations across the United States. Not only does Erie Looking Productions receive no compensation for airing Profile America as part of LISTen, the LISNews Netcast Network and LISHost additionally receive no compensation. Pieces from Profile America are aired as they highlight matters of national pride and national history from the United States of America where the primary air staff holds citizenship.
From time to time, a promotional piece from the Linux Outlaws is also aired. As with Profile America, nobody within any of the applicable chains of command receives compensation for airing that piece. The promotional piece by Dan Lynch and Fabian Scherschel, citizens of European Union member states, is aired by choice of the air staff to highlight a new media production that they think does good work that the audience of LISTen might also be interested in.
Other promotional materials from agencies and instrumentalities of the United States Government are also aired from time to time without compensation or cost. Such pieces are chosen typically based upon either current events or to highlight bad examples of public relations that should not be emulated by librarians. Many of these are presented as continuing examples so that librarians can have models from which to build their own public service announcements.
Questions or comments in regards to this can be directed to the Head of Business & Finance at Erie Looking Productions at [email protected]
Submitted by StephenK on November 1, 2009 - 4:14pm
In 2007 in early November, the idea behind LISTen: An LISNews.org Podcast was proposed and approved. Over the course of November 2007 preparations were made for what has become a program that has spanned over ninety episodes. LISTen's third year of operations begins on 7 December 2009 when Pearl Harbor is also commemorated.
It has been an interesting run including a shift in operating base across the continent of North America. This was caused by the split into two parts of the operating base of Erie Looking Productions. Staff are now split between southern Nevada and northeast Ohio until June 2010 at the earliest.
Nobody knows what tomorrow may bring. Let's go forth boldly and make some history!
Submitted by StephenK on October 14, 2009 - 10:38pm
14 October 2009
The Ashtabula Star Beacon carried a report from the Associated Press today noting the number of jobs saved or created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in Ohio. That number was only thirteen thousand. More than that has been lost since the Recovery Act's passage into law as the state's unemployment rate climbed from 9.5% in the month of passage to a preliminary number of 10.8% for August. September's data will be released later this month.
A ton of money has been spent. It is uncertain what there is to show for it. In lieu of just criticizing something, alternatives should be presented.
Rather than spending federal dollars on preserving jobs directly, infrastructure development might have helped better. The concept of the "bedroom community" is growing where people commute long distances from their home to their workplace. Ashtabula and Lake counties in northeast Ohio are prime examples of that in providing bedroom communities to the Cleveland metro area. Previously when our western engineer lived in Ashtabula County he routinely did round-trips to work on Cleveland's west side in excess of one hundred miles per day. He was not alone in doing this.
Along the way between Ohio's geographically largest county and its closest urban metro there is already one AMTRAK route that runs in the wee hours of the night. I myself have ridden those rails to and from conferences in Detroit as well as returning home for Thanksgiving from undergraduate studies. There is no station any more in Ashtabula County and the next closest stations are in Cleveland and then over the state line in Pennsylvania on Peach Street in Erie. A mass transit infrastructure is there and with some small modifications could be linked into the Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority's network which itself already links to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Something better that funds could have been directed to that would have helped promote fuel conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, and more would have been to instead build up commuter service on the rail. Auto insurance costs alone from the hazards of winter driving in northeast Ohio would go down if those commuting from bedroom communities to Cleveland instead were on a train. The amount of fuel expended in commuting is greater in the winter as more parts of the vehicle have to operate compared to the summer months. The rock salt mix used on icy roads also causes enough corrosion on vehicles that the average life of an automobile before requiring replacement runs about three to five years. Between the hazards of driving in snow and the chance of deer strike, the potential for calamity would go down if a mass transit option for commuting were in play. Such would also create positions through creating rail stations and perhaps park & ride facilities to serve commuters. Conditions elsewhere along the rails could potentially also allow for such to be tried in other communities.
Why does this matter in the library setting? By and large, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 does nothing to directly help libraries. Libraries exist through the ability of patrons to be able to pay taxes for the upkeep of the libraries. In bedroom communities, the labor expended for wages does not happen locally but those wages are brought back to the community. Making it possible to have an economic base for a community to exist remains a prerequisite for a library to even be possible.
While scattered reports indicated that most of the jobs saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 were in K-12 education, there is more to life than the classroom. A tax base made up of mostly teachers is not a stable economic setting for trying to keep a library open. Since teacher pay comes out of taxes too, the question then becomes who was shaken down to get that money. Simple infrastructure upgrades, whether in improving mass transit or otherwise reducing a community's cost of living, might have the greater potential to lift economic baselines that make keeping library doors open possible.
Submitted by StephenK on October 7, 2009 - 10:46pm
7 October 2009
There is a film titled "A Mighty Wind". It is a great film in the genre of the mockumentary. Unfortunately this piece is not about that film. Instead we get to talk about mighty winds.
Overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, northeast Ohio was battered with high-velocity winds. Wind gusts were estimated at points around forty-five miles per hour. Rain was scattered. Branches were felled by this mighty wind. This was something that would lead into something worse.
I was already woke up once by the whistling winds outside my bedroom windows. After I caught another two hours of sleep, I woke up to find a lack of power. The first priority, though, was to secure down the facility in light of the winds. This meant running around locking up the barn, checking on the corn crib that doubles as the "cat house" and more. The barn cats were no dummies and seemed to fly inside as soon as a door was opened.
After waiting a while in case the power outage was transient, we departed for somewhere with power. This part of Ohio has two seasons: "snow" and "not snow". It was getting cold and when we called the outage in to First Energy we were not even given an estimated time of restoration.
The outage pointed out some problems. First and foremost, my battery-operated transistor radio worked fine. I could hear WWOW's morning program just fine. The time signal on shortwave from WWV was still audible. Computers in the house were fancy-looking door stops. Laptop batteries have a particular mean time between failure and unfortunately some batteries were miserable failures. Desktops could not be fired up without electricity. The Apple portable media player had a decent battery charge but it was preserved for as long as possible.
While we went driving, we saw what looked to be part of the problem. Kingsville Township Volunteer Fire Department was out responding to a downed electrical line. The line was sparking and the field it was being buffeted around in due to the high winds bore scorch marks from the fires it started. This felt all too reminiscent of the huge outage in 2003 that covered a significant chunk of the northeastern United States as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. In that case a tree that fell started a cascade that wiped out power to many.
For librarians, this presents some interesting points. While the data cloud might be proposed to be a great tool, it would have been a miserable failure in the face of a power outage. If a Kindle were possessed on the farm it would have been useless for downloading as Sprint has no coverage at the farm. Although news was just released that AT&T will be eventually providing data coverage for Kindles, that would still not help here. Power had to be shepherded in battery operated devices as there was no way to know when service would be restored. That would wipe out any hope of mobile broadband or similar backstops for accessing the cloud. Thankfully the backup power supplies at the cell towers were intact long enough to call in outage reports but I would not have pushed my luck in seeking data through those means.
This was a case where books won out. Candlelight or the light from a hurricane lamp would be sufficient provided I could find my glasses. Analog tools like that did not need power to operate and would have carried through.
Fortunately the outage only lasted a few hours and service was restored for us by the early evening. Not everybody in northeast Ohio affected by this have seen service restored yet. This does leave an issue for librarians to ponder. While issues like irregular power are normally thought of as things happening to the poor abroad, what happens when the homeland does not seem as impervious to such problems? How do you plan effective information access over digital means in light of such?
Left-wing pressure group Color of Change has had a boycott campaign running against right-wing talk personality Glenn Beck. So far it is claimed that multiple advertisers have yanked their ads from Beck's television on Fox News Channel although reportedly no ads have been pulled from the syndicated radio show, the magazine Fusion, or the website. While Beck's ratings remain high, the prices for ads are likely becoming depressed.
Already seen on LISNews today was a link to a blog post concerning an ad by legal materials publisher West. In that ad, West stated that if you know your librarian on a first name basis you are spending too much time at your library. Between that ad campaign and the situation at Fox News Channel, a golden opportunity exists.
What would it take for the American Library Association to break from past ad campaigns to do something new? What would it take to get the President of the ALA in a 30 second television ad to make a quick statement? Such an ad script could simply state:
“Hello Glenn Beck viewers. Color of Change is running an advertising boycott against Glenn over his release of what they term racist disinformation. In today's stormy seas of competing viewpoints, libraries remain your safe harbor for finding truth. I'm Jim Rettig, president of the American Library Association, reminding you that libraries still serve you since time immemorial.”
A bad thing is that the name of the ALA President did not come to mind immediately for me. The latest incarnation of the ALA website makes it quite the safari to actually determine who the President is. Getting actual face time in a commercial break of a national cable show with high ratings would presumably have some benefit. Having President Rettig say that in a library setting at the University of Richmond where he is University Librarian would personalize the point nicely. This would not have to be a complicated affair to produce and should not be any flashier than your average used car lot ad on local television.
As a way to reach the great unwashed, this might actually have more effect than yanking all advertisers. Recently the boycott effort has started to backfire on Color of Change as some of the companies in the boycott have decided to not only pull their ads on Beck's program but to pull their ads off any political program regardless of whether it leans left or right. This may be the time for independent ALA action that could lead to positive results for libraries especially when publishers undercut the status of law libraries through ads by those same publishers.
If anybody in the ALA sees this and wants to run with it, you have my blessing.
The move back to Ashtabula has been an interesting one. This is the current general computing rig in play:
The desktop is a PowerMac G4 (Bondi Blue, even!) that is presently running Ubuntu 9.04. It was fairly difficult to get up and running. Few Linux distributions play nicely with PowerPC chips so selection was a trial-and-error matter. A nice side effect, though, is that it does not appear Ubuntu has had to load any restricted drivers so far.
This is the recording rig:
This is greatly scaled back from operations in Nevada. The edges of production may be slightly rough for now. This is what happens in perilous economic times like this where finances of even John Q. Public are questionable.
And here is one of our mascots, Purrzy:
If you click on any picture above you'll be whisked away to Flickr to view larger sizes. We're not quite there yet in restoring operations for Erie Looking Productions but we will surmount those obstacles soon.