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One New Thing
Friday, February 27, 2004
One New Thing: From way off in left field: Crash course in selling stuff via EFTPOS.

Not that I ever do it in my current job, but I guess you never know where you might end up in the future, processing fine payments or some such thing. Every little thing you can find to learn will help: it’s always good to be prepared about photocopiers, printers, binding machines, guillotines, fax machines, microfilm machines, card validators, TV / VCR / DVD / CD / VCD….and the list goes on, because if there’s one in your library somebody someday will expect you to know how to make it go!

And the Friday link: This page has been around for a while, but I still think it’s one of the funniest pages of reference queries I’ve seen. It’s called Actual Librarian Stories.

Thursday, February 26, 2004
One New Thing: A new source for Australian disability information

e-bility.com is an award winning destination web site that aims to provide a central resource for disability related information, services and products.” Issues I hadn’t been aware of before: like links to help find accessible conference venues and accessible holidays. I discovered this site after reading an email about Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities Inc. Looks like there’s some good reading there from last year’s proceedings, if you want to know more about accessibility solutions, particularly those useful in libraries.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
One New Thing: Importance of information and communication (more so than normal, this week!)

Isn’t it amazing that no matter how many channels you have set up for delivering information, there are always things you either miss: or things you have a vague recollection about and can’t remember if it was in an email or a phonecall or a conversation or a printed memo or a webpage or a…Has anyone found the perfect way to keep track of everything you need to know whether you read, hear or see it? (And does it have a Search function?)

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
One New Thing: Word column formatting

Small thing, but will make a difference to me: I have a document that’s read-only and formatted with columns. After I close it, every new document I try to create opens with column formatting – and that little columns button on the toolbar won’t make them go away, nor will changing margins around. (Or yelling at the computer, just for the record.) The way to remove them is to go Format menu, then Columns, and change it back to One column in the Presets box.

Or not open the document causing problems. ;)

Monday, February 23, 2004
One New Thing: Cordless phones and wireless internet connections don’t like to play together.

Apparently (according to my source, who says he knows just enough about this to be dangerous) this is because they both use a Radio Frequency in the 2.4GHz range. If they are both trying to use similar frequencies at the same time they can corrupt each other’s data: or as I like to think of it, they argue over who gets to use the frequency. Today, the phone won. Seems that it only happens around the phone base though, fortunately. I wonder what people would think if we offered them wireless access then constantly interfered with it every time we had to make or take a call? :)

Friday, February 20, 2004
One New Thing: Networking (with people, not computers) is not just useful for jobhunting; it's one of those activities that can help you see your role from many different perspectives.

Strictly speaking I already knew this, but I am reminded every time I go to a profession-related event. Hope I don't sound like I'm preaching, but any librarian who doesn't ever meet up with librarians and just hang out should go and do so immediately. I'm proud to say I know more people who are librarians than people in any other profession, and I do find it fun to meet up with them and talk about the day-to-day running of their library, or whatever else it may be. (And isn't it great that you can just walk up to someone at random, say hi, and know you'll have something in common to talk about?)

In that vein today's Friday link is not really humorous at all, it's more...well, I find it sort of inspiring. Someone brought it up on a mailing list when the discussion was the wearing of nametags, and I think it ties in nicely with the networking theme. Go check out the interesting Hello, my name is Scott.

P.S. Sharp-eyed readers might have noticed the posts appearing later and later each day - sorry about that. Work is hectic right now so I don't post till I get home. Later and later each day. ;)

Thursday, February 19, 2004
One New Thing: A little bit more about finding drug information.

The U.S. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) maintains a database of new and generic drug approvals. This shows details such as the date the drug was approved, the company that produces it, and for many entries, indepth information about the drug, plus some medical reviews. If you can’t find a drug in MIMS, it might be in here.

Australia’s Australian Drug Evaluation Committee (ADEC) doesn’t seem to have such a database available online. You can search their recommendations though.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
One New Thing: Answers to my unanswered questions!

Firstly, Sandra Henderson from the National Library has given me a reason for my confusion – or rather, a solution to the cause of my confusion, about APAIS :
“APAIS and APAFT are sold as separate products for the reason you mention - the cost of APAFT is beyond the means of individual small libraries. The vendor, Informit, finds it more feasible to do it this way with the various databases that now have partial full text. (The AMI-Meditext and AGIS -AGIS fulltext are other examples). APAIS is still also a completely stand-alone product for anyone wishing to purchase it on CD-ROM as part of AUSTROM. To some the current division into a citation file and file with linked full text is historic - the APAIS file is 1978+, scanning started only in 1990s for the full text component, but the APAIS file itself has been online since the 70s (and in paper form since the 40s).”
And as a bonus, Sandra also pointed me a link to the jobsearch link for the Government Gazette http://www.psgazetteonline.gov.au/ws/PSEOSearch.asp for those interested in Commonwealth government jobs. I’ll add that to my Employment links.

Also, thanks to Arun’s comment about encoding, and a useful link to this article on Unicode I think I can understand why I couldn’t see those Asian characters last Wednesday. With regards to fully understanding encoding, however, it’s a good thing I’m not a programmer because after reading the article, I should apparently be punished by being made to “peel onions for 6 months in a submarine”.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004
One New Thing: Australia is introducing spam legislation, similar to the US CAN-SPAM Act.

Firstly, what kind of anti-spam law is acronymed to be called can spam?

LISNews pointed to an article by Ivan Trundle about the introduction of Australian legislation to control spam, Spam Act 2003, which will come into force in April. As has always been the problem, however, it can only be effective on spammers residing within the country of jurisdiction. Plus, as is pointed out in this article, there’s also the side effect of making certain kinds of unwanted targeted advertising legal. But then, if we have to deal with it in our physical mailboxes, I guess there will always be an amount of it in inboxes as well.

I learnt two more things too: one, tips for preservation of library collections (also from LISNews, got my money’s worth today!). I admit I was laughing in parts of this, I know it’s serious stuff, but with a tip like “Don't build a fountain on the floor above your book stacks “ I just can’t stop the mental images…
Two, I learnt that I can go into my Control Panel and select which printer will be the default printer. I don’t think you will appreciate what a discovery this is for me, unless your computer suddenly starts printing all over the place like mine did. :o

Monday, February 16, 2004
One New Thing: How IE saves files; but not the solution to a problem I encountered.

Internet Explorer 5+ is better at saving web pages than previous versions were, since it does that clever thing where it adjusts HTML references within the files you save on the fly, so that the version you save to disk will load even if the file structure you have isn’t exactly the same as the version you see on the web.

Which is why I am confused as to how copying your saved HTML files (plus the related folders) to a CD-R would cause them to not read at all off the CD.
Suggestions welcome…

Kind of annoying, too, that a frameset page will only save properly when you save as “Web Page, complete”. Particularly when using a frameset is so popular for navigation on most large sites with useful information. Guess I’ll be recommending a lot of copy-and-paste into a word processor, or opening in a new window: I wonder if I am the only one who knows how confusing it is otherwise, to have a bunch of strangely-titled folders inserted into your nice organised folder structure?

Friday, February 13, 2004
One New Thing: Differences between writing to a CD-ROM using UDF and ISO 9660.

Now that CD/DVD burning is becoming more common in libraries I imagine many of us have experienced the charm of CDs that won’t burn, won’t read, or have data magically burnt onto them by processes you can’t fathom.

I personally have never been in favour of the option we see sometimes for making your CD work like a floppy: that is you can add and delete data instantly and without having to click a Record button. I don’t like it because I know it won’t read on everyone’s computers. So today I have endeavoured to find out why this is.

CD-ROMs in the past used a file format called ISO 9660 which was obviously an international standard. (There is also Joliet, which is basically the same thing except your filenames can be longer.) This is what you get when you add files to your CD then burn them on. Most computers and CD-ROM drives will read CDs in this format. What makes a CD act like a floppy is using the UDF file format which supports packet writing: basically writing data in little bits and pieces instead of big chunks. But then not every computer will read it, unless it is able to read UDF as well as ISO 9660. (Plus there are different versions of UDF too.) Seems like you can install UDF readers on a computer that can’t read a CD in UDF format. That could be a useful piece of information for any librarian faced with a client that can’t read the disc they burned in the library on their home computer…

And because it’s Friday, go laugh with the Warrior Librarian. My personal favourite from this site remains the OPAC Error Messages. :)

Thursday, February 12, 2004
One New Thing: New MeSH subject headings (used in Medline) aren’t applied retrospectively.

This was mentioned in passing at an Ovid training session, and this NLM page confirms it: “Searching for a new MeSH Term qualified as [MeSH Term] or [Major MeSH Topic] effectively limits retrieval to citations indexed after the term was introduced”. So you need to find older citations using an unqualified search, such as a keyword search.

Plus I learnt about the In-Process database within Medline (where citations live until they have been fully indexed) - using PubMed to search is possibly why I never noticed it before?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
One New Thing: How to think like a computer

IE would display Asian characters: but not the ones in the email being viewed through a webmail interface. Why? Don’t know. But we got them sorted: copy and paste gibberish (we had question marks, lines and squares) into Word, where it stays gibberish, then do a Web Page Preview, where it magically becomes correct, because IE can read Asian characters fine.

I feel like a magician more than computing support: but you know, if it works…

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
One New Thing: An Australian initiative to encourage protection against spam and viruses.

No news to anyone that spam is a costly and time-wasting problem, so I was pleased to read today that Australia’s Internet Industry Association has set up a NoVirus site offering free trials of antivirus software. It’s a complement to their NoSpam site. Plus there’s a site for small businesses. Apparently, there a large number of people around who either don’t understand or are “too busy” to be involved in protecting themselves and others against the spread of viruses, so this could be the start of some stepping in the right direction. Most of these antivirus offers are trials, which doesn’t really signify a long term solution: but as I said, a good start, and a site to watch.

Monday, February 09, 2004
One New Thing: Office tricks

I went to look at the Office 2003/XP Add-in, which allows you to remove the collaboration information from Office documents. Great that a tool exists; disturbing that data you might want to be confidential can be hiding where you can’t see (or think about) it. Almost as disturbing as the time I forgot a password for a Word doc, and discovered that passwords can be pretty easy to retrieve anyhow. :o

While I was there I noticed a link to Microsoft Skills Assessment, which sounded pretty useful; but turns out to be a series of questionnaires you can take to determine that you don’t know very much. (At least that’s how it worked for me!)

(By the way, if you ever wonder why I learn about particular services or products and not others, chances are I support them at work. Like Microsoft products, which I realise aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.)

Friday, February 06, 2004
One New Thing: Safer internet for kids: could this mean better internet searchers in the future?

Today is Safer Internet Day for Australia and fifteen other countries. The aim of the day, according to the site, is “the celebration of children’s rights to a Safer Internet”.

The article I read this morning mentions specific training about safer internet for those who work with children, including teachers and librarians. I had a roam around the forum on the Oz-TeacherNet site to see what sorts of ideas were coming out about kids’ safety on the internet. I was quite pleased to see suggestions about instructing kids about using human-edited web directories to find their information. Not only a step towards safer internet browsing, but a step towards better internet searching too, a good move!

NetAlert, which is the Australian internet safety body, has useful information sheets and tips for parents. I have actually spoken to mature-age students who have just started using the internet for research and run into some unsavoury things online – this site could be a good starting point for them too, to help people understand that the internet is what it is, and how to make the experience better. There’s even a sheet for adults.

Now because it’s Friday, a distraction for you: the Shark Tank. If you have ever done any kind of IT support you’ll love this. ;)

Oh, and on an administrative note: thanks to those who have been leaving comments – I should point out that I don’t get notified of comments, so I might be a bit slow in pointing out relevant links that were left. Such as Wednesday’s two!

Thursday, February 05, 2004
One New Thing: I’ve been thinking that maybe the whole idea of a “professional” is based around identifying not when things are right and running normally, but when they could be better. This is actually only vaguely related to the story below:

One of those impromptu, over-the-counter sessions where you teach someone how to find the journal from the citation. I go right from the point where the article was found in the original database…look up catalogue to find out where full text is…click on the link to another database…exact same interface/database title pops up. Brief moment of panic as I wonder if I’m about to lose all credibility…

It was APAIS Fulltext that popped up, whereas the citation came from APAIS which isn’t fulltext, but as far as I know they are pretty much the same. (APAIS is an Australian database if you are wondering what I am on about. ) I got to wondering why there were two databases and not one combined: but I can’t work out why! I’d like to tell you – I’ve been researching – but I guess it will have to wait until I find someone who knows! I’m guessing cheaper price for smaller libraries (and some of us just happen to have both versions), but maybe there’s also a desire to cause havoc and confusion amongst database searchers nationwide. (Or not.)

But in passing I did learn today that you can adjust the size of text on a webpage with the scroll wheel on a mouse if you hold down the Ctrl key, as well as in the View menu. And I found a definition of “bookmarklet” on everything2.com . I can’t link the definition directly I’m afraid, but type in the search box, and ye shall find.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004
One New Thing: Collaborative Software

As a general rule I am never one to ignore a bandwagon, so I’ve jumped on and started playing with del.icio.us. I think I may be hooked already! For anyone who hasn’t run across it so far, it’s described as a “social bookmarks manager”. You use a bookmarklet in your Favorites to add links to your del.icio.us site, and you can assign them into a category which is completely of your choosing. What’s most useful, aside from the ease and portability of bookmarking, is that you can check to see what other users have bookmarked in similar categories. And every person and topic has an RSS feed so you can keep up with what new and exciting links have been discovered.

I find this concept quite intriguing as an example of collaborative software – in the same vein as the Open Directory Project and Wiki. It demonstrates that it is possible to collaboratively make a directory that works. del.icio.us does not have controlled subject headings or any special standards for entry, which would definitely make it more reliable as a web directory: but it’s so quick and easy, it takes no effort whatsoever for me to dump links there as I surf the web, and I can be much more certain of being able to relocate those links by either topic, description, or date I bookmarked them even when I change computers. Imagine a collaborative project by all librarians worldwide using software as simple as this: we’d have the web straightened in no time! :)

Kudos to the creator of del.icio.us – I for one salute you, and I am sure many others will join in!

Greg of Openstacks lists some del.icio.us-ing librarians. I personally am quite taken by the efforts of the inseasonlibrarian, whoever you are! My page is at http://del.icio.us/lynette. If you are planning on following what I bookmark, be prepared for some quite random and non-librarian-related linking going on occasionally. ;)

(By the way, can anyone find a definition of “bookmarklet” for me? I know what it is, but I wanted a nice definition for the uninitiated…can’t track one down!)

Tuesday, February 03, 2004
One New Thing: Worms!

There’s another worm about – and because I don’t know yet I’d like to find out more about what worms are.

The Symantec site has a glossary of Types of Threat (scroll down a bit to it) which clarifies the differences between the different types of threats. However I got a much clearer definition from a Wikipedia entry on computer worms. This has a special entry for MyDoom, which is specifically what I was interested in. There are two versions of it, according to this, both of which propagate through email but also through the My Shared Folder in KaZaA. Aside from launching denial of service attacks they will install a .dll file which opens a backdoor on your computer.

MyDoom.B can also block access from your computer to antivirus websites. In investigating how this could be done I also discovered new things about HTTP: your computer sends a request, and the server you ask responds with a file. Once the request is complete the connection you have is severed (unlike FTP where you stay connected until you are disconnected – if that makes sense). This is why cookies are needed: to keep track of who you are from page to page.

Looks like WikiPedia computing entries are written at a level non-techies like me can understand. Must come back and explore more in the future!

Monday, February 02, 2004
One New Thing: Information on the free-for-all (that is, Open Access).

I noticed this morning that on Peter Suber’s blog he mentioned the list he has of information related to Open Access.
It caught my eye because I didn’t realise there were editors out there willing to resign in protest over increases in subscription costs etc. that would make the journal less accessible. There’s a heap of other interesting snippets about Open Access issues on the page too, and some suggestions on what libraries can do to aid the cause. Like recommending journals from the Directory of Open Access Journals which I also didn’t know about. (Looks like my library already links to some of these journals, too; I guess the biggest issue with these could be cataloguing costs!)