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One New Thing
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
 
One New Thing: The adverse affects of compression on a hard disk.

I had an entry a few weeks ago about file compression, and at the time I also read something somewhere about it being great to save space but not good to use on some kinds of files. Investigating this today I went straight to the horse’s mouth (that would be Microsoft) and read this article on Best Practices for NTFS Compression in Windows (NTFS is the file system I’m using. I know this because if I check the Properties of C drive it says NTFS. I still haven’t gotten around to learning what the differences between file systems are…must get to that!) What I have determined is that when you compress a file, it still has to be uncompressed before you can use it – much like you have to unzip a zipped file, really – a process which can decrease performance. Compressing all the data, including the program files, on an individual PC hasn’t seemed to make a noticeable difference to me, but used on servers I can imagine it would make things much slower, as the article says. But it seems it is fine to compress the contents of your own computer and save space – some of my folders are now only two-thirds the size they were when uncompressed.

I wonder if zipping files on a compressed drive makes them any smaller?

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
 
One New Thing: This one is more of an observation than anything else…

And that is, it’s a good idea to clean out your desk drawers, cupboards, procedures manuals, Masters folders and whatever else every once in a while…every year or something. My current job is actually the first proper job I’ve had, and after a short cleanup session today - I understand now what all those jokes about the paperless office are all about. (But there weren’t many printed-off emails...luckily). ;)

Monday, June 28, 2004
 
One New Thing: A funny thing with XP, IE, and ProQuest.

Someone asked me today why that little swirly image that ProQuest uses to tell you it’s searching these days was going when there didn’t seem to be any searching going on. It seems you can make the page do this when Windows tells you that any information you send can be seen by someone else and do you want to continue, and you (I’m assuming no one bothers reading dialogue boxes anymore?) click No. So it doesn’t continue. But it does make the little ProQuest swirly thing go off as if it were going to do something.

Friday, June 25, 2004
 
One New Thing: How to create an autorun for a CD-ROM

It always involves a file you create in Notepad (or other text editor) which you call “autorun.inf”. Inside this file is the lines:
[autorun]
open=filename.exe

I had no trouble finding this info on the web, but the thing is I didn’t have an exe file to run – just a HTML doc. And the above syntax won’t work for HTML files.

After poking around forever I found a neat little utility at Whirly Wiry Web called ShellExe. Adding a bit of extra info to your autorun.inf and putting this 37kb (when extracted) file in the root directory of your CD makes your HTML or any other file you want the auto-running file. ShellExe even lets you select a list of alternative files to show if your audience doesn’t have the application for the file you’d like them to see.

And now, be glad that I didn’t try to explain the above using pictures. It could have led to something similar to the sights you are about to see in the Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness. (Warning: This is one of those sites that makes you laugh out loud on the ref desk and get concerned looks from patrons. Does anyone want to make a picture to help me deliver this warning?) :)

Thursday, June 24, 2004
 
One New Thing: Disk defragmenting (including how many times you can run it on one PC before it ceases to make a difference…)

I mostly knew what disk defragmentation was all about, but I couldn’t read that report that comes up once your defragmenting is over, so I had a look at this info from Microsoft on Maintaining Peak Performance Through Defragmentation (Win2000) Fragmentation occurs on any disk you save, delete, install and remove programs, or move data around on. When old data is deleted it creates space, when new data is added it fills up the first bits of space, then if there is any data left over it finds more space to write on the disk, wherever it may be. So the related bits of data are basically all over the place, and it can take a computer ages to put the bits together when you want to use them. Defragmenting (also “defragging” or “running a defrag”, hey Microsoft, where’s your slang glossary?) puts all the bits of files together, also all the free space together.

There’s a few other terms on that page that are probably useful to know: the other one I actually understood was the Master File Table (MFT) which is like a map to where everything is on the disk in an NTFS file system, which my PC has. It also gets fragmented and can’t be defragmented apparently, so it has its own MFT zone set aside on the disk to keep it as contiguous (that’s all joined together) as possible.

Oh. You can run it about 25 times on one PC before it doesn’t defrag any more. (This was on a tiny-sized drive with very little free space. But I’m nothing if not persistent!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
 
One New Thing: Tables headings in Word.

It’s getting very quiet as all of the students leave for a few weeks’ holiday…hopefully there will still be enough happening for me to keep the blog up without it getting boring! I worked out today that in Word, when you have a table that runs across pages, you can highlight the row of column headings and choose Table-Heading Rows Repeat to make the headings appear on every page. Small thing, but useful!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004
 
One New Thing: Thinking simply.

I went to sort data in Excel today the same way I approached it a few months ago – by hunting around for Excel macros on the web, that I could use to remove whole rows of data which contained a particular value in one column of the row. After a few minutes of searching, and realising that the code I had found would need to be edited and that was going to be beyond my macro-programming capabilities, I sorted the whole table of data alphabetically by that one column and deleted what I didn’t need in a few gigantic chunks. It took about 30 seconds. ;)

Monday, June 21, 2004
 
One New Thing: Project management stuff.

I learnt this because I went to a short course on it today at work. Being a short course it means that I’m obviously not an expert in it now, but I’m glad to have learnt particularly that most projects don’t blow out of time and budget because of planning problems, they blow out because the scope of the project changes. If you wanted to learn about this stuff we were given a link to The Busy Person’s Project
Management Book
(PDF) which is a short and sweet 81-page introduction to project management.

Update: Apologies if you got today's post twice. Blogger broke during publish, and told me to go back to the homepage, and then informed me that "www.blogger.com doesn't exist on this server". Yet it somehow managed to publish...now that's tenacity! :)

Friday, June 18, 2004
 
One New Thing: BIOS, CMOS, and batteries.

Yes, today I learnt a new computing acronym! Let me see if I can correctly paraphrase what I’ve just been reading about the battery in the CMOS in the BIOS:

  • The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is the thing in your PC that works out where all the hardware in your computer is, and in what order to boot from those devices and find your operating system. If your BIOS doesn’t know about newer hardware because it’s an older BIOS, you tell it about new devices by installing device drivers.

  • The CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) is the place where configuration information for the BIOS is permanently stored. CMOS is a physical kind of technology that needs very little power to run, so this important information is stored there with it’s own battery power supply so the information isn’t lost when you switch off the PC.

  • And sometimes the little battery supplying power goes flat. The PC will ask you to confirm the boot the BIOS settings every time you reboot until you replace the battery. (I imagine that would be quite annoying – or just plain confusing if you’ve never actually played with a BIOS. Looks like that’s something I should learn some day!)


  • And in keeping with the theme of seeing error messages, for a Friday distraction try checking out this page of Weird Error Messages.

    Thursday, June 17, 2004
     
    One New Thing: Librarian perceptions.

    Perhaps it is because the students from my university are heading off on holidays and the number of questions to the desk is lessening daily, but I’ve noticed an unusually high proportion of questioners asking something they don’t think I’ll really know…then being surprised when I suggest somewhere they could look to find out what they want. Erm, isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? Or is there an idea out there that librarians just generally *know* stuff and if they don’t, then that must be the end of it? :)

    Wednesday, June 16, 2004
     
    One New Thing: The potentials of RFID.

    Once upon a time in a class long ago I remember discussing the use of radio frequency ID tags for library books to make book location, specifically shelf-reading, an awful lot easier. Someone on NewGrad today pointed to this article, Shelf-control the answer for Vatican, which talks about plans to attach RFID tags to large portions of the Vatican library’s collection to make it easier to maintain and tells you a little bit about how the tags can be useful.

    A good place to start looking at the details about RFID tags is a paper on the ALA website, RFID Technology for Libraries. I found this very interesting: particularly the section about privacy concerns, and the example that if someone evaded the security system and ran out of the library with a book, you would be able to find out immediately what had been stolen. If you had RFID tags on patron library cards as well, you would also know who had taken the book…

    Tuesday, June 15, 2004
     
    One New Thing: Recalling MARC

    I’m sure most librarians are introduced to MARC in library school, learn how it works, then completely forget what all those tags mean (unless you’re actively involved in cataloguing). Catalogablog pointed to this Authority Tutorial for MARC which works great both as a tutorial and a quick reference – thankyou to the authors for not making the quizzes compulsory! :) I have – admittedly on rare occasions – resorted to staring at a MARC record to work out obscure details of publications, so it’s worth taking a refresher now and again even if you never plan to catalogue.

    P.S. I’ve set up a blog/RSS feed for when I update my web directory, the New Librarian’s Resource Page. The blog is at http://nlrp-updates.blogspot.com and the feed is at http://nlrp-updates.blogspot.com/atom.xml (I usually update the site every few weeks, so I won’t be posting an overwhelming amount.)

    Friday, June 11, 2004
     
    One New Thing: Language, sound and phonetics sources.

    Coming across a cute site the other day, I was inspired to go hunting to see what sorts of resources are going online that can help with language learning, phonetics etc. There’s a whole directory for Phonetics and Phonology (Google) which links to some interesting projects…I’ve just been playing with Fonetiks, which helps with the pronunciation of sounds in various languages. (Not all sounds in all languages are available yet.)

    And the cute site I came across – well, it’s a good way to end your Friday! The Quack-Project is a collection of sounds that animals make in a variety of languages, or rather, that the children making these sounds for us understand that these animals make. :)

    It’s a long weekend for me, so I’ll be back Tuesday next week!

    Thursday, June 10, 2004
     
    One New Thing: Making bibliographies easier.

    EasyBib was mentioned in the Webb’s Web column in inCite this month. You go to the site, enter in the details of the item you want to add to your reference list, and it formats it. MLA style is offered for free, APA style requires a small subscription fee. If you’d rather not pay (and of course if you don’t have access to EndNote, which I think is still the best software for the job) you could try the Citation Machine. It does MLA:

    Reville, Lynette. "One New Thing." 10 June 2004. 10 Jun 2004 .

    and APA:

    Reville, L. (2004). One new thing. retrieved Jun 10, 2004, from http://nlrp.blogspot.com.

    I’d still be checking against the books (is that a small “r” in “retrieved”?), but it’s not too bad. It also tells you how to cite it in-text.
    Oh, and if any other Australians try the site out and try to enter a State or Province of publication for a book, I’ve let the Landmark people know that State abbreviations are not limited to 2 characters everywhere in the world. ;)

    Wednesday, June 09, 2004
     
    One New Thing: Customer service initiatives.

    Today and yesterday I was reminded of how easy it is to make your client's problems easier by paying attention to what they want and even when you can't solve problems immediately, letting them know what you can do and have done to help. And if there's nothing you can do at all, let them know you're sorry. I don't think it hurts at all to go a bit out of your way to make someone's day easier when they already have an issue to deal with!

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004
     
    One New Thing: The answer to my law question from yesterday.

    Having gotten some expert help with the query I had yesterday, I think that understanding this particular part of Australia’s legal system will make handling reference questions about it in future a lot less painful! In a nutshell, I discovered that the penalty points you might receive for committing an offence are outlined in the Act that pertains to each offence, and that you then refer to the Penalties and Sentences Act (that’s Queensland legislation I’m referring to, which is the one relevant to me) to find the definition for the penalty points.

    Monday, June 07, 2004
     
    One New Thing: Staying in practise for reference queries.

    Let’s just say that after a painful 45mins of searching blindly for something I’m not even sure exists, I’ll be looking tomorrow for something to read on carrying out legal research. My background is in the humanities, and obviously the gaps in my business and law knowledge are going to catch up with me sooner rather than later! (Luckily I do have more knowledgeable colleagues to refer these things onto.)

    I had a thought today, based on this experience: since we have a Library Link of the Day to point us to useful things to read, how about a Library Reference Question of the Day for those of us who want to keep in practise by answering a range of reference questions for our own personal amusement? I tend to get the same questions over and over, rather than way out ones, which we all know are much more fun. :)

    Friday, June 04, 2004
     
    One New Thing: The purpose of a Purple Number.

    These little purple numbers have gotten a bit of publicity in the past week or so I have noticed, enough times for me to take notice. ;) A Purple Number, for the uninitiated, is a little anchor number (it’s purple) that sits alongside each paragraph on a page of HTML text, thus making each paragraph on your webpage directly addressable. There’s a nice little commentary about Purple at ongoing. Most people will point you towards this page, An Introduction to Purple to get a feel for Purple: I however am quite taken by a link I found last week, PurpleSlurple. It’s easy to stick in any URL and see what it would look like Purple…plus, what a fantastic name! I can’t resist the word “slurple”. :)

    For a Friday link, you could look at The Evolution of a Programmer. Then, if you know more about programming than me, you could explain what’s actually going on in the middle bit of the joke? I get each end… ;)

    Thursday, June 03, 2004
     
    One New Thing: Word field codes.

    I was asked a vague question about something involving fields and switches in Microsoft Word, and it turns out we were talking about using field codes. As this pdf I found on Understanding Word Field Codes explains, you can find pretty much nothing in the Word help files on using these things – especially if you’re new to using codes. Basically, you press ctrl-F9 where you want the code to be entered, then put your code (and switch/es) in ,and press F9 to display the current value. You can see an example of one if you open Word, Insert a Field such as Date and Time, then right-click over if and select Toggle Field Codes.

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004
     
    One New Thing: More about Wiki.

    The Shifted Librarian pointed to this link, which is an introductory tour of Wiki. I’ve been admiring the Wikipedia for awhile, but apparently wikis are also being used out in the corporate world for collaboration within organisations. And anyone can sign up for a free one….hmmm, so when do we start the Library one? :)

    I also came across this interesting list of reasons why the Wikipedia is not so great, which is pretty interesting. I mean I’m sure we can all imagine the downsides of allowing anybody to write and edit an encyclopedia, but there’s some other points you probably haven’t considered. Oh, and some just plain odd ones, for example the bit about the tulips…

    Tuesday, June 01, 2004
     
    One New Thing: Storage of photographs.

    The Library of Congress provides this page on Caring for Your Photographic Collections. I’m surprised to find out that storing photographs nearby to paints, cleaning products etc. can damage them – I guess that doesn’t happen in your average library, but in personal collections or small organisation-based libraries I can imagine it!

    It seems that you can keep photographs safely in a standard photo album, as most use archival-quality materials (e.g. acid-free). You can put them in a dark cupboard that’s indoors (that would be the one you don’t keep the cleaning products in) and make sure they are kept at a temperature/humidity where they won’t get stuck to the plastic.