Filed under: A Librarian Told Me So, TPL Technology Forum, Twinsburg Library News
One of many frequently asked questions at the library is: “Can I use my Kindle with library resources?” The answer, unfortunately, is no, due to the restrictions Amazon has imposed on borrowing. However, that doesn’t mean Kindle users are unwelcome at the library. There are many bargain resources out there for Kindle users, and many of these resources can also be used with Nooks, Kobos, iPads, and all the other e-readers that are compatible with our library resources.
Smashwords has books for users of all kinds from independent, small press, and self-published authors. Many authors offer their downloads at great prices to get you reading them right away. You can purchase Smashwords titles from local authors P.A. Bees and Matthew and Stefanie Verish, all members of the writers’ group at Twinsburg Public Library. The Verishes also have their book featured on E-Reader News Today this week, another source for bargain Kindle books. Also, Project Gutenberg has free classics for all types of e-readers.
Don’t forget that all e-reader users can sign up for free one-on-one classes tailored to your needs. Call (330) 425-4268 x2 for more information, or e-mail Cari at cdubiel at twinsburglibrary dot org.
Did you get an e-reader for Christmas? Want to use the library’s e-resources to download books? Twinsburg Library offers one-on-one and small group Computer Coach sessions to help you learn. With the exception of Amazon Kindle, many e-readers can be used with the library’s online downloadables. Call the Computer Lab at (330) 425-4268 x4 to sign up. Class times are flexible and based on both the instructor’s and your schedule.
According to this post over at Gizmodo, Yahoo has decided to pull the plug on the once-popular social bookmarking site del.icio.us. Still no word from Yahoo on when, exactly, this will take place.
Fortunately, there’s a link in this post that will show you how to export any links you may have saved through the site. My suggestion for a replacement is a service called XMarks. A previous entry on this blog reported rumors that site too would be shut down. Since then, however, XMarks has been bought and enjoys stable financial footing.
If you like podcasts, you probably already know that one of the most difficult things about them is finding the good ones. There are literally hundreds of thousands of shows available. The list of good ones however, is, shall we say, a wee bit shorter. Also, as many of the best rely solely on word-of-mouth advertising, the process of discovery can be vexing.
There is, however, a pretty well recognized annual award for podcasts. The Podcast Awards give some needed recognition to shows in a variety of genres. Even if you don’t care to vote for a winner, perusing the nominees can be a great way to find a new favorite show.
Check it out at http://podcastawards.com/
Everybody likes free software. Here’s PC World’s list of 15 quick and easy tools. Applications represented run from programs to manage what things autostart when you boot Windows, to filesharing and synching tools. There are some really good ones in here!
If you’re following the e-reader wars, you’ll have heard about the new Barnes & Noble Color Nook. It’s an LCD e-reader with built-in wifi and a touchscreen. The only thing really separating it from a more full-featured tablet is its operating system. The Nook uses a specialized version of the Android OS, but that version is by default unable to install Android apps.
Here’s an article from the excellent blog Lifehacker detailing just how to fix that. Bear in mind, this involves hacking your Nook, which pretty much voids the warranty and can result in unpleasantness. But if you’re the adventurous sort, there’s much to be gained. For example, you can run most of the apps available via the Android Market.
And if you read library materials in electronic format, here’s a bonus. Overdrive, the company through which the library offers its e-reader titles, has said it plans to release an Android app early next year. That means you can download and read an ePub file on your Android device without having to run it through Overdrive Media Console on your computer.
Sales reps at Overdrive told me in November that the app won’t work on the color Nook out of the box, as it can’t install .apk applications. The full Android OS can, however, and so, in theory, should the rooted Nook. But be warned: this is speculation and can’t be tested until a) the app releases, and b) someone is brave enough to try it with their Nook.
We all knew it would happen eventually. But I, for one, am a little surprised it’s happening this soon.
The venerable New York Times bestseller list is getting an update. Specifically, a separate listing of bestsellers in electronic format. Here’s the paper’s announcement:
Also, if you haven’t seen it, check out TPL’s holiday guide to e-book readers. It covers the major brands and how they operate in a library environment. Grab it here!
Sad news for fans of OpenOffice. That’s an open source productivity suite of software that’s compatible with Microsoft Office applications. Here at the library, we’ve long distributed that suite as part of our popular Cool Free Stuff class.
According to this news report, OpenOffice suffered a mass exodus of staff after recently being acquired by the tech company Oracle. Apparently there were some schisms between that new corporate owner and the idealism behind so much of the open source software community.
All is not lost, however. Many of the folks behind OpenOffice are working on a new open source productivity suite, LibreOffice. And if you’re truly attached to the older software, OpenOffice is still available here.
Have you tried LibreOffice? If so, post your thoughts!
Wanna see something scary? Meet Firesheep. It’s a simple, straightforward Firefox extension that sniffs out packets of information on open networks.
What that means, in English, is that anytime someone on your network (for example, the guy sitting next to you in Starbucks with his shiny new iPad), goes to a Web site, you can collect his login name and see it right there at the side of your Firefox browser window.
Before you rage at the creator of this extension, there is a motive here that’s not really as nefarious as it looks at first blush. Many of the Web sites we so cavalierly feed our sensitive data – including e-mail addresses, credit card numbers and more – to use an unsecure Internet protocol (http – you can see it at the beginning of any Web address). There is a secure option out there; it’s the https protocol. Gmail is one example of a service that uses that more secure method. The creator of this extension is trying to send a message to Web services that they need to pay more attention to security. After all, while Firesheep just came out last week, packet sniffing has been around for ages. All the extension does is make it easy for people who haven’t really looked into cracking this kind of information to see just how easy it is to gather user data.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that this extension only gathers information sent via browser cookies. While that often includes user names, it typically doesn’t include passwords or credit card numbers. Sites vulnerable to this exploit – and indeed included as standard options in the extension – include Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and more.
Finally, it really needs to be reiterated that this isn’t a problem caused by the network host. It’s the type of setup used by the affected Web site itself. So, for example, while Firesheep does find information on the library’s wireless network, it’s not a security hole on our end.
Here’s an excellent article on the Firefox extension and the background story over at PCWorld.
And some notes from our systems administrator here at TPL:
So what can you do to protect yourself from exploits such as this?
• Always be aware if the website you are visiting is loaded in HTTP (unsecured) or HTTPS (secured) mode. HTTPS mode is signified by the https:// prefix, or by a gold lock icon in your browser.
• Visit the HTTPS version of the website you are accessing, if provided. A Firefox extension, HTTP Everywhere, will automatically switch you to an HTTPS version of sites and offer the option.
• Whenever you are on an untrusted or unsecured network, NEVER provide secure personal information such as credit card or other financial information, addresses, phone numbers, etc. if the website you are visiting does not use HTTPS.
• When at home or at work, always use an encrypted wireless network. When in public, most wireless networks are unsecured, but if an encrypted network is available, take advantage of it. Remember though, a public network is still untrusted, and you should always use HTTPS to transfer personal information.
• If you find yourself on a public network, using a site that does not offer HTTPS access, think twice before transmitting any personal information or even about logging into the site at all. If you must, make sure you use a username and/or password that is different than your others. This is good practice anyhow.
Plenty of people have ideas for books. Unfortunately, a far smaller number actually get around to writing those books. Here’s a great Web app, via the blog Lifehacker, that basically nags you until you get one page per day actually down on (virtual) paper. One Page Per Day is free to use, and e-mails you if you haven’t gotten around to that page. The idea is that those small increments actually add up faster than you’d think. Given that most books run in the neighborhood of 350 pages, there might be something to that.