Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 9, no. 5, May 1998

Edited by Teri Andrews Rinne

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 -

Contributors: Christof Galli, Kirk Hastings, Terry Huwe, Margaret Phillips, Richard Rinehart, Jim Ronningen, Roy Tennant, Lisa Yesson

[ Digital Libraries ] [ Electronic Publishing ] [ Multimedia & Hypermedia ] [ Networks & Networking ] [ Optical Disc Technology ]

Digital Libraries

Fox, Edward A. and Gary Marchionini. "Toward a Worldwide Digital Library" Communications of the ACM 41(4) (April 1998). -- As they have done before, (see the April 1995 issue of Current Cites) the Communications of the ACM has devoted an issue to the topic of digital libraries. Anyone involved in digital library development probably has favorite online resources (such as our own Digital Library SunSITE for diving deep into specific problems, but this provides a wide scope in one neat package. To quote from the introduction, "This special section is a snapshot of the current state of digital library development around the world." The worldwide digital library theme has been carried out by including articles which focus upon technical, informational and social interoperability across national boundaries. The special section is broken up into the following categories: Interoperability, Special Types of Digital Libraries, Multilingual Support, National Efforts, and Supporting Technologies. And there's a related "Legally Speaking" column by Pamela Samuelson titled "Encoding the Law into Digital Libraries." As always with CACM, the work is scholarly, well-documented and foot-noted. -- JR

Hanson, Terry. "The Access Catalogue Gateway to Resources" Ariadne 15 (May 1998) ( -- Libraries can no longer be complacent with merely providing structured access to their holdings through their library catalog. Users must also be guided to CD-ROM and Internet resources in a way that makes sense and that integrates them as much as possible with traditional print resources. The typical strategies so far include adding electronic and Internet resources to the library catalog or creating a separate and parallel catalog to the existing catalog of print materials. Neither solution is without its problems. In this article Hanson proposes a new kind of access paradigm that subsumes the library catalog of print materials beneath an over-arching "Access Catalogue." This catalog would provide integrated access to the complete breadth of information resources, from which the user could leap off into the one they feel is most appropriate to their need -- whether it be the traditional library catalog, or a CD-ROM database, or a Web site. A number of us have been slouching toward just such a solution, but it is refreshing to see it so clearly and openly stated. Although this brief piece is hardly more than the statement of an idea, it is nonetheless of potentially much greater impact than a longer and more fully documented article. Those of us who were using Gopher when Mosaic was introduced understand the power of the right idea at the right time. Although I don't want to imply that Hanson's model is as potentially powerful, I do think it is well worth heeding. -- RT

Jensen, Ann. "Taking Local Resources Global: The NCSTRL Experience at UC Berkeley Library" Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship 18 (Spring 1998) ( -- This piece is a straightforward report on a library project to take over the management of a repository of computer science technical reports from a computer science department that had participated in a ground-breaking digital library project called NCSTRL. Although the topic may not be as "sexy" as other digital library projects -- being based on technology that has existed for years -- it nonetheless is an example of the kind of digital library function that should be a library's bread-and-butter -- providing long-term, structured, and usable access to useful information. - RT

Electronic Publishing

Kelly, Brian. RDF Tools Briefing Sheet (May 1998) ( ng.html). -- This summary sheet on RDF tools and resources is extremely helpful for anyone interesting in the Resource Description Framework, or RDF. RDF is an emerging standard for encoding metadata using XML syntax. RDF is likely to be an important standard for anyone creating, exchanging, or using metadata. This document is extremely up-to-date as of this writing, but as Kelly wisely notes, this is a "very volatile area." It is available in Adobe Acrobat, Word 97, and HTML formats. Our readers in the U.S. should select the option "shrink to fit" when printing it from Adobe Acrobat, as it is formatted for A4 paper. It is also designed to be distributed as a one-page, back-to-back, folded handout. You would be hard-pressed to find any better RDF summary sheet than this. -- RT

Kelly, Brian. What is XML? Ariadne 15 (May 1998) ( -- The question posed by the article title is on the lips of many individuals these days, and will be pondered by even more in the days to come. Kelly's piece, written in the question-and-answer format popularized by net "Frequently Asked Questions" documents (FAQs), is aimed at answering only the most basic questions about XML. However, those who know a bit more than the basics may be pleasantly surprised by up-to-date pointers to some interesting papers from the Seventh International World Wide Web Conference. - RT

Miller, Eric. "An Introduction to the Resource Description Framework" D-Lib Magazine (May 1998) ( -- Let's not mince words. The Resource Description Framework, or RDF, is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who has difficulty with the concept of labeled directed graphs, yours truly included, will find themselves wishing they had a dentist's appointment they could rush off to when confronted with RDF syntax. But surely, you think, this preamble is leading up to something more engaging than having one's teeth pulled, right? Right. There is a reason to endure such pain. It you've ever wished for a mechanism by which you could encode, exchange, and use structured metadata on the Web, then here it is. RDF is an emerging solution to a variety of problems, from "cataloging" Web pages to providing browsing of a Web site hierarchy and more. So pull up an armchair, lean back, and open wide. The doctor is "in."- - RT

Stepanek, Marcia. "From Digits to Dust" Businessweek 3574 (April 20, 1998): 128. -- Librarians will be shocked! Shocked! To learn that digital preservation is a vital issue. This article covers the growing awareness among technology managers that digital information, much of will never appear on paper, is subject to decay and degradation. In many cases, the actual life span of CD-ROMs and other formats are no longer than the life span of paper copies, despite the fact digital copies are far more expensive to develop. Although this article is very well written and informative, it falls into a very common trap of business writers: a lack of research on the preservation initiatives that originate in the library world. Maybe if digital preservation values and strategies of librarians were more widely known, we wouldn't be in such a pickle. This article makes it abundantly clear that consideration of preservation issues must be folded into the design process for digital formats. -- TH

Multimedia & Hypermedia

Donovan, Kevin. "The Promise of the FlashPix Image File Format" RLG DigiNews 2(2) (April 15, 1998) ( -- One of the critical questions at the moment for anyone doing serious image work on the Web is what the next image format will be. It's clear that the ubiquitous formats of GIF (Compuserve's Graphic Interchange Format) and JPEG (the Joint Photographic Engineers Group specification) are sufficient for providing Web eye candy, but they are clearly deficient for serving high-resolution images. The problem is that there is no clear winner among several competing formats. FlashPix is one of these formats, and this article does a decent job of explaining what it is all about. Can you implement it and be certain it will be the format of the future? Perhaps, perhaps not. But with Eastman Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, Live Picture, Inc., and Microsoft behind it, you can't count it out either. At least with the help of this article you will know about about your options. -- RT

Gulick, Rebecca. "Adobe Proposes PGML as Web Image Standard" MacWeek 12(15) (April 20, 1998): 1,8 -- Adobe, along with Netscape, IBM, and other supporters proposed PGML as the new standard for vector-based images for the Web to the W3C. Vector-based images are not defined as a fixed set of pixels, but rather as algorithims. One of their benefits is that a Web site could host a very high-resolution vector-based image, which when delivered by the intelligent Web server gets "dumbed down" into a lower-resolution image for the browser for speed, but the end-user could "zoom" in on the image and request higher and higher resolutions from the server. This would obviously enable many uses for which the Web is now impractical, and could greatly reduce the storage and mangement problems of multiple versions of image files. PGML is not the only standard being proposed, but the move toward vector-based images in general should be watched closely. -- RR

Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) 1.0 Specification (April 9, 1998) World Wide Web Consortium. a new proposal for a Web based standard for multimedia. the Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (or SMIL; thanks Timothy Leary 8-) ) is an XML-based language for integrating multimedia (audio, video, images) on the Web. Full approval is pending and the SMIL specification can be found at -- RR

Networks & Networking

Platt, Nina. "GPO Access - Government At Its Best?" Database 21 (2) (April/May 1998): 41-43. -- If you've ever been frustrated by trying to locate U.S. government information you may be pleased to read Nina Platt's review of recent improvements to GPO Access [], the U.S. Government Printing Office's electronic directory of Federal Government information. GPO Access includes government information databases (such as The Federal Register and The Code of Federal Regulation), individual Federal agency files from the Federal Bulletin Board and tools for finding government information. GPO Access also provides multiple access options and general and specialized search pages. Platt acknowledges that GPO Access has been available since 1994, but only recently has begun to live up to its promise, by adding more resources and simplifying the search process. -- LY

Proceedings of the 7th International World Wide Web Conference, Brisbane, Australia April 14-18, 1998 ( -- The International WWW Conference is the Web conference for academics and researchers. Unlike conferences such as Internet World or Interop, you won't be bumping into too many suits in the halls. This is both good and bad, if you're of a practical bent. If you're looking for Web solutions you can implement today, you will find few of them here. But if you want to know where the Web may be heading, discover what technical possibilities there are, and sample some cutting-edge solutions to Web problems, this is the place. You will likely find that many of the papers are of limited interest, but even if you find only one or two that expands your knowledge about what is possible on the Web, it will be worth a visit. My guess is you will. -- RT

Udell, Jon. "Effective HTML Forms" BYTE 23(5) (May 1998):103-106 ( -- I don't normally cite individual articles on creating Web documents, but this one has such great advice about a Web structure that is so often done poorly, I couldn't help myself. Udell, who doubles as the BYTE Web manager, not only targets the markup with comments like "Mark required elements" and "Use layout and visual cues to organize elements" (he gives examples), but also the programs that will process the input: "Accept all unambiguous inputs" (for example, (XXX) XXX-XXX or XXX-XXX-XXXX for phone numbers) and "Use short error messages linked to longer explanations." By the way, it's not absolutely necessary, but it will help a lot if you know a little Perl, or at least some programming language. -- RT

Optical Disc Technology

Herther, Nancy K. "CD-ROM to DVD-ROM: Moving Optical Storage Along a Bumpy Road into the New Century" Database 21 (2) (April/May 1998): 26-36. -- Will the deployment of DVD technology benefit from the CD-ROM learning curve? This is the question that Nancy Herther discusses in this overview of the optical storage industry. DVD is the next generation high density compact disc. While CD-ROMs can store about 650MB of data or music, DVD discs can store between 4.7 GB to 17 GB - enough for more than a full-length MPEG-2 compressed motion picture. DVD, if successful, will eventually replace videotapes, laserdiscs, CD-Audio, CD-ROMs and other video game formats. After interviewing over 35 industry participants and experts, Herther concludes that this will depend on the resolution of remaining standards issues, Win98 support for DVD, the number of available DVD titles and backward compatibility with current CDs (DVD and DVD-ROM players must be able to play today's current CDs). She also provides a brief history of the CD-ROM industry, a helpful summary of the the various CD and DVD formats (including recordable) and an extensive list of Web resources for additional background information. -- LY

Current Cites 9(5) (May 1998) ISSN: 1060-2356 Copyright © 1998 by the Library, University of California, Berkeley. All rights reserved.

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