Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 13, no. 4, April 2002

Edited by Roy Tennant

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 - http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2002/cc02.13.4.html

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Shirl Kennedy, Leo Robert Klein, Jim Ronningen, Roy Tennant

Arar, Yardena. "Just Plug It In: Networking Via Power Circuits" PC World (April 2002) (http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,85003,00.asp) - The first iteration of powerline networking, using the HomePNA standard, was doomed by poor performance. However, the new HomePlug specification looks like a more viable technology. HomePlug allows you to network your computers by plugging external adapters into standard wall outlets. PC World found that it delivered "performance superior to that of 802.11b wireless networks at only a small price premium — no more than $25 to $50 per computer." Unlike the earlier HomePNA networks, HomePlug's performance is not marred by the operation of large household appliances or by powerstrips. It also features DES encryption, which affords a better level of security than the RC4 algorithm employed by 802.11b wireless networks. While HomePlug is not cheap — and certainly not as convenient as wireless for notebook computers — it appears to be worth consideration as a home networking alternative. - SK

Botticelli, Peter, Robin Dale, Carla DeMello, Barbara Berger Eden, Richard Entlich, Anne R. Kenney, and Nancy McGovern. "RLG DigiNews: Taking Stock at Five Years." RLG DigiNews 6, no. 2 (2002) (http://www.rlg.org/preserv/diginews/diginews6-2.html#feature1). - In this article, the editorial staff of RLG DigiNews trace the history of the development of this e-serial, present selected use and readership data (including a cool readership map), provide an in-depth examination of preservation strategies used to ensure ongoing access to the publication, and share the results of a reader survey. A sidebar by Richard Entlich takes a look at "link rot" issues. Happy birthday, RLG DigiNews! Here's hoping that there are many more to come for this fine publication. - CB

Covey, Denise Troll. "Usage and Usability Assessment: Library Practices and Concerns. Washington, DC: Digital Library Federation, January 2002 (http://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/pub105abst.html). - Got a new member of the Web Advisory Committee you want to break in? Need something more substantial than simply a journal article to illustrate best practices in order to move that digital library of yours into the 21st century? Look no further than this manual-length overview of common techniques for assessing our online efforts. The product of interviews with 24 major libraries, the report lavishes insightful attention on the usual suspects of evaluative methods including surveys, focus groups, heuristic examinations and log analyses. The author takes nothing for granted, addressing even the most basic questions. During a discussion of surveys for example, she takes the time to look at what exactly a survey questionnaire is. Marvelous. Helpful as well is the often sobering account of difficulties institutions have first undergoing a regime of examination and then actually applying the lessons learned to some practical end. In the preface we are promised that this is only the first of a series of reports sponsored by the Digital Library Federation. The series is called Tools for Practitioners and if the first offering is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to. - LRK

Crawford, Walt. "The Crawford Files: Talking 'Bout MyLibrary" American Libraries (April 2002): 91, (http://www.ala.org/alonline/crawford/cf402.html). - Devoted Current Cites reader Walt Crawford casts a skeptical eye on what now might legitimately be called the MyLibrary phenomena. It's open to abuse, we don't need it, no one uses it. These are some of the problems he sees that plague the concept. Of course, if you look around, these are also some of the problems that plague all personalization/customization schemes both inside and out of the library. It ain't just us. Nevertheless I have a feeling we haven't seen the last of these efforts. Indeed, there's every expectation that our investment will increase rather than diminish and that chat reference will sooner heave over and die than we yank the MyLibraries from OurLibraries. What makes the concept so attractive, still, is the fact that we've got so much stuff on our sites. Anything that can help out the navigation and local search engine, those two other paragons of access, is potentially a boon. Current implementations are certain to be improved over the ages and this in itself is sure to tempt a larger following. One obvious improvement is to make setting them up less onerous. The user shouldn't have to do anything, runs one line of thought. In fact, why should we even have to go to another page? In any case, as they become less intrusive, they certainly will become more popular. I don't want a computer to make choices for me, by golly, but I sure would appreciate a machine that remembers me. Is that too much to ask? - LRK

Dickard, Norris. "Federal Retrenchment on the Digital Divide: Potential National Impact" Benton Foundation Communications Policy & Practice, Policy Brief #1 (March 18, 2002) (http://www.benton.org/policybriefs/brief01.html). - Those of us using information technology in higher education have thought about the digital divide to varying degrees but we don't see much firsthand evidence of it, and I'd guess that most Current Cites readers are serving populations which haven't had much problem getting online so we get a false impression that Internet use is improving for society as a whole. Dickard states the converse, and succinctly presents the case that the digital divide will widen if the federal government stops funding programs which have helped close it, in particular the Dept. of Education's Community Technology Centers Program and the Dept. of Commerce's Technology Opportunities Program. His well-documented points support the argument that continuing government efforts to improve access and training for low-income and rural communities is not only socially progressive but economically smart. Be sure to explore the Benton Foundation's web site (http://www.benton.org/), a valuable resource for info tech policy issues in many arenas, including libraries. And digital divide delvers should be sure to look beyond basic access issues to related problems in information literacy and web content, described by Howard Besser in his article "The Next Digital Divides" (http://www.tcla.gseis.ucla.edu/divide/politics/besser.html). - JR

Duval, Erik, Wayne Hodgins, Stuart Sutton, and Stuart L. Weibel. "Metadata Principles and Practicalities" D-Lib Magazine 8(4) (April 2002) (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/april02/weibel/04weibel.html). - For those of us still struggling with basic concepts regarding metadata in this brave new world in which cataloging means much more than MARC, an article like this is welcome indeed. In this 30,000-foot overview of the metadata landscape, broad issues such as modularity, namespaces, extensibility, refinement, and multilingualism are discussed. In addition, "practicalities" like application profiles, syntax and semantics, metadata registries, and automated generation of metadata are explained. Although this piece is not exhaustive of high-level metadata issues, it is nonetheless a useful description of some of the most important issues surrounding metadata creation and use. - RT

Fraase, Michael. "When Elephants Dance" Arts & Farces (March 23, 2002) (http://www.farces.com/stories/storyReader$414) - In this essay, widely referenced around the Net, Michael Fraase explains how the publishing, music and motion picture industries are in the process of "a worldwide intellectual property power grab with two distinct targets" — little old you, the average consumer, and the big technology companies like Microsoft, Intel, Apple. Fraase is careful to exempt authors — "the entertainment industry hates authors almost as much as they hate customers" — but he castigates the consumer electronics industry (manufacturers of DVD players, VCRs, stereos) for sleeping with the enemy. Fraase includes a particularly juicy quote from security and cryptography expert Bruce Schneier (http://www.counterpane.com/schneier.html), who told online civil liberties attorney Mike Godwin (http://www.panix.com/~mnemonic/about.html), "If you think about it, the entertainment industry does not want people to have computers; they're too powerful, too flexible, and too extensible. They want people to have Internet Entertainment Platforms: televisions, VCRs, game consoles, etc." The essay discusses the implications of copy-protected CDs, intellectual property "moral rights," the DCMA, the Internet radio/royalties issue, copyright history, digital TV, digital rights management and the controversial Hollings bill. ("Should we be surprised that four of HollingsŐ top campaign donors are media conglomerates?") The technology industry is working to counter this ugly intellectual property trend; DigitalConsumer.org (http://www.digitalconsumer.org/), founded by two former members of Excite.com, has issued a "Consumer Technology Bill of Rights" (http://www.digitalconsumer.org/bill.html), which seeks to protect consumer fair use rights. This essay is a must-read. - SK

Frumkin, Jeremy, editor. Special Issue: Open Source Software" Information Technology and Libraries 21(1) (March 2002) (http://www.lita.org/ital/ital2101.html). - Open source software (software which is distributed in a form that people can read and modify) is becoming increasingly important to libraries. Besides using Apache to serve many of our web sites, a number of other open source applications are helping us solve library problems. Therefore, this special issue of ITAL is both welcome and none too soon. Eric Lease Morgan's contribution "Possibilities for Open Source Software in Libraries" is of particular note, and is luckily available on the web (http://www.lita.org/ital/2101_morgan.html). An annotated list of OSS applications in use in libraries would have been quite useful, but disappointed readers can at least get a start at the good OSS4Lib web site (http://www.oss4lib.org/). - RT

Gaining Independence: A Manual for Planning the Launch of a Nonprofit Electronic Publishing Venture. Washington, DC: Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, 2002 (http://www.arl.org/sparc/GI/). - This freely accessible guide, in HTML and Adobe Acrobat formats, is "a detailed, step-by-step guide leading readers through the creation of a business plan for start-up and early-stage electronic publishing ventures, including digital repositories and journals." In reality, it is closely focused on databases and journals, and those created and managed as fee-supported entities. If you have a different model for support (e.g., public subsidy) or a different type of publication (e.g., books) this will be of limited usefulness. But if your planned project fits the mold, this publication will help you consider the questions that will be important to answer to be successful. - RT

Jacobson, Carl. "Web Services: Stitching Together the Institutional Fabric" EDUCAUSE Review (March/April 2002): 50-51 (http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0228.pdf). - "Expect to be hearing a lot about Web services in the coming year". That's how author Carl Jacobson begins this short review of an approach that increasing is gaining a lot of attention. Protocols have been developed that make it possible to mix and match information from disparate parts gathering them into new and customizable combinations. Google for example has recently announced the development of a set of hooks that go into its own database. Outside parties can use these hooks to dip into the resource and pull out results, formatting them according to local customs and needs. Hot stuff, or maybe just "hype", as the author posits. Of course, a little hype isn't necessarily a bad thing. The author manages to control his own sense of excitement long enough to go over some of the protocols involved plus explore a number of ways this intriguing new way of sharing and manipulating data can be put to use in the context of higher education. - LRK

Kawakami, Alice K. "Delivering Digital Reference" NetConnect Supplement to Library Journal (Spring 2002): 28-29 (http://libraryjournal.reviewsnews.com/index.asp?layout=article&articleid=CA210717). - Digital reference is one of the hottest topics in the library profession at the moment, but so far there has been precious little good, practical advice from those who have had real hands-on experience running full-blown digital reference services (not just email). That's why Kawakami's piece on the "nitty-gritty details" of running a digital reference service is so welcome. Kawakami outlines the lessons learned not just her experience running UCLA's service, but from other similar projects. All in all, this short piece is chock-full of good, practical advice based on experience. Any library thinking about, or actually implementing, a digital reference service would do well to pay close attention to what Kawakami has to say. - RT

Pinfield, Stephen, Mike Gardner, and John MacColl. "Setting Up and Institutional E-Print Archive" Ariadne Issue 31 (March/April 2002) (http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue31/eprint-archives/). - Following the success of the e-print server arXiv.org in helping to transform how high-energy physicists communicate their findings, a number of institutions, organizations, and scholars have considered how such a model could transform other disciplines. But so far the success of discipline-based archives, where faculty are expected to post their own work, has been spotty. An alternative to discipline-based archives are institutional-based archives, which are more likely to provide submission support for authors. In fact, the authors of this piece declare that mediated posting of articles (they suggest by library staff) is "more or less the only thing that works." Partly this may be due to the lengthy and complicated process to upload an article that the eprints.org software they are using requires, but for some faculty it is unlikely that any computer-based process would be simple enough to be attractive. Although those who are considering setting up a repository using the eprints.org software will find the implementation details in this piece instructive, their discussion of issues such as how to answer faculty questions about such a project are more broadly applicable. - RT

Ward, Mark. "Hacking With a Pringles Tube" BBC News Online (March 8, 2002) (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1860000/1860241.stm) - Yes, junk food is wonderful, but you'd better watch where you put that empty Pringles can. Some hacker could pick it out of your trash and concoct a homemade antenna he or she can use to hack into your wireless network. It's already old news that many wireless networks are far from secure; this article references a study by i-sec, a security firm, which found that "two-thirds of networks were doing nothing to protect themselves." An empty Pringles tube — or coffee can, salted nuts tin, etc. — can easily be turned into a directional (Yagi) antenna that can find vulnerable networks. "In one 30-minute journey using the Pringles can antenna, witnessed by BBC News Online, i-sec managed to find almost 60 wireless networks." Some suggestions given by i-sec to harden wireless network security: change default names, move access points to the center of a building or complex, switch off network broadcast functions. - SK


Current Cites 13(4) (April 2002) ISSN: 1060-2356
Copyright © 2002 by the Regents of the University of California All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2002 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Document maintained at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2002/cc02.13.4.html by Roy Tennant.
Last update April 26, 2002. SunSITE Manager: manager@sunsite.berkeley.edu