Oct10th

LibraryBox wins Excellence in Education at Chattanooga Startup Awards

griffey LibraryBox

CHA Startup Awards

Last night were the first annual Chattanooga Startup Awards, a part of Startup Week. About a week or so ago I got an email letting me know that LibraryBox was a finalist for an award, and could I please send them a logo and a song I’d like played if we won.

First: I got a theme song. That’s just cool.

Second: I assumed it was a formality that LibraryBox wouldn’t win. There are so many awesome companies and people doing stuff in Chattanooga that I was certain I’d go to the awards, talk to a few other nominees, and have a beer. The last thing I thought would happen was that LibraryBox would actually win one.

Color me surprised:

IMG_5264

LibraryBox won this:

Excellence in Education Award
This award may to go a person, teacher, parent, mentor or organization that has proven a commitment to educating and empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I’m still befuddled at this given that among my competition were companies like Learning Blade, who are doing really interesting things with web-based learning.

I’m thrilled and humbled at winning any award for LibraryBox, and want to thank everyone that’s ever been involved in the project. There’s a lot more coming from LibraryBox in the near future…keep watching!

Oct8th

Adobe Digital Editions and infoleaks


Eliminate DRMThe online library world exploded today over the revelation that Adobe Digital Editions, software that is required for many library-focused eBook services, evidently leaks like a sieve when it comes to our user’s information. The TL:DR version of the story is that ADE appears to be sending in plain text to Adobe’s servers information such as: the book you are reading, title, publisher, which pages you have read and which page you are currently on. Much longer discussions about the leak and potential fallout here:

Andromeda and Galen then both went on to touch on some of the core problems with this leak, focusing on the conflict between Adobe’s action and the ethics of librarianship, and the possible role that ALA may have in bridging the gaps in libraries’ knowledge of these actions.

There are a few things I wanted to emphasize about this situation. The first is that several of the reports have noted that earlier versions of Adobe Digital Editions didn’t seem to “spy on its users” in the way that the most recent version (version 4) does, and recommend using earlier versions. The truth of the matter is that of course the earlier versions are spying on users…they just aren’t doing it in as transparent a manner as the current version. We need to decide whether we are angry at Adobe for failing technically (for not encrypting the information or otherwise anonymizing the data) or for failing ethically (for the collection of data about what someone is reading). It’s possible to be angry at both, but here’s a horrible truth: If they had gotten the former right and encrypted the information appropriately, we’d have no idea about the latter at all.

I think that Andromeda has it right, that we need to insist that the providers of our digital information act in a way that upholds the ethical beliefs of our profession. It is possible, technically, to provide these services (digital downloads to multiple devices with reading position syncing) without sacrificing the privacy of the reader. For example (and this is just off the top of my head) you could architect the sync engine to key off of a locally-hashed UserID + BookID that never left the device, and only transmit the hash and the location information in a standardized format. This would give you anonymous page syncing between devices without having to even worry about encryption of the traffic, as long as you used an appropriate hash function. I would prefer this approach, because (as mentioned above), if the entire communications stack is encrypted, it’s a black box for anyone attempting to see inside and verify what the vendor is actually collecting. There are answers to this as well (encryption keys that the vendor never sees at all, for example, and are totally local to the user’s device a la Apple’s latest security enhancements).

There are technical solutions that satisfy our ethical concerns. We need to insist that our vendors care enough about our ethics that the technical answers become a market differentiator. We need to insist that this is important and then we need to make them listen.

Sep10th

Support the Ada Initiative

griffey Personal

Ada-Initiative-color-stickerLike many librarians, today I’m blogging about a fundraiser for a group that I think does incredibly important and useful work in the technology world: The Ada Initiative. Named after one of my heroes, Ada Lovelace, it is a group that is dedicated to supporting women in technology. They do this in a variety of ways, from advocacy, to the development of codes of conduct and the promotion of safe spaces for women, to education for organizations and individuals about gender diversity and the skills needed to support these efforts.

The Ada Initiative can only do these things through the support of people who believe in their efforts. For the next 5 days, there is a $5120 matching grant opportunity for librarians that give to the Initiative. This is the first time that the Ada Initiative has focused on librarians, and I for one want to show them the degree to which librarianship believes that diversity in technology is a necessary thing, and that we desperately need to provide safe spaces for women in tech spaces of all types.

eliza with arduino

I also want to ask that you think about the amazing women that you know in librarianship and technology, and consider donating as a way to honor them. I’m donating to the Ada Initiative as a way to help ensure that the next generation of women in technology don’t have to fight the same fight as this generation. I’m also donating so that just maybe Eliza can continue to be interested in science and technology and not be discouraged or dissuaded by the sexism of the world around her.

If you’d like to join me in donating, please use the below link to do so, so that your donation is counted for the matching grant.
 

 
Donate to the Ada Initiative
 
Thanks to the Ada Initiative for all that they do to support gender equality in science and technology.

Sep8th

Apple’s September 9th 2014 Announcement Predictions


promo_live

Over the years, I’ve become known as a fan of Apple’s hardware and software solutions…and it’s true, I am overly fond of the way they do things. This isn’t to say that I’m not critical of them, as I do think they make mistakes (iPod HiFi anyone?). But I’ve been following them for many, many years and have a good understanding of their predilections.

On September 9th, Apple will be holding a press event that is promising to be one of the most interesting in many years. September is always their biggest press event of the year, as it’s when they introduce the newest model of iPhone, by far Apple’s most important and popular product. There have been lots of rumors and discussion around the Internet that seem to point to this year being particularly revolutionary. We don’t have the whole story yet (no one holds their cards closer than Apple does) but here are a few of the things that seem like good bets, and that might be interesting to Libraries and Librarians.

The first is the new iPhones. Yep, that’s plural, since it appears that Apple will be launching two new phones, for the first time in two different screen sizes. All of the rumors point to Apple releasing a 4.7 inch version and a 5.5 inch version of the iPhone this time around, marking only the second (and third!) time they’ve changed screen sizes with their phone. The original iPhone through the iPhone 4S were all 3.5 inch screens, the iPhone 5, 5C and 5S are all 4 inch…and now it looks like we’ll get 2 phones that are larger than that. This isn’t a huge surprise, as the overall cell phone market has been growing their phones for years now…the newest Samsung Galaxy 4 has a 5.7 inch screen, for instance. For Apple, growing screen sizes is harder, because the iPhone human interface guidelines insist on appropriately sized touch targets for the interface, and increasing the screen size while also increasing the pixel density can be hell on developers trying to make apps that work for every device. The best guesses yet for the resolution of these new phones comes from Apple blogger/journalist John Gruber, who puts the 4.7 inch screen at 1334×750, or 326ppi, with the 5.5 at 2208×1242, which works out to an incredible 461ppi, more dense than a printed magazine page.

The new phones will also undoubtedly be thinner and faster, most likely running a new A8 chipset that was designed by Apple. The A7 that debuted in the iPhone 5S is a remarkable processor, giving an insane amount of processing power at efficiencies that are hard for other devices to match. If they’ve improved on that, the A8 is likely to be a breakthough, giving desktop-level processing power in a mobile package.

It also appears that there is something happening with the new iPhone and a payment system for the real world. Bloomberg and others have reported that Apple has reached some type of deal with all of the major credit card companies (Visa, Mastercard, et al) and the rumor that they will finally be including some type of NFC technology in the new phones (my money is on a new, software-based system that allows for on-the-fly programming of the NFC communications protocol) that would allow for tap-to-pay interactions at all of the vendors that support such.

Add all that (new sizes, payment system, new processors) on top of the announcements that they made back at WWDC regarding iOS 8 and the massive changes that it will bring to the platform…it’s gonna be a big day for the iPhone. iOS 8 brings the most radical changes to the platform since the introduction of the App Store, including the introduction of true inter- and intra-app communication abilities (to the extent that apps can even have functionality that extends INTO another app, for instance one photo app “loaning” a filter to another totally unrelated app for use). It’s not exaggerating to say that iOS8 will change how the iPhone can be used by people, adding huge amounts of additional functionality. I’m perhaps most looking forward to custom keyboards (one of the aspects of Android that I most miss on the iOS platform), but I’m excited to see what developers come up with, because Apple is handing them a whole new suite of toys to play with.

If that were all that Apple was announcing and showing off, it would be a huge deal. But it seems like they may have finally chosen this as the time to announce their Wearable computing platform. Exactly what that means, only Apple really knows, but all of the rumors seem to point to some sort of wristwatch-like object that does…something. It’s really a mystery, but one Apple reporter quipped that the so-called iWatch is going to be a watch in the same ways that the iPhone is a phone. Whatever it is that they announce, it’s almost guaranteed to be interesting.

The other thing that’s pointing towards this being a big day for Apple is the choice of venue. Apple is using the Flint Center for this announcement, which they have only used 3 times in their history. Once was for the original announcement of the Macintosh in 1984, and once was for the return of Steve Jobs and the original iMac. To be fair, the third was for the iMac SE, which was a much smaller deal, but the two others are among the biggest announcements ever from Apple, ranking with the launch of the original iPhone in how important they were to the history of the company. It appears that Apple has built an entirely new building just for the announcement of their new products at the location of the Flint Center, and this is shaping up to be quite the September for Apple.

iOS8, two new iPhone models, a wearable device of unknown purpose and type, something that requires an entire building to show off….this Tuesday is gonna be really interesting. Join me at 12pm Central on Twitter @griffey for the annual live-tweeting of my thoughts. See you then for all the excitement!

Addendum

One of the refrains I often get in the library community when I do posts like this that focus on gadgets, especially specific gadgets, and even more especially Apple’s specific gadgets is “But how does this relate to libraries?”. As if libraries didn’t, oh…help patrons navigate their gadgets every single day or have dozens of electronic resources that need to interoperate with these devices. Perhaps there are even a few librarians that use these devices to help patrons in the real world. I don’t really have a single answer as to why librarians should be interested in the most popular hardware that runs the second most popular operating system used to access the Internet. Perhaps not all librarians need to be completely aware of this stuff, but someone certainly does, hopefully someone in your library or library system.

Sep3rd

LibraryBox UI Translations Needed

griffey LibraryBox

For the last 6 months, I’ve been working on improving the LibraryBox user experience as a part of the Knight Foundation Prototype Grant that the project received. There were a number of improvements that were a part of the initial grant proposal, one of which was localization/internationalization of the interface. If you look at the map of LibraryBox locations…

View LibraryBox Locations in a larger map

…you can see that it’s a very popular project all around the world. While English may be my mother tongue, we really needed to work to make the interface available in other languages. As a result, in the upcoming v2.1 release, the LibraryBox interface will automagically change to the language your browser is set to use. If your computer and browser language is set to French, when you connect and use a LibraryBox running v2.1, the interface will be in French. Unfortunately, French is the only translation we have thus far.

But that’s where YOU come in. Do you speak another language? If so, we could use even a very rough translation from you in order to make LibraryBox as accessible as possible for people around the world. We’re talking about 350 words or so, total, 54 lines of text to potentially help people around the world. Help us!

 


 

How to Help!

  1. Download the English or French translation file(s)
  2. Open up the LibraryBox Languages spreadsheet, add your language to the list, and claim it!
  3. Translate the text into the appropriate language! Just the right-hand phrases, please…use the English/French files as a guide as to how to do it.
  4. Save your new language file as a text file
  5. Send the file, along with how you’d like to be credited on the website, to griffey at gmail.com
  6. Update the spreadsheet so that others know you’re done and that language is off the board.

 


 
That’s it! You’ve helped to make access to digital materials easier for people around the world.

No language is off base: if you can get us a translation in Klingon, we’ll take it. Because of course there’s an accepted ISO HTTP header code for Klingon (tlh). For the record there’s also one for Sindarin (sjn) and Quenya (qya). Get to it, geeks.

Seriously, thank you to anyone who decides to tackle a translation. I thank you, and the readers and students around the world thank you.

UPDATE: I was asked on Twitter if there was a deadline for translations, and while we will continue to take them as they come in, I would love to have as many as possible to be able to brag about at the upcoming Knight Foundation demo day. So let’s say first round deadline is Friday, September 12th. Get me any translation by then, and I’ll make sure it’s in the 2.1 beta build that I show off at Demo Day.
Aug27th

Directory Layout opinions needed

griffey LibraryBox

Ok, Internet. I have two options, both of which have their upside/downsides, and I need your feedback. I’m working on the new directory layout for LibraryBox, and need to break long names, especially those without spaces in them, because it does crazy things with the layout. Here’s an example of what the layout looks like without the hard-break behavior:

Photo Aug 27, 2 59 58 PM

Without Hard Break CSS

 

And here’s the same directory listing, WITH the hard-break CSS behavior in place:

 

Photo Aug 27, 3 00 20 PM

With hard break CSS

Better, right? Except then you get weird things like this:

 

Photo Aug 27, 2 59 50 PM

Text with spaces, no hard break CSS

 

 

Photo Aug 27, 2 59 18 PM

Text with spaces, with hard break CSS

 

Text that DOES have spaces, and would normally break across them, instead breaks at the arbitrary point where it hits the wall of the container.

So what’s your vote: With or Without the hard break CSS? The text in question will be all over the place, as it’s whatever filenames people use for the files they put on a LibraryBox…could literally be any text in the world. So I can’t predict…and it’s in CSS, so I don’t really have a way to detect spaces and do an if/then with it. Anyone have any ideas?

Aug20th

Creative Commons NC clause and 3D printing


I was browsing through some 3D printing files today, STLs that both I produced and were produced by others. For example, I designed and uploaded a 3D case for a LibraryBox that others have downloaded and printed. It is CC licensed, specifically CC BY-NC. I was looking at other STL files that had a CC NC license applied to them, and it made me think what that NC is really protecting.

Obviously, at the very least, the license prevents others from selling the STL files. Does it, however, prevent someone from using the files to create the physical object (that is, using a 3D printer to print the box itself out) and then selling the object? My instinct says yes, as the physical object is an instantiation of the digital file. But let’s scale the example up…what if someone built a house based on CC NC licensed plans? Could they ever legally sell the house?

This is purely theoretical. To my knowledge, no one is selling my designs, and I’m not planning to sell anyone else’s. But I am curious where the line between licensing a digital file and the resultant legal implications of the physical instantiation of that file might be.

The only case and real discussion I can find online is this case that was written up by Make, US Legal Lessons from Canada’s First STL IP Infringement Case. The discussion there indicates that Make’s author, Michael Weinberg, doesn’t believe that, once printed, there is any protection for a utilitarian object under copyright law (and since that’s what underpins Creative Commons, nothing there either).

Anyone want to weigh in on this?

Aug14th

Code4LibDC Unconference Workshop


Monday and Tuesday of this week I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 Code4LibDC Unconference, where I had been invited to lead an introduction to hardware hacking workshop. Thanks in large part to the generosity of SparkFun Electronics, whose Education arm let me borrow the hardware necessary to run the workshop (15 sets of the Sparkfun Redboard Arduino clone, breadboards, wiring, LEDs, and sensors).

I decided that I wanted to try and reverse the normal order of pretty much every “Learn Arduino” workshop that I’d seen, so rather than start with a blank slate and have the students build a circuit to blink an LED, I decided that I wanted them to start with a working circuit that was a bit more complicated and then deconstruct it. As a result, I spent most of a day late the week before building out a dozen or so circuits that would light a series of 4 LEDs dependent on the value of a potentiometer, and then packing them up and hoping the TSA didn’t find them “interesting”. The idea was that the participants would immediately have a working thing, and then could break it, alter it, change it, and they would have something that was immediately useful rather than struggle to make it work from the outset. Judging from the reactions I got, I think that was a good call…the participants seemed to have a grand time deconstructing why the circuit did what it did. It also provided an example of how something very simple could be useful in a library…you could, with very little change, basically replace the potentiometer with a thermistor and have a temperature gauge, or with a microphone and have a noise indicator for “too loud” rooms.

We weren’t without problems (no hardware session ever is) but overall I felt like it went well, and I can’t wait to work on making this particular workshop even better. I really want to teach more and more librarians how to hack on hardware to benefit their libraries. A few of the participants really had a field day, with one group altering the simple 4 LED series to instead be a 4-bit binary counter, and another working out an algorithm that allowed for soft fades instead of simple on/off of the lights.

If anyone is interested, below you will find my slides from the workshop. They need work before I try to give this again, but I think they are a good start.

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Aug7th

Month One


Today marks the one month anniversary of leaving my position at the University of TN at Chattanooga, walking away from a tenured professorship, and trying to build a business on my reputation and skills.

So how’s it going?

Right now, it’s mostly proposal limbo. I have something like 8 different consulting proposals that I’ve either put together or been attached to over the course of the month. Of those 8, 2 are definite no-gos, 2 need revisions and resubmittal, and 4 are still floating in the ether of uncertainty. I’ve got a handful of speaking engagements (but am always happy to come and speak with librarians about technology) and over the next few months will be:

Those are all in roughly the next 12 weeks!

Which is a lot of words to basically say: Things are uncertain, but good, and I’m keeping busy. :-)

I’d love to hear from anyone who needs technology planning at their library, though…I would love to turn a few proposals into contracts. What can I do to help your library?

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Jul30th

3D Printers for Libraries


I spent yesterday hanging out at the GigTank Demo Day, listening to 3D printing startups pitch their ideas and companies at investors. It was a fantastic event, as is normal for things that the Company Lab is running, and I had a good time listening to the excitement around 3D printing as a technology.

It made me want to look back and see how long I’ve been following this technology, and I was dumbfounded to discover that the first mention of 3D printing on this very blog was in 2006. In October of 2006 I posted about a company called Fabjectory that was way ahead of the curve in providing 3D printing as a service for people. Then, not quite a year later I held the first 3D printed object that I’d ever touched, and it happened to be a print of myself as a Nintendo Mii. That was in August of 2007!

In 2011 I was asked to record a video by the LITA Top Tech Trends committee as an experiment for doing some information updates on technology between ALA Annual and Midwinter, and the trend I pointed to was 3D printing.

There’s a lot more that I’ve written over the years, ranging from my interviews with Bre Pettis (CEO of Makerbot Industries) about libraries and 3D printing to reporting last year for American Libraries on the 3D printing news from CES 2014.

3D Printers for Libraries

All this time and interest in the technology is coming to head in the publication of a new Library Technology Report that I have written on 3D printing, called 3D Printers for Libraries. In it I explain all of the varieties of 3D printing and 3D printers, from the inexpensive fused-deposition printers that most libraries are installing to the highest end Electron Beam Melting printers that are used to produce medical-grade implants. I go through the pros and cons of a variety of manufacturers, and make suggestions for libraries who are just getting started in offering 3D printing as a service.

If your library is looking at starting to offer 3D printing, this is a good reference work to help you make some decisions about types of printers and pitfalls and problems you may see with them. If your library would like some help in making decisions like this, or in figuring out how  to offer 3D printing to your patrons, feel free to contact me (griffey at gmail.com or @griffey on Twitter). I’d love to help you get to a place where your staff is confident in offering 3D printing as a new technology offering from your library.

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I'm Jason Griffey, a librarian, technologist, writer and speaker. This is my personal/professional blog, but I also write Release Candidate (focusing on future tech) and for the ALA TechSource blog. Visit my homepage for more.





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