Archive for October, 2008

To mark the tenth anniversary of the DMCA being signed into law in the U. S., the EFF has released an updated version of their excellent document, Unintended Consequences: Ten Years under the DMCA.

As it stands, we Canadians may be getting our own version of the DMCA very soon, with An Act to amend the Copyright Act (formerly Bill C-61) likely to be reintroduced during the next Parliamentary session. Hopefully the new administration south of the border won’t push as hard for this bill for this as the last one did

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Ubuntu 8.10 Release Candidate

With Ubuntu 8.10 less than a week away, a release candidate is now available for widespread testing. There are two things that I’m eager to try in this release:

  • ecryptfs, now part of the main distribution, lets users have a private encrypted folder in their home directories. I’m currently encrypting an entire partition on my laptop, which is overkill for my needs; ecryptfs seems like a much better solution.
  • GNOME 2.24 has better screen resolution controls, which should be appreciated by those projecting presentations from a laptop (*ahem* such as students returning to school this January…). This is one area of the Linux desktop that I found to be lacking a bit of polish, so it’s nice to hear that this interface got revamped.

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Evergreen 1.4RC1

I finally got around to blowing away my Evergreen test installation and instead tracking the SVN trunk build (including OpenSRF trunk). With all that excitement, I missed the announcement that Evergreen 1.4 release candidate 1 is now available. You can download the source tarball here and installation instructions for Ubuntu 8.04 are here.

OpenSRF version 1.0.0 was also released to coincide with the release candidate (available here).

When installing the SVN version of OpenSRF on Ubuntu, I found that doing “sudo apt-get install python-dnspython python-myghtyutils python-pyxmpp python-simplejson” put some dependencies in place before the “configure; make; make install”. While the install scripts are pretty good about going and out and grabbing the source code of deps online and installing them for you, I prefer having proper packages and all the package management goodness that they bring.

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I’ve been out of commission with a terrible head cold for the past week, so I missed quite a lot of interesting news!

First, in late May 2009, the first ever Evergreen Conference will take place in Athens, Georgia. I’m finishing up my MLIS one month prior to that date, so it’s unlikely that I’ll be attending…unless some nice Canadian is willing to smuggle me in their luggage!

Second, the first release candidate for VuFind 1.0 was released. If you have anything you wish to contribute before version 1.0 is finalized, now is the time.

Finally, Ubuntu 8.10 is 10 days away. Happily, it looks like it will fix a nasty problem would cause my laptop hard disk to die prematurely.

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With Canadian Thanksgiving falling yesterday (Monday) and huge head cold hitting me today, I didn’t notice that OpenOffice 3.0 had finally landed. Not only does it have better support for VBA macros, but it supports Microsoft’s OOXML file format (.docx, etc). Microsoft, in turn, will be providing support for the OpenDocument Format (ODF) by February 2009, so MS Office users will be able to open and export ODF files created by OpenOffice.

There is some disturbing news about this, though. Groklaw recently ran a story about MS stacking the ODF standards committee in an effort to change the OpenDocument Format to its own specifications and, presumably, to its own advantage. Will this window of interoperability soon be closed?

In addition to the external pressure exerted by Microsoft on the standards front, Michael Meeks, OpenOffice developer, recently posted some disturbing stats about the rate of participation in OpenOffice’s development. According to his (admittedly) crude numbers, there is less developer interest in the project, both by Sun and by external participants. The number of “active” developers has hit an all-time low of 24, which seems embarrassingly low for such a large and prominent open source project.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this. It should be remembered that Mozilla struggled to gain widespread acceptance until an offshoot, Phoenix (later renamed Firefox), struck out in a different development direction and supplanted the Mother Project. Something similar could happen with OpenOffice, somewhere away from Sun’s oversight (has there been an open source project of theirs that wasn’t bungled in some way?).

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Access 2008

I have been back from Access 2008 for a few days and have now fully recovered. It was a little intimidating, very exciting, a little exhausting…and lots of fun! I met a lot of great people and absorbed a lot of interesting information.

More than anything, Access was energizing. It’s great to hear what others are doing for their libraries, to learn about the tools they’re using (or developing and sharing!), and to see what they have accomplished. For me, I was happy that there was a lot of talk about Evergreen (including a sneak peak of the upcoming 1.4 release), a talk about Project Conifer, and two Birds-of-a-Feather sessions. Even the pre-conference Hackfest leaned heavily towards Evergreen development, with some impressive results (including properly integrating Zotero with Evergreen’s new dynamic interface). I understand that all of the talks will be made available in some sort of audio format, too.

Now, it’s back to work. Currently, this involves me relentlessly beating some SIRSI-exported MARC records into something resembling the standard (“Duplicate 001 fields? Really?”). However, as I seek solutions to some problems by scanning through list archives and asking questions on IRC channels, it’s nice to now be able to associate the faces of the people I met to their online names and nicks.

Next year’s conference will be held in PEI. See you there.

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As I pass among the delegates at Access 2008, I seem to feel a special hatred of Innovative Interfaces Inc emanating from all systems librarians forced to use their products. Not only do I hear a lot of complaining about problems librarians continue to experience with their software, not to mention their extortionary pricing model, but there’s a particular exchange that has occurred more than once. It goes something like this:

Person 1: Not only do I not like Innovative, but I can’t remember anyone stating one good reason for going with them, or anything positive about their product.

(4-6 other people in the conversation) Me neither.

“Look after the customer and the business will take care of itself,” advised Ray Kroc, former head of McDonald’s. Innovative is evidently not making their customers happy, and I can’t say that I’m optimistic about their ILS business.

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