Chuck Gray

Cultivating Computer Community

Cultivating Computer Community

In the spirit of our Cultivating Community effort for this year, I thought I would share with you some of the computing resources that the library and the community both have to offer.  There’s more help available to you than you think!

First off let me start by telling you about the Fredericksburg PC Users Group.  Their website is http://fpcug.org/.  They can also be found on Facebook and Meetup.com.  The FPCUG provides a variety of meetings and speakers for beginners and veterans alike.  If you want to learn more about your new PC or are having difficulties with it, there’s a good chance somebody at the FPCUG can help!

Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Try it Yourself!

windows 8 logo

I know a lot of us are still getting used to Windows 7, having only recently upgraded or purchased a new computer with it preinstalled.  But guess what?  Windows “8” is right around the corner, and you can try it for yourself today by visiting http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview.  Microsoft has released a free preview version of Windows 8 to the public that, on the whole, will be largely the same as the full release, minus some bugs that will be ironed out between

Common Computer Myths

Common Computer Myths

Part of my job at the library is helping individuals with computers through our free Training on Demand program.  I help patrons learn how to use their computers, how to surf the Web, how to use Microsoft Office, and even help them optimize their computers.  In the six years I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed that there is a lot of misinformation regarding computers floating around.  Here are just a few of the misconceptions I’ve encountered: 

My computer is running slowly; it must have a virus.
That is a possibility, especially if you’re not running any Internet security software or you haven’t updated it in a long time.  If this is the case, you need to fix the situation as soon as possible!  However, it is just as likely that you’ve got too many background programs running at once.  Computer manufacturers and retailers like to treat new computers as advertising space for software that you don’t need; all that excess is probably clogging up your system. 

Help from SeniorNavigator and the Library

Senior Navigator Logo

Senior citizens, their families, and caregivers looking for accurate healthcare information on the Internet will probably tell you it’s a mess.  There are a tangle of sites for the various federal, state, and local government healthcare agencies, not to mention sites for hospitals, private care facilities, medical information sites like WebMD, and a quagmire of others floating around out there.  Each site has its own navigation scheme and design that  will make even the savviest of the web-savvy shake a fist skyward in frustration when trying to figure them out.  SeniorNavigator.org seeks to make the information gathering experience for senior citizens easy and anxiety-free. At the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, we want to help you use this tool to find the best information and advice to make your lives easier. 

eBook Reality Check

Photo of Kindle Touch

You may have noticed that eBooks and eReaders are catching on with people.  With reports of ridiculously large sales numbers around the holidays, such as the one million Kindles sold each week of the 2011 holiday season, one gets the feeling that these gadgets might just have some staying power. 

At the Central Rappahannock Regional Library we have been delighted to offer the public free eBooks to check out through services like EBSCOhost and OverDrive. 

Overall, the public seems to be equally delighted with the service as our circulation statistics for eBooks continues to climb.
 

EBooks from the library have a number of advantages:eReaders - Kindle, iPad, smartphone

  • No late fees, period!
    Now, we have heard from numerous patrons that eBooks they check out will, through one technical hiccup or another, remain on their devices past the check-out period and concerns have been raised that overdue fees will be assessed because of this.  Have no fear: if you’ve experienced this difficulty, it does not change the fact that your eBook is indeed available for other patrons to check out, and you will not be fined one cent.
     
  • 24-hour service: our digital offerings are available for you to check out any time, any day, regardless of whether the library is open.  You want to read a Sookie Stackhouse book at 2 AM on a Sunday morning?  You can do that on OverDrive! Or, maybe you’re working at the last minute on a big paper for school and you need some serious non-fiction to help your research, but the library is closed.  Well, head over to EBSCOhost; with book titles as diverse as “Higher Education and Democracy: Essays on Service-learning and Civic Engagement” and “Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War,” I’m pretty sure EBSCOhost has your back when it comes to research.

    (Photo of eReaders by The Daring Librarian)
     
  • There are practically no limits on your checkouts. 
    Now, I do say practically.  Technically, OverDrive limits you to three checkouts at a time, but you can return your books quite easily to free up space in your checkout queue for another title. This can be done through the Amazon.com if you checked the book out on a Kindle, through Adobe Digital Editions if you’re reading it on a Nook or Sony, or through the OverDrive Media Console app if you’re using a tablet computer.  And while EBSCOhost does not yet allow books to be returned early, you can have up to fifty titles checked out at once; we hope that will be enough.
     

National Novel Writing Month at the Library

National Novel Writing Month at the Library

Library Programs for NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month
This November, write your novel at the Porter Branch! We will have dictionaries, thesauri and books on novel writing available for you to consult. We offer free WiFi, free public use computers and printers. (If you'd like to use a computer, please call 540-659-4909 to sign up ahead of time.) There is no sign up required for the program, just drop in and write!  Have questions? Please call the adult reference desk at 540-659-4909.

First Chapters hosted on LibraryPoint
To submit the first chapter of your novel to be hosted on the LibraryPoint.org website, please email NaNoWriMo@crrl.org.  Attach your work as either a Microsoft Word or PDF document.  Submissions will be accepted throughout November and will be accessible until February 28, 2012.  Only works submitted by the original author with their permission will be posted.

The following chapters have been submitted by CRRL patrons:

Cataclysm 2012 by Dave

Genesis of Titan by John

It strikes me as somewhat counterintuitive that writing should be as difficult as it is.  After all, writing is arguably the most accessible of the creative arts: get a pen, get some paper, get an idea, and write it down.  Simplifying the process to such a degree is, while technically correct, nonetheless laughable.  For example, I spent well over an hour trying to figure out some way to write an opening paragraph for this article that wasn’t “everybody has a story” and it hasn’t even been an especially good opening paragraph. Imagine then the amount of effort that must go into writing an entire novel!  Thank goodness for NaNoWriMo.

No, I didn’t type that on a smart phone; NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  The concept is easy: devote this November to writing your novel.  You know your novel – that one idea floating lazily about in the nether regions of your brain’s “bucket list,” the one that you’ve said to yourself, “Wow, that would make a really great book.”  But you’ve never quite had the time or the inclination.  Well, much like the gym in January, NaNoWriMo gives you the formal opportunity to actually get started. 

Featured Database: Testing & Education Reference Center

Testing & Education Reference Center

I don't want to brag, but our library has some fantastic databases that you need to examine if you haven't already at librarypoint.org/articles_databases.  One of the most useful of these databases is the Testing and Education Reference Center, the ultimate resource for standardized test preparation and career advancement.  Whether you're a high school student going to college, a college student advancing to graduate school, or preparing for a professional exam in careers such as firefighting, nursing, or law enforcement, chances are you'll find what you need at the Testing and Education Reference Center

Your Music in the Cloud

Music in the Cloud

The safety of my collection has been one of my largest concerns as music has made the digital transition.  With CDs and vinyl, you may damage or lose one or more albums and unless your entire collection is stolen, it's unlikely that you'll lose access to all of it at once.  Digital music is a different matter, however.  Unless you've backed up all of your songs to a secondary storage device, one bad electrical storm could separate you from your tunes forever (and remember, backing up means having two copies of each file, not just storing your music on a single portable hard drive by itself).  With the push toward cloud (or distributed) computing and storage, new services are cropping up to help us not only back up our music offsite, but which allow us to take our music with us wherever we go.  

One service that I've been using for years is mp3tunes.com, to which I pay a monthly subscription fee and in turn receive space online to backup all my music to and the ability to stream it to any computer.  New contenders include Google Music (currently in beta testing), iCloud from Apple (coming this fall with their iOS 5 update for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch), and Amazon Cloud Drive, which is available now.

Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson

Robopocalypse

My first thought upon reading the description of Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse was "Terminator rip-off."  But I kept thinking, "Robots and the apocalypse, two of my favorite things to read about in fiction."  I'm not making that up.  And really, anything after Terminator 2 in the franchise doesn't, in my mind, count.  I've always wanted a lot more detail about how the robot uprising occurs and how people struggle in the coming war, especially people who are not John Connor.  After reading Robopocalypse, I want to assure you that it is as far removed from Terminator lore as anything "robot apocalypse" could possibly be.  If you're someone who likes to be frightened and enjoys books where the mundane is made decidedly strange, then you might enjoy Robopocalypse.

Media Ownership in the 21st Century

Image of music CD with locks on it.

Media ownership in the 21st century is a trickier concept than ever before. In light of the growing percentage of our books, music, movies, and software that is purely digital, that is to say, downloaded directly from the Internet, how is ownership defined? When music came on CDs and other physical formats, it was pretty easy to say, “This is my CD. I bought it. I do with it as I please.” Of course, the recording industry would disagree, to the extent that while you might have purchased the medium, you only licensed the media. Now that the medium is largely ephemeral, so too is ownership. Add onto that digital rights management (DRM) that locks down and controls what you do with your “licensed” goods and ownership becomes a ghost of its former self. But do we really care?