Chuck Gray

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

I'd put off reading Altered Carbon for a few years, always reading something newer.  Shame on me.  This Philip K. Dick Award-winner is a brilliantly dark and gritty mixture of hardboiled detective fiction and cyberpunk that anyone looking for a story with a razor-sharp edge will love. 

The Best eBook Tablets Aren't What You Think

The Best eBook Tablets Aren't What You Think

Ask your average person what the best ebook tablets on the market are and they will tell you Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet, and the Apple iPad. I'll tell you to look elsewhere. Barnes and Noble and Amazon may have created the $200-$250 ebook tablet niche, but others are rushing in to capitalize on it and they're much, much better options. Here's why.  

Bye-bye Carrier!

I gave up my smartphone contract the other day and I'm only too glad I did.  Wait, this is the library blog - what am I doing writing an opinion piece about cellphone carriers here?  Library patrons come to me on a weekly, sometimes daily basis with questions about their smartphones.  These little devices we carry around in our pockets and purses like so much loose change represent some of the greatest advancements in computing, telecommunications, and miniaturization technologies ever.

Lifelong Learning Online

Lifelong Learning Online

The Internet is the largest repository of information ever conceived of.  It is not, however, the best organized repository of quality information ever conceived of.   For those of us who like to use the Internet as a source of continuing education, finding the quality chunks of information and learning can be daunting.  Here are a few of the places I like to visit when I'm in the mood to learn something new. 

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

Let me get this out of the way: if you're not a "computer person," someone with more than a vague knowledge of computer networking technology, Brain Jack, by Brian Falkner, is probably not the book for you. If, however, you ARE such a person, Brain Jack will start off as the kind of thriller that you think you will love, but its ending, like so many other cyber-thrillers, feels rushed and absurd. Don’t get me wrong--you'll enjoy reading it, but don't expect anything too deep from this book.  

Sam is the generic hero of our story. He's 17; he's a computer prodigy; and he's going to save the country from itself. The world of Brain Jack is set only a few years into our future. Falkner does a good job of building a world that, initially, is entirely conceivable based on our present. Computer technology is even more prevalent, and its consequences all the more potent. Las Vegas has been the victim of a nuclear attack that has left it in ruins, and the rest of the country is decaying under strict martial conditions.

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.