Science and Technology

11/13/2012 - 3:29pm
iPad mini review

The iPad mini is awesome.  You can read on if you like, but just know that this is a tech purchase you probably will not regret.  With its slim size, diminutive weight, and full-sized iPad technology, the iPad mini is a winner with few drawbacks.  

Philosophically I approve more of Google’s open source Android than I do Apple’s closed-off iOS.  I also am not a fan of iOS devices’ lack of centralized file storage and exploration. But really, there’s no denying that Apple knows how to build a tablet that overcomes these issues.  The mini is 0.28 inches thick, 7.87 inches tall, 5.5 inches wide, and weighs only 0.68 pounds.  The front of the mini is entirely glass with a diamond-cut edge that fits snuggly into an anodized aluminum unibody that comes in both slate and silver.  The left and right bezel of the device have been narrowed significantly; at times this can make holding the device in portrait mode slightly awkward, but not as much as you might think thanks to its surprising lightness.  Apple is king when it comes to rolling out devices that are a pleasure to hold and the mini is no exception; you will not believe how light and thin it really is until you hold one.

11/18/2013 - 3:21pm
The 2012 Holiday eReader Tech Guide

Updated November 2013: After a year of living with much of this tech, I have some new insights that should help you decide if you want to settle for slightly older hardware at cheaper prices when shopping for the 2013 holiday season.  I have also provided links to the updated versions of the devices that were listed in 2012 as alternatives to the standard Apple/Amazon/Google/B&N devices.

10/16/2012 - 3:31am
image of random password

Here’s the hard truth: your password, well, it’s no good.  Does it include a word found in the dictionary, a name, a date, or even numbers that look like letters (e=3, I-1, o=0, etc.)?  Yup, no good.  Do you use the same password for some or even all your websites?  Tsk, tsk.  The practice of password cracking has never been easier thanks to a number of landfall events for hackers, namely the release into the public of numerous huge password databases from hacked websites and the development of more advanced and specialized tools. What’s worse, the security of your password isn’t always wholly dependent on you but on the websites you use.  I know it’s hard; you have trouble remembering your passwords, etc., and I’m sorry, but in today’s world those excuses just aren’t acceptable.  Practicing good password hygiene isn’t a suggestion if you want to survive online, it is now a requirement.  Please read on!

10/15/2012 - 8:45am
PDF logo

You wouldn’t know it by the state of things, but Adobe Reader isn’t the end-all, be-all of PDF.  Standing for "Portable Document Format," PDF is a file format used to maintain the uniform appearance of a document no matter what type of hardware or software is being used to view it.  You will see it used frequently for government documents such as IRS and court forms, job applications, ebooks and more since it looks the same everywhere.  Adobe may have created the PDF format, but they made it a free-for-all file format in 2008, resulting in software for reading and creating PDFs that rival Adobe’s own.  

You might be asking yourself ,“Why would I want to switch from Acrobat Reader?”  Over the years Adobe Reader (once known as Acrobat Reader) has become a horribly bloated program that takes entirely too much space on your hard drive and, in my opinion, an unacceptable amount of RAM to use.  It’s slow to load and slower to use.  Furthermore, Adobe is constantly releasing updates for the program; it seems like every other time I turn on my Windows 7 computer there’s a notification for an Adobe Reader update, and I’m growing tired of it.  

10/15/2012 - 8:05am
book cover for pirate cinema by cory doctorow

Leave it to Cory Doctorow, author, blogger, and technology activist-extraordinaire, to weave a story that successfully blends coming-of-age woes, homelessness, national politics, copyright law, cooking, gadgetry, love, overcoming homophobia, civil disobedience, film-making, mashups, public speaking, the judicial system, beer and coffee brewing, cryptography, and oh so, so much more into a wonderfully geeky, heart-wrenching, page-turning bang-up novel that people of all ages should read.  This book is full of such big, exquisite ideas to learn about that you’ll be Googling your fingers off through the entire story and I mean that in the best way possible.  You will learn reading Pirate Cinema and you will love this as much as you love the characters. 

08/30/2014 - 11:11am
Open Culture

Open Culture is one of the best free cultural and educational media sites on the Internet. The website was founded in 2006 by Dan Coleman, who is the Director and Associate Dean of Stanford University’s Continuing Education Program. Though Open Culture is not affiliated with Stanford, it seems to be well suited to providing intelligent, relevant information. In keeping with the theme of relevancy, Open Culture can be followed on Twitter, Facebook and you can subscribe to the site to receive regular updates through email as well.  

 

10/04/2012 - 12:45pm
free-to-play logo image

Free.  Everybody likes free.  I mean, what’s not to like about free?  It’s free!  Free, free, free - use the word often enough, however, and it begins to lose its meaning.  “Free special offer (some rules and restrictions apply)!” “Free entree (with purchase of equal or greater value entree)!” “Free ski trip (after we badger you into investing in a timeshare over the course of an eight-hour 'seminar')!”  Free just isn’t what it used to be, and nowhere is this more evident than the world of electronic games.  Users are steeped in phrases like “free-to-play” and “freemium” to a degree that free really does start to sound like a four-letter-word.  Free they say?  Nonsense, we say.  Let’s take a look.

09/29/2012 - 9:25am
picture of modern computers

Technology can be frustrating, confusing, and downright irritating to some.  For others, it’s the reason to get up in the morning.  Whatever your stance, you can count on the Central Rappahannock Regional Library as one of the region’s prime sources of technology assistance.  With our Training on Demand classes and our eBook help, you can get a lot of bang for your no-buck!  We help with learning PC, Internet, Email, and other beginners topics including Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher, and even Access.  We can explain to you the ups and downs of the different eReaders and their respective eBook stores, not to mention how to use those devices with our free eBooks!  And now we’re gearing up to offer you even more technical content on Librarypoint with our revamped Tech Answers page!

09/27/2012 - 9:44am
iPhone 5, front and back

On September 12, 2012, Apple announced the release of the new iPhone 5. For some avid Apple technology fans, there is no doubt. They must immediately upgrade to the latest version. But if you’re like me, the decision is a bit more complicated. The more I learn about the features of the iPhone 5, the more my geeky side wants to play with the new toy. However my practical side says that in spite of the fact that my iPhone 4 is now technically two generations out of date, it is only two years old and still does everything I want it to do. Apple’s website has a handy chart that compares the features of the iPhone 5 with the iPhone 4 and 4S. But I find that lists of specifications don’t really convey the true impact of the changes. So I did some research to try to understand what the changes mean in real terms.

09/10/2012 - 12:27pm
frowny face

Dear eBook Retailers & Publishers, 

The eBook world has fallen into an even sorrier state with Amazon's announcement that its new Kindle Fires will feature unwanted advertisements right out of the box (though Amazon caved pretty quickly on offering users a way to buy out the ads).  I read that, then I re-read my last blog post reviewing different aspects of eBook retailers: four pages worth of trying to make sense of the eBook landscape and that was after some serious condensing.  I brooded for a moment, then said to myself, "eBooks are a big, stinky mess!"  

I keep hoping and praying that the eBook situation will get better, but aside from Tor's announcement that their eBooks will no longer be copy-protected, things are getting worse.  There are too many different eBook stores using too many different file and copy-protection standards, methods for transferring eBooks, and too many types of hardware, many tied to a single retailer.  So to the eBook powers-that-be: I'm done being coy and hoping that you'll come to these conclusions on your own.  Here's what you need to do!

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