Bowker Books in Print

I’ve been meaning to write this up for a few weeks now, but we somewhat recently had a demo at work from Bowker, focusing on their Books in Print product.

A lot of the features were a bit over my head, as I’m not directly involved with collection development or purchasing. But there was one idea that struck me as particularly cool:

Bowker maintains a list of all the books mentioned in the national media. Oprah’s book club, NPR, and a lengthy list of others. Cover images of the books are even available!

So if your library is a BiP subscriber, it is now possible to answer “What was that book on Oprah last year with the red cover?” at a glance.

Xbox 360 – First Impressions

10/30/05While running some errands at WalMart today, I noticed that they have an Xbox 360 out to play! Amazingly nobody was playing as I passed by, so I stepped up.

To be clear, my impressions of the system are based on a mere twenty minutes of play time on one demo. In addition, these kiosks are the most uncomfortable things ever to play. The widescreen monitor is directly above your head, with the result that playing is like sitting in the front row of a movie theater.

I played through the demo of Call of Duty 2, a World War 2 first person shooter. In this level you’re a British trooper assaulting a German artillery position. There are other demos on the kiosk too, but by the time I finished this one there were people waiting so I stepped aside.

My first thought: “Ooh, pretty!”

And I continued thinking that throughout my playtime. Unfortunately, the gameplay didn’t rise to the same levels. Oh its capable, worth playing, but we’ve seen it all before. There’s been a glut of World War II shooters recently (Call of Duty, the Medal of Honor series, Brothers in Arms, etc.), and the market is pretty saturated. Other than the graphics and slightly rearranged buttons on the controller, which is an improvement, there’s just nothing to write home about in CoD2. Certainly not $400+ worth.

The Xbox 360 will sell well at first no matter what the games are like. I just hope the quality of available titles can step up as much as the graphics have. In the meantime, I’m feeling better about my decision to wait on getting one.

Flickr Printing – Free sample review


I used my free ten prints from Flickr today. It went OK, but not without a couple of hitches.

I selected ten photos to pick up at Target on my way home from work. I cropped them a bit through Flickr’s printing page, since digital photos don’t quite line up with the standard 4″x6″ ratio of prints. Sent the package off, and went on my merry way.

I hit Target about two hours later, and my envelope was waiting for me. First problem: Target wanted to charge me for the prints. This despite the fact that Flickr clearly states the first ten will be free. Thankfully, I had my confirmation printed out and with me, clearly showing $0.00 (plus tax). Be sure you do the same, at least until kinks are worked out.

The print quality is as good as I expected. I purposely selected a couple of my older, lower-res pictures as part of the ten. They’re no better or worse than they should be. Some higher quality examples, like my close-up of a grasshopper, are jaw-droppingly awesome (if I do say so myself). However, in one case the cropping of my print is completely different than I selected online. Not sure what happened there. It isn’t to the point where its unviewable, but it certainly looks unprofessional.

All in all, a positive experience. Not perfect, but pretty decent for the first 24 hours of operation. And the convenience of being able to do all this natively in Flickr’s interface is what ultimately will win me over.

I’m gonna have to start buying picture frames again, aren’t I?

Flickr Printing

Today Flickr added the ability to print photos! They can either be mailed to you, or picked up at any Target store. Prices start at $.15 for a 4″x6″ print, and go all the way up to $19.95 for a 20″x30″.

And starting out, everybody gets ten free prints! I’ve been interested in getting some of my photos printed recently, but frankly just haven’t gotten around to it. This convenience might push me over the edge.

There’s a couple of new Flickr partnerships too: Make photo books at QOOP, stamps at Zazzle, and backup DVDs with Englaze.

The photo book idea particularly intrigues me. Once I finish my year in photos project, I’d love to have it all bound together.

Communication from on high

I think my favorite thing about this new mini-explosion of ‘net-based startups and products is that the creators are so accessible.

I’ve posted about Ning, Synchroedit, and Meetro in particular in the last couple of months, and in every one of those posts I’ve had comments appear from developers and others involved in the projects.

I assume they’re monitoring various blog search engines for mentions of the products. Wonderful! The developers end up with feedback from users who didn’t even know they were providing it, as well as a chance to clear up misconceptions. In the case of Ning, I also received tech support before I asked for it. Now that’s service!

Maybe I was a bit young to notice at the time, but I don’t remember seeing open lines of communication between the last round of tech startups and users. Sure, it takes a bit of extra time to maintain, but frank discussion can only help make your product better.

Ning – an attempt at social application development for dummies

I discovered Ning a while back, signed up for a beta developer’s account, and then promptly forgot about it. Today my account was activated, so I spent a bit of time attempting to create my own application.

Ning’s goal is to enable anybody to create “social applications” a la Flickr, Craigslist, etc. Essentially, web sites that focus on and serve a particular community.

Theoretically, anybody with a developer’s account can get an app up and running quickly here. The key is the ability to ‘clone’ existing apps. You make an exact copy of an app someone else has produced (code is not exactly secret in Ning), and then customize to your heart’s content. Put more simply, you are free to remix anybody else’s Ning-based site into something purely your own.

As Ning’s homepage proclaims, you can make a Craigslist for any city, a Flickr for any event, a Zagat for any interest… etc. I tried my hand at modifying an existing teacher review app ( into a comic book rating system.

By following the readme file helpfully contained my newly cloned app, I was able to customize the interface on a basic level fairly quickly. Impressed, I went to add a sample comic review. I was promptly shown an error, informing me that I must not leave blank a field which I clearly did fill in.

I obviously either touched some code I shouldn’t have, or didn’t touch some that I should. I spent 15 minutes knocking my head against the files making up my app, but to no avail. This leads me to my main criticism of Ning: Just who is it for?

I don’t have the php development experience to work on complex applications like this. It would take me hours just to read all the code, figure out how the files are interrelated, analyze multiple generations of customization, and who knows what else. Even then I might not understand it enough to fix my problem. As a relative novice, Ning is above my head. But if I did have the experience I feel necessary to work in Ning’s environment, wouldn’t I be off building my app somewhere on my own already? Why would I make myself dependent on a third party?

Of course, like just about anything on the ‘net these days Ning is in beta. So I don’t want to be too harsh. I do think the concept has merit, and will watch to see what changes during development. A simple WYSIWIG editor would go a long way towards letting Joe Average build social apps in Ning.

In case you’re interested, here’s what I was able to accomplish in Ning before receiving the mysterious error:

Wanted: Database front end solution

At work we’re in the process of digitizing a local special collection, to be made accessible online.

We plan to get all the relevant data in a MySQL database, and are looking at front end options. We’d like it to handle two things in particular:

1. Allow remote login and editing of records, so the current collection holder can do some maintenance.

2. Allow restricted access to certain items. For example, the public at large can see just some items in the collection. Other items can only be viewed after some users log in.

I realize its vague so far, but I don’t have a lot of other details yet. Anybody know of a solution? Open source is preferable.

I could code #1 on my own, but I’m not quite confident enough in my abilities to make sure that #2 is completely secure.


This is just a hello to anybody who found Hidden Peanuts via the Library Journal article. Sit down and stay a while! If you’re wondering where the library content has gone, I’ve recently been focusing on a countdown of my top ten favorite multiplayer video games, which took up most of my writing time. I’ll be back to focusing more on the LIS and tech worlds now. Feel free to browse the categories to the right of the site for older posts.

I’d like to point out that I also write for Library Journal’s Techblog, which has a great bunch of contributors and a more newsy, brief and regular update format than this site.

Top 10 multiplayer video game countdown: #1

Halo 2My favorite multiplayer video game of all time:
Halo 2 (Xbox)

If you’ve spent any time talking with me about video games in the last year, this one will come as no surprise. Before I launch into discussing the game, let me say that the #1 spot is really going to both of the Halo games. On a list with only ten spots, I didn’t want to take up an extra one. And since Halo 2 is basically just the first Halo with some extras, I’ll be sticking to talking about the sequel.

I’ll probably get a lot of grief for this from PC gamers. To them, Halo 2 is nothing special – PC games accomplished most of what it does long ago. To that I point out that I’ve never owned a PC capable of playing the current generation of games. So H2 is new to me.

But what makes this game worthy of the #1 spot? The social experience. At their core this is what any great multiplayer game is about. Not locking yourself indoors away from people, but gathering a group of friends together – in this case even across the world – and cutting loose.

The killer ap for Halo 2 is the Xbox Live experience. Playing online is nearly seamless. You form a group, then tell the system to match you up with another (theoretically) equally matched group. No messing with servers, lag times, etc. It Just Works.

Game developers Bungie made another wise decision when they made the game types highly customizable. Tweaking the default settings has produced some truly amazing results – My favorite is a zombie survival game, and there’s even a bizarre type of freeze tag we break out from time to time.

Notice that I’ve barely touched on the gameplay itself yet. The online experience is just that good! While the single player mode leaves a bit to be desired, multiplayer rises to a whole new level. H2 added the ability to pick up multiple weapons at a time, more vehicles to drive, and lots of little touches that put the sheen on.

H1 was a worthy multiplayer game in itself. While it had no online component, luckily I was in college when it debuted. There were enough players on campus that online play wasn’t missed. Halo 1 is the only game I’ve ever felt competent to compete at in a tournament (we took second place). While I miss having people in the same room, Xbox Live makes for a capable alternative.

As with any multiplayer game, the experience comes down to your teammates and opponents. The worst game can be made extraordinary or the best game turned to mud, just based on the personalities and interactions of players. I’ve been lucky to stumble upon a great group of Halo 2 players, and before that great friends to gather around a TV for Halo 1. If we didn’t end up playing this game, if we’d met playing anything else, you might be seeing that game at number one instead. So here’s to you guys, wherever you may be.

If you’re interested in duking it out against me online, I go by Thunderclap 8. Note the space in there that I eternally regret choosing. As always, anyone who can tell me where I got the name from on their own wins a no-prize.

In summary, here was the list:
#10: Worms Armageddon (PC)
#9: Tekken 3 (PS1)
#8: Secret of Mana (SNES)
#7: Turok – Rage Wars (N64)
#6: Super Mario Kart (SNES)
#5: Super Monkey Ball (GC)
#4: Super Smash Brothers Melee (GC)
#3: Goldeneye (N64)
#2: Tetris (GB)
#1: Halo 2 (Xbox)