Archive for the ‘GPL’ Category

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My new job: Horizon vs. Evergreen cage match

2007-10-04

I’ve been hired as a consultant for the University of Utah for a one-year gig. (Actually, it’ll be a little less than a year, since the LSTA money has to be spent by September 1, 2008.)

They’ve been using SirsiDynix’s Horizon ILS for a while now, and they’ve asked me to conduct a feasibility study on using Evergreen. I’m going to be figuring out how well it works with their data, their workflows, and their business needs, and identifying any potential trouble spots.

I’m thrilled that Evergreen is being seriously considered by large university libraries. I’m not a zealot, though; for example, my preference for a desktop operating system is “whatever seems to work pretty well in the given situation”. I won’t hesitate to burninate Evergreen’s faults, whatever they may be. After all, my report is only valuable to the extent that it corresponds with reality.

In that spirit, I welcome propaganda from all sides. If you’re a SirsiDynix fan (or employee), and you want to point out Evergreen’s most serious flaws, please do. I’ll be glad to verify your comments in the course of forming a well-informed opinion. Similarly, if you’re an Evergreen fan and you want to point out its features or defend it against defamation, I’d love to hear tips about how to verify the truth.

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Kittens… or Beer?

2007-03-07

Kittens... or Beer?

The code4lib 2007 cage match.

(Click the image for full detail.)

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A new plugin for Nagios

2006-09-07

There’s nothing particularly library-oriented about my latest project. On the other hand, libraries send email, and it’s a good idea to make sure nobody thinks of it as spam. That’s why I created check_dnsbl, a Nagios plugin that checks whether an address is listed as a source of spam, or under various other categories.

Nagios is a great tool for sysadmins. It’s extensible (supra) and highly configurable, but it’s also a pain in the neck to set up properly. On the other hand, when you’re running a cutting-edge Z39.50 network, it helps to know when one of your servers needs attention. And when you’ve got dozens of servers to think about (or even a dozen PCs), you’ll save time in the long run by investing in Nagios setup.

And yes, of course, the code is available under the GPL.

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Librarians, technologists, and Free Culture

2005-11-09

I'm closing the loop on the blogosphere by noting that I am apparently the canonical Dynixland example of a geek who solves problems because he's got an itch to scratch and shares the solutions because it's asinine to do otherwise:

If there's one thing the open-source movement has taught us, it's that innovative ideas, true competitive levers, often aren't found at businesses. Nowadays, they hide in new places: nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations, end-users with an "itch," social networks of folks with common interests, and sometimes a creative individual like a Ted Nelson or a Linus Torvalds. Or Ben Ostrowsky.
http://www.gordian-knot.org/index.php/2005/11/08/the-seven-imperatives-of-sirsidynix
(emphasis and links mine)

In an extremely humble way, I insist that the Linus Torvalds comparison is much more apt, because while he does good work, it's really the community of users — and I want to emphasize the term community — who make Free Culture work. If you've read Grapevine: The New Art of Word-Of-Mouth Marketing (and if you haven't, perhaps your library will have a copy that you can borrow), you know that it's people like you who make the real difference.

I can invent a barcode generator that prints PDFs for cheap Avery labels, but it's the users like you who tell school librarians that it's a great way to save money (especially if you cover your labels with library tape anyway).

I can write an article on and share it freely with a license, but it's up to you to share the ideas with others and implement it yourselves.

So what's the next big thing that we can all do together? I'd like to see us encourage RFID vendors to establish an open standard for library RFID tags. Oh, sure, there are ISO specifications for how to transmit data over RFID, but (this may shock you; it shocked me) there is no standard for which bytes represent an item barcode, or anything else about the format of the data being transmitted.

One vendor may encode the library barcode as a hexadecimal integer; another may use plain ASCII, one byte per digit. One vendor may put the barcode at the beginning of the data, another may put it at the end, and a third vendor might encrypt it. How would you like it if a third of your books arrived at the cataloger's desk with the table of contents on page 37 and some vendors put the Cataloging-In-Publication data in pig-Latin just to compete with other book jobbers?

Or here's an idea that could be done pretty easily — if you know enough about podcasting to be dangerous, and you have users who would like to create their own podcasts, why not create a community broadcasting room? All you need is a small study room with a computer, a decent microphone, and a pop filter.

There's already a great Free Software audio editor (the aural equivalent of a word processor or a photo editor) called that will let your users clean up the sound if they choose to, and if you know enough to help them podcast, you'll be leading your community's techies onto the bleeding edge of Free Culture.

Bottom line: although I'm flattered to be compared to Linus Torvalds, it's my fellow librarians who ought to be more flattered. Linux users have rewritten the rules of information technology simply by telling others when they've found something good, and helping each other when things aren't that good.

At the risk of stealing material from Christ, I encourage you to go and do the same. If you don't have a blog, get one and get comfortable with it. Join a mailing list and ask questions. If you see a question you can answer, do it. It is so not about me. It's about you.

Forward this to your colleagues. Keep building strong communities of library people who care about each other. It's what we humans do best.