UK Library Blog wiki

For a while now, I’ve been helping Jennie (and Phil and Christine) administer the UK Library Blogs wiki with up-to-date details of blogs from the UK biblioblogosphere (i.e. library related blogs). It includes institutional blogs as well as personal blogs from all sectors in the information profession. The number of blogging (and microblogging) librarians in the UK seems to keep increasing, although there are some blogs that are now defunct, and a number that have chosen to change blogging platforms or converge multiple blogs into one. The wiki is a really useful resource (so please spread the word!), but there’s more that can be done now with the gathered blogs.

Yahoo Pipes to aggregate RSS

Last year Jennie copiously checked all the entries again, updated them, and produced a Yahoo Pipe for all the institutional blogs. This outputs as an RSS feed so that you can subscribe to which will pull in all the blog posts from institutional library blogs in the UK. Thanks to a conversation last week on Twitter, Gary Green volunteered to produce a pipe for the librarian blogs, although due to the large number of blogs this is currently running a little slowly.

Google Custom Search Engine

I still felt there was more which could be done with this list of blogs to utilise all the useful information within them. For example, wouldn’t it be great if you could see what UK librarians are saying about a certain topic (perhaps what they have written about CILIP, or what they think of the new iPad)? Or search across all the library blogs to see the sorts of things being discussed in library blogs for a specific subject or topic (e.g. to see what their vacation opening hours are like at a glance, or to see what libraries are doing with QR codes)?

After feeling inspired by a chapter in Nicole Engard’s Library Mashups book, I decided a Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) might be a useful tool to use. There are a lot of blogs on the wiki so it took a day or so of playing, but I have now added all the blogs (both current and abandoned if they are still live) to create a UK Library/Librarian blogs Google CSE (accessed from this link or by searching below).

I’ve tagged the blogs with different categories (this is done by adding different categories in the Refinements section of the CSE control panel), so that you can refine the search to only include Librarian blogs (usually individual, although there are some group blogs), Library blogs (usually institutional), or Supplier/Industry blogs. As you can see in the screenshot below, it’s just a case of performing the search, and then using the refinements to narrow the search down further.

Google CSE - Refinements

Google CSE - Refinements

I’d appreciate feedback at this stage, so please try it out and let me know what you think – is this something worth developing further? Would you find it useful? I’m not sure how Google manages the algorithms for the search, so I don’t know how reliable or useful the search results will be, but I’d appreciate it if people could test it out and letting me know if this sort of thing might be useful.

The future?

I’m happy to include the search box on Joeyanne Libraryanne blog, but am also considering using the Blogroll to Google CSE WordPress plugin which was developed for Libraries Interact to list australian library blogs and can be used as both a custom search engine and also to list and link to all the included blogs. This is relatively easy to administer, especially when compared to the Google CSE which seems a little flaky once a large number of sites are added. I might experiment with this plugin anyway, but would appreciate feedback in the comments, or by email on whether people think this would be useful?

By the way – if you are a UK library/librarian blogger and your blog is not included, please let me know and I’ll add it to both the wiki and the search engine.

Verizon and BlackBerry  Storm Debut a Collaboration from Chris Cornell & Timbaland

A little while ago, I was involved in a very interesting discussion about utilising newer mobile technologies within libraries which began on Twitter (with @ijclark, @aarontay, @ostephens, and @chriskeene) and sparked experimentation and further discussion in the office.

1. Using your mobile phone as a library card

The first idea was prompted by this blog post from Aaron Tay. It introduces the Cardstar app, which allows users to enter their loyalty/membership card details into their iPhone (they are also developing an Android and Blackberry version) and use the barcode on their phone instead of their cards. I’d seen this in the App Store but hadn’t thought about its potential for library cards, but it seems some libraries have already started using it in this way.

Initially I was a little unsure about this as a colleague raised concerns that there was no way to check the identity of the owner. However, it was then pointed out that many public library cards have no photo ID and even libraries that do have photo ID on the card often have a self issue option so in theory anyone who found a lost card could use it to borrow material. As an aside, I later found out that our self issue machines could have added functionality to ask users for their PIN before allowing access to the account, which would overcome these problems (so long as the PIN was not recorded on the card of course and only given to the cardholder upon proof of identity – at my place of work we email the PIN so that only the true cardholder can get this information).

Anyway – on to the fun part! I decided to test the app to see if it would work with our systems. It took a bit of configuring (many thanks to Ben our systems guru!), but I eventually got my barcode on there and it worked! I tested it on my own PC and the issue counter (CCD barcode scanners), both of which worked fine, but I couldn’t get it to work on the self issue machines. I later discovered that this was because the self issue machines use laser scanners which can struggle to read barcodes from the iPhone as the surface is too reflective.

As Aaron points out – whether or not we encourage this app, we need to be aware of it as our tech savvy users may start using it and we will have to be aware of it and know our institution’s policy (which will likely depend on security measures currently used).

2. Using QR codes in libraries

We got chatting in the office about these sort of new technologies (I have an iPhone, my colleague has an Android phone), and the discussion turned to QR codes (watch this YouTube video for an introduction if you’re not familiar with QR codes),which you may have seen on products recently. Below is a QR code which should direct you to the homepage of the Joeyanne Libraryanne blog, try it out on your mobile (you’ll need a QR reader which are available for most camera phones, just google the model and QR reader):

qrcode

QR codes are already appearing in some library OPACs. We decided to have a play, and created some QR codes to redirect to particular areas of our website. We tested it on both our phones with success, and then began thinking about possible applications for this. Some things I thought about were (not an extensive list, these are just some very simple ideas):

  • Including the QR code to electronic books/journals on the shelf near print books/journals which have an electronic equivalent
  • Including QR codes of useful websites/online reports/resources near the print stock (e.g. curriculum, education/health reports)
  • Including QR codes of relevant sections to our website at appropriate places in the building (e.g. to get up-to-date instructions for using equipment/facilities, or online bookings if we had them)
  • Using QR codes instead of URLs on guides/tipsheets and for advisors to share with users who have enquiries. This could maybe be developed to be included on clothing, like QRazystuff are planning. Many libraries use t-shirts for those helping with enquiries – maybe these could include QR codes to commonly accessed sections on the website?

I really enjoyed finding out more about these technologies. I think it’s really exciting to think about the future of libraries – both with the technologies such as QR codes, RFID and who knows what next; and also about innovative ways to develop our resources and services. There’s so much more to be done and it’s a great time to be part of the profession – I love keeping up-to-date on all the latest ideas from different areas (globally now, thanks to the improved online communication channels) and investigating their potential within MPOW (my place of work). I don’t know if either of these ideas in particular are going to become something that we use within MPOW at the moment, but the potential is there and it was really good to test the feasibility and see if it’s a viable prospect. There are a lot of ways we can definitely improve, and I’ll certainly be mentioning these ideas with other colleagues.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone is currently using either of these ideas or something similar, or if there are other similar uses we hadn’t considered? Please let me know in the comments. :)

The International Consumer Electronics Show Highlights Latest Gadgets

With a number of people having (or looking for) new mobile phones for Christmas or in the January sales, and people reflecting on the technological advances of the last decade (ignoring the debate about whether or not we’re actually in a new decade!), I’ve read a few blog posts recently about the great features of mobile devices and how useful they are. All this talk about mobile devices reminded me of a blog post I’ve been intending to write for a while so here it is.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I splashed out on an iPod Touch just over 2 years ago, and commented then on how mobile technologies were likely to affect both libraries and services in general in the future. I also wrote a series of posts about how to utilise some of the apps – some of which probably need updating but are still of use. I loved my iPod Touch but missed being able to use it when not in a wireless zone (particularly during my commute to work), and finally caved in earlier this year and bought myself an iPhone. I can now be usually found tapping away lost in the world of my iPhone (sad but true, I even started writing this blog post on my iPhone using the WordPress app as I was struggling to sleep). I use lots of different apps every day for my personal and work life, and find it invaluable when visiting new places (using maps, guides and useful transport apps to get about). I also use the web browser a lot, and many weekends now I don’t actually turn my laptop on at all and just stay connected via my iPhone.

I use it at work a lot – it has my Remember The Milk to do list application, and I can use it to check my email when I’m away from my desk. I also occasionally use it to access our OPAC (sadly not currently optimised for mobile browsers), and find this particularly useful when I’m in the shelves and not near an OPAC (e.g. when weeding).

Until recently I hadn’t used it for enquiries – most enquiries come to the enquiry desk anyway (we’re not actively roving yet) and if students catch you elsewhere in the building it’s usually not too far to the nearest OPAC. I’ve been following other libraries who have trialled mobile devices (such as Vicki Owen’s work at LJMU) and thought there was great potential, but never used it myself.

However, recently there have been two occasions when I have used my iPhone to deal with enquiries and it’s been really useful. The first time I was in the shelves helping with a backlog of shelving when a student asked for help locating an item. She was sure it should be available and had written down the classmark but couldn’t find it. I had a look with her but I couldn’t find it either. We were right by where the book should be and not very near to the OPACs, so I decided to double check the OPAC on my iPhone. It turned out the item wasn’t actually available (I think it may have been available at a different campus), and saved us time searching around as we now knew it wouldn’t be there. She thanked me for my help and said she’d reserve it instead. I guess we could even have reserved on my iPhone too, but she was happy to do that on her way out of the building. Happy student, and I was pleased to have been able to help her at her point (and location) of need.

The second occasion was when we were having problems with internet access, and I was weeding down in the basement – I often spend time in the shelves if the network is having problems. A student asked me for help locating books on a certain topic area and was stuck due to the internet problems. I had a vague idea where to look (secretly I quite like it when the OPAC is down as it tests your Dewey knowledge!), but wasn’t completely sure so decided to check using my mobile internet access on my iPhone. We found a specific classmark on the OPAC using my phone and the student was able to locate relevant materials. Another happy customer thanks to my iPhone.

Now OK, the second example was unusual circumstances and doesn’t happen that often thankfully, but the first example is something that happens all the time. We usually traipse over to the OPACs or the student has to come to the helpdesk (which must be frustrating for them as they’ve probably already checked, but we then double check as our OPAC isn’t very intuitive). Then, if it should (in theory) be available, we traipse back to the shelves (where the student has already been), and try to locate it. Sometimes at this point we find it, but sometimes the search continues to the recently returned items on trolleys, or sometimes even to the items still in the returns box by the self issue machines. If there’s only one available and the student can’t find it, I usually check our LMS to see when it was last returned which should give a clue to where it may be. Either way, it’s an unnecessarily long-winded procedure which could really be helped by mobile devices.

Some of our campuses are currently roving, but as far as I know they don’t have portable devices of any kind with them. Now that I’ve experienced it first hand, I can definitely see how it can help, even if it’s just iPod Touch or similar wireless enabled mobile devices used to access the OPAC and the web to assist with simple enquiries (although a tablet PC, or the rumoured Apple iSlate, with the admin side of the LMS as well as internet access would be even more useful).

I think maybe it’s finally time to put one of the suggestions sitting in my “possible future ideas” folder to management and see if it’s something we could potentially implement in the not too distant future.

I know there are a number of libraries who were interested in using mobile devices to assist with enquiries, is anyone using them currently? If so I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments, or if you know of anywhere that is currently using them.

I’ll definitely be watching with interest to see where this sort of thing progresses (the banks and airports are already actively using these sort of devices to aid customer service), and in the meantime you’ll be able to find me with my iPhone in my pocket in case students ask me for help when I’m out and about in the building. ;)

Just a brief post to highlight a new(ish) feature on WordPress.com blogs which you can use to link your blog posts to your Twitter account.

I talked about the importance of linking your online accounts at my talks at the New Professional’s Conference and the CILIP Open Graduate Day earlier this year, and at the time recommended using Twitterfeed to help you link your blog posts into Twitter. This is still a great service and works well with all RSS feeds, but if you just want to link your WordPress.com blog(s) to your Twitter account(s), you can now do it directly from your WordPress dashboard.

I was going to run through the process of doing this, but I found a great page on the WordPress support pages which includes screenshots for each stage, so rather than re-invent the wheel, here’s the link.

I’ve tested it out on one of my work blogs with our Twitter account and it works really well – you can edit the Twitter post from within the dashboard on your new post (in the Publish box on the right sidebar) and it posts almost immediately to your Twitter account after publishing the blog post. You can also use it with blogs with multiple authors and have just their authored posts going to their individual Twitter account which could be great for shared blogs.

Thought it was worth a blog post anyway, as it’s a somewhat hidden feature (well, I didn’t know how advanced it was anyway so thought others might not either!). At the moment this feature is just on WordPress.com blogs, but the developers have said they are working on a plugin to achieve the same thing on WordPress.org (self-hosted) blogs too.

This is the second of a series of posts about the iPhone/iPod Touch.

With the recent announcement of the Kindle 2 from Amazon, I thought it was a good time to talk about e-books.

Despite being a librarian with an interest in technology, I still haven’t actually seen an e-book reader in the flesh. I’d like to see a Kindle (and particularly the new version) but sadly it is still only available across the pond in USA. Sony’s e-book reader is available via Waterstones in the UK, which I recently read a great review of from Ian at Thoughts of a [wannabe] librarian. I have to admit, the review really did make me want to go and at least take a look at the Sony e-reader, if not buy one. (As an aside, I wish we had some of these types of things at our library, a while ago I heard about the “Techie Toybox” available to the library staff at Topeka & Shawnee Public County Library and thought what a great idea that was – as librarians we ought to be at the forefront of these information developments, particularly those of the e-book).

Academic libraries have gradually introduced more and more e-books (personally, I always buy an e-book version if there is one available for any reading list texts), and some public libraries have also started to purchase e-books for their users. It’s been quite a gradual process so far but I can really see e-books become very popular as the technology improves.

My own experience as an e-book user has, until recently, been limited to academic texts which i have either read online on a PC or downloaded sections as a pdf. Although this has a great advantage in terms of access (particularly useful when you are studying from a distance), it’s not as portable as a book, even if I use my netbook to read them. I read a lot on my daily travel to and from work (it take me about 90mins each way now) so I’m usually seen carrying around some form of reading, whether it be a fiction book, a non-fiction book, journal articles, magazines etc etc. – I quite often have all of the above! I have to admit, it would be nice to not have to lug so much around with me.

In order to give e-book reading for leisure a go, I recently downloaded Stanza, an e-book reader application for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Stanza is also available as a desktop reader which you can then sync with your iPhone/iPod Touch. It also has the ability to sync with the Kindle for anyone lucky enough to own one, although it can only sync by USB with the Kindle.

I’ve only tried the iPod Touch version which I have to say, I’m really impressed by. The application itself is free and there are a number of free books, newspapers and magazines – or you can purchase them using a number of different services. The screenshot below shows the first half of those services which are already listed in the online catalog, and you can also add more to the list.

Stanza Online Catalog

Stanza Online Catalog

Once you’ve chosen to download a book (I’m using the term book for ease but of course it could be a newspaper, blog etc), it is added to your Library. You can browse your library by Title, Author, Subjects, or Latest Reads. By turning the screen landscape you can also use coverflow to flick through your library (see screenshot).

Stanza Library - coverflow view

Stanza Library - coverflow view

Once you’ve chosen what you would like to read, the book opens ready for you to read. You can adjust the visual settings to suit you (you can change the font face (style), size, colour, background colour, line spacing, margin width and text alignment), as well as the effects (e.g. I have the page transition set to curl the page when I press the right hand side of the screen). I downloaded the Obnoxious Librarian from Hades to read for a bit of light entertainment. Whilst reading, you xan also tap the screen to bring up further options such as skipping to certain sections, searching within the chapter, or moving to a different chapter (see grey bars on screenshot).

Stanza book - settings whilst reading

Stanza book - settings whilst reading

At first, I thought I would find the screen too small to read for any period of time, but I’ve used it for 40 minutes and found that the size didn’t bother me. It may well do if you are reading for a few hours, but the portability is certainly a big bonus. What I really like about it is that the application opens wherever you were last reading and even if you skip between books, when you re-open the book it will always take you back to the point where you last left it. I haven’t actually chosen to buy a book on my iPod yet, but I definitely see potential, especially when you’re travelling and don’t want to carry lots of books. At the moment I am still preferring to read on paper but I think that is probably just due to convenience of having books in paper that I want to read. Who knows, in a few year time I might do almost all of my reading on a portable device.

I think e-books are definitely something that is going to grow, and I can see portable e-book readers becoming popular for those who travel a lot, and potantially students/academics who can carry one device instead of numerous hefty textbooks. I don’t think we’re going to see traditional paper books disappear any time soon but I do think we may well see a change in both academic and public library services as more and more users adopt e-books in favour of print books.

What do you think?  Are you an avid e-book reader or do you love the emotional side of sitting down and curling up with a good book? Do you think this could change the way libraries work in the future or is it just a passing trend?

Following on from my post about my experiences with the iPod Touch, this is the first review of a third party application. Byline by Phantom Fish (link opens in iTunes) is an RSS reader for your iPhone/iPod Touch which synchronises with Google Reader and allows you to read RSS feeds whilst offline as well as online.

As mentioned in previous posts, I fairly recently changed RSS reader from Bloglines to Google Reader. Although not the main reason, one contributing factor to this move was the functionality of Google Reader when accessing the mobile version on my iPod Touch.

Google has an iPhone optimised reader which allows you to read posts, star them, and write notes. You can choose to read all new posts or you can view them by the folders you set up in Google Reader. Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

Google Reader iPhone interface

Google Reader iPhone interface

Although this is great, you can only read items when you are online. This is fine for most iPhone users who are pretty much always connected using 3G/EDGE. But for iPod Touch users like myself (or iPhone users who sometimes have no internet connection such as those who travel via underground), it means you can only read your feeds whilst you’ve got wireless access.

Over Christmas I found out about Byline (link opens application details in iTunes), an application which synchronises with your Google Reader account but also enables you to read your RSS feeds offline.

You can open the application whilst are connected to the internet to synchronise with your Google Reader account; Byline downloads any new feeds and archives them so that you can then read them offline. It’s great for me because I can sync at home in a morning before I go to work and can then catch up with my feeds whilst I’m travelling to work (I travel to work by public transport). In order to update your Google account you need to sync again after you have read them (I usually do this when I get to work).

Functionality is very similar to the Google site – you can star items, mark them as read/unread, write notes about them, and view new items either all together or by viewing specific folders.

The look of the application is very unusual; I quite like it but there are some negative comments on Apple’s store about Byline are due to the look of the application. It has a wooden textured look, as shown in the screenshot below:

Home page of Byline - with options to view all new items or those from one of your Google Reader folders

Home page of Byline - with options to view all new items or those from one of your Google Reader folders

From the summary view of the feeds, you can see details of the title of the post, which blog it is from, when it was posted, and the first couple of lines of the post. You can also mark items as read/unread on this page by swiping across them with your finger (like you do to delete e-mails).

Another thing I like about Byline is that you can order posts so that you see the oldest first. This is not normally something I need, but it is useful when you have quite a few posts and not much time as you can just read the first few oldest posts, then synchronise later on to read the newer items either in Byline or at your PC. I tend to find this useful in a morning when I’m not sure whether or not I will get time to read all the posts. I read what I can, and then sync at the office to read the newer posts later.

The screenshot below shows the New Items screen which lumps all new feeds together. From here you can choose to read particular posts and mark others as read/unread.

New items page in Byline (those with a dot are unread)

New items page in Byline (those with a dot are unread)

If you’re using it and you have access to the internet (if you’re on an iPhone for example or an iPod and in a wireless area) you can also view the original post within Byline and click to follow any links in the post which will open in Byline instead of launching Safari. This is really neat as you can check out interesting points from the article taking you all over the internet, and then just click the down arrow in the Byline header when you’re done to move straight to the next item in your new items list.

You can also choose to read Byline in either portrait or landscape mode – landscape is often easier for reading longer blog posts.

View of Byline in landscape mode

View of Byline in landscape mode

There are other products that synchronise with Google Reader too, this is the only one I have tried. I decided to purchase Byline (currently £2.99) after reading the reviews on the App Store and I certainly haven’t been disappointed. It’s a nice way to read your RSS feeds even when you do have access to the internet – personally I prefer using a dedicated application to opening Safari and going to my Google Reader bookmark. Being able to also read your RSS feeds when you don’t have internet access makes it a perfect application for those with an iPhone/iPod Touch who want to catch up with their RSS feeds whilst away from an internet connection.

Has anyone else tried any good RSS readers for the iPhone/iPod Touch? Let me know in the comments if so.

Just over a year ago I had my first go on an iPod Touch and raved about it. Shortly after I caved in and bought myself one. At the time, although I loved my new gadget I was worried I’d made the wrong decision as it isn’t a cheap gadget at £269 (as was the price of my 16GB model this time last year). However, looking back over the last year, I can definitely say it was not a waste of money.

I absolutely love my iPod Touch and use it on an almost daily basis. Since I bought it, there have been numerous developments, the main one being the applications to download from Apple’s App Store. I have to admit, this has sucked me in big time and I love trying out the new apps. I tend to mostly try the free ones but I have bought a couple of games and some of the productivity apps (including Appigo ToDo which I previously blogged about).

Apple also added support for Microsoft Exchange which has been brilliant for me. I can now synchronise my e-mail and calendar to reflect changes in my Exchange account from work. This is particularly useful for planning my day as I can check my work calendar from my iPod whilst I am at home or on the way to work.

I’ve noticed over the year that more and more librarians have bought either an iPhone or an iPod Touch, and there have been some interesting developments related to libraries using iPod Touch/iPhones. This post from College@Home gives some ideas of how to incorporate the use of iPhones in libraries, some of which are very interesting (e.g. being able to check the catalogue whilst at the shelves or responding to enquiries whilst on the move – both things which could be extremely useful as many libraries move towards providing rovintg support within libraries). Many libraries have worked to ensure that their library websites and OPACs work correctly on the iPhone, and very recently the first library application made it onto the App Store. I downloaded it the other day and have to say I’m very impressed, I love the simplicity of searching the OPAC as well as the ease of finding the opening hours and locations of each of the branches of DCPL. It’s very exciting, and I hope this starts to become the norm for library services. I think we’ve got a fair way to go yet but these innovations are great news for the future. Ebooks seem to be gathering more users also, and one platform to read ebooks is the iPhone/iPod Touch. I’ve been having a look at ebooks on my iPod including the newly released Stanza application.

There’s a lot of great applications out there so I’m hoping to write a series of blog posts about iPhone/iPod Touch applications, including Stanza, the DCPL library application, and others. Many of these will inevitably be linked to libraries, although as I am also a bit of a productivity freak I may well also include some general applications for improving productivity as well as a few fun applications.

In related news, my ancient Sony Ericsson K750i which I have now had for 3 and a half years seems to be conspiring against me. I’m not a heavy user of my mobile phone (I tend to use the internet to contact people), and this argument has always stopped me from purchasing an iPhone. I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to resist at the moment however as my phone keeps playing up. I have most of the features of the iPhone on my iPod Touch anyway but there is still the disadvantage of having two devices as well as not being able to use the internet on my iPod unless I am in range of wireless connection. I know I don’t need an iPhone but how long can my head win over my heart?

In unrelated news, I received confirmation yesterday that I have passed my Diploma in Information and Library Studies with a distinction! Hoping I can continue that trend when it comes to writing my dissertation later this year. :)

I’ve recently noticed that I’m getting quite a lot of visitors who have been searching for information on the Acer Aspire One (AAO) and its capabilities, so thought it would be useful to write a review of my experiences to date to address some of these queries. If you would like any further information or want me to test something on the AAO please e-mail me and I’ll do my best to help.

I’ve had my AAO (A150-Bw model) for a few months now and have tested it in a number of different circumstances. I’ve taken it to my study school in Aberystwyth, used it at conferences, on the train, at work and at home.

from Aaronage at Flickr.com

from Aaronage at Flickr.com

Good points

Portable

OK it’s an obvious one but it really is very portable, it fits in a small bag although the power pack makes it a little bit more of a hassle (having said that the power pack is also a lot smaller than regular power packs). Now I can easily take my laptop to work with me and I don’t even mind carrying it around in case I use it. Previously it was a major rigmarole to bring my laptop to work and involved a big laptop bag; the AAO fits into my Body Shop bag along with a couple of textbooks and my lunch, brilliant.

Connections

It has plenty of connectors (USB ports, memory card slots etc.), and of course wireless network which I live on (although more on this in the bad points).

Software capabilities

I’m not really a hardcore gamer so I haven’t made many demands on my machine, however I have been using Photoshop and Dreamweaver CS3 on there with no problem at all (except for the small screen which can be frustrating when you have too many panels open!). It brings up a warning when opening Adobe Bridge CS3 that you don’t have a recommended processor, but you can choose to ignore the warning and it seems to work fine.

I’ve also had a go of Second Life on there, which again runs well. The rendering takes a little time which is to be expected really, and it’s far better than the laptop I was using previous to this one.

Most of the stuff I do now is web-based and of course this is what the netbook is designed to do so it’s great for things through the browser. I’ve been experimenting with using Chrome on my netbook too, I’ll hopefully get round to writing a post about Chrome another time.

Bad points

Wireless issue

A couple of months ago I lost my wireless signal. I tried to repair it on the connections menu (which sadly I had become accustomed to as it seems to lose connection every now and again if it’s been in hibernate mode), but it wouldn’t work. I then realised that this was because it couldn’t even see my wireless card. Oh dear. First I panicked, then argued with my boyfriend about whether or not this had anything to do with the fact that I had to change a lot of settings to get onto the network at Aberystwyth in September. A quick internet search seemed to show that it wasn’t anything to do with that and that others with AAO’s have had the exact same problem. It seems to be the fault of the wireless card as it is happening to both Linux and XP models. After a few times shutting down and booting up again, it suddenly reappeared and starting working again. It’s been fine since, until yesterday when the same thing happened again. This time I followed the advice I found on the Acer Aspire One User Forum which told me to uninstall the card (scary!) and then search for it again. It now has two copies but the second seems to work. I also downloaded a new driver for the card and am hoping that might fix things.

No CD drive

Yes, I know it’s obvious and I bought the netbook knowing full well that it didn’t have a CD drive, however it can be difficult without one. Things like a simple task of installing software suddenly become a major task. Luckily, my boyfriend has recently set us up with Windows Home Server and a dedicated server PC so it’s been made a lot easier with that.

Battery life

The battery performance isn’t great and is often criticised – mine lasts for around 2 hours which is OK, but not great if you have a long train journey or are at a conference – a little bit more battery power would be good. You can upgrade to a better battery if it really is an issue but I’m not so bothered that I think it’s worth buying a new one (plus the battery is bigger and thus not as portable).

Would you recommend it?

Yes definitely. Particularly for anyone who, like me, spends a lot of time on the net. It would also be great for anyone who does a lot of travelling. We took it to America with us and used it every night to upload our holiday photos to Flickr (using the hotel’s free wireless connection – God bless America!). It’s not a replacement for a desktop or a main laptop, but for portability and convenience it’s great.

Netbooks in libraries

I’ve noticed that more and more students are also using netbooks to bring into the library with them. It’s ideal for students; they are relatively cheap machines, easy to carry round with all your books and paperwork, and provide quick and easy access to the internet. I think in the future we will be seeing a lot more of these, particularly in University libraries. I’ve heard about some places that have laptops just for use within the building, and I think netbooks would be great for this. You could move around the library to wherever your resources are or where you prefer to study and still have access to all your electronic resources as well as your documents and the internet, what more could you want?!

The post below was actually written on Monday but I’ve been without internet access (shock horror!) and haven’t been able to post it until now:

I’m currently sitting on a train to Aberystwyth with hundreds of sheep around me (it never fails to amaze me just how many sheep there are in Wales despite living here for three years!), playing with my new gadget.

I’ve been after a new laptop for a while now and kept telling myself that I would save up and get one when I start my dissertation. My previous laptop is over 6 years old now, and as much as I loved it, I’ve hardly used it since I left University, choosing instead to use the desktop as the laptop just isn’t fast enough (it also has less storage capacity than my iPod Touch!). I have also been fortunate to be able to borrow laptops from work when I have needed them and have been using a work one throughout my course which has been great.

But I always thought I’d get one when I started my dissertation to keep everything on one portable machine which I could always have with me. I’m on my way to my dissertation study school now so it was time to get one. Thankfully, laptops have come down in price massively over the last couple of years and more recently there has been the boom of “Netbooks” – extra portable laptops.

OK, so they’re designed mainly to access the net (hence the name) but some of these machines have some great specs. The one I went for in the end, an Acer Aspire One A150-BW has 1GB memory and 120GB hard drive and runs XP (I may be a bit of a geek but I’m not hardcore enough to move to Linux yet!). At just under £300 it’s also very reasonably priced and the portability is a huge plus point (it’s also very pretty – I went for white):

Despite concerns due to lack of stock, I managed to order one on the phone last week which arrived on Wednesday. 5 days later and I am officially hooked, it’s a great little device. I’ve got Adobe Creative Suite running on it and have used PhotoShop and DreamWeaver with no problem at all (apart from the fact that the DreamWeaver editing screen is a little cramped!). It’s got a trial version of Office 2007 although unfortunately doesn’t include Outlook. I’ve just spent about an hour and a half working on my latest assignment in Word 2007 – some reviews have criticised the Acer Aspire One due to battery power but with wireless disabled it lasts a good 2.5-3hrs which is plenty for me as I’m usually near a power supply anyway. It does run down quite quickly with wireless on, you might only get 2hrs out of it then. They do however have a larger capacity battery should you need it.

The size of it still amazes me, it fits into my little rucksack no problem and is so light too. The keyboard is I believe full sized, and I’ve certainly not had any problems with it which I know some other netbooks have been criticised for. The mouse buttons are to the left and right which takes a little getting used to, but I’ve adjusted to it very quickly.

All in all, a great little device and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you are after a capable machine which is portable enough to carry around without an extra bag.

For anyone with similar RSS feeds to mine, you’ve probably seen a fair few of these tag clouds from Wordle recently. I thought I’d have a play myself and you can see my del.icio.us tags in the tag cloud below (click for larger image at Wordle):

Wordle tag cloud

Although Wordle appealed to me, I hadn’t really thought beyond the fact that it’s an interesting way to display del.icio.us tags or a block of text, but then I read Sarah Faye Cohen’s blog post with her thoughts about possible uses for Wordle and it got me thinking. Her idea of getting students to use Wordle to help them understand what an article is about is a very interesting concept, and I particularly like the idea of using text from a discussion to identify main themes. This could be really interesting as an extension to forum posts on a VLE. Over at the School Library Journal there are some other interesting ideas.

Then I began thinking about wider applications. Wouldn’t it be great if we could ask our users for feedback and combined it all into a huge tag cloud to see what they are saying about our services? We could display it on our webpages and on displays around the learning centres. Or we could use material we create about the services to get a snapshot of what we do. I’m sure that would be a very interesting (and quick!) way to show what we’re about to new students.

Anyone else any other ideas of how Wordle could be used?