Author Archives: craigatlib

Try Linux ?

Try Linux !

Is your computer a bit sluggish? Does it seem like all you are doing is fighting with your computer instead of entering into a partnership with it to allow you to do useful work? Do the terms defrag, anti-virus and bloatware make you angry?

The solution might be to try Linux. While newer devices like smart phones and tablets are likely to use Android or iOS, most PCs use either Apple OS X or Microsoft Windows.

As most PCs are sold by hardware manufactures (HP, Dell, Toshiba, etc.) the software frequently includes applications other than Microsoft Windows. If you have ever turned on a computer after a few weeks, you know the chaos that results when each application wants to update ‘their’ software. You have the pleasure of answering a half dozen questions involved with each application.

Linux offers an alternative. As the OS (Operating System) is free there is no 25 digit product ID to enter to insure you a valid license (i.e. you or the hardware maker paid a license fee). There is no bloatware – stuff you don’t need but was included because the hardware manufacturer wanted additional profit from third party application vendors.

OK If you are convinced read on.

I suggest you try linux without installing it on your sluggish computer. How can you do that? Well there are Linux distributions (flavors from various development teams) that load either from a DVD or a USB flash drive. You can boot off the device and try it out without affecting your hard drive. The only difference between a try out (using a ‘live’ CD) and a full disk installation is that the live ‘try out’ will run a bit slower. The benefit is that you can test your linux OS configuration without risk. If you want to go back to your original Windows configuration, just remove the DVD or USB Flash drive and reboot.

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Great Courses

Over the last year or so I’ve greatly enjoyed video courses offered by our public libraries. While there are many to chose from, I’ve concentrated on “The Great Courses” from the Teaching Company.

Our library has many courses in audio CD format with topics as diverse as the American Civil War to Mythology. The life and music of many composers are all in our collection.

While I think audio CDs are perfect for listening to in the car, especially for long commutes, I prefer the video collections available by inter-library loan from other libraries. As my interests usually focus on STEM topics (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) I can recommend many video courses from the Teaching Company.

Do you know why the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapsed in 1940? What mistake did the engineers make that caused the London Millennium Footbridge to close the day it opened? (It opened about 2 years later). Why is the roof missing on most of the ancient Roman and Greek structures? While the heart rate of a hummingbird is very different than an elephant, what heart metric is surprisingly close?

What controversies resulted from Charles Darwin’s theory of Evolution?

All answers await your visit to the library !

MOOCs 101

Are you craving to learn more about a topic? Do you miss the joy of learning? (Yes I’m serious). While I understand that many have been traumatized by the educational system, let me propose something for those that still have a glimmer of excitement and joy at learning something new.

MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses. Many top notch universities now offer college level courses for free over the Internet. While most do not give credits to use toward degrees, they do provide anyone with an interest, a computer and some time to explore many diverse topics. Want to brush up on calculus? Interested in a political science course? Would you like to learn more about computer programming, photography, entrepreneurship, East Asian languages, poetry, history, philosophy, statistics, music or energy?

Among the many universities involved in MOOCs are MIT and Berkeley.

Check out some of the following links:

ocwconsortium.org

ocw.mit.edu

webcast.berkeley.edu

coursera.org

Next blog = a similar resource (my personal favorite) available at public libraries.

Research (but don’t use the Internet?)

My pet peeve is with instructors who prevent their students from using anything on ‘the Internet’ as a source for research papers.

Modern public libraries and universities with extensive research facilities frequently pay for the use of online databases. They do this for many reasons including lack of physical space for printed books and journals as well as the enhanced ability to perform searches of digital content. The quality of the material is not related to the form of the content. A book or article should not be given greater confidence simply because it is physical. An electronic article from the Journal of the American Medical Association should not be considered of less value simply because it was obtained over the Internet. Many articles from quality databases are peer reviewed. Many books and magazine articles are not.

Maybe sources for research papers should be restricted to ‘peer reviewed’ articles or ‘first person’.

Consider the source – not the form.

Technology 101

We all get frustrated when technology doesn’t do what we want it to.  I know I get frustrated at times.  However the most productive action is to sit back, take a breath and methodically try to figure out what the problem is.  Re-read the documentation (yes most everything in technology is documented to some degree).   Ask for help from someone else – a second pair of eyes can spot a problem you might have overlooked.  For me – the ‘Eureka’ moment sometimes comes the next day – after NOT actively thinking about the problem.