RDA-as-Service Only

At the ALA Annual Conference exhibit floor I got my first chance to see the RDA Toolkit. RDA is “Resource Description and Access” — the new standard for bibliographic description of content. So this was the first time I really got to look at the RDA Toolkit. (By the way, you can look at it, too, during an open trial access period that runs through the end of August by signing up for it.) What really struck in me the demonstration, though, was that the site is as much a subscription to access the content of the RDA standard as it is a subscription to a delivery service with functions and features that go beyond the text of the standard itself. The text of the standard will be available in printed form, but one cannot get an electronic copy of the standard itself. This strikes me as sort of weird, so this blog post talks through that weirdness feeling.

From “Moby-Dick” To “Mash-Ups:” Thinking About Bibliographic Networks at ALA Annual 2010

Ron Murray and Barbara Tillett, both from the Library of Congress, are presenting their research in thinking about bibliographic information as networks of interrelated nodes at ALA Annual. This is a continuation of their “paper tool” work which was presented at the Library of Congress last year.

Bandwidth of Large Airplanes

Back in the early days of this blog, I had a post on Buzzwords Galore and Bandwidth that May Rival Your Station Wagon. The topic was a “hybrid optical and packet network” being deployed by Internet2 in 2006, and in the tail end of the post text I explained the reference to the station wagon part of the post title:

When you think you have a really zippy network connection, someone will (should?) bring up an old internet adage which says “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes.”

Mash-Up Request for Submissions

I’m working with some colleagues at the Library of Congress on the on the description of complex analog and digital resources. In that research, we want to get a better sense of what people who read DLTJ call a “mash-up.” We invite readers to provide examples (in any medium) of what they think are mash-ups of different resources in the comment area of this post. If you nominate a web-accessible mash-up, please provide a link for it. If you nominate an analog mash-up (they do exist!), please provide a reasonable citation. If it is a hybrid – do your best! Also helpful would be a short statement as to why you think the example is a mash-up, and whether you like the results.

Split Routing with OpenVPN

My place of work has installed a VPN that moderates our access to the server network using the OpenVPN protocol. This is a good thing, but in its default configuration it would send all traffic — even that not destined for the machine room network — through the VPN. Since most of what I do doesn’t involve servers in the machine room, I wanted to change the configuration of the OpenVPN client to only send the machine room traffic through the VPN and everything else through the (original) default gateway. As it turns out, this involves tweaking the routing tables.

Experiential Learning Enhanced with 2-D Barcodes

QR-Code pointing to DLTJ

This morning I attended a presentation on “Using QR Codes and Mobile Phones for Learning” at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference. Presented by Thomas McNeal and Mark van’t Hooft from Kent State University, the example used in the presentation was their GeoHistorian Project from the 2009 ISTE conference. By using a pamphlet of 2-D barcodes labeled with strategic locations at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, participants using barcode scanners on smartphones were able to call up text and media from various websites while walking around the memorial. They put together a video showing participants walking through the space and their impressions of the 2-D barcode-enhanced experience.

Tom emphasized the need to have an activity that is relevant to the technology. As he put it, “Use the technology to ampliy the activity.” In this specific case, the 2-D barcodes pointed to text, pictures, and videos that provide additional background to the components depicted in the World War II Memorial. As participants mentioned in the video, it is a way add context to the experience of walking through the memorial.

Why I Digitally Sign My E-Mail

Most e-mail messages I send are digitally signed using a process called “Pretty Good Privacy“, or PGP. In e-mail applications that don’t understand PGP, this digital signature will show up either as an attachment called “PGP.sig” or as a part of the message starting with “BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE” at the bottom of the e-mail. This file — containing gibberish to the human eye — is used by PGP-aware programs to verify that the message actually came from me. If you are using PGP, I could also sent you a message that only you could read (e.g. “encrypted”). This page gives some background on PGP and why I consider it important.

A New Year, a New PGP Key

It is the start of a new year1, and it seems like a good time to update my public encryption key. My previous one — created in 2004 — is both a little weaker, cryptographically speaking, than the ones newly created (1024-bit versus 2048-bit) and also an uncomfortable mixing of my professional and personal lives. For my previous key, I attached all of my professional and personal user ids (e.g. e-mail addresses) to the same key. This time I decided to split my work-related user ids from my other ones. My reasoning for the split is that I might be compelled by my employer to turn over my private key to decrypt messages and files sent in the course of my work. If my personal user ids are also attached to that private key, my employer (and who ever else got ahold of that key), would be able to decrypt my personal messages and files as well. That is not necessarily a good thing. So my solution was to create two keys and cross-sign them. I’ve outlined the process below.

These keys are part of a computer standard and software algorithm called “Pretty Good Privacy“, or PGP. If you are interested in more of a background about PGP, see a companion post on why I digitally sign my e-mail.


  1. Some have even said it is the start of a new decade, but of course that isn’t true. We won’t start a new decade until 2011, just like we didn’t actually start a new millennium until 2001. []

OCLC Introduces an API for Anyone to Access Book Data

OCLC announced on Monday the availability of a new API for querying the WorldCat database: the WorldCat Basic API. This is a big deal — it opens up part of the metadata in WorldCat to anyone who wants it (for non-commercial purposes). Previously, access to WorldCat data through the developer network was limited to institutions that are members of OCLC. Data returned includes text strings for author names and book titles, ISBN and OCLC identifiers, a link to the HTML display of the record on WorldCat.org, and an optional HTML-formatted citation.

OLE Project Design Phase Final Report

There is an announcement on the OLE Project site that links to the final report as submitted to the Mellon Foundation. This version of the report has minor corrections in the text and now includes information about the group of libraries that have committed to the build phase of the project. Those libraries are:

  • Indiana University (lead)
  • Florida Consortium (University of Florida, Florida International University, Florida State University, New College of Florida, Rollins College, University of Central Florida, University of Miami, University of South Florida, and the Florida Center for Library Automation)
  • Lehigh University
  • Triangle Research Libraries Network (Duke University and North Carolina State University participating)