Computer security is something we don’t think about, when computers, tablets and smart phones are working smoothly. But things can easily spin out of control.
James Lee of TD Bank Group, Technology Risk and Control Governance spoke about information technology security to some Toronto law librarians. I was struck by the human variable or social engineering ways in which security can be breached. It can be as simple as shoulder surfers, with good eyesight, who can see what I am doing on my Ipad on a crowded bus.
My interest lies in improved smartphone security. James Lee reminded us about basics, like locking phones with a password. I know not to use public wifi for banking or other sensitive information. Some wifi networks still use WEP encyryption standard, which is older and has been superceded now.
As smart phones come with preloaded apps, the convenience is traded off with data privacy issues. I might be a urban professional, so I don’t mind sharing my shopping and other consumer habits with Google Maps as my data will be be lumped into Big Data and for Google’s commercial enterprise. The compromise is worth my sharing the data then.
Lee has noticed that the Globe and Mail uses bitly for shortening URLs, so their articles will be an easier link to share. But Lee issued a strong warning that major banks wouldn’t send links using bitly link as security is not strong enough.
At home, the best laptop security involves setting up profiles for each family member, plus an administrator as a user profile. So if a situation arises, where the laptop is compromised by a hacker then individual users would have less rights than the administrator. Then less damage would result if there was a compromised user instead of a user with full administrative rights.
There is so many portable and convenient ways to store information now. But the proliferation of SIM cards, SD cards and flash drives also means they should be treated as valuable things. and one should protect them. SIM cards can be password protected too.
Finally I threw out a case of saving documents to Dropbox with 2 step authentication for password procedure. Was it a good idea or not? James Lee gave a nuanced answer in which the documents were not sensitive, then he would be satisfied with the security level at Dropbox. But if the documents included sensitive business information, then the assessment changes as Dropbox is cloud service with some risks involved. Potentially there could be problems with Dropbox’s U.S. servers falling under the jurisdiction of the Patriot Act and Dropbox management could be in a situation to release the sensitive business documents to third parties.
Ultimately James Lee stressed the need to strive for balance as we want usable technology and not technology that is so locked down that it is not being utilized. Lee believes some situations require top levels of security. In big companies, the guests are vetted at reception. Once they are past the gatekeepers, then they can plug and play in open wifi environment in meeting rooms. If guests were asked to sign in with passwords, it would off putting and increase hassles. To my mind, having open wifi with vetted guests would be an acceptable level of security.
Thanks to Toronto Association of Law Libraries organizing the talk and Goodmans for hosting the event.
- Brenda Wong
Educate yourself on digital rights issues
Lots of good information about avoiding online scams and protecting children
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We are all geeks as we play with electronic devices. But somewhere along the way we became impatient. David Pogue shares tech tips aimed at a beginner audience:
Did you pick up a few tricks? I like space bar for scrolling — news to me. And I see there are useful presentation tips on blacking out or whiting out to draw audience back to speaker. My tip for undoing last action is using Ctrl + Z. It works wonders. Thanks to H. Kramer for the tip.
- Brenda Wong
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You need training for ebooks? It’s so easy to use. That is a typical response to researching with ebooks. This is not an article about leisure reading of ebooks. Fundamentally the process of studying or researching ebooks is a different process than leisure reading. Students and researchers need to annotate or add sticky notes to the text. There is some ability to do that with ebooks. Often lawyers need specific pages of text so they can match it to another document. So librarians work with “pinpoint citations” or matching to page or paragraph in a judgment. People want save and print chapters too. They may not always be reading on an ereader. Legal ebooks either don’t have page numbers or the page numbering is unique to the electronic version and not synching with the print book. Clearly this is a problem if you are trying to print pages 1 to 10 as instructed. This does not meet the needs of lawyers and perhaps students as well. (Hey folks can publishers test the user experience and expectations before selling a product?)
All this is background for my argument that ebooks for research and study is in its infancy. I was reminded of real world uses and problems with ebooks by my own experiences, as well as a splashy positive press release about open textbooks initiative out of British Columbia. I spent a solid hour and needed help of 2 librarians to print pages from a legal ebook, when I am familiar with ebooks from Kobo and Overdrive. It was an unsatisfactory experience.
In the near future B.C. college and university students will be thrust into studying with open textbooks. There are hopes that cash-strapped students will save money with these free ebooks. I counter that likely around 30% if not more students will print out or save their ebooks instead of reading online only. Some will grasp the full potential of annotating them. And I predict headaches all around when students try to arrange for printing them. Ebooks are not meant to be printed in my experience, as it may break licensing terms and that is not their primary use as intended by publishers. Graphs, tables and other illustrations may or may not translate well when printed. Technical capacity of computer servers will also need to be factored in equation as potentially 200,000 students are downloading en masse.
Faculty hopes that there will be collaboration with online textbooks. Possible but technology has its limitations as I have seen. Servers have outages, and faculty needs training to become savvy at working with editing ebooks. Coordinating the collaborative process and editing standards are also unchartered waters.
The public relations angle sounds good as students save money but students may become frustrated if they can’t print or annotate their textbooks. Although again online textbooks sounds like a great thing, faculty may not be able to fully realize its potential. In fact there could be hidden costs with upgrading server capacity, and increased IT support staff for interventions.
- Brenda Wong
Solid orientation to open textbooks
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Computers in Libraries (CIL2013) is one of those conferences that I’ve always wanted to go to, but will probably never get to. View the archives of posts here. I especially liked Metrics, Value and Funding with Rebecca Jones (from Dysart Jones) and Moe Hosseini-Ara (Markham Public Library).
You can follow them on Twitter by either following @LibConf or the hashtag #CILDC.
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Tags: conferences, Professional Development
Every where I turn people are talking about how to shape their online lives. I am going beyond reputation management and into the realm of “digital citizenship” here. What does it mean to to internet literate? There was an interesting Pew study on the most desirable skills for 2020. One of the striking ideas about fast information gathering blended with slower digestion and analysis of that information really resonated with me. Librarians have a role to play in this process. In a broader sense, I echo what Sarah Ludwig said about how librarians struggle “to teach copyright, fair use, effective communication, and privacy.” But it sometimes happens as a one-time lesson, or happens in a vacuum without real consequences. Ludwig shares some great practical ideas about how to effectively teach these ideas in an applied real world way.
Although I love the internet, I can understand the impulse of similar people wanting to be together. Another post by Danah Boyd talks about how college kids use Facebook to screen their roommates and acquaintainces before they set foot on campus. I am not as old to suggest that I would not have done the same, but then I would not have met my best friend. She lived in the suburbs and I was inner city kid with different experiences. I am pretty sure she would have screened me out if there was Facebook back in the day. And our lives would be less richer for it.
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As in many things in life, there is a process and a lot of homework involved in preparing a perfectly persuasive elevator pitch. Then it involves distilling the message down. I was impressed by the resources pulled together at Dysart & Jones. I can see the value of practicing lots, and targeting different audiences as good prep for job interviews or even building a business case for a new project.
And again to reiterate that practice and more practice will build confidence.
Remember the first rule of sales: ABC (Always Be Closing). Give your elevator speech to everyone — at family gatherings, in the waiting room of the dentist, at coffee hour at your church or temple. (How to Perfect an Elevator Pitch About Yourself – Harvard Business Review, May 4, 2009)
Some people are better public speakers than others, but we can all benefit from some preparation and practice to come up to a base level. It may land you that great job!
- Brenda Wong
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I was pleasantly surprised by the Innisfil Public Library’s talk on maker spaces in their library. I walked away from Check Out a Skill presentation at the Ontario Library Association Superconference 2013 energized and hopeful for the future of public libraries.
Innisfil is a small Southern Ontario community about 87 kilometers away from Toronto. Although it was described as combined urban and rural, it tips towards rural. The library’s foray into maker spaces started as early as 2008, when it took a chance by adopting an open source integrated library system. With a culture that supported risk taking, they then looked at transforming their mandate. One of the things that came from user consultations is that IPL wanted to “enable content creation.” This mandate adaptation enabled a change in programming to focus on supporting maker culture or “cultivating a hacker ethic” and how it would look in a public library setting.
Stakeholders, like the library board members and library staff, need to be on board with the huge changes in mandate. There may be some resistance to change understandably, but some strategies were in place to win them over. The board members got additional training on what maker culture meant, and access to explore iPads as well. Also staff were encouraged to play with tools and collaborate on a small-scale projects within a safe environment. The community was engaged through a kickoff gala and a scavenger hunt staged through the town.
Maker spaces includes 2 major components: children’s after school programs, which were in need of re-energizing, and the computer lab. Many public libraries have these programs or services. There were a lot of great ideas for maker projects in after school programs:
- creating small robots with Lego Mindstorms then adding iPad use to animate a story
- light up badge
- Playdough creations that move with simple electronic circuitry
Arduinos are simple electronic devices in do-it-yourself kits and the librarians find they provide a big wow factor in maker projects. Related is Makey Makey for more kits leading to more creative inventions with simple electronics. Part of the lessons learned include the ability to recognize some programs may not have the intended outcome, so there is a need to adapt them on fly as some projects may not have worked well in a group setting. But all in all, Innisfil Public Library saw increased attendance in its after school programs. The library has cycled through different themes to bring back popular programs. Users responded by going to different branches to catch their favourite programs.
IPL had all the basics when moving from computer lab to digital media lab. The cost of upgrading software programs has gone down substantially. For example there are some sophisticated audio and video editing tools out there, which previously were the domain of professionals. Programs ran the gamut from Introduction to MS Word to Getting Published. The publishing course grew out of an extension of people learning to use Word. Once they converted their documents then they could also convert them to .pdf files for sharing. A logical progression was to further extend their sharing or publishing. So the move from an individual creating a story to sharing it with the community really makes the leap into maker culture. Sharing and collaborating are common themes in the transforming nature of maker spaces.
The digital media lab, including guitars, sound and video editing, attracted new users including local businesses completing their own ads to creative teens. It got a laugh but now suddenly the adults were not complaining about teens hanging out and being loud in library, as they were engaged in making music or music videos.
Finally a heart-warming story of how maker spaces has been embraced by the people of Innisfil. A young girl, who wrote a musical, came excitedly to the reference desk and wanted to perform it at the library.
(Thanks to Sarah Simpkin, Mandy Pethick and Aaron DeVries for a great talk.)
- Brenda Wong
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