On data loss

This week I’ve had a couple of data loss stories.

I’m applying for promotion which requires creating a CDR  (believe it or not) containing evidence of all the service, scholarly work, and librarianship work I’ve accomplished over the 8 years. I submitted the CDR, which also contains my teaching portfolio, CV, and self-evaluation for review. I thought it would be a good idea to backup my work.

At my institution, we have a shared network drive for all faculty for backup purposes. As I was copying over my work to this shared drive, my destination partition filled. This stopped the data transfer, and at the same time erased most of my source files. I didn’t discover this for a few days because I usually let file transfers happen in the background as I’m doing other work. I found a backup – although a few months old – that I could reconstruct from. Maybe at the end of the semester I could get a copy from my file, but my department chair doesn’t know if that’s possible.

My other story is a bit more interest. I migrated our library’s website onto an Amazon instance. One of the things I really wanted to change from our server to this new one is updating WordPress from the browser without using FTP. This includes the core, plugins, and themes. This can be done by adding( ‘FS_METHOD’, ‘define’ ); to the wp-config.php which forces a direct IO exchange using PHP.

This also requires messing with permissions using the chmod command on the commandline. As I was changing the subdirectories of a few files, I accidently typed sudo chmod 644 /*

This basically changed the permissions for the whole file structure of the instance. I didn’t catch it until I noticed that I had denied myself permission from much of the OS on the new server. In a frantic effort, I rebooted the instance thinking that this would fix the permissions problems. Instead, this caused a kernal panic and the system couldn’t even boot. It was dead in the water.

After talking to a friend (Thanks Adam!) who has experience working with AWS instances, he suggested I take a snapshot backup of the inaccessible OS. That way, my data could still be accessible. He also suggested to start a similar built instance and try to access the snapshot that way.

Basically we have 2 AWS instances: broken and fixed. Take a snapshot of the broken instance and turn that into a EBS volume. Then, use the fixed instance to access the EBS volume. Detailed instructions on how to access a EBS volume can be found here.

Surprisingly, this worked. I was able to access a file structure whose whole permission scheme had been changed accidentally. I think this is the real power of cloud computing, to generate machines quickly and easy, for data recovery.

Moral of the story: make backups. Sometimes your backups can crash, but if you make consistent backups that won’t be a problem. Also, make multiple backups!

My next project is to install Apache Solr on a micro instance to drive our site’s search engine. Fun!

Google Chrome Extensions

UPDATE: It looks like Hoverzoom is now using malware 🙁 Oh well.

I’ve been using Google Chrome since it was released a few years ago.

Here are some extensions that I think librarians and your everyday civilian would appreciate:

Hoverzoom – This previews thumbnails to their larger sizes. Useful for Pinterest, Creative Commons Searches, and Google Image search.

AdBlock – Speaks for itself. This prevents pop-ups from ad sites. It can also be useful to block tracking.

dotepub – This extension creates an eBook out of any webpage. I don’t use this one as much, as I usually just print out PDF versions of webpages.

Hobbit: A Journey of Middle Earth – A promo extension, but provides a really fun way to look at the map of a Middle Earth for the Peter Jackson flicks.

Library Extension – This allows you to see if book on Amazon is available locally. It’s like a free version of book burro.

 

More to come…

Commafeed, a Google Reader Alternative

Google Reader was an extremely useful tool that I’ve mentioned before.  However, I found an alternative I really like called Commafeed.  The developer created a clone that is lightweight and simple, and best of all, it can import your Google Reader feeds. I discovered it on the web aggregate site, Reddit.

I highly recommend Commafeed if you’re still struggling with what to do after the service ends on July 1st.

I installed a new wordpress theme

When I first starting making websites when I was 15, I did it all by hand. Hand-coding is real nerdy, but I still use it everyday. That’s just how I organize things in my head. Nowadays, I rely on themes instead of coding everything out. This is a new theme I just installed. It’s called “yoko.”

I think themes help free up time, and most of the time, they’re cross-platform compatible. This theme uses a responsive layout, which when viewed in another device, it re-orients everything specifically for that device. This is really handy.

Maybe someday, when we can add an additional 4 hours to the day, I’ll be able to quickly code my own theme and use it for my site. For now, this will do.

Internet Pew Research

Mr. Rainiey said that Pew was not this.

Yesterday, I attended a Metro presentation on Washington, DC based “fact-tank,” Internet Pew Research. Here are some of my notes of the presentation:

Pew Internet Research is a non-profit “fact-tank” that observes the usage of Internet and digital technologies across America. Their measuring instrument consists of telephone surveys. All of their reports on their site are free.

Rainie began his presentation with the move from a “village” society to a “networked” one. A networked society is more socially maneuverable, that is, you can have several social circles that don’t necessarily interact with one another (your personal circle of friends vs. your work circle for instance). The drawback from a village society to a networked one, is that it requires more work to participate in a networked society.

He also mentioned the idea of a future learning space. These include distributed, cloud-based resources that may not necessarily have a physical counterpart.

Rainie presented 3 digital “revolutions” during the twelve-year life span of Pew:

– Internet Broadband has exploded from 4% access among Americans in 2000 to 74% in 2010.

– Total number of mobile device subscriptions has surpassed the total population of the US, with 88% of adults owning a cell phone, 50% of adults utilize mobile apps.

– 50% of adults utilize social networking

Other stats:

Internet Usage

2/3 of adults are content creators, as are ¾ of teens aged 12-17.

Bloggers and Twitter users are “influencers” trend setters.

The #1 factor of non-internet users is age, with adults aged 65+ least likely to use the Internet.

E-readers

E-reader users read a wide variety of genres, but fiction and personal research are more prevalent than others.

Users also typically read free classics.

Overall tablet usage has nearly doubled between mid-December 2011 and mid-January

(10%->19%) due to the gift-giving season.

In early April, Pew will release a detailed report on e-books and usage.

Librarianship

Rainie argued that librarians must cater to both traditional library services (article retrieval, finding information) and new library services (digital content creation, computer literacy).

In a networked society, librarians should be a nexus or a network node that provides information to different networks and other nodes (users).

The final question that was asked during the presentation is how to cater to the vocal minority of blog and twitter users in the library. Rainie suggested more transparency with library operations, such as showing the analytics of library users, and that librarians may have to serve those who need or want to explore these new social media services. In addition, we should be trying to recruit social media users for their assistance. One such role could be testers of these technologies. Current statistics show that usage is low in using these technologies.

Further Reading

Rainie lastly mentioned two books on the topic of social networks and the networked society, Wealth of Networks and Too Big to Know. He is also releasing his own book in May.

Video of the presentation and Rainie’s slides will be soon available on the Metro Website.

Book proposal

I just wrote a book proposal for LITA (Library Information Technology Association). It was a lot of work, but I’m glad to toss my hat into the ring. This particular LITA guide introduces WordPress to libraries. I think WordPress is great for a multitude of applications, and is especially great for libraries on a budget. It’s open-source, free, and customizable and more importantly, proven. There’s several library-related resources out there on using it.

Library Terms that Users Understand

Usability is one of those important things that every developer/designer should be aware of. If your users can’t navigate or understand your site within a few seconds of the page loading, it’s going to make very little sense.

John Kupersmith just updated the “Library Terms that Users Understand” website. It’s backed from the research of 51 usability studies. It’s easy to forget that librarians use lingo that users may not necessarily understand. We actually went through an exercise about this in a library school. I was paired off with someone and I mentioned “stacks,” and she looked at me like I was crazy. However, after being a librarian for 5+ years, I can safely say that “stacks” is not something that is useful for a lot of students, especially Freshman or first-time users.

I highly suggest using this site as a guide to creating usable labels for navigation. However, if you want the best support, ask your users what makes the most sense to them.

Productive Winter Intersession 2012

This past intersession I made some changes to the library’s website. Firstly, I upgraded PHP that came with Redhat so we can update our blog and add some more functionality. I had to use a different repository for the server to upgrade mysql and PHP, which took some time…but I think it worked out in the end. However, I think it’s important to upgrade our Redhat license so we still have access to Redhat sanctioned updates. I don’t know if RH will ever update PHP, but it’s kind of necessary when you’re doing more modern web work that require php-xml for APIs.

Speaking of APIs, I connected our public Google calendar to our website. I think the embedded calendar for G Calendar leaves a LOT to be desired. You can’t control the display of events, the calendar/agenda views look clunky, and you’re pretty much SOL if for some reason G Calendar goes down. As a response, I used Andrew Darby’s setup that he published in Code4lib. I made some modifications, such as using updates to depreciated code (split was replaced with explode) and re-wrote the PHP code so it returns today’s library’s hours for the front page of the site.  I also learned a great deal about the Google Calendar API and the Zend framework to develop the code for the project. Basically, events made in the public G calendar are downloaded into a MySQL database, then retrieved later.

I also built a mobile website for the library which can be found here – http://m.library.citytech.cuny.edu .  We’re still prototyping it, but I think it works well for most cross-platform/browser/devices. It’s based  on the jquery mobile framework, which seems to be prevalent in other mobile sites, most notable at the North Carolina State University’s library mobile site. I also patched in Darby’s code to retrieve the hours.

Lastly, I moved our e-resources over to Drupal for statistics. Most of the work was based on Leo Klein’s utility in views. I hope it provides a smoother workflow for the other librarians.

More on the list include:

Updating the staff/research guides wiki

Updating drupal 6 security

Creating a drupal 7 testing server