John's Tech Tips
John Seyfarth - Sump Memorial Library, Papillion
Windows Vista® Hardware Planning Factors Microsoft has put out a Beta 2 test version of Windows Vista® on the Internet for people to tryout. Along with it, they have published system requirements for the new operating system. If you are planning to purchase new hardware during the next fiscal year, you may want to put Vista 's® system requirements into your set of requirements for hardware on your new machines.
The hard drive footprint of Vista® will likely exceed 15 GB, compared to 2 or 2½ GB for XP ® . Microsoft has also raised the minimum memory required from XP's ® 128 MB to 512MB, but based on my experience with XP ® , I'll bet Vista® will run much better and acceptably with 1 GB or more. In addition, to fully implement Vista 's® “Aero®” interface; you must have a video card with its own graphics processor and 128 MB of its own graphics memory. The minimum processor will be a Pentium III® 800 MHz, but I would expect that the speed with that would be unacceptably slow, based on the results that some of my colleagues have reported on it with machines with 2.8 GB Pentium 4® processors. In addition, you need to have a DVD drive, since the Windows Vista® media will be on a DVD.
Vista® will supposedly be out for volume purchasers by the end of the year, and for regular PC purchasers later in 2007. Based on previous history, I would expect a six month delay. Never the less, it would be prudent to plan you future purchases to meet Vista 's® requirements. This is not to say that Intel is the only processor. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD ® ) is also very competitive in the processor world, and they also make processors that are fully capable of meeting Vista 's® requirements. But, once Vista® comes out, it will again be the dominant operating system, and most libraries will eventually convert to it.
Downloadable Electronic Audio Books and Media Player Compatibility Some of the libraries in Nebraska are subscribing to one of the several downloadable electronic audio book services and permitting their patrons to download these books to their computers and/or media players. Be aware that some media players, particularly, the MP3 file format compatible players that are not compatible with WMA files cannot play some of the books from some vendors. Of course, the far and away most popular player on the market is the Apple iPod®, but it is one of those players that will not play WMA files that some of these books are formatted in. So, if your patrons are looking at media players (there are a number of brands and models out there), and your library is subscribing to a downloadable audio book service, make sure you are aware of the requirements for the service, file format-wise and inform your constituency of the requirements for the computers and media players. One other requirement for media players that are going to be used for electronic audio books is that they must have at least the minimum capability to being turned off, and when turned back on, that the book will resume at the some place. Most of the players we have seen will also enable the user to go backwards, which helps to repeat the last part of the last passage, so that you can remember where you were. Downloadable audio books are going to grow, and I suspect as time passes, more and more libraries will be offering this type of service. Be prepared to do a little training of your patrons to exploit this capability. We have found that many patrons are using these books during travel, and many have also purchased FM transmitters for their media players so that they can play their books over an FM car radio. Some of the newer car models even have a jack to plug in players directly and a function switch to directly play off the player. Before you subscribe to a service, make sure you know what the requirements are for the downloadable files (file format, compatibility with computers and operating systems, and capability to be played on various media player models). Once you have decided and made the commitment, your staff needs to have the capability to walk patrons through the basics of the process of downloading the files, obtaining the digital license files, and transferring the files to the media player.
Microsoft's Other Beta Software . Last issue I had said that I had installed Microsoft's Beta 2 of Internet Explorer®, Version 7 on my machine. It seems to work OK, although I still like Mozilla Firefox® better. However, Microsoft has found a few bugs in the program, and has put out a Beta 3 version on the browser which can be downloaded at http://download.microsoft.com. In addition, Microsoft has also made available of beta version of Media Player® Version 11, that can be downloaded and installed. If you have a machine that you feel you can try these programs out, it is a good way to get acquainted with the new software. In our library, I use one of the machines in the lab as a test bed for new software, and the users do a pretty good job of “wringing out the new software, and letting us know of problems when they come up.” I haven't done the new Vista® in the lab yet, but I probably will in the next few weeks to get some idea of what I can expect when it comes out. I have a couple machines in the lab that are capable of taking on Vista®. Hopefully, in the next NLAQ , I will have some more information on Vista®.
Microsoft Windows Live One Care ® Microsoft has just entered the anti-virus & anti-spyware business by offering the new Windows Live One Care® product for Windows XP-SP2 ® . I haven't tested this yet, but according to Microsoft, the product which sells for $49.95 for three users on a one year subscription provides anti-virus, anti-spyware, improved firewall, and automatic updating, automatic backup, disk cleanup, and defragmentation. The other anti-virus companies are really upset that Microsoft is competing with them, and some has accused it of “predatory pricing”. I intend to get a copy for my home machines, and test it out. Up to now, the machines in the Library have been protected by a firewall appliance, Windows XP® firewall (SP2), Symantec Anti-Virus Corporate Edition®, and manually implementing updates as we become aware of them. I will be curious to see how this service works.
A Solution for Children's Computers to Prevent the Handling and Potential Damage to CDs for Children's Software. . We have been working a long time to find a good workable piece of software to make our children's computers functional with games and educational software and preventing the handling of the CD media. We have four “kid's” computers with an average of ten different applications on each one. I have tested a number of different applications that permit me to copy the CD (one copy only) to the hard drive and enable me to play the software application off the hard drive. The best one I have found is called Virtual CD Version 8® from H+H Software GmbH, a German company. Basically the drill for configuring a machine is to (1) Install Windows XP and install all the updates; (2) Install Virtual CD Version 8 ®, and (3) run the software, go to Virtual Drive Management and establish as many virtual lettered drives as you need (usually 15 is plenty); (4) Then copy your CDs one at a time using the software to make virtual CDs out of each one; Then move the virtual CDs in to separate virtual drives by dragging them in the software; (5) Install the software from each virtual CD on your hard drive, and make sure you put an icon for each on the desktop you are going to allow your users to run the software from. Once in a while, I have had to write a script within Virtual CD ® to make sure that the Virtual CDs are automatically inserted into the Virtual Drives to make everything work right, but he result is that my children's computers run well, with very little maintenance. The software is $39.95 for one copy, but only $84.95 for five copies. I have the latter, and have four children's computers configured, and the customers are very satisfied. It keeps the children occupied when their parents are in the library to find other materials. The website if http://www.virtualcd-online.com , and there is a demo version that you can download and try out. Getting it configured takes a little up-front work, but the result is worth it.