Digital Divide 2007

I have been making a point about the Digital Divide for a long point. While I believe socio-economic status is a contributing factor, it isn’t the sole reason.
bq.A new study published by the Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that there is a growing digital divide across America. John B. Horrigan’s analysis of America’s use of Web 2.0 and information and communications technology in the broader sense shows that whilst a reasonable number of Americans are embracing new technology and Web 2.0, a disturbing number are either not getting the message, or are choosing not to participate. – “Duncan Riley”:http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/05/06/america-the-growing-digital-divide/ According to “the results(Technology & Media Use)”:http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/213/report_display.asp, 49% fall into the Few Tech Assets category and of those, 26% are almost completely disconnected. I see a number of these people because they come into my library every single day. I look forward to watching this gap close but I don’t expect to see it anytime soon.

Fee-Free Tax Filing

Did your taxes yet? If you did, how did you file them?
bq.Increasing numbers of technology-savvy filers prepare their tax forms using Intuit’s TurboTax or H&R Block’s TaxCut software. But when it comes to filing their returns, many of them revert to paper. The IRS’ National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson is among them. “Tax filers say they like using the software, [but] they either don’t want to pay the fee, or they just don’t know where their information is going,” Olson said. The IRS would experience an immediate spike in e-filing if it offered a free, direct-file online site, she said. – “Mary Mosquera(Taxpayer advocate backs IRS e-file portal concept)”:http://www.fcw.com/article98109-04-02-07-Print You can consider me one of those people who uses a computer program to generate some paper. I e-filed two years ago but couldn’t locate the right hoops to jump through to do it again last year. When the IRS handles it properly, I will be glad to e-file again. Until then, they can deal with my nicely-formatted documents.

E-Government Access

bq.In Florida, the financial support for public libraries with economic need dropped from 11 cents per dollar in the mid-1990s to 3.9 cents per dollar during the last budget year. The burden keeps shifting, but it appears there is little to no coordination among levels of government. As engaged citizens and civic leaders, it is time to acknowledge that the trend continues to point to technology for efficiencies in government and convenience for citizens – and this makes good sense. Yet when government services, educational institutions, medical programs and disaster programs rely on public libraries for support, the libraries need to be prepared to respond. Librarians are trained to provide assistance. It’s what they do. But until public libraries are recognized for the greater role they’ve been fulfilling since the advent of information technology, the wait in line or on the phone will be that much longer. – “Donna Paz Kaufman(Libraries are expected to be our e-government service)”:http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/013107/nen_7610167.shtml We have been talking more and more about this issue in my library as we have people stopping in to get everything from “out-of-state tax forms(State Tax Forms)”:http://www.taxadmin.org/fta/link/forms.html to “credit reports(AnnualCreditReport)”:http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ to “four-hour-long traffic school courses(Florida Traffic School – Lowest Price Guaranteed)”:http://www.lowestpricetrafficschool.com/ and having no idea of how to get started and what it actually entails. The digital divide isn’t so much of an access issue (although that is still important) as a learning and skill issue.

Giddy over Gates

Last year, I “asked(Shared Computer Toolkit)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2005/06/29/shared what the introduction of the “Shared Computer Toolkit(Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP)”:http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sharedaccess/overview.mspx meant for the Public Access Computer Security Tool. I found out this week that it has definitely become a “replacement(An Overview of the Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit)”:http://pacomputing.webjunction.org/do/DisplayContent?id=13182. At my library, we have been using our original Gates stations as our public Internet Access stations for a while now. Hazarding a guess, I would put the date at November 12, 1999. We actually have a few more as we have been able to acquire hand-me-downs from some our other branches as they did some upgrading. So our original 6 is now 12 (and we have one other station in to make 13). This week we are getting ready to deploy the replacements (once again provided by the Gates Foundation). Fortunately, the funding that provided for 6 last time allowed us to buy 13 this time. Our crack IT staff has been figuring out how to get the SCT to work in conjunction with “PAMS(Public Access Management System)”:http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/library/home/products/pams/; it turned out to be doable, but took customization. And because we took the time to preserve the original image of one of our old Gates stations, we are going to be redeploying those into the children’s areas with the original profiles and software intact. So this is a pretty big week all around. I am not definitely not going to predict what things will be like in 2014.

OpenOffice 2.0

I looked at OpenOffice early in the development, and it was definitely not ready for primetime. The “newly-released 2.0(OpenOffice.org 2.0 Final Launches)”:http://www.betanews.com/article/OpenOfficeorg_20_Final_Launches/1129819229 is a different story, however. Next time we redo our public stations I am sorely tempted to replace Microsoft Office completely. Oh, and I definitely think there is a place for the remodeled “Opera(Opera browser)”:http://www.opera.com/products/desktop/ as well.

IE-Only Copyright

bq.The U.S. Copyright Office is soliciting opinions, through August 22d, about it’s planned website upgrade that will require the use of Microsoft Internet Explorer, effectively banning most technically-advanced users and all Linux and open-source advocates from its service. – “Dave Murphy(U.S. Copyright Office Fumbles, Bit by Bit)”:http://www.geeknewscentral.com/archives/004755.html I was stunned for a moment when I read that.
bq.Section 104 of the ART Act directs that preregistration procedures must be in place by October 24, 2005. 17 U.S.C. 408(f)(1). To comply with this time frame and to facilitate efficient processing of preregistration claims, inter alia, the proposed rule calls for filing such claims by electronic means only. At this point in the process of developing the Copyright Office’s system for online preregistration, it is not entirely clear whether the system will be compatible with web browsers other than Microsoft Internet Explorer versions 5.1 and higher. Filers of preregistration applications will be able to employ these Internet Explorer browsers successfully. Support for Netscape 7.2, Firefox 1.0.3, and Mozilla 1.7.7 is planned but will not be available when preregistration goes into effect. Present users of these browsers may experience problems when filing claims. – “Copyright Office(Preregistration of Certain Unpublished Copyright Claims)”:http://www.copyright.gov/fedreg/2005/70fr44878.html I think “planned” in this case is pretty much equivalent to Microsoft’s “plan(IE7 Standards)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2005/07/30/ie7 to fully support CSS. If you care about this issue, be sure and take advantage of the public comment period.

Shared Computer Toolkit

Microsoft has released the “Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP(Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP)”:http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sharedaccess/default.mspx. This is not to be confused with the “Public Access Computer Security Tool(Public Access Computer Security Tool)”:http://pacomputing.webjunction.org/do/DisplayContent?id=7593. The PAC Tool was designed for NT Workstation, but has worked great for us on 2000 stations. It also doesn’t jumping through the hoops of Windows Genuine Advantage, which this one will do. But as 2000 ages, I guess it will be time to move on at some point. What would really be interesting is investigating using this in conjunction with “Clonezilla(Clonezilla)”:http://www.networkworld.com/community/?q=node/2250.

Internet Access @ your library

bq.Virtually every U.S. public library now offers free Internet access but most ration it, inhibiting the ability of lower-income families to benefit from the Information Age. – “Anick Jesdanun(Library internet access better than ever)”:http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8ATH0G00.htm?campaign_id=apn_tech_down At my library, we ration internet usage as well. But we also allow people to stay on longer if they have a legitimate need to do so (which does happen, but is extremely rare). In my experience, this is much less of an issue than the article makes it out to be.
bq.One of the ways in which we can help our libraries succeed is turning them into user-centered institutions. This means really thinking about our users, and examining the rules and policies that might benefit us, but also might be preventing our patrons’ successful use and continued enjoyment of our libraries. – “Aaron Schmidt(letting go)”:http://www.walkingpaper.org/index.php?id=204 We also went through a couple of changes very recently that may or may not help. Guest Access is now $1.00 for a week (reduced from $5.00). We now have razor-thin margin, but I argue that we would actually make more money with a better P/E ratio. And it seems to be working. But of course, this actually increases usage. The other change is that wireless access for non-residents is now free, instead of $3.00 for a week (greatly reduced staff time). This hasn’t been used a tremendous amount yet, but I think it will continue to have a positive impact as we move into the future.

Broadband Speed

I got the chance to upgrade my home DSL connection from 1.5 to 3.0 and lower the cost at the same time. Whether the fact this coincided with the arrival of cable broadband access in our area is a coincidence or not I will leave to others to judge. I am pretty happy right now.
bq.If you think that today’s high-speed Internet connections are fast, wait till you see what cable operators plan. The industry’s standard-settings unit, CableLabs, plans to endorse this month technology that will let operators boost speeds 400% to 1,600%, over their existing lines. Motorola and Cisco are among the companies offering alternative methods to increase broadband speeds by linking together the bandwidth used for four or more conventional TV channels. – “David Lieberman(Tomorrow’s Net speeds could be up to 1,600% faster)”:http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2005-04-05-speed-usat_x.htm And the future certainly looks to hold some interesting possibilities.

Half-Life Broadband Penetration

I have no idea if Half-Life 2 players are a representative sample of the penetration of Broadband Access into society, but if they are this “survey(Valve Survey Summary)”:http://www.steampowered.com/status/survey.html shows a rather sizable portion of gamers have high-speed access.