Science & Technology

Archive of Older Blog Posts

Please click here to view the latest posts in this blog.

Jump to a post:

Other Thrall Web Pages:
> More Thrall blogs
> Current Interests Guide
> Special Coverage Guides
> Article Databases
> Thrall Web Guides
> Ask a Librarian
> Home

Windows 7 Arrives

October 26, 2009

Microsoft's latest computer operating system, Windows 7, is officially available.

As you might already know, the operating system (OS) is the single most important program on a computer: it literally lets you operate the computer and run other programs (software).

When Microsoft's previous operating system Vista appeared, many computer users wondered if they could or should attempt to upgrade their computers.

Each operating system, including those not from Microsoft, such as Linux (an open source operating system) or Apple's Mac OS/X, has its own set of hardware requirements. This means, if your computer does not meet the specified "minimal system requirements" (such as memory - RAM, hard drive space, or Central Processing Unit - CPU), the operating system might not perform well or at all.

This means not every computer user can or should upgrade: each computer, having different parts and specifications, has a range of optimal performance, which, in plainer terms, means that some users will be better off sticking with what they already have on their computers, especially as newer operating systems are usually better optimized for running on faster computers with substantial memory (RAM - 2 gigabytes or more).

If you plan on buying a new computer (and it is not from Apple), then you have a very high probability, due to Microsoft's dominant marketshare, of getting Windows 7 already installed on your system.

You can read more about Windows 7 at these links: As we do for all major operating system releases, Middletown Thrall Library has several books on order so you can learn more about this system.

If you're interested in exploring free alternatives to Windows 7, there are numerous versions of the Linux operating system (called "distributions" or "distros"). Among the most famous of these "distros" is the user-friendly Ubuntu system. More "distros" can be discovered via

Many Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, offer "live CD" previews, which can let you load up a Linux operating system on your computer (through a CD or DVD drive) without replacing the existing operating system, giving you a chance to see if it is right for you.

Getting Linux to run properly can be a challenging experience on some computers, and the often technical nature of the OS can be daunting to newcomers and even some "power users." For many other users, though, Linux can open up new worlds of computing possibilities, particularly once people discover the thousands of free programs available to Linux users.

Whatever your computer/OS preferences are, Thrall owns a number of books on Linux, OS/X, and other OS platforms. Many more titles exist throughout the library system. Here are some library catalog links you can use to browse related books and videos: For hobbyists and others still into DOS/MS-DOS, old-school command-line Unix, or earlier versions of Windows (95, 98, 2000, etc.), you also have more than a few titles to browse!

For more about operating systems and related concepts and software:
Comments? or Questions?

Hubble's New Vision

September 9, 2009

After a series of upgrades installed by astronauts earlier this year, the Hubble Space Telescope can see more of the universe in greater detail.

Along with a press release describing Hubble's new capabilities, the HST team has published a number of images demonstrating the telescope's technological improvements.

High-resolution images, such as these of the Butterfly Nebula (NGC 6302) or these of a galaxy group (nicknamed "Stephan's Quintet") bring viewers even closer to the physical majesty and mysteries of the cosmos.

Accompanying the images are some videos and a document entitled Hubble: A New Beginning (PDF format: view with Adobe Reader).

As Hubble's service mission, extended several times thus far, winds down, a next-generation space telescope is being manufactured; its name is the James Webb Space Telescope, and its current launch date is set for 2014.

Until then, it is hoped the Hubble Space Telescope will continue its historic tradition of providing Earth-bound viewers stellar sights and scientists new insights into the awe-inspiring universe we occupy.

There are, of course, other telescopes and observatories worth checking out if you would like to continue reading about this topic. This link will take you to the Astronomy section of our Ready Reference guide. Once there, you can browse related websites as well as topics in the library catalog.

In case you haven't heard, 2009 is the Year of International Astronomy, and it is an opportune time to explore the universe. No knowledge of science or physics is required: the wondrous pictures, like works of art, speak volumes on their own and can be enjoyed independently of any equations or theories.
Comments? or Questions?

Kepler Mission

August 24, 2009

Launched back in March 2009, NASA's Kepler Mission soared forth into space in search of other worlds as part of NASA's Discovery Program.

NASA describes the mission as follows: "The scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems."

More generally, this is one of the latest technological attempts to move closer to answering a basic question whose answer would yield cosmic implications and usher in a new age of discovery. That question is, Are we alone?

The quest to determine if any form of life could or does exist beyond Earth began long ago, and, to this day, theories and debates on all sides of the cosmic question attempt to address what it might ultimately mean if the answer finally arrived as a definitive "yes" or "no."

Earlier in this blog (Allen Telescope Array, Cosmic Cultures, and Super Earths) we reported on scientific attempts to locate exoplanets (planets beyond our solar system) and even to detect extraterrestrial intelligence.

The Kepler Mission advances upon these earlier and ongoing efforts (such as SETI) through newer technologies optimized for finding terrestial Earthlike planets orbiting within what is called the "habitable zone" (sometimes nicknamed the "Goldilocks Zone").

Detecting any planet around other stars has its share of challenges. Larger Jupiter-like exoplanets (known as "gas giants" or "Jovian planets") were among the first ones detected around other stars due to their measurable gravitational influence on their parent stars, causing their suns to wobble as the planets orbited. (Yes, scientists really use the word "wobble" when describing this.)

Earth-sized planets, being smaller and exerting less gravitational influence, become more difficult to detect. To find them, Kepler will be examining stars for planetary transits: when the planet passes in front of its sun. As a planet passes in front of its sun, the star's light should vary at regular intervals.

Right now, the Kepler space telescope is said to be over 10,000,000 miles from Earth and is already transmitting early findings back to Earth, including details about a giant gas planet's atmosphere.

Like the legendary and recently upgraded Hubble Space Telescope. the Kepler Mission promises to yield historic discoveries and help us better understand physical aspects of the amazing and beautiful universe we occupy.

For more information on the Kepler Mission, visit these official websites:
The Kepler telescope gets its name from German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). His best known contribution to astronomy was a preliminary understanding of how planets move: the three laws of planetary motion

You can learn more about Johannes Kepler and the search for other planets by following these links:
Comments? or Questions?


August 20, 2009

We recently blogged about the New York State Consumer Protection Board's list of recent scams. Among the list of currently known scams is a phenomenon called "typosquatting."

"Typos" ("typographical errors") happen all the time. When you type what you believe is the proper address of a website into a web browser's "location" box, the site usually appears soon after, but is it the site you really expected to visit?

If you mistyped the web address (known more formally as a Uniform Resource Locator, or URL), you might still arrive at what appears to be the website you meant to reach. Unfortunately, due to the practice of "typosquatting," where people or companies can purchase web address for the purposes of exploiting your mistyping, you might wind up in the middle of a scam and not even know about it until it is too late.

Other than typing more carefully, what else can you do to protect yourself? The answers are fairly basic:
Even if you are in a rush, the few extra moments you take to type more carefully and more closely examine which websites you are visiting can spare you from nightmares of electronic exploitation or identity theft.

For more insight and guidance on related topics, please visit from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Comments? or Questions?


August 18, 2009

Nanotechnology (sometimes referred to as nanotech) involves nanoengineering and nanoscience and works at what is called the nanoscale, which is measured, appropriately enough, in nanometers.

Nano means "one billionth" - a size so small as to be invisible to the human eye! The amazing smallness of this technology is what gives it unprecedented capabilities. has a nice illustration demonstrating nanotech scale.

Nanotech is not something that will arrive in the distant future: it is already here and being put to use in a variety of ways.

Things such as carbon nanotubes, nanostructures, nanoparticles, nanoshells, and nanowires are being created to enable scientists to create extremely small things, such as "nanosystems," next-generation computer chips, and miniature engines and machines ("micromachinery") complete with movable parts.

In fact, entirely new college study programs (e.g. Albany University's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering) and fields of study have already emerged from the world of nanotech, including nanomedicine, nanotech space exploration (see NASA's page). has a web page exploring some of the many uses nanotech is being used.

As you might have guessed by now, (The National Nanotechnology Initiative) website serves as the central U.S. portal for information and news on nanotech. It also offers a nice introduction (What Is Nanotechnology?) as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

Like any technology, nanotech offers new abilities, challenges, and dangers. Ethical (especially as in bioethics) questions also remain to be explored as nanotech continues to permeate every level of your existence, whether it involves the clothes you wear, the computers you use, the food you eat, or where you work.

Efforts to educate people on nanotechnology and its nanoproducts are ongoing in and beyond the U.S. Government:

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC) has a Nanotechnology page outlining their ongoing investigations into the "occupational safety and health implications and applications of nanotechnology."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has web pages on nanotechnology regulation (dealing with "a wide range of products, including foods, cosmetics, drugs, devices, and veterinary products, some of which may utilize nanotechnology or contain nanomaterials") and a frequently asked questions page (FAQ).

Here are some other U.S. Government agencies and other non-governmental websites providing information on nanotechnology:

Our library system contains a number of items on all aspects nanotechnology if you would like to research the topic some more.

Members of Thrall can enjoy even more research possibilities: try searching for "nanotech" or "nanotechnology" in our full text article databases and encylopedias.

Even as the world around you changes in ways you can no longer see, you can still use the library's free resources and research tools to gain a better understanding of what is happening and perhaps even take a more informed and active role in the shaping of the future by applying your new awareness and sharing it with others!
Comments? or Questions?

Augmented Reality

July 29, 2009

First there was Virtual Reality (VR), where entire worlds could be created and explored within a computer.

Now, thanks to advances in consumer electronics, GPS (Global Positioning System) technologies, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) is being introduced throughout the world in different ways.

Augmented Reality combines the real world with information provided by various services and technologies. This information "augments" the reality you see and hear with things like statistics, trivia, and other data.

AR already exists in very basic forms, such as computerized maps and GPS systems, which can tell you more about your surroundings and destinations, including such things as local attractions and other facts about an area.

More advanced displays currently being developed aim to project up-to-the-minute ("real time") information on a screen that changes with your location and heading.

AR technologies, given their broad potential in areas such as research, travel, education, health, and many other areas and fields of study, will continue to find their ways into everyday tasks.

The How Stuff Works website has an interesting article on AR:

"How Augmented Reality Will Work"

For more information on AR, check out these websites:
Comments? or Questions?

Beware of Scareware, Free Security Scans

June 24, 2009

While searching or surfing the Web, at home or anywhere else, you might encounter what appear to be virus alerts or offers for "free security scans" or "registry scanners."

Such "scareware" pop-up windows and pages attempt to convince you action (such as downloading and installing a program) must be taken to eliminate what are claimed to be problems found on your computer.

Experienced users might recognize potential fake alerts as they appear, but some bogus notices could resemble popular security software commonly found on home computers.

Acting on false alerts could actually introduce viruses or spyware into your computer!

As always, please proceed with caution before you click anything.

The Internet does contain thousands of viruses, malware, spyware (e.g. see this earlier blog post), so legitimate alerts could come from your own computer.

If you are unfamiliar with the security software installed on your computer, you should take some time to reacquaint yourself with it and also check if its protection is current and active.

Improved awareness of the security software on your computer can help you respond more appropriately to situations requiring action.

Beyond that, you can increase your protection through increased awareness of possible scams and other problems on the Internet.

To help you in that regard, the U.S. Government's offers further insight and guidance on scareware and other topics.

Here is their page on scareware: "Free Security Scan" Could Cost Time and Money

OnGuardOnline is also available in Spanish.

For more on scareware, there's this post on the U.S. Government's GovGab blog:

Scareware Scams as well as these articles from Microsoft:
Comments? or Questions?

National Ignition Facility
("World's Largest Laser")

June 1, 2009

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) is home to what is being described as "the world's largest laser."

NIF states, "NIF's 192 intense laser beams will deliver to its target more than 60 times the energy of any previous laser system."

Once fully operational, NIF promises to "direct nearly two million joules of ultraviolet laser energy in billionth-of-a-second pulses to the target chamber center," producing "temperatures of more than 100 million degrees and pressures more than 100 billion times Earth's atmosphere."


According to the NIF's About page, the NIF was created to "provide a better understanding of the complex physics of nuclear weapons," explore "basic science, such as astrophysical phenomena, materials science and nuclear science," and to "provide scientists with the physics understanding necessary to create fusion ignition and energy gain for future energy production."

To learn more about NIF and fusion power, check out these links:
Click here for the main National Ignition Facility (NIF) website.
Comments? or Questions?

Antimatter: Facts & Fictions

May 27, 2009

The subject of antimatter recently returned to the news with the movie adaptation of Dan Brown's book Angels and Demons.

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and their Large Hadron Collider, figure prominently in the story.

As the world of fiction and science fiction continue to use antimatter to great dramatic effect, CERN offers some informational websites to help clarify questions surrounding the recently sensationalized topic: The U.S. website of the Large Hadron Collider also has an "Angels and Demons" section, complete with "Virtual Lectures" (videos).

No longer constrained to fictional realms, antimatter research is quite real and no less fascinating!

You can visit these sites to learn more about antimatter:
Michio Kaku's book, Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel dedicates its Chapter 10 "Antimatter and Anti-universes." Click the title to find or reserve the book in the library catalog.

You can also click here to find books and videos involving antimatter in the library system.

Addition items can be found under the heading of particle physics.
Comments? or Questions?

Computational Search Engine

May 18, 2009

A new "computational search engine" is now available on the Internet:


Unlike general Web search engines, which attempt to find web pages containing or relating to your search terms, this search engine tries to compute answers to questions.

What kinds of questions? Mostly those involving numbers, measurements, dates, word/letter combinations, money, and other quantifiable aspects of scientific and natural phenomena.

In other words, you can type "x + 2 = 3" (minus quotes), and it will solve for x (i.e. "x = 1").

Wolfram|Alpha can handle more complex queries as well in a variety of areas such as physics and astronomy.

Additional examples of possible searches can be found at this link.

To learn more about this search engine, you can visit its About page or click here for its home page.
Comments? or Questions?

Deep Solar Minimum

May 11, 2009

Earth's Sun regularly experiences highs (solar maximum) and lows (solar minimum) of sunspot activity in cycles running approximately 22 years (11 years per increase or decrease in sunspots).

In recent months, the Sun has remained rather quiet, entering a "deep solar minimum" (where little or no sunspots occur).

Scientists continue to monitor the Sun, which, despite its decidely cyclical nature, has been known to exhibit some interesting behavior ever since people began to study it.

You can visit these website to learn more about sunspots and the Sun:
These websites provide news and images concerning the current state of the Sun and Space Weather:
For more information, you can click here to explore materials on the Sun in the library catalog.
Comments? or Questions?

Computer Virus/Worm Advisory

March 30, 2009

News of a major new "worm" (a computer virus that spreads across networks) called "Conficker" is being reported on across the web.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has posted the following advisory concerning "Conficker" and related problems:

"DHS Releases Conficker/Downadup Computer Worm Detection Tool, March 30, 2009"

Their advisory also contains links to Windows operating system updates from Microsoft and other providers of information on this development.

Back in 2004 we created a handout at the library called "Protecting Your Computer" for anyone interested in taking steps to improve your computer's chances of weathering such attacks. This document (in PDF format - view with the Adobe Reader) is still available on our Thrall Documents web page.

Additional information on these and related topics is available throughout our library system. Try one or more of the links below to find books and videos in the library catalog:
Comments? or Questions?

Quantum Computing

March 24, 2009

Recent scientific studies and technological innovations promise to deliver a new generation of "quantum computers" whose computational capabilities, once fully realized, would easily rival any of the "most powerful" computers around today.

"Quantum computers" are designed to tap the strange and amazing phenomena of quantum mechanics to perform calculations otherwise impossible to handle on present-day computers.

To learn more about these incredible developments, check out these titles and subjects in the library catalog:
Also check out these websites:
Comments? or Questions?

From Earth to Mars and Beyond!

February 5, 2009

Google has released a new version of its Google Earth software that includes two new viewing modes: Earth's Ocean and Mars.

As in Google Earth, the Mars viewing mode allows you to rotate and explore the planet at various distances and angles.

You can also view various facts about Mars, including the famous Mars Rovers and the areas they have photographed.

You can read more about Google Earth / Mars by clicking here or Google Oceans by clicking here.

A 2D online edition of Google Mars also exists. The online edition does not require additional software.

If you would like to travel beyond our solar system, you're in luck! Google has partnered with NASA to offer Google Sky, which allows you to explore the currently observable universe. Click here for the 2D online edition or click here to learn about the Google Sky feature as it is implemented within the downloadable Google Earth software.

For even more about space exploration and amazing images of the universe, be sure to explore links in our recent blog post ("2009: International Year of Astronomy").
Comments? or Questions?

Obama Administration on Technology

January 29, 2009

The newly renovated White House website provides some details concerning the technology agenda of President Obama's Administration.
Comments? or Questions?

2009: International Year of Astronomy

December 30, 2008

2009 has been designated the "International Year of Astronomy."

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) describes the new year as follows:

"In 2009 we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first observations of the universe through a telescope. In honor of this early event, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the United Nations have proclaimed 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy to spread awareness of astronomy's contributions to society and culture, stimulate young people's interest in science, portray astronomy as a global peaceful endeavor, and nourish a scientific outlook in society."

NASA also has a central website covering the International Year of Astronomy, which includes a link to the following website dedicated to the year as it will be celebrated in the U.S.:

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) offers its own website covering the year-long celebration:

The United Nations also provides a website on "IYA2009" and the opening ceremony in Paris.

For more astronomical information and news, check out these sections in our own web guides:

You can also click topics below to browse our library catalog and locate related items within the library system:

Library Catalog Topics...

Here are some famous names from the world
of astronomy and space exploration.
Click them to browse items in the catalog.

Even more items can be browsed in our Reference Department and circulating collections under the Dewey number of 526 (a librarian can show you where to look).

Happy 2009!
Comments? or Questions?

Digital Youth Project

December 1, 2008

The Digital Youth Project investigates how children incorporate and "use digital media in their everyday lives."

The extended title is "Kids' Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures," an undertaking said to be "a three-year collaborative project funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation" and "carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley."

You can read more about the research project at this link.

The Project offers a variety of online publications as well as case studies and field stories.

The Project's final two-page report ("Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project," November 2008) can be viewed at this link (PDF format: view with Adobe Reader).

For more related information on this topic, you can explore the following subject headings in our library catalog:
Comments? or Questions?


October 28, 2008

Tonight, PBS NOVA will televise a new program about fractals called Hunting the Hidden Dimension.

What is a fractal? A fractal: In addition to information about the program. the PBS fractals website contains a number of informative and interactive online features, including information about Benoit Mandelbrot (the writer of the famous book The Fractal Geometry of Nature and widely considered "the father or fractals" ), as well as contemporary applications of fractals throughout the world.

For more information on the fascinating phenomenon of fractals, check out these sites: Members of Thrall can also use our Encyclopedias (such as Britannica or World Book) and General Research Databases (such as Expanded Academic ASAP or MasterFILE Premier) to find more information on fractals.
Comments? or Questions?

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

October 1, 2008

Just in time for Cyber Security Awareness Month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cyber security website OnGuard Online has been revised and expanded to provide improved and expanded coverage of online security topics of interest to anyone using a computer.

Topics covered at the site include: Broadband, Computer Security, Cross-Border Scams, E-mail Scams, Identity Theft, Internet Auctions, Laptop Security, Malware, Online Investing, Online Shopping, P2P Security, Phishing, Social Networking Websites, Spyware, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), and Wireless Security.

The Spanish version of the website (Alerta en Línea) has also been renovated.

You can read more about the changes and improvements in the FTC's press release: "Cyber Security Site Gets an Upgrade - Makeover Marks National Cyber Security Awareness Month".
Comments? or Questions?

Large Hadron Collider Experiment

September 11, 2008

Last year, we blogged about the Large Hadron Collider experiment as its construction neared completion.

Yesterday the LHC went live.

Scientists hope to use the massive particle "supercollider" to confirm existing physics theories or to discover new information about the universe.

You can read more about the LHC, its various experiments, and related concepts by visiting the sites listed below:

General Information about LHC

Individual Particle Experiments Conducted at the LHC


Higgs Boson Particle

If you'd like to brush up on some physics concepts, you might also want to visit the Physics and Sciences sections of our Ready Reference web guide or check out related materials available in the library catalog.

In addition to these websites, you can also explore our article databases (under the Encyclopedias, Science, or General Research categories).

Of course, don't forget our excellent reference and circulating collections in print! We have updated encyclopedias, specialized science reference works, and more for all ages.

Physics can be found in the 530s section of our shelves (at Reference or in our circulating nonfiction shelves). While there you can also explore other math and science titles located throughout the 500s section.
Comments? or Questions?

FCC Parents' Place

August 12, 2008

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a special place at their website to "help parents deal with, decipher, and monitor the communications that their children can access."

Topics include: Children's TV Rules, TV Programming, TV Ratings, TV Channel Blocking, Limiting TV Commercials, Obscenity/Indecency, Telephone - 900 Numbers, Internet - Children's Access, Emergency - Amber Plan, and Media and Childhood Obesity.

Please click here to access the FCC Parents' Place website.

You can also try these library catalog searches to explore related items available in the library system:
Comments? or Questions?

Super Earths

June 17, 2008

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has announced a major finding in the search for exoplanets (planets beyond our solar system, also known as "extrasolar planets"):

"A Trio of Super-Earths": ESO reports "European astronomers have found a system of three super-Earths around the star HD 40307."

ESO is also announcing a secondary finding with deeper implications for the presence of many more exoplanets than some astronomers were expecting. ESO's report suggests "one solar-like star out of three harbours short orbit, low-mass planets."

For more information about exoplanets, check out our earlier blog post "Earthlike Planet Discovery" as well as the Planetary Society's Extrasolar Planets page and their Catalog of Exoplanets.

For more information about the so-called "Super Earths" you can check out this article at Wikipedia (as always, note their disclimaer).

The library catalog also contains items on the topic of Extrasolar Planets.
Comments? or Questions?

GLAST Telescope

June 11, 2008

This afternoon NASA announced the successful launch of GLAST, the Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope.

NASA says GLAST will give astronomers "a superior tool to study how black holes," while physicists will be able to use it "to study subatomic particles at energies far greater than those seen in ground-based particle accelerators." NASA also hopes cosmologists can use GLAST to learn more about the "birth and early evolution of the Universe."

For more information, check out these sites:
Comments? or Questions?

Fastest Computer Ever

June 9, 2008

Today IBM has announced the creation of the fastest supercomputer ever.

Nicknamed the "Roadrunner," the computer is said to have shattered all previous speed records held by other supercomputers, doing so while also reportedly achieving improved ("greener") use of energy.

Thes advances were made possible, in part, by IBM's collaborative research and development in video game hardware, namely the Sony Playstation (PS3), which incorporated a new "cell processor" architecture capable of meeting the extreme computational demands of real time video gaming software and intense 3D graphics.

You can read more about the new supercomputer this press release from IBM: "Roadrunner Smashes the Petaflop Barrier"

To learn more about supercomputers, you can click here to see what information exists in the library system on the topic.
Comments? or Questions?

WorldWide Telescope

May 16, 2008

Microsoft has created new software that allows you to explore the universe through your computer.

Microsoft's own introduction to this service describes The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) as "a virtual telescope" that combines "imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world for a seamless exploration of the universe."

The WWT software is currently available to Windows users.

Click here to visit the WWT website.

If you do not have a Windows operating system on your computer, or if you would like to check out some alternatives, click here for an earlier blog post of ours called "See the Stars!", which lists other free online and downloadable planetariums and simulations of the universe.
Comments? or Questions?

Phoenix Mission to Mars

May 14, 2008

NASA's latest mission to the planet Mars is called the Phoenix Mars Lander, which is said to be "designed to study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian arctic's ice-rich soil" (from the Mission page at the University of Arizona).

For news, images, animations, and other information ab ut this mission you can visit these sites:
Comments? or Questions?

Human-Computer Interactions in 2020

April 9, 2008

On April 2, 2008, Microsoft Research published a report and details of a forum held on March 15-16, 2007 called "HCI 2020: Human Values in a Digital Age."

HCI stands for "Human-Computer Interaction."

Microsoft indicates the purpose of the forum "was to gather luminaries in computing, design, social sciences, and scientific philosophy to discuss, debate and help formulate an agenda for human-computer interaction (HCI) over the next decade and beyond."

Their report ("Being Human: Human-Computer Interaction in the Year 2020") examines "how emerging computer technologies will change our lives by 2020."

Accompanying the report is a separate downloadable guide for readers (see link below). The guide helps clarify the intentions of this study through statements such as the following: "If we devote time and thought now to understand how ongoing technological progress will alter our interaction with the computer, we can begin to see how we may live in the future."

You can read more about the HCI meeting and its findings by following these links:
Comments? or Questions?

Arthur C. Clarke

March 19, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, one of the most prolific and visionary fiction and nonfiction authors of all time, has passed away.

You can learn more about the author at the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation website which provides a biography as well as a bibliography of the author's major works.

Most popular perhaps for his story 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke became a major inspiration among science fiction writers as well as scientists and others in and beyond academia, as he imagined and anticipated a number of technological developments, including space satellites, cryogenic suspension, and even the infamous "Y2K Millenium Bug."

The BBC has published an interesting article outlining his "predictions."

Here are some more links to help you discover or rediscover this author's literary and scientific contributions:
Comments? or Questions?


Feburary 1, 2008

BOINC stands for "Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing." The BOINC project makes freely available software that enables you to "Use the idle time on your computer (Windows, Mac, or Linux) to cure diseases, study global warming, discover pulsars, and do many other types of scientific research."

Popular projects include SETI@home, where your computer can participate in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence by analyzing radio signals from space, and Rosetta@home, which conducts protein analyis in hopes of helping to find cures for major human diseases.

Here's how it typically works: once registered at BOINC, you get to select one or more projects that interest you, download their software, and then choose how often your computer participates in those programs.

In technical circles, this kind of setup is known as "distributed computing," since the project is divided up into smaller projects and distributed to computers worldwide. By tapping the processing power of thousands of computers, these projects can achieve results that would otherwise take even a "supercomputer" or "mainframe" years to complete.

You can find more information about BOINC by clicking here.
Comments? or Questions?

Messenger to Mercury

January 14, 2008

Another exciting space exploration mission is currently in progress: MESSENGER, which stands for "MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging."

Described by NASA as "the first orbital study of the innermost planet," the MESSENGER mission promises to yield new insights into the planet that orbits closest to the sun in our solar system.

Click the MESSENGER link above to visit the website and to see some of the first images to be provided as the probe draws closer to the planet.
Comments? or Questions?

New NASA Website

December 3, 2007

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has a new and improved website.

Aside from a more modern appearance, there are new features, such as blogs, tags, widgets, and feeds, along with new paths to existing web pages about space exploration.

Click here to check out the new NASA portal!
Comments? or Questions?

Mapping Antarctica

November 29, 2007

LIMA, the Landsat Image Mosaic Of Antarctica is said to bring "the coldest continent on Earth alive in greater detail than ever before through this virtually cloudless, seamless, and high resolution satellite view of Antarctica."

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), British Antarctic Survey (BAS), NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) created the LIMA mosaic from over than 1,000 images.

Once at the LIMA website, you can scroll and zoom around Antarctica and check out many fascinating land formations. Maps and fact sheets are also available at that site.
Comments? or Questions?

Amazon Kindle

November 20, 2007 has introduced its own eBook reader called Kindle. You can check it out at their site, which has some video demonstrations and technical specifications, including which kinds of eBook files it actually supports.

Some commentators and news services on the web are responding to this development and exploring related eBook format support matters.

If you are new to the world of eBooks, you might not know that eBooks can be stored in many different formats:

Some eBooks (also called "e-texts" or "etexts") available on the web are stored as plain text (.TXT), such as files made available through Project Gutenberg.

Many texts are stored in the Adobe PDF Portable Document Format. PDFs are very popular around the web, since they can preserve the way documents were intended to appear. Many government documents we feature in our blogs and our government information services like GovSites are PDFs.

Some texts are stored as HTML (HyperText Markup Language - the same format web pages are made of), while some can exist as Microsoft Word Document (.DOC) files or Rich Text Format (RTF) files.

Adobe has the Adobe Reader, while Microsoft has its Microsoft Reader, as do Mobipocket and Palm their own readers and requirements. Other companies, such as Sony, offer their own eBook readers as well, and there are more file formats out there.

Why so many formats? Because various technologies connected with electronic text have been in development for many years in different areas around the world, information has been published in whatever format(s) might have been considered "best," cheapest, most efficient, or supported at the time.

As word processors and computers developed advanced capabilities, new formats were created. Such activity generally continues today, bringing about new technological possibilities while, in some cases, introducing potential compatibility issues, new limitations, and even demands for new computer software and/or specialized hardware.

In addition to different formats, many texts, such as those available the Ramapo Catskill Library System (RCLS), require special DRM (Digital Rights Management) compatible viewers, since those texts are digitally protected and can be viewed only for certain periods of time and/or on specific eBook readers.

The same is true of eAudio books: they exist in different formats and will only play on certain media players. Some MP3 players support the "Plays for Sure" standard, while other media players like the iPod can support other special (proprietary) formats.

If you're interested in players compatible with library system eAudio books, you can follow the OverDrive link provided at the RCLS eFiles site that offers some suggestions.

If you'd like to learn more about eBook and eAudiobook players, check out the "Guided Tour" and "Need Help?" pages at the RCLS eFiles website.

Will there ever be one eBook standard that plays on anything? As eBook technology matures, there are emerging standards, such as .epub, that might make eBooks more compatible and "interoperable" with different eBook readers and computer operating systems.

You can read up on some recent advances in some of those efforts at the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), "the trade and standards association for the digital publishing industry."
Comments? or Questions?

Back to the Moon

October 27, 2007

China National Space Administration (CNSA) has launched a new probe to the moon. You can follow the mission on their website.

Japan's own KAGUYA moon probe mission (SELENE), which we referred to in an earlier blog post, now has its own dedicated website.

NASA has some information about why there is continued interest in Earth's moon in its Moon, Mars, and Beyond website.

NASA also offers an extensive article summarizing prior moon missions.

For more information about the moon, check out these links:
Comments? or Questions?

Apple OS X Leopard

October 26, 2007

Apple's latest OS X computer operating system is called Leopard. You can read more about Leopard's "300+ new features" at Apple's OS X web page.
Comments? or Questions?

Allen Telescope Array

October 11, 2007

The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute has announced the activation of 42 (out of 350 to be built) new radio telescopes designed to scan the universe for signals potentially indicative of intelligent civilizations existing beyond Earth.

You can their press release at the following link: Allen Telescope Array Begins Scientific Observations
Comments? or Questions?

Dawn, New Horizons

October 10, 2007

Two new and exciting space exploration missions from NASA are underway:
For more information about past, current, and future missions at NASA and elsewhere in the world, including Japan's current mission to the moon (SELENE), check out our Space Exploration links in our Ready Reference web guide.

You might also want to check out our Resilient Rovers post in this blog to catch up on the latest news on the Mars rovers.
Comments? or Questions?

Google Docs

September 19, 2007

Google has expanded its online services to include Google Docs, an online word processor and presentation software suite that can read popular file formats and enable you to edit existing files as well as create new ones. It is also said you can share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with other users.

There is a tour of Google Docs as well as a Google Docs Help Center with answers to frequently asked questions.
Comments? or Questions?


September 18, 2007

IBM has announced a new line of office software called Lotus Symphony, which IBM has described as "a suite of free software tools for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations."

You can read IBM's press release about this software at this link, or you can click here to visit the Lotus Symphony website to learn more about this software.

If the phrase of "free office software" sounds familiar, you might remember a comparable offering called OpenOffice, which we covered earlier in this blog.
Comments? or Questions?

Resilient Rovers

September 12, 2007

Remember the Mars rovers? Well, they're still out there, exploring the planet while sending us back remarkable images.

The two rovers, named Spirit and Opportunity, were launched in 2003 and landed in 2004. They were each originally scheduled for 90 days of work.

Years later, they continue to defy expectations, despite harsh weather conditions and challenging terrain. Recently they braved a massive planetary sand storm.

You can read about their extended missions and view their amazing images at these official NASA websites: Other non-NASA related websites include:
Comments? or Questions?

See the Stars!

August 22, 2007

Google (in partnership with NASA, Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and the Digital Sky Survey Consortium) has updated its Google Earth software to include images of and information about planets, stars, constellations, galaxies, and other objects in and beyond the solar system.

As with Google Earth, you can zoom, pan, and rotate the display, randomly navigate the area, as well as search for known celestial hotspots. Google's software is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

If Google Earth is not your thing, you might want to check out Stellarium, an open source planetarium that simulates the night sky in 3D, showing you both the stars as well as illustrations of the constellations in real time. Stellarium is said to be available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

For even more heavenly views and astronomical information, check out the Astronomy and Space Exploration categories in our Ready Reference web guide.

For more information, check out the many related books and videos available at Thrall and throughout the library system.
Comments? or Questions?

High Speed Internet

August 10, 2007

If you are thinking about upgrading your Internet dial-up connection to high speed ("broadband"), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published a helpful Consumer Fact sheet: High-Speed Internet Access - "Broadband".

Their fact sheet answers some of the following questions: What is broadband? How does broadband work? What are the advantages of broadband? What types of broadband are available?

Learn about DSL, wireless, fiber optic, cable modem, and satellite Internet services.

For more information about Internet access and other advanced topics, such as setting up your own computer network at home or your place of business, check out these searches in the library catalog: Internet, computer networks.
Comments? or Questions?

Windows 7

July 23, 2007

According to recent reports appearing in technology media news and other news sources, including ZDNet and CNET, Microsoft's next version of the Windows operating system (formely codenamed "Vienna" and now referred to by its developers as "Windows 7") could debut in as early as three years (2010).

While Microsoft has not yet, as of this blog post, released new and more specific details regarding the successor to its latest operating system Windows Vista, elsewhere there is:

If you are a Windows user who still hasn't caught up to learning about Windows Vista yet, check out this blog post and be sure to come to the library and check out our computer book collection.
Comments? or Questions?

Weird Life

July 10, 2007

A report just released from the National Resource Council suggests the search for life elsewhere in the universe be expanded to consider "weird life," which is explained by NRC as "life with an alternative biochemistry to that of life on Earth."

Click here to read their press release and to read their full report online. An "Executive Summary" is also available (PDF format; Adobe Reader required).
Comments? or Questions?

Cyberbullying, Teens, Internet Safety

June 30, 2007

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has released a report concerning the topic of Internet-based bullying among teenagers: Cyberbullying and Online Teens.

Their report focuses on "a range of annoying and potentially menacing online activities."

Another website,, explores the many issues teens and other users may encounter when frequenting "social networking" websites: Social Networking Sites: A Parent's Guide.

At we offer a variety of related materials, including a one page printable "Social Networking" handout for all users as well as a brief online course called "Web Awareness."

Additional titles on the subject of Internet safety are available in the library system.

Get the facts and start enjoying safer and more positive online experiences today!
Comments? or Questions?

Energy Awareness Report

June 19, 2007

As part of 1E's Energy Awareness Campaign, a new report has been released concerning energy consumption of computers in the United States: U.S. PC Energy Report 2007 (PDF format; Adobe Reader required).
Comments? or Questions?

Virtual Rome

June 12, 2007

After over ten years of work, the University of Virginia, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Cultural Virtual Reality Lab, along with UCLA's Experiential Technologies Center and Politecnico di Milano have announced the first edition of a virtual version of ancient Rome.

This project, known as "Rome Reborn," seeks to recreate ancient Rome with unprecedented detail and accuracy. The collaborative project is said to be ongoing and will contain even more details and refinements in successive versions.

Here is the University of Virginia's press release for more information.
Comments? or Questions?


June 12, 2007

Apple is now making its popular Safari web browser available to Windows users as a beta version.
Comments? or Questions?

Wireless Electricity

June 8, 2007

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are reporting they have successfully conducted what they call "WiTricity" (wireless electricity) in a recent experiment involving a lightbulb powered wirelessly across two unconnected coils.

You can read about their "WiTricity" project at this link.

The report suggests possible future applications of this technology may include wirelessly-rechargeable laptop computers and MP3 players along with other consumer electronic devices.
Comments? or Questions?

Google Maps Update

June 1, 2007

Google Maps has a new feature called "Street View" which allows you to zoom in on some areas, such as New York City, and see 3D panoramic views at the street level.

These views are actual photographs capturing everything (and everyone) that was at that location when the pictures were taken by Google.

Google has a video introduction to this new feature as well as a help page. The Adobe Flash Player plugin is required.

Our Ready Reference guide contains links to other maps sites you might find useful.
Comments? or Questions?

700 Years

May 17, 2007

New York Public Library has published a new digital exhibition at their website:

"Pictures of Science: 700 Years of Scientific and Medical Illustration"

They describe their exhibit as having "more than 340 images from the thirteenth through the early twentieth century, in the fields of astronomy, chemistry, geology, mathematics, medicine, and physics, as represented by manuscript illuminations, engravings, lithographs, and photographs."

You can browse or search their collection.
Comments? or Questions?

Large Hadron Collider

May 15, 2007

Have you heard of the Large Hadron Collider? It is believed the LHC can help scientistis reveal some of nature's deepest secrets.

Colliders are large tunnels built by scientists to study collisions between particles of matter. Studies of such collisions in the past have allowed scientists to understand more about matter and to peer further into the mechanics of the physical universe.

LHC is not the first collider, but it is said to be among the largest and most powerful of them. What also makes the LHC notable is its mission: "To smash protons moving at 99.999999% of the speed of light into each other and so recreate conditions a fraction of a second after the big bang."

The "big bang" is what many people in and beyond the scientific community believe the universe originated 13 to 14 billion years ago.

The LHC FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions page) provides additional information on the project, along with some sci-fi-like concepts such as "mini big bangs" and "tiny black holes."

For more information on colliders and related concepts, try these links:
Comments? or Questions?

Cosmic Cultures

May 9, 2007

SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has published an interesting article about culture as it might arise throughout the universe: "Culture in the Cosmos"

If you find the topic of life or intelligent life beyond Earth interesting, you might want to explore some of these links as well:
Comments? or Questions?

Brightest Supernova

May 6, 2007

Scientists at the Chandra X-Ray Observatory website have published information on what is being called the "brightest supernova ever."

You can read their report here.

For more information on supernovas (also spelled as supernovae) try these links:
Comments? or Questions?

Inspired by Nature

May 3, 2007

IBM has announced it will be developing computer chips said to be inspired by nature.

Here are links to their press releases: If you'd like to learn more about microprocessors and related technologies, try these links:
Comments? or Questions?

This Month in Exploration

May 3, 2007

NASA highlights past explorations which happened in each month of the year: This Month in History

If you'd like to read more about explorations, either historic, current, or space-related, here are some links for you to try:
Comments? or Questions?

Silverlight Beta Download

April 30, 2007

Microsoft has released a beta version of its new Silverlight media player for both Macs and PCs.

You can learn more about Silverlight at the above link as well as this other blog post.
Comments? or Questions?

Unlimited Potential

April 26, 2007

Microsoft has launched a new ambitious outreach and education initiative that is global in scope. They are calling their endeavor "Unlimited Potential," which they describe as "helping individuals and communities around the globe achieve their goals and dreams through relevant, accessible, and affordable technologies."
Comments? or Questions?

Building Bots

April 26, 2007

The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, with support from Google, Intel, and Microsoft has announced development of a series robots they say anyone can build using "off-the-shelf parts."

Their announcements can be read here in their press release ("Carnegie Mellon Unveils Internet-Controlled Robots That Anyone Can Build by Following the Right Recipe") and also here at the "TeRK" website.

The project is known as the Telepresence Robot Kit, "Educational Robotics - Vehicles for Teaching and Learning."

You can learn more about robots by following these links to items in the library catalog: robots, robotics, artificial intelligence.

You can also check out the Science & Technology section of our Current Interests guide for news sources about robots, artificial intelligence, and related topics.
Comments? or Questions?

Earthlike Planet Discovery

April 25, 2007

The European Southern Observatory has announced the discovery of another world beyond our solar system, a planet they are comparing to Earth in terms of size, composition, and potential habitability.

You can read their press release here.

Some articles from various news agencies can be found in our article databases, as well as astronomy websites indexed in our Ready Reference web guide.

The subject of "other worlds" beyond Earth (called "exoplanets" by scientists) recently came up in our Environment blog in the post "Non-green Plants on Other Worlds." At that post you'll find some more links to very interesting information about ongoing exoplanetary discoveries.
Comments? or Questions?

Hubble's Birthday Present

April 24, 2007

Scientists operating the Hubble Space Telescope are celebrating its 17th birthday with an unprecedented release of ultra high-resolution panoramic images of the Carina Nebula.

You can view these images in different sizes and formats at their website as well as read some articles accompanying those downloads.

If you'd like to read up on nebulae, galaxies, or other astronomical topics, check out these links:
Comments? or Questions?

Sun in 3D

April 23, 2007

NASA has published the first images of the sun in 3D at their website.

The images come from the STEREO Mission. Both 2D and 3D images have been posted at the STEREO website.

If you are a Thrall patron you can explore articles and illustrations through our online databases and encyclopedias (including the complete Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book Encyclopedia), all of which you can enjoy free access to as a member of our library.

Click here to view related titles in the library catalog.
Comments? or Questions?

Ubuntu's Feisty Fawn

April 19, 2007

The latest version of the increasingly popular Linux operating system distribution known as Ubuntu has been published today.

"Feisty Fawn" (Version 7.04) contains a number of new features and revisions, and brings more stability and support, things that has earned this particular variant of Linux much interest among users interested in exploring operating systems than ones that have come with their computers.

The Linux operating system, in general, is very capable yet can be a challenge even for "power users" to install and configure. Ubuntu, which in African means "humanity to others" (also "I am what I am because of who we all are"), brings some ease to the installation process.

A "Live CD" is a special version of Linux that runs from the CD drive and allows you to preview the operating system without installing it. Here is some more information about that at

Downloads of Linux are typically huge (>600MB) and are therefore inaccessible to Internet users still on dial-up connections. Ubuntu also offers a free CD request service you can try.

To learn more about Ubuntu, visit their What Is Ubuntu page.

Some books on Ubuntu are also available in the library system. For even more titles on Linux, visit our growing computer book collection at Thrall or click here for a list of Linux-related titles. is another informative site you can visit.
Comments? or Questions?

Mozilla Thunderbird 2.0

April 19, 2007

The Mozilla Foundation, creators of the popular free web browser called Firefox, have released the second major version of their free Thunderbird e-mail program.

New features are said to include improved spam filtration and customizable views.
Comments? or Questions?

Internet Radio Update

April 17, 2007

The Copyright Royalty Board has published its decision regarding radio webcasts: "Determination of Rates and Terms for Webcasting for the License Period 2006-2010 in [Docket No. 2005-1 CRB DTRA] Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings and Ephemeral Recordings." (document in PDF format)

Reactions to the decision and what it might mean for the future of some Internet based radio broadcasters are being posted around the web by various commentators and individuals.

As a timely reminder, members of Middletown Thrall Library can enjoy free access to classical and world music on the web through our subscription databases, such as, Smithsonian Global Sound, and African American Song.

You also have free access to extensive classical and jazz CD collections at Thrall as well as audio CDs in all genres throughout the library system through our library catalog.
Comments? or Questions?

Was Einstein Right?

April 16, 2007

The Gravity Probe B (GP-B) Relativity Mission, a collaborative effort consisting of Stanford University, NASA, and Lockheed Martin, is an effort to determin if Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity is correct. You can read about their findings at the above GP-B link.

If you are interested in Einstein, check out our Booklovers blog for information on a newly published biography as well as links to more information about his work and theories.
Comments? or Questions?

Microsoft Silverlight

April 16, 2007

Microsoft has announced a new technology called "Silverlight" they claim will help them deliever the "next generation of media experiences on the web."

You can read their press release for more information on this development.
Comments? or Questions?

Adobe Media Player

April 16, 2007

Adobe has announced the birth of a new media player in the following press release:

"Adobe Unveils Next Generation Internet Video Solution".
Comments? or Questions?

Mystery of Disappearing Bees

April 16, 2007

Honey bees are reportedly disappearing throughout the world, and many experts are bewildered by the phenomenon known as "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD).

The American Beekeeping Federation has an article on the situation: "Honey Bee Die-Off Alarms Beekeepers, Crop Growers, Researchers."

The ABF also links to the MAAREC - Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium, which has a related section at their site called: Colony Collapse Disorder.

There are some in-depth articles from major newspapers and articles that can be found using our article databases (try using bees disappear as search terms in Expanded Academic ASAP, or try New York Newspapers to read the article from the New York Times).

Articles online include: You can also try this sample search (bees disappearing) in Google News.

A quotation attributed to Albert Einsten reminds us of the importance of bees in relation to human survival, which depends on bees to pollinate food crops: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left."
Comments? or Questions?

Blogging Code of Conduct

April 14, 2007

Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media has published a draft of a code of conduct for bloggers. Through it he hopes to advocate higher civility in exchanges.

Many blogs feature reactions from readers, and some of those reactions can take upon different tones depending on what is being responded to in the original blog post. Sometimes readers react to other readers and engage in debates or emotional exchanges that can quickly escalate to include topics and opinions unrelated to the original post.
Comments? or Questions?


April 12, 2007 has a brief introduction to OLED technology, something that will be appearing in consumer devices such as televisions (and possibly clothing!) in the very near future.

OLED stands for "organic light-emitting diodes," and they are said to be able to display brighter pictures while using less power than older LED (light-emitting diodes) and LCD (liquid crystal display) technologies.

To learn more about HDTV technologies in general, be sure to check out our earlier post on that topic in this blog.
Comments? or Questions?

T-Rex Sequenced

April 13, 2007

Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are reported as having captured and sequenced portions of collagen protein from a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil estimated to be 68 million-year-old.

You can read about their findings at their site.

You might also want to check the library catalog for some of the many books and videos about the T-rex as well as dinosaurs in general.

As a member of Middletown Thrall Library you have FREE access to the complete online multimedia editions of both Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book Encyclopedia. Login using your library card and explore the many dinosaur articles and illustrations they provide.

Other excellent databases offering related articles are freely available to Middletown Thrall Library members, including Ebsco General Science Collection, SIRS KnowledgeSource, and Searchasaurus.
Comments? or Questions?

Solar Power Goes 3D

April 12, 2007

The Georgia Institute of Technology has published an article on recent research and potential advances in solar power technology through the use of newly developed three-dimensional solar cells.

As more people consider global warming and climate change and other environmental issues and developments, there is increasing interest in alternative and renewable energy sources.

You can catch up on recent articles on these topics through our article databases (using, for example, Gale's Expanded Academic ASAP database or Ebsco's MasterFile Premiere).

Our library catalog also contains titles you might find interesting. Try some of these related subject searches to see if there are some books or videos you would like to borrow: Also feel free to call our Reference Department or ask our librarians a question online if you're interested in learning more about solar power or renewable energy sources.
Comments? or Questions?


April 2, 2007

EMI, self-described as the "world's largest independent music company," has announced it will be making available DRM-free downloads to consumers, beginning with Apple's iTunes store.

DRM stands for "Digital Rights Management" and is a term used to describe technologies designed to protect digital song files (such as MP3s) from being improperly duplicated.

Unfortunately, this has caused some problems, including incompatibilities and limitations, with a major example being eAudio books in the library system. which do not work with iPod MP3 players because they use Microsoft's version of DRM, which iPods do not support.

As a result, many consumers face the possibilities of not being able to access such files, either through their local libraries or through downloads they have purchased. EMI's news will be welcome to many people and could lead to more consumer-friendly ways for purchasing and playing digital music.

On a related note, Steve Jobs of Apple has posted his "Thoughts on Music" at, reflecting on the nature of DRM and encouraging the music industry to consider moving to a DRM-free model for the benefit of consumers.
Comments? or Questions?

Copyleft and GPL3.0

March 30, 2007

You have heard of copyright, but have you ever heard of copyleft? Seriously! Copyleft attempts to preserve the fact an author has created something, such as a computer program, but then, unlike copyright, defines terms in which such a creation can be modified and distributed.

The Free Software Foundation explains: "To copyleft a program, we first state that it is copyrighted; then we add distribution terms, which are a legal instrument that gives everyone the rights to use, modify, and redistribute the program's code or any program derived from it but only if the distribution terms are unchanged. Thus, the code and the freedoms become legally inseparable." (quoted from their Copyleft page).

These terms relate to the GPL (General Public License), and, as it concerns most people, these terms define the way some major software titles and operating systems, particular those involving Linux (see also this link), are developed and distributed over the Internet.

Currently the GPL is being reexamined and revised to take into consideration newly developed technologies like DRM (Digital Rights Management) and other issues. There is a draft of GPL3 at the Free Software Foundation website (updated March 28, 2007) as well as the original press release (dated June 2005) concerning proposed revisions in licensing terms.
Comments? or Questions?

Intel Previews New Chip Technology

March 30, 2007

Computer chip manufacturer Intel has published some details about its next generation of chips.
Comments? or Questions?

HDTV 101

March 29, 2007

If you're interested in learning about HDTV and the different options presently available to you, here are some sites for your perusal:
There are some books on HDTV available as well in the library system that might interest you.
Comments? or Questions?

DTV Countdown

March 29, 2007

As reported on, "Congress passed a law on February 1, 2006, setting a final deadline for the DTV transition of February 17, 2009." What does this mean? explains at this link.

Comments? or Questions?

Apple Bootcamp Updated for Vista Support

March 29, 2007

As you might already know, Apple's Boot Camp service enables users to install the Windows operating system alongside Apple's own operating system, OS X.

Boot Camp has been reportedly been updated to support the latest Windows opearting system, Vista. Follow the link above for more information.
Comments? or Questions?

Digital Molecular Matter

March 29, 2007

An interesting development reported by LucasArts is said to produce a stronger sense of realism in games along with more convincing interactity between players and digital objects:

Through a new technology called "Digital Molecular Matter", virtual environments are said to contain objects which, when interacted with, would react as their real world counterparts would, taking into consideration motion, weight, physical forces, and other factors.

Another technology discussed at the same link above goes by the name of "Euphoria," which is described as a "behavior-simulation engine" capable of emulating, to a degree, the unpredictable nature of the real world.

Advances in video game technologies can often lead to new possibilites in other types of software, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, which in turn can have multiple impacts and applications in many fields of study including health, business, and education.
Comments? or Questions?

Apple's OS X Leopard Preview

March 27, 2007

Apple's new OS X operating system, known as Leopard, is being previewed at the website.

Leopard is said to build upon advances made in the popular Tiger version of their operating system.

Highlights of Leopard include a Time Machine backup service, new e-mail features, and a desktop manager called Spaces.

We will be adding Leopard-related titles as they become available to our ever-expanding computer book collection at Middletown Thrall Library.
Comments? or Questions?


March 27, 2007

OpenOffice is one of many software titles available on public computers at Middletown Thrall Library. What is it? Have you ever heard of Microsoft Office or Microsoft Word? OpenOffice is a free and open source alternative to Microsoft's capable yet costly software.

OpenOffice allows you to use a word processor, for typing letters/reports/novels/etc., put together presentations (similar to Microsoft's "PowerPoint presentations"), work with numerical figures in spreadsheets (as you would in Microsoft's Excel program), create and search databases, and do advanced desktop publishing. All for free!

OpenOffice can open and save to many popular Microsoft formats and can also be used to create PDF (Portable Document Format) files that can open and be printed in Adobe's Acrobat Reader.

Developed initially by Sun Microsystems, OpenOffice has since grown through the efforts of the open source community. "Open source" means that the source code -- the very instructions the program uses to tell the computer what to do when running the program -- has been made available. To learn more about open source, please click here.

To learn more about this software click here to visit the OpenOffice website.
Comments? or Questions?

SirsiDynix: Changes on their "Horizon"

March 27, 2007

SirsiDynix, the company providing the library catalog Thrall and all other member libraries of the Ramapo Catskill Library System use, is yet again experiencing some changes in their product offerings. The ALA (American Library Association) has a report on the situation.

What does this mean for RCLS? According to the RCLS Director, Robert Hubsher, there will be no impact on RCLS in the short term, as the current product in use (Horizon 7.4) is deemed to be meeting the library system's needs. SirsiDynix reportedly will continue to support and maintain Horizon 7.4.

If and when that situation changes, we'll keep you posted!
Comments? or Questions?


March 26, 2007

Stanford University has a very interesting distributed computing project called "Folding@home" which ties together computers around the globe to help them study protein folding and its linkage to diseases.

Under this "distributed computing" setup, many computers can work simultaneous on parts of a task that would otherwise take too long for one computer (or even a "supercomputer) to complete.

With support from National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and major companies such as Dell and Apple, as well as the support of many voluntary users, Folding@home has grown in popularity.

Participation is free and simply involves downloading some software on to a computer that can spare some time and help run their simulation.

If you are interested in participating, you can visit the Folding@home website for more details and computer requirements.
Comments? or Questions?

And you thought your Internet connection was fast?

March 26, 2007

Reuters news network has a report on a new superfast chip currently being developed by IBM. "Superfast" as in being able to download "an entire high-definition movie in a single second" -- really fast!

According to a related article from PC World, the time and energy-saving chip might become available in various forms to consumers sometime in 2010.
Comments? or Questions?

"A Fresh Start for the Internet"

March 23, 2007

MIT Technology Review is reporting on efforts at Stanford University to help revise the Internet.

Stanford's program, called the Clean Slate Design for the Internet, seeks to make the Internet "safer, more transparent, and more reliable."
Comments? or Questions?

New report from MIT: "Top Ten Emerging Technologies"

March 15, 2007

An interesting new report has been published by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in their TechnologyReview publication:

Click here to read their report and catch up on "Augmented Realities," "Nanohealing," "Neuron Control," and get a glimpse of futuristic DVD technologies that could possibly fit "100s of movies on a single DVD."
Comments? or Questions?

New Free Video Download Service

March 9, 2007

Through a new subscription with Recorded Books, Middletown Thrall Library is pleased to invite our library members to take advantage of a free on-demand video service called MyLibraryDV. Health programs, documentaries, cooking programs, movies and much more is now just a download and a click away! To get started, click here.
Comments? or Questions?

Thinking about Windows Vista?

March 8, 2007

As you've probably heard by now, Microsoft has introduced a new operating system called Vista.

An operating system (OS) enables you to operate the computer. Vista is the successor to Windows XP.

At Middletown Thrall Library we have a growing number of books in our collection about Microsoft's latest operating system. Click here to search the catalog for titles at Thrall and other libraries.

Many of these books contain illustrations and images of the operating system in action, enabling you to preview Vista's new features (and changes since XP) before attempting to upgrade your own computer.

For even more information, check out Microsoft's Vista page or browse some recent Vista headlines indexed at Google News.
Comments? or Questions?


March 8, 2007

If you haven't already noticed, on our home page is a "Downloads" link. This will take you to a list of some notable and freely available services and software on the Internet.

Here you will also find links to popular plug-ins, such as Flash, document displayers such as the Adobe Reader, e-book providers such as Project Gutenberg, and even free programs for your computer, such as OpenOffice.

Check through the list and see if there's something that interests you.
Comments? or Questions?

Daylight Saving Time Update Information for Computer Users

March 8, 2007

Due to a change in when Daily Saving Time (DST) actually begins, computers need to be updated so they can properly make the transition.

If you own a computer, you might want to visit the appropriate website below for more information: You might also consider contacting the manufacturer of your computer and any specific software titles installed on it to determine if you need to make any adjustments or are eligible for any necessary upgrades.
Comments? or Questions?

Please click here to view the latest posts in this blog.

[ Main Blogs Page ] [ Library Home Page ] [ Web Guides ] [ Ask a Librarian ]

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS!