This was given to me many years ago, and is one of my older snails. A family I used to hang out with in my church days, spotted it and had to buy it for me. In the early days I used to wear it as a puppet to entertain their kids. These days it sits in a bowl, looking out on the world.
I was a little late to the party on “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. It was first published in 2011 and I finally got round to reading it last year and the movie is coming out in 2018. It was a fun read full of 1980s pop culture references. I initially came across it because Subterranean Press released a limited edition in 2015 which quickly sold out.
Now I’m sorta wondering whether it’s worth grabbing a nice edition myself. The limited edition initially sold for US$75 from Subterranean Press and the cheapest I can find on abebooks is US$275 and they go higher, much higher. Curiously, I came across the first printing of the first edition on ebay and it was only US$125, however it’s not pristine and looks well read. I am amused the first edition is cheaper than the special edition. With that said, I’m not particularly interested in first editions myself (well unless they’re Biggles of which I have a bunch of first editions) and like to buy pretty editions, well bound with nice typesets.
It’d be nice to have a decent copy of Ready Player One but I reckon I’ve missed the boat and when the movie comes out next year, the prices will likely skyrocket. If I was in to making money, it might be worthwhile picking up a few copies now, even if they’re a little eccy and then sell them at substantial profit when everyone’s riding high on the movie release. But I’m not that sort of person and not into that whole investing thang. I like to buy nice books because I like to read nice books.
Wednesday and time to respond to an identity challenge from Paul :-) 4 questions about me and computer gear I like and I suspect question 1 and question 4 are going to be the hard ones. As this is a personal space, I tend not to talk about my work, or at least not directly. My about page provides hints of past current jobs but that’s about it.
Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is snail. I use my real name at work though even there I’d prefer to use snail but all the systems are based around official names not nicknames. Sadly. Many folk know me as snail except security and the switchboard so turning up and asking for snail ain’t gonna work :-) I am the Online Resources Specialist Librarian at the State Library of NSW and I am responsible for working with eresources, dealing with vendors, contract management, budget management, EZproxy, eresource troubleshooting and support, eresource subscriptions and digital archive purchases…and stats…and more stats. I am the Library’s representative on the NSLA eResources Consortium. 3 years ago I implemented a project for whole of domain web harvesting of all government websites under *.nsw.gov.au and I’ve been running that ever since…I’ll be commencing the primary annual captures today. I may have been blogging about the web harvesting stuff recently :)
What hardware do you use?
At work, I have a basic laptop running Windows 7 plugged into a 24″ widescreen monitor, along with a Das Keyboard Professional 4 mechanical keyboard and a Logitech trackball. I have a Jabra bluetooth hub hooked up to the desk phone which is paired to my mobile hearing aid loop, enabling me to hear telephone calls through my hearing aids.
I have a personal laptop, 2013 11″ Sony Vaio running Windows 10, which I use occasionally at work for external testing. At home, I have a mac mini connected to a 24″ widescreen monitor, with a Logitech G610 mechanical keyboard and a Logitech trackball. Behind the scenes I’m running a home server on a 4 bay QNAP TS-421 in RAID 5: each drive is 3TB for a total of 12TB which I’m primarily using it for backing all my machines, running my itunes server, and photo archive. I have a 7″ Nexus (2013) tablet, a Samsung galaxy s5 phone, and a Sony PRS-T2 ereader. Even a Psion 5mx that still works! I have several old keyboards too, assorted external hard drives and lots of USB sticks. :-)
And what software?
The machine at work is on Windows 7 and has just migrated to Office 365. The personal laptop is running Windows 10 and tends to run Open Office variants, has a virtualbox running Linux Mint, and a few other odds and ends. The mac mini is running whatever is the current MacOS and the phone and tablet are running android. I’ve never been much good at this single operating environment malarkey :-) Some of my favourite software includes:
- irfanview – image handling + screenshot editing
- MultiCommander – dual pane file explorer
- Launchy – for quickly finding files except on Windows 10 where the builtin search works well at last
- Programmer’s Notepad – general notepad replacement
- Microsoft Visual Studio Code – for programming stuff as I like the dark background and use of colour
- Simplenote – for sharing text files across all my platforms
- pocket – for sharing bookmarks across all my platforms
- thunderbird – email client
and more browser variants than I care to count including lynx.
What would be your dream setup?
I wish all my devices would talk better to each other, a universal standard for talking across different machines, operating systems and so on. More speed, more bandwidth and greater customisation options. I like things to look pretty, both the hardware and the software, and I don’t like it when fab looking customisations break things. I like working from home but like working near colleagues too and some way of merging the two environments would be fab. I want better ears to hear conversations and chit-chat.
I spend a lot of my life in front of a keyboard. I have tried other sorts of things here and there but suspect I’m stuffed with anything other than a keyboard. A physical keyboard. I do not like the lack of physical feedback from virtual keyboards. I get by with phone or tablet, swiping + predictive text works well enough but awkward for composing slabs of text and editing. I am most at home with a full keyboard.
Keyboards come in all shapes these days including small ones, big ones, some with less keys, some with all the keys, some with colours and flashing lights. Keyboards even have their own culture and groupies, depending on where you hang. “tenkeyless” is a bit of thing at the moment referring to keyboards that don’t have a numeric keypad. When I was working vendor-side, I had a series of thinkpad laptops (initially IBM then Lenovo which took over IBM’s laptop division) and work supplied an external keyboard for the office. Both the laptop and external keyboards were decent; I still have the external IBM keyboard and used it recently and it holds up.
My keyboard of choice in recent years was the logitech wave. It was comfy, felt great to type on and had a really nice feel. When I find a keyboard I like I usually get the same keyboard for work and home. My current workplace supplies a basic keyboard which is good as far as they go but I replaced it with a wave :-) If you can get away with it, it’s nice to swap in your own gear at work.
For a long time now, I’ve been reading about mechanical keyboards. These hark back to olden days when office typewriters were actual typewriters and computer keyboards emulated this approach. I’ve been trawling through my saved articles (using pocket these days) and found this fabulous article by Justine Hyde on the love of typewriters. There’s something about the click clack of old school typewriters that appeal. I’ve been using computer keyboards since I was 12 and still have fond memories of learning to type on mum’s, or was it dad’s, portable typewriter.
I used to think mechanical keyboards were a bit of a trendy thing, focused on the noise of typing and hipster, old school style…not to mention being expensive. Mechanical keyboards can be very noisy. Most modern keyboards are membrane-based where the board under the keys is a rubber membrane sending signals based on the character pressed whereas mechanical keyboards have a specific switch for each key. Modern keyboards are quiet and don’t disturb whilst everyone knows if you’re using a mechanical keyboard. Stories continued to emerge of how nice mechanicals are to type on but still, they’re eccy: the wave cost around $100 including mouse + wrist-rest, whereas a good mechanical keyboard is around $150+.
Recently I bit the bullet and went hunting for a decent mechanical keyboard. I have long admired Das Keyboard as dedicated keyboard enthusiasts, they even produce a keyboard with no labels for touch typists in pure, unadulterated style. I never actually learned to touch-type but suspect I would probably do ok on a blank keyboard. Instead I went looking for the Das Professional 4…with labels. The Das Pro 4 is regarded as the top end at around AUD$270 and doesn’t include a wrist-rest.
I popped in to Capitol Square in Sydney where there’s a nest of specialist computer shops but none had one and I eventually settled for the cheaper Logitech Orion G610 ($150) with Cherry Brown switches. A note on switches: these are the things that separate mechanical keyboards from typical membranes; each key has its own switch and Cherry is the top of the top of pile for switches. Cherry has several colours denoting noise and feel with Cherry reds generally being the loudest. My reading suggested Cherry browns are quieter while maintaining decent tactility. Competing keyboard suppliers use Cherry too but some have developed their own switches eg Logitech have developed Romero for their top end keyboards. I won’t get into the terminology of actuation points and so on as it can get a wee bit intense.
I set up the logitech g610 at home and oh my, it was orders of magnitude better than the wave. Noisy yes, but so so nice to type on. However what I hadn’t understood was just how much faster mechanical keyboards are to type on; I thought I was a fairly quick typist but am faster still on a mechanical. The g610 is beautiful to type on. Anyways I ended up ordering the Das Pro 4 (Cherry Brown) online and I set it up at work. While the Logitech G610 was an order of magnitude better than the Wave, the Das Pro 4 was that much better again and possibly quieter too. It was so much better than typing on the G610 that I’m now tempted to replace the G610 with a Das Pro 4 too. It’s all subjective: I was happy for years with the wave; I was happy with the G610, and now I’m even happier with the Das Keyboard Professional 4.
In a few days time, I’ll pop into the car and drive down to Canberra for the 8th-ish New Librarians’ Symposium – I say “ish” as I recall there was at least a 1.5, and I don’t remember if there were other in-between events. I’d like to link to some of the earlier NLS websites but ALIA’s own conference page only links back to 2008, ignoring the earlier iterations of NLS, and even the ones listed are not available because ALIA are upgrading their conference website though I don’t really understand why “upgrade” means removing access altogether. Thankfully, I’ve found the NLS2006 site on the wayback machine, along with the 2004, and even the first in 2002.
It feels a bit odd going to NLS as I am very definitely not a new librarian by a long shot. I’m probably what is termed a mid-career professional which doesn’t sit well either as I’ve never been career or goal focused mostly just wanting to work with interesting people and occasionally do fun things. To be honest, mostly just wanting to work. I s’pose one could argue that I’m going to mentor newer members of the profession but that would be nonsense as I’ve never been much of a mentor-type. With that said, I remember one of the concerns in the early days was about ensuring there was a continuity of contact between different parts of the profession and avoid that sense of cliques developing. I want to make sure I don’t end up in a clique myself and want to get to know people outside my usual circles. I’m also going because it’s always been a bloody good conference, with a good sense of engagement, a welcoming attitude and lots of fun.
So yeah, all my reasons for going are totes selfish and all about me :-)
My first NLS was in Adelaide in 2004 and I have found some of my thoughts on my previous blog iteration. I recall being blown away by it and made lots of new friends in the profession many of whom I’m still in touch with. Alan Smith, State Librarian of SA, spoke on the importance of thinking two jobs ahead and working out what you need to do in-between to get there. I’ve tried to apply that thinking but keep failing and still have no idea what I want to do next, nevermind after that. Post NLS3, I ended up on the committee for the next version, NLS2006 (we chose to use the year rather than number), 2 years later; it seemed to go pretty well and was a total blast.
I made it to one or two NLS since and I missed a few as life stuff intruded. I think the last one I attended was in Perth…which I may have gatecrashed :) I’ve been on organising committees for a few library camps and unconferences too though I don’t think I’ve been on a full blown conference committee since NLS2006. Camps/unconferences are reasonably easy to organise, however something like NLS takes 2 years of commitment to make it happen. It is a rewarding experience and I have no regrets, likewise I applaud the efforts of the NLS8 committee in making it happen.
Combining filmfest and work’s end of financial year and a systems migration to boot, gets a wee bit exhausting. To be honest, I’m usually getting exhausted by this point of the festival. I dashed from work to Dendy Newtown for a doco on Julian Assange at 6pm, Risk (Germany, USA). This film charts Assange from the release of lots of US files, touches on the court cases and throughout his continuing time in the Ecudorean embassy. Mostly it’s footage of Assange himself, talking with friends and others as he goes about his trapped life. He seems mostly detached and distant. I found the soundtrack rather muddy and hard to follow the dialogue, and of course I may have nodded off once or twice. It wasn’t bad but I didn’t feel particularly engaged with it, nor were others.
Following Risk was Mayhem (USA) was another thing altogether. Hello! Joyously violent with an excellent sense of humour, and the female co-lead, Aussie actor Samara Weaving seemed to be enjoying herself a little too much :) There’s a nasty drug in the air, literally, that removes everyone’s inhibitions, so the building is locked down for the 8 hours required for the antidote to take effect. It’s established early on that you can’t be gaoled for any crimes committed while you’re under the drug’s influence. That sets the scene nicely for people who have been done over by the company to fight their way to the top and take on the big boss. This was violent, bloody and gory…and so so excellent. Several scenes had me laughing loudly. The film had energy, a good script and actors in good form.