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Month: July 2009

Firefox Search Bar Frustrations

It’s a tiny thing, but I use it about a million times a day. It’s the FireFox Search Bar — it’s my supplier for all that Googly goodness I need in a pretty much constant stream throughout my day. I’ll probably get some sort of repetitive stress injury from the specific action of hitting ctrl-k. In fact, I sometimes even use this search bar to open a new tab since hitting ctrl-k and then enter (I have the box set to open searches in a new tab) can be easier on the hands than hitting ctrl-t sometimes.

But my search bar isn’t working, and hasn’t been for about a week now. I can ctrl-k myself there, type in my search terms, and hit enter, but where I’d expect to see a Google result list, I see a pristine Google home page. No search terms. Nothing. What’s more? I can change that Search Bar so that it says it’s searching Amazon, or IMDB, or anything, and when I type in search terms and hit enter… I get a pristine Google home page.

For a completely unrelated problem, I ended up uninstalling Firefox and and installing the new beta version, but the search bar problem didn’t go away when I did that. I poked at the internet for a couple of days trying to see if anyone had come up with a fix, but didn’t find anything. I searched through the Firefox support forum and knowledge base and found people having similar (though not necessarily the same) problems, being told to follow the directions in the knowledge base. Then the thread would be closed as “solved” before anyone could say “but I tried that already.”

Knowing a little bit about how these support forums work, I search hard before posting my own question. I know there’s no patience for people posting questions that have already been answered a million times. But I finally did, and I included in the post that I’d already tried those other directions with no success, and I’d already uninstalled/reinstalled, etc. And now I can’t find my forum post anywhere, so I’m turning to you. What do I try next? I’d really like this search bar to work. Really really really.


The Importance of Endings

Things that never end are boring. It’s not that you have to know when, specifically, something will end, but knowing that it will or can at some point changes our engagement with whatever-it-is.

I’ve always thought I wished my favorite books would never end, but that’s not actually true. The prospect of an ending catches me in between the desire to swallow a good book in one sitting and the desire to ration my reading to stave off the inevitability of reaching that last period. I’ve also slogged through my share of books that felt like they’d never end. I’d keep a running tally in my head of chapters and pages left between me and the sweet release of that back cover. That back cover became the dominant experience of the book for me. Even the cycle of having books come in and out of print makes owning copies of precious books that much more special. And imagine how life would have been if The Never Ending Story actually never had ended? It hardly bears contemplating!

A few weeks ago, I thought I had nearly recovered from the mysterious health issues that have been my constant companions for well over a year and a half now. With an end finally in sight, I suddenly found myself willing to talk about this stuff for the first time with people outside my closest circle of friends. Maybe having an end point waiting in the wings made me less afraid of either boring people or of sounding whiny or pathetic. I don’t know. All I know is that the ability to stick mostly to the past tense unlocked the topic, made it palatable. (Now, though, I think I’ll relegate it back to “most boring topic I’m obsessed with” status and hope that an end point creeps back into view sometime soon.)

All this makes me wonder about times when ends or lacks of ends may have influenced the kinds of discussions we’ve had in librarianship, and the levels of enthusiasm we were able to feel for those discussions. I wonder if implying the end of the mostly un-named Library 1.0 reinvigorated interest and discussion in libraries in general no matter which side of the Library 2.0 debate you fell on. And I wonder if the liberating concept of “perpetual beta” has, after all, sapped some of the life out of discussions of new services and tools these days. I read a line in a zine* this week that implied that it’s hard to write a story when you don’t feel you know its ending, and if everything from interfaces to service points are constantly and rapidly evolving, it can be hard to think of stories to tell that feel more cohesive than a brief status update.

*Joe Biel. “In Sickness and in Health.” The Perfect Mix Tape Segue. Number 5.

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What’s In a Term?

One of the things I love about language is how inexact it is. I went through a phase of bemoaning that very quality (“Life would be so much simpler if language were more more exact,” or even “Life would be so much simpler if all the rest of you people would use language more precisely”). When this seemed like it could become one of those fruitless grudges that I could harbor for the rest of my life, I decided to like it instead, and then discovered that I’d always liked it. I love learning what words mean to other people and comparing that to what they mean to me.

I apparently also like digressions.

On Sunday, Lori Reed asked the denizens of the LSW FriendFeed room whether they preferred the term Patron or Customer. People expressed preferences, some gave reasons for these preferences, and some proposed alternatives to both terms (with “user” being the most often mentioned).

Most of the time, I talk about “students” or “faculty,” but every once in a while, I need a good collective term. When that happens, I prefer “patron.” I appreciate the mutual respect that it implies, with my services being worthy of patronage and with patrons making the whole existence of the library possible. It may be a rather elderly term (the OED says it originated in the 12th century, after all), but the term “cottage” is even more hoary and hasn’t lost its vigor yet.

I tend not to like “customer” and “user.” When I worked in a bookstore, I sold things to customers, and I don’t enjoy selling stuff. For me, it muddies the waters, and makes me worry that the people I’m working with wonder if I’d even care if they didn’t have money. And while “user” is part of my library vocabulary (“user needs assessment” being a familiar and meaningful phrase for me), if I had to chose one term to the exclusion of all others, I’d stick with patron over user. Aside from sounding like “user” could mean “drug addict,” I mostly prefer my environment to feel less one-sided. A user is one who uses the library’s collections and services. I am one of the library’s services. A user uses me. Two of my favorite things about the work that we do is that it’s so collaborative with other members of our campus community and how much I get out of our interactions, and so I rarely think of our faculty and staff as using me.

For me, “patron” means mutual respect, and so every time I use it, I remind myself that I respect our faculty and students, and that they (ideally) respect me. If “patron” feels like disrespect to you, please don’t use it, but please don’t assume I mean disrespect when I use it.


Let the Adventures Begin

So, I did a semi-impulsive thing: I registered a domain name and set up some server space. Now, when I say “I” I actually mean the amazing people at LIShost. I haven’t actually lifted a finger yet because I’m a little intimidated by the whole thing. (By the way, Blake has already blown me away with his customer service and it’s only been a day since I asked him to put things in motion for me. He’s incredibly tolerant of stupid questions, too.) Also, when I say “semi-impulsive” I mean “been thinking about it for 2 years but was too scared until now.”

Imagine my excitement this morning when I opened the email that announced the birth of my very own web space. So cute! So full of potential (and nothing else). So…. and then I actually read the email. It started off just fine. I reproduce all but the sensitive parts here:

Welcome aboard LISHost!
Here are the details for your new domain, [my domain, which I’ll reveal when there’s anything to reveal]:

You are on the server named [server name], with an IP address of [IP address]

Me: Oh yay! … Hmmm… I wonder why it’s important that I know that IP address. WHAT HAVE I DONE??? Ok, calm down. Keep reading.

Answers to many of your questions can be found at:

Me: good, good, I’m sure I’ll have questions. I sure hope those answers aren’t written in Geek. Moving on…

When you are ready to go live with your domain on this server, make sure you have changed your DNS entry with your registrar to use our DNS servers:
[information about something called a Name Server…Hmmm]

Me: DNS? I’ll have to look that up later. “Name Server” too. So things aren’t live yet. Ok. That makes sense. I assume it’ll be apparent when I arrive at this “go live” point. I’ll worry about DNSs then. For now, just make it through this email…

Your domain will NOT go live until the DNS is updated. DNS takes time to update, so your domain may not be live for several hours Directions on how to test your domain before you go live can be found here: [URL]

Me: So much about this DNS thing. It must be important. [makes notes to look it up when I get home] And testing? Before going live? Makes sense. Also seems to indicate that things might not work. THINGS MIGHT NOT WORK? WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO??? Ok, breathe. You have friends to help you. Just keep reading for now.

**After you have made those changes to your DNS settings, BE SURE to let us know so we can add you to our DNS server.**

Me: ENOUGH WITH THE DNS THING ALREADY. SAYING IT MORE OFTEN WON’T HELP ME UNDERSTAND! Ok, Here’s some username and temporary password information. Now that language I’m familiar with. [sighs at the relief of seeing words strung together that make sense] Then…

To change your password for your username, connect using SSH to either [server name], or your domain, or the IP address: [IP address]

Me: All of this makes sense except for the “connect using SSH” part. I’ve heard of SSH, and I’m pretty sure it’s not animal, mineral, or vegetable, but that’s about all I’m sure of. [gives up on taking notes of vocabulary to learn … tears up previously taken notes, balls them up, and flings them despondently toward the recycling bin .. skims over the next few lines which list the directories I have … wonders what “log files” are, and figures that “cgi-bin” has little to do with trash bins … scrolls till the end]

Something to keep in mind, your domain name may not be live right now. The DNS system can make up to 48 hours to update. You can NOW login to the server, but your domain will most likely take a little while to be live.

Me: After all that, DNS has a surprisingly familiar ring to it. Comforting, even.

Again, welcome aboard, don’t be afraid to ask any questions
-The LISHost team

Me: Heheheheh… “don’t be afraid to ask questions” … they’ll rue the day…

So yeah, I procrastinated for a while by making all my lunches for the week, and chatting with a couple of friends, and writing most of this blog post. And then I sat down to the task of changing my password (the least I should do before publishing a blog post saying that I probably have a password sitting there, all hack-enticing, in my email). An hour later, I’ve finally conquered the password-changing task and have given myself the rest of the night off. I think this warm glow of victory will be nicely complemented by chocolate ice cream.

I sincerely hope there’s a more graphical way to navigate other basic tasks. I am not an SSH lover, and suddenly all those directory addresses that Blake told me about feel a lot less friendly than they did at first read. After all, what does a directory even LOOK like without windows and files and folders and things?? (On the other hand, maybe this is good for me. After all, I said I wanted to learn how this stuff works, right? RIGHT??)