Thursday, July 07, 2011

Want to learn maths?

I recently discovered a fantastic website with great video tutorials of secondary school (K12) maths. And I wonder, that despite my many years of surfing and browsing and searching on the Internet, I still discover new stuffs on the web regularly.

According to Khanacademy "With a library of over 2,400 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 125 practice exercises, we're on a mission to help you learn whatever you want, whenever you want, at your own pace." And I can attest to the quality of all the video that I have downloaded and watched so far from the site. It is amazing how Sal (Founder, Khan Academy) dedicated his time to do this and I am saying a big thank you to Sal and his team for giving this gift to the world.

As some one who struggled in my early school years until I had a teacher who taught maths in a way for me to understand the logic, khanacademy maths videos really brings out the simplicity and the logic in maths. This is a site parents should visit with their children and watch and/or download the topics their children are struggling with in maths.

And if you like brain teasers, (like I do) you will find some couple of interesting ones on the site too.

Oh, the website address? www.khanacademy.org

Sunday, July 03, 2011

3 sites for free e-books

The best things in life are free. There is nothing like a free lunch. These are two maxims you hear often. And the truth is … both are true. I have a lot of free stuffs I have downloaded over the Internet in the past years, but the Internet access is paid for. However like I usually tell my friends, you have paid for the Internet access, why don’t you maximise the “Returns on your Investment”

To help you do that I am writing about 3 websites I have found very useful to get free e-books.

1. Project Gutenberg. (www.gutenberg.org)

My favorite is Project Gutenberg. Here you will find a lot of books that are out of copyright in different formats including pdf, html, mobi(for kindles) and even text files. I have found on this site several books that I even have the hard copy. It has a nice search interface and also list of popular books by downloads. According to its website as at the time of this writing, there well over 36,000 books on their website.

2. Many Books. (www.manybooks.net)

This is another website offering over 29,000 free e-books. The books are categorized by genres, authors, titles and languages. You could also browse the most popular titles and recommendations. The site’s front page usually carries “Books of the week”, which is an incentive to visit at least once a week. 

3. The online books page. (onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu)

Unlike the earlier two sites, this site is more of a catalogue as it indexes over a million free e-books on the Internet. The listings follows a typical academic library format, using the Library of Congress subject headings. This is however not surprising as the site is hosted by a university. For libraries seeking to build a digital library, the site is worth dedicating some time to.


If you are like me and get addicted to building  an e-book library, you need a way to manage your collection. I recommend the excellent calibre e-book management software, which is also free and can be downloaded here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BookDB: Personal (and not so personal) library management software

Some few months back, a librarian in a University here in Nigeria had asked me whether there is a stop gap library package she could use to keep records of her library's holdings pending the time her management will approve the implementation of Koha. The idea is to have entered the holdings as they are acquired rather than do them in retrospective later. I advised her to get a Microsoft Access Database setup that could be exported as text with a view to converting to Marc and uploading to Koha later.

But two weeks ago I discover BookDB2, called by its author a Book Database and librarian. It is supposed to be a personal library management software that allows you to keep a record of your personal book holdings and also manages borrowers. In the Author's words...

"BookDB is a simple yet powerful database tool which will help you keep track of your book collection. You can create and edit publishers, authors and categories then add books using a simple entry screen. The latest version also allows you to import your books from a text file, in case you've already got them in another program."

It supports import from a text file and from Librarything. So it's nice if you want an offline management of your books when Internet Access is not available. (Very common in my clime here in Nigeria)

More importantly is that you can export out your books out in a csv text file that you cam massage to get it into Marc using MarcEdit. So rather than bothering with Access Database you could use BookDB in a pinch for a small / young library pending upgrading to a more elaborate setup like Koha.

I will be posting a brief review/tutorial on BookDB soon.So watch this space! And did I mention that BookDB is absolutely free? You can get it at www.spacejock.com

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Vufind: Binding Koha and DSpace together

I usually deploy Koha for Library Management System and DSpace for Digital Repositories. The big question usually is how to search both systems at once (federated search) from a single interface. I have read about different solutions, including Blacklight, dbwiz and Vufind

Recently, I took a look at Vufind, and installed it on Debian Squeeze. To install Vufind, I followed the documentation here. I configured Vufind to index Koha and DSpace following the very good documentation efforts by the folks at Brac University (pdf).

I had 2 major issues during the configuration and testing. The first was that I could not view the details page for records imported into Vufind from DSpace. I joined and posted the issue on the mailing list of Vufind and I received pointers towards the solution. The problem happened to come from my installation of DSpace rather than Vufind.

The second issue was that description of items was not showing up in the Vufind details page. I posted this on the mailing list again and Demian Katz, one of the lead developers, responded that it was a bug and that he will do a patch before the week ends. To my surprise a few hours later, I got a mail saying the issue has been patched. I applied the patch and hey presto, my descriptions appeared in the right places.

This kind of support in the Vufind community reminds me of the kind of Support on the Koha community, and has encouraged me to keep on poking at Vufind to discover its hidden treasures.

So far I have been able to get records from my DSpace, Koha and the Project Gutenberg into my Vufind installation. What I am working on now it to use aperture for full text indexing of pdf documents through Vufind.

And this is a big thank you to the Koha, Vufind, DSpace and the open source community at large for the wonderful work being done to bring great tools to everyone.

Keep a date with me on this Blog to learn about my adventures with Vufind.

Open Source rocks!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Laptop and the batteries



I currently use a Compaq Laptop, Presario CQ50. I've had this laptop for about 2 years and 4 months now. I am on the third battery now on this laptop. The earlier 2 batteries were so bad that they don’t provide backup for 10 minutes before the laptop goes off without warning. (This to me is actually bad as my previous laptop was an Acer Centrino Travelmate 290 which I used with the original battery for almost 4 years. Even now the battery still lasts about 30 minutes.)

I bought the third battery about 10 weeks ago, this time going for a 12 Cells 8800mAh/95Wh High Capacity Battery HSTNN-IB72. At the local store where I bought this they had 8hrs pasted on the carton. I knew this is not likely true as the 4400mAh battery that came with the laptop barely lasted 2 hours new. Several reviewers online mention the fact that the battery sometimes fall out and it also makes the laptop too heavy and that the battery lasts about 4 hours.

I found from my experience that if I totally drain the battery then it would last about 5 hours. The battery has actually fallen off on one occasion. But I find it hard to replicate by shaking the laptop. The heaviness of the battery is actually insignificant to me as the ability to keep on working easily negates whatever weight the battery adds to my backpack. I think I can say I am reasonably satisfied with the battery.

One other thing mentioned in reviews online was that the battery usually dies just after 1 year that the warranty expires. I am waiting for the 1 year mark, and I hope I won't find this true!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Koha rocks!

I love Koha! No, Koha is not a woman. Koha is an Integrated Library Management System that is open source. I have been following Koha since 2002, when, in conjunction with Projektlink Konsult Ltd, we deployed it for the Hezekiah Oluwasanmi library at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

The past three years has however seen a renewed intrest in Koha in Nigeria. We have deployed Koha in over 13 libraries these last 3 years.

Why do I love Koha?
  1. It does well what other (costing thousands of $$$) library management systems does. So you get great value for your money.
  2. It is open source, so you own your data! And get to modify the code to your heart's content.
  3. A great support community (www.koha-community.org)
  4. Its a great opportunity for libraries in developing countries like Nigeria to automate their functions.
Koha was 10 last year (2010). The Koha conference was held in New Zealand. I made a presentation via skype at the conference on the prospects and challenges of Koha in Nigeria. You can see the presentation here.

This year Koha conference will be held in Thane, India. Full details here.

Koha is so much fun that doing stuffs on it gives me great pleasure. Expect to read more about Koha in this blog!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Free Bandwidth Usage Monitoring

Recently, my senior partner decided to buy MTN Fastlink (A product of MTN Nigeria for Internet Access using a 3G Modem). He loaded the 1 day data plan with a volume limit of 150 MB. In less than an hour of browsing (checking e-mail, no downloads), his plan expired. He tried again with another 1 day, and in less than 2 hours later his plan finished.

He called my attention to it and I was quite surprised but guessed the updates on his Windows 7 laptop, which was new, may have caused it. This led me to look for a truly free bandwidth monitor application compatible with Windows 7. The last one I used on my Vista machine gave several definitely false figures.

Googling later got me several options, some not compatible with Windows 7. I downloaded some few one like Netmet (Not Win 7 compatible) and Networx.

I installed Networx and gave it a trial, and I was impressed. Contrary to what I read at a forum online, where a user was complaiing that networx consumed 20k of RAM, mine only had about 9k. The controls were quite fluid and if you are looking for a Windows 7 compatible bandwidth monitor just head over to http://www.softperfect.com/products/networx/.

I have been using Networx now for more than 2 months, on Windows Vista and have found it quite useful. And best of all, it's free.