Magazine article Information Today

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Magazine article Information Today

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Change is in the air, along with falling leaves and autumn allergens. No matter what results the presidential election brings--and, hopefully, by the time you're reading this we'll know if new residents are moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in January or not, unlike during Indecision 2000 when we were in a holding pattern for a few weeks--voters across the nation will have given pink slips to some, extended the public service of others, and brought still more into the role of elected official for the first time. Whether you're still demanding a Florida recount from the last election or think John Kerry is a "girlie man," to use the term coined by the current governor of Callie-fornya, all IT readers will agree that this month's articles from Computers in Libraries, The CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research, and Searcher are undisputed winners.

OPAL: The United Way

Forget the divisiveness of the red states versus the blue states on a U.S. map. Online Programming for All Libraries (OPAL) is a great illustration that unity produces much better results than discord. As Lori Bell and Thomas A. Peters write in "Online Programming Can Be a Library Oasis on the Internet" (CIL, Nov./Dec. 2004), OPAL, spearheaded by organizations such as the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center and the Alliance Library System, is helping to create "a place where patrons can participate in book discussions, children can attend virtual story times, [and] persons of all ages can learn how to search the online catalog in interactive training and demonstration." Through iVocalize software, OPAL is able to provide text chat and Voice over IP, two basic forms of human-to-human communication, iVocalize also enables co-browsing of the Web and the sharing of PowerPoint presentations.

Getting patrons to participate in live programs isn't always easy, especially when juggling multiple time zones, but an interesting topic, such as an online discussion of The Da Vinci Code, will attract people from all over the country. Limiting the program to 60 minutes and scheduling nothing earlier than 10 a.m. EST or later than 4 p.m. PST generally accommodates all participants. Providing links to background information is a drawing point, as is allowing attendees to make their own digital recording of the event. So far, an events archive has been well-received. Based on their initial success, the OPAL developers believe it won't be long before OPAL ceases to be the only online programming oasis on the Net and is instead just one of many communities transforming a once-barren land into a programming paradise.

No Phishing Zones

While one political party will no doubt be telling tales about the big one that got away come Nov. 3, "Protect Yourself & Your Computer" by John Lescher (The CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research, Nov./Dec. 2004) offers tips on how users can avoid being reeled in by unsavory Net sharks. Blended threats, which combine the characteristics of viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and malicious code, are increasing at a significant rate. Being easy to spread, blends can cause rapid, widespread damage. Other online crime, such as phishing (using e-mails and Web sites resembling legitimate organizations to commit identity theft and fraud), is also rising at an alarming rate.

So what's a user to do? The biggest defense is to stay up-to-date by installing the patches that software vendors provide. …

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