Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Some modest, late season catnip blossoms, to break up my lists of computer project resources. (And I have more...much more.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Still More Digital Library Resources

I continue to shop around, kicking the tires on content management systems for Web sites and software for digital collections libraries. I'm planning to download Drupal (digital content management for Web sites) and experiment with it. As for Digital Collection management, I'm leaning strongly toward Archon, and have downloaded and started to play with it as a tool in managing the historical society's cataloging project.

However, all this shopping is a recursive project. As I've tried to understand the tools I've selected, I keep finding more tools that also deserve a look. The essay Drupal as a digital library content management system pointed me to these interesting applications:

  • Greenstone Digital Library Software Greenstone is a suite of software for building and distributing digital library collections. It provides a new way of organizing information and publishing it on the Internet or on CD-ROM....The aim of the Greenstone software is to empower users, particularly in universities, libraries, and other public service institutions, to build their own digital libraries. It requires Apache; it also has some nice features only available on the Windows version....
  • STREETPRINT.ORG, A growing community of public web archives powered by the Streetprint Engine. This package actually looks very nice, but there's no recent sign of life on the Web site, where the newest post on the forums is dated 2007.
  • ContentDM from OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) is a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world's information and reducing information costs. You have to email to request a quote, and it seems Windows-centric. They say the server runs on UNIX platforms, but it doesn't sound like they've tested on Linux since kernel 2.4 came out.
  • digitizationblog focuses on digitization and related activities (such as electronic publishing) in libraries, archives, and museums, and is intended to be a source of news relevant to people who manage and implement digitization projects. Even though there are several excellent sources of digitization news such as the DigiCULT Newsletter and RLG DigiNews (and this blog certainly isn't intended to replace them), there is a lack of space on the web where implementors can share ideas and useful pointers. digitizationblog is intended to fill part of this gap.
  • Welcome to the WebAPP, Web Automated Perl Portal!: WebAPP is the most fully-featured, versatile, free and open-source, flat-file Perl portal script available today! Acronym for Web Automated Perl Portal, WebAPP is easily installed on virtually any UNIX-based server. WebAPP requires no SQL backend, no PHP, only a hosting environment offering support for Perl. This seems very attractive to me because I wouldn't have to learn much new stuff, and I could get Web sites up quickly, for me and for the library project. Also, it wouldn't be vulnerable to these spam SQL-insertion attacks that have been going around lately.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Digital Collections and Library Resources

Here are some links and references about libraries, digital archives, and software designed to store and share collections data. There is an immense amount of information about these topics, and this is just a sample of things I found that look promising for our county history project.

Case Studies: Library Archives and Web Sites

  • Open Source Digital Image Management Took Us from Raging Rivers to Quiet Waters. This is a case study of a library with a fast-growing digital image collection. They were trapped between the under-powered proprietary database suite they'd been using and a pending university-wide move to a large, complex database system. As an interim measure, they adopted a MySQL database, and were very pleased with the results.
  • Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki: created to be a one-stop shop for great ideas and information for all types of librarians. All over the world, librarians are developing successful programs and doing innovative things with technology that no one outside of their library knows about. There are lots of great blogs out there sharing information about the profession, but there is no one place where all of this information is collected and organized. That's what we're trying to do. Includes a section on Digitization, which points to a long pdf on local history, Local History in E-Books and on the Web : One library's experience as example and model by Don Litzer and Andy Barnett. (from the Spring 2004 Reference and Users Services Quarterly). A peer reviewed article analyzing the value and impact of digitized local historical documents.
  • About ACVA: About the Project--Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives. Another case study, including nuts and bolts details about file types, formats, programs used.

Software Tools for Libraries

  • Digital Library Construction Tools: Software from The British Columbia Digital Library. Definitive list of links with brief descriptions.
  • Archon: The Simple Archival Information System. Hardly a simple system, Archon was developed at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, and is open source and free. Archon is a web-based tool for archivists and manuscript curators. It automatically publishes archival descriptive information and digital archival objects to a user-friendly website. With Archon, there is no need to encode a finding aid, input a catalog record, or program a stylesheet. Archon's powerful scripts will automatically make everything in the system searchable and browseable on your repository's website! Archon will simplify your workflow and save you time. Once you've input or edited information using some simple web forms, Archon automatically uploads the files, publishes the website, and generates EAD and MARC records.
  • DLXS: Digital Library Extension Service. This is the software used by the University of West Virginia Library's Archives. Developed by the University of Michigan, DLXS has a free, "lite" version and a supported, for-pay version for "heavy-duty use."
  • The Fedora Project: An Open-source Digital Object Repository Management System. This is the original publication of the Fedora project, describing it to other informatics specialists. Fedora is scalable for large, complex digital collections. The Library of Congress uses it, but smaller projects, like online encyclopedias of limited scope find it usable as well. For those interested in using Fedora, Fedora Commons provides sustainable technologies to create, manage, publish, share and preserve digital content as a basis for intellectual, organizational, scientific and cultural heritage by bringing two communities together. There's an active support community, quick download directions, and many users' online presentations are available for examination.
  • Omeka is a web platform for publishing collections and exhibitions online. Designed for cultural institutions, enthusiasts, and educators, Omeka is easy to install and modify and facilitates community-building around collections and exhibits. Omeka is free and open source. System requirements include: Linux operating system; Apache server (with mod_rewrite enabled); Mysql 5.0 or greater; PHP 5.2.x or greater; ImageMagick
  • How To Set Up A Debian Linux Database Server Using MySQL. Step by step directions from aboutDebian.com--If you decide this is what you want to do, this page tells you exactly how to set up MySQL.
  • How to install MySQL on Ubuntu/Debian. Another approach to installing MySQL on Linux.
  • The phpMyAdmin Project: phpMyAdmin is a tool written in PHP intended to handle the administration of MySQL over the Web. Currently it can create and drop databases, create/drop/alter tables, delete/edit/add fields, execute any SQL statement, manage keys on fields. This is the download and official documentation site.
  • Organize Your Images in a MySQL Database- Tips for creation of a MySQL database with images. This article is written for individuals wanting to organize personal collections of digital images, but the basic information is applicable for any project.
  • Managing websites using Unix--A CVS tutorial. Making and managing a Web site repository using command-line programs and shell scripts. Must try this!

Library Weblogs Addressing Digital Collections and Web Presence

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Natural and Unnatural

To make up for recent computational excesses, here are more photos from Seneca State Forest the last week in July. I always prefer to use natural light for my pictures, but these are some dark hollers where the sun refuse to shine. The flash gives dramatic results, and I should learn to use it more effectively, but there's something special about the colors you see in the dim light.

New (To Me) CSS and HTML Tutorials

I'm hand-coding Web sites now, which means static (and faster loading) pages for the short term. Of course, nothing works the way I expect it to, so I've had to brush up on my HTML and CSS skills. Here are some of the free resources I've been using.

Web Design Tutorials and Resources

CSS Layouts: Fixed versus Fluid

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Web Editors and Tools in Linux

Another aspect of my recent Linux Geekfest has had me studying and trying out different "web development tools." My tool of choice for Web work has been Emacs, the One True Editor, but I'm looking at tracking some larger, more complex projects, and possibly training someone else to work on the Website someday. Strangely, I've never successfully converted anyone to the Church of Emacs, so it seems prudent to add some easier-to-adopt tools to my kit.

Several years ago, I used Bluefish Editor, (native to the Gnome desktop environment) but I became frustrated with all the mouse-clicking it required, and, after I discovered html-helper-mode for Emacs, I abandoned it. I did miss the colorful way it displayed html-markup, but I got over it.

Since then, I have switched from Gnome to KDE because I didn't like the new Gnome screensaver program. (I had originally adopted Gnome for an equally trivial reason, back in 2002.) The html-editor of choice for KDE is Quanta-Plus, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. In fact, because I have both Gnome and KDE desktops installed, I can use either Quanta-Plus or Bluefish, or both.

These editors do the same things equally well--I can't really say one is better than the other, but I have spent more time using Quanta Plus. Actually, I still write the html in Emacs, then open it in the fancy editor, check for errors, use the project management tools, and generally fine-tune the pages.

The tools I have found most useful are Firefox add-ons and extensions, and small utilities. Here is my list of favorites:

  • Agave Colorscheme Designer: Agave is a very simple application for the GNOME desktop that allows you to generate a variety of color schemes from a single starting color. Really fun to play with, but also quite helpful. You can grab a color out of a photograph, and generate a color scheme to match it.
  • Web Developer extension for Firefox adds a menu and a toolbar to the browser with various web developer tools. It is designed for Firefox, Flock and Seamonkey, and will run on any platform that these browsers support including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. This is really great. I've learned a lot by going to Web sites that I like the look of, and taking a look at the CSS to see how it works.
  • Firebug. You can edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page. It lets you see the CSS and HTML just as Web Developer does, but it also lets you "mess with it," change stuff and see what happens. Very cool!
  • Web Development Tools on Linux. A clear, easy to understand description of many "tools" (programs) that make Web sites work these days.

Web Editors For Linux-Land

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shopping For Content Management Systems

More Linux geekery: What tools to use in planning, developing, and maintaining my own Web site and the one I'm developing for a county historical preservation project? Should I have static Web pages? PHP and MySQL? Could I get by with Perl (which I already know how to use)?

I'm not very knowledgeable in Web 2.0 database driven stuff, but I'm going to need a photo gallery, thumbnails, and a database for the county Web site. That's why I've been reading up on "Content Management Systems." Here's a list of links showing what I've learned about so far.

  • Drupal requires Apache, PHP, MySQL. Drupal is a free software package that allows an individual or a community of users to easily publish, manage and organize a wide variety of content on a website. Tens of thousands of people and organizations are using Drupal to power scores of different web sites.
  • Joomla! is an award-winning content management system (CMS), which enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications. Many aspects, including its ease-of-use and extensibility, have made Joomla! the most popular Web site software available. Best of all, Joomla is an open source solution that is freely available to everyone. It requires mySQL and PHP, which most ISP's provide.
  • Comparing Open Source CMSes: Joomla, Drupal and Plone. Another review of relative merits.
  • Drupal vs Joomla! comparison on Drupal's General Discussion Forum. The consensus seems to be that Joomla! is easier to use out of the box, but Drupal is better in taxonomy, search engine optimization, and customizability.
  • phpWebSite provides a complete web site content management system. Web-based administration allows for easy maintenance of interactive, community-driven web sites. phpWebSite's growing number of modules allow for easy site customization without the need for unwanted or unused features. Client output from phpWebSite is valid XHTML 1.0 and meets the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative requirements. Founded and hosted by the Web Technology Group at Appalachian State University, phpWebSite is developed by the phpWebSite Development Team, a network of developers from around the world. phpWebSite is free, open source software and is licensed under the GNU GPL and GNU LGPL.
  • blosxom :: the zen of blogging: Blosxom (pronounced "blossom") is a lightweight yet feature-packed weblog application designed from the ground up with simplicity, usability, and interoperability in mind....Despite its tiny footprint, Blosxom doesn't skimp on features, sporting the lion's share of features one would find in any other Weblog application or full-blown content management and publishing system. Blosxom's plug-in architecture allows the core of Blosxom to remain small and sleek while providing room for extension and integration into different environments and uses....Blosxom is simple, straightforward, minimalist Perl affording even the dabbler an opportunity for experimentation and customization.
  • WordPress. It's not just a blogging tool, WordPress is a state-of-the-art publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. WordPress is both free and priceless...
  • Plone" Plone is a ready-to-run content management system that is built on the powerful and free Zope application server. Plone is easy to set up, extremely flexible, and provides you with a system for managing web content that is ideal for project groups, communities, web sites, extranets and intranets. Zope doesn't seem to be supported that widely by ISP's.
  • PHPMYADMIN is a tool written in PHP intended to handle the administration of MySQL over the Web. Currently it can create and drop databases, create/drop/alter tables, delete/edit/add fields, execute any SQL statement, manage keys on fields.
  • CMS Mini (very very small CMS): A small PHP application for manage content for small web sites. Not intended for a cooperative group of editors and rewiers: simply one editor can insert new contents, immediatly pubblished on web: "one task, one click"The editor can edit through a browser interface; sounds really nice, but it seems there are security vulnerabilities.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Coral Diving in Pocahontas County

Lest the weblog gets too Linux-geeky, here's another, different coral fungus from Seneca State Park.

Promising Linux Programs for Web Development

I've been spending most of my computer time lately on "web development" for a new project. One aspect of this has been selecting appropriate software. Lest I mislay this knowledge, I'm posting it here, in my virtual junk drawer. I'll be able to find it again, and you never know who might want to rummage through my collection of good junk someday.

There are many, many interesting Open Source tools for building and maintaining Web sites, and I've been making lists of things that might solve some of my problems. Here are some .deb packages (available from Debian sources) for programs new to me.

  • iGal: igal is a quick and easy program for placing your images online with just one command-line. It generates a pretty good-looking set of W3-compliant static HTML slides even with its default settings. To try it out just run igal in a directory with jpg, gif or png files and check the output in a web browser. You can adjust the appearance of the image gallery with the many options listed below or (if you know a bit of HTML) by modifying the .indextemplate.html, .slidetemplate.html and igal.css files that appeared in your image directory.
  • Imageindex...a digital photo gallery tool. Imageindex generates standards-compliant static HTML galleries of images (usually JPG photos, but can deal with images of just about any format).
  • llgal - Command-line online gallery generator: llgal is an easy and fast on-line gallery generator based on iGal. Its primary goal is to NOT require any boring useless expensive feature in your webserver, such as PHP, JavaScript, SQL, ... Thus, llgal generates static web-pages.
  • owl-dms: Owl is a multi user document repository (knowledgebase), document manager and/or document management system (DMS) written in PHP for publishing of files/documents onto the web for a corporation, small business, group of people, or just for yourself.
  • sitemap: Makes an HTML site map from meta tags from other HTML pages. This Python script reads the META DESCRIPTION tags from all HTML files under a directory and generates a site map from them. It can be easily configured with a simple dotfile. The site map of catb.org, known to most Linux users, is an example of what this script can do.
  • webmagic: WebMagick provides a means of easily putting image collections on the Web. It recurses through directory trees, building HTML pages and imagemap (GIF or JPEG) files to allow the user to navigate through collections of thumbnail images (somewhat similar to 'xv') and select the images to view with a mouse click.
  • WordPress Web publishing platform--useful for many things besides blogs.
  • www-mysql: a WWW interface for the TCX mySQL database www-mysql is a web interface for the mySQL database. SQL commands can be embedded into web pages; these are executed on the server by www-mysql and the resulting web page sent to the browser. All SQL commands and queries supported by mySQL can be used via www-mysql.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Corals In the Forest

Earlier this summer, we camped overnight at Seneca State Forest. (We don't have to leave the county to find cooler breezes.) I found some interesting fungi, including this little coral on a bed of moss. When I got home, I discovered that I had captured some tiny springtails as well. If I had been trying to get this chubby little collembolan in focus, I couldn't have done it, but here he is, a photographic bonus.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Burdock Bundles

Burdock is a powerful plant. It will grow where it wants, and you'll be hard-pressed to root it out. It will send out its stickery seed heads on any passing pedestrian, especially on wooly sheep. And if there is nothing else for it to grab, it will stick to itself and tumble through the woods!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Spinning Away the Troublesome Bits

While my vision was messed up last month by a string of migraines, I had a chance to do a little spinning. This is the "troublesome local fleece" I've been working on for the last year. The end of it is now in sight; I'm currently spinning the last dye batch. I'm trying something different with the unspinnable bits (burdock tangles, short cuts, neps) this time--I'm throwing them in the compost. Some people use bad fleeces as garden mulch, and my own experience shows me it rots away pretty quickly outdoors. Now, my compost has surprising bits of heliotrope and teal, and will soon have some deep rose. The acid dyes are chemically similar to food colorings, and I used food-grade vinegar as a fixative, so this shouldn't poison us when it goes on the garden.

The yarn-display case is this winter's growing wood pile. It's that time of year.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rock Flipping Report 2008

Earlier this year, we dug a big hole in the ground, breaking through and turning over a layer of shale sandwiched between layers of clay. . Here are some fragments of that rock layer, hidden until recently. It won't be long before we cover them up again, but we'll never get them back the way they were.

In observance of International Rock Flipping Day, here's a list of links to rock flippers from around the world. There are all sorts of rocks, and all sorts of rock-flippers. I haven't read them all--yet!

Anticipatory posts (a selection)

Marcia Bonta — Rock-Flipping (summary of IRFD 2007)
fish without faces — the tanager and the scorpion (poem)
Fragments from Floyd — Today is Rock Flipping Day: Get Out There!
Going Like Sixty — International Rock Flipping Day: the First Sunday in September

* * *

Rock-Flipping Day Reports

Pohanginapete (Pohangina Valley, Aotearoa/New Zealand)
Blaugustine (London, England)
Nature Remains (Ohio, USA)
Pensacola Daily Photo (Florida, USA)
KatDoc’s World (Ohio, USA)
Notes from the Cloud Messenger (Ontario, Canada)
Brittle Road (Dallas, Texas)
Sherry Chandler (Kentucky, USA)
osage + orange (Illinois, USA)
Rock Paper Lizard (British Columbia, Canada)
The Crafty H (Virginia, USA)
Chicken Spaghetti (Connecticut, USA)
A Passion for Nature (New York, USA)
The Dog Geek (Virginia, USA)
Blue Ridge blog (North Carolina, USA)
Bug Girl’s Blog (Michigan, USA)
chatoyance (Austin, Texas)
Riverside Rambles (Missouri, USA)
Pines Above Snow(Maryland, USA)
Beth’s stories (Maine, USA)
A Honey of an Anklet (Virginia, USA)
Wanderin’ Weeta (British Columbia, Canada)
Fate, Felicity, or Fluke (Oregon, USA)
The Northwest Nature Nut (Oregon, USA)
Roundrock Journal (Missouri, USA)
The New Dharma Bums (California, USA)
The Marvelous in Nature (Ontario, Canada)
Via Negativa (Pennsylvania, USA)
Mrs. Gray’s class, Beatty-Warren Middle School (Pennsylvania, USA)
Cicero Sings (British Columbia, Canada)
Let’s Paint Nature (Illinois, USA)

Sleeping in the Heartland (Midwestern U.S.)

* * *


IRFD group on Flickr
IRFD gallery on Via Negativa

Monday, September 08, 2008

International Rock Flipping Day (Yesterday)

Yesterday was International Rock Flipping Day, and, close to sunset, I remembered to join the fun. Technical difficulties with my camera batteries postponed my report until today.

In contrast to last year, there was much more moisture in the ground, so this time I found a "fish worm." Last year, I found more interesting things on rocks and in rocks than under them. There is plenty of biodiversity within the rocks here on Droop Mountain, as you can see in these photos.

What's in the rocks is the Pocahontas County topic of the day, because, like much of Appalachian Pennsylvania and New York state, the Marcellus shale underlies us. There is renewed interest in drilling and extracting natural gas from this very deep layer, and speculators are contacting people here, offering to buy or lease mineral rights.

Our ridge lacks enough level ground to make drilling here feasible, so no one is trying to get us to sell anything; however, it concerns us because the extraction process for these deep gas deposits involves forcing vast quantities of water into and then out of the wells. Water is a limited resource, and disposal of the contaminated water can be a problem.

I've been reading as much as I can about the issue, and I have here my usual list of links in case you want to read further. Whether or not Pocahontas land owners decide to sell or lease, most of the mineral rights in our county are already controlled by forces outside the County. Monongahela National Forest is administered by the U.S. Forest Service, but the federal government only owns part of those mineral rights. Some of the early 20th century logging companies retained their mineral rights when they sold the government their land.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


The aster family's inflorescences are called "capitula." Sunflowers, daisies, dandilions--their "flowers" are really clusters of little flowers, each one making its own little seed, except for the "petals," ("ray flowers") which children use for divination. "He loves me, he loves me not...."

"Capitulum" is "little head" in Latin. (This innocent observation will probably attract all sorts of nasty spam.) After several weeks of learning about all sorts of new computer skills, my own head is very tired, and needs to spend more time among the late summer asters.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


This spring's cool, wet weather caused many of our garden seeds to rot in the ground. We replanted, but had some space left over. These sunflowers grew from the contents of our bird feeder.