Telstra and Technology Notes

Tonight, some news from ABC Radio, followed by two technology tips that I’ve recently adopted. The first helps me get automatic downloads of podcasts from ABC Radio. The second is for readers of this blog who want to make the librarian in me happy.

NATSIAA News

The latest edition of Awaye! on ABC Radio features an interview with Franchesca Cubillo of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, in advance of Friday’s NATSIAA awards. She doesn’t give away any secrets, although there was one piece of news that I hadn’t heard: the prize is no longer acquisitive. Host Daniel Browning notes that the decision was controversial when announced (the man has a gift for understatement, I guess). 

I think this is a terrible shame. Cubillo explained that the logic of the decision allows the winner to sell the award-winning work at the going market rate, and I guess I can’t complain about that. But it seems to me from this distance that it’s just another sign of diminishing support for the prize. There was a lot of hoopla last year about Telstra’s new five-year commitment to the award, but it struck me at the time that they were getting an awfully good deal in terms of publicity for their million dollars. Meanwhile, MAGNT can’t afford to acquire the work that judged to be the premier example of indigenous art, and I guess we can forget about ever seeing a catalog again.

But enough cynicism and carping….

Podcasting

The good news is that I was able to hear the broadcast on Saturday–maybe the same as many of you–thanks to a new innovation that ABC and Awaye! have implemented on their web site. They now offer news of the programming via what’s called an RSS feed.

Basically, you can think of RSS feeds as a bookmark in your web browser that “listens” to the site it points to, and lets you know when there’s something new available on the site. So I now have a bookmark for Awaye! that looks like this:

feed://www.abc.net.au/rn/awaye/rss/aye.xml

I’ve put it in my “bookmarks bar” (or “favorites” as it’s called in other browsers; I use the Macintosh Safari browser), and when a new radio broadcast is posted the bookmark’s name changes from Awaye to Awaye (1) to alert me that there’s one new listing since I last looked. Pretty cool. But that’s not all.

The radio programs, or most of them at any rate, are also now available as podcasts. Again, since I’m a Mac user, I listen to my podcasts through iTunes. So in iTunes (or whatever podcasting software you may use) you just paste in the following link:

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/feeds/aye.xml

Whenever I open iTunes, it quickly goes out, checks to see if there’s a new podcast available at the Awaye! site, and downloads it for me. I don’t even have to pay attention. (That’s why the RSS feed is good, because it alerts me to something new that’s probably already on my computer.) 

Find It In a Library

There’s a new feature in the right hand column of this blog page, called Find It In a Library. Regular readers of this blog know two things about me: a) I’m a librarian by profession, and b) I talk about books a lot, and try to provide links to Bookfinder.com or Amazon searches for most of what I write about or refer to. And although I’m an incorrigible book collector, I do borrow a lot of those books either from the magnificent library I work in (it’s one of the 20 largest research libraries in North America) or from other libraries around the world. 

There’s a great new tool for searching the contents of the world’s libraries available in beta form now, and the new box on this page let’s you try it out. It’s called WorldCat, and it’s a huge database of library holdings, at last count representing 1.3 billion items in more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. (Now before you get too excited about the “billion,” take a deep breath and realize that probably 50,000 of them are copies of The DaVinci Code

But it’s still an awesome tool for finding books, videos, microfilm, manuscripts, journals, music, and more. Type in “great sandy desert” and you get back a list of 42 books, maps, and movies ranging in subject matter from Jimmy Pike to geology. In the column at the left of the list of results you can limit the results by content (what I’d called subject), author, date of publication, or language. Limiting leaves a trail of breadcrumbs across the top of the screen that makes it easy to back up if you don’t find what you want.

Once you find a book, clicking on it will bring you to a screen where you can find libraries near you that own it. For my Australian readers, “near you” means anywhere in the country–the service is rather USA-centric. There are 294 Australian libraries that participate, ranging from the Australian National Library to the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Library in Fitzroy, Vic.

Give it a try, and I hope you find new and wonderful things. 

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