citizenfourI have a guilty secret to share. Sometimes I go weeks without paying attention to the news, only checking the surface for sports scores or when a major event happens that is all over social media. As a result, when I’m busy or stressed, I can have no idea what is happening in the world outside my personal bubble. My news-watching habit was pointed out to me when I checked out the movie, Citizenfour, to watch one day.

The person on the cover didn’t look familiar, but the plot sounded promising: a behind-the-scenes look into privacy invasions by the NSA. I started watching and wondered continuously who this “Citizenfour” character was, a person conversing with director Laura Poitras and later with journalist Glenn Greenwald through incredibly encrypted and secure channels, one who was telling them that the secrets they had to share would blow the lid off of a huge governmental conspiracy.

Even when Poitras and Greendwald flew to Hong Kong to meet Citizenfour at the hotel room where he had been camping out, I still had no idea who he was, but the topic was fascinating. Hundreds upon thousands of classified documents that he had taken from his contracting job with the NSA that highlighted evidence of mass numbers of both indiscriminate and illegal privacy invasions that the NSA had perpetuated over many years. That tickled my brain. Things were starting to sound familiar. I then looked closer at the face on the screen. Edward Snowden! That’s what this was about.

Citizenfour follows Snowden’s decision to hand over thousands of classified documents that he gathered while being on loan to the NSA about many different secret programs and projects that the NSA and other governmental organizations had put together, as well as some information about the programs that other countries were a part of, all under the guise of surveillance after the tragedies of September 11th. What I found to be interesting about this documentary was that Snowden wanted the focus to be on the information contained within the classified documents and less on the person that was leaking them to the press, himself. The interactions between Snowden, Poitras, and the journalists that he came in contact with while in Hong Kong highlight the varying degrees of secrecy, intelligence gathering, and electronic surveillance that Snowden was seeking to expose to the world. Unplugging the hotel phone, hiding under a sheet to type in his password, talking through notes passed back and forth may seem to a passing person like signs of paranoia, but as Snowden highlights throughout this documentary, the government is capable of tapping into anything and everything, whether we choose to believe it or not.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out the materials below!

after snowdenno place to hide1971odyssey of an eavesdropperthe shadow factory

the objects of her affectionHow far would you be willing to go to keep your family together? To get your dream house? To provide a life for your children that you never had? Would you hunt for your dream job? Would you steal? Would you jeopardize your own future to make sure your children have whatever they want? All of these are questions that Sophie Potter has to deal with in Sonya Cobb’s new novel, The Objects of Her Affection.

In The Objects of Her Affection, Sophie finds herself home alone with two young children, wanting to give them the house and the childhood that she never had growing up. She bounced from apartment to apartment as a child, moving when her mother found new work. After her father figure died, her mother skipped town, leaving Sophie to fend for herself.

With her husband ensconced and buried within his work as a museum curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and with her own career at a standstill after the birth of their two children, Sophie finds herself floundering for support and yet in charge of all the bills and the family’s well-being. After she finds her dream house and convinces her husband of its potential worth, he leaves her in charge of figuring out the whole mortgage and loan business. After signing up for what she believes to be the best offer, Sophie soon realizes that that deal was too good to be true after notices and bills keep showing up at her door, she actually can’t afford the mortgage payment each month, and the business can’t track down who actually owns her loan.

Frustrated, she visits her husband at work to tell him about the mess she’s in and accidentally slips a piece of museum property in her purse. Not wanting to get him into trouble, she decides to sell the piece. Shocked at the amount of money she gets, Sophie sees that she can afford to keep up on all of the bills using that money without having to tell her husband about the mess she has put them in. Sneaking more objects out of her husband’s office gives her a thrill and a sense of satisfaction that she has been missing since the birth of her children, but once the museum realizes pieces are missing and the FBI comes to interview everyone, Sophie is forced to make a choice between telling the truth and keeping her dream afloat by stealing yet another museum piece. The Objects of Her Affection gives readers an up-close look at the lengths people will go through to keep their families together, just how dangerous keeping secrets can be, and how giving up is never an option.

There are a number of variables that can screw up the wi-fi transmission in your house: overall distance, changes between levels, idiosyncrasies between hardware manufacturers, or maddening and unpredictable interference in the walls.  If your supposedly “plug-and-play” router is more like hours of “trial and-error” maybe this DIY extender from Discovery Channel is just the ticket.  What else are you going to do, use the internet in one set location like it was 2001?

We can only assume the parabolic setup is the same as the increased strength sound is given by the folks on the NFL sidelines holding parabolic dishes.

I’d add onto the list of ingredients a little masking tape to blunt the edge of the razor sharp aluminum, because, well, you’ve got enough problems with wireless without an emergency room trip, right?

NOTE: We don’t know if this works, it just looked interesting.  Please consider these tips, which include a tinfoil parabola.

It turns out that second only to Christmas, computer manufacturers depend bigtime on back-to-school demand to fuel the sales of computers.  Well, according to major player Intel, the kids (or cash-strapped moms and dads) didn’t want near as many as anticipated and they are stuck with a surplus on their hands.  If you’re willing to wait a month or so, this soft demand might mean an excellent deal if you were on the fence about a purchase.

One man’s junk…can still be that dude’s junk.  But oh, it can be repurposed into something functional and amazing!

-As of June 2008, there have been more than 1 billion personal computers distributed worldwide.
-The average American goes through a cell phone every 12 to 18 months, leaving 700 million sitting in desk drawers for a rainy day.

Those are just the appliances you’ve used recently.  How about your rotary phone, external modem, parallel port scanner, etc?

Enter the new book 62 Projects to Make with a Dead Computer (and Other Discarded Electronics) by Randy Sarafan and you can construct an iMac terrarium, RAM money clip,  and a scanner compost bin among many useful inventions.  I mean, what else were you planning to do with that stuff?

How to be a Geek Goddess“Could someone just tell me what I need to know without trying to convince me that I need the latest gadget, assuming I have all the time in the world to trudge through geek speak, and wasting my time with a lengthy explanation of how it all works?” Christina Tynan-Wood, a female geek, could hear these subliminal pleas for help whenever a friend asked her a question about technology–a question they usually chased with a “I’m sorry to be so clueless (page xviii).” GIRLS! YOU ARE NOT CLUELESS! You had the brains to ask the question, right? Well now Christina has made it easy to find the answer–Ta da! How to be a Geek Goddess: Practical Advice for Using Computers with Smarts and Style.

Finally everything a girl needs to know to feel technologically confident in ONE BOOK! Christina explains what you should know before buying a computer, how to set up wireless, how to organize your desktop, what security software you might need, how to shop online, and so much more! Her writing is fun, conversational, and full of illustrations and screenshots. Only downfall is that the book is very PC-heavy (which she admits up front), so some of the very useful topics, such as installing software, will not apply to Macs. Despite that, How to be a Geek Goddess is must-read for all women who want (or need) to be in control of their technological life. You may also want to check out Christina’s website at

Okay, lets get our geek on!
Get your geek on. Show your support. |

windows-7-logoNo, nothing changing on this library’s end.  But maybe the box you’re viewing the DPL Info Cafe on has seen better days, particularly if it is a PC.

The brain trust in Redmond, WA has all but outright said that Windows Vista was an flop.  This is evidenced by their record-breaking rollout of Windows 7 in about half the time.  Some could argue that they had no choice, as Windows Vista was terrible and no one was buying it.

There does, however, seem to be a lot of consensus by computer columnists and the thousands of beta-testing regular folks  about Windows 7 as more than just attonement for that sin…it may be that rationalization that you need to buy a new system to take advantage of it.

Here’s what we know so far:

-It’s not the resource hog that Vista was.  Some people have been testing it on ancient systems and find its demands are strikingly similar to Windows XP.

-A lot of people have been tolerating their old 6-7 year old boxes in anticipation of this release.  There is a significant uptick in demand for parts right now, a month before Windows 7 hits shelves.

-Windows 7 hits shelves on October 22nd.  College students will get it at the insanely low price of $30 dollars.    You will not.

-We’ve purchased a number of books in anticipation of Windows 7 rollout.  If you think you’re going to get it anyways, might not hurt to bone up ahead of time.

Windows 7: The Missing Manual

Windows 7 100 Most Asked Questions

Windows 7 Plain and Simple

Windows 7 Inside Out

frugallibrarianWhile the Frugal Librarian, or as we affectionately call him, “Froogs”, is psyched about the release of Window’s Vista’s successor, Windows 7, later this year, there is a very good and super-affordable alternative called Ubuntu to tide you over.  You may have heard words like “open-source” and “Linux” get tossed about by your bespectacled acquaintances.  The benevolent nerds of the world in the spirit of competition put together very sophisticated quality pieces of software that benefit you for absolutely no cost.  Sometimes they rival packages that cost hundreds.  Though the 2010 census may prove me wrong, there are more Homo Sapien Nerdicuses in the world than there are Microsoft employees.   Ubuntu is such an innovation.

Ubuntu is an operating system that you can install on your computer instead of a release of Windows.  ESPECIALLY Windows Vista.  You’ll find it outperforms its competitors, is user friendly, and most hacker attacks are pretty much jokes, since they’re designed to affect everyone except you.  There are dozens of such Linux operating systems, but Ubuntu is considered the easiest to adopt.

If you’ve got a computer lying around, install it on there just for kicks.  If you use the internet, check email, and print like the vast majority of people, you are going to be fine, save a hundred bucks, and not wrestle with license keys.

We’ve got several books at the library on how to navigate this transition.  They’re circulating more than they used to.  If you can’t download the install disc, some of these books at the library have an install CD in the back flap.  Ideally you’ll want to download this week’s latest release of Version 9.04 “Jaunty Jackalope” to compare notes at the water cooler with your newfound friends.  If you do, don’t be surprised if you’re invited to join their Warcraft guild.

frugallibrarianA lot of people buy new computers at the moment of need. See, that’s what “the man” wants you to do…purchase from an uninformed and vulnerable position. You’ll deal with their markup because you’re brokedown.

It’s not enough to visit more than one brick and mortar store or check out two major chains’ weekly specials. Look into refurbs and save a ridiculous amount of money.

Refurbs are returned goods that have supposedly been restored to good-as-new condition. According to technology consulting firm Accenture, more than 2/3rds of electronics returned to retailers meet manufacturer’s specifications, but simply not the consumer’s expectations. Just because someone else gave up after turning the item on or didn’t like a scuff mark on front, why be picky in the face of huge savings?

Refurbs come in all varieties of electronics, even the highly-touted IPod, and even have refund and return guarantees. Stick with a well-known company, however.

Target – pre-owned electronics – computers (I got a great computer this fall for $229, shipping included)
Dell Factory outlet
Sony retail outlet
Amazon Warehouse Deals