Category Archives: Technology Pulse

Printing Stats

So, we got the printing statistics from the Pharos people up in Seattle and several things stood out.

  1. Number of jobs: the UWT Library made 65,863 imprints last quarter.
  2. Percentage of jobs: the UWT Library handled 81% of the total print jobs on campus (the library printed 65,863 and all of the computer labs printed 14,999)
  3. Compared to other units: the UWT Library printed 1101 more jobs than the Bothell Library
  4. UWT Library ranked 5th: only OUGL (nearly 10x the number of jobs), Suzzallo Allen, the Law Library, and Foster Business Library beat the UWT Library for number of prints
  5. Color printing: there were only 267 total color prints last quarter
  6. Total money recovered: about $7900 for the whole quarter.

Interesting stuff, and more evidence that the UWT Library is the most popular computing spot on campus.


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Where are the floods?

I came across this interactive map of the flooding we are getting around here. Looks like it was put together by some folks at the Pierce County web site so, that’s as far as I can go vouching for the accuracy of the detail. There some good detail like flow rates and where the rivers are actually breaking onto the roads, plus alink to a more detailed report on each flood zone. Check it out.

I’ve decided to use this as a single place to put some alerts and information for people regarding the floods. As I come across the info, I will paste links and synopsis in this post so feel free to check back from time to time.

Most of the information I’m getting is from the News Tribune RSS feed, via my Google reader so if you know how to subscribe to an RSS feed you can bypass me altogether. I wouldn’t mind at all.

Anyway, here’s the latest resources and information I have.

1/8/09 3:30pm

Trains running all over Western Washington are being suspended left and right. If you need to get somewhere by train, I recommend calling Amtrak to make sure your train is running.

Also, it turns out there are problems with Sound Transit going various places and they too are posting the latest information on their web site ( So, go there and check that out if you need public transit.

Pierce Transit is having some problems with their Orting service and NE Tacoma service, check their web site for the latest information as well.

Finally, I want to mention that the Red Cross is opening several emergency shelters throughout the area and you may want to jot down the location of the nearest one to you just in case the worst happened.

I’ll update this if there is more information forthcoming.

Stay safe!

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Fall Quarter 2008 Computer Use Stats

Similarly to the web stats, this is our first full quarter of gathering computer use stats so we don’t have any reliable data from previous quarters to compare nor can we “impress” people with bogus percentage increases in traffic.

What I can do, however, is show in pretty fine detail which systems are popular, what the average usage is, total number of computing hours per day, total number of logons , and average length of stay. As we track this data over the quarter we should be able to do things like make STF requests based on student usage patterns.

One more thing, these numbers cover only the period of September 24th to December 12 (inclusive), which was a total of 77 days that the library was open and a total of 880 hours that the library was operational.

The Broad Numbers

  • There were a total of 15,447 logons
  • Since we were open for 880 hours that means there were 17.5 logons per hour
  • Library Information Technology supported 638,042 minutes or 10,634 hours of computing
  • The average user stayed for 41 minutes per logon
  • Given how long they stayed, and the sheer number of logons, those numbers mean that there were 138 hours of library computing per day

Popular/Unpopular Computers

The most popular set of computers, by a huge margin, are the 7 computers that library staff call the “public” computers. These computers used to be open computers (no logon) and anyone (public, student, etc) could walk up and use the computer for as long as they wanted. During the summer we converted all of them to logon computers and changed the rules so that the public only has access to 3 computers and must ask library staff for a username and password to logon.

Those 7 computers had a total of 4,241 logons, which lasted an average of 26 minutes for a total of 1,862 hours of computer usage. This usage represents 27% of the total library logons but only 18% of the total hours. All of which is consistent with the primary purpose of those computers; provide a quick access point for stundets who need to print a paper, chek their Blackboard, print some ERES, check their email, etc.

The least popular computers in the library were the two microfilm scanners. Those computers received just 35 total logons all quarter for a total usage of 15 hours. In fact, looking at the individual users it looks more like people were using them to check their email or other quick tasks rather than to scan microfilm (a time consuming task) — there were only 8 users who used those computers for more than 30 minutes at a time.

The most popular classroom computers remain the main lab on the first floor, receiving 963 logons and an average use of 54 minutes per logon.

The least popular classroom computer is surprisingly the second presentation room upstairs in lib239, there were only 92 logons in that room all quarter.


The total number of logons and the number of computing hours per day was a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t fully aware of all the hours of computer work the library patrons were doing. Similarly, I knew that lunch time was a busy time of the day for the “patron” or quick use computers but I never knew how many logons those systems supported per day.

On the other end of the spectrum I’m very disappointed with the usage of the upstairs classroom. I have to think that the furniture layout and lack of comfortable, flexible seating played a part in that. To that end I have moved some wheeled chairs up to that area provide students with more comfort and flexibility. We’ll see if that and some better marketing can increase the use of that space.

Finally, I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised by the low usage numbers for the microfilm computers — anecdotal evidence suggested that they weren’t being used much — but 15 total hours of usage in a quarter is a bit of a shock. This area is being tracked by Circulation, Reference, and LIT as space that may need to be reclaimed by the library for other uses.

As usual, please feel free to PM me if you have questions, or heck, you could post them here… it’s a blog after all.

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Fall Quarter 2008 Web Stats

If you remember, back in May I installed the Google Analytic script on all the UW Tacoma Library web pages. Since we adopted the tracking software mid-quarter, in the last quarter of the year we’ll never have a real good baseline to compare last year’s starts to this year’s. Further, since our first full quarter is a summer quarter and those quarters are nothing like the rest of the year I can’t use that as a comparison until next summer.  So, I just left out any comparisons… at least until next year.

Here are the numbers:

  • Total visits: 68,808
    • 44,611 returning visitors
    • 24,197 new visitors
  • They are in the HOUSE! 41,692 people visited the library web site from within the subnet.
  • Best Day: October 12th — 3,783
  • Most hits from out of state: California (540)
  • Most hits/population from out of state: Oregon (100)

That’s a snapshot of the traffic during Fall quarter. If you’d like to see the detailed reports I have the PDF’s and would be more than happy to share them.

Look for in-house computer use stats tomorrow!

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The Big Picture goes Small puts out an article twice a week that they call “The Big Picture. As a photographer I love this article, their pictures never cease to amaze me and make me want to push the boundaries of what I do. As a geek, the articles are often about something scientific and nerdy and again, they make me look on in awe at the world.

Today’s installment manages to do both: today, The Big Picture goes small. From a nanotube Obama to the landscape of a mosquito’s antennae, today’s article is something spectacular to behold.

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Adding Obama to my spell check

I don’t know why it took this long (maybe I didn’t think he would win?) but I added “Obama” to my personal dictionary today so that my spell checker would stop putting a red line under his name every time I wrote it.

Now that Obama is in my spell check, he must be legit, at least to me. But I have to wonder when “Obama” will become part of the generic spell check for all software?

How many of you have added Obama to your personal dictionary?

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Librarians out-Googling, Google?

I just ran into an interesting article about a project called Reference Extract. The idea is to build a search engine that provides more relevant hits for search terms and it tries to accomplish this by using real live librarians.

Search relevancy is easily illustrated every time you search for something. Google indexes so many pages that when a user searches for a term like “bostelle UWT” because they want my work phone number, the correct hit is all the way at the bottom of the page.  Information experts know that most users will actually try the search again rather than even bother looking past the first two or so searches.

Thus relevancy is crucial to making a search engine work and Mike’s group wants to make search engines work better.

The problem is that Google has “pretty good” relevancy, is easy to use, widely accepted, and widely trusted (rightly or wrongly). I think what these librarians are trying to do is noble and encourage them whole-heartedly in the endeavor.

But that’s a huge mountain to climb.

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Learning Cave

We’re getting there!

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The real threat is you

Some time ago I gave the staff here a “brown bag” presentation on the shifting nature of security and how the triple threats of complexity, extensibility, and connectivity meant that threats to data security were going to be around for the foreseeable future.

A simple computer, like a hand held television remote, is easier to write clean code for and if security measures were needed (which they probably will be one day!) it should be easier to lock down than something extraordinarily complicated like this computer (which is currently running… 44 processes, that I KNOW of!). So, the complexity of a device, in part determines the vulnerability of the device to attacks.

Extensibility just means that you can add or remove software or hardware from the device. Taking away that ability is one of the keys to network security and is why most network admins limit user rights to install third party software. This doesn’t prevent stuff like buffer overflow attacks (which is a means of elevating user privileges) or brute force password cracks but it does prevent casual and even some intentional compromises.

Connectivity is the third rail; it’s the thing that powers most modern data safety issues. Since our computers are always connected to the internet, the opportunity for attack and the spread of infection increases exponentially. In the old days we had computer viruses, but to get them and transfer them you usually had to use a vector like a floppy disk (though IRC was a vector too). Now that we are all connected all the time, we are the vector.

All that is to say that (technologically) viruses, cracking, and hacking are going to be with us for the foreseeable future. In fact we are seeing that the attackers are jumping from device to device; as our cell-phone become more complex, more connected, and more extensible they are naturally becoming the new platform for attacks.

But technology is nothing compared to good ole-fashioned human interaction as evidenced by the now infamous crack of Sarah Palin’s email account. This cracker was able to get into her account by simply answering the secret question that her email prompted her for when he said that he had “lost” the password to the account. Since she’s a public figure and has given many speeches which include a lot of details about her private life she made the mistake of telling people where she and Todd met. This just so happens to be the secret question on her Yahoo mail, and the kid was able to crack her password, reset it and download all her mail.

But you don’t have to be a public figure to have this happen to you. You could have a disgruntled co-worker crack your email account, they probably know a ton about you and I’d be willing to guess that they know at least one of your “secret” questions. Do they know what your dog’s name is? Probably. You might even publish the name of your dog on your flickr account, or your daughter’s name, so on.

What I’m getting at is that security is important and keeping some things secret in this day and age is an important part of that security.

One other important way to keep passwords and the like safe is to never, ever, ever, give them out over the phone or via email. Sure, the guy on the other end of the phone might sound like he works for IT and he might even say something like “it looks like someone is breaking into your account, so we need to reset your password” but any domain admin worth his weight in Mountain Dew can reset your password to whatever he wants, without calling you first! So, never, ever, ever, give someone your password over the phone and, of course the same goes for giving out your password over email and so on.

The point of all this is that we are always going to be vulnerable, the nature of our technology makes it so by virtue of the fact that it is complex, extensible, and connected. But we are the real threat to data security and there are practical things that we can do that will make us less vulnerable.

  1. Update your computer
  2. Get a virus scanner
  3. Install a firewall
  4. If you use Windows, make your every day account be a power user and create a special admin user that you use to install software
  5. Change your email challenge questions to something more private
  6. Assume that email isn’t private
  7. Never give your username and password out to anyone, ever.

If you do those things you will be doing your part to ensure the safety of yours and others’ data.

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Barnet v Arsenal - Pre Season Friendly
I was reading PCMagazine and they said this site called PicApp might be useful. Evidently what it provides are royalty free (sort of) images for you to use in your blog or other web 2.0 application.  I’m just testing to see what it does!

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