Custard’s best stand

Today was Ape’s first trip to Annie’s. It’s been open for a few days now, but a combination of rising temperatures (freezing point here we come!) and a gimpy leg cinched the decision.

*This is a long post, so you may want to stretch/ get a drink/ go pee before you start.

I’m glad to return to my humble ablog after a short hiatus. Fortunately, the interruption was time well spent, and I wrapped up a few projects which have been drug on too long. First, there’s the liberry website.

The website claims the title of greatest duration, having been started nearly a year ago. After settling on Silverstripe, the task at hand was design. The current site is a nightmare, with buckets of broken links, impossible-to-find items, and no search capability. I rested on the efforts of the default Silverstripe layout, but heavily edited the css and graphics to be as clean and simple as possible.

After that came content creation. So much of the current website is outdated material (and was at its naissance difficult to comprehend), so heavy editing was needed. There was also some hassle with Question Point, our online reference service. The form provided to us by OCLC was about 96% javascript, which is difficult to implement on a single page within Silverstripe. Fortunately, the stars aligned so that OCLC upgraded Questionpoint on March 2, which allows us to host our Question Point form on the Question point website, and they saw that it was good.

Finally, the Liberry needed a new host. I chose Linode, since it was highly praised by most of its users (plus, it uses FOSS). The prices are fair (not especially cheap, though there are perks for buying long-term hosting), and setup was extremely simple. The SSH console is a little slow, but download speeds on our server are phenomenal.

This is the finished product: 70.87.222.155

Then what happened?

I spent nearly every morning-afternoon of this week at LCLS, working on the Youtube video (followed by an evening working at the Liberry). Working at the system is nice for a number of reasons. The greatest of these is probably the distraction-free environment. When given the chance to work unhindered, I’m amazed at the progress made in short time. Of course, I was just working in the building, not for LCLS per se. If I were employed there, it probably wouldn’t be so simple. I picked up some new tricks with Adobe Premiere, which makes video composition about 83x faster than how I was doing it previously. All told, I finished the project a few days ahead of schedule, and the results (which will soon be available) were, in my opinion, quite convincing.

Anything else?

My greatest accomplishment was nothing less than a coup de bibliotheque, involving the ever-popular OpenOffice.org. My plan to drop M$ Office from the staff computers was not without controversy. Some (but certainly not all) of the liberry matriarchs were extremely resistant to the notion of switching office suites. For reasons they couldn’t articulate, OpenOffice was inferior to M$ Office. Unfortunately, they reckoned that their puerile attachment to M$ was weightier than logic and reason, and insisted that M$ Office would remain on their computers. Such an arrangement being the worst imaginable for myself and the Library, decisive action would have to be taken.

All hope for OpenOffice rested in the hands of the Library board, a panel of citizens responsible for the well-being of the liberry. Every month I write a report of my machinations and accomplishments in the Liberry, which is then submitted to the Board. This was really the only vehicle suitable for explaining my reasons for choosing OpenOffice, so I grabbed my driving gloves and strapped in. The result was a gleaming page of technical explication, accompanied by some shocking numbers (the cost of upgrading to M$ Office 2007), and a rationale that any sensible person could not refute. It seems the board agreed, and with their full support, resistance crumbled.

Although I paint it as some kind of great accomplishment, the whole affair was really sad. I like and respect the people I work with, and railroading opponents into submission is not something I enjoy. I would feel worse, had the opponents of OpenOffice shown an ounce of professionalism and given it a fair shake. Blind opposition to change is regrettable in life, but inexcusable in business.

I’ve also learned that it isn’t manifested through age; I’ve met much older people who embrace even crazier things than switching from M$ Office to OpenOffice. It’s really not even a personality tenet, since my opponents have embraced other disruptive technologies without a peep. I’ll leave it to psychologists to discuss (and synthesize a drug that suppresses it with mild side-effects).

Overall, a very good couple of weeks.  I’ve been rich with the feeling you get when you finally finish off that thing you’ve been working on for so long (there’s got to be a better name for it; euphoria, maybe?).

Of course, OpenOffice is only the linchpin of much greater plans for the Liberry : )

2 thoughts on “Custard’s best stand

  1. Pingback: Looking Back

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