Friday, March 06, 2009
I got a nasty call from a disgruntled patron who lives on the other side of the state (this system issues library cards to every state resident, don’t get me started) outraged over the lag time he experienced when he used the library’s database subscription to Rosetta Stone. The problem lay in the fact that he was trying to access it using a satellite modem. Rosetta Stone is an incredibly data intensive, interactive program, one, by the way, that would cost him almost $500 to subscribe to personally FOR ONE LANGUAGE, while our subscription offers him access to 10. He ended his stern lecture with, "I'm VERY disappointed," like I was his kid who gotten drunk and wrecked the family car on prom night.
The drawbacks of satellite modems are quite well known. Here they are spelled out in Wikipedia.
Satellite Internet also has a high latency problem caused by the signal having to travel 35,000 km (22,000 miles) out into space to the satellite and back to Earth again. The signal delay can be as much as 500 milliseconds to 900 milliseconds, which makes this service unsuitable for applications requiring real-time user input such as certain multiplayer Internet games and first-person shooters played over the connection. Despite this, it is still possible for many games to be played, but the scope is limited to real-time strategy or turn-based games. The functionality of live interactive access to a distant computer can also be subject to the problems caused by high latency. These problems are more than tolerable for just basic email access and web browsing and in most cases are barely noticeable.
There is no simple way to get around this problem. The delay is primarily due to the speed of light being 300,000 km/second (186,000 miles per second). Even if all other signaling delays could be eliminated it still takes the electromagnetic wave 233 milliseconds to travel from ground to the satellite and back to the ground, a total of 70,000 km (44,000 miles) to travel from the user to the satellite company.
My favorite part of this section?
The delay is primarily due to the speed of light being 300,000 km/second (186,000 miles per second).
So, save it for Rosetta Stone, your internet provider, God or whoever else you think created the laws of the universe, you bellyaching crybaby, you ungracious, unreasonable, self-important, malcontented jackass. While you’re doing that, the library will try its best to bend the laws of physics so you can look like a total tool trying to learn conversational Mandarin at the beach on your laptop.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Today I found out one of my patrons died. He was a regular so I had been wondering why I hadn’t seen him in a while. A couple of months ago he was stabbed to death in one of those seedy residential hotel rooms and then his body dumped like so much trash into a dumpster behind the building. The murder remains unsolved, and the police have been unable even to locate next of kin. One of my colleagues got the news when the police finally released his name to the papers in the hopes someone in his family will come forward to claim the body.
He was a little guy, but more Bantam rooster than runt, with a swagger that I couldn’t help but find charming. He took great care with his appearance and always dressed in a dark suit. He might have passed for a slick lawyer were it not for the sorry condition of his teeth, including a missing front incisor. (It turns out he wore a dark suit because he was a livery driver.) He was unfailingly courteous and had interesting, rather high brow taste in movies, which he enjoyed discussing with whoever was on the reference desk. Our last conversation was about Kristin Lavransdatter.
When I brought up some pictures of the movie on the screen he leaned in to look closer. “So many beautiful women in the world,” he said wistfully. Of course this comment took on rather sinister meaning when the circulation staff, who always knows the dirt on everyone, let me in on the fact that this patron was on the Megan’s Law website for forced oral copulation with a 14 year old, a crime for which he served jail time. The circ staff told me that when he would visit the library after being released from prison he dressed not in dark suit but in short cut off jeans and a white tank top like a Polk Street hustler. This most likely was just a hangover from a survival strategy in prison – a man of his stature would have been a helpless target for rape.
What a sad and tawdry ending to a sad life.