Open Source, Free Like A Puppy…

Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, is famous for once having said that “Open source is free like a puppy is free” (Donoghue).  He is, of course, talking about the expenses necessary for taking care of the free puppy.Corgi

Open source is kind of like that.  It is free by definition. defines open source as “pertaining to, or denoting, software whose source code is available free of charge to the public to use, copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute”.  That said, open source is actually much more than just free.  Open source is, for the large part, community-supported by people who have technology issues a lot like yours.  A person may need an application for something so, in some cases, they create it, maintain it, add functionality, put it out there for you to freely use and answer questions to help you bring the application on line.  Using McNealy’s puppy example, it would be like the puppy buying itself, coming home to your house by itself, house breaking itself and learning to fetch your slippers, again… all by itself.  It’s really hard for me to see the bad thing in this but, believe it or not, there are some valid concerns.

Open source software development is flourishing and very much in use all over the world.  While proprietary software companies complain about open source, Forrester Research reports that 76% of developers have used open source technology at some level (Baldwin).  That means even companies that create or purchase ‘off the shelf’ software use free, open source software tools to build with – companies like Apple, the first major computer company to make open source development a key part of its ongoing software strategy, and Microsoft who initially went to war against open source development.

”Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer,” former Windows chief Jim Allchin famously quipped in 2001. “I can’t imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business” (Cooper).

And who can forget that old timeless classic…

“Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches,” former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the Chicago Sun Times a few months later. “That’s the way that the license works” (Cooper).

Now, however, in May 2014, Microsoft finally made official its unofficial decision to incorporate some open-source code into its developer and programming languages. More recently, Microsoft put 22-year company veteran Mark Hill in charge of a global group to cultivate open-source developers to write applications that work with Azure, the Microsoft cloud service that competes against the likes of Rackspace, Google, and Amazon (Cooper).

As Microsoft eventually came to understand, there are a lot of benefits to using open source.  To name just a few:

1. Keeps costs down.
2. Improves quality because code problems are resolved quickly.
3. Delivers agility by speeding up the pace of software development and innovation which allows businesses to react quickly and thereby not be dependent on vendors schedules.
4. Mitigates business risk by reducing dependence on a single or multiple vendors.

We use a mix of proprietary and open source software in Discovery, Technology, and Publishing to administer the library servers and applications such as the library catalog, digital collections and various departmental work flows.  There are times when we would like to have functionality that we don’t currently have but that’s been true of the vendor supplied software as well as the open source software.  For that reason, I don’t really distinguish between the two types because I just kind of see them as each being a toolbox that I need to use to get the job done.  Open source plays a huge role in our success as a department.

But let’s not forget that the ‘free puppy’ criticism does also have some merit.  The first thing is training.  People are resistant to change and so they are not likely to explore using an open source alternative application instead of Windows or Apple for things like their desktop or MS Office needs.  Another issue is support.  Proprietary software vendors provide support for their products and, if you use open source, you may have to provide your own developer to get the functionality you desire. Lastly, some great open source software development simply ceases for whatever reason and you may be left with no one to provide patches or software updates, again possibly requiring the hiring of a developer to maintain your software.

While these are valid concerns, open source application usage is growing quickly all over the world, in all industries.  Technology costs a lot of money and the financial advantage to using open source software must outweigh the ‘free puppy’ concerns or companies would not be moving in that direction.

On a personal note, I use open source software daily and I will always look for a free open source application before I buy something because I generally just need something for a single use or for a short time.  I use applications like Notepad++ which is better than the notepad built into Windows, 7-Zip which allows me to zip and unzip files better than the one in Windows, VLC Media Player which is much better than Windows media player for manipulating various video formats and WinSCP for transferring files.  I also use various open source tools like MultiMon Taskbar which allows me to have a task bar on my second monitor.

If you’ve never installed open source software, here’s some sage advice.  Make sure you research what you want to install by looking for reviews of the application before you download and install it.  Read the installation instructions and make sure you understand what they want you to do.  Try to download it from the site that actually produced it and not a third party site.  This just makes certain you are getting a ‘clean’ copy and not a possibly modified copy of the application you want.  Finally, there are probably a lot of applications just like the one you’re looking for so if you install it and you don’t like it, don’t give up.  Just uninstall and go find another one.

So… How ’bout that free puppy now?



Donoghue, Andrew “Open Source ‘is free like a puppy is free’ says Sun boss.” ZDNet. CBS Interactive, June 8, 2005. Web July 22, 2014.

Cooper, Charles “Dead and buried: Microsoft’s holy war on open-source software.” C|Net. CBS Interactive, June 1, 2014. Web July 22, 2014.

Baldwin, Howard “4 reasons companies say yes to open source.” Computerworld. Computerworld, Inc., January 6, 2014. Web July 22, 2014

Corgi puppy images from:

Notepad++ :
7-Zip :
VLC Media Player –
WinSCP –
MultiMon –

Paper Marbling at the VMFA

As you probably already know, we spend a lot of time working in the digital world here in Discovery, Technology, & Publishing. What might surprise you, though, is that many of our staff members are fantastic material artists and crafters. Our hobbies run the gamut, but include arts such as knitting, painting, bookmaking and papermaking. There are even some who draw a bridge between the material and digital world with interests such as 3-D Printing. One of the best things about being located among so many art and cultural heritage institutions here in Richmond is the availability of craft workshops and classes to help us learn more.

A variety of the painted papers Crista created.

A variety of the painted papers Crista created.

Crista LaPrade, our Digital Projects & Preservation Coordinator, took one such workshop several days ago at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). This particular class was an Introduction to Paper Marbling, taught by Steve Pittelkow. During the intensive day-long class, Crista learned different techniques to create unique patterns and designs used in “Turkish” paper marbling. The possibilities for using the final product are endless and might include book endpapers, book covers, or even as displayed art in her coworkers’ offices (no pressure…)! Furthermore, the same techniques that were used on the paper can also be used on fabrics and other mediums.

The process begins with spraying the paper on one side with a mixture of alum (aluminium sulfate) and water. Then, acrylic paint mixed with water is added using eyedroppers to shallow trays filled with water and carrageenan. The paint floats on the surface of the water/carrageen mixture and can pool in concentric circles and shapes. A variety of “combs” or “rakes” are used to pull the colors through each other on the surface of the water resulting in a wide array of patterns. The mordanted paper was then carefully laid onto the surface and then quickly removed, capturing the paint. Steve taught the class several different patterns that could be created including fantasy, nonpareil, ripples, gel get, angelfish and Spanish moiré.

Four details of different painting techniques.

Four details of different paper marbling patterns Crista created.

One of the benefits of having staff who are interested in learning these artisan skills is that they can bring them back to the library and share them with the rest of us. If there is ever a time when one of us is making a book or working on another project, there is consistently a wealth of knowledge and experience around us!

William E. Beale Photographs

This past week, through the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, we discovered about 25 photographs of the Westhampton campus that were taken by William Elton Beale, a Richmond College freshman in 1915. More specifically, the discovery was of several negative filmstrips that contained images of Beale’s prints. This was exciting because not only are they some of the only student-taken photographs we have of the campus during its opening years, but it also provided us with a fun opportunity to photograph negatives. After a couple of tries working with our light box and various camera settings, we were off and rolling with the digitization.

Lightbox set-up for photographing negative film.

Lightbox set-up for photographing negative film.

Once we completed the digitization process, we were even more excited to view the new images. Some of the pictures included buildings that we had not yet found photographic evidence of, such as the science building (which burned down in 1925) that was originally beside the steam plant. One of my personal favorites was an image of the trolley that brought students from the city all the way out to the “rural” Westhampton campus. Several more of Beale’s photographs included campus highlights like Ryland Hall, Sarah Brunet Memorial Hall, and of course, landscape shots of the lake.

The Science Hall, which burned down in 1925, was originally next to the Steam Plant.

The Science Hall, which burned down in 1925, was originally next to the Steam Plant.

The trolley brought students from the city to the Westhampton campus.

The trolley brought students from the city to the Westhampton campus.

Sarah Brunet Memorial Hall, also known as the Refectory, was built to be a dining hall.

Sarah Brunet Memorial Hall, also known as the Refectory, was built to be a dining hall.

While the majority of the images were of buildings and landscapes on campus, there was a single photograph of one of Beale’s classmates, who we have identified as “Burt” Robins, based on the 1915 Spider yearbook. In the photograph, Robins is wearing a baseball uniform with the words “Peconut Crisp” on his jersey. The words were a mystery to us at first, but after some searching, we found an advertisement in the Southern Planter that described Peconut Crisp as a candy made by the Westmoreland Candy Company, located in Richmond, during the time Beale and Robins would have been in school. It seems most likely that the candy name found itself on the jersey because the company sponsored a baseball game or team.

Bertram "Burt" L. Robins

Bertram “Burt” L. Robins with a “Peconut Crisp” uniform.

Advertisement for Peconut Crisp in The Southern Planter

Advertisement for Peconut Crisp in The Southern Planter

The images gathered from Beale’s photographs were a really exciting find for us. We were happy to see pictures from campus that we had not previously found and just as glad to practice our negative film photography. While it would have been even more exciting to see the original film, we couldn’t be more pleased with these recent additions to our Centennial collection.

“A Pilgrim’s Progress” – Winsor McCay

For the past year Richmond SPCS student Kirsten McKinney has been working on a project for her Masters of Liberal Arts degree. Her humanities class “Sleuths to Cyborgs: American Pop Culture in 20th Century” led her to the work of comic artist, vaudevillian, early animator, and social commentor, Winsor McCay.

You may know McCay from his comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland or his early film work including his most well known film, “Gertie the Dinosaur.

dullcareOne of McCay’s comic strips, “A Pilgrim’s Progress” by Mister Bunion appeared in the New York Evening Telegram from 1905 until 1909. McCay’s character Mr. Bunion tries to rid himself of his valise filled with “Dull Care” which represents the burdens of the modern man. McKinney describes “Dull Care” in more detail  on her site here.

McKinney’s work is truly remarkable in what it has added to the world of comic strip history. It appears that no one had digitized or had made available the entire run of the “A Pilgrim’s Progress” let alone listed all of the dates of when the strip appeared in the newspaper.

McKinney’s research led her to the New York State Library’s collections where she found microfilm of the Telegram for the years she suspected that “A Pilgrims Progress” had appeared.

McKinney requested the microfilm reels of the Telegram from Betty Tobias in the Interlibrary Loan Department at Boatwright Library. McKinney searched through the daily papers noting the publication dates of each strip and scanned the entire run of the comic.

Because some of the dialogue bubbles were difficult to decipher, McKinney transcribed the text as well as tagging the comic strip with metadata. Resulting in a wonderful resource to share with the world!

In her day job, McKinney works for the University of Richmond’s communication department and had worked with Chris Kemp of the Department of Discovery, Technology and Publishing on the public interface of the Richmond Daily Dispatch collection. Kemp had used the web publishing software omeka for a few projects in the past and suggested that McKinney use omeka for her project.

McKinney’s work is currently being used for research for a current summer class at UR, “the American Dream.”

For further reading, Boatwright library does have an over-sized copy of “Little Nemo In Slumberland” in its’ Special Collections.

A Pilgrim’s Progress by Mister Bunion from August 28, 1906:


April Update

Stats for April 2014

  • Materials cataloged/awaiting cataloging: 4,750/381
  • Catalog records revised: 4,403
  • Page images digitized: 2,610
  • Still images digitized: 576
  • Library catalog visitors/page views: 14,443/64,971
  • Library catalog searches: 26,082
  • Digital collection visitors/page views: 3,171/10,020

Project Snapshot

UR Scholarship: 77 more theses and undergraduate honors papers were deposited into the Scholarship Repository in April. In our ongoing retrospective digitization effort, 20 more papers (894 pages) were imaged and prepped for uploading. This work will continue during the summer.

Centennial Exhibit: In big news, we have determined a title for our project. It comes from an article Dr. Boatwright wrote for the Religious Herald in 1910 shortly after the Richmond College Board of Trustees approved the purchase of land at Westhampton for the new site. (See Angie’s great post for more information about the Religious Herald.) After an eloquent description of the varied landscape and features of the area, Dr. Boatwright writes: “Amid such surroundings we plan to build for the centuries. May our twin Colleges soon crown the western heights above the river and the lake!” As tribute to Dr. Boatwright’s vision and leadership in bringing the colleges to our present location, we have titled the site “For the Centuries.” Work continues on the project as a whole.

Draw Back the Curtain: Our department has been supporting this ongoing documentary project for some time, and in April we digitized an additional 256 items, which brings the imaging portion of our work to a conclusion. In the meantime we’ve installed an Omeka instance for the project team to work with during the summer – they will be using it in parallel with the museum exhibits and documentary, bringing the stories of Jewish immigrants to Richmond from the former Soviet Union online.

Student Employees Make a Successful Year

As the school year comes to a close here at Boatwright Memorial Library and we reflect on everything we have accomplished since last summer, we can’t help but wonder how it would have all been achieved without the help of our phenomenal student employees. In our department, Discovery, Technology, & Publishing, we have 13 student employees, including two who will be graduating in just a few days (we’ll miss you!).  Chances are, if you have seen a really cool digital project or found a neatly labeled book in the stacks, one of our students helped to make that possible.

Amy, Moe, and Sam at the Student Employee Luncheon sponsored by the Friends of the Library

Amy, Moe, and Sam at the Student Employee Luncheon sponsored by the Friends of the Library.

Student employees in Discovery, Technology, & Publishing (DTP) perform a wide variety of tasks that require creativity, responsibility and ingenuity. Some of the duties that students take on for us include digitization for Interlibrary Loan (if you got your article request in the blink of an eye, a student employee helped with that!), photographing archival material, image editing, computer programming and website development, copy-cataloging, labeling, discards, and various stacks maintenance tasks.  On top of their regular jobs, we often have students who venture out of the realm of DTP to help other departments who need assistance.

Do you remember the Westhampton scrapbook that was discussed in an earlier blog post? A huge amount of the work done to complete the interactive scrapbook it has become was done by Amy, one of our student employees. She and another former student employee, Michael, collaborated to build a dynamic map of UR student hometowns with data that three other students, Jeremy, Scott, and Dodo, worked many hours to collect. Both of these fun endeavors will premier with the launching of our digital project celebrating the centennial of the UR Westhampton campus in June. Furthermore, many of the archival images you will see on the website were photographed by camera-operator extraordinaire, Jackie, a student employee who is also interested in pursuing graduate work in the library and information sciences.

Jackie frequently works in our camera studio photographing archival material.

Jackie frequently works in our camera studio photographing archival material.

The jobs that student employees complete for our department are imperative to our operations running smoothly, but truly the best thing about having them work here is the fact that they remind us daily why we want to make this the best library it can be: to be a useful, helpful and memorable part of student life. It may sound like I’m doting upon them, but if you worked with this bunch of students, you would, too!

175 Years of Photography


2014 marks the 175th anniversary of the first permanent photographic image. August 19, 2014 is World Photo Day.

I am not an expert or a professional photographer, but I have a great interest in photographs and take a fair amount of them.

Here at Boatwright Library in the department of Discovery, Technology and Publishing we digitize a number of photographs and other images for preservation, access, as well as online exhibits.

Here is a nice table put together by the Library of Congress of the different types of photographs through time starting in 1839 with Daguerreotypes. The introduction of the Kodak box camera, the Brownie introduced in February 1900, brought photography to the masses and revolutionized photography as much as the digital camera has for our generation the past decade and a half.

Early photographs were on copper, tin, and later glass. There has been positive film as well as negative film. Negative films were made from acetate, nitrate, and later polyester. And don’t forget the instant Polaroid cameras. The camera and the photographic process continues to evolve.

Today of course, there is a camera on almost every phone and every event in one’s life can be captured and sent to family and friends by pressing buttons which sends an image through the air. It’s amazing.

The Brownie started our love affair with photographs and it continues today. And don’t forget to subscribe to our blog!

For more information:

The PBS series “American Photography: A Century of Images” is a good place to start.

The George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film with it’s over 170 videos uploaded to YouTube has tons of information on photography as well as film restorations they have been involved with.

The photographs of Abraham Lincoln are from the US National Archives flickr site.

March Update

Stats for March 2014

  • Materials cataloged/awaiting cataloging: 2,855/461
  • Catalog records revised: 3,858
  • Page images digitized: 2,344
  • Still images digitized: 537
  • Library catalog visitors/page views: 11,544/58,273
  • Library catalog searches: 23,967
  • Digital collection visitors/page views: 3,263/9,114

Project Snapshot

Centennial Exhibit: March saw the passing of a couple large milestones for the project – namely the completion of the Westhampton College flipbook and the aggregation of the last bit of hometown data for the last 100 years worth of graduates. We’ll start work on mapping all of that geographic data in April. We had a couple of meetings with the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology and the Digital Scholarship Lab to explore some opportunities for collaboration, and the DSL has been georeferencing several of our historic maps for use in the exhibit. The interface group has been working away on adjusting the design for the site – Andy Morton has brought some really good ideas and work to the project.

UR Scholarship: In March, 91 more theses and undergraduate papers were uploaded into the UR Scholarship Repository, and 29 more – 838 pages worth – were digitized and prepared for uploading. During the month, 115 honors papers were downloaded 759 times, and 222 master’s theses were downloaded 2,234 times.

Richmond Dispatch: We’ve been working for some time on a complete overhaul of our Daily Dispatch collection, our first big project that was released back in 2007. The Dispatch collection contains the complete run of Richmond’s “newspaper of record” from November 1860 through December 1865. At nearly 24 million words, completely encoded in XML, it is a deep collection that has contributed widely, to projects ranging from scholarly research to family history and genealogy. While it’s a great project it could use an extreme makeover, and it’s in the process of getting one. We’ve completely rebuilt the guts of the system using standardized TEI data and an XML database, have implemented a new page viewing mechanism for high-resolution images, and have worked with University Communications to plan an updated, more functional user interface. While the programming work needed to finish this project off is sidelined due to other priorities, we will be picking it up again very soon.

Centennial Project – Fannie Graves Crenshaw

Just as her colleague May Keller holds a prominent place in University of Richmond memory, Fannie (also spelled Fanny) Graves Crenshaw is a celebrated faculty member who appears in stories throughout campus history. As a member of the University of Richmond Trustees’ Honor Roll of Distinguished Faculty, Administrators and Staff, Crenshaw is one of the longest serving faculty members that the University has seen, with a tenure beginning in 1914 and retirement in 1955. Crenshaw was hired as Athletic Director at Westhampton College when the doors first opened and remained in that position (with a slight title change to the more modern “Director of Physical Education”) throughout her career.

Born January 17, 1890, Fannie Crenshaw was a bit of a Renaissance woman for her time. With her hometown being right here in Richmond, Virginia, Crenshaw traveled North for her undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr College as well as graduate work at Columbia University. It seems that Crenshaw must have enjoyed her time at Bryn Mawr, because she is frequently seen in photographs wearing her college sweater. Though her specialty was in Physical Education, Crenshaw also taught Math and History at St. Catherine’s upon her return to Richmond and start at Westhampton College. Furthermore, during her summer breaks from the college, Crenshaw traveled back north to continue working at summer camps.

During her first years at Westhampton College, Crenshaw not only taught all of the Physical Education classes but also coached all of the women’s sports teams. She was an enthusiastic proponent of Field Hockey and, under her direction, Westhampton College became of the first schools in Virginia to adopt the game as a sport. Crenshaw continued to coach varsity sports all the way up until her retirement. In fact, students seemed to adore her so much that she continued to be a subject of campus news stories well after her retirement.

(This information was adapted from Faces on the Wall by Woodford B. Hackley)


3D Printing Primer, part 1

Wondering about 3D printing?  The CTLT has answers for you, and several printers!  You can follow their blog, Thinking in 3D for insights into 3D printing at UR and for tutorials.

When people think about 3D printing, they tend to think in terms of finished objects but have a hard time fathoming how you get from a digital file to an actual thing.  So, how, exactly, does a 3D printer work?  There are many different ways, but here are three models to consider:

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

FDM is the additive technology many consumer-grade 3D printers are built around.  You can think of it as the “smart hot-glue gun” model of rapid prototyping.  Plastic (or other material) filament is heated, melted, and extruded through a nozzle and laid down in layers to create an object.  Stepper motors drive the nozzle on vertical and horizontal axes and a build plate is lowered on the Z-axis as the layers of extruded filament are built up.  Objects printed using this method are not solid but, rather, made up of “shells” that define a surface.  Often there is a honeycomb structure which makes up the interior of FDM objects.  Makerbots and Rep Rap printers utilize FDM.  There are limitations on the number and size of overhangs this process can accommodate, but it is possible to print models with overhangs by using a support structure akin to scaffolding that is printed on the outside of an object.  There tends to be a fair amount of post-processing with FDM to get satisfying models.

Makerbot Replicator 2

Makerbot Replicator 2

FDM objects printed with supports

FDM objects printed with supports

Granular Materials Binding

Granular Materials Binding fuses a powder with dots of glue, also in layers and also moving the build-area downwards until an object is built up. Models made with this method have interiors of solid powder, unless you design space into your object, but overhangs are easier to accommodate as you will always have support where you need it from the loose powder outside your object.  Granular Materials Binding is faster than FDM and allows for a higher resolution.  Color information can be included in models, as color from cartridges can be delivered at the same time as the binder (i.e. glue) and unused powder is never wasted as it can always be reclaimed and color is only included in the binder.  Post-processing of models is less time-consuming, but they are heavier than models printed in plastic because they are solid.

Projet 460 professional 3D printer uses granular materials binding

Projet 460 professional 3D printer uses granular materials binding

Object printed using granular materials binding

Object printed using granular materials binding

Stereolithograpy (SLA)

SLA is also an additive process that uses light (usually a laser) to cure a liquid (resin) to create a model.  There is a $100 3D printer currently being manufactured and beta-tested, the Peachy Printer, that uses this process, and was funded by the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter.

Stereolithography method of 3D printing

Stereolithography method of 3D printing

These additive processes can accommodate manifolds, where every surface is connected to another surface.  The surfaces are mesh surfaces, in which every plane can be approximated with polygons.  3D models must be prepared for 3D printing using a software specific to your printer, which translates the digital model into a format your printer understands.  This is referred to as “slicing,” where the software slices a model and creates cross-sections which approximate curves.  This is how the printer will make shapes.  The code behind 3D models is G-code, a numerical control programming language that instructs machines how to move and delineates which paths to follow.  There are massive amounts of code that go into creating 3D printed objects.

Stanford bunny manifold, a widely-used test print for 3D printing

Stanford bunny manifold, a widely-used test print for 3D printing

Form rendered with a polygon mesh surface

Form rendered with a polygon mesh surface

But how do you make a 3D model to print?  Well, that’s another post!  Look for that in 3D Printing Primer, part 2.