Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Introduction to the Internet: Multimedia terms

AVI [Video for Windows]
Short for Audio Video Interleave, the file format for Microsoft’s Video for Windows standard. A format developed by Microsoft Corporation for storing video and audio information. Files in this format have a .AVI extension. AVI files are limited to 320 x 240 resolution, and 30 frames per second, neither of which is adequate for full-screen, full-motion video. However, Video for Windows does not require any special hardware, making it the lowest common dominator for multimedia applications. Many multimedia producers use this format because it allows them to sell their products to the largest base of users.

Video for Windows supports several data compression techniques, including RLE, Indeo, and Cinepak. A competing software-only video format is Quicktime.

Pronounced jiff or giff (hard g) stands for graphic interchange format, a bit-mapped graphics file format used by the World Wide Web, CompuServe, and many BBSs. GIF supports color and various resolutions. It also includes data compression, making it especially effective for scanned photos.

Short for Joint Photographic Experts Group, and pronounced jay-peg, JPEG is a lossy compression technique for color images. Although it can reduce file sizes to about 5% of their normal size, some detail is lost in the compression.

Pronounced middy, an acronym for musical instrument digital interface, a standard adopted by the electronic music industry for controlling devices, such as synthesizers and sound cards, that emit music. At minimum, a MIDI representation of a sound includes values for the note’s pitch, length, and volume. It can also include additional characteristics, such as attack and delay time.

Short for Moving Pictures Expert Group, and pronounced m-peg, a working group of ISO. The term also refers to the family of digital video compression standards and file formats developed by the group. MPEG generally produces better-quality video than competing formats, such as Video for Windows, Indeo, and QuickTime. MPEG files can be decoded by special hardware or software.

The use of computers to present text, graphics, video, animation, and sound in an integrated way. Long touted as the future revolution in computing, multimedia applications were, until the mid-90s, uncommon due to the expensive hardware required. With increases in performance and decreases in price, however, multimedia is now commonplace. Nearly all PCs are capable of displaying video, though the resolution available depends on the power of the computer’s video adapter and CPU.

Is the file extension for MPEG, audio layer 3. Layer 3 is one of three coding schemes (layer 1, layer 2, layer 3) for the compression of audio signals. Layer 3 uses perceptual audio coding and psychoacoustic compression to remove all superfluous information (more specifically, the redundant and irrelevant parts of a sound signal. The stuff the human ear doesn’t hear anyway). It also adds a MDCT (Modified Discrete Cosine Transform) that implements a filter bank, increasing the frequency resolution 18 times higher than that of layer 2.

Because MP3 files are small, they can easily be transferred across the Internet. Controversy arises when copyrighted songs are sold and distributed illegally off of Web Sites. On the other hand, musicians may be able to use this technology to distribute their own songs from their own Web sites to their listeners, thus eliminating the need for record companies. Costs to the consumer would decrease, and profits for the musicians would increase.

A video and animation system developed by Apple Computer. QuickTime is built into the Macintosh operating system and is used by most Mac applications that include video or animation. PCs can also run files in QuickTime format, but they require a QuickTime driver. QuickTime supports most encoding formats, including AVI and ActiveMovie.

The de facto standard for streaming audio data over the World Wide Web. RealAudio was developed by RealNetworks and supports FM-stereo-quality sound. To hear a Web page that includes a RealAudio sound file, you need a RealAudio player or plug-in, a program that is freely available from a number of other places. It was included in current (2003) versions of both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Sound card
An expansion board that enables a computer to manipulate and output sounds. Sound cards are necessary for nearly all CD-ROMs and have become commonplace on modern personal computers. Sound cards enable the computer to output sound through speakers connected to the board, to record sound input from a microphone connected to the computer, and manipulate sound stored on a disk.

Nearly all sound cards support MIDI, a standard for representing music electronically. In addition, most sound cards are Sound Blaster-compatible, which means that they can process commands written for a Sound Blaster card, the de factor standard for PC sound.

A technique for transferring data such that it can be processed as a steady and continuous stream. Streaming technologies are becoming increasingly important with the growth of the Internet because most users do not have fast enough access to download large multimedia files quickly.

With streaming, the client browser or plug-in can start displaying the data before the entire file has been transmitted. For streaming to work, the client side receiving the data must be able to collect the data and send it as a steady stream to the application that is processing the data and converting it to sound or pictures. This means that if the streaming client receives the data more quickly than required, it needs to save the excess data in a buffer. If the data doesn’t come quickly enough, however, the presentation of the data will not be smooth.

There are a number of competing streaming technologies emerging. For audio data on the Internet, the de facto standard is Progressive Network’s RealAudio.

The format for storing sound in files developed jointly by Microsoft and IBM. Support for WAV was built into Windows 95 making it the de facto standard for sound on PCs. WAV sound files end with a .wav extension and can be played by nearly all Windows applications that support sound.
All definitions taken from Webopedia

Monday, April 20, 2009

Introduction to the Internet: Multimedia searching

Required readings
File Format and Media Searching
A module in the online course Introduction to Internet Research from Florida Community College.

Sullivan, Danny. Multimedia Search Engines. Sept. 5, 2003

Supplementary readings
Abbey, Heidi N. An Introduction to Finding Images on the World Wide Web.
Covers standard image formats, image bots, meta resources, and subject specific resources. From the University of Connecticut Libraries.

Gathering images

Harvesting the power of video
Common formats and sources are covered in each. From the Robert F. Kennedy Library, California Polytechnic State University’s Digital Toolbox Series.

A Review of image search engines. February 2003.
From TASi, Technical Advisory Services for Images, a service that has been set up to provide advice and guidance to the Further and Higher Education community in the UK on the issues of creating, delivering and using digital images together with managing digitization projects.

Thomas, Ruth S. Finding images on the Web.
From Boston University’s Mugar Memorial Library. Derived from a hands on tutorial. Contains information on search engines, lists of collections, etc., as well as how to download and insert images.

Guides and directories
Berinstein, Paula. Finding Images Online: Directory of Web Image Sites.
Supplement to book. Sites organized by subject.

Finding Multimedia Resources
From Weslyan University Library. Contains information about how multimedia searching works and a list of search engines and directories for finding multimedia. Multimedia, music and MP3
From Australia. Has links to multimedia sites.

Reference Sources: Image Collections
From Toronto District School Board Cyberlinks.

SearchEngines: MultiMedia
Listing of search engines selected by Educational Technology Clearinighouse (ETC). ETC is a collaborative project of the Bureau of Educational Technology, Florida Department of Education and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida.

Wright State University Libraries. Multimedia.
Links to sources for images, sound and multimedia.

Canadian sites
CBC Archives
Index of clips from CBC Radio archives available over the Web.

Images Canada
Images Canada is a search engine providing access to the online image collections of participating Canadian cultural institutions.

The Virtual Gramophone: Canadian Historical Sound Recordings. National Library of Canada.
The database, when completed, will contain information on and images of 78-rpm and cylinder recordings released in Canada, and foreign recordings featuring Canadian artists or Canadian compositions, as well as details in on the 78s and cylinders in the Recorded Sound Collection at the National Library of Canada. Biographies of prominent Canadian performers, short histories of Canadian record companies, background information on music styles and the recording technology of the time, and digital audio reproductions of selected 78s will also be included.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Searching for kids' sites

Walter Minkel looks for the best way to locate appropriate web resources for young people.

Librarians offer turn to the web for ready-reference materials, particularly when the question involves computers, celebrities, or current news. Kids In school depend on the Internet as the major—and in some cases the only—resource for research and homework assignments. Anyone who watches students at the computer will see them zipping straight to Yahoo! or Ask Jeeves and entering a search term.

Librarians are at an interesting point in the development of the web as a research and reference tool. Many public and school library web sites include lists of links, but they are typically neither well presented nor regularly updated. They often seem an afterthought rather than an important part of the collection. The issue, many librarians say, is that there just isn’t time to build a worthwhile collection of online resources, in addition to their other responsibilities.

Librarians need alternatives when they want to direct kids to a suitable place to find answers. At the same time, many vendors are providing prescreened, searchable databases of safe and appropriate sites, such as Thinkronize’s netTrekker and Web Feet from Rockhill Press. Web Feet has been around for seven years as a homework helper, and the recently released netTrekker offers teachers the ability to search not only by grade but by state standards for that grade. Unfortunately, libraries can not always afford these products.

There are some free tools, however, that librarians can comfortably turn to when helping kids with research, or that they can use to model research strategies. They come in two basic flavors: the directories and the search engines.

One of the best-known librarian web directories was not designed for use by kids, but many young people use it all the same: the Librarian’s Index to the Internet ( When you compare its features to those of a commercial product like netTrekker, looks pretty basic. But Karen Schneider, coordinator of, says its simplicity is intentional. isn’t the largest of web directories—it currently includes about 9,000 sites—but those sites are chosen with care for accuracy, authority, and quality of presentation. It receives over 250,000 searches per week and publishes an excellent set of selection criteria ( useful for librarians creating web selection policies. Sites are given an numerical score for how well they meet these criteria. Each site is annotated. Schneider says that originally had a Kids section, but that section is gone. Why? First, she says, Kids is not an LC subject heading; second, students seem to prefer finding sites by topic instead of intended grade level; and third, KidsClick!, a librarian-created directory for young people, does the job well.

Jerry Kuntz assembled the original KidsClick! at the Ramapo Catskill Library System, NY, with the help of a 1997 Library Services and Technology Act grant. Today, it is managed by the Colorado State Library. The KidsClick! link citation format is consistent, although different from’s. Site links are alphabetized and include a brief annotation and a reading level. KidsClick! has a searching tutorial and a search tool page that users can visit if KidsClick! doesn’t satisfy a student’s search.

Interestingly, KidsClick!’s selection criteria are far more specific than’s about what is included and what is not—particularly if a topic is controversial. For example, the criteria page deals at some length why historical witchcraft and the Wicca religion are included. This is useful since web directories for children and teens are carefully watched by conservative groups, particularly because of the media attention given to the American Library Association’s (ALA) position on Internet filtering.

For example, in 1997, when ALA put up its directory of recommended web sites for young people, 700+ Great Sites, it was soon challenged for including a children’s site sponsored by the Nation of Islam. After some discussion, that site was reevaluated and removed. ALA’s site continues today. Although it is need of an update, it is still a good collection of safe sites librarians can use with adults to illustrate the benefits of letting kids explore the online world (after some training in net safety). It also includes a criteria page that has weathered the last five years of Internet expansion fairly well.

One of the most popular library-sponsored web site directories for young people is Multnomah County Library’s Homework Center. Although the site has no “search” function, it is clearly organized and easy to use. There is a Social Issues page, in which both sides of topics like abortion and gun control are represented, along with court decisions. The States Information page is also a model organization, allowing students to locate quickly a state and go to the appropriate links.

Search engines
Any discussion of kids using search engines, like Google or Alltheweb, provokes anxiety for many adults. In school and public libraries, particularly those serving elementary and middle school students, students are often pointed to the kids’ search engines. Many of these are actually directories of sites with a search box attached; other search the Internet but use a filter similar to those used by commercial filtering projects. Here are some search tools for kids.

Yahooligans, put together by Yahoo! in 1996, was one of the first attempts to create a safe web directory for children. In its earliest days, the number of commercial sites that would appear in typical homework searches made Yahooligans’ performance uneven. (For example, searches for animals by name, such as “panda”, would often bring up a hits page filled with sites for Panda Ski Shop or Panda Chinese Restaurant and no zoo or museum sites about the animal.) Now typing “panda” in the search box brings up a hit list well suited to animal reports. The Yahooligans site, however, is loud and distracting for young searchers; it has been designed as a kids’ portal, with links to jokes, games, and other nonacademic resources.

Ask Jeeves for Kids, like its parent site, Ask Jeeves, is designed for natural-language searching. Instead of typing “Colombia map”, kids can type “I need a map of Colombia”. While the Ask Jeeves for Kids interface outclasses Yahooligans, the tool still cannot handle requests that are not among those in its repertoire of prepared questions. Just try asking it, “Who wrote The Old Man and the Sea?”

Google isn’t just used by adults; kids love it, too. While many never get past its single-search box main page, the Advanced Search page has features that kids and those who work with them will find valuable. First of all, there’s a filter (SafeSearch) that can be turned on. If students are taught all of the features of the Advanced Search page and the Advanced Image Search page (which has a three-level filter), their ability to locate precisely what you’re looking for—using designated dates, domains, and file formats—will grow tremendously. AltaVista has similar features, including a family filter, as well as Advanced Search pages for text and media.

The search tools that many students forget, and that are often the most useful, are the periodical databases that the majority of libraries subscribe to—and are often made remotely. You really can’t call tools like GaleNet or bigchalk databases periodical databases. They are often “everything” databases, with news photos, taped interviews or video files, broadcast transcripts, and access to online encyclopedias and other reference works. Every student should know when to go first to the library’s periodical subscription database before going to Google or Yahoo! they should understand that it is easier to find accurate information when it has been well organized. Why libraries aren’t trumpeting these resources more widely is one mystery Google can’t answer.

Link List
Web directories for students

A collection of almost 7000 sites for young people through high school, created and maintained by librarians.

Librarians’ Index to the Internet
A well-crafted, catalogued collection of sites. For adults but useful for older students.

Multnomah County Library Homework Center
Sites selected because K-12 students and teachers requested them. Easy to use, with good information literacy materials and a small collection of homework sites in Spanish.

700+ great web sites
ALA’s collections of sites for grades K-8. Includes some sites on the arts, biography, and literature you won’t find in other directories for children. Small group of Spanish sites.

Search tools
Most useful when students use the Advanced Search and media-search pages. Includes a family filter.

Ask Jeeves for Kids
Its “natural language” searching can be helpful with students looking for answers to standard questions.

Contains a good set of advanced search features, including image searching and a filter.

A large selection of web resources tuned to students’ needs, but the interface is loud and distracting.

Commercial products

Description at
A large subscription database of sites, designed for teachers. Includes the ability to search by grade level, curriculum topic, and applicability to state standards.

Web Feet
Description at
A catalogued collection of web sites arranged by topic; it includes grade levels.

Searching for Kids’ Sites By: Minkel, Walter, School Library Journal, 03628930, Summer 2002 Net Connect Vol. 48, Issue 8

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Introduction to the Internet: Search Engines/Directories for Kids

Great Websites for kids
ALA’s collection of sites for kids, including some sites on the arts, biography, and literature. Formerly known as 700+ Great Sites from ALA.

Billed as “the Web portal for kids”, ALFY has a colorful graphical interface for directing users to web resources. Aimed at kids aged 3-9.

Ask Jeeves Kids
A search engine that uses natural language technology. Simply type a question in plain English and click “Ask”. While the original Ask Jeeves is basically just a search engine, Ask Jeeves Kids includes a variety of resource and study tools, including links to a dictionary, a thesaurus, an almanac, biographies, science information, clip art, astronomy information, a world atlas, math help and a history link. Ask Jeeves Kids also includes a “Fun and Games” link with links to educational games, as well as just for fun games. “Jeeves Newsroom” offers links to a variety of news sources for elementary school, middle school and high school students.

Awesome Library
Organizes the Web with 23,000 carefully reviewed resources, including the top 5 percent in education. Enter a door for teachers, librarians, college students, teens, kids or parents. Each door provides access to high-caliber, age-appropriate sites. The directory structure is logical and easy to navigate. A concise annotation introduces each site. The search option directs students to kid-safe search engines. The teacher links also includes lesson plans, worksheets and project ideas.

Berit’s Best Sites for Children
A web directory for kids with additional tools for web searching. The wide-ranging of variety of sites include Just For Fun activity centers, crafts, and funnies; Holiday & Seasons, Creatures Great and Small, and Serious Stuff, such as the environment and health sites. There is a spot for signing up for email pen pals, chatting, and a special emphasis on safe searching. There is also a special Berit’s Browse section, which highlights a special theme. Created by Dalhousie University library and information sciences graduate Berit Erickson. The original site began in 1994, when Erickson was hired by Halifax’s Cochrane Interactive to create a Web site for the company’s popular children’s show, “Theodore Tugboat”. Became a separate site in 2000. Erickson evaluates each of the sites listed on ‘Berit’s Best’, then rates them for content, organization, ease of use, appearance and credibility.

CyberSleuth Kids
Search engine and guide for K-12. Resources are categorized by topic into twenty-one groups. The database can be searched by keyword and there is also a top navigation bar available. A classroom clipart index, lesson plans for teachers and subject theme index are available on the left side of the main page.

Discovery School
From Discovery Channel in the U.S. Discovery School is broken down into three areas: Teachers, Students and Parents. Offers lesson plans and teaching tools for educators, games and study tools for students, and product reviews for parents.

Fact Monster
From Information Please. Includes an almanac, atlas, dictionary, and encyclopedia, plus other features such as Games & Quizzes, and Homework Center.

Internet Detectives
A Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) initiative for middle-school teachers and students, helping them to acquire skills in accessing and critically evaluating information found on the World Wide Web. Classes begin the Internet Detectives process by asking a question about a topic. After they locate Web sites that address the question, students evaluate the sites and write descriptions of the sites’ contents and features. Classes then select sites that relate to their question and recommend these sites for publication as part of Internet Detectives’ Library of Student Recommended Sites.

IPL Kidspace
A directory of educational web resources for kids. Part of the University of Michigan, School of Information’s Internet Public Library (IPL).

Kid’s Search Tools
A page of links to search engines and directories for kids compiled by Ramapo Catskill Library System in New York State.

Librarian designed web guide and search tools for kids. Click “What does this page look like through a Librarian’s Eyes?” to see subjects arranged in Dewey Decimal Classification order.

Tek Mom Search Tools for Students
There are four main areas for students: Search Tools, Technology Buzzwords, citation guidelines and Computer Ethics. The Tools area is a guide to useful Web tools. It includes links to subject-specific search engines, engines created for children, online encyclopedias and dictionaries, maps and useful images.

A junior version of Yahoo! With a directory of filtered sites. Available since March 1996, Yahooligans is the oldest major directory for children.

Supplementary readings
Kids’ Search Engines: The Best for Grades 4-10.
Ken Haycock. Teacher Librarian. Volume 31, Number 1, October 2003.
Kids Search Engines. Danny Sullivan., Jan. 25, 2002.

Kids’ Search Tools. Ping He, Shirley Koh, Karen Lai, Shumin Wang. Website designed for Libr 557 Advanced Information Retrieval.

Search Engines for Kids.; By: Clyde, Anne, Teacher Librarian, Apr 2001m Vol. 28 Issue 4, p28, 2p Academic Search Premier

Search for Kids’ Sites.; By: Minkel, Walter., Library Journal, Summer 2002 Net Connect, Vol. 127 Issue 12, p30, 2p, 1c.
Academic Search Premier

In Search of the Best Kids Search Sites.; By: Salpeter, Judy, Technology & Learning, Mar 2001, Vol. 21, Issue 8, p12, 4p, 1 chart, 2c.
Academic Search Premier

Savvy Searching. Anne Collier. Children’s Software & New Media Review, Jan/Feb 2002.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Introduction to the Internet: Canadian search engines

AltaVista Canada
Option to search only Canadian sites. French language interface available at: The English language interface is the default for the Canadian site. There is also a French default for worldwide.
Operated by CanWest Interactive, is an Internet network and portal*. The Global Television Network and over thirty CanWest Newspaper Publications support the network.

Canadian Content
A portal site operated by the Canadian Content Interactive Media. Consists of a hybrid directory and web search engine with focus on Canadian content including news, weather, recipes, etc.

Canadian Information by Subject
From National Library of Canada. Provides links to information about Canada from Internet resources around the world. The subject arrangement is based on the Dewey Decimal Classification System.

Covers Canadian sports, culture, news, travel, health, fashion and more. Newspaper coverage provided by Sun Media. Site owned by Netgraphe. Uses Google as its search engine.

Google Canada
Option to search only “pages from Canada”. Google is fairly good at identifying Canadian sites regardless of domain. Has a French language interface.

Homer: The Canadian Search Directory
Focuses on Canadian news and current events and provides access to a variety of search tools. Includes a listing of Canadian search engines.

Inventory of Canadian Digital Initiatives
Provides descriptions of Canadian information resources created for the Web, including general digital collections, resources centered around a particular theme, and reference sources and databases.
Sympatico was a portal site from Bell Canada, using Lycos as a search engine. Available in French too; the site has since partnered with MSN.

Search Engine Colossus
Colossus offers you links to search engines and directories from 195 countries and 44 territories. Link is to Canada section.

Toronto Public Library Virtual Reference Library
The Virtual Reference Library provides reliable information resources and enhances the reference capacity of public libraries through its subject guides, digital collections and online services.

Yahoo! Canada
Canadian version of Yahoo! Web search engine and directory.

French language
Bills itself as the largest French-language Internet Network in North America.

La Toile du Québec
In addition to some 70 guides, organized by theme, and the largest directory of Quebec Web sites (with approximately 70,000 listed), La Toile du Québec supports searches of the entire Web through its partnership with Google. Owned by Netgraphe.

*Portal: A Web site or service that offers a broad array of resources and services, such as e-mail, forums, search engines, and on-line shopping malls. The first Web portals were online services, such as AOL, that provided access to the Web, but by now most of the traditional search engines have transformed themselves into Web portals to attract and keep a larger audience.

Supplementary readings
Rocha, F., McNeur, A., Mackie, L., Creak, E. Searching for Canada : an overview of Canadian search tools.
Library school students’ Powerpoint presentation.

RE: Canadian Search Engines?
See postings 5 and 6 from discussion list.