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Author Archives:Sam Simas

Watching International TV

Q. How can I watch television shows in a different language or from a different country?

A. Most streaming devices, like Roku, Chromecast, or FireStick (from Roku, Google, and Amazon companies respectively), can be plugged into televisions and act as a sort of cable-box. You can watch (stream) shows and movies through your internet connection; you will need subscriptions or accounts to Hulu, Netflix, or whichever service you’re using.

Viewing international channels work in a similar way. For example, using the Roku 3 one can access international news channels like the Al-Jazeera or RadioFrance. Many of these channels are free, but some require subscriptions or payments — much like cable or satellite channels. If these are the only channels you’ll watch, then this is generally a cheaper option.

Another option: your television and/or internet service provider may offer you the option to purchase international channel packages, so be sure to check with them to see what your options are.

 

Feel free to explore your options by checking a Roku out of the library today.

KRACK logo

KRACK Attacks

‘All wifi networks’ are vulnerable to hacking, security expert discovers


KRACK attacks, or Key Reinstallation Attacks, make Linux, Android, and OpenBSD device-users particularly vulnerable to having their information stolen.


“The security protocol used to protect the vast majority of wifi connections has been broken, potentially exposing wireless internet traffic to malicious eavesdroppers and attacks, according to the researcher who discovered the weakness.

Mathy Vanhoef, a security expert at Belgian university KU Leuven, discovered the weakness in the wireless security protocol WPA2, and published details of the flaw on Monday morning.

“Attackers can use this novel attack technique to read information that was previously assumed to be safely encrypted,” Vanhoef’s report said. “This can be abused to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages, emails, photos and so on.” -Alex Hern, The Guardian


 

Visiting the Giant Redwoods in California

Important news from the National Park Service hit the media (print, online and social) this past spring and summer. The $10 lifetime price of the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass was ending at the end of August. The cost of the pass was then immediately increasing for the first time since 1994 to $80.

The change was a result of legislation passed in December of 2016 which essentially stated that the cost of a lifetime pass for those over 62 years of age should be equal to the ANNUAL pass for everyone else. Included in the legislation was an additional level for seniors – $20 for a one-year pass.

Sometime in early summer I caught the bug with all the rest of America who was 62 years of age or older and I applied for our passes online. The extra $10 for an online application didn’t bother me, but I would have saved that money just by visiting one of Massachusetts National Parks that charge a fee – those in Quincy, Boston, Concord and others. The $10 passes were available at any one of them. Time was running out, however, and I wanted to make the deadline.

Within weeks, Gerry and I were official Senior Pass holders. I was excited to see our names printed on the back of our colorful plastic cards. Even more thrilling was the fact that each of our cards admits three others who can come along and visit one of the National Parks with us.

On our recent trip to Hawaii this past October, we spent a few days on both ends of our trip nursing our jet-lag in Northern California. The beginning of our trip was unfortunately hindered by the tragic wildfires that raged across wine country and it seemed the entire northern half of the state was plagued by choking smoke. By the time we returned 9 days later, however, the fires were well on their way to containment. We spent a lovely, warm fall day in the city of Napa and the town of St. Helena – places spared from the devastation in Santa Rosa and the surrounding hillsides.

We were on our way to a red-eye flight that would leave San Francisco later on our last night, when we drove up and over the mountains that snake up through the towns in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. There we wound down the steep incline on the Pacific side to enter Muir Woods, nestled only a few miles from the ocean.

Muir Woods, home to some of the oldest and tallest coastal redwoods*, has been a lifelong destination for me. Beginning in the early 1960s, my mother insisted that every visiting aunt, uncle, or cousin walk among the tall and graceful redwoods just across the bay from our home. We made many trips to Muir Woods over decades as I continued the family tradition and visited many times during my years in California and nearly every visit “back home.” *Note that the very tallest, widest, and oldest coastal redwoods are found farther north up the coast in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Muir Woods National Monument (in the town of Mill Valley) is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area that is just one of the 400 national parks across the United States. After the Great San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906, crafty contractors and businessmen looked to the redwood forests just north of San Francisco for trees that would provide building materials for a city nearly burned to the ground. Soon-to-be Congressman William Kent and his wife had purchased 611 acres of coastal redwoods in Mill Valley just a year before the quake. In 1908 the Kents donated that land to the United States. They insisted that conservationist, philosopher, author and scientist John Muir receive the honor of the name. It was President Teddy Roosevelt who used his executive powers to create the park we know as Muir Woods.

At the time when Muir Woods was created and dedicated, many of the redwoods were already hundreds of years old. Currently, the tallest tree in the park is over 250 feet tall and the oldest may be over 1,200 years. Their ancestors have been on the planet for more than 240 million years. These beautiful trees with reddish bark and coniferous needles stand majestically throughout the park. They allow beams of sunlight to filter down to the forest floor which is rich in wildlife, plants of all kinds, and soil that was created by the dying trees of past centuries. When walking among the needles and leaves on the park trails, one can imagine this lovely place as home where an early Native American family could sleep among the hollows of trees and where their rituals were held in the redwood cathedrals.

The library and Minuteman Library Network has many recent books for you to enjoy about our national parks: National Parks of America (with suggestions on how to experience all 59 of them) by The Lonely Planet; and Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks by Mark Woods. Both were published in 2016.

You can read more about Teddy’s Roosevelt’s environmental crusade in The Wilderness Warrior by Douglas Brinkley (2010). John Muir’s story is told in the Wilder Muir by Bonnie Gisel (2017); The Wild Muir (22 of his greatest adventures) by Lee Stetson (2013); and John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire (his efforts to conserve the glaciers of Alaska) by Kim Heacox (2015). The California redwoods are championed in The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston (2008).

While only 118 of 417 of our national parks have an entrance fee, the National Park Service is particularly generous to Americans. In addition to the Senior Pass, four other free admission passes are available to citizens of the United States and permanent residents: the Every Kid in a Park pass (4th grader); the Annual Pass for US Military; Access Pass with free admission and discounts on other amenity fees for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities; and the Volunteer Pass for those with 250 hours or more volunteer hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the November 2, 2017 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Hawaiian State of Mind

I had just recently become a new Californian when Hawaii became the 50th of our United States in 1959. This remarkable event in American history was undoubtedly front page news on the west coast for months leading up to the official admission date of August 21. Alaska had become the 49th state just months before on January 3. At seven years of age, however, I was unaware of the magnitude of these historical moments.

Growing up in California as an student in elementary, middle and high school, my education was steeped in the history of California statehood and its proximity on the Pacific Ocean to western geography, Less than two decades following the end of World War II in 1945 (in both the European and Pacific conflicts), stories of the war west of California were richly described by middle-aged men who had returned from the bloody and watery battlefields. Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945 and Japan on September 1945, just seven years before I was born. It was the battle of Pearl Harbor that still seemed to be in everyone’s consciousness.

I was never fortunate as a child and young adult to visit Hawaii. My peers, whose families were in the military, or were affluent enough to take the 2,399 mile flight across the Pacific, returned with stories of lush greenery, tropical fruit, and daily rainfall. Cliches of the Polynesian Hawaii, complete with grass skirts, fruity drinks, and sumptuous luaus were my simplistic concepts of this exotic place which was as far from Northern California as was my birthplace in Central Massachusetts.

I was blessed this week to arrive in Honolulu for a planned vacation on two Hawaiian islands. Not only did I get to relax on Hawaiian beaches and soak in Hawaiian sunshine, but I visited several of Hawaii’s most precious historical sites in the capital city of Honolulu. One was the National Park Service’s visitor center at Pearl Harbor, including the sacred and emotional USS Arizona Memorial; the other was the Iolani Palace, home of the Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs, King Halakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani.

Hawaii is the only U.S. state that is an island, or rather an archipelago made up of hundreds of islands. Only seven of them are inhabited. The Hawaiian islands were formed by an undersea volcano that is still active on the Big Island, which bears the significant name of Hawaii Island and is the home of the town of Hilo and the volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Maura Kea. New islands are still forming from the activity of Maura Loa. The seven smaller, but still largest islands that make up the State of Hawaii, are Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, Kahoolawe, and Niihau. The State of Hawaii is home to over 1.430M people. Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, is the capital of the state of Hawaii and largest city is home to less than a half million of them.

It is believed that the earliest settlers on the Hawaiian islands traveled from Polynesia, perhaps from another archipelago, the Marquesas Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean, a distance of 2,000 miles. They traversed the Pacific Ocean as early as 300 B.C.E. However, it wasn’t until the 1770s that Captain James Cook and other European explorers began to explore the Hawaiian islands. With those visitors came influences and disease that forever changed Hawaiian history.

Until the 1780s, Hawaiian chiefs fought and ruled, fought and ruled, until 1810 when one ruler united the islands into one. King Hamehameha-the-Great established a monarchy that governed until the death of his last heir in 1872. Over the next two decades, several elections, concessions of power, and manipulations of American military and economic interests, resulted in the annexation of Hawaii as a United States territory in 1898. (There are Hawaiians today who still do not recognize the annexation or statehood as a legal act.)

Of course, U.S. military bases and personnel were integral to peace in the Pacific during the first half of the 20th Century after the annexation. However, peace with Japan began to fall apart when Europe went to war against Hitler and the Axis powers. America refused to go to war and Japan recognized this unique vulnerability. Crucial to weakening the U.S. defense was the naval stronghold on the Hawaiian islands, specifically that of Pearl Harbor where the Pacific fleet was critically and strategically maintained.

Call it what you will, naïveté, stupidity, or technological ineptitude, the series of mistakes by U.S. forces on December 7, 1941 sealed a fate. The forces and civilians in Pearl Harbor were caught unaware in the early morning hours that Sunday when the Japanese struck with a precise and fortunate vengeance. Two bombardments of hundreds of Japanese fighter planes wiped out the entire fleet of American battleships at Pearl Harbor and hundreds of its air defense. War was declared by President Roosevelt the next day. It was only months later that Germany declared war and the U.S. was fully immersed in conflict both to the east and to the west.

Roosevelt’s strong and resolute words to Congress on December 8, 1941 are haunting to this day. The attack on Pearl Harbor was one that “will live in infamy,” he declared. Visiting the National Park Service’s Pearl Harbor museum in Honolulu, one can read the original draft of Roosevelt’s speech that he dictated to his secretary just a few hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. In edits, he scratched out the words “world history,” changing it to “infamy” — a shameful, outrageous act. In videos screened at the visitor’s center, one can hear the urgency and anger in Roosevelt’s voice.

Visiting Hawaii was a privilege. Beyond the blue surf, the fantastic views, and the lush landscape, I learned amazing things about my country and the State of Hawaii. I urge you to read more its history, including the heartbreak of Pearl Harbor.

The Morrill Memorial Library’s newest free streaming service, Kanopy, has hundreds of thoughtful documentaries, including Remember Pearl Harbor, an 81 minute documentary narrated by actor Tom Selleck. Our original streaming service, Hoopla!, includes dozens of e-books, audiobooks, movies and documentaries featuring the history of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In addition, Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last monarch, wrote her biography before Hawaii was annexed by the United States. This story of six decades of Hawaiian history can be read as a Hoopla! download.

Of course, the Minuteman Library Network catalog holds a plethora of books, movies, audiobooks and e-books about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Craig Nelson narrates the audio version of his 2016 book Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness. The definitive book on Pearl Harbor written by Gordon Prange and Donald Goldstein, published in 1982, is available in many versions in Minuteman libraries.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the October 19, 2017 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Saving Time with Audiobooks

I might be the only person neurotic enough to worry that I will die without having read enough books. Some books, like Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia or Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (no offense?), will probably not create an existential void if I never crack them open. But others contain stories and worlds so well wrought that they could change my life, and perhaps make me even more neurotic (i.e., What if the last book I read was the best one and I’ll never read anything better?). In order to cram as much story as I can into my life, I’ve identified areas that produce stress, like a commute around the Boston area or listening to the news, and have replaced them or supplemented them with audiobooks.

Gone are the days of chopping onions and weeping for no reason. Now, at least I can weep while listening to Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me with a gin and tonic. No, it isn’t all about weeping–luckily, there is flu-season to think about, too. Flu-vaccine or not, some of us will be inevitably become couch-bound for a few unpleasant days. I’m not a doctor, or a medical professional, but while you’re drinking fluids and destroying boxes of tissues, I’d recommend listening to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series or maybe something terrifying like Stephen King’s It to remind you that things could always be magically better, or terrifyingly worse–like magic-killer-clown-in-your-sink worse. Plus, if you play it loud enough, it even helps drown out the annoying sniffling and coughing that your loved ones (and coworkers) put up with.

As a graduate student, listening to audiobooks on what I affectionately call “chipmunk” speed, which is the book played at double-speed, has helped me get through Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina when I had only one week to read it. I refuse to rush other books, like Toni Morrison’s Sula, which is read by Ms. Morrison herself and feels like the Nobel Prize winning author is reading me a complicated and beautiful bedtime story. And, as a continuation of that sappy thought: having your favorite author read their novel or memoir comes as close to real magic as I can imagine.

On a more serious note, listening to audiobooks has improved my quality of life during moments that otherwise feel unproductive or monotonous. I’ve also used them to re-experience stories that I may not have had time to read again (i.e., Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Classic Fairy Tales) or learn about something that I would have felt guilty devoting time to (i.e., Animal husbandry, bee keeping) if I never thought about it again after closing the book. It is extremely convenient to use audiobooks, too; I keep mine on my phone, so that I can slowly chip away at the hundreds of thousands of books I’ve never read.

Audiobooks are available, for free, through the Morrill Memorial Library, and can be downloaded to your phone or tablet with the Overdrive and Libby applications.

Samuel Simas is the technology assistant at the Morrill Memorial library; he is a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. Read Samuel’s column in the October 13th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

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