Items of Computing News from the Library

October 2001

by William H. Teschek, Assistant Director

E.T. may have wanted to phone home, but these days our local aliens come to the library to email home. All summer long the library is deluged by young foreign workers who, when not slinging hamburgers or fry-doe at the beach, can often be found milling around our seven public Internet stations (we have two more in the children's room as well). With the exception of Antarctica I don't think there is a continent on Earth that isn't well-represented. If one were to look over the shoulders of many of our Internet computer users there are times when you'd be more likely to see a foreign language than you would English. We have to make sure that our Internet browser software can display many difference languages. Many of these people purchase three-month cards to enable them to use a computer for an uninterrupted hour, which adds a significant amount of income to our non-resident fee collections. Now that summer is over their numbers have dwindled, but not all of them have gone home.

The week after last month's terrorist attacks saw another kind of attack that many people were probably not aware of. Everyone hears news reports from time to time of the latest Internet or email virus to wreak havoc with the world's computers. Well on September 18th the big news was all about the "Nimda" virus. This was one of the most effective viruses ever created, which used every trick in the book to distribute itself worldwide in a matter of hours. Hundreds of computer servers all over the world crashed that day, and every other one was the recipient of thousands of attempts to do so. Fortunately we had installed all the appropriate software patches so Nimda was unable to do us any harm here at the library. But our server logs told an interesting story. In a normal month we may get about 600 "Failed Requests" to access files on our website. Most of these probably occur in the hour from 3:00 to 4:00 a.m. when the server is taken offline while being backed up. In September, however, that number skyrocketed to 57,592! The vast majority of those attempts were from our friend Nimda trying to access certain files on our server.

Speaking of webserver statistics there was another interesting item in the September log. The library has thousands of pages of historical information about Hampton on its website. One item is the "Tercentenary" booklet published for the 300th anniversary of the town in 1938. One article in that booklet is titled "Evolution of the American Flag", and shows pictures of our flag from the colonial days up to the flag used in 1938. On an average month that file is used only 20 or 30 times, but in September it was one of the most popular files on our website, receiving 210 "hits". By the way, if you are one of the many people haunting the local stores looking for American flags, look no further. Library volunteer John Holman is in the library just about every day selling 12x18 flags out of a room downstairs. The price is $2.00 each and proceeds go to benefit the American Legion.

One of the most consistently popular pages on our website is a page of links to information about Pam Smart, the former Winnacunnet High School media coordinator who was convicted in 1990 for the murder of her husband Gregg. More than a decade later her case still interests many people around the world. Our other most popular pages are the "front pages" for information about Hampton history or genealogy, Hampton cemetery records online, our reference links pages, and the Hampton Beach draft master plan.

Don't forget that the library offers Internet-training classes on Tuesday mornings from 8:00 to 9:00 or Thursday evenings from 8:00 to 9:00. Come in or call and speak to me about times and availability. There is no charge for these classes.