MakeUseOf Has the Answers to Questions You Didn’t Know You Had

makeuseofStaying current with IT news, trends, and tips is a fundamental part of my job in the library.  While I get this information from a variety of resources, there is one website that keeps surprising me with helpful information on a variety of subjects of interest to me and the patrons I assist.  I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to MakeUseOf, a free online resource with timely articles, reviews, and help guides for all things tech.  What really makes this resource shine is its ability to speak to both new and veteran users at the same time without confusing or boring either!

The home page at MakeUseOf displays headlines and teaser text for their most recent articles.  I find this layout somewhat chaotic, so I prefer to sort the articles by category before browsing.  Selecting “Topics” in the header menu will display the articles by category.  The “Answers” section leads to a user forum where registered members can ask and answer questions from the MakeUseOf community.  Check out the “Top List” section for “best of” lists for a variety of software and services on multiple platforms.  For in-depth technology guides, have a look at their “E-books” area.

As a registered user of MakeUseOf, you can earn points for sharing their content on social media, as well as participating in the forum, polls, and other activities.  Those points can be redeemed for rewards, such as entries in drawings for free hardware and software.  My favorite benefit of membership has been receiving the newsletter.  Each email has a few headlines with teaser text that can be easily scanned, with more information just a click away.  I have happened upon lots of very useful information in these newsletters that I didn’t even know I needed!  You can opt-in to the newsletter by selecting the social media icons at the top of any MakeUseOf page, and then selecting the blue “Email” button.

subscribeWhat do you think of MakeUseOf?  If you have another tech info source you love, please share it in the comments.

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Our Library Catalogs Just Got More Accessible

catalog computer

New catalog computer stand

As part of our recent library renovation, we made some improvements to the catalog search/event signup computers based on feedback from our patrons.

In addition to upgrading the machines to Windows 7, we broke up the centrally located circle of catalog search/event signup computers in order to distribute them throughout the library.  Now, two catalog search/event signup computers remain centrally located, and the others can be found on either end of the main room of the library (by the Teen Area and the Periodicals area).  As always, there is a separate catalog search computer in the Children’s Room.  Please note that a library card is not needed to access these computers.

The catalog search/event signup computer stands located at either end of the library are mounted to the wall.  By default, they are set to be standing stations, but the height of the unit can be adjusted to wheelchair or child height using the buttons on the front right of the keyboard tray:

height adjustment button

Two catalog search computers are still located in the center of the library.  One is a standard walk-up station, and one is optimized for patrons who prefer to sit and/or view a screen in large print.  We hope to add a second seated catalog station in the future.

seated catalogIf you are interested in increasing the text size on this computer, click one of the icons to open a catalog or event page.  At the top of the screen, you should see a button labeled “Text Size”:

text size buttonClick on the arrow to select a size, or click on the button itself to toggle between preset sizes.

Please let us know what you think about the changes (or suggest more improvements) in the comments below.  Your feedback helps us become a better library!

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Internet Explorer Found to Be Vulnerable

This past Saturday, Microsoft announced that a major vulnerability was found in all supported versions of its internet browser, Internet Explorer.  Even if you know and follow the rules for surfing safely, you are still vulnerable.  Microsoft has not yet released an update or “fix-it” to address the issue.  The best (and easiest) way to protect yourself is to switch to a different internet browser, such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Opera. There are some software settings and downloads that can help increase the security of IE, but these may require more tech savvy than some people care to muster.

For more details about the vulnerability, along with suggestions for increasing the security of your Internet Explorer installation, check out this article at the blog “Krebs on Security.”

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What You Need to Know about the Heartbleed Bug

heartbleedIn case you haven’t heard, a vulnerability dubbed “Heartbleed” has been discovered in the encryption protocol that many secure websites use.  If you’d like a basic explanation of Heartbleed, The New Yorker did a great job of boiling it down.  Early speculation on which sites were affected and how users can best protect themselves varied widely.  Since the IT teams of individual organizations have had time to address the issue, we now have a clearer idea how to proceed.

The first step is to find out which sites you use that may be compromised and change your passwords at those sites.  Mashable create a fantastic chart to help you with this.  Keep in mind, this is by no means a complete list.  If you login to sites that aren’t on this list, check with each site to see if it is vulnerable and/or has addressed the problem.  For instance, Key Bank was not on Mashable’s list, but a quick visit to their website revealed that they do not use the vulnerable encryption software.

Of course, if you change your password but use that same new password at every site, you will remain vulnerable for other reasons.  If you have trouble keeping track of passwords, you may want to consider using a password manager.  For a guide to creating passwords, check out this guide from MakeUseOf.

Got questions?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll find answers.

 

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Library Technology Update

refreshHi folks!  It has been a very long time since I posted to this blog.  I apologize for the neglect, but the good news is that I have been hard at work upgrading and improving the technology in the library.  Here is a list of the latest improvements:

  • The new public computers have been rolled out and we have been tweaking them for a few months.  Most of the bugs are worked out, but we are still experiencing some minor issues with video optimization.  Hopefully, we can correct that soon.
  • All of the staff computers have been upgraded.
  • I am in the process of upgrading the catalog computers and a few other service computers.
  • Our website security was compromised…twice!  (No worries – patron information does not live on that server, so only our webpages were affected.)  Fortunately, the Library was already deep in a website upgrade process.  Originally, the reason for the update was twofold – platform security and responsive design.  More on responsive design in the next bullet.
  • Currently, the Library maintains separate websites for desktops and mobile devices.  In order to design a single website that will look good and perform well on a variety of devices, we decided to create a responsive website.  This means the site layout will be modified based on the screen size of the device viewing it.  The plan was to release the new site this month, but we want to ensure its security first.
  • A large screen monitor will be installed near the library entrance which will scroll announcements and events.
  • This year, our public copier will be upgraded in response to feedback about the current copier.
  • The Library acquired a new, more portable large print reader for patrons to use within the library.  Visit the Reference Desk for more information.
  • Thanks to a generous grant from the Friends of the Library, two new tablets will be ordered to facilitate training our staff to assist patrons with the latest portable devices.
  • After six months of use, an evaluation of the Ask Us 24/7 chat system led to the conclusion that not enough patrons participated in the service to justify continuing the subscription.

Those are the highlights from the last few months. My Evernote account has become stuffed with things to blog about since I have been away.  I plan to start publishing regular posts again to get that info out to you.  In the meantime, let me know in the comments area if you have any questions or technology subjects you would like me to write about in the future.

 

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iOS 7 Upgrade Causes Issues with OverDrive Media Console

ios-7-wallpaper

If you have an iOS device, chances are good that you have already or will soon be upgrading to iOS 7.  Unfortunately for OverDrive users, the upgrade caused a hiccup that kept users from accessing their books in the OverDrive Media Console app.  The good news is, OverDrive released a simple fix almost immediately.  They suggest uninstalling and reinstalling the OverDrive app and re-authorizing it with your Adobe ID.  It is important to note that uninstalling will clear your bookshelf, settings and history.  Any items checked out to you can be downloaded again by logging into your OverDrive account’s bookshelf.  To login, open the app and select “Get Books.” Click on the account icon and enter you library card number: account

For more information about this issue, please see OverDrive’s blog post on the subject.

 

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OverDrive Digital Bookmobile Returns!

DigitalBookMobile.LogoLast year’s digital bookmobile event was such a success that we’ve asked them to roll through again this year!  On August 19th from 10am to 4pm, the OverDrive Digital Bookmobile will be in our parking lot to educate patrons about our downloadable collections.  First, venture inside the air-conditioned bookmobile and check out their exhibits.  We’ll have staff outside the bookmobile to answer your questions and help you get started using our downloadable e-books and audiobooks.

Are you already a user of our OverDrive collections?  Stop by and let us know what you think!  Your opinions are important to us.  We can also chat about what’s next for OverDrive.  On April 20th, OverDrive is releasing a new and improved mobile app, and we’ll be happy to show you what’s new.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Google Tricks

googleGoogle’s search box is so much more than it appears to be.  You may be familiar with Google Doodles, where Google modifies its logo to commemorate holidays or events.  You may also know that you can use the “Search Tools” button to refine a Google search by time, location, or other limits (found under “All results”).advancedIn fact, there are a whole host of tricks and tools (infographic) out there to make the most of your Google search.  Beyond search terms and language that can refine a search, Google has built in some other neat features that are outlined nicely in this Mashable article.  Some of my favorite tools are:

  • Hidden “Easter Eggs” – the Chuck Norris bit is great!
  • Easy unit conversions – a must for recipes.
  • Package tracking
  • Local movie times

What are your favorite Google tricks?

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Sharing OverDrive Titles

OverDrive LogoThe other day, I spotted a neat feature in the OverDrive Media Console app that I had previously overlooked.  After clicking the “+” next to a title on my bookshelf to view its details page, I saw a “Share” button.  Ever curious, I clicked it and was surprised to be presented with options to share this title via email, Facebook, Goodreads, or any other social app installed on my (Android) phone.  This is not a feature for lending a title to a friend, but it allowed me to send links and mention it to a targeted audience.  If you like to recommend books to your friends, this could be a handy feature.

After a little research, I learned that the share feature differs by device.  While Android users are given every possible sharing option, iOS (Apple) users can only share via Facebook, Twitter and email.  If you’re using a Windows phone, you will be limited to sharing on Facebook.  Sadly, Blackberry users were not mentioned in the press release.  If you are a Blackberry user, I’d be interested to hear whether the share option is available to you.

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Looking for App or Software Recommendations?

makeuseofIn my constant search for helpful tech information to share with patrons and readers, I keep coming across one site that is extremely useful no matter what I’m looking for. I just can’t say enough about MakeUseOf.com.  We use some of their cheat sheets and guides in our library, and I subscribe to their joke blog for techies as well as their informative newsletter (subscribe on right side).  I even purchased a tablet based on one of their reviews!

I am often asked if I have any recommendations for apps and software.  And yes, if you are interested in Android or PC software within my range of interests, I can help.  Unfortunately, I haven’t owned a Mac since college, I’ve never had a chance to play with iPhones or Windows phones, and to my knowledge, I have never even tried a computer running Linux.  Enter MakeUseOf to save my sorry self and provide great recommendations for nearly every platform in their Best Of… series.  They even include recommendations for plugins in Firefox, Chrome, and WordPress!  While you’re there, you may want to browse their guides and tech help forums.  They really do have something for everyone.

Another great site for tech information is TechCrunch.  If you would like to see their app recommendations for Android and iOS, check out their article, The 20 Best iOS and Android Apps of 2012.

What are your go-to sites for tech information?

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