Category Archives: Web Links

Tech Tricks to Improve Your Technological Experience

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There is a wealth of information available on the internet. Luckily, there are lots of neat technological tips and tricks that can help with how you use technology and its components.

Vine is an app people use to post very short (eight seconds or less) video clips that will automatically replay once the clip has finished. The clips are referred to as Vines. GCF LearnFree has posted a neat list of Vines that can help with some common tech-related problems such as how to organize and label various wires, how to protect power cords, and how to clean a keyboard with a sticky note.

If you are a Chrome user and have been frustrated with the slowness of your browser, makeuseof has written an article that has some suggestions on how you can improve the speed of your Chrome browsing experience.

If you are a user of Creative Commons (content that is free to legally use and share), makeuseof has put together a helpful post that gives tips on how to find Creative Commons content.

Have you ever accidentally installed bundled software without meaning to? When installing free software, often times there will be a message box that appears before the installation asking if you want to install another program, reset your browser homepage, or change your search settings. Luckily, there is a program called Unchecky. This application searches for commonly bundled unwanted applications and removes them. It also prevents unwanted applications from being installed in the future by automatically unchecking the unwanted offers box when a user is installing a new application, as well as warning the user if they try to accept a potentially unwanted offer.

These are just a few of the many neat tricks to help you improve how you use technology and its components. Do you have any neat tricks you’ve discovered? Share them in the comments.

Have You Been Pwned? Find Out with This Tool

pwned

Data breaches and internet security are a big concern for many individuals, and with good reason. Large companies that have had their users’ information (such as email addresses, passwords and password hints) compromised include Adobe and Snapchat.

Luckily, there is a website, Have I Been Pwned?, which searches across various domains and known breaches to see if a particular email address or username has been compromised.  The site’s name comes from the gaming term “Pwned”, which is a twist on the word “owned” (defeated).  The exact origin of this term is disputed.

The website also can inform you if your information has been “pasted,” which the site describes as:

A “paste” is information that has been “pasted” to a publicly facing website designed to share content such as Pastebin. These services are favored by hackers due to the ease of anonymously sharing information and they’re frequently the first place a breach appears.

This website is a valuable tool to find out if your personal information has been compromised.  Check out this post for suggestions on strengthening the security of your accounts.

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.

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?

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?

Life After iGoogle

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Have you come to depend on iGoogle as a convenient home page with all of your favorite Google (and other) stuff in one place?  Me too.  Despite the popularity of iGoogle, Google has decided to discontinue the service after November 1, 2013.  This leaves many users scrambling for a new solution.  Whether you are an iGoogle user or not, you may find the suggestions below useful.

1.  Google Shortcuts
If you are looking for is quick access to Google products, and you use Firefox or Chrome for your browser, this add-on may help.  It does exactly what it sounds like – it adds shortcuts for Google services to the top of your browser.  You can choose which shortcuts you use by clicking the gear icon.  Here’s a clip of what the shortcuts look like on my browser (Firefox):

googleshortcuts

Warning:  the download page is in German, but the settings and operations are in English.

2. Myfav.es
If you don’t need previews of content, just quick links to your favorite sites, this may be the service for you.  There are shortcuts for many, many websites available.  No account necessary.  Here is what the homepage I created looks like:
faves

Chances are, though, that you are looking for a page with gadgets that offers previews of your email, RSS feeds, calendar, etc.  Read on for other services that offer a similar experience to iGoogle.

3.  igHome
This one is my current favorite.  The setup was easy, and in no time I had a functioning page nearly identical to my iGoogle page.  As a bonus, shortcuts to Google services are included in a toolbar at the top of the page.  If you are using the Gmail gadget, be sure to turn on IMAP in your Gmail settings and approve the igHome application to access it.

4. Netvibes
This one is a bit more complicated than igHome to set up, but more customization is available.  Also, more widgets are available than with some other customized home pages.

5. uStart.org
This solution is similar to Netvibes.  You may want to experiment with both and see which you like better.

6. MyMSN and MyYahoo
These are personalized homepages provided by their respective companies.  If you don’t need any gadgets related to Google (Gmail, Google Calendar, etc.), one of these may work well for you.

7. Skim.Me
This one looks promising, but I’m still waiting for an invitation to get in on the beta.

Have you found another solution?  If so, let me know about it in the comments.

Happy computing!

Get the Most from Your Google Search

If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “I Googled it but couldn’t find it”, I’d be a rich woman.  In fact, the desired information was probably returned as one of the millions of results, but the user didn’t have time to look at the whole list.  Who could blame a person for not wanting to sift through pages and pages of results just to find one gem?

Thankfully, Google has some tools built in for advanced searching.  Some of them are obvious, such as the list of options for refining the search that appear on the left side of the Google search page.  Others are not so obvious.  I have found a couple of sources that will help you on your way to becoming a Google search guru, able to get exactly what you are looking for to show up on page one of your results.

This infographic from the folks at HackCollege gives a great overview of some of the most helpful search terms (operators) to help you narrow your search field.  Another great resource is this article by John Tedesco, reporting on a speech given by Google employee Daniel Russell.

If you don’t want to memorize all of these tips, try using Google’s own Advanced Search page.  To get there, go to http://www.google.com/advanced_search.  Or, start with a basic search.  On the results page, click the gear icon in the upper right corner.  Select “Advanced Search” from the resulting menu.

Happy searching!

Searching Anonymously

Lately, I have been reading a lot of posts about how to keep sites and services from tracking your internet activity.  Though many of us have nothing to hide about how we use the internet, it may still be disturbing to know you are being tracked and to have personal information about you sold to the highest bidder.

Here at the library, we use Google Analytics to get information about how people use our site.  Our only reason for doing this is to help improve the user experience in our online locations.  Knowing which of our pages get the most hits helps us tune in to the content you want and need.  We do not sell this information.  Nor do we use it for targeted advertising or nefarious purposes.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the many of the other sites out there tracking their users’ visits.

If you would like to turn off tracking in your browser, you can set this in the preferences/settings area of most browsers. Those browsers that do not currently support turning off tracking have pledged to implement support by the end of the year, according to this c-net article.  Personally, I use a browser add-on called DNT+.  This browser add-on/extension advertises that it goes “far beyond what built-in private browsing modes offer” with a link to this list of concerns not covered by your browser’s private mode.  DNT+ also allows me to pick and choose which sites I allow to track my movements.  For example, I allow libraries, schools and government information sites to track me because I know it will help them to improve their services, and they won’t sell my information.  I do not allow commercial sites to track me because I do not have confidence that they will use the information in an entirely constructive way.  This is all a matter of personal preference, of course.

Even with tracking blockers in place, search engines may still gather information about how you are searching.  If this gives you the creeps and you are looking for a non-tracking alternative browser, check out these suggestions by How-to-Geek.

Do you have privacy concerns you’d like me to cover here?  If so, please note them in the comments and I’ll work up a post.

That reminds me – it’s time to double-check my Facebook privacy settings, too…

Storing and Sharing Files in the Cloud

Have you ever wanted to share a video with a few friends without making it publicly available?  How about sharing a set of photos that are too large to email?  What about accessing a file on your laptop from a smartphone?  These and many other needs can be met by storing and sharing your files in “The Cloud.”

The simple definition of the cloud is a place in cyberspace, not on your local machine, where files are stored.  For example, if you have Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail, your emails are stored in the cloud.  Technically, they are stored on the servers at Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.  But, from the user’s point of view, they are living out in cyberspace, not stored on the computer/tablet/smartphone where they are being viewed.  The advantage of storing files in the cloud is that your files are accessible from any device in any location with an internet connection and the right username and password.

I had been working on a post that would highlight services that allow users to store and share files in the cloud.  As it turns out, Richard Byrne recently did a great job listing and describing the most popular tools in this post on the Free Technology for Teachers blog.  However, it should be noted that two services mentioned in that article, File Stork and Go Pileus, are no longer available at the time of this post.  One excellent free resource left out of that article is Skydrive, Microsoft’s cloud solution that is integrated into Office 2010.  However, you don’t need Office 2010 to enjoy the benefits of Skydrive.  You only need a Windows Live ID.  Also, Google Docs (mentioned in the article) has expanded into Google Drive, which is similar to Skydrive and is accessed with a Google ID.

My favorite cloud storage and sharing sites are Google Drive, Dropbox and Skydrive.  What are you using?  If you use a service other than those mentioned in the blog post I mentioned, please post it in a comment.  Thanks!

Highlighter Tool

HighlighterHave you ever been reading an article online and wished you could highlight a passage?  Even better – share the highlighted portion with friends?  Awesome Highlighter lets you do just that in several different colors!  After you highlight text/pictures on a web page, you can add a note or just click done. (There is a 2000 character limit.)  Next, you are given options on how to distribute this information, including creating a short link automatically, emailing, copying to clipboard, or sharing via social media sites.  The parts you’ve highlighted are the only ones that show up on the share.  How cool is that??