RFID or not to RFID? - that is the question.

I don't think I've ever blogged (bragged) about the SCLS mobile RFID tagging kits.  Years ago (!) SCLS used grant monies to purchase equipment, carts and bins in order to provide a shared resource that libraries could "check-out" when they decided to implement RFID.  Providing these kits has meant that libraries using Bibliotheca software were not required to a) purchase their own mobile tagging kits or b) rent taggging stations. 

We have 4 mobile tagging kits; each kit contains an antenna (aka pad), FEIG reader with power cord, a laptop with both flavors of Bibliotheca tagging software, power cord, mouse, barcode scanner and a surge protector delivered to your library in a stylish grey delivery bin. We also have 3 carts that you can also borrow, if you do not have a cart in-library that you can use. The carts do not include a battery so you will need to use an extension cord to provide power to the equipment.  At your request, we will provide hands-on training in the use of the software and equipment.

If you are an SCLS LINKcat library, you can submit a reservation for use, with estimated dates, on the online Koha Support form.  Kits are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

PowToon for presentations

The folks over at the SPLAT (Special Projects Library Action Team) blog recently published a nifty post about PowToon. PowToon's mission is to provide "minimalist, user friendly and intuitive presentation software that allows someone with no technical or design skills to create engaging professional 'look and feel' animated presentations."

What can you do with it?
Use their templates and styles to design engaging animations and videos to convey your message. Jazz up a presentation. Present your statistics in an infographic video format. Scroll down their "About Us" page to see PowToon's current styles.

Here's a quickie TechBits promo video created using one of the PowToon templates:

How much does it cost?
The basic plan is free and will give you standard definition videos with PowToon branding uploaded to YouTube or hosted on PowToon. Upgraded plans will give you HD, download, and other options. There are also pay-per-export options.

How easy is it to use?
I spent a couple of hours playing around with it initially. Without watching any of the tutorials, I was still able to figure out how to get things moving. I imagine after watching some videos, I could do even more amazing things!

Examples
Check out the SPLAT example, PowToon examples, or my first attempt at an infographic-type video using @FakeLibStats' fake library statistics to see more about PowToon.  

 

(Don't follow SPLAT or @FakeLibStats yet? You should!)

 

Have you found a good tool for creating animated presentations? Share it in the comments!

 

Windows has a Built-in Unit Converter

Recently, I discovered that the Calculator program that ships with Microsoft Windows has its own built-in unit converter. I usually just use Google if I need to find how many ounces are in a liter, or convert Celsius to Fahrenheit. However, if I'm on a laptop without internet access, like stuck in the desert with a broke-down car and some stranger says the nearest shop is 4 leagues away, and I don't know how far a league is...I feel comforted to know that I could find that out.

To access the unit converter we first need to open Calculator. We can do this by either typing "calculator" into the search bar at the bottom of the Start menu, or navigating to Start > All Programs > Accessories > Calculator. Calculator generally looks like this:

Calculator

To open the unit converter, click on the View menu, then select "Unit conversion" near the bottom. We can also get to it by pressing the hot-key sequence of Ctrl+U. That brings up this handy pane that looks like this:

Converter

From here we select what type of unit we want to convert, then the 2 metrics we want to convert between, type in our starting value, and voila! Isn't that just awesome?

 

TeamViewer

My parents and in-laws ask for my help with their computers often, but they live over 100 miles away. MP900430487  It's difficult to troubleshoot over the phone.  It's much easier when I can just remote into their PCs and fix the problems myself.  The product I use is called TeamViewer.

TeamViewer is remote control software free for private use and it's pretty simple to use.  I do recommend using it for home use if you are the go-to person in your family when it comes to computer support.

Two heads are better...

Recently, I was working with a colleague on a problem when I happened to notice that they had some rather unique Windows PC desktop wallpaper. Each of their two monitors had a different image associated with it. Even more interesting, the images were two halves of a larger image, thus forming a wide panoramic view across the pair of monitors. I'd had no idea that was an option, at least not an obvious one.

Brian credited Michael with showing him how this can easily be done by choosing a Panoramic theme for Windows (thanks, guys!), then he showed me how too:

  1. Right click the Desktop.
  2. Choose Personalize....
  3. Choose Get more themes online (this link is near the center right hand side of the window).
  4. Choose Panoramic (dual monitor).
  5. Pick from a wide variety of panoramic themes.

Awesome sauce! Yet at the same time, not quite good enough. Where's the ability to pick one's own images for this feature? After a little more snooping around on the Interwebs and I found my new favorite toy: the Dual Wallpaper tool, part of the open source Dual Monitor Tools package.

These tools do not require installation, so anyone may use them (no help desk call required). Just unzip the package and double click. Once you've got the Dual Wallpaper app running, then:

  1. Select one or both monitors.
  2. Click Browse... to select an image.
  3. Choose a Fit method.
  4. Click Add Image to apply the adapted image.
  5. Repeat as needed for the other monitor.
  6. Click Set Wallpaper.

You can set up either one large panoramic image that spans both monitors, or choose two completely separate images, setting one on each monitor.

Virtual Reality for Everyone

We all know that Google is always coming out with cool new technology, like Google Glasses.  Well, they have done it again and came out with a virtual reality visor that you can make yourself.  All you need is some cardboard, two lenses, a magnet, velcro, a rubberband and a smart phone.  MacGyver has nothing on the folks that came up with this idea.  You can read the CBS article entitled Google Cardboard puts virtual reality in everyone's reach to find out more about it.  If you're interested in how it works then take a look at the below YouTube video that is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxAj2lyX4oU.

 

If you want to build it yourself you can download the plans from this website.  If you need help building it then take a look at the below YouTube video, found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPHVjHxEqAo, that walks you through the making of your own Google Cardboard.

 

I think that this would make an awesome MakerSpace project.

LinkWISCONSIN Drive Test App

Do you ever wonder how you can be of use when driving around the backroads of Wisconsin?

Well, it is possible now with the LINKWisconsin Drive Test App.

What is it?

It is a smartphone app that measures mobile broadband connectivity on a regular basis.

How does it help improve broadband access?

Each test is grouped with thousands of other tests to help validate coverage throughout the state. Analasys of these tests helps find potential reasons for weak coverage. Local testing enhances their knowledge of underserved areas and may be considered while awarding the PSC's Broadband Expansion Grant.

How can you help?

  1. Install the App! Go to the web site first to read about the App. Then send an PSCStateBroadbandOffice@wisconsin.gov to request the App.
  2. Help LinkWisconsin find stakeholders in your community who can work with the LinkWISCONSIN Team to install the App for better testing!

 

Home Automation

GE-Bright-from-the-Start-BulbA simple quest to find out more information on “Smart light bulbs” has turned into a major discussion at my house. We wanted a light bulb that would automatically turn on in the morning to help us wake up.  Yes, I know lamps already exist that do that sort of thing, but that’s not the point, and it would make for a real snoozer of a post. Get it? I said "snoozer" when I was referring to a lamp that is supposed to help you wake up! Anyway, I thought it was funny, and I bet Tim will too.

Back on point, “Smart light bulbs” are bulbs that can be controlled with an app on a smartphone or tablet. This is part of a larger movement called home automation. Some major retailers are beginning to carry home automation kits. Staples has Connect, Lowe’s has Iris, Home Depot has Wink (release date set for July 7th), and Apple has HomeKit. Some of these are more advanced that others, but work using similar protocols like wifi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave Plus and ZigBee.

These home automation kits consist of a hub that connects to your broadband Internet connection, and sometimes a light bulb or two, depending on the kit. As long as you buy smart devices that are compatible with your hub you shouldn’t have any problem controlling them and you can connect hundreds of devices to a single hub.
 
As for the major discussion at my house, I don’t think I’m ready to commit to a home automation system yet. It seems like a quickly changing market with more and more devices coming out all the time. I do like what I’m seeing with Wink and might look into that more next week.

I can see where this technology will start creeping into the libraries as a way of controlling HVAC and security systems in the near future if it hasn’t already.

Checking out Wi-Fi and Roku

DevicesWe can check out a lot of different things at the library like books (of course!), DVDs, magazines, eReaders, laptops, bundt cake pans, tools, and even seeds. But, how about a Roku box or a Wi-fi hot spot?

The Indian Prairie Public Library (Darien, IL) started lending Roku to their patrons on January 2, 2014. They started with three devices and are now up to six with 82 titles on them. As someone who still watches "over the air" TV, and is hesitant to get a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, or even Netflix, I think this is a great way to introduce the service to more people. And, OverDrive is partnering with Roku so there will be an OverDrive channel featuring library audiobooks and streaming videos. Even better!

New York and Chicago Public Libraries both received grants from the Knight Foundation to bring the Internet to more of their patrons by lending Wi-Fi hotspots. The hope is to help bridge the digital divide by providing Internet access where ever their patrons need it. Many people can't afford or don't have access to the Internet at home and having free Wi-Fi hotspots available for checkout will improve Internet access. How cool is that?

 

 

 

 

 

Workflow Concept Mapping - CmapTools

I am writing up a LOT of documentation these days, and much of it is workflow-based. Microsoft Word and other tools aren't the best at layout for flowcharting, so I employ a nifty piece of open-source software called CmapTools. I can customize the concepts with color to indicate their position in a decision tree.The map is easily exported into a PDF or printed to a page. It's great to use when illustrating a multi-step process where the answers to different questions have different actions to take, but they all start from the same point.

Here's a sample map from CmapTools.

And my creation for our updated duplicate bib resolution process:

DuplicateBibResolutionWorkflow

Download CmapTools here. Happy mapmaking!