Check the status of a website

QuestionMark3Have you ever had trouble connecting to a website and thought, "Is it just me or is everyone having this problem?"? Well there is this nifty website that will tell you exactly that. The website is www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com. This is an incredibly simple-to-use website where you just have to put the name of the website you are trying to reach into the search field and downforeveryoneorjustme.com will query the site in question from a remote location. This is a great resource to find out if a particular website is down for maintenance or is just having some issues.

http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/

Short URL: isup.me

Using Interest Lists on Facebook

If you are like me, you may have found yourself "Liking" various Facebook Pages, but then not seeing all posts from the Pages in your regular News Feed. Or maybe there are too many things in your News Feed and you have to scroll through some not-so-useful stuff (sorry Minions) to get to the useful stuff. How can you get to the content that you want, at the time that you want it? One tool that I have used to organize and access content on Facebook are Interest Lists

With Interest Lists, you can create a list of Pages centered around a particular topic. For example, you could create an Interest List centered around food and cooking that includes Pages for Facebook-linkcat
grocery stories, recipes, etc. I have a list centered around kid-friendly activities in Madison, which I can check to see if there are upcoming weekend activities. I also have some Interest Lists related to libraries, that include Pages from ALA, WLA, OCLC, WiLS, etc. Using the Interest Lists means that I can see posts that do not always appear in my News Feed, and I can digest the information in smaller chunks, which is easier to handle when I don't have much time.

You can add Pages to Interest Lists even if you have not "Liked" the Pages, and you can add Friends to Interest Lists as well. To create Interest Lists:

  1. Go to your Facebook home page.
  2. Click Interests on the left side of the screen (you may have to scroll down to find it).
  3. This will take you to the Interests screen. Click the Add Interests button.
  4. Then click the Create Lists button to start your own list. You can also follow lists that others have created and made public. 
  5. Follow the prompts to add Pages or Friends, and to name your list.
  6. To keep your list private, be sure to select Only Me under the Who can see this list heading (note that Public is selected by default). 
  7. Then click the Done button.

To get to your Interest Lists, go back to the Interests page by clicking Interests from your home page. You can also add your Interest Lists to your Favorites so you can access them directly from your home page.

If you prefer video tutorials, go to YouTube for "how-to" videos on Facebook Interest Lists.

Slide Templates

I'm working on a few upcoming presentations and often use Google Slides or PowerPoint. I've used both of them often enough that I'm bored with their templates and backgrounds. I regularly use images in my slides but what about those times that a template would work best?

So, I went to one of my favorite sites for questions like this - Free Technology for Teachers. I've shared other tips, tricks, and ideas from this blog before and I highly recommend you bookmark the site, add the blog to your favorite reader, or follow Richard on Twitter or your favorite social media site.

SlideHunterAnd, after doing a quick search on his site, I came up with this blog post: Free PowerPoint Templates for Teachers and Students. I started browsing through Slide Hunter and found some fun new templates to try. I created a free account and downloaded my first template in under 15 minutes. Don't be surprised if you see something like this in an upcoming presentation from me. 

Know More about Video Connectors

I thought it'd be a good idea to take some time and go over all those different video connectors that are out there. Disclaimer: acronyms and tech jargon will be present in this post. However, this is useful information to have when talking to the help desk and/or you plan on adding an extra monitor. Lets dive in:

VGA

1280px-SVGA_port

This is probably the most prevalent video connector in the library system. It kinda makes sense because VGA has been around since 1987. It is the only video connector used today that still uses an analog signal. Often described simply as the "blue plug", VGA is still a widely-supported interface; but that is changing. Already now new devices are coming to market that are no longer compatible with VGA, and we now have to rely on other video connections. Don't worry, there's plenty of alternatives...

DVI

DVI Port

Similar in design to VGA, DVI ("the white plug") primarily uses a digital signal, but can (sometimes) be backward-compatible with VGA and analog signals. DVI never really saw too much use around the library system. More likely you'll see it on the monitors than you would on the backs of computers. However, if you plan on adding a second monitor we can more easily offer help if the monitor has DVI.

DMS-59

DMS-59

Often confused with DVI, DMS-59 is exclusively used in dual-monitor situations and requires a special intermediary connector to go from this to either 2 VGA or 2 DVI interfaces. These used to be much more popular in the system than they are now, but we still sometimes come across them.

HDMI

HDMI Port

This is probably the next most popular video connector since it's on every TV sold over the last decade. HDMI is more commonly found on laptop computers (for use with projectors) than it is desktops, but soon desktops will begin shipping with HDMI as well. Something to know about HDMI, though, is that not only does HDMI transmit video, it also transmits audio. So if you start using HDMI and all-of-a-sudden your sound doesn't work it's probably because your computer is sending the sound over the HDMI cable instead of to your speakers. This is easily fixed, though.

DisplayPort

DisplayPort Port

Easily confused with a USB or HDMI port, it is neither. So don't try plugging them into this port. DisplayPort has been shipping on Dell computers for the last 6 years. We normally haven't been using it in the system until recently because most monitors at the time did not have DisplayPort connectors on the back of them. Any monitor you buy from us now, though, will have DisplayPort.  Most likely, if you call and ask to install a second monitor, we will focus on trying to use this port. As mentioned earlier, we can easily adapt this connector to interface with a DVI monitor. Just like HDMI, DisplayPort will also transmit audio.

Restarting Firefox Trick

When Firefox starts running kind of sluggish, simply restarting it might help.  What if you have a several tabs open?  I stumbled upon this trick from AskVG that is pretty helpful as long as you Foxmart-300pxdon't have private browsing enabled.

  1. Press SHIFT+F2 and the developers toolbar will open at the bottom of the window 
  2. In the toolbar, type restart
  3. Press Enter
  4. Firefox will restart with all your tabs open

Excel - Remove duplicates

Imagine you have a list that contains duplicates, and you want to delete the duplicates. No need to do this manually --- let's use Excel's "Remove duplicates" feature!

Click on the image to see it full-size
Removeduplicates

This is one of my favorite TechBits pictures. I wish there were 3 of me to do my work!
Duplicate Craigs!

Note: Another option to get rid of the duplicates is to filter for unique values. Filtering temporarily hides duplicate values, where removing duplicate values permanently deletes the duplicate values. See this Microsoft help page for more information about both options.

Office365 HTML Format

I noticed the other day that I couldn’t insert a link in a message while replying to an email in Office365? I found that frustrating; why would someone want to do this to me? This happens when someone sends you a message in the plain text format. If you would like to change this so you can be more like me and add links or make text bold click reply to the message and then select the three dots in the menu bar above the address bar. This will give you more options and one of those options is to switch to HTML. By selecting HTML you are now able to reply to your message and insert a link or make some other changes that you may not have had the ability to do before.

O365_This isn't a cheeseburger

Is this website safe?

File56ec29640e9f7Photo credit: CrimsonSoul

With all the nasty things floating around the Internet these days, this is a question that we should ask ourselves whenever we're on the Internet.  This is even more important if we are going to a website and downloading something.  Nowadays nasty stuff can hide in the ads on websites, Word documents (like "Locky" ransomware), and PDF files.

So you need to be very careful about the websites you visit, but how can you know if a website is safe or not?  I had this question asked of me recently and I did some research to answer this question.  I found a web page entitled "How to Tell If A Website Is Dangerous" that goes over this topic very well.  It gives you numerous links to some good sites that can check a site to see if it has been blacklisted, if it has malicious content and what the reputation of the site is (for more about this see Greg's TechBits article).  I also found that Google has a site for this as well and it is called Google Transparency Report.  So with this information you can now make good choices as to the websites that you visit.

Browsing with confidence

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image © 2006 Tinou Bao, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Scams! Phishing! Adware! Malware! There's a lot of garbage out there, and its purveyors are continually becoming more sophisticated in creating illusions, trying to get us to "click on the wrong thing".

How can we tell if what we seem to see is what we're actually looking at? Is there a magic wand to dispel the illusions?

A good dose of skepticism and some healthy critical thinking can guide us, but there are also some cool tools that can help us out here.  One of them is the Web of Trust (WOT) browser extension. The WOT tool uses crowd-sourced user experience feedback to assign an overall rating of trustworthiness to a website. Separately, it can assign a rating of child-friendliness.

I cannot summarize WOT's appearance and functionality better than they do on their own website (https://www.mywot.com/), so I won't try except to say that it's free, it's fast, it works with all major browsers, and it's "always on" whether you're browsing or searching.

Crowd-sourced information isn't terribly precise; sometimes it's even completely wrong. But in many contexts it tends to be a pretty decent estimator. In the case of website trust, WOT provides a very convenient signpost, indicating whether you should plow ahead or stop and think twice about what you're seeing.

Google Carboard what?

Google what? I was recently looking at the LITA Blog and saw a post about Google Cardboard and thought Google what? Is this real? According to the Google Play Apps page, Google Cardboard let's you "Experience virtual reality on your phone..."

Virtual reality? That sounds cool. How do I get it? The Google Cardboard page tells you that you you need to get a viewer (pretty cheap) for your smartphone and get some apps (some are free). 

But what can this do for libraries? Luckily for us, someone at LITA has already thought up some awesome library programming ideas. You can read all about it here.