Wireless Laptop Labs

I’m sure everyone knows SCLS has wireless laptop kits for libraries to borrow for in library training and programs.  We currently have 3 kits available and you can reserve up to 2 at a time.  For those that need a refresher here is everything the kits come with:

 

7 Laptops

A wireless access point Laptop, Projector, Surge protector, and access point included in Labs.

Multimedia projector with RGB cable

A surge protector

Extension cords

Documentation Binder

 

As of June 2017, all the laptops have been updated with the latest versions of software and browsers! All laptops now have Microsoft Office 2013 instead of 2010 too.  It keeps getting better because Lab 3 has brand new laptops with Windows 10!  Labs 1 and 2 have Windows 7.  Note: Labs 2 and 3 do not have CD/DVD drives

These kits are great for staff or patron training and programs and includes different software and browsers.  Each laptop comes in a carrying case and includes the power adapter and a wired mouse. 

If your library has Enterprise Wireless the laptops will automatically connect to the signal.  If you don’t have Enterprise Wireless, it comes with a wireless access point that is super simple to setup and laptops will connect automatically. 

These kits can book up fast for programs and you can reserve them for 2 weeks.  To check the availability for Lab 1, Lab 2, and Lab 3 click the appropriate lab to check the calendar.  Or to reserve the lab use this handy form here

Create strong passwords with a roll of the dice

From the American Libraries Magazine; 5/1/2017.
Meredith Powers, young adult librarian at Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library (BPL) teaches workshops on digital literacy and data privacy as part of the Data Privacy Project, which is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund. Password security is always a hot topic.
She says that Diceware is an easy way to teach patrons how to create better passwords for their library, service, and email accounts. By rolling an ordinary die, users create a five-digit number that dicecorresponds to a word in a Diceware word list. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) maintains multiple Diceware word lists.
“Even though the list of words is publicly available, the security of a Diceware password comes from the number of words selected and the number of available words on a Diceware list,” Powers says. “By rolling dice to create several words in a sequence, you can create a strong, memorable passphrase. The creator of Diceware, Arnold Reinhold, currently recommends a six-word sequence to protect against a brute-force hack attempt.”

Solid State Drives vs Hard Disk Drives

Photo curtesy of pcmagIf you have seen the SCLS PC order form recently you may have noticed the addition of Solid State Drives (SSD) to the list of options available for you to choose. Previously we’ve only offered traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDD), but now you have the option to get either one.


What is a Solid State Drive and what’s the difference between the old and new technologies?  I’m glad you asked! A SSD and HDD perform the exact same function in a PC or laptop; they store system files and your data. A HDD uses spinning metal platters to perform this function while the SSD utilizes flash memory chips to store data.


The advantage of using a SSD is that it accesses the data much faster than a HDD. A typical patron PC using a HDD with MyPC and DeepFreeze installed on it takes roughly 2 minutes from when a patron logs out to when the next patron can log in. The same PC with a SSD takes about 30 to 40 seconds before the next patron can sign in, from what I’ve seen it’s closer to the 30 seconds, I’m just hedging my bet.


The disadvantage of the SSD is that it costs more than the HDD per gigabyte. Since SSDs cost more the typical size of a SSD is between 128 and 256GB whereas the HDD is between 256 and 500GB. These sizes are based on the systems we currently purchase. If you look in the consumer market you will see HDDs in the 500 GB to 2 TB range for the same price as the 128 to 256 GB SSDs.


To learn more about SSDs check out this informative article in PC Mag.

Photo from pcmag.com

Choose Privacy Week 2016

Camera_with_eyeALA's Choose Privacy Week is held annually May 1 - 7. For more information, see these previous TechBits posts for helpful links and resources:

In addition to all of the great resources mentioned in those posts (can we talk about how much I still love the video of an amazing mind reader revealing his gift?!), I have a new privacy-related resource to share. To help create confident online interactions, San José Public Library (SJPL) developed the Virtual Privacy Lab, a free, encrypted online learning tool for all libraries to share with patrons. The lab includes content that was also professionally translated in Spanish and Vietnamese and a page with information about how the library manages patrons' privacy.

SCLS-supported public PCs have many privacy measures in place to help keep patrons safe, some of which include:

  • anti-virus software
  • disk-locking software so any patron data (downloads, browser history, etc) saved to the PC is cleared with a reboot
  • Firefox and Chrome run in private browsing mode, which allows a person to browse the Web without storing local data that could be retrieved at a later date (this helps protect patrons who don't restart the PC after they're done)
  • automatic weekly software updates so programs are running at the most current version
  • network protections so a patron on one computer cannot access another user's computer
  • (subscribing libraries) an automatic reboot to clear a patron's data when a patron logs out of their MyPC session 

For maximum privacy, an SCLS-supported public PC should always be restarted after the patron has finished using it to remove any personal data and browsing history.

How to save as a PDF on patron PCs

Do patrons ever come to you and say that they want to save something as a PDF, but they don't know how?  Well, let me tell you about a couple of ways that they can do this.  If they have a webpage or web-based email that they want to save as a PDF you can have them use the Chrome browser.  Once you have the item up in a Chrome browser press Ctrl+P to open the Print dialog.  Then click the "Change..." button found to the right of "Destination".  Then under the "Local Destinations" section choose the "Save as PDF" option. Then back in the Print dialog click the "Save" button.

If they have a picture they can paste it into a Word document.  Then click File and then Save As.  Then click the drop down box to the right of "Save as Type" and select the PDF option.  Then click the "Save" button.

These two methods should handle almost all requests to save something as a PDF file.

'Tis the season for...germs in the library!

Germ

Scrubbing the gunk off of keyboards and mice turns out to be a little different than disinfecting them... and when it comes to disinfecting, would you be surprised if I told you that alcohol doesn't disinfect against everything? Hand sanitizer either! Disinfecting against enterovirurusnorovirus (stomach flu), and influenza (flu) requires some special action.

Disinfecting against viruses
A little Google searching brought me to this excellent FAQ by the New Jersey Department of Health about the respiratory virus Enterovirus-68. It gives recommendations for what WILL work to disinfect surfaces to prevent the spread of enteroviruses (and noroviruses) in the section, "What is the best way to clean surfaces?" 

Is it worth the trouble?
Before you don your hazmat suit and sanitize your public PCs, you should know this: in the case of the influenza virus, disinfecting might not make a big difference. From WebMD:

But before you douse all your possessions with bleach, there’s one thing you should know: Experts say that you really don’t need to bother.

“Honestly, if you’re trying to prevent the flu, there’s just not evidence that spraying everything with disinfectant is going to make any difference,” says Christine Hay, MD, assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Read more here: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/killing-flu-germs-what-works

So...what's the take-away for stopping viruses?

  • Disinfection. If you feel like you want to disinfect, use a bleach solution or look for products that specifically say they kill norovirus and rhinovirus. Make sure that they will not damage the equipment you are disinfecting! (Monitors and other types of screens especially may require special products)
  • Prevention! Focus on handwashing (scrub those nasties away!), not touching your face with unwashed hands, and trying hard not to spread any viruses you may be carrying (stay home when you're sick, cover your cough and sneeze!).

Additional resources:

What's the status?

This post was first run in 2009. It is being re-run with minor updates to reflect services that have changed.
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Technology doesn't always have to be super complicated. Sometimes the best technology projects are very simple. A great example of this is the SCLS status wiki. This web page allows you to see which SCLS technology services have known issues in almost real time.  You can view this page from any computer, that's right any computer!  (not just a PC on the SCLS network)Crutches

Here is a list of some of the SCLS technology services that might have updates on the SCLS status wiki:

  • Koha
  • Library Online
  • SCLS network
  • Web services
  • OverDrive and other online resources
Let's look at a real world example

The first one will be before you knew about the SCLS status wiki and the second after you started using the SCLS status wiki.

Background

You are sitting at your desk and a coworker says they can't access OverDrive. You spring into action...

Before the SCLS status page

...and in a panic you sprint towards the nearest computer, but on the way you trip and twist your ankle. Down but not out, you crawl to the computer and see that OverDrive is indeed not working. With tears in your eyes, you fumble for the phone and call the Help Desk. After all that, you get a busy signal because everyone else is calling at the same time. Battered and broken, you sit on the floor defeated.

After the SCLS status page

...and calmly open your Internet browser, navigate to the SCLS status wiki see that OverDrive is down.  You also see that SCLS staff are working quickly to resolve the problem. Relaxed and comfortable, you sip on your morning coffee and realize what a beautiful day it is.

Can you really afford not to check the SCLS status wiki?

Browser plug-ins, a thing of the past

 

Cat_PluginsA browser plug-in (or plugin) is extra software installed on a PC that allows a browser to display additional content it was not originally designed to display.  Some examples of popular plug-ins are Flash Player, Java and Silverlight.  Plug-ins were created because, at the time, browsers were fairly immature and browser development was not happening fast enough, if at all.  So this created big opportunities for plug-in developers to create software that would expand the capabilities of browsers.

Now, let's talk about what the problems are with plug-ins.  The biggest problem that I see is  the fact that they are not very secure.  There have been numerous attacks through either Flash or Java and since everyone has the same plug-in an attack works across every browser and operating system.  Other problems include not working on different operating systems as they are designed to only work on certain ones or they can be be very unstable which can cause your browser to crash or just behave badly.  These are the reasons why Mozilla announced in 2013 that they would changing the way Firefox loads third party plug-ins such as Flash, Java and Silverlight. Google has also announced their three-step approach to plug-in elimination:

  1. In January 2015 they began blocking plug-ins by default.
  2. In April 2015 they will begin to disable Chrome's ability to run plug-ins at all, unless a user specifically enables it by setting a flag in Chrome's technical preferences.
  3. In September 2015, they will begin to completely remove all ability to run plug-ins from Chrome.

So now you're probably wondering, "If they're going away, what's going to be replacing them?".  The answer is that we are in a much healthier environment of rapid browser development (Firefox and Chrome both release a new browser version every 6-weeks) and web standards.  Many of the features plug-ins implemented are now being introduced in the form of built-in browser features.  Don't feel bad that plug-ins are going away -- they had their time and now like everything else on the Internet it's time for a change.

Updated PC order form

The SCLS PC order form has been updated to include two current Dell PC models and two laptops models at a reduced price.

We are offering and recommending the Optiplex 7020 for staff PCs with a starting price of $633.00. This is about $85.00 less than the previous model. We are also offering and recommending the Optiplex 3020 for patron PCs with a starting price of $569.00. The biggest difference between the two models is that the Optiplex 7020 has 10 USB ports and the Optiplex 3020 has 8 USB ports. The Optiplex 7020 also has some legacy ports that the Optiplex 3020 doesn’t have.

We are also offering a 14 inch and 15 inch laptop. Both models cost $791.00. The 15 inch laptop offers the number pad on the keyboard whereas the 14 inch doesn’t.

If you are planning on ordering a laptop for staff use you may want to consider asking me about purchasing a wireless mouse, carrying case or a docking station if you want one. I intentionally left them off the order form because there are so many options available.

Build With Chrome

How often at your library do you see a pile of LEGO blocks poured out onto a play surface and think about what a chore it will be if you have to do clean up, or if you are the one who has to replace lost parts. Those days could be a thing of the past!


While doing some LEGO “research” I came across a site called Build with Chrome. This is a site where LEGO and Google Chrome teamed up to bring you an online environment where you can build with virtual LEGO blocks.


You don’t have to sign up for an account, but if you do you can pick out a chunk of land on Google Maps and build your own piece of paradise and have it published for the whole world to see.