Learning how Computers Work by Making One

If you've got any motivated, technology/maker-minded teens milling about your library, have I found the project for them.  2 professors from MIT have put together a course that involves building an actual working (virtual) computer system from scratch.  Best yet, all the tools, projects, and first half of the textbook is available for free online (found here).  The textbook itself can be found on Amazon or MIT Press for less than $30. Check it out; share it out.

Firefox Add-ons

Firefox add-ons are small pieces of software that let you add new features and change the way your browser works.  You can install these add-ons yourself without the need for a call to the Help Desk. 
There is a very large community of developers that create these add-ons, so the chances of finding one that does what you want is pretty good.

An important security note about add-ons is that you need to be VERY careful about where you get them from because they may harm your computer or violate your privacy.  Unless clearly marked otherwise, add-ons available from Firefox's Add-on gallery have been checked and approved by Mozilla's team of editors and are safe to install. I recommend that you only install the approved add-ons and never install any of the add-ons marked as Experimental because they have not been reviewed.  Never ever install an add-on from an unknown source!

Once they are installed most people just forget about them.  But, as I discovered recently this is not a good idea.  I got a call from a library with an unusual problem with Firefox.  When they right-clicked within their Firefox browser they got a menu that was longer than their screen was tall.  After much research I discovered that this problem was caused by an out-of-date add-on.  Since the add-on was no longer needed is was disabled and then the problem was resolved.

If you're having a problem with Firefox one way to tell if it is being caused by an out-of-date add-on is to start Firefox in Safe Mode.  The easiest way to do this is from within Firefox.  You go to the Help menu and choose "Restart with Add-ons disabled...".  Then a window called "Firefox Safe Mode" with some troubleshooting options appears. Here you would click the "Start in Safe Mode" button.  Never ever click the "Reset Firefox" button as this will reset Firefox to a default state by creating a new profile, migrating only essential data and then moving all of the old Firefox data to a folder on your desktop. Warning! This change cannot be reversed.  Once in Safe Mode see if your problem persists.  If the problem is gone then it's a pretty good bet that it is an out-of-date add-on causing the problem.  So now you know you need to update your add-ons.  When you are done testing and want to get out of Safe Mode, just close Firefox and wait a few seconds before opening Firefox for normal use again.

So now you're asking, how do I keep my add-ons up-to-date?  It's really easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open Firefox
  2. Go to the Add-ons Manager by clicking "Add-ons" in the Firefox (or Tools) menu
  3. Click on the Extensions tab on the left
  4. You will now see a list of all of the add-ons that you have installed
  5. In the upper right corner you will see a gear
  6. Click on it and a menu like the one below will appear
  7. Add-on-Update
  8. If the "Update Add-ons Automatically" option is checked you're done
  9. If it is not checked click on it to check it then you never have to worry about old add-ons again
  10. If you want to update them now just click the "Check for Updates" option
  11. Firefox will then update all add-ons that have a newer version
  12. Once all the updates are done you may need to restart Firefox

My two favorite add-ons are Print Edit, which gives you print preview with edit capability, and Print pages to PDF, which gives you the ability to print the content of one or more browser tabs into a PDF document.  Please leave a comment and let me know some of your favorite add-ons.

More on Digital Literacy

DigitalLearn

 

 

There's a new tool for your Digital Literacy toolbox - DigitalLearn.org. This recently launched site is "devoted to helping everyone to effectively use digital technologies through simple online training modules." There are three courses available right now: Intro to Email; Using a PC (Windows 7); and Basic Search with three more coming soon. They are: Getting Started on the Computer; Introduction to the Internet; and Using a Mac (OS X).

Coming in June, they'll be adding a section for library staff and others who help people with digital literacy (this definitely includes us!) 

DigitalLearn.org is a project of the Public Library Association and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Looking for more Digital Literacy information? Last June, I wrote a post about Digital Literacy and introduced you to the Northstar Digital Literacy Project in Minnesota as well as several other projects. If you know of others sites like this, let us know!

OverDrive How-To Guides

OverDrive recently announced that new How-To Guides are now available. The device specific guides are available for Android, iOS (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch), Kindle Fire and that more are coming soon.

In the meantime, Jim Ramsey from Middleton Public Library created instructions for use with patrons and they are available for you to use in your library. You can find the links to the documents in this previous TechBits post, Notes on OverDrive: The Next Generation

BadgerLearn

 

And, don't forget about BadgerLearn. In addition to OverDrive training materials, you can find many other archived webinars, tutorials, handouts, and much more.

 

Viral Infection!

We've had a few very nasty PC infections lately and I thought it would be good to go over some important information about how to prevent an infection on your PC. 

SCLS' Antivirus software vs fake AV programs

The first thing to discuss is the antivirus software that SCLS uses on your staff and patron PCs.  It is called Sophos and on staff PCs this software is updated multiple times a day.  On patron PCs this software is updated during the nightly updates.  If you ever see anything on the screen that says that your PC is infected and it is not coming from Sophos then you have a rogue security software program.  It tries to make you think that your computer is infected by a virus and usually prompts you to download or buy a product that removes the virus. The names of these products frequently contain words like Antivirus, Shield, Security, Protection, or Fixer. This makes them sound legitimate. They frequently run right after you download them, or the next time that your computer starts. Rogue security software can prevent applications, such as Sophos or Task Manager, from opening or even running. Rogue security software might also display legitimate and important Windows files as infections. Typical error messages or pop-up messages might contain phrases like "Warning! Your computer is infected!" or "This computer is infected by spyware and adware."  We previously wrote about this kind of popup in the article entitled "Poisonous Popups Redux" .  The very best thing to do when you see this "Fake Antivirus Popup" is to not touch the PC and immediately call the Help Desk.

How do you get these viral nasties?

Now on to how you get these viral nasties.  One way is by surfing the Internet and accidentally going to a site that has been hacked and has viruses hidden in the advertisements on the webpage.  It is also possible to hide malware in pictures that people download.  I've had quite a few people call me and say I was just looking for some pictures when I got a message that my PC was infected.  So please exercise caution when going to sites and downloading anything. Ensure that the source is a legitimate and reputable one.  Another way to get a viral nasty is via an email that says please "click this link to get" and then something that sounds really important or "please see attachment."  One of the most common emails that gets everybody is the one that is called the Package Delivery Virus.  This is where some delivery service, e.g. UPS, FedEx or DHL, say that a package could not be delivered so open an attachment or click a link to get a receipt. 

How to prevent virus infections

•If the English in an email doesn't have complete sentences or is broken English then do not open any attached files or click on any links found in the email.

•Do not open any attached files or click on any links found in an email from an unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy source.

•If an email appears to come from a friend, someone you know or a business that you use, confirm that your contact really sent the email.  Some viruses can replicate themselves and spread through email.

•Do not open any files attached to an email if the subject line is questionable or unexpected.

•When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and do not open, download, or execute any files or email attachments. Not executing is the most important.

In summary: It is always better to be safe than to spread a virus to everyone that you know, bring down the network for the entirety of SCLS, or permanently lose your data.

Training opportunities during OverDrive Training Month

Od-training-2012Get ready to polish your OverDrive skills and learn about new developments for 2012 -- September is OverDrive Training Month for library staff.

Learning the basics: Pre-recorded webinars provide the basic training, and you can work through them at your own pace. Recommended: Just the Basics, Going Mobile, Patron Assistance, Kindle Demo, and Real-Time Reports. (Also check out the new pdf tip sheet explaining some mysteries of the search engine.)

If you have questions: OverDrive will have staff available for live-chat to answer your training questions.

New developments: To find out about the changes coming to OverDrive service, register for one of the live "Next Generation Digital Library" webinars. "Browser-based eReading" is on the list of topics, so you will not want to miss this. (And, like last year, acing a short quiz after the webinar will get you entered in a prize drawing.)

Digital Literacy

AbcmouseGuest Post by Jean Anderson
----------------

The phrase Digital Literacy has been cropping up recently in articles and blog postings in my Google Reader. According to Wikipedia, digital literacy is “is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology.” Sounds a lot like a librarian, doesn’t it?

If you or your patrons are looking to improve your digital literacy skills, I’ve come across three tools to help you. First, the Northstar Digital Literacy Project from Minnesota. The project is designed to assess the ability of adults to perform tasks in six main computer areas: Basic Computer Use, Internet, Windows Operating System, Mac OS, Email and Word Processing (Word). Just for fun, I took a couple of the assessments. While they include audio, the quiz questions are also written on each page. When you complete an assessment, you’re given a score. For any incorrect answers, you’re told what skill you need to improve before taking the assessment again.

Second is the Colorado Libraries 2.0 project. This project, like our Project Play, is designed to help library staff (and patrons) become familiar and comfortable with Web 2.0 tools. The project is broken up into seven categories: communication; collaboration; visual communications; personal learning environments; productivity tools; social networking; books and reading. Each category has two to four different tools to try out. While the project was designed and created for Colorado library staff, the material and lessons are open for anyone to use. Designed back in 2010, some of the content or tools may be slightly dated but overall, it’s a great place to start learning more about Web 2.0 tools.

Last, but not least, is another Colorado project. This one is called Tech Training for Libraries and can be used in a number of ways. You could use the lesson plans and activities to teach classes on topics ranging from Computer Guts to Craigslist 101 to patrons at your library - handouts included! Or you could use the competencies and checklists to ensure that library staff are all on the same page, technologically. I think this could be a great programming resource for libraries. If you try out any of these classes in your library, please let me know! I’d love to hear how you’re using this site and others in your library.

P.S. One more thing...Nicolet Federated Library System recently held a webinar called Technology Trainer Bootcamp with Sarah Houghton. Her presentation topic fits in nicely with this post. Enjoy!

Googliciousness!

Guest post by Jean Anderson
----------------------
Googliciousness is coming to SCLS this fall!

Stef Morrill, director of WiLS and Beth Carpenter, director of the Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library, will be at the Wintergreen Resort in Wisconsin Dells on October 5 to present Googliciousness! (Register here!) Beth & Stef will introduce various Google services and share tips and tricks for using them. They’ll cover maps, mobile, photo, productivity tools and even more awesomeness!

What tech topics should we cover?I need your help, though. Stef and Beth’s program will be the morning of October 5. As this will be our annual Tech Day, what topic(s) would you like to see covered in the afternoon? Do you have some new tech-related service or program that you’d like to share? While we have a few ideas floating around, we wanted to find out from you - the audience - what your tech education needs are.

Share your ideas by leaving a comment on this post or by emailing me. Thanks for your help and I hope to see lots of you at Googliciousness!

What is this winmail.dat attachment??

Have you ever gotten an email that says an important document is attached only to find that the only attachment is something called winmail.dat?  This is an attachment sent from someone who is using
Microsoft Outlook as their email program and unfortunately, it is only relevant and used by Microsoft Outlook.  The technical reason for this is because the original sender is sending emails in Microsoft Outlook Rich Text Format instead of Plain Text format. 

So now that you know the technical aspect of it the question on everyone's mind is: "How do I read it?"  The answer to that question is a Thunderbird add-on called Lookout.  This add-on will "decode" the winmail.dat file into the attachments that you can read.  If you have a need for this add-on here are the steps to install it:

  1. Open Thunderbird
  2. Click on Tools
  3. Click on Add-ons
  4. Click on Get Add-ons
  5. In the "Search for add-ons" box enter lookout
  6. Click on the "Install" button
  7. Click on the "Accept and Install" button
  8. Click the "Restart Now" link
  9. Close the Add-ons Manager tab

Since this is an add-on within Thunderbird you will NOT need administrator rights to install it.

 

Spring Cleaning For Your SCLS Email Accounts

Email

Have you ever looked at your library's email address listing on the SCLS Email Address Directory webpage, to make sure it is up-to-date?  If not, then take a quick look and see what needs to be changed.  This is important as other SCLS libraries may be trying to contact one of your fellow employees that left the library months ago.

If you have a staff person in need of a change:

  1. Did the person recently start at the library and need an email account?  If so, then please fill out the New E-mail Account Request online form.

  2. Did the person transfer to another SCLS library?  If so, then please fill out the Request an E-mail Name, Title or Library Change online form.  This will move their listing from your library to their new library.

  3. Did the person leave SCLS all together?  If so, then please fill out the E-mail Account Deletion online form.  Please note that this will NOT delete the email on the PC.  For that you will need to call me at the Help Desk.