Or at least, portable apps shouldn't mix with patron PCs. In the comments, Rob lists the security risks that libraries open themselves up to when patron PCs are allowed to run programs from a USB drive: "keyloggers, spybots, and other hacks that let one patron send all the data from a patron station that doesn't get rebooted all day to an email or web page." Empowering patrons is good, but maybe not that much!
Based on my own test, LINK patron PCs don't allow portable apps to run. Check out the error message I got when I tried to run GIMP Portable on a catalog computer at Madison Public Library:
SLCS-supported non-LINK patron PCs are also similarly locked-down.
If your library manages its own patron PCs, be sure your computers aren't at risk!
Last week's topic mentioned portable applications -- programs you can install on a USB drive and use on any computer. They're handy when your work requires you to move from computer to computer (like from an office, to a ref desk, to a circ desk, to home, and back again... sound familiar?). There are a lot of different options, but some that might be useful in a library environment include:
Firefox: Browser (lots of library computers already have Firefox installed, but your bookmarks can travel with you if you're running the portable version)
What to watch out for: USB drives are easy to lose, so be careful about keeping track of yours -- don't forget it when you get up to leave the computer! For the same reason, remember to back up your USB drive regularly, especially if you have any important data stored on it.
Will this work on patron PCs? Should we recommend it to patrons? It seems like portable apps could be useful for patrons who are power-users of the library PCs -- however, lots of libraries have security measures in place to prevent patrons from running programs from a USB drive (for good reason). I haven't been able to test this on LINK and non-LINK patron PCs yet, but I'll be loading up some portable apps to test-drive on a patron PC soon.
If you try it: Give us a field report! What did you try, and how did it go?
GIMP is an open-source program for photo retouching and image composition. It has a funny name (it's an acronym for "GNU Image Manipulation Program"), but it can do many of the more sophisticated things that Photoshop is capable of, in addition to simpler tasks like cropping, resizing, and fixing red-eye in photos. Like Photoshop, there is a bit of a learning curve, but the beauty of the Internet is that there are tutorials and documentation to learn from.
GIMP has been around for a while, and it's pretty slick. I've held off mentioning it here on Wicked Cool because you may not have administrative access to install programs on your computer and may be reluctant to ask someone to install something for you, just so you can try it out (am I the only one who feels like that?). So why bring it up now? The answer is Portable GIMP -- a version that you can install on a USB flash drive and use on any PC, whether you have admin rights or not. If you're a curious type of person, and you have a USB drive, why not give it a shot? (And if you're really, really curious, just look at all the different portable programs you can try this with...)
So now, knowing that you can do this, the next question is why you would want to (aside from the general Project Play philosophy: "Play more, learn more, fear less"). If you can already use Contribute or Dreamweaver to resize photos to display at the right size for your website, why use a separate program like GIMP?
The practical value of resizing your photos before they're added to a webpage is usually a major reduction in the file size of the photos, which will help your pages load faster. Resizing photos in a real photo editor can also mean smoother, less pixelated-looking images than you get by resizing in Contribute/Dreamweaver. (See this side-by-side comparison of the two methods.) If you're trying to use photos to make your website look more professional and inviting, Portable GIMP is one of the tools you might want in your toolbox!
If you do only one "tech learning" thing today, make sure you read "Tech Tips for the Basic Computer User" in David Pogue's NYT blog. I can almost guarantee that you'll learn something -- and if you don't, start reading through the comments, because you're almost guaranteed to learn something there too.
If you read through the whole article and all the comments and you still don't find a tip that's new to you, then you may just be a Computer Genius... but don't get too comfy, because there is always something new to learn!