Voice Assistants

Echo-dotVoice assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc) seem to be everywhere these days. What are libraries doing with them?
 
Some libraries are loaning them to patrons or educating their users about them...
Some library staff are just starting to think about and experiment with how they might be used in libraries...
Some libraries are developing skills/actions for the devices* to make their libraries' information more accessible to patrons using the devices...

And some libraries are promoting library services that can work with the devices.

Some takeaways:
  • Voice Assistants are designed to be personal/home devices and may have some challenges being integrated into a library environment
    • library networks are designed to keep users' data private, where voice assistants would like to communicate with other devices in the area
    • how comfortable would patrons be interacting with a voice assistant in a public space?
  • This is a technology that will likely become more and more popular over time
    (Remember how the crew on Star Trek would ask the ship's computer something and it would answer?** It sure seems like that's where we're headed.)
  • Libraries' best option may be to make their content more easily accessible to these devices and to promote content and services that work with the devices at patrons' homes

Do you have a voice assistant at your house? What is your impression?
------------
* Check out libraries with Alexa skills and with Google Actions
**Amazon now allows users to change the "wake word" for its Alexa voice-enabled assistant and allows "Computer" as a wake word, to the delight of Star Trek fans: http://time.com/4645187/amazon-echo-star-trek-computer-voice/

How to refresh your web browser without clearing your browsing history

Isn't it aggravating when you KNOW a webpage should be showing an update, but clicking the browser's "refresh" button (or hitting Ctrl + R) isn't showing the change? You might run across this when updating a website or even checking email.

Sure, you could log out, close all your tabs, and delete your browsing history to start completely fresh, but who wants to do that? Try these tips instead:

Hard Reload (two ways)
Ctrl + F5
or
Ctrl + Shift + R

Hold down the Control key and press F5. Or, hold down Control and Shift, and then press the R key. This will force the browser to reload and will work in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

Empty Cache and Hard Reload (Chrome browser)

Reload-empty-cache

The "cache" is the group of images and files your browser saves to help load previously-visited web pages more quickly. Clearing cached files and then reloading forces the browser to get the most current versions of all those images and files.

  1. In Chrome, press the F12 key. The DevTools menu will open.
  2. Right click on the reload button and select Empty Cache and Hard Reload.
  3. Breathe a sigh of relief that the page has refreshed, but all your tabs are still open and you are still logged into everything.
  4. Hit F12 again to close DevTools.

Creating and using Tasks in Google Calendar

In 2018 I wrote about using the "Reminders" feature of Google Calendar. Since then, Google has introduced a "Tasks" option that is slightly different than the Reminders option. 

Googletasks2To get started with Tasks, select the Tasks checkbox on the left side of the screen. This will enable the Tasks option on your Google Calendar. 


GoogletasksTo create a Task, click on the appropriate day, enter the information, and select Task. You can select a certain time for the task, or leave it as "all day." Currently, you cannot set up a repeating task. Tasks also include the option to add a description. Reminders do not include this option.

After you have completed the Task, you can mark the task as complete to cross it off of your list. To do this, click on the Task, and click Mark complete in the lower right-hand corner. Googletasks1

Unlike Reminders, Tasks do not continue to appear each day until you mark them complete. I think this makes them less useful than Reminders, so I haven't used Tasks nearly as much as I have used Reminders. However, I think they can be useful when you want to include detailed information about your Task. When using Reminders, you only have the option to enter a Title, while the Task option includes both the Title and Description.

The Wonderful World of Fonts!

Some times a presentation or a letter need something to make them Pop! There are many ways to do it from bright colors to funny shapes, but the easiest way has to be with fonts.

There are silly fonts,bnıǝʇ ın ʇɥǝ bɐɔʞ, old fashioned fonts,𝕳𝖊𝖆𝖗 𝖄𝖊, 𝕳𝖊𝖆𝖗 𝖄𝕰,  and the just plain bizarre, 🍳⛎🎐🎗🌴 🎐🎵 🌴♓🎗 🅱🅰🌜🎋.  

When it comes to creative fonts, there is no end. A lot of users have been finding customized fonts online from various genre's such as Dr. Seuss and Dr. Who. It is important to not only get the font that you need, but to do it safely. When downloading fonts from the internet there is always the risk, however slight, that there may be a virus attached to the file. 

One easy way to ensure that doesn't happen is to copy your font from an online font generator, such as fontmeme. It is a fairly simple process. All one would need to do is visit the website, select the desired font, type your message, and copy and paste into your own document. 

If you do choose to download a font package, I highly recommend that you scan if for viruses before opening the file. The easiest way is to follow these steps.

  1. Download the font into your downloads folder (or folder of your choice)
  2. Right click on the file and select Scan with (your antivirus)Image result for right click scan with
  3. Once the scan is complete you can open the file or delete it, as needed.

 

The next time you find yourself in need of a new font, just follow these steps, and enjoy!

Navigating Misinformation

A potential wind farm is a hot topic in Green County, WI. As a new County Board Supervisor, I have been listening to residents and doing research to better understand the pros and cons of renewable energy in rural farming communities. The amount of misinformation being shared on this topic is quite shocking, so I was excited to see this free online course being offered:  Navigating Misinformation: How to identify and verify what you see on the web

MOOC_Navigating_Misinformation_FINAL

https://journalismcourses.org/VRFY0419.html

The goal of the course is to "learn how to identify and verify online content, and learn about responsible reporting in an age of disinformation. These skills will be relevant whether you're in a newsroom or are simply a conscientious digital citizen."

This Massive Online Courses (MOOC) is offered by the Knight Center of Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin. I've taken numerous MOOCs from them on various topics including data storytelling, mapping (GIS), and visual journalism. Courses typically have participants from over 100 countries which offers fascinating perspectives. I wouldn't say that I'm an active student in the courses, but I do explore their resources and short videos (all free!).

I look forward to joining others in learning how to use new tools to navigate misinformation.  

To RSS Feed, or Not? or, Check your SCLS blog registration

There will be a lot going on with SCLS Technology and ILS services in 2019 (new Enterprise wireless solution and migration to Bibliovation). We will be using our respective blogs to relay updates about these changes, and all other Tech (Technology News) and ILS (LINK2.0Koha) news. Now is a good time to make sure that you are signed up for these blogs so that you don't miss a detail. Most SCLS blogs can be followed by signing up for an RSS feed or via email subscription (see below for a list). 

Thinking about our blogs made me wonder if RSS feeds are still a "thing." I haven't used an RSS reader in years. They DO still exist and the reasons to use them are still the same. Check out this SCLS Tech Bits blog from 2009--it's still valid today. Here is an article from Wired that advocates for an RSS Revival.
 So, if you are interested in trying out RSS feeds, the Wired article lists a few.

Here is a summary of where to follow each SCLS blog:

Annual Report Blog -- RSS only; scroll to the bottom of the column on the right

Get in the Van (Delivery) -- RSS and Email; at top of column on the right RSS or Email?

Know More (CE) -- RSS and Email; in the middle of the column on the right

LINK 2.0 Koha -- RSS and Email; scroll to the bottom of the column on the right

Past Program Information and Handouts -- RSS and Email; in the middle of the column on the right

TechBits -- RSS and Email; Click box under Header

Technology News -- RSS, Email and Twitter; scroll to the bottom of the column on the right

Image credits (Pixabay):
Birds - Image by Uschi_Du, RSS - Image by FreeCliparts, Email - Image by geralt

Random Passwords

When I sign up for a new service that requires a login and password, I find that I waste too much time thinking of a good password.  I recently watched a co-worker use a random password generator to order pizza online.  It took seconds and involved no thinking.  That sold me on the idea of using a random password generator.  I was already using KeePass to store my passwords. 1390518392 Now, I also use its built-in random password generator.  Using a random password generator is also one of the easiest steps you can take to help safeguard your online services from hackers.  A randomly-generated string will usually be tougher for hackers to crack than a password manufactured by a human being.  It will also be unique.  Unique passwords reduce your risk of multiple hacks when one of your online services becomes compromised.

There are several good password managers and random password generators out there, and I can't really recommend one over another.  A quick search for online password generators led me to one hosted by LastPass.  Although the generator is accessed from the web, the actual service runs locally on your PC/Mac and never travels across the internet. This tool lets you select the length of the password and the types of characters you want to include.  It can also generate passwords that are easier to say (less secure) or easier to read.

PowerPoint Pointer

Laser PointerLast year while I was working on a PowerPoint presentation I came across a nifty little feature. In slide show mode you can make your regular mouse curser look like a laser pointer. Even though I didn’t use it then it came up as a topic during a presentation I sat in on last week, so I thought I’d share this with you now.

This only works if you’re in presentation mode in front of your computer--just hold the CTRL key down and left click your mouse button. Your mouse pointer should turn into a red dot. You can release the CTRL key when the red dot appears. You can move the dot around your presentation like a laser pointer now. When you release the mouse button your regular mouse pointer will re-appear.

A more permanent solution is to hold the control button down and press the letter P--this will turn your mouse pointer into a small red dot. Hit Esc on the keyboard to bring your mouse pointer back.

Spoofing

Last week we had a little flurry of spoofed email messages where the sender that displayed didn't really match the actual sender of the message. These spoofed email messages are designed to look and feel like they're coming from someone you know and trust so that you will click on the nastiness that they contain or share info that you shouldn't. Sometimes they are very, very, VERY convincing.

GiveMeYourFish
What can you do to protect yourself?

Read thoroughly before clicking 
  • be SKEPTICAL, especially of documents or links you weren't expecting
  • watch for spelling and grammar errors
  • think about whether you expected the message and whether it makes sense
If you receive a questionable message...
  • call the sender (Always call. Do not use email to check whether something is legitimate.)
  • DO NOT forward or reply to the questionable message (unless you are specifically requested to do so by the Help Desk)
If you're feeling techie... you can view the message details in O365 to see who really sent it
    • Click on the "..." and choose "View message details"
    • Ctrl-A to select all the text
    • Ctrl-F to "Find" ---- search for "Return-Path"
    • If the Return-Path does not match the "From" field and is something unexpected, the message may be suspect
      (for example, if it appeared to be sent by your coworker, but the return path is "golfpro@something.com", you'd be right to be skeptical!)
    • Even if the sender is legit, their account may be compromised the email may be malicious
If it turns out that the questionable message is NOT legit, right-click, mark it as junk (and click "Report" if prompted).
 
Other tips
  • Set a secure password for your email and don't use that same password for other services
  • If you think your account may have been compromised, change your password
  • If you have questions about an email you've received, contact the Help Desk
Want to practice spotting Phishing or Spoofed emails? Check out this previous TechBits post for phishing quizzes and tips!
 
 
 

New Games for VR Kits

Still haven't checked out the Virtual Reality Kits??  What are you waiting for?!

SCLS has 2 VR Kits available for staff at our member libraries to reserve for programs in their library.  The VR kits contain a PlayStation 4 and all the VR equipment you need to play; however you will need your own TV or projector with an HMDI connection.  Now is a great time to check it out if you haven't yet because we have added a couple new games for everyone to enjoy.

Here is a quick overview of the newest games:

HomeStar VR: View the night sky from anywhere in the world.

Beat Saber:  Imagine if Dance Dance Revolution and Fruit Ninja combined with light sabers: That’s what this game is like.

Titanic VR:  Explore the legendary ship in a submarine.  

Eagle Flight:  Become an eagle and soar through the city of Paris.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes:  A great team game to work on communication and help each other diffuse the bomb.

 

As a reminder these kits are only to be checked out by SCLS librarians and for in-library use only.  Check out our program equipment web page to check availability and reserve a kit today!