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Give it to me simply

Ever wonder about a particular new technology and wish that someone would explain it to you in plain English? The folks at CommonCraft have created videos doing just that for more than a dozen technology topics.Confused

If you have ever wondered about Twitter, RSS, social bookmarking (like Delicious) or other topics, you may want to have a peek. Most of the videos are around 3 minutes long.

CommonCraft makes a living at explaining things simply. Even Zombies.


3833212599_746c0860cc_m In the last twelve hours, I've had three eye-opening tidbits cross my path:

1.  An article from David Pogue where he mentions that, when he has a question, he usually just asks it in Twitter.

2.  A dinner with some academic-types where, during much of the meal, they were each checking Twitter with their iPhones because, as they say, it is now their primary source of information.

3.  An article in American Libraries by Joe Janes where he mentions the prominence of Wikipedia in search results, something that didn't happen two years ago.

The information universe isn't just changing....it's changed.  Done.  Fin.

We need to understand these changes and we need to change along with it.  We need to have change(d) written all over ourselves and our libraries.

...which was the basic theme of David Lee King's talk "Freak out, Geek out, or Seek out" at the SCLS Tech Day last week.

If you missed it, check out his slides and links to information from the afternoon sessions on social networking, gadgets and Google talk at the Tech Day Recap.

If you attended tech day, what did you take away from David Lee King's talk?

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thenovys/3833212599/

Downloadable Sound Recording? Say what?

EarphonesAt a LINK library near you, a patron looking up materials in LINKcat recently had this question:

"What does it mean when LINKcat says an item is a sound recording but is "downloadable"?

It means that the patron has found one of the many titles available in the Wisconsin Digital Download Center (aka OverDrive)! The Wisconsin Digital Download Center is a service that provides audio, video, and music for patrons to download and enjoy on a PC or transfer to their portable device (OverDrive is the vendor that supplies the downloadable files). Each record in LINKcat for a downloadable item has a links to the download site, information on requirements and help.

If you're interested in learning more about these downloadable materials, you're in luck.  September is OverDrive's Training Month, and you can register for a variety of training sessions that are offered online.  Already a fan of downloadable sound recordings?  Make sure your colleagues are aware of them too and have the training to feel confident helping patrons find and use them!

Thanks for all the feedback!


The lucky winner of the $25 Amazon.com gift card is...

Denise Anton Wright of New Glarus Public Library!

A BIG thanks to everyone who left comments telling us what you think of TechBits!  We're so happy that you're reading and putting TechBits tips to use.  We're also grateful for the topic suggestions, like more on RSS and how to use it. Watch for more information about these topics in future!

* I may be late to this party, but Spell with Flickr is totally fun.

Killer Robots from Mars!

I read an article the other day saying that the Conficker worm is still spreading, and that the experts working to stop it are basically stumped. Conficker is a kind of malware known as a "botnet", which is just hacker jargon for "a network of robots".

Robot_toyBut you've probably heard about enough from me about scary malware. And despite the title of this article, you don't need robot attack insurance.

Did you know there are good bots too? In fact, SCLS Automation has its own little army of scripts and programs. While not nearly as sophisticated as some malware is, SCLS bots are working on your LINK PC stations and SCLS servers every day. These agents provide efficiency with tasks like:

  • Installing new software versions and cleaning out old ones.
  • Configuring patron PC security and privacy measures.
  • Merging ILS data with the patron authentication system.
  • Turning old green bar paper reports into spreadsheets.
  • Analyzing disks and event logs for signs of trouble.
  • Summarizing and collating PC status information.
  • Monitoring network bandwidth utilization over time.

That list could go on and on, and the amount of SCLS staff time saved by automating tasks is pretty huge. Just for software updates, we estimate savings equivalent to a full-time staff position. Meanwhile, the bots help us shift many PC maintenance tasks into hours that libraries are closed, so that changes and reboots don't interrupt staff and patrons trying to get things done themselves.

Things that go bump in the night

For patron stations, automating updates and analysis tasks to happen overnight is basically why we insist that LINK patron PCs be on all the time. LINK staff PCs do not have to be always on, but if they're off when our robot army sets off on a task, then the bots have to wait until your PC is turned back on to do their work. That's OK, but you may in turn have to endure some minor interruptions of your own work.

If you do leave LINK staff PCs turned on overnight, it is important that you do not lock Windows at the end of the day. The poor bots can bump their heads on the lock and get confused, and some kinds of changes (like mandatory reboots) simply cannot occur while a PC is locked. Instead of locking your PC, whether manually or with a password-protected screen saver, be sure to log off of Windows instead. That frees up the bots (and SCLS staff) to get things done, and might just save you a help desk call the next day.

What kinds of repetitive PC tasks would you like a robot to do for you?