« September 2009 | Main | November 2009 »

All I want for Christmas...

It's getting to that time of year again. The stores are gearing up for the new holiday season. I heard my first Christmas song on the radio last week, so I think it's time TechBits gets in on the action. Here are some tech gadgets I have found over the last year that I want under the tree on Christmas morning.

Isaw2 The first item on my list is the "I.saw", a USB powered chain saw. I don't have a good reason why I want this other than the destruction and mayhem that this offers appeals to me. It's the perfect gift for the home or office. 
The second item on my list has been around for a while but I wanted to include it anyway. It's the USB powered coffee mug warmer. This isn't one of the older ones that just warms your coffee, it also displays the temperature it is heating the coffee to and it also serves as a 4 port USB hub. A very handy device I think.

Isleep Next up is the "I-sleep", a USB powered pillow for your laptop. I know it sounds cool doesn't it! It's designed for the 10 minute power nap. You plug it in and it inflates,it will also play soothing mp3s from your laptop while you nap, and of course wake you up in 10 minutes. I think if I had one of these I would push it to its limits and test out the 3 hour power nap. I don't know if this will be available for Christmas this year, but I hope it is.

That's all I have for now, if you know of any other cool gadgets I should add to my list feel free to let me know by commenting here.

I know it's here somewhere...

Have you ever looked for documentation that you know exists, but haven't been able to find it? Me too. All the time. Here are two "search" related tips.SearchSCLS

Searching www.scls.info

If the info you seek is on the www.scls.info site, you may be in luck. There's a search box on the main page that will search the site and display the results. Hopefully that will get you started in the right direction.

Searching your PC

Did you know that you can search for documents on your PC by name, file type, date modified, and even words or phrases contained within the document?

Just navigate to Start->Search to begin. LINK staff PCs are most likely set to "Advanced Search" by default. Non-LINK PCs may have the search companion enabled. In either case, you should be able to enter your criteria and have a list of matches returned.

If you don't know the exact name of the document on your PC, you can search using wildcards. An asterisk (*) maybe be substituted for zero or more characters.

Ex. *.doc  will return ALL Microsoft Word documents.

A question mark (?) may be substituted for a single character.

Ex. class?.doc will return classy.doc or class1.doc, but not classifications.doc.

More info about searching in Windows can be found here on Microsoft's site.

Quick & Easy PDF Creation


So you want to create a PDF file, but you don't have Adobe Acrobat and you don't have time to wait for Zamzar to convert your 1000-page book.  Well, there is a freeware program called CutePDF Writer that will convert a document to a PDF for you and all you have to do is print it out.

CutePDF Writer is freeware, so it's FREE for personal, commercial, governmental, educational or library use.  You don't get any annoying watermarks or popup Web ads with this software.  It allows you to convert any printable document into a PDF format.  It installs as a virtual printer, which means that you see it in your list of printers but it doesn't actually print.  When you choose the 'Print' option from any application what it does is ask you to name and choose a location for where you want to save the PDF version of your document.  Click the Save button and BAM! you have a PDF document.

Since this is freeware we can install on your staff PC with no fuss and no muss. All you have to do is call the Help Desk and tell me what PC you want it on. Some staff PCs already have it, so a way to check is to look in the list of printers when you try to print.  If you don't see "CutePDF Writer" listed then you don't have it installed.  If you want it then do what Blondie's song said and "Call Me".

Fun and Not-So-Fun Facts about Digital Media

If you use the Digital Download Center long enough, you may find that certain things about it are not-so-fun—limitations that mean saying "no" to a hopeful patron. Since I'm a "give me the bad news first" type, I'll cover a couple of these not-so-fun topics first and then spill the beans on some good news.

Not-So-Fun Fact #1: You can't use a Mac computer to transfer iPod-compatible WMA Audiobooks to an iPod (or other Apple player).

Counterintuitive? Yes—but sadly, Macs and WMA format just do not mix. Some of the software required for using WMA Audiobooks isn't available for Macs (OverDrive Media Console 3.2 and Windows Media Player). (Positive spin: Mac computers can play MP3 Audiobooks and transfer them to iPods.)

Not-So-Fun Fact #2: You can't use SCLS-supported library computers to transfer digital media to Apple or Zune players. 

Lots of libraries make OverDrive Media Console available on patron computers, but for security reasons, iTunes and the Zune application (which are required for transfer to Apple and Zune players) are not available. 

Now, here's the fun fact:  eBooks are coming!

People have been asking about eBooks for a long time, and the Digital Download Center is getting some.  The initial collection will start with over 200 titles on a variety of topics, mainly in EPUB format, with a few PDF titles thrown in. They're not available yet, but we'll keep you posted!

Enter a line break in a cell (Excel)

Here's something I use often when working with text in Microsoft Excel:

Hitting Enter in Excel moves you to the next cell...


but hitting Alt-Enter moves you to the next line in the same cell.


Other Excel shortcut and function keys (Microsoft)

Moving on Up(time)

As you've probably heard, SCLS Automation will soon be moving to new and improved quarters shared with SCLS Administration. Moving with us is the LINK Network Operations Center (NOC), a.k.a. "the computer room". This includes Dynix, LINKcat Web, LibraryOnline, and all the SCLS network services that member libraries and their patrons rely on every day.

The bad news is that there will be a few unavoidable interruptions of service during this transition. The good news is that we should be able to keep disruptions to a minimum. We'll be moving "on uptime" to the extent possible.

How Does That Work?

SCLS network services are provided by a large number of servers, routers, switches, cables, disks, databases, operating systems and software applications. These pieces are all layered on top of one another in complex dependencies. That tends to make this move difficult. However, many services are built up from modular interchangeable parts and that makes things a whole lot easier.

Imagine that network services are provided instead by three library clerks. One can be working the circulation desk, one doing shelving, and one taking a break at any given time. They can trade roles at any point such that services are provided continuously even while there is some downtime.

Now imagine that these network clerks are identical triplets who always dress alike; if you're not looking right at them when they trade roles, you won't even know it happened! So, the real trick for moving on uptime will be to ship individual pieces to the new building while they are "on break". Then we'll do component role swapping early in the morning and late at night, when you're "not looking". Real downtime for individual "clerks" will be extensive, but library staff and patrons will not perceive most of it.

What's the Downside?

Unfortunately some service roles can only be filled by specialized components. Technically these are still interchangeable parts, but they're also expensive. SCLS simply can't duplicate some systems. The Dynix database server is the chief example; the only way to move it is to turn it off, extract it, package it ever so carefully and put it on a truck.

Because we need professional movers and SirsiDynix support, the Dynix move will happen during business hours. You should expect Dynix (and LINKcat and TeleCirc) to be down most or all of Friday, November 20th. Some additional Dynix downtime will occur the following Monday morning when a Sun technician inspects the system to certify our Sun maintenance agreement.

On that Friday and Monday we expect each day's patron notices to be printed and put in delivery as normal. All other network services will remain up during the Dynix move and certification downtimes.

Other specialized, unique systems include LibraryOnline and the SCLS email server. Required downtime for these moves should occur outside of library business hours, but you might notice it if you're a night owl or an early bird. These moves have not yet been scheduled. For these and all other service issues, stay tuned to SCLS mailing lists for scheduling announcements and to the SCLS Status Wiki for live progress reports.

This message from the Bureau of Backup's Supernumerary Systems Branch at the Department of Redundancy was brought to you by the Pleonastic PR Division of the Alternative Options Agency.

The practical and the prototypes

I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to technology. On one hand,  I love the new and bold: trying out new gadgets and thinking about how technology will impact our lives in years to come.  On the other hand, I love the proven and practical:  getting things done and tips to make life easier.  I decided to include a bit of both "hands" in this post.

The Practical:Hands

If you read Techbits through email, you may wonder who's writing to you right now.  Despite our best efforts, we have not figured out how to include the name of the writer in the email you receive.  But don't despair!  To find out who wrote a post, just click on the title of the post.  You'll see the blog post.  Scroll down to the bottom, find the "Posted by" statement, and you're set!

The Prototypes:

Now on to the wacky and new!  PC World recently posted an article called Hot Prototypes.  It includes pictures and quick descriptions of 12 new mobile computing devices.  It's amazing to think that the netbook that seemed so small in the TechBits video will soon be considered clunky!  My personal favorite:  The Napkin PC.  Do you have a favorite? Share it in the comments!

(Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathangibbs/2382280832/)

Euphonious Mosquito Duet

To fully appreciate this post, you’ll need:
A) Internet Explorer as your browser (some of the links won’t work otherwise) and
B) Speakers or a set of headphones.)Mosquito

Move over Kindle and make way for a multimedia mashup of electronic text, video clips and social networking, aka a “vook”.

On October 1, Simon & Schuster in conjunction with a multimedia partner released four "vooks".  You buy the vook but don’t necessarily have to buy additional hardware if you have a PC with Internet access or an iPhone or iPod Touch. 

The “vook” is so new who knows if this specific vendor’s product will take off or not but they’re on to something masterful!

For example, insect communication through acoustics is fascinating:

1) Euphonious Mosquito Duet

2) Leafhoppers and treehoppers communicate with each other by vibrating a substrate.  Normally inaudible to humans, these recordings were captured by a hairclip attached to a phonograph cartridge, with a wire leading to a recorder.LeafHopper

But reading about insect acoustics can be a bit dry:

What if the audio and video clips were integrated with the reading and you could stuff it in your pocket?  The “vook” concept is the perfect vehicle for content fusion (text, audio and video) that’s portable and social networking-capable.  This rocks!

Guest Post: Anytime Training

Intro: Hi, I’m Jean Anderson (aka the PandaLibrarian). I’m the CE Coordinator at SCLS and I’ve worked at SCLS since 2007!

Every year, SCLS offers Continuing Education programs to our libraries (over 50 this year). Some are in person, some are live streamed to your desktop (Library Learning Network programs), and some are delivered to you via webinar. What do you do if you want to attend a program but can’t for one reason or another?

Many, but not all, of our programs are available in some recorded format. The Library Learning Network programs are available on DVD a few weeks after the program airs. We don’t catalog these in LINKcat, so you need to request them using this form. Some of our presenters allow us to record their in-person programs. Again, we don’t catalog these (we don’t have permission to distribute them beyond our member libraries) so use the same form to request these DVDs.

What about the rest of the programs – the ones we’re using GoToWebinar to deliver to your desktop?Beach We’ve been recording them all year long and they’re available for you to watch anytime, day or night, at work or in your pjs, as long as you have an Internet connection. You can find these posted on the Past Program blog along with any handouts, slides, or other information available. The recording is usually available within 24-48 hours of the original presentation. So far this year, we have 23 recorded programs available for you to watch at your convenience. We use Blip.tv to host these programs and you can find the SCLS Channel at sclsce.blip.tv.

Looking for something prior to 2009? Check out the Past Program listing for recordings, slides, and other handouts.

Looking for other CE Opportunities? Check out Know More, where I post information about other CE programs, webinars, and conferences.

Interesting statistic – the program with the most number of views since it aired in March is the CCBC program, Great New Books for Younger Children – it’s been watched 327 times!

If you’re a director and are looking for CE hours – watching these recordings counts!

What's the mayor reading?

Everyone knows what Oprah's reading. But what about the well-known personalities from your community?

A few weeks ago I posted about a library system using short video clips for book reviews and highlighting the library's collection. This week I ran across 2 more interesting uses of video by Durham County Library in North Carolina:

  1. Online Storytime with Miss Tamika
  2. Whatcha Reading?
Bill Bell, Mayor of Durham

Matt DeMargel - Director of Media Relations & Promotions - Durham Bulls

"Whatcha Reading?" was especially interesting to me . It seems like a good partnership between Durham County Library and personalities from the community. The library gains reviews from interesting or famous people in the community, and the people interviewed about what they're reading get a little screen time and a link back to their business or organization.

Press Release for "Whatcha Reading?"