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An alternative to Visio

If you've ever used Microsoft Visio, you know what a great tool it can be to create visual representations of everything from network diagrams to organizational charts.  But Visio can be expensive, especially if you don't use it regularly.

Fortunately, there's a free alternative out there called DIA (like DIAgram).  I've been experimenting with DIA and am impressed with its features, especially the custom templates that other users have created.  Best of all, DIA is bundled as a portable app, so you can take it with you anywhere on your USB drive.



Viewing web pages in alternate browsers

There have been previous TechBits articles that mentioned the IE View extension to Firefox. IE View is handy if you need to compare the view of a page in FF to the same view in IE, and it's essential if you use some site that (even well into the 21st century) still requires its users to have Internet Explorer. If you rely on such a site, you can configure IE View to always launch IE for links to that funky application.

But if you're a web site developer or tester, IE View may not be all that you want. You may also want to compare the view of a web page in Chrome, Opera, and Safari (or even Amaya, Epiphany, Konqueror, Maxthon, Lobo and...). In short, you may want the Open With extension for Firefox.

After you have installed Open With, your View menu should get populated with an "Open With <browser name>" item for each other browser that is detected on your PC. A similar menu item can optionally appear in several other contexts as well. To set up Open With for various contexts, pull down the FF Tools menu and choose Add-ons, then select Extensions and click the Options button for the Open With extension. A new tab will open showing the Open With settings that you can tune for the View menu, context menu, tabs and the tool bar.

What about different versions of the same browser? You want to test FF 3.6 and FF 7, and IE 8 and IE 9, right? Sadly, this is often not possible without multiple PCs. Even in cases where it is possible to have two versions of the same browser on one machine, it tends to get a bit funky to manage those installations. Depending on your OS license and hardware capacity, you may benefit from running "another PC" inside a VirtualBox or another virtualization platform, but that level of complexity is far beyond what I can cover in a short blog posting.

SCLS Network Convergence: Part II

Our first TechBits post on SCLS network convergence was posted in mid-August.  If you missed it, you may want to take a quick look at it before reading further.  Today, we pick up where August left off.


For those of you who did get a chance to read Part I, you may recall that convergence was broken down into phases:

1. Phase I: PC/printer inventory.  Network cabling assessment.
2. Phase II: 3rd party ISP is released
3. Phase III: Migrating non-LINK staff PCs to SCLS network
4. Phase IV: Migrating non-LINK patron PCs to SCLS network
5. Phase V: Migrating wireless services to SCLS network (legacy wireless not Enterprise wireless)

The August post discussed Phases I – II.  Today, Phases III – V will be discussed.

3. Phase III: Migrating non-LINK staff PCs to the SCLS network
SCLS staff will schedule with you in advance a time to migrate your non-LINK staff PCs to LINK staff PCs.  All of your important data will be backed up, the PC will be reimaged and the data will be restored to the PC.  After the PCs are reimaged, SCLS will be able to offer remote support to these PCs.  You’ll be able to call the SCLS Tech Help Desk for troubleshooting problems or software installs.

4. Phase IV: Migrating non-LINK patron PCs to SCLS network
Much of what was said in Phase III applies to Phase IV (minus the ‘save the data’ part). 

5. Phase V: Migrating wireless services to SCLS network (legacy wireless not Enterprise Wireless)
Actually, for most libraries if you are not planning to move to Enterprise Wireless, Phase II and Phase V will occur at the same time.  You’ll still be using the same wireless server and Public IP but you’ll get there through the SCLS network rather than your 3rd party ISP.

Depending on the particulars of your library, all phases of convergence may be completed in a single visit or a couple of visits.

Help me beef up the OverDrive Kindle Help FAQ!

We've added a page for Kindle Help to the WI Digital Book Center FAQ wiki. It includes a video from OverDrive showing the Kindle checkout process, a step-by-step description (including screen shots), and some frequently asked questions. I know many libraries are getting questions about Kindle books, so this resource is intended to be shared with patrons and library staff.

Please take a look at the Kindle Help FAQ. Which questions are patrons asking most frequently at your library? Which answers would make this a better resource? If you have suggestions, please let me know in the comments!

OverDrive Kindle compatibility is here!

KindleGraphicNowAvailable Kindle compatibility is now available for almost all ebooks in the Digital Download Center. (Audiobooks are not Kindle-compatible.)

How to identify Kindle-compatible ebooks

"Kindle Book" is an additional format that may be listed for ebook titles. The number of copies available to check out has not increased, but for ebook titles where multiple formats are available, patrons will have a choice of format.

Kindle devices supported

Supported Kindle devices include any generation Kindle device, all free Kindle apps, and web browsers with Kindle Cloud Reader. Public library ebooks require an active Wi-Fi connection for wireless delivery to a Kindle device. An Amazon.com account is also required.

How to download a title for use with Kindle

  1. Visit the Digital Download Center.
  2. Browse and check out a Kindle book.
  3. Click the 'Get for Kindle' button. This opens the Amazon.com website. You may be required to sign in with your Amazon.com account if you are not already logged in.
  4. Select a Kindle device or Kindle reading app. Click the 'Get library book' button and sync your device or app to download the book, or choose to send it to your device via USB.
  5. An active Wi-Fi connection is required for wireless delivery to a Kindle device. Library books will not be delivered via the Kindle's 3G connection.
  6. If your Kindle is not Wi-Fi capable or you do not have an active Wi-Fi connection, read Amazon's instructions for transferring files via USB.

Help documentation

Enterprise Wireless Has Arrived!

Windows-tech-support2Today is a great day! I'm very happy to announce the official release of our new Enterprise Wireless 
service. The team at SCLS has worked very hard to bring our members a truly next generation wireless experience.

I could type all day about the new features and how reliable this will be....or you can just go here. 

This is such a great project it has received it's own section on our website!  If you go to the technology page (http://www.scls.info/technology/index.html) You will see an Enterprise Wireless area.  This is where all the information regarding Enterprise Wireless will be posted.  Right now, the only thing there is an overview of the system and the steps necessary to get it for your library.  Remember to check back regularly for new and exciting information.

Tired of being tethered to iTunes Software?

For years Apple devices have been horribly crippled by the requirement of iTunes. Want to use your fancy new iPad?  First you must connect it to a computer with iTunes. Want to update it? You guessed it, connect it to a computer. Want to... you get the idea.  All this will change with the release of iOS 5 and two words: PC Free.

PC Free is one of the new features of iOS 5 (Apple's mobile operating system). The apple website mentions that you will be able to activate and set up your device, right out of the box! It's about time! This is really exciting news that will change the way we use the cumbersome iTunes software.

There are also a number of new features and bug fixes. Learn all about iOS 5 

Suggest a topic for TechBits with our new feedback form

Photo of cat saying "Hey, TechBits!" Got a tech topic that you'd like to know more about? Got a great tip to share? Let us know! We've added a form specifically for giving us suggestions and feedback. Here's a link to go straight to the form, and we've also added a "Suggest a Topic" button to the banner on the TechBits website so you can find it again in the future. (Or, you can always leave a comment on any TechBits post and we'll get the message.)

If you're on the fence, remember that we appreciate your suggestions. They help us through bouts of writer's block when we need inspiration, let us know that real people are reading, and keep us tuned in to topics that matter to you!

What is this record in LINKcat?

Ever have a patron ask you what a record like this in LINKcat is for?  Can everyone at your library answer this question?  (click on image to enlarge)

It's a record for a downloadable OverDrive title available through WPLC's Digital Download Center!

What is WPLC?
WPLC is the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium. The WPLC pools the resources of WPLC member libraries throughout the state to cooperatively undertake projects that may otherwise be unavailable to single libraries and library systems. One of these cooperative projects is a state-wide subscription to OverDrive. 

What is OverDrive?
OverDrive is the vendor that supplies titles for the Digital Download Center, a collection of digital audiobooks, eBooks, video and music. The Digital Download Center is supported and funded by the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium (WPLC).

Why is it great?
It means you can watch/listen to/read materials on your PC, laptop, or portable devices!  Many titles are iPod/iPad/iPhone-compatible, and mobile apps are available for Apple, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows mobile devices.

Where can I find more information on using the service?

Copying Video URLs at the Current Time.

Do you ever find yourself wanting to send a link of a video to someone, but don't want to have them sit through the whole video just to see the one part you want them to see. For instance let's say you are watching a 90 minute youtube lecture on biometrics and would like to send someone only the part discussing facial recognition systems that starts 27:39 seconds into the video. How would you do that? Here's how I would do it. Open up your browser, it works with both Internet Explorer and Firefox. Play the youtube video you want to send, currently I have only found this option available on Youtube. Pause the video at the point you want the video to start, now right click anywhere on the video and select "copy video url at current time" from the context menu. Now you have a URL copied to your clipboard with the video starting at the exact time you paused it. That's it, you can send the URL on through email, instant messaging, or paste it to your facebook account.