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Who wrote it?

Ever wonder who wrote a particular TechBits post? Author comments
When a TechBits post goes out by email, it doesn't automatically include the author information.* BUT... if you click on the title of the post in the email, it will take you to the post on the TechBits blog where you can view the author information at the bottom of the post.

We ♥ comments
Comments/replies are also best directly through the TechBits blog. If you receive TechBits via email and want to comment on a post (we LOVE comments!), click on the title of the post in the email and it will take you to the blog itself. There you can leave a comment that will be viewable by everyone (and for which the writer of the post will receive an automatic email notification), and you will also be able to read any comments left by other readers.

* We currently use Feedburner for emailing posts and it doesn't offer an option to include author information in emailed posts. If you use an alternative to Feedburner that you'd like to recommend, we'd love to hear about it!

Vroom, vroom

When I was growing up, I was led to believe by the time I was an adult we’d all be driving Winding_road_clip_art_16800flying cars.  While that particular prediction has (sadly) remained out of reach so far, there are a number of new technologies in testing and being implemented. 

Google and Nokia have been experimenting with driverless cars and rumors are that Apple is as well.  Last year Audi revealed a driverless concept car that was able to reach 140 mph around a racetrack. California has issued approvals to let both Audi and Google start testing self-driving cars and a driverless “car” is now in use in London though it’s limited to 12 mph. 

While it’s not the fully self-driving car, Ford has released a new technology that uses a camera to read speed limit signs and reduce the speed of the car accordingly by reducing the gas intake.  When the speed limit rises, the driver can then accelerate but only to the new speed limit.  They have also developed a technology that is able to detect people in the road ahead and will automatically apply the brakes if the driver does not. 

They’re even looking at adding technology to the roads.  Anything from using the breeze created by passing cars to power LED lights in the roads to sensors to detect icy conditions to heating elements to deal with the ice. Not sure how you reboot a highway though.

Anonymous playlists

YouTube playlists make it easy for viewers to watch a collection of pre-selected videos. Normally, playlists are created while logged into YouTube and are saved under an account.

But... there's also a way to create an anonymous playlist on-the-fly!

Why would you want to do this? Let's say you're helping a patron find information and there are some relevant videos on YouTube. You can stitch these together as a playlist and send the patron a single link!

Here's an example (using mostly cat videos, of course!):

Cat video 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4Sn91t1V4g
Cat video 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yNSF7ljOoU
Cat video 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M7ibPk37_U
Cat video 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUtn3pvWmpg
Craig's very suspenseful woodchuck video: 


Take this base URL:  

and glue the video IDs separated by commas
onto the end.

The resulting URL (which wraps because it is so very long): 


takes you to an Untitled Playlist containing all 5 videos.



LibraryReads and NoveList

I've written briefly about LibraryReads here before and just finished the top pick for April, At the Water's Library_reads_logo_websiteEdge by Sara Gruen last week (and I agree with it being top pick). If you haven't used LibraryReads (or Edelweiss or NetGalley to access digital Advance Review Copies) yet, I highly encourage you to give it a try. 

Last week, I learned that NoveList, my favorite database, has made it much easier to find LibraryReads books by giving us several ways to find them. This post from the NoveList blog explains in much better detail than I can here. I'm adding these tips to my upcoming database training programs (contact me if you want to know more).

P.S. I'm currently reading Badlands by C.J. Box which comes out on July 28, 2015. 

The Google Art Project

My TechBit is about the Google Art Project from the Google Cultural Institute.  The Google Art Project offers a way to make your new tabs in Google Chrome more exciting and educational.  All you need Paint_Palette__Arvin61r58 to get started is the extension for the Chrome browser.  Once you have it installed, you can configure your Chrome browser to display different artwork each day or with every new tab opened.  You can click a link on the new tab that will show you more information about the artwork.  You’ll also be able to use Google's viewer to zoom in close enough to see the actual brushstrokes!


When I was in grade school in the 80s, I remember reading an article about the future in Electric Company magazine. One of the predictions they made was for holograms (holographic TV, to be more specific).

Well, it looks like holograms may finally be here. Microsoft is stepping into the world of holographics with Microsoft HoloLens, a product that "brings high-definition holograms to life in your world, where they integrate with your physical places, spaces, and things."

As with products like Google Glass and virtual reality headsets, I'm sure it will be quite a while still before everything works as beautifully as depicted in the videos -- but it's a pretty cool vision for what the future might look like. Personally, I'd love to have someone walk me through a plumbing repair using hologram technology!

Ctrl + Click (open in a new tab)

I use the right-click context menu all the time when I'm skimming through posts in my blog reader, scrolling through Facebook's news feed, or doing research. I find a link I want to read more about (but not right away), right-click it and choose "Open in a new tab." Then later when I'm done with my initial looking, I go back to the tabs I opened and do my in-depth reading. Ctrl-click

Recently, I was working on a Chromebook without a mouse. I didn't have a button for right-clicking, but I wanted to open a link in a new tab.

Enter...  CTRL + click.
Pressing the Ctrl key while clicking a link will automatically open it in a new tab! Love, love, LOVE this!

Want to open a link in a new window? Try SHIFT + click instead!

Additional notes:

  • A shout out to Dan who wrote about opening a link in a new tab using a mouse's scroll wheel
  • Chromebooks also don't have "Page Down" or "Page Up" keys which I frequently use when browsing, so I had to go back and look up this TechBits post.
  • I almost titled this post, "Things that are missing on a Chromebook", but that sounded a little negative, and overall I really was enjoying my Chromebook experience with its fast bootup, nicely-sized keyboard, and great battery life.

Browser plug-ins, a thing of the past


Cat_PluginsA browser plug-in (or plugin) is extra software installed on a PC that allows a browser to display additional content it was not originally designed to display.  Some examples of popular plug-ins are Flash Player, Java and Silverlight.  Plug-ins were created because, at the time, browsers were fairly immature and browser development was not happening fast enough, if at all.  So this created big opportunities for plug-in developers to create software that would expand the capabilities of browsers.

Now, let's talk about what the problems are with plug-ins.  The biggest problem that I see is  the fact that they are not very secure.  There have been numerous attacks through either Flash or Java and since everyone has the same plug-in an attack works across every browser and operating system.  Other problems include not working on different operating systems as they are designed to only work on certain ones or they can be be very unstable which can cause your browser to crash or just behave badly.  These are the reasons why Mozilla announced in 2013 that they would changing the way Firefox loads third party plug-ins such as Flash, Java and Silverlight. Google has also announced their three-step approach to plug-in elimination:

  1. In January 2015 they began blocking plug-ins by default.
  2. In April 2015 they will begin to disable Chrome's ability to run plug-ins at all, unless a user specifically enables it by setting a flag in Chrome's technical preferences.
  3. In September 2015, they will begin to completely remove all ability to run plug-ins from Chrome.

So now you're probably wondering, "If they're going away, what's going to be replacing them?".  The answer is that we are in a much healthier environment of rapid browser development (Firefox and Chrome both release a new browser version every 6-weeks) and web standards.  Many of the features plug-ins implemented are now being introduced in the form of built-in browser features.  Don't feel bad that plug-ins are going away -- they had their time and now like everything else on the Internet it's time for a change.

Pointing at LINKcat: Redux


Earlier this week, Kerri posted regarding how to link to library databases through the SCLS patron authentication system.

That article also pointed to an earlier article about the venerable (but retired) LINKcat URL Scrubber, whose links in turn redirected to the Scrubber's replacement, the LINKcat Link Advisor. Some folks tell me that this should be an Adviser, while Wikipedia tells me that advisor and adviser are "etymological twin cognates" (i.e., they mean the same thing).

Suffice to say that there are often different ways of labeling or pointing at a thing, particularly online. These ways are often completely interchangeable, and what does it really matter, so long as you get to where you want to go?

Well, the bottom line is that things do change, and on the web at an unrelenting pace. This means that some ways of pointing at a thing may suddenly become obsolete, such that if you were to follow that kind of pointer, you would not get to where you wanted to go.

This is where the LINKcat Link Advisor comes in. By creating a pointer that is canonical (scientifically speaking, having standardized coordinates), we can help ensure that this way of pointing at LINKcat will endure, even through sweeping changes. If your library website links to LINKcat, but you are not using the Advisor and its cousin the LINKcat Launcher, such changes could be a nasty surprise (and may be coming soon to a catalog near you).

After the Liblime Koha code branches for public libraries and academic libraries are merged, it is entirely likely that LINKcat will have an all-new URL scheme, a.k.a. an application programming interface (API). Pointers that use the old API syntax could (and probably will) fail to point at the desired target. Yet pointers that use the Launcher (the canonical way of pointing at LINKcat) will continue to work after the API migration. Why? Because the Launcher has its very own API, which we control.

Instead of ending the old way of pointing after Liblime Koha changes, the SCLS Launcher's local API will evolve to encompass and adapt to the new Liblime API, while still supporting backward compatibility. Old style Launcher links will automagically transform to the correct new form, and we will all still get to where we want to go. Learn more in the Link Advisor FAQ.

Marking O365 messages as Read

Have you experienced a situation where you read an email in Office 365 but it doesn’t get marked as read? I like to check my messages on my PC when I’m at work and my Android phone while I’m away from my desk, and sometimes my phone will indicate I have a new message to read even though I already read it on my PC.

The solution I have to remedy this is to:

1.    Click on the Gear in the upper right and select Options
2.    Expand Mail, Automatic processing on the left-hand side (this was already open for me by default)
3.    Select Mark as read
4.    In the window that appears, choose Mark displayed items as read and change the number of seconds to wait before making items as read to zero
5.    Save your changes

This will automatically mark your messages as read once you’ve clicked on them. Now you won’t have messages that you’ve read lingering around acting like they are new.