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Exploring Chrome Extensions Volume 4: Mercury Reader

    Welcome back to another monthly installment of Exploring Chrome Extensions.

    We have all been there. We find a webpage that is absolutely riddled with advertisements and it kills any sort of readability. If you are familiar with Pinterest and the blog sites that are often linked, you know what I am talking about but this is also true about almost all web pages nowadays. Luckily there is a Chrome extension that seeks to remove all the unnecessary and annoying ad fluff from a page. The extension I am talking about is called Mercury Reader.

    Mercury Reader strips out advertising, formatting, and other webpage muddle to provide a clean, and most importantly, readable page. That is pretty much it. There isn’t a whole lot to talk about other than it seems to work pretty well. Instead of talking about it lets just look at what it can do in the following image.


    In this example, Mercury Reader works great but there a few caveats. There are certain pages where we would like to remove the ads/clutter but keep the formatting. An example would be cooking or recipe web pages. Recipe formatting is often critical but Mercury Reader can have pretty mixed results with this. Sometimes it completely removes the necessary formatting and you are left with an incomprehensible recipe. I have seen some sites where Mercury Reader just completely mangles it or literally strips everything out so you are left with a single sentence.  Mercury Reader is really intended for articles specifically but it can work fairly well for other uses.

How to use:

    Once you have downloaded the Mercury Reader extension and restarted Chrome you will see a little rocket ship symbol to the right of the Omnibox and to the right of the Options menu. All you need to do is click the rocket and it will attempt to clear the clutter.

You can get Mercury Reader HERE

Project Maestro - Tableau's new data prep tool

This week I downloaded and tried out Tableau’s Beta 3 data prep product, “Project Maestro”.  Overall, I am impressed by the visual interface and what it can do without advanced excel functions or programming. Here are some features I am excited it can do:

  • EXTRACT DATA FROM OUR ILS DATABASE: Using a MySQL connection, I was able to pull data from our Koha database and output the results to a CSV file.
  • MERGE A FOLDER OF EXCEL REPORTS: Using the wildcard union, I was able to easily combine a folder of reports into one csv file. I merged a folder that had a separate file of items owned for every library in the South Central Library System. The resulting file had over 3 million items, and it only took a few minutes. 
  • COMBINE DATA SOURCES: Using the join feature, I combined data from multiple sources and could easily see how many records were included/excluded.
  • FILTER: This can be done with a calculation or by selecting which field values to keep or exclude.
  • ADD OR SPLIT FIELDS: Calculated fields and custom splits can be used to add new fields. I used this to add the report date, which is typically in the filename and not listed as a report field.
  • AGGREGATE LARGE FILES: This is my favorite feature!  We create monthly database extracts with millions of records that are used by Perl scripts to generate reports. Using Maestro’s aggregate feature, I was able to aggregate (sum) these large files by year, quarter, month, day, etc. to reduce the number of records.
  • OUTPUT: The ability to output to a CSV or Tableau format is huge. I’m now wondering what this means for custom reports and rethinking my dashboard design workflows.

My only complaint with Project Maestro is that sometimes it took too long or seemed stuck. Restarting the program and keeping the flow simpler for large files seemed to help.

So how much will this cost? I contacted our Tableau representative and received this information: “Project Maestro will be included in a desktop license but they have not released any details on how it will be released i.e. as an upgrade or a new offering.” In the meantime, you can try it for free!  Here are some resources to get started:

Software: https://www.tableau.com/project-maestro 

Blog post: http://www.blastam.com/blog/tableaus-new-etl-tool-project-maestro

Training video: https://youtu.be/22_YJ6eJVTY

Virtual Reality Kits Now Available

In my last TechBits post, I wrote about the new technology coming to SCLS libraries this year.  I am happy to report that the Virtual Reality kit is now available for libraries to check out!  Not only that, but we also purchased a 2nd kit!  This means more libraries and their patrons will be able to experience and play with VR.VR head set and controllers

These kits include the PS4 gaming console, VR headset, VR camera, controllers, and lots of cables.  All you will need is a projector or TV.  These kits are only to be checked out by SCLS librarians and for in-library use only.  

Check out the SCLS equipment page to check availability and reserve the kit.  Reservations will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be confirmed with an email from myself or Craig.  The kits can be checked out for up to 10 days, but only one kit at a time.

If you have any questions, you can leave them in the reservation form or send me an email at ewaring@scls.info.

Windows 10 Sound Problems

Windows 10 is smart.  Somtimes it's too smart for it's own good!  I've run across a number of people who have had issues with the sound not working.  This is especially true if you have a laptop and use a dock to connect it to multiple montiors.  I've also seen it happen if you have a desktop and connect a usb cable to your monitors so you can plug in a usb drive to the side of the monitor.

Symptom: No Sound yet the volume is at 100%

Cause: Windows 10 is being "helpful" and switched your default speaker to be your monitor speakers. Please know - you monitor DOESN'T have a speaker!

Solution: Tell Windows what speaker you are actually using

  1. Click this
  2. In the list that pops up select your real speakers (Sometimes it's not evident so you'll need to select one at a time and test the sound.)
    NOTE: Make sure to turn the volume up on the item you just selected. 

The many joys of Internet Archive

Internet ArchiveI attended a fun NFLS webinar last week and was reminded all over again about Internet Archive, a "non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more." Have you been there?

Here's just a tiny sampling of what you might find:

Definitely worth a look around!

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine also allows you to view more than 310 million webpages saved over time. Run into a dead link? Wonder what a webpage used to look like? Pop it into the Wayback Machine!

Here's what the SCLS webpage (www.scls.lib.wi.us) looked like back in 1997:
1997 SCLS website

SCLS libraries interested in looking up your page - try www.scls.lib.wi.us/<3-letter delivery code> 
1997 Internet Search Engines




And here's the SCLS 1997 list of internet search engines:

(remember the days before Google?)




More articles and resources related to Internet Archive

Firefox Screenshots

Recent versions of Firefox have included a new screenshot utility.  You might find it useful when you want to capture content within a web page.  With Firefox 57 or newer, click the Page Actions button at the right side of the Address Bar then click Take a screenshot.


At this point, you have four options for your screenshot. 

  • Select a predefined section of the page
  • Click-and-drag your mouse to capture a section of the page
  • Capture the entire visible part of the web page
  • Capture the entire page without scrolling

Now you can save the screenshot to your PC or you can have Mozilla save your screenshot in the cloud for a user-specified duration.  The screenshot will be given a unique URL that can be shared with others.

Mozilla has provided more information that you may find helpful.

Microsoft Word Tips

WordWhile preparing for a recent presentation I invested some time looking into a few Microsoft Word shortcuts that would help speed up my work. Here are a couple tips I found interesting, maybe not huge timesavers, but still interesting shortcuts I didn’t know about.

Converting to plain text
When you copy a block of text into Word from another source like a webpage or even another Word document, all the formatting is kept from the copy. One way to remove this formatting is to highlight the text and press Ctrl + Spacebar; the rich text will be converted to plain text. I’m going to try this tip for this TechBits article, so if it works, this paragraph will stay, if it doesn’t then you will never know that it failed here because I’ll delete this paragraph never speak of it again.

Moving text
Another useful tip is to move text without using the copy paste commands. Most people know the shortcut of Ctrl X to cut, Ctrl C to copy and Ctrl V to paste. But have you tried highlighting the block of text you want to move, pressing the F2 key, clicking the mouse cursor where you want the text to move to, and hitting enter? This will quickly move the text. Maybe the novelty of this one hasn’t worn off on me yet. I found myself doing this for a few minutes again today, amazed that it works!