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What's this button called? Part 2

A few years ago I reported on a website and app interface doodad called the hamburger. Recently, I heard an equally droll name for another, similar thing that we now click or tap in our hunt for links to navigate around websites and apps: those 3 dots stacked up, have a name.

They are "The Kebab."


Source: Luke Wroblewski, and thanks to WiLSWorld's keynote speaker, Rebecca Stavick, for mentioning this in her address: "Don’t Ask Permission." If you want to be more serious, you could also call it a vertical ellipsis or overflow menu.

Hungry for more, shall we say, substantive tech knowledge? I do recommend looking at the WiLSWorld 2019 Slides, as they are updated, for inspiring ideas from a great conference.

Using Google My Maps to plan trips

Rural road
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Recently I took an out of state road trip, and during the trip I used Google Maps to look up routes and restaurants on the fly (which can be very useful), but at times it would have been better if I had saved some routes, restaurants, and other points of interest ahead of time. I started wondering about available options to create and save maps with locations for restaurants, hotels, tourist destinations, etc. so when I got home I started looking into how to save maps in Google for later use.

Google has a companion product called My Maps that allows you to create a custom map with various routes and points of interest and save them to your Google Drive. To use My Maps, first open Google Drive, and go to New>More>Google My Maps. Googlemymaps My Maps will open in a new tab, with a new map ready to go. Then click Untitled Map to add a Title and Description for your map. 

My Maps uses "layers" for different elements on the map, such as driving directions, walking directions, restaurants, etc. The first layer is created by default and is called Untitled layer - to change the layer name, click Untitled layer and then add the name of your layer. You can then add your routes, restaurants, campsites, hotels, tourist destinations, etc. to different "layers" and put them all together to view on one map. 


There are travel bloggers out there who are using Google Maps and My Maps to plan trips, so you can find more information and step-by-step instructions on how you can use Google My Maps for travel. Here are a few that I found:

If you have an Android phone, you can open your saved maps on your phone by using the Google My Maps app (this is a separate app from the Google Maps app). For both Android and iPhone, you can open your saved maps in the Google Maps app (go to Your places>Maps).

The Trouble with DVDs

Will my computer be able to play my DVDs? This question is not as easy to answer as it used to be. With the advent of multiple dvd technologies, there are several options to choose from. 

It is generally understood that a standard dvd player, such as those found in most public library computers, can not play Blu-Ray dvds. The question becomes murkier when it comes to HD DVDs. It is possible for the makers of HD DVD to offer both standard and high definition formats on one disc, in which case it will work on a standard player. Unfortunately few HD DVD's actually come with both formats on one disc. 

This begs the question, how can you tell the difference between a standard and HD dvd? 

An HD DVD has a shiny ring around the center, as shown around the dark center below.


Whereas a standard definition dvd does not have the same visual designator.

Standard DVD

So while there is the possibility of an HD DVD working on a standard public use computer, the odds are very much against it. 

More on voice assistants

Here are some of the interesting tidbits I've run across lately related to voice assistants in general, and Amazon's Alexa in particular:

American Libraries Magazine - "Your Library Needs to Speak to You: Getting ahead of the voice assistant hype." Read about how some libraries are using voice assistants.

Amazon made the news recently related to its practices for keeping users' data. Did you know that Alexa-enabled devices store user transcripts until customers delete them (and even after that in some circumstances)?

AmazonEchoDotIn May, Amazon made it easier to delete some of the things you ask Alexa - “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” or “Alexa, delete what I just said.”  Other deleting options involve using the Alexa app or visiting Amazon's Device page.

Amazon's Alexa AI unit is experimenting with AI to detect emotions like happiness, sadness, and anger. "Applications of the tech range from gauging reaction to video game design, marketing material like commercials, power car safety systems looking for road rage or fatigue, or even to help students using computer-aided learning..." (and hopefully won't be used to target you to buy things when you're feeling low and in need of a pick-me-up!)

And finally, if you'd like to take the plunge into the voice assistant world, Amazon is selling the 3rd-gen Echo Dot right now for 50% off ahead of Prime Day. You can fill your house (or library) with Echo Dots!

Disable Startup Programs

In the past few weeks I have been asked how to disable an annoying program that was starting up after logon.  A few programs that commonly startup by default are Skype and GoToMeeting.  If you have Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, this is the easiest way to prevent most programs from starting up after you log into Windows.

  1. Right-click the Taskbar
  2. Select Task Manager
  3. At the bottom, click More details (This may have already been done)
  4. Click the Startup tab
    Startup tab

  5. Right-click the program you would like to disable and select Disable

Please make sure not to disable any programs that are critical to the normal operation of your PC.  If you accidentally disable a program, you can use the same process to enable the program again.  You can also call the Help Desk if you are having trouble with a program starting up at logon.

Free Conference Calling/Screen Sharing


I've used plenty of conference calling programs and most are way to complicated for me.  I went searching for a quick and easy way to host conference calls and share my screen with participants.  That's when I found UberConference and I've never looked back.  It's super easy to use and best of all it has a free tier that is probably good enough for most of us.  There is what I really like about UberConference:

  • I get a dedicated local number 
  • I can share my screen with participants
  • The mobile apps work great!  (Especially for that meeting that goes long and you have to transfer the call to your phone so you can get to the big soccer/gymnastics event!)
  • Calls can be recorded
  • It's browser based so there is nothing to install on your computer
  • I can use my Office 365 email  (SCLS supported email) account to login so I don't have to make yet another account

There are two plans Free and Business.  The free plan has some restrictions and the business plan is only $15/mo when paid monthly or $120/yr when paid annually.  If you are looking for a great conference calling solution that won't break the bank, check out UberConference.