Microsoft Photos for Editing

High waterI wanted to make a quick edit to a photo recently and found that Microsoft Photos has upped their game. Maybe it’s been like this for a while and I just didn’t notice, but I'm pretty happy with the options they offer now.


If you open a photo in Microsoft Photos, it’s the default photo viewer on my Windows 10 PC, and click the “Edit & Create” tab you are given several options including cropping, straightening (for some reason my photos are always a little crooked), flipping and rotating. You can add filters and make some basic adjustments to the color, light, clarity (sharpening), and it has some other features like Red Eye Removal and Spot Fixing.


You can also go a little farther and add 3D effects or animated text to your images.


The photo in this post was cropped and slightly straightened using Microsoft Photos editing tools. I applied the “Sunscreen” filter to it too because it was cloudy when I wrote this and I thought what the heck, why not.


I still plan on using my go-to photo editor for as long as I can, but the new features (new to me anyway) in Microsoft Photos will definitely get more use from me for fast fixes that I want to do rather than going through my normal routine.

ColouriseSG

Want to give your old black and white scanned photos a little bit of a "pop"? Try ColouriseSG!

I saw it mentioned in the "Time Traveling With Timelines: Web Apps for Storytelling in Libraries" article in the July/August 2019 issue of Computers in Libraries and had to take it for a spin. Here are some of the results --- can you tell what the theme of the photos is?

Toddler eating ice cream

Soda Shop

2 women eating ice cream in the park

The ColouriseSG project is brought to you by the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Division, GovTech Singapore. From the information about the site:

"While it is impossible to replicate the exact conditions in which the original photo was taken, it is possible to add colour to the photo to help us imagine what the photographer could have seen in that instant. It is incredible — almost magical — how a little bit of colour can bring us that much closer to that specific moment in time."

Although the site is designed for Singaporean historical photos, it is available to anyone and is super-easy to use!

Photos taken from this Library of Congress collection: https://www.loc.gov/free-to-use/ice-cream

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. 

Canoe

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).

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.
https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2019/06/03/voice-assistants-your-library-needs-to-speak-to-you/

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)?
https://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/amazon-alexa-privacy

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.
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/05/how-to-delete-amazon-alexa-history.html

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!)
https://venturebeat.com/2019/07/08/amazons-alexa-may-soon-know-if-youre-happy-or-sad/

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!
https://www.pcworld.com/article/3406510/amazon-is-selling-the-3rd-gen-echo-dot-for-50-off-ahead-of-prime-day.html

Photography in Libraries

Taking A Picture
Thinking about taking some pictures of all your fun Summer Library Program events? Perhaps you have a building project coming up. How do you use photos when you tell your story or market your services?

Wisconsin Valley Library Service had 2 photography-themed posts recently. Check out Anne's Digital Lite Blog post, "Photography in Libraries" and Jamie's Digital Byte video, "Photo Editing Apps" for some helpful tips and apps!

Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

Easily Picking Colors with Pixie

I often find myself trying to select hex codes for colors to put on webpages, spreadsheets, etc. I do have an extension installed on Chrome that will help me select colors, but only those that appear on an existing site. I found another lightweight program that will help you select colors that appear anywhere on a screen with Pixie. Its interface is pretty dated, but it is very simple to use. Upon opening, this is what pops up:

Pixie1

It lists the three commands that can be used with it. When hovering over a part of your screen that is colored, it will change to this:

 

Pixie2

Now that the cursor is placed over a color, ctrl+alt+c will copy its HTML code (#B1005D).

If you want to zoom in on a part of your screen to narrow in on a more specific color, ctrl+alt+z will bring up the magnifier. From there, you can hover over the popup that comes up to choose a color.

Pixie3

The third command is ctrl+alt+x which just brings up the typical color chooser window.

Pixie4

Pixie can be downloaded for free here.

Library Planet

Sundsvall2smallRaise your hand if you visit libraries when you're on vacation. Consider my hand raised high and see the proof in the photo! Turns out, we're not alone. I read an article in Library Journal recently that proves it. Michael Stephens talked with Denmark librarians Christian Lauersen and Marie Engberg Eiriksson about their new crowdsourced travel blog, Library Planet, and how it came to life.

Library Planet started with a tweet from Lauersen to his followers about needing a Lonely Planet for libraries. Their followers were positive and the site was created and launched on November 17, 2018. It has entries from around the world and includes all types of libraries and is growing fast. I didn't see any entries from Wisconsin yet, though. I hope to see some there soon! Here's the information on how to contribute an entry.

SundsvallSmallThe first thing I thought of when I read this article was that I need to write up a couple of the libraries I visited in Sweden and Finland last year and submit them. What a great way to share my love of libraries to others who love libraries. I'll let you know when/if my entry on the Sundsvall Stadsbibliotek is on the site!

 

Voice Assistants

Echo-dotVoice assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc) seem to be everywhere these days. What are libraries doing with them?
 
Some libraries are loaning them to patrons or educating their users about them...
Some library staff are just starting to think about and experiment with how they might be used in libraries...
Some libraries are developing skills/actions for the devices* to make their libraries' information more accessible to patrons using the devices...

And some libraries are promoting library services that can work with the devices.

Some takeaways:
  • Voice Assistants are designed to be personal/home devices and may have some challenges being integrated into a library environment
    • library networks are designed to keep users' data private, where voice assistants would like to communicate with other devices in the area
    • how comfortable would patrons be interacting with a voice assistant in a public space?
  • This is a technology that will likely become more and more popular over time
    (Remember how the crew on Star Trek would ask the ship's computer something and it would answer?** It sure seems like that's where we're headed.)
  • Libraries' best option may be to make their content more easily accessible to these devices and to promote content and services that work with the devices at patrons' homes

Do you have a voice assistant at your house? What is your impression?
------------
* Check out libraries with Alexa skills and with Google Actions
**Amazon now allows users to change the "wake word" for its Alexa voice-enabled assistant and allows "Computer" as a wake word, to the delight of Star Trek fans: http://time.com/4645187/amazon-echo-star-trek-computer-voice/

Creating and using Tasks in Google Calendar

In 2018 I wrote about using the "Reminders" feature of Google Calendar. Since then, Google has introduced a "Tasks" option that is slightly different than the Reminders option. 

Googletasks2To get started with Tasks, select the Tasks checkbox on the left side of the screen. This will enable the Tasks option on your Google Calendar. 


GoogletasksTo create a Task, click on the appropriate day, enter the information, and select Task. You can select a certain time for the task, or leave it as "all day." Currently, you cannot set up a repeating task. Tasks also include the option to add a description. Reminders do not include this option.

After you have completed the Task, you can mark the task as complete to cross it off of your list. To do this, click on the Task, and click Mark complete in the lower right-hand corner. Googletasks1

Unlike Reminders, Tasks do not continue to appear each day until you mark them complete. I think this makes them less useful than Reminders, so I haven't used Tasks nearly as much as I have used Reminders. However, I think they can be useful when you want to include detailed information about your Task. When using Reminders, you only have the option to enter a Title, while the Task option includes both the Title and Description.

PowerPoint Pointer

Laser PointerLast year while I was working on a PowerPoint presentation I came across a nifty little feature. In slide show mode you can make your regular mouse curser look like a laser pointer. Even though I didn’t use it then it came up as a topic during a presentation I sat in on last week, so I thought I’d share this with you now.

This only works if you’re in presentation mode in front of your computer--just hold the CTRL key down and left click your mouse button. Your mouse pointer should turn into a red dot. You can release the CTRL key when the red dot appears. You can move the dot around your presentation like a laser pointer now. When you release the mouse button your regular mouse pointer will re-appear.

A more permanent solution is to hold the control button down and press the letter P--this will turn your mouse pointer into a small red dot. Hit Esc on the keyboard to bring your mouse pointer back.