Wireless Laptop Labs

I’m sure everyone knows SCLS has wireless laptop kits for libraries to borrow for in library training and programs.  We currently have 3 kits available and you can reserve up to 2 at a time.  For those that need a refresher here is everything the kits come with:


7 Laptops

A wireless access point Laptop, Projector, Surge protector, and access point included in Labs.

Multimedia projector with RGB cable

A surge protector

Extension cords

Documentation Binder


As of June 2017, all the laptops have been updated with the latest versions of software and browsers! All laptops now have Microsoft Office 2013 instead of 2010 too.  It keeps getting better because Lab 3 has brand new laptops with Windows 10!  Labs 1 and 2 have Windows 7.  Note: Labs 2 and 3 do not have CD/DVD drives

These kits are great for staff or patron training and programs and includes different software and browsers.  Each laptop comes in a carrying case and includes the power adapter and a wired mouse. 

If your library has Enterprise Wireless the laptops will automatically connect to the signal.  If you don’t have Enterprise Wireless, it comes with a wireless access point that is super simple to setup and laptops will connect automatically. 

These kits can book up fast for programs and you can reserve them for 2 weeks.  To check the availability for Lab 1, Lab 2, and Lab 3 click the appropriate lab to check the calendar.  Or to reserve the lab use this handy form here

Widescreens are in.

Dell 19 inch widescreen monitorFor the last two months Dell has been slowly been getting ready to discontinue the standard 19 inch monitor that we’ve been purchasing for several years. They're replacing them with widescreens and making it attractive by lowering the price on them. The standard monitor can no longer be purchased with a system. We are being given a choice of 19, 22, and 24 inch widescreen monitors when purchasing a system. I will update the SCLS website once the Dell website stabilizes and they settle on standard models. The options seem to change every time I log onto their site.

The 19-inch widescreen is about a half inch shorter than your standard 19-inch monitor and two inches wider. It also costs a few dollars less than the standard monitors did. I’ve ordered a few already and so far I haven’t had any complaints from a dissatisfied user.

USB 3.0 Option Now Available.

Okay, so this isn't the best picture I've ever taken, but you get the pointYou can now order PCs through SCLS that have a USB 3.0 card installed in the PC.

What is USB 3.0?
It’s the latest evolution in the Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard of computer connectivity.  It’s referred to as Super Speed or SS which means it has to transfer data at 5 GB per second.

What is it good for?
If you use an external hard drive or transfer a lot of pictures or videos to your PC you will see a big improvement in the time it takes to transfer these files. I know for me personally when I’m transferring a video from my camera to my PC it takes 5 minutes (forever) to transfer most videos. Now if I had a USB 3.0 camera and port on my PC that would only take about 30 seconds to transfer.

How do I get USB 3.0 on my new PC?
On the PC order form select the radio button for USB 3 Controller Card to add it to your order. It will add two USB 3.0 ports to your PC, which already has 10 USB 2.0 ports.

Is USB 3.0 backward-compatible with USB 2.0?
Yes, your USB 3.0 devices will work in USB 2.0 ports (they just won’t be as fast as if you had USB 3.0 ports, too!).

How will you know what ports are USB 3.0?
So far all of the USB 3.0 devices and ports I’ve see are color-coded with blue, like in the picture above. I have been using that as an easy give away. You will also notice fine print that indicates it’s USB 3.0. See what I mean, the connector is blue

Keyloggers at the Library: A Cautionary Tale

Though this article detailing the detection of several hardware keyloggers in a UK library is a couple of months old, the threat of modifications to library-owned PCs remains a relevant issue.  Just like card skimmers installed on ATM machines, gas station fuel pumps and other devices, hardware keyloggers are hard to detect, and can pose a threat to PC users at any library.  Moreover, they're very easy to obtain, and not that expensive.

As a precaution, take a good look at your public PCs on a regular basis, noting any anomalies.  If you notice something fishy, contact SCLS.

Which wireless network should I connect to? Not "Free Public Wifi"...

1254100844519065874wireless-wifi-hotspot.svg.med NPR recently reported that if you see a wireless network named "Free Public Wifi" in your list of available wireless networks, you should never connect to it because it could potentially expose your computer to hackers and other security risks. This threat has been around for a long time, but it was news to me!

To brush up on your wireless security knowledge, here are some tips from Dan for deciding if a wireless network is safe to use:

  • Don't connect to a public wireless network unless you know who the provider is. Be especially suspicious of "ad hoc" networks (this type may also be labeled as an "Unsecured computer-to-computer network").
  • When in doubt, ask someone what the name of the network is before connecting (especially if you see networks with names like "linksys," "hpsetup," "netgear," "tmobile," "default," etc.).
  • A wireless network is more secure if it uses encryption, preferably WPA or WPA2 encryption. (To use a "secure" network you will have to enter an encryption key the first time you connect to it.)
  • By their very nature, public wireless networks are not secure. There are security risks even if you are using a "security enabled" network that uses encryption.
  • Your information is not protected while using wireless networks. Don't use public wireless for business or financial transactions.

Results are in! (Public PC survey)

Survey A big THANK YOU to everyone who weighed in on the Public PC survey!  We know you are probably "survey weary"  (cluster elections, Koha training evals, etc), and we really appreciate all of your feedback. 

The tech team is now meeting to review the results and begin planning for the next generation of public PCs. Although we don't have a crystal clear picture yet, some trends and suggestions that came out of the survey have definitely given us a better idea of what we should include and improve.

Results from the survey about SCLS Public PCs can be viewed here with a few hightlights below.

Uses for Public PCs
Results indicate patron PCs are used pretty heavily for Internet browsing, social media, email, games, Office applications, and filling out job applications. Some of the uses we didn't list but which were mentioned by respondents include: watching movies, burning CDs, instant messaging, Skype, and getting credit reports.  Some staff noted that patrons don't scan because their library does not have scanning capabilities.

Gadgets that patrons bring in to interact with public PCs
The 3 "biggies" in this category were iPods, other MP3 players, and digital cameras.

Privacy and security
Responses for this question indicated both physical and technological concerns about privacy and security.  Some patrons are concerned about others being able to see what they are doing and where they are going while they are using the PC.  Some patrons are concerned about others having access to their private information, browsing history, credit card or bank information on the PC after they are done using it.

Unmet needs and desired features
The "patron needs that are currently unmet" and "desired features, applications, and services for public PCs" overlapped quite a bit (which makes perfect sense!).  Some of the needs/features identified include:  scanners, photo and video editing software, downloading ebooks and music, right-clicking, better support for cameras & USB drives, and consistency in programs, shortcuts and versions of software among PCs.

Next Steps: A plan for SCLS-supported public PCs will go before the Tech Committee on 10/13. Stay tuned for more details!

Your 2 cents worth about SCLS-supported patron PCs (Survey)

Pennies In 2011, the SCLS Technology Team will be rolling out several new technology services for member libraries. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be asking you to fill out several surveys, each highlighting a specific service we hope to improve. 

The first survey, listed below, deals with a new vision for SCLS Patron PCs:


If you interact with patrons at your library, please take the time and answer this brief survey about SCLS-supported public computers. We are looking forward to your input! 

Looking at things with a fresh pair of eyes

Do you ever work with something so frequently and so repetitively that it becomes second nature and you stop seeing all of the settings (and possibilities)?

Our new SCLS director, Martha Van Pelt, started today and as we were talking about email, calendars, the network, etc, she asked me some questions that made me realize there are a lot of things that I don't know about the software I use each and every day.  Fresheyes

Whoa.  I just learned:

  • Google Calendar offers email and pop-up event reminders, and notifications can be customized from the calendar listing on the left
  • You can snooze pop-up reminders by clicking 'Remind me again in 5 minutes' in the yellow bar that appears at the top of your calendar after you dismiss the pop-up reminder

In the weeks to come, we will be soliciting your input about SCLS patron PCs, and I'm hoping that you'll help us look at them with many fresh pairs of eyes.  More information about this survey will be sent out to the scls-announce email list and appear here in TechBits.

The Count

At the tech committee meeting this week, members talked a little bit more about the "SCLS Hardware and Software Support Policy."  This policy is actually a combination of two existing (older) support documents, the "Non-LINK Hardware and Software Obsolescence Policy" and the "LINK Computer Hardware and Software Obsolescence Policy."

CountA couple of libraries had questions about why we try so hard to standardize. One of the reasons standardization is helpful is numbers. Sheer numbers. Ever wonder how many PCs the 3 SCLS PC techs lay their hands on?  When I started counting, the totals surprised me!

  • 484 staff PCs
  • 618 patron PCs
  • 41 servers for public wireless

so that's 1143 PCs and servers that are supported.

Add to that total:

  • SCLS gaming and gadget packages
  • 14 laptops in the SCLS wireless labs
  • 8 laptops in the SCLS training lab (for Koha)
  • the SCLS presentation package
  • RFID tagging stations
  • LOTS of printers, scanners, barcode scanners, and network devices 

That's a fair amount of equipment.  When you spread that over 7 counties and 57 buildings (56 libraries + SCLS headquarters)  with the shortest drive time 0 minutes and the longest more than 2 hours one-way ... you start to see what keeps them hoppin'!  

So how does standardization help them manage this load? The more standard the hardware is, the simpler and quicker it is for the techs to support it for the life of the hardware.  This means that 3 guys can handle all that stuff in all those places without needing additional help-- which helps keep costs down for the libraries. How awesome would it be to have 3 Craigs?



And until we can clone them...



"Count" photo credit:

"Clone" photo credit: Craig, Craig, Craig.