Random Passwords

When I sign up for a new service that requires a login and password, I find that I waste too much time thinking of a good password.  I recently watched a co-worker use a random password generator to order pizza online.  It took seconds and involved no thinking.  That sold me on the idea of using a random password generator.  I was already using KeePass to store my passwords. 1390518392 Now, I also use its built-in random password generator.  Using a random password generator is also one of the easiest steps you can take to help safeguard your online services from hackers.  A randomly-generated string will usually be tougher for hackers to crack than a password manufactured by a human being.  It will also be unique.  Unique passwords reduce your risk of multiple hacks when one of your online services becomes compromised.

There are several good password managers and random password generators out there, and I can't really recommend one over another.  A quick search for online password generators led me to one hosted by LastPass.  Although the generator is accessed from the web, the actual service runs locally on your PC/Mac and never travels across the internet. This tool lets you select the length of the password and the types of characters you want to include.  It can also generate passwords that are easier to say (less secure) or easier to read.

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.

Deleting old or bad email addresses from Outlook's Auto-Complete list

Even though Andrew covered this topic back in Dec. 2014 I thought it might be good to cover it again.

You've all encountered Outlook's Auto-Complete feature when you start typing in the To, Cc, or Bcc fields in Outlook and you get a list of suggested email accounts based on the first few letters you've already entered. These suggestions are coming from that feature and is trying to save you time in entering someone's full email address.

This time saving list is sometimes your friend and other times it is not. If you have ever mistyped an email address and sent it, then that incorrect email address is now stored in your Auto-Complete list. This also goes for an employee that you emailed frequently and now that employee has moved on to other ventures. Their email address will still come up if you type the first few letters of their email account.

In order to delete theses bad and old email addresses from your Auto-Complete list you must do the following steps:

  1. Open a new email message.
  2. Type the first few characters of the email address that you want to delete.
  3. Use your mouse and click the 'X' next to that email address or you can use the down arrow key to highlight that email address and then press the Delete key.

Now you know how to keep your Auto-Complete list current and up-to-date.

 

Alexa, friend or waste of time?

Alexa

I was gifted an Amazon Echo this Christmas.  When I opened it, I wasn’t that excited.  My first thought was another device I have to learn how to use and maintain.  New devices can become time consuming when you’re learning to use them and can prove to be more trouble then they’re worth.  I was skeptical I would find Alexa useful, but here are my honest first impressions. 

Madison has been nearly shut down this week thanks to the polar vortex weather.  With cabin fever in full effect, my daughter and I decided to spend some time learning about our new friend, Alexa.  The first feature we seemed to gravitate toward is getting the morning weather report simply by asking “Alexa, what is the weather forecast?”  All you have to do is set up your location in the Alexa App.  You can ask for a current forecast or a 7 day forecast.

As an amazon prime member and an avid online shopper, I was happy to learn it will automatically connect to my amazon account, allow me to verbally create lists of what I need, order it, update me on the tracking of the packages and notify me when they are delivered.  These are definitely features I will use regularly.

The main feature we had to try out in our boredom was the music feature.  At first, I was disappointed that they seem to push you to purchase Amazon Music by offering a 3 month free trial.  After a little research online, I learned that it does work with Spotify.  In December, there was an update to include Apple Music, which I currently subscribe to and is my preferred choice.  The best way to play your iTunes music is by connecting your device via Bluetooth. You can turn on your Bluetooth settings and ask Alexa to pair your device.  So far, I am able to play music I have downloaded to my phone with ease.  Searching Apple Music for new music does not appear to work.      

I am excited to see what else Alexa has to offer me in terms of to do lists and other organizational tools.  As a working mom, I’m always looking for help in that area.  There are so many features to discover and so many articles on how to best use them.  I am now much more excited to explore Alexa further.  Are there any features you have found useful?  Please share them in the comments.    

Upcoming Snipping Tool Change

Microsoft is changing the name and functionality of the Snipping Tool for Windows 10 in an upcoming update.  I use the Snipping Tool regularly to include screenshots in documentation.  After the 1809 Feature Update was installed on my laptop, I noticed a warning the first time I opened the Snipping Tool.  The warning basically states that the tool is moving, it will have improved features, and it will be called "Snip & Sketch." 

Snipping Tool Change

Microsoft hasn't announced when the new version will be forced or what update will make the change permanent.  After you get the 1809 Feature Update, you can still use the tool in its basic form.  You can also click "Try Snip & Sketch" to start using the new features.

  • The first thing I notice with the new version is that the toolbar has the modern Windows Store app design.
    Toolbar
  • When saving a snip, the default name of the file will include the date and time stamp.
  • You may configure the Print Screen button on your keyboard to open Snip & Sketch directly.
  • A ruler allows you to draw straight lines on your snip.  The angle of the ruler can be adjusted with your mouse's scroll wheel.
    Ruler
  • A protractor is available for help drawing circles.
  • Drawing and markup tools are improved.

More information about this change.

More information about all changes with the 1809 Feature Update.

 

Favorites Toolbar

Bookmark toolbarLast fall I was working with a very smiley colleague on a large order when she noticed that I use folders on my web browsers favorites’ toolbar to group similar links. After I showed her how I created the folders we talked about how this might be something worth sharing with our readers.

For those that didn’t know Favorites Toolbars existed, I have to tell you, it’s incredibly convenient to have a few of my go-to favorites at the top of my browser where I can quickly go without having to click on dropdown menus. I found it frustrating when I had so many bookmarks in my toolbar that it became cluttered, which is where using folders to combine similar links can come in to help organize your toolbar.  For instance, I drive a lot, so I have a folder with my favorite travel advisory links so that I can quickly see if I should expect any travel delays. I also have a folder with a lot of Google doc links.

I mostly use Google Chrome and Firefox browsers, but you can also do this with Edge.

In Google Chrome, click the Customize and Control button (3 vertical dots) in the upper right hand corner. Hover your cursor over Bookmarks and select Show bookmarks bar. This will add the bookmarks bar if you don’t already have it. If you right-click in the bookmarks bar you will have an option to add a folder. Once you add and name a folder you can drag links into it.

In Firefox, click the menu button (Cheeseburger or 3 vertical lines) in the upper right-hand corner and choose Customize, click the Toolbars button at the bottom of the screen and select Bookmarks Toolbar. Just like with Chrome you can right-click in the bookmarks bar you will have an option to add a folder. Once you add and name a folder you can drag links into it.

I’ve also found that by having a visual of my favorite websites on my bookmarks toolbar I use them way more than I used my bookmarks menu at the top of my browser.

Technology straight out of Science Fiction

Today I received an invitation to a readers advisory webinar titled "Why Read Science Fiction and How to Help Those Who Do".  I deleted it because a) I don't work with the public and b) I know why to read science fiction and people would like to find a way to prevent me from telling them what science fiction stories to read and which science fiction authors to read and and ...

Ahem.  While working away at my desk and thinking about what to write for this inaugural 2019 Tech Bits post, I thought "Where's my flying car?"  As an elementary school child in the mid-to-late 1960's I was thrilled by the promise that when I became an adult, I would be zipping around in my own private, flying car.  Just like on the Jetsons.

So ... where's my flying car?

Sadly (or perhaps happily for the local geese population) single-passenger electric aircraft are only just this year getting off the ground for consumers.  Pun intended.  And it is unlikely that I will win a lottery and have enough money to purchase one of these babies ($$$$$!!!!!)  But, to get back to the beginning of this ramble, flying cars are not the only technology that has manifested out of science fiction books, television programs and movies too, for that matter. 

What, don't you think your old flip-top phone bore a marked resemblance to the communicators on Start Trek?  Just sayin' ...

Courtesy of Electric Lit, here are the "8 pieces of Modern Technology That Science Fiction Predicted -- Or Invented.

1888: Credit Cards - Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward

1911: Video calling - Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+

1931: Mood-Enhancing Pills - Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

1939: Surveillance - George Orwell’s 1984

1968: Tablets - Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

1969: Electric Cars - John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar

1972: Bionic Limbs - Martin Caidin’s Cyborg (aka TV’s The Six Million Dollar Man)

1984: The World Wide Web - William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The next time you are offering readers advisory, offer your patrons some titles that will allow them to glimpse the future.  Or help create it.

Other online articles 

13 Everyday Technologies That Were First Imagined In Science Fiction

10 Great Technologies We Got From Science Fiction

The 5 Coolest Technologies from Hard Science Fiction

 

 

 

Tip: How to add background color to an image

Screen shot of database icons showing LINKcat, OverDrive, and Tutor.com with white backgrounds, but no white background on Ancestry.comA library director and I agreed the Ancestry.com logo would look better in a group of database links (pictured at right) if the background colors matched... but the Ancestry.com image didn't come with a white background. How can we add background color to an image that has none?

The Ancestry.com image in this example is in .png format, which can have transparent areas that allow the color of a web page to peek through (light gray, in the screen shot). To make the Ancestry.com image "match" the others, the transparent areas need to be filled in white.

For images that only need a white background, the trick is to open and re-save them in Microsoft Paint. Paint auto-fills transparent pixels with white when it saves an image.

Screen shot of saving ancestry-library.png to add a white background

For a different background color, Paint has a "Fill with color" (bucket) tool. In this image, a different color reveals some shadowed areas that look jagged, and it would take some effort to paint or fill in the jagged edges. More fully-featured graphic programs like Photoshop Elements, GIMP, or Paint.net provide layers and a "magic wand" tool to make that kind of cleanup easier.

Screen shot of jagged edges around the Ancestry.com image when a dark background is added.

Good thing we just wanted it to have a white background! Screen shot of the database icons all using matching white backgrounds

Browse and search historic newspapers via the Library of Congress

Wood County Reporter, December 23, 1920Recently I heard about a resource for historic newspapers, called Chronicling America. Chronicling America is part of a Library of Congress/National Endowment for the Humanities program to digitize historic newspapers, called the National Digital Newspaper Program. Newspapers dating from 1789-1963 have been digitized and made available at the Chronicling America web site.

The program has been around for quite some time and there are 14 million+ pages (from 2,600+ newspapers) that are available on the web site, from most of the states, including Wisconsin (via the Wisconsin Historical Society). In addition to searching and viewing digitized pages, you can search the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information on American newspapers from 1690 to the present. 

One interesting aspect of the Chronicling America web site is the slide show featuring newspaper pages from 100 years ago today. While most of the newspapers are English language, there are newspapers in Polish, Romanian, German, Lithuanian, as well as other languages.

If you are interested in historic newspapers, Chronicling America is an interesting resource. Also, don't forget we have access to the Archive of Wisconsin Newspapers, which not only provides access to digitized Wisconsin newspapers from the 19th and early 20th centuries, but is also a searchable database of Wisconsin newspapers from 2005 to 90 days ago.

Instagram Shopping Collection Feature…just in time for the holidays!

Instagram-icon
You’ve probably noticed a lot more advertisements appearing on your Instagram feed as the holiday season is rapidly approaching.  In November, Instagram released some new features for users to interact with these posts.  The most notable of these features is the ability to “save” products to a personal “Shopping Collection.”

When users click on a product tag in stories or on their feed, they will now see an option to save the product to a separate list.  Users can now create a wishlist on Instagram that takes them right to a product when they are ready to purchase it. 

You can add an item to your Shopping Collection by clicking on the icon:

Inkedimage004_LI


You can access your Shopping Collection by going to your profile and selecting it from the Saved Collections on your profile.

Image005

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to share your Shopping Collection with another IG User or export the information.  After doing some research, it seems users are asking for this ability already.  Hopefully, IG will work on making this feature even better!   

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!