The Honey Browser Extension

Honey
Online shopping seems to be a time saver and money saver.  But can it truly be both?  I tend to search the site I'm ordering from and then search google to see if any coupon codes would apply to my order.  You can also try searching for codes at places like Coupons.com.  This can take away the ease and time-saving aspect of online shopping.

The Honey browser extension is FREE and makes online shopping both time and money-saving with a button called “Apply Coupons”.  A screen will pop-up automatically when you’re in the web sites checkout screen.  This button streamlines the process by searching for all working coupon codes for the site you’re on.

Apply_coupons Savings

In addition to applying the best coupon codes to your online orders, there is another feature I find useful called “Droplist”.  This allows you to select certain items and Honey will alert you via email when this item drops its price. 

Droplist

The Honey browser extension also includes a “Best Price” feature.  Amazon has this feature, but it isn’t always accurate.  Sometimes there are better deals from third-party sellers that are hidden in the “New and Used from” section.  Honey will take prime status, shipping cost, and the seller’s reputation into consideration to give you the best deal.

One feature I have heard about but have seen no return from is “Honey Gold”.  It's a program where you earn a very small amount of cashback on purchases that eventually will turn into money.  As far as I can tell you would need to use a separate cashback service like Ebate to get this to work.  For myself, it’s not yet worth it for me to try to redeem the Honey Gold I have earned. 

Unfortunately, there is not a mobile app yet.  I imagine this would be a difficult thing to create, but it is something I hope they work on in the future because I do like to use my phone apps for online shopping.  I’ll be keeping my eye out for that.  Happy shopping and happy saving!     

Save money printing

I’ve been asked about printing options more lately than in the past. One theme that has come up is “how can I save money printing?” and the easy answer to that is to switch from desktop printers to a copier.


I know what you’re thinking --- a copier is really expensive compared to a printer, and you’re right, it is. That is until you look at the bigger picture. The chances are good that you already have a copier in your library so you could use that, and the only other investment perhaps would be a data connection to the copier so you can print to it over the network. A typical low-end color laser printer’s average cost per page is around 8 to 15 cents per page; compare that to a copier which can achieve costs of about a quarter to half a cent per page and you can see where you would quickly begin to save money.


You may also want to consider having a service agreement for your copier, I know it may seem like a lot of money, but they typically include routine maintenance, toner, repairs, and trip charges. Knowing what you’re going to pay upfront every year for printing makes budgeting easier.


Not only is a copier a money saver it’s also a space saver, because remember, I’m assuming you already have one and by removing your desktop printers you can reclaim that space.


If you have made the change to printing from a copier and would like to share your thoughts, please leave a comment.

You want me to unplug what?

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the advances made in certain technologies over the last several years.  It makes my life so much easier (Cut and Paste!!!) and the work lives of library staff much much easier and more efficient.  However, with ease and efficiency also comes the demand for more productivity, right?  

The last time I went camping in Canada I took advantage of the situation and did NOT get international cell phone coverage.  I took along my Kindle for reading (of course) and was able to use the WiFi at the ranger station to check emails (for emergencies) but I was mostly unplugged.

Image result for mary louise lake sleeping giant images

It was hard the first few days ... but then I realized how much I needed a break from the beck and call of technology.  Run to grab the phone, answer the emails asap, read this info bit, schedule this appointment.  By the time my vacation was over I almost dreaded crossing the border and having to reconnect.

Research indicates that we need to unplug/disconnect in order to maintain a healthy balance in our lives.  And as more and more technology becomes readily available, we tend to spend more time than ever on screens: phone, tablet, laptop, PC, television, etc.

There are many articles and websites out there that can provide you with a wealth of information on the benefits of unplugging (and isn't that ironic?) so I'll let you do your own research <grin>.  But this article written for the 2018 Screen-Free Week was one of my favorites.  Here are Five Reasons to take a Break from Screens:

  1. Present-moment awareness
  2. Improved sleep
  3. Deepened connections
  4. Productivity and learning
  5. Breaking habit

And my own, personal reason is to get in more paddling time!

 

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

Making the switch to wide screen monitors

I used to have 3 monitorsAre you using a 17 or 19-inch standard (square) monitor or two standard monitors at your workstation? You might want to consider switching to a widescreen format monitor. I made the switch to a widescreen monitor several years ago and I’d like to share with you some of the benefits you might be missing.

  • With modern PCs images, movies, and games look much better on a widescreen than the standard monitor because they are capable of much higher resolutions and use an HD format vs a standard definition format.
  • If you have multiple applications open, navigating between them is much easier when you have a bigger screen.
  • Space saver…sort of. If you are using two standard monitors in a dual monitor arrangement you may find that your desk becomes much less cluttered with a single widescreen monitor.

We’ve been offering our libraries 22-inch widescreen monitors for several years and more recently 24-inch monitors. Now, in just the past month we started offering 27-inch monitors. The next time you replace PCs, take a look at the monitor too. If you are using a standard monitor check out the options available to you. Sometimes you get a discount on the monitor when it’s purchased with a PC.

 

Helpful Google

GoogleGoogle is so helpful what with its great search engine, play store and virtual assistant. I just recently learned that Google is helping in another way. Google now tracks all of the purchases that you make online. You may ask, "How does it know what I buy?" Well, Google is using all of their helpful software together to extract any data that relates to purchases. So if you get a purchase receipt emailed to your Gmail account they extract all of the purchase data from that email. If you're uncomfortable with this, there is unfortunately no option to turn it off. The only way to get your purchases off Google's purchase page is to delete the email. This doesn't really work if you want to keep a record of your purchases. So then the only option you have left is to not use Gmail when making purchases. Unfortunately in today's world everyone wants your data, especially Google.

Google Glass revisited

Remember Google Glass and how it was being marketed to consumers? Well, that really didn't take off (Thank goodness! The idea of everyone being able to record video and audio with their glasses felt a little creepy), but Google Glass is making headway in the business market. It turns out there are good uses for Google Glass there.

Google recently released a new version of the AR spectacles called "Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2." From their recent blog post:

"Workers can use Glass to access checklists, view instructions or send inspection photos or videos, and our enterprise customers have reported faster production times, improved quality, and reduced costs after using Glass."

If you have 2 1/2 minutes, check out the video and see what the future of Google Glass for the enterprise looks like.

Can you envision a way that libraries might use Google Glass?

More info:

Um, excuse me? Weaponized PDFs?

I was going to do a Tech Bits post about Carla Hayden's (Librarian of Congress!) proposal to digitize the  Library of Congress (!!!) but I ran across this other article and thought "What?!  Like with little guns and knives and stuff?"  

American Libraries linked to an April 19, 2019 article on the Nextgov website that has the title "Report: Weaponized PDFs on the rise." (sounds like an excerpt from a Terminator movie, right?) But it is no fantasy my friends, just the next generation of malware, scamming and spamming.   

So in addition to reminding your patrons, staff and coworkers about suspicious emails, ads and hyperlinks you also need to warn them about weaponized PDFs.

Welcome to the 21st century.

 

 

 

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/

Talk To Books - AI learning and human conversation

If you talked to books, how would they answer?

Google's new project, Talk to Books, is all about learning more about how a computer understands you when you talk to it using everyday language. 

In Talk to Books, when you type in a question or a statement, the model looks at every sentence in over 100,000 books to find the responses that would most likely come next in a conversation. The response sentence is shown in bold, along with some of the text that appeared next to the sentence for context.

You can read more about the project here and you can can try it out here: https://books.google.com/talktobooks/

Craig and I took it for a few spins. Our favorite query was "Why is Craig awesome?" Here are couple of the results that made us giggle (paying attention to the response in bold):

AwesomeCraig
Click on image to view full-size


Interested in more AI-related projects from Google?  Try Semantris.

From Google: "Semantris is a set of word association games powered by machine learning. By training on billions of conversations from the internet, the AI has learned how to predict which words, phrases and even sentences might come next in a conversation." Semantris

There are 2 versions -- Arcade (which is timed) and Blocks (which has a Tetris-y look).

Looks like computers are on well on their way to communicating effectively with us when they take over the world!