Posts Tagged ‘freeware’

The Virtue of Many Browsers

In STT on May 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm

This overdue post (I got sidetracked by the iPad) is a result of …
1)a co-worker trying to get to a PDF document to show up in their browser (fixed with a Firefox plug-in, here) and…
B) watching the Winter Olympics on the web, or rather attempting to watch them on the web via my favorite browser, Firefox…

Both incidents brought to mind the necessity of having to use more than one browser if one is attempting to utilize all the features that the wonderful internet has to offer.  And I don’t mind this, really I don’t.  It’s second nature to me and I’m here to say it ain’t going to change anytime soon (see: Adobe Flash vs. HTML 5 video support).

Now I’m a big fan of Firefox, always have been, and probably always will be (I tried to switch to Chrome, but it only lasted an afternoon, I missed Firefox too much).  I like how I can customize Firefox, add plug-ins for better handy features, it’s speed, it works on Windows and Mac and Linux.  And Firefox was all about apps before apps were cool and everyone (maybe even you?) had an app store.

But Firefox doesn’t play Microsoft Silverlight video (and I just double-checked, still a problem in Firefox 3.6.3).  Yep, this winter I couldn’t watch curling or biathlon on the internet if I tried to use Firefox to access the NBC Olympic website.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC), NBC, and Microsoft had an exclusive agreement to use Microsoft’s Silverlight video format as the only video format for internet broadcasts (instead of the ubiquitous Adobe Flash).  Incidentally the Silverlight video looked great, even at full-screen resolution the images of curlers and skaters and snowboarders were pretty darn sharp and vivid.

So… to watch Curling Team USA, first I had to download and install Microsoft Silverlight (this was true with both my Macs and PCs). Than due to a bug in Firefox that made using Silverlight impossible no matter if you used a Mac or a PC (and all parties can be blamed for this, Firefox, Microsoft, Apple, the IOC…) …Anywho, to watch curling or biathlon, I had to switch to the browser that is made by the same company that makes the computer’s operating system, get it?   So….
-on a Windows PC I’d switch to Microsoft Internet Explorer 8
-on a Mac to Apple Safari

Both IE and Safari are the “native” browsers that are built by Microsoft and Apple to work well and take advantage of Windows and OS X, their respective operating systems.   Oh so many years ago I tried to uninstall IE from my Windows PCs, which in theory you can, but why bother?  It still comes in handy and makes you appreciate Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera …you get the idea.

Here’s my rundown of the browsers I use on an almost daily basis, with one exception, but the geek in me felt compelled to mention it, see below:

Firefox – I could go on and on and gush about what I like, which I kinda laready have, but suffice it to say it like it, I know how it works, and I need my add-ons and my search engines.  As a former refernce librarian and now a library consultant, I have something like 2 dozen+ in my search engine drop-box (everything from Google Images to NOBLE to Wikipedia).  You can find a listing and links to my favorite, got-to-have-them, Firefox add-ons here:

I use it for pretty much everything on Mac or Windows, including MassCat as Internet Explorer does not play nice with the Koha ILS.  I don’t use it when a page doesn’t load correctly or a plug-in doesn’t work.  This hardly ever happens anymore, but some recent examples:
InfoTrac – couldn’t get scroll-menu to work in Browse Publications menu
Winter Olympics –  Silverlight plug-in didn’t work

Safari – Apple’s built-in browser for Mac, now available for free download in Windows too.  I use it when something doesn’t work in Firefox on my Mac.  A handy feature in Safari on the Mac is in the Develop menu, called User Agent.   This allows you to render any webpage as though your Mac’s Safari browser was in fact any version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (which doesn’t run on a Mac, talk about proprietary!),  or any version of Firefox, or even Opera.  Pretty neat, but it’s a feature many Mac users don’t know about because it’s buried in the Advanced settings (Go find it Mac users! Nice step-by-step here.).  I gotta admit I like the look of Safari in Windows better, there are subtle layout differences and I like ’em, but it stills works the same in Windows or Mac.

Other than that it’s kind of boring with very few apps to add on, it just works…  But, I do absolutely luv the homepage option of showing a thumbnail gallery of frequently used pages.   Also Safari is the built-in browser on the iPhone and iPod Touch, so I use it daily on my iPhone without even thinking about it (even though there is now another choice in Opera mini).

Opera – I want to like. I want to use it.  I’ve downloaded it a dozen times in both Windows and Mac and try it for about 15 minutes and then go back to Firefox, Safari and Chrome.  And then I end up up deleting because I never use it again and really have no reason to.  The same has been true of Opera mini on my iPhone.  It’s free and has a mini version of that thumbnail-gallery-of-frequent-sites as your homepage, but has nothing else really to offer.  “Opera, you’re OK, it not you, it’s me…”

Google Chrome – I use mainly when testing a how a webpage looks (if it will work on other browsers), or just for fun, or because it’s FAST! It works equally well on Mac or Windows, it looks fun, has lots of neat “skins” to change it’s appearance, it has that handy thumbnail gallery of frequently used pages like Safari mentioned above, and it’s fast, like WICKED FAST! This last feature is ever-so-useful on ye olde Windows XP computers you might have hanging around.  It’s almost like having a whole new computer on these old machines. How does Google do that???

But I find the bookmarks in Chrome a bit cumbersome to organize and use, and the add-ons are not as polished or reliable as those in Firefox.  Again, as I mentioned above, luv that thumbnails of frequently used sites as a homepage feature as well as it’s speed!

In sum, my feeling towards browsers is:

  • The more the merrier!
  • There’s something for everyone in each browser!
  • Your desktop is a melting pot!  (Coincidentally, it turns out my Mac’s motherboard was a just plain melting, but that’s for my next post…)

See, browsers made by Apple, Google, and Microsoft can all live together, even if they are ruthless competitors in the marketplace.  It’s all good!

BTW – I finished editing this post in Google Chrome.  Why?  Just because… I happened to have it open and editing WordPress works pretty much much the same in any browser …although I can’t vouch for Internet Explorer, never have tried that ;-)

iPad you pad we pad they pad … oohh, Pad Thai!

In STT on January 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

UPDATE – The wifi version of the iPad is out and for sale online or at an Apple Store or Best Buy near you!

I have yet to see one or touch one at a store, but plan to soon!  I will give my readers any further impressions I have once I get the chance to do just that.

In the meantime, here are two nice round-ups of the media coverage as well as reviews from the major media outletsNew York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today): (

Incidentally, if you happen to have one, let me know what you think …and when you’ll let me borrow it 😉

Original Post
I gotta use the word iPad right in the title, it’s required for all tech blogs the day after Apple’s BIG announcement …and I finished this just before lunch.  Here’s my take on the iPad thus far, after I was OK with the name of it …until I started hearing all the jokes…
Helpful must-see links on all things iPad are below.

Steve Jobs is a master at presenting,
if only I could learn his presentation secrets

It’s one heck of an e-reader!

  • That color touch screen.
  • The elegant page turning for ebooks.
  • That faux wooden bookshelf for all your digital editions, this ain’t no Nook.
  • And that New York Times that looks like a real paper newspaper with the columns, nice.
  • Oh, and it uses a real browser and email and maps and games and everything app-wise an iPod Touch/ iPhone uses.
  • And yes, yes, yes, probably another incompatible ebook format with the new iBookstore and more DRM. It’s a pain in the neck for consumer and libraries and readers in general.  Not that I like it one bit, but it’s to be expected for some time to come until publishers and big media figure out how to make sense of the new digital world (who woulda seen this comin’!?).

It’s a big beautiful iPod Touch

  • iPad has a much bigger touch screen (9.7″) than an iPod Touch (3.5″).
  • iPad has same memory specs as Touch (16GB – 64GB).
  • iPad can use almost all the 140,000+ apps in iTunes available to iPod Touch & iPhone users.  Facebook to games and games and games, Apple demoed a lot of games for this the iPad
  • And interesting price points as low-end iPad is $499 and high-end Touch model is $399.

It’s not-quite-a-netbook

  • no hard drive bigger than 64GB
  • no physical keyboard (which I’m use to on my iPhone as are millions of kids (and grown-ups) on their iPod Touch & iPhones).
  • iPad doesn’t have a built-in camera, a mic yes, but no camera … that camera would be real handy for Skype or video-conferencing or taunting friends when playing games or scanning in barcodes for LibraryThing (saw this on LT Twitter feed!) or even just taking pictures!
  • But it does have access to Google Docs online and Apple iWork and other productivity apps thru iTunes.
  • So you could kinda use it as a laptop replacement. But you can do the same thing with an iPod Touch & iPhone, albeit on a smaller screen, but those devices you can take anywhere in your pocket, and the later also makes phone calls … I’m not ready to give up my iPhone.

It goes on sale in March, I’ll see you at the Apple Store
I’ll  just be browsing

The Must-See Links!!!

First Impression Hands-on Reviews


I “watched” the Apple news conference at home with a sick child (Me, excitedly “It’s for Daddy’s work and it’s historic!”  Child’s response … “Can I play Nintendo?”).
So I “watched” on my laptop using the decades old technique of reading updates / viewing photos on various tech blogs (lots of tabs open) from reporters at the conference (found Engadget had the best feed).  And then a Twitter post led me to a link on Ustream of another tech blog reporter (Leo Laporte, TWiT) using an iPhone 3G S with built-in video to broadcast the event live … with tinny sound and choppy video … which in turn I watched on my iPhone (even over 3G), until I couldn’t stand it anymore and went back to reading on Engadget … a mash-up, if you will, of the old and the new …

iPad = and another word to add to my custom dictionary so it stops underlining it in red! 😉

Wordle is the Word

In STT on December 4, 2009 at 4:02 pm

OK, here’s another of those things that I heard of long ago (honest!), thought was totally cool, had lots of potential, combines two of my favorite thingstag clouds & graphic design – and then I promptly forgot about it … until today!

And I owe to Mary here in the NMRLS office for showing it off by using Wordle as a way to sort the context of some recent survey results.

Find it, use it, bookmark it here:

Wordle is fascinating even in black & white just to see what words actually are being used most often whether it be survey results, a strategic plan, a resume, or a blog posting (see below).
In case image doesn’t load (thanks WordPress!), try this link:

Windows 7 is coming to a PC near you this Fall!

In STT on July 24, 2009 at 11:10 am

I gotta say this new Window 7 is very slick and quite an improvement over Vista (and even XP), I think it might just catch on!  Windows 7 is due to hit store shelves in at least four editions on October 22. Up until mid-August you could get a FREE release candidate” of Windows 7 licensed through June 2010.  The license key was good on up to three PCs too! But, Microsoft  shut this down August 20.

Very Helpful Windows 7 Links:

Q: What if you want to try Windows 7 and see how it works?  See if it’s worth the upgrade and expense?

A: You could borrow a NMRLS Mac mini with Windows 7 installed!
All you need to provide is a monitor, we supply the unit, keyboard and mouse.  The Mac mini has both Apple OS X 10.5 and Windows 7 RC (with Office 2007) installed, it can boot to either.   It also has wifi built-in so it can join a public network in your library flawlessly (I promise!).  And I can set the mini to boot directly to Windows 7 and avoid all the Apple stuff (but, you won’t know what you’re missing!).

  • Just contact me if you’re interested:
  • NMRLS has lots of stuff to Loan! Find out more HERE.

Why hadn't this been done before!? Google News Timeline

In STT on April 29, 2009 at 9:32 am

New from the GoogleLabs and blogged about like crazy already, but just in case you hadn’t heard, here’s my 2¢.

This new Google site features allowing you to see news stories in a series of columns, easily scrollable back and forth.  It’s a news story timeline, how cool!

Don’t you wish every newspaper & magazine database worked like this!?
Yes, yes, yes, it’s in beta and it’s not perfect, and it has limited sources (for now), and there are some other sites like this kinda already (See: newsmap), but you can see this thing has potential right away, you can see this has a future. But, don’t jsut take my word on it, here’s some other folks takes on it:

Maybe it’ll inspire library vendors to clean up their database interfaces, make them easier to use … hope so for them (and us), otherwise it’s bad for our database stastics as Google will have a lock on this audience.  With all the buzz I’m hearing and reading, in a week Google Timeline has already won the hearts of users and librarians for that matter.  When’s the last time a library newspaper/magazine database ever got this kind of media hype?

Why hadn't this been done before!? Google News Timeline

In STT on April 29, 2009 at 9:32 am

New from the GoogleLabs and blogged about like crazy already, but just in case you hadn’t heard, here’s my 2¢.

This new Google site features allowing you to see news stories in a series of columns, easily scrollable back and forth.  It’s a news story timeline, how cool!

Don’t you wish every newspaper & magazine database worked like this!?
Yes, yes, yes, it’s in beta and it’s not perfect, and it has limited sources (for now), and there are some other sites like this kinda already (See: newsmap), but you can see this thing has potential right away, you can see this has a future. But, don’t jsut take my word on it, here’s some other folks takes on it:

Maybe it’ll inspire library vendors to clean up their database interfaces, make them easier to use … hope so for them (and us), otherwise it’s bad for our database stastics as Google will have a lock on this audience.  With all the buzz I’m hearing and reading, in a week Google Timeline has already won the hearts of users and librarians for that matter.  When’s the last time a library newspaper/magazine database ever got this kind of media hype?

A brave new world for readers! But where does the library fit in?

In STT on April 20, 2009 at 12:45 pm

The following Wall Street Journal is a must read about how ebooks and ebook readers (e.g. Kindle) are changing how we read.  I found this article via the new free iPhone app for the Wall Street Journal (get it here).

How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write:  Author Steven Johnson outlines a future with more books, more distractions — and the end of reading alone.
[4/20/09 –]

This is a very well thought out summary of how ebooks work now and how digital content (e.g. ebooks, newspapers, blogs) might work in the very near future.  It’s  great news for readers and the curious mind.   But it’s expensive too, as this assumes you’ll buy everything you read digitally whether it be a novel or a micropayment for a newspaper article or blog post or book chapter.  Turns out these this will also be great for Visa & Mastercard …  But where dose the public library fit into this brave new ebook world?  I’m not sure, but here’s two scenarios …

Glass Half-Empty hypothetical outlook 😦
Publishers will work very hard to control the distribution and re-distribution of digital content effectively negating the First Sale Doctrine.  Meaning libraries will have to pay publishers a license fee to loan material, both digital and possibly physical books (why not if they can get away with it?).  This license fee would be in addition too, or included in, the purchase price of the content, and probably an annual fee will be involved.  Talk about your budget increases!  This would also be the effective end to that favorite library fund-raiser, the used book sale.  Not only because of the lack of physical books, but because the license for digital books won’t allow for this.  The not-too-distant-future librarian had better be adept at understanding licensing, and EULAs …  what they don’t teach you in library school … this glass half-full scenario is pretty empty.

Glass Half-Full hypothetical outlook 🙂
Publishers see libraries as way to promote reading, stoke interest and inquiry, and as another entree to customers purchasing their (digital) content.  Encouraging reading is good for the publishing industry (and a sound Democracy, etc., etc.).  Essentially libraries continue to play the role they currently do vis-a-vis publishers.  This new digital era also ushers in a world of new digital publishers who are in the business to promote authors and ideas, not just their bottom line(!).  And to top things off, the First Sale Doctrine is upheld in the courts and thru legislation for digital content (e.g. ebooks, music, etc.).  And digital used ebook sales continue to be a mainstay of fundraising for libraries across the land!  That’s a pretty full glass and I want to live in that future!

So, what’ll happen?
Probably what always happens, little bit of both scenarios.   So maybe it won’t be so bad and maybe it won’t be so perfect, otherwise there would be nothing to blog about right?  Having just finished my first ebook on the Kindle for iPhone (get it here), I’m very excited by all the possibilities described in the WSJ article above.  I’ve totally bought into the handheld-digital-ebook-hyperlink-instant-access world.  And yet, I do wonder and worry about what this all means for the future of my chosen profession, but I don’t want to go back and I’m more excited than pessimistic.

Jing – Do one thing and do it well!

In STT on April 10, 2009 at 9:00 am

To compliment upcoming workshops I’m teaching, here’s an updated re-post from last spring.

I’ve been Jing-ing like crazy lately prepping for a D-I-Y presentation at MLA 2009 in Springfield.  If you don’t know already Jing is a FREE program that can take screenshots or make “movies” of whatever is going on on your desktop.  It’s a great to show folks “How-To” use an online resource like say InfoTrac or OverDrive or EventKeeper.

Video is saved and presented in the Flash format and you can store your videos online at a realted site called Screencast.  Each of your videos has it’s own URL, or you can link or imbed them from your own website.

  • Click here for a collection of NMRLS “how-to” videos on Screencast.

Jing also takes single screen shots which you can store online for FREE at Flickr, here’s my collection of Jing tips on Flickr (also linked below).You can also annotate these images before you upload them to highlight or add notes.

Everything I mentioned above is FREE!
Run, don’t walk, to your nearest internet and
download Jing now!

OK, so there may some expenses involved …  you need a microphone unless you want all your videos to be silent movies.  Pretty much any mic will do and if you’re lucky you have a laptop or netbook with mic built-in.  NMRLS has USB mics to loan out to our member libraries, just contact Scott, click here to see all of the NMRLS loaner equipment & gadgets.

There is also a Pro version of Jing, it allows you to save video in either Flash or MPEG4 format as well as direct uploads to YouTube. It costs $14.95/year, not bad for a few more bells & whistles.  The nice thing about this version is you can edit the video afterward, add another voiceover or a backing music track (see my tips below for another way to do this), as well as link to it off you own server, you don’t need to use Screencast or YouTube.

Here are a few of my YouTube NMRLS How-To videos:

Here are my Jing videos on (via my account):

It’s easy, it’s fun, it can be time-consuming …
But, it’s informative, it helps your users, and it’s easy and it’s fun!

Scotts Jing Tips

Scott's Jing Tips

All a flutter about Twitter!

In STT on March 18, 2009 at 3:32 pm

So what’s up with this Twitter thing!?  Seems like it is suddenly all the media can talk about and attempt to explain.

It’s only taken me two years to catch on to it myself.  Like many librarians I know, I created a Twitter account in a Linda Braun workshop where she got us all excited about all these web 2.0 and social networking applicationsand then I promptly forgot about it … until this past Fall when I got a few emails from member librarians requesting that they follow the NMRLS feed, which was, and is, currently dead … “hmmm NMRLS has a Twitter!? What was that again?”

But I decided to give it a try again after I heard an NPR Weekend Edition story on it (find here).  And because I realized that it didn’t sound as time-consuming (or as personal) as FaceBook. And I own an iPhone and you are morally obligated to have every cool social networking app on your iPhone or they take it away!

So for my personal / psuedo-professional life I created an account and I love it!  It can be as interactive or as passive as you want.  There are famous people on it like Linda Braun (on it 24/7), Shaq (basketball star), and Tina Fey (hardly posts, very busy).   And lots of great informative really useful post-ers too like: NASA (latest on space shuttle and Mars rovers); FDA recalls (kinda scary); Boston Red Sox (via Boston Globe);  News, News, News (NPR, NY Times, Starbucks, etc.) .  As well as library news:  Library of Congress; Library Journal; DC Public Library (interesting just to get an idea what a public library could do with it).

I was just at a conference, NERCOMP 2009, where they had volunteers tweeting in each workshop and it was a delight to check the Twitter feed on your phone and read what you were missing (or weren’t) in real-time!  And it also helped you decide whether you should you cut & run or stick with the presentation you’re in (I made both good and bad decisions based on this Twitter method). They had bloggers too, but who wants to read all that when Twitter is short (it can only be 14o character, counting spaces, after all), and you can read on a cell phone as well as on a laptop or PC.

Maybe it’s my choice of feeds, but there seems to be a lot less of the inane posts like “I just ate a grilled cheese sandwich …”  I see those kinds of earth-shattering missives on FaceBook all the time, so it is a welcome relief to read useful and humorous posts online whether on the web or a phone.  Plus nearly everyone posts links to all this interesting informative stuff they’re talking about via Tiny URL (because you only got those 140 characters!).

Find a nice video introduction/tips & tricks by one of my favorite C|Net reporters, Tom Merrit. He does a weekly program called Insider Secrets on C|Net TV, here’s the link his a recent episode on Twitter (time: 4:41).

Best Browser ever!? Google Chrome

In STT on March 13, 2009 at 2:18 pm

OK, so there is one piece of software that my office Mac can’t use yet that makes me jealous of Windows users … shocking I know!

It’s Google’s Chrome browser and it only works on Windows XP and Vista for now …

It’s fast, it is very very very fast!!!

And it seems to work fine on ye olde Windows XP boxes like I have at home, it almost makes that old Dell seem as fast as my work Mac … almost …

But, There are a few things to get use to in this browser:

  • tabs on on the very top of the browser instead of below the menus like in Firefox and IE
  • the menus are off to the right side (File, Print, Bookmarks, etc.)
  • the URL address window is also the Google search window
  • the home page defaults to a gallery of your most used pages (you can set your own homepage too).  At first I thought this was a goofy feature, but now I’m totally sold on it.  You get up to 9 little screen shots, and clicking on one will take you right to that page. It is very very convenient!  Safari 4 now does the same thing and Firefox has an add-on called Showcase that mimics this too.
  • Google has a nice set of short feature videos you can watch here.

Run! Don’t walk, to your nearest internet connection and download it today!