Akismet, Office for iPad, Social Media icons & Under the Egg

How to defeat blog spam on WordPress

UnknownThanks to all the ‘commenters’ out there who want to help SLISbits lose its butt fat, increase its stamina and purchase Louis Vuitton products. SLISbits appreciates the concern about its perceived need for Nikes, Zithromax and greater bust size.

This is a blog about many things — librarianship, apps, education, library-themed tchotchkes, sometimes even furniture. But never is it about weight loss, medication or genital enhancement.

So, how to keep the flotsam and jetsam off the site? The best thing we’ve found to screen out comment spam is Akismet . Since adding this to the site last month, spam has decreased from upwards of 2000 per post to 0. That’s right, zero! As in none, nada, zil, zilch, zippo. If you want less comment spam on your WordPress site, give Akismet a try.


How spam works
Why do people send spam in the first place? Not just to be annoying, but because it can make them a boatload of money. At least in theory. How Stuff Works explains. In short: It’s free to send tons of emails. If only a few people bite, a person still can make more money spamming than he would at a day job.


MS Office 365 for iPad

ZA104222371MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) became available for iPad in March. While the apps are free, they are viewers only. To edit or create new content one needs to have a subscription plan for MS Office 365. There are several subscription options. Information on three of the most popular options follow. In addition to Office, each of the described options includes 20 GB of OneDrive cloud storage and 60 Skype world calling minutes per month.

If you’re a full- or part-time college student (at an accredited institution), faculty or staff, you can get MS Office 365 University. It costs $79.99 for 4 years and lets you run Office on two devices (computers, tablets or one of each) and multiple smartphones. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook, and — for PC only — Publisher and Access.

Outside of academia there are two popular choices. Office 365 Home costs $99.99 for one year (or $9.99 per month) and lets you run Office on five computers, five tablets, and multiple smartphones. Office 365 Personal costs $69.99 for one year ($6.99 per month) and lets you run Office on one computer, one tablet, and multiple smartphones.

Check Amazon and other places for discounts. Amazon currently has Office 365 Home for $67, a 33% discount. See Microsoft’s Compare Office Products charts, and iMore’s Microsoft Office for iPad review: Yep, it’s good  for more.


MORE PEOPLE GO TO the INTERNET FOR SOCIAL MEDIA THAN PORN
There are other stats in this short video, but none more noteworthy than that. Take a look at Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh) by Erik Qualman, ‘creator’ of Socialnomics. He has more recent versions of stats, but this is our fave.


WHY IT’s TAKen SO LONG TO GET A TWITTER BUTTON

images-1Social media covers a lot of ground — social networks, bookmarking sites, social news, media sharing, microblogging. The lawn of that ground is littered with a slew of social media icon buttons.

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These icons are important identifiers and in the design world, there is a whole niche devoted to their design. Somewhere there is a designer (I like to imagine him in Stockholm) at this very moment obsessively sweating the details of the precise shape, font and color saturation for the perfect icon button family.

1013-icons-12My imaginary designer is not the only one. There are a staggering number of sites that deal solely with this topic. A good one for free icons is Vandelay Design, which also offers advice on website themes, design, etc. Vandelay Design’s icon button style selection includes (but is certainly not limited to): Cute, Shaded, Polygon, Simple, Flat, Simple Flat, Wood Textured, Sketch, Elegant, Long Shadow, Vintage Stamp and Old Bottlecap (Images courtesy Vandelay Design). Another source is February blog post 125+ Best Free Social Media Icons Buttons by Lisa Zickler at Designrazzi Web Design Magazine. Speechless … We’re really just speechless. Until our heads stop spinning, please click this basic button to follow our Twitter feed @SLISbits.


LIBRARY BOOK

Unknown-3Books that feature libraries, librarians and/or librarianship in a positive light hold a special place in my heart (and bookshelf). The latest on my radar in this vein is Under the Egg, a first effort by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (2014; Penguin/Dial; ages 8-12, grades 3-7) billed as “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler meets Chasing Vermeer.” That’s about right.

The ragtag protaganist is 12-year-old New Yorker Theodora Tenpenny. In addition to a mysterious directive from a dead grandfather, a (possibly) Renaissance painting, a new friend, Monuments Men, the Holocaust, a nutcase mom with an expensive tea habit and backyard chickens, the book features tattooed NYPL librarian Eddie and Center for Jewish History archivist/records researcher Goldie, who make Library & Information Science look, if not quite sexy, at least valuable.

The book includes such gems as: “Freshly minted MLIS at your service.” (p. 86 ); “Are you ready for a Dewey Decimal avalanche?”(p.88); and “‘So, you are sort of a research … specialist, right?’ ‘You got it. MLIS, Master’s of Library and Information Science — with an emphasis on information.’” (p.89)

“Goldie and Eddie had found a table away from the action, where they murmured sweet talk about archival storage and database management.”  – Under the Egg, p. 232

Though there are a few too many convenient plot points and a device at the end that tidies things up too neatly, it was a fun, fast read; a great primer on Renaissance art symbolism; and a nice love letter to LIS.


 

Our Birthday, Twitter, Meet Heather Moorefield-Lang & Your Online Presence

640px-Birthday_candlesHappy Birthday to Us!
It was one year ago today that SLISbits made its way into the world as “a bouncing baby blog.” We’ve since made 12 posts and experienced numerous growing pains. In our second year we plan to double our productivity. Today we’re celebrating with cybercake and special bday wishes.

“I am so pleased to wish SLISbits HAPPY BIRTHDAY. One year ago when you were born, we didn’t know how you would grow! Your content is excellent and you continue to expand in coverage and depth. You are so mature for your age! You are getting international attention now and your counter keeps clicking with every new person that comes to visit. Keep adding all the great information about information science and the roles of libraries and cool apps and new technologies.  Don’t forget to feed your Twitter news and make sure your Facebook stays fresh and filled with important news. Congratulations on a great year, keep up the good work and thank your creators, Chris Billinsky and Jane Catoe.”  — From Dr. Sam Hastings 

Awww. We are loved. But, oops, you spilled the beans about our upcoming Facebook page.

Please wrap our presents in library or binary-themed paper such as this from Zazzle, Durham, N.C.’s Spoonflower or The Literary Gift Company.


Machine_languageALL A TWITTER
In an incredible turn of events, SLISbits has a sibling — a little bit. Is it a 1 or a 0? Both! Surprise – fraternal Twitter twins: “bit0″ and “bit1.” The twins reside on Twitter and are inseparable — a bound binary pair. We hope you will follow and visit frequently @SLISbits.


SLISBITS CHITCHAT: MEET HEATHER MOOREFIELD-LANG
UnknownWill the bounty never cease? There is yet another addition. Davis College has brought tech guru Heather Moorefield-Lang aboard as its newest SLIS faculty member. Many may know her from her Best Websites for Teaching and Learning talks at the college. She comes to us from Virginia Tech where she is the Education and Applied Social Sciences Librarian. Heather received her MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her Doctorate in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Take a look at her recently published ebook Tablet Computers in the Academic Library. Moorefield-Lang officially begins at USC SLIS in Fall 2014. We recently caught up with HML and plumbed the depths of her soul with 17 questions.

PC or MAC? PC, but I have an iPad as well.
Most used apps? Twitter, Pandora, Pulse, Record Pro, Dropbox, Electric Slide, Haiku Deck
Your go-to websites? Evernote, Make Use of, Twitter, Free Tech for Teachers, Apps Gone Free, I have other fun ones like Facebook, People and such, Ebsco and other databases but if you are talking for day to day there you go.
Most used browser? Tie between Chrome and Firefox
Most used search engine that is not Google? Safari
Pets? None, sadly I am allergic to all animals with fur and feathers.
Favorite weekend activities? Reading, walking, biking, hiking, going to movies, seeing plays, and when I have time, performing in plays, singing in church. But I am going to need to find a new church for that.
What kind of phone? iPhone
Heels or flats? I like heels — the funkier the better.
Books or eBooks? These days it is more ebooks but I still read plenty of print too. As long as it’s a book, I am happy, always need a book with me.
Favorite Web guilty pleasure? People.com (such brain candy, have to see what Prince George is doing)
Baked cookies or raw cookie dough? Baked and chocolate chip
What would the title of your biography be? @TechLib: One Librarians Search for Great Tech in Libraries
What kind of tablet? iPad
Favorite Social Media? Twitter, but I am sure it will change in a few years.
Beach or mountains? Beach, but I just moved from the mountains.
Why USC? The wonderful faculty, staff and students. I have been presenting The American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning to USC for the past three years and everyone has always been so welcoming. When a position opened I knew that really wanted to be part of this faculty and have been blessed with this great opportunity.


000-999
If you were a book, where would you be shelved? Find out with the Which Dewey Decimal Category Are You? quiz.


Your Online Presence in Academia
Whether or not you want it – you already have an online presence. Associate Prof. Titus Brown of Michigan State University says,

“If you are not curating your online identity, someone or something else is doing it for you.”

titerope
Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com

Learn how to take control of your online presence below with links to short, easy-to-understand Slideshares and examples of effective academic websites. (Thanks to SLIS doctoral student Liz Hartnett for the tip.)

Software Carpentry provides a one-page list of action items, strategies and must-haves for a minimal online presence from Brown and Associate Professor Ethan White of Utah State University (both scientists), including a link to Brown’s Free and Easy to Use Tools to Make Your Research, Data and Code More Accessible and How to Build an Enduring Online Research Presence Using Social Networking and Open Science: The Voodoo of Blogging, Twitter, Figshare and Github, Among Others. If you look at nothing else, look at the Slideshares and the section on CV’s.

Other sites addressing online presence:
- Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology: How to Build an Academic Online Presence
- In the Black’s  Who Are You Online? Creating a Web Presence for Academics: How to Make the Most of Your Online Profiles
- Developing Your Academic Web Presence, a Slideshare by Sarah Goodier that addresses your “digital shadow,” the information about you on the Web that you can’t control.


You Want Curly Fries With That Big Data?Unknown-1

Just when you’re feeling good about getting your online presence squared away, it’s time to ponder what exactly it is you’re revealing about yourself online with all of your posts, tweets, Likes and tags.

Electronic Frontier Foundation’s You Won’t Like What Your Facebook ‘Likes’ Reveal shows the personal information marketers can determine about you based merely on your Facebook Likes, such as whether your parents are divorced; your sexual preference; your education level and much, much more.

If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at Jennifer Golbeck’s 10-minute TED Talk The Curly Fry Conundrum: Why Social Media “Likes” Say More Than You Might ThinkShe has a power-to-the-people stance, admonishes people to stop giving it away for free and advocates putting personal data back in the hands of its originators.


Watch dogs
In that same vein comes Watch Dogs Digital Shadow, a game promo site dedicated to showing users just what information they’re giving away. Tech writers have been posting like crazy about this recently. Kudos to the game designers and marketing team for their earned media. The sites (see below), which straddle the line between helpful truth and unvarnished product promotion, are put out by the game’s creator, Ubisoft of Montreal.  The game (for PlayStation 4, XBox 360 and PC) hits the streets May 27. It’s rated M for Mature so you’re going to see some trash, but nothing as scandalous as what the game is based on: the Facebook information it gleans about you to customize the game. The main character is gray-hat hacker Aiden Pearce. Enter his world with the preview and see what marketers already know, including what you look like, what you’re worth and your overall attitude. Go now … if you dare.

This site scares the bejeepers out of me. Which begs the question: Will my game be blank because Facebook will have predicted that I won’t go to Digital Shadow? It’s full of eerie sounds, shadowy images and unnerving phrases such as “You are not an individual: You are a data cluster,” that positively reek of 320px-Cornavadystopia. And I am a sucker for dystopia. So, I bit. It’s pretty fun, though my FB presence is slim enough as to be inaccurate. Results listed my brother and a friend as potential stalkers; listed potential Scapegoats that I couldn’t even identify; tagged me as “violent” based on my LinkedIn desire to re-enter the work “force,” and grossly overestimated my net worth. So, I feel better, but now really want to play this game.

Was that not enough eeriness for you? Then take a look at the Digital Shadow’s sister site: Watch Dogs We Are Data. Select London, Paris or Berlin and prepare to be further unnerved. The site brings up “active” maps that show traffic cams, WI-FI hotspots, tweets, Instagram photos etc. Watch little dots move around the screen, click on tweets and be amazed. Or horrified. It’s not the future, it’s the now. Seriously, kudos to the game designers and marketers. Perhaps it’s time to revive the old Shadow radio show tagline: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The shadow knows!”

100% Useful: Strong Passwords, Hacking IKEA and Basic Statistics

And the password is …
128px-4-digit_combination_padlockWell, for many people, it’s “password.” Or 1234. But that level of gatekeeping isn’t going to protect your bank, email or Hulu account. Creating a great password is a balancing act where “complicated enough to be protective” needs to meet “easy enough to remember.”  (As someone who hits “send me my password” at least 5 times a day, I confess that I have not yet found that sweet spot.)

In Choosing Secure Passwords, Internet security blogger Bruce Schneier of Schneier on Security gives mnemonic device tips for easy-to-remember but hard-to-decipher passwords. The short version is: He suggests coming up with a personally meaningful sentence and then constructing a password based on the first letters of each word of the sentence. He also describes techniques and devices that hackers use to break a password.

If this information doesn’t worry you, it could mean you’re smart! Schneier’s March 27 post cites a study linking intelligence to a willingness to trust others, Smarter People Are More Trusting. (At the risk of proclaiming myself an idiot, I’d really like to see the numbers from that study.)

If coming up with a catchy sentence isn’t your thing, consult an online password generator. Some are random, some let users set parameters. All require memorization.

German-based Password Creator offers passwords in five categories: Simple, Medium, Golden Middle, Larger and Strong Stuff. Passwords range, respectively, from 5 to 11 characters. All are alphanumeric with Strong Stuff adding special characters. Hit the “Neu Laden”/ refresh button for a new selection of passwords. Pass Creator lets users select combinations of uppercase, lowercase, special characters, numbers and password length.  There’s also the cutesy Password Bird, reliable Norton Identity Safe and many other sites out there.

Want even more protection? Maximum security sites like Perfect Passwords generate random 64 or 63- character long hexidecimal, random ASCII and/or random alpha-numeric high security passwords.

For the love of God, people, write down your passwords. Or get a Password Manager, which does just what it sounds like it does — manages your passwords so you don’t lose them. PCMag did the leg work for you in January with its roundup of The Best Password Managers, priced from free o’ charge to $89.95.


Hack IKEA
What do students love more than IKEA furniture? Absolutely nothing. Not even beer! But before you bustle on 128px-Ikeavästeråsup to Charlotte for meatballs and melamine, make a plan. Start by downloading the IKEA catalog – onlineandroid or iPhone. For inspiration, check out ikeahackers.net, and Pinterest pages 101 IKEA Hacks and DIY Home.

Furniture this cheap doesn’t come without a cost. If you already have IKEA items, take a look at the company’s Product Recalls page. The ounce of prevention could save you from getting crushed, shocked, burned, suffocated, gouged and/or lacerated.


Electronic Existence
128px-Schrodingers_cat.svgA March 27 piece in the Currency section of The New Yorker website takes a look at what happens when our digital doppelganger — our Web presence — moves independently of our living self. A woman who died in 2009 “existed” electronically for 6 years after. Read The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf.


Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
Students, professors and newswatchers are bombarded with statistics, most of them meaningless. But without statistics, where would we be? 35% better off? 75%? 100%? No one can answer that question — mainly because it is a qualitative judgment, not a quantitative one.

Class readings, scholarly studies and project papers include a boatload of data. As a paper writer, you will likely cite statistical examples to support your ideas. And data is impartial, right? The numbers will either pan out for you or they won’t, right? Au contraire, mon frere. You can make those numbers sing and dance in any number of ways. And …. so can others.

Library scholars out there will likely appreciate a 60-year-old book on statistics that is still relevant: How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff (1954 edition, illustrations by Irving Geis). There’s also a 1993 Kindle edition available on amazon for $7.99.

As Librarians and Scholars, we are noble people in search of The Truth, so why would we read such a nefarious sounding book? Why, to learn how to better evaluate what is true and what is false, of course!

The book covers statistic basics such as mean, mode and median; variations; errors; sampling procedure; semiattached figures and more. This is for the non-mathletes among us and is a short, painless, gentle introduction.

graphAn anonymous source and longtime player in the data and analytics industry says: “The only thing I love more than statistics is infographics. They say that 96% of all statistics brought up in a conversation are made up on the spot. … Is this one of those 96% or one of the 4%? I don’t even know.”

For more detailed statistics information, take a look at the YouTube lecture Statistics for Librarians, Part 1 (of 4) from the University of North Texas Libraries. Or, see Khan Academy’s Data and Statistics.

Want statistics fun on the go? Try these apps: Google Play free Statistics CalculatorGoogle Play free Statistics Quick Reference and At My Pace Statistics on iTunes.

Some kids books on statistics that could be helpful to adults are: Statistics for Kids: Model-Eliciting Activities to Investigate Concepts in Statistics (Statistics for Kids, Grades 4-6) and The Cartoon Guide to Statistics.   rsz_images

Believe me when I say that of the 100% of people who read this segment of the blog, 100% will have read this segment of the blog.

Real Alarms, False Progress, OCR and a Bitcoin Bust

WAKE ME WHEN IT’S OVER

A horrible time is upon us. Tax Season? Allergy season? Hunting season? No. Sunday, March 9 is Daylightrsz_girl-sleeping Saving Time, where many people will lose a much-needed hour of sleep. In addition to causing most people to mangle the time-altering process by calling it Daylight Saving Time, it’s linked to spikes in heart attacks, suicides and car wrecks

Not to mention school and work tardies. Waking up at 5 a.m. versus 6 a.m. is a difference most bodies don’t take a shine to. Give yourself a morning boost with these (fingers crossed, hoping against hope that they work for me) alarm apps.

Cool Mom Tech recommends the Alarmy Sleep If U Can app. ($1.99 on iTunes, free for Android on Google Play, updated Feb. 19.) Billed as the “World’s Most Annoying Alarm App” it goes beyond having to solve a math problem, puzzle or remembering a code to silence the alarm. You have to physically get your bedraggled self up and go to a predetermined site — upstairs, downstairs, outside — and take a picture of something that matches one you’ve already designated your target pic. Cussing is optional.

A gentler path might be the popular Sleep Cycle app ($ .99 itunes, updated Jan. 9; for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch). It claims to observe your sleep cycles and rouse you in the lightest cycle that’s closest to your desired  wake-up time. So, if you want to wake up at 6, and you’re sleeping lightly at 4:45, it will wake you at 4:45. The app provides sleep graphs so users can see their sleep patterns.

Normally Social Media is associated with shamelessness, but for the niche group that is motivated by both Social Media and shame, there’s OKITE (Free for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch).  It’s an oldie from 2011, but you have to love the oh-so-Japanese premise. Every time you cravenly hit snooze, a random, embarrassing tweet is sent so that all your Twitter followers know what a lazy lump you are. The shame factor is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the tweet is in Japanese, but still … you will have questions to answer.

 

SHOW ME THE LIGHT

Cuerpo_humano_jaqaruDo you frequently find yourself in the [insert name of any room of the house here] trying to recall why you’re there? Do you have Alzheimer’s gunning for you from any of the branches of your family tree? Goodness knows, I do, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to increase my brain power. Scratch that, maintain my brain power.

Enter Lumosity, hawked as “a gym for the brain.”  It offers brain training via online games in speed, memory, attention, flexibility and problem solving. The company expected boomers to be the main users but were surprised by the number of twenty- and thirty-somethings signing on.

I’d ignored Lumosity’s commercial pleas until the story How to Get to 50 Million Users: 4 Tips from Lumosity in the Dec. 2013/Jan. 2014 issue of Inc. magazine led me to give it a try. The initial free testing included three areas: speed, memory, and …. what was that last one? .. ah, yes, attention.

On the plus side, my mind is really fast. Like a cheetah fast. Where it’s running, nobody knows. My memory is baaaaad. Like 40% bad. I will also share with you, dear readers, that my attention span proved …  Wait, what were we talking about?

Detractors such as Medium Difficulty, a site that offers “critical analysis of games and their place in a larger cultural context,” says Lumosity is using basic gaming strategy to bogusly convince users of their improvement. Medium Difficulty’s The Doubt of the Benefit: Fake Progress and Lumosity’s “Brain Games” raked the company over the coals in 2012. Many other critics have done likewise.

Plan pricing runs from $5-$14.95 per month. Does it really train your brain? I have no idea. What methodology are they using to generate their comparative data? It’s unclear. Are they gaming us? Probably. But it’s fun. And it probably can’t hurt.

 

OCR EASY AS ABC

Not everything is digitized yet. But here’s to trying. Sometimes you have paper with text and you need that text to be editable and searchable — a jpeg image of the page/s just won’t cut it. You need Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and now there are a number of OCR apps to choose from for your phone or tablet.

Four good ones mentioned frequently in articles are: Image To Text (free); Perfect OCR ($3.99); TextGrabber ($5.99) and Prizmo ($9.99) — all for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Features vary with things such as different language support, various text to speech support, and so on. Among the paid apps, features are frequently updated, so the app remains competitive.

With the free offering – Image to Text —  the OCR process is performed on a remote server, which means there is some turn-around time. If having your text go through a remote server is an issue for you, select one of the other options. At this time, Image to Text only handles English.

They all work. I happen to like Prizmo as it has a both a clean interface and useful options. You can always start with the free Image To Text, and work from there. If you could use an OCR app,  look at the features of these four, and make your choice.

 

CLOSED FOR BITNESS

You may not have noticed the most recent economic collapse. In February, Tokyo-based crypto-currency Bitcoin-coinsmonolith Mt Gox inexplicably closed its doors leaving millions of bitcoin users in the lurch.

Much like the banking collapses in the Depression years, users — many of whom had a fortune in bitcoin currency — have been left with nothing. (Unlike the widespread effects of the Depression, the bitcoin bust hit users who are overwhelmingly white, male and affluent. See Think Progress.org for more on bitcoin user demographics.)

What IS bitcoin? It’s e-money. Unregulated, universal, e-money. Users amass electronic currency by “mining” that they can then use to “pay” for real products or services. They agree that it has value therefor it has value. Which seems unicorny and ridiculous … until you realize it’s the same premise behind paper money. Or any money for that matter. Try not to think about it too much or panic will set in. For solace, see Investopedia’s brief History of Money.  (I’m still hoping for a currency base of shoulder massages.)

Mt Gox, the Enron of bitcoin, has filed for bankruptcy and taken with it $400 million of client funds. The company recently opened a call center to answer client questions. Though what they say other than “Yes, we lost your money,” is anybody’s guess.

 

Welcome Back

IMG284GREETINGS and Happy Spring Semester! A special welcome to new students and a salute to continuing ones. For newbies, SLIS bits is the bite-sized school blog devoted to apps relevant to higher education and library and information science served with a dash of tangentially related info and analog treats. More extensive app sites for libraries and higher ed are featured at the top of the right-hand column.

200px-Checklist_Noun_project_5166.svg
JUST ANY.DO IT

Keep yourself together and on task this semester with any.do, a family of apps for Apple, PC and Chrome products. The beauty of the to-do list app is its simplicity and its ability to deliver the “check it off the list” feeling of satisfaction list-makers desire with a “Done” button. Add items with the “Today” button, postpone and rollover action items with the “Later” button or Delete re-thought of plans such as “Organize my Books chronologically in the order that I read them.” In addition to the to-do app, any.do offers Calendar, Mail and Memo apps.

 

TAKE NOTE

Electronic note-taking has been kicked up a notch as Penultimate offers users an improved experience of faster, more natural-feeling stylus-to-pad note taking. The upgraded Penultmate works together with the recently released Adonit Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus. This stylus sports a 1.9 mm tip, one third the size of the standard stylus tip. Penultimate for iPad and iPhone is free, but users must have Evernote ($4.99/month). The Adonit JotScript Evernote stylus is pricey ($75), but it comes closer to a natural writing experience than others on the market. Check out VentureBeat.com for more Penultimate/JotScript info as well as 2014 tech predictions.

 

NEED A WHITEBOARD?

Nothing says education like a whiteboard. Now it’s as easy as ABC to get one instantly on your computer, iPad or smart phone from A Web Whiteboard. Draw and write solo or e-share with study-buddies. Invite others to work with you or instantly post. Free.

 

EX LIBRIS

Most of us still love the smell and feel of real books. And when we let our books out of our sight, we want to know they’re going to be returned. Claiming ownership in Latin lets people know you mean business. Here’s some help keeping books where they belong: with old-fashioned printable bookplates.

These stylish silhouettes from Besotted Blog were featured recently in Country Living magazine. Design Sponge delivers retro charm via an open mouth, a hand holding a card and a serpent with flowers (which look nicer than they sound). Just Something I Made has printable options based on German wood block animal prints circa 1832. If you’re more of a “From the Library of … ” sort, peruse My Home Library’s selection in various sizes and colors.

Still with me? Enjoy an online bookplate exhibit from Stanford University Libraries. Digital exhibits are a big part of the present and future of LIS. If interested, be sure to take relevant technology classes from Dr. Lewis.

 

QUIZ

Are you a Lipstick Librarian? Do you have a passion for fashion and for Melville Dewey? If so, you probably already know the answer, but it never hurts to double check.

ChristmaSLISt

It may say ChristmaSLISt, but we mean it in the most state-funded, non-sectarian way. Technology belongs to all, and this post is about celebration, joy, fun and discovery for all.

There’s shopping to do. Amazon, Zazzle, and Cafe Press have Librarian gift sections that contain everything from a Lego librarian figure to old-school book plates. For handcrafted items, look to Etsy — library card catalog, written nerd and gifts for librarians.

Composition notebook iPad cover

rsz_screen_shot_2013-12-12_at_20137_pmBEST OF BOTH WORLDS: When our ancient art meets modern technology, it creates an identity crisis. The public wants librarians who are traditional, reliable, conservative …. but who also know how to build a website and help them with their e-readers. How to address the schism?  Embrace it, bridge it and proudly display our heritage … with an iPad or iPad mini cover that looks like a book. (Also a delightful gift idea.) Looks include old-school Composition books, aged leather-bound tomes, comics and classics. These can be found many places — Amazon, Zazzle, Apple Store and on.

rsz_wp_20131210_001-1TAKE A PAGE OUT OF HER BOOK: Mix seasonal crafting with librarianship and what do you get? Something charming made out of old books. This seasonal wreath was made from old book pages by USC SLIS alum Jennifer France, librarian of the Byrne-Diderot Library at the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston. If you notice it looks like it’s on a jail cell door, you are correct. The college is located in the Old City Jail, built 1890. See how to make your own from Robeson Design.

MORE HOLIDAY FUN: If you still need a little more Christmas, check out the following: Advent 2013: 25 Fantastic Free Christmas Apps.

O HOLY NIGHT: 45 years ago, on Christmas Eve 1968, there was something bright and shining in the sky. Men on earth looked up in wonder, knowing it heralded great things. The astronauts of Apollo 8 were orbiting the moon and earlier that day had seen, and captured on film, the first earth-rise seen from space.

600px-NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise

 

Anders (one of the Apollo 8 astronauts) said that while the mission was about exploring the moon, “the astronauts ended up discovering Earth.” Indeed this . . . “one particular Apollo photograph transcends all others, an image so powerful and eloquent that even today it ranks as one of the most important photographs taken by anyone ever.”

Time video First Broadcast from the Moon places the mission into the context of the time.  1968 had been a terrible year in the United States: the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the Chicago Democratic Convention. Then on Christmas Eve there was Apollo 8 orbiting the moon, and one of the most mind shifting photographs of all time — “Earth Rising.”  The photograph forever changed our perspective of our lives on earth, and it then went on to become the iconic image of the fledgling environmental movement.

rsz_1rsz_screen_shot_2013-12-12_at_11951_pmNASA APPS: Unsurprisingly (and yet kind of surprisingly) NASA has a lot of cool apps including Visualization Explorer. The free app puts detailed information about NASA’s space explorations right in your hands.

The above NASA break was brought to you by Davis College’s own Chris Billinsky who from 1972-1978 served as head of library services for The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, the lab that designed the on-board Apollo Navigation and Guidance System and the Apollo Guidance Computer.

New tablets, Unarchiver and Dewey

Keeping Tablets
Last week saw the release of new tablets from Apple, Nokia and Microsoft. Apple, generally considered under assault by competitors, debuted the iPad Air, a modest (some say ho-hum) upgrade to an A7 chip. (Apple has better boosted its iPad Mini with both Retina Display and faster processor.) Defenders say it’s hard to improve perfection, which is a double-edged sword: iPad Air is likely to attract newcomers, but not cause current, generally satisfied iPad owners to upgrade.

People who need their tablets to work with Windows now have some quality choices. They are not going to knock out the iPad, but they do serve a market need. Nokia offered up the Lumia 2520, which runs Microsoft Windows 8, while Microsoft debuted the Surface 2 & Surface Pro 2.

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The Nokia/Microsoft connection gets tricky: Nokia runs on a Microsoft Windows platform. But Microsoft, which has basically taken over Nokia, still does not control Nokia’s devices sector, which leaves Microsoft either competing against itself or winning all around. Throw AT&T into the licensing mix and you have either vertical integration or hot mess.

Nokia is also bandying about its Lumia 1520 (with 6-inch display) marketed as a phone/tablet hybrid called a “phablet,” a style customers can expect to see more of from all competitors. (I can’t help but notice that people who are drawn to this ever-changing world of technology sizes and features appear to enjoy having similar options available for their coffee selections. Visit any Starbucks to see what I mean.)

The personal device world is in a state of flux as manufacturers experiment with sizes, weights and features. The technology exists to produce light-as-a-feather computers the size of matchboxes, but that’s not necessarily what customers want. The onslaught of minis, megas, phones, phablets and tablets is both an attempt to find out what customers want/will pay for and create a rush for “new” products that customers will pay for. Ponder that over a Venti Salted Caramel Latte, and good luck to us all.

For more extensive product reviews, see Engadget’s fall tablet reviews.

Back to the Future: The Unarchiver128px-Archivboxen
The future is now. Except, 20 years ago, the future was then. If you are a Mac user and need to get back to the future and open old files, The Unarchiver can help. It opens StuffIt, DiskDoubler, LZH, ARJ and ARC. It also opens Zip, RAR, 7-zip, Tar, Gzip and Bzip2, ISO and BIN disc image. Ranked number 4 in top free Mac apps.

Dewey
It’s disheartening to see that the Dewey app has not received enough ratings to display an average. Designed for the creator’s librarian mother and updated in August, this app helps users break down Dewey Decimal System call numbers. iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. $ .99. For Web use, take a look at Dewey Browse. The site indexes websites for K-12 users

Sssssshhhhh!
We know from all the PR that Librarians are fun now. We’re not the shushers of yesteryear. But sometimes we still want people to zip it. Enter the Librarian app. Set a maximum decibel level and when the environment exceeds that, your device will do the shushing for you. iPhone. Free.

Free books
128px-Old_books_-_Stories_From_The_PastHere’s an app library types and educators can get behind. If the educators are also library types? Fuhgeddaboudit. Free Books by Digital Press Publishing serves up “23,469 classics to go” via the number one book app. Shelf upon shelf of books in virtually no space at all. For iphone, ipod and ipad. Audiobooks and Classics also available.

Pop Quiz
200px-Artículo_bueno.svgAre you a lover or a fighter? Either way, you’re in interesting company as far as librarianship goes. Take the Librarians Rock! quiz to find out just what kind of famous dreamers, schemers and in-betweeners were librarians. (And, yes, librarians do rock.)

 

 

 

eClicker, Whichbook and Virtual LRC

Poll with eClicker
e-clicker-logo-fullForget hand-raising, e-poll your in-person class and get the results right away. Save the data for later and share it with others. eClicker can be used with most Internet-enabled devices via Wi-Fi for up to 64 participants. Add images to your questions and share results via Bluetooth or email. (If you don’t have live classes, poll your friends about where to go for dinner.) eClicker is comprised of two parts: eClicker Presenter ($15 to $20) and eClicker Audience (free). More teacher-tech apps can be found at 20 Amazing iPad Apps for Educators from TeachHub.com.

Virtual LRC
rsz_screen_shot_2013-09-29_at_25739_pmBoth instructors and students can search high and low in one spot at VirtualLRC.com. The site “indexes thousands of the best academic information websites, selected by teachers and library professionals worldwide in order to provide to students and teachers current, valid information for school and university academic projects!”

Book finder with an English accent
Need help finding a good read? Try the handy book selector called Whichbook. Sliding menus let you choose your desired level of content in four of the available 12 continuums such as Happy/Sad, Beautiful/Disgustng, No Sex/Lots of Sex and Easy/Demanding.

200px-Question_book-new.svgFor experiement’s sake, I set the parameters more on the sad side, midway between safe and disturbing, to slightly demanding and for lots of sex . Whichbook came back with Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney and Us, by Richard Mason. Settings for funny, unexpected, short and bleak returned Eleven by David Llewellyn, Mr. Darwin’s Gardener by Kristina Carlson and Me, by Garrison Keillor. Recommendations fall overwhelmingly toward British titles (see below). OR, choose by plot (success against the odds, generations, lots of twists and turns); character (race, age, sexuality, gender); or setting by clicking on a world map.You have to go through some irritating ad misdirection about every other search, but it’s a fun site if you’re looking for new books, and it’s an interesting way to use a database.

The well-designed site is run by Opening the Book  and offers solid information in useful categories such as  ‘Buy Library Furniture,’ ‘Library Design Service,’ ‘Online Library Courses,’ and ‘School Library Furniture.’ There’s a fee to join and explore the site to its fullest, however you can test drive it with a free trial. But wait! There’s more from this U.K.-based site.

Try your hand at creating a themed book display (scroll down). Can you put together a display that says History? Politics? You may think you can, but it’s harder than just slapping a few books on the shelves. Select books you think will convey a theme to all patrons, then re-set, and try again.

Shared pictures=Shared experiences
One of the top concerns with Distance Learning is minimizing the isolated feeling students — and instructors –128px-Central_Park_(3) sometimes experience. Use Social Media to bring your class together. Help students feel more connected with an image-sharing platform such as Flickr, Instagram or tumblr. One picture might be worth 100 Blackboard posts. Have students share book covers pics, interesting websites, pics of themselves, photos of libraries — whatever course topic is applicable — using designated tags.

Organize Your Personal Library
rsz_book_caseAn unnamed librarian goes through LIS basics  — organizing, sorting, cataloging, locating and preserving — for  a home collection. Good to share with students as a way to personalize and apply what they’re learning.

POP QUIZrsz_256px-melvil_dewey_0001
As library professionals, we must ask the hard questions. Questions such as, Can you Do the Dewey? Take this quiz form Middletown Thrall Library in Middleton, New York, and find out.

Autumn potpourri

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BACK TO SCHOOL

School has begun, the campus is bustling, and the smell of pencil shavings wafts through the air. Well, at least in the Art Department. In SLIS, it’s more like the smell of iPads. To kick off the school year, we’ve compiled a list of blogs, sites and apps that may just make your teaching life easier. Course syllabus:

AASL APPS
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Beginning in 2009 the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has compiled an annual list of Best Websites for Teaching & Learning. 2013 saw that list joined by Best Apps For Teaching & Learning. The site spans many age ranges and has such useful categories as: Books, Science, Organization, Social Sciences and Content Creation. Apps recommended include Shakespeare In Bits, Simple Physics, EasyBib, Barefoot World Atlas and Educreations.

LIBRARY TRENDS: GAMING THE SYSTEM

256px-XBOX_360_controllerA growing trend in libraries involves beefing up video game options to increase patron use among teens and tweens. An August NPR segment “At Libraries Across America, It’s Game On,” by Sami Yenigun ponders the point and wonders if games are the key to turning libraries into community centers. Some may object to the blatant bait-and-switch, but like CNN’s Ruben Navarrette says in “Do Video Games Belong in Libraries?,”if you want to save souls, first you need to put folks in the pews.”

TOP LIBRARIAN APPS

Are you an ‘appy librarian? Check this list and find out. LibraryScienceList.com has enumerated the 25 Most Popular Apps Used By Librarians. (Oh, how we do love to list things!) The categories are: Reading; Organization, Productivity and Work; News; and From the Library of Congress. Learn how to handle multiple Twitter accounts with OsfooraHD, and find something to Tweet (no. 14) about with World Book This Day in History (no. 18).

BORN FREE

Free_Cube Apps Gone Free (Best Daily Top App Deals) is a free App that gives you daily updates on free Apps. The freebies allow you to acquire a nice selection of apps and all it costs is a little patience. Many games are featured, but keep an eye out for great productivity apps. For iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

TECH TALK DEAN’S LIST
128px-Redmond_Color A shout out to Sarah Keeling, SLIS Student Services Manager, for letting us know about this one from EDTech Magazine. Did your favorite tech blog make the dean’s list? Consult “The 2013 Dean’s List: 50 Must-Read Higher Education Technology Blogs: The best blogs on MOOCs, cloud computing, mobile learning, social media, digital pedagogy and more” to find out. And for those who don’t know what a MOOC — Massive Open Online Course —  is, see more at MOOC List.

Reading, annotating & organizing PDFs

A tab for each open file with iAnnotateIs it the Paperless Society or the PDF Society? Either way, people still want to make their marks on things. Achieving the ease of a scribble on paper in the electronic world isn’t quite there yet, but is coming along nicely.

The three iPad apps that usually get top billing for making notes on PDF files are: GoodReader, PDF Expert and iAnnotate.  The three share many features — highlighting text in docs, adding “sticky notes,” etc. but handling ease varies.

Choosing PDF editing apps is a lot like choosing a mattress — everyone has very personal preferences. It’s best to read reviews then download and take a nap on one, so to speak.

App Store ratings indicate that the three are about equal. GoodReader:  4+ stars out of 5. $4.99; PDF Expert: 5 stars out of 5. $9.99; iAnnotate: 4+ stars out of 5. $9.99.

I tried all three and ultimately prefer iAnnotate. Many people and sites, however, prefer PDF Expert for its user-File and folder organization of iAnnotatefriendly format. While iAnnotate’s file organization and searching were once weak, the file organization is now the familiar folder and subfolder organization. Files are searchable by file name, user added tags or full text.

What works for me are: iAnnotate’s scrolling options, file organization, searching, and easy ability to have multiple files open at once with simple tabbed access. TabTimes: Tablets for Business says “iAnnotate is an indispensable tool for marking up all sorts of documents. Choose from a variety of pen types, highlighters, stamps, and other tools.”

For more info to find the best PDF app for you, explore the links below.

Summer Apps

CAM00065.000Calculate just how much fun in the sun you can handle with Wolfram Sun Exposure Reference App for iphone or ipad. Enter your location, skin tone and what level of sunscreen you’re using and Wolfram will calculate just how long you have before you go from sunkissed to sunburned. All for a mere 99 cents. The app also gives: UV forecast, sun position, sunrise and sunset times and weather forecast.

IMG_0178IMG_0177On the other hand, if you believe there’s no such thing as a safe tan (or if you’re inside on the computer all the time), don’t bake it, fake it! Get beautifully bronzed for all your Social Media posts with AutoTan (99 cents).

Think your fake e-tan should be free like a real suntan? Then pretty your pixels at iTanning. (Images on left are from iTanning.)