Monday, October 13, 2014

A hands-on look at the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Microsoft released a technical preview of Windows 10 yesterday. The preview gives a hands-on look at the next version of the Windows operating system, which will release sometime in 2015. We downloaded the preview and gave it a spin on one of our computers here at the SCDL. Here’s an early look at what’s coming soon to a computer near you.

Return of the Start Menu

After a brief hiatus during which it was absent from Windows 8/8.1, the Start Menu has made a comeback in Windows 10. The new Start Menu blends a bit of the old and the new.

In addition to a traditional menu containing the programs installed on your PC, live tiles are now present in the right-hand pane. These live tiles are links to apps that first appeared in Windows 8, and can be customized to your liking.

The return of the Start Menu will be a welcome change for users who were used to Windows XP/Vista/7, and may make Windows 10 a bit easier to transition to than Windows 8 was.

Say Goodbye to the Start Screen

If you’re on a PC that uses a keyboard and mouse, the Start Screen will no longer appear by default when you boot up your computer. Characterized by its grid of tiles and live apps, the Start Screen made its debut in Windows 8. It was part of the Modern/“Metro” user interface, which was designed to provide a consistent user interface for both tablets and PCs.

Many traditional desktop/laptop users found the interface to be ill-suited for use with a mouse and keyboard, and Microsoft has listened to those complaints. You can always re-enable the old Start Screen if you’d like, but most users will probably find the reworked Start Menu easier to use.

Windowed Apps

Modern apps that previously appeared in the Start Screen now open in traditional windows, matching the behavior of normal Windows applications. These apps can be resized and moved, meaning you can have many of them open and displayed on screen at the same time. Previously, these apps typically ran in full-screen mode.

Modern apps are located in the Start Menu with the rest of your programs/applications.

Virtual Desktops

Windows 10 also brings a feature that has long been present on Mac OS X and other operating systems: virtual desktops. Virtual desktops are basically separate workspaces which allow you organize your open applications. This is especially useful if you’re working on a project and have a lot of programs open.

By clicking the Task View button on the taskbar, you can switch between open applications and move to a new virtual desktop. Whenever you click on an application that is already open in another desktop, you’ll automatically be switched to that workspace.

Try out Windows 10 for yourself

If you have a computer lying around and want to give Windows 10 a try, you can download the Technical Preview version here. Be careful, though—you’ll want to back up your existing documents and other data before installing Windows 10, and you can’t revert back to your original version of Windows without doing a clean install.

For those of you who'd rather wait for the finished product, Windows 10 will be released sometime in 2015. If you’re planning on buying a computer during that time, get ready—Windows 10 will likely come pre-installed on it.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Add your barcodes to a smartphone

My key chain is getting heavy.  Sounds like a funny statement once I put it into words.  Unfortunately, it's true.  I have keys and cards from all of my favorite stores, restaurants, and my library on my key chain for ease of use.  Alas, now instead of cluttering my key chain, I've put all of the cards' barcodes on my smart phone. 

There are a number of different apps that you can use but on my Android phone I used CardStar.  It was easy to access and add my barcode numbers.
Getting Started:
1.  Download the CardStar app to your Android smart phone using the Google Play Store.
2.  Once the app is downloaded tap on the CardStar icon to open.
3.  Tap on the image with the plus sign to add a new barcode.

4.  You may select from the list of options or tap Other to add a new barcode.
5.  A new screen will open asking your to type your barcode or scan it.
6.  Once you have completed adding your barcode tap Save.
7.  The next screen confirms your account information. If you tap on Title: Other you can change the name of the card from "Other" to "Stark County District Library". Tap OK.
8.  Back to the account review screen. If you are finished here tap Done and your library card has been added to your CardStar app.
Now your keychain is a little lighter and next time you visit the library you will not be fumbling through all of your cards. Simply grab your phone, tap the CardStar app, tap Stark County District Library and your library barcode will appear on your phone's screen. Scan the barcode at one of our Express Checkout stations to begin your checkout process.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Screen Lock and App Lock: What They Can Do For You

After finding my phone on more than one occasion with pictures in it I didn’t take, posts on my Facebook wall, and notes in my contacts…I put a screen lock on my phone.  A screen lock secures my device so that a password, pin, or pattern of my choosing needs to be entered before the device can be used.  This is great to keep people from using one of my devices and accessing my entire phone while it’s lying around the house or if I lose it.  However, if I decide to let someone use my phone and enter my pin, while they have it they have access to everything:  email, facebook, messages, settings etc.

So, to keep my personal information personal and my ringtone set to the one I like (and not what one of my children think is cute), I installed an app lock on my phone. There are several to choose from in the Google Playstore, and I chose AppLock by DoMobile Lab.

So far I’ve been pleased with the features and its ease of use.  You’ll need a pin number to install the app, but after that what you apply a lock to is entirely up to you.  It’s possible to lock individual apps, settings, even Wi-Fi, data and Bluetooth enabling.  I went through all of the options and picked the areas I don’t want others either browsing or changing on my device: messages, email, settings and contacts.  Now when I hand my device to one of my children I do not have to worry about them reading my messages, changing my ringtone, browsing my mail or any other inquisitive behavior on their part.  I didn’t lock other apps such as my library books or magazines since it doesn’t matter to me if they read those.  Now I can hand my device to someone and not have to worry about what they are doing while they have it. 

One small drawback is having to enter the pin number I created to access any of the locked features every time I want to use one.  When I want to send a text I have to enter the code again. For me this small inconvenience is far outweighed by the fact that I can keep my children out of my messages if they are using my device.  So take a look in your app store, read some reviews, and see if an app lock may help you manage your device and your privacy. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Windows 8.1 Update

The latest Windows 8.1 update rolled out last week, and most in the tech community see it as Microsoft’s attempt to win over PC users who found the operating system too tablet/touch screen based. The general consensus is that Microsoft achieved that goal, and I think PC World may have said it best: “Simply put, the Windows 8.1 Update no longer treats keyboard-and-mouse users as second-class citizens.”
The update should detect whether or not you are using a PC or a tablet and tailor some of the updates accordingly. (Full disclosure: I had some issues getting all of the PC pieces of the update to install on my Lenovo Yoga RT, and I wonder if it’s because it sits so close to the PC/tablet line that Windows didn’t know quite what to do.) A lot of the updates for PC users focus around the fact that even if they have a touch screen computer, there’s a real chance the user will be clicking a mouse instead of tapping a finger. For instance, hovering the mouse over the upper right corner of an app reveals our old friend, the Red X. Clicking that to close an app is distinctly easier than swiping from the top of the screen to the bottom in just the right way with a mouse. 

Another mouse-friendly change is the ability to right click on apps on the Start screen.  And what’s found in the menu that pops up when you right click? Among other things, the option to pin apps to the taskbar. So, even though the Calendar Metro app was designed for touch screen tablets and not a PC, I can now pin it to the taskbar and open it directly from the Desktop.

And speaking of the Desktop, if you’re using Windows 8.1 on a PC, it should now boot directly to the Desktop, skipping the Start screen. (This is one of the features I didn’t get with my troubled updates, but it’s pretty simple to do it manually. Right click on the taskbar and select Properties. Under the Navigation tab, click the box next to Show my desktop background on Start. Click Apply and OK.)

But what if I want to open the Calendar app when I have OverDrive Media Console open reading a book from the library? The taskbar is now accessible everywhere, not just the Desktop, by simply moving the mouse down to the bottom of the screen and hovering for a second—the taskbar pops up. And when I return to the Desktop to write myself a note in Microsoft Word, OverDrive Media Console shows up on my taskbar as an open program.

One last feature I want to mention (although there are many more) is the slow return of a true Start menu when working in the Desktop. A right click on the Start button now offers many of the options we had all come to expect from the Start menu, including the option to Shut down or sign out. So, no more hoping to swipe in just the right fashion over on the right side of the screen praying the charms menu will grace you with its presence so you can shut down. A simple right click in the bottom left corner over the Start button lets you click your way out, just like you did for years and years. And Microsoft promises to restore the Start menu to its former glory in a later update. Fingers crossed.

For some more information on the new features in the update, check out:

If you’re having problems with the update, these links might help: