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:


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Five tips to turbo charge your web browsing habits

Of all the programs installed on your computer, the web browser is probably the most frequently used. Since you spend so much time surfing the internet, why not learn some ways to do it quicker and more efficiently? This post will highlight five browsing habits that will enable you to spend less time clicking buttons in a browser and more time viewing websites.

1. Take advantage of tabs

Tabs allow you to have multiple pages open at once and are great for multitasking and research on the web.

Tabs have been around for a while, and for a reason—if you're not using them, you're missing out on one of the best ways to browse the web. Tabs basically allow you to keep multiple webpages open at once, and you can switch between open tabs quickly. Rather than using a single window, open up new tabs to keep other webpages open and ready for you to return to.

Tabs can normally be opened by right-clicking on a link and selecting “Open in a new tab” (exact option varies by browser). You can also open a link in a new tab by middle-clicking the link with your middle mouse button/scroll wheel.

As an example of how tabs can improve your browsing experience, let's say you're researching something on Google. Rather than open each new link in the existing window, open the links in tabs so you can return to your search results quickly. Plus, if you find a site you want to keep open for reference, you don't have to navigate away from it—simply leave it in an open tab alongside your search results.

Be careful to close tabs after you're done with them, though—having lots of tabs open can slow down less powerful computers.

2. Use keyboard shortcuts

Why use the mouse when you don't even have to take your hands off the keyboard? Keyboard shortcuts take a bit to learn, but they shave valuable seconds off common tasks. A few seconds here and there might not seem like much, but they add up. Some of the most common and useful keyboard shortcuts for web browsing are as follows:
  • Ctrl-L highlights the address bar, allowing you to immediately begin typing a URL or search term.
  • Ctrl-T opens a new tab.
  • Backspace returns to the previous page, unless you're in a text input field.
  • Tab advances to the next input field—useful for when you're logging into a site and have to jump to another text box.
  • Enter/Return typically sends data if you're filling out a form.
  • Ctrl-H opens your browsing history.
  • Ctrl-D adds a bookmark/favorite.
There are many more shortcuts out there, and some are dependent on the browser you're using. These were tested using Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, but they should be universal.

3. Store frequently accessed bookmarks on the bookmarks toolbar

The Bookmarks toolbar can be enabled by
right-clicking near the top of the browser window.
There's no better place for your most frequently visited sites than the bookmarks toolbar. It's conveniently located and even displays colorful icons for your bookmarks, making them easier to recognize.

The bookmarks toolbar might already be present in your browser—it's usually right below your address bar. If you can't find it, it's easy to enable. Right-click on the top of your browser window and select “Bookmarks toolbar” (or “Favorites bar” if you're running Internet Explorer). You can move existing bookmarks to the toolbar and place new bookmarks directly onto it.

4. Ditch third-party toolbars

The Java installer includes the Ask Toolbar. If you don't
uncheck it during installation, you'll end up with the
toolbar in your web browser.
There are good toolbars and there are bad toolbars. Third-party toolbars such as the Ask Toolbar or Yahoo! Toolbar would qualify as the latter. If you have too many of them, they can be detrimental to your computer's performance.

The functions of many search toolbars can be replicated by simply using bookmarks in the bookmarks toolbar, so why take up valuable screen real estate?

To completely get rid of third-party toolbars, you'll have to uninstall them from your computer. You can do this by going to Programs and Features in the Control Panel.

5. Take search shortcuts using DuckDuckGo

If you really want to take your web browsing to the next level, consider using search shortcuts on DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo is a search engine just like Google. One of the nice features it offers is the ability to use shortcuts to directly search other sites like Wikipedia, Amazon, and many more.

DuckDuckGo uses special keywords preceded by a “!” character to search other sites. (A complete list can be found here.) For instance, if you want to search for “library” on Wikipedia, you can just type “!w library” into your address/search bar. This brings up the appropriate Wikipedia entry in your browser almost instantly.

By entering the above search query into DuckDuckGo,
you will be presented with the Wikipedia entry
for the term "library".

If you combine this method of searching with keyboard shortcuts (particularly Ctrl-L to access the address bar quickly), you can open pages in mere seconds, all without touching your mouse!

DuckDuckGo has the added benefit of being a privacy-oriented search engine that doesn't track or profile you, unlike Google. Don't get me wrong—Google is great for searching the web, and I still find myself using it as a secondary search engine. That said, DuckDuckGo is my primary portal to the web these days.

- - - - -

With these five time-saving tips, you should be able to use your web browser more quickly and efficiently, with a little less clutter along the way. I think everyone can agree that the time you normally spend fighting your web browser's interface is better spent actually surfing the web.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Get to Know Your Device

It’s difficult to adjust to a new tablet or smart phone. Often there is no manual in the packaging which means users must figure things out for themselves. Where do you turn for this information? Some rely on friends and family; some search online for answers; others just stumble upon how to do this and that as they use the device; many call the Library and ask for help.

Based on these interactions we have compiled a list of six things you should know about your device. Ranging from the more basic tasks (how to connect to WiFi) to more complicated (bookmarks; remove apps) this list is designed to help you get more comfortable using your device. Whether you have an Apple product (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch); Android device (Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus, Kindle, etc.); or Windows 8 below are links to videos and instructions that should simplify your life.

        I.            Connect to WiFi

How to connect to WiFi is one of the most common problems new users have. In order to fully take advantage of everything your device can do it must be connected to Internet. So learning how to connect to WiFi, no matter where you are – home, library, hotel, cafĂ©, etc. – should be one of the first tasks a new user should learn. No matter what device you have the process is simple. See below for more information.

o   How to connect to WiFi on Apple iPhone/iPad/iPod touch:

o   How to connect to WiFi on an Android device (like Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus, etc.):

o   How to connect to WiFi on a Windows 8 device:

      II.            Tabbed Browsing

Nearly all browsers now offer tabbed browsing – a feature that enables you to open multiple websites in a single browser window. Open web pages in new tabs and toggle back and forth between them. If used correctly it can greatly increase your web browsing speed. Chances are you already use tabbed browsing and have not even noticed. Some devices open a new tab every time you click on a link. This means you could have dozens of open tabs and have either not noticed and don’t know how to get rid of them. To learn more about tabbed browsing on your device – including how to close open tabs – see the links below.

o   Tabbed Browsing Safari (Apple):

§  Quick tip – close multiple tabs quickly:

o   Tabbed Browsing Chrome (Android):

o   Tabbed Browsing Internet Explorer (Windows 8):

    III.            Bookmarks

By using your web browser’s bookmarks feature you can save shortcuts to your favorite web pages and navigate to them in seconds from anywhere. Email, banking, news, social media – quickly access these sites by adding a bookmark. Most browsers call them bookmarks; Internet Explorer calls them Favorites. No matter the browser it takes just a couple clicks to set up a bookmark.

o   Add Bookmarks to Safari (iPad):

o   Add Boomarks with Android Browser:

    IV.            Delete or Remove Apps You Don’t Use

Your device’s manufacturer preloaded all kinds of apps to your device before you purchased it. De-clutter your home screen by removing apps you use infrequently. Free up storage space by deleting apps that you never use.

o   Apple:

o   Android:

§  Remove from Home screen:

o   Windows Start Screen tutorial – organize tiles and Pin/Unpin to Start:

Now that your Home screen is de-cluttered and you have freed up space by deleting apps you don’t use spend some time exploring the App Store for apps you might use. Like free apps to get free digital materials from the library – Hoopla (movies, TV shows, music); Zinio (digital magazines); and OverDrive Media Console and Kindle (e-books).

      V.            Symbols

Because of the limited screen space tablets and smart phones rely more and more on symbols. For example, to find the search bar on most websites you no longer should look for a clearly labeled SEARCH button. That has been almost universally replaced by a magnifying glass icon. Click that magnifying glass and a search bar will appear. Menu, home, and share are all icons as well. This can be a constant source of confusion for new users. Eliminate frustration by getting familiar with these symbols.  

o   Apple Menu Symbols:

§  Apple Status Bar Icons:

o   Various Share buttons. If you see something like this tap on it for options to Share what you’re looking at via message, apps, email, or social media:

    VI.            Your Device is Loading

So you open your web browser, type in a web address, and then click “Go”. Or you search for an app, and then tap “Install.” It might not be obvious how to tell if your web page is loading or if that app is installing. Instead of re-tapping “Go” or trying to reinstall the app look for a status bar to ensure your device is loading.

o   Apple Loading Graphic. If you see this wheel know that your device is loading your request:

o   Android Loading Symbol:


So there you go. Master these six topics and time spent with your device will be much more enjoyable. We’d love to hear from you - Do you still have questions? What did we leave out? What essential tools do you use with your device? Have you discovered a different way to accomplish these tasks? Feel free to share in the Comments section below.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

GCF: Goodwill Community Foundation

Need a little help with Math, Reading, Technology, or perhaps Job Skills but don't have time for traditional learning styles?  GCF, a Goodwill Industries support online learning program, might be what you need. 

GCF is a selfpaced, online learning opportunity with more than 750 different lessons for you to access and use to improve your skills or learn a new one in the fields of Math, Reading, Technology, and Job Skills.  It is free for anyone who wants to use.  All that is needed is a computer or mobile device with Internet access.

Once you have accessed the GCF website, click on the option of your choice.  A second box will appear with additional options for you to select.

Example:  Computer Basics
You will then be directed to individual lessons, interactivies, extras, and videos.  All are self-paced and focus on the selected topic. 

Example: Computer Basics Interactives
You will get full color, interactive screens that will help you along the path to learning.


Many sites require accounts but GCF does not require an account.  It isn't necessary to have an email, usernames, passwords, or other information for accounts.  Just sit back and learn.

Happy Learning,

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tech Tuesdays at the Library

Hi Everyone,
I just wanted to take a moment and invite you to our Tech Tuesdays @ the Main Library series being held at the SCDL Main Library every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month.

Tech Tuesdays @ the Main Library

Join us for Tech Tuesdays @ the Main Library. On the second and fourth Tuesday of each month join us as SCDL Technology Trainers and IT Specialists present a technology "I didn't know you could do that" demonstration.

Tuesdays ● 3:00-4:00 pm
Feb 25…Windows 8 demonstration

Mar 11…Transferring photos

Mar 25…Updating your computer

April 8…How to print labels

Apr 22…How to back up your computer

May 13…Sync your devices with iTunes

May 27…Smart phone clinic

Jun 10…How a computer works

Jun 24…Wireless printing from a mobile device

July 15…Christmas in July: Holiday Sampler

July 29…Your library account: Preferred Search

Aug 12…Create a book using Wikipedia

Aug 26…Free photo scanning to digital copies
No registration is required. 
Thanks for listening!

Monday, February 10, 2014

SkyDrive becoming OneDrive

Microsoft hasn’t been any more specific than “soon,” but at some point in the near future, SkyDrive will become OneDrive.   (The name change was necessitated by a trademark infringement suit in the UK with British Sky Broadcasting Group.)  Whatever you call it, you might be wondering exactly what it is.  People who have already made the leap to Windows 8 likely know, but even some Windows 8 users are confused by what’s going on with this service. Here are a very few brief highlights.  (For the sake of ease, I’ll refer to the service as OneDrive, even though it isn’t the official name quite yet.)

This service is simply online storage for your Microsoft Office files, whether they be Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or PowerPoint presentations.  You can also create new files in OneDrive, as well as store photos.  It’s a bit like Google Drive or Dropbox, but it can be incredibly integrated with your computer, especially if you’re on Windows 8.  For instance, on a Windows 8 computer, the default location to save a file is not that computer, but the OneDrive account associated with that computer.   I’ve got to say that on more than one occasion, I’ve nearly saved something to the wrong place, but I’m getting used to it.  And even if I do save something to the “wrong” place, I can log into my OneDrive account from any computer to access my file. 

It’s been quite handy when accessing my files from my computer at work.  I can download a file from OneDrive, edit in Word on my work computer, then save it right back to my OneDrive quite intuitively.  And it doesn’t matter if the file was created it Word 2013, saved to OneDrive, then edited in Word 2007, and resaved to OneDrive.

That’s just one of the things I really love about OneDrive, especially when compared to other services, like Google Drive.  The fact that the default file format is the Microsoft Office format is nice, since .doc files are far and away the most common, and almost anyone can open them.  Creating, saving, and editing either in the web app or Microsoft Office is pretty seamless,  but I have to qualify this because no one has yet made the web version of document software as robust as full Office software installed on your computer.  So sometimes there are formatting ticks, especially if you have images in a Word document.  But still, I’ve run across far fewer problems than with Google Drive. 

Probably my favorite feature is how easy it is to share single files or entire folders with someone else.  Just use the Share button to email someone either reading or reading and editing privileges and the file(s) is shared.  And according to news reports today, when OneDrive officially rolls out, there will be a co-owner feature to share and sync multiple accounts together.  The news also includes that in addition to the 7GB of free storage that comes with every account, OneDrive will be making up to 5GB more available for free to users to refer others to the service.

I’m certainly looking forward to what comes next with OneDrive.  It’s freely available with a Hotmail or Outlook email.  Find out more this summer, when I will be teaching a class at the North Branch Library about using OneDrive. The date is Wednesday, August 27 at 6:00 pm, in other words, just in time for the start of a new school year.  Registration for this class will open at the end of April. In the meantime, feel free to contact me with questions at North Branch (330)456-4356, or Technology Training at (330)458-3150.