Author: Eric Schnell (page 1 of 4)

Google Launches Chrome Apps for Mac

Google has announced that it has brought Chrome Apps to the Mac.

First introduced in September 2013 for Windows and Chromebook users, Chrome Apps are designed to function like native Mac apps, working offline, updating automatically, and syncing on any computer where a user is signed into Chrome.  Chrome Apps behave and feel just like native software.

After install, Chrome Apps on a Mac can be found in the Applications folder on the Dock.  To make finding and launching Chrome Apps quicker, Google is also releasing the Chrome App Launcher for Mac.

Just download one of the new Chrome Apps and you’ll see the new Chrome App Launcher in your Dock.


iPad App Store App Update Page Got You Blank?

Over the past few days a significant number of iPad users have been left staring at blank App Store app update screens. It appears Apple is aware of the problem. How people have worked around the issue have been all over the board and no one solution works for everyone.

While some have been able to solve the problem and update their apps through manually updating apps under the Purchased button option. Some have fixed it by changing the language option. For many others, the system just fixes itself over time.

I tried most of the fixes and they did not work for me. However, I came across this suggested fix and it did work on the two iPad’s I tried, so I wanted to share…

  1. Kill the App Store app
  2. In settings, set side switch to rotate lock
  3. Make sure rotate is unlocked
  4. Turn iPad horizontal so side switch side is up
  5. Lock, and when icon fades, unlock
  6. With iPad still horizontal, launch App Store app
  7. Select the App Store app Update button

Again, this may or not work for you, but while it seems strange, it did work for me.

-Eric Schnell

A Few Alternatives to Google Reader

Twitter lit up on March 13th when Google announced it was shutting down Google Reader on July 1st. Google Reader was launched in 2005 but apparently over the years usage has declined. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout.

After looking at a few alternatives over the last couple days I’ve decided that even if Google decides not to pull the plug, I may stick with an alternative. This is primarily since many of the alternatives provide more of a magazine-style presentation of the content when compared to Google Reader’s headline display.

feedly (

This has become a popular alternative. The feedly team has been working on a project called Normandy which is a feedly clone of the Google Reader API. When Google Reader shuts down, the goal is for feedly to  seamlessly transition to the Normandy on the back end. So Google Reader users that are using feedly will have any wasy transition.

Bloglines (

Ironically, when Google Reader started up Bloglines was an early causality. However, the service is back with new ownership and offers a similar Google-like summary of headlines as well as a usable mobile experience.

The Old Reader (

This basically is Google Reader. The interface is familiar and one can login with your Google account to import feeds.  The downside is that social integration is only through Facebook. Currently, there are also no apps.

Digg Reader (

Digg just launched it’s new RSS reader service. Its beta is currently in invitation only. It features like a built-in Instapaper button and full-on Digg thumbs-up, thumbs-down integration.


 -Eric Schnell

TechTips: BuckeyeBox: New Cloud-based Storage

BuckeyeBox is a cloud-based service provides a simple, secure way to store and share files and folders online that is now available to OSU faculty and staff. It will be available to students  in early 2013.

Similar to Dropbox and other online tools, Buckeye Box consolidates your content in a single location, accessible from anywhere, on any device. You can create files and folders, share them using a direct link, invite colleagues and classmates to collaborate, and continue to revise and review your content. Though similar in appearance to services such as DropBox, BuckeyeBox integrates OSU systems and security. The service will be available to faculty and staff on Saturday and will be opened to students in January.

BuckeyeBox is designed as a collaboration tool appropriate for personal files and institutional information classified as public or internal.  It is not for any institutional data classified as “protected,” “restricted,” or “critical.” As such, Protected Health Information (PHI) should never be stored on BuckeyeBox. See Data Classifications and appropriate data for BuckeyeBox at OSU.

Main features

  • View files of many types, including images and audio/video; for a full list, see Box support’s What file extension types can be viewed by Box’s Content Preview?
  • Access content through all major web browsers (i.e., Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) and through mobile devices running iOS, Android, and BlackBerry
  • Access through Microsoft Office applications (Windows only)
  • Share files and folders while controlling the level of access others have, with a range of permissions from view-only to full editing and collaboration rights
  • Comment on files
  • Create simple workflows using assigned tasks
  • Sync files between your desktop and other devices, and access them even when offline

Getting Started / How to Find Help


-Eric Schnell

TechTips: Near Field Communication

Anyone that has gone into a retail store recently has likely seen a Mastercard “PayPass” pad at the checkout station. Using a credit card with a special built in chip, the customer makes contact with the pad with the card rather than swiping it. NFCThe technology behind the tap-to-pay devices is call near field communication.

Near field communication (NFC) is a technology allows enabled devices to communicate with other devices by establishing radio communication, by either touching them or bringing them into close proximity of one another. This is done through the use of NFC chips, or tags, which can be custom-encoded or may use the specifications provided by the NFC Forum, an industry association charged with promoting the technology and setting key standards. The tags can securely store personal data such as debit and credit card information, loyalty program data, PINs and networking contacts, among other information. NFC typically tags contain data and are typically read-only but may be rewriteable.

Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are similar to NFC since all three allow wireless communication and data exchange between digital devices. However,  the significant difference with NFC is that it utilizes electromagnetic radio fields while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi utilize radio waves. NFC builds upon Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems by allowing two-way communication and works in the same 13.56 MHz radio frequency spectrum. Unlike RFID, both the NFC device and the tag can initiate the communication.

One application of NFC technology already on the market is the Google Wallet, a mobile payment system that allows its users to store debit cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, and gift cards among other things, as well as redeeming sales promotions on their mobile phone. BMW is working to allow car owners to use their key NFC  key FOBs to store downloaded event tickets or check out of a hotel. Hospitals can use NFC to monitor patients at their homes. Students cab use their NFC enabled phones to get into their dorm rooms. A fun application of the technology is the Karotz Bunny.

There are many interesting possibilities for this technology:

– Touch a mobile device over display at a local museum or at an exhibit to access more information and multimedia content
– Touch a device at a display or a poster to create an interactive experience
– Could replace the pairing step of establishing Bluetooth connections or the configuration of Wi-Fi networks

As with other such technologies there are concerns aabout privacy and security. Adopters will want to know that all of their vital information is encrypted and that that viruses can’t be passed by NFC.

TechTips: Discounted Apple Mobile Apps

Departments which have deployed Apple devices should consider taking advantage of Apple’s Volume Purchase Program to license mobile apps that support the work of their staff.  This program allows educational institutions to purchase multiple copies of the same Apple app with many of the developers offering up to 50% off of these multiple purchases.

To find out which apps are available through the discount program search  Each app’s page details the volume pricing.  For example, if you search Pages it states that the cost is $9.99 ea (1-19 units) and $4.99 ea (20+ units).

To utilize this program one must must have a Program Facilitator account. However,  WiredOut also serves this role and has a simplified process and departments can now order activation codes through them with using an eRequest:

  • go to to find an app and figure out the pricing.
  • generate an eRequest to WiredOut ( listed as an internal order / vendor in the eRequest system as WiredOut, The Tech Store @ OSU)
  • once they process the order, whomever is listed on the eRequest will receive an email with a spreadsheet containing download links and activation codes.
  • activation codes work just like a gift card and are entered in the system for each license.

For more information or questions, contact WiredOut.

TechTips: Google Drive

Google has finally released their long awaited competitor to Dropbox, SkyDrive, and iCloud, which they are calling Google Drive. Individuals can get up to 5GB of space for free but a premium service is available for 25GB at $2.49/mo, 100GB for $4.99/mo, and $49.99 a month for 1TB.

Users of Google Docs will find Drive very familiar. In fact, Google Docs is built into Drive.  Just like Docs, one can collaborate with others on documents, can share content with others, and one can add and reply to comments and receive notifications when others have commented on shared items.

Users can attach photos from Drive to posts in Google+ and will soon be able to attach Drive content into Gmail, which can reduced the reliance on the use of file attachments. Work is also underway to allow third-party apps to access the content.

Drive supports a large number of file formats and includes the Google Drive viewer, which allows one to preview documents in 16 formats. Drive also tracks changes made to content so one view the revision history for the past 30 days.

Like other cloud storage services, Drive provides a single location at which to save and store documents and media content that can be automatically synced across multiple devices.  Since Google is also behind Android, it’s mobile version of the service was released first. As of this writing the iPhone/iPad app had not yet been released. Drive also takes advantage of Android’s accessibility features so those with sight impairments can use the mobile app, eyes-free.

The desktop client works just like Dropbox’s.  A folder is created locally which is used to store the content to be synced. One simply has to drag and drop an item in the Drive folder. Also like with Dropbox, the contents of the folder can be managed as any local folder. Since the desktop I first installed the client on is located behind a corporate firewall, Dropbox required the use of a proxy to allow real-time syncing. This was not the case with Drive. After installation, I dragged a file into the desktop folder and it showed up on the web client within 3 seconds.

Those with Google/Gmail accounts should visit to get set up. It may take a day or two for your account to be setup. There is plenty of online support available.

Eric Schnell

TechTips: Optimizing the New iPad

It’s been a  few weeks since  the release of the new iPad and early adopters have uncovered a few “features” which can be optimized to get the most out of the device.

Data Plan Management

Edward Baid at USA Today wrote about how the new iPad’s 4G service can use up a data plan’s allotment very quickly.  In fact, streaming an hour of high-definition video alone on either Verizon or AT&T’s4G data networks can use up an entire monthly allocation. One’s data allocation can also be eaten by using the 4G service to download apps already purchased for another iPad onto the new iPad through Apple’s iCloud. While the new iPad has a 50MB per app download limit on 4G. The data use required to move all the smaller-sized apps to the new iPad collectively using 4G adds up.

Verizon has advised users to use Wi-Fi when it is available to help extend the data plan since the iPad almost always defaults to a Wi-Fi connection when available. To ensure that you don’t use cellular data it would be a good practice to turn off Cellular Data within Settings when you don’t need it. Or, just shut deactivate the LTE service. Since the data plans on both AT&T and Verizon are prepaid one can select only what you think you’ll need and then add on or cancel data plans as often needed under the Cellular Data opinion in Settings.

Battery Life

The retina display on the new iPad is exceptional with great screen resolution and the enhanced color saturation. However, both features also require a lot of battery power. So much so that although the battery on the new iPad has 70 percent higher capacity than the iPad2 it still has the same run time.

Information Week posted several tips for optimizing the battery life:

  • Instead of using the auto-brightness setting, which adjusts the brightness to match the amount of ambient light, use the manual controls. The suggestion is to set the display set to about 25%-30% brightness, which is still plenty bright for indoor use.
  • App notifications use battery power even when the device is not being used since they turn on the display and use battery when they arrive, even for 5 or 10 seconds. In the Notifications setting menu, turn Notifications “off” for as many apps as possible. For apps which you must have notifications, turn the View on Lock Screen setting off so the display is not turned on when notifications arrive.
  • Wireless radios rank second to the display in battery use.  The new iPad defaults to using Wi-Fi when available. If you have access to Wi-Fi turn the cellular radio off completely. Turn off Bluetooth unless you’re actively using a Bluetooth accessory, such as a keyboard.
  • Location services (GPS) also drain battery. Turning location services off completely can extending battery life. If certain apps need location services one can just limit notifications to only those apps that must use them.
  • The iPad uses battery when it wakes itself up to check for email or other synced data (such as calendar/contacts)  To increase battery life turn off push email entirely or sync once every 15, 30, or 60 minutes. Better yet, have it sync manually and it will only check for mail only when the email app is opened. This is also a good strategy for lowering data plan usage.

Test results from DisplayMate Labs conclude that the battery life indicator on the new iPad displays 100% charged when it is really at about 90%. The labs suggest that  if one stops charging the new iPad when the battery indicator says 100% you won’t get the maximum running time. To maximize the battery keep your iPad plugged in for an hour or so more after the display reads 100%.  The lab also discovered that when the new iPad is fully discharged it takes 5.5 hours to charge. That’s only if the new iPad is off or in sleep mode. The labs estimates that recharging while using the new iPad, with the display set to maximum brightness, will take about 20 hours. It would be a good practice to charge the new iPad overnight or when you’re not tempted to pick it up while it is charging.

Portable HotSpot

The Verizon version of the new iPad launched with the ability to use the device as a portable WiFi hotspot, allowing other deives to sdhare the network connection. There is an option of sharing the data connection using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or a USB connection.AT&T has indicated that they are working on this feature.   Setting up the new iPad as a hotspot is fairly simple and requires an active cellular data plan.

Of course, having more devices using the connection will also eat up the data plan allocation.

Eric Schnell

TechTips: Optimizing EndNote to Access Full Text

Many researchers take advantage of bibliographic management soft to search online bibliographic databases, organize their references, images and PDFs, and to create bibliographies and figure lists. Although the a central site license provides campus access to RefWorks, many researchers instead use EndNote.

Bibliographic management tools like EndNote can not only help researchers to manage references, they can also be used to search for full text. To increase the liklihood that EndNote will find full text resources requires the proper configuration and an understanding of certain limitations:

  1. Finding full text requires the OpenURL path of (see config at right)
  2. Finding full text requires authentication with URL (see config at right)”
  3. Searching and finding full text may work better on campus than off due to different resource authentication methods and licensing agreements.
  4. EndNote offers several pathways to some databases, such as Medline. However, OSU Libraries may not have access through each of these pathways.
  5. Thomson-Reuters offers excellent FAQs, tutorials and webinars at
  6. Additional bibliographic styles can be downloaded at
  7. EndNote is available at a discount price of $79 at the campus WiredOut store.

Eric Schnell and Jessica Page

TechTips: The “Quora” Question and Answer Service

Quora One of the hot emerging social media sites is a service called Quora. Started by former Facebook employeesQuora is a “continually improving collection” of questions and answers that are user created, edited, and organized. Quora aggregates all the questions and associated answers while allowing users to collaborate on any of them.

Yes, question and answer services have already been done to death, such as Google Answers and  Yahoo! Answers. However,  Quora has a much more authoritative tone and has a better understand of the whole social element than the predecessors. Users can follow/be followed buy other users (no spambots!) and one can also follow subjects and individual questions of interest. Since the service does  leverage existing social media spaces such as Facebook and Twitter, new users will quickly see familiar faces, which helps to validate the service. As with other social media outlets, contributors can use the service to establish a reputation within specific areas of expertise.

Once logged in (one must have an account to use the service), users type in keywords to find questions on subjects.  The search bar provides auto-suggestions that helps to identify questions and topics that have already been asked relating to the keywords. The user interface does take a few tries to figure out in part since the label “Ask Question” makes one assume queries must be in the form of a question.

Since the developers would like new question entered into the system to be properly constructed, the system requires new users to successfully identify properly formatted questions before they can pose their first question.  All new Quora users should read this post first before jumping in and answering questions. One of the more interesting features is that any member can edit another member’s question.

Users can not only answer any question as well as comment on the topics attached to the questions and answer other member’s answers. The site suggests that users summarize links and references in a sentence or two. A Digg-like rating system allows the more popular answers to move to the top of the list.

Pundits will likely view Quora as they did Wikipedia in its early days since  Quora also relies on the users for quality control. The primary difference being that the answers in Quora are directly attributable to specific individuals.

As was the case with Wikipedia, Quora has the potential to turn into a useful starting point for any line of query and result in a new type of search engine. Or, it could turn into ” a continuously spamming collection of unanswered questions created, answered, and organized by no-one that uses it”.

Eric Schnell

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