Category: Informational (page 1 of 2)

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.

 

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  https://volume.itunes.apple.com/us/store/.  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 volume.itunes.apple.com 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: Read It Later With Instapaper

How many times a day do you come across articles or interesting items online that you don’t have time to read at that moment?

The most common method of saving such content is to create browser bookmarks. However, over time browser bookmark lists can become very long and unorganized.  Another common approach to saving content is to drag shortcuts to the desktop. Again, over time the desktop can become loaded with shortcuts.  Another challenge is that if you happen make use of several web browsers, or computers, the content saved one one is not available on another. In the end, what was once interesting content eventually gets lost in the clutter.

instapaper logo

One solution to addressing this problem is Instapaper, a “simple tool to save web pages for reading later.” This service allows one to save content accessed on one browser or device for later reading on a different browser or device.

After creating an Instapaper account, the user installs a browser ‘bookmarklet.’  When content is being view, one clicks on the Read Later  bookmarklet button. A “Saved!” message will briefly appear in the corner of the page as a link to the content is save on the users’ account.

All saved content is saved and accessed from the Instapaper site or app. An RSS feed is also available for all the items that have been saved allowing the content to be accessed from any RSS reader.

Some additional features:

  • If you use folders, each folder has a bookmarklet to save pages directly into it under the Folder Tools section in the sidebar.
  • Provides Kindle-compatible files containing the text versions of your saved pages that can be transferred via USB.
  • The bookmarklet also works on Apple mobile devices: just add it to your bookmarks in Safari, and it will be synchronized to the bookmarks folder. Many Apple applications make use of their API to provide support for sending pages directly to Instapaper.
  • Other Instapaper users can subscribe to a folder of your Starred items if they know your username.

As with many cloud-based services, Instapaper has no outside funding or corporate backing. So, although the service is free, it is ad-supported.

Eric Schnell   

TechTips: URL Shortening

URL shortening is the process of taking a long URL and turning it into, well, a shorter one.

For example, instead of using the 168 character URL http://library.ohio-state.edu/search~S7/?searchtype=a&searcharg=+gee+e+gordon&searchscope=7&SORT=DZ&extended=0&SUBMIT=Search&searchlimits=&searchorigarg=ae+gordon+gee, one could use the 27 character shortened URL of http://tinyurl.com/geebooks.

The mechanism for resolving a shortened URL is relatively simple. The long URL must first be registered with a URL shortening service. The service either generates a random shortened URL or the user could enter a custom ‘alias.’ The service maintains a database that contains the long URL and the shortened URL. When a web browser is directed to go to the shortened URL, the service performs a redirect of the shortened address and the browser is sent to registered long URL. There are many, many services that create shortened URLs, most notably TinyURL.com.

Shortened URLs are essential in communication channels where there is a limit to  the number of characters that can be used, such as with Twitter. Shortened URLs can be useful when reading longer URLs aloud to customers over the phone, including URLs in printed materials, or when adding URLs to video displays or embedding them within presentations. Shortened URLs are also much easier to enter into mobile devices.

One concern with URL shortening is that the domain of a URL plays an important role in identifying the authority of a resource. Which URL would you trust:  http://tinyurl.com/geebooks or http://osu.edu/geebooks? Simply put, brand/name recognition – the authority of an organization – disappears since the domain is hidden behind the shortened URL. Web users must select the shortened URL and actually visit the redirected site before discovering the site’s authority.

One solution to this authority issue is the growing use of branded URL shortening services. An example is Flickr. Each photo page also get a shortened Flickr URL. The domain flic.kr is owned and operated by flickr.com so the shortening service is as reliable as the Flickr service. Therefore, when someone navigates using a link with the domain flic.kr they know they will get a Flickr photo page, not a redirect to a site containing malware.

Another problem with using cloud-based services is when the services die, as tr.im almost did in August ’09,  all the shortened links would break. The person relying upon the service would have to  re-enter each URL into yet another shortening service, which could also die.  This would be a big problem if the shortened links generated by the service were to be included in printed publications.

Work is underway on an OSU branded URL shortening service that not only helps to promote and support the institutional brand by creating authoritive shortened URLs,  but also increases the chances that carefully crafted custom links will live a longer life.

Photo by schill under Creative Commons license

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: Extending Cellphone Battery Life

I recently purchased a new Android-based mobile phone. I spent the first day checking out all the features and options, downloading a bunch of applications, and experimenting with the GPS and location-based services. It didn’t take very long to notice the battery drained relatively quickly.

The problem with the current generation of phones is that all the neat features also eat away at the battery. They have large bright screens.  They have connections for 3G, Wi-Fi, and GPS. They connect to the Internet. They have applications that run in the background to provide alerts.

Simply put, cellphones spend a lot of time connected to their chargers these days.

Here are a few things one can do to extend cellphone battery life:

Check the settings of your background applications and notifications: Having email, Twitter messages, Facebook updates, and calendar appointments delivered minute-by-minute is perhaps the largest battery drain. Resetting the email polling interval from every 5 minutes to an hour will do wonders for battery life. If you keep multiple applications “open” for quicker access or alerts, run them only as needed. There is no need to get storm alerts if it is going to be 80 and sunny.

Turn off roaming/3G/4G when not needed:  If you have good coverage and are mostly usind the phone for talking, or get only occasional email updates, there isn’t a need to keep such a wide wireless connection open.

Use location-based services onlt when needed: Having the phone constantly look for new Bluetooth devices, Wi-Fi hotspots, GPS positions definitely eats up battery. Find out how to turn these things off on your phone, or automate their use. Add shortcuts and widgets to the homescreen to make it easier to control the radios.

Play with screen time-outs, brightness, and backlight: Adjust the setting for how long the screen stays lit after a quick check of the clock. Turn on automatic brightness so the screen auto-adjusts in light and dark environments rather than having brightness turned all the way up. Alternatively, lower the default screen brightness.

Keep it cool: Avoid keeping the battery at full charge and high temperature. This is the case when placing a cell phone or spare battery in a hot car. Keep it out of your pocket and away from your body heat whenever possible.

Turn off live wallpapers and vibrate; lower ringer volume: They do use processing power and eat into the battery life.

Please leave a comment if you have any other tips for extending smartphone battery life.

Tips:

 iPhone | BlackBerry | Windows Mobile | Palm

References:

LifeHacker | Gizmodo | wikiHow |

Photo by fbar under Creative Commons license 

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: What is Website Clickjacking?

Clickjacking describes a Web page / browser attack where user initiated mouse clicks trigger an unintended action, such as disclosing passwords and other confidential information. This action is done primarily by hiding clickable Web page elements inside an invisible frame. Clickjacking can affect all the major Web browsers — Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and even Opera by exploiting vulnerabilities in embedded code or a script on a Web site.

For example, the attacker may create a set of “dummy” buttons that are loaded transparently on top of another page. The visitor thinks that they are clicking on the visible buttons when, in reality, they clicking on the buttons located on the hidden page. Another technique is known as text injection, where attacker controlled text is entered into a field on a Web form.

One of the more recent clickjacking attacks was made on Facebook in 2009.

In a recent white paper, Paul Stone, researcher for UK-based Context Information Security LTD, discusses new attacks that dupe users into activating malicious links on websites without their even knowing it. website developers should read the paper. There is also a browser-based clickjacking tool available to show website owners how easy their site could be clickjacked.

While much of the management against the risk against clickjacking involves best practices by site developers, there are a few things the Web user can do.

Firefox users can download the “no script” plug-in. It allows JavaScript, Java and other executable content to run only from trusted domains of your choice, guarding your browser from some clickjacking attempts.

Internet Explorer 8 users can also mitigate the impact of attacks by logging out of sensitive websites when not in use or by using independent InPrivate Browsing sessions, which lets the user control whether or not IE saves browsing history, cookies, and other data.

Google Chrome now supports a security feature that helps sites defend against clickjacking attacks

While not immune to clickjacking attacks, Opera appears to have a decent built-in prevention.

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: Does Spokeo.com Violate My Privacy?

There has been a lot of discussion over the the past few weeks about a personal data aggregation service named Spokeo.  Just yesterday, I received an email about the site with a subject line containing the word “scary.”

The bottom line with Spokeo is that all the information pulled together with this service is already discoverable on the Internet. Some of the information is factual, the same as what one could find in a phone book. Other information is available through public records sites, such as property records.  Additional information is pulled from social networking sites.

Such services are not new. In fact, most of the data on Spokeo has been available on whitepages.com for years. Every time a new site pops up privacy concerns are raised, like a few years ago with ZabaSearch.

Spokeo’s began back in 2006 as one of the early aggregators of data that was mined from the various social networks. The early vision for the service was as a customizable browser home page that could keep track of friends activities from all those sites. The recent increase in discussion about the service began about a month ago when the latest version was released.  All the chatter is certainly driving a lot of traffic to their site, making “spokeo” among the top Google search terms over the past last few weeks.

While all the information on Spokeo is generally discoverable otherwise, and may be actually inaccurate or old, there is a way to have your information removed:

  1. Go to Spokeo.com
  2. Search for your name. One can narrow the search for common names by adding a city and state.
  3. Select your name to see the information listed
  4. Copy the Web site address for your information page
  5. Go to their Privacy Page
  6. Paste the Web address in the URL field
  7. Enter an email address to receive a confirmation message
  8. Enter CAPTCHA code shown on the screen
  9. Click “Remove Listing”
  10. Open the email message sent by Spokeo and click the embedded link
  11. Search Spokeo to confirm your record has been removed
  12. Remember, all this does is remove your Spokeo profile. All your information is still on the internet – just not pulled together on this site.

Scary? Well, what may be scary is how much of your personal information has been made available though your activities on social networking sites.

Eric Schnell  

TechTips: foursquare

Foursquare is an location-based social networking service (some call it a game) that is a combination a Facebook status, a Twitter update, and a Yelp restaurant review.  Users “checkin” at different locations,  unlock badges, post “to-dos” and “tips” for different locations. The goal of the service is to help users find new ways to explore a city by “discovering new places, doing new things and meeting new people.”

Users checkin to foursquare from their mobile devices using a text message or from an iPhone or Droid application. There is also a web form and the FoursquareX desktop application for (mac) laptop users.

Users can also can see other foursquare users that have checked into the same physical location, or that are in close vicinity.  The application is able to identify a user’s current location using a variety of methods including GPS and WiFi mappings.

For example, one can see those that have checked into Ohio State’s Thompson Library,  the Science and Engineering Library, or even Adriatico’s Pizza.

Upon checkin, one may leave a short tip about the location or about services offered at that location. For example:

foursqaure tip

Checkins can be pushed to Facebook or Twitter accounts, or, only be communicated to other foursquare users. Alternatively, one can also checkin but elect not to share the location. Such checkins appear as [off the grid]. One can also get a direct message from Twitter when a friend checks in.

The possible uses for foursquare in libraries could include:

–  Incentives for those checking into the library. The Mayor could be given reserved seating or priority access to group study rooms.

– Library events could include check-with prizes for the first person who checks in or includes a ‘shout.’ 

– Someone checking in, and identifying themselves to staff, could be given $X amount of free printouts/copies.

There are other similar services that help friends find each other like BrightKite and Google Latitude. However, there is currently more excitement around foursquare since it incorporates elements of gaming and social competition.

Here are a couple of tips for new foursquare users:

– Don’t push all your checkins to Facebook or Twitter. This can quickly annoy your friends, or make them feel like they are stalking you

– Do selective posting to Facebook or Twitter and make sure to include a ‘shout.’

– Turn off the option to push an update Facebook or Twitter when you are elevated to mayor or earn a badge.

References:

Foursquare, Libraries, and Librarians
Foursquare in Libraries: Social Media Incentives for Engaged Patrons
Location based services and Libraries – Tweets & Foursquare
Fourquare and Libraries – Anything There?

Eric Schnell 

TechTips: Twitter Phishing

The other week I got a ‘tweet’ from a new colleague. The update seemed harmless enough. It enthusiastically pointed me a web site they thought was humorous. Suspecting nothing, I clicked on it. I thought it a bit odd when my browser opened to my Twitter account requesting that I log in, odd since I didn’t remember logging out. Then nothing appeared to happened.

Moments later, an update appeared from my account which was identical to the one my colleague sent. My stomach sank. I was Twitter scammed. (Yes, it does happens to IT folks from time-to-time!) I immediately logged in on a different machine and changed my password.

A number of updates were soon posted that it was a wide spread attack. Within a few hours Twitter had cleaned up all these infected message and reset those peoples’ passwords. The hacked accounts were used to tweet spam pushing diet supplements.

After getting over my embarrassment for falling for it (but hey, even a CNN anchor got his account hacked), I performed some forensics work on my colleague’s update. I used this experience to come up with a few tips on how to avoid getting caught up in a Twitter phishing scam:

  • While shortened URLs help keep updates under the 140 character limit, they also make it easy for someone to embed a fraudulent address into an update since there are no clues on the authenticity. I like to use TweetDeck since it expands the shortened URLs in updates so they can be examined.   To check where they lead, visit longurl.com or install the LongURLPlease plug-ins that lets you hover over a shortened link and see the full URL before you click.
  • If you have gotten caught up in a phishing scam you should change your password immediately. If that password is used for other sites you may wish to change those as well.
  • Delete the infected messages from your Twitter feed and from wherever else they were syndicated.

Eric Schnell 

TechTips: Cloud Computing

I mentioned the concept of cloud computing in an earlier TechTip on Netbook computers. Network Diagram

Many library staff members are already experienced users of cloud computing – without even knowing it.  Some are using the cloud in the form of GoogleDocs. Staff users of Facebook  take advantage of cloud, as do those that use photo sharing services such as Flickr.

In very basic terms, cloud computing is when data and software applications reside on and are drawn from the network rather than locally on any one workstation or a particular device. The ‘cloud’ is simply a metaphor for the Internet since that is how it is depicted in most computer network diagrams. The important point to know about cloud computing is that represents a paradigm shift in how we think about our data and the role of our computing devices.

Most people rely entirely upon their devices (desktop or mobile) to store information and run applications. How many have panicked over misplacing a presentation disc, accidentally deleting a presentation file, copying the wrong file version onto a USB key, or simply grabbing the wrong USB key? A misplaced mobile device or a PC crash is devastating since all data and applications are lost if not aggressively backed up (and we all back up, don’t we!?).

With cloud computing, the focus shifts away from which devices can effectively store data and able to run applications to which devices provide the easiest access to data and applications – which are stored at various places on the Internet. The iPhone has become very popular since it is in essence a cloud computing oriented device.

How libraries can use the cloud is a current topic of discussion within many library organizations and associations. At this point in the emergence of cloud computing in libraries there are many questions being asked. How can libraries use the cloud to both personalize and localize the user’s information seeking experience? Can the cloud save libraries money and resources by using computing devices more efficiently? How our users interact with the cloud, how our services may need to be modified to fit into emerging user patterns?

One thing that is certain, the way in which we think about library computing infrastructures and architectures need to change in order to effectively incorporate cloud computing.

Yes, I know.  What happens if an Internet connection goes down or the servers crash? How do we get our spreadsheets on the cloud when offline? After all, the most important files are the ones we need access to at ALL times! The reality is that these issues can be placed in the CON side of every service or solution libraries are talking about implementing today. Without the network most libraries services are shut down.

The cloud is already out there and libraries need to start thinking about how they may need to adjust services in order to effectively adapt to how users are interacting with it.

Eric Schnell

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