Ever visit Google and see this?

igoogle5.jpg

What the heck is going on here? “Create your own home page in under 30 seconds?” Why do I need a home page?

To get back to good old Google, click on “Classic Google” on the top right corner.

igoogleexit1.jpg

But wait, there’s a nice clock, some news, and videos – this could be fun!

iGoogle

iGoogle is one of several start page web apps you can use to create your own private web homepage. Quickly check all your web favorites daily, all in one spot; no more looking up several web sites and remembering all those pesky passwords. If you don’t want to bother with sites like Bloglines, Start pages offer an easy way to keep up with RSS feeds.With iGoogle, you can integrate other Google services, like GMail, Google Maps, News, or Calendar. Plus, add stuff from other websites you often visit. If you already have a Google account for any of these, you already have a page to work from. If you don’t have a Google account, sign up at igoogle.com using your email.

MyYahoo!

Maybe you spend more time in Yahoo!-land with their news, mail, and maps? MyYahoo! offers a start page featuring your Yahoo!Mail, calendar, and favorite web sites/bookmarks. From the Yahoo! home page, click on “MyYahoo!” to get started. You can browse the content directory for all sorts of things to put on your private page.

Netvibes & PageFlakes

If you’re still itching for more versatility and widgets, try these out. Netvibes and Pageflakes combine RSS feeds and tiny applications respectively called modules and flakes. You can load calendar or to-do list modules, check the local weather, my emails – all from one spot. As soon as you visit Netvibes or Pageflakes, dozens of features and feeds instantly open. You can add or delete to them by selecting “add content” or “menu.”

Once you have your own personal start page, you can pull in news by RSS from your favorite web sites. You can even listen to podcasts! Next, find modules/flakes for other web apps (del.icio.us, craigslist, local events, photos…) that will log you in automatically. Then, add a fish tank or some comics for fun.

Dublin City Libraries uses Pageflakes as the start page for their public computers, to combine their library and community links with popular web destinations.

Kyle on NetVibes

netvibes.jpg

“I started a netvibes a while back and I rarely ever checked it. Then, I discovered I could pre-load the same half dozen web sites that I referred to constantly on the service desk (library catalog, encore, intranet, databases, email, etc.). This was a big time-saver as I rotated to different desks all day. Add the “Web page” tool, then edit the settings to direct it to the address you want to show up.” – Kyle

Jenny on iGoogle:

igoogle8.jpg“I tried NetVibes and I didn’t ever really like it. It had arcade Frogger – cool, but not very useful. Next, I tried PageFlakes. The first thing I found there was a widget that let me view local TV listings. What a useful app – I could check the TV listings before leaving work so I’d know what to watch at the YMCA!

The trouble with a lot of apps is the password thing – I don’t want to remember one more password. So, even though I like PageFlakes, I’ve started using iGoogle. It has has a similar TV listing widget. Plus, I can get to Google Docs without using another password! I’ve set iGoogle as my homepage, so now when I bring up the Internet, I can quickly log in and see my calendar, to do list, and Google Docs. There’s an RSS reader there too.” – Jenny

iGoogle | MyYahoo! | Netvibes | Pageflakes

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
1. Visit ONE of the start page web apps. (registration not required).
2. Add Nashville weather, local news, to the top of your page.
3. In the comments, tell us how libraries might use start pages.
4. Take the survey.
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We got a really good question in response to the post about downloading music at the library. It was such a good question, that we’re devoting a whole post to it. Read on…

Question:

What’s the library policy about assisting with illegal downloads from non ad-supported or P2P (peer to peer) sites?
Answer:

The library’s ethical use of the Internet policy states:

“All users of electronic information resources such as the Internet are expected to use these resources in a responsible manner, consistent with the educational and informational purposes for which they are provided. It is unacceptable to use the Library’s computer system and Internet resources for … any purposes which violate applicable U.S. or state laws. Users must respect all copyright laws and licensing agreements pertaining to software, files and other resources obtained via the Internet.”

By going online at a public computer, they’ve already agreed to legal use, but people don’t always think about copyrights when using the Internet.

The p2p (peer to peer) websites we’re aware of require a software download, so that might not be an issue. But people post mp3s online illegally all the time. When asked for help, you can show a patron the mechanics of downloading a file and saving it to a flash drive. After you explain the mechanics, you might say something like “remember that this may be copyrighted, you may need to purchase it or make sure you have permission to download it” or “make sure you check the copyright before you download this.” Frame it as “we are looking out for you.” Do not be judgmental, don’t accuse of them anything. Just remind them to check for their own benefit. After you’ve showed them the general mechanics of downloading to a flash drive, they’re on their own.

If you have any other questions about downloading music, please post them here and we’ll do our best to answer them!

To kick off March Apps Mania, we would like to introduce our first guest blogger! Bryan Jones, of Main-Popular Materials, will introduce this weeks apps.

Did you first consider working in a library because you loved books? The Internet has enhanced the way book lovers interact with books. The web is a great place to buy books and access your library’s catalog from home. Now there are many more book-related web applications where book lovers gather to share, swap, and talk about their favorite books.

Besides nurturing our bibliophilia, these web applications can help us with readers’ advisory. Let’s take a quick overview of some book-based web applications and see what fun and useful things they can do.

Goodreads

goodreads.jpgGoodreads is a social network that lets you keep track of all the books you have read, are currently reading, or want to read in the future. You can rate the books you have read and write reviews. You can create your own categories to sort your books; e.g., nonfiction, genres, graphic novels. By becoming online friends with people you know, or others that have similar reading interests, you can find out what like-minded people are reading. Because you can write reviews and comment on books, dialogues form about the books you love, or perhaps more fun, books you hate. Goodreads also keeps track of what books are most popular, most unpopular, and most reviewed. You can also start or join groups about specific authors or genres. If you are a private person, your profile can be totally private, and be used as a way to sort your personal library.

LibraryThing

librarything.jpgMuch like Goodreads, LibraryThing lets you catalog your personal library or connect with other readers. You can keep track of all the books you own, rate them, and organize them by keyword (tag). LibraryThing markets itself to those with slightly higher standards of bibliographic control. When you add your books you can import entries from 252 bibliographic databases, including the Library of Congress (Goodreads relies on user data and Amazon.com). If you choose to make your profile public you can join groups and share recommendations. You can tag authors as your favorites and then be given read-a-likes.

BookMooch

bookmooch1.jpgFor those more interested in physical objects than electronic ones there is BookMooch, an online book trading site. When you register with BookMooch, you create a list of books you are willing to give away, and a list of books you want sent to you. When you give a book away you get points added to your account. When you request a book you get points taken away. All you pay in this transaction are the shipping fees. It is a simple, brilliant idea. If you choose, you can also give your points away to the many charities that have BookMooch accounts. This helps put books in the hands of people that need them the most.

SwapTree

swaptree.jpgSwapTree is a lot like BookMooch, only you can trade music, movies, and video games as well as books. Start by making a list of things you want and a list of things you are willing to trade. SwapTree automatically matches the items you are willing to trade with people that have things that you want and want what you have. You can add items to your willing to trade list by entering the UPC or ISBN number. A list of matching trades is instantly generated. SwapTree also lets you create or join groups of traders that live/work in the same place or have similar interests. Why pay shipping when you can exchange items in the break room at work?

LibriVox

librivox.jpgToday we’ve talked about where to go to catalog your books, meet people who like the same books, and trade books. You might be asking, where’s the free stuff? The free stuff is on LibriVox! LibriVox offers free downloads of audiobooks created from texts that are in the public domain. Generally, this means anything published in the United States before 1923. All of the files are available in .mp3 and .ogg formats, which play in nearly all portable media devices. The organizers of LibriVox are attempting to systematically create recordings of all books in the public domain. Volunteers read texts which are then uploaded to the site. If you want to volunteer, just sign up and see what texts they need readers for. Editors oversee the project for quality control.

We’ve covered a lot of ground today, but some of these applications may be more familiar than you think. If you shop at Amazon.com you can use the account you already have to create a profile with functionality similar to Goodreads or LibraryThing. If you find you like one site better than another, it is easy to import all your books to and from.

– Bryan Jones

LibraryThing | Goodreads | BookMooch | SwapTree | LibriVox

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
1. Try out one ONE of the Book apps (Register, if necessary).
2. Take the survey.
3. In the comments, tell us how libraries might use book apps.

    We know, this is the second post in one week. This wasn’t originally part of March Apps Mania, but consider this the winner of the “play-in game.” We posted about streaming music this week. But what about downloading music? Can you download mp3 files on library computers? We’ve done some research and we hope this post will clarify things.

    One note: music file = mp3. There are other types of music files (wma, aac, ogg), but for our purposes today, music file = mp3.

    Can anyone download music on library public computers?

    Short answer – Yes. But…you have to download an mp3 from a website that does not require special software.

    Downloading a song is different from streaming a song. If you stream a song on Pandora, you just click play and listen. You haven’t saved the song for later. If you wanted to hear the song again, you’d need to go back to Pandora. When you download a song, you are saving it for later. On public computers, you can download a song file (or mp3) and save it on a flash drive. Downloading and saving an mp3 is no different from saving a resume or a photo.

    The trouble you run into on public computers has to do with downloading software (like iTunes). Downloading an mp3 file is just like saving a resume, but some websites require you to use specific software to download music files.

    Amazon and iTunes both have music you can buy and download. If you buy a song from iTunes, you have to use the iTunes software. Because software cannot be installed by the public, they cannot buy music from iTunes. If you buy a song from Amazon, you don’t have to install any software. Amazon lets you buy and download a song right to your flash drive. Basically, you can download music on library computers when the site does not require software installation. There are a lot of websites that sell mp3s, some require software and some don’t.

    Should I help someone download music? How much can I help a patron?

    Yes, absolutely help someone with a question about downloading music!

    If someone is having trouble downloading a song, look at the website they’re using. Check the help and FAQ screens to see if the site requires software installation. Amazon encourages people to use the Amazon MP3 Downloader (special software similar to iTunes), but if you look at the FAQ you see that it isn’t required. If a site does not require special software, you can offer to demonstrate how to save a file to a flash drive.

    If someone is looking for mp3s, a simple google search for download mp3 will bring up a lot of possibilities. In a pinch, you can always suggest Amazon.

    Remember you can always call a colleague and see if they can help. We might not be able to get the patron what they want 100% of the time. But, people usually appreciate the effort.

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
    1. Browse the Cylinder Archive for some wonderful original recordings.
    2. Download an mp3 to the branch flash drive.
    3. Take the Survey.

    Undoubtedly someone has asked you, “Where can I listen to free music on a public computer?” Playing downloaded music is not always easy or allowed on public library computers. Streaming is an easier option for listening to music or radio programs online.

    What is streaming? It’s sort of like radio – just tune into music that is already playing on the Internet. Unlike radio, there are billions of stations to choose from and anyone can pick the tunes! Here are a couple of popular music streaming spots.

    Radio:Last.fm|Pandora|Accuradio | Live365|WPLN

    Last.fm runs its recommendations based on how their listeners label the music. They track songs heard over time, then alter their personal radio station accordingly. Last.fm is also a social network that lets music fans discover new music by seeing what other users are listening to. You can listen to your friend’s radio stations and share recommendations.

    Tell Pandora who you like and they will play music similar to it. This site works with Seattle’s music genome project to analyze songs’ actual sounds to identify similar songs. So, if you tell Pandora you like Bell Biv Devoe, it will play them, plus Bobby Brown, Tony Toni Tone, and Keith Sweat. You get the idea.

    Independent Internet Radio streaming sites Accuradio and Live365 offer a more conventional selection of Country, Gospel or Pop radio stations broadcasting over the web. DJs pick the songs, not you.

    Terrestrial radio stations like WPLN use streaming to air their programs online.

    Search: Seeqpod | Songza | SkreemR | The Hype Machine

    Billie Jean Maybe you need to hear “Billie Jean” right now? Use a music search app like Songza to listen to single tracks. Enter a song title or artist, and a search may find it somewhere on the Internet. Then, it will play the song for you. No downloading or software, just streaming. The versions are not high quality, just whatever mp3 someone has posted on their blog. Search is a good way to preview entire new songs or find alternate recordings. Downloading is another topic that comes up often with music. We will discuss that in an upcoming post.

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
    1. Visit one of the music streaming web sites.
    2. Play a song.
    3. Take the Survey.

    Special note: the library’s departmental rules talk about acceptable use of radio and television in times of emergency or breaking news of significance. Let’s assume that prolonged listening to streaming audio and video can be treated in the same way. Besides, we are having a bandwidth crisis right now. In other words, learn the technology, try it out—but avoid streaming recreational audio or video on your PC while you’re working.

    Billy has a 35mm film camera. He also has a scanner. He takes awesome pictures, but he’s tired of having to email pictures to all of his friends around the world. What a pain. Billy is sad.

    Margaret has a digital camera. She doesn’t take great pictures, but she wants the world to see them anyway. She can’t send the world an email, though. How can she let everyone see her pictures? Margaret is sad.

    Ginger has lots of pictures of her kids, but her parents live several states away. They don’t even have a computer or email. How can she get new pictures to them without having to mail printed copies all the time? Ginger is sad.

    Stuart has a camera phone and doesn’t want to share his pictures with anyone. But, he’d like to edit them and he doesn’t have any editing software. Stuart doesn’t want to shell out any money to buy it either. Stuart is sad.

    Billy, Margaret, Ginger, and Stuart have reason to be happy, though. There are great web applications for photos that meet all sorts of needs!

    Let’s start with Billy, he wants to share photos with a select group of friends.
    Billy doesn’t have to email all his photos to his friends anymore. He can sign up for an account at a photo-sharing website.

    Billy can choose to only share with his friends, so he can limit who can see his photos.

    Flickr | Picasa | Photobucket | Snapfish

    Margaret wants to share pictures with anyone in the world.
    Margaret can sign up for an account with an online photo sharing website too. But, instead of limiting who can see her pictures, she can let everyone see them. The library’s Teen Web uses flickr to share pictures of their programs.

    Flickr | Picasa | Photobucket

    Ginger wants to send her parents pictures of the grandkids.
    Ginger’s parents don’t have a computer, so can she still use a photo sharing website? Yes!

    When you register with photo-sharing web sites, like Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Kodak Gallery, you can store your photos there. When you want to send prints to someone, all you have to do is login and tell the site where to mail them. Now, Ginger can use an online photo sharing site to send the latest grandkid antics.

    Some photo processing centers also offer online photo albums. For instance, if Ginger used the Walgreens photo sharing site she could go to walgreens.com, order photos, and specify which store would print them. Her parents could pick up photos of their grandkids the same afternoon.

    Snapfish | Shutterfly | KodakGallery | Walgreens

    Stuart wants to edit photos.
    He could install expensive photo editing software, or he could simply pull up a handy web app like Picnik!

    Picnik lets you do basic photo touch-ups in a snap. You don’t even have to register! Just upload a picture and start editing. When you’re done, save it to your computer.

    Basic: Picnik | Fotoflexer | Wiredness | Phixer

    Advanced: splashup | Iaza

    We’ve covered a lot of photo applications and we don’t expect you to use them all. But pick one and take it for a spin.

    Here’s an image you can play with.

    Do whatever you want to with it. You have our permission to alter and distribute it willy nilly.

    Click the picture to open the file. Once the full-size image is open, right click on the image and save it to your desktop.

    If you have trouble downloading the image, please ask a colleague for help or ask us for help in the comments. If you have your own image, you can use it instead.

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
    1. Pick ONE photo web app to try out. You may need to create an account.
    2. Save the picture (above) to your desktop.
    3. Upload the picture to a photo sharing site where you can log in and see it. Or use a photo-editing site to adjust the picture (crop it, resize it, etc.), then save it to your computer.
    4. Take the survey.

    Win a T-shirt!

    March 6, 2008

    wintshirt.jpgCompleted 7 missions? Get your shirt!

    That’s right! If you’ve completed seven missions by March 1st, you’ve earned yourself a t-shirt from the Friends of the Library. Just let your library manager know and they’ll give you a form to complete.

    And if you didn’t get to seven by March 1st? Don’t worry. Just complete seven missions between March 1st and May 31st a to earn your t-shirt.

    But, wait! There’s more!

    Each quarter you complete seven missions, your name will be entered in a drawing for an mp3 player. 10 mp3 players will be given away in October!

    Just tell your manager when you’ve done your 7 missions. And make sure you specify what size shirt you want.