August 30, 2009

Grooveshark: Easy To Use Music Search Engine

Frequently, I find myself trying to hunt down a particular song that I'm in the mood to listen to, only to find that I do not own the song. So my next step is to do a Google search, go through tons of results, and find the one song to which I want to listen. Thanks to Grooveshark, I won't have to do this anymore.

Grooveshark is a new website that makes finding and listening to songs simple and straightforward. Looking for "The Wonder of You" by Elvis? Go ahead and enter the title into the search box on Grooveshark's homepage, and you will quickly be presented with a list of all the results of your search.

The best part is that instead of giving you a straight list like you would get with Google, you are able to instead organize the list by artist, title, album, and genre. After you select the song you want to hear, you can instantly listen to the song through the iTunes-like, easy-to-use interface.

On top of just listening to songs, you are also able to create an account which allows you to create playlists, and to mark a track as a Favorite. Grooveshark will remember all your Favorites, and create a playlist, for you to listen to at your leisure.

I encourage all music fans to checkout Grooveshark. I have already found it to be an indispensable tool.

August 29, 2009

Setting a Password to Open an Excel Workbook

One of the students in my Intermediate Excel class this week asked me how to set an Excel workbook so a password is required to open or modify it. This is fairly easy.

When you have finished creating your Excel workbook, click on the Office Button in the upper left hand corner, then click on Save As. On the Save As dialog box, click on the Tools button on the bottom left side of the screen. Then click on General Options.

On the General Options box, you can set a password to open or modify the workbook. It is critical that you remember your password. If you forget your password, Microsoft cannot retrieve it. You can also set a recommendation that the file be opened as Read Only.

Top 10 Web Sites for Students

It is back to school time, and the Internet can be a great place to help your children succeed with their research projects and homework assignments. But, learning where to go and how to appropriately use information on the Internet can be challenging to both parents and students.

Marc Saltzman, a freelance journalist, author, and radio and TV host, has a great article, giving a list of the most comprehensive and reliable educational websites a student can use.

August 28, 2009

Woofer vs. Twitter

Recently Twitter, the popular microblogging site, has amassed a great deal of hype. After being promoted by celebrities and featured on numerous talk shows, including the Oprah Winfrey Show, Twitter has become a household name.

But in spite of the publicity, there are still many people who dislike Twitter both for its limitations and the connotation that all Twitter posts are as inane as what I had for breakfast this morning.

If you are a Twitter Doubter, or just prone to long-windedness, you might enjoy Woofer -- the macroblogging site that requires users to post a minimum of 1,400 characters.

So far nearly eight thousand people have joined Woofer and have made over nine thousand woofs. However, the woof content is not what you might expect of bloggers. Some of the more popular woofs are copied from works such as The Gettysburg Address, A Tale of Two Cities, and Moby Dick. Unfortunately from what I've seen so far the average woof is random words and characters akin to the dreaded spam email.

Clearly, Woofer is not a tool that will replace or even rival Twitter, but it should make for some interesting reading. And even I, a strong microblogging advocate, can enjoy this homage to Twitter.

You can follow The Tech Desk on Twitter @tpltechnology and follow the Troy Public Library @troylib.

And there you have it: 1,400 characters (punctuation and spaces included, of course).

Apple Releases Snow Leopard, Newest Operating System

Apple has just released its newest operating system, Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6).

According to this video review at, Snow Leopard is a “Web browsing speed demon…Hitting the streets with very little fanfare, [the] operating system is a refined, slimmer version of an already great computing system.”

And here is an equally positive review from The New York Times.

Snow Leopard is a $30 upgrade for Mac users running Leopard (10.5).

Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 7, is due out in October.

Fun Friday: Do You Suffer from IOS?

Do you suffer from information overload?

August 27, 2009

Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon to Oppose Google Book Scanning Settlement

Not surprisingly, some of Google’s chief competitors – Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon – have joined the Open Book Alliance, opposing the October 2008 legal settlement which would allow Google to digitize and sell millions of books.

The Alliance, headed by the non-profit Internet Archive, has expressed concern about “serious legal, competitive, and policy issues” surrounding Google's book scanning project.

Google reached a settlement last year with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against the Internet search giant in 2005. Under the settlement, Google will pay publishers and authors $125 million. In exchange, the company will resume scanning copyrighted, out-of-print books, and provide up to 20% of the text on-line at no charge, under its Google Book Search program.

In addition, the settlement creates a method for how Google, publishers and authors will share the profits of digitized versions of printed books. The company will take 37% of the revenue, leaving 63% for publishers and authors.

In a statement, Google responded to the latest news saying: "This sounds like the Sour Grapes Alliance. The Google Books settlement is injecting more competition into the digital books space, so it’s understandable why our competitors might fight hard to prevent more competition."

Microsoft, which entered into a 10-year Web search partnership with Yahoo! last month that set the stage for a joint offensive against Google, also had a project to create a vast digital library but shut it down recently. Online retail giant Amazon is a major player in the electronic book sector through its popular e-reader, the Kindle.

The settlement still needs the approval of a US District Court judge, who is to hold a "fairness hearing" on the deal in New York on October 7.

For more background, read Learn More about the Google Book Search Settlement.

[via Yahoo! Tech]

Helping Hand Helps Michigan Residents

The State of Michigan has launched Helping Hand, a new website for people who are dealing with economic hardship. This site contains information about jobs and training; unemployment; health care; family support; and housing. It will allow Michigan residents to find out whether they qualify for state help and, in many cases, let them apply online.

August 24, 2009

New Troy Library Computer System Coming September 30

As many of you might know, the Troy Library is in the process of changing to a new Integrated Library System (ILS). I would like to take this opportunity to update you on the status of this change.

An ILS is the software that knits together all the processes necessary to manage a modern and busy library. There are several modules -- for acquisitions, cataloging, serials, patron services, circulation and administration -- that make up the modern ILS.

In February, the Library chose the Polaris system as our next ILS. Moving to Polaris means we are leaving an older, UNIX-based ILS that is cumbersome, "cranky," and no longer cost effective. During these tough economic times it may not seem to make sense we would be investing in a significant software purchase, but not only is Polaris a much more efficient and standardized Windows-based environment, it is actually significantly more cost effective over the next five years. So the Library will gain functionality, improve efficiencies, and save money all at the same time. And our patrons will see it directly in better service, better response times, and a friendlier interface to our Public Access Catalog.

While it is no small task to accomplish this new system, the conversion offers an opportunity to reassess our internal processes, developed years ago for what is now an outdated system. To date we have installed new virtualized server hardware, developed new profiles for our array of internal processes, cleaned up a lot of bad data (orphaned records, errors, non-compliant records, etc.), developed new data code models for managing our collections, developed more automated ordering systems, modified our patron support processes, and begun the preparation for our staff for a September 30 launch date.

We are truly excited about this opportunity to improve our patron experience at the Troy Library while improving internal processes that are invisible to our patrons, but extremely important to that experience. All these changes are welcomed, timely, and another sign of the desire of the entire Library staff to better serve the Troy community.

I will continue to post updates as move forward. Please feel free to post questions in the comments section and I will be happy to respond to them.

August 22, 2009

Toshiba Will Start Making Blu-ray Discs

Toshiba has applied for membership to the Blue-ray Disc Association, because the company plans to stop making HD-DVD products, and start making Blue-ray disc products instead. The reason for the change is financial: Toshiba lost $3.5 billion last year while Sony, Panasonic, and other Blue-ray companies saw an increase in market demand.

The decision to abandon HD-DVD in favor of Blue-ray has been compared to Sony's decision in the 1980s to stop producing betamax videotape and join its competitors in producing VHS products.

August 18, 2009

Help Protect Michigan Libraries

Recently, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm issued Executive Order 2009-36, that will abolish the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries, and the position of state librarian, and transfer responsibilities of this department to other State departments.

Additionally, according to the proposed 2010 State budget, library funding is expected to be cut from $10 million to $7.5 million. While this cut is only a tiny fraction of the overall budget deficit for Michigan currently projected at $1.8 billion, this reduction in funding will mean:
  • databases provide by the Michigan eLibrary, such as Learning Express Library, Academic OneFile, and Chilton's, may no longer be available;
  • MelCat, the statewide interlibrary loan system, could end; and
  • libraries may be forced to cut hours and staff at a time when demand for libraries and the services they provide is increasing.
The Michigan Library Association has set up a website called Michigan Libraries for the Future for residents concerned about these cuts. Here you can find updated information about the situation and links to background information. There are, also, links that allow you to directly contact your state senator and representative.

Please help keep quality libraries in Michigan. Contact your legislators today and tell them not to abolish the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries, and cut funding to libraries.

Free Training Available for Morningstar Investment Research Center

Morningstar Investment Research Center, one of the popular business electronic resources to which the Troy Public Library subscribes, is offering a free training webinar on September 30 at 4 pm. This training will walk you through the Morningstar database, describe how to get investment information about specific companies and industries, and demonstrate the Portfolio X-Ray feature, where you can view how a set of holdings works together as a portfolio.

To register, send an email to You will need an Internet connection and a phone to attend this webinar.

Even if you can't attend the webinar, Morningstar Investment Research Center has helpful training brochures available for download that cover a variety of topics, such as getting started in investing, retirement planning, and investing in options. Additionally, a series of 150 courses provide instruction in investing topics. These items are available anytime and can be found under the Help and Education tab within Morningstar.

Morningstar Investment Research Center is available through the Troy Public Library website, by clicking on Information on Demand, selecting Business & Economics, and then selecting Morningstar. You will need a valid Troy Library card to use this database.

August 17, 2009

Bhuvan Competes with Google Earth

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has launched a free online tool to search satellite imagery of earth called Bhuvan (Sanskrit for earth). The ISRO claims Bhuvan will compete with Google Earth. However, Reuters reports that the site is "far from being a Google Earth killer anytime soon."

[via The Times Online]

August 13, 2009

Explorer? Firefox? Chrome? Competition among Internet Browsers Heats Up

Amy Barzdukas, a general manager at Microsoft in charge of the company's Internet Explorer browser, said that the recent announcement that Firefox – the chief competitor to Microsoft’s browser – has reached a billion downloads was "interesting math".

"It's an interesting number and I have not seen the math [but] how many Internet connected users are there? 1.1 billion, 1.5 billion, something in that area."

Firefox claimed it had passed the 1 billion downloads mark at the end of July, a figure which includes every update and all downloads made since the program was first launched in 2004.

Since its inception, Firefox has chipped away at Microsoft's dominant position and is now the world's second most popular web browser with 22% of the market, in comparison to 67% for the family of Internet Explorer programs.

If you have only used Internet Explorer as your browser, and are interested in trying some others, you might want to start here for an overview of what’s out there, or read a review of Google’s Chrome, the latest entry into the competitive browser field.

And if you are happy with Internet Explorer, but not yet using Microsoft’s latest release – IE 8 – click here for a review.


August 12, 2009

Get a Jimmy John's Sub for $1 on August 13

Six of Jimmy John’s sandwiches will be $1 each from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at all 61 of the company’s metro Detroit stores.

The Customer Appreciation Day special applies to sub sandwiches No. 1 through No. 6 on the menu, which is available online at The subs are prepared on 8-inch French rolls and are made to order.

The $1 offer is limited to one sandwich per customer and will be available for four hours only, the company said.


Troy Museum and Historic Village: One of the Best of Detroit

Have you ever visited the Troy Museum and Historic Village?

The Museum and Village contains 10 historic buildings, and a village green, and gives the public the chance to learn, explore, discover and enhance your understanding of the history of the City of Troy.

If you have visited the Museum, and think it is a worthwhile community place, please vote on the WDIV 4 Best of Contest. Last year, the Museum and Village was ranked the fourth best museum in the area, after The Henry Ford, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Museum of African-American History.

If you haven’t visited the Museum recently, this Summer is a good time to drop by. There are fun and interesting family-friendly activities going on every week. This week, for example, on August 13, there will be a hearthside cooking demonstration; live alpacas from Powder Puff Pacas, to show how wool is used; and story time under the story tree.

The Troy Museum and Historic Village, located on the northwest corner of Wattles and Livernois Roads, is a great place to spend a few minutes on your lunchtime, or a few hours with the family.

August 10, 2009

Looking for An Artist? Check the Michigan Humanities Council Directory

Do you work for a non-profit or public organization? Do you organize events for children and families? Then you might want to check out the 2009-2012 Michigan’s Arts & Humanities Touring Directory, published by the Michigan Humanities Council. The Directory lists 204 artists and presenters, available at a reasonable fee.

Grants are available for a percentage of the event costs. Grant applications will be accepted beginning September 1, and will be first come, first served basis until funds are depleted.

You can find the Directory and details on the grants at the Council’s Arts and Humanities Touring Program page.

August 7, 2009

Voice Your Opinion about Online Cat Videos

We've all seen them -- adorable cats doing adorable things on home videos uploaded to the Internet on sites like Youtube. Now, Entertainment Weekly has posted its top ten cat videos and gives you the chance to grade and comment on the viral kitties' hi jinks.

For Entertainment Weekly's in-depth take on the online cat obsession, pick up this week’s EW on newsstands now or browse it at the library.

Bing Jingle, Not So Good

A few weeks ago, we reported that Microsoft had launched a contest for a jingle about Bing – the company’s new search engine. The winning jingle would bring the creator $500.

The company has just announced the winner and, according to TechCrunch, "as bad as the jingle is, the video is much, much worse. It’s some guy in pajama pants doing really bad interpretive dance nonsense with awful effects and a Bing backdrop."

Take a look for yourself. It is awful. It looks like those voting for the videos might have had a little fun with Microsoft.

August 6, 2009

RIP John Hughes, 1950-2009

"NEW YORK — Writer-director John Hughes, Hollywood's youth impresario of the 1980s and '90s who captured the teen and preteen market with such favorites as "The Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Home Alone" died Thursday, a spokeswoman said. He was 59."

[via The Associated Press]

What's Green, Made of Corn and Has Buttons?

Sprint has introduced a cell phone made from corn . The case is made of a corn-based "bioplastic" and the box is made up of recycled material. Sprint will donate $2 of every phone sale to the Nature Conservancy.

The $50 Samsung Reclaim is Sprint's entry into the hottest segment of the cellphone market this year: cheap phones with full keyboards. The ecological features are a bonus.

Speak Easy

In the United States, public and academic libraries are playing a very important role in providing access to multimedia tools for learning multiple languages for their patrons. The article, "Speak Easy" from Library Journal discusses more about the latest language learning tools in libraries.

The Troy Library has many resources available if you are learning a language. For CDs or books, come to the Adult Reference desk and we will be happy to help you. We also have the interactive website Mango Languages, available via our website. Go to the Library's home page, click on Information on Demand, then on Learning Languages, and log on to Mango using your Troy Library card.

August 3, 2009

Bing Gains (a Little) Ground on Google

Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine, is gaining ground on its chief rival, search engine giant Google, reports Art Technica.

Bing was launched in June and quickly picked up 8% of the search engine market share, mostly from Google held 78% of the search engine market that month. In July, however, while Bing’s share of the market increased 1%, Google’s dropped by the same amount.

Bing has several interesting features that have prompted people to take a look. Many of them appear to be staying with the Microsoft product.

Along with Yahoo’s 10% market share, and last week’s announcement of a deal between Yahoo and Microsoft that would make Bing the search engine for all of Yahoo's sites, Google’s search engine dominance looks like it might be in for a challenge.

Stay tuned.

(Never tried Bing? Take a blind search test.)

Turn Bing Searches into RSS Feeds

Are you doing research on a topic, and want to save your results and be made aware when new information about that topic is published on the web? Bing, Microsoft's new "decision" engine, allows you to convert any search into an RSS feed. Just add the feed to your favorite feed reader (such as Google Reader) and the top 10 results from the search will be added to your feed reader.

To create an RSS feed in Bing, conduct a search, and at the end of the URL from the search results screen add the following text: &format=rss. For example, here is the URL for a Bing search of Lance Armstrong: Here is the URL to turn the search into an RSS feed:

Please note that RSS feeds can only be created for website searches, not for video or image searches.

August 1, 2009

Top 100 Web Sites of 2009 has published its list of the Top 100 Web Sites of 2009. The list is compromised of 50 classic sites and 50 undiscovered sites.

Classic sites listed include popular microblogging site
Twitter, travel search site Kayak, and a Technology Center favorite, Lifehacker.

New, undiscovered sites include
Gizapage, which combines a single dashboard to control a variety of social networking websites; Petrucci Music Library, a site that features public-domain sheet music downloads; and Alternative To, which provides free software alternatives to pricey software packages such as Photoshop and Microsoft Office.

Twitter 101 for Businesses

Twitter, the popular microblogging site, is not just for individual communication. Businesses, such as Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, and Whole Foods Market use Twitter to promote their products and provide customer service.

At its core, Twitter is simple: type a short message of up to 140 characters to tell people what you are doing. However, it does have its own unique language that can take some time to learn.

To help businesses use Twitter, Twitter has published Twitter 101. This site shows how to create a Twitter account, how to follow other users, and how to create posts. It features a very helpful guide to Twitter best practices, and most importantly, a list of case studies showing how companies actually use Twitter.

In today's business environment, having a presence on social networking sites is becoming just as important as having your own website. Twitter 101 is an excellent tool to get started.

Create A Family Calendar With Windows Vista

Do you want to share calendars to see what each member of your family is doing? You can, with the Windows Calendar, built right into the Windows Vista operating system. You can keep the family appointments, doctor visits, soccer games, and all other activities straight, all in one place.

Click here to have
S.E. Slack, co-author of Breakthrough Windows Vista and Office 2007 Solutions, show you how easy it is to use the Windows Calendar.