July 28, 2010

Over 1,000 People Subscribe to Our Booklists, Do You?

As our number of BookLetters subscriptions continues to climb (currently 1,176) it is clear that this is a service our library patrons appreciate. Who wouldn't enjoy a monthly email from the local library with lists of great new books, audiobooks, and movies in your favorite genres? Now you can place books on hold right through your email with one click. BookLetters is even adding great new features like the ability to browse by series to find other titles in a series you enjoy.

Ready to sign up? Click here for our subscription page, listing our 35 unique book lists created by Library staff. Select the lists that interest you and sign up with your email address at the bottom of the page. Lists update monthly unless otherwise noted (a few lists update biweekly such as our Staff Reads) - that means you can expect one monthly email per list. You can control which lists you will receive and remove yourself from the mailing if you are not satisfied.

July 19, 2010

The Future of Web Browsers: Why You Should Be Excited Pt. 3

The future of web browsers is a great one, due to the introduction of HTML 5, hardware acceleration, and quickly changing user interfaces in the browser market.

If you do not know what a user interface is, Wikipedia provides a great description:
The user interface is (a place) where interaction between humans and machines occurs. The goal of interaction between a human and a machine at the user interface is effective operation and control of the machine, and feedback from the machine which aids the operator in making operational decisions.
In short, the user interface (also referred to as UI) is what you see when you are using a program. More and more web browsers are improving their UI's to make browsing the web easier on users. They are doing this by cleaning up the UI and making it easier to use and to look at.

Let's take a look at some examples to see the the common UI direction that web-browers are going. First, here are examples of Internet Explorer's UI.

Now, here is a look at the UI's of several recently updated alternative browsers:

The key thing to notice is that browsers are continuing to get more and more minimal. The different design teams have clearly worked hard to make some necessary changes to the browser landscape including:

- Eliminating or hiding unnecessary UI elements to make the browser easier to use.
- Pare down the number of drop-down menus
- Increase focus on the Address bar, back button, and search

Firefox's development team went so far as to create a heat map of the most frequently accessed tools in their browser. I found it to be incredibly interesting to see what tools people used the most. As you can see, this heat map shows where most of the focus in the new UI's of the browsers are coming from. These types of studies influence changes made to the browsers UI, which will benefit the average user.

The future continues to rely more and more on the web, and knowing that designer and developers are making it easier to use is a comforting thought.

Be sure to check out my post next week in this four part series on "The Future of Web Browsers: Why You Should be Excited." Next week I will talk about the interesting push toward web applications.

July 14, 2010

Find Out What's in Your Computer with Speccy

Many people do not know what components are inside their computer. They can tell you the operating system is Windows 7 and the that the CPU is from Intel, but that is the extent of their knowledge. If they wanted to upgrade their PC and needed to find this information, they would not know where to go.

A great way to discover the hardware specifications of your computer is to use Speccy. Speccy is a program that will quickly analyze your computer and return incredibly detailed results about your computer's hardware, including information about the hard drive, CPU, memory, motherboard, video card, and more. Is you processor dual or quad core? What type of RAM are you using? Who manufactured your hard drive? What is your hard drive's temperature? All of these questions can be answered quickly by using Speccy.

To download Speccy, go here. If you try it let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

Download Free eAudiobooks with SYNC

Are you interested in downloading some free eAudiobooks this summer? Now you can, thanks to Audiobook Community's SYNC campaign.

The SYNC campaign is designed to get more young adults listening to audiobooks. From July 1 through September 1, two audiobooks will be available each week for download. One will be a best seller and the other is generally a classic. Each week both books will share a common theme. All audiobooks used in the SYNC campaign are in the MP3 format and will work with both PCs and Macs. They can be transferred to a wide array of mobile devices.

Additionally, OverDrive is distributing all of the SYNC titles. To download titles, you will need to install the OverDrive Media Console. After you have downloaded your free titles from SYNC, be sure to check out other OverDrive downloadable eBooks and eAudiobooks that are available from the Troy Public Library here.

For more on SYNC, including the release schedule for free eAudiobooks, go here.

July 13, 2010

Be Informed for August 3 State Primary Elections

Voter Guides for the August 3, 2010 Primary Election are available on the League of Women Voters of Michigan web site at http://www.lwvmi.org. The guides on this site cover the races for Governor, US Representative, State Senator and State Representative.

The Guides provide non-partisan information about candidates who are running. Each candidate is given an opportunity to provide biographical information and to answer a number of questions on issues important to the office being sought. Responses are included as submitted and have not been edited, except for space.

For voters in Oakland County, the LWV Oakland Area has Voter Guides for races happening in Oakland County. There are also several candidate forums scheduled for July.

Local voters can use Publius to get a sample ballot with integrated candidate information. Voters can also use the Secretary of State's Voter Information Center to get a sample ballot.

July 6, 2010

The Future of Web Browsers: Why You Should Be Excited Pt. 2

One of the most exciting new features of upcoming web browsers is the ability to utilize your computer's hardware for viewing the web. This promising new technology is called hardware acceleration and it is part of the revolution slowly taking place in web browsers.

Hardware acceleration allows your browser to take advantage of your computer's graphics processing unit (GPU), also known as your video card. By making use of the video card while web browsing, your browser will be capable of handling otherwise sluggish graphics with ease. For example, let's say you are watching a 1080p video in your browser on your computer. As opposed to slowing the browser down to a crawl and leaving you with a choppy video, the hardware acceleration will kick in and use your video card to help out. Ultimately, this will leave you with a much smoother browsing experience and will help with video and graphical issues that would otherwise be problematic.

In addition to the benefits gained from watching videos, web-based applications will also have improvements in overall usability. For example, there is increasing potential for web based video and photo editing applications such as Aviary's suite of products (which are all web-based).

If you are interested in trying out hardware acceleration I would recommend checking out Internet Explorer's recently released Platform Preview of IE9. The IE9 browser has hardware acceleration turned on by default and it is certainly noticeable. If you want to compare IE9 to your current web browser, here is the IE9 testing page, which is set to the default homepage in the IE9 Preview, that you can try to run on whatever browser you choose.

Here is a video comparing IE9 (with hardware acceleration) vs. other browsers, courtesy of Downloadsquad:

Finally, I would like to mention that because of the way hardware acceleration works, you will need to have a decent video card to fully take advantage of these benefits. While you will see improvements with regards to smoothness and choppiness no matter what GPU you have, owning a nicer GPUwill give you greater performance gains.

Faster, cleaner, improved graphics. The future of the web browser is looking brighter everyday in part due to the potential of hardware acceleration.

Be sure to check out the next part of my the "The Future of Web Browsers: Why You Should Be Excited" blog series throughout the upcoming weeks. Part three will discuss the changing user interfaces of future web browsers.