September 30, 2010

eResource Feature: What's Next

Over the next several weeks, I am going to write about a different eResource that the Troy Public Library offers our patrons. Today, I will focus on What's Next, an excellent eResource.

What's Next is an easy to use online resource, provided by the Kent District Library, that allows you to find out the next book in a particular fiction series based on any of the following criteria: Author Last Name, Author First Name, Series, Book Title, Category (Adult or Youth), and Genre.

The screenshot below gives you an idea of what the results will look like after performing a search. In the shown example, I searched for Lee Child under the author fields and received a listing of the entire Jack Reacher series of novels.

As you can see, the results are presented in a clean, chronological order that lists the title and the book number in the series. Being a fan of a tools that are great at one particular thing, I can see myself using What's Next more and more. I encourage everyone to check it out!

You can find What's Next by going  to the Library's website. Click eResources on the left under Library Links, then click Literature and Reading, and finally click What's Next. Or, you can access it directly here

Get Live Homework Help with Brainfuse

With school back in session, many students may find themselves needing help with their homework. The Troy Public Library subscribes to an online resource, called Brainfuse, where students can connect with a live tutor to get academic assistance. Brainfuse has recently added some new features and has redesigned their site to make it more user friendly.

On the site, students can select from a menu that enables them to connect with a tutor and ask specific homework questions, get core academic concepts clarified for better understanding, or prepare for standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT. Students can also get assistance with writing assignments, and even submit writing samples for feedback through the Writing Lab feature.

Adults can also take advantage of Branfuse's services through the Adult Learning Center. This selection enables adults to get help writing a resume, prepare for a GED, or connect with a tutor experienced with working with adult learners.

To access Brainfuse, you will need a Troy Public Library card. Go to our website and click eResources on the left under Library Links. Click on Online Tutoring, then Brainfuse.Try it out and let us know what you think.

Two PDF Tools to Add to Your Arsenal

When it comes to PDFs there are occasional times when the basic tools included with Adobe Reader do not do what you want. During these times I end up turning to one or both of the tools i have described below.

PDF2Word Online:
PDF2WordOnline allows you to quickly convert a  PDF file to a document that can be edited in Microsoft Word. Unlike the often sluggish and frequently down, this online application quickly converts your PDF without requiring an email address. Simply upload your PDF and wait for PDF2Word to convert your file. When it's finished, you will need to right click on the "download file" link and click on "Save Target As." The file will be downloaded as a .zip file. After extraction, you can open the converted file in Microsoft Word. The couple of conversions that I tried took a total of about three minutes and converted surprisingly well.

You should note that PDF2WordOnline conversions are in the rich-text format (.rtf) as opposed to the typical .doc format. This can be quickly remedied by performing a "Save As" in Word and selecting the compatible .doc (Word 97-2003) format.

PDF Split and Merge:
If you have ever created a multi-page PDF document that you then wanted to split into individual PDF documents, PDF Split and Merge is the tool for you. This small, installable program has the ability to merge two or more separate PDF documents into one single PDF file. It is a great tool to have access to, and best of all is free!

Let us know of any other PDF software tools by leaving us a comment.

A Look at the Format Wars Throughout History

Switched published an interesting article recently outlining some of the famous format wars throughout history. Some of the formats covered included HD DVDs vs. Blu-Ray (which the library carries!), CDs vs. mini-discs vs. mp3s, and FM vs. AM. 

The whole article is very interesting and covers 10 separate format battles and how they have turned out. 

The Dvorak vs. QWERTY keyboard layout format war is the most interesting one to me! 

September 24, 2010

Mango Languages Releases Mango Complete 2.0

If you use Mango Languages, an online language learning program offered through the Troy Public Library, you will notice some changes have recently been made. In addition to Mango Complete and Mango Basic, Mango Languages now offers a new program called Mango Complete 2.0.

Mango Complete 2.0 builds on the look and design of their popular Mango Basic series, but combines it with the more in-depth lessons offered in their Complete 1.0 series. Using Mango Complete 2.0, you will learn basic introductions, how to make purchases, how to ask for directions, and much more. Mango Complete 2.0 continues to use a flashcard system to introduce you to new words and phrases, and also features quizzes to help you test your learning. Additionally, Mango Complete 2.0 also features grammar and cultural notes to give you greater understanding about the language you are studying.

With the launch of Mango Complete 2.0, the menus for Mango Languages have changed. After logging onto Mango, you will be presented with a screen showing various languages that you can learn. After clicking on a language, you will see what programs are available. At this time, not every language offers Mango Complete 2.0. Current languages that have Mango Complete 2.0 are Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, and Turkish. It is also available for several ESL courses, including Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and Vietnamese. Keep in mind, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Mango is currently working on developing Mango Complete 2.0 for many more languages.

If you've never tried out Mango Languages, now is a great time to start. To access Mango Languages, you will need a Troy Public Library card. Go to our website and click eResources on the left under Library Links. Click on Language Learning, then Mango Languages.Try it out and let us know what you think.

September 23, 2010

Soluto: Anti-Frustration Software for the Average User

A common question that we are asked at the Technology Center is "My computer is running slowly; how can I speed it up?" While this is an open-ended question that could be answered in a variety of ways, there are usually some common culprits that lead to a "slow" computer. 

One of the biggest problems is the large numbers of startup programs that are set to run as soon as you log into Windows. Having multiple programs running after booting not only slows down the boot-up times of your computer, but also can affect the overall speed of your computer once it is up and running.

This is where Soluto comes into play. Soluto claims to be "anti-frustration" software that will help speed up your boot times, and your computer overall, by eliminating or delaying programs from starting up immediately after you log into Windows. It sounds a little complicated, but honestly, this software is a joy to use. 

After you download and install the software you will immediately notice that it has a clean and clear interface. It is easy for the average user to understand what is slowing down their computer and how to disable or delay start-up times for those programs. Soluto then references a database of users that have contributed feedback on the programs that you have running at start up, and whether or not they have disabled, delayed, or allowed the program to run at boot. You are then able to set your own preferences for each program to your liking. Soluto will also give you an estimated time of how long it should take your computer to fully log into Windows, and how much faster it will be after your changes are made. 

If you still have questions, take a look at the video below from Soluto, explaining their product: 

If you are interested in speeding up your PC, give Soluto a try today.

September 17, 2010

notes for later - The Note Taking Bookmarklet for the Email User

I have a confession. I love bookmarklets. They are a handy, universal tool that allows you to perform an action simply by clicking on a bookmark in your browser. They also work with multiple browsers including IE, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

I am constantly searching for bookmarklets that perform tasks on web pages that would otherwise be time consuming and tedious. That's when I came across this post at Downloadsquad, talking about's bookmarklet.

Notesforlater will allow you to quickly send a link along with a short note to yourself about the page to your email. After you set up the bookmarklet, which is just a matter of clicking a verification link in your email and dragging the custom bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar, it will be ready to use.

Being someone who constantly looks at my email and uses it for bookmarks and important links, this has already become a great tool in my bookmarklet arsenal.

For other great bookmarklets take a look at Lee Mathews post on the "15+ handy bookmarklets to power up any browser." Lee provides a great list for starters looking to try out bookmarklets.

Twitter Gets a Facelift

Twitter, one of the fastest growing social networks around, is getting a full redesign of its website.

The new changes make the site look and function very similar to the iPad version, which has received positive reviews. Admittedly, I have often used other third-party websites and applications such as Seesmic, Hootsuite, Brizzly, and Metrotwit for my Twitter needs, due to lack of features and functionality on the Twitter homepage. But, these recent changes have me interested in checking out the new interface as it appears to be very functional, attractive, and overall nicely laid out.

Some of the highlights of the new interface have been highlighted in the fun, short video below, courtesy of Twitter:

The new interface is rolling out over the next week, so check your Twitter account to see if you have access to the #newtwitter!

IE9 Beta Released - "Beauty of the Web"

On September 15, Microsoft officially unveiled the first beta release of IE9, the latest version of Internet Explorer, the world's most popular web browser. IE9 has been dramatically changed, and is ready to take on other browsers in the market like Chrome and Firefox.

Here is a quick rundown of the biggest changes to IE9:
  • New user interface
  • Tabs are now located to the right of the address bar
  • Unified search and address bar (like Google Chrome)
  • Revamped download manager (similar to Firefox's implementation)
  • Only works with Windows Vista or Windows 7 machines
  • Jump list support
  • Pinned web application support
  • New speed dial interface for the new tab page
[Image courtesy of Ed Bott at]

There have also been many behind the scene changes to IE9 including HTML5 support and hardware acceleration, which is enabled by default. For additional information about hardware acceleration take a look at our previous post "The Future of Web Browsers: Why You Should Be Excited Pt. 2."

If you are interested in downloading the newest beta release, I would encourage you to check out Microsoft's IE9 promotional website,

Finally, if you are looking for a more in-depth review of IE9 including a full rundown of all of the major feature changes, check out Ed Bott's excellent blog post.

September 10, 2010

Troy Public Library Now Supports Google Buzz!

As the title states the Troy Public Library is now on Google Buzz.

With over 150 million users, Google Buzz is becoming more and more popular by the day, and offers another way for our patrons to collaborate and communicate with each other about the Library.

To follow us on Google Buzz, you must have a Gmail account and have Google Buzz enabled.

Then, just click on this link to access our Google Buzz page, and click on Follow Troy.

Fun Friday: The Wilderness Downtown

Interested in the next generation of music videos, not to mention web video? If so, take a look at The Wilderness Downtown, which utilizes the song We Used to Wait from the Arcade Fire's new The Suburbs album. Enter in an address such as your childhood home, and the address you enter will be incorporated into the video using images from Google Maps and Google Street View.

"The Wilderness Downtown" is an amazing example of what web designers are going to be able to create with new technologies such as HTML 5. Please be aware that it is processor intensive, and needs to use a browser that is capable of rendering HTML 5, such as Google Chrome.

Love Wikipedia and Have an eReader? Check This Out

Over at the excellent blog "How-To Geek" they have outlined a way to turn any Wikipedia article into a PDF eBook. This eBook then can be stored on your computer or transferred to and eReader. The process is simple, and when you are finished you have an offline copy of any Wikipedia article available wherever you go.

Check out the full step by step instructions here.