July 2010 - Posts
I own a laptop that runs Windows Vista. When I made the switch at the beginning of grad school I was so so pleased. There are photographs of me actually hugging the thing after taking it out of the box. However, as with all laptops certain problems began to appear over time. For instance, turning my laptop on became a precarious business. Sometimes it boot up immediately and other time s I would sit and stare at the welcome screen for long periods of time (once I waited twenty minutes) before getting tired of it and forcing it to turn off. So I finally took some action. For starters, I removed a few things from my hard drive because I had less than 10% free which puts it in what I like to call "the danger zone."
But the booting issue went beyond hard drive space. In my case - and I'm confident I'm not alone in this - my computer simply had too many things all trying to start at once. Windows makes it fairly easy to find the list of processes and applications starting while your computer is booting up but it's easy to feel like you're in over your head with that approach. It takes time to figure out what each item is and whether or not you need it. In comes Soluto. Soluto gives you the information you need to make informed decisions about what can stay and what should go, ranking items in three categories: No-brainer (remove from boot), Potentially removable, and Required (cannot be removed). Additionally, Soluto gives users a description of what the item does (for almost all items) and allows you to pause it, delay it or take no action. This takes away some of the guesswork. If after reading the description you're still not sure what to do you can rely on the wisdom of the masses and see what other users have chosen to do. Another nice tool but also an indication that Soluto is collecting information on users. From what I've seen and read however, Soluto has indicated that the information is strictly about your machine and not personal data. The information they gather adds to their "PC Genome" which is how they are able to make recommendations to users.
I used Soluto this morning and, despite the fact that I removed some items manually about a month ago, I was still able to shave about 25 seconds off of my start time. Not too shabby.
Last week Stephen Colbert interviewed Nicholas Carr – author of the newly-released book . Three days ago I came across a blog post titled “Do You Purposely, Regulary Go Offline?” Today, to top things off, I read a brief synopsis of a study which shows more than two hours per day of screen time (particularly watching TV or playing video games) can have negative impacts on one’s attention span. It’s worth mentioning that all three of these were online interactions. This got me thinking about how we use technology and the negative and positive effect it can have on us.
In this blog I make it a goal to provide some tips on tools created to make our lives easier and more productive. What Nicholar Carr and the others show is that sometimes maximizing productivity requires disconnecting from the Internet. In Nicholas Carr’s 2008 essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Carr writes “In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.” With this in mind, I present this week’s technology tip for increasing productivity and quality of life: take some time to unplug and focus on one task for an extended period of time. Maybe start by reading Carr’s new book (located in our New Non-fiction section), or by perusing some of the excellent book recommendations in Linda’s blog Reader’s Exchange.
Perhaps this is a bad message for the technology blog writer but I think it’s a great thing to be aware of. Plus, you could use those long periods of reading or contemplation to win great prizes through our Adult Summer Reading Program!
Two things are going on. My multi-tasking is spiraling out of control (which is why I have 13 tabs open in my browser) and I've become very interested in maps and map applications lately. So, I am going to act like a serious blogger and do my own Friday Roundup all on maps. Here are some cool and useful things to be aware of.
Google Maps Labs is "a testing ground for experimental features that aren't quite ready for primetime." Currently Lab items include "What's Around Here?" which places a pinpoint on all the nearby business. It can be a little overwhelming but serves as a nice overview of an area. The Lab also includes, just to name a few, a service which can tell you the latitude and longitude of a location, a way to measure the straight-line distance between two locations, and a geography game called "Where in the World." [note to self: work on my geography].
When I'm not blogging I someimes (read: rarely) spend time jogging. I have found however that I am terrible at going out the door and setting off without having a plan in mind. I like to know the distance and route I'm going to take before I even put on my sneakers. And guess what. There's an app for that (sorry). Gmaps Pedometer, created by Open Street Map Project, uses Google Maps and the OSM data to help you create walking/running routes for yourself. Of course, if you're more adventurous than I am - and you probably are - you can use the service to calculate mileage after the walk.
Find nearby garage sales without skimming the paper with Garage Sales Tracker. The service provides a list of nearby sales with time, location, general information and a handy map (provided by, of course, Google Maps). Also a good tool for finding flea markets and consignment shops.
Interested in looking at some cool, historical maps? Check out our Historic Map Works database or the Texas Digital Sanborn Maps database both available on the Round Rock Public Library databases and websites page!
Enjoy the holiday weekend!