Gadget Gift Ideas for Dad

garmin-oregon-500Finding something special to give dear old dad for Father’s Day can get mundane. Seriously, how many neckties can one man have?  If you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas, don’t despair. There are plenty of trinkets out there to make Dad’s day special. Here are some techie toys for the go-go-gadget guy in your life:

Garmin Oregon 550T

For the outdoorsy dad, you might consider this doohickey. This multipurpose device will assure that pops won’t get lost during one of his walkabouts in the mountains. It serves as a personal navigator, a digital camera, a compass, and altimeter. You can also download topographical maps. The device is waterproof (and probably Sasquatch proof). It’s easy enough for the tech-challenged dad but cool enough for Bear Grylls.

Nike Plus SportWatch GPS powered by TomTom

If papa dearest does run into a bear or sasquatch, you can give him this nifty sports watch from Nike and TomTom. This allows runners to track their movements, calories burned, distance, heart rate, and time. This also helps him to find his way back home with the built-in GPS – hopefully, minus the bear and big foot.

Remote Control Bald Eagle

Why not? The Bald Eagle is, after all, a symbol of our great nation. This just assures that the old man won’t get his eyes pecked out while playing his bird of prey. It might also give him the joy of inconspicuously dive-bombing the neighbors. The model has a bio-accurate wingspan and a hidden motor. So, not even a real bald eagle might know it’s an impostor…well, except that it’s made of metal.

Robomow RL2000 Robotic Lawn Mower

For the lawn-loving lad, here is one tool that might let him have an afternoon to relax. Simply input a weekly schedule of when the grass should be cut, and sit back. If you’re going on vacation, you don’t need to worry about how high your grass will be when you get back. Robomow has that covered. After making the rounds and trimming your yard, Robomow automatically returns to its base.

Heated Shaving Cream Dispenser

Maybe the big guy is looking like a sasquatch himself. If so, why not give this heated shaving cream dispenser to provide him warm, lather foam for that perfect shave? Insert your favorite shaving cream or shaving gel, and let this device heat it up. Many dads find that having a hot lather helps them get a better shave.

Tablets And Tykes

chartIf you take a minute to look around, more than likely you will see a child with some form of tablet or smartphone. In fact, according to a 2012 Nielsen survey, 70% of households, that own tablets and with children ages 12 and younger, admit that their kids use the device. So this begs the question of what types of apps for kids can you choose from the 300,000 plus iTunes App Store or the 500,000 plus from Google Play. Well, may we suggest these 30 to get you started? (Note: Most links to the apps are to their iTunes descriptions.)

  1. 8 Planets (Free) Young astronomers will enjoy learning about the planets and earning ribbons in games testing their knowledge.
  2. A Little Book About Feelings ($0.99) This book app gives kids a start on understanding feelings and how to express themselves.
  3. ABC Pocket Phonics ($3.99) is a simply-designed app that reinforces letter knowledge. Children are encouraged to trace letter shapes and repeat the sounds.
  4. Alien Assignment (Free) Created by the Fred Rogers Center and a Kindergarten teacher, Alien Assignment is a fun game that encourages problem solving and discovery.
  5. Apps Gone Free (Free) Every day hundreds of apps reduce their price to free for a limited time to try to stimulate excitement and publicity. (Hey, if you can get it for free, that’s always a good thing.)
  6. BrainPOP Featured Movie (Free) features a different animated, short film each day on topics such as Science, Social Studies, Technology, Engineering, Health, English, Art & Music and Math.
  7. Doodle Buddy (Free) future Picassos of all ages will enjoy creating their next masterpiece using a variety of tools including, paint, chalk, stencils, stamps, backgrounds and photographs.
  8. Dragon Box ($5.99) This app introduces fundamental topics in mathematics with an emphasis on algebra in a playful and colorful environment.
  9. Duck Duck Moose apps ($1.99) Duck Duck Moose is an award-winning creator of educational children’s applications, founded with the mission of revolutionizing how children learn, play, and imagine on mobile devices.
  10. Endless Alphabet (Free) Set the stage for reading success with this delightfully interactive educational app. Kids will have a blast learning their ABC’s and building vocabulary with the adorable monsters in Endless Alphabet.
  11. Faces iMake-Lite ($0.99) let your imagination go wild by making silly faces using common everyday objects.
  12. Felt Board ($2.99) This app gives you all the small felt board pieces you need for play without dealing with the many pieces.
  13. Geography Drive USA ($3.99) Students will be delighted to learn about geography in a whole new, fun, exciting way. The visitor’s center has each of the individual states and facts galore. Each state has three different questions to answer. To gain more fuel and money, visit the all-state pass for more questions that are read to the player.
  14. Go Away, Big Green Monster! For iPad ($2.99) Ed Emberley’s beloved and best-selling book comes to mobile! Cleverly diecut with bold colors and overlapping pages, Go Away, Big Green Monster! is an entertaining book that turns scary into silly, and empowers kids to take control of their fears.*
  15. Highlights Hidden Pictures ($1.99) Seek and find the everyday objects hidden within fun, kid-friendly illustrations.
  16. iWriteWords ($2.99) Kids will enjoy following a little bug to form letes and numbers, helping them get started with writing.*
  17. Karaoke Anywhere HD (Free) features a database of free songs or you can pay for more downloads. Remember it is karaoke, so you are getting a karaoke version of the song with background music and words on a screen. This is great for a sing a-long.*
  18. Make It Pop! ($1.99) Learn shapes, letters, colors, and numbers while popping bubbles, balloons, fireworks and popcorn!
  19. Math Doodles ($2.99) Get thinking with a variety of math games that will have kids solving problems in new ways.
  20. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox ($0.99) includes 7 different games that teach kids about colors, letters, counting, shapes, sizes, matching, and differences.
  21. Monster Physics ($0.99) is a unique building app that lets you play with physics! Build and operate your own car, crane, rocket ship, plane, helicopter, tank and more!
  22. Moo, Ba, La La La! ($3.99) Sandra Boynton’s best-selling book of all time comes alive with sound and movement and gloriously unpredictable interactivity. (There are other books by Boynton that have been made into apps: Barnyard Dance; Blue Hat, Green Hat; The Going to Bed Book.)
  23. Overdrive Media Console (Free) Download digital books for read a-longs or link them to a screen for a bigger view. This can help when the hard-copy is too small for a regular read a-long. (Of course we’re going to suggest this. It’s basically the library at your digital fingertips.)
  24. PlayTales(Free) PlayTales’ stories are designed to educate, entertain, and inspire young readers ages 1 to 12.
  25. Reading Raven ($2.99) Reading Raven is an extremely fun and engaging learn-to-read educational game that provides step-by-step reading lessons designed to help young children build a solid foundation for reading.
  26. Shake-a-Phrase ($1.99) Encourages older children to read by way of silly sentences that will help teach vocabulary and parts of speech.
  27. Stack the States ($0.99) makes learning about the 50 states fun! Watch the states actually come to life in this colorful and dynamic game!
  28. Toca Boca apps ($0.99 – $2.99) Toca Boca is a game studio that makes digital toys for kids. We think playing and having fun is the best way to learn about the world. Therefore we make digital toys and games that help stimulate the imagination, and that you can play together with your kids.
  29. Toontastic ($0.99) Take storytelling to the next level by creating cartoons from start to finish, using your own voice to narrate the story.
  30. Word Wizard ($4.99) This is the “Speak and Spell” for the iPad generation. Word Wizard is a unique app that lets kids hear the sounds of letters and words using a talking movable alphabet.

Tips for Internet Searches

Internet SearchesWe all do some sort of research on the internet, whether it be looking up information for a school report or personal enlightenment. Some search results can leave us scratching our heads, wondering why we yielded links that are far from what we had in mind, and some results are just simply lacking. Here are some tips that can help your search be more efficient and succinct.

  1. Enter as many keywords as possible. If you do this, you are likely to yield more results. It’s best to try five to seven keywords to help narrow your search field.
  2. Use nouns as keywords. Words such as “a” and “the,” pronouns such as “she” and “he,” and prepositions such as “over” and “to” slow down the search engine and often produce irrelevant results. Some search engines actually ignore these words.
  3. Use exact phrases when searching.  Quotation marks should surround each phrase. The ability to search for exact phrases can be extremely useful in locating material online.
  4. Use Auto-complete. Sometimes search engines will display helpful results in a drop-down list. Selecting the appropriate item as it appears will save time typing.
  5. Don’t Capitalize. Most search engines ignore capitalization.
  6. Get better results with Boolean commands. “Boolean searching” can narrow your search results and increase the likelihood that relevant results will be displayed. This searching technique involves using Boolean commands:  AND, OR, and NOT.
    1. The AND command will only return documents that contain all the keywords listed. For example, if you search for “Birmingham” AND “Library” AND “Hours,” the results displayed will include all of these terms.
    2. The OR command will return documents that contain any of the keywords. If you search for “Paris” OR “vacation” OR “ airfares” the search engine will display documents that contain even one of these keywords or phrases.
    3. The NOT command will return documents that do not contain the keyword listed. If you complete the same search for Bahamas, but this time included NOT “Vacation” the results displayed would not include any reference to the Bahamas Vacations.
    4. Some search engines automatically include the AND command in searches and process the plus (+) and minus (-) signs as another way to express AND or NOT.
    5. The wildcard operator (*) is also known as the “fill in the blank” operator. For example, “star *” will return pages with “star” and any other term(s) the search engine deems relevant. You can’t use wildcards for parts of words. So for example, “star w*” is invalid.

Tips For Job Searching Online

Job Searching OnlineJob searching in a struggling economy is a difficult task. It can also be intimidating. It isn’t enough to just have a parchment paper-printed resume, but many companies now require or prefer that candidates submit their information online, along with a digital copy of their credentials. Today, libraries have embraced the demand for digital career chase by providing services and computer access to their patrons.

People who are seeking employment use the public computers on a daily basis to peruse through openings and descriptions, hoping that at some point, clicking “Apply” will translate to a “You’re Hired.” Many libraries even offer resume workshops and business writing courses, some for free, as well as software classes. Here are some job searching sites from the Birmingham Public Library Subject Guides Resources and other job search engines that could open doors:

  • Alabama JobLink offers all the services provided by the Alabama Career Center System, including information for jobs in the state of Alabama and job fairs.
  • Al.com combines job listings from regional newspapers and news media, allowing job seekers to customize their search by industry, region, or skills.
  • Job Quest is your gateway to civil service in Jefferson County, Alabama
  • CareerBuilder also has millions of job postings as well as thousands of employers and headhunters for potential candidates.
  • Craigslist is probably best known for classified ads, but many employers also post open positions on the job board. It is especially helpful when you are looking for jobs in your area.
  • Indeed combs other job sites, news media, and company sites for job postings. Unlike CareerBuilder, it isn’t a full-service job search site, but it will provide you with links and the option to get email alerts.
  • LinkedIn is a social networking site emphasizing on professional networking and career advancement. Rather than sorting through hundreds of databases, you can obtain a position from your networks or by companies looking at your professional profile.
  • Monster.com has more than a million job postings and has one of the largest job search databases. The site also offers advice about careers and information about companies.

In accessing these sites, it’s important to remember basic job searching strategies. Though online sites may seem impersonal, it is still important that job seekers set themselves apart from the hundreds of applicants. While you’re applying and weeding through all the postings, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Be selective about the process, if you can. There are thousands of jobs out there, but choose one that fits your interest and in your career path. If you cannot afford to be picky, then choose a job in which you will be comfortable until you find the job you want. However, seeking a permanent employment is preferable to your career path as well as to you employer.
  2. Don’t apply for jobs above your education and qualification level. However, it’s okay to go beyond your comfort level. There’s nothing wrong for reaching outside the box, but make sure you’re qualified. Companies will only ignore your application if you don’t meet requirements they need or want in a candidate. If you don’t have some skills, take a class or learn on your own. Take the initiative to fill those areas where you might be lacking.
  3. Watch out for scams. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Those promising quick and easy income or asking for fees or other personal information are more likely scams. Also, if you are being asked to pay a fee, do some research to make sure the company is legitimate.
  4. Make it personal. A cover letter that’s well-written and customized demonstrates that you have put thought and research into a company. This is your chance to showcase your qualifications as it relates to the company’s requirements and interests.
  5.  Check your spelling and grammar. Don’t neglect the basics. When you submit your cover letter, resume, and application, you want to make sure that they are free of typos and errors. Also, don’t go overboard with fonts and formatting. While you want to stand out, you want to do it in a good way. You don’t want your resume to look like the font machine regurgitated everything it had in its system.

Online Shopping Tips for the Holidays

Most people are opting to shop online for their Christmas gifts. It saves most people the hassle of dealing with overcrowded stores and traffic-heavy roads. Most people prefer online shopping because of the vast selection at their fingertips (or mouse click) and its convenience. Here are some tips to consider if you are going to mosey on down through the virtual aisles of online shopping:

  1. Choose Your Websites Carefully – Not all sites are trustworthy. Know the company’s reputation and privacy policies. Make sure the site is secured, check reviews, and use common sense. If you have doubts, shop elsewhere.
  2. Shop Early – Keep in mind that shipping and handling can take up to a few weeks. You also need to keep in mind the bulk mail that’s processed through the post office and other companies during this time of year. You don’t want to put yourself in a precarious position of not having your gifts arrive on time.
  3. Make a List – Being organized never hurt anyone. By making a shopping list, you can make sure that you don’t leave anyone out. It also helps prevent having to make last-minute shopping trips.
  4. Let’s Make a Deal – One of the benefits of shopping online is that you can compare prices and shop around different sites. Some may offer free shipping, a discount of certain products, or lower prices for the same item.
  5. Have a Budget – Don’t get swept away by the easiness of online shopping. Make sure you have a budget, so that you don’t overspend.
  6. Monitor Your Online Activity – Make sure that your credit card spending matches what you actually spent. Identity theft is very common during the holiday season. Watch out for any unauthorized activities on your accounts.

Please keep in mind that if you are doing any kind of online shopping in public areas, including our Public Computer Services areas (RLCC and the Computer Commons), take precautions to protect your information. You can review our previous post “Safety Tips for Using a Public Computer.” Happy Holidays and enjoy your shopping!

Computer Mouse Tips and Tricks

Most people don’t take full advantage of the computer mouse. Most people don’t know how. So here are some tips and secrets that will help you get the most out of your mouse:

Shift Key and Mouse
Many word processing programs and text editors allow you to highlight all or portions of text using the Shift key and the mouse. For example, place the cursor at the beginning of a paragraph, hold down the Shift key and click at the end of the paragraph to highlight the full paragraph.

Here’s another tip. Hold down the Alt key while dragging and highlighting text to select text that may not be consecutive. This can also be used if your paragraph or text is in a column.

Scroll Wheel
The mouse wheel is not just a wheel; it can also be used as a button. Pressing down on the wheel will act like a third mouse button. This can be used to open a web page in a tab by clicking the wheel on any link. This can also be used to close a tab by clicking the wheel on any open tab.

Zoom in and Out on a web page, word document, excel spreadsheet, etc. by holding down the Ctrl key and scrolling up to zoom in and down to zoom out. If you press down on the wheel, you can move up or down a document or a web page without having to scroll.

Select with double and triple click
You can select a word in a document by double-clicking anywhere within the word. If you want to highlight the whole paragraph, click the mouse button three times.

Use the right-click
Any time you highlight text or wish to view the properties of an object, right-click. You can do anything from copying, cutting, and pasting to looking up synonyms. If you right-click on any file or text and drag it while continuing to hold the right button, when you let go you will be given the option to move or copy that file or text. This saves you the extra step of having to right-click where you want to paste the item.

Use the mouse side buttons
Many new computer mice have buttons on the side of the mouse. These buttons can be programmed to do anything. However, by default, the left-thumb button can be used to go back on a web page. This makes browsing the Internet more enjoyable, since you do not need to move the mouse cursor to the browser back arrow button in order to go back a page.

Use Windows Mouse “Snap To” feature
Take full advantage of the Windows mouse “Snap To” feature, which will automatically move your mouse to buttons that appear in a dialog box. For example, if you delete a file or close a window, you will see a dialog box pop up. With the “Snap To” feature enabled, the mouse cursor automatically moves to the Ok button. To enable this feature, open the Mouse properties under the Control Panel and check the “Snap To” check box under the Pointer Options tab.

Taking full advantage of the mouse will allow you to move around your program and the Internet a little bit faster. Try them and see if they work for you. If not, don’t worry. There are plenty of other tips and tricks you can learn.

Learning How to Use the Computer

Computers can be intimidating, especially to those who didn’t “grow up” needing to be technologically savvy. The Regional Library Computer Center offers quality computer classes with beginner courses designed for those who don’t even know how to turn on that darn thing. After you get started familiarizing yourself with the computer and the software available, you will find that you have some knowledge of what a CPU is, surfing the Web, and typing with more than two fingers.

We will offer the Core Courses (Keyboarding, Basic PC, and Basic Internet) in January. However, you don’t have to wait until next year to learn how to work on the computer. Here are a few things you can do:

Learn how to type on the keyboard and how to handle the mouse.
Learning to type will take a lot of self-discipline and patience. It is also important that you establish the foundation of having the correct technique rather than speed. Speed and accuracy are results of establishing a good technique. You can try these tutorials:

Learn the basic parts of the computer.

  • Computer: The computer unit is known as a CPU (Central Processing Unit). This is the “brain” of the system.
  • Monitor: The monitor is the visual display unit of your computer. The screen or the “eyes” of the computer allow you to see the programs in your system.
  • Mouse: The mouse is your input device. It allows you to go on the screen where you want to go. It has a left button and a right button. Most of the time you will click the left mouse button.
  • Keyboard: A keyboard is the set of typewriter-like keys that enables you to enter data into a computer. The standard keyboard is known as QWERTY.

Learn to surf the Web.
Finally, let’s check out the Internet.

  • You will need to make sure you have a plan with an Internet Service Provider like AT&T, Verizon, or Charter, to name a few. This will allow you to access the Internet.
  • Your computer will need to have an Internet browser like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome. This allows you to peruse websites.
  • If you want to search for something in particular, there are search engines you can use like Bing, Yahoo! or Google.

These basics will hopefully alleviate some trepidation about learning to use computers. You are always welcome to come by the Public Computer Services areas, the Computer Commons in the East building and the Regional Library Computer Center in the Linn-Henley Building, to ask staff for clarification or assistance as you begin your journey into the digital era. Keep checking our blog for information about our classes.

10 Tips for Resume Writing

1. Use a great layout. There are many resume templates available online and from programs. You can use these or you can create your own. Get creative but not too creative.

2. Justify the text instead of using left align. Using a justified text format is easier to follow.

3. Choose a common font. Some fonts are hard to read, and most computers do not have specialized fonts. The common ones are Times New Roman, Arial, and Verdana. Do not use cutesy graphics such as candy canes or teddy bears if you want to be taken seriously.

4. Do not use the word “I.” Start each sentence with a powerful verb. For example:

  • Created customer service manual used by the department and adopted by others in the system
  • Implemented an annual customer appreciation campaign

5. Write a proper cover letter for each position to which you apply. Basic business etiquette dictates that you do not send out a resume and application without a cover letter. Make it personal. If possible, address it directly to a specific person.

6. Proof your resume carefully. Make sure your grammar and spelling are flawless.

7. If you have a degree, only list the year you obtained your degree. Many places that scan resume may not read that you obtained a degree, only that you attended college.

8. Remove any hyperlinks in your resume and cover letter. Active hyperlinks are not necessary and often disrupt the format of your resume.

9. Be consistent. Make sure you list items, programs, and other things that same way. Pay attention to detail.

10. Adhere to punctuation and capitalization rules. Use a reference manual if you do not understand standard punctuation and capitalization rules.

You can also read the RLCC Class Training handout for “Creating your Resume.”