Welcome to iHCPL: The Next Generation. This site was created as the next step in Harris County Public Library's iHCPL Learning 2.0 Program; a discovery learning program designed to encourage staff to explore new technologies. The original iHCPL program was adapted from The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Learning 2.0 Program.

Monday, May 24, 2010

You Oughta Be in Pictures #91: Fun with Photos

Sometimes a simple edit doesn't enhance your photos. Have no fear, image generators and fun online editing tools are here to the rescue!

There are many sites you can use to spiff up your photos. A new favorite of mine is BeFunky. Like other editing sites, BeFunky has basic and premium options. Although the basic features are not as extensive as a paid account, the free finishes are definitely worth checking out and give your photos a new life.

A couple of personal favorites are the Cartoonizer and Lomo. BeFunky also offers Goodies. You can add frames, stickers, speech bubbles and more to your photos. The one drawback of BeFunky is that the free account automatically adds its logo to your image. This may cause a distraction for your photo but if you are okay with that, try it out and see what you can come up with. You can always go to another site and crop out the URL.

is another fun site with a variety of ways to present your photos. It was originally known as FDToys and was mentioned in the original iHCPL but its so great, its worth mentioning again! If you have a collection of photos, you can make photo strips and collages. For single photos, you can transform them to motivational posters, "warholize" them, or customize it a la David Hockney!

Image Generators
Apart from adding finishes to your photos, you can plug your image into a scenario to add humor. Most often image generators use your face to plug into an image (using a celebrity body or even an art piece) but you can use the keyword search to find other scenarios. Some use GIF animation which allow your image to move.

FaceInHole and Pho.to offer a variety of scenarios and GIF animations. FaceInHole allows you to search scenarios by number of faces you want to include or by keyword search.

We didn't forget about you pet lovers either. Build your own LOLcat (or any animal or celebrity!) here. You can use a photo from Cheezburger's bank or upload your own. Whatever image you choose to use, have fun with it!

  1. FotoFlexer, mentioned in the first post, has effects similar to BeFunky and BigHugeLabs. Choose a photo to edit in FotoFlexer and either BeFunky or BigHugeLabs (Cartoonizer, Warholizer, etc). Compare the two. Were the results the same? Do you have a preference?
  2. Use one of the image generators to spiff up a profile picture. You can search Pho.to or FaceInHole for different scenarios - be creative with your search! Share your newly generated image on your blog.
HCPL Staff: Have you completed posts 89, 90, & 91? Don't forget to submit your Registration of Completion.

This module brought to you by Linda Stevens, Grace Lillevig and Veronica Garza.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You Oughta Be in Pictures #90: Sharing Photos

Once you have your beautifully edited photos, you'll want to share them with people, or at least put them online as a backup. We have looked at Flickr before, but there are other options for sharing as well. Most sites have some kind of free option and many link to social networks like Facebook and MySpace. Sharing is easy through links or codes you can use to embed the image in Blogger or other sites.

Features to look for:

  • Free and Pro options: Depending on your needs, you may want to opt for a paid option at some point
  • Photo editing
  • Customizable privacy settings
  • Easy sharing on social networks or via email
  • Printing options if you want photo prints or products
TopTenReviews provides a brief overview of photosharing sites in this short video. In addition, they provide a comparison of 10 popular services. We'll take a brief look at a couple of the most popular options.


This is what we use to store and share HCPL's photos. Flickr's free option limits the number of photos you can upload each month and only shows the 200 most recently uploaded images. However, your images will not disappear from a blog even if they don't show on your Flickr photostream. A pro option with unlimited storage is also available.

Unique features:
  • Images are permanently stored on the site
  • Integrated editing with Picnik
  • Customizable creative commons licenses
  • Take the Flickr Tour to explore the major features.
The below image is embedded directly from Flickr.



The free option on Photobucket allows for unlimited uploads of photos and videos. The limits are 500 MB of storage and 10 GB of bandwidth (this is when the content is viewed on another site you've shared your content on). This can be an issue if you have a lot of photos and share them. Photobucket does have a paid pro option with unlimited storage and bandwidth.

Unique features:
  • Create a slide show or build a scrapbook
  • For details, see the About Us section.

Unlike the other options, Picasa is free downloadable software that helps you organize your photos on your computer. It has built in image editing software to improve your photos. Once you're ready to share you can upload your albums to Picasa Web Albums. Information on Picasa features.


Have a Facebook account? So do nearly 1/2 a billion other folks. Facebook has become a major player in the photo sharing world. If most of your friends and family are on Facebook, it's a simple matter of uploading your photos to share them. When you create or edit an album on Facebook, you can "Edit Info" and set privacy levels. You can share your albums with non-Facebookers using public links.

  1. Watch the video for an overview of photosharing.
  2. If you aren't familiar with any of these sites, browse through the public areas and their features or tours.
  3. What features are important to you when sharing your photos? Are privacy or copyright/creative commons options important to you? Which site do you prefer?
This module brought to you by Linda Stevens, Grace Lillevig and Veronica Garza.

Image: used with permission from Grace Lillevig

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

You Oughta Be In Pictures #89: Basic Photo Editing

With this module, will examine images on the web. We will take a basic look at photo editing, find ways to share your photos online, and tour a variety of fun image related sites. Completing all three posts in this module is worth 2 training hours. This module is available through July 31, 2010.

Buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner. ~Anonymous
It doesn't matter if you are an excellent photographer or you chop off everyone's head in each picture that you take -- photo editing tools can help enhance or correct any photo. They can help you do anything from adding captions to correcting red-eyes, from cropping to adding special effects. Luckily, there are now a wide variety of free options that are very easy to use.

I find Picnik to be very intuitive and it has a wide variety of tools available for free. You don't even have to register, though you receive more benefits if you do. You can also choose the "premium" service to get even more options.

Let's start with Red Eye. The photo being edited is of my dog, Buster. He's looking at me with a heart full of love and the flaming eyes of a demon. Picnik has a quick fix for this. Upload my photo, go to edit, select Touch-up, select Red Eye, and choose "Furball." It also works for non-furry individuals.

Now, we'll move on to cropping. I like the picture of Buster, but I'd like to take out the part where you can see the dust bunnies on my floor. [Cropping is available under Basic Edits.] You can also crop to get rid of the date imprinted on your picture, if you forgot to turn that camera feature off.

Now, to everyone's favorite part: photo bedazzling. We'll change from the "edit" tab to the "create" tab to see what kind of effects are available. You can add visual effects, like sepia or neon, insert text, fix the subject's skin problems (yes, from acne to wrinkles!) or even decorate your photos for a particular holiday. Remember, anything labeled "premium" will require a membership, but I think you'll find plenty to work with free of charge.

We've looked at these effects using Picnik, but there are other quality free photo editing sites out there, it's all a matter of preference.

  • Photoshop - The free online version of Photoshop has a huge variety of tools and effects (fun effect: Pop Color), but I find it a bit more difficult to use than other sites. Registration is required.
  • Fotoflexer - Similar to Picnik, but without the many inaccessible premium parts. Very straightforward with nice effects (fun effect: Cartoon).
Tip: To resize photos (file size) for use on the web, Microsoft Office Picture Manager (available as one of your Office programs) is quick and easy to use.

  1. Upload a photo to Picnik, Photoshop or Fotoflexer. Use at least one editing feature (red-eye fix, cropping, sharpening, resizing, etc.) and one creating feature (framing, adding text, touching up, captions, etc.). Post the edited photo on your blog.

  2. Which photo editing features are important for your use? Which of the listed sites would best meet your photographic needs? Post your answer in your blog.
This module brought to you by Linda Stevens, Grace Lillevig and Veronica Garza.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Web According to Google #88: Wave, Buzz, and Mobile

In this final post we're going to look at two collaborative applications that Google is testing as well as how to take Google with you.

Google Wave, which is currently in preview, is a way for people to collaborate. Waves include:

  • Discussions
  • Task Tracking
  • Meetings
  • Documents
  • Brainstorms.
This brief video gives a nice introduction to Google Wave and how to use it.

Will Kelly describes some possible uses for Wave such as document collaboration, team chats, sending feedback, web conferencing, event planning and much more in his article Google Wave: What's It For?.

Google Buzz lets you follow people and people can follow you through an option in your Gmail account. For instance, when you share an item from Google Reader, your Buzz followers will see the items you share. Watch this video for an overview of Buzz and how you can share items with your friends.

So many people are using mobile technology today, so companies like Google are looking for ways to take advantage of that. Google Mobile allows you to access many of Google’s cool features right from your mobile phone! If you have a web enabled phone, you can go to m.google.com to access mobile phone apps for search, maps, Gmail, and more. Google Search allows you to search Google right from your phone, and includes all of the useful search features you can access with a web browser. Search the web, find images, news, products and more.

Some other Google products you can use on your phone include:
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Reader
  • Google Earth
  • YouTube
  • Picasa Web Albums
Google Mobile Help has additional information about these and other Google Mobile products.

As we discussed in the first post, Google is always trying out new technologies, especially through Google Labs. Several of the application we've looked at during this module came out of Labs, so keep an eye on it for the next big thing.

  1. How do you think you could use Google Wave or Buzz for collaboration? Do you currently use any online collaboration tools?
  2. Read a little about one or two of the Google Mobile apps available for mobile phones. Which ones do you think you would use the most and how?
  3. Make a post in your blog with your answers.
HCPL Staff: Have you completed posts 85, 86, 87, & 88? Don't forget to submit your Registration of Completion.

This post is brought to you by Grace Lillevig (ADM) & Abigail Buchold (ADM).

Image: Flickr CC: New Google Favicon High Resolution: Tiger Pixel

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Web According to Google #87: Google Reader

Back in iHCPL: A learning Experience, we looked at Bloglines in Thing 8 as a way to subscribe to and read RSS feeds. In this post, we're going to look at Google Reader as a better feed reader.

As a refresher, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is used to deliver updated information to a feed reader or aggregator. You can usually spot websites that have RSS feeds by the orange icon on the right, or a variation thereof. In Internet Explorer the icon shows up just above the screen and Mozilla Firefox the icon shows up in the address bar if a feed exists. You can click on the icon to subscribe to the feed, or copy the link and add it in your reader.

Why subscribe to feeds? Instead of having to go check your favorite sites or blogs to see if there's an update, the updates come to you. There are thousands of blogs out there as well as newspapers, magazines, and other media that have feeds on just about any topic you can imagine. Using a reader, you'll know instantly when there's something new.

Beyond Bloglines, there are a number of options to read feeds including from within Internet Explorer and using My Yahoo. So why use Google Reader? There are several reasons:

  • Two options for viewing feeds. The Expanded view shows the complete content of each post. The List view is an overview by blog name, post title and date - if you want a quick view to see if there's anything of interest.
  • More Sharing Options. At the bottom of each Expanded post, there are multiple ways to share a post.
    • Email lets you share by email and if you have a Gmail account you can access your address book.
    • Send to offers posting directly to social sites; set-up where you post through settings. Options include Twitter and Facebook .
    • Share and Share with Note adds the post to your shared page to which friends can view or subscribe - you decide through settings what is public.
  • Like. When you click Like, it adds a note to the post that you liked it. If other users have liked a post, it will show you that as well. You can see who liked it - and they can see you, so do be aware of this. This feature is being used in the Google Play, currently being tested in Google Labs. Google Play shows you items of intereste based on what you like.
  • Mobile. You can read Google Reader on a smart phone at reader.google.com.
  • Import/Export. In Settings-Reader, you can import feeds from another aggregator, so if you want to switch from Bloglines, for example, export your feeds from there and then import them to Google Reader.
  1. Take the tour or sign-up and try the service out. Do you currently use a feed reader? If so which one do you use? Would you switch to Google Reader if you don't already use it? Why or why not?
  2. Take a look at some of your favorite sites. Do they have feeds? If they do, subscribe to one of the feeds. Hint: Our website has feeds.
This post is brought to you by Grace Lillevig (ADM) & Abigail Buchold (ADM).

Image: Flickr CC: The duckies invade Google: Yodel Anecdotal

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Web According to Google #86: Calendar and Documents

Web-based office applications have been around for a while now, and more and more people are using these convenient tools to boost their productivity. Not only do they behave just like many of the desktop office tools we all know so well, but you can access them from home, work, school, the library, a coffee shop, anywhere you can get on the Internet!

This post is about two very useful web-based apps: Google Calendar and Google Docs. Google Calendar is a versatile tool for keeping track of where you need to be and when, plus you can share your calendar with family and friends! You can create multiple calendars that allow you to place color-coded events all in the same view—that way your entire day, week or month is easily viewable. If you so choose, you can receive email reminders when an event is coming up. You can also add tasks for yourself—they’ll appear on the calendar and in a task list for you to check off as you complete them.

One very useful feature of Google Calendar is sharing. You can connect with your friends’ calendars and view their schedules along with your own calendar events. This is very useful for coordinating branch schedules, family schedules, gatherings with friends, and more. To share a calendar:

  • Find the one you want to share in the My Calendars list on the left hand side.
  • Click the down arrow button next to the calendar, then click “Share this calendar.”
  • Type in the address of the friend(s) you would like to share with.
  • Then, select a level of permissions under Permissions Settings and click Add.
Now your friend can see your calendar!

Don’t have time to check your email or your calendar? Not to worry--you can also have reminders sent to your mobile phone as text messages. Never forget another appointment!

Google Documents is basically web-based version of the desktop suites most of us are familiar with, except you can access it from any computer with an Internet connection! You can create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and web forms from a template or from scratch. You can keep your documents private or share them with friends or coworkers.

Also, Google Documents works well as online storage for your files! You can store any file type on Google Docs, with one caveat. Certain types of files can be converted to the Google Docs formats—this allows you to edit them later in Docs if you choose. Some file types cannot be converted, only stored. However, it is still a great way to store and organize PDF files, photos, and more for private use or sharing with friends. To upload a file
  • Click the Upload button on the left side.
  • Click "Select files to upload"and choose the file you would to upload to Google Docs.
  • Once you've chosen one, you can add more by clicking "Select more files" and adding new ones until you are finished.
  • You can then select a folder in which to upload the files (optional)
  • Click "Start upload."
Your files will then be saved to your account!


Answer the following on your blog:
  1. Create a calendar in Google Calendar and try adding some events or tasks to it. How do you think you would use Google Calendar in the workplace or at home? Do you think you would find it helpful to share calendars with coworkers, friends, or family?
  2. Try creating a file Google Docs and uploading one from your computer. Can you see yourself using Google Docs in addition to or instead of a desktop office application? Why or why not?

This post brought to you by Grace Lillevig (ADM) & Abigail Buchold (ADM).

Image: Flickr CC: Google World Logo: 6S

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Web According to Google #85: Resistance is Futile

In 1996-1997 two Stanford University students started a little project that became Google. In the 14 or so years since its launch it has added numerous other products, starting with the toolbar in 2000. A major milestone in the creation of new products was the release of Google Labs in 2002. Google Labs is a place where Google tries out beta technologies some of which have gone into production. Because Google has become such an integral part of many people's lives, we're going to take a look at several of the more popular applications over four posts. Completing all four posts is worth 2 training hours. This module is available through June 30, 2010.

Google has a variety of products available. We've previously covered Blogger and YouTube in the original iHCPL. Blogger and YouTube were developed independently and later purchased by Google. Several other applications to be aware of are:

  • Google Mail or Gmail, the popular email client
  • Google Books - Search the full text of books. Allows the user to either search or browse by subject. With a Google Account, you can create your own bookshelf with favorites, which you can share with the world. Back issues of some magazines are also available (Weekly World News anyone?) Keep in mind that not all books have full text available due to copyright.
  • iGoogle - Acts as a launch pad for wide-variety of widgets that you can install. You can also customize the look with a variety of themes. Depending on the widgets you install, you can view and launch Gmail, your Google calendar, YouTube (owned by Google), Google Reader, and get news and weather. iGoogle is an application that came out of Google Labs.
In the past several years, Google has developed several products that require a download rather than being strictly web-based. These include:
In upcoming posts we'll be covering Calendar and Docs, Google Reader, and the newer apps such as Buzz and Wave in depth.

In your blog, respond to the following:
  1. What Google products do you use on a regular basis? Why do you use them and what makes them better than a competing product?
  2. Check out Google Labs. Did you see any new products that you want to try?
  3. Search or browse Google Books. Do they have the book or magazine you looked for? Did you find any gems? How can this be used in the library?
This post brought to you by Grace Lillevig (ADM) & Abigail Buchold (ADM).

Image: Flickr CC: Google Logo 50th Anniversary Inspiration: manfry

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Publishing Evolution #84: Writer Communities & Author Websites

Writing was once a very solitary experience: the author and a typewriter or computer. If that writer was lucky there was a writers group nearby. Now there’s Writing.com, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November), Script Frenzy (April), and many others. The community has connected, sharing their advice. Agents blog, publishers and agencies update their submission guidelines instantly. On top of that, people connect with authors, get feedback on the books, and learn of the authors’ everyday lives. The mystique of the writer is being slowly eaten away. The dream of being published is closer than ever before, but the struggle of success is the same.

Authonomy, a project promoted and supported by HarperCollins, is the American Idol of the publishing world. Present your work, have it read, critiqued, and voted on by others, and perhaps your work will be noticed by the editors of HarperCollins. Is this the wave of the publishing future?


  1. Have you contacted your favorite authors or gone to their websites? Do you like knowing more or less about them? Search for your favorite author; do they have a website or blog? Can you interact with them via web?
  2. Does the idea of a book being published based on popular vote give you more or less faith in the material?
HCPL Staff: Have you completed posts 82, 83 & 84? Don't forget to submit your Registration of Completion.

This module is brought to you by Beth Krippel (ATA)

Image: Flickr CC: typing by candle light: Mr. Stabile

Friday, March 12, 2010

Publishing Evolution #83: Paper to Pixels (or e-ink)

Another mode of self publishing is pure digital: blogs, personal web pages, writing sites. Most of these items never see a bound paper format. This material, like vanity press, skips editors and publishers and goes straight to the reader. Pixel and e-ink formats used by popular reading devices like the Kindle, Nook, and iPad are not limited to the mainstream publishing houses. Authors can have their stories processed directly for these devices.

There are also website projects like iFiction that have an iTunes setup. It allows people to read a portion of a story and decide if they want to pay for the rest. With this business model, the author controls the amount of material made free and the cost for the rest of the material. Readers have more control over what books earn their money.

Speaking of money, recent publishing news examined pricing for digital books. Amazon.com set a price at (highest) $9.99, and in doing so took a loss on many of their offered e-books. However, they also established the Kindle as the e-reader with the least expensive e-books. Publisher MacMillan wanted to control the prices set, and after some interesting digital punches, won out. Now digital books are sold based on prices set by the publisher.


  1. Do you prefer paper or pixels? Is getting the material faster on the computer or is reading in a paper form more important to you? Why?
  2. Does price influence how you get your books or is it availability? Would you pay the same price for a digital book as you would for a paper copy?
  3. Visit iFiction and look at what it offers. Do you like the idea of preview and then pay?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Publishing Evolution #82: Print on Demand

This module on the evolution of publishing will have three posts. Completing all three posts is worth 2 training hours. The module is available through April 30, 2010.

Web 2.0 has made the web a social extravaganza. Its impact on the world has transformed local town heroes into major phenomena through YouTube and Twitter. News travels faster than mainstream TV. And like all the major media industries, publishing has been altered exponentially. Now, any person can blog, write stories, and publish without the requirement of finding an agent or publishing house. The electronic readers have improved and access to their materials increases.

In this module, we will be looking at the changes in publishing, from online to self pub services.

Print on Demand

The stigma of self publishing slowly diminishes (but is not gone). Depending on each authors’ goals, there are several methods to transfer writing from words on a computer into a bound book. When the money to publish is invested by the author, it is called vanity press or self-publishing. With the progress of the Internet, vanity press also incorporates print-on-demand (POD). There’s no stock and no storage, but because printing happens when a book is requested, prices per copy tend to be higher. Yet, with the web technology, now every writer with a dream can be published. Learn more about print on demand from Writer Beware sponsored by Science Fiction Writers of America.

Some companies have been focused on self-publishing for years; the major players come down to Lulu, Xlibris, Author House, iUniverse, and Createspace (Amazon.com). Even Harris County Public Library carries self published materials through iUniverse, Author House, and Xlibris.


  1. Visit each of the websites listed above and see what they offer. Is it higher or the same as traditionally published books? Look at some of their published books. Have you read any of them? Would you?
  2. What do you think of self publishing? As a reader, do you prefer books that have gone through the traditional route and have the confidence of a company’s financial backing, or do you not care how the book got printed, you’re just glad it did?
This module is brought to you by Beth Krippel (ATA)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Future of Media #81: Get Out Your Crystal Ball

Remember When?

Technology changes rapidly, but not every new development in media format ends up catching on and making the difference that might have been expected. The Blu-Ray format beat HD DVD in the format war, but has it made a huge difference to most of us? In the audio format, most of us never cared to have a Super Audio CD.

Then there were the changes that had great influence. It might seem hard to believe now, but the personal computer first outsold the TV set in the United States in 1994. DVDs were introduced in 1997 (Netflix started the same year) and became officially more popular than VHS in 2001. Recordable CD technology became part of computer systems in 1999. Napster was created in 2000, changing music distribution and causing the music industry to experience it's first decline in annual sales. The iPod debuted in 2001, followed by iTunes in 2003. The home entertainment industry has been revolutionized in a variety of ways in less than 20 years.

How do you know what is next on the horizon that will make a difference? Keep informed and guess.

The Future Starts Now

I'm sure you've seen statistics or read articles about the death of the newspaper industry. Some business analysts predict that the traditional TV business is set up for the same kind of fall. Basically, since Internet-based distribution doesn't generate the profits TV companies are used to, are they prepared to support themselves when the television and the computer screen are merged? Robert Cringely blogs in this post that network television will go away, cable operators will become ISPs, and content will endure. How will current content change? Will "midtails" bring the best of traditional television and the Internet?
A previous post in this module discussed streaming movies through different gaming systems. Companies like Amazon and Netflix also offer high quality movie streaming. Will we always want a format you can hold in your hand AND the convenience of computer access? Or will the recent announcement that the giant Wal-Mart is buying Vudu accelerate the end of the DVD?

The Look of the Future

One of the most current debates concerns the future look of movies, TV and games. Some of you might have heard of a little movie called Avatar, claimed by it's director to be a movie that will change the way we watch movies through the development of 3D technology. He is not alone -- others are comparing 3D to the switch to color. Now, 3D is poised to come to the TV. What will that mean for the consumer? Will it catch on? Or is it really suited for gaming?

There are a great many questions you could try to "futurecast" regarding home entertainment and media. Will we still go to movie theaters in ten years? Will everything be "on demand?" Will I still get my HBO shows at the nursing home? What do you think?


  1. Which of the developments listed above do you think will have the most influence? Is there a new technology you have been following that you think will have more effect? Discuss it in your post.
  2. Are you an early adopter of every gadget or do you have fond memories of technologies from the past? What is your favorite media gadget or which outdated format do you miss the most? Describe it in your post.
HCPL Staff: Have you completed this exercise? Dont' forget to submit your Registration of Completion.

This module brought to you by Linda Stevens (ADM), Grace Lillevig (ADM), Abigail Buchold (ADM), & Mark Haywood (ALD).

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Future of Media #80: Movies

© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
Watching movies at home doesn’t always mean a trip to the video store anymore! These days the Internet offers a variety of ways to watch your favorite movies without even leaving home.

The popular site Netflix allows you to choose films from their huge collection of titles—for a monthly fee they send DVDs through US Mail right to your front door! In the past year they have also added “Instant” titles that you can stream from their site and watch on your home computer. Not all titles are available for streaming, but the number is growing.

Have an xBox 360 or Playstation 3? Netflix allows you to stream movies through these gaming systems at no extra charge. Recently, Netflix also announced its plan to provide streaming movies through the Nintendo Wii! Streaming content through the Wii should be available by Spring of 2010.

Blockbuster is now offering streaming movies in addition to their storefront rentals. Fees are paid per rental. You can get DVDs delivered through the mail and download “On Demand” titles from their website. Blockbuster also offers downloads for purchase.

You may have heard of Hulu, a site that provides free access to full-length network TV shows. Hulu also has an extensive library of feature films you can watch on your computer. There are thousands of free titles. The site highlights popular films, recently added movies, and films from various genres.

Are you into foreign movies and art films? Check out Mubi.
© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
Mubi “is a web site making great films from prominent festivals around the world accessible to anyone through high-definition video streaming.”

You may have seen the Redbox kiosks in a fast food restaurant, in front of a pharmacy, or in the grocery store. Redbox allows you to rent movies vending machine-style with just the swipe of a credit card. Well, now you can reserve movies through Redbox online before you visit the kiosk. You just choose the movies you want, choose a pickup location, pick up your movies and enjoy. Fees are charged per night, and you can return them to any Redbox kiosk.

Movie trailers have been available online for quite some time. You can find them all over the web, but some of the better quality high definition trailers are available on specific sites. Apple Trailers, for example offers a database of movie trailers for films currently in theaters and for upcoming films. You can watch them online and they are available in HD, as well as on the iPod and iPhone. Internet Movie Database (IMDB) is a well known database of film, actor, director, and production information. IMDB offers movie trailers for many films, both current, upcoming, and from the past. There are also some full-length films to choose from. Hulu, the streaming site mentioned above, also has trailers available.

  1. Use one of the film sites above to find a free full-length film (you’ll probably have the best luck with Hulu, The Auteurs, or IMDB). Watch a little of it. Would you watch an entire film on your computer or do you still prefer watching DVDs on your TV?
  2. Find a trailer for an upcoming film. Would you use these sites to keep up on current film information?
  3. Write a blog post about the experience. Would you consider using any of the fee-based services to get the movies you want at home? If so, which one would work better for you and why?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Future of Media #79: Television

This module on the future of media consists of three posts: television, movies, and the future of both. Completing all three posts is worth 2 training hours. The module is available through March 31, 2010.

When television was in it's infancy at the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s, I don't think anyone could have imagined that people would be able to record shows, watch TV shows on demand, or even watch a show on the Internet.

Today, changes in the public's viewing habits and the increase in the number of channels and options has forced the television industry to look at other options to reach it's viewing public. One effect is the growing use of product placement in TV shows as viewers increasingly skip over commercials with their DVRs. Another effect is the increase in the number of episodes available on the web for people to watch.

Most of the major networks have some kind of online presence for viewers to find their favorite shows. Availability of episodes varies both by network, site, and show. The major options are:

  • Hulu.com - Offers recent episodes of popular shows such as Lost, 24, The Office, and Family Guy primarily from NBC and Fox. It also has "classic" shows such as The Facts of Life, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and What's Happening. The number of episodes varies by show and each does include commercials.
  • tv.com - A one stop shop for CBS shows, either airing on CBS or in some way produced by them. Popular shows include NCIS, CSI, South Park, and Survivor. Classic shows such as Bonanza are also available.
  • Joost - Has quite a bit of animation in addition to similar offerings to Hulu and tv.com.
  • viewmy.tv - Watch news from around the world.
  • CastTV - The site's goal is to index every video, and thus TV show, on the web.
  • Major Network websites - ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and The CW all offer at least some episodes of their current TV shows online. In addition to current shows, NBC also has a selection of classic shows as well as original online-only shows.
Going Mobile

With the advent of web based mobile phones, especially the iPhone, watching TV on the go is becoming easier and more popular. There are several free or low cost options for taking your favorite programs with you.
  • The major phone providers including AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all have some kind of Mobile TV option. Charges may apply.
  • The major networks all have mobile websites: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and The CW. Not all the sites are accessible over a regular internet browser as they are designed for use on smart phones.
  • For iPhone/iPod Touch users, some of the sites have available apps: tv.com (CBS), The CW, and ABC. There are also a number of mobile TV apps for the iPhone. Mashable has a list with reviews. Note that some apps have a small fee.
Be Your Own TV Star

Why let the networks or cable channels have all the fun? You can be the star of your own program online. There are a number of sites that let you post your own videos, or in the case of USTREAM and Justin.tv, post a live feed. For more on making videos, see the video module from October 2008.
  • USTREAM - This site host to the popular Shiba Inu Puppy Cam, lets users post streaming video. People can chat about your stream live.

    Live Broadcast by Ustream.TV
  • Justin.tv - Like USTREAM, users can post live feeds.
  • YouTube, Yahoo! Video, and Vimeo all have options for uploading videos to their sites and sharing your creativity with the world. Many users have "channels" that you can subscribe to, in effect creating their own online broadcast network.

Post your replies on your blog.
  1. Visit Hulu, tv.com, or one of the other TV sites. Search or browse the site to see if your favorite show is listed. Are you able to watch full episodes online? What coverage is available?
  2. Have you ever watched a TV show on your cell phone? If so, did you like it? If not, are you interested? Why or why not?
  3. Are there any streaming programs or user "channels" that you watch? Have you ever posted videos to a site on a regular basis?
This module brought to you by Linda Stevens (ADM), Grace Lillevig (ADM), Abigail Buchold (ADM), & Mark Haywood (ALD).
Images © 2010 JupiterImages

Friday, January 22, 2010

Searching #78: Video

Video content on the web is ubiquitous these days. Innumerable methods and tools exist for editing, uploading and sharing it. Moreover, the most compact and inexpensive of digital cameras now have video recording capability, making amateur moviemakers of us all. Not only is it easy create your own clips, it’s just as easy to find others out there thanks to search engines devoted solely to searching for video content.

In 2006, Time Magazine named as its annual Person of the Year not, as is customary, a world leader, scientist, or celebrity but instead selected “You,” the broad base of users of the World Wide Web. This was due in no small part to a then-relatively young site known as “YouTube.” Though it’s likely the most popular video site on the Internet, YouTube is different from other video search engines for the fact that 1) it is primarily a video-sharing site, allowing users to upload their own content for public or private viewing after creating a free account, and 2) it searches only its own user-generated and uploaded content rather than any video out there on the Internet.

Another well-known video search engine is Truveo. Like Google, Truveo utilizes a simple, user-friendly design that disguises depth and a thoroughness about locating Internet content. The no-frills homepage greets the user with a text box for keyword searching and five of the most popular categories beneath for browsing: News, Sports, TV Shows, Music, and Most Twittered. According to its website, some of the most trafficked online presences, notably those owned by AOL and Microsoft, employ Truveo as their video search engine of choice.

Despite also being very capable and comprehensive, Blinkx’s professed uniqueness lies not solely in presentation or in search options as in how it evaluates video content for accurate retrieval. According to its own description, Blinkx, unlike many search engines, looks not only at the text around a particular form of media to determine what it’s about -- a common method that can sometimes retrieve inaccurate results. Instead, Blinkx employs “speech recognition and video analysis software” that does not only scan text surrounding media to acquire a description but also, in a sense, listens and watches content itself to get a better idea about a video or other form of media, thus providing you with a hit that’s potentially closer to your target.

There are, of course, other great video search engines on the web. For comparison or curiosity’s sake, you could also check out Google Video, Clipblast, Yahoo! Video, or Bing, just to name a few. So, play around and see what entertaining, fun, or interesting content you can find. Just be careful – there’s so much out there that it might be difficult to pull yourself away!

1. Search for a particular video using both Truveo and Blinkx. Look for any similarities or differences in the results, and write about them in your blog.
2. Go to HCPL’s YouTube channel and take a look around. Discuss in your blog ideas for how your own branch video could add to the mix of searchable video content on the Internet.

HCPL Staff: Have you completed this exercise? Dont' forget to submit your Registration of Completion.

Image copyright Jupiterimages

Friday, January 15, 2010

Searching #77: Images

“What does a lupine look like? I need a picture of the El Salvador’s state seal. Where can I find a picture of Davy Crockett?"

We’ve all heard questions like these and can usually find pictures for our use or our customers to use. But how to find one that is free to download and use? Every major search engine has its own image search that is relatively easy to use: – Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Ask.
But how to determine if you can use these images?

What’s the difference between free and royalty free? A "royalty free" image means that the price of the image is the same whatever the time of use and the number of prints. You will still need to buy that image under a royalty free license but then you can use this image without limit of time and without limit of number of uses. There are numerous sites to buy photos from – iStockPhoto or Fotolia to name a couple. "Free" means free - we like our stuff free!

Most of our customers feel the same way. There is a search engine just for pictures called Picsearch. When I searched on “lupine” I got 23,582 hits. Typing in “lupine free” gave me only 32 hits. Further exploration showed that these photos are available for use in “non-commercial website/projects only”. They would like for their website to be acknowledged. The photo used is from © BlossomSwap.com.

Then there is Clip Art – art work that can be used to spiff up any poster. I needed a Santa for our Christmas Blog and got several interesting choices. I tried Microsoft Clip Art (available with the Microsoft Office package), iClipArt, and AllFreeClipArt. I had varying degrees of success with the clip art programs. Harris County Public Library subscribes to a clip art program, called Schools.Clipart for library staff use when making posters, flyers, etc. Each clip from this site must be credited with “@jupiterimages” when used.


1. Using AllFreeClipArt, how many clicks did it take to get to a color Santa that doesn’t look like a troll?
2. Read “10 Places to Find Free Images Online”. Blog about 2 of the sites listed.
3. Try logging in to the clip art program for HCPL use. Each branch has their own login and password you can get from your branch librarian. Find an illustration that could be used for a program at your branch and add it to your blog. Be sure to credit that piece.

Image Credit: www.blossomswap.com/picture/purple_lupines.html

Friday, January 8, 2010

Searching #76: Sound Effects

Ever thought about spicing up your blog with sound effects? Turn up the volume on your speakers, or plug in your headphones, and consider this scenario that uses Windows Media Player to play the sounds:

The alarm clock rings. You wake up and head to the kitchen for breakfast. You crack some eggs into a pan and make some toast. You have a cup of coffee. You brush your teeth, and head out the door. You jump into the car to head off to work.

There are lots of ways to search for sounds. One useful site is FindSounds, a site that has processed over 35 million sound searches to date. This site also provides tips for searching for sounds on the web.

Sound files come in lots of formats. Examples are Microsoft WAV (.wav; a common audio file for Windows); MIDI (.mid; musical instrument digital interface); MP3 (.mp3; compresses music files without loss of quality to make them more easily used by computers); and RealAudio (.ra; sized to support streaming audio). The Simply the Best Sounds site is another good place to search for sounds. It has a list of formats, together with more detailed descriptions.

Like any web content, sound files may contain copyrighted material. It is the user's obligation to obtain copyright clearance if it is required for the intended use.

  1. Use FindSounds to search for and post links to at least three animal sound effects in your blog. Finding out whether or not these are in the public domain is not easy. Try clicking on "Show Page" to see the site where the sound originated. You may have to go back to the "Home" page of the website for more detail. Or you can try deleting part of the right-hand side of the web address (URL) to work your way back to a page with more information about the rights governing the use of the sounds. A website that is very concerned with copyright will usually have this posted in a pretty obvious manner.
  2. It is much easier on the Simply the Best Sounds site to find what sounds are included in the public domain. Search for three such sounds, and post links to them in your blog. If you can't identify the direct link to the sound, just name the sound and give the link to the page on which it appears.

Image @jupiterimages