Category Archives: Technology

Hack the System!: Keep Your Phone ALIVE!!

Posted on January 20th, 2017 by adowds in Technology, Teen Services
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2001_CellphoneThis was my very first cell phone almost 20 years ago. It was great. It had an antenna, a cool wrist strap, and could hold about 30 phone numbers. It was freedom. But, the very best part of my phone was that its battery would last for days. Imagine that. Not hours but DAYS. In 2000-2001, we didn’t use our phones to download apps, watch movies, play games, upload hundreds of photos that we never use, or text with friends. I used it for emergencies and emergencies only. But even if I did use it often, that phone had amazing battery life. Honestly, I think a truck could have run over this phone and it would have survived.

Now it’s 2017 and I have a smartphone with too many apps, several hundred photos, an amazingly colorful backdrop, and access to the Internet, which I use way more than I should. It’s battery….meh. I’m lucky if it lasts through the day. That is partly because I never fully charge my phone, often forget my charger at home, and interact with my phone probably at a higher percentage than I interact with people. Just kidding…but I’m sure it’s close.

So how does one increase the battery life for their phones?? It’s a plight we all face and often lose, but I have faith. Fortunately, I discovered the iTechHacks blog post that outlined 10+ methods to increasing your smartphone’s battery life. While you should definitely read the entire article, I have highlighted a short list of their tech hacks that will add time to your smartphone’s battery life, keep it alive, and reduce the number of meltdowns we have while searching for a charger…kim-kardashian




Lower the brightness — High intensity brightness on your phone will exhaust your battery. Make sure to turn off the “Auto-Brightness” option and manually reduce the intensity for a quick and easy battery-saving move.







Cool the Vibrations —  Did you know that the vibrations feature is one of the biggest users of battery juice? It drains your battery quicker than most other features on your phone. While you may use the vibration feature because it’s a great way to alert you to a call or text message, consider changing this option to save some battery life.






Un-Sync Your Auto-Sync — Turn off Auto-Sync! If Auto-Sync is left on, accounts, such as Google and Spotify, continuously sync new data throughout the day. This process utilizes A LOT of energy, which silently depletes your battery life. Before you know it, you went from 20% to 1%. Check your settings and make sure to refresh your apps manually.






Manage Your Apps — It is inevitable that you are going to have apps on your phone, but it’s how well you take care of them that matters. Delete apps you don’t use and update ones you do. Why update? Often appupdatemanager-cydia-tweaktimes, developers create new features for their apps that reduce battery consumption. Older apps may lack these new features and unused apps are simply sucking the life out of your phone without any benefit. If you have certain apps that are used infrequently, you don’t need to delete them, but you can manage their battery use by turning them off in your settings.




Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Hack the System!: Tech Hack Your Winter Break

Posted on December 16th, 2016 by adowds in Technology
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Winter break is upon us. With almost two weeks of no school and no homework, there is a lot of time to fill up with anything you want, even if that means spending days upon days binge watching your favorite shows. But, if you’re bored, not sure what to do, or are looking to try something new, I’ve listed four tech hacks to keep your minds buzzing and your hands tinkering. Enjoy!




1. Empty Cup Full of Music – Hanging out with friends and need some speakers right away but don’t have any? Grab a plastic, paper, or glass cup, stick your phone inside, and you’ve got volume! It might not be the same as most portable speakers, but it will cost you nothing.





2. Turn an Old iPhone Into an iPod Touch – Oftentimes, we don’t know exactly what to do with our old phones. You can sell it, trash it, or hold on to it in case

ipodtouchyou lose or break your new phone. Rarely do we think there could be another purpose for that now outdated, unwanted phone, but there is! You can turn your iPhone into an iPod Touch. To get started, insert a SIM card into the phone — the card must be from the same wireless carrier that the phone uses. Connect the iPhone to an Internet-enabled computer with iTunes, which will activate the program, letting you use it as an iPod Touch. Once connected, you can remove the SIM card from the now iPod Touch and place it back in its original device. It’s that simple! One catch – you must make sure to enable and connect to a WiFi network to use the apps and listen to music with using data!


3. Bouncing Batteries – If you’re like me, your supply of batteries is one heaping pile of mess. I have no idea if a battery has juice or not. I often feel like I am on the Price Is Right, trying to guess what is behind Door #1. But with a little bit of Chemistry on your side, all you have to do is bounce batteries to determine which ones have the most charge left. The higher they bounce, the lower the charge they have in them. Check out this pretty cool video demonstrating the power (pun intended) of Chemistry!



4. YouTube Your GIFs – GIFs have been around for 25 years, but the rise of the animate GIF started in 2015 and has never been more popular than it is today. GIFs are one of the most convenient ways people share and express something, and YouTube is one of many mainstream platforms in which teens choose to broadcast their daily lives, thoughts, and happenings. Sometimes you want to send a friend just a clip of a YouTube video without siting through several minutes of irrelevant material. Thankfully, the website GIFYouTube.com makes creating an animated GIF from any YouTube video you can find. The entire process is quite easy. Simply paste the URL address of a YouTube video into the “Create” bar, and then quickly select where you want the animated GIF to begin and where you want it to end. You can even add captions if want to customize.



Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Hack the System!: Combating Fake News!

Posted on November 18th, 2016 by adowds in News, Technology, Teen Services
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Post-election anxieties are pretty heightened right about now, and election results have left many people asking, How?!? Why?!? What?!? Fingers are being pointed in many directions, but one culprit taking the lead is “fake news”. So much so, some “fake news” bloggers are actually claiming partial responsibility for the election of Donald Trump.


“Fake news” is a form of news satire. Content is presented in a format typical of mainstream journalism, but the actual content is anything but real and often pokes fun at current events. Fake news stories pop up everywhere on social media sites, and receive almost immediate attention, likes, shares, and reactions from users due to its sensationalized material. According to BuzzFeed News Analyst Craig Silverman, “the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News…”. Silverman used a tool called BuzzSumo to compare the way the public engaged or interacted with traditional news stories vs fake news stories that peddled false claims during the final three months of the US presidential campaign. He found that the 20 top performing “fake news” stories received 8.7 million shares, reactions, likes, etc. on Facebook while the 20 top performing new stories from reputable publications received 7.3 million.



Does this mean that fake news won the election for Donald Trump? Most likely not. But it does mean that people either are not as media savvy as we hoped or, we tend to trust almost anything once it is posted online — no questions asked. While companies such as Facebook and Google have amped up their abilities to block ad monies that promote fake news and hoax stories, two individuals have created extensions for Chrome to help people circumvent untrustworthy new sites by warning them when they are visiting sites or reading material that is known to be misleading, satirical, or a hoax.



First, Daniel Sieradski created the “B.S. Detector” on Tuesday, November 15th for Chrome browsers only. This extension will identify and flag articles from questionable resources while users are browsing Facebook.  Sieradski’s invention relies on a pre-generated list of well-known fake news sites created by Melissa Zimdars, a communication and media professor from Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Users may submit requests to update and change this list.





The second extension, Fake News Alert, was created by New York magazine journalist Brian Feldman and was released Thursday, November 17th. If a user attempts to visit a known hoax site, a pop-up or banner appears to alert users. Feldman also uses Zimdars’ preexisting list of fake news sites to assist people who may not be media savvy or have been foiled hook, line, and sinker into reading and believing one of these articles.


These latest creations may diminish the outpouring of misinformation, but they also have a few downsides. First, they can only be used on Chrome browsers. Second, it is up to the user to proactively download the tool. And most notably, these extensions only work on the specific website domain, which means users must actually click on the website link in order to receive an alert. According to Feldman, preemptive alerts that flag articles before they are opened or read would require a more sophisticated version of his Fake News Alert Chrome extension. And similar to any antivirus software, new hoax sites can be created that aren’t in the extension’s database.


The good news — Both of these tools were created in about an hour and their inventors admit they are pretty bare bones. There is plenty of room for tinkering and improvement, which means there is ample opportunity for you all to hack the system and build your own app, fight against fake news, and enable people to place more trust in what they are reading!



Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Hack the System!: Tech Hacks for Struggling Readers

Posted on October 21st, 2016 by adowds in Technology, Teen Services
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While brainstorming ideas as to what to write this month, I stumbled upon an article in Time Magazine titled, 10 Tech Hacks to Help Struggling Readers. While most of my posts have focused on Tech Hacks that make life more fun and interesting, this article was a great reminder that technology can also hack some of life’s biggest obstacles.

Reading is a learned skill developed through a process of building upon cognitive, linguistic, and social skills acquired during our early years. Acquiring this skill can be quite frustrating, especially when the struggle crosses over into other aspects of a teen’s life, causing that teen to feel and get left behind.

Thankfully, technology has provided educators and students with accessible and cost-effective apps and assistive devices that can revolutionize literacy proficiency. With these tools, reading and writing may still be difficult, but it’s not impossible. How? Hack the System! There may be endless apps and gadgets available, but check out the four options below, catch up on some reading, and impress your friends with the latest Tech Hack!

vdr1. Voice Dream Reader — Voice Dream Reader is designed for people with dyslexia, visually impaired, and other learning styles. Filled with 186 voices and 30 different languages, this app can read content from almost anything and anywhere — pdfs, books, Word, websites, PDFs, and Dropbox. Readers can customize their experience by changing fonts, voice speed, highlight and take notes, or set a sleep timer. As the company’s site said, choose your instrument and turn text into speech.



2. Read2GoRead2Go is a mobile reading app that pairs with Bookshare, the world’s largest online library of read2goebooks for readers with print disabilities. By downloading Read2Go, teens can read anywhere, anytime straight from their mobile device.  Read2Go also can connect via Bluetooth to Braille readers. The customization features are similar to the Voice Dream Reader, allowing teens to experience books their own way.




3.  Audiobooks — Sometimes you just need to take a break from the printed book and let someone else do all the reading! Audiobook devices such as Playaway Bookpacks combine the easy-to-use and transportable Playaway device with the book’s printed version. Bookpacks are one of the easiest ways for struggling and emerging readers to practice and develop literacy skills. Choose from classics like The Outsiders or best-sellers such as The Book Thief. Playaways can be a bit pricey, but audiobooks are FREE at your Library!



blio-24. BlioBlio is a free app designed for iPhones and iPads. The app displays in full color, with colorful fonts, pictures, and engaging layouts. Many of the books can be read aloud by a text-to-speech voice (purchase required) or audiobook, with words highlighted as they are spoken. Blio is a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind. The expertise from these two partners has created an app that is unique in its ability to help those with reading disabilities make sense of the text through synchronized highlighting and a serial presentation view. As the company’s motto states, “Don’t just read books. Experience them.”



allyDid you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to audiobooks through Bibliocommons, Hoopla, and Overdrive. To learn more about how to download audiobooks to a device, visit the library’s eBook & Digital Media page. To browse books on CD, search for titles and authors in the BPL catalog and select “Audiobook CD” under format. Or, ask a Librarian!

Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese: Mob Psycho 100, the Manga!

Posted on October 11th, 2016 by jkenney in Books, Resources, Reviews - Staff, Technology, Teen Services


Happy Fall Otaku! I hope you all got to see Mob Psycho 100 on a streaming site. The first season is now over! So that was fast, but it did actually start in July. At this point I wondered, “what about the manga?” Well it doesn’t seem to be widely available  in the US. I won’t be able to order copies for the BPL, but it is online! Go and read on MangaFreak here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually read right to left (kuso!) but the browser is pretty nice. Go ahead and pop out the larger version. You can also find it here on MangaReader, but be wary of non-teen ads. It does work with AdBlock so you can try that too.


Looking at the manga, you can see the basic art style in the story panels. Drawing is simplified line work with some more advanced light and shadow. More detail is given to the creepy spirit characters and psychic power effects.



The online manga sites scan entire and partial softcover foldouts as you can see here below:


So there you have it. The complete run of the manga is available on these online sties. The browsers work well and have high quality scans. The thumbnails were a little blurry for this post but don’t let that disappoint you. Click the images for full resolution. Go online and read Mob Psycho 100 backwards. The pages may flip left to right but the panels on each page are still right to left. Enjoy!


john250-150x150Did you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to anime and graphic novels online? The BPL subscribes toHoopla, a streaming service that allows you to check out and enjoy the media you love on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can learn more about the BPL’s digital media collections here.

Want company while you’re watching anime? The Hyde Park Teen Anime Club meets on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.

*”Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese” features reviews of anime and manga by John, the Teen Librarian at the Hyde Park Branch, on the second Tuesday of every month.