Category Archives: Computer fun

Becoming a Mozillarian – Popcorn and Thimbles and Goggles, oh my, with mashups long into the night

After spending most of this HOT Sunday, one way or another, with Mozilla’s Webmaker, I’m feeling a little (lot) loopy. Which is appropriate, since most of the time was with Popcorn, which loops and stretches and jiggles various media sources every which way you want, once you figure out how it works.

It’s fairly easy once you figure it out, but the first couple of hours (AFTER watching the how-to videos AND reading all the how-tos about it) were extremely frustrating. Nomatter what I did, I never could get Popcorn to import anything from Flickr. This was a bit disappointing since my first idea involved photos from our just-ended Summer Reading program. I kept getting the message “unacceptable media” and so assumed either Popcorn didn’t like jpgs or wants only very small files (it could be a size issue; jpgs did import later).

I also could not get Popcorn to import anything from Wikipedia – all the urls I copied into the search box produced an error message. (After I FINISHED my first mashup, I noticed the Wikipedia link on the EVENTS list.)

So, two hours into the project, it still had no contents. I took a break by watching a lot of the sample Popcorn mashups. My favorites were the one about the cat foster home (which did not seem to be made from web images but from specially made video) and the one about climate change.

I decided to start with music instead of a video, and quickly discovered that Popcorn does not allow (I think – maybe it does but I never did find a preview link or tool) any meaningful previewing before importing. So I went to the Soundcloud site and did some exploring till I found a cheerful instrumental (bluegrass); then I typed the name of that piece in the search box and imported it. Somehow an image associated with a different musician came in with the music as the first image of the mashup, and I can’t figure out how to replace it, as it doesn’t show up separate from the music.

I was delighted to discover that images do NOT have to be on the web in order to use them in a project. “Image” under “Events” lets you import them from your computer. I made sure the files were small enough and then dropped jpg files from my computer into the “drag and drop here” box so I could start with pictures of the library exterior and the bookshelves. I added the gifs of book covers in the same way. It took a little more time than it should have, because it’s easy to erase an image you want to keep unless you make sure you’re selecting space on the line ABOVE where you want the new image to go, which means you have to move the new image down to the correct spot after importing it.

Adding pop-ups and text was easy. So was finding and adding animated gifs – except I did have some trouble when placing them. The double click required placed two copies of the gif most of the time; the easiest fix was to delete the zero layer, then do any resizing needed. I could not figure out how to delete individual images or text boxes or pop-ups.

You can see my first mashup at

Popcorn is fairly new, so I’m hoping Mozilla improves it. I’d like to see much more complete how-to and help info, written as well as in video: documentation of the meanings/causes of the error messages; clear statements about the format and sizes required for importable files; clear statements about how to make searches for Flickr photo tags work or if the Flickr import is only for video; and clear statements about the requirements for url imports. I suspect that the overall process works best if one first imports either an audio file or a video file and then adds layers of still photos or gifs or text or whatever. If so, that fact also should be in the documentation.

Popcorn mashups do provide libraries yet another way to handle publicity and/or education, and they do seem useful as a tool to educate young and old about the internet. I’d like to feel confident about hosting a Webmaker party for our teens and then for older adults, to provide general internet education, but I’m not there yet. I’d have to be a lot more proficient user of all the tools.

Also I’m not there yet because I can’t answer some basic questions about the Webmaker tools that I know our teens AND adults are going to ask:

So you use Goggles remix a web page to create a custom homepage or some humor, or you make a web page using Thimble. Does the page continue to exist in your Mozilla “Maker space” where you can find and use it? Can you use it someplace else, like on your own website? How? Why not use WordPress, instead?

I’m glad Mozilla has undertaken this project. I’m going to keep plugging away with the Webmaker tools and the entire “Explore” section and try to become far more internet literate than I now am.


Mapping and Geolocation Tools

I spent WAY too much time exploring Google Earth’s new functions this Thursday. They’re interesting and can keep you looking and searching for hours (unfortunately). I wasn’t entirely thrilled by the new tours, but it’s going to take thousands (millions, more likely) more photos for them to do what I suspect lots of us are hoping for, which is something much more like real video.

In my book, the best views are still the flyovers, with the U.S. city street views as a close second. (I can see how folks who have smartphones that can go online like the maps aps. In cities I probably would, too. But I’ve always enjoyed the exploring that happens when I get lost – which I often do.) Street views outside of major cities and especially outside the U.S. don’t work as well or at all and aren’t likely to because the necessary photos aren’t online. I wanted to check out some areas in Costa Rica, as my son is considering retiring there, but there just aren’t enough photos posted to make it happen

Tours of the landmarks I explored are a disappointment if you want anything more than a street view. There are lots of photos of the Sistine Chapel, for example, but nothing that I could find worked like an inside tour, which is what I was hoping for.

I spent some time on HistoryPin, WhatWasThere, and Sepiatown, looking for photos of Chicago’s East Side neighborhood (where the infamous anti-union street massacre occurred) from earliest date possible through about 1970. I found some I can use (they are for a poetry ms by a friend of mine, recently deceased, whose memorial website I manage – if you’re interested, go to but am still looking for photos of the Cal Park Beaches and the Calumet Forest Preserve, and also am looking for artists’ drawings of the Calumet River and swamp area pre-settlement. I had hope for LOTS more old photos – again, the problem is the photo supply, not the technology.

I looked at the tools for teachers – lots of possibilities here for classrooms and programs and book clubs and so on. I can see using our laptop and projector to give a tour along with some recommended books at one of our programs at the Senior Center this summer, too.

I signed the library up for LibraryThing and am posting events there, starting with Teen Volunteer Training. Still trying to figure out how to automatically link each post to Facebook and Twitter.

KWOUT: one more new thing learned this year (two more things?)

i LOVE KWOUT. That is, I do when I can get it to work.

I posted a link to a site with pictures of the most beautiful libraries on the library website at — you can check it out. It worked.

I posted a link to a Youtube video of my favorite little YouTUbe dog, Yorkie Minnie, on my husband’s and my joint Facebook page and I tweeted it, too. The tweet shows the link but no image. Facebook shows the image and my posting about it. Wish the tweet also showed the photo.

Now I’m trying to post this clip from a page of Arabian horse photos here — which I selected because (1) we still have 9 Arabian horses and (2) they are gorgeous and (3) I am eager for good weather so we can start training and riding again and (4) the strutting bay in the center of this photo looks a lot like our JohnJohn. Really. But so far, I only get text to show up. I’m going to leave it as is in this draft and try to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Then I’ll come back and comment on what I’ve found out.

<div class=”kwout” style=”text-align: center;”><a href=”″><img src=”; alt=”; title=”arabian horses pictures – Google Search” width=”324″ height=”234″ style=”border: none;” /></a><p style=”margin-top: 10px; text-align: center;”><a href=”″>arabian horses pictures – Google Search</a> via <a href=””>kwout</a></p></div&gt;

Okay, I’m trying again, this time not as a quick post but inside my WordPress “edit post” screen and in the TEXT view. Here goes:

AHA! That’s the trick. You have to be in TEXT view when you plug in all this text, if you want it to show what it links too instead of just text.

I do love NE Learns 2.0. I’ve re-learned how to experiment. So, here are some more things to gawk at:

The lovely Minnie (quote from the Facebook quote):

Gorgeous libraries (quote from the Val Library website quote):

Will I keep using KWOUT? You bet.I don’t know how attractive or interesting my “shares” will be because of that, but I’ll be sharing more because of it, personally and on the library website. It’s so much easier to use all that cut/paste/save/copy/paste.

Now, Michael, if you would just teach us how to upload the PICTURES in just as easy a way with our tweets, I would be very grateful! (Searching underway…. nope, seems you have to link from a saved pic.)

Photosynth: Okay, now this is FUN

First reaction to this assignment: I have a decent digital camera (with full battery and enough card space), can walk in a more-or-less straight line, can turn around in a circle without falling over – so should be able to do this.

Yep. I did it two ways, “spin” and “walk” – and am certain to do “wall walk” and “panorama” soon, too. Would have done both already, but patrons needed service and were a little perturbed at the librarian with the camera and the strangely slow moves.

If you haven’t tried Photosynth yet, I recommend it. If you’re a librarian, I especially recommend it. We should find it pretty easy to get Teens to take the photos for us, too, so we can get them involved in posting plenty of library tours, panoramas of featured writer displays, mystery walks – come up with an idea, here’s a way to capture it for Instagram and Facebook and your website, too.

I bit the bullet and posted info about this on our website on 2/27 and also posted links to the two synths I’ve made, there and on our library’s Twitter account and Facebook page. My examples are first tries, remember, but if I can do this, anyone can.

As soon as I created mine, I realized I’d like to figure out how to reverse the direction of the spin so the photos would move in the order I took them. Directions on the Photosynth site let me change the direction of the spin, but the change didn’t become permanent even though I saved it twice (I’ll try again later). (Disappointingly, I found that out AFTER posting gleeful “success” messages to Twitter and Facebook.) I haven’t figured out how to slow down the spin and the walk, to produce less dizziness. That might require a LOT more photos.

I also added this information to the website post and posted it on Facebook:

How do I view and interact with a synth?

Synths follow a specific path. Swipe (or click and drag with your mouse) horizontally or vertically to navigate along the synth path. You can also pinch (or double click) to zoom in on a specific image to get a closer look. Once you are zoomed in, zoom all the way out to continue navigating the synth.

Here’s the spin from near the librarian’s desk:

And here’s the walk from the south end of the fiction stacks through the main room into the Children’s Room (yes, we are a SMALL library):

KUDOS for Chris RIppel’s EXCEL Shelf Shuffler

“NCompass Live Tech Talk with Michael Sauers Excel at Rearranging Your Library” is available on YouTube — I HIGHLY recommend the video and the EXCEL workbook Chris Rippel created and explains how to use in the video.

We are in the process of giving the library a big facelift. I found this video at EXACTLY the right time. I also downloaded the recommended EXCEL Shelf Shuffler workbook and used it to make a scale drawing of our main floor and all our furniture, and I followed Chris Rippel’s basic principles of setting up the library for the right flow.

The result is WONDERFUL. We not only have new carpet and newly painted children’s & young readers’ rooms; we also have a ‘power path’ which will draw patrons into & through the library in a very pleasant way. Our large shelves now are well lit (they weren’t before). Everything feels more open. We are adding good SIGNS, too.

Our tiny library will feel more like a ‘real’ library when we’ve everything back in place for our grand reopening Jan. 14. HURRAH! And thanks to Michael Sauers and Chris Rippel. GREAT VIDEO.

Gee, ANOTHER internet time-waster: Bitstrips

This month’s challenge from Nebraska Learns 2.0 is to try out Bitstrips and post something from it on Facebook and/or Twitter.

I was pleased to find a Bitstrips ap for Kindle, especially since the reviews have been good. It worked well — up to a point. I had no trouble designing my avatar — but the Kindle ap so far won’t let me make a status picture or card or anything else.

Back at the computer, I logged onto Facebook to see how things worked from there. Sure enough, Bitstrips had registered itself on our Facebook account, and i was able to make a status card. Problems surfaced, however, when I wanted to post the image. Posting to Facebook was allowed, but not to Twitter.

Now, I probably could fix this by diddling with the Facebook settings, but I really don’t want to waste my time doing that. I’m an old fuddy-duddy who HATES Facebook. I like my social life in person and my online time as short as possible so I can get back to my social life and books and critters and crafts and, yes, even my computer work, which I do 99% of OFFline (including these posts). We (my husband and I) use OUR Facebook account to see photos our kids and grandkids email or phone us about so that we bother to go see them. And sometimes we post on Facebook via Twitter (which we use for political rants only). But we do not go online to see what’s on Facebook unless explicitly asked to do so.

I did post the status block to Twitter, but not from Bitstrips. I copied the image to my computer, edited it to make it bigger (the png was too small), and copied it into a Tweet. You probably can find the tweet with a google search. You also can see the image here. The text says “It’s a bit disconcerting when a cartoon avatar actually looks better than you do.”


You can’t see the image on Facebook, even though it is there, because our privacy settings are so high. The Facebook account is open for viewing only by accepted friends, who are only our kids and grandkids and a very few others. Yep, we really are fuddy-duddies.

Bitstrips probably will be good for our new Teen Advisory Group to use to help publicize the library to other Teens and throughout the Village, along with the short flics I hope they will make and post on Instagram and Youtube. So I’m glad I know about it. But I’m personally going to spend my time other ways — offline as much as possible.

Thing #73: Graphic Design with Image Generators is a hoot.

These silly little programs are right up my alley. I flunked cut and paste in kindergarden; my painting only decorates (inappropriately) my clothes and body parts and never makes sense on the target canvas; but I CAN DO THIS! Whoopee!

I love the fake newspaper article — complete with old-fashioned rivers of white space, you can tell it was desktop-published pre PageMaker (or with Publisher) — but it was a fun way to report on the silliness of Halloween library shenanigans. I also liked using the recipt maker for the “what is your library worth” sort of receipt — and the license plate generator for the Nebraska plate ‘READ.’ You can see these 3 as posts on the library’s website at http:/ .

Even better: the magazine cover page. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with it, but I’m thinking of an Architectural Digest or something equally upper-crust to announce the library’s closing/reopening/open house on the occasion of the new carpet installation (coming soon).

Then there’s the dog morphed with the owner’s face. I WILL think of something to use it for — but WHICH of the Board members should it feature? Or maybe a collage of all 5?…….