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Contribute to the ideaLAB's Indiegogo Campaign to Bring Technology to Denver Teens

panorama of the Denver Public Library's ideaLAB

In May of this year, we opened up the ideaLAB in the Central Library's Community Technology Center. It's a small room - only about 480 square feet - but it's already had a big impact.  Inside this free digital media lab for teens, we've helped young people from all over Denver learn Photoshop, record music, mod Minecraft, shoot video, and more. We've also already started running into our limits - but maybe you can help with that?

The Denver Public Library’s ideaLAB is a state-of-the-art digital media creation center where metro-area teens learn core STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) concepts through creative expression. By engaging teens in the production of digital media, the ideaLAB assists youth in developing 21st century skills that will serve them both in school and in their future careers.

How do I know which gadget to buy?

Which Gadget is Right for You

It's that time of the year for my casual daydreaming about gifts for friends and family to turn to wide-eyed panic as I realize I'm quickly running out of shopping days. The time of the year when I look for the gift that says "I love you but I am able to display it in an ironically distant way," but usually end up settling for saying "I found this at the 7-11 on the off-ramp into town." 

If you've got any gadgets on your list - laptops or ereaders or tablets or anything else with a pretty screen - it can be even harder to pick out the right gift. That's why the CTC is offering the "Which Gadget is Right for You?" class, this Tuesday, December 4, at 5:30 PM on level four of the Central library. We'll be discussing the pros and cons of different ereaders, tablets, and smartphones - so come with questions!

Do you own your ebooks?

We're all confus 'bout ebooks.

It's been an interesting week for eBook news. It's been an interesting year, actually, but this last week has been especially interesting, in that the issue of whether you own the eBooks you buy or not has been placed front and center.

If you're looking for the short version of this story, the answer is "no." For details, read on...

There was an interesting story about a woman in Norway who had access to her eBooks revoked when her Amazon account was shut down. She had bought a used Kindle from the United Kingdom and transferred her purchases to it. The Kindle developed a problem, and she contacted Amazon to have it replaced, which they agreed to do, as long as the replacement was shipped to the UK.

Creative teens + technology = ideaLAB!

Image courtesy of DeviantArt user Jakusczon

This last week brought terrific news: the Community Technology Center at the Denver Public Library was awarded a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Colorado State Library and the Institute of Museum and Library Services! The grant will fund the creation of what we’re calling the ideaLAB, a digital creation space just for teens.

The purpose of the ideaLAB is to provide a space where Denver youth have access to professional-level equipment and software, creating a positive, safe after-school space where teens can become producers of digital media. In the lab, you can create and record your own music; film, edit, and produce your own videos; make your own video games and distribute them online; create digital art and photo manipulations and print them out in color; create 3-D models for animation and games; and much more.

Photo Editing Online

This is what happens when you spend too much time playing with photo editors

Sunday, the CTC will host the second of two classes on Photoshop Elements. The class will be fun, as I am teaching it and my snaggle-toothed charm will eventually win you over. But do you have photos you need to edit and you don't own Elements? Alternately, do you feel compelled to make photos of yourself look ridiculous? Come with me into the internet for some free online options...

Our favorite at the CTC used to be Picnik, but they were bought by Google and rolled into Google+, so, unless you're one of the 15 Google employees currently using Google+, you're probably not going to find that very useful. Luckily, the internets are full of other options:

Avoid an EPIC HACK!

A digitized face

If you haven't read Mat Honan's Wired article yet, you should. In the span of half an hour, he lost access to his email; his iPad, iPhone, and MacBook were erased remotely; and his Twitter account was hijacked to spout a bunch of offensive nonsense. His eight years' worth of email and, even more devastatingly, all of the pictures he had taken of the first year and a half of his daughter's life.

The question for the rest of us is: how can I make sure this doesn't happen to me?

Make your own games!

24 years ago, I spent a summer in front of my brand-new Atari XE (Dad was convinced the NES wouldn't be successful), playing Rescue on Fractalus!, an early LucasArts 8-bit game that made me scream so often that my mother asked me to stop playing it (it was really scary when I was 11). Games have been a part of my life ever since, and I'd always dreamed of making my own.

Luckily, the tools to actually make your own games become readily available to everyday Janes and Joes (or Janes and Joes Who Don't Want to Learn How to Code, at least). If you (or maybe someone you know who loves games, is home for the summer, and is just dying​ of boredom) are interested in making your own video games, there are lots of (FREE!) ways you can get started. These first options are great for lower-res, 2D games like platformers and puzzles, and are great options if you're just getting started:

Be smart about antivirus protection!

Sick computer being inspected by doctors in haz-mat suits

So the antivirus trial or subscription you had has expired, and now our computer is giving you messages like “YOUR VIRUS PROTECTION HAS EXPIRED! RENEW YOUR SUBSCRIPTION NOW OR EVERYTHING WILL CATCH FIRE! AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!” Once that happens, you have a choice: pay to renew what came with your computer or find a replacement.

But don’t just install the first thing that shows up in Google. A little research can help you make a decision that ensures your computer is protected – and it might protect your wallet, too. There are two main sites I turn to for information on antivirus products: AV-Test and AV-Comparatives. Both are independent organizations, not connected to any vendors of antivirus software, who run comprehensive detection, cleaning, and usability tests.

Raise your nerd quotient! Learn to code!

A bunch of nerds

Lately, my nerd level has felt at low ebb. I’ve yet to find a RPG game to replace my last obsession, and I’ve finally caught up with all the comics I missed while I was out of the country. I found myself wondering: what new activity can I take up which I will have difficulty explaining to my beautiful and surprisingly patient wife?

So I’ve decided to learn JavaScript.

There are fantastic resources online for those who want to learn how to code: I’ve started at Codecademy, which provides a series of self-paced, online tutorials on JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. It’s gamified, meaning that you can earn points and badges for completing lessons and projects, brag about it on Facebook or Twitter, and you can compete against friends, should you have any.

How do you say "technology blog" in Spanish?

An angry cat speaking Spanish

I've been doing a lot of translating of materials for our Spanish-language computer classes lately, and now I stop and wonder every ten seconds what I did before the Internet. I mean, I'm old enough to remember a time when it wasn't there, when you actually heard your computer connecting to a network and there were no animated GIFs of bike-riding kittens to be had; but I often forget that.

When it comes to learning a new language - or honing your skills at one you've picked up - here's where I go:

Reference and Translation Help:

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