Let’s be honest, not all of us are using the original USB cables that came with our phones and tablets when we bought them. Maybe it is lost, or maybe one cord just isn’t enough. Cords are cheap online, so why not grab a few extras? As it turns out, not all cables are created equal. Some could be used to steal your information.
How Can a USB Cable Be Dangerous?
Cables seem like pretty basic items, and it seems odd that an item without an electronic “brain” could pose a danger. Remember, though, that USB cables can be used to transfer data as well as charge hardware. If you want to put a picture from your phone onto your computer, you could plug it in and copy it over.
This same functionality could be used by bad actors to trigger a data transfer any time you use that wire in a device – even at a public charging station. You would assume that because it is branded as a charging station, that is all it does. But there is no good way to check if your wire is trying to do more. Some devices will not initiate data transfer without a confirmation prompt on the device, but that is not always the case. The only way to be sure your data remains safe would be to use an adapter that disables the data wires in the USB, allowing it to charge only.
USB Data Blocking Adapter
One inexpensive product that can protect you from unauthorized data transfers is a USB data-blocking adapter. It is a small dongle you place between your wire and the charger (or other devices) with the data wires removed so that it can only charge your device.
PortaPow (available at Amazon) is a trusted name in data-blocking technology, but neither I nor the library receives any compensation for mentioning them. No matter which brand you use, make sure there are no data wires at the end that plugs into the charging device.
If you are using after-market cables or public charging stations, it’s a sensible safety precaution to use a USB data blocker. At under $10 per adapter, this is one of the least expensive ways to secure your data. Do you use a USB data blocker? If so, let us know in the comments.
Did you know that the back Apple logo on your iPhone is not just for decoration? By accessing certain settings, you can have your iPhone perform certain functions with just a double or triple tap. Please note that this applies only to iPhones and not iPads.
To get started, go into the Settings app and then tap on Accessibility.
Next, scroll down to Touch, which is under the Physical and Motor heading.
Once you’re on the Touch screen, scroll to the bottom and tap on Back Tap.
Next, you’ll have the option on what action is taken when you double or triple tap. Double tap or triple tap means tapping the phone twice or three times in quick succession. Tap on either double tap or triple tap.
Once you’ve selected double or triple tap, you’ll get a list of possible actions.
You’ll get a decent sized list of system actions, including activating Siri, volume down, going to the home screen, and more. If you scroll down, there are also more accessibility features, scroll gestures, and custom Shortcuts you can make with the built-in Shortcuts app.
Have you tried out this feature? Let us know in the comments.
If you have used any of our public computers in the last several years, you know that the square, analog monitors were not keeping pace with the way modern video and web content is displayed. Some patrons also complained that the refresh rate was causing visible flickering on the screen. We were able to replace all of the monitors at the public computers with digital, widescreen LED monitors. In addition to improved display, these models are much more energy efficient than their predecessors. This should save the library money in the long run.
Tech Cart in Meeting Rooms A and B
If you have recently attended a program in meeting rooms A and/or B that required A/V equipment, you may have noticed that the tech cart boasted an ancient LCD projector (for which they no longer make replacement bulbs) and a DVD/VCR combo. The Friends helped us to purchase a new, more energy efficient DLP projector which projects a very clear image that can be seen on the wall at any lighting level. We took this opportunity to replace the DVD/VCR with a Blu-ray player, which still supports DVDs. Because the projector supports HDMI inputs, watching a Blu-ray using the projector is a much higher quality visual experience than watching a VHS tape with the old projector. This should make the next movie festival much more enjoyable!
We hope you enjoy these improvements to the library. What would you like to see next? Let us know in the comments.
These days, we depend on our portable devices for just about everything. When they get low on juice, panic sets in. Even if you can find an outlet, do you have your charging cord? You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this often happens to people at the library. Now we have a solution!
Thanks to a generous grant from the Friends of the East Greenbush Community Library, we were able to purchase two device charging stations for the library that include charging cords that will fit most mainstream devices (Apple Lightning, Apple 30-pin, and MicroUSB). If you have your own cord, you can also plug into a USB port or one of the additional electrical ports on the box.
If you would like to try out one of the device chargers, here is where you can find them…
Adult Services (main area):
In the main area of the library, we were hoping to put the charger near the music area. Unfortunately, we discovered that the outlet is dead. Until we can get that fixed, the charger temporarily lives on the laptop cart behind the reference desk. [Update: The charger is now located in the music area.] As a reminder, please do not leave your device unattended while charging. The library is not responsible for lost or stolen items.
We hope you find the new service useful. Let us know what you think in the comments!
Staying current with IT news, trends, and tips is a fundamental part of my job in the library. While I get this information from a variety of resources, there is one website that keeps surprising me with helpful information on a variety of subjects of interest to me and the patrons I assist. I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to MakeUseOf, a free online resource with timely articles, reviews, and help guides for all things tech. What really makes this resource shine is its ability to speak to both new and veteran users at the same time without confusing or boring either!
The home page at MakeUseOf displays headlines and teaser text for their most recent articles. I find this layout somewhat chaotic, so I prefer to sort the articles by category before browsing. Selecting “Topics” in the header menu will display the articles by category. The “Answers” section leads to a user forum where registered members can ask and answer questions from the MakeUseOf community. Check out the “Top List” section for “best of” lists for a variety of software and services on multiple platforms. For in-depth technology guides, have a look at their “E-books” area.
As a registered user of MakeUseOf, you can earn points for sharing their content on social media, as well as participating in the forum, polls, and other activities. Those points can be redeemed for rewards, such as entries in drawings for free hardware and software. My favorite benefit of membership has been receiving the newsletter. Each email has a few headlines with teaser text that can be easily scanned, with more information just a click away. I have happened upon lots of very useful information in these newsletters that I didn’t even know I needed! You can opt-in to the newsletter by selecting the social media icons at the top of any MakeUseOf page, and then selecting the blue “Email” button.
What do you think of MakeUseOf? If you have another tech info source you love, please share it in the comments.