Shamba Shape Up

Reality TV shows of the home improvement and restaurant/bar business makeover variety have become a popular entertainment staple in the United States recently. Media for Education and Development, in partnership with global extension, health and international aid agencies, have taken this expert “rescue” concept and applied it to help struggling farmers in rural East Africa with the “Shamba Shape Up” series. (“Shamba” is a Swahili term for farm.) Instead of a renowned chef helping a struggling restaurant owner identify the flaws in his or her menu or staff, the Shamba Shape Up features their media team as well as invited experts in veterinary medicine, for instance, or beekeeping or pest control visiting small farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to help them address specific farming problems that may be affecting their crops or farm animals. Show hosts and experts are from the region, and their recommendations reflect the culture of East African countries and practices.


The program estimates that in its first seasons the uptake of the evidence-based agricultural practices from the show resulted in an increase of over $24 million (US) net gain for just two of the farming enterprises, dairy and maize. The audience is estimated at over 10 million farmers.


The program is available on television and radio. A special “iShamba” text messaging service is available to receive farming tips from the show specific to the subscribers’ crops, livestock and location. Full episodes and clips are available on the Shamba Shape Up web site. Viewers of the series are also encouraged to text requests for relevant informational leaflets or download them from the site.

The World Bank recognized Shamba Shape Up during its Harvest Nutrition Contest in 2013.

Loyalty and Rewards Cards-Go Virtual with Key Ring

I have many rewards cards, but never with me when I need them.  I don’t carry keys, so the little cards that attach on the keyring don’t solve the problem.  When I recently signed up for the Plenti program, I was nudged towards needing a solution.  When I needed my Hilton HHonors info to get free wi-fi recently, push became shove!

I had heard of Key Ring in one of the sessions on handy akeyring2pps I attended (and Pat mentioned it in an earlier Tech Lister blog post), so I went to the Play Store and grabbed it for my phone.  I gathered as many of the rewards cards as I could easily put my hands on, and went to work.

The app is straightforward-you hit the big “+” to add a card, make shopping lists, or follow a store.


When you add a card, the camera on the phone opens to take a picture of the barcode; either snap the picture or select “no barcode” to set up cards without one.  You can also take pictures of the front and back of the card if so desired.

Turning on locatikeyring3 bluron services allows the app to find stores near you.  You also have the option to mark favorites that will appear towards the top of your list of cards.  The stores you choose to follow will also appear in the list.  When you click an entry, you can see sale flyers, coupons, and other savings information.

You can edit the barcodes and descriptions once you add them to the app. But what if I need passwords that go along with a loyalty program?  I found via trial and error that you can add notes to card entries via the web version of Key Ring (, but only there for some reason.  You use the same login and password to log in to this version of Key Ring.  In the example below, I entered “the password goes here” in the notes field, to see how it shows up in the app-it is available in the lower part of the screen, but can’t be edited.

bn edit


I’ve got the cards in, now I need to add passwords and I’ll be ready to go.  The info you put in Key Ring can be shared, so I’ll send them to my husband’s phone, too, so he can benefit as well.  I already made use of the app in the first week, when I booked a hotel room and had my reward number handy.  I will find out if there are problems with scanning the barcodes from the phone when I’m shopping; in those cases, the number has to be entered manually.  I’m looking forward to having all this info in one place, we’ll see how it goes!

Is there an app for cancer?

The combination of terms, “games” and “cancer” seems incongruous to most. However, recent trends in health education and care are promoting games and online gaming as a means of encouraging patient engagement, support and learning even – or especially – in remote and rural areas.


A notable contribution to this realm of serious gaming apps includes the introduction this year of iManageCancer, an online gaming and interactive monitoring module sponsored by the European Union. Young people especially can find social support and encouragement through this platform via their mobile phones, although the system is intended for all ages. The gaming components allow cancer patients to address the emotions surrounding their diagnosis and treatment. For instance, a game for children with cancer might involve the ability to “shoot” cancer cells, thus increasing the child’s sense of empowerment. In addition, a monitoring component which tracks therapeutic side effects among other things allows for individualized coping strategies for the patient while alerting the health care team to any serious physical or psychological reactions.

iManageCancer is still in the pilot phase according to company press releases. The hope is that if this project is successful, it can pave the way for apps for conditions where patient empowerment is key to successful management – which would include most conditions, right?

AVS Audio/Visual Software Suite: Versatile, Easy, and Inexpensive

When I started working with the hospital’s on-demand patient education system 10 or so years ago, I found I needed a method for encoding videos in a specific format.  I was fortunate enough to stumble on the AVS software suite (  The $50 unlimited access suavs overviewbscription seemed like a great deal, so I whipped out the credit card and was in business.

Over the years, the video converter software has improved and additional functionality has been added to the suite, all covered by my initial $50 investment.  The AVS suite includes tools for managing audio and video, for burning files, working with images, and converting documents.  It also includes system tools like a registry cleaner.

A few of the tools are ones I use on a regular basis, andavs formats so I am more familiar with those.  I often use the video converter to save video files, whether .mov, .mpg, or .wmv, in the mpeg2 format I need.  I can also rip video files from DVD toavs web create streamable files.  The converter has presets for
various devices and the web, as well, making it easy to create format-friendly versions of videos.  The video editor lets me combine files of various formats and output them in a different format.

When I record voiceovers for PowerPoint presentations, videos, or automated phone calls, I use the audio recorder and audio editor to capture, clean up, and combine audio files as needed.avs audio

I haven’t played with the image editor or document converter as yet.  The document converter lets youavs document save files in various formats, and will extract images from a document as well.

This software suite has been one of my best investments, and saves me many hours of frustration in producing audio and video files.  The license key assures that I can reinstall the software when I upgrade computers.  When the occasional glitch has occurred, I have consulted with the AVS support team, and they have always been helpful.

New! EndNote Manuscript Matcher

Are you planning to finish a journal article or two this summer? Are you curious about which is the ideal journal to publish your work?

EndNote’s new manuscript matcher tool will generate some best-fit journals for your manuscript.

  • Simply enter your titles and abstract.  For better results, put the references in your manuscript into an EndNote group and select it.
  • EndNote uses patented algorithms based on Web of Science to generate a list of suggested publication with key metrics like JCR Impact factor.

Click on the image below to watch a short video demonstration and explanation of Manuscript Matcher.


If you have EndNote, you can access Manuscript Matcher through your EndNote online account. If you do not, you can create a free EndNote Basic account.

If you have questions, Ask a Librarian. We are happy to help!

Hooks: Notifications (mostly about TV but still useful)

I don’t know about you but I don’t like a lot of alerts and notifications on my phone.  Please don’t tell me every time I get a new email, I’m stressed enough.  However, since I am stressed, there are things I’m missing.  Hopefully, not important things but things I would like to know about.  For example, if my Mom doesn’t send me a message about it, it may be two or three days before I think to wonder how the Cubs are doing (19-15 but we just swept the Mets in a 4 game series so I’ll take it) and check.  Most apps do have notification settings but at install I almost always (ok, always) default to the, “please don’t push anything to me, I’ll let you know if I want it” option.  All apps are different though and figuring out how to set up the notifications is easily put off.  Welcome Hooks.  Hooks is only for the iPhone (sorry Androids) but is a free app that allows you to set up all kinds of interesting notifications.  Such as

hooks rain


hooks isbell


hooks cubs

You can browse popular notifications

hooks popular

or create your own.

Notifications appear or you can go to the tab to view them.

Hooks notif


Clicking on one of the notifications takes you to more information, a website or app usually.  So far I’ve been happy with it and would recommend exploring the options to see what you might be interested in adding.

P.S.  I used PushBullet to quickly send these photos from my phone to my computer.  If you haven’t tried this yet, don’t delay!

“Digital Jedis” and the Nepal Earthquake

Immediately following the massive earthquake in Nepal on Saturday, April 25, there was an outpouring of support both financial and material to help the stricken and remote countryside. The news media has featured not only the devastation, but also the heroic efforts of humanitarian and rescue workers from around the world as they pitched in to help survivors and assess the damage. Meanwhile, most of the rest of us can only watch helplessly from afar, with perhaps a monetary donation to an aid agency our only practical way to help.


[Nepal geography photo – “Nepal topo en”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –]

But a new form of digital volunteer support for disaster recovery has emerged. As of Wednesday, April 29, more than 2100 micromapping “Digital Jedis” have assisted in screening over 60,000 images and tweets from affected survivors and helpers on the ground to crowdsource the creation of a plan of action for aid organizations. This virtual screening of aid requests, volunteer offers, reports of damage to infrastructure and the like serves to limit such information being lost in the chaotic aftermath of disasters. In addition, this accurate, current information can help save lives. The sorted information is mapped and sent to the aid agencies, providing real-time updates of the situation in a particular area.


[Image source: Al Jazeera Science & Technology column, 11/13/2013 –]

MicroMappers is a product of the Qatar Computing Research Institute and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Its first micromapping disaster recovery project was the Pakistan earthquake in 2013. Other disasters the Digital Jedis have assisted with included the Philippines 2013 and 2014 typhoons, the Balkan flooding of May 2014, the Chilean earthquake of 2014 and the Vanatu tropical cyclone this March.

Keeping a Remote Eye on Things, (Fairly) Easily and (Fairly) Inexpensively

I had been mildly interested in wi-fi cameras and other minimal web-enabled security/automation items for a while-besides keeping a lookout while away, how much fun might it be to spy on the cat??  I had looked at Iris and Smarthome components when I was browsing the area DIY box stores.  A turn-key system had a lot more appeal, rather than building something from scratch. Iris looked the most intriguing, but the reviews at that time were mediocre and you had to pay a monthly fee to get the most out of it.

Then last fall Costco made me an offer I couldn’t refuse-a starter kit from Insteon that had the basics of what I needed, at a great price.  This kit included the network hub, a wi-fi camera, a couple of control switches for outlets, a motion detector, and a couple of open/close sensors.  I didn’t really want to be so connected that everything turned on and off as I left a room, adjusted the atmosphere, or cooked dinner for me while I was at work, and I didn’t want to have something with ongoing costs associated.  The reviews were decent, there is no ongoing fee,and so we were off.

The hub was quite easy to hook up to my home network,insteon4 and all the components connected effortlessly except the wi-fi camera.  Since you want to have more interaction with it and be able to view video, it is more complicated-more on that later.  Insteon has apps for iOS, Android, and Windows which allow you to control your devices and group them together in “scenes”, where they work together to accomplish a desired task.  There is a PC interface available as well.



Multiple cameras can be added to the system.  If you don’t insteon3want your cameras to end up linked on one of those sites where you can click and see inside peoples’ houses, be sure and change all the passwords from the defaults.  Set up involves adding ports in your wireless router configuration, and if you want to have the highest level of remote control through the web, you can forward the port and establish a URL for your system.  This was the most involved part of the process for me, and some was trial and error.  After a few months using the system, I felt that the external URL wasn’t useful to me and I discontinued this option.

At this point, I am making the most use of the camera.  The camera can be set to send an alert upon sound and/or motion, and it can be scheduled to react at the times you desire.  It also has audio capability that can work in both directions.  I also like to have lamps on timers, and open/close sensors on remote doors and windows.  I haven’t really explored making a lot of scenes to this point, where components interact with each other. Insteon defines a “scene” as multiple devices responding to memorized states.  For example, a dinner time scene turns on the dining table light, dims the kitchen lights to 10%, backyard lights turn off and the thermostat adjusts to 72º. Since a component can be part of only one “scene”, I can’t have the same light go on at a certain time of day, and also be triggered by the motion sensor at night, for example, so there are some limitations.


Insteon has an increasing variety of components you can add to your system, including locks, thermostats, LED light bulbs, wired wall switches, and outside cameras.  Several kits are available so you can choose a bundle that meets your needs.  You can tailor the system to be as simple or complex as meets your needs.  They are also working on increased interoperability with other systems, per this recent article on cnet.

The website has helpful videos and documentation, and I’ve read good reviews of the telephone support.

So if you are looking to dabble in home automation and security, without spending a fortune, Insteon lets you start small and add on as needed.  There is a lot of information available at, and several helpful articles a

Have you tried Canva?

My favorite new tool is Canva, a graphic design tool that makes it super easy to create images for social media, flyers for sharing, and cards for printing. You can choose from free or $1.00 templates, photos, or icons to create images or PDF’s that you can download or save in your design stream.  Check out some of the images that I have created to publicize our Pet Therapy Study Break, Afternoon Tea, & other messages for Twitter and Facebook posts. One nice feature of Canva is that you can choose the size of your image to fit perfectly into posts on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram as well as headers for social media and email. Canva also offers helpful tutorials on design plus inspiration from cool designers to follow on Instagram. Join the over 2 million members on Canva and start creating your own super designs.


GOOD LUCK2sunshinegood luckMolly3

How I work: Peggy Kain

Location: UAB Sterne Library

Current gig: Electronic Resources Librarian

Current mobile devices:   iPhone, iPad and Dell Laptop

Current computers: A Dell computer at Sterne.

One word that describes how you work? Methodical — and a smidge adaptive.  I am constantly multitasking – whether it is renewal of databases, management of electronic resources, or working to resolve an access issue. I’m methodical because I try to carefully go through making sure all of the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted for all projects. I’m adaptive because I must be able to switch gears on a moment’s notice if an issue arises with users’ access or questions about a resource. Being methodical also helps me keep track of what I was doing before the access hiccup occurred.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Excel spreadsheets and pivot tables. I use these to manage, analyze, review, track, and basically oversee all aspects of electronic resources and the library statistics I am responsible for maintaining. This April, as a part of a panel of superhero electronic librarians, I will be presenting at the Alabama Library Association Conference on using Excel spreadsheets to manage electronic resources.   I am also quite attached to my electronic and print calendar. I had migrated away from maintaining a print version of my calendar a couple of years ago, but I learned the hard way what can happen when a computer misbehaves.  Since then, I maintain an electronic and a print copy of my calendar.

What is your workspace like?  Generally, I have one pc with two monitors. Most days, I will also have my iPad open and running. On my pc monitors, I will have multiple windows open in a partial screen view.  There are usually Excel spreadsheets open on both monitors along with a different Internet browser open on each monitor.   I use the iPad mainly to monitor email, or when needed, troubleshoot an access issue.   On some days depending on the project(s) I am working on, I will substitute a laptop or my iPhone for the iPad.

PK workspace

I am constantly multitasking throughout the day. And while much of my work is done on an electronic device, I still incorporate some print. A pad of paper is an essential element of my work. I use it to jot down notes, reminders, identify place holders in projects, list the names of people/vendors I have spoken with, etc. Once a pad is full, I will set it aside for future reference.   The writing seems to provide an avenue for me to explore concepts that I can return to and revise/revisit as needed.

Of course, my workspace would not be complete without a hot cup of (preferably) peppermint tea and animal crackers.

What is your best life hack? Walking – whether it is indoors or (preferably) outdoors. I find that just getting up and moving helps me organize my thoughts, make lists, and develop strategies to resolve or troubleshoot issues.   You could say that walking is my form of meditation.

What is your favorite to-do list manager? Generally, I rely on Outlook and the note feature on my phone.  Many times rather than make a list, I just send myself an email and/or set a reminder on my calendar. I have tried Evernote and a couple of other apps but have not been happy with their performance.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? My standalone KitchenAide mixer; it is incredible! I am an avid baker; this has made it so much easier to prepare multiple recipes at one time. This year for Christmas I received the ice cream attachment. So now for dessert, it is no longer just plain cake, but cake and ice cream.


What do you listen to while you work? A couple of years ago, I discovered a public radio station that is hosted by the University of Kentucky, WUKY.   They offer three live feeds; the two I enjoy are the all jazz station and one that offers a mix of music/news. Generally I will listen to their “rock & roots” show through lunch and then switch to jazz.

What are you currently reading? I generally like to read what I term “beach books” before bed; the genre I have been reading lately is mysteries.   At the moment, I am reading two books; one by Harlan Corbin and one by Patricia Cornwell (the Scarpetta series). I find these to be easy, relaxing reads; that I can pick-up/put down without feeling the need to stay up all night and finish.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? I have always considered myself to be an introvert; but a guess a little bit of both. I enjoy people but am not fond of being in the limelight. I am outgoing when it comes to work; negotiating with vendors, etc.   I have been known to be quite stern with vendors when it comes to resolving an issue concerning resources the University is paying for.

What’s your sleep routine like? I use my cell phone as an alarm clock and during the work-week have it set for 5:30. But generally, I am up every morning between 5 and 5:30, even on the weekends. I try to at least be in bed by 10 and I may read for a while before falling asleep. I have always been a morning person; no matter what time I actually fall asleep, I am still up and going early in the morning.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?  It is okay to stop and take time to relax. There are days when I “go” from the time I hit the floor in the morning until the time I go to bed at night. I am still learning that it is important to take time to relax and recharge.