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University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 4/1/20: Smartphone tricks you don’t know

The world of information - in Fun Size!

UMSI's Fun Size digest features tiny, delicious news tidbits relating to information and library topics. Reach us at [email protected].

Ahead of the curve

U-M alumnus Inder Singh caught the attention of when his company, Kinsa Health, released a “Health Weather Map” in March. Drawing on data from the company’s hundreds of thousands of internet-connected thermometers across the country, the map shows where temperatures are spiking at an anomalous rate – information that could predict the next Covid-19 hotspots. The New York Times has an updated story on Singh’s struggle to get his data noticed and heeded. 

Best toolkit for web anatomy

How to identify or contact the owner of a website, where a site is located, what ad networks the site is using, whether it can be seen in China – just a few of the many useful online resources found in this compilation by Amit Agarwal, published by Digital Inspiration. 

Little free data science library

For data scientists confined to quarters during the pandemic, KDNuggets has a list of 50 free books that every data scientist should read. Seems like a productive use of some spare time. 

A for accessible

If you don’t have sight, hearing or dexterity issues, you may never have checked out the accessibility features of your smartphone. Yet Eric Ravenscraft, writing for the New York Times, points out that many features tucked under the Accessibility banner are useful to anyone, like increasing font and icon size, subtitles, and answering the phone with the home key. Pull out your smartphone and start exploring. 

Sad songs say so much

Artificial intelligence can do many things, from scheduling appointments to winning at Jeopardy!, but it may have a ways to go as lyricist. Geekologie has found a website where AI will write you a song in your choice of topic, style and mood – like a sad country song about your friend Jessica. “Well, Jessica grew up wild, but only a little wild. Her daddy tried to teach her well.” And more like that. 

Librarian spears phishing scam

Trust a librarian to sniff out something fishy about an email received by a colleague, reports Sean Gallagher, writing for ArsTechnica. One tell: lousy grammar, something an eagle-eyed librarian would spot a mile away.

Avoid a poisoned Apple

Those email attachments from unknown senders can tantalize like forbidden fruit. Are they safe to open? Now, according to Wired’s Andy Greenberg, a new tool called Dangerzone will sanitize potentially malicious files so you can open attachments without fear of malware infecting your computer. 

Private detectives

If you’re tired of every online search resulting in instantaneous and repeated ads for related products, suggests five alternative search engines that won’t sell your dataThe article includes a quick analysis of Startpage vs DuckDuckGo and DDG vs Google.

Stay home, stay entertained

More options surface daily to keep us engaged and entertained in seclusion. is offering hundreds of handpicked free recorded books in several languages. Ostensibly for children, the service includes many literary classics adults may enjoy, like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. Browse

The Chicago Tribune also has a nice collection of many other resources for free ebooks and audiobooks.

While your travel dreams may be on hold for a while, Wanted in Europe suggests visiting some of Europe’s finest museums online, from London’s Tate Gallery to the Vatican.

And lets you enjoy an intriguing range of folk music from around the world. Select by artist, by region, or be adventurous and opt for the random playlist. Honduran marimbas, anyone? 

Low tech? Try no-tech.

While dozens of digital entertainment options are coming online, many of us are also turning to old-fashioned, pixel free pastimes to fill our hours and calm our souls. Bloomberg Technology reports on the resurging demand for jigsaw puzzles, the bigger the better. 

News from UMSI

A Dissertation in Cedar: On a Tuesday morning during an increasingly strange time, Carol Moser walked into her bedroom closet a PhD candidate and walked out two hours later with a doctorate in information. Amid unprecedented disruption of normalcy wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, Moser accomplished a historic first for UMSI as she successfully defended her PhD dissertation in a 100% virtual event. Read more.