Monthly Archives: December 2014

PC Buyer’s Guide

If you’re shopping for a new computer, you’re certain to be confronted by a number of terms and technical jargon. Sure, 8 GB of RAM sounds good, but what does it really mean? This guide is meant to provide you with some common definitions and things to look for when buying a new desktop or laptop PC.

What to look for in a PC

Form Factor

Choosing the correct form factor is a matter of determining how you want to use your new PC.

  • Want something portable, but still capable of many different tasks? Buy a laptop/notebook.
  • Need something even lighter for frequent travel and willing to sacrifice a bit of power or functionality? A netbook, Chromebook, or convertible tablet might suffice.
  • Want a powerful machine to edit photos/videos, play demanding games, and run lots of applications, all on a spacious display? A desktop or all-in-one will be your best bet, provided you have the space.


Your choice of OS and its corresponding application ecosystem (all the apps and utilities available for a particular family of devices) is probably the most important decision you will have to make.

  • Microsoft Windows is installed on the largest market share of consumer PCs. Most of the world uses Windows, and software developers in turn target it for the vast majority of applications. Compared to Mac OS X and Chrome OS, Windows is more flexible and customizable. A wide variety of companies manufacture Windows PCs.
  • If you use lots of Apple products, you might want to consider a Mac. Newer versions of Mac OS X integrate well with iOS devices, and the user interface is frequently praised as being easy to use. Apple hardware has traditionally been a step above that of other manufacturers, so you’re almost guaranteed to get a nice display, sturdy build quality, and a sleek look. Macs are very expensive, however—Apple can get away with charging a premium based on name alone.
  • Google’s Chrome OS devices are a relative newcomer to the PC market, but they offer an extraordinary value. Chromebooks manufactured by the likes of Samsung, Acer, and HP are available for bargain prices in a highly portable package. There are even Chromeboxes for desktop use. Chrome devices are pretty much useless without an internet connection, however, and they are limited to Google’s fairly small ecosystem of apps.


This is largely a matter of personal preference, as the underlying hardware will be similar regardless of manufacturer. For Windows machines, Dell, HP, Toshiba, Samsung, and Lenovo are all very high-profile brands. Acer, Asus, and Panasonic are also established manufacturers.


This is the processor or central processing unit—think of it as the brains of your computer. More than anything else, this will determine how fast your computer is. CPUs operate at a certain speed, which is measured in gigahertz (GHz).

In the past, CPUs were all single-core, but recent innovations have made dual-core and even quad-core processors widely available. The more cores a CPU has generally indicates that it can perform more tasks at once; applications designed to use more than one core will function faster on a multicore processor.

For Windows PCs, CPUs are manufactured by Intel or AMD. Intel CPUs have been superior to AMD’s offerings for a while, but for a budget machine with modest needs, either type of CPU should be fine. If the device is a Chromebook or convertible tablet, it may have an ARM processor manufactured by Nvidia, Samsung, Qualcomm, or another company.


RAM (or memory) is temporary storage your computer uses to run the operating system (OS) and applications. Simply put, the more RAM you have, the more programs you can run at the same time. RAM is measured in gigabytes (GB). For a basic home machine, 4 GB of RAM is probably sufficient, and 8 GB is plenty.

Hard drive (HDD)

In contrast to memory, which is temporary storage, a computer will have a hard drive (sometimes abbreviated HDD) which provides permanent storage. The hard drive is a spinning disk, and its capacity is measured in GB or terabytes (TB), with 1 TB equal to 1000 GB.

The hard drive is where the computer’s OS and applications are stored, as well as any personal documents, pictures, music, etc. For the average user, a 500 GB hard drive provides plenty of storage space, and you could probably even get away with less. If you have a ton of pictures and especially videos, however, you might want to look into a 1 terabyte (TB) hard drive.


On some higher-end PCs, especially laptops designed to be thin and light, you might encounter a solid-state drive (SSD) instead of a hard drive. Solid state drives use flash memory instead of a mechanical disk, and as such are faster and less susceptible to damage and failure than hard drives. SSDs are a newer technology, so they’re currently more expensive than hard drives, although prices are coming down. All things being equal, a computer with an SSD will be noticeably faster than one with a mechanical hard drive.


On a laptop, you’ll also have to consider the device’s display. Laptops typically come in 13”, 15”, and 17” models. Netbooks, Chromebooks, and convertible tablets may also come in smaller sizes, such as 10” or 11”. Screen size is measured diagonally, and most screens will have a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is the same as a widescreen HDTV.

Screen resolution is a measure of how many pixels there are in the display panel. Many budget models will have roughly 720p resolution (somewhere around 1368×768), while more expensive models will have a 1080p screen (1920×1080). Higher resolution means greater sharpness or clarity, although extremely high resolutions on a small screen will make text and icons appear very small without scaling to compensate.

Video Card/GPU

A computer needs a graphics processing unit (GPU) to display video and 3D graphics on the screen. For most budget computers, the GPU is located alongside the CPU—this is termed “integrated graphics.” For users who want to do more demanding tasks like play PC games or edit videos, a dedicated video card is recommended. A dedicated video card contains a separate GPU to render graphics and video.

GPUs are manufactured by either Nvidia or AMD, and there are a wide variety of different models. If you want a more powerful GPU (usually for gaming), take note of which model is being advertised and look it up online to ensure it fits your needs.

How to look for a PC

Now that you know what to look for in a PC let’s discuss how to find the right one for you. Stark County District Library offers a variety of ways to access Consumer Reports – a monthly, not-for-profit resource for product reviews and comparisons – that will help you make an informed purchase decision.

1.     Print

Every SCDL location has a print subscription to Consumer Reports. Find the magazine section of your nearest branch and browse the current or past issues. This publication does circulate so feel free to check it out and do your research at home.

Tip: the December issue typically covers tablets and/or PCs. You can also find information on computers in the ancillary Consumer Reports Buying Guide, which should also be at every location.

2.     Database

Use one of our databases and search for Consumer Reports articles from the comfort of your home. Start at the library’s website. Below the search bar on the homepage click on Databases A – Z.


This will display a list of all the databases the library offers. Click on the first one, Academic Search Premier. This will display a search box on the Academic Search Premier site. Click on Search Options and enter the following search:

  • In the search box type computers
  • In the Publication field type Consumer Reports
  • In the Published Date field select January 2014 December 2014.


This means you’re telling the database you want to search for articles about computers published by Consumer Reports in 2014. Click on any of the results to read more about it. Click on PDF Full Text to read/print the article.

3.     Online

Avoid the print versions or searching databases by using the library’s account for Start at the library’s website. Below the search bar on the homepage click on Databases A – Z. This will display a list of all the databases the library offers. Scroll down the page until you find Consumer Click on this link to browse products on the Consumer Reports website. Use the search bar at the top of site to search for information about a specific tope, ie: Computers. From here you can read about recommended products; ratings and reliability; recommended products; review the Buying Guide; or even do price comparisons.


Stark County District Library is committed to helping you stay smart. Knowing how to effectively research PCs can help you make an informed purchase decision. If you are considering purchasing a PC you can use these library resources to help you make an informed purchase decision. All from the comfort of your home (or the library.)



Use ReferenceUSA to help find a new job.


With the holidays soon to be over many folks working seasonal jobs may need to start thinking about what they will do afterwards. One of the SCDL databases can help you find a new job whether it is for part time or permanent work.

If you go to and then scroll down to the “R’s” you will see it is the first one listed.

(A reminder if  you want to see any of the pictures enlarged, just click on them)

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Click on “ReferenceUSA” to open it. If you are in the library it will open automatically, if you are at home you will need to enter your library barcode from the back of your library card and your pin number when prompted.

When the database opens you will see a list of Available Databases. You want to choose the one marked “U.S. Jobs/Internships” which is at the top of the right column.


Once that is opened you can do the simple search and since a friend of mine has been looking for a copywriting job I’m going to use that as my search. As I start to type in the word “copy” it gives me a variety of choices I’m going to pick the first one.

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Then because she wants to move back to Ohio I’ll put in Ohio in the “City, State, or Zip Code” selection box.

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This particular search pulls up 58 possible jobs in the state of Ohio.

Currently there is not an option to sort the jobs by location or by date posted in this simple  search, but it can be done in the advanced search. I’m hoping that ReferenceUSA is working on changing that function in the near future. Although using the Custom Search Tab will give you more control over the search options.

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Since I want my friend to live closer to Canton than Columbus I sorted through the listings and found a posting for a Digital Print Designer at The Creative Group in Cleveland, Ohio that was posted on December 3, 2014.

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If I click on “Digital Print Designer” it opens a new window that will take me to the job application or allow me to apply for this and other similar jobs by clicking on the appropriate button.

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Clicking on the “Apply to This Job Only” button will take me to a registration screen where my friend would have to fill out the form to apply for this job. As with many online jobs for this one my friend would have to register with the ONET Resource Center to be able to submit a resume.

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Every job listing in ReferenceUSA is not done by the same recruiter so if my friend found another job that she was interested in it might well be from a different online job site so she would have to register with each one separately.

If my friend wanted to know more about the company she could click on “The Creative Group” 

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and a new window would open up and give her some specific information about the company, such as where it’s located, specific job listings, industry and business profiles, business demographics, a management directory, historical data (sales volume by year and number of employees by year), and a competitors report. Which could be very helpful when interviewing for a new job.

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Under the Job Listings it also gives you another way to see all the possible company postings and to get to the online recruiter to apply for the position.

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Good luck with your job search!









Goodreads (and the Library, too!)

30 million people use Goodreads to connect with other readers, keep track of books they’ve read, and find new titles, so the site isn’t exactly a secret. However, some folks don’t find all of the features available entirely intuitive. But I know I find the site useful enough that it’s worth the effort, particularly for finding new books to read. And though there are benefits to signing up for an account, it’s easy to use Goodreads to find great books even without signing up.

One way to start is by going to and searching for the title or author of a book you either want to know more about before you read it or look for a book you already love. Simply type the title or author into the search box, which is located about halfway down the home page if you aren’t signed in or at the very top if you are.

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When you get to the book you’re looking for, check out the overall Rating for the book or scroll through the recommendations (Readers Also Enjoyed) if what you want is a similar book. And once you have the book you want, you can even find out if the library owns it by clicking the green and white Libraries link below the book synopsis. (This link is very specific to the edition currently being viewed, so don’t give up hope if it looks like the Library doesn’t own it.)

top record

If SCDL owns the book, there will be a link to the Library’s catalog so you can see if the book is available or place a hold if it’s not.


If you still aren’t sold on the book, scroll down the page to read some of the user reviews. Keep in mind that Goodreads has a hands-off policy regarding the language users can employ.


And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do on Goodreads. If you want to know more, there are still seats open for the Goodreads class at North Branch this Wednesday, December 10 at 6:00. Click here to register.

If you can’t make the class, here’s the handout to get you started.