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26 posts from April 2007

April 30, 2007

Techmeme Update: Are Wi-Fi Laptops a Health Risk for Children?

Yesterday while reading Techmeme, I was suprised to see the BBC UK article about wi-fi being a potential health risk for children using laptops:

"Professor Lawrie Challis told the Daily Telegraph children using wi-fi networks should be monitored until research into potential health risks is completed. He says children should keep a safe distance from the embedded antennas."

All I know is that for now, I will take away my sons laptop desk and ask him to use his laptop on a real desk until I can look into this further. Sitting in bed using his laptop on the laptop desk is probably not good ergonomics anyway....

Linklove: iPods - the Newest Technology Used for Cheating

Calculator2 I remember when I was in college, some sneaky classmates figured out how to program formulas into their calculators to cheat on tests. I, of course, did not participate but I was intrigued. I wondered how Teachers could fight all the new ways students figure out how to cheat - especially when it includes technology? The current answer seems to be "banning it" from class.

My son feels like his iPod is a new appendage to his body, so he puts it in a secure pocket of his pants out of reach during class. He knows very well that we will take his iPod away if he EVER brings it out in class. I don't know if banning digital media will take care of the problem. I agree with Strollerderby that kids will find new ways to cheat anyway. For now, it is important that parents understand that technology (and even hats) can be used in the wrong ways. The only solution may be to keep the communication lines open (low tech - as in having verbal talks) and use of clear logical consequences.

Related links:

April 29, 2007

Kids that love computer games = online testing practice fun

I was trying to figure out a way to force inspire my son to prepare for the California State Star testing that is given for all second graders. They prepare for it in class, but since this was going to be his first official test I wanted to give him some extra help understanding how to take tests. But, I had to be creative. Then one day I saw him playing on SFSKIDS.org, funbrain.com and scholastic.com (some of the few sites that I have given him access to using my Internet filter). I realized he enjoys playing online games. Which helped me understand what I needed to do to help him prepare.....

I found a site called Bright Education Services and Testing that had a section for second grade California Star Testing.  The pricing was reasonable and they offered online testing.  The online tests can be given in sets of 10, 25 questions or more and each test can be unique or taken over again.

When I told him he can play online games for Star Testing (the key is using the word "game"), he agreed. I was in shock. Who would have known that online games would lead to an learning opportunity for test practice?

April 27, 2007

LinkLove: Strollerderby Discusses Web Savvy Moms

One of my favorite blogs (Strollerderby) just posted with info on the number and amount of time web savvy moms spend online. Go take a look, we are so happy they mentioned Techmamas. There is also a post with Mother's Day gift ideas for geeky mamas. Techmamas will have their own list of Mother's Day recommendations published next week, but that post has some great ideas so I wanted to send that linklove out early.

April 26, 2007

Top Ten Ways Alienated Dads Can Communicate With Their Kids

Miss_you_3 In honor of Alec Baldwin calling his daughter a "rude, thoughtless pig" because she did not answer his phone call (when he called at a pre-arranged time), I am presenting some low-tech and high-tech options for alieniated dads to help them communicate with their kids. I discussed my own personal thoughts about this on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

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10. READ SOME BOOKS ON COMMUNICATION WITH KIDS - The low tech solution is to read some books to understand how to talk to kids in the first place. For younger kids the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" can help with communication. Or buy "Kidisms: What They Say and What They Really Mean" for yourself and "Dadisms: What He Says And What He Really Means" for your kidsThis will help find alternatives to the word "pig" when communicating with your child.  Unless you are talking about a farm.

9. USE SOCIAL NETWORKING: If you have college or adult kids, ask nicely if they participate in any of the online social networks. For those Dads who don't know what internet social networking is - read  Wikipedia, the Red Herring article and look at the site Hitwise that recently published a list of Internet social networking sites used.

If they use social networking, ask if you can be added to their "friends" or just read their blog if it is public.  Many will list their interests, blurbs and what they are up to. Again, don't use any rude language if they say no. But if they do, comment on their blog or send their profile a message mentioning how "cool" their site is. Ask nicely that they do not post too much personal information on the social networking sites or meet with strangers. And if they restrict access only to their friends or use passwords. Say that you ask because you love them (not that you do not trust them).

8. TWITTER OR INSTANT MESSAGE WITH YOUR KIDS: See if you child wants to add you as their Twitter friend (for kids over 13). Then you can see what they doing every moment of the day, just like when they were young. Be careful not to enter your own twitter judgements like "I sitting at home worried that my daughter is going on a date with a guy that seems irresponsible". That deserves a phone call at least. Which goes on to the next point, if they don't use Twitter ask them if you can instant message or text them on their phone. And say that a one word text response is fine if they are busy. Tell them you know about the instant message text abbreviations <grin> <smirk> <chuckle>.

7. GET SOME EXAMPLE QUOTES: Look at BrainyQuotes to get an example of what Dads are quoted as saying. See which type of Dad you want to be in quotes. For some creative alternatives, look at what William Shakespeare said. I don't think he said the word "pig".

6. EMAIL (including E-Cards):  Ask for their email address and say they can get back to you when they have time.  But remember, emails are permanent documentation so if you get upset they have not replied, deal with it by keeping it to yourself. You can even email them cute electronic cards saying you miss them. Here is a good example of animated Amazon E-cards that show you miss your child without using bad words....

5. SKYPE
: Well, Skype is free and can be used around the world. Send your child a video camera and you can both use Skype to video conference. But, if they use social networking sending a video camera can be dangerous.

4. GET THEM A PHONE CARD: Get them a phone card and ask that they use it somewhat regularly. Promise that the call will just be a quick hi (and keep your promise unless they want to talk).   Don't leave any messages reminding them that they have not called. That does not work.

3. SEND THEM A DIGITAL CAMERA AND ASK THAT THEY SHARE SOME PICTURES WITH YOU: A picture is worth a few words at least. Help them find a good online photo sharing site if they don't have a blog or want to use email to send the pictures.

2. SEND THEM AN AIRLINE GIFT CARD (If they live far away). Say they can use the airline gift card when they want, or you can fly to see them. If they say they don't want to see you, ask them if you can socialize online with the other options listed. If that does not work.....

THE NUMBER 1 WAY FOR ALIENATED DADS TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR KIDS:  HAVE AN HONEST TALK (AND BE PATIENT). Just say you miss them, you want to see them and that you can make it happen when they are ready. No technology needed.

April 25, 2007

Low Tech: The Best Solution For Dehydration

Salt Instead of computer system problems holding up my ability to post for the last few days, I can only say that it had something to do with my personal system. Even some of my friends have been sick lately, one who ended up in the hospital for dehydration. After having my own battle with dehydration, I thought I would share my own personal solution. Gatorade can be used for those who have that avaliable. But simple water in regular intervals of one hour is the best solution. And if that is hard to swallow, put some salt in the water and try drinking that mixture. The salt really makes the difference for me. I found out that being dehydrated makes it hard to blog, think or do anything related to being a mom. 

Although a mom is usually the best source of medical information, I suggest talking to a real medical professional to get the full story.....

April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day 2007

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Happy Earth Day 2007. Please check out the Silicon Valley Moms Blog for some thoughts on Earth Day.

April 21, 2007

Techmama's Adventures at Web 2.0 Expo

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Web 2.0 Expo last week. I saw so many interesting things, instead of creating one post I decided to dedicate April 23 - 25 to Web 2.0 Expo. So please come back and take a look. I will also discuss the company that received my first ever award for best product evangelism,  one that included a martini during the product demo.....

For those who do not know what Web 2.0 means, it will give you time to do your homework.

UPDATE: Web 2.0 Expo details are still in the works and will be up by the end of the week.

April 20, 2007

Backing Up Digital Media, For Busy Parents

I recently figured out that 3 years of family pictures are all digital, stored on my computer, and only a few pictures made it to print. I did not share this fact with many until I talked to other moms who also have the same issue. So this means that if I don't have a back-up, well, all memories will be erased. And what would I say when my kids ask to see their pictures?  Sorry  - my hard drive got corrupted and all the pictures got erased? Or sorry, I deleted the folder on my computer with family pictures by accident. Yeah, that will go over well.

So, my current project is too look for alternatives for backing up my digital photos. The first step is to print out the pictures and make beautiful photo albums. Wait - that was my dream...

Here are the alternatives for busy parents:

  • Usbdrives_3The quick and easy way, is just to use the USB port of your computer and attach an USB flash drive. The device is easy to find, and available in 2GB and 4GB (translated to mean lots of pictures). This would allow the use  of copy and paste functionality to move photo's from the computer to the USB device. Some type of documentation system would be helpful to identify what pictures are on the device. But over time, more then one flash drive will be needed to hold all of the photos. There are also versions that are kid proof ("Uncrushable" SanDisk U3 Cruzer Titanium flash drive) .
  • For a one stop solution, Geekdad published a post that dicusses the 750GB Seagate hard drive. Some of the comments mentioned other solutions.Picassa3_5
  • Burn the pictures onto DVD's. Newegg.com has a selection of CD/DVD burners. Blue Ray and HD-DVD optical storage technologies will be the next gen of DVD's. But for your average parent, DVD's are still fine - especially for backing up photos. Along with a burner, software is required for the download. Nero and Record Now are examples of the popular versions out now.
  • Store the pictures on a online using a server. If I were to do that, I would use a server that has lots of space - like Google. Google Picassa locates and organizes your pictures online. You can even make web albums to share with family.
  • I heard that Mac users have an easy way to move pictures to a online site - but since I don't have a MAC, it would be great to hear what they use.

There is also the bigger issue of data storage for all media (documents, photos and files) as well as keeping the data library in sync. CNET had an interesting post (Seagate thinks Small, 1/04/2007) discussing the new line of Seagate pocket-size portable storage devices called FreeAgent. This solution is interesting because it allows storage of the entire contents of the computer with software to manage it. The Pro line comes with 500MB of space on a Seagate Internet storage site for posting photos or other files.

For a stylish data storage option, Pininfarina makes a external hard drive in three capacities (the largest is 500 GB), has one click back-up and comes with 2GB myfabrik.com for online storage. The SimpleTech SimpleDrive family is compatible with MACs and PCs.

Red Herring discussed the issue of keeping data in sync in their article "Out of Sync: Sharpcast, ProtectMyPhotos, Vizrea", March 15, 2007.

I will sift through all of this information and post on the solution I chose at a later time. The first step is to back up those digital pictures so my three boys have a memory of their childhood.

April 19, 2007

"Reach Out to Loners", an Online Facebook Campaign

I am feeling disturbed lately. In fact, I had trouble sleeping last night.

Virginia_tech_pic_2 It started with the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech. My thoughts go out to all the families that lost their loved ones and to the students who's world may never be the same. I wrote about the positive use of Web 2.0 for college students to share stories and get support from their online communities.  But I was left with a terrible feeling about how things were being twisted around.

The shooter may have been introverted and lonely, but nothing gives one person a reason to injure others... The best revenge is working hard in college and getting a great job - SUCCEEDING IN LIFE!. Many introverted lonely people in college go on to become successful adults. 

The shooter needed professional help, no one should hold him up as the "lonely guy" martyr. And (hmm hmm mainstream media) no one should publish the pictures he sent to NBC of him brandishing guns. I almost spit out my coffee when I saw my young boys looking at that picture this morning. 

The New York Times article "Online, Students Say "Reach Out to Lonerspointed out an interesting force moving through the social networking scene. In response to the Virginia Tech shootings, a campaign is taking place in the social networking software called Facebook:

"Soon after the founding of the “IM GONNA TALK & REACH OUT (TO EVERY LONER)” board (in Facebook), someone hastily posted a meek note: “But how do you talk to someone like dat... leave sum advice....” There was no reply."

Continue reading ""Reach Out to Loners", an Online Facebook Campaign" »

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