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26 posts from February 2008

February 29, 2008

Nursery Tech

The New York Times posted today on some of the new technology for nurseries (The Modern Nursery, Batteries Required) . My youngest are now 5, but I am amazed at the new products that have come out since then. Graco purchased BébéSounds, which the New York Times article highlighted by showing their electronic nasal aspirator and AlwaysClean Pacifier. The AlwaysClean Pacifier even solved a really important problem:

"When the baby inevitably flings this pacifier to the ground, as part of her daddy-torture program, this pacifier reliably falls backward, onto its handle, which activates a plastic shield that snaps closed over the nipple, so parents do not have to clean the thing repeatedly."

The other problem that I wished would of been solved when my kids were infants was a good indoor infant swing. The ones I had were not a smooth ride, and with twins it would of been nice to have a comforting place to put one twin while I was feeding or holding the other. The Graco Sweetpeace is the baby swing 2.0, using a motion similar to that of being rocked.  Better yet, instead of coined baby music there is a MP3 connection to play all types of music.

Baby monitors have come a long way, instead of those noisy monitors of the past there are now video and sound monitors. Some with flat panel LCD video displays

Boy, with all of the new technology there will be no need to have panic attacks and run down the hall only to find out the baby is peacefully sleeping anymore....

Any other nursery tech to share?

February 28, 2008

Is the Internet Really Dangerous For Kids - Linklove

Some interesting posts have come out recently questioning if the Internet is really a dangerous place for kids.

  • David Pogue posted on the New York Times Blog and his personal column with an article titled: How Dangerous is the Internet for Children.  I subscribed to a feed for the New York Times circuits section and I actually received this post in an email, reading it on my BlackBerry in the carpool line this afternoon. I also agree with his premise that parents need to set the tone for kids' internet use. If a child wanders onto an inappropriate site, just play it cool while telling them that is not appropriate content. It is important to use some type of Internet security/Filter.
  • Dory Devlin, Yahoo's Tech Mom, created a post that discussed that teens are not sharing personal information as widely as thought.

My internet filter is useful to  block access to unwanted sites, helping me create a safe environment. What do other parents do to create a safe online environment for their kids?

February 26, 2008

Security By Staples Seminar - Recap

I headed up to San Francisco with my blogger gal pals to see a Staples Security Seminar titled "Help Safeguard Your Life" with NBC Today Show and Dateline NBC personal security expert Wild Bill Stanton. Staples' press release dated Feb. 13 2008  explained their effort to Identify top at-risk behaviors for security threats, and relates to their Security by Staples initiative. Their security center has information on shredders, software, digital storage and a learning center with security related articles including child and teen internet safety.


Pictured left to right, Stefania, Lia, Nicole, Wild Bill, Beth, Sheila, Glennia (all of whom blog for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog - except for Wild Bill of course). On the far right side we were so happy to meet Cat!

Utilizing his background as a New York City Police Officer, Bill Stanton shared his perspective on personal security with us including hotel, car, home,and children. He  started out by saying "Analyze Risk , don't be paranoid - be prepared. Be proactive - don't become a victim".

Some of the background facts provided were:
Individual victims of identify suffer approximately $500 in loss, which goes up to appr. $1200 if the their sets up a new account. Businesses bear the brunt of lesses - approx $48 million for all types of ID theft in one year.... Male identify theft victims lose more then female victims. Men lose $1.86 for ever $1 lost by women...

Stanton gave us a warning to protect and dispose of anything with our personal information on it to protect from identity theft.  He discussed that even a hotel key has personal information on that strip, such as credit card which can get a thief access to social security numbers. During one of his stings for The Today Show, he went through a garbage can at a personal residence in New York City to see what personal information he could get. Within a few minutes he found documents with the resident's personal account numbers. Identity theft is an important issue - on the low tech side thieves just steal credit cards (not the whole wallet) and charge it up in one hour.. More sophisticated is that they assume your identify, open an account and get credit cards. Organized crime take databases with hundred of thousand of names.

The other recommendation was not to give personal information away while talking on a cellphone - you never know who is listening.


Stanton said that ripping documents in half - or (what many parents do) putting documents in the trash with a diaper is not secure. He recommended that shredding documents is the only secure way to dispose of personal documents. Some of the shredders can even handle CDs/DVDs and credit cards.


Stanton also recommended not to leave items such as checkbooks and other personal items at the office unattended. Even laptops should be locked (with a laptop lock) to a desk before leaving for a break, lunch or for the day. With a recent rash of local robberies at my town, I added to the discussion that locking laptops at home is a good idea. Another attendee mentioned the issue of laptops being stolen at cafe's while the owner walked up to get their coffee.


With a room full of bloggers/online writers the thought of computer crashing was a sore spot. We discussed that data loss was a big issue. Along with data files, digital photos are important to consider when backing up. We discussed using using hard drives, portable drives or USB drives for backing up. For those running a business, a data protection policy that includes a back-up policy should be put in place.


The top internet security threats include hackers, viruses, spyware and phishing scams. We discussed that it is important for all computers to have internet security software - not only installed - but regularly and automatically updated. Vendor websites should be checked for upgrades, patches and security advisories. The internet security software modules should stay active while the computer is running to immediately detect intrusions. 


All the moms in the room were really interested to hear about this thoughts on protecting children from predictors. Stanton discussed that preditors study up on what kids are interested. One sting he went on was with a couple of girls and boys (with permission of parents) playing in col-de-sac to test if they would protect themselves. He told the kids they can play with puppy - and asked them to please put puppy in trunk of car - three boys come over to the car near the trunk and pet the dog. He tapped them on the back meaning he had control. One kid had a scooter - Stanton tested him by starting to chat with him and asked if the boy went to a local school. The boy, not wanting to be rude, answered. He told us to tell your kids it is important to be rude at times!  He also tested a brother and sister by riding up on a scooter and falling on purpose right in front of the house to see what would happen.  The girl acted correctly when she told Stanton that they needed to go in and grabbed her brother and went inside her house... Stanton explained that there is no cure all answer... you need to make them aware...

After we had our security chat, we all had the opportunity to take an online quiz to analyze our security and look at some of the product recommendations. I listed some of the products below:

Continue reading "Security By Staples Seminar - Recap" »

February 25, 2008

Protect You and Your Teen's Privacy On Facebook

I found this relevant post on the O'Reilly website titled: "Ten Ways to Protect You Privacy on Facebook". It was compiled from the book “Facebook The Missing Manual” by E. A. (Emily) Vander Veer. Here are my thoughts on the issue - as more parents and teens (13 and over) jump on the Facebook bandwagon, privacy is even more of a concern.

I talked to a highschool coach who checks her students' Facebook profile if they don't show up to practice. If the team members talk about a "big party" they went to the night  before - she knows why they did not show up. The bigger issue may be why kids are "partying" during the week - but a sub-issue is that they are sharing private information online.

I talked to someone who just got out of college and noticed that employers printed out her social networking profiles as part of the interview process.


A USA Today article from September 2007 covered:

"Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced an investigation into the popular online social networking site Facebook after undercover investigators posing as children were allegedly solicited by sexual predators and the company was lax in responding to complaints."

A college website had even more to say on the subject... NetFamilyNews posted with an FBI agent's practical advice.


I have had mothers' from my kids school - that I had not talked to for years -  come up to me and tell me they are keeping up to date with me via my blogs. I was thrilled they was reading my blog, but that helped me understand that my online information is being viewed by many. Which is not a bad thing, but just something that should be kept in mind.

Tell yourself and your teens to keep private information offline. Any information put online should be considered "for public viewing". And don't forget to adjust your privacy settings right away when signing up for Facebook. Read the post from the O'Reilly website for the full list of privacy recommendations for Facebook.

February 23, 2008

Grace Hopper Listed in the NYT next to VELMA from SCOOBY DOO?

I had that one moment of peace while eating oatmeal last Thursday (2/21) morning, before gathering up my three little monkeys to get dressed and go to school. I spotted an article in the New York Times called "Sorry, Boys, This Is Our Domain" that talked about some young girl geek like Nicole from sodevious.net and the first teenage podcaster Martina Butler (only 17!). I decided to post about this article on Techmamas as a way to inspire parents to tell their girls to go geek... The article discussed that girls eclipse boys in blogging, building or working on web sites for other people and creating profiles on social networks. The pictures on the second part of the print article was (an attempt) at some sort of cultural pictorial called "Geek Chic: Not Just For Guys". I am a big NYT fan, have and will read it for years - but this pictorial made me spit out my oatmeal....I took my own picture of the newspaper article (sans oatmeal stains) to show those only having access to the online article:


First they listed Augusta Ada Byron and the amazing GRACE HOPPER, then... well - what could be pictured after Grace Hopper - but VELMA of the Scooby Doo cartoon ("technological wizard of the bunch").

I personally don't find inspiration in cartoons, I like live role models instead...

I was a COBOL programmer for years but first heard about Grace Hopper from Sylvia Paull (who organizes the Berkeley Cybersalons and also founded Gracenet) at a BlogHer holiday party.  When I told Sylvia that I started my career programming COBOL - she told me that a WOMAN invented it (Grace Hopper). I was so proud. Grace Hopper, the original "girl geek" is celebrated yearly at the Women in Computing conference.

RU Sirius discussed how the word "girl nerd" turned to "girl geek" while interviewing a resource for all things girl geek:  Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders who wrote the book She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff" and have a blog "Shes such a geek". That book lists even more girl geeks ... Oh - I happened to also have the honor of briefly meeting Annalee Newitz at that same BlogHer Holiday party (BlogHer = Great Networking).

In lieu of a proper listing in the NYT article (no offense to Velma), I decided I would provide links to amazing girl geeks and women in technology of the past and present. Parents, here is a real taste of girl geek chic to show your girls (and boys)...UPDATE 6/13/08 TO ADD TWO WOMEN THAT ARE HELPING EXPLAIN THE WEB 2.0 REVOLUTION AND SOCIAL MEDIA WITH THEIR TWO BOOKS: Charlene Li with her book "Groundswell" and Sarah Lacy with her book "Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good".

Continue reading "Grace Hopper Listed in the NYT next to VELMA from SCOOBY DOO?" »

February 19, 2008

Does Working At Home Work?

Seems like moms are discussing the challenges of working at home lately:

Please share your work at home challenges....

February 18, 2008

BlackBerry Curve Versus iPhone?

Earlier today, a mom friend emailed me asking my opinion on buying a BlackBerry versus iPhone. After taking on the MAC versus PC, I felt ready to discuss a somewhat similar question on the phone side. I choose the BlackBerry Curve to compare with the iPhone because I have one - and I feel it is the best model.

The first thing I always do is compare specs and see which one fits what I am looking for. The iPhone specs and the BlackBerry specs were both full of functionality. Then I suggest to demo the phone to see which one feels more comfortable. For example, I like having a qwerty keyboard because I am used to it - but maybe I could also get used to the iPhone's touch screen. Both the iPhone and the BlackBerry has enough functionality to serve any parent (email, MP3, web browsing, phone, camera). So the final decision may come down to which one feels the best.

Sarah Granger posted on Techmamas with a review of the iPhone.  Here is an interesting review of the BlackBerry Curve from Laptop Magazine. The only hitch I have heard is that the iPhone battery is not removable - but the BlackBerry's battery easily flips out of the back. The BlackBerry's browser works well but I find it to be slow at times versus the iPhone that has a real web browser (Safari). One of the biggest problem is that many websites are not moblie ready so they are hard to read on my BlackBerry.  Here is a link from Infoworld that compares web browsers between smartphones titled "Smartphone Browser Shootout: Palm, BlackBerry, HTC Vs. iPhone?". There is free software from Yahoo and Google that can be downloaded to BlackBerry's to provide better online functionality. Better yet, the BlackBerry 8310 has built in GPS.

I agree with the Techcrunch post that compared the BlackBerry to the iPhone side by side when it comes to the BlackBerry's push technology to receive emails. My phone buzzes when I get an email - I get them right when they are sent. AppleInsider and Calacanis.com had more to say about the debate. CrunchGear posted with a rumor that the iPhone may be $100 cheaper soon.

Any thoughts on the iPhone versus BlackBerry debate?

February 17, 2008

Pokemon Strategy Chat #1 - Leaf versus Fire

Background: If you can't beat them - join them. After months of discussions like the one below with my son, I decided should bring the discussion online with others that speak his language. This is the first in many of the new category in Techmamas called "Pokemon Strategy Chat". My now 9 year old son Lightning will be writing these posts and hopes to have other Pokemon fans comment with their strategy ideas... Here are the RULES of engagement. We will also be looking around for other sites that have Pokemon strategy talks and will be linking to them.

Game: Pokemon Pearl  (Nintendo DS Lite).

So - right now my Pokemon is an infernape, and it is the final evolution from Chimchar. My infernape is battling a leaf type Pokemon called Gloom. To be a good trainer, one of things you should think about is which Pokemon can defeat the other Pokemon.  For example, my infernape is a fire type Pokemon and I am battling a leaf Pokemon.  What happens if you put fire on a leaf, the leaf will burn right? So if I use a fire type move on the leaf Pokemon it is super effective. After the battle we saw that all of the leaf Pokemon's energy went down to almost nothing. And in all, there is 205% HP that went down to around 30% HP. HP stands for hit points.

Continue reading "Pokemon Strategy Chat #1 - Leaf versus Fire" »

February 16, 2008

MAC versus PC - The Debate Continues....

Imac I am still searching for the perfect family computer. I know that I want a all-in-one desktop where the guts of the computer are in the back of the computer screen (I have a small space in our family room for a computer). My first round of research came up with two desktops in the running:  the Dell XPS One and iMac. The picture on the left is the back of the iMAC (yes - that is the whole computer in one!) that the folks at the Apple store were nice enough to let me take). The Dell XPS One has a similar look from the picture I saw online. Staples carries Dell computers so I will head over there to see if I can take a look at the Dell XPS One.

We have a few Windows based laptops already - but I am ready to have a computer in our family room with a screen - big enough for three kids to see. So really, the decision may come down to MAC versus PC. My son really wants a iMAC because it is so easy to use, but I have been a PC user for years and may not be ready to switch...  On the other hand I am getting tired of all the crapware on PC's and know that MAC's get less computer viruses (for now...).

So I set off to do more research hoping that the decision would just pop out. Some David Pogue articles in the New York Times added juicy factoids to my research about the MAC.  The first is a review of Microsoft Office 2008 for Macintosh and MacSpeech Dictate ("New Tools to Bolster Mac's World", Feb. 24 2008). One phrase in that article is a great summary of why people are switching over to MAC's lately:

"There are all kinds of theories to explain the sudden resurgence: the lack of viruses, the iPod halo effect, the critical mass of Apple stores, the disappointing debut of Windows Vista, all those Apple TV ads, the switch to Intel chips (meaning that Windows programs run on a Mac) — or maybe all of it together."

The second article is on the Leopard operating system ("Apple Offers New Goodies in Leopard"). I just purchased a new HP laptop - as soon as I start using it I will have my first experience with using Windows Vista (the Windows operating system being compared with Leopard).

I also saw some interesting articles from another member of my personal review team: Walt Mossberg. On issues like sharing multiple computers with a switch (PC and MAC, Joined at the Switch) and thoughts on the Leopard Operating system.  But it was a user question on switching to a MAC that brought Walt Mossberg and David Pogue together on the All Things Digital blog. Walt Mossberg recommended this book written by David Pogue "Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual".

All of this is important information for me because if I buy a MAC there are many things I will need to switch over to from my PC. As for my decision, I am still confused.... Wired has a review of the Dell XPS  and had good things to say except that the "Mac-like looks yield a Mac-like price".

Any thoughts? Any tips from those that recently purchased a family (shared) computer?

February 14, 2008

Northern Illinois University Shooting Reflections on Facebook

After the Virginia Tech Shootings I posted on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog about how students are using Web 2.0 to share stories. I am sad to  post with another shooting - this time at Northern Illinois University. Again students reached out to each other through online social networks such as Facebook.  The Facebook Group "Pray for Northern Illinois University Students And Families" has hotline numbers to obtain updates and words of support on the group wall.

UPDATE: After the Virginia Tech incident, Universities set up security plans.  Northern Illinois University's security plan that took effect included campus lockdown starting with alerts on the website and through the email system as well as a campus alarm system.

Another good reason for university students to have email on their phones.

There are many ways for college students to have email on their phones. One way is to purchase a smartphone that includes email (like the BlackBerry, Palm, Motorola, BlackJack or Apple iPhone) or for students to download applications such as Yahoo Go! Mobile or Gmail Moblie to their phones (for select phones). Another form of communication for the security plans should include a instant messaging strategy so that all students with any cellphone can get the alerts.



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