42 posts categorized "Home Technology"

January 20, 2010

My Kids Are Awake With Access to Tech, But Pretend Play Is Still King

Kids-technologyThis morning I opened up the New York Times and read the article by Tamar Lewin called "If Your Kids Are Awake, They're Probably Online". Later I saw the New York Times article had made it to Techmeme.

While reading the article I took a moment to look at what my kids were doing. Were my kids using any technology this morning?

So I decided to review the morning's activities: After my 10 year old and twin 6 year old boyBoys-pillow-fights ate breakfast, they went into our living room (affectionately called the "bouncy room" because sofa pillows are used for forts and jumping) for some pretend play before school. They had rolled up paper for swords and were pretending to fend off the "bad guys". A few nerf guns sneaked their way in, but had no bullets so they ended up being a prop as well. When it is was time to leave, my boys put on their little yellow rain boots and rain jackets and went to school.

All of this "pretend play" happened in our house that is full of technology. We have multiple laptops including my 10 year old that has his own laptop, iPod and Nintendo DSi. My twin 6 year olds have Leapfrog moblie gaming units and their older brother's hand me down Nintendo DS's. The TV in our family room may be 10 years old, but it still works great. We have Direct TV DVR's and a Nintendo Wii. We have multiple Nintendo racing, sports and Mario Bros Wii games with lots of accessories and just recently purchased the Tony Hawk Thride game and accessory board. My 10 year old has a simple cell phone that is "Pay as you Go" with no data plan but ample calling and texting. His friends have the Sony Playstation and they enjoy playing Lego Star Wars. We only have one TV in our family room, but multiple computer screens in our house.

The New York Times article "If Your Kids Are Awake, They're Probably Online" brought up some very interesting discussion points about how much time kids are spending on technology each day:

Continue reading "My Kids Are Awake With Access to Tech, But Pretend Play Is Still King" »

January 14, 2010

Took A Study Break, But Now I am Back....

Whenever I stop posting for awhile it is usually either because I am away at a conference (and busy covering it live via Twitter) or taking a study break. The holidays came about at the same time a fabulous opportunity to join the Traveling Geeks trip to Paris. So I went to Paris. I mean come on, Paris and hanging with a top notch group of Geeks all in one trip?

I still gathered information for a holiday tech guide but decided to hold off posting for some very good reasons. While reviewing the vast amount of technology options open to families I realized there was lots of terminology and features that I needed to better understand before I shared my favorites with anyone. I wondered what is the difference between an ultra-portable and thin & light PC. What are the advantages of a SSD (solid state drive) versus a regular hard drive? How do I choose a processor when choosing a computer? What do I need to know about video graphics cards? What other features are most relevant when choosing a computer? What other technology is not only new but relevant/useful for families versus a luxury item?

I realize many don't spend time pondering those questions, but I did. To my families dismay I spent every free moment when I was not playing with my kids during winter break scouring the web for buying guides, information, buying relevant tech magazines, reading about the new technology coming out and understanding better the technology that is already here.

With over 40 pages of data gathered, I decided to put it all together in one big cheat sheet. I realized after CES that my research only covered the best of 2009 - so some of it is already out of date. But I also realized that while many of the technology discussed at CES is available now - there is also an equal amount that has not launched yet.

To make things even more complicated, some of the technologies coming out will take some time to be adopted in the mainstream by families. An example of that is 3D Televisions. While I think anyone buying a new TV should think about buying one that has the "option" to run programs/movies that are 3D compatible (many new 3D TV's have controls that turn the 3D on or off) - I don't think consumers that were not shopping for a new TV will do so because of 3D. Not yet of course...

I decided to not look for any sponsors for this CES so I could just set my own schedule to take it all in (my trip was paid for all by TechMama herself). Starting next week I will post with what I learned about technology features from my obsessive study break and the exciting, bizarre, cool, relevant and downright "so thankful they finally invented that" technology from CES.

November 26, 2009

Shopping Tech? Here Are Some Black Friday & Cyber Monday Tips

J0439783 I shared many times over Twitter that although I am a "TechMama" my laptop needs replacing. I am a heavy computer user and my computer is over 2 years old. So this weekend I will be looking online for Black Friday Sales 2009 and Black Friday ads like many others. One of mom friend's computer died but she is waiting for this weekend to buy a new one. Other moms I know are looking for technology as holiday gifts for their families. Holiday time is the best time to buy technology as the new "gift" (my slogan). So for those getting their sneakers on to shop for Black Friday Sales ads, here is where to go for online Black Friday Sales 2009 and some things to think about before you go. Some sites even offer printable coupons to bring along to the store. I will be posting throughout the weekend with hot technology and toy gift ideas.

NOTE: Gizmodo posted with a good point - there are some items that can be found online at the same or better prices then BlackFriday prices, so best to do some comparison shopping online. At the same time, many manufacturers are having big sales this time of year, so finding deals will not be a problem. PC World posted that Black Friday doorbusters are for suckers.

Where to go: This Wall Street Journal article confirmed my list of what sites list Black Friday Sales 2009: "Where to Find Black Friday Deals". I have already been following Black Friday Ads, BlackFriday.info and the BlackFriday Twitter account. Mashable posted about how social media is used to find Black Friday deals (including Facebook). The New York Times byte blog posted with more online Black Friday 2009 sites to follow such as CheapTweets on Twitter. I did go into an Apple store to ask about around Thanksgiving and they said there will be a sale. By going on the Apple website I saw that the Apple sale day is November 26.  I also follow many computer manufacturers on Twitter and have seen lots of deals through Twitter: SonyElectronics, HP News, HP_IPG , Dell, Dell Outlet, Toshiba Laptops. The big retailers like Staples, Radio Shack, Best Buy and online retailers like Amazon Twitter Deals and NewEgg also share deals.  I also go to their websites and signup for newsletter updates which sends deals to my email inbox.

What to consider: My recommendation is to sleep in and shop online. The New York Times reported that retailers will extend Black Friday. Other articles said that the high end items are not the main items on sale. So my suggestion is to decide on your needs and what alternatives fit with those needs.

How to choose the right technology gifts: I have been looking at all sorts of technology and I can honestly say that in many situations there are more then one "perfect" fit. The first step is to identify what your needs are then start to look for overall technology solutions. Then review online buying guides to understand what features you should be looking for. My favorite online buying guides are on CNET, Laptop Magazine buying guides, DPreview and reviews on gadget blogs like Ubergizmo, Engadget, Gizmodo, TechieDiva, Gear Diary, Boy Genius Report, Gear Live and of course TechMamas. My favorite shopping site is Cool Mom Picks. Bing.com also has links to guides such as "Laptop buying guides".

NEED A NEW HOME COMPUTER? Do you need another computer for your kids to do their homework? Then consider desktops if the computer does not need to be mobile or laptops for mobile use. I was just quoted recently in an article by Laptop Magazine on Netbooks for Kids. Netbooks are a great alternative for mobile use - but I suggest having a docking station with a bigger screen for home use. Older kids may be responsible enough to have their own laptop, especially if their homework requires computer use. Tablet PC's may also be the right fit because of their flexible screens. Desktops are the most budget friendly and will have bigger screens that not only are easy on the eyes for homework, but if the Deskop has the right features can be used to watch videos, movies or even TV shows. There are also lots of accessories that compliment home computer users such as backup drives, media smart servers, home wireless servers, wireless keyboards & mouses, webcams and more. There are many printer options these days including the HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web.

Continue reading "Shopping Tech? Here Are Some Black Friday & Cyber Monday Tips" »

November 19, 2009

Guest Post: A New Believer in Surround Sound

I invite moms who work at companies to share their information about technology from the "moms" perspective. On my search to learn more about the digital living room, I thought it would be interesting to hear from a mom who works at Dolby Laboratories, Inc.

**Guest post by Robin L. Selden – Senior Vice President, Marketing, Dolby Laboratories, Inc.


Before I joined Dolby I have to admit I was completely sound ignorant. I never really understood what a quality surround sound experience could be like in my home.

I’m not a complete novice when it comes to technology – I came to Dolby with more than 20 years of experience in the PC technology and digital media industries – so why did I have PC speakers (though they were nice) attached to my beautiful 50” plasma HDTV? 

I knew what good surround sound was like in the movie theater. My family is a huge fan of the movies and my husband and I often go with our 17 year old daughter and 15 year old son to watch the epic films on the big screen.  But we also rent a lot of movies at home and I knew that it never sounded quite like the theater.  So after I heard a fantastic demo at Dolby of a crystal clear 5.1 home theater setup, it finally hit me… I could have a similar surround sound experience in my home.  And not just with movies, but with video games and sports too!

The entire family was involved in developing our surround sound plan. We started by deciding which room would be dedicated to the home theater setup. We rearranged a big space in the house that previously doubled as an office and exercise room, and moved the HDTV to the middle of the room as the centerpiece. With the help of some Dolby experts, who were thankfully at my disposal, we selected a high-end audio video receiver (AVR) (with Dolby Volume to curb the “turn that down” family feuds) and a high-end 5.1 speaker system that looked gorgeous and fit the space well.

But what about aesthetics?  To figure out where the speakers should go, I used Dolby’s Home Theater Speaker Guide to aid in my husband and my rounds of discussions about the back left and right (surround) speakers in particular. He wanted to mount them on the wall.  I did not.  So we ended up putting them on stands, but positioned them far enough away so they would neither be an eye sore nor compromise the experience. 


Recommended 5.1 speaker placements for your home theater:

Continue reading "Guest Post: A New Believer in Surround Sound" »

June 22, 2009

HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web: World's First Web-Connected Printer

I dropped the kids off at camp this morning and headed to the HP Reveal press conference to hear a briefing on a *mystery* product. As someone that loves mysteries, I could not wait to get there and find out what it was. I missed the press conference because of camp drop off timing, but I did demo the product and talked with the HP Marketing/Engineering staff - who were all very eager to hear what moms would look for in the product. Luckily I had another mom blogger with me to also discuss ideas ( @Vdog).

And the mystery product is....."The world’s first web-connected printer:  HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web".

Here are details from their press release:

"HP introduced a category-changing product and an entirely new web-based printing platform with HP apps. Powered by touch, the HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web – the world’s first Web connected home printer – allows people simple access to popular and personal online content PC.

Additionally, HP apps allow people to connect instantly with fun, informative and personal content. People can easily access these Print Apps via the printer’s 4.33-inch touchscreen – the largest LCD touchscreen of any all-in-one inkjet printer on the market – to print maps, coupons, movie tickets and more from their favorite web sites including USA TODAY, Google, Fandango and Coupons.com."

What does this mean for moms/parents/kids? Basically the new printer allows the user to access the web for select applications on a touchscreen and then print via wireless - without using a computer. The applications need to be developed for the Photosmart with TouchSmart Web, similar to the applications that are developed to use on the iPhone. The target is for the printer to launch this fall. The HP App Studio (SDK -developer kit) will be available in the beginning of the new year after the launch. This will allow the people to create their own applications. The target retail price for the United States is $399.

The printer does not have internal storage so it is not a replacement for a computer. What it does offer is the time saving functionality to print directly from the web from one gadget (the printer) via the house wireless system. The Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web also includes PictBridge, Ethernet, USB, Bluetooth, as wells as CF, SD, and MS-Duo slots. The extra slots allow users, for example, that use SD flash cards in their digital cameras to insert them directly into the printer for printing pictures.

More technical details will be released soon. 

ASK TECHMAMA READERS: WHAT APPLICATIONS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ON THE HP PHOTOSMART WITH TOUCHSMART WEB?

Here are some of the pictures I took at the HPreveal:

 HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web:

DSC_0364 

Vdog is displaying a picture printed on the HP Photosmart with TouchSmart Web.

DSC_0365 

Here is a close-up of the front of the printer with the touchscreen for web access.

DSC_0366 

The HP Photosmart with TouchSmart Web can also scan, copy and fax (for faxing, the printer must be hooked up to a phone line).

DSC_0368

This is a picture of the touch keypad input screen.

DSC_0370

This picture shows the coupons application.

DSC_0371  

And here is the coupon that was printed at our demo.

DSC_0372

The ink cartridges are in separate colors.

DSC_0373

Photo tray that can handle many different types of paper (including photo and laser).

DSC_0375

Here is an example of the screen to choose crafts to print.

DSC_0379  

You can also view movie clips (video streaming) from the Touchscreen. This picture is of the Monsters vs Aliens video that played screen during our demo.

PRESS RELEASE:

Continue reading " HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web: World's First Web-Connected Printer" »

April 27, 2009

Free Online Safety Service From Norton Makes It Easier To Keep Kids Safe Online

**Guest post by Marian Merritt - Symantec's Internet Safety Advocate

I have three kids who love the Internet in all its forms. The oldest is just 15 and the youngest is 7. Like a bunch of bumper cars, their online activities occasionally dent the family rules for being safe online. Sometimes they forget what we’ve discussed or they are into things I never dreamed would capture their interest. It feels like I’m always a step behind knowing what they are going to download or visit and then protecting them from the mistakes they might make.

The youngest one doesn’t understand why I’m concerned about her using search engines when she was taught how to use Google and Yahoo at school. (How do I know the “safe search” settings haven’t been tweaked?) The middle child, 13 years old, wants to game online and has no problem downloading cheat codes or visiting sites with gaming tips. He rolls his eyes when I lecture about visiting these “who knows who runs them” sites and downloading files. And of course, my oldest is into all the normal teen stuff: social networks, chatting, Skyping with her friends,and YouTube. So I admit it, I need some help here.

Norton has just launched a great and easy to use service that should make my life a lot easier. It’s called OnlineFamily.Norton and is a simple way to give me the insight I need into my children’s online activities but without the usual associated headaches of traditional web filtering or parental control software. And, during the introductory period (through next January 1st) the service (a $60 value) is entirely free!!

Continue reading "Free Online Safety Service From Norton Makes It Easier To Keep Kids Safe Online " »

March 19, 2009

Dell Studio One 19 Family Friendly Desktop

While at SXSW, I received a demo of the Dell Studio One 19 Desktop. What I like about this line is that there is a multi-touch option (comes with a keyboard as well) that would make it a good choice for a kitchen or family room PC. Because the system is an all-in-one it also is a spacesaver. The system I saw also has Cozi.com Family Calendering system loaded. The starting price of $699 is friendly on the budget. Listed below are some specifications from the Dell press release.
Dellstudio19white   

Software from Dell:

Continue reading "Dell Studio One 19 Family Friendly Desktop" »

March 02, 2009

DEMO09 - Vue™ Personal Video Network For Families

Vue_Front_Hero_clip Internal computer webcams are great for some communications, but when it comes to family communication - trying to fit everyone in front of the webcam can be difficult and limit participants to a confined area.

At DEMO09 I saw a product called Vue™ Personal Video Network by Avaak, a wire-free video system that allows families to communicate from virtually anywhere in the house. There are "no cords to connect, no software to download or home networks to configure" - the system utilizes the existing home wireless system. The Vue™ enables simple recording with one click. The video's can be shared or families can communicate with family and friends who also have the video system. Moms or dads on business trips can view videos and families can hold live video events. One of the demonstrators showed a video of her son doing karate, which made me think of my boys (who I have not see since Sunday morning). Funny enough, karate and wrestling seems to be the first thing my boys do when they wake up in the morning.

UPDATE 3/309 Here is the video presentation by Avaak, Inc at DEMO09:

There are two parts of the product: personal video network hardware and a online software web interface.

Product-shot1. Personal Video Network hardware: A Gateway (attaches to the home wireless router), two cameras and 4 wall mounts in the kit. Additional camera's can be purchased. The cameras have a range of 300 feet and can be moved easily.  An estimated one million frames can be transmitted from a single battery (which is about one year under normal use). The wall mounts are "peel and stick" but the camera's can be moved anywhere. Repeaters can be purchased for those locations too far away from the Gateway.

2. Software Web interface (my.vuezone.com) for online viewing, sharing and recording. To register, a username and password must be created.  After logging on, videos can be shared with family and friends.Two gigabytes of storage online is included in the service plan.

InfoWorld published a post that with an interesting discussion about the security. Instead of modifying current home firewalls, the Gateway makes a secure "outbound" connection to my.vuezone.com. The home firewall "sees it just like another computer on your home network". The key control is to only give access profiles to trusted family and friends.

The Vue™ Personal Video Network price is $299 per system, $99 for additional cameras and repeaters are available separately. 2gb of secure private storage with service plans for expanding. The gateway can support up to 50 cameras. The product will begin shipping in early summer 2009. Pre-orders can be placed now on Avaak's Web site at http://www.VueZone.com.

Relevant Links: PRESS RELEASE - Avaak Launches Vue Personal Video Network; Camera System to Enhance Consumers' Lives

January 29, 2009

ReadWriteWeb - 8 Moblie Technologies in 2009, 2010

I was reading my TechMeme and saw this post by Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb (one of my techie favorites): 8 Mobile Technologies to Watch in 2009, 2010. The post really brings up the most relevant mobile technologies.

I have a full list of my own after returning from CES which I will post with soon. For now, here are a few of my top moblie picks.

Netbook, Netbook, Netbook: Above and beyond a smartphone, I think the netbook will revolutionize moblie computing. A netbook is not made to be the main computer, but is made to cover all moblie computing needs (web surfing, watching videos, email, online social networking, storing documents and media files). I am in the process of reviewing netbooks, and made a "netbook" category just for it - because it has had such an impact on me (I can finally have moblie computing, with a reasonable keyboard and a light/small enough computer that I can put it in my handbag).

I do like having my computer at home for the heavy duty work, and having my netbook for moblie. I even use email to sync, but am looking into online storage/syncing.

Wireless Home: I am adding some quick details about this area but will discuss this more in future posts. There are so many technologies available that allow you to have "wireless" mobile control of household functions such as lights/heat, access to home computers, ability to schedule shows to be recorded and even turn on music before you walk into the door. Computers and printers can be shared across rooms. Music players can be in one room and wirelessly accessed in others. The family schedule can be moved from a piece of paper on the fridge to a screen on the kitchen wall.

More to come, but for now here is a link to the NextGen home website that I did not get a chance to see at CES, but will be looking into: NextGen Home Experience.

More to come after school pick-up (I have my priorities!).

Wireless Car: Cars will be able to tap into your cell phone and give you handsfree access to not only phone calls, but directions and more. Or you can use your cell phone as a navigation system by putting it into a car holder. Bluetooth, which was mentioned in the ReadWriteWeb post is also my top tech. trend pick - which has revolutionized the term "handsfree" with bluetooth headsets and more! The new Bluetooth specifications mentioned in the ReadWriteWeb article will allow faster transfer speeds.


January 08, 2009

CES 09 - Dell Embraces Design And Customization

I am here at CES listening to a Dell briefing. Here are the names of the speakers:

  • Micheal Tatelman - Vice President, Global Consumer Sales and Marketing
  • Alex Gruzen - Senior Vice President, Global Consumer Product Group
  • Ed Boyd - Vice President Consumer Experience Design Group

Here are some liveblog notes from the discussion.

Dell has:

  • Changed the face of the company through innovation.Broadened their portfolio worked with retails to reach offer value pricepoints. Dell has a strong retail and direct business. Their challenge was to deliver great products at each pricepoint.
  • Focused on bringing customers products through retail (20,000 locations around the world). Growing global retail foot print.
  • Has focused on a green strategy including green packaging, ReGeneration and Dell Earth.
  • Built better relationship with retailers.
  • Invested in personalization so consumers feel product is built for them.
  • Brought in artists from around the world for the Design Studio.
  • Announced the Design Studio on December 2.
  • An initiative to support Malaria in Africa called "Red".
  • Developed the Studio Hybrid which is green(smaller, less shipping, less energy to own and operate, ability to disassemble after life of product) and fits into your environment (small, less clutter, different color sleeves for CPU).
  • Developed the Alienware line for gaming
  • Have an extensive line of accessories.


NEW DELL announcements:

I also looked at the Dell Community site that offers information on topics and support.

Click HERE to see the pictures at the bottom of this post.

Continue reading "CES 09 - Dell Embraces Design And Customization" »

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