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Archive for the ‘technology’ tag

July 29th, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Fun iPhone Apps for Kids

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Looking for some fun apps to add to your iPhone or iPad?

For your younger kids, try Alien Assignment (free). It is a fun scavenger hunt app that uses your device’s camera. When the alien needs something, your child must find a household item that fits the description and take a picture of it. Fun and learning at the same time.

It’s never to early to learn about healthy eating. Go Nini  (free) is a helpful app that makes a game of making good food choices. Foods that are “Go”, “Slow” and “Whoa” help teach children about the types of food they should eat anytime, sometimes, and rarely.

For ages 8 and up, try StoryLines (free). Think of it as a digital version of the “telephone” game. The first person chooses a common phrase and passes the device to the next person, who draws a picture of that phrase and passes the the device to the next person, who must write a caption for that picture. And so on up to 9 players. When the last person is done, you review the storyline to see how different the last caption is from the first phrase. It’s both fun and educational.

9-11. Weird but True (free with 0.99 add-ons for additional fact packs) is a National Geographic app that provides lots of little known and downright strange factoids about any number of topics like lobsters and astronauts.

And of course for the little ones just starting out with basic learning, the Garanimals Learn, Play, Share app (free) teaches letters, numbers and shapes by association.

Add a little fun and learning to your summer.

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June 17th, 2014 at 9:38 am

Find and Share Your Favorite Places with Findery

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There are a lot of ways to share your good times on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Yelp are just a few places where you can post your favorite places and where the action is.

Findery is a new app that wants to take location/social relationship to a different level. Rather than just look at the menu items people like or the photos and comments about places traveled to, Findery wants to collect input about everything from the reason why a park, or park bench, is worth stopping at, or what that funky building is on the corner where you are.

This app is a collection of stories. Imagine if lots of people shared their personal impression or recollection of a place, so that you can know the real story. What was there once? What notable thing happened there? Or why you should stop and have a look rather than walking by.

Findery is new, so it’s still building the database of places. However, the idea of not just getting a picture of a place, but a note with the factoids that bring it to life, makes this a much more interesting app.

Findery is available as an iPhone or web app – the Android app is on its way.  When you join, you can create, follow, or just explore your neighborhood or where you’re going to visit. As a frequent traveler, I love the idea of being able to find out, on a personal level, what makes a place interesting or worth visiting.  And what not to miss, especially if it’s a little bit odd or off the beaten path.

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May 20th, 2014 at 7:58 am

Saving and Sharing Family Memories

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We love our kids’ art. Somewhere in my attic is an artist’s portfolio folder filled to the brim with all of the preschool and kindergarten artwork of my first child. There isn’t one for my second child. Yep, the novelty had worn off by child number 2. Sorry sweetie pie!

Even so, I still have plenty of creations from both of them from their school years. I just can’t bring myself to throw them away. I finally did throw away my daughter’s dinosaur diorama from third grade. She’s 19….

Here are a few apps that let you archive the memories without having to keep the originals.

ArtKive is an lets you take photos of your artwork (or any other items of interest), tag them, upload them, and print photo memory books. The app is free, but the books run $25 for 20 pages.

ArtMyKidMade (free) is similar but links with Dropbox, Evernote or Facebook for storing and sharing.  Anything you share on the Art My Kid Made blog could be featured in their Artist of the Day pick.

Another option is Keepy. This site lets you upload photos, artwork, and other mementos to the site, make recordings that tell the story, and share it all with friends and loved ones, who can also reply or comment with text, voice recordings or videos.

Keepy is free for the first 31 items but also offers premium and ultimate plan options for $1.99/month for 101 images and $2.99/month for unlimited.

So get out those folders, baskets and boxes of fabulous art and get clicking. You now have permission to throw away the originals without guilt. Well, maybe save a few.

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April 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 am

It’s Easy to Buy Green with GoodGuide

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Looking to do your part to help be kind to the earth? How do you know which products are greener than others or what company is rated better in terms of ethics and safety?

What if there was an easy way to look up a product and find out if it is organic, fragrance-free, or produced using best practices like fair trade, recycled material, or honoring human rights?

GoodGuide.com is a website that can give you all of this important information about thousands of products, from diapers to laundry detergent to pet food to cars. Using a ratings system, their team of environmental scientists evaluate the products on a scale of 1 to 10 so you can easily tell which products make good sense environmentally, and which ones you might think twice about.

The site is very easy to use and provides lots of good information. You can customize the criteria to reflect the categories that mean most to you, whether it’s health, environment or social responsibility. And if you use the mobile app, you can scan the product code in the store and know right away if the item fits the bill. If you install the transparency filter on your web browser, it will reveal the GoodGuide rating of any item you shop for online.

This is pretty handy stuff and very enlightening. Get the real scoop on the product’s footprint, not just the marketing babble.

Happy Earth Day!

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April 8th, 2014 at 9:03 am

Apps for Expectant and New Parents

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Baby on the way? Congratulations! Such an exciting, expectant, and nerve wracking time, especially if it’s your first. So much to learn, so much information about what to do and not to do. It can be overwhelming. But, while there’s no app for the hard parts, there are plenty of apps that can help you prepare.

Hello Baby app for iPhone  is a great way to learn about all of the stages of growth of your baby during pregnancy. It’s full of images and information that can help you understand the magic that is happening in the womb.

There is also the What to Expect apps for both pregnancy and the early years. This trusted series of books has been invaluable for so many of us as we navigate all of the stages of babyhood.

Sprout ($4, iPhone only) is another really helpful app for information and tips on pregnancy, weight tracking, prepping for doctor visits and what to know about all that’s happening to your body right up to timing your contractions.

Baby Bump is another app that not only provides information on your pregnancy but also has a social networking component so you can share your experiences with other moms-to-be.

And if baby is here, how about something to help with nursing, and tracking your newborn’s progress in those critical early weeks and months? WebMD Baby  provides many resources and really useful information about sleep, growth, feeding, and milestones to help you through the fraught early days of caring for your child.

I wish these apps were available when my kids were born, especially in the middle of the night when you just didn’t want to call mom, again!

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March 25th, 2014 at 8:03 am

A Few Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Gadgets

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Are your phone and keyboard starting to look a little icky? Ever wish you could just run them through the wash? I’d rather not think  about just how dirty and germy our devices get. Ew. Obviously we can’t hose them down with bleach and disinfectant, so here’s a few safer ways to get and keep your gadgets a little bit cleaner.

The best tool for starters is a can of compressed air to clean out the crumbs between keys and blow off dust. Another option is to keep a small paintbrush handy to do the job. And for your screens, the simplest way to clean it is a lint free cloth slightly dampened with water (distilled if you have it). Q-tips dampened with a 50-50 mix of alcohol and distilled water gives you a little more cleaning power and help remove the sticky stuff.

Taking it to the next level, there are products available that are specific to some of these tasks. CyberClean  is a cool putty-like product that dirt, dust and germs stick to as you dab it on your device.

Some other products out there include a Roomba-like vacuum that rides over your device and picks up the dirt and germs. There are also various wipes, brushes, suction devices and cleaning solutions. Here’s Mashable’s rundown of some of the more interesting ones.

And to keep your iPhone or iPad clean every  time you store them, try the NueVue device cases that have built-in anti-microbial protection.

A clean device is a happy device. Regularly wiping and blowing out of debris is a good practice. But be careful with vacuum cleaners – they can suck the keys right off your keyboard. Ask my Fn key.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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September 25th, 2013 at 8:34 am

Find Your Misplaced Stuff with Tile

Ever play the Hotter/Colder game as a kid or with your kids? You hunt for a hidden something and the hider tells you whether you are getting closer or farther away from it as you search.

Wouldn’t it be great if whenever you misplaced something, you had a voice telling you hotter or colder while you pull up cushions or empty your purse?

It’s coming! There’s a tracking device soon to be released called Tile  that is the equivalent of Hotter/Holder for your stuff. It’s a small device, about the size of a matchbook, that you attach to whatever you might misplace like keys, a phone or laptop. Gee, do they make one for your mind?

Seriously though, how great is an app that lets you know if you’re getting closer or farther from your lost item. And if it’s your phone that gets lost, you can log into your account from someone else’s phone to find it. You can even turn on the audio and have it beep at you as you get closer.

Even better, if your something gets lost out in the world you can enlist the help of the rest of the Tile user community to help locate it. That’s like having a search party on call if say your bike gets stolen. How cool is that?

Tile is scheduled to be released this winter and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to make that a reality. For $18.95, you can preorder yours and help the process along. I can think of a certain person (ahem, spouse) who could really use one of these for his phone, which is quite frequently somewhere other than where he is.

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August 27th, 2013 at 5:00 am

Software – Should It Stay Or Should It Go?

Do you have a lot of software on your pc? Do you actually use the programs or are some of them just excess baggage? We tend to become a little careless about cleaning out the clutter, and like our closets and cabinets at home, it’s good to purge once in awhile and get rid of the excess stuff.

When you install new programs, you sometimes end up with little “extras”. Download one thing and you might end up with an extra toolbar, virus scan program, adware or other pesky or even malicious software that you don’t want or need. Over time it adds up. You can go to the control panel and remove them but most of the time we just don’t know what the programs are or do, and don’t want to mess up the works by deleting something that actually makes something else work.

Should I Remove It? is a free app that scans your pc software and identifies what programs you’ve got and provides detailed information like what the it does, user ratings, publisher info, what operating systems it runs on, and more. It will even tell you what percentage of people uninstall it. While the real junk is pretty easy to identify, the background info (that isn’t available in the control panel) can help you avoid deleting something that is needed. If it should go, just click on the Uninstall button and it will thoroughly clean out the software.

Unless we’re really vigilant, we accumulate software clutter that bogs down system performance. This app lets you know what’s there and helps you make the right choice when deleting. Think of it as an organizing consultant for your PC.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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July 2nd, 2013 at 10:31 am

Turn Your Summer Photos Into Art

Looking for some creative photo apps for you or your kids? Here’s a few that can provide some fun and funny effects on your smartphone photos.

For IOS:

InstaBlend – take two photos and blend them into a double exposure. Easy to use but the ads and popups are annoying, unless you upgrade.

Scrap It HD – a kid friendly digital scrapbooking app with loads of design elements, effects and features.

For Android:

PicsArt Photo Studio – create art from you photos and share with your network. This app has tools for making grids, collages, drawings and artistic effects, as well as photo editing tools. A good all in one app.

Fotodanz – turn your photos into cinemagraphs by adding animation. This tool allows you to create fun little 3-5 second movies by animating some or all of you photo. You can add filters too.

Picture Decorator – use stamps, stickers, frames and effects to jazz up your photos. Write notes on the picture and doodle with your fingers and share.

For Either and/or PC

InstaCollage Pro – Create collages with choices of creative frames and layouts beyond the standard grid. It’s easy to use and it’s really fun to play with the filters and effects. Free for a limited time!

Pho.to – put your kid on a wanted poster (I did), a movie screen or lots more. Pick an effect, pick a photo and process. It’s lots of fun and the easy to use templates make it a cinch to use.

Summer’s here and chances are you’ll be taking lots of pics of your fun summer activities. These apps help you embellish, organize and share the good times creatively. Let your artistic side shine!

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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June 4th, 2013 at 5:00 am

Let Your Voice Do The Typing with Google Conversational Search

First there was search. Really, can you even remember where we got our info before search engines? How incredibly useful to be able to just type in anything and get links to all the information related to that topic you could want (or not).

Then came the ability to speak to your computer and enter your search topic verbally. Just click on the handy dandy microphone icon in the search box and ask away. Depending on the specific question, the Google lady will answer you. How handy is that?

Now, Google has taken verbal search one step further with Conversational Search in their Chrome browser. Ask a question, like “What’s the temperature in Miami?” The Google lady will answer, “It’s 80 degrees in Miami right now.” But if you wanted a little more info about Miami right now, you could phrase the next question “is it raining there?”

With conversational search, the response will be “ Yes (or No) it is (not) raining in Miami right now”. Notice the second question did not mention Miami, but since the original question was about Miami, the search engine will relate the raining “there” to the prior question and continue giving you information about Miami. Sort of like how humans can carry on a conversation. Your computer just got a little more human!

I’ve tried this out and had mixed results. Sometimes it works great and my jaw drops a little. Other times the connection is lost between the first and second question. But you and I both know that Google software geeks are hard at work making this concept a reality.

When they do get it right, there’s going to be a lot more talking than typing going on between us and our computers. Yeah, it’s a little scary, but imagine having all that search capability not just at your fingertips, but just by asking.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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