Category Archives: Tech

Even for Tech Savvy Kids…

Ah, the interwebs. What a wonderful world it can be. It can also be down right dangerous, even for tech savvy kids.
 
Today my youngest son {the 11 year-old} and his team of science guys are taking a video game they developed into competition. Listening to them rehearse their presentation the night before was one of those ‘Proud Parent’ moments that serve as reward for all the late nights, hectic days and endless hours of worry.   Raising a tech kid can be tough though.
 
The biggest challenge is the fact that nine times out of ten the kid speaks a foreign language.  Foreign to me that is.
 
Sometimes the look of pity on his face as he slows his speech and uses metaphors to explain to his mother what a particular line of code does, undoes me. Wait, I used to change your diapers child. When did you become smarter than me?!
 
With this latest project – he started writing simple code at age 8 – he and the team* are turning cyber safety for kids into a game. The team are all into basketball nearly as much as science, so that’s what the game is framed in. Play ball, get pointers on cyber safety. I sort of love it! 
 
What an amazing tool tech is for reaching kids, getting the message across. When I was growing up we had public service announcements – and that’s about it. Remember, “The More You Know?” The jingle more than the message got stuck in your head.
 
Even if they are getting the message though sometimes tech is such a big part of their daily life they may miss some things. A perfect example comes from a recent field trip both of my youngest kids went on.
 
We love the USA Science and Engineering Festival! The whole family went to the last one. How awesome to rock out with The Might Be Giants, listen to Bill Nye THE science guy speak, and remote-drive a rover across the ocean floor from the DC convention center?! Way, cool!
 
Science is the best idea humans have ever had. The more people who embrace that idea, the better.  ~Bill Nye
Sadly this year we couldn’t go as a family. Thankfully the kids made it there with their STEAM club from school. An epic field trip filled with some serious science. I so wished to be there that I let the boy take along my Droid Turbo 2. After all it’s pretty much unbreakable.
 
The phone performed like a dream. Check out the super cool shark pic he snapped.
 
Sadly it’s made from trash found in the ocean. Giant brains, rocket boosters, 3D printed prosthesis, he texted me tons of science awesome. Then he thought I might like to walk through with him.
 
Even for tech savvy kids
Since we’re Verizon customers, even the kid knew he’d be connected and could do that. What he didn’t do was ask permission. Smart kid that he is he just tapped open mom’s Periscope app and then texted me to watch. It never occurred to him that the settings on the app would allow his video to be viewed by anyone, anywhere, who was also on Periscope. Nor did the danger that could come from that occur to him.
even for tech savvy kids…
 
He didn’t know that those people watching would know exactly where he was, what he was doing, who was with him. I think it just really didn’t get, until that moment, how very big the world is and how small tech can make it. I quickly deleted the automatic Tweet sent out by the app, had him turn it off and uninstall it from the phone.
 
Once he was back home {and I could breath again} we had a long talk. I spent some time on the Verizon website’s Tips for Parents page and over at The Online Mom. Obviously this kid wasn’t the only one who was missing a few things about safety on the net. I needed to step up my game too.
 
How about you? Have you had any scary parent moments online? Better yet, got any tips for us?
 
 
* they call themselves the ‘Five Fists of Fury,’ in true nerd fashion. 
 
Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 
 
 
 
 

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

So this is Christmas, and what have I done? Forgotten teacher gifts, failed to mail holiday cards and let the Big Guy down in the stocking stuffing department. In short, I’m failing Christmas this year. Or maybe not. Did you know you can get last minute gifts from your smartphone? No shipping. No wrapping. Nobody has to know how very Grinchy it got.

Generally I’m the very model of Merry and Bright. Most years the halls have been decked by the day after Thanksgiving, shopping finished by December first, by the week of Christmas the oven is  continuously cranking out sweets and savories for friends, family and public servants too.

This year… not so much.

I’m not sure if it’s the 70 degree weather in Maryland – Maryland NOT California! Or loosing one of our fury family members of 13 years the day before Thanksgiving. It could just be seasonal lazy. Who knows. All I do know is that I’m every so grateful that modern technology has my back. Otherwise people might be on to the fact that I don’t really have it all together… any time of year.

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

Smilebox Holiday eCards

Didn’t have time to create that cool holiday card, stick a stamp on it and mail it? No worries, you can send an equally awesome eCard with your own photos and personal touches straight from your smartphone. Smilebox has an easy app with lots of customization available through templates and more.

You can create cards, build slideshows, and create collages. Plus this is an Eco-friendly way  to send those holiday wishes.

Text A Gift Card

I can’t even tell you how awesome this feature is. Imagine no shipping charges, not having to fight crowds, no wrapping. It’s a holiday miracle.

I forgot gifts for the kids’ teachers this year. I always give them Starbucks gift cards, because coffee.  This oversight came to my attention sitting in the drop-off line this morning… the last day of school before the break. That’s the level of fail we’re talking about here.

I’m a Verizon customer and the messaging app on my phone allows me to click on a cute little package which then opens up a window with gifting options. Three clicks and all the teachers got texts wishing them a Merry Christmas and happy caffeinated New Year.

Google Store has a similar option as does iTunes. Helpful little elves that they are.

Last Minute Holiday Gifts from Your SmartPhoneBe There, Even When You Aren’t

My parents live in California, where I grew up. We are all the way on the East Coast. It gets pricey to fly four kids, two grownups, and an ostrich in a bear tree across the country at the holidays. Airlines with inflated holiday fairs are the real Grinch, huh? 

Live video streaming is a built-in feature on my Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. All I have to do to let Memaw and Papa see the kids open their gifts, is tap a few buttons and we’re all in the same room.

Sing and Dance Together

Music is a big deal in our house. It seems everything we do from hiking to house cleaning has it’s own playlist. The holidays are when we turn it up to 11.

The kids and I put together playlists for cookie decorating, Christmas dinner, and even to send to our Marine who is stationed far from home. Spotify let’s us all contribute our favorite tunes and share them. We play this music through the audio in the car on the three hour drive to see my husband’s family in New York city, and beam it to our smartTV while we unwrap gifts. The teen even rocks the tunes from her phone while she’s doing dishes… cuts down on the complaining… sometimes.

Even if you’ve totally failed the holidays to this point, if you’ve got a Smartphone you’ve got it covered. Merry Christmas from our family to you and yours!

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I occasionally receive cool products to test drive and share my honest thoughts on. No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised.  All opinions are my own. 

 

random acts of kindness apps

random acts of kindness there's an app for thatKindness is the the best investment. Think about it, how good do you feel right after you’ve done something – big or small-– for someone else? See, just thinking about it paid dividends in you feel good all over again. Right? Investing in kindness is even easier thanks to tech. Check out these ways random acts of kindness apps, websites and tech tools. 

Walk The Dog

I love this one because it has so many layers. Walking your dog is good for you and them. With Walk for a Dog, Woof Trax is making it your walk good for dogs living in shelters too.

Whether it’s a walk around the block or that epic hike you’ve been gearing up for, every walk counts. Download their app, and use it every time you grab for the leash, and Woof Trax donates to one of 6,000 shelters across the country!

Get Those Steps In

Sure, hitting your daily steps goal is great but it can do good for others too. Charity Miles partners with corporate sponsors to make those steps add up to cold hard cash for charity.  Just download the app, fill out your profile and get moving. Bikers earn up to 10¢ per mile; walkers and runners earn up to 25¢ per mile, and it all goes to the cause of your choosing from a long list of participating organizations.

So what charities can you help by getting in your daily workout? Organizations like; Habitat for Humanity, (red), Autism Speaks, Feeding America, Wounded Warrior Project, and lots more! 

Share the Moments in REAL Time

One of my favorite features of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus I’m test-driving as a part of the Verizon Wireless Buzz crew, is the live stream video ability. Most of my family lives on the west coast, I’m on the east. We miss out on sharing so many of the milestones and moments of life just because of geography.

This feature allows me to text a link to my parents and have them join in LIVE at the kiddo’s violin recital, in the kitchen while I’m trying to make one of my mom’s signature recipes, at the big game. Unlike Periscope, this is a private stream only shared with those that have the invite. I can also download the video to my private YouTube channel and keep it like a video scrapbook.

Share A Meal

A meal has always been my favorite way to connect with others. Somehow feeding the belly, can also feed the soul. Though the Meal Sharing isn’t an app or charity, it does bring people together.

Go to the website, sign up and then search for meals being prepared by gifted home cooks. Find one that appeal to you, pay on the site and then show up to eat. Maybe bring along gift for the host or ask if you can donate to a food bank in their area. 

Giving Tuesday

The UN Foundation has put kindness and giving back into the holiday season with their Giving Tuesday campaign. In a time where Cyber Monday and Black Friday dominate the season,

#GivingTuesday, is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea and a powerful thing to do. Gather your family, community, coworkers and come together to give something more.  It can be something as simple as donating to your local homeless shelter or as big as hosting a day of community service where you get everyone involved. Tech plays a big role in Giving Tuesday, by connecting people, sharing plans, and getting others involved.

A rising tide floats all boats.

Text It

Remember when you were a kid and something unexpected came in the mail for you? That thrill was a powerful thing. In the busy lives we lead it may not be practical to sit down and write a note, find a stamp, and hit the post office. BUT  a random text out of the blue? That we can do!

Try it this week. Pick two new people a day to send a text to. Make it fun, happy, appreciative, silly, whatever fits your relationship with that person. I’d wager by the end of the week you’ll be smiling and so will a bunch of people you care about. 

How about that for the power of kindness when it meets tech?

Verizon gives some great ideas on how you can use tech to do random acts of kindness any day, for any reason. Join in using technology for good this month and spread the word using the hashtag #VZWBuzz, let’s make kindness a thing! Okay, an even bigger thing.

 

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I occasionally receive cool products to test drive and share my honest thoughts on. No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised.  All opinions are my own. 

Expert Tips for Taking Smartphone Photos

Expert Tips for Taking Smartphone PhotosSad to say, but we can’t all be great at everything. Sorry to burst that bubble – ha ha. What we can do though is surround ourselves with greatness and learn from it. When I wanted to start taking better pictures I reached out to some of the smartest, most talented people I know and asked them for their expert tips for taking smartphone photos.

When it comes to seeking out expert advice in all things smartphones and tech, I’m a lucky girl. As a member of the Verizon Wireless Buzz crew I need look no further than the amazingly talented folks who “crew” with me. {Honestly, most days I’m not quite sure what I’m doing among this level of awesome. But hey, fake till you make it… right?}

I recently added the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ to the family. This baby has a great camera! We’re talking ditch-the-DSLR level awesome. The thing is, most pictures are only as good as the skills of the person taking them. I’m getting better, but there is lots of room to learn. To that end I’ve gathered the aforementioned {and following} expert tips for taking smartphone photos from the #VZWBuzz folks…

Use Apps, But Never Shoot In them

C.C. Chapman advises that shooting in the native camera app or in an app that shoots in full resolution allows you more flexibility in editing. He also give tips on framing, editing, and more in his piece; Making the Most of Mobile Photography.

Do NOT Use Zoom When Shooting

Turns out this can cause distortion and problems when editing later. Robyn Wright lists this tip along with others like; clean your lens front and back regularly in post that features 10 Tips for Smartphone Photography. Seriously, before that tip I never thought of cleaning my lens… doh!

Use a Tripod When Shooting in HDR

Um, don’t even own one and have no clue what “HDR” is, so I just avoid that. Or I did until I read this post by Rick over at Midlife Road Trip.  Still no tripod – yet- but after reading that post I did use HDR mode when snapping this pic of the dome inside the U.S. Naval Academy chapel… not too bad, eh?

U.S. Naval Academy Chapel DomeUse Great Apps

Now that you’ve taken that snap outside the app, finding great photo editing apps really helps. Many experts tell me that Snapseed is among the best, and I’m LOVING it. That said I’m looking forward to playing around with Enlight, and app that Social Media Super Star Jason Ramsey recently wrote about in this article.

Use A Remote Shutter Feature
Over at The Online Mom,  Monica Villa and her team have built an entire library of tips on how to get the best photos from any smartphone – and it’s growing. One I’d never even considered is this;
 
“Instead of tapping the screen, which sometimes risks moving your phone or tablet from where it was originally focused, try using the remote shutter feature. On your iPhone or Android device try using the volume up button to snap your photo. You can even use a pair of connected headphones and use the inline volume control to snap pictures too.”
Wireless headphones for snapping photos? It’s a brave new world people!
 
These expert tips for taking smartphone photos just scratch the surface of what we can do with those amazing devices we carry around every day. I’ll be seeking out more advice and info from the VZW Buzz crew and other experts too. As I learn from the greatness around me, I’ll be sure to share! Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be half as amazing with smartphones and “real” cameras asTony Bennett {no, I won’t be singing… there are limits to greatness and they start at my vocal chords!}  
 

My stories get even better in autumn #paulfallvere #thecolorsarecoming #thecolorsarecoming

A photo posted by Super Tones (@tony.bennett) on


 

 

 

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ to test and give my thoughts on. No additional compensation was provided, neither were any favorable comments promised.  All opinions are my own. 

Cool Photo Apps – Yarn

I take too many pictures. Really. My whole family is trained not to take a bite of any meal until I’ve snapped a pic. DropBox might just have to invent a whole new category of storage just for me. Thing is, many of them just sit around collecting digital dust. Enter the cool photo apps like – Yarn. Cool Photo Apps Yarn
I’ve been playing around with Yarn like a cat who’s been hitting the nip… hard.  The app accesses your photos and groups them into collages based on relationship.  For example, I took about 2,457 photos {okay, maybe a few less… maybe} at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over a three day visit.

Culling through all those snaps would have snapped my attention span in about fifteen minutes. Those photos would just sit there in Dropbox until my kids dug them out for my 50th birthday or something. Yarn weaved some of the best into a collage that I could easily share on social media, text to my mom -who is always bugging me for photos– or even embed it into a blog post.

Diagon Alley Universal Studios Waring: Once you’ve figured out how to use Yarn it might be hard to stop playing with it. Your cat may judge you for this – just so you know.

Mad props to the developers of this app. They built a great tutorial into it that is simple and intuitive.  If you don’t “get it” on the first try you can just go back and run it all over again.

Pull down on your screen to “grab” a Yarn. The app pulls images into the collage for you and tells you when they were taken.

Yarn App

Like it? Add your own title and notes, say something about the photos, then save them in a “book.” It’s like micro blogging and visual storytelling had a baby – or a kitten.

cool photo apps - YarnLove it lots? Share it. Yarn will build you a link for sharing or share to apps on your phone that you’ve given it permission to access. Don’t dig it all that much? Remove it to the trash can with just a swipe.

Yarn reminds you to bask in the awesomeness of the photos you’ve captured with a daily Yarn in your inbox. It’s been fun to forward that to the hubs for giggles, and/or bribery. I’m sure there are a ton of things I’ve yet to discover about this app, but so far I’m loving it.

Do you have a favorite app for sharing all those pics that languish in your smartphone? I’d love recommendations for apps that can help free up storage space for more photos. Nothing like a little codependent  kvetching, eh? 

Cool Photo Apps: Yarn

Did I mention it’s a free app? BONUS!
iTunes Store
Google Play

 

As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. This post was inspired by weekly #VZWbuzz chats that often feature apps. I found this app on my own and it is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Verizon Wireless.  All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less!