Radio Shack – Name Your Deal

Posted by TechyDad on November 21, 2013 under Shopping, Technology
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dollar_smallDisclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting (#MC) for RadioShack. I received a gift card to facilitate a shopping trip and promotional item as a thank you for participating.

The approaching holiday season means that a lot of stores will be offering deals to entice you to buy from them.  In addition, next Friday is Black Friday – a time when even more deals are offered.  Radio Shack is no exception and – being an electronics store – is one that I’m definitely interested in.

Radio Shack is taking a slightly different approach to Black Friday.  In addition to their regular Black Friday deals (with deals of up to 80% off starting on Friday, November 29th at 8am) and Cyber Monday deals (December 2nd beginning at 12am), Radio Shack has a Name Your Price deal.

Here’s how it works.  First, go to Radio Shack’s Holiday Hub and click on the Name Your Deal Now button.  Next, select one of twenty-nine products.  There’s everything from phones to speakers to tablets to RC cars to a microcontroller kit to headphones to a 3D printer.  One you select your product, you will be presented with a series of deals to choose from.

Each vote will push that deal higher in the rankings.  On November 27th, the top five deals will be announced and will be available.  If you want to increase the odds that a particular deal will be selected, you can share the deal via social media.  If your friends vote for the deal, it might just help push that deal into the top 5.  But you need to vote quickly.  Voting ends on November 22nd!

Having looked over the Name Your Price deals, I’m most interested in the Google Nexus 32GB tablet (after all my kids and wife have tablets, why can’t I?), a couple of the RC cars or even RC helicopter (for some outdoor fun), or possibly one of the over-the-ear headphones (as I’ve found that the in-ear ones that I have hurt my ears).

What are you hoping to buy during Black Friday or Cyber Monday?  Do you have your eye on any particular piece of technology?

NOTE: The "dollar sign" icon above is by vijayrajesh and is available via OpenClipArt.org.

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My Phone The Hacker

Posted by TechyDad on October 16, 2013 under Games, Smartphones/Tablets, Technology
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On Saturday, we realized that Where’s My Water 2 was released for Android.  The boys had been looking forward to this for awhile, so we download it for them.  While I was at it, I got it for my phone also.  I played a couple of levels, but bed time was fast approaching so I put it aside for the evening.

The next morning, I decided to play another level or two.  Except, when I started the game, I wasn’t where I left off.  I was at the end of the game.  All the levels were not only unlocked, but completed with all of the hidden items found as well.  NHL got upset with me for not unlocking all of his levels, so I explained to him (many times) that I didn’t know how this happened.  The best I can tell, my phone is secretly a hacker and hacked the game as I slept.  (B was up during the night and said I wasn’t sleep-gaming so that explanation’s out.)

Here’s some screenshot proof.  I only played the first few levels, the rest of this was phone-hacked:

Screenshot_2013-10-13-11-42-39 Screenshot_2013-10-13-11-42-50Screenshot_2013-10-13-11-43-03 Screenshot_2013-10-13-11-43-07Screenshot_2013-10-13-11-43-18 Screenshot_2013-10-13-11-43-50

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Overwhelmed By A Hurricane Of Content

Posted by TechyDad on October 9, 2013 under Blogging, Internet, Technology

content-stormThere are about a billion of websites on the Internet.  Of those, millions are blogs.  Those blogs produce between a dozen and a few thousand new posts every year.  Then there are the thousands of movies, TV shows, games, songs, books, and other forms of media released every year.  Just for good measure, mix into this the millions – if not billions – of status updates, photos, and videos published to social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  It’s easy to see how we are drowning in content nowadays.

On this blog alone, I have over 1,200 posts published.  Many of them – I’m sure – are updates that would interest almost nobody.  Some might interest a small group.  A couple might actually interest many, many people.  If only people knew about them. 

The problem is that a good post can easily be lost within the swarm of other status updates, videos, and thousands of other posts.  It’s like trying to hear a cricket chirping… from across town… while a category 5 content hurricane is blowing.

There are many people who know many good ways of amplifying your volume.  The problem is that these take time and effort.  My problem is that I’ve got a day job.  This isn’t a "problem" per se – I really like my day job and in this economy there are lots of people who would love to have one.  The problem is that many hours of my day are dedicated to "doing the day job thing."  Subtract time to pay attention to the kids, do chores around the house, cook, etc, and I barely have time to write my blog posts – much less spend hours promoting them.  So I just keep chirping into that content hurricane hoping that someone hears me and likes what they read.

On the flip side, as a content consumer rather than content producer, it almost seems like there are never enough hours in the day to see everything I want to see.  My feed reader is hardly packed with hundreds of thousands of blogs and yet I rarely seem to be able to knock the number of unread items below triple digits.  When I started out on Twitter and was following only a few people, I would read every status update that was made.  Even when I took a day off of social media for Shabbat, I would go back in my timeline to where I left off and would spend some time catching up.  This just isn’t possible anymore.

If I spent my entire day reading blog posts, watching TV shows, looking at Instagram photos, reading status updates, and watching YouTube videos, I wouldn’t even scratch the surface of what I’d like to see.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Short Circuit.  In this movie, a military robot accidentally becomes alive and sentient.  Instead of wanting to destroy, however, Number 5 decides that all he wants is to live in peace and consume information.  In the sequel, Short Circuit 2, this is expanded upon when Number 5 – now called Johnny Five goes to the city and discovers a book store.  He goes from book to book flipping through them absorbing their contents in seconds.  Though it is a big bookstore (for the 80′s), he is able to absorb all of the information rapidly.

I wonder what would happen if Johnny Five were to be released in the present day, however.  No matter how quickly he could flip through a 700 page novel, consume an RSS feed, watch a TV show or movie at extreme fast forward, or listen to music songs, there would still be more to see.

The Internet brings what often seems to be unlimited content to you and this can be a blessing or a curse.  It is nearly impossible to be bored – boredom merely means that it is time to seek out new and interesting feeds/games/videos/etc.  On the flip side, you can feel left out when you are unable to keep up with all of the content that all of your friends are watching (even if said content is spread over your friends and they each aren’t watching it all).  Going back to the hurricane analogy, you are a fly buzzing about as the category 5 content hurricane blows.  Every time you think you have found some stability, another blog post or YouTube video or app comes out of nowhere to strike you.

Whether you are a cricket chirping or a fly buzzing – a creator trying to get your work viewed or a consumer trying to keep up with the latest content – it’s a dangerous and information packed world out there.  Stay safe.

Note: The "content storm" image above was created by combining the following images from OpenClipArt.org: Hurricane Symbol by TheByteMan, Generic Book by dniezby, Movie Camera by schoolfreeware, Music Icon by Minduka, Iphone 4 by Ts-Pc, Cutie Bird by Luen, and Cartoon TV by rg1024.

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I Just Saw The Most Interesting Show On YouTube aka Time For a Web Filter

Posted by TechyDad on August 26, 2013 under Parenting, Smartphone/Tablet Apps, Technology
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file6311261312400_SmallThe other morning, NHL walked into my bedroom as I woke up.  He was carrying his Galaxy Tab 2 tablet.  This isn’t a rare occurrence as he tends to wake up very early and we let him use the tablet to entertain himself as we sleep a bit longer.  This time, though, NHL informed me that he had just gained a bunch more friends on My Muppet Show.

This immediately concerned me.  Not because he had more friends – there isn’t any way for one friend to contact another.  You can only view each other’s stages and vote for them to be selected stage of the week.  What concerned me was HOW NHL had found additional friend codes.

You can’t just look up new friends in-app.  However, people have posted their friend codes in multiple places online.  I worried that NHL had been visiting strange websites without consulting us.  He assured me that he hadn’t.  He found them on YouTube.

Now, we’ve talked to NHL about YouTube before.  It’s an amazing place with some fantastic videos for kids.  However, it is also a place where many videos are NOT kid-friendly.  Telling which are and are not for kids isn’t easy.  A video can start innocently enough and quickly veer into Not-Safe territory before a kid can say Stop Playing.

Given that NHL has shown the technical know how to browse the web and given that we don’t want to block it completely, it’s time to look for some web filtering apps.

What apps/programs do you use to filter your kids’ web browsing?

NOTE: The Number Lock image above is by forbiddenarts and is available from Morgue File.

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Tablet Drawing

Posted by TechyDad on August 23, 2013 under Technology

pencilWhen the boys got their Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablets, we first set them up for the boys to play some games, read e-books, and more.  After the boys were asleep one day, though, I got an idea.

I’ve had times when I wanted to illustrate my posts with drawings, but it never worked out.  I began to wonder if the problem was that I was using drawing programs with a keyboard and mouse.  That didn’t seems like a very natural way to draw.  Maybe I would have better luck with a touchscreen.

I searched around and tried a few apps, but nothing felt right.  Then I found SketchBook Express.  I’ll save the full review for another day, but suffice it to say that I soon found myself doodling Matt Smith’s Doctor:

fezzes are cool

I doubt that, right now, artists around the world are trembling in fear of my awesome talent.  Still, this felt a lot better than using a mouse or touchpad.  Perhaps if I used a stylus instead of my finger, the sketch would come out better.  (The one stylus we had was very thick and more meant for young kids to learn writing than for adults to draw with.)

I’m definitely going to try doing this more.  Don’t be too surprised if some drawings even appear here to illustrate posts.  Like the pencil above.

Have you ever used a tablet computer to draw on/with?  If so, what apps did you use?

Disclosure: My wife received a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 as part of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers.  Our boys purchased the second Galaxy Tab 2.  This post wasn’t made as part of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers program, however.  All opinions above are my own.

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