Nov 25 2011

My Top Five Tech Gift Picks For Her

Gifts Ideas For Tech Savvy Moms

by: Krista Swanson

I'll give you one guess as to where I am seeking out gift ideas for myself for Christmas – and it's not a decorating store. My favourite things usually require an outlet, and a manual (which always gets discarded, because let’s face it, half of the fun of electronics is learning as you play with them right?)

I'm not alone, Angus Reid recently completed a survey on behalf of Best Buy, and results showed that almost three-quarters of Canadian Moms say they are confident and knowledgeable when it comes to making the right decisions about technology gifts.

So, I made my annual list generating pilgrimage to Best Buy to pick out my five dream items for this year’s list.

I will pre-empt this by saying I know that tablets are the 'hot' item this year, but I'm already a tablet user, otherwise you would have seen a line of drool from the front of the store to the tablet section.

Leaving tablets out, here are the top five things I'm hinting and suggesting that my husband consider buying for me for the holidays.

  5. Digital Photo Frame



I know what you're thinking - “Those are SO 2009,” but the truth is, the photo frames of 2009 are not the same as 2011. The most recent additions to the market come in sizes as big as 8x10, and have higher resolution with crisper image display than their older relatives.

Even better, the newest frame from Kodak allows you to sync your files WIRELESSLY which means you can send photos from your desktop or with its customizable email address, your friends and relatives can email pictures directly to the frame. If my husband is reading this, he'll be buying the frame, putting it in our home office, and updating it with pictures of the Geekling all winter long.

  4. Good Headphones



I always wear headphones while I'm working because I'm almost as obsessed with music as I am about technology. But the kind of headphones I like aren't usually the ear buds you can buy at the dollar store. I like bass, crisp tones, and clarity in my music, which is why I've added a pair of cans to my list this year.

Best Buy has a wide selection of quality headphones. I wasted a solid 15 minutes in the store listening to the same track over and over trying to decide which pair I love most. Remember, you can get a really good pair of headphones for $35, but the more expensive brands are usually worth the investment as well.

  3. Nike TomTom GPS Sports Watch



Be still my runners heart. This puppy tracks everything, pace, distance, time, calories and heart rate. It's like they've combined my love of running with my geekiness, and made me excited about running again (which will be super important after I finish eating holiday cookies.) The price tag is less than the competitors, and I'm hoping Santa finds a spot under the tree for this.

  2. Alarm clock docking station for the iPad



iHome makes this great alarm clock dock for the iPad. Here's the cool part, it's not just an alarm clock, it's a speaker system with great bass tones that also charges the iPad. I listened to the demo unit in the store and fell in love. I can't wait to wake up to my favourite playlist, and have instant access to my calendar right from my bedside. (sorry honey)

  1. Playstation Move



I know you're wondering why I put this as my number one item. I LOVE things that let me have fun with the family. The geekling is starting to get into video games, and the thing that brings me the most joy is spending time with him. I've been eyeing the Playstation move for months, but I'll let Santa decide if I've been good enough.

From one Geek Mom to another, I'd love to know what your tech wants are this holiday season. One lucky mummy who leaves me a comment below about what tech toys you're coveting will randomly be chosen to win a $100 Gift Card from Best Buy. Cuz mummies deserve to play too.

Yummy Rules and Regs for Gift Card Giveaway: You must be a YummyMummyClub.ca member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until December 6, 2011. Contest open to Canadian residents. Winners will be picked using www.random.org.

Nov 19 2011

Electronic Messages from Santa

Make Christmas A Bit More Magical

by: Krista Swanson

One of my favourite Christmas memories as a kid was writing to Santa. I would drop my letter in the mailbag at our Christmas parade, and check the mailbox every day waiting for him to write me back. On the day his letter arrived I felt so incredibly special, and I knew Santa was real.

Most of us know that kids in Canada can write to Santa using Canada Post, but did you know that your child can get an email or personalized message from Santa as well?

Yup, that’s right, the North Pole has become wired. 

Canada Post Santa’s Corner

Canada Post has a cute holiday portal that is home to some holiday games, and a spot that you can email Santa.  

The email section has a simple interface that would be very easy for kids to fill out themselves. Simply enter name, email address and the message for Santa and click submit.   Then wait for Santa to email back!

Sympatico’s Magic Santa

Ok, I LOVE Magic Santa. Let me start by saying this should be filled out by a grown up. It’s much more magical that way.

Magicsanta.ca is a web page, where you put in your child’s information: name, sex, location, if they sent a card to Santa this year, if they’ve been naughty or nice what they would like for Christmas etc.  All of this information gets saved on a card at the North Pole, and Santa will reply with a personalized video message using your information.  It’s not a cheesy message either, it's actually really good.



We did this last year, and the Geekling sat with his jaw on the floor as Santa talked about how good he was, and what he wanted for Christmas. 

This year, you can do a video for kids or adults. In fact, I wrote a letter to Santa myself, and he already sent me something back! 

The Geekling sent his ‘real’ letter to Santa this week, and will probably be getting a video reply from Magicsanta.ca really soon. I can’t wait to see his face.  The magic of the season is truly here.

(And Santa, since you have the internet up there and now you’re so well connected and everything, I’m sure you’re reading this post. This seems like the perfect time to mention that I really didn’t mean to burn supper last night, and I will totally replace the chocolate bars I took from the Geekling’s Halloween stash.  You might also find a little Bailey's in your glass of milk this year – you can thank me next year.)

"

Nov 10 2011

How To Clean Your Laptop And Keyboard

In 5 Easy Steps

by: Krista Swanson

I don‘t want to gross you out, but your keyboard might have poop on it. I mean the one you’re using now.

And your mouse.  Yup that one. Gross.

Some studies have shown keyboards could even have 60x more ewwww in the form of dirt and bacteria such as e-coli, than a toilet seat.  That’s 150x more than the acceptable limit for bacteria levels according to keepingitkleen.com.

And you don’t even want to know what’s on your cell phone, I’m shuddering just thinking about it.

We clean our houses, but how many of us clean our computers?  After the yuck I just threw at you, I’m going to guess it’s on your list of things to do this weekend. Here's what you need to do for a general keyboard and laptop clean up, and luckily it doesn't cost a lot of money, or time, or need a bunch of special supplies to get it done.

  Your Toolkit

You’ll need a few things for this cleanup job, luckily most of them are items we have around the house already.

Compressed air - One thing you should have in your laptop / PC cleaning arsenal, is a can of compressed air. You can pick one of these up at any big box store in the electronics section. Compressed air gets cold, like really cold, so you’ll want to make sure you keep this out of reach of the kids.

Disinfecting wipes
Rubbing alcohol
Q-Tips
Microfiber electronic cleaning cloth
Distilled water
Household sanitizing wipes
High-tech cleaning compounds

Step 1: Assess the Situation and Turn Everything Off

Whether you are cleaning because of an accidental coffee meets keyboard type situation, or because I gave you the heebie jeebies with all of my germ talk, first things first, you need to turn your PC or laptop off, and unplug it from the wall before we start talking about any kind of cleaning.   

If you have a spill situation, turn your keyboard/laptop upside down immediately and shake as much liquid out as you can. Keeping your keyboard upside down, grab a towel and dry the key area as much as possible. Leave it upside down on top of a towel overnight (or longer) to try and get it completely dried out.  Once you’re confident it’s dry, try turning it on. Hopefully it turns right on for you.  If you have a sticky keyboard you may want to take it in to have it professionally cleaned or repaired but if you’re one of the lucky ones, you can thank your lucky stars and move onto step 2 with the rest of us germaphobes.

Step 2: Shake and Spray

Get that can of compressed air ready, because it’s time to get the dust out of that keyboard. Flip it upside down and gently shake it. You’ll be surprised at the amount of dust and dirt that falls out of it. Then, take your can of compressed air and gently spray the keyboard from different angles.  Remember, compressed air is pressurized, so keep the spray far enough away that you won’t do damage to your keyboard. Also, make sure you don’t spray it on your skin or in your face. It will freeze your skin.

If you don’t have compressed air you can use your hairdryer on the cold blower setting only. Do NOT use heat.  Melting heat = electronics nightmare. You have been warned.

If you’re super adventurous, you can try and pop your keys off with a screwdriver to get better access with the compressed air. Just remember to take a picture of your keyboard first so you can remember which keys go where.

Step 3: Rub and Wipe

Dip your Q-tips into the rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. They should be damp, not dripping or soaking wet. (Remember what I said about heat and electronics before? Moisture is just as bad – if not worse.)  Gently rub the sides of the keys with the Q-tip. This will get the sticky gunk off and disinfect the sides of the keys.

Take a disinfecting wipe, wring it out until it’s just damp. Gently rub the top of the keys with the wipe. Once clean, they need to dry. Usually air drying will be enough (especially if you only used a damp Q-Tip like I recommended), but you can always wipe them with a microfiber cloth to dry them off further if they don’t seem to be air drying quickly enough.

Step 4: Clean the Screen

Do not – I repeat – do not use window cleaners or paper towels to clean your screen.  

Window cleaning solutions contain ammonia and alcohol which can degrade your screen surface, and paper towels can scratch the surface. If you feel the urge to use liquid I recommend distilled water in a spray bottle. Spritz the water onto a microfiber cloth (a clean old t-shirt will substitute nicely), and gently (no need to press) rub the screen.   Never spray liquid directly on electronics.

Note: You should always spot check cleansers on a corner of your screen to make sure they don’t damage your screen prior to wiping the whole thing.

Now that your screen and keyboard are clean. We’ll do a quick clean of the housing of your laptop. Desktop computer owners can skip to the end.

Step 5: Housing and Track Pad

Take a clean corner of an old t-shirt, and wet it until it’s damp (wring it out, make sure it’s just damp.) Wipe the outside of the laptop with the damp t-shirt, and do the same with the track pad. It’s that easy!

So there you have it, 5 steps to a cleaner laptop or keyboard.

If you share space with someone you should clean your keyboard frequently to help avoid getting a viral infection.

The same general guidelines for cleaning can be used for your cell phone as well – just watch the amount of moisture you use on your wipes and Q-tips.

A special note about iPads and other touch screen devices...they generally don’t need cleaning fluids. Most of them have oleophobic coatings on the screens that repel the oils left from your fingers. You’ll have to use a microfiber cloth to get rid of the rest of the dirt.

So, what do you think? Do you worry about the cleanliness of your devices? Do you have any other laptop, keyboard or smartphone cleaning tips?

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