29 January 2013

A glimpse of the future

Does anyone remember the 1993 movie Demolition Man, with Sandra Bullock and Sylvester Stallone?  It's about a policeman who is brought back from a cryostorage prison to defeat another another prisoner who has escaped. 

It is set in 2032 and features technology that was only a distant vision back when the movie was made; like cars that can direct you (GPS), and communicating with others while seeing them on what looked like a hand held picture frame (video conferencing on a tablet). 

Driverless cars were also featured, and now I hear that Google has been developing this technology for a few years, but unfortunately they aren't permitted to test their vehicle on the streets for fear of public safety!

Another technology featured in this movie is the ability to project images/text onto just about any surface.  It looks like that’s another movie creation coming to life.  Today I saw an amazing video from Corning, of what the near future may look like.  As a techie-lover, this video got me excited about what we will be able to do in the future.  

 Take a look a let me know what you think.

21 January 2013

Techie Germs

This post isn't about a virus on your computer; here we’re talking about the germs that you’ll probably find on the techie tools you use every day – your computer, phone, calculator, tablet, remote controls and game controllers. 

Your keyboard

Did you know that 93% of keyboards have a bacterial contamination?  One of the main causes of germs, apart from poor personal hygiene, is eating at your desk.  Crumbs will lead to bacteria growing in their millions.  To clean your keyboard, turn your computer off, wipe it down with a damp cloth, turn the keyboard upside down to shake out the crumbs and other bits that somehow end up in your keyboard, and then disinfect with alcohol wipes.

Your mobile phone

Most phones are contaminated with bugs ranging from salmonella to E. coli and staphylococcus aureus, which can result in some nasty stomach upsets.  You need to regularly wipe over your phone with disinfectant wipes, and don’t use your phone in the toilet!

Your earphones

Earphones increase the temperature and moisture in the ear, giving germs such as staphylococcus an ideal breeding ground.  In fact, the bacteria in your ear increases by 92% after wearing earphones for 30 minutes.  Your earphones can be cleaned by gently scrubbing the earpieces with a dry toothbrush to dislodge dirt, then dampen a lint-free cloth with a solution of warm water and mild soap and wipe them over.

This Infographic gives a few more tips on keeping yourself tech germ free

Source:  Keeping It Kleen

The easiest things you can do to minimise picking up something nasty from your techie devices is to:

  • Regularly wash and dry your hands, especially before you use your computer and phone.
  •  Don’t eat near your computer.

18 January 2013

Free Stuff Friday - Free Books

One of my earliest memories is of my mother, my sister and I catching the train into Sydney each school holiday to see the latest Disney movie, have lunch in Coles cafeteria (1st floor of their Pitt Street store), and then going to Angus and Robertson’s book shop.  Every holiday they used to have special book reading sessions for kids.  I remember one holiday when they had origami lessons for kids – I still remember buying a book on origami that day.  The highlight of my day was always choosing a book to buy. 

If I see a book store nowadays, I still can’t resist exploring.  Unfortunately, there aren't that many around any more.  Being able to order books online much cheaper than in a shop is the main cause.  My love of books isn't as great as my love of a good deal – so I've been ordering books online for a few years now. 

The other cause of the demise of the book store is e-books.  E-books (short for electronic book) are books published in digital form, so you can read them on computers and other electronic devices.  E-books can be conventional printed books that have also been produced in a digital format, or they can originate as e-books – without a printed equivalent.  You can buy children’s books, text books, novels, reference books – any type of book you can buy in a physical book store, you can buy as an e-book.   


To read an e-book you can buy an e-reader – like Amazon’s Kindle, or the Nook, or any number of other less well known readers. (I’ll let you know what to look for in an e-reader in a future post.)   But you don’t have to buy a special reader for e-books.  You can use an iPad, or any other Android or Windows tablet.  You can also read e-books on most smartphones, iPods and some MP3 players - although the screen size really doesn’t make it such a pleasurable experience.  You can also read e-books on your computer.  If you've got a desktop computer it will probably be fine for reading text books or business publications, but sitting at your desk may not be exactly the right atmosphere for reading 50 Shades of Grey!

So, you have the device, what else do you need to read e-books?  It needs the software to enable your device to display and navigate through the e-book.  

If you have an iPad you already have the iBooks app.  Amazon’s Kindle software can be downloaded to your Windows computer or phone, iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, Mac, Android tablet or smartphone, and Blackberry – and it’s free, here.  There are e-reader apps for both Android (Aldiko is the most popular) and iOS devices (Bluefire Reader).  

The majority of e-books you may see advertised on blogs and websites are in PDF format – which means all you need is a free PDF reader, like Adobe, to read them on your computer, tablet or smartphone.  E-books in PDF format can also be read using iBooks on your iOS device.  

The world’s largest bookstore, Barnes & Noble (makers of the Nook e-reader) also offers free reading apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android tablets and smartphones, Windows PCs and Mac here.  

Now you’re set up with the device and the software, where do you get the books and how much do they cost?  You’ll pay between $1 and $30 for an e-book, but every e-book store also offers FREE BOOKS. Here’s some to try…..

iPads have access to the iBookstore. 


With Kindle software on your devices you have access to Amazon’s bookstore
If you have multiple devices, all with Kindle on them, any e-books you buy from Amazon will be synced across all your devices.  So, it doesn't matter if you start reading a book on your laptop, but then want to continue reading on your iPad – your bookmark will be in the right place no matter which device you use.

Barnes and Noble

You can buy and download NOOK books at Barnes & Noble.  This is also where you can download the Nook app for your Windows, Android or iOS device.


Feedbooks has one of the easiest websites to navigate – Just click on the links to either Free Public Domain Books or Free Original Books.  All the books on Feedbooks are compatible with the Kindle software, Aldiko (Android), and Bluefire (iOS).

Google Books

Google has committed itself to scanning all 130 million books in the world.  At the end of 2011 they had completed 20 million.  Not all of these books will be available to read online because of copyright issues.  Currently there are 3 million available through the Google Bookstore where you can download reading apps and browse the collection of free and for-sale e-books. 

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg offers over 40,000 free e-books for download to a PC, Kindle, iPad, Android or other portable device, and over 100,000 additional free titles through its partners and affiliates.

One of the greatest benefits of e-books is not having to carry the books around - an e-reader can hold thousands of books but weigh less than the weight of one.  

Funny fact:  Did you know that each e-book you add to an e-reader increases the weight of the e-reader - true!

Do you have a favourite e-book store?  I’d also love to hear your experiences of using e-readers and other devices for reading books.

11 January 2013

Free Stuff Friday - Temple Run

If you can imagine Indiana Jones running from the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or just about any other adventure movie where the hero is running from something/someone – that is this game.

The hero has got the golden idol and is running for his life being chased by Evil Demon Monkeys and trying to avoid different obstacles along the ancient temple walls, and along sheer cliffs.  The game is a repetition of this scene, except more obstacles are added, the scenes expand as you travel further, you can collect coins to buy power ups and unlock new characters. 

Fabulous graphics and very addictive.  Yesterday I put it on my iPad and my son’s new Android phone, and I'm having trouble getting them both off it.  

This game has had over 1.5 million downloads and was the number one free iOS app. 

Aaron (11) rates it 9 out of 10 on the iPad
Danny (9) rates it 7.5 out of 10 on his Android phone

09 January 2013

What apps did I put on my new iPad?

Some of you may be aware that I bought a new iPad last month.  I bought it with the aim that its primary use would be to help my boys (9 and 11) with educational apps.  Of course, my boys’ primary aim was to get as many game apps as possible.  So, which apps did we end up with? 

Van Gogh - $3.99

This is a beautiful app.  It is the true story of how Van Gogh came to paint his Sunflowers.  But as well as being a beautiful story book (sound on or off), it is also a colouring book and an activity book where you can see how different animated characters in the book move.  A great way to learn about art while enjoying a beautiful book. 

Targeting Maths 3

Amazing app visually.  This app is based on the text book my boys use at school, and the only level currently available is for Year 3 which my youngest son has just completed, so this is perfect for him.  I thought I’d have trouble getting him to use it during the school holidays, but I couldn’t get him off it.  The aim is to complete different maths games and tasks which then earn you points that you can use to play games at the circus.  It’s not cheap at $9.49, but it has been worth every cent. 

ABC Reading Eggs Spelling Grades 1 to 6

Lots of different interactive spelling games.  You can choose the appropriate accent – English UK, USA or Australian
Lite (10 spelling games with a mixture from Grades 1 to 6 – Free
Full version – You select the school grade you want (1 to 6).  $2.99

Fruit Ninja -  .99c

One of the most popular games of all time.  Slice the fruit as they appear, but don’t slice the bombs!

Action Movie FX - Free

This gave my sons hours of fun taking movies around our home and then flooding our street, blowing up their Dad with a missile and destroying the Christmas Tree with a tornado.  My eldest son even created his own movie using the Lego Space Shuttle he got for Christmas and a meteor attack. 

Word Search Unlimited HD - free

A classic word search game, you just trace your finger over the words as you find them.
Easy level (12 words to find) in the free version. 
The full version has more lists to choose from and three difficulty levels - .99c

Lego Harry Potter & Lego Harry Potter 2 - .99c each

These two have been a real hit.  My boys have Lego Harry Potter on the Wii, and this is similar, but still different enough that there are lots of new things to discover.
Both these games are on sale at the moment – usually $5.49 each.

This is only a start, but enough to keep my boys happy during the school holidays.  I’ll be adding a lot of educational apps once school goes back and I’ll let you know which I choose.

07 January 2013

2013 Techie Resolutions

Do you have any technology goals for 2013?  Instead of cursing your computer would you like to smile whenever you switch it on? 

Here’s my list of what you need to do to make this the year you take control of your technology; with links to the articles I’ve written about these topics.

Backup your files

Don't lose your precious photos or documents, set up a regular backup routine.


Have a regular maintenance plan

Keep your computer running smoothly and make it last longer.

Clean your computer

Your computer will last longer and run better if you keep it free of dust.

Look after your passwords

We all have so many passwords we use constantly.  You should have a method of storing them so you don't have to remember them.

04 January 2013

Techie Mum 2013

Have you set some New Year Resolutions?  I do, every year.  I've got a list of what I'm going to change about how I do things for me, and my business, and now I'm working on what I want to change on this blog. 

First up, I will be posting more regularly – Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week.  I'm thinking of some themes for my posts.  Friday is going to be Free Stuff Friday, where I’ll post about something new and techie and FREE.

I'm not sure about Monday and Wednesday though – do you have any thoughts?

I’d also like to hear of any suggestions you have for this blog – because if it wasn't for my readers, there wouldn't be any point having this blog.  I’d love to hear what you would like me to post about.