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Top Tips: Choosing First Phone For Kids

Top Tips to Help Kids Choose First PhoneOne of the most frequent requests I receive from parents is to discuss the right age to buy a child their first phone, what type of phone to buy and how to establish and enforce phone usage rules. Back to school is the perfect time for families to create family rules for existing kid phones and establish new rules for kids just starting to use cell phones.

 

Our older son received a call and text only phone for middle school and then a smartphone for high school after he proved he could not only follow our family phone use rules but also engage with us in regular “phone safety” discussions. Now that our twin boys are heading off the middle school, we decided it was time to buy them their first phone and set up new family phone use rules. Here are some of the tips from our experience of setting up our kids with their first phone. Please share your tips!

 

Tips To Buying First Kid’s Phone

 

TIP 1Buy your phone on as as needed basis:

Buy your kids their first phone on an “as needed basis”: I tell parents that the age when their kids should have a phone is dependent on when they “need” a phone.  Just because a third grader may say to their parents, “my best friend has a phone, I should get one too”, does not mean a new phone is one the way. Peer pressure is not a valid reason to get a child their first phone.  One appropriate reason is to keep in touch with your kids when they start transporting themselves to school (via bus or bike for example). But each child has different needs and different timing.

 

TIP 2 - Decide what type of plan (i.e. “emergency only”, voice, voice & text or voice, text and data phone):

 

When my kids started riding their bikes to school in 4th grade we decided to buy them inexpensive “pay by the month” phones that only had minutes for emergencies and were not for regular use. But when my twins went off to middle school this year, we agreed to get them a phone with a voice and text plan so we could communicate with them and they could communicate with their friends. A few of our friends purchased phones with a voice and text plan for their kids because they had multiple after school activities and sometimes needed a way to reach the parents where were driving.

 

Although our family phone plan has shared data, we do not allow them to use the data and can easily track this on the monthly bill.  We can also disable data from their phones if their discipline weakens or they don’t comply. The AT&T website (our phone service) has details on disabling data on phones.

 

TIP 3 – Develop family phone use rules and phone etiquette standards:

 

The most important thing to teach your kid when you give them their first phone is phone etiquette.  A cell phone can be a great communication tool or a tool that can get your kids in serious trouble (even danger). Parents should take the time to first educate themselves then create family phone rules. We started talking to our kids about cell phone etiquette a year before they had their first phone. Now we are creating rules as well as a phone “safe use” contract that they “sign” to confirm they understand. Breaking the rules means they lose use of the phone.

 

We checked online resources including the Common Sense Media Parents Guide to Kids and Cell Phones, Emily Post Top Ten Cell Phone Manners, Parents.com Teaching Kids Cell Phone Etiquette and more. We focused on different types of etiquette including appropriate cell phone voice and texting, cell phone etiquette do’s and don’ts (Common Sense Media),  email etiquette, school rules for phones (don’t use during school!) and overall phone safety rules such as not sharing personal information or location information with anyone but family and friends (and never accept “online friends” you don’t know if real life!).

 

My friend Sarah Granger just wrote a book called “Digital Mystique – How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life – Online and Off”.  I recommend this book as a great starting point for parents to educate themselves on the online world. She interviewed me for the book and included something I always tell parents: “Internet Safety is the New Sex Talk”.  This includes cell phone etiquette because it opens kids up to a world of communication between other kids, even if it is just calling, texting, and sharing photos.

 

Most of all, I have written for years that the most important tool for proper cell phone use is active communication between parents and kids. We manage this communication by rewarding our kids for sharing their personal experiences and rewarding this open communication with freedom to use their phones. It has been hard at times, but we have a “discuss anything” policy and try not to be upset when they come to us – even with upsetting news. We want them to feel comfortable talking about their phone use and work with us to navigate the scary waters of cell phone use. When my oldest made a mistake or two in the past we discussed why it was wrong and how he can make sure it never happens again. We do not use apps such as “Ignore No More app” that limit cell phone use when kids ignore their parents calls because they do not treat the underlying issue: trust. Of course, each family needs to choose what works for them.

 

For example, the day oldest son received his first phone he attended a pool party that afternoon where he took pictures of his friends, several of whom were wearing bikinis. Some of the girls were posing in ways that could be seen as provocative and the photos were inappropriate. Luckily, our son showed us the pictures in an effort to comply with the “open communication qualification” for phone use. This gave us the chance to explain why the pictures were inappropriate and he deleted them from his phone. It was an innocent situation, which happens so often, but those are also the most dangerous because the kids don’t know that what they are doing is wrong.

 

We also explained that even if someone else takes a picture that could be perceived as inappropriate and sends it to him – he needs to delete it from his phone right away. If he shares a picture even that he did not take, he will still be held responsible and could even include being arrested.

 

TIP 4 – Choose a Phone:

 

I received an email about the Pantech Vybe phone around the same time I had just been to the AT&T store (my carrier) to look at possible first phone options for my twin 11 year olds.  Because I had already included the Pantech Vybe on my list of phones to investigate, I decided to do a review of the phone with my twins. Here is a link to the review “First Phone For Kids: Pantech Vybe Review”.

 

For my kids, we did not want to get them a “smartphone” until they were older. Because they are just 11, we decided that making calls and texting was appropriate for their age (in our family). We also felt that having access to an app store was something we wanted our tweens to do at home using our WiFi only devices.  For example, we set up home tablets to request a password sign-on before any app can be purchased. This allows us to review the app as a family before they download it.  But even then, having access to a device with an app store can have it’s challenges. Both Google and Apple faced lawsuits over in-app purchases by kids. Beyond the cost consequences of using apps, apps that “seem” family friendly can at times lead to inappropriate features. So I always recommend parents use “family friendly” rated apps together at first.

 

TIP 5 – Privacy Settings and Digital Safety Toolbox:

 

To prepare for my kids for getting their phone, I created a list of digital safety tools and phone settings which they later helped me set on their phones. This includes location, which can be a safety issue for young kids.  The tools we implemented include  LoJack for Android, and Find my iPhone to track the device plus apps to track your kids (some of which are covered in this post on Tom’s Hardware “8 Apps for Tracking Your Teens”) including Life360 (family locator, messaging tool and communication app all in one).

 

What was the first phone you chose for your kids and what apps, settings and rules did you set up that worked or did not work?

 

 

Disclosure: This is a press post. Some items were provided to me for review purposes.

 

 

 

 

Device Theft Recovery Solutions: Absolute Software

*Disclosure: Sponsored post

 

smartphone laptop theftSecurity of data and computer devices is one of the most important technology issues for families. One example that I have been exploring for some time now is technology that allows you to locate your phone after it has been lost or stolen. “Find my phone” apps are very handy to find a misplaced device in your house but not as effective a solution when it comes to theft. I read stories of people tracking down their own stolen devices, with some ambitious folks even some showing up at the thief’s house, a very dangerous plan.

 

 

Device theft continues to become more frequent, with regular stories in the news and social media of phones being stolen in public places or just grabbed out of people’s hands while they walk down the street. Thieves can now easily wipe smartphones clean and then sell them on the black market. More valuable than the phone itself is the personal data stored on our phones, especially now that many people use their devices for online payment and banking.

 

 

Smartphone Security InfoGraphic

 

 

That is why why I jumped at the chance to work with Absolute Software (disclosure *sponsored campaign*) and learn more about their device theft recovery solutions. The first step was receiving some press information about the solutions (which I shared below).  Absolute Software solutions enable device location tracking, locking it against unauthorized users and permanently erasing files from remote locations. The two product names are called Absolute Data Protect and Absolute LoJack.

 

Here’s some product information I summarized from the website and from press briefings:

 

Absolute Data Protect Product Features:

 

Locate

Locate your device (laptops, phones, and tablets) using GPS, Wi-Fi or IP geolocation giving you the tools to see the last location in the event that it goes missing.

 

Lock

Device Lock prevents anyone from accessing your personal information on laptops, phones, and tablets. You can also add a customized message to your device lock screen.

 

Delete

Activating the delete feature permanently erases files protecting your personal information and preventing identity theft.

 

Absolute LoJack product features:

 

Absolute LoJack Locates, Locks & Deletes then also offers recovery and guarantee:

Absolute LoJack

 

 

Recovery:

 

When a device is reported stolen, first to law enforcement and then on the user’s account (https://my.absolute.com/),  Absolute’s Investigation Team springs into action building a case and then presenting it to law enforcement. The Theft teams knows who to talk with in regards to Law Enforcement so it takes the pressure of of individuals trying to navigate the process on their own while also dealing with the emotions behind the loss. The website explained: “Absolute’s Investigations team is the only one of its kind in the security software industry. More than 30,000 stolen devices in 100 countries have been recovered through the efforts of the Investigations team and in conjunction with law enforcement worldwide. The team consists of former military servicemen, government intelligence personnel and law enforcement officers. They’re experts in Internet investigations, computer forensics and cyber-crime and are highly experienced in device tracking and recovery.

 

Guarantee:

 

Absolute LoJack also has a Service Guarantee to help pay for a replacement.

 

Here are some recovery stories: http://lojack.absolute.com/en/investigations-team/recovery-stories

 

Note: Theft reporting and recovery services are not available for the Absolute Data Protect product

 

 

System Requirements:

 

The Absolute LoJack website has a listing of current system PC/Mac and mobile system requirements.

 

Absolute persistence technology:

 

Devices that have Absolute persistance technology enabled get an extra level of security.  The website explained that “Absolute persistence technology is built into the BIOS or firmware of a device during the manufacturing process.” Once activated, customers who purchase these devices benefit from that extra level of security which wipes data from devices to factory settings and offers the ability to display message (this is a stolen computer). It even deletes down to file level.

 

 

To really understand what it would be like to go without my device and valuable data, I am taking the Absolute LoJack #DigitallyDark Challenge tomorrow (6/15 from 10am to 10pm!) and go without my devices (shriek of terror!).  Then when I am back online I will talk about what it was like to be without my devices. Even though many people backup their phone and computer data in the cloud, it’s still a big disruption to have your device stolen and I anticipate a very unsettling but educational day tomorrow.

 

 

What do you think about the dangers of device theft?

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

Give gift of Time and Organization with OneNote for Mother’s Day!

Disclosure: Sponsored Post

 

Mother's Day Gift Time

On Mother’s Day, the gift options for that special Mom in your life are endless. One of my favorites is the gift of time with my family, friends and myself. Both organization and automation are essential to freeing-up that valuable time and Microsoft OneNote really helps.

 

New updates to OneNote are pretty exciting and I shared several in my last blog post. It’s available across my wide variety of family devices, and the perfect way to help get better control of my time. Better yet, my family helps by organizing their lists as well on OneNote so we ALL have more time!

 

Here are some of the ways you can give the gift of time and organization to your Mom (or if you are a Mom, suggest to your family!)

 

CREATE/UPDATE FAMILY PHOTO ALBUMS: Scan and organize old family photos into a OneNote notebook to create family albums. OneNote’s integration with apps like Office Lens (for Windows Phone) and Genius Scan (for iPhone, iPad and Android) give you a OneNote scanner in your pocket, so getting your family photos into OneNote is a snap!

 

ORGANIZE WEEKLY RECIPES: Have the whole family find recipes they want to “help” cook for dinner and scan those or save the online links into a OneNote Notebook. Then save in a “special occasion” notebook some fun recipes to cook for Mother’s day or other events. You can even download this customizable OneNote recipe book!

 

MOTHER’S DAY CARD: Have your family create their own pictures as well as find special memento’s or photos to scan for a Mother’s Day OneNote Notebook.

 

GROCERY LIST: Have the family help create a weekly Grocery list on OneNote that can be shared across devices so the family can all help with shopping! Even kids can read OneNote shopping lists on their parents’ phone to help find items at the store!

 

WEEKLY SCHEDULE: Have the family create a weekly schedule in OneNote that can even include screen shots of school lunch schedules, after school activities, scanned calendars and online links. A family that plans together has MORE TIME together! The schedule can also include TODO’s for the week so no one will forget to practice guitar, baseball, tennis or coding (hint hint to my kids!)

 

VACATION LIST: Create the family vacation “wish list”: A OneNote Notebook with vacation idea pictures, links and information so the family can plan special places to visit. After you’ve decided on your destination, download this OneNote travel planning template. Once all your research and planning details are in this OneNote, it’s easy to recall a particular detail at any given moment. You can even use Instant Search in the bar on the top right to recall anything you’ve ever put in OneNote.

 

GIFTS: Have the family create a OneNote notebook recording the gifts everyone wants for special occasions. Add a section detailing ways to earn rewards by completing homework and household chores. For example, if my kids want toys outside of holiday’s or birthdays, they need to create a plan to earn them!

 

ENTERTAINING: Our family realized that we have not been entertaining family and friends as much as we would like so we decided to create a OneNote Notebook with a list of who we want to invite over and meal ideas.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I am an Office Champion and have received sponsorship and products. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

Sell Your Cell Phone Online With eBay (Sponsored)

Disclosure: My blog post was written as part of my collaboration with eBay.
 

 

sell an old cell phoneAfter years of buying things for myself and my family on eBay I finally decided it was time to experience the other side of eBay, selling . Cleaning up my old electronics drawer provided the needed inspiration to find new homes for some great technology in perfect working order that was just sitting around collecting dust. When I was contacted to learn about eBay Sell My Phone it was the perfect opportunity to figure out my own plan to sell an old cell phone and other electronics online.
 

 

I have been buying new and used items on eBay for years but did not realize the size of the online secondary phone market.  I learned from eBay that “on average, a cell phone is sold every 4 seconds on eBay.” All different types of phones are selling such resulting in  ”a Samsung cell phone is sold every 22 seconds, an iPhone is sold every 16 Seconds, Nokia cell phone is sold every 3 minutes, HTC phone is sold every minute and a Microsoft windows cell phone is sold every 7 minutes on eBay.”

 

 

Sell your phone

Photo Credit: eBay

 

 

I viewed the Sell My Phone eBay page and saw that the steps to sell an old cell phone were pretty straightforward: select a device, check the current value, and then list it for sale. I also saw the page of instructions detailing how to wipe my phone which I feel is important to make sure all personal information is removed prior to sale. So it is time for me to take on something I have been putting off: move my gadgets not being used from the drawer to selling them online. My first step will be to sell an old cell phone, then graduate to other gadgets, saving money along the way to use on my next purchase.
 

 

Do you have a draw,  closet or just a pile of unused tech gadgets? If so, what is in your draw?

 

 

old electronics

 

 
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of eBay.
 

 
Tracking Pixel

 

Lenovo CES 2014: Tablets Still Rock

*sponsored series

 
With all the new announcements at CES 2014, it may have seemed like tablets were not top priority. But I was excited to see the quality of new tablets that are truly becoming that one unified device for both entertainment and work.   A great example is the new Lenovo ThinkPad 8 tablet that joins in with the already released Yoga Tablet 10 and 8.

 

Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Tablet – Photo credit: Lenovo

 

The Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Tablet is high definition enough for entertainment while also having the features needed for a successful work device. It has an a 10 point multi-touch 8.3 inch display (1920×1200) with Windows 8.1 Pro, 2MP and 8MP cameras, latest Intel Bay Trail Quad Core processor, up to 128GB of storage and Global 3G/4G LTE support.  Accessories include a USB 3.0 dock that converts the ThinkPad 8 into a full PC experience and a keyboard base. The Quickshot Cover enables converting to Tent mode and peels back to use the 8 MP camera. There is also a microHDMI port that allows connection to a PC to view pictures or photos or use Miracast technology to transfer them wirelessly.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet

Lenovo Yoga Tablet. Photo Credit: Lenovo

 

The Yoga Tablet 10 (10 inch) and Yoga Tablet 8 (8 inch) Android tablets offer a unique multi-mode design: it has a battery cylinder on the side that makes it easy to hold, Quad core 1.2 Ghz processor, Android 4.2 Jellybean, native storage of 16GB  or 32 GB and can add up to 64GB micro-SD card storage, micro USB for charging, a pop out stand for standing up (good for watching or listening to media and video chat) and the ability to “tilt” the stand (good for typing or gaming).  To really enable mobile use, the battery has a maximum life of 18 hours, lasting throughout the day and more.

 

Both the 8 inch and 10 inch Yoga Tablet have an HD 1280 x 800 display with a 178 degree viewing angle that is wide enough to share with the whole family.  The screen is  crisp, clear and easy to ready and the chrome design is stylish to look at.  Connectivity includes integrated Bluetooth, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and GPS. The sound is enhanced with the tablet’s Dolby Digital Plus speakers that face front. The 5.0M rear and 1.6M front cameras offer the ability to take high definition pictures.  For those that prefer using a keyboard, there is a touch keyboard with nice haptic response or an option to use Accutype keyboard Bluetooth accessory.

 

 

Lenovo Tablets

 

 

Our family had the opportunity to review the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 and 8. We found that the 10 inch is the perfect size for teens and adults to comfortably read content. The Yoga Tablet 8 inch is the perfect size for my 11 year old to watch ESPN and consume all types of content instead of squinting to see content on his small MP3 player. But the 8 inch would also be great for mobile adults looking for a smaller form factor. My husband has been looking for a tablet for a while now, evaluating different operating systems, form factors and performance. His latest experiment has been with the 10 inch Lenovo yoga tablet and it is proving to be very capable for both business and personal use.

 

 

He found that the set up of the Yoga Tablet was very straight-forward and similar to other Android devices. Charge it up, turn it on, establish the WiFi connection and start downloading the apps you need to be productive. The kids were very impressed with the games both familiar and unfamiliar in the Google Play store. LinkedIn loaded quickly and was easy to use, with the front and back camera on the Yoga tablet coming in handy to capture valuable information for various folders that help in home/family and business management.
One very handy feature is the built-in kickstand which enables the tablet to be used multiple ways in addition to holding it in your hands. With the kickstand down, the tablet props up like a computer screen in a landscape position. This is very handy when used in conjunction with a Bluetooth keyboard. Roasted 90 degrees, the kickstand also secures the tablet upright in portrait position, which is convenient when looking at an email inbox, photos, long documents or games. For those who like to use a tablet almost flat to the table, placing the Yoga down with the kickstand in place provides a tablet at a small angle to the table which is great for touch screen use. Our family really enjoyed these different positions, each with their own benefits allowing for customization of use according to what we were trying to do and whether we were sitting or standing.

 

The speakers provide high quality Dolby sound and are located on the front in the bottom corners, a much better design than speakers in back which can be muffled by a tablet cover. The volume controls and headset jack are conveniently located on the side and feel high quality to the touch. No loose headset connection where if you don’t press it in just right the stereo sound turns mono and the audio gets scratchy. And while it’s not usual to like the on/off button on a computer or tablet, the large button on the end of the built-in battery with a very clean motion when pushed is a welcome role model for what buttons on computers should feel like. Also impressive is the screen, with 1280X800 max resolution and a built-in graphics processor which delivers the quality needed for everything from writing documents  to watching YouTube videos and playing games.

 

Pricing as of Jan. 2014:

The ThinkPad 8 convertible tablet configure to order models start at $399 and Topseller
models start at $429.  The Yoga Tablet 8 starts at $199 and the Yoga Tablet 10 starts at $275.00.

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series for Techlicious Lenovo blogger program  I received products for review as part of the program. My words are my own.

 

 

 

 

Must Have Mobile Tech: AT&T Unite Pro

 *sponsored series

 

Must Have Mobile TechAs I checked into Treasure Island for CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2014, I was excited to have found a reasonably priced hotel in a central location. I was sharing my room with an east-coast blogger friend and looking forward to seeing her and other tech press friends. One benefit of Treasure Island is the optional “resort fee”, an extra added to the hotel bill which covers internet, health club use, morning newspaper and other amenities. This is great for those like me taking a business trip on a budget.

 

 

However, I was interested in paying for daily in-room Internet access. When they told me it was “20 dollars PER DAY” I was so excited to say “no thank-you” because I remembered I had my new AT&T Unite Pro mobile WiFi device with me. Considering that I would be staying at the hotel for 5 days, I saved $100 on the spot.

 

 

Working with NETGEAR (disclosure) to share information about the new AT&T Unite Pro was great because mobile WiFi is an important tool for my busy lifestyle.  The more time I spend with my own mobile WiFi, the more I realize how it frees me to work on the go no matter where I am. As a busy working parent who also travels, working on the go is essential to being productive each day.

 

My CES roommate was excited to share my mobile WiFi and not pay the daily $20 internet fee! In addition to the security benefit of using our own WiFi, it was great to know we had a reliable WiFi connection to complete our work at the hotel.  I was able to take the device with me to use on the go during the conference; this is a great benefit because I store most of my documents and media in the cloud.  With the AT&T Unite Pro BatteryBoost feature, I was also able to keep my smartphone charged, enabling me to keep my social media updates flowing to my fans without the dreaded “phone dead” syndrome some of my other tech press friends experienced.

 

 

The AT&T Unite Pro is an update from the AT&T Unite which I covered in my first blog post. Here are some of the key features of the AT&T Unite Pro:

 

AT&T Unite Pro

AT&T Unite Pro

 

 

  • Up to 16 hours of battery (all day!)
  • Internet access for up to 15 devices.
  • 2.4  inch Intuitive Touchscreen with keyboard.
  • Password protection and guest WiFi.
  • Advanced  LTE support. First mobile hotspot to offer Dual-Band WiFi which lets you maximize speed and reliability of your data connection.
  • Internationally compatible.
  • BatteryBoost: BatteryBoost lets you share the AT&T Unite Pro’s powerful battery to keep your smartphone going. Just plug-in the special boosting cable provided and connect your smartphone charging cord.

 

Having mobile WiFi also enables me to share connectivity with my kids so they can do homework on the go and reach their productivity goals each day.  In fact, when my teen brought the AT&T Unite Mobile WiFi to his study group, he realized that having a mobile WiFi that offered access to his friend’s devices saved the day by enabling everyone in the group to get their online research done. This also allows me to help one of my twin sons finish a class project while the other twin is at baseball practice. This reduces the logistical difficulty when my twins participate in different sports. Who knew that a mobile WiFi device would help support my twin’s transition into independent paths in life!

 

Pricing and availability:

The AT&T Unite Pro is $49.99 with a 2 year contract and AT&T offers other Unite models from $1 to $99.  There are several flexible and affordable monthly data plans as well.  Any of the Unite products can be added to an AT&T Mobile Share plan for only $20 a month.  Or if you want a stand alone plan, there is a $50 for 5GB monthly option available.  Visit www.att.com/data  for more information.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received products for review as part of the program. My words are my own.

 

Check out the full line of AT&T Unite mobile hotspots from NETGEAR, including Unite Pro, Unite and Unite prepaid, at www.att.com/unitepro or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at WiFiFamily.

 

 

Lenovo CES 2014 : Horizon 2, 4K Monitors and Beacon

*Sponsored series

 

For my first CES 2014 covering Lenovo products I discussed the Lenovo Yoga 2 and other new laptops. But Lenovo also showcased new technology at CES 2014 that enables new types of mobility and flexibility with home devices - and ups the ante for professional desktop monitors (that can also be used at home). The Horizon 2 showcases one of the most exciting new developments in home technology, the PC that extends into A TABLE form factor (also called a table PC)! The Horizon 2 is slimmer (19.5mm) then original Horizon, with new features such as NFC that allows devices to share digital content directly.

 

Lenovo Horizon 2 Standing Position

Horizon 2 – Photo credit: Lenovo

 

The Lenovo Horizon 2 Table PC has a 10 finger touchscreen, motion control features for navigation, Windows 8.1, four hours of battery, up to 4th generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor and Dolby Home Theater.  When used in Stand mode, it can be used as an All in One Desktop. “Table” mode enables collaborative computing such as playing games for up to four people. Accessories include a joystick, striker and e-dice to enhance the digital gaming.

 

Lenovo Horizon 2 Joy stick

Horizon 2 – Photo credit: Lenovo

 

Enhancing “table” mode is the Lenovo “Aura” custom interface for media aggregation and entertainment. The press release explained enables users to “upload photos from their camera or smartphone and the Aura interface will try to recognize the faces in the photos, access media from their PC or smartphone on their home network directly on Horizon 2’s display when it lays flat in Table Mode with the Aura interface activated. They can either use the new Horizon mobile app to shake their mobile Android device, allowing the content to “fall” onto Horizon 2’s screen. Or they can place the mobile device on the screen, which signals to the Aura dial to open around it and “pull” out content onto Horizon 2’s display. Also, users can edit photos and share directly from Aura to Facebook.“ In addition, the Horizon 2 also has multi-user games including Ubisoft’s Chubby Kings, Legacy Games’ Crayola’s Songbook and education apps such as I Spy from Scholastic.

 

 

 

Lenovo Horizon 2 Aura Interface

Horizon 2 – Photo credit: Lenovo

 

Lenovo announced the Beacon personal cloud storage device which allow to store and play media from anywhere using a tablet, smartphone, PC or TV.  The Beacon stores files within the device.   Because families these days have so much media to store, it is helpful to have a specific media storage for the home. Features include storage expandable to 6 TB and an Intel Atom dual core processor. The service has no monthly fees, can load files wirelessly or via USB connection, is able to auto upload photos from a smartphone camera via WiFi or 3G, uses Lenovo custom app on an Android smartphone to remotely control or play media stored on Beacon to an internet connected TV or by HDMI, and includes security features and ability to share with multiple users.

 

Lenovo Beacon

Lenovo Beacon Photo credit: Lenovo

 

 

 

 

Here are some of the other Lenovo product announcements from CES 2014:

  • Lenovo N308 is the company’s first Android all in one desktop that is geared for those who want access to apps, entertainment and browsing.  The N308 runs the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system, comes with an NVIDIA Tegra quad core processor, up to 500 GB hard drive storage, a 720p webcam and WiFi.
  • Lenovo A740: The Lenovo A740 is an aluminum styled 27 inch All in One that is only 4mm thin. It has up to 1 TB of hard drive storage, voice and motion control, a 10 finger touchscreen display, NFC for exchanging digital content, HD Display with wide 178° viewing angle (WQHD 2560×1440), NVIDIA GeForce graphics, JBL speakers and Dolby Home Theater.
  • Traditional notebooks Zline 14 and 15 inch for general computing are great for users on a budget. Starting at $399, they have quality features such as Intel Core processors, Dolby speakers, optical drives, different memory options 4GB, USB 3 port to work with USB 3 dock to hook into a keyboard. The 15 inch has a numeric keypad on the keyboard.
  • The Y40  (14 inch) and Y50 (15 inch) are laptops geared for media creation and gaming with Nvidia GTX graphics,  up to Core i7 and 16 GB RAM, backlit keyboard (modern design, red backlight), SSD option, touchscreen and has a 4K option. Both have JBL speakers with subwolfer. Price points starting from $699.
  • Two other new devices are the Thinkvision Pro2840m, a 4K (28 inch) monitor that is geared toward the engineering (CAD) or professional market with full speakers for only $799!!  Another is the Thinkvision 28 that is focused on consumer home market with a 4K monitor, adjustable stand that lays flat for gaming and has 32 GB storage. Touch and Android are additional features for $1199. The computer supports 4K is streaming on YouTube and Netflix.
  • The Lenovo Flex 20 (already out on the market) is a more portable alternative to the Horizon. It is an dual mode all-in-one PC that adjusts from standing in a “desktop” mode to laying flat in “entertainment” mode but hinge is adjustable at any angle. The 19.5’HD screen (1600 x 900) has 10 point multi-touch, built in camera and microphone for video conferencing, wide viewing angle, TV tuner and the stereo speakers have Dolby Home Theater.  Accessories such as joystick, striker and e-dice can be used with fun and educational games from a custom Lenovo Aura interface. The Aura was created to make the PC a “social device bringing users together to enjoy fun apps and multimedia.  Games can be loaded from the Windows Store and the Lenovo app shop. The up to 2 hour battery allows the PC to be moved to different parts of the house.  The USB 3.0 enables faster file transfer and copying of large media files (also backwards compatible with USB 2.0 devices).
  • In the multi-mode category there is also the Lenovo Flex in 14D (14 inch) or 15D (15 inch) notebooks.  These value convertible laptops have AMD A6 quad core processors, all day battery life, two modes (Laptop and Stand) and  Dolby Advanced Audio v2 .

 

Lenovo Flex 15D

Lenovo Flex 15 D Photo Credit: Lenovo

 

Pricing from the press release:

The Lenovo Beacon personal cloud storage device will be available beginning in April with models starting at $199. The Lenovo N308 AIO Desktop will be available beginning in February with models starting at $450. The Horizon 2 Table PC will be available beginning in June with models starting at $1,499. The Lenovo A740 AIO Desktop will be available beginning June with models starting at $1,499 via major retailers and www.lenovo.com.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series for Techlicious Lenovo blogger program  I received products for review as part of the program. My words are my own.

 

 

 

Sponsored: CES 2014 Whirlpool Innovations

While at CES 2014, I had the opportunity to learn more about the new Whirlpool innovations. The concepts are exciting because they will not only add more functionality and control over my kitchen but also enable me to be more productive. Listed below is a summary.

 

Whirlpool Induction CooktopInteractive Cooktop:  One of the most exciting demos was of the Whirlpool interactive cooktop concept which turns a simple surface such as a cooktop into a multi-functional information, cooking and entertainment space.  For example, while I can cook anywhere on the surface I can also browse the internet to pull up a recipe to view on the same surface! While entertaining, I can cook while checking the guest list online.  Combing the functionality of a cooktop with digital connectivity will enable a busy mom like myself to be much more productive in the kitchen.  With three “always hungry” boys I spend lots of time in the kitchen so I need all the help I can get! The Interactive Cooktop concept would also allow me to have less devices in the kitchen but still have access to digital connectivity on capacitive touch surface or hands free when needed.

 

Here is a Whirlpool video about the Interactive Cooktop:

 

 

Whirlpool Wash AppConnected Appliances: Whirlpool also introduced a digitally integrated suite of appliances and smartphone app that would not only give me more control in the kitchen, but also on the go. Because my appliances would be connected via a WiFi network, they can be controlled via a smartphone. This would allow me to do things such as saving energy by using my smartphone to run my washer during the right time of day, even if I am not at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a video that explains more about Whirlpool Connected Appliances:

 

 

 

Whirlpool Duet Series PaisleyDesigner Duet Series:  The Whirlpool Designer Duet series goes behind the simple solid colors to allow for personalization such as paisley or chrome bubbles. This type of customization is exciting because it would enable me to bring some stylish touches into my laundry area.  The Duet series also has technology to help whoever is doing the laundry (hint, hint to my older sons who need to start doing their own laundry!).  The Adaptive Wash Technology in the Duet® washer automatically selects the cycle settings for every load and Advanced Moisture Sensing technology in the dryer prevents over-drying clothes by sensing how long the dryer should run (and also saves energy!). I could even use the Whirlpool WashSquad app to assign laundry tasks to my sons!

 

 

 

Here is a Whirlpool video on the Designer Duet series:

 

 

 

 

Whirlpool CoolVoxThe CoolVox™ sound system refrigerator concept (available Q2 2014) extends the functionality with wireless Harman Kardon Speakers built in that are not distrupted when the doors are closed! This would allow me to listen to music or podcasts from my mp3 player, tablet, smartphone or computer (Note: “Only one device can be paired to CoolVox™ at a time“). I can also use apps such as Pandora, Spotify or my playlists.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the Whirlpool video on CoolVox:

 

 

  • Since Whirlpool 20/20 is all about a future focused on you, we, want to hear your ideas for it. Leave a comment below telling us your idea for the future for your home and be entered to win a $1,000 grand prize.

 

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  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

BlogHer will pool entries from participating blogs and select a sweepstakes winner at random and will contact the winner with details about fulfilling the prize.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 1/2/14 – 1/18/14.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

The Importance of A “Tech” Travel Checklist

Heading out the door to catch a plane, like many busy working moms, I stopped on the front steps and went through my mental packing checklist. Airplane tickets were in my briefcase, as was my trusty little technology bag. Arriving at the airport 45 minutes later, I discovered one of my most important travel tools was missing. I had left my AT&T Unite  plugged into its charger, forgetting to pack it in my tech bag. Public and hotel Wi-Fi can be unreliable and lack proper security. Time for Plan B.

I decided to jot down some notes and write the blog post later at the hotel. Arriving at my destination several hours later, the slow and spotty hotel Wi-Fi forced another change of plans. I quickly acknowledged that my writing, like many day-to-day tasks, depends on access to online research and I was starting to hyperventilate, thinking of missed work deadlines due to poor quality connectivity. I longed for my mobile Wi-Fi device on my desk back home, realizing just how dependent I am on that small piece of electronics and how confident I felt with it in my briefcase.

 

Now whether I am heading out to work, meetings or business trips I review my technology travel list before heading out the door. Here’s my technology travel list – what on your list?

 

TechMama Tech Travel Check List

 

1. Tech Devices: I usually bring my laptop with me on business trips but powerful tablets may change that habit. I also bring other devices such as a video or digital camera depending on the event.

 

2. Smartphone: It’s like one of the family.

 

3. Backup charger: My favorite is a universal charger that works for both my laptop and my smartphone.

 

4. Mobile WiFi: Uninterrupted work on the go requires connectivity. The AT&T Unite (powered by Netgear) not only gives me a secure network but it also has a battery life up to 10 hours, which is enough to get me through my day.

 

5.  Travel Cases:  Keeping technology like chargers, cords and memory organized is essential. I have a stash of different zip cases and travel bags with zippers to store technology within my laptop bag and stay organized on the go. One case contains power cords, another has my smartphone, mobile Wi-Fi, backup battery and digital camera.  A final small case holds my extra business cards. In my purse I also have items separated in zip cases. One case contains my lipsticks and face powder. Another case holds odds and ends like mints, pens, bandages, pain relievers and basic travel items. For trips require a large amount of technology (such as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas), I put my devices in separate cases with their chargers and accessories. Or sometimes I put all of my technology accessories in a few cases of their own.

 

 

6.  Travel Documents: As a backup, I have paper printouts of key travel and work information I need on the business including hotel reservations, driving directions and meeting agendas.

 

7. Memory:  Even though I store my documents in the cloud, I like to bring an extra flash memory cards (if I bring a camera) and USB Flash drive. Having a second copy of my presentation on a flash drive gives the comfort that if something goes wrong I always have a backup copy. But there is something ironic about having “memory” as a step in my checklist to remember what to bring to business trips.

 

8. Power Plug: I find that many hotels do not have enough plugs to charge up my tech each night. So I travel with a plug that has three outlets and two USB slots and that plugs into one wall outlet. Of course, if I am traveling in a different country, I bring the international plug.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received an AT&T Unite as part of my sponsorship. My words are my own.

For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Five Ways I Use Microsoft Office 365 to #GetItDone

 This is a sponsored post.

I use Microsoft Office 365 to help manage my busy life as a working mom, so I am excited to now be one of their Office Champions, sharing my favorite tips and learning new ones. My day requires flexibility and Microsoft Office helps me get work done regardless of where I am. I’m clearly not alone in my need for flexibility, A recent study conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Microsoft found that “more than half of office workers (53%) would be willing to work more hours—and one in five would be willing to take a pay cut—to have more flexibility in where and when they get work done”. This Infographic shows some stats on mobile work habits.

 

 

Here are the top five ways I use Microsoft Office 365 to #GetItDone:

 

5. Get Work Done While Waiting: With Microsoft Office 365 productivity tools and Skydrive cloud storage, I can use my mobile devices and Office Mobile to work while waiting for my kids to finish baseball practice or while on the road between business meetings. I have the flexibility with Office 365 to use touch, type or a stylus while either offline (sync later) or online, later syncing online via SkyDrive.

 

4. Get Cooking Done: I use One Note to keep track of recipes, entering them in my recipe notebooks or embedding recipes I find on the web (keeping the web links so I can refer back to them). I also have One Note Notebooks for shopping lists. Because my One Note is synced to my mobile devices using SkyDrive, I always have access to that information while mobile, making grocery shopping much more efficient. The One Note search also helps me find recipes to fit what I have in the fridge for those “oh, no, what I am going to make for dinner” days!

 

3. Get Homework Done: Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium can be installed on up to 5 PCs or Macs, and 5 mobile devices. This means my whole family can take advantage of using Office. We have Office installed on our family desktop and laptops. All three of my boys has access when they need it to use Powerpoint for class presentations and Word/Excel for class projects. Our kids can organize research, take notes and even use an equation editor for math homework using One Note.

 

2. Get Household Organization Done: We use Outlook to create a shared family calendar with different colors for each person. We use Excel to track our family budget, expenses and household projects. The spreadsheets can be then be embeded, plus any online links, pictures, video or audio, into One Note notebooks. Family vacations are planned with One Note notebooks and pictures uploaded to SkyDrive albums.

 

And the Number One way I use Office 365 is to Get My Personal Dreams Done: For years I had a dream to write a book. Luckily, I had my handy Office 365 to help me reach that dream, creating research notebooks in One Note to create the outline of my book. I then used Microsoft Word to write the book, track changes with my editor and verify the book’s format using “read” mode.  Now that my book “My Parent Plan” is out, I can check off that dream and then see how I can use Office 365 to get my next dream “done“.

 

There are so many additional ways I use Office 365 that I can’t fit all of them in this post. I’ll provide more product tips in future posts.

Are you ready to get it done? Then visit www.Office.com/getitdone and share via #GetItDone how you get things done with Office and Office 365. For more information, check out the Microsoft Office 365 “Get It Done” press release.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.