Slider by IWEBIX

Many people search the web, read content every day and share that content. While advances in search technology has made finding information easier and easier, saving and organizing information in a way that captures a story or conversation can still be very challenging.

I just posted on Techmamas.com about my first experience with Pearltrees.com; I was on a Traveling Geeks trip to LeWeb and Pearltrees was one of the French companies we met. Being a visual person, the Pearltrees online application offered me the tools to capture and organize online information in a visual format that also reflected the storyline behind the issue being discussed. I decided that my next step was to use it and see what happens. What happened – is that adding content to Pearltrees became part of my daily workflow. I now find it to be an essential way to organize the content I view daily, in a way that I can organize, share and embed in my blog. Being a busy mom, Pearltrees saves me the time of going back to capture relevant links or discussions  – because I am now doing it as part of my daily workflow. Simple bookmarking works linearly. Pearltrees enables the story to be told in a more visual way.

I easily created Pearltrees for conversations, issues and topic areas I am researching. My online peeps started taking notice, saying things like “there goes TechMama, creating those pearly things again” and “wow, Pearltrees looks great but I need to learn how to use it”.

Months later, when I took on a project as adviser to Pearltrees, I
had the opportunity to learn even more about the site and share the information I learned.

WHAT IS PEARLTREES?

The way many people currently organize web content is by using bookmarking sites, which are organized in a linear, menu-style format.  Pearltrees works differently because it is a visual mapping of content that can be “dragged and dropped” into different visual trees. The Pearltrees.com FAQ’s describes this process in the following way. “Pearltrees is a collaborative network that lets users create, enrich and share the world of their interests. In Pearltrees, everyone creates a world and uses parts of others’ worlds to extend it. By doing so, everyone contributes to the overall project: building the first human organization of the Web.”  It is not only a way to “create, enrich and share the
world of a user’s interests but also keep at hand the great content they find
everyday on the web.”

A Pearltree is made up of Pearls. A Pearl is simply a link to web
content that a user wants to save and organize.  The content can be a
blog post, article, Tweet, picture, video or any other online media that
has a permalink/URL.

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Beware of Phishers: Part Deux – The Domain Name System Security Hole

In a prior post, I discussed computer phishers and why it is important to understand what can happen – so you can try to protect yourself. The New York Times today discussed the the patch for a web security hole in the Domain Name System (that houses basic internet addresses) "has some leaks of its own".

The article points out that the flaw will almost certainly be exploited by criminals, one example would be to "allow internet traffic to be secretly re-directed so thieves could hijack a bank’s web address and collect customer information".

So what can consumers do? Be smart – read up on phishing. The Anti-Phishing Working Group’s web page has general information on phishing and advice on how to avoid phishing scams.

 

Kung Fu Panda Movie – Behind the Scenes Technology…

The Silicon Valley Moms Group last week had the opportunity to celebrate the Kung Fu Panda Movie with HP. At the party, we received questions on why HP is partnering with Dreamworks Animation. To answer that question they sent me some info including their press release:

"HP has helped DreamWorks Animation create groundbreaking animation
features from Shrek to Bee Movie. For this latest project, HP
technology helped animators solve artistic challenges to bring the
story of Po the Panda to life. Audiences will see a wide variety of
deeply intricate, organic environments that only exist because of the
unprecedented power of HP workstations with multi-core processors."

Basically, HP put a bunch of computers to work with Dreamworks to create the complicated animation. The HP site also has a Kung Fu Panda craft page with that was created to "help audiences bring the Kung Fu Panda experience home", including templates to make Kung Fu Panda puppets and take out baskets.

I wanted more factoids so they sent me this Kung Fu Panda Fact Sheet (my 9 year old loves factoids):

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What Is A Tech Savvy Mom?

Yesterday I posted about the extreme of what a tech obsessed mom may look like. But the question I still can’t seem to define is: "What is a Tech Savvy Mom?"

Is she someone who knows how to use a computer to manage her family? Is she someone who can set up the family TV remote control and home wireless network? Does she do her online reading through RSS Feeds on her homepage? Or how about a mom who knows how to manage getting the digital pictures out of her camera into a form that is displayed in the house or to the family in a blog? Is she someone who has a blog and shares her voice? How about a mom that can go into Best Buy, Staples or Radio Shack and talk tech with the salespeople to find the right gadget? Is she a mom that always has a charged Bluetooth headset to use with her smartphone? Does she read her emails on her smartphone or just read her emails at all?  Or even the mom who stays in contact with family/friends around the world using Skype and Facebook?  Does she help her kids use computers for homework assignments or presentations that require it? Best yet, is the "talk" she has with her kids not only about sex & drugs – but about Internet Safety and identity protection?

So readers, please help me define the modern tech savvy mom
….My brother who lives in a different country just Google Talked me so I need to go chat with him……

 

Hubba Hubba, USB Hubs that Swivel

180pxusb_connector
I a big on passing down old laptops to kids (or maybe that is just an excuse so that I can keep updating my notebooks). But there is one problem I am having with my Dell laptop that will soon be passed down to my son: It only has two USB ports – one on top of the other. A USB port is a small port in the back of computer that connects to peripherals like printers. The port pictured to the left (from Wikipedia) only has one USB port, but the symbol will always be the same. So, why should only having one or two USB ports matter? Let me tell you why.

  1. For ergonomic reasons, I want my son typing from a keyboard and using a real monitor instead of just using the laptop screen. Because keyboards and monitors are now reasonably priced – it still pays off to buy that equipment instead of buying a new laptop for my son. And my current computer (Dell Inspiron 600m) is powerful enough to do the type of things my son is interested in. But my Dell laptop does not have a port for keyboards..
  2. I will be buying software for my son to write music, which comes with a microphone that is connected by none other then a USB port.
  3. Without a wireless printer router, the only way to print from a laptop is to connect a cable to a printer by, you guessed it, a USB port.
  4. Gaming has equipment that plugs into, yes – the USB port.

Most computers only have one USB port, and from my experience – the pins from the USB ports are fragile so the action of plugging in and then unplugging along with the potential of kid related forceful actions can lead to port damage. What can be done?

F5u415_1_2

USB HUBS: I saw USB hubs mentioned in many holiday gift guides – but it took passing on my laptop to my son for me to go out and get one for myself. I choose the Belkin Swivel hub because it is small and can rotate for flexiblity. That USB hub has four ports, enough for all the equipment a kid would need and more….And if any of the ports from the USB hub are damaged, there are three others. And if all three are damaged (what – with kids why would that happen?) – just buy a new hub instead of a NEW COMPUTER!

Usb_adapter_2
USB ADAPTER
: For those that just want to hook their PS/2 mouse and/or keyboard and the laptop does not have the right ports, USB adapters can do the trick. I choose the Dynex USB adapter to plug in a keyboard to my Dell
computer (using my new hub).Logitech_media_keyboard_2

Yeah, I am not typing this sentence from a separate keyboard that is connected using the Dynex USB adapter – through my USB port on my laptop.  The keyboard I have is a Logitech Media Keyboard, and can be purchased inexpensively for under $20.00.

If adapters are too much of a fuss, try the new wireless keyboards and mouses. Microsoft makes wireless, bluetooth wireless and an ergonomic line.

 

Techmama’s Imponderables

Question_4
I was in carpool lane waiting to pick up my son so I thought I would take a look at my email. I recieve RSS feeds for some of my tech news favorites to my BlackBerry. Today’s email for the New York Times Circuit Section was from one of my favorite columnists David Pogue. He wrote an article called "Pogue’s Imponderables" that had me laughing so hard I am sure the other moms thought I was nuts. Two of my favorites were:

I thought I would add some of my own during the couple minutes I have free before dinnertime. For my list, I am using a regular PC as an example because I don’t have a MAC. But if I did, I would second the question on why MAC operating systems don’t get viruses.

Techmama’s Imponderables:

  • Why is it that 90% of computer problems magically disappear by shutting down then starting up the computer again?
  • Why is it that 90% of smartphone problems magically disappear by shutting down then starting up the phone again (or resending "service packs")?
  • Why is it that 90% of wireless router and DSL modem problems magically disappear by shutting down then starting up the computer again?
  • With all the advances we have made with PC’s, why can’t computers just start up quickly? Why oh why??
  • Why does the blue screen of death haunt so many?
  • Why do you have to buy software anymore? I dig getting all of this free software online… Even if I have to look at some ads….
  • On the other hand, why is it that I am happy to pay big money for good graphics software?
  • Why does my "t" key always fall off my computer after a year?
  • Why do printer cartridges always run out of ink so quickly? And does that happen to be linked to the fact that my son sneaks in and makes copies of his pokemon cards on our printer/copier.
  • Why do some women use their husbands email address as their own, putting women’s rights back years. You know, you can get email for FREE using your own name…
  • When I send the beautiful Microsoft excel spreadsheets out to class parents, why do some of them tell me "they can’t open spreadsheets".
  • Why do people send those misspelled emails saying they are some prince of something and that I have won some money…EVERYONE DELETES THOSE MESSAGES, SO STOP SENDING THEM. Whoops, David Pogue asked who the morons are that respond to spam so I guess they are still out there.
  • How do you really make money from online ads?
  • Why are handwritten notes so much nicer then emails?
  • Why is it that I would rather keep writing this post then cook dinner?

What are yours? I know I will think of more later….

 

Wikipedia – How It Works

Wikipedia
Last Sunday’s New York Times magazine had an article about Wikipedia: "All the News That’s Fit to Print Out (by Jonathan Dee).  Wikipedia is a online encyclopedia that can be edited by any registered user. This free source of information is not free of controversy; some question whether the information can be trusted. I go by the "read but verify" while using Wikipedia. But I use the site often, if not only to see how other people view the definitions or as a easy way to obtain links for blog posts. Wikipedia is also a great example of the positive forces of Web 2.0; a free online resource updated by an extensive and loyal user community. Here are some factoids from the New York Times Magazine article:

  • USERS: The first level is for users (4.6 million registered English-language users). Anyone can register. The Wikipedia page explains that users have the ability to start new pages, edit semi-protected pages, rename pages and upload images. The introduction has more information about user abilities.
  • ADMINISTRATORS: 1,200 are "administrators" have extra access, including the power to block others from the site. To become an administrator, the user must answer a series of five questions. Other users have seven days to either approve or dis-approve.
  • STEWARDS: Above the administrator level is "bureaucrats" who can appoint administrators. The level about bureaucrats are "stewards" who are appointed by the seven-person Wikimedia foundation board of directors. There are only 30 stewards. There are also levels above the stewards but it was not clear how many.

The New York Times Magazine article
shed light on the dedicated, young and almost cult-like group
helping to keep Wikipedia going – all without pay. Some of those
dedicated few did get their moment in the spotlight by being featured
in the article. I thought it interesting that I obtained information on how Wikipedia works from mainstream media while it seems many young get their news from the Internet. So it is good for the "older" folks to see what the "young" folks are reading on the Internet.

 

Attack of the Computer Phishers and Zombie Hordes

Security
Have you ever received an "email" from a "bank" or "credit card company" requesting personal information? I delete any email from any bank or credit card company right away without reading them, but some people may not know to do that. I mean, come on, what institution in their right mind would send an email requesting personal information anyway? I called my financial institutions and they confirmed that they NEVER send emails requesting personal information. If you receive that type of email and still think it is for real, I say give the institution a call (the number you have on your records).

Criminals use something called "Phishing" to obtain personal information from unsuspecting people. The Anti-Phishing working group is committed to "wiping out Internet scams and frauds".  Here is their definition of Phishing:

"What is Phishing and Pharming? Phishing attacks use both social engineering and technical subterfuge to steal consumers'
  personal identity data and financial account credentials. Social-engineering schemes use 'spoofed' e-mails to lead consumers to counterfeit websites designed to trick recipients into divulging financial data such as      credit card numbers, account usernames, passwords and social security numbers. Hijacking brand names of banks, e-retailers and credit card companies, phishers often convince recipients to respond. Technical subterfuge schemes plant crimeware onto PCs to steal credentials directly, often using Trojan keylogger spyware. Pharming crimeware misdirects users to fraudulent sites or proxy servers, typically through DNS hijacking or poisoning."

The site also has information on how to avoid phishing scams.  The phishers set up mirror websites of those used by consumers as a way to falsely collect personal information. I looked on one of the phishing emails I recieved and although it was suppposed to be a popular bank, the URL was something I did not recognize (hint, hint). 

Amazon.com has a section in their help area with information on identifying phishing and spoofed emails. PayPal also has a Phishing Guide. The Federal Trade Commission has a section on Web Scams (and a warning about false emails). Banks like Wells Fargo also have sections on how to protect yourself against online security fraud and info on fraudulent emails and websites. Here is an example of a fraudulent email from the Wells Fargo Website:

"Subject:  Notification for Customer of e-mail address change

E-MAIL CHANGE NOTIFICATION

Dear Customer!Thank
you for banking online at wellsfargo.com. Our records indicate that you
recently added or made a change to one of your email address(es). This
notification is to confirm that you initiated this change. If you feel you have received this email in error and did not add or change your email address(es), please click here.Sincerely,

Online Banking Team"

Just in case you were wondering, DO NOT CLICK THERE! Or as the FTC says: *Don’t open the attachment. * Delete the e-mail. * Empty the deleted items folder.

I saw on Yahoo Tech a post that also identified another Internet security risk: innocent computers being hijacked to use for sending out spamBBC News reported that "the FBI is contacting more than one million PC owners who have had their computers hijacked by cyber criminals". The hijacked home computers are called "Zombies".  Another post from Yahoo Tech also discusses the ways to beat spyware (Step 1 and Step 2). All I say is that it is very important to have anti-virus and anti-spyware modules running active on your computer. Symantec has a full suite of products, McAfee and software called BitDefender (which is reasonably priced).

I am interested in what other people have used to protect themselves against computer viruses and spyware? Any other lessons learned?

 

Backing Up Digital Media, For Busy Parents

I recently figured out that 3 years of family pictures are all digital, stored on my computer, and only a few pictures made it to print. I did not share this fact with many until I talked to other moms who also have the same issue. So this means that if I don’t have a back-up, well, all memories will be erased. And what would I say when my kids ask to see their pictures?  Sorry  – my hard drive got corrupted and all the pictures got erased? Or sorry, I deleted the folder on my computer with family pictures by accident. Yeah, that will go over well.

So, my current project is too look for alternatives for backing up my digital photos. The first step is to print out the pictures and make beautiful photo albums. Wait – that was my dream…

Here are the alternatives for busy parents:

  • The quick and easy way, is just to use the USB port of your computer and attach an USB flash drive. The device is easy to find, and available in 2GB and 4GB (translated to mean lots of pictures). This would allow the use  of copy and paste functionality to move photo’s from the computer to the USB device. Some type of documentation system would be helpful to identify what pictures are on the device. But over time, more then one flash drive will be needed to hold all of the photos. There are also versions that are kid proof (Uncrushable” SanDisk U3 Cruzer Titanium flash drive) .
  • For a one stop solution, Geekdad published a post that dicusses the 750GB Seagate hard drive. Some of the comments mentioned other solutions.
  • Burn the pictures onto DVD’s. Newegg.com has a selection of CD/DVD burners. Blue Ray and HD-DVD optical storage technologies will be the next gen of DVD’s. But for your average parent, DVD’s are still fine – especially for backing up photos. Along with a burner, software is required for the download. Nero and Record Now are examples of the popular versions out now.
  • Store the pictures on a online using a server. If I were to do that, I would use a server that has lots of space – like Google. Google Picassa locates and organizes your pictures online. You can even make web albums to share with family.
  • I heard that Mac users have an easy way to move pictures to a online site – but since I don’t have a MAC, it would be great to hear what they use.

There is also the bigger issue of data storage for all media (documents, photos and files) as well as keeping the data library in sync. CNET had an interesting post (Seagate thinks Small, 1/04/2007) discussing the new line of Seagate pocket-size portable storage devices called FreeAgent. This solution is interesting because it allows storage of the entire contents of the computer with software to manage it. The Pro line comes with 500MB of space on a Seagate Internet storage site for posting photos or other files.

For a stylish data storage option, Pininfarina makes a external hard drive in three capacities (the largest is 500 GB), has one click back-up and comes with 2GB myfabrik.com for online storage. The SimpleTech SimpleDrive family is compatible with MACs and PCs.

Red Herring discussed the issue of keeping data in sync in their article “Out of Sync: Sharpcast, ProtectMyPhotos, Vizrea“, March 15, 2007.

I will sift through all of this information and post on the solution I chose at a later time. The first step is to back up those digital pictures so my three boys have a memory of their childhood.