Archive for the ‘ Geeky ’ Category

A Simple Idea That Simply Changed Everything


Today is YouTube’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday YouTube!

What an amazingly simple idea, start a website where people can upload and share videos publicly and freely. 7 years ago who could have possibly imagined how deeply this simple idea could permeate and change modern daily life?

Today we use YouTube in most aspects of our lives: entertainment, business, personal and educational. Movies host theatrical trailers both on their website and on a YouTube channel. Businesses create marketing campaigns using viral and quirky videos.  A business can create informational content about who they are, their products and industry specific topics.

Now, more than ever, information is just a few simple clicks away. Just this month, YouTube showed me how to change the camera lens cover on my cell phone (bye-bye scratchy photos) and guided my son on how to sync our Xbox remote to a friend’s console.

For some, the YouTube effect is stronger than others. With millions of views per video, Maru, a playful, mischievous Scottish White Fold seduces the internet on a regular basis. I’m sure his owner is more than a little pleased with his success.  If you don’t know Maru, let me educate you now:

 

As a mom, I share home videos of my children with my grandparents who live across the country. I’m able to find funny jokes, inspiring stories and an army of artistic movies, shorts and videos. From my phone, I can privately upload my sons humiliating themselves in dance and karaoke while publicly posting my parents’ little pocket beagle ferociously attacking a feather. And let me tell you, the feather usually wins. Just this weekend I grabbed this little altercation between them:

 

The growing vlogging community is an incredible artistic outlet. YouTube has become a display case for home animation, video rants, home produced films, fan fiction, cooking lessons, college applications and creative resumes.

As features are added and the technology evolves, I can’t help but ponder about where this is headed. The integration of Google, YouTube and Google Plus allows us to seamlessly share and explore things from all areas of our lives. With Hangouts on Air I could broadcast and record family events that distant relatives can’t attend. Weddings, soccer games, birthday parties – suddenly distance is not such a large hurdle for keeping families and friends connected to each other.

It’s just such a simple concept, create a space where people can share their videos. It’s astonishing how simply this idea has changed the way we do business, entertain ourselves and archive our personal lives. Tell me, how has YouTube affected your life?

 

Geek Mom Strikes Again


Scratched lens on my camera phone. Grrrrr….

The truly frustrating part is that all my pictures come out foggy, hazy. I have another camera that I use, but the fun convenience of being able to snap a worthy photo on my phone has evaporated.

Well, say what you will about the design flaw that has a protruding camera lens, one of the things I love about my Evo is that it is entirely repairable.

My first step was to take a trip down to my local, friendly Sprint Store. The techs there are always pleasant, but I have to be honest, they’re not capable of anything more than regurgitating the statement, “Let me put your phone on our diagnostic tool for you.”  They weren’t permitted by Sprint to make any other types of repairs and suggested a phone repair shop a few doors down. Alternatively, they were also quite happy to help me into a whole new phone.

The thing is, I was only willing to pay someone to replace the lens cover if they were authorized Sprint repairs. And there was no way I was going to purchase an entirely new phone over a small repair. The technician looked at me with shock when I replied back, “That’s OK, I’ll do it myself.” I’m certain that he never expected a 30-something year old lady with a 6 year old boy in tow was capable of handling things herself. Well guess what? I’m a Geek Mom. I got this.

$3.99 later + $2 shipping, I’ve received my replacement lens cover. Yup, $6 total for the parts.

Turns out, replacing the lens cover is ridiculously, stupidly easy. As in, my 9 year old son more than likely could have handled it. Want to know how?

1. Remove the back cover and battery.

2. With a box-knife blade pry off the outer ring and the lens cover.

3. Place the new lens cover and outer ring on the phone. New adhesive was included.

4. Attach battery and back cover.

Done. 5 minutes and $6. Who’s yo mama now?

Before

After

Down the Rabbit Hole


DING!

DING!

DING!

My phone notifications were insistently dinging at me. My hand hovered over my phone as I stopped myself short. I was driving and – immediate safety issues aside – I wanted to model good behavior for my children. When they start driving, I want them to have an example of someone who ignores their phone while the car is in motion.

This thought sent me down quite a mental rabbit hole!

My older son will be driving in 6 years and I wondered just how much technology would be different. Looking back at my life 6 years ago, I can see an incredible evolution. In 2006 I had just delivered a baby. My cell phone was only used for phone calls. I did not use it to text, take pictures, browse the internet or check email. My phone did not connect to any other devices, and while Bluetooth was out there – it wasn’t widely used among my circles.

Today, my phone connects me to my entire life. Email, photography, text, chat, video calls, Google searches, navigation, streaming video. Many new cars today are equipped to integrated with your phone for music, remote start, navigation and a variety of services. I can dial, text and compose thoughts through voice commands on my phone and I’m glued to my Bluetooth headset while driving.

So where will we be in another 6 years? Personally, I think the entire problem of texting and driving will be eliminated by then. I have no access to the secret labs at Apple, Microsoft or Google. It’s pure speculation. The speed of technology evolution is amazing.

Further down the rabbit hole I go….

Will our future look like the Cybermen upgrades found in Doctor Who? Will it be more like the implanted data chips found in Johnny Mnemonic? How about “enhanced reality” leaving a permanent virtual layer over our eyes? Further down the road do you see a Matrix-like submission into virtually-created worlds or a Terminator-like automated intelligence dominance? How about a society without currency, like in Star Trek? What type of future do you see?

Last year I shared this video with friends. One told me he felt this reality was far, far off and cost prohibitive to implement. I told him that this reality is far closer than he can possibly imagine. Today, I think we’re 75% there in retail implementation. There really is an app for almost anything and the cost of computing power has come down so far that “smart appliances” are working their way into the American retail market.

 

Where do you think we’re headed? What type of future do you see? Better yet, what’s the next game changer, industry revolutionizer? I have trouble imagining the next simple idea that will completely change the way we think and how we live our lives. But I know it’s out there.

On Dragon’s Wings


This morning I learned that Anne McCaffrey just died.

I can’t tell you the countless hours I’ve spent lost in worlds she created. The Dragonrider’s of Pern was among the first of the science fiction series that truly captured my imagination and mind. I grew up devouring tales of Pern, weyrs, threadfall and dragon’s flight. Through awkward preteen and teenage years I’d escape to Pern, dreaming of bonding with a dragon and sailing through the skies.

As I look back on those years, it’s difficult to put into words just how profoundly her books influenced my life. Short and chubby, with coke-bottle glasses, uncoordinated and clumsy, the “gifted” label placed on me at the tender age of 8 simply cemented the bully’s target onto my forehead. I was awkward, I cried easily and frequently and I honestly had no idea how to relate to most of the kids in my class.

McCaffrey’s heroines were always dealing with much larger adversities, with much more at stake than the simple emotions of one little girl. They were also flawed and made mistakes, they had hopes and disappointments, but they always stood up for themselves and did the right thing. Lessa, Rowan, Acorna, Menolly, Killashandra – they were all remarkable role models that rose above the challenges life threw at them and they did so with grace, humor and style.

Lunch hour after lunch hour, I hid from the cafeteria bullies in my Language Arts teacher’s classroom absorbed in Lessa’s quests, Killashandra’s struggles and the power of the Brainships. These women always looked at the world with a positive view and I desperately wanted to be them. I think I can attribute a good number of my personal values today to their influences while I was growing up.

What I didn’t realize then was that Anne McCaffrey was the first female writer to earn both the Hugo and Nebula awards and that she was reshaping how women were portrayed in science fiction. All I knew, was that these were women I could look up to and aspire to be. To this day, I would take it as a compliment to be compared to any of her heroines.

Soon I’ll introduce these wonderful worlds to my sons, but in the mean time I have some old friends to catch up with. Excuse me, I have some re-reading to do….

Single Mom, Social Butterfly, Insomniac


Single Mom. Social Butterfly. Insomniac

These three qualities have left me with hours of spare time sandwiched between 8:30 pm and whichever wee hour of the morning my body and mind finally collapse into exhaustion. Bored by television and in the mood to socialize, online networks have provided the window into the outside world I craved.

I have two main sources of direct social connection at the moment: Google Plus and Facebook. I find I use both of them for very different reasons. For years Facebook has given me the opportunity to reconnect with lost friends and stay abreast of the every day happenings of my closer friends and family. Now Google Plus gives me new content discover and interest based connections.

I was delighted when a high school friend tracked me down on Facebook. Reconnecting for the first time in 15 years she told me that her memories with me were some of the happiest from her childhood. Year later, we found our lives hadn’t been that different in the intervening years. We both have 2 sons and are divorced and we still enjoy and easy camaraderie.

Other Facebook friends include grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins and far distant friends who enjoy the posts about my daily life and photos of my kids. Separated by distance, we’re still able to follow the basics of each other’s daily lives. I know when their kids are sick, when they get a raise, a chance to see the picture of my cousin’s wife baby bump, birthday parties, food adventures and all the small details that make up a person’s life. From across the country I’m able to feel like we’re still a part of each others lives.

Recently I’ve noticed a growing trend of broadcasting. I’m observing a lot of chatter: “I’m doing this” or “Pic of kid” or “I am here”. I’m seeing less and less commentary on each person’s broadcast of their life. I don’t know if this is simply busy lives, a growing fatigue at maintaining the social connection, boredom with the homogeneous content or some sort of mix. Even I feel challenged to find relevant comments. After the 100th picture of a friend’s child or pet I find have nothing new to say or contribute. You can only say “How cute!” so many times and still sound authentic. The thing is, I still really enjoy seeing these pictures; I just don’t know what to say without sounding contrived or cheesy.

I find that I’m using Facebook more and more to see the trivial details that breed familiarity but we’re losing the conversation that’s involved with discovery. We share the intimate details of our daily hum drum, but we’ve quit challenging each other to think. This familiarity seems to prevent us from exploring the differences we still share; instead allowing those same differences to drive us further apart. Without the conversation it’s really just a bunch of people all chattering about their own lives.

This brings me to Google Plus

I’ll admit, Google Plus isn’t for everyone, at least not in the manner I use it. For me, Google Plus is about new content discovery and finding new contacts; contacts based on both common interests and challenging view points. The circle format gives me the chance to follow new people while maintaining my privacy and the ability to form long posts means I get more than a 140 character snippet of thought. Instead, there’s a conversation 40 million voices strong.

I understand that not everyone is looking for new content the way I am. Many are simply to busy or hesitant to add new people in to the streams of their lives. “I don’t care about the opinions of strangers” is what I hear from my friends when I talk about Google Plus. It’s not that I care about the opinions of strangers for making decisions in my life, it’s that I find people inherently interesting. I love the discovery of commonalities across distance and I also love having my world view challenged.

One evening my sister and I played a nerdy board game, Settlers of Catan. Both the group of people and the game were new to me, but I had a blast. I was invited back to play again with the group, but the logistics of babysitting make getting there a challenge. The next day, a quick post on Google Plus netted 6 people who were interested in playing online. Within an hour we had an online game setup and using the Hangout feature were able to video chat while playing. Nearly instantaneously I found like-minded people to explore my interest.

The compelling nature of the group Hangout feature is that it allows me to know the people I interact with online face-to-face. True dialog. We share some of the daily chatter, we debate life, we joke, we play, we get the chance to really know each other. Text posts take on more meaning when I can hear their voice reading it to me.

Things I’ve gained:

  • We’ve challenged each other to get fit from across continents
  • Shared meaningful thoughts about our favorite childhood books
  • I’ve come across new art which I purchased
  • Had the pleasure of hearing about how Hangouts started
  • Exposed to new music
  • Debated merits of different healthcare systems in the US versus Canada
I love that Google Plus brings the content, people and ideas to me through my Stream. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a fond place in my heart for Facebook. It’s just that is now where I go to catch up with the people I already know. Google Plus is where I go to find new things and have my mind challenged.
And, as an insomniac, social single mom with hours of quiet time to fill, I’m loving every single minute of it.

The Evolution of a Geek Mom


It was inevitable.

From the day  my mom handed my 11 year old self Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse and one week later Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight the fate of my eventual Geekdom was sealed. Not that I didn’t already have a strong foundation in science fiction and fantasy – I mean I’d already been exposed to Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek and had parents that played Dungeons & Dragons – but up to this point in my life, they were things that just happened around me and weren’t active interests of mine.

Discovering science fiction and fantasy in literature opened the flood gates of my mind. Escaping reality, I could lose myself in the promise of future technology or flights of fancy upon dragon wings. I found myself becoming an avid reader, voraciously devouring each new David Eddings, Robert Jordan and Anne McCaffrey volume within mere hours of acquiring each precious hardback. My dad used to joke about not getting his money’s worth at a bookstore with me. Less than a week after spending $100 at the bookstore I’d be begging to return, anxiously waiting for more.

High school years brought an emerging teenage geek, arriving home on a Saturday night well before curfew to watch the latest BBC releases with my dad. The Doctor, Lister and Rimmer from Red Dwarf and the crew of the Heart of Gold were my Saturday night dates. By college I was a nerdy freshman watching the latest Star Trek incarnation on the community television each Sunday evening.

Up to this point my geek education was not well rounded. Although competent on a typewriter, I had no interest in gaming, computers or other electronic gadgets. To be fair, we were not a family of early adopters and computer usage was not common until my high school years. My first high speed internet experience came in college. Ah, the heady days of dial up internet, eagerly waiting for that glorious “You’ve got mail!”

College introduced me to high speed internet, chat rooms, instant messaging, email and gaming. Spring break consisted of marathon Final Fantasy sessions, reclining on bean bag chairs and surviving on Coke and pizza. I still wasn’t into cutting edge technology but I was beginning to see glimpses of what the wide world of electronics could bring me.

Life after college and in my early years of parenting consisted of technological coasting. Sure I caught all the television programming I could find – Firefly, Smallville, Stargate and even the Doctor Who reboot – but non-academic life and babies are not conducive to reading, gaming and the development of new electronic skills. Work helped me to stay comfortable with computing and software. I’m a smart girl and managed to stay ahead of the general bell curve, but by no means was I a power user of anything.

Fast forward a couple of years. Now a single mom, raising two sons, it occurred to me that they will rapidly outshine me with their own knowledge of technology. Already masters of remote controls, cameras, gaming controllers and general internet usage, I knew that this Stone Age Caterpillar was going to need a metamorphosis if I’d ever be capable of truly grasping how different parenting is now compared to when I was a child.

I made a decision.

This decision finalized my descent into full out Geekdom. About a year ago I decided that I needed to actively pursue knowledge and understanding of current technology. Although competent, I was no longer satisfied with the general computer literacy I had achieved through osmosis – hey, I DO work in the software field. I knew the only way I’d be fluent and comfortable was to just do. Shedding the smug attitude I carried as a frugal gadget-free mom, I surrendered to the arrogant, and equally smug, attitude of the early adopter.

A little late to the game to be a true early adopter, I nonetheless chose to find the top of the line smartphone available to me at that time. Embracing the Android world, tech newsfeeds, reddit and pretty much anything else I could wrap my mind around, I’ve spent the past year transforming myself into a Tech Savvy Butterfly. Metamorphosis never complete, always evolving I knew that I was a true geek when I eschewed a rowdy Halloween party to spend a quiet night in, playing nerdy board games and hibernating with my other online, geeky friends.

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