Friday, December 19: Tech for the Holidays RECAP

Join Monica Vila and special guest Chris Fleury (@cfleury) as they talk about tech for the Holidays, look at some of the best deals in wireless technology, and help narrow down the choices for that perfect gift!
Interested in a Mobile Makeover? Fill out the #VZWBuzz Makeover Application and you could win a brand new smartphone or tablet and be invited to appear on a VZWBuzz Video RECAP!

Use Master Accounts to Simplify Your Digital Life

By Robyn Wright

It used to be that we could use one computer for everything. Then we added laptops. Next came smartphones, and then tablets too. All of these devices can simplify our lives, but if we can’t share information between them, it can actually make things more difficult. Using master accounts to connect our devices makes accessing and sharing our information, documents, photos, and data that much simpler.

The major players for these master accounts are Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Not so long ago these master accounts were only for use on compatible devices but now many of them can be used across different platforms. I find Google and Microsoft to be the most cross-platform friendly.

As you connect and share data on your master account, you run the risk of losing some privacy along the way. Finding a balance between simplifying your life and protecting your privacy is key. This is why I also advocate using strong passwords and changing them frequently.

Google Accounts

A Google account is probably the most popular and flexible master account, as it can be used for so many things. If you are a Gmail user, then a Google master account clearly makes the most sense. Android devices use a Google account as the primary account for keeping everything in sync. If you use Chrome as your browser, then signing in with your Google account lets you share all your bookmarks across all of your devices. Google Docs, Google Drive (cloud storage), YouTube, Blogger, Google Photos, Google+, and the Play Store are just a few of the services that you can control via a single Google account.

Microsoft Accounts

This is the one I use the most, because I access Office 365 and OneDrive multiple times every day. Your Microsoft account also gives you access to Skype, Xbox Music, Xbox Games, Outlook email, and more. All your contacts will be synced across all your devices, and you can see all your Microsoft related purchases and services in one place. If you use a Windows based device, you will automatically be logged into your profile. Similar to Chrome, you can also see bookmarks in Internet Explorer across all of your devices.

Apple ID

If you are a Mac or an iPhone user, you almost certainly have an Apple ID already. This lets you manage and purchase music, apps, and mobile content via iTunes. You can also access your iCloud account, order photos, and book One to One personal training at Apple stores.

I suggest that everyone has a Google and Microsoft account, as there are so many connected services. The Apple ID is really only needed if you are using Apple-specific services and products.

Be sure to check your account page regularly – at least once a month – to see if there are any new options or services, to update your password, and to view activity to make sure your account is stable. Having one or all of these accounts will greatly simplify using multiple devices and make sure your data is available where and when you want it.

Robyn Wright is a social media specialist and blogs on her own blog, RobynsOnlineWorld.com, as well as several other sites. Robyn has a love for family, technology, food and lots of apps!

Friday, January 23: Managing Your Online Profile

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, January 23, 2015
12:00-1:00 pm PT
3:00-4:00 pm ET

‘Managing Your Online Profile’

Join @thetechdad @theonlinemom @RobynsWorld and @geekbabe TODAY at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET) as we chat about Managing Your Online Profile!
These days if people want to find out more about us, they turn to the Internet. So what are they going to find? We look at the importance of establishing a positive online presence, and explore how mobile devices are playing an increasingly significant role in determining how we are perceived!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win an LG Tone Bluetooth Headset or a Droid Turbo smartphone!
Plus, join @theonlinemom and special guest @jeannewmanglock on the Video Recap right after the chat for another chance to win a Droid Turbo!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://bit.ly/1Jmp0W8     
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 12 – 1 pm PT
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Understanding Tech Specs

By Tracey Dowdy

It’s no secret that technology moves at the speed of light and in the time it takes to type this sentence there’s probably been four updates to iTunes.

Not only is it a matter of keeping up with trends, it’s important to have a basic knowledge of rudimentary tech terms. Without that foundation, it’s difficult to know what to look for when choosing new devices. How much RAM do you need? Should you store your images in the Cloud? What’s a pixel?

This handy glossary of basic tech terms should help.

App – An app (application) is basically another word for program. It’s simply software designed to perform a specific task and most commonly refers to programs or games on smartphones and tablets.

Bit – The smallest unit of measure on a computer. Eight bits = One byte

Cloud storage – Instead of locally – e.g. on your hard drive – data is stored, managed and backed up remotely and made available to users via a third-party network.

Driver – A program used by the operating system to run hardware like the sound or video cards. Drivers should be updated periodically to maintain peak performance.

Firmware – Permanent software embedded into read only memory (hardware) which runs programs on the device.  Firmware also allows updates to be downloaded to the device.

Flash Drives are portable memory sticks that connect to computers via the USB port. They allow for easy transfer of files, images or videos between devices.

LTE (4G LTE) – LTE or Long Term Evolution is the process for transmitting high speed data for mobile technology. 4G simply refers to the fourth generation of LTE technology. The speed and performance of 4G LTE allows for faster downloads and performance when compared to previous versions.

Megapixel – Pixels (Picture Elements) are what comprise your computer image. They are tiny, square dots and the more pixels the better the image quality. A megapixel is one million pixels.

Near Field Communication (NFC) allows devices to communicate wirelessly when in close proximity to one another, often just a few centimeters away, or by tapping devices together.

Operating System – Commonly referred to as OS, the operating system allows a device’s software to communicate with its hardware. It manages tasks and resources, and executes programs. Common examples are Microsoft Windows or Mac’s iOS Yosemite.

Peer-to-peer (p2p) is a type of network that links computers directly to one another rather than to a server. Resources and bandwidth are shared which reduces the demand on individual participants. Most home networks are P2P.

Processor: The processor interprets and executes commands allowing a computer or mobile device to operate. Computers have multicore processors which allow them to run multiple programs simultaneously and independently. The more cores, the faster the speed of the computer. Processor speed is measured in megahertz – MHz.

RAM is the computer’s Random Access Memory comprised of tiny computer chips. When you open a program on your computer, it is loaded into RAM which allows it to run faster than if it was running form your hard drive. The more RAM the more data that can be loaded and accessed without slowing down computer performance. When you shut down your computer, the contents of the RAM are dumped. Adding RAM is often the most cost-effective way to upgrade a computer.

Resolution measures the detail of the image on your screen. Generally measured by the number of pixels in a specific area (DPI/dots per inch) or the number of pixels in the entire image (1024 x 768). Apple’s Retina display at roughly 330 dpi exceeds human vision making the display appear smooth and individual pixels disappear.

USB or (Universal Serial Bus) is a standard connection port allowing users to connect devices such as a flash drive, router, keyboard or mouse to a computer.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Upgrading Your Digital Life

By Tracey Dowdy

Time to turn over a new leaf. There’s no time like the present. New year, new start. Had enough of clichés yet?

In truth, it is time to turn over a new leaf and there really is no time like the present. In fact, if you’ve been hitting “Remind me later” every time a software update appears on your screen or you have to scroll through dozens of spam emails before you get to what you actually need, you’re long overdue for an update. By following a few simple steps and with a little effort, it’s easy to streamline and get yourself back on track to an upgraded digital life.

Take the time to update your software. Not only will updated software make your computer run more smoothly, it will save you the aggravation of having to stop and install updates when you’re tasked with a project that requires the latest version. Remember – running outdated software is a security risk. Newer versions will have security patches to fill in the gaps and keep you protected.

While you’re updating and protecting your security, get a grip on your passwords. If you’re not doing so already, start using a password manager. Apps like LastPass will create strong passwords and then store them in an encrypted database.

Get rid of files, folders, pictures, videos, email, programs… anything that’s taking up space and cluttering up your computer. One option is to invest in an external hard drive to store your photos and videos or anything else you want to hang on to but don’t need access to on a regular basis. A second, more accessible option is to take advantage of cloud storage. Both Chrome (Download to Dropbox) and Firefox (Save Link to Folder) offer extensions that allow you to upload directly to Dropbox instead of downloading the program to your computer.

Did you know a cluttered desktop actually slows down your computer? Get rid of shortcuts you don’t use and organize files or images into folders. Similarly, when browsing online use an app like OneTab to condense all your open tabs into one list. When you need access, click on individual links or restore them all at once.

Clear out your inbox. My friend Brenda has 27,000 unread emails. Not going to lie – I died a little, cried a little, just typing that. The easiest way get your email organized is to archive messages you want to hang on to or delete messages you won’t need again. I recommend clearing out email in groups. I search my Gmail for sites like Pinterest and once the list is loaded, Select All and then Delete. Another great tip is to use Unroll.me to unsubscribe from multiple sites at once. Once you sign up you’ll see a list of all your subscription emails and you simply choose the ones you want to unsubscribe from. I had 137 lists I was subscribed to and got rid of an even 100 of them in about 2 minutes.

Cut the cord. Cord cutting is the trend of disconnecting from traditional cable and satellite packages and taking advantages of services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Apple TV and Amazon Prime. The average cable bill is approximately $123 a month or $ 1,476 per year – that’s a lot of money. Depending on your viewing habits, dropping cable and taking advantage of online and streaming services may be a better – and cheaper – alternative. Check out this guide to see if cord cutting is an option for you.

Once you’ve got yourself organized and upgraded, keep it up. Once a week, once a month – whatever works for you – do a little housekeeping. It takes time and effort, but like anything worthwhile, you’ll be glad you did it. Remember: New year, new start.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Friday, December 12: The Smart Home RECAP

Join Monica Vila and special guest @SugarJones as they look at the options for creating a smarter home!
Faster networks and smarter apps have produced a whole new generation of connected devices for the home, including Bluetooth speakers, security cameras, smart thermostats, and more. We look at how these devices are changing the way we live, and explore the future possibilities for this rapidly expanding sector of the mobile lifestyle!
Interested in a Mobile Makeover? Fill out the #VZWBuzz Makeover Application and you could win a brand new smartphone or tablet and be invited to appear on a VZWBuzz Video RECAP!

 

Friday, December 5: Choosing The Right Data Plan RECAP

Join Monica Vila (@TheOnlineMom) and special guest Robyn Wright (@RobynsWorld) as they talk about how to choose the right data plan!
With more people switching to plans with unlimited voice and text, it’s now all about selecting the right amount of data. Join The Online Mom as she examines the different ways in which our smartphones and tablets consume data, and identifies the tools that can help us find a plan that is perfect for our needs!
Interested in a Mobile Makeover? Fill out the #VZWBuzz Makeover Application and you could win a brand new smartphone or tablet and be invited to appear on a VZWBuzz Video RECAP!

Friday, November 21: How To Shop For Technology RECAP

Join Monica Vila and friends LIVE from Chicago, as they chat about new ways to shop for technology.
The VZWBuzz team is in town to celebrate the opening of Verizon’s latest Destination Store right in the heart of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Help kick off the Holiday season by exploring the unique Lifestyle Zones and experiencing the latest in mobile and home technology!
Interested in a Mobile Makeover? Fill out the #VZWBuzz Makeover Application and you could win a brand new smartphone or tablet and be invited to appear on a VZWBuzz Video RECAP!

Fun and Educational Apps for Learning to Read

By Tracey Dowdy

My daughters are very different when it comes to reading. Sarah is like me and always has at least one, sometimes two books on the go. My oldest is like her dad and reads for necessity, not pleasure. Teaching them to read was interesting. Sarah burned through phonics and early reader books like it was her job. With Ceilidh it felt more like punishment – for both of us. She was no less capable, but because she didn’t like to sit still and read through the assignments, it became a battle of wills.

With all the apps and online resources currently available, a child like Ceilidh can have a very different start. We had to be very creative to keep her engaged and encouraged. For parents today, whether you have a Sarah, a Ceilidh or someone in between, these fun and educational apps are a great resource.

Duck Duck Moose Reading

DuckDuckMooseReadingDuck Duck Moose Reading is built on Common Core standards and teaches kids phonics and reading skills though fun, zoo- based games. Kids learn each consonant and vowel sound though phonics-based activities and games. The relationship between what the letter looks like and what it sounds like is constantly reinforced, and game characters are attuned to the child’s successes and failures, encouraging them to keep trying.

Recommended age: 2+
Platform:
iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
Cost:
$1.99


Starfall Learn to Read

StarfallStarfall Learn to Read is based on the Starfall website. There are 15 mini books, each focusing on a vowel sound each with a fun song and a simple story line. Each page allows kids to read on their own, get pronunciation help or have the sentence read for them. When kids finish the book, there are games and videos to reinforce what they’ve learned and the level of difficulty increases with each book to ensure kids stay engaged and challenged.

Recommended age: 4+
Platform:
iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
Cost:
$2.99


Monkey WordSchool Adventure

monkey-wordMonkey WordSchool Adventure is another great resource for early readers. Mixing phonics and sight reading, the app takes kids through six levels of adventures – as kids master specific skills they move to the next level. With activities like mazes, rhyming games, word searches and identifying letters in flying objects, kids are unlikely to get bored. Advancing to the next level is performance based, so as they master reading simple three letter words they move on to diagraphs and consonant blends.

Recommended age: 4+
Platform:
iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
Cost:
$1.99


Big Bird’s Words … A Sesame Street App

big-birdBig Bird’s Words is a vocabulary building app that opens with a game of “Eye Spy” in a grocery store. Big Bird then challenges the child to use his “Word-O-Scope” (the device’s camera) to go on a word treasure hunt through the house. As the child finds the objects using the camera, the app recognizes the word, sparkles, and says it aloud.

Recommended age: 4+
Platform:
iOS, Android
Cost:
$0.99


Hooked on Phonics

hooked-on-phonicsHooked on Phonics offers an app version of its highly rated learn-to-read system. The initial download includes the entire first unit (three lessons) and one book for free but additional material is available only through an in-app purchase. Kids reinforce learning and develop reading skills through songs, games, stories and lessons. Each skill the reader masters earns them points to be used to customize trophies celebrating their achievements.

Recommended age: 4+
Platform:
iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
Cost:
Free (with in-app purchases)


Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.