Wednesday, December 14: Building Family Memories with Xbox

AN XBOX ONE TWITTER CHAT
xboxholidays2
 When: TODAY, Wednesday, December 14, 2016
8:00 – 8:45 pm ET
5:00 – 5:45 pm PT
followed by a 15-minute Facebook Live chat

‘Building Family Memories with Xbox’

Join @MelissaSChapman and friends at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) on Wednesday, December 14 as we chat about Building Family Memories with Xbox!
It’s fun to create family memories and nothing bridges the generation gap like the all-new Xbox One S entertainment system from Microsoft. Join us as we explore the benefits of family entertainment and show why the Xbox One S should be at the top of your holiday wish list!   
RSVP and participate in the chat for a chance to win your own Xbox One S entertainment system just in time for the holidays!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: XboxHolidays) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://bit.ly/2hF9WMM
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#XboxHolidays) on Wednesday, December 14 between 8:00 – 8:45 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!

(OM Media Group, Inc. receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Microsoft.)

Tuesday, December 13: Holiday Entertainment

HOLIDAY ENTERTAINMENT

#FiOSPhilly

When: TODAY, Tuesday, December 13, 2016
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
Join Mary Beth (@5cupcakes) and the #FiOSPhilly team at 8 pm ET on Tuesday, December 13, as we chat about Holiday Entertainment!
Looking for holiday entertainment ideas? Whether it’s a classic movie, family game night or World of Warcraft, we’ve got you covered. Join us as we share our family entertainment ideas and explore why a fast and reliable Internet should be at the top of everyone’s holiday wish list!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win an Amazon Echo Dot home assistant or a Kindle Fire HD 10 Tablet!

(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: FiOSPhilly) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://bit.ly/2hfrHoI
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#FiOSPhilly) on Tuesday, December 13 between 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET.
  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.)

Tools to Reduce Online Distractions

By Tracey Dowdy

Should I ever catch a leprechaun – because, you know, it could happen – my first wish would be to get back all the time I’ve lost on mindless Internet wandering.

You know how it is. You start out with a simple Google search for best Thai restaurants in your neighborhood, and 45 minutes later you’re watching a video of a baby monkey riding backwards on a pig. (Yes, that’s a thing…and yes I’ve watched it more than once!)

If, however, you don’t want to get pulled into the Internet vortex, these apps can help you eliminate distractions and boost your focus:

Freedom

Freedom is based on the premise that “Your time is your most valuable resource” and blocks distracting websites and apps on the following devices and platforms: Mac OS X 10.8 – 10.12, Windows Vista, 7, 8, 10 and iOS 9+ (iPad, iPhone). Users can create unlimited lists of sites and apps you want to temporarily block and the app allows you to schedule the blocked lists or choose to block the entire Internet if you really need to cut off the outside world.

Freedom is a fee-based subscription service, but if you’ve got some bad habits you need to break, it’s money well spent. The monthly subscription rate is $6.99; $2.42 a month if you sign up for a year; or $119.99 if you want to purchase the app and have unlimited access “forever”. There is a limited time offer of 40% off by using the code “FOCUS” as part of a Black Friday promotion.

Focus

Focus is a Chrome extension that will change the way you work online. Once you’ve downloaded the extension, go to the Options page and create a list of your special vices – Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, Pinterest, Cheese.com, Wine.com…wait, that got personal. Anyway, once you’ve created your list, get to work.

Should you get distracted and try to open a blocked page, a beautiful image with an inspirational quote will appear – something like, “It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.” Benjamin Franklin. Along with the quote is an equally inspiring motivational suggestion based on what you’ve listed as your “epic dream”, like “It’s time to focus on starting a business.”  As a Google Chrome extension, there is no cost involved.

Focus Booster

Focus Booster reminds us “Even superheroes need a sidekick.” Using the Pomodoro Technique – a time management system developed by Francesco Cirillo back in the 80’s – Focus Booster is designed to help you maintain your focus and manage distractions effectively. Instead of working against the clock, you work with it, using scheduled breaks to keep you fresh and increase your productivity.

Compatible with PC or iOS operating systems, you can download the desktop timer to your device or sign in and use it online. For a full breakdown of pricing or to take advantage of their free, 30 day trial offer, click here.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Skip Those Checkout Lines with Amazon Go

By Tracey Dowdy

I love grocery shopping. I realize I’m in a minority but I enjoy the process of selecting the best produce, just the right spices, and the freshest ingredients to put together meals for my family. What more often than not turns into a bee sting in the eye is the checkout process.

Fear not my friends, Amazon has heard our cry. No more dying slowly inside as you wait behind the extreme couponer. No more standing behind the woman with 47 items in the 8 items or less lane. No more condescending “Please remove items from the bagging area” from the self-checkout computer.

Amazon Go is currently being tested by Amazon employees in Seattle. The concept seems almost too good to be true. Customers simply touch their smartphone to a turnstile as they enter the Amazon Go store, automatically logging on to the store network and in to their Prime Account. That’s it. Start shopping.

As you walk the aisles and add items to your physical shopping cart, those same items are added to your virtual account. If you change your mind or are just browsing, sensors detect if the item is placed back on the shelf and remove it from your online cart. Once you’ve picked up all the items on your list, simply walk out the door. That’s it. Items are tallied and totaled and your Amazon Prime account is charged. The receipt for your purchases is sent directly to your account.

So, how does it work? In a video posted on its YouTube channel, Amazon states it uses “computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion, much like you’d find in self-driving cars” and calls it “Just Walk Out Technology.”

Amazon is also working on developing two other brick and mortar store formats with drive through services as their primary draw. According to The Wall Street Journal, these options should also be opening in Seattle within the next few weeks.

If all goes according to plan, Amazon plans to open 2,000 brick and mortar stores as part of Project Como, Amazon’s long-term strategy to dominate grocery and food sales. Amazon Go is also designed to help Amazon compete with Target and Wal Mart, which have made several moves in response to Amazon’s stress-free, online shopping experience. Both retailers have announced plans to allow shoppers to order online and pick up items curbside or in-store, something Wal Mart already offers but is looking to expand to 1,000 stores nationwide.

Amazon expects its Seattle Amazon Go store to be open to the public in early 2017.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

WhatsApp Introduces Video Calling

By Tracey Dowdy

If you have been a regular user of WhatsApp, you know the one feature it was missing was video chat. Well kids, the wait is over. WhatsApp recently released its long-awaited video calling feature.

That’s great news for the one billion – yes, one billion, users. Perhaps best of all, like the app itself, the feature crosses platforms, meaning you can chat with anyone regardless of whether they’re using an Android, iPhone, or Windows device.

In a blogpost WhatsApp said, “We’re introducing this feature because we know that sometimes voice and text just aren’t enough, and we want to make these features available to everyone, not just those who can afford the most expensive new phones or live in countries with the best cellular networks.”

whatsapp-video-calling-2

The feature couldn’t be easier to use. Simply open a chat and click on the video camera icon in the top right corner. You can swap between the front and rear facing camera, mute the call if you don’t want your background noise to be heard, and of course, tap the red phone button to end the call. It couldn’t be simpler.

The video calls are completely encrypted to prevent unauthorized access by hackers. The encryption limits access to the conversation to the two devices being used for the chat. FaceTime offers similar levels of security but since WhatsApp crosses platforms this means the app will likely see a significant boost in markets like India where 97% of devices are Android. Google’s recent video app, Duo, also offers encryption but compared to the one billion users WhatsApp boasts it isn’t much competition at this stage.

WhatsApp users have been asking for video calls for ages and now WhatsApp has come through for them it will be interesting to see the impact it has on those other video calling platforms like Skype, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts/Duo.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Friday, December 23: A Look Back at 2016

A #MOBILELIVING TWITTER PARTY
mobilelivingWhen: TODAY, Friday, December 23, 2016
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT

‘A Look Back at 2016′

Join @RobynsWorld and the #MobileLiving team at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) on Friday, December 23 as we take A Look Back at 2016!
RSVP and participate in the chat for a chance to win a JBL Pulse 2 Bluetooth portable speaker!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: MobileLiving) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://bit.ly/2fPFD4I
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#MobileLiving #VZWBuzz) on Friday, December 23 between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!