Friday, November 15, 2013

Google Easter Eggs

Easter EggsI'm not a huge Google fan (ironic, I know, since I'm writing this on a Blog), but I do like some of the things they do for fun.  I was scrolling on my Facebook history and saw this item that I posted:

1. Go into Google.
2. Type in "Where is Chuck Norris?"
3.  Go to the first result.

Go ahead and give that a try.  I'll wait.  Trust me, it's worth it.

I was thinking about some of the other clever things I've seen on Google and did a search for their Easter Eggs.  I found a big list, so I thought I'd share this link with you.

I've got to say that my favourite from this list was the Harlem Shake on YouTube (I never thought I would be referencing the Harlem Shake in a techie blog, but there you go!).  Actually, all of the YouTube ones were good.

I like the Google Doodles too.  Sometimes they are really creative and fun.  Not that I always care that it would have been so and so's 436th birthday, but it can still be interesting.  I guess what I enjoy is seeing the ideas that someone has taken and run with.  You don't really know what to expect, and sometimes they are just amazing.  It's weird that you can get people talking about a search engine page.

So, have a favourite Easter Egg?  Let me know.  Also, feel free to share some more.

Cadbury's Dairy Milk Caramel Easter Egg Gooey!
This is probably my favourite type of Easter Egg!
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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Nerd: Unplugged

It seems to be more and more difficult to unplug. Don't have internet? No worries, just use your phone. Take your gadgets everywhere. We go trailer camping as a family to a place in the middle of no where. When I was growing up, you could get one television station in the bay. You could pick up one AM radio station and one FM station during the day, but at night with a short wave, you could pick up stations from across the world. It was fun to play with the dial and see what we could find. When I first got a cell phone, it didn't work in the bay. If we drove out to the main road, we could get cellular which was handy if we needed to make an emergency call. Prior to that, you would have to find a neighbour with a landline, or drive to the payphone. Now you can get cellular right at our site. I'm not thrilled about this. I go camping to relax and spend time with my family. It used to be the one place where you could truly unplug (especially before we had electricity). Now, it's just like anywhere else. My Nerd actually brought a laptop, tablet, and his Windows phone camping with us. He was able to do work for a client from there. We were only gone for 4 days, but he wasn't able to unplug (even though he had his out of office e-mail set, people kept calling or emailing him). Personally, I didn't find it as relaxing with all the gadgets.

Camping with a NerdMy Nerd's Gadgets on the picnic table
Now, I'm not completely blameless. I brought my iPhone too and made some Twitter comments and checked my Facebook. But I played solitaire with real cards for a change. And my daughter challenged me to a game of cribbage. We all had fun playing UNO one night.

I think that sometimes you just need to unplug everything. Let it go for awhile and enjoy the quiet--remember what that is?  So what if you don't reply to an e-mail right away? If a phone call is important, they'll leave a message. Relax, and just be.

By the way, the Nerd was the one who said I needed to make a post about camping with him.  We did find one place where cellular was not available--truly in the middle of nowhere on the edge of Georgian Bay.  And it was blissful :)
Cabot HeadOne of the few places where no cell signal was available--bliss!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Dumb Ways to Die is Brilliant!

As you can probably guess, my Nerd listens to many, many podcasts over the span of a week.  Most of them do not interest me in the least.  He listens to computer tech stuff while I prefer podcasts like Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project--still a little nerdy, but not quite as technical.  Anyway, my Nerd finished listening to a podcast this week and told me that I should look for an app called "Dumb Ways to Die" for my iPhone (not yet available on his precious Windows Phone).

So, I did a search, found it fairly easily and added it to my phone.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but the title pretty much says it all.  It's a game that you play to try to avoid dying in very dumb ways.  I started laughing as soon as the main screen came up and an astronaut's helmet popped off and his head kind of gushed out.  Gross, but since it's a cartoon, it's not gory.  This is a game that you need to play with the sound on.  Beware!  The music will get stuck in your head.

It's a game of speed and accuracy.  My very first task was to put mustard on a hot dog.  I didn't get it right, so my pet rattlesnake bit me.  You get three lives each round and things get progressively faster as you go on.  As your score gets higher, you receive an additional character in your train station.  My Nerd watched me play and we were both cracking up, trying to figure out how to beat each task.  When I scored enough points, I got to watch the video.  After watching the video, I realized that the song and game are actually public service announcements!  How brilliant is that?  The PSA was created by Metro Trains in Australia, to promote safety near trains.  You can also take their safety pledge.

I showed the game to my girls the next day and they both couldn't wait to play.  They giggled as they tried to keep from dying and they played the video over and over and over again.  Let's just say that the song is a big earworm.   The girls couldn't believe that people would be so silly to do such dangerous things such as "us(ing) your private parts as piranha bait".  They got the message of the song without any prodding from me.  Doing any of these dangerous activities are sure to kill you, including going around the gate at a level crossing, crossing to the other side of the tracks, or standing too close to the tracks.

I think this PSA is brilliant because it gets the message across in such a fun way.  My girls will probably be singing the song for weeks to come.  Hopefully they continue to remember to be safe around trains too.

You can see the video for yourself here:

EDIT: About a week after posting this, I was driving my girls to the library. There is a set of train tracks near the library, but we don't often have to stop. This time we did. It's a level crossing with lights and a bar. My little one pipes up from the backseat, "Look mommy, it's patience, just like Dumb Ways to Die". See, one of the games in Dumb Ways to Die is completing the word patience at a level crossing. If you don't complete it, the car jumps in front of the train to disastrous results. I'm glad that even my youngest got the point of the message.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Learn a New Language in a Nerdy Way: Duolingo (appen) är min nya lilla hobby.Sometimes you get introduced to something techy that you weren't looking for, but you suddenly realize that it is what you need.  That happened to me a little while ago.  My Nerd was talking with another Nerd and they got talking about the fact that the Nerd friend was learning Italian through a web site.  I've been wanting to progress beyond my very basic Italian for sometime, so this sounded right up my ally.  We both signed up and I got cracking.

The site is and it is free!  Sign up is a breeze and you can start taking lessons right away.  You can learn English, Italian, German, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.  When I started, the Italian was in Beta, but it has been upgraded now.

Your homepage looks a bit like a flow chart.  Some lessons are required to be completed before you can move on to others.  Sometimes you will have a couple of subjects available to learn.  Lessons aren't the type of lesson where you sit down and learn this is how you do this.  They start very basically with words and pictures.  You are asked to enter the correct word or article.  If you get it right, you go to the next question.  You have 3 hearts per lesson.  You lose a heart for every mistake, and if you make a mistake when you are out of hearts, you go back to the beginning of the lesson.  I have spent a lot of time in some of the verb tense lessons.  That is the time I'd like someone to just go over the tense rules with me so that I can get it.

Lessons get progressively difficult as they continue to build on what you've already learned.  When new words are introduced, they are highlighted so you can click to find the definition.  When you complete a lesson, you get 10 points for finishing, then another point per heart left.  When you finish all the lessons in the subject, you get a cup and can move on to another topic.  Nerd friend and I are friends on the app, so I get a notice every time he passes me in points.   When he passes me, I work a little harder to gain the lead again.  A little friendly competition keeps it interesting.  The really cool thing is that he is in England and I am in Canada.

You can take lessons online, or you can use the iPhone app.  I like both options, they both have different benefits.  Lessons have a variety of questions.  Some are read to you and you have to give the English translation--on the iPhone, for this option, sometimes the words are given to you and you just have to choose which ones to use and in what order.  Some questions are dictation.  You have to type what is said to you.  I started out having to use the slow speed for this, but I can now get most of the dictation in the fast speed.  For new words, you sometimes pick the article and type in the word.  Some questions are multiple choice.  They give you the sentence in Italian, and there are 3 different responses in English.  You have to choose which one(s) are correct.

On the website, I like the feature that you can report an error.  From time to time, the correct answer is not correct.  Being able to report it flags it for someone to look at and fix.

I guess the real question is am I learning any Italian?  And the answer is that I am.  I realized it when I saw an Italian cartoon posted on a friend's web page and I was able to get the joke.  It was a great feeling.  I don't know that I'll be able to speak much Italian, but I will have to bug my father to speak it with me and see if I'm getting anywhere.

If you are looking to pick up a new language, or just strengthen one you already know, you should give it a try!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Nerdy Thing Happened at the Mall Last Week

Friday night, we took the kids to the local mall for some shopping.  Both girls wanted to buy a gift for the other, so it was supposed to be a short trip.  As we were walking down the main hallway of the mall, what did we spot but a Windows Phone booth.  You think I'm kidding, right?  How is it possible that they have a booth demonstrating the Windows Phone in the mall and my Nerd is the biggest Windows Phone Nerd of them all?  I'm not sure, but it really happened!

The girls both rolled their eyes when they saw Daddy make a bee-line right for the first guy he saw in a Windows Phone shirt.  He whipped out his phone and they started talking.  The guy must have felt sorry for me because he pointed me over to the counter where a couple of ladies were ready to give me a polish.  Normally, I shy away from that kind of thing, but hey, it was a chance to sit down while he was talking and get my nails polished for free, so I took it!

Normally while you get your nails polished, they tell you all about the phone.  I'd explained that my husband was the one chatting with the demonstrated, so we talked about other things while she did my nails.  My little one also had her nails done too.  Best part?  We got to keep the bottles of polish.  They were tiny, but that's OK!  The polish came in a variety of colours, all made exclusively for Windows Phone to match the colours of the tiles on the phone.  So, my nails are a greenish/aqua colour and the little one's are a rosy pink.

Windows Phone Nail Polish
Here are our bottles of polish.  Pretty!
When we finished with our polishes, he was still talking and basically teaching the demonstrators some tips and tricks.  We left him there and went on our way to Tim Horton's for the a treat.  He eventually caught up to us and we continued with the reason we went to the mall.

He told me he walked past their later when he was helping our oldest daughter pick out a gift for our youngest, and the guys wanted him to talk some more.  I'm pleased to say that he showed restraint and did not get pulled back in.  He would have had a very upset little girl on his hands if he had!

What do you think of this kind of campaign for Windows Phone?  Do you think it makes a difference in getting their product out there?   I feel a little like they are saying that women will like the phone because it's pretty, kind of like we won't get how to use it like a guy will.  The fact that I can match my live tiles to my nail polish colour really is not a selling point for me.  I appreciated having my nails done, but I will buy a phone based on how it works for me.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Streaming Music on iPhones

I love my music !It's been awhile since I've talked about any apps, so I thought we'd talk about some music streaming apps.  My job allows me to work from home, and when I don't have to talk on the phone, I can listen to music (this is true in the office as well, but I need earphones to do it there--and not allowed to use my phone!). Sometimes I get tired of my playlist, and that's where streaming music comes in.

I've been using Jango for some time. I was using online before I even had my iPhone. I like Jango because you can create stations based on music you like. You add a few artists you like and it will find others like them. With your personal stations, you can give songs a thumb up for more play, or a thumb down to remove a song from your rotation. You can also choose one of Jango's many stations broken down by categories, decades, styles, you name it. You have the opportunity to listen to new artists with similar styles and vote on whether you want to hear more from them or not.

 This week, I was scrolling through the app store and found a new (to me) app called Songza. It sounded really cool, so I downloaded it and found out it is really cool! You start at the concierge with the day and time listed and you have 6 musical choices. Tonight I have "Bedtime", "Brand New Music", "Looking at Pictures of your Ex", "Love and Romance", "The Holidays", and "Unwinding". I went with Unwinding. You then have 6 more choices to help to choose the mood of the music you'll be listening to, then you can choose between 3 stations. If you scroll down, you can find similar soundtracks too. Tonight, I chose 80s Memories, and 80s Slow Dance. It's a great mix of 80s love songs and it's really mellow. Yes, I love 80s music, and I know that makes me a completely different kind of nerd than the one I married.

80s Radio cassette playerWhat I like about Songza is that you have a lot of choice. Every day or time of day has different choices listed to let you choose new stations. Stations that you've listened to before are stored, so if you want to listen to them again, no problem! I use the free versions of both of these apps. Jango has ads sometimes, but I usually only hear them when I skip a song. I could connect with my Facebook account to get rid of the ads, but they don't bother me enough to make me take that step.

Something important to know about streaming music: it uses a lot of data! You're streaming music over the internet, so unless you have unlimited data, you'll only want to use it where you have access to wi-fi. This is why I only stream music when I'm at home. If I used it anywhere else, my phone bill would be through the roof! And let's face it, we pay way too much for data packages in Canada as it is, I'm not giving my carrier any more money than I have to!

So, let me know, which apps do you like for streaming music? I'm always up to try a new one!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

When Technology Goes Wrong--Fun with Handsfree


As you've probably noticed, I love to give my Nerd a hard time about his phone.  He's a Windows Phone guy and people have asked if he works for Microsoft because he talks about his phone that much.  Of course, when something on his phone doesn't work quite right, I am quick to remind him that I don't have that problem with my iPhone!

A couple of weeks ago, he was using the hands free voice recognition software on his phone to text his sister.  The kids were in room too (you'll see why that is an important piece of information in a moment).  Usually, he'll say, "Text so and so" and his phone will say, "Texting so and so, say your message."  This time, when he said, "Text my sister", for some reason, maybe some ambient noise in the room, the phone didn't recognize what he said.  Instead, it decided to do a search for what it 'heard', so it said, "Searching for three-way sex, my sister".  No really, that is what it said--out loud, with the kids in the room.  I nearly fell over laughing.  It was so funny to see the look on his face and watch him jump to cancel the voice program.  Our youngest didn't get what was so funny, but that didn't stop her from laughing.  Our 10 year old was concerned that the phone used a "bad word" about her aunt.  I still laugh over it now because it was so unexpected and I don't think I've seen my Nerd get so embarrassed about something.  He told me I couldn't Facebook it, but he didn't say I couldn't blog about it!

The very next day, the girls and I were coming home from church with my parents in my dad's van.  Dad had a golf game scheduled with his friend and wanted to let him know we'd be home soon, so he turned on his bluetooth handsfree device.  My dad isn't technically inclined, so I was impressed that he had bluetooth and knew how to use it.  He kept telling it who to call, but it kept coming up with different people in dad's phone book.  Every time it did, we all started laughing, so poor dad got frustrated.  I eventually used his phone to dial the number for him so that he could talk using his bluetooth, but his friend wasn't home after all of that effort and dad was able to call him when we got home.

Handsfree devices and voice commands are supposed to make it easier to communicate, but I find that they end up being more annoying than anything else.  We have a Blue Ant something like this in our car:

It's handy, but I only use it when I have to because to get it to dial out, you have to say, "Blue Ant, speak to me." You have to say it loudly to get it to respond, so if you have the windows down, you get some funny looks if you are alone in the car. It's not a bad little device, but I prefer dialling the phone, talking, hanging up and then driving. When I used to work late, I liked having handsfree so that I could talk to my Nerd while I was driving home, but now that I work from home, I don't drive as much, so I don't use it at all. I leave it to the Nerd instead.