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Saturday, January 30, 2010

The iPad According to Geek Brief TV

I've been a fan of Geek Brief TV for months now. Cali Lewis, the show's "shiny, happy" host, delivers short, upbeat, balanced tech reviews. Here's her take on the iPad.

And when you're done with that, search recent episodes for loads of good stuff. iPhone users can go to iTunes and either stream or download podcasts of past episodes.

Follow Cali on Twitter at @calilewis.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Don't Judge the iPad - Till You See The Video

Most people either love or hate the idea of the iPad. This morning's decade-in-the-making announcement may have found you gushing about Apple's latest piece of magic or pronouncing it useless.

But there's also a chance you're firmly uncommitted. Without spilling a lot of verbiage here, I've got a quick challenge for you. Reserve judgment until you see this demo video.

Then watch the buzz over the next few days to see how much of this brilliant post on the Doghouse Diaries actually comes to pass.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Google Voice Tools for Your iPhone

Google Voice Search for the iPhone is so crazy good that once you try it, you'll count on it daily. I've been using this ever since I got my iPhone. It can save you an incredible amount of time. Watch the magic here.
Goog 411 is another can't-live-without tool. It's a free directory assistance service you can use from any cell phone or landline. Besides being incredibly handy, Goog 411 will save you the hefty fee your phone company charges you for regular 411.

Now, Goog 411 doesn't work with residential numbers, but certainly does with any business, hotel, restaurant, drug or department store, or commercial enterprise. Here's how to use it.

Pop the number 1-800-4664-411 into your cell phone or landline speed dial. When you call, give the business name you want first, then city and province or state. You’ll get connected to your number without a 411 service charge.

When you've tried this a few times, try saying “text message” after the service has found the number you want, but before it connects you. Goog 411 will kick you back a detailed text message with the business name, phone and address including postal code.

I’ve used Goog 411 for about two years. It's great when you're travelling and need to connect with the hotel at your destination--or if you're simply wondering when the local London Drugs is closing.

There you go. Two voice-powered wonders from the good folks at Google.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Capture the Good Life with Memiary

Man standing on pebble beach, arms outstretched, rear view
Years ago, I listened to two custodians as I carried some display racks into a school gym for a pavillion at Folklorama, our city's festival of nations. I wasn't planning to eavesdrop, but I caught snippets of their conversation as I made trip after trip out to the truck.

First, they started complaining about their wives. That's bad form for any husband. But then they expanded their negativity, heaping scorn onto their children, employer and neighbours. The level of detail and discontent was astonishing. Nothing was sacred, everyone got the same disdainful treatment, and the whole effort was punctuated by profanity.

So, I started thinking about the quality of our conversations and the role of gratitude in our lives. Our words can have an important role in affirming and lifting people--including ourselves. The way we explain our lives to ourselves has a profound impact on our own happiness.

Recognizing what's right in our lives is not an exercise in self-delusion. It's not about giving real life a saccharin makeover. It's about dropping the charges against the people that surround you--especially those you love--and having the courage to count your blessings.

To that end, I'd like to recommend Memiary, a humble but highly practical program that allows you to capture five things you'd like to recall about your day.

The idea of summing up the good in your day in just five quick thoughts is freeing. There's no, I'm-to-tired-to-journal-that attitude, because it only takes a few minutes.

You don't have to use Memiary as a gratitude journal. It's not marketed as one. The idea is simply to answer the question, "What did you do today?" Why five and not, say, 15--who knows? But Memiary is a great tool for capturing what's good about your life, while you're on the run.

As programs go, Memiary is a simple little thing. But your notes are searchable. There's even an iPhone app (the best way to use it) and a presentation for teaching with it.

Still doubtful?

Ok, ask yourself, a month from now, will you remember five good things about today?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

5 More Essential Tips for New iPhone Owners

Apple's New 3GS iPhone Goes On Sales At Stores
New owners build strong attachments to their iPhones over the first few weeks. If you're one of them, you know a world of features and apps has just opened up and it's bigger than you imagined. You could get lost drilling through the podcast menus alone. While you're playing around and getting used to navigating and living with your new machine, you may appreciate these five tips:

1) More than just .com
You want to enter .edu, .net, or .org. But there's no button for that. No problem. Press and hold the .com key. See how the other options pop up? Slide to one of them, take your finger off the key and voila!

2) Sluggish surfing
If you're like me, you rarely power down your iPhone completely. Instead you pop it into sleep mode and that becomes your default. On occasion, though, you may notice surfing or refresh speeds dipping. Time to give your phone a quick break. Power it down completely by holding that top button. Once you turn it on a minute later, you should find more snap in your browsing.

3) Slow wi-fi?
Download speed in your hotel room seems sluggish? Your 3Gs feels more like a 3G? Test it by going to the App Store and downloading It's free and a quick download. Once it's installed, hit "Begin Test" and watch your download and upload speeds start to register. You won't surf any faster, but it may confirm it's the wi-fi holding things up--not your iPhone.

4) Scared of losing your iPhone?
Well, you should be. But rather than buying any fancy tracking services, go the poor-man's route and download If Found Plus. It only costs a buck, and it let's you tag your phone's wallpaper with your phone number and email address. If your phone ever goes AWOL, you'll give an honest stranger a fighting chance of finding you.

5) Try pocket streaming
You know your iPhone kicks out rich sound for listening to podcasts and internet radio. So, next time you're doing the dishes or other light chores, turn it upside down in your front pocket and keep working. The iPhone's bottom speaker placement makes it perfect for this kind of listening. You don't have to worry about the cords snagging and it beats having those earbuds fall out every few minutes.

Click here for Part One

Friday, January 8, 2010

Who are Those Strange People in our Living Room? A Photo Essay Idea Looking for a Home

Portrait of Family at Party
We bought our current home from a sweet, old, German couple who entertained their extended family in it for many years. It occurred to me that their photo albums were likely replete with hundreds of pictures of people having a grand old time in OUR house. You know, friendly-looking strangers posing by our basement fireplace, in our dining room, perhaps on our front steps; strange kids playing in our backyard--get the idea?

I can imagine sticky photo album pages (you know the ones) with aunts and uncles, children and grandkids, nieces, nephews, and family friends; their faces often smiling, sometimes sad, stressed perhaps. All these folks we never knew, lived out their times in what is now our home. But the evidence of that resides in disparate photo albums spread all over who knows where.

I've often thought "why couldn't a person assemble a few pictures of every clan, every family of owners that has ever inhabited a given house?" What if the project documented two or three generations of people enjoying the same physical space, but in different eras.

Take the old home I grew up in downtown before what was to be my Grade 6 move across town. There could be shots of a war-time bride and groom cuddling in sitting room listening to the radio, a sixties family watching Ed Sullivan in what had now become living room, a young college student off to study in Europe, a single nurse or a widow sitting in an easy chair talking to the boarders she took in to help pay the mortgage.

That home could have had five or six sets of owners, I have no idea. But each would have chronicled their lives in rooms that were familiar to every one of us. A kitchen that would have seen thousands of meals and conversations, light and serious. A living room that gave respite from pressures and worries, and provided opportunities for kids to show off to visitors. Stairs that were skipped over by kids, and loomed like mountains to the infirm. Every room would have seen its share of sheer joy, setbacks, boredom.

Well, I´ve never got around to doing the detective, perhaps even geneological, work it would take to assemble that kind photo essay. But in a wired world, with so many ways to connect, and so many tools to gather, present, and preserve images online, it's possible that someone has already done a project like this.

Sure would like to see one.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Power of Pocket Communities

NHL Playoff Kickoff Party
One of the practical joys of 21st-Century learning is participating in pocket communities. I'm not talking about cozy suburban neighbourhoods with low taxes. Instead, it's my term for Twitter, Ning, Flickr, Wiki, and other online communities you take with you on your smartphone.

Unlike the first generation of web-enabled phones, smartphones actually make the net usable and pocket communities possible.

It's one thing to sit tethered to your desktop or laptop as you trade tips, links, and tweets with friends. It's quite another to follow a workshop, conference, #edchat, or local PD event while at the hockey rink or standing in line at the Safeway.

The ability to carry hundreds of online friends in your jeans, shirt, purse or backpack is really quite empowering. And your vicarious presence at their PD events by monitoring live blogs, streams, tweets, or Ning activity is a gift the community gives to you. After all, your pocket version of a conference tweetboard through Twitterfall is just as useful as the one they're looking at in the hotel lobby half a world away.

With the new Qik and Ustream apps available for the iPhone you can become a broadcaster in minutes and share great PD sessions with your followers and friends. And if you've never tried voice Skyping from the iPhone, you're clearly in for a surprise.

Relationships in online communities define us in a way. We can share with some of the smartest and most engaging people on the planet. We can mentor and be mentored by people we've never met.

The beauty is that now, we can take these friends with us wherever we go, and when we do meet in person, we're all the richer for it.