Category Archives: Education

How to Use Your Social Network

Normally, using someone isn’t a very nice thing to do. The negative connotations surrounding that word tend to make us shy away from allowing ourselves to remember that it can be a positive thing, as well. Yes, you need to give more than you take and the social space is no exception to the rule. However, there’s nothing wrong with using your network when you need to.

Are you thinking of buying a new product? Use your network! Throw out a quick message on both sites and ask for opinions. The people in your community who have used or owned that item will be quick to tell you the pros – and cons. You’ll get real feedback in real time. What better way could there be to help make a buying decision?

Another way to use your network is to reach out and ask for recommendations the next time you plan pretty much anything. Your contacts will jump at the chance to tell you where the hottest clubs and hotels are, which airlines cost the least to fly on and where you should be eating or shopping. You can get quick advice about anything and everything – including which Elvis impersonator is the best.

Thousands of people are out of work and having difficulties finding a new position. Use those networks, people! Let others know you are on the hunt and ask if they know of openings in your field. Make sure you’ve signed up on LinkedIn and fully filled in your your profile. Give that link out any time you hear of a promising lead or whenever you inquire about an opening someone may know of.

Your network can be used for education research and finding out the latest information about breaking news stories. I suppose these examples wouldn’t be classified as using the people in your community as much as it would be expanding your mind thanks to them. Are you stumped on a homework question? Ask your friends for help. If you have Google’d your fingers to the bone and still cannot find answers you need for a project at work, the people you surround yourself with online may have a clue. When you hear sirens coming from every direction in your neighborhood, a quick hashtag Twitter search will likely yield the fastest results. Quite often, you can find out what’s what on your social network ten times faster than you would via your local news station.

The ways in which you can use your social network are virtually endless. Keep in mind what I said in the beginning: give more than you take. The next time someone asks for help you can offer, don’t ignore it because you are too busy. Take the time to help someone and you’ll be repaid tenfold.

What others ways do you use your social network?

How to Buy a Computer

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Buying a new computer can be quite confusing. There are so many brands out there – so many choices. You have to attempt to figure out if you want a desktop or laptop. Then you need to narrow down your choices. How much do you plan to use your machine? What types of tasks will you be performing with it on a regular basis? The answers to these questions can help you figure out which computer is right for you. According to the team behind the Windows Twitter account, a lot of you simply aren’t sure what you are supposed to be looking for when purchasing a new system.

Computers are a lot like clothes: not one size fits all. What you want will be different from what the rest of us want. Microsoft has developed a tool called Windows PC Scout to help you make the right choice. This tool will step you through a series of questions to get you to your ideal machine.

The experts behind Windows went on a hunt to find the best of the best, and the PC Scout will help you figure out which of those works best for you. There are no paid placements. The machines recommended on the site are only there because they were determined to deliver the best Windows experience possible.

If you already have a general idea of what type of specs you want in a machine, the tool can help you narrow down your choices by giving suggestions of the best laptops available which fit your specific criteria. You can choose from categories such as everyday usage, gaming rigs, multimedia machines and connected companions.

The more you spend, then happier you will be several years from now. If you don’t spend much, you’re likely going to become frustrated with the limitations of that device within a much shorter period of time. Many of you feel you need to have the latest and greatest – and that’s okay. It’s honestly all a matter of personal choice. Its’ about what works for YOU.

If what you have right now is working just fine, stick with it – especially if your software is up to date. You need to always keep your software updated… including (and most importantly) your operating system. If you don’t have a computer running Windows 7, I honestly think you should upgrade. Microsoft and software/hardware vendors are developing their products to run most effectively on Windows 7. Yes – they make work well with older versions, but they won’t run at their level best. Don’t you deserve the best?

Earth Hour 2011 Geek Style

Earth Hour 2011 is nearly upon us and it’s time to decide if you are going to participate. It’s pretty easy to shut off the lights and power down your electronics for a single hour. Geeks have never done anything halfway, though, and this should be no exception. There are several other ways you can show your support for this fantastic event, as well as many ways you can make some serious life changes.

At 8:30 PM on Saturday 26th March 2011, lights will switch off around the globe for Earth Hour and people will commit to actions that go beyond the hour. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has lent his voice to Earth Hour’s global ‘lights out’ action calling on citizens of the world to use the moment to make a commitment to one ongoing environmental act: “Switch off your lights and switch on to the meaning of Earth Hour. Join this global call by the people, for the planet.”

How can you take part other than turning off the lights in your home? Why not consider turning the lights off on Twitter? By signing in with your account and choosing your time zone, you’ll be ready to join what could potentially become millions of others in showing solidarity across the popular micro-blogging platform. Once signed in, the application will automatically send out a Tweet to show your support. Then, when Earth Hour hits in your time zone, your avatar will change to a darkened one automagically.

Please note: your avatar will NOT change back! You can either manually change it yourself or click here to put the old one back in its place.

How can you go beyond the hour in your own life? There’s more to it than simply shutting off lights, folks. You can find many ideas on Beyond the Hour, including:

  • Cutting down the use of plastics.
  • Rollerblading, biking or walking to work instead of driving.
  • Switching bulbs to more energy-efficient ones.
  • Recycle products whenever possible.

… and the list continues. You can even add your own pledge and suggestions to help others.

You may not think that it’s such a “big deal” to work on saving this Earth, but I’m pretty sure your kids and grandkids will thank you for it.

Can Your Social Profiles Affect Your Job Search?

More people are pounding the pavement in search of employment than ever before. People from all walks of life and age are vying for the same positions. With thousands of people on the same quest, how do potential employers narrow down their decisions? What happens when two candidates are equally qualified? Years ago, the hiring manager may have simply flipped a coin to make their choice or gone with a gut instinct. These days, though, they are much more likely to turn to the Internet to figure out who should be hired. Your social profiles are a gold mine of information when someone is trying to figure out if you will fit into their company. If you’re about to embark on a job search, it’s time to clean up those pages people.

If you’re like me, you have Googled yourself on more than one occasion. When was the last time you looked at those results as though through another person’s eyes? How incriminating are the profiles you have online? What would the head of Corporation A think about the drunken party pictures on your Facebook wall? I’m sure that the personnel manager of Company B will adore reading about the way you escaped a ticket by lying to an officer, as posted on your Twitter stream. Do you see where I’m going here? You cannot be too careful these days. Potential employers can – and DO – search you out online.

How can you protect yourself, then? We know you aren’t going to stop posting things online. The first thing I recommend is to go back and do that Google search. Go through any and all links you find that have to do with you. If they are something derogatory posted by another person, contact them and see if you can resolve the situation and have the content removed. Be sure to check through the Google image results, as well. I’m not sure you want to see what may be in there, so why would the person you’re counting on hiring you need to?

Facebook is usually the first place a person doing the hiring will look for you. You need to remember that they are not only going to see whatever you post to your Wall. They will see snippets of what you post to others’ Walls. They’ll see any Pages you may have associated yourself with. It’s not a great idea to try for a management job with Peet’s Coffee if you’ve sworn your undying love on Facebook for Dunkin’ Donuts, right? Don’t forget to check out photos that others may have tagged you in – those can be the most dangerous of all! Remove your tag from anything which doesn’t reflect so well on you – pronto! Look at the Groups that people have added you to without your even realizing it. You may want to get yourself out of there – and fast. Also, head into your Privacy center and make sure that pictures others tag you in do not show up in the large picture strip at the top of your profile now. You can do this by heading into the Privacy Settings, click Customize, scroll down to Things Others Share and then choose to customize Photos and Videos I’m Tagged in. While you’re there, you might also want to make sure people cannot check you into places. That could get sticky!

There are many other places a potential employer will gladly check you out. What have you been saying on Twitter lately? Are you ranting like a lunatic about things which don’t even make sense after a long night of playing Quarters in the dorm room? Are there links to half-naked pictures on Twitpic or Flickr? Those are sites you likely hadn’t thought of, but could affect that job you’re praying to get. Take down any photos that your Grandma shouldn’t see, and you should be safe from the prying eyes of the head hunters. Consider making your Twitter account private when heading out on interviews or sending out resumes unless you’re sure there’s nothing incriminating there. Again, remember that it’s not only about what YOU put online… you have to be mindful of what others say to and about you, as well. Twitter apps these days allow us to take a look at @ messges. Even if you post only sweet things on your own account, others may be ranting at you about the sad state of your life. That’s not going to look so hot during the interview process.

LinkedIn is a fantastic resource and one you should be taking advantage of. Sign up for the service and fill in as much information as you possibly can. Be honest – people will quickly find out when you’re lying. Padding your credentials on this site is just as bad as doing so on your actual resume – and is potentially even worse, depending on the type of job you’re going for.

The largest thing you need to keep in mind is that making your accounts private or only allowing friends to see what you’re doing does not necessarily keep a hiring manager’s eyes off of your information. Billy was a college student who applied for his dream Internship – working in a government office. His Facebook profile was set to allow only friends to view. During the interview, though, he was questioned thoroughly about things found on his FB wall. The interviewer explained that as a state agency, recruiters accessed his Facebook account under the auspices of the Patriot Act. Luckily for Billy, he had friends in high places and received his coveted spot anyway. You may not be so lucky.

The easiest – and hardest – thing to do is to not post anything online which could bite you in the ass later. The temptation is so strong, though, to share more of our lives than ever before. You may be fourteen now, but you will be twenty in just a few years. What will the head of that state agency find on YOUR Facebook Wall?

Create New Games with Kodu and Win from Microsoft

The Kodu Kup contest is here! This is a game design competition for kids aged nine through seventeen residing in the United States. The contest began on March 11, 2011 at 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time and ends on May 10, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. ET. There are two categories to enter: the 9-12 age group and the 13-17 age group. You can win any one of some seriously cool prizes – including a copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2010 just for registering – even if you decide not to enter the contest!

Microsoft has provided a Kodu tutorial to help kids get started. Every child who has ever played a game has dreamed of creating one that’s even better. This is their chance! Encouraging their creativity in this contest can help bolster their skills and confidence. Heck, you never know – your kid may be the one to create the next best-selling computer game!

At the end of the contest, qualified judges will select the top six games (3 from each Category) and each finalist will be judged on the following judging criteria:

  • Innovation – How creative and technically unique is the Game? (25%)
  • Fun Factor – How intense, exciting, and entertaining are the attributes of the Game? (25%)
  • Production Quality – How complete is the Game including its polish of design, functionality, and thematic execution? (25%)
  • Presentation – How clear and precise is the Game Summary and Game Play Instructions (25%)

The finalist that receives the highest score in from each of the two categories will be the Grand Prize winners, and the remaining finalists will be the First Prize and Second Prize winners! I know… you want to know what you’ll win, right? Hold your horses, I was getting to that!

Grand Prize Microsoft Prize Pack

  • $5,000 Cash Prize
  • New York Trip for 2 to the Imagine Cup including roundtrip airfare, transportation, 3 nights occupancy at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, and $250 cash
  • Xbox 360 250GB Console with Kinect
  • 3 month Xbox LIVE Gold
  • Toshiba – Satellite Laptop
  • Microsoft – Arc Laser Mouse
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2010
  • Grand Prize Trophy

First Prize: Microsoft Prize Pack

  • Toshiba – Satellite Laptop
  • Microsoft – Arc Laser Mouse
  • Microsoft Office Home & Student
  • 1st Runner Up Trophy

Second Prize Microsoft Prize Pack

  • Zune HD 16GB MP3 Player
  • 1 year Zune Pass subscription
  • 2nd Runner Up Trophy

There will also be four (4) copies of Microsoft Office Professional 2010 given away at random just for registering. Additionally, one “School Award” will be presented, with the winner receiving $5,000.00 in cash and a 1 year Gaming Magazine subscription… from a choice of Computer Gaming World, EGM, GamePro, or PC Gamer.

Get your thinking caps on, and let your creative juices flow! Good luck to anyone and everyone who enters this awesome contest.

How to Diet and Exercise When You Travel

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Conferences are a fantastic way to educate yourself and make new connections with people. They’re also a great way to network at after-parties and gain a little weight. Let’s face it: most conference parties offer food which is full of carbs, sugars and other icky substances. Even though it tastes fantastic, our bodies may not thank us for partaking in the morning. What’s a geek to do to stay in shape while spending so much time attending events? Jake met up with Tim Ferriss – author of The 4-Hour Body – to find out.

Sticking with proteins and veggies can be done at SXSW and any other event you may be traveling to. Don’t feel you have to sample all of the food offered to you during conference lunches and dinner or during parties thrown for attendees. Additionally, if you feel you must drink alcohol, try ordering a NorCal Margarita. This is comprised of soda water, high-grade tequila and the juice from at least four limes. These drinks are the “lesser of many evils” according to Tim, since many types of booze contains a lot of calories.

Exercising in a hotel room can be tricky, and you usually don’t quite feel up to going for a morning run during conference days. Tim has a few ideas to help Jake out there, as well. Packing a few mini bands allows you to quickly do your resistance exercises. You can also adapt several normal types of exercise to give you more of a workout: try doing one-armed pushups against a desk at an angle. Do your squats with one leg raised. Make sure you aren’t a klutz like me before attempting any of these things, though.

If you don’t have any weights in your suitcase or hotel room to help with your workout, try making your exercises much slower than usual. If you’re performing squats, go down slowly at a count of five and come back up at a count of five. The same goes for many other types of stretches and lunges.

Lastly, Tim recommends looking into doing an intense workout the day before traveling which requires giving your body 5-7 days to recover before doing another. This sort of covers you for the days you are gone and cannot work your body to its usual pace.

Tobii Lets You Use a Computer with Your Eyes

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Tobii Technology touts themselves as the world leader in eye tracking and eye control. Their eye tracking technology allows computers to know where the users are looking. When I first sat down to test the software, I was amazed at how quickly it worked, taking less than two seconds to calibrate and figure out what I wanted to do. This seems much easier for users than the intendiX setup I demonstrated a few days ago.

There are millions of people in this world who cannot use a computer in the “normal” way, due to various physical challenges they may have. Some may not be able to use their hands to type or click a mouse, and that’s where the technology from Tobii can make a difference.

Tobii has revolutionized the field by developing eye trackers that work for basically any user without requiring any manual adjustments. Tobii eye trackers combine high accuracy and precision with an extremely high tolerance for large head movement and a variety of environments. The technology is compact enough to integrate into a wide range of devices and applications.

The Eye Tablet was developed using cutting-edge technology whose precision is almost incomprehensible. Not only is this tablet perfect for those with physical impairments, it also works very well in settings where your hands may not be available:

  • hospital room or surgeries
  • malls and stores
  • public venues
  • exhibitions, trade shows, conferences or fairs

It takes only a few moments to set up the Tobii tablet and eye control module. You don’t have to do weird things or wear strange-looking objects. Simply put yourself in front of the screen and perform a speedy one-time calibration. No other adjustments are ever needed. The eye control is fully automatic and simple to use, no matter what experience level you have with computers in general.

The eye control module itself has one of the market’s largest head movement boxes. This is the imaginary box where sensors can track your eyes. This means that it’s not critical to stay in the same place: you can move your head around if you wish. You won’t have to worry about interrupted tracking or losing any functionality. If you accidentally (or purposely) move out of the eye tracking area, the tracker will pick up where you left off when you return – without needing to be calibrated again.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we have talked many times over the years about “the future of technology.” I’d say that future is here. I can’t wait to see the things we’ll have at our disposal in the next few years.

Control a Keyboard With Your Brain Using intendiX

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Have you ever dreamed of the day we would be able to type on a computer without using a keyboard or our fingers? What if it were possible to type using your brain? This is an idea which has been in development for more than twenty years. During ceBIT 2011, Intendix showed off a product designed to help people without motor skills type on a computer. The future of technology is here, folks!

I volunteered to try this cap out, despite being a little nervous – and yes, I am aware I may have looked a tad silly in this getup. The system is based on your EEG potentials, enabling you to select characters in sequence from a matrix on the screen… just by paying attention to your target for several seconds. It’s not a fast process, by any means – but it DOES work.

The intendiX requires a bit of training, but after about ten minutes you will be able to spell 5-10 characters per minute! The cap uses an algorithm to detect what you’re thinking, so that it only selects characters when you pay attention to the system. Besides typing, the user can also use the system to trigger an alarm, make the computer speak written text out loud, print or copy the text into emails or even send commands to external devices!

The extension tool used to control external devices is called the extendiX. It runs on a separate computer which controls other devices and applications such as a television, music, assistive robots and even games. The extendiX receives commands from the intendiX cap via UDP. The entire system is designed around a Brain-Computer Interface:

A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) provides a new communication channel between the human brain and a computer. The BCI system detects such changes and transforms them into control signals, which can be used for moving objects, writing letters, opening doors, changing TV channels and other everyday household activities.

It’s mind-boggling to try and understand all of the technology behind this device and the protocols that make it work. The important thing, though, is that it DOES work. We are watching advances in technology that will literally change the world.

3D Mammography Approved by FDA

Cancer in any form is nasty business. I could sit here all day and write about the horrors of the disease, but I honestly don’t need to. You already know the destruction it causes, to the victim as well as to the family and friends who support them. The statistics are staggering, no matter which variation of this illness you’re researching. For women, the words breast cancer alone can send chills up and down the spine. Those particular numbers blew my mind when I looked them up for this article: on in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime… ONE. IN. EIGHT..

Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among females. According to the CDC, 202,964 women in the US alone were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 (the most recent numbers available), and 40,598 women in the US died from the disease. That’s 40,598 more than ever should have been lost.

Strides are made every day when it comes to detection, treatment and cures. Just Friday, the FDA approved a new 3D Mammography device – the first of its kind. The machines will generate 3-D images of the breast, potentially helping doctors spot more cancerous tumors – and smaller ones. After all, the sooner a tumor is found the better the odds are in the race to the cure.

“Physicians can now access this unique and innovative 3-D technology that could significantly enhance diagnosis and treatment approaches,” said Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s device division, in a statement.

I’ve written before about the Keep-a-Breast Campagin. This is just one of many fantastic organizations dedicated to helping fund research and to help patients. The reason I chose this particular one to support is those fun bracelets which are pictured above. What guy wouldn’t want to sport a tshirt or bracelet which say “I Love Boobies!” in public – and get away with it?

The foundation is dedicated to “helping eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention, early detection and support. Through art events, educational programs and fundraising efforts, they seek to increase breast cancer awareness among young people so they are better equipped to make choices and develop habits that will benefit their long-term health and well-being.”

The purpose of Keep A Breast’s “I Love Boobies!” Campaign is to speak to young people in their own voice about a subject that is often scary and taboo. Sadly, there is a real need to do this: girls as young as TEN years old have been diagnosed with the disease. Although the incidence of breast cancer in young women is much lower than that of older women, young women’s breast cancers are generally more aggressive, diagnosed at a later stage, and result in lower survival rates. In fact, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in young women under the age of 40.

With tech advances such as the new 3D Mammography machine approved by the FDA and campaigns such as I Love Boobies!, we may finally one day be able to wipe out breast cancer for good.

NoteSlate ePaper Tablet

A few hours ago, Lockergnome user Justin posted a discussion about the proposed NoteSlate ePaper tablet. After looking at the specs and what it could do, our community member felt it would be a good device to take with him to classes. This no-frills device doesn’t connect to the Internet. You cannot check your email or Twitter feed and you won’t be poking anyone on Facebook. Instead, you can draw and take notes – in one color.

That may not sound overly exciting, but I have a feeling teachers will love this and may perhaps allow it in their classrooms. Many students around the world aren’t allowed to have any type of devices on their desks during the school day, including laptops for note-taking. Since the NoteSlate isn’t capable of letting them goof off, this may just be a simple answer that instructors have been waiting for.

The device is proposed to come in four different colors: red, black, blue or green. The color that you can sketch and write in depends on the color of your tablet. The 13″ matte screen is perfect real estate for keeping track of your lecture notes, business meeting agendas and even the doodles you make while you’re on a conference call.

You’ll have the capability to save whatever items are important and erase the things you decide are worthless to you. Connectivity options include a USB port, SD card slot, and promises of a “free WiFi module.” No word has been released on what type of processor is used.

Your grandparents used an old chalk slate during their studies since paper tablets were so expensive. In current times, paper is cheap but considered to be bad juju to waste a lot of. You can easily combat that problem by dropping a hundred bucks on one of these devices if they are indeed put on sale later this year.