Seduced by power and connection into something really good

I love tech. I love gadgets. I love learning about tech and gadgets and trying new things out with them.

When I go too long without getting a new gadget to play with, I go through withdrawal and rush out to buy ill-advised gadgets that may sit unused for many, many months like my netbook that I bought two years ago. Other times, when I wait patiently for the right time and the right gadget, I find I make a decision that is so right for so many reasons.

My latest acquisition is an iPad. Matt’s wanted one since they came out. I was more reserved. I wasn’t at all convinced of how wonderful they’d be since I had heard how awkward it is to type on them. For months after it came out, I heard more about games and movies on iPad than any actual productivity apps.

Then I went to the She’s Connected Conference in Toronto last October. All I had with me was that netbook I mentioned above and my iPhone. The netbook wasn’t a good option for recording anything about the conference because the battery was dead and there were no available power outlets. So, I was stuck with just my iPhone. The thing that made me change my mind about the iPad was the heckling that this woman did when all my friends on wifi kept losing their internet connection. (The heckling was all in good fun. :) Not only did she have her 3G connection all day, but she also had battery life that meant she didn’t need to plug in all day.

I won’t lie. I got seduced by Shannon’s power and connection. I wanted that for myself, though it wasn’t a high priority since I don’t exactly go to conferences every day.

Several months later, when Matt and I decided to take a trip to the Apple Store, we knew that there was a good chance we’d walk out of the mall with an iPad in our hands.

Though we bought it quickly, sort of on a whim (though it had been in the plan for this year), it took a bit of time for me to fully embrace my new iPad. About two weeks in, I started to wonder if I shouldn’t have jumped in so quickly. I wasn’t using it nearly as much as I thought I would. That was alarming, because it could easily end up being a colossal waste of money if it wasn’t being used.

I had to make more of an effort. This led me to start trying applications I’d downloaded and set up accounts for long ago for my iPhone (for example, Evernote, to name one). At first, I wasn’t convinced it was all that useful. Until I finally downloaded the desktop application, which led to me install the browser add-on and then I noticed integration with several other apps I use on a regular basis. Pretty soon I was carrying my iPad everywhere I went just so I could whip it out with my Zagg to take notes in meetings, workshops, save blog posts with valuable information, read and, of course, play Plants vs. Zombies as time allowed.

I realized something else recently, too. Since I started making a concerted effort to use my iPad more, I use paper less and less. With apps like Penultimate that allow you to write with your finger, who needs a pad of paper? That’s not even close to the only app that allows you to do such environmentally-friendly tasks. There are a host of apps that assist with brainstorming, note-taking, time management and so much more.

Yesterday, when a friend of mine mentioned that the “paperless” society we’ve all been expecting for the last 20 years hasn’t materialized, I started thinking about how close I’m getting to a paperless Karen. Still not there yet, but having moved all of my bills to e-bills, using a second monitor to compare two documents when necessary, taking notes (mostly) electronically rather than using paper, I’m getting there.

More and more I wish that I had the ability to do this or that electronically. One huge example is my bus pass. I want my pass on my phone so I can flash my phone at the driver and not worry that I’ve left my pass in the wrong bag. In the past 18 months that I’ve been riding the bus, I’ve forgotten my phone once. In that same period, I’ve forgotten my bus pass a couple dozen times.

I have big dreams, my friend - a world of paperless/plasticless bus passes being one of them. And iPads for all. Because they are awesome.

What gadget(s) do you love and what do you want it/them to do for you?

Should parents be scared of kids using technology?

I read this blog post today in which the author describes his daughter, who is under 2 years old, and her ability to use and interest in his iPhone. The final paragraph poses interesting questions about children and technology:

It’s hard to know how, as parents, we should handle our kids’ relationship with technology because theirs is the first generation born in this technology obsessed age of Facebook. Is this just part of being a 21st century kid? Or is there something we should do as parents to curtail this?

My first instinct was YES, this is just part of being a 21st century kid and NO, we shouldn’t curtail it. I decided to comment on the piece, because Matt and I both have a healthy interest in tech that has led to a generous supply of gadgets strewn about our home. When I comment, I tend to fly past other comments so as not to be influenced in my thoughts about the post. Then I will go back and read them. Here’s what I said:

I love tech and gadgets. I want my son to love them too. He’s three and he has his own iPod Touch which we bought used to protect our iPhones that are far more expensive to replace. He’s been very good at taking cre of it. He’s also careful with our iPad. We’ve taught him these things.

Here’s my take on it: kids *need* to learn these things. It’s going to be essential for their success in this life. Tech is only going to get more and more integrated in our lives. To cut them out of that would be a real disservice.

That said, they also need to know how to put it down and turn it off. To establish boundaries that they keep – perhaps better than their parents who are the first generation to have these things incorporated into their work/personal lives.

After going back and reading the other comments, I started to wonder if I have it all wrong. Words popped out at me from the comments: worry, scary, misgivings.

iPods are good for more than just playing games. They make nice hats too.I don’t get it. Why is this scary? Do we not remember our parents reacting the same way when we instinctively knew how to use the first CD player we ever touched without reading a manual? I’m pretty sure there was a time in the late 1800s when parents said, “I don’t see why Billy needs a phonograph. If he gets one he’ll spend all his time playing with it. I don’t like these new-fangled gadgets the kids always want.”

And a hundred years from now, parents will be saying, “No, Billy, you can’t have a jet-pack. You’re still too young to fly to school.”

Those parents who dealt with the phonograph handled it. My parents who had the VCR to contend with handled it. We’ll be able to handle the iPhones and I’m happy to leave the jet-pack question to my great-great-great-great grandchildren.

I used to be the non-mom who swore up and down that I wouldn’t let my kids play video games or watch TV. Well, Brandon’s (almost) three and I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve broken both of those vows - many times.

You know what else? We also turn off the TV. And the iPod. And the iPhone. We play with Brandon - inside and out. We take him places around town and he’s slowly learning to play with other children.

It isn’t scary that a child so young can unlock an iPod/iPhone and use it. Children learn by watching and it only takes a couple of times for them to see how mommy or daddy do it - and voila, they do it themselves. Brandon unlocked Matt’s iPod Touch for the first time when he was about 18 months old. Now he has his own (bought used) and he knows how to pick the music he wants to listen to (he also figured out how to delete it), open any app he wants and play the games I’ve installed for him.

I think the iPod Touch is just about the greatest kids’ toy ever. And you know what? For the price of about four or five Leap Frog interactive educational toys, I can buy the (used) Touch along with countless interactive educational games that he loves that is compact and extremely portable with zero loose parts to lose and scatter all over the world. As a bonus, I’m teaching Brandon to love Angry Birds, much to his father’s chagrin.

As I said in my comment on the blog, teaching children how to set boundaries around the technology that they will grow into adulthood with is what our biggest challenge is. Trying to bar them from any access to technology is futile and, in my humble opinion, probably not the wisest decision. Children need to learn how to use technology. They need to learn about the negative sides, like spam and other deceptive practices that are used. Parents can help their children navigate these issues, teaching them along the way. The end result that I hope for is a child who has a healthy interest and attitude toward technology, gadgets and the time spent using them.

How do you deal with gadgets and children in your house? Do you think restricting gadget use entirely is more beneficial? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


I recently read this post by Maranda of Momicon and I love her perspective and the balanced way she applies it with her kids. Tech, gadgets and games are a legitimate interest - just like playing sports and other childhood activities.

Gadget withdrawal abated

I haven’t bought a new gadget for myself in about 2 years. (I know. Shocking, isn’t it?) The last one was my Treo 700wx. I’ve been hearing about netbooks for a long time, but I haven’t really been too interested until the last few weeks. And Friday night, Matt bought me one. After playing around with it, getting it set up and using it for a couple of days, I can definitely say I like it.

We got the Acer Aspire One in navy blue, which is a nice change from black or grey gadgets, though I have to say I’m dying to get something that’s red - particularly if it’s the Sony eReader. I don’t know why, but the red stuff really appeals to me.

I was ready to return my netbook yesterday because it was slow to the point that I’d click on a link, then go do something that didn’t require Internet for about 5-10 minutes until the page loaded. That worried me. Then I figured out that this slowness didn’t happen when it was plugged in to the power adaptor…thus, I turned power save mode off on the wireless adaptor. Problem solved. (I know, I know - my battery life may turn to crap, but I least I don’t want to throw my netbook out the window anymore.)

It’s been a good few days for me, electronically speaking. Today I managed to get a second monitor back in my workstation and whew…it’s such a relief. I’ve really been missing that the last two months. Once you get used to two, it’s hard to go back to having only one. And I really LOVE Ultramon. If you’re using two monitors, get Ultramon! It’s so inexpensive and a huge timesaver.