Family Technology

Family Technology

Family Friendly Technology: Updated march 2018

How many of you have kids who are tech savvy? All of us? They seem to just grasp it and know how to use it the minute the gadget is out of the box! Yet, we need to be in charge when it comes to their online safety, so here are some useful tips in regards to outsmarting the tech savvy teens:

Set up clear internet use rules - define in simple terms what is allowed and clearly and specifically what is NOT and what the consequences will be for breaking the rules.

Computer placement - critical thing in monitoring everybody's usage (even husbands). Place your family computer in a common area in the house, be it kitchen, dining room, family room or family office. Not in kids' bedroom!

Use parental controls - every Mac and PC and most smartphones, music players and tablets, come with built-in parental controls. Set them according to your children age, very restrictive for younger users, less so for teenagers. Monitor their usage and make it known that you are doing it!

Use user profiles - setup a profile for each member of your family to better separate everybody's files as well as prevent digital accidents (Mom, I just put everything in trash, don't you love when I help clean! Want me to take out the trash? - Nooooooooooo!)

Continue to talk to the kids - I think this is the most important tip. You know your kids the best and having an honest and open approach to online safety is the best way to teach them how to be a good cyber citizen. When you talk to them openly, they will be willing to share more about their cyber adventures and you will know when they are pulling your leg or something is fishy!

Learn more about online safety - there are excellent resources available online that cover this subject in great detail. Here are some of them: NetSmartz, NSTeens, OnGuard Online, Family Online Safety Institute and a great site suggested by one of our young readers: Cyber Security Tips for Teens

March 2018 UPDATE: Here is an excellent and up-to-date guide to online safety written by Ariel Hochstadt from vpnMentor.

Call us for more information and individual assistance.

No longer lost in translation..

No longer lost in translation..

I have always liked languages. Foreign languages, especially English had a special meaning for a kid growing up behind the Iron Curtain in early 1970s in Poland. As we were forced to learn Russian from a young age of 8 years old, learning English was a sort of a rebellious thing. I was always fascinated by the sound of American English and from the beginning I began to imitate it and try to speak with an American accent. Not sure exactly why, but it may have something to do with certain Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters..

Fast forward almost 40 years, the Russian forced upon me is almost gone, although as times have changed, you also change your attitude to the languages and cultures. Russian is a beautiful language and I regret not putting more effort into it. I have always liked Spanish as well, which I am learning now using some new language tools, like Babbel and Duolingo. German is very cool and after spending some time in Germany, I have come to appreciate it as well.  

Well, it looks like in the first half of 2018, the language barriers are finally being broken for good. Technology is an amazing tool and the folks at Waverly Labs are doing something that was previously impossible. They came up with a Pilot translator: a combination of cleverly designed earpiece(s), an app, data connection and machine learning, which can instantly translate a foreign language during a live conversation.  

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I had invested in Waverly Labs via Indiegogo campaign some time ago and just received my Pilot. I immediately decided to check my Polish skills, I mean Polish to English translation. I placed the single unit in my ear, entered listening mode and started speaking Polish. To my astonishment, I was being fed an instant English translation to my earpiece. It was a strange feeling, as if my brain was split, at the same time working on simultaneous streams of words. Translation was quite accurate for common phrases, a bit off when using slang or speaking faster. All in all, I was very impressed and as the Pilot learns from more translations, as more users are actively utilizing the system, it will become more accurate. 

Now, off to test the conversation mode. But, first I have got to corner my Spanish friend Julio and give him a hard time about his Los Blancos! I hope the Pilot can keep up with his rapid Castilian Spanish response!

Family of Robots..

Family of Robots..

OK, so I met a little robot and I became obsessed with it and I am not talking about BB-8, which is another story.

The robot I am talking about is named NAO. We met during the <Hour of Code> event in an elementary school in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, USA.

I participated in the event to help little kids get involved with programming (using another awesome robot named Dash, programable with iPads - I will write another post about Dash), but then I saw this cute, blue & white swaying creature on the table and I was hooked.

 Maciek looking lovingly at NAO

Maciek looking lovingly at NAO

I was mesmerized by NAO's persona and was impressed by what he can do and how he can help kids get motivated to explore technology. A high school student introduced me to NAO and I ended up spending the whole evening, first learning about him (studying documentation on my iPhone) and then sharing what I learned with all the kids. 

Technology in general has always fascinated me. Ever since a little kid, I have always been interested in science fiction, then Star Wars came and changed the way we relate to technology, at least for the ones who were forever changed by seeing C3PO and that little R2 unit (who guards my office at all times). The promise of what these droids had shown, the relationship between the humans using them and the droids was what was really fascinating and utterly unbelievable then.

When I saw NAO for the first time, I almost fell like seeing R2D2 for the first time - "the feisty little one". NAO has a personality, I loved and connected with immediately. I am a 45 year old man, but I was as fixated on NAO as all the kids there. 

It was as if there was a light going off in all directions around me.. I was thinking: "I want to learn everything about NAO's makers and try to spend more time with NAO!"

So, I did my research and then learned about NAO and also about Pepper and Romeo. What Aldebaran Robotics is doing is revolutionary!  Those of us who love science fiction are aware of movies and books depicting robots uprisings, but also describing life with them. The thing is, folks at Aldebaran are already making it a reality!

 Pepper (left)&nbsp;with Romeo and NAO on Romeo's shoulders

Pepper (left) with Romeo and NAO on Romeo's shoulders

You can find out more about this amazing company here: Aldebaran Robotics

UPDATE: look who I ran into at Mall OF America the other day! It was Pepper!!

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More about robots..

More about robots..

So, how do you get kids to program? Program what? Write programs instead of just using them. There are many initiatives these days, all worth our attention and larger reach. One of them actually makes kids (and some 45 year old man) code with the help of little robots and iPads.

The company is called Wonder Workshops and they make Dash and Dot, little robots who teach kids to program actual tasks so that the little buggers can do immediately!

 DASH

DASH

Dash immediately listens to commands written on an iPad. The commands are written by kids who need to put the programming blocks in order, so that Dash can execute what kids wrote.

During a recent <Hour of Code> event in a local elementary school, hundreds of kids got to play with Dash & Dot and get a sample of programming and coding.

Take a look at what the little bots can do:

More info on Dash & Dot here: Wonder Worksop

I wholeheartedly support the many initiatives to encourage kids to work in technology!

code.org - https://code.org/

Hour of Code - https://hourofcode.com/us

Even President Barack Obama is a coder!

 

 

 

Google Street

Google Street

maciek-street-view

Google Street View

Google keeps on inventing the wheel. I am sure most of us are familiar with Google Maps. Finding our way around places is increasingly reliant on digital maps and Google seems not to be willing to step down from the top spot when it comes to the battle of the Maps. They seem to make it more and more usable and cover more ground at an amazing pace.

But now, even you can create your own Street Views or Favorite Places or take us into your business or home. Google introduced Photo Sphere, where you can take a series of photographs and convert them to "walkable" and "explorable" places.

Take a look at some of my favorite places in Poland: Kozłówka Palace or Wojanów Palace or the Lech Poznań Soccer Stadium, where I watched Italy beat Ireland in the EURO 2012. Dr. Sheldon Cooper may be inclined to visit CERN lab in Geneva, or all of us soccer freaks can stand on the pitch at Wembley.

It is very interesting how Google does it. Explore the tools of Google engineers and when you see the Google Street View car, wave and perhaps you will be "Google Famous"!