From the category archives:

My inner geek

Band Aid 30

by DaniGirl on November 17, 2014 · 7 comments

in Happy holidays,My inner geek

The original Band Aid song Do They Know It’s Christmas came out in December 1984. I was fifteen years old, and I adored that song and video. I bought it as a 45 rpm single (kids, go ask your parents what that is) and years later I bought it as digital file. It’s on every Christmas mix I’ve ever made, from mixed tapes on cassette to iTunes playlists.

So it’s little surprise that I would love this: Band Aid 30, a remix organized by orginal Band Aid founders Bob Geldolf and Midge Ure to raise funds toward the Ebola crisis in Africa.

I knew every single participant back in the original Band Aid, back in 1984. It made me feel more than a little old to watch the new one and scratch my head while peering at the unfamiliar faces. Oh wait! There’s Seal, I know him! And Sinead O’Connor. And holy crap, Bono is showing his age, isn’t he? Ooo and, um, that guy from Coldplay. If you’re peering at the screen and puzzling about who all these babies with microphones are, here is the line-by-line list of who sings what, along with the updated lyrics:

‘It’s Christmas time, and there’s no need to be afraid’ – One Direction
‘At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade’ – Ed Sheeran
‘And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy’ – Rita Ora
‘Throw your arms around the world, at Christmas time’ -Sam Smith
‘But say a prayer; Pray for the other ones’ -Paloma Faith
‘At Christmas time it’s hard, but when you’re having fun’ -Emeli Sande
‘There’s a world outside your window, and it’s a world of dread and fear’ -Guy Garvey (Elbow)
‘Where a kiss of love can kill you’ – Dan Smith (Bastille)
‘And there’s death in every tear’ – Angélique Kidjo
‘And the Christmas bells that ring there, are the clanging chimes of doom’ – Chris Martin (Coldplay)
‘Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you’ – Bono (U2)
‘Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa’ – Seal
‘A song of hope, when there’s no hope tonight’ – Ellie Goulding
‘Why is to comfort to be feared’ – Sinead O’Connor
‘Why is to touch to be scared’ – Sinead O’Connor
‘How can they know it’s Christmas time at all?’ Bono (U2)
‘Here’s to you’ – All
‘Raise a glass for everyone’ – Olly Murs
‘And Here’s to them’ – All
‘And all their years to come’ - Sam Smith
‘Can they know it’s Christmas time at all?’ – Rita Ora
Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmas time again – All
Feel the world, let them know it’s Christmas time again – All
Heal the world, let them know it’s Christmas time again – All
(source)

Regardless, I will definitely buy this single and add it to my Christmas 2014 mixed tape playlist.

What do you think of the remix? And more importantly, what other songs do I need to add to the Christmas 2014 playlist?


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The older the boys get, the more concerned I am about their online safety. The ‘net can be treacherous for savvy adults, let alone kids – will they click on a phishing link and download some malware? Will they be exposed to inappropriate content? Will they be bullied or worse?

And yet, I’d be hypocritical to restrict their access too broadly. I truly believe that the key to keeping kids safe online is constant vigilance on the part of the parent, and open lines of communication. By constant vigilance, I don’t mean spending hours peering over their shoulders – my eyes glaze over at the idea of more than 10 minutes of Minecraft at a time. But there are no closed doors in our house, online or in real life. They know I can and will read all of their e-mails, texts and internet searches. We talk often about the perils of overdisclosure, and how to comport one’s self as a good online citizen. And they know they can always, always come to me if they see something that makes them uncomfortable.

chromebook kitchen

It’s because I am so interested in the topic of online safety for kids that when TELUS sent me a list of tips for parents, I wanted to share it with you. (This is NOT a sponsored post, I am sharing because I think this is important, valuable information.)

Here’s what TELUS said:

Did you know that Tuesday, February 11, 2014 is Safer Internet Day? We will be hosting a live web discussion and Q&A with our partner @MediaSmarts about measures we can take to keep our kids safer online. MediaSmarts has recently revealed the latest findings on what Young Canadians in a Wired World are doing online, which will act as the basis for our discussion. You’ll also have an opportunity to ask the experts any questions you may have on this subject to find out what more you can be doing for you and your family to stay safe on the Internet.

Feel free to invite all your followers to join us too and follow the conversation on @TELUS #TELUSWISE.

You can follow the conversation live on Twitter, or you can dial in to a webinar for more info. Here’s the logistics:

  • To be part of the discussion, you must call into the conference bridge as well as log in to WebEx.
  • If this is your first time using Web Ex, please ensure you log in 10 minutes early as it will take a few minutes for Web Ex to set up on your computer.
  • Go to https://telus.webex.com/telus/j.php?J=925419345
  • Enter the event password: WISE123
  • Click “Join Now”.
  • To join the audio portion of this call, dial 1-855-353-9183 and enter passcode 67758#.

If you can’t tune in to the webinar, here’s ten tips from TELUS on keeping your family safe online:

1. Google yourself – Put a Google Alert on your name so you can track your digital footprint.
2. Set strong passwords – Prevent hackers from getting into your computer, smartphone or online profiles.
3. Turn off geo-tagging – Avoid location details being attached to things like photos when taken on a smartphone.
4. Install security software – Some smartphones come with software to locate your phone when lost; take advantage of these free services.
5. Configure your profile settings – Ensure privacy is set on all your online profiles.
6. Keep your browser updated – and clear your browser history and cache at least once a month.
7. Be cautious using free Wi-Fi – Make sure your device is secure so hackers can access personal information.
8. Choose new aps carefully – Only use your device’s App Store to ensure downloads are safe and virus free.
9. Beware of risks using Bluetooth technology – Only enable connections with trusted devices.
10. Delete personal data when recycling old devices – Use the factory reset to properly remove things like photos, passwords and files.

It’s my middle child who is pushing me out of my comfort zone with social media. I forbade his Twitter account but allowed Instagram. Now he wants to post Minecraft screen-cap movies to YouTube.

I do this for a living and I’m still not ready for this. How are the rest of you managing it?


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The phone on my desk at work rang and I could hear the smile in Beloved’s face as we spoke.

“Are you missing something?” he asked. I glanced around my cubicle, checking for my purse, my lunch, or anything else I had probably left on the kitchen counter.

“Um, no?” I said, with not much conviction.

“Have you seen your iPhone lately?” I was perplexed. I knew I hadn’t left it on the counter at home, because I’d used it at Starbucks on my coffee break. Before I could puzzle out the mystery, Beloved filled in the gaps. “The security desk in your building just called. Someone turned in your iPhone to them.”

Oh crap – and then I remembered. I had taken it out of my back pocket in the bathroom so it didn’t go for a swim when I dropped my drawers, put it on the little shelf… and forgotten about it. Not the first time I’d done that, either. And the kind person who picked it up was able to find me because I have my contact info on the lock screen, like this:

Untitled

Brilliant, right? I can’t remember where I even got the idea, but in the year since I have had the info there, my wandering iPhone has come back to me via the kindness of two strangers and one amused co-worker.

To make your own version, just choose a photo without too much competing detail and an app that lets you add text to a photo. Save that to your iPhone’s photo library, then set that photo as your iPhone’s lock screen. Even if you have a passcode lock on your phone (which you really should!) anyone who turns it on can see your contact info without the having to enter the passcode.

An easier still solution would probably be to stop leaving your iPhone behind on any old convenient flat surface. You think maybe there’s an app for that?


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I love my iPhone. I love it madly, maybe even obsessively. I carry it with me everywhere and sleep with it charging on my bedside table. It’s half talisman and half umbilical cord. Like all great love affairs, though, ours is a tumultuous one. As passionately as I love it, I despise it when it misbehaves. The recent upgrade to iOS7 has been a lover’s spat of epic proportions. Suddenly my endlessly loyal companion was running out of passion (erm, battery juice) before noon, when I regularly get at least a day’s performance out of a single charge.

I clearly wasn’t the only one having problems with iPhone battery life after iOS7 upgrades (1.5M search returns and counting on iOS7 battery drain!), and I found these articles in particular from the Huffington Post and Mashable helpful in identifying and rectifying the worst battery-draining culprits. I’ve never allowed e-mails (or most notifications, for that matter) to push to my phone, but I did find out that apps were running in the background and draining a lot of juice – and data. It took me nearly a week of tinkering, but I’ve got it back to a point where I’m actually getting improved battery performance over where I was before the upgrade to iOS7.

In the process, I learned a few tips and tricks I thought worthy of sharing beyond the preservation of battery power. Maybe you knew all these things already, but they were news to me.

So then, five things I learned about my iPhone this week:

1. How to close apps running in the background

Did you know apps don’t close when you hit the home button (the circular button with the square on it at the bottom of your screen)? You just shove them into the background, and some of them keep running and sucking up power and resources. Double-click on the home button and you’ll be able to see all apps that are currently running. Flick the little screen cap above the icon upwards to close the app. I am now in the habit of going in and closing all running apps a few times a day. (I believe this only applies to iOS7 and not prior OSes.)

photo 4

2. You can set a delay on the passlock screen

It’s a good idea to have a lock on your phone, especially if it has sensitive contact info and photos on it. However, it always drove me nuts that the the second you click the phone into sleep mode, you have to re-enter the pass code to unlock the phone. Especially when you’re trying to snap photos, this can be tedious and time consuming. I thought I had searched every directory for an option to add a delay to this but could never find it — until now! Voila, delayed passcode! Look for this option under Settings > General > Passcode Lock.

photo 2

3. Apps running in the background may be updating over wi-fi or cellular connection

I was doubly annoyed to find out that not only was I burning through battery power faster than my five-year-old burns through goldfish crackers, but that I had smashed through my data cap by 20% only half way through the billing month. Turns out my iPhone was updating itself willy-nilly for apps that I didn’t even know were running. (See point 1 above – closing an app does not mean it’s not still running.) I turned THAT tap off in a hurry. Look for it under Settings > General > Background App Refresh.

4. Constantly seeking wi-fi and Bluetooth connections is a huge battery drain
You know that little window that pops up to tell you about nearby wi-fi connections? Your iPhone is always looking for connections (kind of like a randy teenager) and that’s a huge battery drain. My pedometer “talks” to my iPhone via bluetooth, which is very cool and I will write a separate post about that one of these days, but it also sucks battery life as the iPhone looks for Bluetooth devices to connect with. (I think this was one of the things that I turned off that made the biggest improvement in battery life, because I forgot to turn it back off after updating my Fitbit stats yesterday and battery life plummeted again.) And I don’t know about you, but most of the open wi-fi connections I find are cantankerous and I can’t usually get my mail to download over them anyway. I’m looking at you and your “free” wi-fi, Starbucks! Anyway, if you turn off the option to always seek new wi-fi connections, your iPhone will still connect automatically to recognized wi-fi networks, and you can seek them manually via the Settings function. Bonus: no annoying pop-up screens full of locked networks you can’t access anyway.

5. You can see how much data each app has gobbled up – and tell some apps never to connect on a cellular network
Wondering which apps are data hogs? Go to Settings > Cellular and scroll down to the bottom. You can see how much data each app is gobbling up here and turn connectivity over cellular off for the worst offenders. I like Facebook but I was gobsmacked to see how much data it consumed this month – probably almost entirely because I’d check it early in the day and close the app without turning it off so it would just keep updating all day long even though I wasn’t looking at it. Sigh.

photo 3

Oh, and here’s a bonus tip for you. I have had the old “nostalgia” ring tone on my iPhone pretty much since the day I got it. I have a newfound love for Macklemore, though, and decided that I really needed the opening riff from “Thrift Shop” as my ring tone. You can buy a Thrift Shop ring tone, but it’s not the funky sax riff with the “whut whut”s in it. I downloaded an app called Ringtone Designer that lets you take a 30 second snippet from any song in your iTunes library into a ring tone. Hey, if I can figure it out, anyone can. Not just any custom ring tone, but a hip hop one. I am cool now, right? RIGHT?!

I hope you found these useful! This actually ties in really well but absolutely coincidentally with a new gig I’ve taken on as a Rogers Mobile Ambassador. More about that soon!

So how are you and YOUR iPhone doing after upgrading to iOS7? Have you found it troubling? Any other tips to share? Ha, what ELSE don’t I know??? ;)


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Have I ever mentioned that I won our school district’s speech competition when I was in Grade 7? I have always loved public speaking. I’ve been really lucky in the last few months in that I’ve had a terrific number of opportunities to do what I call my “blog and pony” show to internal GoC audiences, talking about how we’re using social media to connect with Canadians in a government context at work, but this opportunity was especially exciting for me. I had the great honour today of speaking at the Social Capital Ottawa conference on a topic very dear to my heart: how to find, use and share photos online without getting sued. (Remember my infographic?) I love this topic because it’s at the intersection of a whole whack of things I’m passionate about: social media, blogging, sharing and photography.

This whole experience has been a HUGE learning curve for me – and I thought I was pretty knowledgeable when I proposed the topic! I learned SO MUCH about copyright and how not to violate it. Did you know, for example, that the DMCA does not necessarily apply in Canada? Or that “fair use” is an American concept and different from our Canadian “fair dealings”? Or that “royalty free” does not mean “free”? (Okay, I knew that last one, but I didn’t know it eight years ago when I started blogging.)

But I learned some other really neat stuff, too – like how to build a Powerpoint deck that doesn’t have 800 words on every slide (unlike almost every Government of Canada internal “deck” I have ever seen), and how to share a presentation on slideshare, and how to administer a quiz and record the results in real time using Google docs, and how to use storify to capture a story on Twitter. And now I’m going to wrap it all up into one big bundle and blurt it out here for your adoration.
[click to continue…]


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I have always been a bit of a space geek. When I was a kid, I read every single book on astronomy in the public library, and I’ve always been fascinated by space and cosmology. I think I like cosmology (the history of the universe) because it means reading books in warm, bright places instead of standing out looking at the stars on cold, blustery nights!

My endless appetite for space and Canadianisms intersect in the current mission of Commander Chris Hadfield, whom I’m sure you’ve heard is currently aboard the International Space Station. The boys and I watched the Soyus rocket launch on December 19 together, and the boys loved the idea that a Canadian was aboard. He will in fact be the commander of the international mission on the ISS starting (if I remember correctly) in March.

I’ve been following @Cmdr_Hadfield on Twitter for a while, partly because he has some fasinating insight and I kind of want his job, and partly because he’s pretty darn funny. Last week, he was a part of what may be my favourite Twitter exchange ever. William Shatner, known of course the world over as Captain Kirk, sent what seems to be a random tweet to Commander Hadfield:

@Cmdr_Hadfield Are you tweeting from space? MBB

The reply still makes me smile. I can’t help but hope this was a flip reply and not something scripted by PR flacks deep in the bowels of NASA. (I’m actually not sure anyone but an astronaut could be so utterly cool.) Commander Hatfield tweeted back:

@WilliamShatner Yes, Standard Orbit, Captain. And we’re detecting signs of life on the surface.

How awesome is that? The next day there was another exchange, this one with @therealNimoy, where they traded LLAPs (that’s, of course, “live long and prosper.”) Geek overload!

And if you’re not a Star Trek junkie or particularly interested in what it’s like to live in orbit (but seriously, how could you NOT be?!), you should still follow @Cmdr_Hadfield for his amazing space pictures of our beautiful planet, like this gorgeous shot of snowy Ottawa tweeted on December 30:

So let’s review: astronomy plus Canadian plus social media plus photography plus cheeky geekery. Seriously, that’s all my favourite things!!

Did you know you can sign up for text or e-mail alerts from NASA to let you know when the ISS will be flying overhead? I’ve dragged the boys out a few times when a fly-past was in the news, but we’ll be especially keen to go out and watch for one now that we’re so engaged with the current mission. Check out NASA’s Spot the Station site to sign up! When I get any updates for passes visible from Ottawa, I’ll post them on my bloggy facebook page.

Commander Hadfield is actually interacting with people, too, answering questions about what life is like on the ISS. If you could ask a question to a Canadian astronaut in orbit, what would you want to know?


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In which she achieves maximum geekery

18 February 2012 My inner geek

This? Makes me insanely happy. I just waited nearly an hour in line for a car wash so I could properly apply my new Star Wars family decals!! The minute I saw them on pinterest, I had to have them. The only debate was whether Beloved would be Darth Vader or Han Solo. “Luke, I [...]

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My latest grammar pet peeve: Peek, peak and pique

13 February 2012 My inner geek

Dear Internet Friends, I love you dearly, but you make me want to bang my head on the desk when you confuse the homonyms peek, peak and pique. I would have thought the difference between peek and peak should be fairly straightforward, but when I saw them interchanged for the third time in a single [...]

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An unprovoked attack on Comic Sans font

28 January 2011 How I love the Interwebs

I was in a committee meeting of the boys’ school council recently, and one of the other members presented a letter of some import that would be going home with each child in the school on behalf of school council. It was a very serious letter with a significant call to action (we’re raising funds [...]

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In which the Dark Side recruits my kids

21 March 2010 Life, the Universe and Everything

I might have mentioned that we love flea markets. It’s a little early for flea market season, but there was an antiques and collectibles show at the Nepean Sportsplex this weekend, and we thought it would be fun to check it out. About two minutes after we got there, I realized that we’d made a [...]

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