Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Web Secret #343: Gear

I recently got a new MacBook Pro. My old machine sat unadorned on my desk.

My new machine is accessorized.

I love Speck SeeThru Hard Shell Cases. They snap on, make the machine look pretty, and protect it from scratches. I bought a "wild salmon" colored case on Amazon and paid almost half off list price for it.

I treat my equipment with reverence and do not eat or drink anywhere near my laptop. However, I like having a keyboard protector. It maintains the machine in pristine condition, protects against inadvertent spills and I think it improves keyboard "feel."

You want something ultra-thin, so it doesn't interfere with closing the machine. I selected the UPPERCASE Premium Ultra Thin Keyboard Protector for Macbook Pro with Retina Display. It cost $12.95 and I'm thrilled.

Finally, I have an iPad Mini. This has proven to be a beyond useful piece of equipment. I can do 80% of my work on the device. It is small, but has a big enough screen - I don't miss my standard sized iPad at all. The Mini is so useful that I bring it with me to meetings to take notes.

But I am not a great typist with my thumbs and I find myself missing a keyboard. No problemo. I just needed the ZAGG Cover Case with Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard.

How great is this gadget? It snaps on to the iPad, it's wireless, it functions as a cover or a stand, and I bought it for under $40.

Now if I could only remember how I survived without it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Web Secret 342: Gazelle

Tomorrow is Christmas.

And if you are lucky, Santa will bring some of you new computers,  smartphones or tablets.

What is the easiest, most lucrative, and most green method of disposing of your old devices?

I recently decided to sell them my 2010 MacBook Pro.

But first, I wanted to send them a machine scrubbed clean of all my data, and restored to factory settings. (PS: You should never sell any of your electronics without doing this.)

I found an excellent tutorial on YouTube for this purpose:

Next I created an account on Gazelle and went through their super simple, step by step instructions to determine the model and specs of my old machine and its condition. Gazelle offered me $313 for my old laptop.

I then had a choice of payment method. I chose to get an Amazon gift card because a. I use Amazon all the time and b. they gave me a bonus incentive to use Amazon, bringing my total payment to $328.65.

Depending on the size of your device, Gazelle will either mail you a box and shipping label, or in my case I just printed out a free Fedex label and packed the laptop in my own box.


Once Gazelle receives your machine and verifies its condition, they send your money.

I like easy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Web Secret #341: Build Your Own Website

The other day, I went to visit my friend Laurie.

She told me she wanted to build a WordPress website.

"I don't know anything about how to do it, so I got this book. I'm a visual learner, I'm not sure this will do it," she explained, patting a thick paperback "WordPress for Dummies."

Laurie, you should buy Nate Cooper's "Build your own website - a comic guide to HTML, CSS and WordPress."

That's right, it's a comic book! Sort of the 21st century version of the Classic Illustrated comics Baby Boomers read when we didn't feel like actually plowing through Moby Dick.

All you need to do is join Kim and her little dog Tofu as she learns HTML, the language of web pages, and CSS, the language used to style web pages, from the Web Guru and Glinda, the Good Witch of CSS. Once she figures out the basics, Kim travels to WordPress City to build her first website, with Wendy, the WordPress Maven, at her side. They take control of WordPress themes, install useful plugins, and more.

As you follow along, you'll learn how to:

Use HTML tags
Make your site shine with CSS
Customize WordPress to fit your needs
Choose a company to host your site and get advice on picking a good domain name.

It's fun! It's easy! It's perfect for a novice!

And even if you eventually hire someone to build your site, it is really helpful to understand the basics of web building.

PS: From December 17 to December 24, go to - use exclusive discount code EAPROS and enjoy 30% off the list price of "Build Your Own Website."

In the interest of full disclosure, I was mailed a review copy of this book.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Web Secret #340: Generation Z

 Have you been to a restaurant lately?

You will notice that the majority of kids, (some as young as two,) are staring at a tablet or a smartphone. This allows their parents, and by extension me, to enjoy a quiet meal.

I, and many others,  flounder around anxiously, trying to figure out the impact of all this technology on the post Millenial cohort dubbed "Generation Z."

Allison Slater Tate has given this some thought, in her excellent Washington Post article, "Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything." She notes, rather poignantly, that hers is the last generation to enjoy a low-tech childhood, and the first to parent a truly high-tech generation.


Allison eloquently explains her dilemna:

"I am very much standing in the middle between my parents and my children when it comes to technology, one foot dipped in the waters of Instagram and Twitter and the other still stuck in the luddite mud... wins the prize for being the trickiest parenting challenge I have faced... in terms of the feelings of desperation and hopelessness it can inspire at times....

...resistance is futile: this is my children’s brave new world, and they need to know and understand all the internet highways and byways to live in it...The question of managing screen time and who is on what screen and how to protect those in front of the screens from things they might not un-see or un-hear is a constant, exhausting issue...

...we debate how old is old enough to have a smartphone. We make the children sit in public places when they are on devices or laptops, we look over shoulders, we check text message histories and set parental controls. We worry about their cyber footprints. We beg them not to send naked pictures of themselves to anyone...

...We wonder what a high-tech childhood will mean for our little people: will they know how to go on a first date without checking in on Facebook or posting a picture of their food on Instagram? Will it matter? generation of parents are pioneers here, like it or not. We’re the last of the Mohicans."

The last of the Mohicans. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Web Secret #339: Mama, tell your daughters to grow up to be coders

From a recent article in the NY Times:

"Men make up 83 percent of Google’s engineering employees and 79 percent of its managers. Of its 36 executives and top-ranking managers, just three are women."

And the rest of the major tech companies are no different:

Apple: 70% male
Facebook: 69%male
Twitter: 70% male

Oh, and black and Hispanic people are also underrepresented.

This is a very serious problem for all mankind because research has shown that the most effective and creative work groups are heterogeneous.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to surmise that something important is not being developed, not being created, not being invented.

Google is undertaking a long-term effort to improve these numbers, "the centerpiece of which is a series of workshops aimed at making [their] culture more accepting of diversity."

It's working really well, not long ago the company opened a new building, and someone spotted the fact that all the conference rooms were named after male scientists...

Google, that's not going to work.

This is my modest proposal for what IS going to work:

1. Tiger and helicopter moms - take your daughters to coding classes instead of ballet. Everyone in the 21st century is going to need to understand coding. The odds are overwhelming that just like your son is not going to play in the NFL, your daughter is not going to be center stage at the American Ballet Theater.

2. In middle school, girls who are interested in the sciences tend to move away from them. A multiplicity of factors are responsible for this happening. Schools need to actively develop programs that encourage girls to participate.

3. Tech companies need to create, and promote paid summer internship programs for high school girls and college age women.

4. Tech companies need to create and promote management training programs for women at the beginning stages of their careers.

THAT is what is going to work.

Oh, and girls, if you want to run the world, make lots of money and pay for your ballet tickets, you know what you need to do.