Archive for June, 2007

Linux for the kids

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

logonew.gifvs. word.jpg

There’s the old favorite saying, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life.” Let’s focus on a little teaching to fish for a minute.

I’m big on using Ubuntu but I especially get a kick out of speaking at a convention or being at a tradeshow and saying, “Please, my 5 and 9 year old have Linux on the computer in their room.” The reason I love saying this is because it gives them something a little better than what they get using anything else. It teaches them good computer skills that will serve them well using Windows, Mac, or whatever else comes down the road.

Let’s face it. Techy guys are a very opinionated bunch. Open source communities are groups of people that waste no time telling you their opinion on why something sucks. Thus they tend to write software with not sucking in mind. I’m not trying to tell you that Open source software never sucks. That’s a story for another day. The one thing I do find in it is a grasp of the basics.

Getting my 9 year old to write his homework using OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Word proved to be a less daunting task that I thought it would be. The reason being is that children haven’t gotten bogged down by the many years of “I have to do it this way” that many adults have. Their more apt to try and figure out how to get the result if you just tell them to figure it out.

frozen-bubble.jpg

I tend to start my 5 year old off with a little game called Frozen Bubble. It’s addicting and fun but it gets them to enjoy the environment their in as opposed to the strictly Windows world I have for the older boys (due to the graphical games that will only run on Windows for now).

Consider it future-proofing your children. The skills that they learn using a Linux computer will translate over the Mac and Windows. I’ve even found that a lot of the key strokes are the same as well. Let your children learn how to use a word processer not how to use Word.

“People feeding” resumes

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

I’m sure at sometime in your life you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Sometime you need to just stop and watch the grass grow” or something similar. This phrase speaks of the nature of human beings being in so much of a rush and caught up in the monotony of life that they don’t stop and just breathe it in. A long time I learned that I was totally burning myself out on the way to success. I had my first child at 19 and the second at 21 but that was not going to stop me on the course that I had planned out. With children and mother in tow I set on a course with an unbreakable spirit.

This spirit can become your greatest ally in your battle but as I got older I realized it can be your greatest weakness. I was hell-bent on becoming the IT director of a company since I was inspired by one early on. My focus was too narrow though. Like a racehorse my rider (in this case my wife and children) could see that I could definitely still win the race in a landslide victory. The only problem was that my rider was falling off the horse and in a state of peril. Needless to say, I slowed down to spend more time with family and still won the race under my time limit.

In slowing down to watch the grass grow I devised a game that help pass the time. I would sometimes sit with people and instead of throwing popcorn to the pigeons I’d throw nickels and dimes to the humans. I called it “people feeding”. You just sit and watch all the people going by in a crowded walkway and toss out a coin and see who’ll pick it up. I found a perverse amusement in the person that showed their desperation in order to get the coin even though they probably had a pocket full of dollars.

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I LOVE KIDS!!!

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

What’s new today is the refreshing attitude of a child.  That can actually be new everyday.

I have 4 children ranging from a teenager graduating from High School to a 5 year old girl that wants to play with Barbies.  What I must highly recommend is letting your children get their feet wet starting early on in their lives.  I must admit that my house is more teched out than most however, even when my older children were young and we didn’t have all the toys we play with now I used the same philosophy.  Get them to using your computer starting at age 3.

Now, now.  Don’t be scared.  All the spreadsheets won’t get erased during a game of Hannah Montana on Disney Channel. I would warn you though to make sure to move most if not all of your links or programs that are on your desktop into folders elsewhere on you computer before letting them run wild.  Browsers crash or get minimized by accident sometimes and there are all those great pictures that they can move or delete.

Here’s some good ideas:

For young children:  www.pbskids.org , www.noggin.com, www.disneychannel.com, and of course www.barbie.com .

Preteens:  www.cartoonnetwork.com, www.math.comkids.yahoo.com and www.discoverychannel.com

Trust me.  HOURS of wholesome entertainment and learning that can keep them occupied and mentally stimulated.

Two caveats though.  Your kids do need to get out and play and not sit at the computer all day.  Secondly, PLEASE make sure to run anti-virus and spyware/adware scans often.  You don’t want pop-ups coming up while your child is focused on the right thing only to see half naked girls or a casino.

Apple’s Safari on your Windows PC?

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

I know. All you Mac lovers stuck on a PC are telling me SHUT UP! Yes it is true. Apple’s web browser Safari is now available on the PC. Apple wants to join the ranks of Firefox and Internet Explorer in running on every platform. Check it out at: www.apple.com/safari .

Safari screenshot

True cross platform would involve Linux though, people at Apple. Let’s get on the ball since Apple is running a Unix OS under the hood so it seems like it would be so much easier but I digress.

Check it out and tell me if it’s faster than the other web browsers like it says. Honestly, I still think that the Opera browser is the fastest but I haven’t given this one a good try yet. Come on though. Firefox and it’s plugins are digital manna from heaven so I’m not switching.

Widget Heaven/Hell

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

yahoowid.gif

If you haven’t already done so check out a real lifesaver. They’re called Widgets. They’re hard to explain but they’re little programs that just run on your computer doing all kinds of usefull stuff. They’re not actual programs that run on their own but under a program called a widget engine. I HIGHLY suggest this over a crazy Weatherbug program or other spyware that say they aren’t spyware.

I’ve got to say I’ve been interested in getting into stock trading. Years ago I used to have an Excel spreadsheet and keep track of what I’d gained or lost. Well, I hate this widget but love it. I pick a stock and the price I bought it at and it keeps me up to date all day on what I would have made. I love it because I’m making money on good picks. I hate it because I haven’t actually put the money down on these stocks so I’m not making any money. Sucks.

Yahoo took over this company called Konfabulator a while back and so now the program can be found at widgets.yahoo.com and there’s actually a blog at widgets.yahoo.com/blog. There are many widgets to find but the one I’m using is called XR Stock Gain by Jae Lee at XRProductions.com.

Quick tip: Always change the widget’s opacity because you’ll get really annoyed seeing something on the side of your screen all day.

Shouts into digital darkness

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

“Click on my pop-up. Read my blog to success. We have the cheapest prices.” The Internet is a scary place for the unknowing wanderer or the easily convinced mind. Those prone to cult-ish behavior or obsessive compulsive routines will get grabbed by the hand and led into the abyss. It’s kind of like the myth of falling into a whirlpool in the ocean. They say if you hold your breath it will spit you back out. The difference with the digital whirlpool is that it will spit you out when your credit cards are dry.

I’m sorry if I scared you because that’s not the point of my blog. In a moment of self-analysis I tried to see the point of what I do and if it is helping the average person that wants to use technology as a tool in their life. It shouldn’t be complicated or puffed up to be more than that. A door lock serves it’s purpose and does it well. So does a computer and the Internet given a little bit of know how and healthy skepticism. I wouldn’t want you to open Pandora’s box. Oh, you don’t see it? Yes, that’s exactly what it is.

Take for instance a friend of mine. He’s a good person, isn’t out to hurt anyone but he listened to Joe Blow internet guy and said to himself, “He’s doing big things.  I’ll do what he said.”  He buys computer product only to realize that later on he neither enjoys the benefits of this product nor needs it.  He’s been pulled into the abyss and will continue to till his pockets are dry.

“Why listen to Phillip Banks then?” You may ask.  Great question!  For one, you should check into things more yourself (if you have the time) and not totally rely on me.  I’m not given a huge budget to work with every piece of software but I try to work with people whenever they try anything because I want to know.  Second, feel free to email me and call me on my crap.  You may be right and I haven’t seen the grand scheme of product XYZ.  The one thing you will get is an honest opinion from a person that doesn’t buy things just because it’s there.  My unique perspective is seeing the similarities in things.  Something announced for $10,000 may just be a $100 product with bells and whistles you can add for yourself for $50.  A lot of the big podcasts, and videopodcasts seem to not take some of these things into account.
My moment, of self-analysis let me to look at my blog stats.  I must say I was shocked that I’m not just shouting into the digital darkness and would enjoy hearing from any of you about ideas you want me to look into.

Emotional support rather than tech support

Monday, June 11th, 2007

With Father’s day on the way it may seem a little inappropriate but I’d like to give homage to my wife.  I think that a great source for your career motivation can be the person that is right there all the time and hopefully helping motivate you to keep living.

That’s the excitement in life.  Finding new vigor in what you do from someone that doesn’t know anything about it.  My wife had become inspired by blogging (specialedandme.wordpress.com) and has put a lot of time and effort into it.  She’s been reaping the rewards of her work lately with successful links and reviews lately and pushing me to further my own blogging.  Who would have thought that you’d find insight into what you do from someone that’s new to it.

That’s the joy of teaching.  I love to push the bike until the training wheels fall of and the child peddles away into the sunset. She’s now officially the Blogmeister.

eMachines or Voss water?

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

What’s new is my concept of em_header.gif (website link intentionally withheld).
A week ago I neglected writing posts because I was at a funeral in Texas and stayed the week in a small city outside Houston. As is the case in my local family I have the same situation with my family all over. Computer guys are an anomaly. I really like it even though it does cause problems at times (i.e. my post “I don’t have a spare anything“). I found myself going from house to house looking at people’s computers and doing electrical work. Seeing as how most of the city seems to be related to me I did do a lot of meeting people as well as solving problems with my dad as tour guide extraordinaire.

A problem that I’ve been seeing over and over again is the eMachine. I used to think that a computer is a computer. It didn’t really as long as you got the basic parts right but I’ve got to say that I’ve definitely proved myself wrong. I was working on a cousin’s computer in Texas and it just had the weirdest problems. I found, with no surprise, that it was once again an eMachine. No sooner had I gotten home than two other people called me with problems and their computers were eMachines as well. The usual problem seemed to be a need to replace the motherboard. This is a fairly innocuous part of a computer even though it shouldn’t be overlooked in a really fast and reliable computer when you’re building one for yourself.

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Building a school of life

Friday, June 8th, 2007

Life wasn’t easy but I realized that it gets easier with age and wise decisions (another learned skill).

Call me a dreamer but one of my plans is to teach youth the skills in business and computers that they don’t get on their own. These things are just tools everyone needs to understand and use. I’m still flushing out the details but I look at empty buildings and dream about making my school there.

I started writing this blog a week ago but ended up talking to my cousin Caren about a very similar subject to this and she brought me to some great insights that my wife and I hadn’t come to.  If you haven’t already, read the book, “Rich Dad Poor Dad.”  Children go by what their parents taught them.  Most parents think you should go to school and get a good job.  That’s what the “Poor dad” taught his son.  The “Rich dad” taught his son that learning is great but in the end you want to own a company not work for one.

This fueled my zeal in making this become a reality.  My dad didn’t teach me to work 40 years and retire.  He taught me to changes jobs every couple years to different industries and in about 10 years you’ll be invaluable to every company and will truly be in the driver’s seat of your life.  These words proved to be very wise.  They gave me a 360 degree perspective of the computer industry.

Do your children, niece(s), nephew(s), or any other youth you know a couple good lessons in life.  1) Own… don’t follow, 2) Invest your money smart and it will work for you not you for it, 3) Know what you do well and be good at it and opportunities will reveal themselves.

Thanks to My wife Leila and cousin Caren.