Starbucks Pick of The Week: An Awesome Book of Love

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Starbucks gives away free media via their Pick of the Week program. Patrons can pick up a business card with a code on the back to redeem a book or song from the iTunes store for free. The cards are typically available near the register or the toppings station. You can also download the Pick of the Week on your device via WiFi while visiting the store at http://promo.yahoo.com/starbucks/.

Why does Starbucks do this? Well, according to the website,

“what would the coffeehouse be without great music? Well it wouldn’t be Starbucks, for one thing. We’re just as passionate about music as we are about coffee. That’s why we handpick all the tunes you hear in our stores. We take pride in creating unique compilations you can’t find anywhere else. Because helping people discover their next favorite artist or recording is one of our favorite things to do.”

Whatever the ultimate reason, free music and books are pretty awesome. I pick up a card everytime go. Most of the time I don’t actually bother doing anything with them, but this week I’m so glad I did! The featured title was An Awesome Book of Love! by Dallas Clayton (also available in print and Kindle edition).

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The words contained within this tiny gem are a perfect expression of everything I have in my heart for both Scott and the kids. Reading through the first time made me tear up. I’m so glad Starbucks brought the book into my world for free, although I would have gladly paid to share its sweet sentiment with my family anyday.

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Tech Tuesdays: Easily transfer pictures from your camera to your computer

I take a lot of pictures and have always found getting those pictures out of the camera and into a computer for editing and storage cumbersome. The best experience I had was with my laptop, prior to its death last fall. The laptop had a built in card reader port which made transferring photos super quick and easy. After I got a new desktop computer for christmas, sans built-in card reader, I had to find a new solution to manage my photo transfers.

At first I tried the camera adapter for the iPad, but found I really don’t like editing pictures in my iPad just yet. It may grow on me someday, but for now I’m more comfortable in my native environment with a large screen and mouse at my disposal. So, I tried using the iPad with adapter as a vehicle for transfer rather than editing, but I also don’t really find Dropbox, the main way I get images off of the iPad in a pinch, very useful for moving pictures around because it’s slow and adds an extra step to the process. I am also loath to use iTunes unless absolutely necessary so I knew it would not work for me over the long haul as a transfer method.

I should also mention that I lost the cable for my camera ages ago and haven’t replaced it since I know I’ll just lose it again. I find it highly annoying that firewire and USB cables look exactly the same until you try to shove one into a port only to find you have the wrong one. We have a ton of USB cables so it’s easy to mix them up.

Enter the USB card reader which has become my solution of choice. I actually just killed the first one I bought because it wasn’t optimized for USB2 ports. It worked fine at work, but as soon as I brought it home the new computer fried it up with its super fast 3.0 ports. So, I went back to Amazon and bought the IO Gear, which is made for Windows 7 and USB2+.

It handles several types of popular cards and has a transfer rate of up to 480 Mb per second (faster than my firewire cable). Even videos copy quickly enough that I don’t find myself twiddling my thumbs during the delay. Plus at $7 it’s super cheap too. I keep it in my bag so that I have it at work and home, or anywhere else I happen to be I suppose. The case is sturdy and travels well.

Highly recommended.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0046TJG1U/ref=oh_o02_s00_i00_details

Tech Tuesdays: Pintrest

Sometimes I wake up before Kaylee in the morning and, when I do, I steal a few moments with my iPad & Pintrest.  I don’t have much time for doing lately, but looking at pretty pictures of the lovely things other people are doing takes the edge off of my crafty cravings.

Pintrest is a self-described digital pin board, but the interface reminds me more of a digital contact sheet of pictures. Every bookmark, or ‘pin’, consists of a picture, a description, and a link to the original (hopefully) location on the web. Pins can be organized into groups called ‘boards’ and categorized to become part of the larger Pinterest collection.

So, you could stop right there and Pintrest would be pretty cool. Great interface, visual bookmarks, cool. But, it gets better. You can browse and search other Pintrest user’s pins. You can comment on, like, and re-pin their pins on to your boards too. Awesome!

When I first heard about it I let it fall off of my radar. At the time I was still using Diigo to organize my bookmarks and didn’t see the need to try out something new. Then a couple of months ago, on a whim, I requested an invite. A week later I receive an email that I could set up an account at my leisure. It took me another week to get everything sorted out – all of my favorite user names were already taken so I had to come up with something new. Once I was on though, I was hooked. I absolutely love that the interface is so visual with picture representations of every bookmark/pin. So much easier to get back to exactly what you want by looking at a picture of the thing you are looking for rather than a description of it. Love.

My only complaint is that support for the iPad is lackluster at best. The iPad version of the app is buggy and I have yet to get the hack to work properly. So, I end up manually adding pins which can be clunky and time-consuming than it should be for such a decent product. I know Pintrest is working on developing an iPad app, and I am anxiously awaiting its arrival at the app store.

You can browse and search the site without an account. Accounts are free, but you will have to request one and be prepared to wait a week. Once you have an account you follow me: http://pinterest.com/juliesayshello/ !

tech tuesdays: dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud storage application. It allows you to store files online so that you can access them from anywhere, on almost any device, as long as you have an Internet connection. Another great feature about Dropbox is the ability to share and collaborate on your documents with others. I hate being tethered at work, there I use it to store tutorials and instructions of frequently asked questions so that I can easily pass that information along to my workmates even when I am away from my desk. Now I can respond much more quickly to a frantic email from wherever I happen to be, without having to recreate content or keep track of which version of a file is the newest.

In the classroom I use it to facilitate group work and to share documents with students outside of the course management software – which is clunky at best. Plus, they learn something new that they can use well after the course is over

But, the magic of dropbox is really unleashed once you pair it with your mobile devices. In fact, I use it most often to transfer files between my iPad, phone, and computer. It is the quickest and easiest way I have found to deal with not having a USB port on the iPad. I have been invaluable in helping me get my photos and videos moved around between my devices. There are also several Dropbox enabled apps available that store content you create in them directly to your Dropbox account so that everything is in one place.

All this and the basic account is free. Highly recommended. Learn more at http://dropbox.com.

leap of faith

I have been on every service provider’s website over the past 2 months trying to sort things out and I finally made a decision today…I just bought a new phone. An LG Optimus V from….Virgin Mobile. I chose their $35 a month unlimited text and web plan. It comes with 300 anytime minutes too, but talk time just isn’t important to me so I’m fine with that. In fact I’m just waiting around for someone to come up with a text/web only plan with pay per minute phone service – then I’ll be a happy camper.

I have been out of contract for almost 4 months, unhappy with T-mobile’s rates and in desperate need of an upgrade. My poor little G1 has been through the wringer and seems to be permanantly coated in goo. In all honesty, there are much better things I’d rather spend $80 a month on. $35 bucks a month for an Android phone, without a contract, seems like a no-brainer and I’ve got 30 days to take it for a test drive. If I hate, I can get my money back and move on. But, I have a feeling it is going to be just what I need.

The decision to go with a contract-free, pay-as-you-go phone was quite difficult for me. I have been in and out of traditional phone plans for as long as I have been a cellphone user – more than a decade. That makes me feel old. But, I am finding myself excited about the arival of my new phone in 3-5 days, and the chance to try out a new provider. I’ll keep you posted.

Tech Tuesdays: We’re just not that in to you

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Scott took our cable boxes back to comcast today…when I got home from work and saw the empty spaces where they used to be I realized we no longer have clocks in the house either, with the exception of the kitchen stove. Strange.

This is the first time that I have been cable free since I was eight years old. I was hopelessly addicted to You Can’t Do That On Television and anything on MTV when we first got it. And, I thought I would die the two weeks I spent with my grandparents every summer after that with only 5 channels to choose from, three of which were covered in snow.

It’s kind of odd to think we don’t have it anymore considering we’re pretty big pop culture buffs and tech heads. But, I almost feel like we have more access now rather than less, and we can watch on our own terms, with significantly less ads. Hulu plus has been really fun, especially for Scott since his schedule prevents him from watching prime time tv. Now he can catch up on all the shows he missed, and we can actually watch stuff together. Last weekend we watched the entire first season of raising hope and he thought it was the greatest thing he’s seen on tv in a long time.

The roku box is a bit quirky but has a ton of free content including music channels. Since we get our news and weather info on our phones (both are available on roku but I still prefer the mobile access) I don’t imagine we’ll feel as though we’re missing anything.

We’re not writing cable off forever, we just want to take a break for a while to explore other options.

Tech Tuesdays: Diary of an ipd2 owner

It has been a while since I have been an early adopter. The release of Xbox Kinect was the last time, and before that, the second WoW expansion, and before that, the Wii. There is something decidedly different about an Apple release. Standing in line was actually fun, like being part of the iN crowd. The vibe felt like waiting for santa to arrive on christmas eve and, even though having an infant in tow slightly detracted from my cool factor, at least I (we) was there. (As a related side note, there was a young, uber tan, big-haired, overly dressed, couple in line in front of me arguing over how many iPads they should get. A short while later a third young, tan, big-haired, male companion joined them. I believe this new guy was the ‘real’ boyfriend as the other two stopped being as touchy-feely once he showed up.  Although I have never seen an episode of Jersey Shore, the drama unfolding before my eyes was, what I can only assume, very Jerseylicious. )

Kaylee was ready for a nap again by the time we got home. I debated waiting for Scott before the big unboxing, but justified proceeding without him with the rationalization that it would be more fun for him if the iPad was actually charged and ready to go. I felt a pang of guilt as I broke the seal. Tormented by the thought that perhaps $650 would have been better spent on more important things. They say having kids changes everything, and it does. I just find myself continually surprised by the little ways that change creeps in while you’re not looking. Like feeling guilty about buying something special for myself rather than for the baby. The nagging voice in my head doesn’t trust my newfound parental sensibilities and likes to constantly remind me not to spend her college fund lattes and lottery tickets, as if I couldn’t figure that out on my own without the guilt.

But, I digress….

The first time I took it to a meeting I immediately felt self-conscious. It was as if I was bragging. I’m not quite sure if it was the attention, questions, and comments (“oh, is that an iPad?! Lucky girl!”) or that the purchase is what I would consider extravagant despite being well within my means.

After 2 weeks of use I’m starting to get more attached but I don’t feel like something is missing when I leave it behind (like I do with my phone). It’s a great tool for work and really nice to have around the house. It is so much easier to transport than a laptop. I do find a few things to be frustrating though. The WordPress app is C-r-a-p. It fails to provide a way to spellcheck, add links, or images, all of which I do for every post. So, I still have to log in to the web page when I want to update my blog. Also, the camera is difficult to take videos with. It would be nice if it had the ability to zoom out, and for HD quality, it’s pretty grainy. With that said, the convenience of being able to shoot, edit, and upload video and images from one device totally rocks. On the downside, no flash support on Apple devices is more of a big deal than I thought it would be. A lot of web page content is simply not accessible without it, including the ability to check the video posts to the blog to make sure they’re working properly before I publish. Annoying!

All in all, I’d say the iPad and I are good buds, but not quite BFF status yet. I seem to find new uses for it every day – we subscribed to Hulu plus over the weekend and I introduced Scott to Raising Hope all thanks to the magic of the iPad. But so far, I can still say that I could live without it. Check back with me in a few months.

Tech Tuesdays: Going cable-free

We opened our cable bill this month to find that comcast is raising their rates, again. We are already paying through the nose for extended basic service – $80 a month with tax and fees plus an additional charge for HD (seriously?) – without any premium channels, plus another $50 for low-speed Internet.

I was ready to cancel months ago, but Scott has been reluctant and since it is his bill I haven’t pushed the issue. I stopped watching tv shortly after Kaylee was born. By that time the only shows I watched regularly were Modern family, Glee, and The Daily Show, but it quickly became too challenging to follow along and pay attention to an infant at the same time. I can recall one evening where Kaylee was particularly fussy and woke up after a half hour nap, roughly 5 minutes in to an episode of  Raising Hope and I was annoyed that I wouldn’t be able to watch it instead of excited to spend time with her. At that point I knew something had to change – my attitude. So, soon I found myself going days without even turning the tv on at all. I missed it at first but now I don’t even think about it and I have recaptured some free time to do other things that I really enjoy. Scott, on the other hand, has it on pretty much all the time, but since scifi became syfy and cancelled most of his favorite shows, he watches Netflix a lot more than regular tv. We do still watch the daily show together.

After the bill arrived, I did a bit of research and found we can get pretty close to the same service we have now by purchasing a roku box and hulu plus (unfortunately hulu plus doesn’t support xbox 360 yet). So for a one time fee of $70 for the Roku, and $7.99 a month for hulu plus, we’ll still get to watch everything we can now for $70 less a month. And, Roku allows you to access Amazon Video on Demand service too just in case we want something we can’t get on Netflix. The savings will allow us to bump up our Internet speed to the next level for an additional $12 per month and still save about $600 a year. That’s money that could go towards Kaylee’s college fund rather than lining the pockets of a megacorp who shouldn’t be charging its customers anything for ad-based programming in the first place.

Tech Tuesdays: UPromise

Sign up for UPromise
Every time you make an eligible purchase, Upromise partners return a portion of that money back to you. Those earnings accumulate in your Upromise account until you decide to use it to invest in a 529 plan, help pay down eligible student loans or assist with college expenses—all tax-free! It’s free. Start an account now and tell all the grandparents about it so they can link their credit and store cards to your account and help add to your pile of free cash for school. You can even use it to pay for your own education and divvy it up among multiple kids. What are you waiting for, go now!

Tech Tuesdays: Retro Camera Android App

 

I’m really liking the RetroCamera app for Android. It has multiple cameras and the option to switch between color and black and white. The pinhole camera is fun, but I like the Urbian camera the best. The scratchy film hides the fact that the camera on the G1 totally sucks (Six more months ’till I get to upgrade my phone…I’ve loved my G1, but I’m ready to move on). If you have an Android phone, check out Retro Camera, it’s free! If you have an iPhone there’s a similar app called Hipstamatic, but it will set you back $2.