Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Simple cool stuff to do with the kids during the break...

So the school mid-term break is now in full swing for the parents among us, and after Disney Junior (DSTV channel 309 for those non-parental readers) is all maxxed out, we have to start getting a little bit more creative in terms of stuff to do.

After all, this is meant to be quality time that we should be spending with our kids, is it not?

So it occurred to me that all we really need to do, is go back to basics.
I dusted out the crazy cobwebs in my noggin, and took a trip down memory lane, back to when I was a kid who still held school holidays in high regard.
Man, those were the days - endless weeks of free time, so much free time... where did all the time go?
Does time diminish as one grows older? I guess in a way it does, but that's a subject for another day...

Anyway, I came up with a few simple things from my childhood that often provided hours of entertainment, and which still apply today.
Just because we live in a world full of iPads and WIFI, doesn't mean that our kids can't still enjoy some of the same things that we did while growing up.

Next time you are at a loss for something fun to do, maybe this list will be of some use:

  • Build a puzzle:
    I used to spend hours as a kid on jigsaw puzzles, and they fascinate me to this day.
    The kids also love them, even from a young age.

  • Make some Lego:
    Does anybody not enjoy Lego? 
    From building crazy castles as a kid, to creating massively reinforced cars (only to smash them into the nearest wall), Lego is truly timeless.

    Lego at work.
    Lego at work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Roast marshmallows:
    This one requires some adult supervision obviously, but it's a favourite and generally accompanies any braai as a sweet treat afterwards.
    Avoid contact with clothing...!

  • Swim:
    Kids go nuts for pools in summer. It's that simple.
    If the weather permits and you are fortunate enough to have access to a pool, get in.
    We have some pretty awesome summers here in South Africa, so we may as well make the most of them.

    Blue-water-pool (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Make a fire:
    Lighting up a fire at sunset just does something for the soul. Perhaps somehow it connects us to our ancestral roots, to a time when fire was vital for survival.
    Who knows - all I can say is that even as an adult I still enjoy a good fire, be it a campfire or a small log fire to roast some marshmallows over.

    Just flames
    Just flames (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Stargaze:
    While stoking the fire, why not turn your eyes up to the heavens and pick out some of our celestial neighbours or constellations.
    Apart from the moon, several of the planets in our solar system are easily visible in our night skies, and with dark enough skies and cloudless conditions, even amateur equipment can reveal a surprising amount of detail on objects such as Saturn and Jupiter.
    Pretty awe-inspiring, and appreciated by young and old alike.

    English: Pleiades Star Cluster
    English: Pleiades Star Cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Create silence:
    Here is one that I struggle with a lot, but which I still try to achieve, however difficult it may be.
    When you get home, switch your cellphone to Silent. It has been ringing all day, with a thousand different people vying for your attention.
    So ask yourself, how many of those people are more important to you than your loved ones?
    It's not easy I know, but in a world where constant noise is the order of the day, a little bit of silence can't be a bad thing. 
If it's an excursion you are looking for, then head over to our other blog - Plebs with Kids, where we review kid-friendly spots in and around Johannesburg.

As I type this post I keep thinking of new things that I want to add to this list, so I guess this post will be a bit of a work in progress.
Can you think of anything that you loved as a kid, that you feel deserves a mention?

Drop me a comment below and maybe I'll add it in :)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Get your 50GB of FREE cloud storage...

There are dozens of cloud storage providers out there today who all provide free and paid storage options to new customers.
Putting a copy of your data on the cloud is a great way to guard against potential device failure or loss, however the amount of data that we generate nowadays is rather a lot...

The traditional 2GB free data offering from Dropbox just doesn't cut it anymore - Microsoft moved the goalposts somewhat with their 15GB free offering, but even that will still be used up pretty quickly once you start syncing photos, videos and music to the service.

Enter Mega - launched in 2013, it was founded by the same chap (Kim Dotcom) who founded the now defunct Megaupload in 2005.

Mega essentially operates in the same way as Dropbox - you install a sync client on your PC, and this keeps a dedicated folder on your PC in sync with the Mega servers, to the tune of 50GB of free data.
Now 50GB is a lot of data in an any language, and it pretty much beats any other free offering out there.
I have been trying out the Mega service myself, and it has been fairly painless so far, with a nice web interface to boot.

Give it a shot if you need free cloud storage (and who doesn't?):

Comments welcome - free services like this will hopefully keep the big guys competitive and on their toes, provided that they keep their systems more secure than Apple, that is... ;)
Oh and one last bit of advice - keep your most personal intimate pics off the Cloud, lest they should fall into the wrong hands!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Do not drop your hard drive. You have been warned...

How much data do you generate in a single day?
Between documents, images, videos and other content, I would guess that the figure is somewhere in the tens of megabytes at least, if not hundreds or more.

The amount of data that we generate nowadays is just scary, and the more data we create, the more storage we require to keep it safe.

English: A USB hard drive. This is made by Wes...
English: A USB hard drive. This is made by Western Digital and uses a mini B USB connection for both power and data transfer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The obvious solution? External hard drives.
Cost-effective, portable and convenient - just plug in a USB cable, copy and paste and you are good to go.
Well, that's the idea at least.

While USB hard drives are a great place to put all of your stuff, they are also vulnerable to damage if not handled correctly.
Recently I dealt with several clients who expressed a great deal of surprise when their prized external hard drives suddenly went belly up, nasty clicking sounds and all.
I really feel that hard drives and other similarly sensitive products should ship with a bold disclaimer on the box, something like this:


You get the idea - inside that sleek outer casing, there are platters, heads and other moving parts that when crashed together, can render a hard drive completely dead.
In some cases, even a light knock can damage a drive, and I am amazed that people still find this hard to believe.
I suppose because they have spent a lot of money on the device, they expect it to be tough and able to take some punishment.

Sure, you can find so-called "rugged" hard drives which boast of an increased ability to take a beating, however I certainly wouldn't put my precious data at risk testing one of these devices...

Trust me, hard drives are feeble in careless hands.
So next time you purchase an external USB hard drive, why not spend the extra few bucks and get a second one, just in case Murphy and his minions are lurking somewhere down the road...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What to do if your Apple has run out of USB ports...

All too often nowadays, I come across Apple owners who are at their wits end because they have run out of USB ports.
Well the obvious solution would be to go out and buy a USB hub to upgrade the amount of USB ports, right?

Well thankfully, there is now a far simpler, and indeed cheaper solution which I will outline for you using the images below:

Before: Limited by only 2 USB ports

After: A 3rd USB port has now easily been added to this Apple

Taking a closer look, post-upgrade...

You can take this even further than just one extra USB port of course - in theory you are limited only by the amount of free space available on the Apple itself!
Take note - some discolouration of the new USB port is normal, a few minutes after the upgrade has been completed.

Now don't all thank me at once for saving you a few hundred bucks on a USB hub... :)

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