I can’t believe my sons are 16…


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T+1 day. The mission begins.

16 – simply amazing. 16 years ago we were scrambling Barb and I. The boys were born but were in the NICU of the hospital they were 7 weeks early and needed extra care and attention.

Barb was a wreck. She ended up taking a room in the hospital and spending every minute she could with her babies. I brought Jaki and Becca to the hospital. Jaki wasn’t allowed to go into the room at first as she was younger and they were very concerned about infection.

So I sat with her in the waiting room cheering her up. I suspect based on the fact that I was terrified she was probably cheering me up as much as I was cheering her up.

It was a gut wrenching 10 days.

Now, fast forward 16 years later and they are growing into wonderful human beings. I am very proud of the three of them, yesterday on the boys birthday the three of them played Dr. Who Monopoly together, by choice. As a parent there is no great gift from your children than them getting along.

It was also my Dad’s birthday yesterday. He, according to him, has passed the milestone and is 39 years old as of yesterday. Which is a huge step for my dad – he’s been 27 years old since 1972.

Finally our new girl doesn’t have a known birthday so the boys have declared March 30th to be Raven’s birthday as well. She got a cupcake and was happy to participate in cake, ice cream and present opening. I have come to believe that her snout actually grows as she becomes more curious. In the end we are just glad we can be her forever home. Dylan also got a cupcake but still isn’t 100% sure about this new creature. Like the old female Lab we had, Raven can be a bit bossy.

It was a great day.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

Shameless review: Lenovo Helix


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This is a review of hardware (Lenovo Helix) not of Windows 8.1. While Windows 8.1 is interesting it isn’t in the end my favorite. I still prefer Windows 7 or MacOS rather than 8.1.

The new convertible tablet’s that have popped up recently are quite intriguing. I looked at several (Surface Pro, Dell and HP) before settling on the Lenovo Helix. I like the snap tight of the keyboard and the size is quite nice.

What I really love:

  • All-Black device itself just looks cool.
  • Easy to set-up – was up and running in less than 5 minutes.
  • i7 Intel chip preforms nicely.
  • 8 gig of RAM is a nice addition to the tablet.
  • 180 gig SSD drive preforms exceptionally well.
  • integrated air card (AT&T) is very nice.
  • I love the keyboard –
  • Touch screen (10 point) works exceptionally well.

What I don’t like so far:

  • Windows 8.1 – seriously – I’ve been a windows loyalist for nearly 20 years. It just isn’t that good guys.

My initial thoughts on this computer were quite simply nice, zippy tablet with good storage. I literally ran the battery as long as I could and it lasted 8 hours. That is really nice. Lenovo has taken the concept of the convertible and made it better. I’ve had a touch screen device with Windows 7 running for more than 3 years. Win7 is a good touch OS. Win8 is a great touch OS so I do like that part. The pen is a little small – but there are a number of better after market stylus that work perfectly so that isn’t a big issue. Since the pen fits in the screen you can use it for emergencies. I do have to say after using the pen heavily with my Win7 tablet I don’t use it as much with Win8.

Overall after years of hating the Thinkpad series I have to say they have really improved them. Enough to where I bought Barb one as well. That way we only have to take one AC charger on vacation! My recommendation is if you are looking for a tablet that is flexible and functional – look no further. There are a lot of competitors in this space and I have looked at several. The Lenovo Helix stands alone for both laptop and tablet functionality.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

Another Steam/stem lesson!


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As promised my new series for this blog – focusing on STEM and STEAM activities. In the past I’ve talked about the exceptional quality instrumentation from Vernier. Without a doubt the best kit to bring into your classroom to show the functions generated by the fantastic device.

Today I am focusing on a lower cost solution. It doesn’t do what the Vernier products do. The Labquest 2 product in particular is exceptional. I’ve used it in more than 30 STEAM and STEM presentations.

A recent Kickstarter project (VERVE) has offered a very inexpensive way to show a number of components. Where the Labquest is a stand alone device that can be used anywhere and brought back to a computer to upload data, the Verve requires an active computer connection. What you get however is a screen that let’s you measure the world around you by simply plugging in a sensor to the mainboard and connecting that via USB to your computer.

The Lesson:

As computers move from static entry (keyboards) to touch and motion what are we really talking about?

Connect Verve to the computer and connect the motion connector to the unit. Have a student stand up and holding the motion sensor wave their arms. Show the computer screen to the class (project). Have the student wave their arms slowly and then fast.

The concept is to teach the complexity of motion. Have the student wave their hand holding the sensor, do circles and so on. Watching the screen introduces them to the concept of both point in space as well as relative motion.

  • Optional Exercises:
    • Track the required motion to move the graph a specific amount.
    • Art project: have the students create a visualization of motion – what does motion look like when presented artistically?

The beauty of all of this – less than 200 bucks to get rolling. Plus motion is only the first sensor I used. You can use many more sensors to present a number of interesting connections.

Science is the concept of studying questions and seeing if they can be proved or disproved. Art is the process of sharing the connection of that question.

Have fun – more to come in this series.

((T-Minus O days and I feel better – and free of BS).

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

New Alarm Clock, pending reviews and the boys birthday


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T-Minus 0 days.

You would think it would be a relief but it isn’t.

I had the Skybell installed yesterday. Its an iPhone/android based video doorbell and intercom. Its really nice when you are in the basement to see who is at the front door. I know its someone because the dogs are barking, but who the someone is can be critical information at times.

The new alarm clock has taken to licking my face at 5:01 am every day now. She puts her big Labrador head in my face and looks at me saying “come on lazy bum its time to feed the dogs.” I miss the bleating of the old alarm. I could press the sleep button that that one. The sleep button on the new alarm clock just pushes her head further onto the bed.

I have a few pending reviews to cover but will put that off until April. Right now concentrated on solving problem 1.

This Sunday my father turns 27 (again Smile) and my sons turn 16. Don’t ask him how that math works out – according to him it just does. The boys were a very hard pregnancy for Barb. Between bed rest and hormones she was a wreck for the last two weeks of the pregnancy. In the end it was worth it, the boys are thriving and have grown into nice young men.

Now off to the Internet – how to install sleep button on Labrador alarm clock.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.

STEM becomes STEAM but Model Rockets Still rule!


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Recently a lot of STEM advocates have begun calling it STEAM, adding the concept of Art to the reality of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. I think that art adds so much to the other’s. I have often argued that looking at a block of stone and seeing a statue in that block is as much math as it is art. It is the science of understanding (through practice) the tinsel strength of the specific rock you are using.

Personally I am a huge fan of the merger and have long included art as a component of my STEM presentations.

Let’s for a moment take one of my personal favorite activities – launching a model rocket. First off this would appear to be a wholly scientific experience but it is not. Let’s break down the activity into three distinct components and ultimately three lesson’s you can use with your kids at home.

  • Building the rocket: first off this is best done the first time by an Estes Rocket kit. They are very straight forward and easy to assemble. The second part is decorating the Rocket. Due to the nature of the paint required I recommend you do your first Rocket with colorful sharpies rather than paint – more fun to decorate and no fumes. The important things here are to test and make sure the nose cone releases smoothly and that you have packed the rocket properly. Wadding in the wrong place will burn your parachute and well, lose your rocket. Then make it the most beautiful rocket you can. This is a great chance to introduce two topics:
    • Force and Motion
    • Artistic Perspective
  • Lesson two is planning your launch. You have to pick a site that has enough clearance for the force and motion results you got in that first lesson. Like Kites, Rocket’s floating on parachutes are drawn to trees. Plan the launch site carefully. The other side of launching a rocket is getting to the site as well. Make sure you can get to where you want to launch the rocket without a huge fuss. Now you can introduce more topics
    • Force review – and let’s see how far (distance) this Rocket will go
      • How far up in the air (important to know – check the FAA web site for rules in your area. There are ceilings for how high your rocket can go depending upon where you live)
      • How far it will travel under power (distance away from the launching area)
      • How long it will float once the parachute release.
      • lots of introduction to photography here – how do you take pictures of a fast moving object? Pictures of the graceful decent via parachute are also nice.
  • Lesson three: Let’s launch this thing. You know how far its going up. You know how long it will be in powered flight so you can talk about the fact that the earth moves. And you can roughly estimate how long it will graceful float back to earth. Place the rocket on the pad. Now you have more topics you can introduce:
    • Drawing perspective – the rocket on the launch pad. Let’s use creativity here – what will it look like 2 seconds after ignition. What will it look like as it arcs into the air? What if it explodes?
    • Photography – setup different cameras, one for the launch and one to track the Rocket in flight.
    • Check your math –
    • Deploy spotters along the project path.
    • Put a circle on the group where you believe the rocket will land (based on the calculations)
    • Estimate the wind – are there any variables that would impact the wind as the Rocket rises in the air.
    • Measure the environment (air temperature etc.)
  • Launch – retrieve and launch again.

I’ve done this with 4th graders, 2nd graders and my own kids. No matter what it is a great blending of the what and how art and STEM. I published much of this (I’ve added to it since 1990) in an article for The Hoosier Science Teacher way back in 1990. You can’t imagine the look on everyone’s face when they successfully retrieve their rocket. From artist to future engineer everyone is smiling.

STEAM is great for teaching and really good for team building as well!

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

Breaking the 7 reasons why not to blog…why? for the one reason that matters to me…


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T-Minus 3 days and Counting.

I read an interesting blog yesterday – 7 reasons to stop blogging. I think the author missed a number of critical points. I blog (particularly this blog) to get things out of my head. My technical blogs have many more readers and followers than this blog does. One of her comments was stop blogging if the only comment you get is from your mother. Personally I am honored with either of my parents comment about my blog either on-line, via email or on the phone. So that is another miss.

That is why roughly 6 years ago I split into two blogs. The Docandersen blog (see above) is my serious focused blog where I discuss the technical issues that are my personal passion. Family, which is my other passion is featured here on this blog. Frankly I couldn’t care less if anyone other than my family reads this blog. It is meant as a way for me to write down the things we sometimes wander through life forgetting to say. Like I love my family. 24 years ago a fantastic woman (that anyone who meets her says she is a Saint – just for sticking with me) was willing to share her life with me. I couldn’t be more grateful. My parents are awesome people that I adore. My sisters and their families are incredible people. My children are awesome. Becca is off to grad school, Jaki is finishing her associates and then on for her Bachelors and Nick/Luke are freshmen in High School. Dylan has his new sister (Raven) and they are learning to adjust to each other.

This blog is also home to the poetry of Sandler Boggs. It isn’t great poetry often but it comes from where I am at the time of the poem. I share it because if I don’t it rattles around inside my head for days at a time. What do you do with a poem that is rattling around inside your head?

“Poet’s who read their poem’s out loud may have other nasty habits as well.” Sandler Boggs

I post my reviews here as well. I’ve been doing reviews since 1992. That is the year I started the Dead Teachers Society magazine “Kindle the Flame.” KTF featured technology reviews for teachers. Its where I got my start as I did roughly 90% of the reviews for KTF. We had 85 issues before the KTF flame got too expensive to send around. From there I moved my reviews to a website I hosted and changed the name of the reviews to “The Savvy Tech Guy.” That lasted for roughly five years until I started my blog in 2005. That was when I started my blog series “Another Shameless Review.”

Reviews have three rules for me. The first is I have to be using the technology I am reviewing. Some of them end up on the scrap head (Lexmark S800 printer got a good initial review, later I realized I was not so happy with it – I should have printed a retraction but it was 6 years ago and frankly I forgot to). The intent for my reviews is to show the things I like and the things I don’t like about a specific solution.

Lastly I’ve been adding lately Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects I find intriguing. Why? Because I find the reality of the shift of innovation to be intriguing.

In the end this blog is for me to share what I am thinking about not bound my the rules of my profession. If you need a more serious blog from me, feel free to look up the IASA Blog, Safegov or CloudTweaks. I publish on those as well with more serious topics.

I guess this blog breaks the 7 reasons you should stop blogging right now. There is really only one reason for this blog, it makes me feel connected to the world around me.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

Activewords works with Windows 8.1 (huge sigh of relief).


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T-minus 4 days.

I reviewed one of my favorite all time products a number of years ago (ActiveWords). First off their license model (buy plus once and put it on all your PC’s) is incredible. Its nice to see it also installed easily on Windows 8.1. I use ActiveWords to automate a number of things – in this blog all my headers, signatures and tags are added via ActiveWord commands.

Its been a part of every computer I’ve used at home for years. I’ve written two or three reviews of the product overall. The 2.0 version really improved the overall product (which was awesome and now is whatever is beyond awesome).

In fact when I think about it, it’s the only thing other than Office that I have on every computer I use. Each of the various computers I have has a function/purpose. The only common applications are MS office and Activewords.

Overall the product is well written. It has add-ons for virtually everything you could possibly want to connect to. I use the Bing and Google search adds on constantly and as stated before I use the text insert function all the time.

The program also tells you how much time you are saving by leveraging the tool. Right now I average 300 dollars in savings per month. I realize from a TCO perspective this is more time loss avoidance so it is hard to quantify, still it does open up a ton of time I didn’t have before and makes certain tasks I do every day much faster.

If you are looking for an incredible productivity tool, ActiveWords is a great starting point.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.