Tag Archives: Science and Technology

Tech Support Answers, Part Uno

NOTE from RASJ: So many people responded to my call to ask TechSupport questions, that his answers will show up in three parts! Thank you all so much for helping to defuzz his brain a little bit. And for allowing me more time to work on my book. Tech will respond to any and all responses. Please check out some of these great writers’ blogs. Especially if you have never heard of them before!

Tech Support 2012

Dear Everyone:

As many of you know, I went to overnight camp for 4 weeks this summer. Yes, I changed my underwear. And yes, I brushed my teeth. While I was away, a bunch of you wrote me advice and shared stories either about your experiences at summer camp or other funny stories. Thank you for those letters. Mail matters while you are at camp. I read the whole, thick bundle my mother brought on Visitor’s Day – including Penny’s multiple pages of The Places You’ll Go, which is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories.

{sarcasm on} Thank you also for the birthday questions. {sarcasm off}

I have never hoped no one would comment on my mother’s blog before.

Responding to your questions was time-consuming fun, and it helped me get into school mode.

I guess.

I hope you like my answers.

If you don’t, please take your complaints up with my mother.

After all, this was her idea.



 • • •

Joan asked:

What are you doing on your actual birthday?

In the morning, I will wake up, play on my iPod for 30 minutes, play on the computer for an hour, eat breakfast, then play on my iPod until my Mom freaks out and tells me to get off the iPod or she will throw it out of a window.

I will then switch to the iPad.

• • •

Ricky Anderson asked:

Why does iTunes make four copies of every song I own?

I’m not quite sure why it does that, but I have this same problem. I have however found two solutions. TuneUp will fix incorrect song information, remove duplicates, and find missing album art. While the second option, Tagalicious, will not get rid of duplicates, the interface for finding missing album art and fixing song information is much more intuitive than TuneUp’s. Personally I recommend getting the free trials of each and finding which one you like best.

• • •

Nora of Together They Would Travel asked:

What do you think of rookiemag.com?

Rookiemag.com looks awesome… if you’re a girl.

• • •

georgettesullins asked:

Do you plan to return to camp next year and the next year?

Yes. Forever. And ever. I plan to be staff one day. Wouldn’t you want to see this every day?

Wouldn’t you want to go to here? • Photo by TechSupport 2012

• • •

Val of artyoldbird asked:

Allowing for the years when you probably couldn’t read, how many books have you so far read in your lifetime and what was your earliest favorite?

It’s funny you ask that because I keep track of every book I ever read in my life! So far, I have read 87,783 books. My earliest favorite was Goodnight, Moon!

• • •

Alex Jones of Liberated Way asked:

Can you survive without television and Facebook for a month?

Of course. Did you not see that this year I went away to sleepover camp for four weeks? Instead of being online, I played baseball and water-skied, went rock-climbing, participated in mass programs, and went to Arts & Crafts. It was no trouble being away from the Internet.

Mostly because I had no access to Wifi.

• • •

on thehomefrontandbeyond asked:

How can I sound up-to-date and savvy about tech stuff if I am not up-to-date and savvy & want to impress my tech savvy 21 year old?

The easiest way is to become savvy. Just look up some computing terms (like RAM or lossless compression) and learn their meanings. Then you will not only sound savvy, you’ll be savvy!

• • •

checkinoutlife asked:

What type of music do kids your age listen to? Can you tell me some of the bands you listen to? Do you listen to the same music as your friends?

Most kids my age are into music I don’t like that much, like rap or Justin Bieber. I don’t listen to the same music as (most) of my friends. Personally, I like dubstep, a kind of techno(ish) music. My favorite group who produces dubstep is Skrillex. Check it out. (Just skip the ad.)

Betsy K.W. gave me a killer bunch of research questions. She clobbered me wrote:

In the early 90s I worked for a company called Silicon Graphics which was founded by Jim Clark. What did he and his graduate students invent and where did they invent it (what university)? What industries used (use) this technology and what do they do with it (three examples, please)? What are two other companies that Jim Clark was chairman/founder of and what did the companies create? And a bonus question – When did Jim graduate high school and where did he go to college?

Jim Clark was an early computer geek who invented a geometry engine which is a hardware accelerator used to render images. He invented this in Silicon Valley in 1979 at Stanford University in California. People use this technology in computers, web-browsing and fast-rendering of 3-D images. Two other companies he helped develop were Silicon Graphics Inc. and Netscape. Netscape created a web-browser and Silicon Graphics created computer hardware. Clark was a high school dropout. He did go to Tulane University and eventually earned enough credits to go to University of New Orleans.

Assuming he’s still alive, I’m guessing he’s pretty rich.

Part dos is coming soon to a blog near you!

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

Should Kids Be Using Cell Phones? Should Any of Us?

I knew a child who wouldn’t stop asking her mother to buy her a cell phone. Daily, this kid was working her mother over. Negotiations took place at the breakfast table each morning (before coffee) for weeks until, finally, my friend cracked and bought her daughter a basic cell phone which came with the caveat: Use this in emergencies only. The child seems to have been appeased.

I have somehow managed to avoid the whole “cell phone conversation” by getting my child an iPod Touch (which, by the way, he is currently not allowed to use for an undetermined period of time due to the fact that Boy was so enthralled with his new “toy,” he failed to respond to his father’s clearly audible, repeated request to go and brush his teeth. )

But I digress.

But it’s not a huge digression. I know kids who have had cell phones as early as the 3rd grade. Children have become the earliest adopters of our newest technologies. They pick up on how things work quickly, and we are awed by their abilities to understand what seem to many adults to be such complicated devices.

In an article by Marguerite Reardon, the writer asks the big question: Are cell phones safe? For years, studies have provided conflicting conclusions, and today, there is still no clear answer. One professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, Dr. Henry Lai, has been studying the effects of cell phone radiation on humans since 1980 and says: “There is cause for concern.”

For years, researchers and scientists have debated whether radiation from radio frequencies used to wirelessly transmit phone calls could adversely affect the health of cell phone users. And as more people throughout the world use cell phones and make these devices an integral part of their lives, concerns have grown as to long-term public health issues.

In 2009, it was estimated that in the U.S. alone, more than 270 million Americans (more than 87 percent of the population), now owns a cell phone, according to data compiled by the Marist Poll Marketing Group.

A handful of studies that have looked at the long-term effects of using cell phones suggest people who use a cell phone for at least an hour each day over a 10-year period are at an increased risk of developing brain tumors. This research also suggests that tumors are more likely to be on the side of the head where the phone is most often used.

More recently, researchers have grown particularly concerned about the adverse effects that cell phone usage could have on children. Some research indicates that children are five times more likely to get brain cancer if they use mobile phones, but other research efforts have found results inconclusive.

So here’s the paradox: Everyone worries about the “safety” of his/her  children; of course we do. What parent doesn’t? But are we thinking long-term enough? There is concern that children who start using cell phones at a young age will be exposed for a longer period of time over their entire lifetime to cell phone radiation. Researchers are particularly concerned about the risk of cell phones with children, because children’s nervous systems are not fully developed, their brains contain more fluid than brains of adults, which allows for deeper penetration of radiation.

There has been enough concern among public health officials in various parts of the world to warrant warnings. For example, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), a government regulatory body located in the home country of Nokia, the largest cell phone maker in the world, is urging parents to restrict cell phone use for children, suggesting parents encourage kids text rather than talk.

France has proposed banning advertisements encouraging children younger than 12 to use cell phones, and it has also warned parents that children under age six are particularly at risk. The Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. does not go so far as issuing a warning, but the agency recommends minimizing potential risk by using hands-free devices and keeping cell-phone talk to a minimum.

Finland, France and Israel have all issued warnings on their government websites about children using cell phones, while the U.S. has issued no such warnings.

I am certain the day will come when my son will get a cell phone. I don’t know what the moment will look like or what the trigger will be: an event like a birthday, or an actual breakdown in the systems that we currently have in place. I do know that when he gets a phone, that phone will be his responsibility and if he loses it, it will not be treated like a sock or a paperclip. And it will be when it is abundantly clear that he really needs a cell phone. Right now, the school he attends is in our backyard, so if he forgets something at school, the answer to almost any question is some variation of “Well, why don’t you just run back there and see if you can get in the school?” One day, perhaps when he is in high school and starting to drive or if he starts going to huge fencing competitions without us (or if he figures a way to argue his case and win), he can have the most basic cell phone of his choice. Until then, I’m going with the Europeans and the Israelis.

Have a quick listen to this podcast by Dr. Devra Davis, Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Institute, and see what you think:

What do you do with all this information?

To Touch or not to Touch?: That is the Question

My soon-to-be 6th grade son will attend the school that is  — literally — in my backyard. I’m not kidding. If you stand in my kitchen and look outside, it’s right there: A two-story brick building, designed to look like a dairy farm. If I were a better golfer, I could hit it with my 7 iron. My husband can probably hit it with his sand wedge; it’s that close.

People have warned me that my child will have “no social life” if he doesn’t have a cell phone with a texting plan because kids these days only communicate via text. I am inclined to pshaw this argument because I truly believe that if someone wants to hang out with my son, that kid will resort to (gasp) calling him on our land-line. Yes, that child might have to talk to an adult for a second or two, but it’s my understanding that I’m kinda okay to talk to, so, until I hear otherwise, I’m not worrying about that.

I’ve also been given the “safety” argument from practically everyone, as if having this device will somehow make him safer. I am fortunate to live in somewhat of an old-fashioned neighborhood where people look out for each others’ kids a little bit. If my son can’t get into our house – which would be really a rare instance because he knows the code to our keypad and has the key to the inside door in his back-pack –  he has a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D with regard to which neighbors’ homes he might go. He doesn’t need to call me at the point of the problem. He can try to solve his problem and call me when he gets to his destination and let me know where he is. I try to follow the “safety” argument. I get the idea that if your kid is out riding a bike and she falls or her tire pops or the chain fell off, well . . . I suppose a cell phone would be nice so she could call you and say, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up,” or “My bike is busted,” but assuming there was no real injury – wouldn’t you just want her to get up all by herself, brush herself off, and push the bike home? Because I’m thinking that’s when kids feel a kind of strength, a kind of confidence in handling a problem themselves – without the adult swooping in for the rescue. And if my kid is in THAT bad of shape, somebody, please . . .  call an ambulance. Oh, and I feel compelled to remind you — the school is about 75 yards away. Maybe. How much trouble can he get into between here and there?

Currently, my son and I have an understanding. I don’t want to be the crazy mother out there screaming his name at 7 o’clock when it is time to eat dinner, so he tells me where he is going and if he changes location, he asks politely to use the telephone to call me. This system works beautifully. (For now.) I know where he is; he doesn’t need a cell phone. And I don’t have to be attached to my technology either, waiting for a bing or a ping.

My son’s 11th birthday is fast approaching. He has not asked for a cell phone, but he has asked for an iPod Touch. In my mind, this device brings its own set of problems. It’s expensive. It requires Wi-Fi to send text — which is not always available. I worry less about his social life than about his grammar deteriorating with all the stoooopid abbreviations. He is only just beginning to learn the nuances of conventional grammar, and studies suggest texting interferes with all of that. Texting will also open him up to the not-so wonderful world of cyber-bullying. On the other hand, having an iPod Touch would hold all his music and his old first generation Nano has long been maxed out.

image from google.com

It is the only thing he wants for his birthday.

Still, it seems premature. He’s only 11.

I know adults don’t always want to blab with the chatty parents who are hosting the sleepover, that it is easier to text

im outside

than to get out of the car and go inside and get the child. Isn’t that the real reason we give our children devices with texting plans? For our convenience? To me, it seems like an inconvenience. I simply don’t want to be that attached to my phone. And what is he really getting: a fancy iPod with the ability to play games? Well, he can do that on the computer. And I can set limits on the computer. Right now, when he’s on for an hour, the computer gives him a warning at the “15 minutes remaining” mark and again at the “one minute remaining” mark and then it logs him off. I don’t have the ability to do that with a portable device. (Do I?) What types of rules do people have in place for these things?

Somebody help me out. What is my problem? Am I making much ado about nothing?  What rules have you put in place? What has (or hasn’t) worked for you? What should we expect if we get him one of these gadgets?

Ringtones Adults Aren’t Supposed To Hear

Texting & the rocket summer, originally uploaded by racheocity.

As a general rule, unless someone has an Individualized Educational Plan, I require students to turn off all electronics for the 50 minutes they are in my class. iPods and MP3 Players? Off. Laptops? Off. Cellphones? I don’t even want them on vibrate as I find the buzz distracting. No one has ever balked; however, this past fall I did have a weird experience that caused me to learn about something new in the ever-evolving world of technology.

In this one particular classroom, students generally sat in straight lines facing front: Not my favorite configuration, but we didn’t have many options in our tiny, sterile, windowless space. One day, for no apparent reason, several students looked sharply to the opposite side of the room at the exact same moment while other students covered their ears. Thinking nothing of it, I simply continued my lesson. After class, a most loyal student told me about The Mosquito Ringtone, a tone specifically designed to ring at a decibel that is not easily detected by adult ears. This student also told me that some students use it to cheat.

Apparently, British inventor, Howard Stapleton discovered an ultra high frequency that drives away teens much like a dog whistle affects dogs. His idea was to use his invention to keep teenagers from loitering outside of shops at night, thus making the area around his storefront uncomfortable for loitering teens while leaving the money-spending adult customers unaffected.

As stated in the website for Mosquito Ringtones:

… teens from the inventor’s hometown caught on to what the company was doing and decided to put turn the idea into something they could use. They took the ultra sonic frequency and converted into to a cell phone ringtone which they aptly named “Teen Buzz.”… The ringtone caught on like wildfire in the UK and quickly spread throughout the reaches of the Internet to teens everywhere. Teens learned they could hear each others phones ringing at school but their teachers couldn’t.

Initially skeptical, I was amazed when tried the hearing test experiment with my 10 year-old son and learned that I simply could not hear certain tones beyond a certain frequency. I kept saying, “Can you really hear something?” and he kept saying, “Yes, I can hear it. Now can you turn it off!” I thought I had great hearing! Sheesh! Since that day, I have remained ever-vigilant in class, relying on my eyes as well as my ears. Students are clever and always a step ahead when it comes to technology – especially when it comes to finding a way to use it to cut corners or keep up with their important social lives!

I must admit, I have been waiting for a similar incident to occur. It hasn’t (yet), but at least now I am prepared.

Have you come across this technology in your life? What do you think about it?