Holiday Gift Guide 2014

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My Mamihood's Holiday Gift Duie I'm trying a little something new from Microsoft. It's called Sway and it's making me giddy with excitement. What's Sway? Sway is an app for expressing your ideas in a new way and across devices. If the Office 365 apps were college students, Sway would be their sorority house.

If you ever want to get a techy girl hot and bothered, give her something in Beta. Sway inspired me to do a holiday guide and I got Yanira to jump in with me. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Tech Mami Goes (Micro)soft: The Spring Champions Summit

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[box type="shadow" ]I am a Microsoft Office Champion. This trip was sponsored by Microsoft. All thoughts, opinions, girl crushes and warm baths are purely my own.[/box] April found me on the west coast again in beautiful Seattle. Yes, I was there to bring them some Silishine but I was also there to immerse myself in awesome. The Office Champs were back on the prowl. What, pray tell were we on the prowl for? New techy wonders to tell you about, of course!

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You may think that it was all relaxing bathtubs and delicious food but let me tell you: it was hard work. And fun. Lawd, was it fun!

Where do I begin?

Microsoft Research

We went to this little place called Microsoft Research. I’d tell you where it’s at but, I wasn’t driving and was too busy playing with my Nokia Lumia 928 and taking pics like this…

…to pay attention where they were taking me. Suffice it to say it was on Microsoft soil. One of the first things I saw when I walked in was gigapixelartzoom.com.

Gigapixel Art Zoom

What is it you ask? It’s a groovy project using Microsoft’s panoramic stitching. They used this super cool viewing technology to capture the culture of Seattle and created an image filled with dancers, actors, painters, poets, acrobats and burlesque queens. You can look at this thing for ages and find something different each time.

The incomparable Jevon zooming in to the gigapixel sexiness!

After getting an explanation of what it took to get this going (the project manager in me had a headache at the thought), we got to check out digital assistants. And this, ladies and gentlemen is what gives me the giggles and makes me feel like Christmas.

Elevators, Robots, Cortana, Oh My!

One of the things we talked about while at the research center was how technology is being integrated into our everyday lives to work seamlessly among us.

Like smart elevators that know the difference between someone that’s heading to the elevator and someone that is passing by. And the cutest thing at the Research Center?

Harrison

This little guy is powered by Kinect and awaits you as you exit the elevator. Don’t know where someone’s office is? Well, that’s what he’s here for. He didn't have a name and y’all know how I feel about that so, I named him. Readers, meet Harrison.

Walk up to Harrison and ask him where Eric Horvitz's office is and he will direct you how to get there. The more exposure he has, the more he learns about human speech and behavior. Pretty cool, eh?

I also got a chance to meet Monica. She was Eric’s assistant. Having been an assistant myself at one point in time, I can tell you that this is scary AND cool all at once. Scary because it makes you wonder if we will have human assistants in the future and cool because…well, it’s just cool.

I told you a little about Cortana last month. I cannot wait for it to show up on my new Nokia Lumia 928! I’m looking forward to it reminding me of appointments, meetings as well as quiet hours and generally teaching C-Boogey about my day to day so that I can do a better job both personally and professionally.

That was day one! Loads of learning, questions, answers and general tech adrenaline rush that leads to lots of ovulating and potentially slapping whoever is next to you as you are exposed to new advances you didn't know would be hitting your phone this year.

Speaking of ovulating: technology is awesome but cool people that you can connect with? I believe the word is amazeballs!

Here are my girl crushes from the summit:

Kimmie the Accessory Expert - We connected last time and did so again. Her style is impeccable and I only hope she calls me over when she cleans out her accessory closet.

Kristin from Fashion Style Beauty - I got a special project planned with this girl and I cannot wait to tell you about it. Also, see pic below! How could I not love her?

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Sarah from Style It Online - cuz she's sassy and beautiful and I dig her style! Also, her dog is adorbs!

Nicole from NicoleLoher.com - she's calm, cool & collected and though I only spoke to her briefly, seems brilliantly sarcastic, funny and smart.

The Crew! Who Rule the World? #Girls

Disclosure: I am a Microsoft Office Champ and it's my pleasure bringing you new techy wonders of the world. All opinions are purely my own.

How I #GetItDone

Disclosure: I'm a Microsoft Office Champion. Also: I'm your Get It Done mentor (bet ya didn't know that!) I sometimes hear the following statement "I don't know how you do it all!” I normally respond with one of the following:  "I cry a lot", "fetal position", "wine". Truth is, I can't do it all. Even on my best day. Yes, I've had to come to terms with that and it's not easy. Once you get past the understanding that you can't do it ALL, you still got crap to do, right? My lists usually look like this:

  1. Create a proposal with client xyz
  2. Request images be shared from client abc for social posts
  3. Write blog post for school
  4. Case study review for corp resp class DUE SUNDAY!
  5. Write Get It Done Post
  6. Schedule holiday posts/reviews on editorial calendar
  7. Tally up book fair revenue & fill out financial forms
  8. Send out thank you notes

You get the drift, right? On that list what you don't see is downtime OR hanging out with my frog princess. But it's there. Along with grocery shopping and making dinner. For me the FIRST thing that must happen in order to "Get It Done" is I have to be organized.

So, this list lives in my OneNote notebook appropriately titled "Get It Done" (hint: we all have a ton of stuff to do, don't forget to bring a little humor into doing it). That sets the tone. I can access that list from my laptop, my Surface, my Samsung with the OneNote app and even from the mamiPad. While I shop, while I am in the carpool line (I get lots of things done in this line, folks) and every once in a while, while I'm consulting the hammock.

The Tools

All of my proposals are written in Word documents and I have a pretty awesome editorial calendar in Excel thanks to Momcomm aka fabuawesomegirlfriend Mel.

Of course, I don't always work at home. Last week, I found myself manning the book fair and having some downtime in between crowds. Thankfully, I got this handy dandy hotspot cleverly named Karma that came to my rescue. Not only was I able to use it in a pinch when the existing WiFi signal faded in the area I was in, but I was able to get one thing off my list while I waited around. I wasn't a Girl Scout but even I know you have to be prepared. This is how I earned the line name MacGyver. My line sisters could ask for just about anything and I was guaranteed to have either the item or a way to get it.

Effective use of time is key but so is having the right tools and thinking ahead. The lists are great but if you don't have a plan to get it done, it will be difficult and frustrating (learn from me, people!).

Get It DoneFun Facts

According to a recent study conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Microsoft found that:

  • More than half of office workers (53%) would be willing to work more hours
  • One in five would be willing to take a pay cut to have more flexibility in where and when they got work done
  • Not only that, but nearly one in five office workers (19%) admit that they have worked while going to the bathroom (note: I am sure this number is higher. Don’t tell me I’m the only one Tweeting from the toilet!)

Which Leads To…

Microsoft Office 365 is declaring Nov. 7th “Get It Done Day” and starting a movement for all the unbound accomplishers out there – kinda like me & maybe you! To bring the day to life, they’re hosting installations throughout New York City today that will highlight places where amazing accomplishments are changing the world. They’ll also showcase how people can collaborate in real-time and be productive anywhere with Office 365. It's a chance to break away from the grind, expand the mind, and have fun all while getting it done from anywhere. All people have to do is post a photo via Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #GetItDone and tell us what they get done in the caption!

For those who are living under a rock not on Instagram or Twitter, visit Office.com/GetItDone to submit a photo.

Not in New York? I got the same problem. Well, it’s not really a problem.You and a friend could win a trip to some of the most happening events anywhere. Get it done alongside the most accomplished athletes, filmmakers and musicians around—on a trip to NYC, a journey to Park City, Utah, or a musical voyage to Austin, Texas. Visit www.office.com/getitdone to share a photo and enter to win.

Be sure to head over to the Office 365 Facebook and Twitter profiles for features on business and thought leaders who are changing the world through technology, images from Get It Done Day, and much more.

These are some of my hints as to how I get it done. I want to hear/see yours!

Bada Bing!

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I recently learned about this and had to share with you. Why? Because I'm awesome! Also, you're awesome and want kids to have a good education with as little distraction as possible. Because the pads, pods, smart phones, tablets, abacus and whatever else they have is way too much already.

Kids_SafetyFile this under "oh, I hadn't thought of that". I'm glad the good folks at Bing did. See, here's the thing: search engines contain ads. Search engines also can rarely be stopped at the hands of a kid wanting to get their hands on inappropriate material during school hours. How do you battle that? Sure you can set parameters that can be hacked by an overzealous teen looking to impress their friends (or my almost 4 year old who is currently learning the fine art of coding).

Enter Bing! They have kicked off their new Bing for Schools initiative. What is it? Goodness in a browser, that's what! At least that's what Matt Wallaert, resident behavioral scientist tells me. But seriously, here's the breakdown from what I remember (just kidding, I can barely remember what I ate for dinner. I took notes):

  1. Schools are generally an ad free zone. So, why do we allow ads to pop up when kids are searching the internet at school? Now, from all searches done from Bing.com, there will be no ads served up on their searches. How awesome is that? Also:
  2. When a school signs up for this program, it effectively turns on a safe search to filter out adult content. At the school level. Kids can't turn this feature off! Lastly
  3. Teachers will have access to a short lesson plan to go with Bing's homepage image in order to reinforce digital literacy skills

Are you as excited about this as I am? As the frog princess gets older, I continue to learn more and more on how to keep her safe, focused and engaged. I love that Bing is doing this and here's what I love best: IT'S FREE. Yeah, you heard me. FREE!

How can your child's school get this? Easy. Tell them to! Head on over to Bing for Schools and let your school know this is something they should be looking into! Also, let them know I sent ya and that they should totally be reading what I have to say.

Now for you homeschoolers out there, I did ask about getting those lesson plans to teach digital literacy skills. Head on over to Microsoft's Partners in Learning network for more information you can use in your classroom.

Sooo...what do you think?  Who wants this in their kids' school?

My Life With zenMami

It has been a couple of weeks since I got zenMami (Asus 13” zenbook). I haven’t touched iMami since. All BS aside, I do miss her a bit but man, I am getting used to these 2.9 pounds of sleek and power.

I won’t bore you with the technical deets of my machine (email me if you wanna know, though). Here are the things I love:

Ease of use – I’ve been getting acquainted with Windows 7. It hasn’t been a huge to do like I expected. I love that I can pin my favorite programs which makes things easier in the long run.

The Wow – I have face recognition, ya’ll! This makes me feel like the CIA but without the secrets (do CIA agents have Twitter accounts? That must be torture!)

Live Writer – Yeah so, um, if you’re a blogger and don’t use Live Writer (part of Windows 7) I don’t know what to tell you. I’m in LiveWriter right now. Here’s a pic:

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It’s like writing my blogs in Word. I love that I can drop pics and can easily adjust with just a pull of the edges. It’s a big change from WordPress. I can add the categories and get my tags in. I can even set post date and time. There are all sorts of other plug ins but, I haven’t delved into them yet (I’ll tell ya later).

The Zen – I’ve had SkyDrive since February and loved it on iMami. I didn’t think I could love it any more but, I do. On Windows 7, the cloud is seamless.

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It appears right in line with the rest of my files and folders. As I’ve been preparing for school (starts next week, somebody hold me!), I have been downloading syllabi, lectures and important information. They all go into SkyDrive. I’m happy to experience an improvement to something I did not think needed improving.

What I don’t love:

Yes, you know I’m going to tell you the truth here. I have been having a hard time adjusting to Outlook. I have Gmail accounts and I’m still not used to all of the different folders. Today I found that I deleted an email and couldn’t find it in the deleted files within Outlook or within Gmail. Didn’t have this issue before. Something to research and figure out (but it probably won’t be for a few weeks).

That was the one big thing. Other than that I’m pretty happy with my decision. Ohhhhh! I almost forgot. The 6 hour battery is divine.

I feel like I don’t need to carry anything else around with me. I mean 2,9 lbs? I love it. Well, I like it a lot. I’m in all kinds of lust but I’m definitely moving towards love. The only thing I need to get me there? A cool decal or cover. It’s all about the accessories, don’t ya know?

Speaking of accessories, I along with my fellow Central Florida Latinas are having a little Twitter party in honor of Microsoft. Will you join us? It happens at 9 p.m. EST. Be sure to RSVP here. If you don’t you won’t be eligible to win. And, what is in it for you?  Aside from the awesome information we will be providing about Microsoft Office, Windows and some of their sleek sexy hardware you can win:

  • $25 Microsoft Store Gift Card
  • $100 Microsoft Store Gift Card
  • A Limited Edition Wireless Mouse
  • A copy of Microsoft Office 2010 Home & Student Edition

So, are you in or what?

Mamis and Microsoft

I've come to a life changing decision in my life. It has not been easy and it certainly has not gone without certain judgments from family and friends alike. The truth is, I've had a hard time talking about it.  I don't want to continue to explain myself or even feel the need to give someone that probably has no idea what I'm even talking about, an explanation.

I ran into some pretty cool people at the Blissdom conference in February. One of the things that came of it was that I saw some things that I'd given up on a long time ago. And it renewed hope in me that I could fall in love all over again.

So here I am. Trying to figure out how to tell you and how to tell the world. That, I'm going to be giving up my Mac and purchasing a Windows laptop.

Go ahead and judge me. I don't care. When I saw Windows 7 and heard about Live Journal and how it could make my blogging life easier, I got a little jealous.  Then I was reintroduced to OneNote and SkyDrive and I began to expand my mind a little. Today, I use those tools extensively to keep me organized and my schoolwork always at the tip of my fingers no matter where I'm at.

When Kludgy Mom talked about Windows 8, I was wowed.  But it wasn't until I started shopping around that I realized the old misconceptions of Microsoft, Windows and Office no longer hold water.  And then when I walked into the first Microsoft Store in the state of Florida this morning, I just knew I was making the right decision.

This isn't about one brand vs another or whatever social justifications you want to give for why we buy one thing over another. For me it's simple: I need to do A, B, C, D. Can I do it with a Windows laptop? Will it ease my workload and let me work smarter? How much will I pay as opposed to getting iMami replaced with a newer model? All these things are considerations.

I'm not working full-time. But I do everything on a computer. From attempting to not drown in Business Law as I make my way to an MBA in Social Media to this blog I am typing up and everything in between.  I cannot afford for iMami to go without having a replacement. And, if I'm replacing it, the questions above are serious considerations that this single mami has to make.

I ran into an old co-worker at the store this morning and I am going to totally steal the line he threw out at me as we chatted: this is the year of reinvention for Microsoft. MAN! I wish I'd thought of that. Reinvention indeed.  And I'm excited for them. And for me. Because had I not been open to seeing something I thought I'd already seen and knew about, I wouldn't be here today (sit on that and mull over the life lesson there, will you?).

I am MOST impressed by Microsoft's ability to reinvent itself. To make the products sleek and sexy and align themselves with companies that do the same (I'm thinking here about the Asus Zenbook that I was drooling over at the store).  To invest in the communities where they are placing their brick and mortars (here, they gave grants to the Junior League, Boys & Girls Club as well as the YMCA).  But, you can do all that and if you don't have a good product you still fail, right?

This tech mami strongly believes that the quality of the products that are being put out there by Microsoft are probably the best they have ever been.  Not just on the outside (have you checked out the Arc Touch mouse?!) but also on the inside.

I'd love to get a chance to tell you about all that's on the inside. Perhaps I will in future posts. What you need to know right now is:

This Mami is backing Microsoft, she is in love with the Asus Zenbook UX31A, she cannot wait for Sprint to pick up the new Windows Phone (and I'm sad that I got my pants handed to me in the phone challenge) and tonight she will sleep a little better (okay, I'm done with the third person talk, what am I an athlete?!).

And I will sleep better not just because I'm working on 3 hours of sleep and daydreaming of hitting my pillow as soon as humanly possible. But because I think I'm making some pretty awesome decisions these days!

If you have any question as to what I'm talking about, head on over to the nearest Microsoft Store. If you are in Central Florida, RUN over. They have some ridiculous specials this weekend so if you'd like to buy me that Asus I desperately NEED, you get like 20% off! See, I'm always looking out for you.

But seriously, they have all the fun stuff for you to play with. The atmosphere today was that of a party. Each and every employee that I spoke to (and believe me, I made sure I got a chance to chat with at least a half a dozen of them) were enthusiastic about being there and knowledgeable about the products. You know what else? They were passionate. And I believe that left an impression with everyone today.

So tell me, are you working smarter with tools that will propel you forward day in and day out? I am. And I couldn't be happier.

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Disclosure: I wasn't paid for this post but I believe that when something excites me this much, I should be open and tell you what I'm thinking/feeling. This wasn't an easy decision for me to come to but, it's what is best for me in the long run (why do I feel like I'm writing a breakup letter to iMami?).