At Home with Tech

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Tag: streaming

TV Shows to Stream with your Kids this Summer

Finding the right programming for your tweens to watch can be a difficult exercise. Here’s a list of shows that have worked for my family.

Without the rigors of school and related activities, summertime can often be a time for children to ask for more screen time. So, it’s important for parents to stay one step ahead and have some solid choices up their sleeves. Searching for family-friendly programming at the last minute can be really stressful.

I’ve certainly tried to be ready whenever I hear the question from our eleven-year-old son, “So, what are we watching tonight?”

If you’re looking for a TV series to stream with your kids in their tween years, here’s what my family has been watching:

“Loki” on Disney+
This show, based on the Loki character from the MCU, is the best of the Marvel series on Disney+ to date.

It’s smart, character-driven and benefits from Loki’s well-established storyline from the Marvel movies. Yes, there’s a little bad language, but the violence factor isn’t as intense as what some of the other Marvel properties serve up.

The plot to protect the ‘sacred timeline’ is delightfully unexpected, and “Loki” demonstrates the true potential of a Marvel series the same way “The Mandalorian” did for a Star Wars series.

It’s so good.

“The Mysterious Benedict’s Society” on Disney+
Based on the popular books, this series follows the adventures of four gifted orphans on a mission to save the world from ‘the Emergency.’

It has the same quirky feel and cinematic flair of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix. But this show is not as dark.

After watching the premiere, my son complained that the show’s characters had been significantly altered, compared to how he envisioned them from the books. That said, he was eager to watch episode 2.

So, we’re in for more.

“His Dark Materials” on HBO Max
This series, based on the books by Philip Pullman, contains complex themes. But if your kids like this type of storytelling challenge, this show is a must watch. There’s no bad language here, but we’ve got some violence (though not at the same level of a Marvel movie).

The emotional intensity surrounding two children in parallel universes is high. Be ready for pain and loss.

It’s big, bold and cinematic. My son and I loved it.

Season 3 comes out next year.

“Lost in Space” on Netflix
This reimagined take on the classic ‘60s sci-fi series is a pure roller coaster ride. There’s nothing campy about this version. And every episode has a major cliffhanger.

There are only a couple of ‘language moments,’ and while there’s some violence, it’s not really part of the show’s fabric.

Dr. Smith (Parker Posey) is really creepy, but the series stays true to offering pure family adventure. “Danger, Will Robinson!”

Season 3 is being released later this year.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix
It’s been a few years since the last of the three seasons came out, but if you haven’t checked out this fabulous show yet, you should. My son couldn’t “look away.”

Even though its plot is entirely depressing, it still manages to be a whole lot of fun for the entire family.

Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf is especially great.

“WandaVision” on Disney+
I expect to get to “WandaVision” with my son later this summer. I prescreened it myself earlier this year after getting burned by “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney+. (That show proved to be not for my tween. It was too violent and dark. Even he didn’t want to watch more than the first episode.)

It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the early “WandaVision” episodes, which are total throwbacks to early television sitcoms, which he’s never been exposed to.

Fun? Boring? We’ll find out…

In Search of the Next Series
Yes, there’s a fair amount of great content available for tweens. The only problem with the above series is they don’t contain that many episodes. So I’m always in search of new shows to stream with our son.

Would you have any recommendations to share? I’d appreciate it.


How to Prep Your Tech for a Vacation to Europe

The last thing you want when you’re on vacation is frustration with your tech. Either you leave it all at home and go off the grid or do some easy prep…

Bon Dia! My family and I are back from our little trip to Barcelona, and as you might expect, I ran across a few learnings that might be useful for your next holiday overseas…

Eight Tech Tips to Make Your Tech Work For You in Spain

Before You Leave, Download Media for Local Viewing on Your iPad
I discovered that certain streaming video services didn’t work overseas. Amazon Prime Video failed the test. But Netflix worked like a champ! Before we left and without knowing which apps would work for sure, I downloaded a few episodes of my son’s current favorite video series… Amazon’s “Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street.”
(My hedge paid off.)

Not All Streaming Music Apps will Work Either
Pretty much the same story as video apps. Pandora choked in Barcelona, but Amazon Music worked just fine.
(I brought along my portable Logitech Bluetooth speaker to stream some local tunes during my morning coffee.)

Avoid 3% Currency Conversion Fee When You Use Your Credit Card
The way to do that is pay in ‘Dollars’ instead of ‘Euros.’ I found that many of my MasterCard transactions in Barcelona offered the choice. You just have to tap the ‘Dollars’ option on the mobile terminal when it’s offered. (And sometimes for some reason, it wasn’t.)
Thank you, Mastercard for the suggestion.
(I had called customer service before I left to let Mastercard know I would be using the card in Barcelona.)

Don’t Forget to Bring Your Earphones Onboard for Airplane Screen Time
I think by now… most planes that offer seatback monitor viewing are outfitted to use standard mini audio jacks. So your EarPods will work just fine. In fact, they’re a far superior option than using the free earbuds the airlines hand out with your free drink and snack.
(Actually, Delta fed us very nicely… and the stewardess also gave our son his very own Delta wings!)

Clear Up Space on Your Smartphone for Vacation Photos and Videos
One quick way to find large files to remove is to delete a movie or two you’ve previously downloaded from the cloud.
(You can always reload them later.)
You really don’t want to run out of room on your smartphone when you’re snapping that amazing photo of la Sagrada Familia.








Take an Extra Memory Card for Your Camera
If you also carry a separate camera beyond the one in your smartphone, (good for you!) the same rules apply as above. You don’t want your camera to run out of space either! Better yet… treat yourself and start with a brand new memory card! You’ve spent how much on your plane tickets? I say add an extra twenty bucks into your budget for a fresh flash card!

Bring Portable Power to Keep Your Mobile Gear Going
Why risk it? Power stick for your smartphone. Extra battery for your camera. It’s a practical move but also designed to relieve stress. You’re on vacation… right?!

Don’t Forget to Get Your Smartphone an International Plan Before You Leave
If you don’t, your next mobile bill is going to shock you. Alternatively, I don’t recommend hobbling your smartphone and only using the occasional free Wi-Fi hotspot to check in with your world. Again… you’re on vacation! Enjoy your smartphone if you want. Give it full access and stay connected.
(I signed up for the International Day Pass plan for $10/day from @AT&T.)

Release Your Photos!
And when you get back from your big trip, I’ve got one more suggestion for you…

Start sharing your pictures!
(People don’t care about last year’s vacation!)

How to Use Dropbox on Your iPhone to Listen to Podcasts

If you’re not into iTunes to help transfer a podcast from your computer to your iPhone, then you should think about moving that file up to the cloud where your phone can find it.

If you’re not into iTunes to help transfer a podcast from your computer to your iPhone, then you should think about moving that file up to the cloud where your phone can find it.

My wife recently invited me to listen to an hour-long podcast that she was interested in discussing with me. “An hour?!” I wondered. Where would I fit that into my busy day? The obvious choice eventually percolated to the top of my narrowly focused brain…

Listen on my way to work on my iPhone!

Whether I was driving or commuting on the train, I could consume this content on the go.

Now the question was how…

Stream It
The podcast lived on a website… so I could simply stream it directly from there. Sure… that’s the easiest way. But when I travelled through dead zones in cell coverage, I’d be stuck.

iTunes is Always There for You…
The podcast creator, having already thought through this limitation, invited its Apple listeners to download the audio file onto their respective Macs. From your computer, you can move the audio file to iTunes and then manually sync your iPhone/iPad with iTunes to move the file over.
(And no… this particular podcast can’t be automatically accessed and downloaded online from iTunes. That, of course, would make it easier…)

The whole ‘transfer in… then transfer out’ process with iTunes on your computer seemed like an unnecessary amount of work, since I was intending to listen to this podcast only once.

Look to the Cloud
It all felt so yesterday. I immediately thought that a cloud solution should be able to better handle the challenge….

And of course it can!
Here’s how I did it…

Four Steps to Easy Podcast Prep

Dropbox is my personal cloud-sharing solution.
(There are many others out there.)

Step 1
So I downloaded the audio file from the website to my iMac and then simply dragged the file to a new folder I created in Dropbox.

Step 2
Then, I picked up my iPhone and opened up the Dropbox app…
(Can you believe it… the audio file was magically right there!)

I was already at the finish line in two steps, but the file would only stream when I tapped on it. I wanted to listen locally…

Step 3
There’s a ‘Make Available Offline’ option in the Dropbox app.
I tapped that, and Bam!
Now, I was ready to listen, regardless of cell coverage…

Step 4
I tapped the ‘downloaded’ file, which I could also access in the ‘Offline’ section, and a Dropbox audio player opened up.

My podcast began to play.


Happy Listening
Again, there’s nothing wrong with moving your podcasts into the iTunes ecosystem. I was just too lazy to take the time to get it there.

Dropping the file into Dropbox was so much quicker.

And that’s more time you can put towards your podcast listening!

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