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This post was sponsored by Amazon as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

When I last wrote about starting our "smart home" with Amazon Devices, I was pretty excited to have the Echo Plus as our central hub and was just starting to experiment with things like smart lighting. This, of course, is just a tiny, tiny silver of what can be done with the power of Alexa. In just a short time, our home has become more efficient and entertaining. I've fallen in love with Alexa to the point where I've begun to expand our smart home - having since purchased an Echo Dot, smart plugs and additional lighting. As I mentioned when we got the Echo Plus, our girls were also becoming enamored with it as well - using it in unexpected ways, like helping out with spelling, checking the weather and even calling upon Alexa to serve-up some jokes. Now they've got their own devices as we've just added an Echo Dot Kids Edition and a Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet to the mix. There's a lot to love with these, and parents (especially those concerned with screen time) should take note of just how good the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is.

This post was sponsored by Amazon as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

When the "smart home" movement started a few years back, I set up a few devices here at our house... and quickly removed them. At the time, the concept was solid, but the technology wasn't quite there yet and it seemed that the experience was lacking a central hub to pull it all together. Then Amazon came along with Echo and Alexa and all of that changed. Now, with the all-new Echo Plus, we're establishing a smart home as it should be - one that works both with and for our family, seamlessly integrating with technology and people in increasingly unexpected and very much appreciated ways.

Hurricanes, with their wind speeds of over 160 miles per hour, can absolutely destroy entire buildings, communities, and even nations. Year after year, we’ve seen massive storms devastate areas, ruin infrastructures, and take hundreds of lives. At the time of this writing, the rare (and dangerous) Hurricane Lane is bearing down on Hawaii.

Wednesday, August 15 2018 19:59

Apple is Doing Fine, But is the iPhone Still King?

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The iPhone has truly changed the world in millions of ways. On our smartphones, we can pay our bills, communicate with anyone across the globe, order anything we want, and, perhaps most importantly, pass the time.

According to Data company Inrix, the typical American commuter wastes 42 hours in traffic each year. There was a time where the average commuter would have to just power through the traffic jams by listening to morning radio, a CD, or just the background noise of other frustrated drivers. Now we can simply look at our phones.

The world of Alexa is still somewhat foreign to me as our family does not yet have an Alexa enabled device. For those that do, however, there's some fun new content - particularly if you have kids who are Disney fans. Launched this week, Disney Dailies is a new kids skill for FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa with jokes, fun facts, and all-new sketches set in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ award-winning film ZootopiaDisney Dailies delivers new content every day, building an amazing collection of voice-enabled experiences. Kids will hear knee-slapping jokes with Mickey Mouse and Daisy Duck, learn brain-teasing fun facts that intertwine Disney stories with science, art, and history, and will be treated to a huge suite of all-new sketches and stories that show kids “What’s up?” with their favorite characters. But that's not all...

Vacationing is one of the greatest aspects of adulting. After working tirelessly for months at a time, spending a week or a long weekend at a tropical paradise can be just what someone needs to replenish and relax. However, for a variety of reasons, millennials aren't using their vacation days as much as other generations, leaving an estimated $1.3 trillion worth of wasted vacation on the table each year.

NASA's Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet's surface and subsurface.

Rube Goldberg Machine ContestIf you've ever seen Back to the Future, played a game of Mouse Trap or watched a recent OK Go video (particularly "This Too Shall Pass"), then you've seen a Rube Goldberg Machine. These creations are elaborate, generally ridiculous machines that are crafted for the purpose of accomplishing a mundane task... like brewing a cup of coffee or feeding your dog. Rube Goldberg has been called "the grandfather of S.T.E.M." due to the enduring legacy of his iconic illustrations. Goldberg was a Pulitzer Prize-winning engineer and cartoonist, and his "invention cartoons" were the blueprint for countless contraptions that now bear his name. In 1988, things became official with the start of the RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST®, originally as a college competition. Three decades later, the annual contest encourages student inventors from across the country to create the best machines that they can, and for the 30th Anniversary, the 2018 contest came to a conclusion in Chicago.

I'm not exactly the most fashionable guy, and that's something that I've been known to admit on an increasingly frequent occasion. When it comes to just about anything, I'm more interested in solving a problem... accomplishing a task and making sure that things do what they claim to do. I get pitched a lot of products here at Rock Father HQ and what you see in the midst of these virtual pages is just a tiny percentage of what comes in. Tech and fashion share a lot in common in that a lot of the pitches that come in just don't serve any real purpose - they're just more... stuff. And when it comes to the ever-growing world of phone accessories, much like fashion designers always seem to be borrowing "inspiration" from someone or somewhere else, I don't see a lot of innovation and that bores me to the point of losing interest, hence I don't cover a lot of it. There are exceptions, and one recent product that arrived here for review and cut through the clutter is Monet. So what exactly is a Monet? 

With two little girls here at Rock Father™ HQ, my wife and I have purchased more than a few pairs of "kid-safe" headphones over the past few years, and frankly, most of them are garbage. From expensive ones that the kids find uncomfortable to the cool-looking, yet terrible-sounding licensed variety sold for cheap at retailers like Five Below, I've checked out a bunch and had never found any that I could really be excited about until now. At New York Toy Fair, I came across something unexpected while browsing the latest offerings from the crew over at Wicked Cool Toys. They've recently partnered with Halo Acoustic to help bring CozyPhones to a wider audience, and after bringing a couple of pairs back to Illinois, they're an immediate hit. CozyPhones are a 3-in-1 combo of headphones, sleep mask and a stylish headband.

The feature is brought to you in collaboration between Blackboard™ and The Rock Father™

For a guy whose entire life revolves around a digital presence, I tend to be notoriously old-school when it comes to my tools of the trade. In an age where many work on tablets and multi-purpose screens, I still prefer to do the majority of my work from a desktop pc with a mechanical keyboard them emulates the typewriters of old. Sure, I use a laptop for working on-the-go, and I've got an arsenal of tablets in both iOS and Android flavors, but for me nothing beats being in my office, in the chair, ready to work within my comfort zone. Even here, there were some very non-digital quirks until recently - in fact, until the summer of 2017, I kept my monthly calendar on a dry-erase whiteboard (I finally switched to Google Calendar at my wife's urging), and was apprehensive of cloud storage for my backups, my habits remaining in a physical world. Likewise, I've always had an attachment to writing - actual writing - in a true form, and until recently, there was no way to bring that into a digital world... but that changed. A product I didn't even know I needed came my way - Blackboard™ by Boogie Board - and now old-school meets new-school in a way that just feels right. It's Liquid Crystal Paper™, and there's nothing else like it.

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

It's been more than eight years since my wife and I first became parents, and despite writing about gaming often, it wasn't until this year that I finally got to start spending some real time blowing up some pixels again. I upgraded from the Xbox 360 (which I still have) to the Xbox One S, promptly jumping right back into the kind of military-themed action I used to enjoy. After all, when it comes to fall, that means Call of Duty Season is open, but when I bought my system it came with Battlefield 1. Thing is, it's difficult to blow stuff up good when there's two little girls and a wife sleeping upstairs, and that means headphones. For the task at hand, I've got the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

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