Wednesday, May 30, 2012

WotW: Listen and Learn (or at least laugh)

I have a long commute to work every morning and it gets boring. For the longest time, I listened to the morning radio show, then I tried going through my long lost CD collection. Of course, I also plugged in my iPod and went through all those songs too, but I found myself getting sick of my music and wanting something different.

That's when I discovered podcasts. If you're not familiar with a podcast, it is basically an audio file that you can download, usually for free. It's almost like a throw back to the early days of radio, where you would listen to a radio program, except instead of being broadcast over radio waves, you download a file from the Internet and listen to it on whatever digital device you want.

There are hundreds of podcasts out there on any number of topics. Many podcasts are news and entertainment oriented, but there are many other specialty niche podcasts to choose from. Most podcast episodes last anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour and they don't take up all that much space on your device.



So where do you get a podcast, anyway?
There are podcasts all over the Internet, but one of the easiest locations is iTunes. Even if you don't own an iPhone, iPod or iPad, you can still access podcasts through iTunes and then place them on any other digital device you may have.

Here's how to find them. First, open iTunes and go to the iTunes Store. Next, click on the Podcasts link in the top menu bar.



On the right-hand side of the Podcast store, there are some filters you can choose from to refine your search, or there's always the handy Search bar. If you're new to podcasting, I would start exploring what's available. A good place to start is the staff picks, which should show automatically in the main section of the Podcast store.

To view a podcast in more detail, simply click on the little album cover and you will be taken to the show's main page. Here, you can read brief descriptions about each episode, listen to the episode or even download.

One of my favorite podcasts is Freakonomics Radio, produced by one of the authors of the popular Freakonomics books. If you liked the book and/or the movie, you will definitely love this podcast. If you're not familiar with Freakonomics, you'll still probably love it. The episodes are usually pretty short, extremely interesting and highly entertaining. You'll come away with all sorts of new information. I'm always telling people about what I learned on this podcast.

Take a look at the Freakonomics page on iTunes. On the left, you'll notice you can subscribe to the podcast in much the same way you subscribe to a blog. This way, anytime a new episode is posted (usually about once a week is standard in the podcasting world), you will be alerted and can easily download it.



In the large middle area you see all the episodes. To give an episode a quick listen, simply hover over the episode number and a play button will appear which will allow you to stream the episode without downloading. If you decide you like it, you can click the FREE button on the right side of the page and it will download it to your device. That simple.

I usually download a slew of podcasts every couple weeks and that keeps me stocked and listening to something more productive and educational than the radio.

My Favorites
I'm kind of a nerd, and a history buff at that, so a few of my favorite podcasts are:

  • The History of Rome (a thorough review of the history of Rome that's interesting and not dry)
  • Freakonomics Radio (explore the hidden side of everything)
  • How Stuff Works (sometimes hit and miss, but you'll probably learn something)
  • How Stuff Works: What You Missed in History Class (interesting topics, though sometimes dry)
  • Nerdist (I hesitate to put this because of the profanity level, but he does have big-name stars)
If you're a big NPR junkie, there are enough and to spare of those podcasts available for download as well.


Podcasts typically download in MP3 format, which is nice because you can put them on practically any mobile device, including your phone.

Besides podcasts, there's a similar idea called vodcasts, or video podcasts. These are like short video episodes. Now, my podcast time is while I'm driving, so a vodcast doesn't do me a whole lot of good, but if you want to give it a go, try out The Onion News Network.

Podcasts are a lot of fun if you're willing to give them a try. It's a lot like watching a new TV show. You go into it with an open mind and hope to be entertained. If you are, you're hooked. If not, find something else, and fortunately, there are thousands of options. Happy listening.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Introduction to Clean Eating

I love food. There, I said it. Happy? I love to eat food. I love to make food. Heck, I even love to watch people eating food (yes, Food Network is a strange addiction). Unfortunately, food loves me too, to the point where it never wants to leave.

Recently, I've felt kind of, well, blah. My body hasn't been as responsive and I've been more tired than usual. Whenever I see the doctor about this, he can't find anything wrong. In desperation, I thought, "What if it's my diet that's making me feel this way?" I'd never really thought about it before, but I was willing to make some changes in my diet to see if I did feel better.

For starters, I decided to work on portion control. This is hard. Anybody who can look at a fresh pizza and exercise portion control is working some kind of voodoo magic. But, I forced myself to shrink my portion size, and by shrink, I mean be at the size it's supposed to be at. As Americans, our portion size has crept up over the years and so has our collective waistline.

The first few days were tough, as in want to throw a dinner plate tough, but after that it hasn't really been a problem. I was amazed at how easy it was to make this simple change. At the same time, I also changed my eating pattern. My husband went to the doctor about an illness that had been plaguing him for weeks and the doctor talked about a new way of eating. He drew up a plate and divided it into sections.



He said half of the plate should be vegetables or fruits. One fourth of the plate should be a meat or protein, and the remaining fourth should be a grain - particularly whole grains.



It was completely different than the food pyramid I grew up with but, it made a lot of sense and my husband and I were willing to give it a try, even if it meant changing some of the meals we typically eat and love. As we experimented with this, we found ourselves eliminating processed foods out of our diets and eating only whole grains (wheat bread, brown rice, etc.) It wasn't the plan, but kind of naturally flowed out of implementing more vegetables. As I've done some research on this, I've found a whole movement dedicated to this style of eating; it's called clean eating.

At its most basic level, clean eating is the idea that you don't eat anything that you can't pronounce all of the ingredients on the packaging. For instance, flip over your bag of chips. If it has more than six ingredients, you can't pronounce an ingredient or you're positive that's not found naturally, you really should question what it is you're eating.

This was something I could get behind. There are so many popular "naturalist" diets out there and I know they work for many people: vegetarianism, vegans, rawists, etc., but steak has a siren call for me and I really like it cooked and not bleeding all over my plate.

Clean eating doesn't necessarily eliminate the food you already eat, but it does require you to think before you purchase. For instance, my daughter loves a certain type of crackers. But they don't meet the criteria. The solution? The store had a more natural version with natural ingredients. Best part? It was cheaper than the brand name crackers and my daughter likes them just as much. Not only does she like them, but she is behaving better because she's not hopped up on as much sugar.

Eating a clean diet does take forethought. You really have to think about what you're going to eat for each meal and analyze it. And I think that's one of the big reasons most people eat the way they do: it's convenient. You don't have to think about it. You just reach into the fridge or pantry, grab what looks good and go for it. But convenience often comes with negative health consequences.

Since I've started this, I've noticed I rarely have headaches, my constant joint pain has disappeared, my overall energy level is higher than ever and I'm actually eating throughout the day rather than cramming all my food toward the end of the day. I even wake up in the morning without looking like Night of the Living Dead, which makes my daughter happy.

What about my husband? He's a meat and potatoes kind of guy and he loves his bread. Not to mention his sweet tooth. He has supported me in this. He hasn't jumped on the full bandwagon, but he did eat couscous last night. In fact, because I am eating differently, it naturally moves into his diet. He's finding that he can still eat many of the things he likes, but he's just getting more vegetables and less grains. And he's been cool with that.

It has been a definite lifestyle change for us. Eating is something we enjoy doing, but it hasn't been all that difficult, nor has it been any more expensive than what we normally spend. Often less.

I can't tell you if a clean diet is for you, but why not give it a try? At the very least, you'll find yourself eating more according the guidelines of the food pyramid. And if you have children, you'll likely find a change in their behavior – less hyperactivity and more focus.

Maybe you're thinking, "Great, another food hippy. Move to Seattle and leave us alone." I thought the same way and I'm actually kind of surprised how into this I've become. But when I'm feeling better, have more energy, am eating less junk and losing weight, what's not to like?

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share some ideas of how to make simple changes in eating habits that can lead to a healthier, cleaner diet. I'll even share some recipes and shopping secrets. So, if you're nervous about giving it a try, perhaps this will give you some inspiration.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Shattered Glass and Crunched Metal - My Car Accident Story

Yesterday was going to be a great day. I saw a number on the scale that I hadn't seen in months. My husband only had a week left of school before he was out for the summer. It was going to be a great day.

We had been watching my friends four kids for the last week. It had been a pretty great week and their parents were coming home that day. I had big plans to drop the kids off at school and then come home and clean my friend's house for her. I dropped the three oldest kids off at school, in my friend's mini van and the pulled out of the parking lot with my 3-year-old and her 11-month-old still in the car.

I didn't make it far from the school. I was just down the road, which happened to be a very busy two lane road. Busy, small and dangerous. The car in front of me stopped suddenly to make a left hand turn. Luckily I had been watching and was able to stop in time. When I stopped I looked up in my rear view mirror and in a split second I knew. I knew the mini van behind was not going to be able to stop. She was going way too fast. I knew I had a only a couple of seconds before she slammed into me. I glanced to my sides and there was no place to go. In those quick moments I think I said the most fervent prayer of my life.


So many things happened in the second of impact. The kids started screaming. Glass shattered and metal crunched. The force of her impact slammed the front of the car I was driving into the car in front of me. A fourth car came along, seeing the accident she tried to swerve as to not hit us. She didn't hit us but she drove her pick up right into a tree in a neighboring yard.


Thankfully, my door would still open. I stepped out of the car and had to pull to get the kids door open in the back. I worked to calm down the kids. Searching for my purse to give them treats. My purse which had been sitting next to me before I was hit, was now if the back of the car. I was scared to get the kids out of the car because we were still on a busy street and cars were still trying to drive past us. I calmed them down and then took photographs of the car with my cell phone.


I tried to call my husband to get him to come home from work. I called twice and he didn't answer. This was my worse nightmare. When I thought I wasn't going to be able to get a hold of my husband, that is when I really started shaking. I have a very good friend that also works at the same school as my husband, so I tried her. She answered right away and I am pretty sure I yelled something about needing my husband. She found him and he left school immediately.

A few minutes later, the cops arrived. Five or six cop cars, a fire truck and three ambulances. They closed down the road. I stood holding two kids on the side of the road, shaking and crying. The driver of the car in front of me tried to calm me down  by telling me I hadn't done anything wrong. I knew that but I was still standing by the side of the road with two kids in my arms with my friend's wrecked car in front of me.

Then an angel appeared. Her named was Bea and she was a complete stranger to me. She had witnessed the accident and had stopped out of the goodness of her heart. She took one of the kids from my arms and before I knew it she was playing with the kids, while I stood next to her being examined by the paramedics and talking to the cops. She stayed with me the entire time. She stayed from the second the accident happened until my husband arrived. She was truly an angel. I couldn't have done it without her.

I declined getting in an ambulance, I couldn't leave the kids. Quite a few of the people from the accident had to leave in ambulances. We all ended up the ER later after my husband showed up. The kids were completely fine, just some rashes from the seat belts. I was bumped and bruised in just about every place but fine.

Honestly? I feel so blessed. Yes, I wish that it hadn't happened, but every thing that could have gone right during an accident did.
I had just dropped off the older kids. I only had the two kids in car seats with me. They were the kids most likely to be safe because of the car seats.
The car behind me came very close to hitting my child in the back seat, but it didn't
My friend has wonderful insurance and was so incredibly nice when I had to call her and tell her that her car was totaled.
I was completely stopped when the car behind me hit.
The kids are completely fine and I will be fine in a few days. We were the car in the middle. We should have been the most hurt and we weren't.
The paramedic who examined me told me almost every accident they respond to on this road usually involves fatalities, ours didn't. Even though it was considered a severe accident.
Another good friend was able to go get the older kids from school for me.
I was driving a mini van. I think in a smaller car we would have been completely munched.

All day yesterday I was able to be really positive. When we got home last night we decided to go out for dinner to shake off the day. When we got on the road, a truck got a little close to us and I started crying. My daughter woke up twice with nightmares last night. I am so sore this morning I can barely walk. I think it is finally hitting us, but I also know we are going to be just fine. We were blessed. I have never been more thankful for seat belts and car seats.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WotW: The Next Generation of Search Engine

As a technology teacher, I'm always amused whenever I see students doing research. They type whatever they're searching for into Google (for instance, Texas) and expect it to magically tell them everything they wanted to know about the topic. Instead, they're greeted with a laundry list of websites, prioritized by Google's indexing algorithm.



Not sure what to do next, they raise their hands and say, "Sir, I don't think it's working." Of course, we all know it worked just fine. Google is a search engine and as such, it merely searches for sites that seem like they might contain information about the search term you provided. Contrary to popular belief, Google is NOT the source of all knowledge.

But I know what is: WolframAlpha (http://www.wolframalpha.com)



I know it sounds like some Twilight-infused video game, but it's quite possibly the most remarkable tool I've found on the Internet.

WolframAlpha looks like a search engine, but it's not. It's a computational database. Or, in plain English, it solves things for you. It's the solution my students expect, but didn't know about until now (truth be told, I still haven't told them about it for fear of what this power might do to them).

Take my Texas search, for instance. Google gave me a list of websites, but when I search for Texas in WolframAlpha, I'm provided with (http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=texas)...



... well, information. Useful information. I didn't have to sift through numerous websites. Relevant data is immediately provided to me.

WolframAlpha uses complex mathematical formulas called algorithms, and real-live human experts, to categorize information in a way that can present useful information to the searcher.

OK, so that's cool right? But we're just scratching the surface. Because WolframAlpha is a computational database, it can compute things. Yep, it does math. Remember all those sleepless night agonizing over math problems? Don't worry about it. Simply type your math problem into the search field and it will solve it for you! Really, try it.


It does everything from basic math to complex calculus, all in a matter of seconds and makes it easy to read and understand.

When I was in my college chemistry course, my brain almost lapsed into a stress-induced coma when we were learning about balancing chemical equations. I've since mastered the concept, but at the time it was enough to convince me to change my major. But, you probably guessed it, WolframAlpha can balance chemical equations for you.



It even figures out musical scales and shows you what the scale looks like! When's the last time Google did that for you?


There are a multitude of other uses for WolframAlpha. You have to try it to really grasp it. Perhaps this is the grand cheating tool students have always been looking for, but while it does solve problems, it doesn't necessarily teach you how to do it, and that's what matters on the test.

So, is this the end of Google? No, not by a long shot. To be fair, Google released a feature last week that's a step in this direction, which provides basic results, but it's not quite up to par with WolframAlpha.

Should you stop using Google? Absolutely not. They're really different tools. If you want quick and dirty data or something solved for you, WolframAlpha is your site. If you want to explore and find in-depth information, Google is a good choice. Sure, you have to do the digging, but come on, things can't be that easy, can they?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stuffed Baked Cinnamon Apples

These delicious and easy to make apples are the perfect desserts for a dinner party. Each person get their own little dessert to enjoy to their heart's content and they look beautiful! 

You will need:



  • 6 to 8 medium baking apples
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey


Preheat the oven to 350. Dig out the core of each apple, stopping about a half inch from the bottom. If you dig down too deep the apple will burst in the oven. Put the apples in a small baking dish, that way the apples won't fall over. Brush the apples with 1 tablespoon of the orange juice.

Combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. When this is combined, stir in the melted butter. Fill the apples, adding extra on the top, because who doesn't want extra filling? Pour the rest of the orange juice around the apples. 

Cover the apples with foil, bake for 30-50 minutes until apples are softened. Cool for a few minutes and drizzle with honey. 


Eat until your stuffed, because who wouldn't want to with these in the house?

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Americana 2x4 Flag- Super Easy and Cute Craft

I am lucky enough to be a part of a wonderful playgroup. Great kids and great friends. Even with great friends, it does get a little boring to just watch kids play after awhile so one of the ladies suggested we do a craft. When it was my turn to host, we made this cute Americana flag. It was easy to pull together for seven women and it is quick to complete.

You will need:
a 2x4 cut into pieces, every flag needs two 7-inch blocks and 3-3.5 inch blocks. Lowe's and Home Depot would cut the 7-inch blocks for me but I had to cut them in half myself (with the help of a friend). You can get about 3 sets out of one 2x5=4
Red, white and blue paint
Sand Paper
Contact paper or a large star sticker
The first thing you want to do is sand your blocks. Then paint one of the long ones red and one white. Paint two of the short ones white and one red.
This is how it should be stacked, minus one white short one.
Find a star shape that you like online. Print it out and then trace it onto contact paper. Cut out the star. Apply the contact paper star to your final white block. Paint the block blue over the contact paper. Sweep away from the center of the star. If you sweep towards the star, you risk getting paint underneath the sticker.

When the blue paint is completely dry, peel off the sticker.
Rough up the edges of your blocks with a piece of sand paper, until you get the texture you desire.

*Optional extra steps*- After you have sanded your edges, dip a q-tip in stain and paint it on the sanded edges. Wipe off with a paper towel. You are just trying to give it that weathered look.

You can also tie a ribbon around the edge of your flag, I didn't, but I know a lot of the ladies at my playgroup tied a ribbon around it when they got home.

All in all it takes about 30 minutes to complete this craft, with a group of 7 women it took about 2 hours, but there was lots of chatting going on during that time. It was perfect for a group, but I would have made one even without the group, they were just a good excuse. :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Homeschool Preschool : Scientific Method or Microwaving Soap

I love that moment when your child has no idea that something super cool is about to happen, but you do and you stand back waiting for the reaction. After seeing several YouTube videos featuring this experiment, I had to add it to our preschool. This lesson is so much fun that my friend's kids wanted to join in with the fun. 
The principle I decided to highlight with this soap bar is the scientific method. The scientific method is one of those things that can be detailed or simplified to the preschool level. 

I told my little girl and her friends that we were going to pretend to be scientists and as scientists we were going to do an experiment. I explained in an experiment we have to follow 5 steps. 

1. Watch and ask a question. I handed her the regular soap bar and we wondered what would happen to it if we put it in the microwave. 

2. Create a hypothesis. Or in simpler terms, you say what you think is going to happen with the experiment.  In our case, the kids decided the soap would get really warm. 


3. Test the hypothesis. We stuck the bar of soap (needs to be Ivory brand), on a large dinner plate and stuck it in the microwave for 2 minutes. 


At about the 20 second mark, the bar begins to change and we could clearly see that the hypothesis was quite accurate. 

4 Analyze the results and see if you were right or wrong. We realized that we were kind of right. The soap was slightly warm to the touch, but it was obviously not the biggest change. We pulled the soap apart and felt it, smashed it to see what would happen to it. The kids were absolutely delighted with this part of the experiment.
5. Talk about the results. We talked about how what happened to the soap, why and how it felt. If you want a more technical explanation of the process, go here 

All of the kids, ages 3 to 10, thought it was a great experiment. It did make the microwave smell soapy for a little while, but that seemed to wear off soon. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review- Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

What do you do when you are left with your niece and you can't afford to feed her? You give her to a local dragon, in hopes a wealthy man will rescue her, of course. They will be married and all your days of hard work will be over, right? Except your niece is not an ordinary girl.

Dragon Slippers is the adventure of a girl named Creel meeting dragons, princes, and ornery princesses When Creel is taken by a dragon, instead of cowering in fear and waiting for her rescue, she talks the dragon into not only letting her go, but also into giving her a very special pair of shoes. After Creel escapes the dragon, she makes her way to the city, in hopes of getting work in a dress shop.

Wearing the shoes, Creel quickly find herself in over her head, running into bandits, other dragons and getting on the bad side of the future queen. Her shoes get her in constant trouble, until they cause the nation to hang by a thread. Can Creel figure out her shoes and save her country?

I was surprised how much I liked this book. I was convinced I knew how the book was going to go before I even started reading. I was completely wrong, and in a good way. The dragons were fun, personable individuals who had unique personalities and added the perfect quirks to the story. Creel is very much a reluctant heroine, and she doesn't fall into the girl turned warrior heroine mode. She does things in her own time and own way.

This book is written in a way that women and girls of all ages will love. It is part of a trilogy, but it stands on its own really well. I currently have not read the other two books. It is a clean story, one that I would let my own child read.

Creel is really a wonderful heroine. My kind of girl. She doesn't want to be at the center of attention, but she will do what she needs to do to protect those she cares about. She is intelligent and outspoken, the kind of girl that doesn't wait around to be saved, but is going to save herself.

I considered this book a fluff book, not full of life changing information, but it is a delightful story and easy read. If you like fantasy, this book is for you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WotW: What's Up With All This Cloud Business Anyway?

If you've watched any amount of TV lately, you've probably heard a buzzword attached to nearly every technology commercial: "the cloud."

This mystical, non-weather-related term is more than a fancy phrase though. It's truthfully the future of how we use technology and is the great link between traditional computers and mobile devices.



In short, the cloud refers to the way users can upload files on their computer (documents, images, audio, video, etc) to certain websites which will store these files on their servers (powerful computers that store large amounts of data). Users can then access these files from anywhere with Internet access and from any type of device (computer, tablet, smart phone, etc).

Or think of it this way: the cloud is basically an online USB drive, but one you don't have to remember to bring with you and you won't lose it – a big fault of mine. When you upload your files to the cloud, you don't have to worry about remembering your files or spend lots of time e-mailing files to yourself. This is especially important since most people have more than one computer and the line between work and home is increasingly blurred.

The long and short of it all is you need to make the transition to the cloud. It will make your life easier and give you peace of mind knowing your files are backed up in case of a computer crash. But which cloud service do you use?

When it comes to personal cloud storage, there are four major services:
Dropbox

Box

SkyDrive

Google Drive


Let's examine the features of each.

DROPBOX
Probably the most popular cloud service, Dropbox is easy to use and extremely convenient. Once you've signed up for a free 2GB account, you will download a simple program that will install Dropbox on your computer. Once installed, Dropbox places a special Dropbox folder on your computer. To add a file to the Dropbox cloud, simply move a file to the Dropbox folder, just like you would add a file to any folder on the computer. This file is now available from any other computer.



The real power of Dropbox comes when you have it installed on multiple computers. If you place a file in your Dropbox folder on your desktop and then go to your laptop, that file is already there in the same Dropbox folder.

You can also login online and access your files from any computer, even if doesn't have the Dropbox software installed. There is also a Dropbox app available for Android and iOS for accessing files on the go.



While Dropbox is a great service, it does have a few drawbacks (though admittedly minor). First, the online interface is unattractive and too open for comfort. However, the online interface is not the main focus of Dropbox. Secondly, you only get 2GB of storage space, which is the least among the four major services. However, you can earn up to 18GB by inviting other people to the service. Each time someone accepts, you and they will get an extra 500MB. Now that's some good sharing. With that in mind, if you want to give Dropbox a try, use this link to sign up: http://db.tt/Xh1TWKHU.

BOX
This service is my personal favorite and the one I use most. Unlike Dropbox, it does not have a handy desktop folder feature, but it makes up for it with more than twice the storage space. When you sign up for a free account you automatically get 5GB of storage. And if you install the Android or iOS app, you get upgraded to 50GB (at least, that was the case when I did it).

To save files to Box, go to www.box.com, login and press the Upload button.


Find your file and in a few seconds it's uploaded. You can then organize files into folders and put folders within folders.



The great fun with Box is its extra features. For starters, you can share files or folders with whomever you wish (or keep it private). This makes collaboration very nice. For instance, you can share files with a friend if you're collaborating on a project. Or, use this as a new and more efficient way of sharing files rather than e-mailing. I also like how you can embed files on websites. One of my favorite features is an e-mail to folder option, which gives a unique e-mail address to each folder. Then, you can e-mail any file directly to the folder.

If there are any downsides to Box, it would be the lack of a desktop folder, like Dropbox, but when you can claim up to 50GB of space that's really pretty minor.

SkyDrive
This was one of the first cloud services out there and really didn't catch on until recently. When I first signed up, they offered 25GB of storage space. Now, they offer 7GB (but if you signed up before, you can keep your storage). SkyDrive is a Microsoft service and you sign in with your Windows Live ID. Like Dropbox and Box, you can upload your files for shared access. There are SkyDrive apps available on Android and iOS for this app as well.



The cool part of SkyDrive, besides the 7GB, is the ability to create Microsoft Office files online and have those files automatically saved in SkyDrive. You can create Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files. With this kind of service, you can really do your work on the go.



There really aren't too many downsides to SkyDrive. Yes, the interface still feels kind of Hotmail-ish, but the mobile app interface is rather beautiful. I highly recommend SkyDrive. It's the cloud service I've used the longest and it doesn't get enough positive attention, so I'll give it a good shout out.

Google Drive
Surprisingly, Google is the newcomer on the block. Google has offered a cloud-type capability for years with Google Docs, but it wasn't fully a cloud service until just recently. If you already have a Gmail account, you can quickly register for a Google Drive account which gives you 5GB of storage. If you already use Google Docs, all those files are added to your Google Drive account.

Google Drive is the best of Dropbox and SkyDrive. Like Dropbox, there is an application you can download that puts a special Google Drive folder on your computer. You can drag and drop files into this folder and they will sync online. You will also see all your Google Docs files on your computer, which is really nice because sometimes I forget what I have stored there. Like SkyDrive, you have access to document creation, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and forms.



Google Drive is young so expect some kinks to be worked out over the next few months, but it's a solid service and well worth the download.

So which one should you choose? If you're like me, sign up for all of them. They are free and it never hurts to have all that cloud storage space. I find I use Box the most because it feels the most convenient and clean cut, plus I like their iOS app the best. The best way to discover which service meets your needs is to try them all. I'm sure you'll get a winner and the best part is you will win because you will always have your files with you. I'll see you in the cloud.