Top 5 Educational Software for Kids

Kids are constantly learning, and keeping their brain active can speed up their development. There are tons of educational games and activities, but one of the easiest ways to keep kids brain active is with educational software.

They feel like they are playing a game, but they are actually learning at the same time! Still, there are endless varieties of educational software packages, so here is my list of the top educational software programs for kids.

If you click on the pictures, you can see more reviews of each individual software program.

1. Brainiversity

Brainiversity is a great overall educational game that trains kids in math, memory, and language using over 16 different activities. With the different options to choose from, it is not a game kids will get tired of too easily either. Best of all, the game is good for young and old, so with the difficulty levels being adjustable based on the player, Brainiversity just stays interesting over time.

2. Reader Rabbit

Reader Rabbit is hands down one of the best games for young kids learning to read. It is such a fun game, kids will keep playing it unless you make them stop, and they really learn something in the process. The game involves kids taking a virtual ride to “Wordville”, while on the way being taught about spelling and reading in playful language, and using fun animations.

3. Human Body Explorer

Every kid gets interested in the human body at one point or another. I remember when I was a child my friends and I would play doctor and nurse, and wonder about how our tummy worked. This fun educational game teaches children about the human body. The Human Body Explorer is a little less “game like” than some other software programs, because it uses a more direct educational approach. However, kids learn a ton of information from this program, like what all their body parts are called, and their functions. The software has a nice mix of videos, pictures, games to keep the interest levels high.

4. Inventor Labs Technology

Kids constantly ask and wonder about the world around them. Inventor labs is awesome software that explains how the common things around them, such as a telephone, came into being and how they work. Animated characters depicting Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell explain their inventions and kids can then play around with different combinations and possibilities within those inventions. ultimately, figuring out how things work, and why. This game guarantees hours of play time, and kids come out knowing things they are really excited about and might not be learning in as much detail in school.

5. LEGO My Style Preschool

Who doesn’t love LEGO? The LEGO Preschool computer game introduces kids to a whole virtual LEGO world, where they can explore and learn about music, words, and numbers. They train analytical skills while having a great time playing around in the virtual world of LEGO. This game is really good for kids who already enjoy playing with regular LEGO blocks, and can use this familiarity to explore the game version.

Need more gift ideas?

I also wrote a list of the top educational toys for baby on my wife’s colic site and I did a guest post on Google Tutor about the five most educational gifts for all kids.

What do you think?

Is this a good gift list? Have you found a great learning toy for a gift this season? If so, let me know in the comments, I’m not quite done with my shopping yet and I’m sure others would like to know too!

Dell Mini 9 Review

This is a guest post from Tom Ratas over at TestFreaks, if you are looking for netbook reviews or other reviews give them a try.

Dude I got a Dell! Well physically it’s a Dell Mini 9, however the brains of this tiny beast is all OS X. Recently on TestFreaks I detailed how to install Leopard OS X onto the Dell Mini 9 using the speedy RunCore SSD drives. In total this machine should run under $500; less if you shop around and have a retail Leopard Install Disk.

My impetus for having a netbook size Mac is two fold – for the past three years I have always worried about my MacBook Pro walking away when not in my physical proximity and secondarily, that machine is cumbersome to carry around.

Unfortunately Apple does not offer a low price laptop alternative that is both affordable and light weight. Luckily thanks to Apple’s migration to the Intel platform getting OS X running on some Intel based Windows machines is possible. The Dell Mini 9 is one of those PCs. In fact all of the hardware on the Dell Mini 9 functions without any sort of hacked drivers after the OS X installation.

For the past six weeks I have used the netbook version of OS X. Here are my impressions of the machine. As an owner of the original Mac Mini Solo Core machine, I can say speed wise that the Dell Mini 9 runs on par with that machine. Boot up is snappy with the SSD drive, applications open quickly and run as advertised. I would not recommend using it for any processor intensive tasks such as graphics work, video editing or gaming, but it functions well otherwise. There are reports of folks running more intensive programs on the Dell Mini 9 Forum.

Physically the 9” screen provides plenty of viewing real estate especially compared to my first netbook – the Asus eeePC 701. One useful trick to maximize viewing is to auto hide the dock when not in use. This gives the user the entire screen surface as a work area. Some others have chosen to keep the dock on the side of the screen, but I prefer my dock at the bottom. It’s the PC user in me, I guess.

The Dell Mini 9’s keyboard is much better than I anticipated. As a person who is over six feet tall, I have hands that are not really made for smaller keyboards; however I have found typing on the Dell to be a pleasant experience. The only issue I have is with the location of the non-QWERTY keys such as the apostrophe, slash, and delete keys. Supposedly there is a variant of the keyboard that many users on the Dell Mini 9 Forums have recommended which places these keys in a more classic orientation. Here is some more information on the international keyboard.

My main complaint with the OS X on the Dell Mini 9 does not have to do with the operating system but with the physical device. To me the trackpad and mouse buttons are somewhat lacking. The trackpad is small and not as responsive as the MacBook versions. Mushy is the best way to describe the track pad buttons. Due to their proximity to the keyboard, it is not uncommon for the heel of ones hand to hit these buttons throwing your on screen activity off course.

In addition, the trackpad gestures that the Macbooks are famous for, do not work on the Dell Mini 9. There are some work around available online but they are not 100% perfect and I have not tried them.

Not all is terrible with this area of the Mini 9 as the presence of a right click button will offer comfort to the newer OS X user, especially those who used PCs before hand.

Personally, I prefer to use an external mouse with my Mini 9 when possible. The Logitech Revolution VX is my travel mouse of choice.

Another useful trick to avoid interacting with the trackpad is using Quicksilver in conjunction with the Abracadabra plug in. This allows gesture commands to be used for starting programs, inputting commands and much more.

It is important to disable Legacy USB support in the Bios screen to allow sleep mode to work correctly. Otherwise if there is a USB device plugged in, then the machine will not wake up from its resting state.

Closing the cover puts the machine to sleep and lifting up the cover awakens it. If you leave the machine alone and it goes into standby, just hit the power button to wake it back up.

The folks who designed the DellEFI program were nice enough to install the Remote Disc feature that is found on the Macbook Air. I was able to install iLife 09 onto the Dell Mini 9 using this technique without a hiccup.

Using the Dell Mini 9’s SD card reader, I was able to install an 8GB SDHC card and run applications from that location. This saves precious space on the SSD. For instance I run my iLife09 and Microsoft Office applications from this location without any issues. Simply create an alias for the Application stored on SDHC and drag the alias into your Application folder to keep everything organized.

Overall the Dell Mini 9 experience has exceeded my expectations. I now have a lightweight, portable OS X machine that helps me get work done on road and if it does get stolen I will not be losing a machine that costs over $2000. Functionally the Macbook Mini 9 handles all the everyday tasks – web surfing, checking email word processing and iChatting just like its bigger brethren.

If you own a Mac or want to try out OS X for the first time, the Dell Mac Mini 9 is a relatively low cost investment. It also provides a nice conversation starter when people see OS X running on netbook.

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I saved $20 with a Shoebuy Coupon!

shoebuy couponsI needed some new sneakers for summer but my budget has been a little tight lately so I was hoping to find a deal online. All the people I asked kept suggesting Shoebuy since they have a huge selection and often have promo codes and coupons for $10, $20, $25 off AND free shipping.

It took a while to find the best deal, but once I found this guy’s Shoebuy Coupon site it was really easy – he’s organized all the available deals. If you are in need of shoes I suggest checking his site out. My sneakers were $80, but I got $20 off so I only paid $60! That’s about $68 cheaper than my local shoe store!!

I’m going to need another pair for running soon as well so if you know someplace I can score an even better deal, please let me know. :)

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TreasureStone VirtualDrive DVD Server

Here is a great solution for people who want to turn to the world of digital storage. As we all know, backups and storage devices today have become increasingly advanced and while we have the usual optical storage devices, here is one contraption that houses all of them and eliminate the need to be wary of safekeeping of data and files.

This software-hardware integrated solution virtualizes physical discs and stores them in manageable virtual CD towers. This solution suits the needs of libraries, schools and small businesses as it aids in the management and organization of music, DVDs, videos and applications.

TreasureStone VirtualDrive DVD Server can hold up to 1,000,000 digital photos, or 1,000 DVDs to be shared across a network among unlimited clients. With flexible management capabilities, the administrator can customize security access privileges at the high speed of 1000 MBPS. This virtualizing technology relieves the hassle of CD scratching, and conveniently helps organize physical discs.

Features and Benefits:

  • Virtual Cabinet–Allows the administrator to create 1000 virtual cabinets, set the privileges and share different virtual CDs for different clients.
  • No Need for CD Drive–Converts physical discs to virtual CDs and eliminates the need for a CD-ROM!
  • Virtualize/Clone CD and DVDs–Copy your CD/DVD and create an identical backup.
  • Convenient and Economical–Unlimited licenses with initial purchase! Removes the hassle of physical discs and CD scratching.
  • Web Interface–Access virtual discs under any system through a user-friendly WEB interface that supports Windows, Mac, Linux, and UNIX systems.
  • Main-Sub Server Design–Easy switch to sub server in case of Main Server failure with no loss of files or changes in settings
  • Administrating Console–Flexible management capability; set security access levels within your network.
  • High Speed–200X faster than physical discs!
  • High Capacity–TreasureStone storage units available in 2TB and 4TB. Store up to 6,000 CDs, 1,000 DVDs, 1,000,000 photos, and more!
  • File Archiving–Compiles important files, music, photos as a virtual CD/DVDs for easy management and sharing.

(Source) Press

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Samsung USB Hard Drive “Story”

Mobile storage solutions are coming out like crazy and here is another one from Samsung. In a move that is obviously aimed to give Western Digital’s My Book a run for their money, the Story hard drive is something that serves as a great back up device.

The brushed aluminum slab with “passionate red lines” plays host to your choice of 500GB, 1TB, or 1.5TB 3.5-inch disks. The Story Station can backup your data in “real-time” or be setup to backup on a set schedule of your choosing. Data is secured via password with an optional SecretZone virtual drive setup for encrypting all your swine-flu conspiracy data. This device is single-port, USB 2.0 only so you’ll have to take your dreams of network attached storage, eSATA, or FireWire 800 elsewhere.

Use it either for audio, video or pictures, the Story Station will surely come in handy for people who want to make sure that all their data and files are safe and secure. With an easy plug n play interface via the USB, expect this mobile hard drive to be a hit for people who value their backup and storage needs.

Available in Europe first sometime in May for an undisclosed price.

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iBUYPOWER Core i7 Shuttle

Gaming PCs are being addressed and while many focus on the internal parts, here is one CPU that concentrates on its size. iBUYPOWER has just shocked the small form factor (SFF) world with a new rig that’s potent enough to act as your standalone gaming machine. Equipped with a menacing look, a carry handle and room for two full-sized dual slot video cards, the aptly titled LAN Warrior caters to no one outside of the enthusiast niche.

For the crowd willing to shell out for the latest and greatest, they’ll find a Core i7 CPU (920, 940 and 965 Extreme available, up to five ventilation fans, an optional liquid cooling system, ASUS’ Rampage II Gene X58 motherboard, up to 12GB of DDR3 memory, twin GeForce GTX 295 / Radeon 4870 x2 GPUs, four internal 3.5-inch bays, up to 6TB of HDD space, up to two Blu-ray writers, gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi and a planet-killing 1000-watt power supply. Amazingly, the starting tag on this one is just $999, and it’s available now from the outfit’s website.

Quite a lot of features for such a small device. It may even be great for people who want compact solutions and want to get the new age of compact yet fully featured packages commonly seen today.

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Averatec N2700 Notebook

There is a new notebook available in the market. It comes in the form of the Averatec N2700 Notebook, a notebook will feature an Intel dual-core processor running at 2GHz, a 250GB hard drive and an 8x super multi DVD optical drive, all running on Microsoft Vista Home Premium.

According to Henry Hewitt, vice president of sales at TriGem USA, “The N2700 notebook is an ideal solution for consumers looking for the sweet spot in terms of price, portability and performance. It’s larger and more powerful than a typical netbook computer and offers great portability over notebooks sporting 13-inch screens and larger.”

We certainly cannot deny that, since it is much beefier compared to a standard netbook, and yet it won’t break the bank with the relatively affordable $699 price point, where we’ve seen some higher end netbooks in the past retailing for approximately that price and yet lack the processing muscle to boot up Internet Explorer 8 in a fast and seamless manner.

Other features of the N2700 includes a whopping 4GB RAM, integrated 802.11b/g wireless connectivity along with 10/100/1000 Mb/s wired networking. You will also benefit from a trio of USB 2.0 ports, while a FireWire port is there for folks to transfer their large multimedia files from devices such as camcorders over at a much faster rate compared to USB 2.0.

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Zen Inspired Acer One

Put some spunk in your Acer One notebook with this Zen Designed shell from artist UFO-Hayashi. The upshot is truly a work of art, which every art lover and design-conscious fellow will appreciate.

He has painted the netbook by using traditional Japanese Zen painting called kyo-yu-zen, which was introduced to Japan from the continent in the 8th century. This painting describes the spring of the life. It means that the spring must come after the long winter in your life. Since the artwork takes a long time to complete, Hayashi creates limited pieces.

It looks so delicate that you will think twice before carrying it along on the move. If you can think you can really handle the slick thing, the bidding for this ultraportable but expensive Aspire One will end on May 1.

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Samsung Launches New Notebooks

Samsung adds a couple of new notebooks to its product lineup with the N110 and N120. The N110 and N120 are both currently available through Samsung.com and online retailers with an MSRP of $469 and $459, respectively.

The N110 mini notebook’s compact design, 10.27” (W) x 1.19” (H) x 7.3” (D), is lightweight, only 2.78 lbs, and capable of being stowed in a briefcase or travel bag. Despite its size, the N110’s keyboard has an ergonomic-friendly 93% full-size keyboard and a 10” LED SuperBright© Glossy Backlit Display, along with a 6-cell (5900mAh) lithium battery providing battery life up to 9 hours of continuous use. With a 1.6GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 160GB hard drive, this mini notebook is functional for browsing the internet and software applications.

The N120 mini notebook caters to those looking for a richer multimedia experience. While also compact, 10.71” (W) x 1.71” (H) x 7.4” (D), and weighing only 2.8 lbs, the N120 features the convenience of a 97% full-size keyboard with trackpad, along with a 6-cell (5200mAh) lithium battery providing battery life up to 6 hours of continuous use. Its SRS 2.1 channel system, featuring two 1.5 watt stereo speakers and a dedicated subwoofer offers a high quality sound and integrated 1.3 megapixel digital motion camera provides video-conferencing capabilities.

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Kingston DataTraveler Vault USB Flash Drive

If you are agog over the USB drives, here is a new one from Kingston which is also compatible with the MAC OS. Normally, there are a select number of USB flash drives that can be read by MACs and now Kingston has put all those conflicts to rest with the DataTraveler Vault USB Flash Drive.

“Our DataTraveler Vault – Privacy Edition has been popular with enterprise and government customers who use Windows-based systems and are looking for a safe and secure way to transport portable data,” said Mark Akoubian, Flash memory business manager, Kingston. “We are happy to add Mac support to this 100-percent secured drive so the Apple community can be assured they have an on-the-go storage solution that is the best on the market at safeguarding data.”

Data onboard the DTVP is secured by hardware-based, on-the-fly, 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). The drive has fast data transfer rates and is protected from brute-force attacks by locking down after 10 unsuccessful login attempts. After lockdown, a reformat is necessary to make the Flash drive operable again.

(Source) Press

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