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.

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

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.


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.


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

Acer Introduces AspireRevo

With a great price at $299, here is a small form factor PC that can hold all your HDTV decoding and PC gaming needs. The AspireRevo is based on the Nvidia ION graphics chip platform and the Intel ATOM 230/330 processor. Nvidia’s ION platform is based upon the GeForce series 9400M G graphics chipset — a low-cost, low-power GPU capable of HD video decoding and DirectX 10-compatible PC gaming graphics power.

NVidia’s ION enables the AspireRevo play 1080p HD movies, play DirectX 10 games, and run Windows Vista Premium with all 3D capabilities. It’s small, sleek, space-saving, and can be used as a fully functional home office PC or as a living room PC for casual gaming on your television.

Besides being equipped with the Intel Atom 230 processor and NVIDIA ION GPU, the AspireRevo comes with a choice of a Serial ATA Hard Drive or Solid State Drive and up to 4GB of DDR2 memory. A Mini PCI Express slot offers the possibility of expanding memory capacity to make space for continuously growing multimedia files.

(Source) Examiner

ACUMEN Releases New Line of Capture Cards

ACUMEN is scheduled to release a new line of capture cards aimed at expanding its current roster of supporting cameras for playback, recording and monitoring. The range of Ai capture cards has increased triple; 4- channel (Ai-SC145, Ai-SC347), 8-channel (Ai-SC185, Ai-SC383, Ai-SC387) and 16-channel (Ai-SC165, Ai-SC363, Ai-SC367).

Recording speed adjustment is in relation to the video resolution, from 7.5 / 6.25 to 15 / 12.5 (NTSC / PAL) frames per second with a fully loaded card. External capture card Ai-BOX, its dimensions are just like a 2.5” mobile disk. Ai-BOX is able to handle video from 4 cameras via a USB 2.0 connected to computer; it is very convenient for individuals. In addition to the worktops, microscopes, and telescopes, Ai-BOX is able to export videos from anywhere the camera monitors.

All new products provide the function of cellular phone monitoring that allows you to broadcast videos to cellular phones connected to the internet. New capture cards support Windows XP, Windows Vista and the 7.0 Linux.

Compression technology H. 264 and MJPEG are both utilized in the process of video compression for Ai new capture cards. Files are saved in the format of AVI (Audio-Video-Interleaved); and allow to be played on any media players. Varied capture card models support the possibility of audio and video for different purposes.

(Source) PR USA

New SDHC Video Cards Launched in India

Transcend has announced the launch of new SDHC video cards in India, designed for recording, storing, and playing back high definition video content. Weighing 2gm, the SDHC HD Video Cards are fully Class 6 compliant, which means they provide extremely fast data transfer speeds (guaranteed minimum write speed of 6MB/s) to assure quick reaction time when used in digital cameras and camcorders.

Transcend’s Class 6 SDHC HD Video Cards cater directly to digital camera and HD camcorder users by allowing faster image and video saving for improved overall camera response. Now available in 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB capacities, the Video Cards are fully backed by Transcend’s 3-Year Warranty.

When recording in high quality 1920×1080 AVCHD format at 13Mbps compression rate, a 16GB Transcend SDHC HD Video Card can store 2 hours and 40 minutes of video content. Moreover, if slightly lower quality settings are used, the same 16GB card can record up to six full hours of high definition video.

It is compatible with SD 2.0 standards and features built-in Error Correcting Code (ECC) to detect and correct transfer errors. The video cards supports Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM), allow In System Programming (ISP) for updating firmware, support auto-standby, power-off and sleep modes, mechanical write-protection switch, and are RoHS compliant.

Transcend’s SDHC HD Video Cards (4GB) is priced at Rs 1,000, (8GB) at Rs 1,800 and (16GB) at Rs 3,500.


3Dconnexion SpacePilot PRO

Game developers can really improve gaming requirements this time around as suitable interface devices have become more advanced and appealing today. With that in mind, 3Dconnexion introduces the SpacePilot PRO to provide easier access to the power of professional 3D applications, fewer interruptions in the design workflow, and superior comfort.

Specifically, the SpacePilot PRO features a new color LCD Workflow Assistant, second-generation QuickView Navigation technology, Intelligent Function keys, and an improved design for enhanced comfort and control. With better assistance and graphic, you can expect better graphic rendering and output based on the new tools available in the market today such as that of this one by 3Dconnexion.

“3Dconnexion’s 3D mice have rewritten the rules on the way design engineers and professionals interact with 3D environments,” said Dieter Neujahr, president of 3Dconnexion. “Our new SpacePilot PRO builds on our market-leading industry experience, delivering the most powerful 3D mouse we’ve ever made. It enables increased performance that ultimately results in better designs, created in less time.”