geek chic

Digitwirl:— Show Me The Money!

We first wrote about Mint in 2008; at that time, I was inspired by another blog’s post about Quicken online. Fast foward nearly three years, and Quicken has acquired Mint. Funny how that works.

Since then, the service has gotten better in some ways and worse in others. On the “better” side: it connects with more financial institutions, and does so more reliably, and trend reports have gotten better. On the “worse” side, the interface is starting to show signs of the Intuit acquisition: with more and more options and choices. Choices can be good, but they can also create an overwhelming experience. And part of what really sets Mint apart (or has, in the past) is how simple the interface is, and what a pleasure it is to use.

It will be interesting to see if Mint can maintain their lean, simple approach to finances or if they’ll start to be bogged down by the things that led me to flee from Quicken in the first place.

Regardless, it’s still my favorite go-to place for managing my finances. Not necessarily taking action (you can’t move money or pay bills with the site — you can only view data) but for creating budgets and watching how my earning and spending is trending over time.

Digitwirl: – Show Me the Money!

Keeping track of your life is challenging enough, so who can remember when your next credit card payment is due or that your checking account is on life support? But there is a simple way of keeping track of all your finances in one secure place:

With a few simple clicks you can upload your bank account balances, bills, mortgage statements and student loans and Mint will organize them so that you always know exactly what’s going on with your finances. No more searching piles. No more late fees. And, Mint gives you an up-to-the-minute view of all your transactions, analyzes your spending habits and lets you set up a budget. It might just surprise you to see where your cash is going and how you can save money. With the Mint app (available for both iPhone and Android) a quick peek at your bottom line will help you decide whether to purchase, or pass on, that little “me gift” you’ve been eyeing.

Watch this week’s Twirl to learn how you can gather up all your finances into one safe financial manager. Oh, and let us know what you think about Carley’s hat. Yay, or Nay?

Digitwirl is the weekly web show that offers simple solutions to modern day problems.  In 3-minutes, Digitwirl brings busy women the very best time, money, and sanity-saving technology, and then teaches them how to use it, step-by-step.  Digitwirl was created by technology lifestyle expert Carley Knobloch, who uses lots of technology to manage her busy life as mom of two and entrepreneur.  Subscribe to get weekly show alerts and exclusive deals at, or follow Digitwirl on Twitter at @digitwirl

Introducing Digitwirl

This week, we’re happy to start sharing Digitwirl, a new video series from Carley Knobloch. I met Carley a little over a year ago when she heard a podcast that I recorded with David Allen (of Getting Things Done). A kindred geek girl and GTD fan, we connected immediately. I’ve been keeping up with Carley ever since then and when she launched Digitwirl earlier this year, I knew it would be a great how-to supplement for Geek Girls Guide readers.

So, enjoy! We’ll share a new twirl with you here once a week. We hope you enjoy these fast, helpful videos as much as we do.

In this week’s video, Carley introduces Evernote, which is one of those applications that EVERYONE I know raves about, but which I haven’t managed to find time to try. After seeing how she uses it to keep track of travel itineraries, business cards, photos and kids’ artwork I’m even more convinced that I really need to make time to check it out.

Digitwirl: Digital storage that keeps track of all the information life throws at you

Look around your house. Are you seeing stacks of papers that you keep meaning to go through? Boxes and files bulging with stuff you put there for safe-keeping, but couldn’t find what you need if your life depended on it? Don’t worry, we won’t judge, it’s the exact overload we were facing that made us think there has to be a better way. 

Wouldn’t be amazing if you could store information you needed to remember in one place and more importantly, find it instantly, anytime, from anywhere? Good news! It exists, and it is a total game-changer.  Evernote is a website, a free app, and an extension that builds functionality into tons of programs you already use.

If you can email it, scan it, type it, snap it, record it, or find it on the internet you can keep track of it all with Evernote.  You won’t believe how simple it is to use. Watch the video, and then forget about forgetting important information ever again.

Digitwirl is the weekly web show that offers simple solutions to modern day problems.  In 3-minutes, Digitwirl brings busy women the very best time, money, and sanity-saving technology, and then teaches them how to use it, step-by-step.  Digitwirl was created by technology lifestyle expert Carley Knobloch, who uses lots of technology to manage her busy life as mom of two and entrepreneur.  Subscribe to get weekly show alerts and exclusive deals at, or follow Digitwirl on Twitter at @digitwirlr.

Geek Chic of the Week: Widgets!

The Geek Girls received this reader question recently:
Eeeeek. Tell me about widgets! Are these like a Flickr badge that I might put on my blog? What are they for? How do they work? What’s in it for me or for the widgetee?

Wondering about Widgets

So let’s begin a the beginning: what is a widget? A “widget” in the interactive world is typically used to deliver content to a web page or a desktop. They usually involve some sort of feed that goes out and brings back the specified information to the location you want, rather than you going to different locations.

Web Widgets

Web widgets are commonly used, well, on the web. Generally, it’s a box containing information from another site that is embedded on web pages, user profiles (like Facebook, Flickr, and Myspace), and blogs. Below is an example of a widget (provided by Facebook) embedded on a different web site.

Common web widgets include tickers, event countdowns, Twitter feeds, photo galleries, and profile badges. These types of widgets are usually available to the user (you) by embedding them on your site via a set of provided HTML code or JavaScript.

Widgets make it easy to incorporate dynamic content into your site, and make it easy to connect all your profiles together. For example, on your blog or website you could embed a Twitter widget to feature your tweets, a Facebook widget to link to your page or company’s page, and a Flickr widget to feature your pictures. All of these things also ensure that people who are interested in your content are aware of all the different places they can connect with you.

It’s important to note that you can only embed widgets on pages that you have access to add or author the HTML or JavaScript code.

Below is an image showing the process of creating a FourSquare Mayor widget for your location’s site or blog.

Step 3 shows you the snippet of code that you need to embed in your site’s code to display the widget. This may feel far too technical for some of you — luckily some of the new blogging platforms make this really easy. You just drop an HTML component on your page, paste in the code and bam! Easy-easy and you don’t even have to dig into the page code if that’s not your thing.

Desktop Widgets

Desktop widgets run on your local machine: y’know, on the desktop. 😉

These widgets are sometimes called applets because they are like mini-applications running on your computer. These widgets are typically associated with content that the user accesses often, like a clock, calculator, weather feed, or up to the minute stock market results.

On Windows Vista and Windows Live they are found in Microsoft Gadgets; on a Mac, widgets live on the Dashboard (pictured below). By default, there is a dashboard icon in the toolbar; clicking it will reveal the widgets.

Who Wins?

So, why bother with widgets? As a web widget user, you get an easy tool to share the widget maker’s service or product, which in turn generates more traffic or notice for the maker’s product or service. Do you think Twitter would have gotten as big if there was no way to share it within spaces that people were already going to? And what about something like Flickr? Widgets make it easy to feature galleries and share images, but you still have to go to Flickr to upload the actual photos. In the end it’s not taking traffic away, it’s creating traffic by using spaces and sites that people already frequent.

Some desktop widgets exists for the same reason: by downloading a news widget you are interacting with the news outlet’s content and, in some cases, going to their site for additional content. You win by getting the headlines delivered to you, they win by keeping you engaged with their brand and driving traffic to their site. Other desktop widgets (like, say, a desktop lava lamp) are more like phone apps; they’re just for fun.

So, Wondering…I hope we answered your question. Let us know how the widgeting goes.

Geek Chic of the Week: Kid-Friendly iPhone Apps

My love affair with my iPhone is well-documented. And while it is capable of many amazing things, there is one feature that is utterly priceless: the ability to entertain my children. Like when I’m stuck in a pharmacy waiting for a long time with nothing to occupy my 1-year-old. Or our order at a restaurant is taking an ungodly amount of time to arrive and my 4-year-old starts getting punky. iPhone to the rescue!

Here’s a rundown of some of my recent downloads — some good, some…less so. Please share your own favorites (and disappointments) in the comments!

Tip: put all the kiddie apps on one (or two) screens so your kids know to go to “their” screen only and not touch any of your apps.


Baby Flash Cards (Free)

I’m not fooling myself into thinking my kid is actually learning anything, but the cards are really cute and all one needs to do to get a new card is tap the screen. This is endless fun for my 1YO son. And nothing is cuter to strangers than watching a baby seemingly use an iPhone. BABY GENIUS! I bask in that faux glow as much as possible.
Rating: Two thumbs up

iStoryTime ($0.99-1.99)

Disclosure: iStoryTime gave me free download codes so I could check these out.

Each story from iStoryTime is a separate app. I’ve got Binky the Elephant and The Reading Bug. My 4-year-old LOVES these. At her age, we put the stories on “automatic page turn” mode, and the story plays itself to the end. We also have it set to child narrator, and the kid’s voice is really endearing. The stories are written and illustrated by amateurs (or at least, they seem to be). So, the stories seem a little unpolished and, to my eyes, some of the drawings are not great. I’m also bothered that — in both stories — I’ve discovered typos/grammatical errors. Which, for an app that bills itself as “educational” seems pretty egregious. That being said, did I mention my kid LOVES these? (I did share my typos with the company who was very responsive; I assume they are in the process of correcting them.)
Rating: One thumb up

Jirbo Match ($0.99)

It’s exactly what it sounds like: the old card-flipping Memory game. My 4-year-old and her friends love to play this game on my phone. My only gripe with this one is that — because I have the free version (which seems to not be available anymore?) — my daughter has accidentally clicked on the ads while playing the game.
Rating: Two thumbs up (Free)

I found the Disney app disappointing. It might be that my daughter is too young for it; there’s not much for her to do and many of the characters are from tween shows that we don’t watch. But, even the cartoon character interactions are rather underwhelming. We tried to get Goofy to “talk” to us but the first step is to enter your kid’s name. The app kept giving me a message that the character couldn’t say that name. Granted, my kid has a unique name but it wouldn’t even say MY name (and Meghan is hardly exotic). We finally had luck getting Goofy to say my husband’s name.
Rating: No thumbs

Pickin’ Time ($1.99)

So cute! This IconFactory app has adorable graphics and music and is addictive even for adults. I prefer the single player version to the multiplayer, but both are fun. Connecting multiple phones for multiplayer play was a little tricky at first (you have to enable bluetooth which wasn’t immediately apparent to me) but once we did that, my daughter and I played this in the car: she in her carseat with her dad’s phone and me in the front seat with my phone. Geek-alicious!
Rating: Two thumbs up

iDoodle2 lite (Free)

On car trips, my daughter can sometimes be occupied by drawing with this app. It’s very basic, but at 4 it’s enough for her to be able to draw lines with her fingers. She sometimes gets stuck trying to figure out how to change background colors or “pen” colors but overall it’s good.
Rating: Two thumbs up

Photos (Native app)

Never underestimate how long kids (and some grownups) can be occupied looking at pictures of themselves! I sync the photo albums on my phone with iPhoto every once in a while to keep the selection fresh.
Rating: Two thumbs up

eliasABC and eliasZOO (Free)

Both super cute apps that are easy to use. My 1YO loves the animal one especially. A slide of the finger moves to a new card, a tap gets the animal to make a noise. Same interactions give you a new letter and tell you the letter on the ABC app. I got these during a limited-time free offer (keep an eye on app review sites for those!).
Rating: Two thumbs up

Feed Me! (Free)

Got this one for free from the same offer mentioned above. The iTunes reviewer known as Nephster got it right when he complained that this app goes from baby-easy to grade-school hard with no warning, “The child that is engaged with identifying colors is a long, long way from being able to recognize fractions”. So, it’s one you need to be ready to help out with. That being said, my 4YO enjoys it — she loves the monster’s “wrong answer” face so much that she sometimes gets it wrong on purpose just to see him stick out his tongue.
Rating: One thumb up

Tic Tac Touch (Free)

Never underestimate the power of the simplest games. This can keep my 4YO busy for extended periods of time; she loves to play against the computer or against one of her parents. Same as with Memory Match, the only danger with this one is that — because it’s the free version — we’ve experienced accidental ad clickage.
Rating: Two thumbs up

Do you have favorite kiddie apps? Do tell. And remember, the free-er the better. I’m a cheap-ass.

Geek Chic of the Week: Running

Okay, so running itself isn’t really geeky, but stay with me: how I started — and kept up with — running is.

First, I knew that if I was going to start running I wanted to get good running shoes. I put out messages on Facebook and Twitter asking for advice on where to get good running shoes and was bombarded with suggestions. Most were split 50/50 between two local running stores. I picked one, went on a Saturday, and left with a pair of running shoes I’m incredibly happy with. I spent more than I was planning to, but I felt good about buying from a source that was so well-regarded by the people in my social networks that I trust.

Second, I was (okay, still kind of AM) out of shape. I knew I wanted to ease into running. Years ago, I had started trying to run with a gradual running program that was okay, but not great. So, I checked iTunes and lo and behold — some guy in California had taken up running for his 40th birthday and had created 9 weeks worth of training podcasts (with music and cues on when to run and when to walk). Which meant all I had to do was bring along an iPod and wait for him to tell me what to do. AWESOME.

I tend to be a very goal- and deadline-oriented person. So, I gave myself a deadline by signing up for a 5k on I picked a date that was roughly 9 weeks from when I started training, and signed up. Boom, easy.

They say that people who exercise with buddies are more likely to stick to it. My problem was that, with a full-time job, a blog, speaking gigs, two kids and all the other peripheral life craziness, I didn’t want to commit to meeting a person at a specific date and time. I was going to have to squeeze in my running sessions wherever and whenever I could. Twitter to the rescue. A Twitterpal of mine (@maisnon) saw my tweets and Facebook posts about running; when I shared the link to the iTunes training program with her, she decided she’d train in tandem with me. Over the next few weeks, we would direct message (DM) each other on Twitter with our training status (like, “Just finished week 3, not too bad!” or “OMG, week 7, I just ran 20 MINUTES?!”).

I think my favorite part of this story is the fact that I met the long-distance running buddy I mentioned earlier in the comment stream of a Bollywood blog. After trading favorite movies back and forth with each other, we somehow realized that we were kindred spirits. Even better? She happened to swing through Minneapolis last weekend and I got to meet her face-to-face after a couple of years of trading digital messages (and the occasional Christmas card). I mean, really, in what world — other than this crazy social digital landscape we live in — could I have met a random person from San Francisco over a shared love of Indian cinema and become running buddies with her?

My point is this: once you start putting yourself out there (and seeing what’s out there), you might be surprised at the ways social media can enhance your life both personally and professionally. In my case, I gained qualified advice on gear, a free trainer, a virtual running buddy, a real-life running buddy, encouragement from those around me, and a newfound sense of what I can accomplish if I put my mind to it.

Geek Chic of the Week: Your Browser

The other day someone asked me, “What is a web browser?” (They had just called a customer support line, and the person asked them what browser and platform they were using, and they didn’t understand why that mattered.) We’ve also gotten emails on the subject, but I thought the topic would be too elementary and boring. But, then I saw this video from Google that illustrates how little people really understand about what a browser is and why it even matters.

So, what exactly IS a web browser? And why should you care?

A web browser is the software that allows you to surf the Internet. Examples include: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Google’s new Chrome browser.

The browser takes all of the code of a site which looks like this: