GeekMom Holiday Traditions: Holiday FaceTime

HolidayFaceTime
The three Santas: My kids FaceTime with my niece. Photo: Amy Kraft

You know how that classic song goes: “There’s no place like Skype for the holidays…” or something like that.

With little kids in the house, we’ve found it increasingly difficult to travel at Christmastime. The Santa logistics alone are mind-boggling, so we usually stay home with the kids and miss our family far away. Thanks to more ubiquitous technology among my family members, though, we can be at holiday celebrations virtually.

It feels more festive if we make it different than our usual Skype or FaceTime calls. We’ll pick a time to gather everyone together like it’s a special event. The grown-ups will all make themselves a festive cocktail. (Bonus points if you make the same drink on both sides of the call.) The kids will wear their Santa hats and sing the latest holiday songs they’ve learned.

We even do our annual gift exchange this way. Often the gifts are all in one location, and all available kids are only too happy to unwrap presents on behalf of someone on the other end, and then we have them shipped afterwards. Just this week we did an early gift exchange for the kids, and I got to see the look on my niece’s face when she opened her personalized, autographed copy of N.E.R.D.S by Michael Buckley, her favorite author. My sister got to see my son dig in to his new trucks, showing off what they can do.

With family in Illinois, Arizona, California, and soon Hawaii, this technology is a valuable resource to stay connected to our loved ones.

What to Expect With the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 Part 1: The Freebies

The Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2. Image provided by Microsoft. Used with permission
The Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2. Image provided by Microsoft

 

I spent the weekend in New York City, as a guest of Microsoft, to help them launch their second generation of Surface tablets: the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Aside from watching the launch event on September 23, with press and fellow special guests, I also talked to the press about why I love the Surface Pro, especially from the point of view of a gamer and tech enthusiast.

There are many things which excite me about the next generation of tablets, due for release on October 22, 2013, in 22 markets around the world. Additional markets will be announced in the coming months.

There will be two models of the Surface 2 (formally known as Surface RT), and four models of the Surface Pro 2. The Surface RT will also remain available at the new discounted price.

As for the things which excite me, some of these things are the new accessories. Some of these things have to do with hardware upgrades. While others have to do with software and other add-ons. Over the next few weeks, I’ll tell you about some of my first impressions and take a little bit of a closer look at what you can look forward to with the second generation Surface tablets.

But first, let me tell you about a couple freebies that will come with the next generation of tablets. These freebies will be very beneficial to users.

One of the freebies comes exclusively with the Surface 2. Unlike its predecessor that only came with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT, the Surface 2 will come preloaded with Microsoft Office 2013 RT, including Outlook 2013. This upgraded preloaded software will be beneficial to both students and professionals.

The next freebie that has me pretty excited has to do with Skype. This freebie will be available when you purchase either the Surface 2 or the Surface Pro 2. I use Skype a lot. I spent a fair amount of money to be able to make international calls to landlines when interviewing people who live overseas for my radio show. The first part of the Skype freebie is unlimited international calling to landlines for one year. The second part of the Skype freebie is one year of free unlimited Skype WiFi.

The last freebie will also be available when you purchase either the Surface 2 or the Surface Pro 2. With your purchase, you’ll receive a whopping 200 GB of SkyDrive cloud storage, free, for two years! That is a lot of storage, and will be a huge benefit for people who live in the cloud. Even for someone like me who has to make use of a lot of external storage, I can see the benefit of 200 GB in the cloud, outside of the built-in benefit of automatic backup and syncing of system settings, across all devices.

These three benefits are pretty simple, but will have a sizeable impact on many users. But they are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I’ll talk more about what to expect as we get closer to the release date.

The price for the Surface 2 will start at $449.00. The price of the Surface Pro 2 will start at $899.00.

Starting September 24, 2013, at 8 am ET, you can pre-order the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 online at the Microsoft Store in the U.S. and Canada, and at select retailers in North American and around the world. Quantities are limited and no deposit is required, so you may want to hurry.