Virtual Allowances for Kids in the Real World

Allowances have long been a tool used by parents to teach their children fiscal responsibility, but life in the virtual world of the Internet has created the opportunity for a number of digital offerings.

Paypal, for example, is now beta testing their Student account program, that will allow parents with a Paypal account to create a sub-account to be used by children 13 years or older to spend at websites that support Paypal services.

There’s also an option to get a MasterCard debit card to allow kids to use their digital allowance in real-world stores. Of course, Paypal has even updated the way kids can ask for raises in their allowance, with the ability for kids to send text messages through the system that allows parents to approve or deny additional funds remotely.

Of course, your kids have likely already encountered other forms of digital money in their day to day lives, such as Microsoft Points that can be added to the Xbox Live accounts to purchase games and other downloads. Nintendo offers a similar system for their popular Wii video game console.

While some parents may scoff at the idea of a virtual allowance, I think it’s a good idea to teach kids how to be responsible with digital money, at least when I consider how rarely I carry cash these days, instead opting to use a debit card for nearly all of my real world transactions.

5 Excuses For Not Fixing Your Family’s Computer

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and for most people that means a grand dinner with the family filled with cheer and good food. Unless, that is, your family knows you’re a computer tech guy, in which it means that you’re going to be hit up for advice and service in the same way your doctor sister and car mechanic brother are.

In light of this, here are 5 handy (if extreme) excuses that you can use to get out of fixing that family computer while the rest of your family enjoys their turkey dinner:

  1. Alien Invasion Excuse – “Oh, I can’t touch that computer. See, I’m saving my skills for when we’re invaded by an extraterrestrial army of alien creatures bent on our destruction, who just happen to run their saucers on an operating system I can easily hack using my Apple MacBook.”
  2. Lawsuit Excuse – “Unfortunately, I’m no longer legally allowed to fix computers. You see, the virus and spyware makers got together and sued me for being too anti-competitive for their business. Turns out the judge who heard the case loves pop-up ads!”
  3. Amnesia Excuse – “I would love to fix your computer, but you see, I was in this tragic blimp accident a few months ago. I came out with a pretty nasty bump on the head, and ever since then, I can’t remember a single thing about fixing computers. The doctors say it’s the darndest thing!”
  4. Cycle of Life Excuse – “Remember when they were trying to explain to Simba in the Lion King that everything has it’s time and place? This is the same thing, except it’s your computer that we’re going to let pass on instead of your lion dad.”
  5. The Bright Side of Life Excuse – “You know how dad is always complaining about all that spam email he keeps getting? Think of not fixing your computer as the best way to stop that problem.”

Of course, most of these excuses are only going to end in pain when you have to deal with your family later.

Spammers Profit Despite Low Response

The BBC has an interesting article on the types of profit that spammers can see in the field.

I often get asked how spammers can make a profit when so many spam emails are obvious scams. The answer comes from the fact that spammers can send out millions of emails with little cost, meaning that even an incredibly small number of people responding can mean they make money.

In fact, the article states that the bad guys are “turning a profit despite only getting one response for every 12.5m e-mails they send.”

Making Your Own Holiday Light Show

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If you remember the videos a few years back of elaborate Christmas light shows synced to music, you may have wondered how you could do something similar for your own holiday decorations.

In the process of planning my own Halloween decorations, I discovered that there’s an entire industry that has sprung up around helping make displays like that possible for anyone, with the only limit being the time and money you want to invest.

Now, instead of hand-built electronics, you can buy unassembled light controller component kits from companies such as Light-O-Rama or D-Light Designs. Prices for 16-channel kits range from $120 and up, with pre-assembled kits being as cheap as $200.

To create your computerized light show, you’ll need sequencer software. The program I used for my own Halloween light show is called Aurora, available for purchase for $100, though there are a wide range of programs at different price points, including some free, no-frills command-line programs.

If you don’t have the time to create a light show and sync it to music, you can even find pre-programmed sequences from companies such as WowLights Productions, along with a number of other light show product packages.

Having assembled the pieces for my Halloween light show, I can say that it’s definitely not a cheap holiday project, but I can say that the sense of satisfaction when the lights come alive and dance to the music I’ve synced them to makes it worth every dollar I’ve spent.