KoalaSafe Family Wifi Review

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First off I should start with a disclaimer that I have NOT been paid to write this, NOR was I given a free device NOR am I linking up this post with affiliate links.   It’s a genuine review of a product that I purchased.

A few weeks ago, I was watching a new TV show that stars Joey from friends called Man with a Plan, which I am still undecided on.

Anyway – there was a point in it where he was struggling to get his children to do their chores until he changed the wifi password and would only give it to them when they were done.   A simple yet genius idea.

We gave this a go but changing the wifi password every day is a big pain when you have so many devices connected to it so I gave up and looked for some similar alternatives.   During this search for alternatives I found some devices that I did not know existed – Wifi boxes that connect to your router and create a new, child safe wifi spot… Essentially parental controls for the internet.

I looked at a few different ones and narrowed it down to the Circle (which I think is made by Disney) and the KoalaSafe.  Be careful when looking around as some have a monthly subscription and if they go bust then you’re screwed.. In the end I went with the KoalaSafe as the Circle isn’t actually available in the UK yet whereas the KoalaSafe I could get on next day from Amazon Prime.   It cost about £60 at the time but doesn’t seem to be on the Amazon site anymore.. weird.

After plugging the box into the router (via a wire) and downloading the app on my phone it was a simple setup but due to a few bugs it did take me a couple of attempts.  The downside of plugging into the router is that there are spots around the house that it can’t access particularly well so I need to see if I can connect this to a booster of some kind.

Once you are up and running you can setup profiles for each child in your house (or adult if you wish) and if you put in their age it will put together some recommended settings for each of them.

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Then you connect their devices and after they are connected you can assign them to a profile via the app.

Next you can setup an internet “schedule” of when each child is allowed online.   There are two options – “normal” internet time and “homework” time and within the homework profile you can block additional sites such as Facebook to stop your child from getting distracted.

You can also “Pause” the internet – either completely of per child.  So if you want to sit down for dinner or get them to sort out their rooms it’s a fairly easy win.

As predicted this has caused some… disruption in the house since I’ve had it up and running.  My 14 year old didn’t like the fact that I banned SnapChat from being accessible for him and hates the fact that he can’t get up and watch YouTube videos like he used to because he’s only able to get online in the afternoon/evening.

There is still some configuring to go but so far it looks like a good buy, although even with a paused internet I still have not managed to convince my 14 year old to tidy up his room… eventually he’ll give in though!

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Top 8 Tech Changes since Obama came into power

The impossible happened this week.  Trump won the presidency race.  Who would have thought that mid-America would be stupid enough to put a racist, bigoted, sexist, disgusting man in power.  But it’s happened and all we can do now is pray that he won’t be as bad as the sensible among us think he might be.

I remember a year ago my 13 (not 14) year old saying to me:

“Dad – I’m really worried that Trump will become president – what will happen?”
“Don’t worry” I replied, “Hillary is a good candidate and will make a great president, I fully believe that America will not vote for him”.

But they did.

My 11 year old came back from school on Wednesday night and said:

“Dad – have you seen the news?  Trump is president – it is going to cause world war 3”.   He was pretty upset about it which I found astounding as we don’t really talk about politics in our house.  How someone in their first year of secondary school can foresee the damage that this man can cause just shows how much more grown up kids are these days.

But I digress.  This post isn’t about the election.  This post is a bit of a geekfest to take at how the world of technology has advanced since Obama came into power 8 years ago – specifically the good stuff that has affected my life on a day to day basis.

The rise of the tablet – The iPad was launched in 20XX (feels a lot longer) and this, along with other tablets such as the Kindle Fire, Nexus & surface really changed the internet. Not just peoples use of the internet, but actually got more people online and opened up a new means of communication.  My wife’s parents for example are now able to Facetime their grandchildren who live hundreds of miles away.

Streaming TV – Netflix (which launched in the UK in March 2012), Amazon, iPlayer have change the way in which we use TV.   I don’t actually remember the last time I watched live TV.  I no longer have a Sky box and have “cut the cable”.  Not only has it opened up content to more people but it’s also created NEW content which has revolutionised this space.

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Uber– I really like Uber.  Getting a taxi 8 years ago in London would mean finding somewhere to get out cash (I tend not to carry any) and then paying more than I should have to and still having to give direct them home as soon as we got south of the river.  It’s made transport cheaper and more accessible, I just wish my phone battery lasted longer!

Google Maps (and Waze) – Whilst there were GPS devices before Obama came into power there was not the availability there is today.  I remember having to print off maps from some desktop software or heaven forbid actually have to print a map in the car all the time to make sure I knew how to get to my destination.   In addition to these, Citymapper is also an awesome app which I use all the time to help find the best ways to get around London.

Mobile Banking – The first banking mobile app in the UK was by First Direct (who I have used for years) back in 2011.  I was surprised when researching this that it took someone that long to launch considering the app store went live back in 2008.  Internet banking had been around for a while but to be able to check your balance on the go, especially before heading into a shop was a revolution.    I’d also give an honourable mention to contactless payment here too which has come a long way in the past few years and saves a ton of time.

Whatsapp – Whatsapp launched back in January 2010 when text messages were still the done thing.  I’ve probably only sent a few texts over the past couple of years as most people I know now use Whatsapp instead – it’s a much easier and cheaper alternative.   Did you also know that the creator of whatsapp, after leaving Yahoo! with a bunch of cash applied for a job at Facebook and got turned down?  6 years later he sold $17bn.   Oops.

Language apps – Remember when Rosetta Stone used to cost a shed load of money but unless you wanted to go to night school it was your only option?  All that changed with the introduction of apps like Duolingo which can help you learn a new language from scratch.   This is actually used by my sons school for homework now which is pretty neat.

Google Docs/Drive – Whilst I still use Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel for much of my day to day work, Google Docs is super for collaboration.  We use it all the time for a variety of stuff both at home and work but my favourite one is the shared list of things that need doing in our head office where we get such gems as “The toilet seat is broken in the ladies – it wasn’t me though”.

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What will the next 8 years bring?  My biggest two predictions of things that will have a big impact on our lives are self driving cars and the mainstream use of voice control.  Perhaps you could add VR to this list but I tend to think it might end up being a fad like 3d TVs.

Have I missed something that has a big impact on your life?   Let me know by leaving a comment..

 

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Disney Store’s Magical Christmas Event

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Through my day job I was luckily enough to be invited to bring the family to a Disney Store VIP Christmas Party (in conjunction with Great Ormond Street Hospital) yesterday at their Oxford Street store.

The event certainly made me feel Christmasy for the first time this year, despite already wearing my Christmas Jumper a number of times.

On arrival we were greeted with welcome drinks and given a chance to browse the the store.  The children were given magical bells and when asked to ring them by the bell ringer, Micky and Minnie Mouse (who had come over from Disneyland Paris) arrived with the Disney Voices choice singing a festive song to get everyone in the mood.

Speaking of the Disney Voices choir – they were FABULOUS.   This is a choir made up of Disney employees who sing (believe it or not) Disney songs.  If I didn’t already enjoy my job I’d almost want to join the Disney empire just so I could get involved!   They did a number of other performances through the rest of the night.

Shortly after the bell ringing had finished we were allowed to go to the bottom floor of the store where there were magicians and face painters on hand to entertain.   Belle from Beauty and the Beast was also there providing free photo ops and later in the night she was replaced by Mickey and Minnie.

Finally there was also the chance to write a letter to Santa and every letter written is exchange for a Soft Toy for Great Ormond Street.  Believe based upon previous years this is something that will be rolled out at all Disney Stores (and online) with up to 25,000 being donated across the campaign.

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Overall it was a great night and we felt very privileged to be invited.

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Our Tinos Holiday

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Around 18 months ago our family went through a huge change.

My wife of almost 10 years got on her first ever flight after being petrified of doing so for her entire life.  We went away together to Majorca (which featured me getting drunk in a Karaoke bar each night) and then earlier this year we went to Barbados to stay with a close friend who now lives out there.

Previously our family holidays involved the UK or France in either a Caravan Park or in our trailer tent.  Don’t get me wrong – these were lovely holidays but it wasn’t what I was bought up with and I really wanted to take my family further afield to experience different cultures and sights around the world.

So in August all five of us went away on our first flight – departing to Mykonos, Greece.    For all three of my children this was their first time flying and there were a lot of nervous tears and tantrums along the way.. our youngest had been saying for the best part of a year  that he was NOT getting on a plane (often crying about the idea of it) but once it was up in the air he loved it.  I took my Microsoft Surface with lots of films and TV shows on and the flight was actually a success.

We were only staying one night in Mykonos (as it’s not a cheap place to stay in summer) and when we got to the airport it was hell to get a taxi.   Despite being one of the first in the queue it was a free-for-all and I ended up having to physically push people out the way to get my bags into the car.. clearly there are not enough taxis on the Island!

Our first night was spent in Eleni’s Village Suites – staying in an amazing little cottage in the middle of the Mykonos country side.  The owners were lovely and the only negative was that we were not staying there for any longer.

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Next up was a Ferry from Mykonos to our final destination; Tinos – the next Island along.

Now time for a bit of an embarrassing admission.

When I originally booked the flights the reason that we chose Tinos was purely because I thought Greece would be a good place to go (I’d never been) and I’d found an amazing deal on HotUKDeals.   At the time I did not actually appreciate that there were different Islands in Greece which is ironic considering my only C grade in my GCSE’s years ago was in Geography!

So after booking the flights I realised after a while we’d actually need to get a Ferry too!   We were a little concerned that dragging 3 kids (and lots of suitcases) would be a nightmare but thankfully we were given a lift to the port by the Eleni’s and picked up by a coach the other end with the hotel we were staying in.   The ferry was a breeze – the only thing that I found slightly weird was the way in which everyone pilled on like their life depended on it as soon as the ferry turned up; equally I don’t think that this would have passed the heath and safety tests in the UK!

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When we got to Tinos we transferred straight to Tinos Beach Hotel.   We had a family room which just about fit all five of us.    Whilst on the topic of family rooms, this is probably the area we have really struggled with when booking holidays.   Four people?  Easy.  Five?  You become very limited in where you can actually stay unless you want to get two rooms which often costs a lot more.

Back on topic;  the hotel was pretty nice.

Location  – 8/10.   Perhaps it would have been good to be nearer to the town centre – which was only a short bus ride away but if you want to head in here a few times it adds to the cost.  They did offer a free coach service but if I’m honest they should have a smaller coach and a more regular service.   On the plus side it was RIGHT on the beach.

Room – 6/10.   Don’t get me wrong – the room was nice enough, but one of the chairs was broken on the balcony and it just lacked any real facilities in the room.  The maid came every day or two.

Pool – 6.5/10.  The pool looks nice and is better than most of the other hotels in Tinos.   Most of the hotels (in a country that is pretty hot!) didn’t have pools, which was a bit weird.   The big downside however was that it was bloody freezing every single day in that pool.   It really could have done with a bit of heating.

Facilities – 3/10.   This was a big let down.  There was no entertainment – nothing really for the kids to do – in fact all that there was was a small park, one pool table and a couple of table tennis tables.  But the pool table wasn’t in operation (someone had broken the cues!) and the table tennis was always in use with no real time limits or booking system.  Really disappointing and it made it really difficult to keep all the children entertained.

Staff – 6/10.  Nice enough but nothing to write home about.  Went down a mark as when we had dinner in there the first night we poured some fizzy drink for each of us before being told that this cost extra (with no signs suggesting this) in a very rude way.

Food – 5/10.  We actually only worked our half way through the holiday that we got dinner included as well as breakfast but I don’t think we would have enjoyed dinner there every day.  There was one food hall and it was the same stuff most days and none of it was that great.

One thing that I found odd about Tinos (perhaps down to my bad geography skills again) was the amount of wind on the Island!   I would never book to go there again and if it’s like that on all the Greek Islands probably wouldn’t go back to any of them.   They had to put large rocks on the sun loungers that you can place your towels on to stop them from blowing away!   It made it constantly cold when we were sitting by the pool despite the hot sun.   I ended up covering up which was a shame as I was aiming for a tan by the end of the holiday.

Tinos town itself was quite nice and I would have liked to explore it more but other than visiting a few shops / stools we didn’t venture too far.   Perhaps this was just down to the fact that the kids were moaning that they wanted to back to the hotel (even if there wasn’t anything to do there).    We rented a car one day (which we were lucky to do as everywhere was fully booked minus last minute cancellations) and drove around the Island which was probably my favourite part of the trip.   The views were stunning and it’s only a fairly small Island.

My favourite place which I would have liked to spend more time at was a beach called Kolibithra Bay.    It was a surfers beach so the water itself was a bit rough and not really somewhere the children could go swimming but the vibe was very chilled out.  There were two converted VW Camper Vans on the beach to get food and drinks (the cocktails were great, but I only had one as I was driving) and it was playing some decent chilled house music as the sun started to go down.  Our eldest was in a right mood by this point (can’t remember why) so we didn’t stay too long which was a real shame.  If you ever go Tinos, put it at the top of your list.

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As the hotel food was pretty rubbish we ate out a few times and the trip also coincided with our wedding anniversary so we decided to head to O Ntinos which was the number 1 ranked restaurant on Trip Advisor.   It took around 30 minutes for the taxi to get there but it was 100% worth the wait and cost.  The views of sunset were spectacular and the food was some of the best that I’ve had.    Also worth noting that the staff were extremely friendly – could not have asked for a nicer anniversary treat.

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So that really brings me to the end of our trip.   The journey back was pretty uneventful (don’t get to Mykonos airport too early as there is bugger all to do!) and other than my credit card breathing a sign of relief we were all very depressed to me back in the UK.

Our next holiday will be a little different as we’ve booked to go away for a week next year to an all inclusive resort in Cuba.   Hopefully this will bring lots more to do for the kids and thought it was a good idea to get to Cuba before the American’s build loads of McDonalds and Starbucks now that flights are starting to head out there.   A long wait but excited for our next adventure.

 

 

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