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Cheat sheet! 10 ways to become a digital dad

Want to be a better dad and husband? Interested in saving your sanity? Looking to keep the in-laws off your back? Turn to things you already love —  shiny gadgets and the Web.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

So, you want to be a better dad, but you've realized all those parenting books require just way too much reading. Not a problem. Here are 10 simple ways you can be a better husband and father, using the stuff you already love: shiny gadgets and the Web.  1. Use Google calendar
Remember the time you were really thoughtful and remembered your wife's yoga class and you got home in time to take care of the baby so she could have some quality alone time? No? Well, that's because you didn't. And that's because you don't remember anything. Enter Google Calendar, the supremely easy-to-use-and-share, free online datebook. Yes, there are several calendars out there, and your dead-end middle-management job probably gives you Web-based Outlook Exchange. But nothing works more easily and seamlessly than Google Calendar, and your family doesn't need IT support to use it. You can add events, your wife can add events, and you both get access to the same information from any computer. You'll never miss another birthday or accidentally schedule fantasy draft night on your anniversary again.2. Buy a video camera that still uses tapes
If you go to any electronics store, you'll find that video cameras that record straight to hard drives are all the rage these days. Every manufacturer, from Sony to Panasonic, offers several models of “tapeless” cameras. The logic is that you'll save time (quickly download your videos to your computer!) and money (no more tapes to buy!). But the reality is that tape is still the safest and cheapest way to archive all your precious moments. You see, hard drives all eventually die horrible deaths. And when they do, you will lose every frame of junior's first step, every syllable of his first words, and you can bet explaining this one to the wife is going to be a little harder than explaining those photos from Vegas. DV tape lasts for decades and costs as little as $2 apiece.3. Buy a Flip cameraDespite what I just wrote in Tip No. 2, no real dad would be without a Flip camera. These cameras have become the iPods of the video world: They are easy to use (one-push recording), compact (about the size of an iPod Classic), and make Flip-less parents around you feel incredibly inferior. Yes, Flip cameras are tapeless and record to a hard drive, but they are perfect for shooting action on the fly. There's no need to find a tape, and the camera starts recording immediately. The Flip comes loaded with software to make e-mailing or uploading videos painless. Use your tape-based cameras for life's grandest events (birthdays, vacations, the day your kid moves out). Use the Flip for all those day-to-day moments that only grandma will want to watch.4. Share your videos using blip.tv
Once you've shot your videos, you need to share them. You could take the obvious step and e-mail videos to all your loved ones.  However, video files are ginormous, and you'll end up crashing everyone's computers. Not nice. You could also put your videos on YouTube. But, if you're like most people who don't know how to change your privacy settings, that last video of you telling your 3-month old to “man up, bitch” during tummy time will probably go virile. The smart play is to use blip.tv. Blip is like YouTube; it's a video site that allows you to upload and share videos. But Blip's video quality is about a billion times better, and because it supports a smaller community of video producers, creeps won't be trolling the archives for your home movies. Hooray, dignity!5. Get Netflix on your Xbox 360
Just because it's socially acceptable these days to play video games, it doesn't mean that you can turn the living room into your own private Chuck E. Cheese. Your wife legally owns half the space, so start using the Xbox 360 for something other than getting spanked in Halo. Netflix now allows you to use your broadband connection to download videos straight to your console. The most basic plan costs $8.99/month, and it gives you unlimited access to Netflix's constantly growing library of movies, TV shows and kids’ programming (honestly, who couldn't use a break from Noggin?). Start spending a little more quality time with the fam and a little less with the fanboys.6. Invest in a new camera with low shutter lag
Have you ever noticed that, no matter how hard you try, your photos just suck? Don't blame yourself. And don't blame it on a lack of megapixels or Carl Zeiss wizardry. Most bad family photos (eyes half-closed, kids running out of the frame, nausea-inducing blurriness) are caused by the fact that your camera suffers from shutter lag. Shutter lag is the amount of time between the moment you press the button and the time your camera actually captures the image. Many technical factors contribute to shutter lag: how fast the camera's lens can focus, how much light is in the environment, the age of the camera, etc. The longer the shutter lag, the less likely you're going to get the shot you want. So, when shopping for a new camera, check out sites like CNET for the fastest of the bunch.7. Start your own blog
Sick of the in-laws asking when you're going to send more videos of the little one? Tired of your wife wondering where you put those great pictures from the last barbecue? Start your own family blog and suffer no more. Once the domain of the very bored and extremely wordy, blogging has become a great way for families to share and archive photos, videos and all the other things only your closest loved ones would care about. Wordpress.com and Blogger.com provide free templates that help you get started in about five minutes. No technical knowledge is required and the Web hosting is free. Your friends and family can even subscribe to your blog's RSS feed and be instantly updated every time you post.8. Join local parent Yahoo! groups
Misery loves company, and moms and dads know this better than anyone else. The only trouble is, how do you find other parents with the same questions, concerns and dementia as you? Yahoo! Groups is your answer. These online message boards feature real people giving real advice. There's a group for every community, and joining allows you to get all sorts of information from other members: recommendations for pediatricians, preschool and summer camp reviews and tips for great weekend getaways for the family. You can also meet new friends, join offline support groups, or try to unload that pesky nanny who just refuses to go away.9. Use Amazon.com
There's no better way of putting this: Amazon rocks. And it rocks the hardest for parents. Everything that you might need or will never need and everything in between is one click away. Running out of diapers? No problem. Need more Dreft? Get it the next day. And with Amazon's Prime membership, two-day shipping is free (next day is $3.99).10. Save your sanity with good kids’ music
Kids’ music sucks. Between “Jack’s Music Show” and “Music for Aardvarks,” there's seemingly no reprieve from these three-minute ditties that drill deep, painful holes into your skull. Reclaim your musical identity and and what's left of your sanity with CDs from real bands that just happen to make songs your youngsters will enjoy. The best of the bunch are The Terrible Twos’ (featuring members of The Get Up Kids and The New Amsterdams) “Jerzy the Giant,” They Might Be Giants’ “Here Come the 123s” and “Snacktime” by Barenaked Ladies.