Tech tips for the new year
Back up your stuff
Back up your files. Do it now, do it often, do not put it off until your hard drive suddenly and unexpectedly perishes or until your laptop is stolen from a cafe when you run to the bathroom.
Everyone will have different backup needs, but for the most basic computer backups there are a few basic options. You can use an external hard drive or a cloud service. There are services like Carbonite, which will automatically back up photos, music, documents and emails for an annual fee. If you have an Apple computer, turn on Time Machine and it will backup your files to the drive of your choice in the background.
You also can use a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive to save a copy of select files. A nice Dropbox feature is that it can automatically save new photos from connected cameras or smartphones to the cloud.
Organize your passwords
Still lost trying to log into any site you do not use often. Try choosing about three passwords and stick to them. be careful though some sites that or not secure enough can get hacked a long with your password. For that reason it’s good to change it every 6 months or so. Another nice trick is to think of the password as a code that you cut and paste rather than a word or memory.
Scan old photos
We all have them. The stacks of old photos hidden in boxes under the bed or collecting dust in basements. If you don’t have digital copies of these gems, stop stalling and start scanning. Natural disasters, floods and fires can wipe out film memories in an instant. To scan your images, get a flatbed scanner and place multiple images on the bed at a time. You can crop and retouch individual pictures later.
If manually scanning in each old photo sounds like too big (or boring) of an undertaking, you can hire a company to do it for you. Many local camera stores offer bulk-scanning services and will return your originals along with high-resolution TIFFs or JPEGs on a CD or hard drive. And you can store copies of your photos online in case your laptop crashes (see resolution No. 1).
If you’re comfortable sending your photos away, the best option is using a company that specialize in bulk photo scanning. They’ll even do light retouching and repairs for older pictures, videos and slides. Check out ScanDigital.com or ScanCafe.com.
Step away from the smartphone
Love this one, please people come back to the world.
If you spend most of the day with your nose buried a smartphone, tablet or computer, make an effort to break out of the digital world and interact more with the humans around you in 2013. Don’t habitually check your online social networks while hanging out with your flesh-and-blood friends. On a date? Don’t even think about texting. (Unless the date is going horribly and they’re in the bathroom and you need to arrange an emergency extraction.)
Attempt to live in the moment instead of just documenting the moment on Instagram. Yes, that sunset will look stunning with the Valencia filter, but it will look even better through your own eyeballs.
There’s a time and a place for texting and e-mailing and checking Twitter. But this year, let’s try to leave the screens in our pockets and bags more often and engage with the world around us.
Read the TOS and check privacy settings for your social networks
Terms of service are long, boring documents filled with impenetrable legalese. But before you upload content or share personal information with a site, take a few minutes to read over its terms of service — and any privacy agreements — so you have a better idea of who owns your data and what the company can do with it. Start with the biggies you’re probably already using such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, Yahoo and Twitter.
Next, take a trip to your privacy settings. Even if you had your settings just the way you wanted them a year ago, the company could have updated the controls and left some of your information exposed.
Learn something new online
Tech resolutions aren’t all preventative measures to avoid doom and gloom. You can also embark on fun, self-improvement projects. Quality classes are free and plentiful online. There are courses for every age, interest and attention span, from major universities and organizations.
Pick up a language, learn how to code at Codecademy or just be inspired by the best Ted Talks. Apple’s iTunes U is stocked with videos and podcasts of classes, as well as supporting materials like worksheets and ebooks. You can access them from a computer or download the ITunes U iPad or iPhone app. The YouTube Education channel has instructional videos on math, business, language and the other usual suspects, including fun experiments you can try at home. Check out the Spangler Science channel and prepare to simultaneously mess with and impress your kids.
Coursera offers free college courses from big name universities including Princeton, Emory, Stanford, Johns Hopkins and Columbia. Get the knowledge without the student loans (or course credit, unfortunately).
Charles has been working as a webmaster since 1998. Since then, he has had his hands in thousands of websites and has helped millions get online through a company he partially owns called Web Host Pro.