Friday, June 28, 2013

Turning off the tech: Good for your productivity?

Our gadgets make life easier. Now you can get the address of that new Indian restaurant with your cell phone. You can instantly tell all your friends of your new promotion through Twitter and Facebook. If you don’t have time to watch the news, you can read it on the way to work on your tablet. But sometimes our gadgets distract us from the “real” world. And sometimes they decrease our productivity. When we really should be working or thinking, we’re checking our e-mails and sending texts. The New York Times recently asked the big question: Would everyone gain from brief technology breaks?

Even the techies shut down

The Times story concentrated on some highly unlikely supporters of the take-a-tech-break theory: techies themselves. The Times, in fact, highlighted the case of an author and former Twitter employee. This techie was writing a book. But the constant chirping of his iPhone kept him from concentrating. When this techie ditched the phone, he found that the words flowed. His advice? Ditching the tech can significantly boost productivity.

Growing support

This writer is not alone. The author of the Times story, in fact, considers himself a techie. But he and his fellow techie fans are taking their own breaks from their electronic gadgets. As the author writes, when he and his friends gather for dinners, they place their smartphones in the center of the table. Whoever touches a phone first has got to cover dinner.

Your time?

Is it your turn to follow these examples? Do you need to go on a technology break? Have a look at your days: Do you spend hours fiddling with Words with Friends or Angry Birds? Can you pass an hour or so without logging into Facebook? Do you text more than you talk? If so, you, too, might benefit from a technology break. And you might be amazed at how productive you will be.

You don't have to be a luddite to turn off the tech

Can you imagine daily life without your tablet? How about without your laptop or smartphone? How about a day lacking an online game of Words with Friends? Technology has dramatically changed our everyday life. We now get our news online, connect with friends through social media sites, and depend on GPS-equipped smart phones to locate that new Asian restaurant and get back to our homes. But does there come a time to shut down all of this tech? A newly released story by the New York Times suggests that switching off the phones, tablets and laptops -- at least once in a while -- could make us more productive.


Techies agree

The answer, according to the Times: Yes. And the idea of a tech break has some unlikely proponents: high-use tech fans. By way of example, the Times profiles a former Twitter employee who, while writing a book, found that he struggled to concentrate amid the constant ringing and beeping of his iPhone. So the author took the big step of ditching his tech. The result? His productivity, and creativity, significantly improved.


Growing support

This techie is far from alone. The author of the Times column shines a spotlight on himself. Today, when he and his buddies get together for dinner, they immediately toss their smartphones in the center of the table. The first one who reaches for a phone has to pay the price: That person covers the tab for dinner.

Your turn?

So, what about you? Is it time for you to set aside your electronic devices? Possibly. Are you constantly distracted by the sound of incoming text messages? Can you hold a conversation without wanting to get to the next level in Angry Birds? Do you talk with your friends solely through Tweets? If so, it might be time for you to put away the tech temporarly. You could be amazed at how interesting the world can be without them.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Don't think you need to back up your Evernote notebooks? Think again.

Evernote is a great tool for saving you important information. When you store notes, videos, photos or other documents in an Evernote notebook, not only is the data saved on your computer, tablet or smart phone, it's also saved in Evernote's servers. However, the tech site How-To Geek provides this warning: This is not enough data security. Fortunately, How-To Geek also reveals how you can provide more security by backing up your Evernote notebooks.

Not as safe

This means someone or something could wipe out both the data you’ve stored on your computer or other device and the version of the same data that you’ve stored on Evernote’s servers. And if that takes place? That data is gone. Fortunately, the How-To Geek Web site explains how users can back-up Evernote notebooks to provide the utmost protection to their files, photos, reports and videos.

Protecting yourself

You can add an extra layer of security to your Evernote notebooks - and the data they contain - by backing them up. There are a few ways to accomplish this - some, as How-To Geek explains, are quite complicated - but there is one simple option: You can export your Evernote notebooks.

The export option

To do this, right-click on any notebook saved in Evernote. Then select the “Export Notes” option. Then you're able to export the notebook in any of several formats. If you should happen to lose the notebook or the information it contains, you can simply choose to import the previously exported notebook. This will bring in a new version of the notebook that can act as a wholesale replacement for the notebook that you previously lost.

Backing up your Evernote notebooks isn't overkill. It's Smart.

How safe do you think your data is when you store them in an Evernote notebook? The surprising answer: Not as safe as you might think. That’s because Evernote isn’t a true backup service. It’s a synching service.

Not as safe

This means someone or something could wipe out both the data you’ve stored on your computer or other device and the version of the same data that you’ve stored on Evernote’s servers. And if that happens? That data is gone. Fortunately, the How-To Geek Web site explains how users can back-up Evernote notebooks to provide the utmost protection to their files, photos, reports and videos.

Top protection

You can add an extra layer of security to your Evernote notebooks - and the data they contain - by backing them up. There are various ways to do this - some, as How-To Geek explains, are quite complicated - however, there is one simple option: You can export your Evernote notebooks.

Export/import

To do this, right-click on any notebook saved in Evernote. Then select the “Export Notes� option. Then you're able to export the notebook in any of several formats. Should you happen to lose the notebook or the information it contains, you can simply choose to import the formerly exported notebook. This will bring in a new version of the notebook that can act as a wholesale replacement for the notebook that you previously lost.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Time to stop them: Windows doesn't have to restart after an update

You know that the updates that Windows automatically downloads are important. They frequently contain important anti-virus protections intended to keep cybercriminals out of your computer and software. Nevertheless it can be annoying when Windows automatically restarts your machine after every update. Luckily for us, the Lifehacker Web site recently covered how you can edit your computer’s registry to keep Windows from automatically restarting after an update.

No more automatic restarts

Stopping the automatic restarts is going to take a little bit of effort on your part. You’ll have to edit your computer’s registry, something not every user feels confident doing.

The process

Begin the process of disabling Windows’ automatic reboots by turning on your computer’s “Start” menu. Next, open your computer’s registry by typing “regedit.” Lifehacker now recommends that you start the registry editor. Then look for this specific line in the registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU. Click on the “AU” key. This should make this key appear in the right pane. Once this happens right-click on the empty space and select New >DWORD (32-bit) Value. Now, name the new DWORD: "NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers". To end the process, double-click on the new DWORD and give it a value of 1.

Protecting yourself

Now you’re done. When Windows downloads an update, it won’t automatically restart your computer. You’ll need to remember, though, to reboot your computer in the future. Or else, your new updates - and they could be important - won’t take effect.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The challenges of Bitcoin payments

Bitcoins are becoming a popular way for individuals to purchase goods and services online. The question, though, is if your business should accept this virtual currency. Entrepreneur Magazine recently took a look at this issue. Here are the key things they discussed about Bitcoins.

Is it real money?

Individuals purchase Bitcoins with actual money. They then start using these virtual coins to purchase goods and services from online companies. Many companies that work with Bitcoins aren’t quite legal. However, lots of others are. Entrepreneur says that such online vendors as Etsy, Wordpress and Reddit accept Bitcoins.

Safety issues

Bitcoin transactions are secured by way of a process called public key cryptography encryption, according to Entrepreneur. That doesn't mean, though, that all Bitcoin transactions are perfectly safe. Cybercriminals, especially clever ones, can hack Bitcoins. Additionally, there is Bitcoin-stealing malware to be concerned with.

Why take them?

As a small business owner, should you accept Bitcoins? You might need to in the future to work with certain online vendors. There are several advantages, too, to this digital currency. Bitcoin transactions - currently - aren't taxed. In addition, there aren't any fees or charges from banks, credit cards or financial institutions involving such transactions.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The best way to stay in power? Try these battery packs

It's happened to everybody. You're on vacation or far from home when your phone, laptop or tablet begins to run out of juice. Thank goodness, you are able to stop this from happening by plugging your devices into external battery packs, a single gizmo that can charge any device you plug into it. The Lifehacker Web site just ranked several of the best external battery packs. Listed below are the site’s findings.

Anker Astro

The Anker Astro tops Lifehacker's list due to the immense power it holds, with each of the 3E, E4 and Pro versions each packing some serious oomph. Lifehacker readers pointed to these models' portability, small size and reasonable price points.

New Trent

The iCarrier and iGeek battery packs from manufacturer New Trent also score points for portability as well as the powerful charges they supply. These units, too, are priced reasonably. One special feature? The indicator light that quickly lets you know just how much charge your New Trent unit still holds. This way, you’ll never be surprised as you travel.

Energizer XP

Energizer is a huge name in batteries, so it is little surprise that its XP series of external battery packs ranks so high among Lifehacker readers. One of the greatest selling points? These units include a wide variety of tips and cables that allow you to charge almost any phone available, even older models.

Should you upgrade to Word 2013?

It’s the big question: Do you need to upgrade to Microsoft Word 2013, the newest version of Microsoft’s popular word-processing program. According to the editors at PC World Magazine the correct answer is definitely yes. PC World just recently ran a feature story praising the newest version of Word, and pointing out several new features that might dramatically boost your productively. Before you decide whether it’s upgrade time, look at these new features that PC World praises.

More Design Options

The primary reason to upgrade to Word 2013? PC World points to the program's new and improved design tab. Word 2013 lets users choose from a wide variety of themes, colors and fonts. And if you discover a certain combination that you might want to use all the time, you can click the "Set as Default" option to return these themes each time you create a new document. Microsoft Word 2013 also allows users to preview a document style before they apply it to the whole document.

Reading Boost

Do you spend considerable time reading Word documents? Perhaps you even spend more time reading than creating documents? Then Word 2013 is undoubtedly for you. As PC World says, the 2013 version of this program now offers a Read option. This feature makes reading Word documents a far more pleasant experience. If you choose Read, your Word document will automatically resize itself so it fits perfectly on your screen. Read even offers navigation arrows that enable you to easily scroll through a document or flip pages.

Making PDFs Less of a Hassle

Word 2013 makes editing and reading PDF documents an easier task, too. First, Word 2013 can open any PDF document. But that's only the beginning. The program also permits you to edit PDF documents without obtaining a third-party application. As outlined by PC World, you can even move images around a PDF document and edit any information found in a table. For anyone who works with PDFs often, it is an amazing new feature.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Quick -- What is your business' cybersecurity plan?

If you’re a small business operator, don’t think hackers aren’t attracted to you. Entrepreneur Magazine recently ran a story, relying on data provided by computer security company Symantec, indicating that small businesses with one to 250 employees suffered 30 percent of all cyber crimes this past year. The message here? You do need to establish a cybersecurity plan to protect your small business.

Anti-Virus

The Entrepreneur story offers some basic steps all small businesses should employ to defend their companies from cyber criminals. The first? Install anti-virus software on your computers. It’s true that this software won’t catch every virus that comes your company’s way. Nevertheless computers are easy targets if you don’t have anti-virus software set up on them.

E-mail Skills

Many hacks start with employees accidentally opening suspicious e-mail messages. That is why, Entrepreneur suggests that small business owners constantly remind their workers to delete any suspicious e-mail messages, even if they are supposedly coming from people they know. Business owners need to emphasize to employees, too, to not click links they find after opening suspicious e-mail messages.

Protect Yourself

Entrepreneur recommends, too, that you employ firewalls at your business. This can prevent hackers from accessing your inbound and outbound traffic. Just as important, firewalls can protect your company from your employees, walling off their access to potentially dodgy Web sites.