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Technological Resolutions

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Happy (Gregorian calendar) New Year folks! Now, as the festivities of the year-end wrap up, after the dinner plates are cleared away and the leftovers safely stashed, the conversation slowly shifts to the inevitable: our resolutions for the coming year. This year, how about making a bunch of tech resolutions as well? Read on to see what you can resolve to do starting today, and with the tips I suggest, possibly even keep them?
Slice Your Phone bills: What's the point of data-connected smartphones if all you do is play Angry Birds on them all day? Put that smartphone of yours to 'smarter' use and cut down on long distance calling using one of many apps available for your platform. Apart from Skype, which is for many all you need to stay in touch with folks across state and national boundaries, you could give the Tango app a shot as well - available for PC, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone, it lets you connect to other Tango users via video and voice for free. SMS much? Try the WhatsApp app for free messaging to WhatsApp users in your address book across many platforms. In both cases, only data charges apply, and with rock bottom pricing for basic data plans, there is no excuse to keep filling the carrier's coffers!
Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe: You know the drill - don't use easy to guess passwords, don't reuse your passwords across sites, etc. More often than not, convenience overpowers logic in this regard - let's face it, you've got enough on your plate without remembering all those logins/passwords you've racked up over the years, and a Post-It note on your computer monitor just isn't an option. Try 1Password, a paid password manager that integrates directly with your browser to auto-fill logins and forms. It can even automatically generate secure passwords for you, and all you need to remember is your master password. If you add in the Dropbox cloud storage application, you can even synchronise your passwords across your computers and mobile devices. For a free alternative, look no further than Firefox's built-in password manager, but be sure to secure your saved passwords with a master password.
Establish A Unified Presence Online: If you were to search for yourself, what would show up? A blog from way-back-when? A twitter account with less than parliamentary tweets? A LinkedIn account? Don't depend on someone searching for you online - a potential employer perhaps - on finding the right site with the most appropriate details on you. Hunt these sites down, especially the digital relics, and decide whether you wish to make them password protected (most blogs allow for this). Setting up a website which unifies your presence online isn't a bad idea either, a place where your official blog, twitter account and links to Facebook etc can be referenced.
Don't Feed The Troll: Every Internet forum has their own version of the troll - characters who post heavily opinionated and often factually incorrect comments intended just to provoke a response from the reader. Take a deep breath, and don't respond - many trolls have all day on their hands to continue the verbal mudslinging. You don't.
Update Your Software: If you're a Windows or Mac user, ensure that you regularly check the software update center (Windows Update/Softeware Update) - both these programs let you set up a schedule for automatically checking for software updates. Updates are always free and almost always target either security glitches or performance improvements. Given the number of serious vulnerabilities uncovered in popular software weekly, and combine that with the fact that the bad guys are hammering at these vulnerabilities mercilessly, it's vital to keep your software updated.
Backup, Backup, Backup: Fact: there is no one perfect backup option, but then again, anything is better than not backing up at all. Your hard disk isn't forever, you know. Ergo, neither are years of photos (and the like). Fortunately, every external hard disk you buy these days bundles in backup management software that lets you select which folders to backup and sets up a schedule to nag you to backup at regular intervals, or each time you connect the drive. For that matter, your computer operating system ships with capable backup software as well. In Windows 7, just head over the Backup and Restore Center which does a cracking job of maintaining your backups. You have the tools, now make the resolution.
Leap Into The Cloud: We've all heard of the cloud - computing resources and storage available over the Internet rather than on your local PC - and there are a growing number of cloud-based services (many of them free) that you should seriously consider this year. Services such as Google Docs (web based word processor) and (online storage) are good enough to supplement (if not completely replace) PC-based software and storage, saving you a fair packet in the bargain. What's more, collaborating is inherent to most good cloud apps, allowing you to share things like documents, calendars and work on them in real-time, using any device with an Internet connection.
Get Things Done: If you're maintaining paper to-dos, consider upgrading this year to one of many digital alternatives. Remember the Milk is my personal favorite, but you may have to try a few that suit your workflow. The options are many - right from basic to-do list services with daily email reminders, to more complex ones with automatic task scheduling, Twitter integration and address book integration.
Declutter, Simplify: If you've been online for more than a couple of years, you've invariably signed up for mailing lists, Facebook groups and assorted online communities that either don't interest you anymore or you just don't have time for. Spend some time today - and attack these time-sinkholes. A rule of thumb is that if you haven't touched these communities in the past 3 months, they're good to dump. And once you're done with removing the digital junk in your life, go out and have yourself a wonderful 2012!
technocool at kanwar dot net