Is it time to turn off your tech?

Can you imagine daily life without your tablet? How about without having your laptop computer or smartphone? What about a day with no online game of Words with Friends? Technology has totally changed our everyday life. We now get our news online, interact with friends through social media sites, and depend on GPS-equipped smart phones to find that new Chinese restaurant and get back to our homes. But does there come a time to shut down all of this tech? A recent story by the New York Times suggests that turning off the phones, tablets and laptops — at least once in a while — might make us more productive people.

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. Once this techie ditched the phone, he found that the words flowed. His advice? Ditching the tech can dramatically boost productivity.

Growing support

The Times story found that this former Twitter worker was far from alone. The story’s author relates a game that he plays with his technology-minded friends. When they gather for dinner, they each put their phones in the center of the table. The first person who touches his or her phone before the meal concludes has to pick up the check.

What about you?

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

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

You may think that you’ll never need to back up files, images or videos that you save in an Evernote notebook. Considering that, not only will your files be stored on your own computer or device, they’ll also be stored on Evernote’s own servers.

Is it really necessary?

You may be asking yourself: Do I have to back up my Evernote notebooks? How-To Geek would answer with an emphatic “yes!” This is because Evernote isn’t a backup system. It’s a synching system. And in a worst-case scenario, Evernote’s remote file store could be wiped. Then, the local file store can be wiped, too.

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 – but there is one easy option: You can export your Evernote notebooks.

Exporting

To do this, first right-click on any notebook and pick the “Export Notes� option. On top of that, you can export your notes in a variety of formats, including Evernote’s native one. Now, if you lose the notebook or the data it holds, you can simply select the “import� option to bring back the exported notebook as a wholesale replacement for the notebook you lost.

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These IT projects will boost your business in 2013

Your New Year’s resolution was to expand your small business in 2013. How is that resolution faring? If you’re struggling to improve your small business’ revenues so far this year, it might be time to look to your IT department. Yes it’s true: Your IT department delivers the technical expertise to make your business even more efficient. That, in return, can raise your employees’ productivity and grow your business’ bottom line. Here are some tech projects that Small Business Computing.com suggests for small business owners who want to see their businesses grow in 2013.

Bring Wi-Fi to your business

The bring-your-device movement continues to grow. This makes sense: Employees often work more efficiently when they can work on their own personal tablets, laptops and smartphones on the job. After all, they are more familiar with these devices. Taking their own devices to work can also help when employees need to put the finishing touches on a report or presentation when they’re at home or traveling. But this policy only works when your office provides a strong and reliable Wi-Fi network that employees are able to use to access the Web, send and receive e-mail messages and update your company’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Make investing in a reliable Wi-Fi network a key goal of 2013.

Ultrabooks

Your employees are able to do more when they can tote laptops to meetings with customers. Traditional laptops, though, are too clunky. And small Netbooks are often too slow and limited. Ultrabooks, though, are a different animal. These laptops are both small and light enough to be portable, and powerful enough to enable employees to show multimedia presentations and reports to potential customers. One way to watch your business grow is to provide your employees more options for snagging new customers. Ultrabooks are one of these options.

No more Windows XP

Windows XP is a solid operating system, especially compared with the universally unloved Vista. But Windows XP’s time has come and gone. Microsoft will no longer offer technical support for the 10-year-old operating system come April of 2014. And the company will stop delivering security updates for the system at that time, as well. Which means that it’s time for you to upgrade any machine that is still running this operating system. Upgrade to Windows 7; it’s one of Microsoft’s more popular operating systems.

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How to explain the cult of Evernote?

You’ve heard of cult movies. Cult bands, too. But have you ever heard of a business app that had its own cult following? Now you have, thanks to a recent story by BloombergBusinessweek. The story highlights the remarkable popularity of Evernote, a five-year-old organization and note-taking app that has swiftly developed its own cult of fervent users. These users aren’t shy about praising the application to the uninitiated. And Evernote’s chief executive officer isn’t boasting when he says he’d one day like his organization app to boast more than 1 billion followers.

Devoted fans

According to the Bloomberg BusinessWeek story, Evernote today boasts more than 50 million users, amazing for an app that’s only existed for five years. More remarkable is the fact that new users are signing at a pace of 100,000 per day. That makes chief executive officer Phil Libin’s goal of reaching 1 billion users across the globe seem more credible than farfetched.

The numbers

According to the BloombergBusinessweek story, Evernote presently has more than 50 million users worldwide. Plus the number of users remains on the rise. The story states that more than 100,000 new users sign up for Evernote each day. That’s impressive. And the BloombergBusinessweek interview quotes CEO Phil Libin as saying that his goal is to reach 1 billion users.

Changing lifestyles?

This popularity might seem unusual to people who still take notes on pen and paper. However, fans of Evernote say that new users become devotees quickly for just one reason: Evernote helps make sense of increasingly busy lives. It’s tough to keep track of children’s hockey practices, work meetings, lunch with friends, and family gatherings. Evernote, though, allows users to do this efficiently, by using, basically, just three columns on a screen. The Evernote promise is a simple, but powerful, one: If you use this app, you’ll never inadvertently forget a phone call, meeting or anniversary again. Looking at it in this way, that goal of 1 billion users doesn’t seem so farfetched.

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Turn off Java to protect your computer

<p>Want to protect your computer from hackers? Slate writer Will Oremus has some straightforward advice: Disable Java. The problem? Hackers have had an easy time of late uncovering holes in Java's browser plug-in. Just last year, you'll remember, the Department of Homeland Security even issued a warning about Java's security issues. Then this February, another Java weakness left what Oremus says is hundreds of millions of Users at risk from massive malware attacks. So Oremus' advice is sound: In order to keep personal information and files safe, you need to disable Java.</p> <p><strong>Skip the patch</strong></p> <p>Oremus feels so strongly about this, he advises computer users to not bother with patches to cover up Java's vulnerabilities. Instead, he recommends that users disable the program. Why? Because most of us seldom use it. Relatively few Web sites today are powered by Java applets. When you disable Java, you aren't removing it from your computer. You're just keeping it quiet. Oremus recommends that if you require Java to view certain key Web sites to keep Java enabled in a secondary Web browser which you only use when you need to access a Java-controlled site.</p> <p><strong>A vulnerable program</strong></p> <p>The trouble with Java is that it is very vulnerable to hackers. In the most recent breach, hackers used holes in Java to take over the machines of Internet surfers who visited compromised Web sites. The company that owns Java, Oracle, lost almost no time in putting out a fresh security patch to fix this problem. The fact is that, Java is known for a history of security leaks, and there's no reason to assume that hackers won't locate new ones to exploit.</p> <p><strong>The disabling process</strong></p> <p>If you're ready to disable Java, it's a uncomplicated task, depending on the Web browser that you use. If you're a Chrome user, type the phrase "Chrome://Plugins" in your browser's address bar. Check the "Disable" button next to any Java plug-ins you see. If you are using Safari, click on the "Safari" option in your main menu bar. Then click "Preferences." Select the "Security" tab. You'll see a checked button next to the option "Enable Java." Uncheck that box to turn Java off. In Firefox, select "Tools" from your main menu. Click "Add-ons," and then select the "Disable" button next to any Java plug-ins that you see. To no one's surprise, Internet Explorer boasts the trickiest Java disabling procedure. To learn more concerning how to do this — there are too many steps to list here — visit <a href=”http://www.java.com/en/download/help/disable_browser.xml&#8221; >http://www.java.com/en/download/help/disable_browser.xml</a></p>
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Don’t let the Internet trick you into flawed research

<p>You can learn about anything on the Internet. At least it seems that way. The fact is, if you are doing research online, you're likely to stumble into information that looks true but actually isn't. And that can scuttle your research easily. Thankfully, Web site Lifehacker recently provided several tips on how to conduct more effective research on the Internet. Follow these tips and you'll soon be finding the truth online.</p> <p><strong>Watch for your bias</strong></p> <p>Lifehacker's first tip? Be cautious about your own bias. All of us are guilty of something termed confirmation bias. We want to find information with which we already agree. For example, if you're a lifelong liberal, you'll be more likely to believe studies demonstrating that poverty is the real reason behind low school test scores. It is crucial when researching online to identify your own biases and to make sure that you're not selectively sourcing studies that confirm it. It's important to give weight; too, to research that contradicts your beliefs.</p> <p><strong>Look for bad information</strong></p> <p>Lifehacker points to poorly cited articles as a big trap for online researchers. Unfortunately, the Internet is packed with "research" that isn't very methodical in nature. Look for articles that are highly sourced and that originate from respected journals, magazines or newspapers. You can generally count on medical journals and government reports, as well, when it comes to online research.</p> <p><strong>Specialized online research</strong></p> <p>To find the newest and most comprehensive studies on your subject, you'll need to expand your search beyond the usual suspects of Google, Bing and Yahoo! Instead, use specialized scholarly searches that can yield more detailed information. Google Scholar and Scirus are powerful tools for academic research. So is PLOS, run by the Public Library of Science, and the United States Library of Congress.</p>
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Do we need augmented reality glasses?

<p>Google Glass — Google's augmented reality glasses — are getting closer to hitting the market. These computerized specs allow wearers to surf the Internet, send and receive e-mail messages, chat with friends and take photos. Pretty awesome for a pair of glasses. But there was a time when glasses were used just for seeing things, which was an important job, too. Is Google's Glass project, then, truly necessary? Or is it a diversion from real life?</p> <p><strong>Augmented vision</strong></p> <p>The news that Google Glass, as stated by CNET, will be released by the end of the year has been a bit of a surprise. Google was initially planning to release the glasses in 2014. The sped-up timeframe gives a hint of how important Google considers its augmented eyewear. Even better, the news is that the glasses, even though pricey, are somewhat affordable. They are expected to retail for $1,500.</p> <p><strong>Do we need augmented reality?</strong></p> <p>So, are Google's Glasses an example Google providing consumers what they want, or are the glasses are high-priced novelty that will never catch on? It's hard to deny that there's some usefulness to the glasses. They can be used, after all, to run directions to a new Chinese restaurant as you're walking down the street. You can make a call to tell a friend that you're running late. You could even pull up the subway timetable before you head underground to catch a train. But can't we already do all of this with phones, mobile devices and, of course, paper and pen?</p> <p><strong>A connected world?</strong></p> <p>The Google Glass project will test just how linked to our electronic devices we want to be. We've already grown to be dependent upon our tablets and smartphones to tell us when the next movie is playing, whether we should pack an umbrella, or where that new French restaurant is located. You could look at Google Glass as just the next step in our growing relationship with mobile devices. It remains to be seen, though, whether an augmented reality is more spectacular than just plain old reality.</p>
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Desktop or Web-based e-mail?

Are you a user of Web-based e-mail like Gmail or Yahoo!? Or do you make use of a desktop e-mail client like Postbox, Outlook or Sparrow? Each e-mail option features pluses and minuses. As a newly released story by the Lifehacker Web site says, some users would do better with a desktop e-mail client and others will thrive with a Web-based e-mail system. Are you currently debating over whether to install that latest desktop e-mail client? Or are you contemplating signing up for Gmail? Deciding whether Web-based or desktop e-mail is right for you requires a close look at your computing habits.

When desktop makes sense

Here’s who ought to be using a desktop e-mail client, according to Lifehacker: Computer users that have multiple e-mail addresses with different domains, people who need to access their e-mail messages even when they’re offline and those who filter and block e-mail messages according to subject headers, senders and certain words. Lifehacker also recommends the use of desktop e-mail clients if you like using security features such as encryption and digital signing.

When Web-based makes sense

Lifehacker recommends the use of Web-based e-mail if you need a single unified inbox for all your e-mail messages and you only have a small number of e-mail addresses to track. Web-based e-mail may also make sense if you like using Web-based programs instead of downloading them to your computer and if you’re more comfortable storing your e-mail messages in the cloud instead of on your machine.

Plenty of choices

No matter if you go with desktop or Web-based e-mail services, the good news is there are more alternatives than ever when it comes to e-mail. At one time e-mail was more or less ignored by technology companies. Today, though, companies have launched a wide variety of e-mail services, both Web-based and desktop, that can make organizing and managing your e-mail messages a simpler task than ever before.

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The tech trends that small business owners need to follow

There was a point in time when e-mail was considered cutting-edge tech. Before that, businesses were considered tech-savvy if they had their very own fax machines. Technology, though, is constantly evolving. What companies needed three years ago is nowhere near what they need now to thrive. CIO Magazine, naturally, recognizes this. That’s why the magazine so emphasized the evolving nature of technology when it listed its top tech trends for businesses. The trends that the magazine’s editors have cited will definitely affect the way businesses operate in 2013. If you’re a wise businessman, you’ll pay particularly close attention to them.

Hospitals and BYOD

There’s a reason why more companies adopted the BYOD – bring your own devices – movement last year. When employees bring their own tablets or laptops to work, hook up to a company network and then perform their tasks on their own devices, they generally tend to be both happier and more efficient. This boosts the bottom line of companies. At the same time, companies that embrace BYOD don’t need to provide individual computers for their employees. This year, CIO Magazine says, the BYOD movement will grow even stronger as increasing numbers of businesses – even highly secure ones such as hospitals – being encouraging their workers to bring their own iPads to work.

3-D Printing Continues to Soar

3-D printing has made a big effect on businesses. The ability to use a printer to produce objects with heft and depth – for example plastic machine parts – is definitely an amazing one. And CIO Magazine predicts that more businesses will see this in 2013. In fact, CIO Magazine predicts that 3-D printing will become a breakthrough technology this year for companies.

The End of Passwords?

Passwords have always been a technological problem for businesses. A great number of their employees rely on their children’s names, street addresses or favorite hockey team when deciding on passwords. These passwords are easier for hackers to guess. When hackers guess a password, they can quickly gain access to confidential company information. But what if companies instead relied on biometrics to secure their computers and confidential data? That day is coming, predicts CIO. In biometrics, companies use such body parts as the iris’ of their workers’ eyes or their fingerprints as replacements for passwords. It really is a more secure option for businesses to guard their critical data.

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Orchestra hits a home run with Mailbox for iPhone

Do you read and send e-mail messages through your smart phone? Naturally you do. Do you genuinely like the e-mail program that you use to get this done? If you’re similar to most smart phone users, most likely not. The simple truth is that few smart phone users like their mobile e-mail programs. There is a new contender in the mobile e-mail space, though, and it may well change this. Tech provider Orchestra just recently released Mailbox, its new e-mail client for the iPhone. And the assessments? Thus far, they’ve been fantastic.

Features

So why has the tech press weighed in so positively about the iPhone version of Mailbox? Probably because it operates as if it was actually designed to be used with smart phones. Several other mobile e-mail programs feel like they are simply rehashes of e-mail programs that work better on desktop or laptop computers. Here’s the fundamental difference: With Mailbox, users save, delete or archive messages by swiping, the same as they do most anything else with their smart phones or tablet computers. Here are some examples: If you swipe an e-mail message to the left, you’ll save it for a later date. When you instead swipe to the right, you’ll archive the message. And when you swipe to the right while holding also, you’ll delete an e-mail message. Swipe to the left while holding? A List screen will pop-up. Using this new screen, you can either label messages or move them to new locations. Basically, using Mailbox is intuitive.

Viewing

Supporters of the new Mailbox app point out that sending e-mail messages feels a lot more like Tweeting or texting. That’s a pretty heady compliment; after all, most smart phone users prefer texting or sending out quick Tweets to depending on traditional e-mail programs to transmit messages. Mailbox also configures e-mail messages so that they are easy to read on a typical smart phone screen. When messages are first displayed, as an example, Mailbox does not show unneeded information like signatures. It’s only when users tap on messages that additional information — such as the “To” and “From” features — are shown.

To Do

Mailbox for iPhone also acts as a handy to-do list for replying to e-mail messages. For example, when you read a message, you can assign it a priority. You could tend to have the message reappear in your e-mail inbox, for action, two days later. If the message carries a lower priority, you can request for it to appear again in a month. This supplies users with a simple way to gain some control over their incoming e-mail messages. If you’re aggravated by your present mobile e-mail program, it may be the perfect time to explore the iPhone version of Mailbox. You just might discover that it is the perfect e-mail application on your favorite smart phone.

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