March 26, 2020
Practice Cybersecurity At Home
COVID-19 has led to many of us working from home. Cyber criminals are trying to capitalize on the pandemic so it is important to remember #cybersecurity best practices. Use a secure network, preferably a VPN. Be wary of unsolicited emails and links from unknown senders. Don’t share sensitive data via email or chat.
February 28, 2020
Tech Tools We Can’t Live Without
Remember the good old days when your desktop —the wooden kind, not the electronic kind! — was covered with all of your favorite tools of the trade? Your best pen, a calculator, a thesaurus, and a rotary phone to call your best colleagues and contacts? Well, now everything you need is truly at your fingertips… and inside your phone. New apps pop up all the time, but today, here are the best apps available to make your professional and personal life smooth, organized, and fulfilling:
Vert – Traveling abroad and need to know how many Euros you can buy for 100 U.S. dollars? Not sure how many liquid ounces are in a liter? Download the Vert app and every measurement and literally every possible conversion will be at your fingertips.
Waze – GoogleMaps will get you there but Waze will get you there faster and help you avoid accidents and traffic jams. The directions are spot-on and updates happen in real time. Stay plugged in though; this app drains your battery in a hurry.
Kayak – Another great travel app, Kayak allows you to search for the best price on everything travel without having to hop from site to site. Great hotels, flights, and even vacation packages are compared side by side with just a few clicks or scrolls.
Venmo – Gone are the days when friends need to do math at the dinner table or hassle servers with multiple bills. Now, one person can pay the bill and everyone else can use the Venmo app to instantly contribute their share. Pay babysitters, contractors, or small business owners without either party paying a credit card fee or worrying about carrying cash.
LinkedIn – While traditional resumes are still the standard, more and more people find contacts, apply for jobs, and build their professional brands using LinkedIn. Post published articles and connect with peers and create a real-life network using this virtual tool.
Google Keep – Already use Gmail and Google Calendar and like the way they look and feel? Google Keep has the same vibe while providing a mechanism to capture voice memos, texts, and lists and display them in a familiar way. Share your documents and collaborate with friends and colleagues using Keep as well.
Wally – We’re all really good at spending money with our phones — online shopping, Apple Pay, automatic utility bill payments — but now there is a tool at your disposal to help you be more responsible with your money. Wally helps you set a budget, categorize expenses, save receipts, and even export data to Excel to manipulate further.
TED – When you’ve balanced your budget, booked your trip, and found the job of your dreams, sit back and relax and turn on a TED talk. More than 1,700 videos and audios are available to educate, entertain, enlighten and make you laugh. Log in and broaden your mind.
February 21, 2020
Celebrating Black History Month
This Black History Month, let’s celebrate a few African Americans who had an incredible impact on science and technology, both yesterday and today! Mae Jemison, a doctor, was the first black woman in space. Mark Dean co-developed the IBM PC and was one of the pioneers of tablet design. Dubbed the black Thomas Edison, Granville T. Woods held over 50 patents including the multiplex railway telegraph that improved communication between stations and reduced accidents along the rails. And all the gamers out there have Jerry Lawson to thank for pioneering the video game cartridge that would serve as the precursor of Atari, Nintendo, Playstation, and other gaming systems.
February 14, 2020
Valentine’s Day Tech to Fall in Love With
Flowers fade, chocolate ruins resolutions so why not show your sweetie some love this Valentine’s Day with some to-die-for new tech? The right technology can keep you in touch with a partner who’s far from home or help you find a new love, so log in, switch on, or plug in for a tech-boosted Valentine’s to remember.
Lovebox – This adorable wooden box looks like a simple jewelry box, but it has a mirrored top which displays messages sent by your honey. A bright red heart spins on the front when a new message has arrived. (https://en.lovebox.love/)
Kindle – If you want to share one book of sonnets, hit the local bookshop. If you want to share ALL the books of sonnets, get a Kindle. Throughout the year, you can recommend books, share delicious stanzas, and build your library together. (www.amazon.com)
Portal – Available in a wide array of sizes and functions, the Portal by Facebook is an Alexa-enabled screen that lets you video chat with friends and family, turn on some love songs, or even animate your children’s favorite bedtime stories when you can’t be there.
Smart Watches – Whether you choose an Apple Watch, a Samsung compatible watch, or the new Amazfit GTS, a smartwatch has all the makings of the perfect romantic gift. It says, “Now we can both be on time for our date,” it lets you text and chat all day, and you can even set fitness goals and keep each other on track with calorie and step counting as well as heart rate monitoring. Be still my beating heart!
Nintendo Switch – Yes, your kids will love this handheld gaming device, but your sweetheart will definitely appreciate the nostalgic vibe of games like Legend of Zelda and Super Mario. The system comes with a Joy-Con that provides a controller each for two players or you can use your wi-fi to connect two Switches for seamless fun.
But what if Valentine’s Day isn’t your cup of tea? If you’re not feeling all pink and red and prefer a few minutes to yourself this February 14th, look no further:
Fandango.com – Why not treat yourself to a movie this year? This site lets you book your seat in advance, find hard to get tickets, and get bonus points toward free tickets. Own this romantic holiday with a little sci fi fantasy or something with lots of unromantic explosions!
Skullcandy Crusher Wireless Headphones – When you just can’t take another question from your mother about how you’ll be spending your Valentine’s Day, don Skullcandy’s new noise isolating headphones that boast a full 40 hours of battery life. They come in deep red if you’re feeling festive—and blackest black if you’re not. (https://www.skullcandy.com/shop/headphones/bluetooth-headphones/crusher-wireless)
Spafinder.com – No one know what sets your heart aflutter more than you, right? Well, you and SpaFinder. Simply pick your location—local or somewhere exotic—and choose what sort of decadent service you’d like, and this site does the rest. From a mani/pedis down the road to a chakra balancing and mud bath at a spa in the Santa Catalina Mountains, this site will help you make this holiday special.
February 6, 2020
Different Types of TV and Video Services
In today’s world of technology, video has become more of a personal preference than ever. More and more options are becoming available, and everyone has a different preferred way to watch TV. Let’s talk about the most common types of video service, and which might be right for you.
OTA (Over-the-Air): Think rabbit ears antenna television service – Local service that is delivered to your TV via antenna. While location and interference may affect reception quality, you can’t beat the price: it’s free!
Traditional Linear TV Service: Cable and satellite service has become synonymous with linear TV service. This is content that is delivered to your TV set, usually via a set top box, which gets you more channels than you would normally get through OTA service. You may also get the ability to stream shows on-demand and record live TV to watch later.
OTT (Over-the-Top): Over-the-Top service refers to any separate service that delivers content on-demand directly to your TV or other devices. This is a little different than Traditional Linear TV Service as you may have options to stream, store, and even download some shows and movies. Popular OTT services include Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and HBO Go.
What is right for you? Well, that entirely depends on the kind of TV you like to watch. Do you want to keep up with the local news, sports, and weather? OTA or Linear Video may be right for you. Do you want to watch exclusive content, binge new shows as they release, and watch TV on your schedule? OTT is likely the best option for you.
At the end of the day, everyone has different wants and needs, and our TVs are advanced enough to provide us with exactly what we need to unwind at the end of a long day.
November 21, 2019
Cold Weather and Cell Service
As a cold front crashes across the country, bringing with it unprecedented dips in temperature, you might be worried about how your cell service will hold up. Good news! While extreme heat distorts cell signals as well as reducing battery life, cold weather has almost no effect on cell service at all. In very cold environments, your phone may shut down or malfunction, but your service won’t be impacted at all.
How about snow? Precipitation can disrupt signals. While rain is the worst culprit – because of the density of the water droplets – snow and even hail can still reflect or refract radio waves, compromising your cellular service.
If things get really rough, you can consider a booster that will increase your signal even in the most treacherous weather. That or move to San Diego where it’s dry, and not too hot and not too cold all year round!
In Hardy County, we’ve seen cell towers quit operating when the electric power is disrupted by fallen trees or ice, so it’s good to remember that your landline phone is equipped to continue operating even in the event of a power outage. Even OneNet customers, with fiber-optic connections, have a battery backup that is designed to continue phone service for at least eight hours if electrical power is lost.
October 31, 2019
Apps for Safe Trick or Treating
Halloween is a great time for putting down the phones and just getting out into the neighborhood with friends and family. However, tons of apps are available this season that can make your holiday planning freakishly fun!
– Nextdoor – Check your neighborhood Treat Map for street closures, events, and tips. Some neighborhoods even give residents the option to post if they are giving out candy or not.
– Life360, Glympse, Find My Friends – All these locators allow you to track your friends (or kids) if you get separated.
– YouTube – Your one-stop shop for DIY videos that walk you through making costumes, carving pumpkins, and creating killer decorations.
– Ghost Radar – For the real ghost hunters among us, use this app to detect paranormal activity. The results may be all you need to put your phone down for the night!
– The Red Cross – Moms rejoice! The Red Cross app addresses all your Halloween safety concerns: weather, first aid for kids and pets, and (to help your vampire friends) where to give blood.
Be safe and happy Halloween!
October 24, 2019
Facebook vs. Fake News
This week, Facebook discovered that Russia (and now Iran) is back to its old tricks, working on a campaign whose mission is to disrupt the 2020 U.S. election. Facebook reported that 50 Instagram accounts and one Facebook account with almost 250,000 followers published 75,000 posts, all in an effort to perpetuate fake news stories with the hopes of influencing potential voters.
Facebook disabled the accounts and has been flagging news from questionable sources since last year. But since many hold Facebook accountable for disseminating fake news, there has been a push for the tech giant to do more. They have answered the call by:
– Using a third-party fact-checking group to mark content as fake or misleading.
– Launching a program to secure state and federal officials’ accounts to ensure that only the designated user is posting on that account.
– Banning any political ad that suppresses voter turnout or that suggests people not vote or that their vote doesn’t count.
– Removing financial incentives for those directing people to fake news sites (a primary motivator by Russian trolls in 2016).
And you can take part in this crackdown! If you spot a story that just smells fishy, tap the V button at the top right of the post and select “Report this post” and then “It’s a fake news story.” If enough people do the same, the story will be verified and marked as “Disputed by Third Party Fact Checkers.”
October 17, 2019
Find the Perfect Job Using Just Your Phone!
Yes, yes, we all know that Monster and CareerBuilder can help you find the perfect job and that these – and dozens of others – have easy-to-use apps that can help you search and apply for jobs. But how else can you use your phone to land the job meant for you?
– Use social media: Update your profile to be a little more professional and reach out to contacts – even distant ones – in the industry you’re hoping to join.
– Keep a resume handy: Save your resume to Dropbox or your files so you can apply with one click. Write and upload a killer cover letter too, as resumes with cover letters tend to get more traction.
– Call someone. That’s right! Your cellphone actually makes phone calls too! Use it to reach out to your network, follow up on an application, or call a company cold. It’s so easy to get caught up in the process of applying online that we forget there really are people at the other end of the line just waiting to offer a job!
October 10, 2019
Apple iPhone 11 Boasts Major Camera Improvements
If the answer is “a lot,” then the 11 might be for you. The 11 has three lenses instead of two (boasting wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto views) and all have been upgraded from 7 megapixels to 12. This means every photo is crisper and less grainy, even when blowing up a telephoto shot. AND, just on the horizon is Deep Fusion, a new image processing technique that Apple designers promise will improve detail in low and medium light.
(Hardy Telecommunications does not sell mobile phones or accessories, and the company does not officially endorse any particular brand of cellphone. For more information about the Apple iPhone 11, including technical specifications, click HERE.)
October 3, 2019
Other Cellphone Uses on Airplanes
Mid-air cellular calls are being allowed on some international flights, but many flight attendants, pilots, and even middle-seat passengers would rather not deal with the distraction (confined space + loud talker = worst trip ever). So, what can you do with your phone besides talk on it once you turn Airplane Mode on?
– Power up. Most flights have outlets built right into the seats. Take the opportunity to charge while you’re in your seat. It could be a long trip from the gate to your hotel!
– Text. Just remember not to use your cell network. Instead, use a messaging app like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger that transmits using Wifi.
– Pay. Gone are the days of free peanuts and ginger ale. Keep your phone handy for when the beverage cart rolls by. Many airlines accept Apple Pay, Google Cash, and other mobile payment methods.
September 26, 2019
Cellphones at 30,000 Feet
Just a few years ago, flight attendants forced us to stow our phones for our entire flight. Then came the advent of Airplane Mode and now we can do almost anything on our phones — except use cellular service to make voice calls or text — from takeoff to landing. But is it really safe?
Yes! There has never been an instance of a signal from a cellphone on board a plane endangering a flight or interfering with a pilot’s instruments or communications.
So, why use Airplane Mode at all? Think of it as a courtesy for your non-flying friends on the ground. The higher a plane gets, the more towers and satellites the signal has the potential to bounce off. This can congest the network for other users. And, in addition to being gentle with your network, you may also save yourself a pile of cash because not turning on Airplane Mode can force your phone (or tablet) into Roaming Mode, which can incur hundreds of dollars by the time you reach your long distance destination!
September 20, 2019
Bring the Game To Go!
Here we are in week two of both the NFL and college football seasons, and where once we were glued to our TVs for the next five months, we’re now glued to our cellphones as well. We use our cellphones to check scores, shuffle fantasy football rosters, make bets, watch instant replays, and connect with fellow fans (or hearty competitors). How has this changed our sports viewing experience?
So many ads! Every app, every sports news site, and certainly every betting site takes advantage of your fanhood to reach you when you are at your most captive.
Loyalty is rewarded. Lots of apps provide loyalty programs that provide access to discounted tickets and merchandise as well as premium content.
We stay connected. Sure, you can call your mom, the die-hard Packer fan, after the game, but it’s more fun to send her a video of an Aaron Rodgers’ touchdown on Instagram, moments after it happens.
The NFL gives us more. From instant replay following big plays, to digital (real-time) markup of screens, to delivering stats and scores directly to your phone, watching football today is a whole new ballgame.
August 29, 2019
Tools For Good
Once upon a time, we waited all summer to be reunited with friends on the first day of school. Today, kids are able to stay in touch with friends through FaceTime, Messenger, SnapChat and a dozen other apps that make chatting, well, a snap. Now that school is starting though, parents may want to transform their kids’ phones into tools for good! Here are some apps that will help:
1. StudyBlue – Helps create virtual flashcards
2. Cozi – Develops color-coded schedules families can use to stay on top of activities
3. Duolingo – Uses video game-style learning to teach foreign languages
4. Studious – Manages class schedules, tracks homework assignments, and alerts students when a deadline is approaching
August 22, 2019
Back to School Sleep Cheat Sheet
Summer is a free for all when it comes to schedules, especially sleep schedules. But studies have shown that academic performance and overall health improve with regular, deep sleep, and that the blue light emitted by TVs, laptops, and cellphones slows the release of melatonin, disrupting peaceful sleep. A few tips for ensuring that sleep gets as much attention as studying this year:
1. Set a Do Not Disturb so no calls or texts can be received too late.
2. Use your Settings to schedule a change in screen light from blue to warmer hues at least two hours before bedtime.
3. Charge your phone in the kitchen and use an alarm clock in the bedroom instead. This ensures a physical break from messages and alerts and eliminates the chance that random bursts of light will disrupt sleep.
August 8, 2019
Staying Connected During Storm Season
As we near the middle of hurricane, late summer storm, and even tornado season, it’s important to plan for the worst. While there’s not much we can do about power lines and cell towers, you CAN stay connected and powered up even during bad weather.
Stay charged up! Especially if you know extreme weather is coming, charge your phone whenever you drop below 50%. Charge your laptop and keep a phone charger handy so that when your phone dies, you can charge it on your laptop. Buy a power pack so that even when you’re cut off for hours at a time, you’ve got power!
Also, we rely so heavily on apps that make life easy but require a ton of power (think Maps or Waze) that we forget there are analog alternatives. If you think you’re going to have to evacuate, use Google Maps to plot your evacuation route and print your directions. If there’s a chance you’ll need a hotel out of town, don’t wait to book it. Find a few options, make sure you can cancel if you don’t need the room, and book. Print your confirmation numbers as well as contact numbers for the hotel so you can confirm or cancel on the road.
Stay connected! We don’t remember one another’s numbers these days, so make sure to jot down a few important numbers – including your boss’s and an emergency contact who lives outside your immediate area. Text a friend or family member before you evacuate and include your time of departure, anticipated time of arrival, and route. Even if you lose connectivity, loved ones will have a general idea of your whereabouts. And finally, if cell towers fail you but wifi lives on, reach out to emergency contacts (and friends) using apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, or Messenger.
Stay safe and don’t let the weather get you down!
August 1, 2019
Know Before You Download
Be honest. Have you ever read a Privacy Statement start to finish before installing a new app? Most people will answer “no” and the result can range from the irritating to the devastating. Millions of people signed away permission to their photos by saying “Yes” to the FaceApp. Still more give their location to seemingly innocuous weather apps that go on to sell not just your location but your commuting and purchasing habits (based on your location). Even multi-player gaming apps log (with your permission) your location, age, Facebook ID, friends list, and any messages you exchange with fellow gamers.
While privacy has certainly taken a backseat to entertainment and commerce, reviewing Privacy Statements more thoroughly may protect you from truly malicious intent. So next time you’re about to install the next best app, read the Privacy Statement thoroughly and then decide what is more important: the privacy of your location, contacts, and communications OR seeing what you’ll look like at 85.
July 18, 2019
When Cell Phones Take the Summer Off
Noticed your cellphone slowing down? Don’t despair. Cleaning house by deleting the following will have your phone flying again:
1. Old photos, videos, and text messages
2. Apps you rarely use (including pre-loaded apps or ones that run in the background)
3. Your cache
4. Internet cookies, history, and data
Remember to back up what’s important to you before deleting, and don’t delete any apps necessary to run vital functions on your phone!
If deleting stored items and apps doesn’t have a great effect on the speed of your cellphone, you might need to dig a little deeper. Most of these functions can be completed in the Settings menu:
1. Reduce the brightness of your screen.
2. Ensure software is up to date, but disable the “Automatic Updates” function.
3. Change your wallpaper from “live” to “static.”
4. Turn off Bluetooth or Wifi when you don’t need it.
5. Choose “Reduce Motion” in settings so that apps just pop on instead of using unnecessary effort and power to launch.
July 11, 2019
Protect Your Tech Devices From Summer Heat
Summer is great for lots of things, but laptop health is not one of them. When outside temperatures approach 100 degrees, the inside of your car can reach up to 170 degrees, spelling absolute doom for your laptop. Avoid leaving laptops (or cellphones) in a hot car for more than a few minutes, and let them cool down before you turn them on.
Try these tips to keep your machine cool all year long:
– Shut it down before putting it in a case. Even “sleep” mode creates heat.
– Always set up on a flat, hard surface. Soft surfaces like sofas or even your lap don’t allow for proper air flow.
– Check the vents on the bottom and blow out (or pull out with tweezers) dust or debris.
– Keep devices separate. They all put off heat, so ensure you have some space between them.
June 28, 2019
On This Day in Technology
June 28, 1955 – Clarenville, Newfoundland – On this date, the world’s largest cable-laying ship, the HMTS Monarch, laid the very first foot of the TAT-1 telephone cable that would ultimately connect North America to Europe. By September 1956, two lines (one for each direction) ran from Clarenville to Oban, Scotland, and were able to relay a whopping 35 phone calls in either direction. This simple beginning would one day support the incredibly important “hot line” from the U.S. to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
People were able to communicate with their European friends from as early as 1858 when a transatlantic telegraph cable was laid, and via a radio-based telephone service that launched in 1927, but calls were outrageously expensive (about $45 for a 3-minute call—over $550 in today’s dollars!). So this technology wasn’t feasible for the average American.
But, with the advent of the coaxial cable and polyethylene insulation in the 1940s, the prospect of burying cable on the ocean floor that would not degrade or lose signal became real.
The TAT-1 cables were over 1,500 nautical miles long and were laid with precision by several ships and submarines. The system continued to operate without incident until 1978 when it was replaced by a number of additional cables.
Ten years after this momentous project began, the very first signal bounced off a satellite, thereby launching global communications into a new era.
June 25, 2019
Spring Cleaning Your Tech
You wash dishes every day. You do your laundry once a week. And every spring, you clean out the garage, get rid of old clothes, throw wide the windows and let in the breeze that blows the winter cobwebs away. But what’s the one place you spend most of your time that rarely gets this royal treatment? Your laptop! So this season, spring clean your machine like this:
1. Tidy your desktop. Just like a real desk, you’ll always feel more productive if you start with a clean slate, so delete any shortcuts or files you never use. Organize the files you do use into folders and back up everything in the cloud or on an external drive.
2. Purge the apps. In Settings>Apps and Features, remove any programs you no longer use. Anything you haven’t used in 6 months is probably safe for removal.
3. Update protection. This means installing or updating antivirus software and spyware to protect against malware and adware that can slow the speed of your machine (or worse).
4. Update applications. We often avoid taking the time to make regular or scheduled updates, but as part of your spring cleaning, click the UPDATES AVAILABLE banners on that pop up on your most often used applications.
5. Clear the cache. Your internet browser holds a lot of data you may only need once, so clear the cache of unnecessary files, cookies, history, and plug-ins that can slow progress. You may lose some passwords that typically autofill, but the benefits of a swifter browsing experience outweigh the frustration of creating a new password. You should also review your Downloads folder. Since many files open automatically from your browser, the Downloads folder may fill up without your even noticing.
6. Dump your trash. When you’ve finished purging files, shortcuts, downloads, and unused applications, right-click your Recycle Bin icon and select Empty Recycle Bin.
7. Dust it. Dust and other particles can get into the nooks and crannies of your machine, causing keys to stick. Regularly, give the keys a blast of compressed air and run a soft cloth over the screen. Never spray liquid directly onto the machine.
June 19, 2019
Bandwidth – The more devices you have connected to the internet wirelessly through a router, the more your bandwidth is spread out over multiple connections, which can result in slower speeds for each individual device. To learn more about how your number of wireless devices can impact their internet connection speed, watch this new Hardy video: HardyNet Wifi 101: Bandwidth.
Router Placement – Correct router placement plays a huge part in how well your wireless devices stay connected and their connection speed. To learn what factors to consider in placing a router, watch this new Hardy video: HardyNet Wifi 101: Router Placement.
Phishing Awareness – Many hackers first gain access to your computer or device through phishing emails – that is, emails that trick you into clicking malicious links or visiting websites that contain malware. Once that malware is downloaded to your device, hackers will look for confidential information or even control your device. Learn the signs of a phishing email by watching this new Hardy video: HardyNet Security 101: Phishing Awareness.