Tech Tips

June 24, 2022

Social Media Money Flipping Scams
 

We all know at this point (or should) that if a Nigerian prince contacts us regarding the millions of dollars he will deposit into our account, we should not send him our bank information. But hackers and scammers have gotten more subtle, developing personalized scams that seem much more legitimate. The FBI has identified one such scam and is getting the word out to ensure you aren’t the next victim.

The Platform – Scammers use social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to create realistic looking profiles and reach out to unsuspecting users with “investment opportunities.” They contact users directly using messaging apps, sometimes even using profiles stolen from the victim’s friends – so the contact seems legitimate.

The Con – Scammers describe a money-making opportunity in which the victim will send a little bit of money that will grow exponentially with no risk or interest. If they comply, the scammer may cease contact (if they got enough) or they will send a fake Cash App screenshot “proving” how the money is growing in order to coerce even more money from the victim.

The Cycle – Once money has changed hands, the scammer may suggest that funds are pending until the victim replaces his email address with one provided by the scammer. Once that is done, the scammer need only change the password on the Cash App account to have complete control of the funds. Now that the email matches the victim’s social media profile, the scammer can attack the victim’s friends (who see their friend’s name and, thus, are more likely to believe the offer).

The Counter – As always, the best defense against this kind of attack is to just never send money electronically to someone you don’t know. If the offer seems genuine, contact your friend via phone to confirm it’s really them you’re talking to. Beyond that, take these steps to bolster your online defenses:

  • Confirm the identity of anyone reaching out with an unusual request (especially ones having to deal with money). If you can’t, block them.
  • Don’t click any links or download any attachments until you’ve confirmed the sender’s ID.
  • Don’t change your profile information to suit someone else’s request. Someone asking you to change your username or password should set alarm bells ringing.
  • Use multi-factor authentication to secure your account. It’s a pain to have to enter a password AND the code texted to you, but it could save you money and stress.
  • Log out of apps when you’re done using them. Staying logged in all day and night is the online equivalent of an unlocked door to an open safe.

Times are tough for a lot of people these days, so the offer of a quick return on investment may be very tempting. There certainly are opportunities out there, but if your gut tells you that this is too good to be true, it probably is.

May 19, 2022

Protecting Your Electronic Healthcare Data
 

The last decade has seen some incredible advances in healthcare, owed largely to the ability to diagnosis, treat, and track disease and illnesses virtually. We can Dial-a-Doc to Zoom with our primary care doctors, mail away our samples, and have prescriptions e-mailed to our pharmacy, all because our records, test results, and medications are housed online.

But with these momentous steps forward come potential risks to our privacy and data integrity. Most recently, a ransomware group of hackers known as the Hive has set its sights on the United States’ healthcare sector. The Hive uses traditional ransomware tactics like phishing, phone calls, and the exploitation of remote networks and even VPNs to steal data from people at their most vulnerable. Worse still, they preempt users’ best practices by deleting shadow copies, back-up files, and system snapshots so that when documents and personally identifiable information (PII) is stolen, they have no back-ups available. At that point, patients and healthcare groups feel there is no alternative but to pay a ransom.

The Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3) says that healthcare organizations and individuals do have some tools in their arsenal to defend against such attacks:

  • Supercharge your passwords. Choose strong, difficult-to-guess passwords and strengthen them further by requiring two-factor authentication.
  • Monitor and fortify VPNs. With so much remote work, VPNs help employees remote into an office network, but it’s not a perfectly secure solution. Healthcare companies should consider hiring an accountable third-party VPN management system, and individuals should tighten up their VPN security by setting strong passwords, enabling a network lock, and setting up a kill switch.
  • Adhere to the 3-2-1 HC3 recommends backing up data in threedifferent locations, on at least two forms of media, with one stored offline.

The old adage goes that you’re nothing without your health. Make sure that while you’re taking good care of your health, you’re also taking good care of your online healthcare footprint!

May 13, 2022

Tips for Securing Your Devices With Patches and Updates
 
Remember the good old days when you could leave your back porch door unlocked? Then, one day you added a simple lock. And today, you’ve got a deadbolt and a Ring to monitor your stoop from anywhere! Keeping up with patches and software updates is the virtual equivalent to bolstering your home security as new safety measures come to market.
 
We’ve talked about the very tempting “Remind me later” button, but don’t give in! When your computer (or phone) tells you it’s time for an update or a patch, do it right then. These patches fill in security holes and repair bugs that could potentially let very damaging threats in. Here are the steps you can take to ensure optimum computing and security:
 
· Ensure software updates and patches are current. Revisions to software ensure that not only are security vulnerabilities addressed, but that functionality is optimized. Why shortchange yourself (and leave yourself unprotected) when you can be getting more robust functionality? And at this point, you can even set up your computer to complete these updates automatically (no “Remind me later” click required!).
 
· Update your operating system. If your system seems to run slow or not play well with new applications and programs, or if you have trouble accessing files created by users with newer systems, it’s time to research and upgrade to a newer, or more applicable, Operating System (OS).
 
· Update drivers periodically. Drivers are essentially “go-betweens,” connecting software and hardware like speakers, USB drives, mice, and keyboards. If they are out of date, the communication breaks down and your hardware may slow down or get stuck. As with most updates, you can simply type “Check for updates” in the Windows search window (or the Managed Software Center for Macs) to find the latest updates.
 
· Don’t ignore end–of-life (EOL) notifications. Sometimes, software vendors will quit supporting older software. This can happen for many reasons, but the vendor almost always has an upgraded version of the software to replace the obsolete EOL one. Unsupported software is often exploited since attackers know there will be no more changes or updates. This may mean that your machine doesn’t meet certain hardware requirements (and you may need a new computer) or that you must uninstall and reinstall your OS. If all else fails, it may be time to take your machine to a repair shop to ensure you’re able to continue to update.
 
And remember: Good cybersecurity practices aren’t just for ourselves. Every virus or piece of malware you shut down through your diligent efforts is a virus that doesn’t get emailed or uploaded to a friend, colleague, client, or family member who might not be as “patched” as you!

 

May 5, 2022

National Password Day
 

Whoever put National Password Day on Cinco de Mayo was a genius! Just in time for you to head out for margaritas and merrymaking (and potentially losing your phone), you can make sure your smartphone and your laptop are secure. Remember to update your passwords regularly with difficult-to-guess passwords. Try to use both upper- and lower-case letters, digits, and special characters. And make layered changes to already tough-to-remember passwords. For example, if you really want “Ilovemytwolabs” as your password, try this layered alternative: iHEARTmy2lAb$!! Or download and use a password manager to create (and remember) unique and complex passwords for you. This May 5th, may your passwords be hard, and your pinata be soft!

April 29, 2022

Lapsus$ Breaches T-Mobile
 

Hackers strike again! This time, mobile giant T-Mobile was attacked by the cybercrime gang Lapsus$ in a brazen theft of company source code. While the company has assured the public that no personal information belonging to their customers has been compromised, they did confirm that Lapsus$ stole credentials that allowed them access to T-Mobile’s “house operational tools software.”

This is the second time in as many years that T-Mobile was targeted, but whereas the last breach resulted in millions of names, birthdays, and Social Security information being stolen, this time the hackers were shut down before they could do real damage. Company officials stated that their “systems and processes worked as designed” and “the intrusion was rapidly shut down and closed off, and the compromised credentials used were rendered obsolete.”

This hack represents a terrific example of how it’s critical for companies who hold valuable data (and personal customer information) to be proactive, rather than reactive, with their cybersecurity. Installing malware blockers, ensuring software patches are up to date, securing networks, tightening up endpoint security, and wiping old hardware before destroying it are all critical steps toward protecting company data and customer information. Likewise, training employees on data protection and communicating regularly with customers about remaining vigilant against possible phishing or other attacks is a great way to ensure everyone is invested in protecting data.

Scarily enough, this hack was conducted by a handful of Lapsus$-affiliated teenagers in London. They were arrested soon after the attack, but officials believe that Lapsus$ is a growing threat (among so many) and companies (and individuals) should stay on their toes.

April 22, 2022

Tips on Defending Against Data Breaches
 
Between 2013 and 2016, Russian-backed hackers initiated cyberattacks on Yahoo that resulted in the compromise of – wait for it – 3 billion users. The attack began as an FSB assault on several banks and high-ranking international businesspeople, but the simple spear-phishing emails they sent ultimately gave them access to every Yahoo user’s information, including names, phone numbers, and even password recovery details.
 
This devastating hit to Yahoo ($117M to settle class action suits and immeasurable damage to their reputation) is one of dozens of high-profile attacks that should serve as a wake-up call to anyone on the internet today. Although we’ve talked before about how to protect yourself from attacks like these, we’ll review a few tips and then address what to do should you suffer such an attack:
 
BEFORE
• Visit https://haveibeenpwned.com/ to see if you’ve been hacked. Simply enter your phone number or email address and this free service will list any websites where your information may have been compromised. If any are listed, go to those sites, and change your password immediately.
 
• Log out. Yes, it’s a pain to have to re-enter your password every time you log in, but staying logged in leaves the window open for hackers.
 
• Update passwords often. Set a reminder to update your passwords regularly – or if you suspect a breach – and try not to use the same passwords for different sites.
 
AFTER
• Determine what’s been hacked. Simply changing a password is much less taxing than canceling credit cards or opening a new bank account, so learn exactly what’s been compromised and then take the appropriate action.
 
• Change passwords. Update your passwords everywhere and where possible, add a secondary authentication. If you’ve used the same breached password on multiple websites, make sure you change those passwords too. If you have trouble remembering your various passwords, consider a password manager like Password Genie.
 
• Remove your home address. If you find out this very sensitive piece of information has been stolen, reach out to Google and Bing to request to have your address removed from internet searches and contact Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit to file a report noting that private information has been made public.
 
• Contact credit agencies. If your Social Security Number or credit card information has been stolen, contact the three credit agencies immediately to freeze your credit. No one will be able to use your information to open new lines of credit when your account it frozen.
 
• Monitor your credit. If a website was negligent with your data, they may pay for a year’s worth of credit monitoring. If they don’t own it, grin and bear the monthly charge to keep an eye on any unauthorized purchases or attempts to access your credit.
 
A simple Google search will highlight dozens of data breaches over the last decade, many devastating for businesses and individuals alike. Due to the porous nature of software and networks, we can’t have 100% security, but there are definitely ways to plug the holes. If you stay on the offensive, you have a great chance of keeping your data and personal information secure.
 

April 7, 2022

Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Stop. Put your phone down (just for a second) and think about this: According to EndDD.org, the average text takes 4 seconds to send, so if you’re going 55 mph, you will travel the length of a football field before you look up from your phone. Imagine the damage that can be done in those 4 seconds…

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and organizations like EndDD are helping families, teen drivers, and even employers learn safe driving habits and bring an end to distracted driving. Research shows that drivers are distracted by their phones up to 10 percent of the time they spend behind the wheel, but other distractions abound as well.

Here are a few ways you can bring some focus back to your driving (and maybe save a life in the process!):

• Put the phone away. Don’t just put it down, put it in your purse or glove compartment where you aren’t tempted. If you really feel like you might miss something, make a habit of setting automatic replies to texts saying you’re driving and will call back.

• Eat first, drive second. We’re all on the go these days so fast food is sometimes a necessity but eating while you drive can be messy and distracting. Take five minutes to eat before getting back on the road.

• Groom before you go. We’ve all seen the lady curling her eyelashes while driving or the guy using his electric shaver in the mirror. Try setting your alarm for 10 minutes earlier to get all your hair and makeup done in the bathroom mirror. (The lighting is better there anyway.)

• Be a good role model. Kids are always watching so make sure you set a good example. Make a point of putting your phone away and enjoying a few minutes to eat together rather than eating in the car. Telling your teen driver how to avoid distracted driving is good – showing them is even better.

Almost a million accidents could be attributed to distracted driving last year with more than 3,000 resulting in deaths. These are all avoidable if we all just commit to focusing on our commutes, our quick drives to the store, and our road trips like our lives depend on it. Because they do.
 

March 11, 2022

Tips for Creating a Comfortable Work Environment at Home

 

Now that the pandemic appears to have entered a less severe phase, lots of people are headed back into their offices, but many have embraced the work-from-home lifestyle and are never going back. If you are one of the millions who is living the pajama revolution, it’s time to take your makeshift “office” under the stairs/in the garage/at the dining table to the next level.

Get comfortable (ergonomically speaking) – Short-term, posting up at the kitchen table is fine, but if you’re committed to long-term WFH, you’ll need a good chair and a table or desk set to the proper height. Try to find an adjustable chair with good lumbar support and try it out in the store rather than buying on-line. Likewise, find an adjustable desk (or a standing desk!) where your forearms are parallel to the ground and your wrists aren’t bent while typing or using your mouse.

Lighten up – A bright monitor in a dark room is a recipe for eye strain and headaches. Give yourself some good overhead lighting, pull a translucent shade over windows (to get some natural light without the glare), and ensure your monitor’s brightness is set to slightly brighter than the light in the room.

Stay connected – Make sure both your equipment and your internet service support your needs. WiFi is convenient but if fool-proof connectivity is a must (during Zoom calls, for example) you may want to hardwire in using an ethernet cord. Talk to us about the number of devices and type of communications you need and we’ll help ensure that you are on an internet plan with the speed to accommodate your needs.

Back it up – When working on a company network, we take for granted the security and storage provided. When you’re on your own, make sure to keep your anti-virus software up to date and do regular back-ups of your files.

Get up and get moving – With no trips to the watercooler or the cafeteria, it’s easy to get sucked into work and forget to take breaks. Consider setting a timer or getting an app that reminds you to stand (at least) once an hour. Stretch, roll your neck, bend at the hips and do a few “good mornings” to keep your back and hips loose, and get out for a few laps around the block at lunch. Work is important, but so is fresh air and staying connected to your neighbors!

If working from home really is your long-term strategy, create a space that is comfortable and supports your focus and creativity.

March 4, 2022

Women’s History Month – Ada Lovelace, First Computer Programmer

 

While we’re familiar with the names of famous women in science and technology like Curie, Goodall, and Johnson, you’ll never look at a computer the same after you meet Ada Lovelace. Ada was born in 1815 to Lord and Lady Byron. Not wanting her daughter to ruin her brain with fanciful poetry (like her father!), Lady Byron set out to rein Ada in with math. Instead, Ada combined her imagination and love of figures to become one of the great mathematical minds of her age. Eventually, her work on the Analytical Engine – the world’s first digital computer complete with processor memory, and all basic functions of today’s machines – led her to be known as the first computer programmer.

March 2, 2022

Malwarebytes Uncovers Microsoft Phishing Scam
 

Malwarebytes has uncovered a phishing scam targeting Microsoft account holders. The phishing email exploits tension over the Russian invasion of Ukraine to trick recipients into thinking their account has been hacked, when in fact the email itself is the first step in an attempted scam. Hackers will take every opportunity to lure in unsuspecting citizens. Please be cautious and verify the validity of any suspicious emails like those described here. You can read the Malwarebytes story by clicking this link: https://blog.malwarebytes.com/scams/2022/03/unusual-sign-in-activity-mail-goes-phishing-for-microsoft-account-holders/

February 25, 2022

Be Aware Of Russian Cyberattacks
 

The Russian aggression toward Ukraine may seem too far away to have any effect on everyday Americans, but the FBI’s Cyber Division released a report this week saying we should all be on our toes. Historically, when Russia faces adversity (in this case, sanctions and international condemnation) their first inclination is to launch cyberattacks.

Experts say that the Russians are likely to rely on go-to tactics like spear-phishing and brute force attacks and more covert attacks using social media to amplify disinformation and make sharing of those false facts as easy as clicking Share.

Here’s how to tighten up your security to avoid being a victim of a Russian attack:

  • Update your passwords– The best way to avoid a brute force attack is to make your passwords tough to guess and different from your passwords on other sites. If you are able to implement multi-factor authentication, do that.
  • Update your antivirus software – We always say it, and we always mean it! This is a simple and cheap way to keep hackers at bay – but only if your solutions are current and patched.
  • Don’t “Click here”– If you receive an email (or a text) from an unknown source asking you to click a link or download a file for more information, don’t. These spearfishing expeditions often look like they come from legitimate sources, so be wary; hover over links and email addresses to see where they are really coming from, and in most cases, just delete the message (and notify your security officer if on a work machine).
  • Have a backup plan– Hackers are likely to target critical infrastructure like healthcare, telecommunications, transit, and energy so try to think a few steps ahead. Back up your medical records to the cloud and make sure you’re stocked up on prescriptions. Keep at least a half a tank of gas in your car at all times.
  • Keep your eyes open on social media – Research stories (especially ones with an obvious bias) before sharing them through social media. Often, these stories are made up out of thin air and have no purpose other than to ramp up tensions and increase division among populations.
Russia (and its bots) has a mission at this point: Sow the seeds of discontent and manufacture panic. Take a deep breath and do your part to protect yourself by preparing for the worst, staying vigilant, and not believing everything you read!

February 18, 2022

I Love Emojis

We’re all pretty solid with inserting emojis into our text messages because our phones make choosing one of these cute/scary/funny/thoughtful icons a one-click effort. But have you ever been writing a document or an email and thought, “No word can express my feelings right now like a graphic of a dumpster on fire or an octopus holding a heart?” Or do your business documents require special characters like degrees or foreign currencies?

So 👏! Windows now makes that possible! Here are a few ways to add special characters and emojis quickly and easily into your work.

  1. Character Picker– Press the Windows button + the period. The Character Picker pops up and allows you to select from emojis, Kaomoji (Japanese character emojis), and symbols (like the copyright symbol, the degree symbol, and even an inverted question mark for Spanish text). There is a search window as well to help you find a specific icon.
  2. Character Map– Before there were emojis, there was the character map! In the Windows search window, type “charmap” and the character map appears. Scroll through or use the search window to find what you need.
  3. Populate your Clipboard– From the Character Map, double-click the character you want and click Copy. This adds the character to your Clipboard. Copy as many characters as you like and open the Clipboard by pressing the Windows key + V. Copy and paste your characters from there instead of having to search the entire Map again.
  4. Keyboard Shortcuts– When you’ve selected a symbol or character from the character map, you’ll notice a keyboard shortcut in the bottom of the dialog. For example, when you hover over the copyright symbol, the dialog says “Keystroke: Alt+0169.” If this is a symbol you use often, you can make a note so that next time you can just use the keyboard shortcut. (Note that this power move only works if you have a separate number pad.)
Easy access to special characters can speed up your document creation and make commonly used symbols easy to find, and having emojis at your fingertips can help spice up a document or bring a little levity to your creations. Now that you know how to find these adorable emojis, use them like 🤪😜.
January 27, 2022

Data Privacy Day – January 28

Data Privacy Day was created to encourage users worldwide to “own their own responsibilities to create a culture of privacy.” Sounds like a big task but there are a few simple ways to celebrate this day with a few tiny but mighty changes:
1. Install anti-malware and keep it updated.
2. Encrypt and back up your data.
3. Take care in disposing of old devices and hard drives.
4. Power off your computer when not in use.
5. Power up your passwords. Try passphrases instead, make them unguessable, and change them often. Use a password manager that can do all of this work for you!
There. You’ve done your part for global data privacy, and you didn’t even have to get out of your jammies!
 
January 21, 2022

Tips to be a Web Browser Power User

You know the difference between “I’m just browsing” and “I’m on a mission,” right? Well, what power-shopping is to brick and mortar browsing, these tips are to the savvy online navigator. Make a note of these tricks and keyboard shortcuts, and you’ll turn your casual browsing into an interactive, supercharged online experience.

  1. Clear your cache. If you’ve felt your search speeds lag lately, delete all those pesky pages, images, and cookies from your cache. Press Ctrl + Shift + R to empty your cache (but be aware that you may need to re-enter passwords on your favorite sites).
  2. Bounce between tabs. Do you often keep lots of tabs open at once? Instead of using your mouse to click from one to the next, use Ctrl + Tab to open the tab to the right or Ctrl + Shift + Tab to move left.
  3. Create a Reddit Slideshow. This is so cool. If you’ve spent any time on Reddit, you’ll know there are subreddits for everything, many including tons of photos. If you find a subreddit you like and you just want to share the photos it contains, copy the URL and add “p” after “reddit” and a slideshow is automatically created. Try www.redditp.com/r/awwfor all the cute animal photos you can stand.
  4. Try a Google alternative. Google is so ubiquitous that it’s made itself a verb, but there are alternatives that don’t rely on ads or track your habits the way Google does. If privacy is a concern, try DuckDuckGo or StartPage. Or, if you’re interested in using a search engine that drives interest (and funding) for social causes, try Ecosia or Ekoru (which not only donates 60% of its revenue to charities, but uses renewable energy sources for its data centers).
  5. Log out of secure sites. Just as you put your credit card back in your wallet after a purchase, make sure to log out of any secure site when you’re done. If you simply close the browser window, the site is still active and open to hackers.
  6. Sync bookmarks across devices. Don’t you hate it when the site you need (but can’t remember) is on your phone but not your laptop? If you sync your devices in Settings you won’t need to log in or enter passwords for your most-used sites and your bookmarks will be available at work, at home, or on the go.
January 7, 2022

Defending Against the Apache Log4j Hack

It’s a new year, filled with opportunity and optimism and just being a better person. Except for hackers. They continue to wreak havoc throughout our connected world, and their new target is the logging function, Log4j. Log4j is managed by Apache Software Foundation and is an open source, Java-based logging library, which means that thousands of applications, libraries, and frameworks worldwide could be affected.
 
Web security company Cloudflare reports that its researchers are watching about 1,000 attempts PER SECOND in an effort to exploit this flaw, a hole in the software design that allows attackers to take control of servers and install malware, steal confidential information, mine digital currency, or initiate a denial of service. If you are connected to the internet, you are a target.
 
Apache has developed a solution (described here in detail: https://blogs.apache.org/foundation/entry/apache-log4j-cves) but the gist is that users should update any software you are using immediately. So today, when your computer asks “An upgrade is available. Install now?” Click YES. The five minutes it takes to apply a patch could save you money, time, and a lot of headache.
 
December 10, 2021

Tech Gifts That Will Dazzle and Delight

We are just weeks away from Santa’s big day, but there’s still time to get that perfect tech for everyone on your list. And the good news is that, while some big-ticket items may be cost-prohibitive, smart shopping will help you stuff stockings with tech that will dazzle and delight.

Green gifts – Not every piece of tech must break the bank – and some can actually do good for the environment. Consider Lumi lighting that transforms traditional light plates into eco-friendly nightlights. Give your green thumb a smart garden that helps you grow vegetables and herbs inside all year long. Or snag a Little Sun Diamond, a solar-powered light that provides 5 hours of light for each charge, and for each one sold, one is delivered to a community in Africa with limited access to electricity.

Wellness wows – From electric toothbrushes to white noise machines for restful sleep to all types of wearable tech, science is here to make your new year more healthy than your last! Consider smart water bottles, a massage gun for recovery, or even the Oura Ring that tracks your heart rate, sleep patterns, and overall health – all while looking like a cool, sleek ring.

Cooking tech – Think you (or someone you love ) is a terrible cook? Help them out with burn-proof tools like the Ninja (an indoor grill and griddle, pressure cookers, and air fryers ), Ooni (gas-fired pizza ovens), or the “James Bond toy of thermometers,” the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE.

Smartphones – Just in time, all the major carriers are releasing phones for every taste. The folding Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3, the Pixel 5A from Google, and of course the iPhone 13 are all available, many with new features like 5G, amazing cameras, and a crazy amount of storage. Call your carrier for deals, trade in your existing phone, and consider financing your phone so the sticker shock can be spread out over time.

As always, do your research, hunt around for the best price, and don’t forget to buy batteries or chargers to make sure you have the merriest of Christmas mornings!

December 4, 2021

Tips to Make Sure Your Gifts Arrive Before Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Eggnog by the fire, mistletoe from the rafters, caroling at the door, and of course… panic at the shopping center! Even with the well-documented supply chain issues that are hampering Christmas shopping, experts are predicting a “blockbuster holiday season,” topping last year’s shop-from-home $843 billion by almost $16 billion. Great news for the economy, but a dynamic that will require some quick thinking and shifts in the way we usually shop for gifts.

  • Shop in waves. Any must-have gifts on your list, especially electronics, go ahead and grab it. One expert noted, “If it’s got a chip, buy it now.” Stocking stuffers or anything you can get locally can wait.
  • Choose the fastest shipping option. Yes, you may pay more for expedited shipping (think FedEx rather than USPS) but better to splurge a bit than for gifts to arrive in March. When possible, use member delivery options like Amazon Prime which guarantee 2-3 day turnaround, but check the shipping information too since some items that appear as “Prime” may not be delivered to the warehouse for weeks.
  • Choose no shipping. Shopping local is a great way to support merchants in your community and has the added bonus of no shipping costs or hassles, and you’re able to find unique, special gifts you might not get on-line.
  • Think outside the big box. Shopping online isn’t limited to Amazon. Think of something special and dig around the internet for a niche shop.
  • Try a subscription. If you want a gift that keeps on giving, try a subscription box that arrives monthly or quarterly. Bespoke offers cool, unique gifts for men, IPSY provides hard-to-find beauty and wellness trial-size items, and Birchbox sends an easy-to-return outfit every month. Some subscriptions are more flexible than others, so read the fine print, but enjoy the fact that your gift will last the whole year long!
  • Give the gift of experience. If things aren’t their thing, surprise them with an experience. Find a local art school or cooking class and grab a gift card to be used throughout the year. Or, if you have a real brain on your hands, visit www.masterclass.com to buy a class in anything from cooking with Gordon Ramsey and screenwriting with Aaron Sorkin to conservation with Jane Goodall and science with Bill Nye.
  • Donate in someone’s name. Heiffer International, World Vision, Make-a-Wish, and hundreds of charities allow you to give the gift of philanthropy. Make a donation in your loved one’s name and they’ll get a certificate or card describing the gift.
If you keep these tips in mind, holiday shopping will be a snap this year. And remember, even if that special gift arrives late or you got the purple sneakers instead of the green ones, it’s the thought that counts (and also, you clicked the box for “Free Returns”)!

Happy shopping!

December 1, 2021

Scam HardyNet Password Email Circulating

HardyNet has learned of a scam email circulating that tries to get customers to confirm their password by saying it’s expiring. This email is not from HardyNet, and customers are urged to permanently delete the email if received. Do not click any links or reply to the email; simply delete it.

The scam email claims that the customer’s password is going to expire in 24 hours, and the customer must click a link to confirm and continue using the same password. The false email claims that failure to confirm your account password might lead to closing your mailbox. Again, DO NOT CLICK THE LINK OR RESPOND TO THE EMAIL IN ANY WAY! Clicking this link and entering any information will put your confidential information at risk.

Although the email appears to come from “Hardynet – Administrator” and it is sent to a customer’s hardynet.com email address, the actual sender email address is completely different and obviously is not from HardyNet. Scammers and hackers hide the actual sender address behind a false title.

If you have any questions about a suspicious email you’ve received that purportedly came from HardyNet, please do not enter any confidential information and instead call our office at 304-530-5000 or 304-897-9911 to confirm the email’s authenticity.

November 19, 2021

Tips To Set Up a Smart Home

 

There’s something cozy about coming home to a nice, warm house, lights aglow in the window and greeted with a soothing, “Welcome, home, family!” From your genius smart house robot!

These days, the technology exists to program your home to do just about anything: maintain a certain temperature, turn lights on at a specific time of day, and even create a shopping list whose items ship directly to your door. Depending on your personal goals for “smartening up” your home, there are several major themes around which the technology is designed:

Security – Perimeter cameras, alarm systems, motion detectors, and doorbell cameras outdoors, and fire detection, internal cameras, and voice activated calls to 911 inside.

Energy efficiency – Smart thermostats, timed lighting, appliance monitoring (remotely turn off that oven you left on as you headed out), and solar panel monitoring.

Entertainment – Notifications of new releases, automatic download of gaming updates, sound design, and projection screen movements.

Best of all, each objective can be realized with minimal technical savvy, a plug and play device (a wall-mounted touchpad or a pod) and an app on your phone or laptop. Some outdoor devices may require a battery, but almost everything else is already wired into your home and just needs a little direction. You should do some research to determine which Smart Home is for you. Google Nest, Alexa by Amazon, and HomePod by Apple provide comprehensive services and a number of national and local security companies provide smart security you can install yourself (but rely on the monitoring and quick response of a trusted security firm).

As with all new technology purchases, do some self-reflection to see what you need vs. what would be overkill for you. Understand that with the low-priced hardware to get you started will come a monthly or yearly subscription for service, so be sure to budget accordingly. But once you’ve got your hub installed and your app downloaded to your device, just sit back and relax and call, “Hey Google, can you pour me some eggnog?”

October 21, 2021

Remember Cybersecurity In Device Purchasing Decisions

Buying a new device? Don’t forget to consider security in your purchasing decisions. Make cybersecurity a priority. #BeCyberSmart

October 18, 2021

Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Keep Tabs On Your Apps

Do all of your apps need to track your location? Um, no. Take a moment now to configure the privacy and security settings of your apps and, while you’re at it, help someone in your community configure theirs. Do your part. #BeCyberSmart

October 18, 2021

Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Lock Down Your Login

No matter how long and strong your passphrase is, a breach is always possible. Make it harder for cybercriminals to access your account by enabling multi-factor authentication. #BeCyberSmart

October 8, 2021

Stay Safe Online – Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Keeping our interconnected world secure requires all of us to be proactive and diligent. Learn how you can #BeCyberSmart this #CybersecurityAwarenessMonth at staysafeonline.org/cybersecurity-awareness-month/

October 1, 2021

Tips For Choosing a VPN

The list of negative side effects of the COVID pandemic seem to be never-ending, and now we can add the explosion of cyberattacks on our home office to the list. As millions of Americans are now working from home, they send and receive sensitive information, they manipulate customer data (often personal or financial in nature), and they handle intellectual property that, if stolen, could be devastating for companies.

We have explored mitigating measures in the past – keeping anti-virus software up to date, not falling for phishing expeditions, and so on – but probably the best way to keep the connection between you and your company secure is to invest in a solid Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. (In most instances, your employer’s IT department will set up the VPN for you while you’re connected to their network. If you work for yourself or simply want a more secure internet experience, you can set up a VPN on your own in under 10 minutes.)

Think of a VPN as a straight tunnel, reinforced with concrete, that connects your home computer (or laptop) to your office network. A standard internet connection, by contrast, is the 8-lane highways, detours, shoulders, and teenage drivers outside Atlanta. All your data flies free, opening your company and you up to data breaches and other cyberattacks.

While most VPNs provide the same general type of protection, there are so many to choose from that you should ask yourself the following questions to determine which service is right for you:

  • Do you need to access content from international sources? Some VPNs can mask your IP location so you can access content that might be blocked otherwise.
  • What browser do you use? Some VPNs only work with Google, some with Edge, some with multiple browsers and so on.
  • How many services do you need? Beginners may be fine with a basic service. If you need more advanced actions like creating blacklists, find a more comprehensive service.
  • What level of security do you need? If you’re handling confidential or extremely sensitive information, consider services that offer “military-grade encryption” and a kill switch that automatically severs your connection to the internet if your VPN fails.

Most VPN services are between $5 and $10/month (depending on your billing plan) and can be set up and maintained with minimal effort. But this simple fix will provide the safety and security you (and your company!) can rely on to protect what matters most.

 To compare the top VPN services on the market and choose the one right for you, click HERE.

September 10, 2021

Improving Your Wellness and Tech Health

Summer is over, the holidays are upon us, and many of us are still working from home, so the temptation is real to just let it all go. Don’t give in! Especially since September is Self-Improvement month. Use this month to learn a new language, save some money, be more organized. Or, if you want to do good for both body and mind, why not focus on your wellness AND your tech health?

  • Update your passwords. Nothing makes a hacker’s day like breaking your password and then learning it’s the same one for your bank, your credit cards, and your social media. Get a password manager like Password Genie and update all your passwords using a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols – and make them varied and unguessable. Passphrases are becoming more common because they’re easier to remember and still difficult for hackers to break.
  • Take a breath. Even 5 minutes of meditation, sitting quietly and breathing deeply, can lower your blood pressure, boost brain function, elevate your mood, and reduce stress. Make a point to meditate a little every day.
  • Protect yourself. Anti-virus software is one of the best weapons against cyber attacks, but it’s useless if you don’t keep it current. When you get an alert to “Click for updates,” go ahead and do it – rather than hitting “Remind me later.” Better yet, use an anti-virus like SecureIT which automatically updates itself.
  • Stand up and stretch out. Sitting is one of the most damaging things you can do to your body, but you can undo a lot just by standing up! Set a timer on your phone to get up every hour and go for a quick walk or do a few stretches. Open up tight hip flexors and neck and back muscles with a few key moves: https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a25136942/muscles-to-stretch-if-you-sit-all-day/
  • Back up your files. Maintain file integrity – and don’t lose forever your precious photos and documents – by backing up files regularly. Consider cloud-based solutions like FileHopper Plus for daily backups as well as an external hard drive for more sensitive documents.
  • Hydrate. Often, we get sucked into our work and forget to drink enough water. Staying hydrated will help with concentration, keep you full between meals, and help transport nutrients that keep you feeling energized all day.

It’s nearly impossible to get through the day without touching our technology, but if we make the effort to keep our tech safe AND put it down for a few minutes a day, we’ll all be safer and healthier for it. How’s that for self-improvement?

August 6, 2021

Tips for Getting Ready for Back to School

Another school year, another Trapper Keeper and 1,000 pack of pre-sharpened #2 pencils to buy! But, as much of the country is getting back to some semblance of normal, the ongoing pandemic has a lot of parents and teachers scrambling to prepare for the first day. Here are some tips to keep you safe – and sane – this back to school season:

  • Shop online or off-hours: Avoid the mad dash to nab that last box of crayons by ordering online (using the list provided by your school). If you are committed to supporting local businesses, get there early and know exactly what you need.
  • Stock up on masks: With kids under 12 still unvaccinated, guidance for most elementary school students will be to wear a mask while indoors. Find some cool masks and make them just another part of school clothes this fall. Check with your school and local officials regarding mask mandates and proof of vaccination requirements.
  • Smile with your eyes (and don’t be afraid to reach out): Masks definitely cover up our emotions, so encourage kids to express themselves in other ways. Smile with your eyes, use hand gestures to get your point and enthusiasm across, squeeze a shoulder or fist-bump a friend or teacher who’s made your day. Getting back into a social setting will be a big shift, but don’t forget how to be an engaged human!
  • Brush up on hygiene habits: Everyone eases up a little during the summer, but as we get into the colder months, remind kids to wash hands often, cough or sneeze into their elbows, and stay home if they feel at all unwell. (That Perfect Attendance ribbon is just not worth it!)
  • Geek out: With many virtual options still available, creating a connected learning space for kids is dependent on up-to-date tech. A quick Google search will show you a few must-haves including:
    • ChromeBook – Moderately priced laptop/tablet that allows kids to connect to their classrooms, store Word documents and images, and flip to a tablet for reading and drawing.
    • Headphones – Consider the Wyze headphones that provide terrific sound AND noise-cancelling function (for multi-kid households!) for under $80.
    • Organizational Apps – Getting back to a schedule after free-for-all summers is tough. Check your App Store for great apps to keep your family organized and connected this school year. Try Wunderlist, My Study Life, or iStudiez to get school projects, sports, and activities under control.
  • Relax: The world is still a bit uncertain so remember to take time for yourself – and with your kids and apart from them – to just breathe. Lots of apps are available to guide you through yoga, meditation, and breathing, but you can always just take a nice walk, journal, or call a friend to talk about anything other than school.

May your return to school be smooth, your schedule be manageable, and all your lunches be Sloppy Joe’s!

July 23, 2021

Tips for Securing Your Social Media Accounts

Most of us spend a large portion of our days (5 or 10 minutes at a time) using social media. We post photos, share details about ourselves and our whereabouts, take seemingly harmless quizzes, and make connections with people we only know vaguely. And, while every move we make in Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even LinkedIn may seem harmless enough, each move also maximizes the opportunities for hackers and identity thieves to do real damage.

Here’s how to protect yourself on your social media platforms:

  • Create good passwords and actually use them. Just as we’ve recommended in other articles, create passwords using a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t spell out words, don’t repeat old passwords, and don’t use passwords you use on other sites.  Set up security questions as well to ensure no one can access your account or change your password but you. AND, when you have the opportunity to stay logged in or “remember my password,” don’t. Not selecting this option will result in a two-factor authentication (like having a text message sent to your phone with a code); this may seem annoying, but the few seconds it takes to verify your credentials may save you hours of pain and drama.
  • Don’t take quizzes. Remember that app that let you upload a photo and see what you looked like as an older person? That one turned out to be created by Russian hackers to build a facial recognition database! While not all quizzes are that nefarious, they do collect information like your first car, favorite sports team, best friend… all of which can be used to cache data about you (which ultimately can be used to guess passwords).
  • Review your “friends” list. We’ve all accepted friend requests from people we don’t really know well. Maybe they’re connected to someone we trust, maybe they work at a company we’re applying to. Still, it’s good practice to review your friend list periodically and remove anyone you’re not sure about; you can also use those reviews to update who sees your different types of content. Some posts/photos may be perfect for public consumption, but others should be limited to just close friends.
  • Review your privacy settings monthly. As patches go out monthly, it’s a good idea to review your privacy agreement and settings for revisions. Facebook (and third-party providers) may opt you in to sharing things you might not agree with; review and opt out as necessary. Also, make sure that others can’t tag you in photos without your permission.
  • Update your profile. Anyone who needs to know your birthday already knows it! Never post contact information or personal information like your birthday.
  • Don’t announce your absence or track your location. It’s always nice to brag a bit on Instagram when you’re on an amazing vacation (and your co-workers aren’t!), but letting strangers know when your house will be empty is not smart. Geotagging also lets local businesses know where you are, increasing the likelihood that you will be spammed with ads or requests. You can always post those gorgeous waterfall photos in Oregon when you get home!

Staying connected is more important than ever, and social media helps us do that. But as hacking and manipulative marketing gets more sophisticated, using these few tips will help you stay social without making yourself vulnerable to attack.

July 16, 2021

Happy World Emoji Day!

Happy World Emoji Day!
 
Since their emergence on the scene in late 1997, emojis have become our way of augmenting our texts, softening or emphasizing our tweets, or conveying messages that words alone don’t seem to be able to cover. They make us laugh, roll our eyes, or wonder, “What does a fox holding a purple popsicle and winking even mean?”
 
The crying tears of joy emoji that rocketed to the top in 2019 remains one of the most used (tweeted more than 2 billion times in 2020). However, the biggest trend in emojis points to a new focus on inclusion. For example, face emojis that were almost exclusively yellow in the early days are now available in almost every skin tone.
 
And as we get back out into the world in 2021, and people start meeting, dating, and falling in love again, the emoji fastest on the rise is the Heart on Fire. The Heart on Fire emoji represents either a passionate new love or a “burning” of a past love and moving on. Either way, this emoji is gaining steam as a sense of optimism, connection, and “getting out there” sweeps over the nation.
 
So, what do you think? Could you go a day without tweeting or texting an emoji?

 

July 8, 2021

National Cell Phone Courtesy Month

Without question, cell phones are a wondrous way to increase our connection to the people and world that surround us. However, in certain hands, those same cell phones can transform into an easy and mindless tool that would make Miss Manners blush.

#CellPhoneCourtesyMonth reminds us that having a smartphone in our hands should never be an excuse for thoughtless behavior. Here are five etiquette tips for mobile phone usage to keep in mind this month, and all the others.

  1. Silence is golden. Be aware of the times and places when your phone should be placed on silent or turned off. This includes the library, movie theaters, church services, and work meetings. Rule of thumb: if the sound or light of your phone is going to distract or bother others, turn your phone off.
  2. Voices carry. We all know that person. The one who talks so loudly into his or her cell that everyone within a 25-foot radius is able to hear every word. Don’t be that person. When in public, monitor the volume of your voice so the rest of the world doesn’t have to hear your conversation.
  3. Think first. Cell phones offer us the opportunity to respond to emails, texts, and social media posts instantaneously. Be mindful that whatever you write can be captured in a screenshot – or a voicemail saved as an audio file – for all time. So before writing, sending, or posting anything on your phone, be sure to think: Is this appropriate? Is this kind? Will what I’ve written hurt anyone? Will I regret writing this later?
  4. Don’t text and drive. This is not just a matter of good cell phone etiquette but a matter of life and death. No message is THAT important. If you truly have an urgent need to call or text while driving, just pull over.
  5. Put people first. Sometimes, we use our cell phones as emotional support devices when we’re feeling uncomfortable in social situations. Cell phones can allow people to be in the same physical space without truly being together. Take a deep breath, put your phone in your pocket, and engage like a human. Other humans will thank you!

May 21, 2021

Tips for Choosing a 4K Smart TV

A recent study finds that more than half (52%) of the TVs in the U.S. are smart TVs. These devices are getting less expensive every year and many manufacturers are creating their own streaming content for their hardware customers.

First off, what is different about today’s smart TV, the 4K? The 4K stands for the nearly 4,000 horizontal pixels (and 2,160 vertical pixels) that make up this TV’s resolution; the number of pixels is about four times as many as a traditional full HD TV, meaning the picture is crisper and clearer and more “immersive” than any in history. Second, with more than 80 channels worldwide broadcasting in 4K, and new models entering the marketplace with streaming content of their own, the amount of 4K content continues to grow. This is all good news for consumers but there are some tips for how to choose, set up, and enjoy your new 4K TV:

BUYING

  1. Don’t compromise on upscaling. Since not all content is 4K, you’ll want a TV that “upscales” — converts lower quality images to display well on the 4K screen. Talk to your salesperson and make sure this is a priority.
  2. Know your priorities. Is it more important to have a huge TV or a bright picture? More important to have super user-friendly apps or access to a ton of apps? You CAN have it all — but at a price. Determine which features matter most and focus on the models that give you the most bang for the buck.
  3. Remember your peripherals. Will you be plugging in your video game console or an external soundbar? Plug in a cable box? Make sure your TV has enough ports to accommodate everything you’ll need to plug in.

SET-UP

  1. Pick your spot! Use this handy calculator to determine where to put your TV for the best viewing experience based on size of the screen: https://www.inchcalculator.com/tv-size-viewing-distance-calculator/
  2. Be careful mounting. Check VESA standards to be sure you’re getting mounting hardware kits that will keep your TV in place. Experts also recommend a surge protector to protect the screen from power surges.
  3. Update settings. Connect to the WiFi and use on-screen settings menus to complete set-up of apps. Adjust the settings to optimize different kinds of content; choose “cinematic” or “calibrate” for realistic, accurate colors for movies but turn up the “motion smoothing” option for sports to get that “on the field” experience.
  4. Update firmware. Before using the TV for the first time, ensure the operating system is up to date with enhancements and security fixes. Firmware updates may take up to 30 minutes to complete.
  5. Connect to your streaming device. Even though your TV’s apps should lead you to plenty of great content, you’ll still likely want a streaming device like the Roku Stick, Amazon Fire Stick or Cube, or the Apple TV 4K. HDMI cables will work with your 4K TV, but make sure they are “high-speed.”

A few other important considerations before making the leap:

  • Price. While you can get a high quality 4K TV for $500, you can also spend more than $3,000 for the top of the line. Shop around and really pinpoint the features that matter most to you.
  • Bandwidth. 4K uses a lot more data than current high resolution TVs. For example, streaming Netflix on a 1080-pixel TV uses about 3 GB per hour while a 4K TV uses about 7 GB per hour. Check to see if your usage is capped; if it is, your speed may slow considerably once you’ve hit your data limit for the month.

May 6, 2021

World Password Day

You know the scenes in action movies when the villain is able to hack the system because someone wrote his password on a sticky note and left it under his keyboard? Don’t be that guy! In honor of National Password Day, why not take stock of your passwords and reset ones that are too simple or outdated? Don’t use family or pet names. Avoid dates. Try not to use the same password on multiple sites. If you use a shared computer, don’t use autofill or “Remember my Password” options. And, if you’d rather not manage your own password maintenance (especially if you have lots and lots of passwords) try Password Genie. Password Genie will keep your digital identity secure and convenient, helping you generate strong passwords, providing 2-step verification, and keeping track of all your passwords from email and social media to banking and bill pay.

April 23, 2021

Automate Your Spring Cleaning

The wheel. The printing press. Apollo 11. Certainly these make the list of humankind’s greatest technological achievements, but #1 on the list for procrastinators and busy housekeepers everywhere is, hands down, the robot vacuum! Just imagine: no more carrying a bulky vacuum up and down stairs, no more asking kids and spouses to “please lift your legs.” Instead, with today’s robot vacuums you really can set it and forget it and you’ll never have to trap dust bunnies again.

Here’s how to choose the right one for you:

The market is full of options and not every robot is right for every household. Do you have more carpet or more hardwood (some do both, some only hardwood)? Do you want it to unload its dustbin while charging or will you empty it yourself? Do you want it to sync with your Alexa or Google Home or are you happy to control it on your phone? Is it more important to have a robot that runs quiet or one with amazing suction (looking at you, pet owners)? And of course, you’ll want to pick a model that fits your budget. Robot vacuums run from $200 to well over $1,000, so, while you don’t want to skimp (and end up sweeping yourself!), if you don’t need the one with LED lights and music, don’t waste your money! Try https://bestreviews.com/best-robotic-vacuums for a list of 2021’s top models and their pros and cons.

Now you’ve got your robot! How do you put it to work? While each robot is a bit different, the basic steps of operation are the same:

  1. Plug in. Find a clean, uncluttered spot against a wall to plug in the robot home. Place the robot on its home to charge. Make sure it’s fully charged (about three hours) before the first use.
  2. Get the app. Download the robot app to your phone. Most robots provide support for both Apple and Android phones.
  3. Connect. Use the app to connect your robot to your home WiFi network.
  4. Map it. Most robots have multiple settings for how the unit will learn the nooks and crannies of your house. Check your app for options on how to “map” your home. Some robots take 3-4 practice runs before they get the hang of corners, stairs, and furniture placement.

After that, make sure to empty dustbins regularly and charge when not in use. Beyond that? Please lift your legs up and relax!

April 18, 2021

National Linemen Appreciation Day

When Superstorm Sandy hit the United States in late October 2012, more than 6 million people in 15 states and the District of Columbia lost power, some for weeks. And, while police, firefighters, and other emergency workers came to the nation’s aid, the real unsung heroes of the recovery were the linemen. These brave men and women not only worked tirelessly for 16 hours a day to restore power and phone lines, they helped FEMA clear roads, remove debris, pull up fallen trees, and of course climb poles to rehang fallen lines – one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. In honor of their service, Congress named April 18th National Lineman Appreciation Day. So, if you see a lineman climbing a pole, give a wave and thank them for their tireless, and critical, work!

April 9, 2021

Tech Tips To Protect Your Tax Filing Data

Procrastinators rejoice! The IRS has extended the filing date for many of us. Be sure to double check with your state tax agencies here for specific dates as not all states are handling tax season the same: https://www.taxadmin.org/state-tax-agencies. Here are a few tips to make sure you don’t miss a beat (or get scammed) when you pay your taxes—or get your refund!

  • Don’t procrastinate. Especially if your taxes are very complicated, or you are using an accountant or service to complete your taxes, try to gather your paperwork as soon as possible to avoid any traffic jams caused by other procrastinators!
  • Don’t fall for phishing schemes. The IRS will never request personal data like Social Security Numbers or bank account details via email or phone. Be wary of emails with subjects like “IRS Refund!” Doublecheck any links before clicking; instead check your bank account regularly for deposits.
  • Do use direct deposit. Old school thieves still steal checks out of mailboxes, so when possible, opt for direct deposit of your refund check. This method is more secure and easier to manage if a fraudulent deposit is made into your account.
  • Don’t send personal information via email. If you are relying on a professional to prepare your taxes, try to use a secure portal (a branded website whose address starts with “https”) rather than just emailing attachments. Any document that includes SSN, date of birth, or bank details should be sent encrypted or delivered by hand to your preparer.
  • Do visit the IRS website for updates on new scams. Sadly, new scams including mail, phone, and email pop up all too regularly. Check the IRS website here for scams to watch out for: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/scam-alert-irs-urges-taxpayers-to-watch-out-for-erroneous-refunds-beware-of-fake-calls-to-return-money-to-a-collection-agency

 And a final very important note: If you are a sole proprietor, a partner in an S-corporation, or anyone who makes income without having an employer withhold taxes (essentially anyone who pays quarterly taxes), you must still pay your estimated tax by April 15th.

Enjoy having some extra time to file your taxes if you qualify, but take the same precautions you always do to make sure your taxes are paid on time and your personal data is protected!

March 4, 2021

Celebrate National Day of Unplugging

Celebrate March 5-6, the National Day of Unplugging, by taking a break from social media – or tech in general. Studies show unplugging lowers blood pressure and puts you in a better mood, so why not cut the cord today and go for a walk? Play a team sport? Read a book (yeah, the paper kind)? Enjoy a meal with a friend without phones on the table? And, if you can find good hiding places for your kids’ devices, you can make the Great Unplug a family affair. Play a board game, bake something delicious together, or head to the park for a good old-fashioned kickball game. Be free. You’re untethered now!
Read more at nationaldayofunplugging.com.

February 25, 2021

How To Set Up Your Smart Watch

Have you stuck to your New Year’s Resolution? Have you finally unpacked that fancy stairstepper you got for Christmas and are ready to get climbing? Now may be the perfect time for you to up your fitness game by investing in a smart watch. They aren’t cheap (typically $100-500) but prices are coming down every day and they really can add value for those interested in hardcore training stats and those just looking to track steps.

First, a few steps to choosing the right watch for you:

  1. Know your operating system. A smart watch needs a smart phone so make sure that the watch you select is compatible with your phone.
  2. Be realistic about what you need. If you’re a serious athlete, you may want a heartrate monitor to ensure you’re training efficiently or a GPS, but those features will cost you. If you don’t need them, don’t buy them.
  3. Consider if battery life matters. If you’re an endurance racer, a hybrid watch (that looks like an analog watch without a touchscreen) may work best for long runs because the battery life is longer. If you plan to interact a lot with a touchscreen, be prepared to charge your battery more often.

You’ve picked a winner so the next step is the setup! Each watch will be subtly different, and most models provide instructions in the box (and on the manufacturer’s website), but the basic steps are the same:

  1. Download the watch’s app to your phone.
  2. Turn the smartwatch on and make sure it’s fully charged.
  3. Typically, a menu appears asking you to confirm settings. Select language, units of measure, etc.
  4. Pair your watch with your phone. Go to your phone’s Settings/Bluetooth and find your smartwatch listed among the possible devices. Some pairings will require you to pull a code from your watch and select it on your phone.
  5. Once the phone and watch are paired, you may be prompted to begin software updates. This may take some time so make sure your phone is charged and you’re connected to the WiFi.
  6. When updates are complete, you may be invited to take a tutorial on how to use your new watch. Check it out to make sure you’re getting everything you can out of your new watch!

Remember that there are hundreds of watches available and the right one is out there for you. Shop around, find the one with just enough – but not more than you need – and enjoy the kickstart it will give your workouts and the motivation it will give you to take just a few more steps every day!

February 4, 2021

Black History Month 2021: Science Pioneers

From George Washington Carver to Bettye Washington Greene to everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, Neill deGrasse Tyson, African Americans have always been a part of the fabric and foundation of the scientific community in this country. This Black History month, let’s meet three beacons in their field:

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson – Dr. Jackson is a physicist who was the first African-American to earn a doctorate (in theoretical physics, no less) from MIT and went on to be not only the first African-American woman president of the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute but the first to receive the National Medal of Science. She spent almost 20 years at AT&T Bell Laboratories researching solid-state and quantum physics and producing more than 100 articles and papers and paving the way for the fiber-optic cable, ubiquitous in today’s telecommunications. While she continues her work at RPI, she also serves on the Global Board of the Nature Conservancy due to her dedication to the preservation of the environment.

Otis Boykin – From an early age, Otis Boykin was fascinated by electronics. Over time, his interest focused on resistors. He tweaked existing resistors to make them more efficient and eventually invented a new resistor that could withstand shifts in temperature and air pressure. This breakthrough allowed many electronic devices to be manufactured more cheaply and reliably than ever before, making them accessible to everyone. He laid the foundation for modern televisions, computers, and even guided missiles, but he also invented a control unit for pacemakers making them safer and more precisely regulated. He patented 26 devices before his death at just 61.

Lisa Gelobter – Lisa Gelobter is a computer scientist and a technology executive who successfully intertwined her software development career with leadership at multimedia and entertainment companies such as BET Network, Brightcove, and The Feed Room. In 2015, she was invited to serve in the U.S. Digital Service at the White House to overhaul the rollout of the healthcare.gov website. She also went on to co-found tEQuitable, a company dedicated to making work more inclusive through providing a platform to address bias and discrimination in the workplace. And, finally, she set off the eternal debate: is it “jiff” or “giff”? She developed the animation used to produce the images that would one day be GIFs no one can live without!

January 28, 2021

Data Privacy Day

Learn how to better manage your privacy in a world of data breaches this Data Privacy Day (January 28). Stay #PrivacyAware out there! staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 26, 2021

Hooking Up Your PS5

Your prayers were answered! Santa delivered! Somehow, by some miracle, the new PlayStation5 is yours, all yours! If you’ve owned a PlayStation console before, much of the set-up and configuration is the same, but if you’re new to the PS game, read on and you’ll be set up in a jiffy:

1. Attach the base to the PS5 console. You can set this up vertically or horizontally.

2. Connect the console to a display device using an HDMI cable.

3. Plug the power cable into the AC IN connector of the PS5 and then plug the cable into an electrical outlet.

4. Turn on the console and follow the on-screen instructions to connect your controllers, adjust settings, and prepare to connect to the internet.

5. Connect the console to the internet.

6. Update the PS5 System Software.

7. Connect the console to the PlayStation network.

8. If you have an existing console, transfer games and data from it to the PlayStation Plus cloud storage and then to the PS5.

9. Buy a game! From the Games home, go to Playstation Store, find the game you want, select Buy > Confirm Purchase > Download. Your new game now appears in your Game Library.

10. Play!

For the extremely uninitiated, detailed instructions are available on the PlayStation website here: https://www.playstation.com/en-us/support/hardware/ps5-get-started-set-up/

Enjoy, play hard, and get out and get some air from time to time.

January 6, 2021

Tech Predictions For 2021

It’s fair to say that no one could have predicted the year we had in 2020 considering that “murder hornets” were the least of our concerns. But with the start of 2021, we have renewed hope and optimism that this year will bring health, prosperity, and, of course, new tech! Let the prognosticating begin:

Invest in comfy pants: Research firm Forrester predicts that remote work will rise to 300% of pre-COVID levels this coming year. While certain industries wait on pins and needles to return to their old workspace, plenty of companies are finding that they really can do their work from remote settings. This trend toward “work from anywhere” models will likely result in a decline in commercial real estate but a spike in cloud-based solutions, a rise in training and skill acquisition for remote-specific skills but a decline in the need for suit pants! Also, as we remain apart, expect innovation toward any tech that helps bring people together (virtually) and builds relationships, not just brand loyalty.

But also get yourself a new outfit: Great news towards the end of last year was that there are multiple vaccines approved which appear to be incredibly effective. That means at some point this year, we’ll all be getting back out there. As the roll-out progresses, exposure notifications and contact tracing technologies will be replaced by notifications about the status of citizens’ vaccination. As states and cities have taken over determining the order of vaccinations – and changing them – communicating where and when people can get vaccinated will become more crucial. Already, the CDC has created an app called v-safe that uses text messages and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive your shot and reminds you when it’s time for your second shot (yes, a second shot!).

Take back your data!: One result of being stuck at home and spending all our work and leisure time online is that we have all exposed our personal data (knowingly and unknowingly) to the universe. While of course our passwords, credit card info, and other personal information is always at risk, now too are our preferences, political leanings, and habits. As Mark Surman of Mozilla Foundation says, “Why should Amazon get to know so much about our shopping habits? Why should Facebook get to create eerily accurate psychographic profiles of us?” Many in the industry envision 2021 as the year we “rebalance power,” taking control of our data, relying on leaders to explore data governance policies, and even entrusting our information to data trusts which operate as intermediators between us and big tech.

With so much in flux, companies are innovating like crazy so we’re all hopeful 2021 will be full of helpful, necessary, and (because we all need it) fun technology just waiting to be revealed. Happy new year!

December 16, 2020

Making Spirits Bright One Gig at a Time

New tech always makes a great gift for the holidays, whether it’s a brand new phone for Mom or the coolest new tablet for the kids. Here are a few of Santa’s favorites this season!

Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality Headset ($299) – VR has come a long way and this headset is proof that this groundbreaking tech has never been more realistic or more affordable. The Oculus Quest 2 works best for gamers, but unique games like Half Life: ALYX allow even those new to gaming to enjoy a realistic, 3D experience.

Chromecast with GoogleTV ($49) – Combining all the magic of Google streaming with the old fashioned comfort of just clicking through channels/shows/categories on an actual remote, Chromecast with GoogleTV has arrived just in time for holiday lounging! It does everything Chromecasts used to but now has Google TV smart UI built right in. Let the bingeing begin!

iPhone 12 Mini ($699) – If you’ve had it with massive phones but you still want style, speed, and function, the adorable iPhone 12 Mini may be the phone for you. It boasts a terrific camera, the same Super Retina display as its big brother, 64 GB of RAM, and water resistance up to 6 meters for 30 minutes, all in a cheerful package that is 15% smaller and 16% lighter than the iPhone 12. Good things do come in small packages!

Amazon Echo Dot ($29) – Just as chatty as the original but small enough to place one in every room, the Dot smart speaker has a few notable upgrades. An LED display shows the time and outdoor temperature, dims at night, and will fit perfectly into anyone’s stocking!

Old School/New School Emergency Radio ($29) – If you’re traveling this holiday season, the OMEW emergency radio is a very cool must have. This unit looks like an old fashioned radio but it has four charging modes (hand crank, battery, solar, and USB) so you’ll always have power. It has a super-bright flashlight, a motion sensor, an SOS alarm, and of course a radio that allows you to tune in to AM or FM weather channels.

LARQ Self-Cleaning Water Bottle ($95) – If you try to do your part by avoiding plastic water bottles but you also hate cleaning your steel or glass bottles, switch to the LARQ. Each bottle can be programmed to self-clean using a UV-C LED Light that eliminates up to 99.9% of harmful germs. You can also purify your water in as little as two hours and it stays cold for 24 hours!

Microsoft Surface Go 2 ($399) – If you’d rather not spend $600 for an iPad Air (plus $200 for the Magic Keyboard), the Surface Go 2 is for you. With 8GB of RAM and a sleek 10.5-inch display (AND keyboard included), the Surface Go is perfect for writing documents, streaming video, and browsing the web.

Phonesoap 3 UV Phone Sanitizer ($79) – This may be the perfect gift this season: a nice hot bath for your phone! The PhoneSoap 3 UV SmartPhone Sanitizer is a small case that charges and disinfects your phone. It kills nearly 100% of bacteria and germs, leaving your phone charged and pristine. Works great for keys, earbuds, and even cash.

Happy shopping, stay safe, wash your hands (and water bottles), and have the merriest of holidays and healthiest of new years!

December 9, 2020

Flashback: First Mouse Demonstration

12/9 – On this day in 1968, an engineer and inventor named Douglas Engelbart unveiled the world’s first computer mouse in what would be dubbed The Mother of All Demos. While this groundbreaking demo was the first to showcase all elements of a modern computing system—windows, hypertexts, word processing, and even video conferencing—the introduction of the mouse was truly the marvel most people remember. Engelbart’s mouse was constructed of wood, looking like a ring box resting on two pizza cutters (rolling side to side and up and down) with a single push button on top and a long wire to plug into the computer. Since then, the mouse has evolved and come a long way, but it was Engelbart’s simple design that changed computer navigation, design, and communication forever.

November 19, 2020

Ho! Ho! Homeshopping!

Anyone who went shopping for Halloween decorations around October 28th may have gotten a festive shock at their local Target or Home Depot: Christmas gifts and decorations were already on the shelves! Retailers are preparing for an unusual holiday season that is already underway (kicked off on Amazon Prime Day back in October). They’re getting an early start to ensure that everyone shopping from home will be able to buy and ship gifts in time for the holidays.

If you typically indulge in the traditional Black Friday sales, you may be in for a very quiet day. Salesforce estimates that the $6 billion usually spent in the U.S. during Cyber Week in November was already spent in the month of October. So, are there still deals available and how will you feel fulfilled if you don’t stand in line for that toaster oven for 6 hours? A few tips to keep you sane and get everything you’re looking for:

  1. Splurge on online wrapping services. Remember that EVERYONE is going to be buying and shipping and the Post Office, FedEx, and UPS will be bogged down. Rather than shipping to you to wrap and ship to your loved one, pay for the gift-wrapping service and save yourself the headaches.
  2. Shop local. If you have local friends on your shopping list, try to patronize a local shop (likely hit hard by the pandemic). Many have websites you can shop on or curbside delivery if you know exactly what you want. Or, mask up, smile with your eyes, and let a local store know you haven’t forgotten them.
  3. Load your shopping cart over time. Rather than buying items from on-line sources one or two at a time, add them to your shopping cart as you think of them and try to get one big shipment assembled. This will take some of the pressure off the shippers.
  4. Try an online discount provider. Download Honey or Rakuten to your internet browser to automatically have discounts to thousands of online stores applied to your purchases. You may get immediate discounts or even a savings check mailed to you just in time for Boxing Day sales!
  5. Donate and volunteer. A lot of people have had a very bad year and many aren’t able to give their family and friends the holiday they would like. If you have the means, donate to worthy charities like Toys for Tots or Christmas Spirit Foundation (which provides Christmas trees to military families when one parent is deployed), drop off food at a local pantry, or even volunteer your time at a soup kitchen or adopt a family in need.
  6. Skip it all together. Of all the years to make a gift or surprise your friends and family with an experience (rather than a tangible gift), this is the one. People don’t need anything fancy. They just want to know that they are loved and that they are on your mind.

 This year has been different in so many ways but some things remain the same this season of giving: be thoughtful, be kind, be charitable, and let the spirit of the holiday shine bright—even if Black Friday gets cancelled!

October 29, 2020

Flashback: ARPANET Worm Births Cybersecurity

Flashback – 11/2/1988 – On this day in history, cybersecurity (or the need for it) was born when a Cornell student named Robert T. Morris introduced a self-replicating worm into ARPANET, the predecessor of today’s internet. Morris said the worm was designed to measure the size of ARPANET, but instead it caused denial of service for 6,000 machines, about 10% of all computers connected to ARPANET. This worm was so smart and so infectious that, before wiggling in, it checked to see if the machine was already infected – one in seven machines that had already been infected got re-infected! Morris said this was all an accident, but the courts felt differently, and Morris was the first person convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and served three years in prison!

October 22, 2020

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Share With Care

Cybercriminals love it when you overshare on social media – they can learn all about you! #BeCyberSmart and make it harder for them by avoiding posting real names, places you frequent, and home, school and work locations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 15, 2020

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Think Before You Click

Cybercriminals cast wide nets with #phishing tactics, hoping to drag in victims. They may offer a financial reward, threaten you if you don’t engage, or claim that someone is in need of help. Stop, take a moment, and think before you click. #BeCyberSmart

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 8, 2020

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Connect It, Protect It

Any device that connects to the internet is vulnerable to risks. The best defense is to keep device security software, web browser and operating systems up to date. #BeCyberSmart by turning on auto-updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2, 2020

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Stay Safe Online

Keeping the digital world secure requires all of us to be proactive and diligent. Learn how you can #BeCyberSmart this #CybersecurityAwarenessMonth at staysafeonline.org/cybersecurity-awareness-month/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 25, 2020

The Red, the Blue, the Tech, and You

With an historic election just weeks away, there’s plenty of buzz about policy and personality, records and revelations, but this is also an election like no other in history because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. This means that even if you already have your heart set on a candidate, “voting” may mean something very different than strolling up to the polling station on November 3rd. The good news is there are websites and apps that will make sure you are informed, registered, and ready to vote!

Am I Registered?
Check Vote.org. Simply enter your name and address and this site confirms if you are registered or not. If you aren’t registered, scroll down to the link or phone number for your state’s election commission and learn what to do next.

Where is my polling place? How do I vote absentee?
Each state has its own Election Commission and their websites have everything you need to know about how to vote in your state. Just a few questions you can answer here:

  • What is the deadline for registering to vote?
  • Can I mail in my vote? How do I request a ballot? Can I drop it off or do I have to mail it? What’s the deadline?
  • Where is my polling station?
  • Can I vote early in-person? Where do I go and do I need an excuse?
  • Have you received my vote? Has it been tallied yet?

How do I get texts or emails from my candidate?
Easy! Simply visit the candidate’s website and sign up for how you would like to be contacted. Some candidates also allow you to select the frequency of contact.

How do I get the texts to stop?
The nearer we get to the election, the more campaigns will ramp up their communication. When you’ve had enough, just reply STOP or CANCEL or UNSUBSCRIBE.

How do I know who’s telling the truth?
We’re surrounded by opinion, spin, and hyperbole so how do we know what’s true? Download the FactStream app to fact-check claims and news. A joint effort by three of the top fact-checking organizations (Washington Post, PolitiFact, and Factcheck.org), FactStream allows you to look up claims made by candidates and even fact-check speeches and debates in real time.

 It’s a crazy time, but technology is making it easier than ever to stay informed, fact-check your candidates, and most importantly get registered and make your vote count!

September 16, 2020

Sun Outages Affect TV Service In Fall, Spring

Hardy OneNet’s TV signal is affected every fall and spring by sun outages. A sun outage is an interruption or distortion of geostationary satellite signals caused by solar radiation. The problem occurs when the sun is in direct line with a communication satellite and the sun’s radiation overwhelms the satellite signal. In the Northern Hemisphere, sun outages typically occur in late September or early October after the September equinox and in late February or early March before the March equinox. Sun outages are common and can be expected at these particular times of year. Sun outages typically occur from approximately October 4 to October 12 and from February 28 to March 11. During the day from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. is the most common time for fall sun outages to occur. A sun outage can last for several minutes, during which time your TV signal may experience interference with picture and/or sound quality. Typically, sun outages last anywhere from two minutes to almost 11 minutes. The channels affected depend on which satellites are being impacted by the solar radiation and what channels OneNet receives from those satellites. Sun outages do not affect Internet or telephone service.

September 10, 2020

Flashback: Microchip Introduced In September 1958

It’s hard to believe that with so much of what surrounds us today being driven by microchips, the very first microchip was not introduced to the world until 1958. On September 12, 1958, Jack Kilby demonstrated the first-ever working integrated circuit – what would become known as a microchip – to his colleagues at Texas Instruments. The U.S. Air Force was the first to buy his invention, and in 2000 he was awarded a Nobel Prize in physics for his contribution. While others improved upon this chip over the years (changing component elements and shrinking it in size), Kilby will always be known as the mind that set in motion a whole new era of computing, communicating, and even space exploration.

August 27, 2020

Back to School Apps That Get An A+

Most of our kids have been inseparable from their devices this summer of quarantine, so getting them to embrace technology for school should be a breeze. Here are a few must-have apps that will make back to school fun and easy—even if “school” means the kitchen table.

Communication

Zoom – The ubiquitous app that parents use for work video calls is likely to be used by many school districts that are offering remote learning. It’s easy to download (on a computer, tablet, or even a phone) and it’s also easy to customize. You can change your profile, update how your screen appears to you, and even customize your background.

Grammarly – Nothing is worse than a term paper covered in red ink because you didn’t proof your work. This year, download Grammarly and suggestions for correcting typos, grammar mistakes, and even writing style appear in real time. You can accept or reject them, but this app will not only fix one-off mistakes but will actually help you become a better writer.

Organization

MyHomework – Cooler than a paper planner, this app helps students organize all their assignments, get reminders for due dates, and even receive rewards for finishing projects.

GoogleDocs – A great way to clean up your desktop and be able to collaborate with fellow students is to stop saving documents to your computer and start saving them to the cloud. Google provides free cloud storage that allows students to upload and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and even PowerPoints which teachers can view and teammates can edit.

Education

Flocabulary – This app and companion website rock. It uses catchy tunes and hip hop rhymes to help kids absorb everything from vocabulary to math and even has songs/lessons on back-to-school jitters and bullying. Videos are available for students K-12.

Epic! – What do voracious readers do when their library is closed AND they’re out of school? Check out Epic!, an online library of over 25,000 books. Students can read books online or offline (so you can download a bunch before a long roadtrip with no WiFi) in a variety of genres from chapter books for bigger kids to graphic novels to read-to-me picture books for young readers.

Mind and Body Motivation

GoNoodle Kids – Perfect for kids stuck at home with no recess, this app encourages kids to get up and move around throughout the day, starting the morning off with blood-pumping stretches and checking in to encourage breathing when stress levels might be rising.

Headspace – School is stressful enough for little people and Headspace can help kids manage the additional anxiety and unknowns of a remote learning experience. It uses cool cartoon videos that lead kids through meditations they can use to manage anxiety and stress.

Even though kids may be trading in uniforms for jammies and lunch with friends for lunch with family, now you have the tools to make this school year a success! Just remember to stay connected, proof your work, and get outside when algebra gets you down!

August 20, 2020

Back to School Tech Finds for Parents

This time last year, parents were racing to wrap up school supply shopping, buying uniforms, and packing lunchboxes. And although this year there will be fewer worries about transportation or picking out the perfect school outfit, parents can still use a hand with staying on top of homework, activities, and general wellness. Here are a couple of great tools to keep you sane!

Health and Wellness

  • WebMD – Who wants to sit in a doctor’s office with everything else going on? WebMD allows you to research symptoms and possible treatment for small medical emergencies or colds from the comfort of your home.
  • Heal – Many health insurance companies provide teledoc services, but if you are uninsured or need to reach someone without an appointment, this app directs you to a health call center or on-call doctor to help diagnose illness or direct you to seek in-person care.
  • Talkspace – With so much focus on physical wellness, mental health has taken a backseat during the pandemic despite the fact that many people’s anxiety and depression has worsened over the past few months. Talkspace pairs you or a family member up with a licensed therapist and provides a variety of payment structures to make sure your emotional health is taken care of.

Organization

  • Timetree – You’re a parent! But you’re also likely an employee, a spouse, a coach, and a taxi driver for kids. If you need multiple calendars accessible by different groups of people, Timetree is for you. You can color code events, invite friends and colleagues to use specific calendars, and view all of your events on a single feed so nothing will slip through the cracks.
  • Artkive – Yes, your sweet angels are the most amazing artists who ever lived. But when your fridge can’t handle another piece of art, use Artkive to capture that painting (certificate, report card, or other special memory) on your phone and save it by child, date, or category.
  • 2Houses – The object of this app is to relieve conflict and facilitate better communication while co-parenting. It features in-app communication tools, calendars that help manage custody schedules (without sharing personal calendar entries), and helps track shared expenses throughout the month.

Faking it Till you Make it

  • Photomath – Terrified by “new math”? Don’t be. Just take a picture of that undoable geometry problem, upload it to Photomath, and receive not only the answer but step-by-step directions for how to solve it. You might even learn something!
  • Yummly – This app has some incredible recipes (searchable and scrollable) you can add to your calendar as well as a shopping list that ensures you have all the ingredients you need for tonight or a special occasion.

It is going to be a challenge but just remember: everyone loves mac and cheese, there’s only one Monday every week, and hardly any of us will become math experts. Best of luck!

August 6, 2020

Flashback: World Wide Web Project Begins

With more than 1.74 billion websites in the world as of January 2020, it’s hard to remember a time before the World Wide Web, but this network is only 29 years old. On August 6, 1991, English computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee posted the first information about the WorldWideWeb project to a message board, inviting open and free participation from anyone who had something to add. This simple message kicked off the collaboration, research, communication, commerce, and – let’s face it – satisfying time-wasting we know today as the internet. Employers watching the clock may curse you, Sir Berners-Lee, but the rest of us send you a big heart emoji today!

July 30, 2020

Apps, Gear That Make Summer Workouts A Breeze

With record heat across the nation, it’s just too hot for running and even cycling outside. And since many gyms still remain closed, many fitness fiends (and average Joes!) are looking for ways to stick to their routine. While some options are pricier than others, there are lots of ways to stay healthy and be cool doing it:

Peloton – If you’re ready for your old Schwinn to look like a rusty Model T, give a Peloton stationary bike a try. Packages range from $2,245 and include just the bike to the family package for $2,700 which includes shoes, headphones, a mat, and all the other accouterments an indoor cyclist would need. The coolest part, though, is you can take classes from world-renowned coaches or bike to videos of the world’s greatest roads and trails.

MIRROR – While spending your workout staring into a mirror might not be your thing, you may change your mind when you meet the Mirror. Turn it on and suddenly a mirror becomes your boxing coach, your barre instructor, and your coach who tracks every movement, every wobble, and every improvement. Instructions appear in real-time on the screen to offer tips for more efficient and effective movement—just like a real coach. The Mirror starts at about $1,500 and you’ll pay a monthly fee for the coaching services, but you may never want to go back to the gym again!

Strava – This app can be used with iPhone or Android devices and syncs with heart rate monitors, GPS, or power meters to track performance metrics like a pro. You can design programs to improve your performance, review past runs and rides, and – of course – share your experiences and successes with friends. Strava bills itself as “the social network for athletes” giving die-hard racers and rookies a place to talk fitness, form unique and specialized groups, check out new routes, and congratulate each other on races well run.

PEAR – PEAR has come a long way since their first device that clipped to your shoes. Today, their suite of diagnostic and coaching tools will make you actually WANT to get out there and run. Their apps boast “adaptive coaching” telling you mid-run to “pick up the pace” or “dial it back, your heart rate is too high.” The apps are also brandable so local coaches and physical trainers can design programs and deliver them to their clients with chat features, workout plans with trainer logos, and even video clips.

Fitbit – Fitbit was the trailblazer with fitness tracking, and today it still offers an array of options and styles that track what you need without the price tag that comes with the Apple Watch and other tools. Track daily steps, workouts, nutrition, weight, and sleep, and share your progress with friends.

Whatever you choose, however hot and sluggish you feel, just get out there – or in there! – for a little exercise every day for a better, healthier you!

July 23, 2020

Flashback: IBM Introduces Personal Computer

Flashback – July 28, 1981 – On this day 39 years ago, IBM introduced the IBM PC, a personal computer that was to revolutionize both business and home use. For $1,500, customers received 64 KB of RAM and a monochrome monitor that looked like a TV. It spoke BASIC, offered two enormous disk drives, and was accompanied by the full technical specs making it easy to operate and easy to expand, but also easy to clone. And today? An iPhone 11 (that fits in your pocket) boasts 4 GB of RAM or more than 65,000 times as much. It also operates at speeds more than 13,000 times faster than IBM’s old girl.

July 16, 2020

Staycations: This Summer’s Great Adventure With Tech

So many plans have been put on hold or scrapped altogether this summer, but even though we can’t travel or hold big get-togethers, we can still make this summer a great one. Pop yourself a cold drink, sit back, and enjoy a vacation right in your own backyard!

  1. Explore the world. Without leaving your house, experience the sights and sounds and even the flavors of somewhere exotic. Try a program like Babbel or Rosetta Stone to learn a new language, find a Spotify station to tune into the music of your destination, and download some recipes from the place you’d love to go. And, with many museums offering free virtual tours, you can see priceless works of art without getting out of your jammies!
  2. Take a class. Imagine you’re back at summer school – by choice this time – and learn something new. Countless schools and universities are offering free or reduced online courses and webinars to jumpstart any academic endeavor, and YouTubers (among others) are providing how-to’s for hobbyists, crafters, musicians, and anyone willing to try something new.
  3. Get fit. The temptation is real to sit back and binge TV and bake another loaf of banana bread, but we all have more time than ever at home that we could use to get fit. Online fitness leaders like Beach Body and Betty Rocker are offering free online classes to kick off a new program, and most have Facebook groups to keep you motivated.
  4. Bake some banana bread. With all the terrific baking shows and cookbooks available right now, why not use your time at home to become a better chef? Bake something sweet and decadent or cook a big party’s worth of appetizers (and freeze whatever you can’t eat!).
  5. Have a Zoom barbecue. The best thing about the summer is getting together with friends. Just because we have to do it at a distance doesn’t make face-to-face time any less special. Send out email invites – as fancy as you like – to friends and family, grill up something delicious, pour a cocktail, and sit down in front of your computer to host a Zoom party or happy hour. Everyone can show off what they made, chat, and raise a glass to their loved ones. You might even try a game or even karaoke to keep the party going.

2020 is like nothing we’ve ever seen, but locked down doesn’t mean locked out of lots of fun, exciting, challenging, and delicious staycations you’ll really enjoy.

June 25, 2020

Nintendo 64 Flashback

On June 23, 1996, the Nintendo 64 gaming console was released to great acclaim. It was the last console to use cartridges rather than CDs, and it boasted 3D capabilities and a controller that both wowed players and drove them absolutely crazy! The initial launch in Japan sold 300,000 consoles in one day, and three months later, the same number sold in the North American debut. This console became a fan favorite and was even named TIME’s Machine of the Year before being discontinued in 2002 upon the release of the GameCube.

June 4, 2020

A Whole New Job Hunt

Typically, June marks the celebration of college graduation and the exciting job hunt that follows. This year, graduates are still looking for work, but they will be competing for jobs in one of the toughest markets in recent history – and they’ll be doing it all remotely. Finding work, especially if you’re starting from scratch or changing industries, is always a challenge, but doing it in these unprecedented times may feel impossible. Don’t panic! Here are a few tricks of the trade that will help you set yourself apart, prepare for your interview, make a great impression, and land the job of your dreams!

Network. This may seem tough when you can’t go to job fairs or seek out informational interviews in person, but quarantining shouldn’t keep you from reaching out virtually. Start with LinkedIn. Grow your first-level network and then see who’s friends with your friends. You may be surprised to find someone a step or two away who works at the company where you’d love to work. Read articles or blogs written by their employees, find something that resonates with you, and reach out.

Know what you want. Do you want to travel? Are you willing to move? Work odd hours or keep traditional hours? Do you want a job you can do quietly by yourself or work with a large team? If anything in an ad or a call with a recruiter gives you pause – and it’s not something you can negotiate away – move on.

Compromise. With the above advice in mind, if you don’t have the luxury of waiting around for the perfect job – student loan repayment starts 6 months after graduation – and you receive an offer you can stomach, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Graciously accept the offer but keep looking elsewhere. Worst case, you get some solid experience and make some good contacts. Best case, you learn to love the job!

Make yourself irresistible. If the job hunt is dragging, use your time to beef up your resume. Get certified, take some free classes online, read everything you can about your desired industry. That way, when you do get an interview, you’ll have interesting things to say and a breadth of knowledge that will set you apart.

Prepare to Zoom. You may not be able to interview in person so make sure you’re ready to interview via video conference or phone. Get a haircut, put on a suit (top and bottom), and pick a professional background. And, if you end up interviewing by phone, here’s an old salesman trick: Keep a mirror on your desk and keep good eye contact with yourself during the call. Nod, smile, look pensive. The interviewer will pick up on these non-verbal cues and you’ll transform a potentially robotic phone call into a friendly, engaging chat with a future employee.

Best of luck. You’ve got this!

May 14, 2020

The Birth of Wireless

The year is 1894. More than 3,000 Pullman Car Company workers lead one of the world’s biggest strikes to date. The International Olympic Committee is founded in Paris. And you can finally buy Coca Cola in a bottle for the first time! But most importantly, on May 10th of this year, physicist Guglielmo Marconi set in motion the technology upon which all current wireless technologies are built.

On this day, 20-year-old Marconi transmitted a radio wave ¾ of a mile without the use of wires. Over the next few years, he would send signals across his family’s property, then over small bodies of water, and finally over the Bristol Channel. The adorable message that was sent and received over 8.7 miles was “Let it be so.”

Although it would take Marconi another three years to successfully deliver “ship to shore” communications—over 12 miles of ocean—the sending of a radio wave ¾ of a mile was truly the beginning for all communication we rely upon today.

May 7, 2020

Wish Mom Happy Mother’s Day With Tech

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and guess what she wants most? Breakfast in bed of Lucky Charms and burned toast? A sculpture of Ben Franklin made entirely of macaroni? Maybe. But most likely, what she really wants is to hear your voice and see your face, especially if you’ve been apart these last few weeks. So, schedule a call. Send a fancy invitation to a Zoom call and surprise her with kids, grandkids, or friends she hasn’t seen in awhile. Sing her a song, show her that macaroni art, and make sure she knows she’s the best mom in the world.

April 30, 2020

Spring Cleaning Your Phone

You’ve already spring cleaned your house, right? Why not keep it going by giving your phone a thorough scrub? Start by deleting old apps you never use and organize what’s left. Archive photos you want to keep and delete the rest. And finally, delete your cache and browsing history. You won’t believe how much faster your phone runs without all this dead weight. Just remember: Back up keepers to the cloud and jot down any usernames and passwords as the cache clean-up will wipe them out.

April 24, 2020

Flashback! – The Release of the World Wide Web

It’s hard to imagine a time without the internet. When we read newspapers and watched the evening news to stay on top of world events, when we wrote letters and chatted on the phone, and when Amazon was just a river in South America.

But it wasn’t long ago, on April 30, 1993, when the World Wide Web went live to everyone. To ring in the internet’s 27th birthday, we can reflect on its humble beginnings and celebrate all that we’re able to do with this incredible public tool.

How well do you know the internet?

  • Tim Berners initially developed the WWW as a way for scientists, developers, and academics to share knowledge quickly with colleagues around the world.
  • Berners also developed the uniform resource locator (URL), HTML, and HTTP that make web development and navigation possible.
  • CERN, the research lab where Berners worked, placed the WWW in the public domain and gave up all intellectual property rights.
  • Microsoft released Internet Explorer in 1995 and within 10 years had over 95% of the market share of browsers.

And now? People who were never able to travel can read travel blogs, view photographs, and even do virtual tours of the world’s great cities. Friends can track down elementary school classmates, important colleagues, or even old loves. We have access to great works of literature as well as breaking news. We can ask for help with homework, cooking, directions, and job hunts. And we can view, read, engage, and share all this thanks to the good work of CERN and Sir Tim Berners 27 years ago.

April 17, 2020

Staying Productive While Working From Home

Working from home is the new normal for a lot of us. Although there may be an adjustment period, there are some things you can do to stay focused on your job. For example, keep a routine. Get dressed and prep in the morning as if you were going to the office. Make sure you are keeping in touch with your coworkers. Limit distractions such as television or other connected devices.

April 2, 2020

How to Help the Community Yet Stay Connected

The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly putting a damper on our social lives with “social distancing,” but keep in mind that phrase is really about physically keeping a distance. The good news is there are other ways to stay connected socially with your friends and family. Using social media, FaceTime, phone, text and email to talk to others not only keeps you in touch with loved ones, but it also helps the community as we all deal with this current crisis.

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

OTT, OTA, TV, what does it all mean? Do you know the difference between these different types of 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

The Apple iPhone 11 boasts some significant camera improvements over the X. One question to ask when deciding whether to upgrade is, “How much do you need an amazing camera?”

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!

Gimme a C! Gimme an Ellphone! What’s it Spell?

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

Wifi 101

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.

Wifi 101

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.

Security 101

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.

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