Friday 28 November 2014

Five key tech resolutions to help make your year run smoothly

Published 12/01/2014 | 02:30

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MOST of us are vaping, jogging or crash-dieting our way through our new year's resolutions. You could make your life a whole lot easier if you adopted five basic tech resolutions:

1 Create a definitive secure access point for your passwords

Email. Online banking. Credit card pin numbers. Facebook. Twitter. Work PC access. We are drowning in usernames, pin numbers, passwords and account IDs. Some require capitals, others require numbers.

Indeed, a number of them require a completely new version every four weeks. How is one supposed to remember everything?

One way is to download a dedicated app that stores all your passwords in one place, guarded by a master password. There are several decent options here.

Dashlane is free for both iPhone and Android (it also works on your PC) and very, very handy. Not only does it organise passwords according to accounts, but it has features such as auto-form-fillers that cut down on repetitive tasks.

KeePass is another good free choice, although it's a lot lighter and less slick than Dashlane.

2 Move your phone's contacts into Google for safety

There are still lots of people out there who leave all of their phone contacts on a physical sim card. That means if the phone gets lost, stolen or is destroyed, your contacts are gone.

For anybody with a Gmail address, there is one incredibly simple and quick way of securing your contacts forever. If you have an iPhone, go into your contacts settings and look for the button that says 'import sim contacts'. It will then prompt you to save them into your Google account. (This is the same as your Gmail account.)

When you green-light this, go into Gmail.com on a PC and click on the red 'Gmail' logo at the top left corner. Choose 'Contacts' and you'll see all of your phone contacts newly saved there.

Now, when you lose a phone, you can restore your phone's contacts when your new phone asks you whether you want to synchronise it with your Google (ie Gmail) account.

3 Back stuff up. Can we say this often enough? Back stuff up

Most of us could really do with backing up the things we keep on our computers, tablets or phones. I'm as guilty as anybody here; I have 10-year-old laptops with half-written novels festering away in a corner of the home office.

Backing stuff up isn't as straightforward as it should be. For example, some external hard drives -- which are the traditional way to back things up -- allow you to simply plug them in to your PC, dragging and dropping everything from one device to another.

But other drives (such as those for Macs) sometimes make you jump through formatting hoops. And then there is the issue of the hard drive itself: will it be accessible and compatible in five or 10 years' time?

For PC users, hard drives from LaCie or Seagate are generally 'plug-and-play': these cost about €70 for a 1,000 gigabyte (1 terabyte) unit or about €120 for a 2,000 gigabyte unit.

For Apple users, Western Digital or Iomega have optimised hard drives that work right out of the box for Macs. Apple users can also get Apple's 'Time Machine' wireless hard drive which backs things up automatically.

A quick way of backing things up for free is to store valuable files in cloud services, such as Dropbox (right), Evernote (below), Skydrive or Google Drive. These are free and work on almost any computer, tablet or phone. The amount of storage you get varies, starting at about 2 gigabytes upwards. (For photos, Flickr offers a huge 1,000 gigabytes for free.)

4 Print off some photos. It's easy, it's cheap and it's nice

Have you got laptops, cameraphones and memory cards full of old photos? You're not alone. Most of us throw away hundreds (or thousands) of digital photos because they are not backed up or printed. It's really easy now to do something about this. For cameraphone users, apps from Conns Cameras and Simplyphoto.ie allow you to upload pictures directly. Once a size is chosen, they are posted to your home address.

An even nicer option is a photobook. For Apple Mac users, this is easy through iPhoto's photo book option. PC users can choose services such as Snapfish.ie. Books can be customised for size, paper quality and length and start at about €10 including postage.

5 Save a packet on your mobile phone plan

Thousands of people simply watch as €70, €80, €100 or more is sucked out of their account via direct debit every month. This is often based on mobile operator contracts signed several years ago.

But bill-pay plans have tumbled in price: a tariff that provides virtually unlimited calls, texts and data now costs as little as €45 per month.

Generally, Three is the cheapest. Vodafone offers the widest coverage but is more expensive. There are virtually no circumstances where somebody should be paying more than €70 per month for non-roaming mobile bills.

Irish Independent

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