Smart (and easy) resolutions for a happy, high-tech 2014
Even if you don’t do New Year’s resolutions, flipping the calendar to a fresh year is a great time to take stock of your tech habits and brush them up as needed. Unlike resolutions you have to keep all year, like working out every day, most of these technology pledges are set-it-and-forget-it. We know you’re a super-smart person and you’re probably doing all this stuff already, but it never hurts to double-check.
Be more secure
If you really don’t want to use a password manager, then at the very least resolve to use the password-reset feature on every website you visit in January to replace your old-standby password with something a little more secure. And be sure to secure your smartphone too, lest it ever falls into the wrong hands.
Make two-factor authentication your friend
Speaking of security, if you haven’t set up two-factor authentication for your Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, Google, PayPal, and Microsoft accounts, 2014 is your year.
Think of two-factor authentication like an extra security sweater against the cold winds of being hacked. You need both your regular password to log in, plus a single-serving security code sent to your phone by text message. Once you log in with both keys, you can usually tell the service to trust that device in the future (assuming it’s one you use often), and you’re back to entering just your password. But an evil hacker won’t be able to log in as you from a new machine with just your username and password.
Repurpose old, neglected devices
Don’t let old smartphones and tablets languish in a drawer just because you got something better. Those gadgets aren’t getting any younger, so clean ’em up and hand them off to family members, repurpose them for yourself, or sell them for some cash. Any kids in your life would love a spare tablet, and it’s easy to childproof so they can have fun and not spend a fortune on Smurfberries.
Set your photos free
It’s perfectly natural to have a thousand photos on your smartphone, since that’s probably your main camera. Just don’t leave them there, because if anything happens to your phone (and it probably will), losing all your photos will make you this sad:
If you have an iPhone or iPad, turn on Photo Stream to keep the last 1,000 of your images in the cloud, and set it up with your Mac or your PC to keep a running archive there. The Dropbox, Facebook, and Google+ apps have automatic uploads that can send all your pics to the cloud, although nothing is shared by default.
Your Android phone’s photos can be backed up to your computer using USB, or automatically uploaded to your Google Drive or Dropbox.
But we think your best bet is Google+. Besides the convenient auto-uploading, the service has impressive editing tools, not to mention an uncanny ability to surface the best pics from each photo session and suggest them for sharing. The Auto Awesome features are fun, too, combining your photos into animated GIFs, composites, and even erasing unwanted people and objects. And once you get the hang of Google’s circles, it’s easy to specify exactly who—if anyone—gets to see each photo.
Keep backups, delete clutter
But make sure you’re not keeping a bunch of crap! Take a little time to weed out applications you aren’t using. It’s okay to be a little ruthless here, because you can always download them again if you really want. iPhones make it easy to see exactly what’s taking up space, and the Application Manager in Android is very helpful too.
Clean up your Internet presence
The New Year is a great reminder to take half an hour to go delete old Facebook status updates you thought were hilarious at the time. While you’re there, check your privacy settings, and confirm that all is well by peeking at your profile as if you were a stranger.
If you’ve got another 10 minutes, update your LinkedIn profile. Even if you haven’t changed jobs lately, there’s a chance you’re not using all of LinkedIn’s power features. Brush up your Twitter bio. And go ahead and Google yourself—if you find listings on weird sites you didn’t sign up for, here are some tips for removing them.
Use tech to reach your life goals
Now that your precious photos are backed up, your unused gadgets have gone to a better place, and your public profiles are scrubbed of embarrassing detritus, how about the rest of your resolutions—the ones that have nothing to do with technology? Your trusty tech can help with those too.
Whether you want to eat better, or finally start running, or read more, or just remember to call your mom, look for trusty apps to keep you on the straight and narrow path to a productive, healthy, happy year.