Touchscreen tablets looks like something straight out of a science-fiction flick. Time to load up the sci-fi lookalike with some space-y apps of your own. Here are a few of our favorites.
Sick of toting around thumb drives full of files or emailing yourself attachments so you can continue working on a project on a different computer? All that is a thing of the past in the cloud.
What is the cloud? The cloud is a service that stores your documents, files, music, and photos on secure third-party servers, allowing you to access them from any computer, anywhere, anytime with proper log-in credentials or a software download. Popular cloud services such as Google (Docs, Calendar, Tasks), Dropbox, Box, and Mozy specialize in storing your documents and files, while services like Flickr and Amazon can store your photos and digital downloads so you don't have to take up space on your hard drive and portable devices.
Moving your important documents to a cloud service helps keep you running at 100 percent, especially when it comes to business, since you can download and upload documents for your teams to access from any computer. No sharing of thumb drives or sending of email attachments necessary.
We've talked a lot about backing up your data and photos this month, but have you ever thought about how much space you're using, and for what? If you have your computer stocked full of movies, MP3s, files, and applications and hardly ever trash anything, then it's no wonder you get that strange error message that pops up saying that your "disk space is almost full." I'm sure (like me) you've bypassed that little note saying to yourself "yeah, right" or freaked out and had the geek squad on the phone before you could say microchip.
In either case, it's a good idea to get a handle on what you are storing on your hard drive (or hard disk as it's so lovingly called) so those nasty messages don't keep popping up and ruining your fun. I'm a visual gal, which is why I use Disk Inventory X to see what is on my hard drive. It's mapped out so that I understand what a big chunk of space that burned copy of BSG: Razor or my entire ELO collection is really taking up. To see why Disk Inventory X holds a special place in my heart, just read more
You spent a whole bunch of time organizing your photo library this month, so don't let all that hard work go to waste if your computer or main external hard drive happens to bite the dust. If you're serious about your photography, now's the time to get a secondary hard drive and back up all those photos again, or send them all to the cloud for safe keeping.
A storage service like Box allows you to upload up to 5GB of your most important photos (files up to 1GB each) and access from anywhere with a free account, while $15 a month will get you 1,000GB of storage for your collection. Just $25 a year will get you an unlimited amount of photo uploads on Flickr, which is a great deal, especially if you want to share your pics with the world.
Want to keep your tech life in tip-top shape? Check out the rest of our 31 Days of Spring Cleaning series and get to work!
Increase productivity by adding a second monitor to your workflow this Spring. Increasing your desktop real estate allows you to see more windows at once and can help you get more work done, more efficiently. I have my main web browser and instant message chat list open on my main monitor, while I keep email and other documents open on my laptop so I can stay on top of incoming messages and chats. You can move or configure your setup any way you want with the right components.
Want to add another monitor to your desk? First check to see if your computer can support a second monitor, and if so, what size. You can get these details from your Mac or PC retailer, or by checking with your manufacturer's website for specifications. You'll also need the proper adapters. If you're a Mac user, there's a number of DVI adapters that work with various Mac models, so double check your ports or ask your Apple retailer which one is the right one for you before you buy. Once you have all the proper cables and a shiny new monitor, plug it in and set it up. Here's how:
System Preferences > Displays > Arrangement — You can choose which monitor to use as your main display, and on which side the secondary monitor will reside.
System Preferences > Displays > Display — Allows you to choose your resolution size.
Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Display then Settings > Identify — Shows you which monitor is which so you can rearrange to suit your needs. You can choose which display is your main display by going to the Settings tab and clicking the "Use this device as the primary monitor" checkbox.
Kitty is not impressed with the state of your laptop. We eat, work, and sometimes even sleep within a hand's reach of our laptops, and these lifelines to entertainment and Internet goodness can get pretty dirty. To keep your computer in beautiful condition, make a habit of cleaning it once a week. Use these tips to ensure your laptop looks as fresh as the day you unboxed it.
- Use kosher cleaning products — By kosher, I mean LCD-approved! You can't use just any old household cleaner to spruce up your delicate laptop screen and body — stay away from any all-purpose household cleaners and anything containing acetone, ammonia, or alcohol, which will strip away your LCD's protective coating. Use a soft cloth (like a microfiber) to wipe down your monitor and screen, steering clear of paper or bath towels, which will cause scratching. If a dry wipe-down won't cut it, try using distilled water or a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and distilled water, and use light, rapid circular movements to help reduce streaking.
- Blast away — Grab a can of condensed air and blast out the dirt, grime, and crumbs hiding between keyboard keys. Use a toothbrush to sweep away all the findings.
- Mouse time — Pair your laptop with an external mouse? Clean it with a basic white piece of paper. Slowly drag the mouse from the top of the piece of paper to the bottom. Repeat sideways if any dirt still appears on paper. The paper should instantly move the dirt away from the pads on the bottom of the mouse!
- Recycle properly — If you're cleaning the laptop to upgrade to a newer and sexier model, make sure you're breaking it off with your old computer the right way. Suss out recycling centers in your area, resell it, donate it, or just drop it off at Best Buy for fast and easy recycling. In any case, be sure to wipe your hard drive of any personal information and do a factory reset to make sure you're clear.
If Spring cleaning makes you think of clearing the clutter in your home, today's tip will serve as a good reminder not to stop at your closets. Your coffee table could use a refresh as well, and one simple way to do this is by organizing your remote controls. Having a remote for your TV, DVR, and sound system isn't enough, you might even have one for your PlayStation. Keep them wrangled by storing them in one of these pretty and creative catchalls.
Spring is just weeks away, but snowstorms are still hitting the Midwest in full force, which means you'll probably be layering up in sweaters, gloves, and hats. The downside? The gloves that keep your digits nice and warm could put a damper on your texting addiction (I know how much you all love to text). Fear not; these gloves will keep the chill away, while still allowing you to send those important (or, maybe not so important) text messages.
Just like organizing your desktop space can help you stay focused, only keeping apps that you use frequently can make finding apps you do use a lot easier. Don't just clean up the outside of your tech this Spring, clean up the inside as well. Delete any apps you aren't using (by pressing down and holding until it "wiggles," then clicking the X on the top left corner of the app), and consider utilizing folders to keep similar apps grouped together. For example, toss all of your photography apps in one folder (or two if there's overflow), all of your social apps in another, so on, and so forth. You get the picture.
We've all experienced that sinking feeling when you can't find your cell; it's more than just a communication device these days. It's a device that holds a lot of personal information, especially if you have loaded up on banking, shopping, and instant purchase apps. Don't let your cell go unprotected this Spring (or ever again) — password-protect your home screen so hackers can't access your private info if your phone is lost or stolen. Find out how below.
- For iPhone: from the home screen, select Settings > General > Passcode Lock
- For Android: from the home screen, choose Settings > Security > Screen Lock and set an alphanumeric password for your home screen
- For BlackBerry: from the home screen, select Options > Security Options > General Settings > Password > Enabled
These days, you live your life online. With digital profiles ranging from banking to social networking, keeping your accounts safe should be of the utmost importance. So why are you still using a lame password that any hacker (or creative thinker) could compromise? Changing your passwords on a regular basis and using unique phrases with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols for every website is ideal. I know you're thinking that you'll never remember all those different passwords, but creating hacker-proof passwords is easier than you think. Check out the quick tutorial below and set a reminder to change your passwords again in three months!
- Choose a phrase — This one time at band camp
- Change words to numbers — This 1 time at band camp
- Pick first letter of each word or number — T1TABC
- Add special characters — T1T@BC
- Customize by adding a suffix for each site you register with — (example: for Amazon) T1T@BCAMA
Spring shouldn't be just an excuse to clean out your closets. It's also a great time to get your digital photos in order. I'm guilty of just tossing my pics into one jumbled and disorganized file (which makes it a pain to find a specific pic), but we can all start fresh and clean from here on out, thanks to some helpful tips from the pros. Bradly Treadaway, digital media coordinator and faculty member at the International Center of Photography in New York, shares how easy it is to keep your photos in order with just a little bit of proactive work.
Make it your mission this Spring to keep your photo library in order with the helpful tips below.
- Store on a dedicated external hard drive — Instead of storing your photos on your computer's hard drive (which takes up lots of space), buy a dedicated external hard drive to use as your digital photo library. Store it in a safe place, and you'll never be without your precious pics.
- Label your pics as you save them — Instead of dumping all your pics into one file and saving them, take the time to go through your images, keeping only the best of the bunch, and label with names, dates, and events.
- Stay organized with labeled folders — Create folders for each event you shoot, specifying the event name and date for each label. If you're taking random pics, create seasonal folders (like Summer 2011) so you can stay on top of your one-off photos.
- Routinely empty your SD card — By routinely moving your photos off of your camera's SD card, you'll ensure that you will never run out of space when trying to capture a family event, party, or video. Try moving photos and video files off your SD card at least once a month or, better yet, after every major event.
We're a full seven days into our Spring cleaning coverage, and today we move on to an area that most of us deal with every day: our desks. A workspace that is cluttered with messy cords is a distraction, and even more annoying when cables fall behind your desk only to be lost in the rats nest that has formed there.
Get it together! You can keep your cables neat and tidy with something you have lying around the house — a paper clip like the one seen here. Just thread your cable through and clamp it to the back of your desk for easy storage when not in use. It's a cheap and easy way to keep your desk clear of clutter. Don't have a clip big enough? Check out these desktop organizers that will also keep you from digging for fallen cords.
The first time you get a new gadget (whether it be a laptop, smartphone, or tablet), you pop the box open, fully charge it, and go. Does this phrase describe your charging habits? It's easy to plug-n-play when it comes to your tech, but optimizing your battery the first time you use your new gadget will help keep your battery a top performer. How do you do this? It's easy — first, fully charge the battery, then let it run down completely before fully charging again. Good news is, you can do this even if your gadgets aren't new to help keep batteries running on all cylinders.
Check out the rest of our 31 Days of Spring Cleaning series to get your digital life in order.
When you think of clutter, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Besides messy cables and cords, it's CDs. If you haven't taken the time to digitize all of your CDs to store on a backup hard drive, maybe now's the time. And when you're done, don't just toss them in the trash — recycle them properly. You can dump your old optical discs, DVDs, and jewel cases in one of the handy recycle bins at Target or Best Buy, ship them to a CD recycling company like Greendisk, or find a recycling center in your neighborhood through CD Recycling Center of America. Or, you could go the crafty route and use them to DIY an at-home project.
Be sure to check out the rest of our 31 Days of Spring Cleaning series to get your digital life in order.
You take your camera anywhere — the park, the beach, the office — and it's probably shoved in your bag most of the time, attracting dust, dirt, and whatever else is lurking in the depths of your tote. How often do you clean your camera lenses? The window to your world, your lens is one of the most important pieces of your DSLR. Ensure it's tidy and shiny with these five cleaning and care tips.
- Store your gear properly — One of the best ways to keep your lenses in tip-top shape is to store them properly when not in use. Keep your lenses in a cool, dry place, and if you store them in a photography bag, toss in a few silica packets to keep the moisture away. Always keep your lens caps on when stored, and consider keeping them in lens bags to keep them scratch-free.
- Use a filter — Keeping a UV filter on your lens is the first step against damage, as it prevents scratches but also protects your lens from harmful UV rays.
- Keep a stock of microfiber cloths — Just like your phone, your lens sometimes needs a good wiping down. Make sure your cloth is clean before wiping down the lens. The last thing you want to do is scratch your lens surface with a dirty, grimy cloth!
- Consider lens-cleaning fluid — You can find lens-cleaning fluid and lens tissues in your local photography shop, and while some may seem pricey, the good news is you don't need a ton for it to be effective. Just a few sprays of fluid on your lens tissues should do the trick to lift dirt and smudges.
- The LensPen — I keep a LensPen in my camera bag for on-the-go cleanings. With a brush on one end and a soft curved sponge on the other, you can keep your lens clean and dust-free from anywhere.
Neglecting to clean your cell phone is a nasty tech habit to break this year. Cell phones have been proven to carry bacteria, germs, even feces. Yes, feces. If there's one new routine to create for yourself this Spring, it's keeping that smartphone shiny and clean. Your health will thank you. Check out a few of our tech-friendly tips to clean that gadget, below.
- Cleaning your touch screen smartphone is kind of like cleaning your LCD monitor — you don't want to use any harsh chemicals or, even more damaging, water. Using a tried-and-tested cleaner like iKlear ($21) will ensure you won't damage your phone's sensitive bits. Use the included microfiber cloth (or one of your own) and shine that baby up.
- If you don't want to spring for a special formula, a 40/60 alcohol-to-water mixture on solid phone parts and keyboards should be OK for your devices (use a damp cloth and/or cotton swab for small and hard-to-reach places). However you do not want to use any sort of alcohol, ammonia, or harsh cleaning agent on touch screens.
- If you're in a pinch and want to quickly rid your phone of dirty crevices and fingerprints, use a piece of Scotch Tape to peel away dirt and dust in between keys, and rid your phone of fingerprints. Perfect for when you're at the office (without a microfiber cloth), but unfortunately it won't help the germ situation.
- Serious germaphobes can ensure a clean device with the UV Cell Phone Sanitizer ($50), which wipes your device clean of 99.9 percent of strep, E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and H1N1 viruses in three minutes flat. Just drop it in once a day for germ-free surfing and calling.
In the mood to refresh your tech life? Here's nine more bad tech habits to break this Spring!
Spring is the perfect time to clear out the clutter from the past year and refresh your home. They don't call it "Spring cleaning" for nothing! But certain techy tasks may be forgotten as you're tossing out the old, so throughout March, we'll be bringing you daily reminders of tasks, cleaning tips, and even a few DIYs to make your geeky life shine. First up and probably the most important for anyone who stores important files and information on their computers (and who doesn't?): back up your data!
If you haven't already, get an external hard drive to hold all of your important data; there are plenty of 'em out there to choose from, and they get more and more affordable every year. If you don't have a ton of music, movies, and photo files, 120GB should be plenty to keep you safe, but if you want your entire media-heavy digital life backed up in one place, consider purchasing 1TB of storage or more. If you have smaller, more important documents to save (like insurance documents, copies of your passport, proof of purchase for your car), you can back those up to a flash drive that you keep in a safe place as well, or back it all up online for minimal cost. There's even a website called MiMedia that lets you back up your photos and home videos and view them from anywhere, so you don't need to store your entire collection on your laptop, also freeing up space.
Once you have everything copied over into your external hard drive and/or flash drive, keep them in an airtight fireproof safe to ensure it stays dry during storms, floods, fires, and other natural disasters.
Check back every day this month for more tech-savvy Spring cleaning tips!
The Oscars are this weekend, and while the sci-fi and fantasy genres are generally absent from the best picture category, that doesn't mean there haven't been some amazing nominees in the past. Though not all of them actually took home the big best picture prize, queue up these geektastic films this weekend for a totally Oscar-worthy night in.
Winter is in full effect, and you may not realize it, but freezing temps can be just as dangerous — if not more so — to gadgets than the Summer heat since there are hidden dangers you can't see. Check out these six Winter weather tips that will help ensure your gadgets see the light of Spring this year.
- Keep them out of the trunk — Keep your laptops, cell phones, and tablets out of the trunk for extended periods during cold days to prevent damage to screens and to keep your hard drive from freezing.
- If you must trunk it, keep it bundled up — If you absolutely must leave your gear in your car in freezing temps, wrap it up in layers — like a jacket or sweater — to keep it warm. You can also find laptop warmers (which are specifically made for laptops) to keep them from getting icy if you live in cold conditions.
- Turn them off — Letting your laptop or tablet remain in sleep mode may keep it warmer (since it is still working), but it also increases your chances of damage if you're on the move. Be sure to power down all the way to keep your data safe.
- Warm up before booting up — If your machine is on the cold side, let it warm up to room temps slowly before turning it on. This will keep condensation and dew at bay, which can ruin your computer's sensitive guts.
- Carry a charger — Cold weather sucks the life out of your batteries, so be sure to carry extra chargers in your car for emergencies.
- Watch out for sensitive screens — Cold weather makes a smartphone screen extra sensitive, so be sure to keep it close to your bod if you're out in the snow, or consider a warm accessory — like a smartphone wallet, sock, or sleeve — to keep it cozy.