Your Cinco de Mayo fiesta is planned, but make sure you don't end up regretting those cervezas with drunk texting an old flame, exclaiming your everlasting love. Before you start downing drinks at the party, designate a sober driver and check out these apps that will keep your drunken dialing on lockdown. You're welcome.
Tax Day is here! Today is the deadline to file your taxes, but there's no need to panic if you've got simple forms to file as the task can be easily completed using your iPhone. Both H&R Block and TurboTax offer iPhone apps to help you prepare and file your 1040EZ forms before the deadline. What are you waiting for? Get more info on each below.
- H&R Block at Home — This app makes it easy to file your federal and state taxes on the go. Snap a pic of your W2 and import it into your return, even get alerts when your return is accepted and on its way to your bank account. Plus, your information can be transferred over from your federal to your state return for easy completion of both for $10.
- TurboTax SnapTax — File both your federal and state taxes by snapping a photo of your W2s and answering a few questions. You can e-file both federal and state returns, but it'll cost you $25.
Spring has officially sprung, and if you haven't noticed, we've been refreshig our digital lives one day at a time this month. If you're in the Spring cleaning mode too, we've got you covered — from tech tips to back up your data, to ideas on how to keep your social media life neat and tidy, check out all of our 31 Days of Spring Cleaning posts here or on our Spring cleaning Pinterest board!
Sitting for hours in front of your computer — whether you're at an office or working from home — is bad enough, but throw in the poorly positioned monitor, a chair that's not supporting your back, and a desk that's too small for your stature, and you have a cocktail for body aches and pains. Check with your HR department to see what kinds of ergonomic assessment services are available to you so you can get your desk in tip-top shape. Working from home? No sweat — let this Osha ergonomic evaluation checklist help you set up a healthy home office.
When was the last time you synced your smartphone in order to backup your data, photos, music, and videos? Whether you have an iPhone, Android, or Windows phone, syncing and backing up your information and files will save you grief if by chance you lose your device, douse it in water, or drop it face down on the pavement, sending shards flying. Back up your phone's contents weekly, or more often if you take a lot of photos and video.
Keep the paper and junk mail in check — start tracking your finances and paying your bills online instead. Opting to get your statements via email (for your bank and other utilities) can keep clutter and paper waste at bay. Plus, online monitoring services allow you to set budgets, get alerts when you've gone over your limit, and track where your spare cash is going so you can save a few bucks. Get your financial life organized with help from the free websites listed below!
- Mint — The leader of financial management sites, Mint charts every expense, transaction, and asset with easy-to-read charts, budget progress, and weekly financial summaries.
- LearnVest — Similar to Mint, LearnVest presents financial planning from a woman's point of view. Beyond budget and finance tracking, the site provides editorial content such as money tips and the option to connect with in-house financial experts.
See the rest of the list after the break.
Who says you have to stay connected 24/7? Taking some time off to detox from your digital life may be hard, but it could also be good for your health and well-being. While some people use Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media to stay in touch with friends, others can't step away for five minutes without losing their minds. Are you one of them? Daniel Sieberg, author of The Digital Diet, offers up tips on how to break your tech addiction, below.
- Avoid tech turds — One of our own favorite tech etiquette tips says that, as a rule of thumb, you shouldn't leave your phone out on the table. Sieberg has a more colorful way of saying it, calling these situations "tech turds": "Don't just dump your smartphone on the table at a restaurant or at home. Keep it in your pocket or purse unless it’s critical to have it out. If you must have it out, acknowledge its presence and inform your companions that you’ll check it only in an emergency. It's a courtesy that you'd appreciate, too."
See more tips after the break.
Aah, Facebook. The place where all of our photos, comments, monumental moments, and information are shared online. Ever stop to think about what would happen if Facebook went down — or worse, got hacked? Your Facebook profile most likely holds tons of your most precious photos and videos, and like your computer, you should back up all of that data just in case. Here, I'll tell you how to download all of your Facebook content, from wall posts to photo galleries.
You can download a copy of all of your Facebook data right on the social network. Just head to Account > Account Settings > Download a Copy of Your Facebook Data (this link will be in the bottom left-hand corner of the Account Settings window). Included in the download is your contact info, photos, videos, notes, and wall posts as well as chat conversations, friend lists, events, and comments made on your wall posts. If you do choose to back up your Facebook data (it's recommended!), then be sure to keep it in a safe place, like a password-protected file on an external hard drive.
There may be some stylish ways to wrangle your remote controls, but the question that begs to be asked is — "Do you really need all those remotes in the first place?" If you've been keeping those remotes around because you didn't think you had an alternative, may I introduce you to the universal remote. Buying and programming a universal remote can rid your coffee table of clutter and help you streamline your viewing experience. The Logitech Harmony Touch ($214) has been invaluable in my house since it controls all of my components — from my TV to sound system, DVD player, even my PS3 — and comes with an easy-to-use touchscreen. If you already have a universal remote, let this serve as a reminder to program it already. It'll make your life so much easier.
You've been so busy organizing your digital library and backing up your photos for safekeeping that you may have forgotten to do one thing: clear out your SD card! There's nothing worse than getting set up for the perfect shot only to be told by your camera that there's no more space on your memory card to capture the moment. Unless you always have a spare SD card on hand to switch out, routinely clear out your photos from your camera's memory card after you've backed them up to your external hard drive, so you're never without space.
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