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Our 10 Techie New Year's Resolutions

January 4, 2013  |  10:48am

More and more of our lives take place on a screen. While mobile computing has made many basic tasks a lot easier, there are a few pitfalls in accommodating these ubiquitous gizmos and whizbangs. No repetitive, monotonous counting calories here—these 10 simple tech resolutions will make your online interactions a little more peaceful and secure, which will make your real life a lot better in the new year.

10. Keep your smartphone in your pocket
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Yes, certain things are different now than in 2000. And yes, when you bring out your smartphone it’s likely that others will follow suit. But it’s still rude. To help yourself keep this resolution, try telling your dining companions exactly what you’re doing when you’re tapping away on that little screen. “I’m telling Matt that I think I can be out of here by 7,” or, “I’m checking Twitter because you and Megan are being really boring right now.” See? It’s rude. Stop it.

9. Declutter your workstation
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Does your laptop sit in a rat’s nest of cords leading to three monitors, a mouse and 1.5 keyboards? It’s distracting and collects dust. If you can’t afford to invest in a wireless keyboard and mouse right now, buy a few cord organization tools, drill a hole in your desk, and tuck those babies out of sight. While you’re at it, sort through your mystery box of cables and cords, buy a half-dozen widgets. Maybe this year, you won’t have to buy a new charger every time you can’t find the one for your point-and-shoot versus your DSLR.

8. Check and update your privacy settings
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If Randi Zuckerberg’s inadvertent share on Facebook and Twitter is any indication, most of us could be a little more careful about who sees our most intimate thoughts and photos. Take a moment to click the little gear on the top right corner of your Facebook page, and make sure that only selected groups of friends (or friends of friends, if you’re really daring) can see your photos and timeline.

7. Install productivity software
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About 90 percent of the Internet is devoted to sucking up vast amounts of your time while offering little in return. Don’t let it. Install free programs like SelfControl or Freedom to block your aimless clicking and take back your life.

6. Stop bragging on social networks
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Your life is awesome. We, your friends, know that. But unless your goal is to transform our affection into hatred, take a few items into consideration before you post. Why are you really smearing “love you XOXOXO!” on your new boyfriend’s Facebook wall, instead of just telling him in person? Are you captioning yet another photo with “this is the life!” or “livin’ the dream!”? For examples of what not to do, check Rich Kids of Instagram and then go back to posting baby photos. We will look at all the baby photos you want.

5. Stand up.
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(Kangaroo Pro Junior Standing Desk Pictured)
Dozens, if not hundreds, of studies came out this year saying that sitting can shorten your life—even if you’re an otherwise healthy, active adult who eats well and exercises. Moving around can also help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries caused from too much typing. If you’re not ready to invest in a standing desk, keep a timer to remind you to get up from the computer and stretch. Or buy an iPad mini and check the news while walking around the kitchen.

4. Change your passwords
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Wasn’t it awesome when Grant Hill played for the Pistons? We’re sure that no one else would ever guess “granthill1997” as your password, but why not make sure and change it? Actually, just change it. Use a random password generator or mnemonic device to construct a separate password for each of your accounts, and once you’ve done so…

3. Get a good password manager
Security is your top priority when you handle all your financial information online. But is it really more secure to keep a list of all your different passwords taped on a Post-It behind your monitor? LastPass is free and web-based, which means you can access it from every computer. If the idea of storing all your passwords on someone else’s server makes you uncomfortable, KeePass is another good option.

2. If you have a Google account, install 2-step authentication
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If you’re not convinced that installing two-step authentication is worth it, please take a quick gander at this story from the August issue of Wired, on Gizmodo writer Mat Honan’s epic hacking. Two-step authentication provides another layer of security beyond a password—when you log in from another device, Google will ask you for a code that they will text on your phone. The odds that hackers from Latvia will get a hold of your password and your iPhone are a lot slimmer.

1. Back up your files
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No, seriously. Not at the end of the month, not later this weekend. Do it now. Buy an external hard drive and plug it into the USB port. Most computers will actually prompt you and ask if you would like to use it as a backup disk. Click “OK” and set the timer to back up every week. There. Done. Now you won’t lose every last single treasured photo of your Meemaw. Don’t you feel better now?

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