This year, why not try a new kind of New Year’s resolution? Instead of just hitting the gym and dropping some pounds, consider changing some personal habits to simplify the tech in your life.
If you are like most people, there are things you do with tech that could use some tweaking. Strengthening your password security, for one, would benefit tremendously in an era when hacks are rampant. For another, purging the e-junk you have accumulated over the years would help the environment and your sanity. While you are at it, start doing maintenance on your electronics to make sure they work smoothly this year.
Here are my top recommendations for resolutions to abide by to make tech less frustrating in the new year.
CLEAN UP YOUR PASSWORD HYGIENE
P.U. — What’s that smell? It’s your bad password hygiene. You are probably using the same password across multiple websites for banking, shopping, social media and email.
That is understandable: A person can only memorise so many passwords. But last year, Yahoo reminded everybody that reusing passwords is a very bad idea, after it revealed that 500 million Yahoo accounts were compromised in 2014, in addition to the one billion accounts that were hacked in 2013. If your Yahoo account password was the same as ones you used elsewhere, those accounts were vulnerable too.
Start off 2017 by spending a few hours logging into each of your accounts and creating unique, strong passwords. To make this easier, use applications such as LastPass or 1Password, which are password-managing apps that let you use one master password to unlock a vault of passwords to log in to all of your Internet accounts. They also automatically generate strong passwords for you.
Then add an extra layer of protection by enabling two-factor verification on your accounts whenever the option is available. When you enter your password, you will receive a message (usually a text) with a one-time code that you must enter before logging in.
Taking these two simple steps will help safeguard you from the inevitable hacks that arise this year.
MAINTAIN YOUR DEVICES
After regular use, our smartphones and computers start to feel sluggish and short-lived, but a bit of maintenance can make them feel brand new.
First, check the condition of your batteries. With iPhone and iPads, you can hook the devices up to a Mac and run the app coconutBattery, which reveals battery statistics. With Android devices, you can use the app Battery by MacroPinch. If your battery is on its last legs, it is time to order a new one or schedule an appointment at a repair shop to replace it.
If your devices feel sluggish, freeing up some storage can also make a dramatic difference. Start by purging apps you never use anymore. Then do something about those photos you never look at: Back up all your photos to the cloud using services such as Google Photos and then delete them from your device to start the new year with a fresh photo roll.
Show your gadgets some physical love. Give your screens a good wipe with a damp cloth. If you own a desktop computer, open it up and use compressed air to blow out the dust.
Do this basic maintenance routine every six months, and your devices will run smoothly for many years.
MIND YOUR INFRASTRUCTURE
We do not hesitate to buy new smartphones every two years — but that neglected, ugly Wi-Fi router tucked away in the corner of the living room may be the most important tech product to upgrade every few years. Among all tech headaches, there is nothing more annoying than a sluggish, spotty Internet connection.
Start off each new year with some checks on your Internet infrastructure. If your router is more than three years old, you probably need a new one that is compatible with today’s faster, smarter wireless standards. If you are relying on a router provided by your broadband provider, you should probably purchase a more powerful standalone router.
The Wirecutter, a product-recommendations website, recommends TP-Link’s Archer C7 as the best router for most people. (If you have less technical know-how, I recommend the Wi-Fi system from Eero, which offers a smartphone app that holds your hand through the network setup.)
BE LESS WASTEFUL
Unused gadgets and power cables take up lots of space in drawers and attics. This e-waste would be better off sold or donated to someone in need, or recycled for its precious metals.
During spring-cleaning season, make plans to get unwanted junk out of your life.
Companies such as Amazon and Gazelle offer headache-free trade-in services for selling used electronics. Just key in the type of gadget you want to trade in, such as a used iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device, and the sites offer a quote for how much money or Amazon store credit you can get in exchange for the gear. Then pack up the outdated hardware, slap on a shipping label, drop it off at a shipping centre and wait for the money to roll in.
BE A SMARTER SHOPPER
To get great deals on electronics, there is no need to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Carefully research the high-quality, long-lasting items you want, and buy them when their prices drop a significant amount. This technique can be used when online shopping for just about anything, but especially for tech products that decrease in price as they age.
Web tools such as Camel Camel Camel and Keepa make price tracking on Amazon easy. On their websites, just do a search on the name of the item, and the sites will pull up a price history. From there, you can create a tracker to alert you via email whenever a price drops to a desired amount.
Many deals that emerge throughout the year are as good, or better, than the ones on Black Friday. You just have to know how to spot them.
Another way to save money is to consider buying used products whenever possible. Be on the lookout for sales of used or refurbished electronics from reputable brands such as Apple, GameStop, Amazon and Gazelle. Before you buy a used item, read about its condition carefully: Often, products sold as used were barely touched before they were returned by a customer, or they were restored to good-as-new condition by a refurbishing centre.