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5 Easy Ways to Be (or at Least Appear) More Tech Savvy

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 @ 05:12 PM
Author: krusta80

Let’s face it; not everyone is cut out to be a technology guru. In fact, some of the smartest people I know (Hi, Mom and Dad!) seem to misplace dozens of IQ points the moment they’re presented with a keyboard and mouse…or a touch screen, smart phone, tablet, remote control…really anything electronic.

But I digress! The point is that technology — and particularly the digital vastness that is the internet — lacks a certain tangibility that so many of us have come to know throughout our everyday lives. And while the effects of this can be seen throughout all generations, there is no doubt that those born before a certain year (probably around 1975 or so) are particularly susceptible to suffering from what I like to call, “the geezer effect”.

Now, before you navigate away from this page while mumbling to yourself in frustration (like a grumpy old man/woman would), keep in mind that being an “online geezer” has little to do with your age per say. Rather, it is a term I have reserved to describe those who immediately judge themselves as unable to accomplish simple tasks with a computer or other smart device. Over the years, I have heard it all time and again:

– “Oh, I’m no good at this stuff!”
– “I hate computers.”
– “Why can’t they just make it easy?”
– “It just doesn’t make any sense!”
– “Uh oh! I got a message. What do I do now??!”

Just as with all challenges in life, bettering yourself in the digital arena requires only a handful of simple human traits: confidence, common sense, determination, mental flexibility, and the ability to think logically. After all, everything from your cell phone to Google’s home page all have one very important thing in common: they were created by human beings for human beings.

So with that in mind, leave all of your preconceived notions about technology by your cable modem as I show you five easy ways to beef up your geek savvy. :)

1. Ditch AOL

Yes I know that you’ve been using your America Online email address since the nineties and that it’s “what you’re used to”. But since when is doing something just because you’re used to it an excuse for passing up vastly superior products? Do you still own strictly black-and-white televisions? How about the car you drive? Is it still the one that graced your driveway when Bill Clinton was President?

That last comparison may seem like a stretch, but the truth of the matter is that there are many drawbacks to keeping that account:

– Ads, ads, and more ads. Don’t you just love being sprayed with cheap perfume or cologne as you walk through Macy’s while doing your holiday shopping?! Neither do I. So why overload your eyeballs with advertisements and brainless news stories on AOL’s homepage, when all you really want to do is shoot your brother an email about what Mom wants for Christmas?

– Unfairly or not, people will judge you based on your email address. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

– AOL’s spam filtering / email security has a much worse track record then, say, Gmail AND it is a much more difficult process to make changes to incoming/outgoing filtering rules.

– Mobile syncing / compatibility. There is simply no comparison between Gmail and AOL when dealing with smart phone and/or tablet incorporation.

Now I know that many of you are thinking the same thing: “But, everyone knows this email address, and it’s a pain to give out a new one!” Actually, Google/Gmail let’s you have your cake and eat it too! Upon setting up a new, free Gmail account, you can configure it to automatically grab all of your AOL emails (as well as any other email accounts you may own) AND reply to any incoming AOL emails as if you’re still sending it from your AOL address. Obviously, this allows for a smooth and painless transition to your new Gmail account (and it’s especially painless if you have someone at Pandora Computing do it for you). ;)

2. When in doubt, reboot!

Unless you’re in the middle of a really important job AND you’re unable to save your work, it can never hurt and only help to restart the program you’re in (aka the browser) and even the computer itself. Especially on Windows machines, it is not the most uncommon of occurrences for things to simply go haywire (ie. memory leaks, driver conflicts, locked/corrupted files) and stay that way until everything is reset.

3. Passwords are here to stay! Make them work for you.

Trust me, I know that trying to remember passwords can be annoying. Odds are I had to remember yours at one point, so I know how it feels. Seriously though, here are a few simple pointers to navigate the hell that is online security these days:

– Treat written-down passwords as you would unattended, valuable jewelry. NEVER leave them out in the open for people to see, and avoid putting them in any form of written communication at all costs (including text messages and emails). If you must send a password to someone, be sure to never include the username in the same correspondence. Often, I find that emailing the username and texting the password is best. If, for whatever reason, you think there is a chance that someone may have gotten a hold of your username and password, there is an easy fix: change your password.

– Come up with a really unique combination of letters (with at least one uppercase and one lowercase), numbers, and symbolic characters to use as a base for all of your online passwords. This way, you won’t have to come up with completely different passwords for websites with strict password rules. I find that using dollar signs for the letter “s” or exclamation points for the letter “L” or “i” helps to make the password more memorable. For example, 15hjkY! is much harder to remember than He!!0Unc!eB0B (notice that the “o’s” are actually zeroes).

Once you have your password base, to mix things up and to avoid being hacked by computer programs, you can then add something unique about each website to that site’s password (remember, make it something easy to remember). For example, your password can be He!!0Unc!eB0Bamz for Amazon or He!!0Unc!eB0Bgoog for Gmail.

– You may want to consider a completely different password for the most important things: bank accounts, password vault programs (in case you really hate remembering passwords), Paypal, etc. This way, there is no chance that someone who hacked your AOL password (see tip #1 by the way) can then use that password to get access to your money.

4. Facebook Fun

Ever wonder what exactly it is that is so captivating on your kids’ phones that it just has to take precedence over “normal conversation” during dinner?? Odds are, it’s one or more social networking sites, among which Facebook is the undisputed king.

Perhaps nothing better perpetuates the perception that “older people” are out of touch with modern times than a complete disregard for social networking. While face-to-face conversations and interactions remain an important part of developing socialization skills, the internet simply provides a level of accessibility otherwise impossible to achieve.

In other words, Facebook is all about bringing people together. Ironic, isn’t it? That seemingly antisocial behavior at the dinner table is actually the complete opposite…or at least it’s considered the social norm by the “non-geezers” out there. But instead of taking my word for it, why not dive right into it yourself?? It’s completely free, and odds are that you’ll be shocked at how quickly you are reunited with old friends and colleagues, and believe it or not, it may actually help you become an even bigger part of your child’s / brother’s / sister’s / friend’s world.

5. For God’s sake, get a smart phone!

There have been some amazing technological innovations made over the past few decades: the world wide web, personal computers, digital cameras, cell phones, GPS, remote controls, alarm clocks, digital calendars / reminder systems, contact lists, email, online media (tv shows, movies, music, pictures)…and the list goes on. Imagine if there were a magical device that could somehow encompass all of these wonderful things??

Oh wait…

Long gone are the days of the old brick cell phones made famous by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, but to anyone in touch with modern times, using a basic flip cell phone that was all the rage about 15 years ago is just as ridiculous. And with good reason…

The inherent power that comes with mobile computing is not to be trifled with. In an ever-expanding interconnected world, smart phones allow us to stay engaged from virtually anywhere. Their capabilities increasingly rival that of PC’s, all while still being able to fit inside our pockets. For example, this morning I did the following while driving to an appointment:

– I asked Google (yes, with my voice) for the quickest route to a client’s location. As always, my phone took live traffic conditions into account (no easy feat in the NYC area) before providing me a turn-by-turn guide throughout my drive.

– I asked my phone to call my best friend on his work line as I pulled out of my parking garage.

– About 10 minutes into the drive, a reminder popped up on my phone regarding calling another client about a particular problem they had been having. After pulling over the car, I logged into the aforementioned client’s PC remotely from my phone and successfully resolved their issue.

– Before continuing my drive, Google navigation found a quicker route (based on changing traffic conditions) and asked if I wanted to take it. I did.

– I saw a really funny bumper sticker while sitting at a red light and took a picture of it to send to my friends…I also posted it on Facebook.

– I asked my phone to play my “driving music” playlist for the remainder of my trip. The sound was wirelessly streamed to my car’s stereo system via Bluetooth and sounded great.

How’s that flip phone looking now? :)

All in all, these tips require more of a mindset change than anything. While some of it may seem daunting or even pointless, I ask all of you to tap into your inner explorer and bravely navigate the unknown.

Don’t worry! You can thank me later.

–John Gruska

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