Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Essential Technology Etiquette Tips For Our Digital Age



by Joel Lee
Technology impacts society in many ways — some of which are obvious and others more subtle — and those changes often call for changes in behavior. Etiquette is an important social construct that we tend to forget or ignore, but I would argue that etiquette has never been more important than now. One misstep could permanently damage or fracture your relationship with another.
Technology etiquette could easily fall under the topic of “common sense” yet there are many who remain ignorant — and that’s not a judgement against those who don’t know any better. For a long while, I never knew the acceptable rules of etiquette for handling phones, shooting emails, and general Internet behavior. I was being rude without even knowing it, and there’s a chance you could be doing the same.
Check out these ten rules of etiquette for today’s technology and see if you are making missteps without even knowing that you are.

Set Your Phone On Silent

Cell phone interruptions can be frustrating for those around you, especially when you’re in a situation where nearby people are trying to pay attention: watching a movie, studying a book, listening to a lecture, working, or what have you. Sure, if you scramble fast enough you can shut off that ringer within seconds, but by then the interruption has already been made. Please learn to silence your phone.
Fortunately, there are apps that automatically silence your phone, whether according to a schedule or for set periods of time. These apps are great because there’s very little effort required on your part.

Stop Playing With Your Phone

technology-etiquette-1
There are few things more frustrating than trying to hold a conversation with someone whose attention is split in half, mumbling quick sentences while tapping away on their phone. It’s ironic that social networking and social media were meant to keep us all connected, yet those things often lead to us being disconnected from the real, physical relationships around us.
Please stop fiddling with your phone, tablet, or laptop while in a social situation. If you’re just hanging out as a group, that’s fine, but if someone’s trying to have a real conversation with you, put it away – unless there’s a good reason, like looking up directions or checking for movie times.

Be Timely And Be Considerate

One benefit of today’s mobile technology is that we can pretty much reach anyone we want to in an instant. Gone are the days where you had to wait until someone was at home before you could talk to them. Even voicemails are going out of style as text messages can fulfill the same role in most cases. But this constant-connectedness means we have no excuse when we don’t keep someone updated.
If you’ve agreed to meet someone at 5:00pm and you’re running a bit late, please call them or shoot a text and let them know when theyshould be expecting you – at least then they can find something to do instead of sitting around and twiddling their thumbs for half an hour.
And if you have to cancel, then for all that is good and pure, please let them know as soon as possible. Like, right away. That gives the person the maximum amount of time to rearrange their schedule or find something else to do in lieu of your cancelled meetup.

No Electronics In Movie Theaters

On the topic of being considerate, please refrain from checking your electronic devices when you’re in a movie theater. You might think you’re being sneaky and undetected, but trust me, you aren’t. Even when the phone screen is dimmed to the max, the light still shines bright enough for it to be a distraction.
And I hope this would go without needing to be said, but please review the previously mentioned tip and silence your phones! At the very least, set it to vibrate, and never speak on the phone while the movie is playing. Take it outside.

No Caps Lock, No Text-Speak

Text messages are no longer for teenagers only. Bosses now hold text conversations with employees. Event organizers send texts to each other while a live event is ongoing. Even mom and dad are texting their children now. This means that you should be as clear and ease-to-understand as possible — in other words, no text-speak and no caps lock.
Obviously, if it’s just between you and your friends, speak however you want to speak. But in situations that call for proper etiquette, never use “lol wuts up boss?” or “can u come in a few hours early m8?” It just screams juvenile. This rule extends across any communicative medium that uses text – emails, instant messages, social networking sites, etc.

The Internet Is Not Your Soapbox

People who complain all the time are unpleasant to be around, and that remains just as true on the Internet. We all know a person or two (and hopefully not many more) who are constantly whining, venting, raging, or otherwise badmouthing whatever misfortune is plaguing them at the time. These people are mood-killers and their bad attitudes are dangerously contagious.
It’s all right to rant every once in a while provided that you do it in an acceptable place; a personal journal is a good place to start. But if the majority of your forum posts, wall posts, emails, texts, and instant messages are negatively charged in some way, then it’s almost a guarantee that you’re putting off a lot of people.

Keep Your Tone In Mind

If you’re one who tends to be sarcastic over text, even if it’s not biting sarcasm, you should be wary of which people you’re being sarcastic towards. Tone is nearly impossible to convey over a text-only medium because you miss out on body language, facial expressions, and intonation, so if you don’t pay attention to your tone there’s a good chance that you’re inadvertently offending a few people with it.
This applies to more than just sarcasm. Even when you’re innocently trying to explain a concept to someone, for example, the lack of text tone could make your words seem condescending, and that alone could cause a lot of inter-relational problems at work. Before you send out a message, read it over a few times and look for places where your tone could be misinterpreted.

Don’t Try To Win Arguments

There’s something about the Internet — perhaps the supposed anonymity of it all — that brings out the worst in people, and that includes the tendency to argue. Opinion wars happen all the time, particularly on forums and blog comments, and they rarely accomplish anything except to tarnish relations between people.
It’s one thing to offer your opinion or to present a fact correction, but it’s another to be stubborn. When your goal starts to shift from “furthering the discussion” to “proving I’m right,” that’s when things fall apart.

Email Is A Beast Of Its Own

There are entire articles dedicated to etiquette tips for email. It’s a medium that’s still being used in personal and professional capacities even 20 years after its debut, yet so many people still stumble with proper email etiquette. I know I do. Email requires you to walk a fine line between “too formal” and “too informal” and that’s what can trip you up.
Sometimes email etiquette is about following proper conventions. Sometimes it’s about leaving out the offensive and annoying bits of your emails. And sometimes, it’s just about replying in a calm and sensible manner, even when you’re the one who’s been offended.

Humans Are More Valuable Than Electronics

In the end, issues of poor technology etiquette almost always occur when we start to believe that our devices (or our usage of our devices) are more important than humans. We fiddle with our phone becausePlants vs. Zombies matters more than genuine conversation. We forget that there are real people behind those forum usernames. Our fun justifies our disrespect of others.
And none of this has to be with malicious intent. It could be innocent forgetfulness. I admit that it happens to me all the time. But if you’re concerned about proper technology etiquette, this is the one rule you should remember above all the rest: technology does not give you the right to devalue another person.

Source: www.makeuseof.com

Everything You Need To Know About Passwords



Everything You Need To Know About Passwords
Passwords are important and most people don’t know enough about them. How do you choose a strong password, use a unique password everywhere, and remember them all? How do you secure your accounts so you’re safe even if someone discovers your password? How do you protect your files and operating system — and what if you ever lose a password? We’ve covered all this and more over the years.
Be sure to read our password management guide for an in-depth overview to everything from choosing strong passwords to picking a password management technique and setting up two-factor authentication.

How to Create Good Passwords

All the password tricks in the world won’t help if you’re using a bad password everywhere. You should choose sufficiently complex passwords that can’t be easily guessed — anything based on a name, birthday, or dictionary word is terrible. Passwords should ideally be fairly long and contain numbers as well as symbols. For help coming up with good passwords and for an overview of ways to deal with all those passwords, read these articles:
xkcd-password-strength-comic[4]

Password Managers

Not only should you use a long password containing numbers and symbols, you should use unique passwords everywhere. It’s practically impossible to remember enough different, strong passwords for all the services you use without some tricks. One of the best tips is to use a password manager, which will generate strong passwords and remember them for you. We’ve covered a variety of password managers, including the cloud-based LastPass and the open-source KeePass desktop application.
password maangement

Using Two-Factor Authentication

Many services allow you to go beyond passwords, requiring a second code to log in. If someone discovers your password, they wouldn’t be able to log into your account without the second authentication method. A variety of different services support two-factor authentication, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox, Evernote, Twitter, and many other popular services. Read these articles for tips on setting up two-factor authentication:
google-two-step-verification

Password-Protecting Files With Encryption

Encryption effectively allows you to password-protect your files. The encryption key functions as a password, which must be entered before your data becomes readable. If someone doesn’t have the encryption key, the files will appear as random gibberish. This is useful when storing financial information and other sensitive data or transmitting it online — email is insecure, so you shouldn’t send sensitive documents over email. There are other ways to password-protect your files, such as password-protecting a USB stick or encrypting your hard drive. For more tips on securing your files with encryption, read:
encrypt files cloud

Password-Protecting Your OS and BIOS

Websites and files aren’t the only things that can be password-protected. Securing your operating system with a password will ensure that other people can’t easily gain access. You can also password-protect your computer’s BIOS to prevent people from changing its settings or booting unauthorized operating systems from USB sticks, CDs, and DVDs.
how to password protect computer

Recovering Lost Passwords

If you’ve forgotten a password, you aren’t necessarily out of luck. There are ways to recover or reset lost passwords, so you can log into your computer or web account. Note that you can’t recover a password for encrypted data — the password functions as a key, and you can’t unlock the encryption without that key. If you lose your encryption password, your files won’t be accessible.
windows-forgotten-password-wizard

Alternatives to Passwords

Passwords can be inconvenient. People are constantly looking for easier ways to log into devices and services. From pattern locks and picture passwords to security mechanisms that rely on capturing a photo, scanning a fingerprint, or using Bluetooth, you can log into your devices in other ways:
change windows 8 password
Do you have any other password-related tips or tricks to share with us and your fellow readers? Leave a comment below!
Source: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/everything-you-need-to-know-about-passwords/

Offend, Anger & Annoy With Every Email You Send


6 Ways To Guarantee To Offend, Anger & Annoy With Every Email You Send

offensive emailsEmails are tough. It is really hard to get across what you really want to say in an email, and half the time people will almost always misunderstand you. A lot of the problem comes down to the fact that the people you’re writing to can’t see your face. They can’t see the smile on your face, and you can’t see the expression on their face – the natural human ability to understand the emotion in words through facial expression is completely void in an email.
So, what can replace facial expression and tone of voice? How do you effectively get your message across without getting all of your friends or everyone in the office royally ticked off at you?
Writer Peter Drucker once wrote, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” I would go one step further than that, and say that the most important thing in sending an email is clarifying just enough so that the recipient doesn’t hear what isn’t said. In fact, what causes most problems with email communication is when the person receiving the email interprets all sorts of terrible things that you’ve implied, even when you’ve only written a single line.
This is what leads to hate and discontent. This is what builds resentment. This is why the guy across the table at the morning meeting is glaring at you, because you had cc’d him on an email that you sent out yesterday afternoon, and he took it as a personal attack.

Crafting Your Perfect Email

Here at MUO, we’ve covered a lot about the technical aspect of sending emails, like sending emails anonymously or my email on sending emails from Excel. But, what about the emotion side of email? What about how you come across in your emails, and better ways to present yourself in the written word that won’t get everyone so ticked off at you all the time?
Well, it isn’t without a whole lot of pain and suffering that I can stand here today and tell you that I am now in a position to help. I’ve made just about every mistake that can be made with email, starting from the earliest days at college, when I attempted to start off a multi-level marketing business by mass-emailing everyone on campus. Within a day, I had my account shut down for 24 hours and a big, nasty warning from the IBM mainframe administrator about what defines “spamming”.
It wasn’t so much a lesson in email etiquette, as it was a wake-up call that email can really get you in trouble if you handle it wrong. Through the years I’ve offended people, I’ve got offended, and I’ve got into epic slash-and-burn word-battles with people. I’d like to say someone won – but no one ever wins. That is why I stand here today, hoping to help future legions of the emailing public better prepare those emails before clicking the send button.

1. Sending a Novel

One of my first guilty sins when I first started working as an engineer was that I would almost always write emails that stretched out across three or four paragraphs. The reason was not only because I can type pretty fast, but because I always felt like if I left any details out, people wouldn’t really understand what I was talking about. That may be true to some degree – and we’ll get to emails that are too-brief in a minute – but there’s something to be said for simplicity.
offensive emails
When you write such complicated emails, you are failing to get your message across in a variety of ways. First, the fact that you wrote so much implies to the person that you have little respect for their time, and if you do it too often you’re bound to get them annoyed. Second, while a 500 word email organized into several paragraphs makes plenty of sense toyou, you’re most likely confusing everyone – and giving them a migraine.
If you’re a wordsmith and tend to over-write, then always go back and get to work on “chopping up” those sentences. Come up with new and creative ways to shorten them, or maybe you can remove them entirely. Maybe you’re offering far too much information. Tell people what they need to know, not what you want them to know you know. You know?

2. Sending a Two-Word Email

The opposite offense to the novel email is the one or two word emails that doesn’t explain anything at all. It’s akin to when I ask my kids at the dinner table, “So how was your day?”  After a moment, a reluctant answer, “Fine.”  Not sure why I even bother, I press on.  ”What did you do, anything fun?”  The inevitable answer, “No, not really.
I honestly don’t understand why some people even bother with using email. If you’re lucky, an email from this person will contain a single full sentence. If you’re unlucky, the person will be asking you to do something for them, but not bothering to explain exactly what they want you to do. It’s sort of like sending out a distress message over a radio when you’re lost in the middle of the wilderness, and failing to inform the rescue crew what your coordinates are.
annoying emails
It’s extremely frustrating, because people have to struggle to understand what on earth you’re talking about. Even worse, you may actually force them to waste time responding to your email, only to ask you to elaborate a little bit more.
I suspect that most people with this problem write such short emails because typing is such a painstaking exercise. Not everyone can type over 60 to 70 words a minute, so you do have to have a little sympathy for this group.

3. Sending a Mass Email Meant For One Person

Do you really want to tick people off? Send a mass email to everyone in your office simply to reprimand a single person for something they did wrong. I call this the “public humiliation” email. Usually, everyone in the office may already know that a particular person made a mistake, but the manager can’t leave it alone. So, they send out a mass email to everyone explaining in great and excruciating detail why a particular action is so wrong to do, or why that particular mistake is so bad.
annoying emails
I have to admit that in some of my management roles in the past, I slipped into this behavior. I’ve seen other colleagues of mine do it as well. It’s an easy mistake to make, because you may actually want to make sure that everyone else you’re managing doesn’t make the same mistake. The reality is that if everyone already knows about it, the person that made the mistake is humiliated. If they don’t know about it, everyone is confused and unsure whether or not you’re talking about them.
Make it simple – talk about the specific problem with the person that made the mistake. Then, if you feel it’s important enough for everyone, send a notice but make it sound as though it is just a general “FYI” sent down from higher management – this removes the accusatory tone and makes it less personal.

4. Using Dramatic Adverbs

Another very common behavior in emails – usually from people that are very passionate about their work in general, or about a specific project that is under discussion. That behavior is the overuse of very dramatic adverbs. Sentences like, “That design is just horribly wrong” or “That approach is painfully vague” only serve to introduce emotion into the discussion.
When you look at those sentences without the adverbs, you can see how much more businesslike – and much less antagonistic – they are. Otherwise, you just come across like an over-dramatic, spoiled brat.
annoying emails
Try it without the adverbs. That design is wrong. That approach is vague.
It may not please the recipient – but it also doesn’t attack them and set them on the defensive. It’s more professional, and you might actually be able to pass yourself off as a mature adult, even when you’re disagreeing with someone.

5. Overusing Passive Voice

It actually wasn’t until late in my writing career that I really, truly learned about and understood the passive voice. The problem with learning about it, is that you start seeing it everywhere. One of the most prevalent uses of passive voice is in email, because the passive voice allows a person to separate themselves from an action.
Instead of saying, “I drove the client to the airport”, which lays the responsibility directly upon your shoulders, you might instead write, “The client was taken to the airport.”
email tips
This is a behavior common among people that are nervous about taking responsibility for just about anything, because if anything goes wrong, they don’t want to be blamed. These are the same people that complain when the risk-takers – the ones that take responsibility for getting things done – get recognition or promotions. The truth is, people see through the passive voice in emails. If you’ve finished a task or accomplished a goal, don’t be afraid to take credit!

6. Patting Yourself On The Back

Oddly enough, the opposite extreme of the folks who use passive voice in email all the time, are the people that almost always write about everything in first person. Reading their emails, you would think that a project wasn’t a group effort, it was a personal accomplishment. You would think that the person sending the email did absolutely all of the work!
How do you recognize these emails? Count the occurrences of the word “I”.
offensive emails
Reading an email from this type of person, it’s clear that they feel the entire world revolves around them, and that everyone should be giving them constant kudos for all of the work they’ve single-handedly accomplished. These emails invariably leave teammates feeling dejected and completely unappreciated. This approach is the fast-track to anger and isolation from  your peers.
I’m sure there are lots of other types of emails that really annoy and offend people. I bet you have your own list too! What sorts of emails really set you off? Which types are your pet peeves? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/offend-anger-annoy-with-every-email/?utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_source=2012-07-30

5 Ways To Make Websites Easier To Read

by Simon Slangen
With the amount of information on the Internet—news, stories, tutorials, encyclopaediae—it’s hard to ever stop reading. What usually gets you in the end is impracticality. A need to switch devices or to go offline, but also the inability to read it now and a lack of commitment to read it later.
Reading websites can be bliss, but it isn’t always comfortable. Noisy webpages assail your eyes and after a while, the almighty LCD takes its toll. With impending eye-strain causing a drop in productivity, it’s time to call it a day.
If you’re hungry to read (as I am), there are ways to get rid (or at least partly circumvent) these impracticalities. Other tips and tools also help to make reading more comfortable. With these in your toolbox, you’re able to make reading about reading again.

Invert Colours (for Nightly Reading)

Late at night, or in a dimly lit room, a glaring LCD screen wearies the eyes and can give you a killer headache. The black text on a white background works well in most general situations, but if you’re reading in bad lighting, you should try inverting the webpage colours for easier reading. Your eyes will thank you for it.
chrome-high-contrast
Firefox users should take a look at Blank Your Screen + Easy Reading. This add-on lets you invert the colours on a webpage by clicking the status bar icon or using a key combination (Ctrl + Alt + B). You can change the colour palette in the preferences if you prefer e.g. white on green over white on black.
Google Chrome users can use Google’s official accessibility extension: High Contrast. Similar to the Firefox add-on, you can toggle inverting the colours using the extension button or a keyboard shortcut (Cmd + Shift + F11). A big advantage of this extension is that you can change the preferred colour scheme for each individual website. This way, you don’t have to toggle the colours every time you visit a rare website that already offers a night reading mode.

Save Pages For Delayed Reading

Sometimes you encounter an interesting page, app or article when you don’t have the time to fully check it out. Maybe you’re late for work. Maybe you’re at work. In either case, it can be useful to save an article for later reading.
Pocket saves you the trouble of remembering or writing down these web pages. Just create an account and install the browser extension or bookmarklet. Pressing the icon saves (or “pockets”) the article for later reading. Because this list of delayed articles is linked to your account, the pages you save from different devices are all gathered in one convenient place.
You can access these articles from your reading list via the Pocket website or using the Pocket for Mac application. Cleaned of all clutter, reading these articles with Pocket is even more fun than usual. (More on removing clutter below).
To read on your other devices, get the free mobile apps for (deep breath) iPhone/iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, WebOS and s60. A number of other apps, like the popular Flipboard, integrate with Pocket as well. In summary: don’t expect much compatibility issues.

Send To Kindle

Although Pocket integrates well with a lot of devices, including the Kindle Fire, it doesn’t play well with eReaders. You can use another browser extension to bridge that particular gap. The official Send To Kindle extensions have you covered. These tie in to browsers like Chrome (pictured below) and Firefox, but you can also download desktop applications for Mac and Windows and push local files to your eReader.
muo-send-to-kindle
You can choose whether to send the current web page to your Kindle, or to preview it first. The add-on removes all the unnecessary clutter, sidebars and buttons alike, and presents it for your approval. You can change the title and author of the article and tinker with the formatting if you’d like. However, in my experience the Send to Kindle extension does a good job on its own.
It might seem a bit much to add another extension to your browser for one device. However, it all depends on how extensively you use your eReader. Personally, I use Send to Kindle about as much as I use Pocket. Especially for longer reads an eReader can be preferable to a tablet.

Download The Entire Web Page

If you use a single device, or have an easy way of transferring the files, you can also save the entire webpage to your computer. Using your browser’s File -> Save As feature, you can save the current page to a folder on your computer. This has the benefit of providing offline access while retaining the original formatting.
If a single page does not suffice, read Justin Pot’s instructions ondownloading an entire website (or selection thereof) for offline reading.
chrome-save-page
If you don’t need to keep the web page in web page form, it might be a better idea to download it as a PDF file. Depending on the website, the result can look magnificent or horrendous, but in either case it’s easy to transfer and use on other devices.
print-to-pdf
The easiest way to create a PDF is by printing to an application (instead of a hardware printer) that creates the PDF. This feature is standard included on Mac OS X. Users of other operating systems can install a third-party tool like CutePDF (Windows) or CUPS-PDF (Linux). If you are using Chrome, you can use the Save as PDF option.

Declutter Pages with Readability

Most websites (including this one) have headers, sidebars and a whole lot of buttons that are useful while navigating, but only serve to distract you while you’re trying to read a longer article. A browser extension like Readability strips most of the article except title, pictures, and text to create a cleaner and much easier to read article, as demonstrated in the screenshot below.
readability-chrome
These decluttered articles are similar to the pages you’ll read usingPocket or sent to Kindle, both discussed in detail above, but now available to read on the spot.
Actually, Readability also supports delayed reading and sending articles to Kindle (although it doesn’t match up to these other tools in all regards). However, if you prefer a one size fits all solution, you should also check out Readability to handle these respective jobs.
What do you use to make websites easier and more pleasant to read? Do you have any tips for your fellow reader? Add your voice in the comments section below!
Source: www.makeuseof.com

15 Weird Smart Home Gadgets No One Should Ever Want

By Dan Price   When you picture a smart home, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Perhaps smart thermostats and intelligen...