by Bill Snyder

7 technology strategies of smart people

Jan 11, 2011
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Follow these 7 strategies in 2011 to get a better grip on your personal technology habits. Make sure you're saving money, staying safe and avoiding the latest hassles.

I can’t help you lose weight, stop smoking or keep any of the other New Year’s resolutions you and millions of others might make. But I can give you a few ideas that will save you money and help you get the most out of the technology you use every day.

1. Think Carefully Before Switching to Verizon iPhone

I take second place to no one in my ongoing criticism of AT&T’s crummy service and its terrible support for the iPhone. But, don’t switch to Verizon’s iPhone until you’re comfortable with the answers to these questions.

• How long is my contract with AT&T? If you cancel before it’s up, you could be hit with an early termination fee of several hundred dollars. In any case, you’ll have to buy a new iPhone. Models that work on AT&T’s network won’t work on Verizon’s.

• How well does Verizon work in my home or office? Like every other wireless company, Verizon’s network of cell towers and service is better in some places than others. Have a friend who already subscribes to Verizon try his or her phone out in whatever place you’ll use it the most.

• Ask yourself if you’ll mind losing the ability to multi-task on the iPhone. AT&T’s much maligned network supports this feature; Verizon’s doesn’t. That means you can’t check something on the Web while you’ve got a voice call working. Verizon may fix that in the future, but for now, it’s a minus.

• Do I want to be a guinea pig? Wait a couple of months and see how well Verizon’s network handles the rush of new, data-hungry subscribers.

2. Audit Your Wireless Bill.

I mentioned the issue of early termination fees, but you should also be thinking about avoiding “bill shock”, that is a sudden spike and unexpected spike in your wireless bill. That can happen because you’ve exceeded the number of minutes allowed by your plan, and your friendly wireless company sees no need to warn you.

3. Check Your Web Service Automatic Renewals

Like the automatic renewal of magazines and other periodicals, the renewals on services of all kinds that you sign up for on the Web works great for the vendor, and it can be convenient for you. But it’s very easy to forget that you’re paying for some of these things. Go over your credit- and debit-card statements carefully and weed out services you no longer use.

4. Manage Your Passwords Better.

Yes, you’ve heard this from me (and plenty of others) before, but I’ll bet that many of you still use the same password on every site you visit, including your bank and brokerage accounts. Seriously, you need to cut it out. People really do hack into online accounts and making it easy for them isn’t smart. The best way to handle that chore is with a password manager, but there a number of other strategies you can adopt. A related issue: Buy a paper shredder for your home office and make sure no one can pull credit card statements and the like out of your garbage or recycling cans. I’ve been victimized that way, and I’m a lot more careful than I used to be.

5. Spend Money on a Really Good Keyboard.

Many of us do all or most of our work on a laptop, and that means typing on an awkwardly positioned keyboard that is almost certainly flat and quite possibly not full-sized. I use a curved wireless keyboard from Logitech, but lots of companies including Microsoft, make decent ergonomic keyboards. Not using one is simply asking for trouble in the form of RSI or neck and back pain.

6. Check What Your Backup Software Actually Backs Up.

Sure, you know about backing up, whether it’s to the cloud or an external hard drive. But are you sure everything you want to save is actually being backed up? For example, if you use an email service that stores mail on your local drive, is the mail itself being backed up, or just your profile information? Don’t wait until you have a drive failure to find out.

7. Be Nice to Your Laptop’s Battery.

These batteries are surprisingly expensive, and don’t like sitting in your laptop for weeks on end when the PC is powered by AC current. Take the battery out when it’s about half empty, stick it someplace that’s dry and cool and it will be at your service when you need it. Of course, remember to charge it all the way up before you hit the road. There are a few other things you can do to keep that bad boy healthy; check them out here.

San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Reach him at

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