At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: technology

5 Easy Ways to Help your Tech Run Better 

It’s probably time to give some of your tech and digital systems a tune up. And that may mean you need to look under the hood.

The promise of home tech often contains the glow of a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality. The truth is you really shouldn’t leave anything on auto pilot for too long. (Turning on ‘auto updates’ isn’t enough.) You need to check in every so often.

No machine runs flawlessly forever, even the ones without any moving parts. Over time, they need ongoing maintenance. That can also include the digital processes you create for yourself to help organize parts of your life.

Here are five ways that your tech and digital systems can use a little tuning up right now.

Clean the Lint out of your Smartphone’s Charging Port
Have you noticed that your Lightning or USB-C cable isn’t always making a solid connection with your smartphone, and sometimes you wake up to a partially charged device?

That’s because if you usually place your smartphone in your trouser pocket, the lint has slowly been building up into that tiny port. A clue that this micro invasion has occurred is when your cable no longer clicks into the port, and the connection instead feels ‘squishy.’

It’s time to take the end of a paper clip and gently pull out that mini fuzzball that’s hiding at the back end of the port. (I always turn off my iPhone first before beginning the operation.)

Hurry Up and Finish Reviewing your Photos from Last Year
If you’ve got a system set up (like me) where you review and edit your photos before you share them, you’d better set aside some time to finish all that up. Last year’s photos will only retain their value for so long. Beyond archiving and photo book creation, nobody is interested in your old photos. It’s all about what happened today or yesterday (maybe last week).

Sure, having a ‘process’ to select and polish your best photos before sharing them will ensure your audience gets to see your best work, but the downside is you may not have enough time to consistently maintain your perfectionism.

If you marvel at how fast and effortlessly some of your friends share photos, that’s because their process is stripped down to three steps across fifteen seconds.

  • Snap
  • Look
  • Share
  • (Done)

It’s worth considering.

Buy a New Memory Card for your Camera
Do you let all of your photos pile up in your camera’s SD card without taking the time to erase them after transferring the files elsewhere? And then do you decide that’s it’s a good idea to hold onto them as yet another file back-up strategy to protect against some future disaster recovery need?

To be clear, we should simply follow our existing back-up process and then wipe the memory card to free it up for more photo fun.

But, if you have a problem (like me) doing that, the other choice is to simply buy another SD card and start fresh in the New Year. (They’re not that expensive.)

Then, you can pop the old memory card in the drawer, quickly forget about it and then eventually lose it.

When aliens uncover the tiny card in a million years, they’ll transcode its corrupted data, pixel-approximate the missing elements and reconstitute your images. Who knew that humans had three eyes and two noses? What a beautiful family you had! Your legacy is now intact.

Reorganize the Apps on your Smartphone
If you’ve been having difficulty finding certain apps on your smartphone or they’re not where you thought you left them, it’s time to take a few minutes and do a little reorganizing. That can include placing some of your apps into topic folders and perhaps pruning others you haven’t used for a while. (You can always reload them!)

Losing a few long-forgotten apps will also free up memory on your device.

Do those Software Updates
Keeping all of your digital gear current with software updates is an endless process that requires a fair amount of effort and organization. And following an auto-update strategy can sometimes lead to updates that aren’t ready for prime time. I think it’s best to have your tech remind you about the updates, and then you can manually install them. You’ve just got to find the time to do it.

The Doctor is In
Admittedly, all these easy best practices are also chores that are often delayed, sometimes indefinitely.

One way to ensure that you keep up is to set aside an hour a week to handle it all. It may not be enough, but it’ll help you know what needs more attention.

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to keeping your tech and digital systems healthy.

Otherwise you may find they’ll stop working for you when you least expe


4 Ways Tech Helps Me Adapt During the Pandemic

The pandemic has forced me to reevaluate my relationship with my technology. Here’s how I’ve adjusted my focus.

I’m so happy there’s light at the end of the tunnel now that Covid-19 vaccines are being rolled out. And while there’s still a long road ahead, I can begin to think about how some of my technological adaptations during the pandemic might continue into the future.

I Rewired my Hunting and Gathering Instincts
I used to think that spending extra money for online grocery delivery was an unnecessary luxury. We’re genetically encoded to hunt and gather. So spending decades going to supermarkets had seemed like the natural way to acquire food.

But since the pandemic began, I’ve relied on FreshDirect for the bulk of our weekly grocery needs. I know folks go to the grocery store wearing masks and practicing responsible social distancing. I simply went in a different direction.

Sure, there are other online options for grocery delivery, but when times were especially tough at the beginning, and open delivery slots were hard to find, FreshDirect came through for me more often than the others.

And even when the pandemic is over, I plan to continue using FreshDirect. I’ve already signed up for the $129 annual membership (DeliveryPass), which unlocks free delivery.

Whole Foods technically offers a better deal, because free delivery is already bundled into my Amazon Prime membership. That said, finding an opening in the limited two-day delivery windows can still feel like you’re playing the slots in Vegas.

No, it’s not like I’ll never walk into a grocery store again, but there’s real value to having the bulk of your groceries regularly delivered to your doorstep. (I’ve also appreciated the time saved from not having to shop and wait on line at checkout.)

I Learned to Live without Two-Day Shipping
Once upon a time, it felt so empowering being able to shop online and receive purchases within one or two days, often for no additional shipping costs. How convenient was that?!

But there was a hidden tradeoff. I no longer had to be especially organized. Whenever I ran out of something, I could almost magically have a replacement quickly show up.

But when the mail slowed down and two-day delivery became ‘you’ll get it when you get it,’ it created a shock to my system. I realized that I suddenly needed to plan more… like I once had to.

So, I built back that muscle of self-reliance and tracking my own supply chain. It’s felt good being more conscious of the specific resources that my family requires and when.

Blurting out to a Siri or an Alexa that I need more milk when I’m holding the empty carton maybe isn’t so empowering after all. Not when you’re already out of milk.

Free two-day delivery is great. Two-hour delivery is incredible. Drones dropping boxes from the sky at my every shopping whim feels like a future shopping nirvana. Who needs to worry about what you need if you can have more of it within hours?

Well, remember that now, maybe you can’t have it for a couple of weeks or months. And you’d better not forget how to live that way. 2020 was a cautionary tale in so many ways.

I Forced Myself to Keep my Webcam On
I don’t have to tell you about the isolation. The loneliness. The feeling of being cut off. In many ways we’ve been living in our own little bubbles.

Of course, that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

Our little webcams are one of the few safe ways we are able to break out and communicate face-to-face, if only virtually. My iMac’s webcam is my lifeline to my outside world.

Sure, it takes effort to be ‘on camera.’ And you should always put those Zoom best-practices to use, no matter who you’re Zooming with.

Yes, it’s easier to turn off your webcam and communicate via audio only. But I say it’s a bad tradeoff. You’re losing so much without sharing your face and your visual cues.

So, if you’re concerned about really staying connected with those who matter, use that webcam and let them see you!

I Paid for More Bandwidth
Did you also face a barrage of complaints from family members that your home Wi-Fi network couldn’t handle the increased load of endless Zoom meetings, online learning and Netflix streaming?

The culprit is probably not your home Wi-Fi network. It’s your Internet service plan. So, go check it and then upgrade your bandwidth to the next level. That should do the trick.

I was paying for the base plan of 100 Mbps. So I spent $10 more a month to double it. That stabilized the Lester family really quickly. (There are faster plans, but I say that you should buy only what you need.)

I Focused on the Essentials
If there’s a lesson here, it’s realizing the true value of technology when life gets turned upside down.

It’s not so much about the conveniences. It’s about how technology can support the essentials like food and communication.

If your technology is supporting your fundamentals, you’re on track! The rest is just a distraction.

Nature, Technology, and the New Year

This photomosaic is my homage to the opposing elements that have helped to maintain my balance throughout the pandemic.

I don’t usually think of nature and technology as being cut from the same cosmic cloth. But together, they’ve done so much to help me endure all of the disconnection caused by the pandemic. Over the past year, I’ve found it remarkable to see how much these opposite elements have been able to fuel both the spirit as well as some simple daily essentials.

For me, there’s been a huge need to rebuild connection points that have been shattered throughout all of the disruptions.

Too Much Zoom?
I don’t have to tell you how much Zoom and other video conference platforms have helped to maintain face-to-face communication throughout all parts of our lives.

But unrestricted by life’s former patterns, our computers have also beckoned for our extended attention without regard to former boundaries. Zoom fatigue was the term we gave to the resulting drain on our life force.

Choosing to break away from the digital siren’s glow and step outside for a simple walk has been critical to maintaining sanity. Doing a nature walk is even better. For me, it’s been a great way to refresh and remember what’s really important in life.

Back to the Future
Leaning on both nature and technology helped me to keep it together in 2020. It’s about maintaining balance. And for me, I did that by better balancing my time between the two.

There were also ways to positively engage with both simultaneously. I found that snapping more nature photos and time-lapse sunrise videos was a joyous connective tether.

As we look to a better 2021, we should continue to weave together the impact of these two contrary forces. Eventually, there will be a next new normal after the pandemic ends. That life should continue to reflect our healthier balance with both technology and nature. (That’s my New Year’s resolution.)

And if your harmony isn’t quite there yet, now’s a great time to get started!

I wish you a safe and healthy 2021.

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