- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2010

If it’s a new year — and it is — it’s time for some tech resolutions, or goals, if you prefer that word. Here’s a rundown of things to watch for, and perhaps implement:

(1) “Backup, backup, backup.” This is a perennial one, but it’s no less true. If the information, or photos, or numbers, or whatever on your computer are of any significant importance to you, you need to regularly back up your data, preferably in a manner that is easy to restore.

Both Microsoft Windows 7 and Apple’s Mac OS X Snow Leopard have easy ways of doing this onto physical media, especially an “external” (to the computer) hard-disk drive. Online services such as Carbonite.com and Mozy.com offer remote backups via the Internet.

Your Internet provider might offer some online storage; services such as Google’s Gmail and Yahoo Mail offer mailboxes large enough for you to park a number of files as e-mail attachments. USB flash memory drives can hold many gigabytes worth of data.

By now, you get the idea: If there’s something digital that matters to you, make a copy. Keep the copy “off site” if you can, just in case disaster strikes.

(2) “Organize, organize, organize.” A great thing about computers these days is you can throw stuff anywhere and find it with ease: operating systems and other tools will index a hard drive quickly and find scraps fast. But an organized system for your data is better, so put one together and stick to it.

This organization isn’t limited to your digital data, however. Where’s the manual for your printer? How about the CD with the software drivers? How about your program disks, or the operating system?

Many items can be found online, such as any number of manuals and driver downloads. Hewlett Packard is especially good in this regard; their Web site will direct you quite nicely.

But replacing a copy of Microsoft Windows XP or Microsoft Office can be expensive and time consuming. That’s one reason why backups are important. Finding, and keeping safe, your original disks is even more important, in case a data or program file becomes corrupted and has to be restored. Today, just about every new Windows-based PC has a mechanism for creating “rescue” or “system restore” disks using some blank CD- or DVD-ROMs. Be sure to use it.

(3) “Secure your wireless network.” As I drive around the D.C. suburbs, I’m surprised at how many homes (and not a few businesses) have unsecured wireless routers that I could “drop in” on and use to access the Internet as well as other computers in the house. Besides stealing someone’s paid-for broadband connection, I could, conceivably, expose the homeowner to some risk if I used that connection for a nefarious purpose.

Don’t laugh: it’s happened more than once, according to press accounts. The 2008 “TJX” Internet security breach, in which an estimated 40 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen, was enabled in part by “wardriving” hackers who prowled suburbia for wireless onramps to the information superhighway.

The safeguard is simple: turn on “WEP” security on your wireless router, and make sure every wireless user in your house knows and uses the password. Yes, it will take some effort and may require consulting your router’s manual, or even a house call by your Internet provider, but the peace of mind is priceless.

(4) “Get your (digital) groove on.” I’ve written quite a bit this past year about moving music around the house and so forth. Now’s the time to make things happen. Put your CDs on iTunes, get some wireless players such as Sonos’ S5 or Logitech’s Squeezebox Boom, network the gear and rock out (or chill out) when, where, and how you choose. If you have Ethernet throughout the house, even better.

Another alternative: Get a clock radio/iPod/iPhone dock such as those made by Sony or TEAC. It’ll cost you about $100 or so at Costco, Target, BestBuy or similar stores. Then, you’ve got your music where you want it, while recharging your device.

Those are some ideas for a better tech year ahead. More will follow.

Send e-mail to mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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