5 resolutions for a better digital life

It's the time of year when we make promises for the new year that are routinely broken before that year is a week old. And for this reason, far too many of us simply resolve to never make another resolution. (Because, after all, that's an easy one to keep.)

It's the time of year when we make promises for the new year that are routinely broken before that year is a week old. And for this reason, far too many of us simply resolve to never make another resolution. (Because, after all, that's an easy one to keep.)

But when it comes to the health of your computer and Internet life, it pays to make a greater effort. With that in mind, I've resolved to end 2013 with a list of resolutions (and the consequences of not living up to them) to be carried out in 2014.

I will back up my data

The two things that people lie about most are the frequency of their flossing (fewer than 30 percent of people in the U.S. do it routinely) and the integrity of their data backup. "Oh sure," they claim, "I have a backup." But dig deeper and ask "And so you'd have no problem if I used this powerful magnet to wipe your hard drive or tapped your iPhone's Erase All Content and Settings button?" and the squirming begins.

Your dental hygiene is between you and the person standing within four feet of your cake hole but I take this backup business seriously. I can't tell you the number of times I receive questions about how to recover this or that bit of data only to learn that such data hasn't been backed up since the last government shut down.

If you have a Mac, buy an external hard drive, jack it into your computer, and let Time Machine use it as a backup destination. Serious backer-uppers will tell you that Time Machine is not a serious solution as you need redundant backups and more robust software. I will tell you that it's a heck of a lot better than nothing.

If you have an iOS device, turn on iCloud backup or choose to back it up to your computer if you plug it into your Mac on a regular basis. Should you later wish to recover just bits of data (rather than everything, as you would with a complete restore) take a look at Ecamm Network's $30 PhoneView. It can grab SMS and iMessages, voicemail recordings, call history, contacts, Safari bookmarks, media files, and third-party app data.

Consequence if you don't: How does losing the images of your child's first years sound to you?

I will use more than one password

I can't see you so you have my permission to fling your hand skyward when I ask "How many of you use the same password for your Mac, iCloud, iTunes Store, Amazon, Gmail, Netflix, and Twitter?"

Man, I can feel the breeze from here.

Don't. Just. Don't. People who obtain passwords for nefarious purposes understand that we're a lazy species and far-too-frequently do boneheaded things like this. Mavericks' iCloud Keychain can help with its password generator for websites. AgileBits' $35 1Password can too.

Additionally, please resolve to use passwords that can't be easily guessed. Your birthday, your name, your home town, your favorite band, and the word "password" are terrible passwords. Random numbers and characters are great but hard to remember. However, there are loads of ways to create seemingly random yet memorable strings of characters--using the first letters of the words found in a favorite poem or lyric substituting 0 for O, 1 for L, and 3 for E. Be creative rather than predictable.

Consequence if you don't: I have my eye on a sweet little cabin cruiser. Unless you want to help pay for it, keep your passwords secure.

I will clean some of the junk off my computer

A hard drive packed with hundreds of thousands of files is one that's unlikely to be operating as well as it might. Archive your old email and, after ensuring that said email is really in the archive, delete the original stuff and place the archive on another volume. Go through your iPhoto library and delete blurry images. Locate files larger than 500MB and consider whether you really need them. Open up any folder labeled "My Stuff" that you've used for clearing space on your desktop and get rid of nearly all of it.

Consequence if you don't: Your Mac will stutter along like an ancient PC and you and the spinning beach ball of death will become intimately acquainted.

I will keep my home office from looking like an airport runway at 3 AM

If you can walk through your home office in the middle of the night guided only by all the tiny lights emanating from your gear, you really need to consider your power consumption strategy. Unless your Mac is actively doing something, put it to sleep or shut it down at the end of the day. You can configure this in the Schedule portion of the Energy Saver system preference. Scour your other gear for similar power miser features or turn them off.

Consequence if you don't: That empty lot next door would make a swell spot for a small coal-burning power plant.

I will not be a jerk on the Internet

There's power in anonymity and the ability to read and react in an instant. Regrettably that power can be used for dark purposes (or simply as a virtual substitute for kicking the dog after a rough day). Let it go. There's sure to be someone else out there willing to tilt at this particular windmill.

Consequence if you don't: Stroke, digestive problems, migraine, and, of course, you're a jerk.

Tags ApplesoftwarebackupUtilitiestroubleshootingYEAR ENDMac 911

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