Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Time for a digital detox?

I have just completed my first digital detox experience! The holidays and five days in California gave me a rare chance to unplug and relax.

Tempted to try the same?  Maybe you, or a family member, are ready for a detoxification from the constant onslaught of screens, beeps, email, social media and thousands of other tempting distractiong. Oh, they're still out there, but maybe you won't miss them if you take a sanity break for a few days.

Before you start your tech break, consider reading this first-person article: The Digital Detox: How and Why to Do It, by Nora Dunn.

[cross-posted on Release Your Writing blog.]

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Blogging is 20 years old!

Blogs have been around for twenty years!

Yes, 1994 was a long time ago and that's when blogs got started.

The Columbia Journal Review has a nice long piece here about the start of something that grew larger than anyone could have predicted.

Understanding how to build personal brands and audiences have since become crucial skills for many media professionals, but in 1994 there were hardly any precedents. - See more at:

Friday, August 01, 2014

Can you unplug for just one August weekend?

Look up --  It's August already, nights are sometimes cooler, and some trees are dropping their leaves.
Summer goes by so fast!  Would you consider this challenge? Current is hosting an Analog August—we’re unplugging from technology for any single August weekend, and invite you to do the same. No Internet, no cell phones, no insipid celebrity tweets.

Inspired by The End of Absence, we’re giving ourselves a break to rediscover the quiet joys of solitary walks, face-to-face relations, and a good book. More details to come soon! Poke around the website if you’d like:
I am reviewing The End of Absence here soon and plan to take part in the unplugged weekend while I finish reading the book.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

For better note-taking, write longhand.

Pacafic Standard Magazine (a favorite subscription of mine) has a web article entitled:

Want to Remember Your Notes? Write Them, Don’t Type Them

Despite the speed of notetaking with a laptop or tablet, it turns out it may not be the best way to learn new information. "The problem, it seems, is that the lightening-quick speed of typing encourages listeners to transcribe what they’re hearing without actually paying attention to what’s being said—a note-taking approach that has been proven ineffective in the past."

Here's a quick link to Pacific Standard's article, which cites a study published in Psychological Science, a professional  journal with fee-based access to articles.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Internet Explorer users: Stop what you're doing...

News alert today: April 28, 2014

"The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advised computer users to consider using alternatives to Microsoft Corp's Internet Explorer browser until the company fixes a security flaw that hackers have used to launch attacks.

The bug is the first high-profile security flaw to emerge since Microsoft stopped providing security updates for Windows XP earlier this month. That means PCs running the 13-year old operating system could remain unprotected against hackers seeking to exploit the newly uncovered flaw, even after Microsoft figures out how to defend against it.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a part of Homeland Security known as US-CERT, said in an advisory released on Monday morning that the vulnerability in versions 6 to 11 of Internet Explorer could lead to "the complete compromise" of an affected system."

Read more at Chicago Tribune or CNN or your favorite news source.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Microsoft Office now available on iPad app... a little bit

Microsoft is offering a free app for iPad users of the Office productivity sweet programs: Excel, PowerPoint and Word.

It allows viewing documents sent to you in those programs on an iPad, but there is a charge of $70/year to actually create spreadsheets, presentations and documents, so the free app is basically a document reader.

Read more here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Facebook brings Internet access to millions

Facebook is joining up with a British firm for a new "Connectivity Lab." Nice to see they are doing something that has great potential to bring the Internet to more people.

Here's an excerpt from the news story today on The Telegraph website in the U.K.

Facebook has launched a 'Connectivity Lab' to explore new ways to beam internet to parts of the world that are not yet connected.
In a blog post, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that the company is investigating the use of drones, satellites and lasers to make affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world, as part of the project.

Over the past year, Facebook's has worked with mobile operators in the Philippines and Paraguay to help three million new people access the internet. The Connectivity Lab will aim to extend this work with the invention of new technologies capable of reaching more remote areas in developing countries.

Read more here: 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

IRS + Good News, (really)

From New York Times, Sunday, March 15, 2014

For self-employed people who work from home, the IRS has changed the Home Office Deduction for the 2013 tax year. If you're still doing your taxes for 2013, the timing is great.  While the deduction still requires you deduct a home office only if it is used exclusively for your business, it no longer requires other complex conditions:

"The new optional deduction, capped at $1,500 per year based on $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet, will reduce the paperwork and recordkeeping burden on small businesses by an estimated 1.6 million hours annually.
"This is a common-sense rule to provide taxpayers an easier way to calculate and claim the home office deduction," said Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller. "The IRS continues to look for similar ways to combat complexity and encourages people to look at this option as they consider tax planning in 2013."

The new option provides eligible taxpayers an easier path to claiming the home office deduction. Currently, they are generally required to fill out a 43-line form (Form 8829) often with complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation and carryovers of unused deductions. Taxpayers claiming the optional deduction will complete a significantly simplified form.
Though homeowners using the new option cannot depreciate the portion of their home used in a trade or business, they can claim allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and casualty losses on the home as itemized deductions on Schedule A. These deductions need not be allocated between personal and business use, as is required under the regular method.
Business expenses unrelated to the home, such as advertising, supplies and wages paid to employees are still fully deductible.

Current restrictions on the home office deduction, such as the requirement that a home office must be used regularly and exclusively for business and the limit tied to the income derived from the particular business, still apply under the new option."

Interested? Visit the above link and the Internal Revenue site for full details. Computer Clarity is not responsible for interpretation of the above, and is not making any recommendation on this statement.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Winter Weather Woes

Not much new in the tech world lately, but if you're like me and live in the Midwest, you're getting very tired of winter. But it gives us lots more time to spend at the computer, updating our profiles on social media, and killing the backlog of email that piles up when we're not looking.  But what can you do when these winter storms and icy weather kill your internet connection?

Those of use who use DSL are being knocked offline in a random fashion, but I see more Comcast trucks than USPS mail trucks lately. They're restoring cable connections ten times a day.

Without a connection, I recently had to make the choice to use dial-up or head out in the storms. If you experience the same stunning lack of connectivity, don't panic. Turns out we have plenty of options to hop online. If you have a laptop, stop off at your local library, a wi-fi cafe, a Panera restaurant, or even the lobby at your local hospital, for a real email emergency! Without a laptop, your public library is the best resource. They have loads of computers available for your use.

What's important is such a minor crisis is to remember that you do have options. You might miss the comfort of couch surfing but the change of scenery may also boost your creativity, get you out among people,, and ease your panic over missed emails. It usually turns out they're not as hotly important as we think when we get caught up in them day after day.

And of course, you could also get some exercise, then relax and read a book.