It’s a new year, so it’s time for resolutions. You know the common ones already. Lose weight. Watch less TV. Stop yelling expletives at strangers. That sort of thing.
But what about resolutions that geeks in particular should consider? Tech enthusiasts tend to have different priorities than other people – watching less TV, for example, may not be applicable if you’ve already replaced it with YouTube and video games. Here are five resolution ideas that even the most hardcore geek should consider.
Back Up Your Stuff!
Almost everyone agrees with backing up their data, much like everyone agrees it’s a good idea to lose weight or eat better. Yet many people fail to follow through. Hard drives crash, SD cards break, and data is lost. MakeUseOf Answers receives questions about how to recover data from a broken/dropped/fried drive almost every day.
Now is as good a time as any to start backing up your data. External hard drives usually run between $70 to $100 and you can use free software like CrashPlan or Windows Backup & Restore to automatically schedule regular backups.
So what are you waiting for? Back up your data. Do it now.
Start using two-factor authentication
Passwords have some serious issues. They are vulnerable to keylogging. They can be guessed (if simple) or brute-forced (if complex). And they can be gathered through social engineering. Everyone thinks they’d never be tricked by a phishing attack, yet it happens to hundreds of thousands of people every year.
Two-factor authentication can help. It requires that a user have two methods of authenticating themselves instead of just a password. The second method is usually a text message or phone call that delivers a randomly generated code to a user-specified number. That code must be entered to proceed. Even someone with your password won’t be able to log in to your account.
Don’t think a hack can’t happen to you. Earlier this year journalist Mat Honan was hacked and as a result had his MacBook wiped, his Google account deleted and his Twitter spammed with racist comments. Apple did not offer two-factor and so it could not be used to protect his MacBook, but it could have kept his Gmail and Twitter secure.
Mat Honan didn’t back up his data, either – so he lost a year of family photos, email and documents. Seriously. Back up your data.
Support A Project You Believe In
I’ve been watching Kickstarter carefully this year and have given money to a few projects. While I remain skeptical that crowd-funding is the world changing phenomena some make it out to be I do think it has a lot of potential.
Maybe you’ve been sitting on the sidelines to see how things pan out. I won’t lie to you. Supporting a crowd-funded project is a risk. There’s no guarantee you’ll see anything for your money and, even if you do, it may not live up to expectations.
But that’s not the point. Crowd-funding is not a pre-order. It’s a vote of confidence. A virtual pat on someone’s back that says “Here – I like your idea, and I’m putting my money down on it.” So I urge you to step off the sidelines, find a project you think is important, and pledge. Don’t count on others to do it for you.
Waste less time online
Procrastination is always just a click away when you have an Internet connection. It’s easy to become distracted by a funny YouTube video, or a link on a friend’s Facebook page, or a Tumblr that’s gone viral. While there’s nothing wrong with online entertainment over-indulging in information of questionable value can cause its fair share of problems and ultimately lead to a sense that you’ve nothing to show for your time.
So what can you do? There are many solutions. Google Calendar (or any similar online calendar) can be useful if you set regular reminders about tasks you should be working on. The Pomodoro Technique can be used to work on tasks in short bursts. Or you can use a time management tool on your smartphone to keep honest about what you’re really doing all day.
There’s no getting around the need for willpower. Still, software can help keep you on track and alert you when procrastination begins to take over your day.
Play more games with friends
Games are a great way to spend time with friends. They’re among the most social forms of entertainment that you can enjoy, yet it’s easy to forget about their potential and turn inward. Why waste time waiting for someone else to join if a single-player campaign is available now?
The answer is simple – playing with friends is almost always more fun. The genre doesn’t matter. You can comp-stomp in Starcraft 2, shoot zombies in Left 4 Dead or build a monument to the Teletubbies in Minecraft. Whatever your choice, friends almost always enhance the experience.
And don’t forget about tabletop games! Contrary to its reputation, stepping into the tabletop world can be both easy and inexpensive. There are plenty of free or low-cost systems including FATE, Savage Worlds, Dungeon World, and Microlite d20. Games like this focus on being easy to understand and don’t require additional rulebooks to play (though you’ll have to imagine your own setting).
What’s Your Resolution?
I picked these resolutions because they’re clear and obtainable for nearly anyone. There’s not much effort involved in setting up two-factor authentication or pledging to a crowd-funded project. You just need to take a moment and do it.
What’s your geeky new-year’s resolution? Are you looking to get back into a game you loved but abandoned? Do you want to learn to build your own PC? Perhaps you’re seeking ways to automate your life? Let us know in the comments!
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