May 5th is NOT Mexican Independence Day

cincodemayoCinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) is celebrated in the United States and in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla, where the holiday is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (English: The Day of the Battle of Puebla).

It originated with Mexican-American communities in the American West in the 1860s as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War, and today the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.

In the state of Puebla, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is generally mistaken to be Mexico’s Independence Day but it is not. That most important national holiday in Mexico is celebrated on September 16. (Sounds like another opportunity to celebrate with Margaritas to me!)

For more, check out Wikipedia.

Happy Earth Day

earth-dayAh! That’s why there was no post yesterday. Well yes, that – and I just got really busy!

I remember the very first Earth Day. Yes, I’m THAT old. At first I thought What? Then I started listening and reading more about what the day was about and was totally on board. I’ve tried to be earth-friendly ever since.

So here are some great Earth Day tips:

  • DON’T PRINT YOUR EMAILS! Seriously, unless you need to take it somewhere, or it’s a bill you need to file. If it’s something you need to take action on, just move it to a folder in your computer or cloud’s email program that you have labeled IMPORTANT or TAKE ACTION
  • To encourage recycling, the BEST thing I’ve seen is labeling your garbage can LANDFILL and your recycling – well, RECYCLING. Putting something in that landfill bin makes you pause.
  • Change light bulbs to the CFL. There are only 2 or 3 in our house NOT CFLs.
  • Use your garbage disposal or better yet, compost if you are able.
  • Take public transportation, bike (as in bicycle) or walk whenever you can.
  • Look for ENERGY STAR ratings on appliances when you buy them.
  • Conserve water with shorter showers and no more pre-washing dishes.
  • And of course you are already using your own shopping bags, right?
  • For more ideas visit the EPA site: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/tips.htm

What is your favorite?

Spring Cleaning for Your Technology: Part 4 of 4

Desserts is Stressed spelled backwardsThis week is the last in a four-part series about spring cleaning for your technology. Week one highlighted ways to organize your files. Week two was the clean and purge step. Last week was updating your protection software.

This week we’re looking at spring cleaning our work habits – specifically how to be more productive by reducing stress.

De-stress to help with your productivity.

Clean your mind with a periodic break. It is amazing what happens when you take a break from a project, and the more intense the project, the more productive the break is. It allows your mind to chug and churn behind the scenes and come up with creative ideas and solutions.

Here are some of my favorite ways to de-stress:

  • Take a walk during your lunch break, or shoot some hoops.
  • Work a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Meet a client for some personal time – no work discussion unless she brings it up.

I also found this great article worth sharing:  20 Scientifically-Backed Ways To De-Stress Right Now

I’ll just bet you have some favorites as well – what are they?

Spring Cleaning for Your Technology: Part 3 of 4

malware_protectionSo far, we’ve had three installments of a four-part series about spring cleaning for your technology. Week one highlighted ways to organize your files. Last week was the clean and purge step.

Now that you have your files organized, and cleaned up here’s the next step: Update your protection software and run it.

You should have both virus protection software and malware protection. They should both be updated regularly and run periodically. Usually paid versions do that automatically, the unpaid versions rely on you remembering – that’s ok, just create a reminder for yourself.

Review your passwords. You already know that it’s a bad idea to have the same password for everything. Even rotating through two or three is not a good idea. Here’s a great way to customize your password for each site you visit. Plan to change this each year. If you keep it written down on a piece of paper, it’s virtually impossible for a hacker to get it.

Choose a phrase — This one time at band camp

  • Change words to numbers — This 1 time at band camp
  • Pick first letter of each word or number — T1TABC
  • Add special characters — T1T@BC
  • Customize by adding a suffix for each site you register with — (example: for Amazon) T1T@BCAMA

If you’ve EVER panicked over misplacing your phone, be sure your home screen is password protected.

Spring Cleaning for Your Technology: Part 2 of 4

clean_purgeLast week I started a four-part series about spring cleaning for your technology. That article highlighted ways to organize your files.

Now that you have them organized, here’s the next step: Clean and Purge

After you have all your files organized, write them to a storage device to back them up. For backup options, read this blog. Then delete old or obsolete files from your PC.

Clean your keyboard, printer, fax and other equipment. Electronics are delicate, so you need to be careful what you use. Compressed air is great for keyboards and hard to reach areas.

Use a special cleaner and microfiber cloth for monitors and touch pad surfaces (phones & tablets). Don’t use your regular household cleaners for these surfaces.

When in doubt, look at your owner’s manual/instruction booklet or do an internet search for “the best way to clean [your device]”

Review your phone apps. Find the ones you no longer use and delete them. Arrange them on your phone in a way that makes sense. I have my games on one screen, my social media on one screen, my mail, calendar and contacts on one screen, etc.

Update software you use regularly, delete software you no longer use. Usually programs and apps send update messages when they are available. Most are free. If you find you need a paid upgrade, those can be tax write-offs; check with your tax professional.

What other suggestions do you have?

Spring Cleaning for Your Technology: Part 1 of 4

organize-330x280Over the next four weeks, we’re going to be giving you some Spring Cleaning tips for your technology. Don’t try to do them all at once, it can be overwhelming. Just check off a few things each day and before you know it, your IT will be sparkling clean!!

Step One: Organize your files

Clean up your Desktop. If you have a lot of files on your computer’s desktop, it is probably taking you longer than necessary to find what you are looking for. Plus, many backup programs do not backup files that are on your desktop. So now is the time to organize those files and take them off your desktop. Create folders/labels for groups of files (Personal, School projects, ABC Company, Tax Files, etc.) then MOVE the files from your desktop to those folders.

Organize your pictures and store them off your computer. Pictures take up TONS of space! The great thing about digital photography is that you can take lots of pictures and see them instantly. But seriously, are all those pictures worth keeping? Choose your favorites and DELETE the rest. Once you’ve selected your favorites, create folders/labels on a CD or DVD and store them there.

Don’t forget about your phone – sync your pictures and videos to your computer. Then move them to your storage CD/DVD. Routinely empty your SD card.

An alternative to CD/DVD storage is cloud storage. Drop Box is very popular. They make it very easy to organize your files. And you can get to them wherever you are with a smart phone or internet connection.

Organize your email. To keep your inbox under four digits in size, create folders/labels and file the emails there. Create a Work folder with sub-folders for each project you’re working on. When the project is complete you can delete the folder.

For personal emails, you can create a Rule/Filter so that every email from Bed Bath and Beyond, for example, goes into their own folder. You can look at it later.

Next week – Clean and Purge

Happy Pi Day (no, that’s not a typo)

Pi Day - March 14Today is Pi Day. Math nerds around the world celebrate this mysterious number today. Your favorite Pie Shop may even run a special on pies today. Go ahead, celebrate!

The number π (sometimes spelled out as “pi”) is a mathematical constant approximately equal to 3.14, hence the celebration today, March 14. It is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It’s been used since the mid-18th century.

It is what mathematicians call an irrational number, meaning it can not be expressed exactly as a common fraction. So its decimal equivalent never ends and never settles into a permanent repeating pattern.

Mathematicians have been trying for thousands of years to accurately compute the value of π. With  today’s high powered supercomputers, 20th and 21st century computer scientists have extended the decimal representation of π to over 10 trillion digits! Now, scientific applications generally require no more than 40 digits, so the primary motivation for these computations is the human desire to break records. But the calculation of π has been used to test supercomputers’ ability to compute high-precision multiplication algorithms.

In layman’s terms, they do it for fun, but have developed a use for it. I suppose not unlike the person at 3M who accidentally invented Post-Its, or the chef who was looking for a short cut for baking chocolate cookies and came up with chocolate chip cookies instead.

You will probably see a few minor headlines today about my fellow math nerds as they celebrate Pi Day with record-setting calculations. They’ll have to work pretty hard – the record for a MEMORIZED value of π is over 67,000 digits!! (One of the back pages of my high school math book had my own attempt at the value – the ENTIRE page, full of glorious numbers!)

Happy Pi Day!

Important Windows XP Notification

computer_surpise
Don’t panic!

Microsoft will stop doing support on the Windows XP operating system in April, 2014.  This has been in the works for many years, and Microsoft has pushed the date back many times.  It looks like they’re serious this time.  Windows XP was released in 2001.  We want to inform you of this so it doesn’t come as a surprise.  This does not mean that XP will cease to work after that date, just that Microsoft will no longer provide updates or support. Please pass on this information to relatives or friends with Windows XP that may not see this.

It’s important to note that Windows XP will continue to operate just fine after the date when support stops.  Just keep your antivirus programs up to date and you’ll be protected.  As time goes on, though, new vulnerabilities in the operating system will be discovered and exploited, and your computer will become less safe.  You might want to consider replacing your computer with one having a newer operating system like Windows 7 or Windows 8.  As a benefit, you’ll get a new computer that will be much faster than the older one.

Windows XP end of life (as it is called) will be announced by an End of Support pop up dialog box sometime starting March 8.  See below:

windowsXPnotificationYou can get more information by  visiting the Microsoft blog post: http://blogs.windows.com/windows/b/windowsexperience/archive/2014/03/03/new-windows-xp-data-transfer-tool-and-end-of-support-notifications.aspx

2014 Oscars

oscars2014selfieI had undoubtedly the best time watching the Oscars last night. Ellen DeGeneres was so funny. I loved the pizza gag. We actually had to look up “Liza Minelli look-alike” to find out that that really WAS her…oh the comments around the sofa!!

But, of course, the biggest non-award news of the night was the selfie craze that crashed Twitter! The picture on this page show me in the selfie!! Did you see it? It’s not too hard to pick out. You can do it, too. Just find a picture of yourself, or take a new one, and go to this website: http://www.urturn.com/documents/C60EE8F1-7070-0001-9FDB-DCA51A62E1A0?pretty=true  The directions are pretty simple and it’s just too much fun.

I just have one burning question. This year, and last year, there was a definite lack of necklaces worn by the stars. Are there any fashionistas out there that can help me out here? What’s up with that?

PS: I promise a post with more meat in it next week!!