Best Practice: Making Life Easier

By Colleen Riggle

Back to school, back to school…

Summer is officially over for us and as we embark on the beginning of a new academic year I wanted to pass along my tips for making life easier!

1. iPad and Tablet Devices – it will reduce the stacks of paper you will have piled up throughout your office by the end of the first month or semester!  It will help you keep up to date with your calendar, notes from one meeting to the next and what I love about my iPad is being able to pull up a website reference when we are in a meeting discussing or sending off that email right as we’re talking about it! And let’s be real, Scrabble can always fill some time during a dull meeting too!

2. Calendar – own your calendar, don’t let it own you! Go through before the busy time of year and block off lunch or an hour at the start of end of your day to make sure you have time to prep! While those hours aren’t set in stone, I like having the flexibility of deciding whether I need that time or if I can schedule a meeting. It’s important to stay balanced throughout the year and being in control of your own time will be important! Oh, something else is to put personal appointments on the calendar too or maybe even carve out some time for  a mini vacation before the end of the semester, 16 weeks can be a long haul with no reprieve!

3.  Social Networking – I don’t know about you, but I rarely have the leisure of sitting down and reading a newspaper, let alone a book (unless it’s on my iPhone) so what I do is fill my Google Reader, Facebook and Twitter with lots of resources to keep up to date! It helps me stay in tune to what’s going on in the world, and also keep a pulse on campus too!  I find that I get much of my in the moment news from Twitter (especially HUGE traffic issues that might cause me to be late to work or picking up from day care).

As we begin the semester, I encourage you to take a moment and pause as you prepare! Consider my top 3 suggestions and also to think through what ways technology has assisted you in a smooth start and semester!


Best Practice: Making Life Easier

Linkage Love: An Epic Hacking

By Brenda Bethman

Assuming you’ve spent any time on the internets over the last couple of weeks, you have likely heard about the hacking of Mat Honan, senior editor at Wired magazine (in case you’ve been on vacation or otherwise out of the loop, the short version is, Honan was hacked and his entire digital life, including all the photos of his daughter’s first year, was erased. The hackers wreaked some other havoc as well. For details, see Honan’s article in Wired ).

As you might expect, this unleashed a flood of articles featuring tips on how you can protect yourself from the same. The short answer is, of course, that you can’t. A determined hacker can probably crack just about anything (did you see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?). It also won’t protect you agains social engineering, which is how the hackers gained access in this case. Nonetheless, the following tips are helpful:

  • Using strong passwords that you change often
  • Not recycling passwords
  • Setting up 2-step verification on your email accounts (if it’s available)
  • Backing up. And then backing up again. And then backing up your backups. Seriously. Backing up would not have prevent Honan from being hacked. But it would have prevented the painful data loss he experienced. If you are not performing regular backups, stop whatever you’re doing and go set them up. Yes, right now. Just do it.

When you’re done backing up, here are some links to some stories with more information on the tips below. I really like the tip from the Slate article on using a secret address for all your password resets. Yes, I now have one. No, I’m not telling you what it is 🙂

If you use Gmail and want to set up 2-step verification, here’s a video to get you started:

How else do you protect your digital life? If you have tips or articles to share, please leave them in the comments!

Linkage Love: An Epic Hacking

Google Drive – A Review

by Kristen Abell

If you haven’t been playing with Google Docs lately, you may not have noticed that it has morphed into a whole new cloud system – Google Drive. With this new system, Google has done a great job of taking the cloud to the next – more accessible – level. I have been using it much more than I used Google Docs previously, and that’s saying something. Here are some of my initial thoughts after using it for a bit…

I love that you can download and install Google Drive on your desktop/laptop. I have installed it on my MacBook Air, and I’ve managed to use it to store files on instead of the Air when I know I will have the ability to access them through wireless. If I know I need a document later when I may not have access, I simply download it to the computer, then upload it again when I have access again. This has saved me a lot of storage space on the Air, which is running more quickly now.

There is a limited amount of space with Drive – for free, that is. I could easily go over my storage limits if I were using it to store all of my pictures. Since I’ve started shooting a number of my pictures in both RAW and JPEG, they suck up storage space on my computers like crazy. I’m considering purchasing additional space just so I can continue to access them from multiple computers.

Occasionally Drive doesn’t save my documents in the format I’d like when I try to save directly to it. This is mainly for spreadsheets – I don’t know why, and I probably just have to play around with it a bit more, but occasionally when I start working on an Excel spreadsheet and try to save directly to Google Drive, for some reason it saves it as an uneditable document. On the other hand, if I save it to my computer or server as an Excel spreadsheet and then upload it to Drive, I can usually get it to convert with no issues. Obviously, this is probably user error, but I always figure that if someone who is generally as tech savvy as me has difficulty with it, it’s probably not the most user-friendly feature, so it could probably use some improvement (and no, that isn’t meant to sound pompous – I just know that I tend to be able to figure those things out, whereas those who are not so computer-friendly will more than likely have a harder time with it; therefore, if I have a hard time with it, they may never figure it out.).

I love the ability to work in Drive with the various applications – like Aviary for quick and easy picture editing – as well as the ability to access documents while in Google Hangouts. Although, to be fair, that’s a holdover from Google Docs – but a great one for collaborations. I’ve worked on a few different writing projects and presentations just by combining the ability to chat in Google Hangouts with the ability to edit documents from Google Docs/Drive, and it has made for some fantastic products, thanks to ease of combining communication and document tools.

So my overall grade at this point for Google Drive is a B+. There are a lot of amazing features, but I think there are a few that still need some fleshing out to be truly amazing, and I’d love it if there were more storage available for free, obviously. Have you been using Google Drive? What are your thoughts about it? Pros and cons?

Google Drive – A Review

Blog Prompt: New to Me, Anyway

By Anitra Cottledge

What new tech practices are you using this academic year? What do you want to learn more about?

As we ramp up to the beginning of the semester, I am all about decluttering (or uncluttering, depending on how you look at it). This goes for technology too. Cleaning out the rest of my life has made me reflect upon tech and whether I’m using it productively. I’m not aware of any new technology that I’m dying to integrate into my life (not right this minute anyway).

I am more interested in repurposing and/or maximizing my use of the technology that I already know about. Here’s some examples:

  • Google Tasks – I know colleagues who are using this Google feature already, but I didn’t discover that until recently while I was in South Africa (yes, I went halfway across the world and discovered something that was there all the time). I officially started using Google Tasks this week, and so far, so good. My calendar/to-do list system has been whittled down over the years to a couple of basic layers that really work for me, and my sense is that Google Tasks will be a good place to keep track of spur-of-the-moment ideas and tasks that occur to me while I’m sitting at the computer at work.
  • Scrivener – Scrivener is where my writer and tech nerd sensibilities meet. I started using this on the recommendation of my writing group co-coordinator, who swears by it come NaNoWriMo time. As someone who’s writing projects keep expanding, I’ve been playing around with how Scrivener can be useful in organizing not only the fiction and creative non-fiction that I write, but also blog posts and academic and work-related writing.
  • ChimeIn – Recently, at an instructor retreat, we talked about meaningful ways to integrate technology into the classroom experience. We’re playing around with ChimeIn, and excited about it as a “web-based student response tool.” I’m looking forward to giving it more of a test drive when I teach during spring semester. In the meantime, however, I’m thinking about its use in other work settings: during educational trainings or workshops, or doing in-house engagement or professional development within our own staff.

As for what I want to know more about, my perennial favorite (hopefully, I’ll have another long-standing favorite after this year) is video production. I feel like more and more of my women’s center and student affairs colleagues are utilizing videos for a number of purposes: education, visibility, fundraising, etc. I’m looking forward to working with and learning from some of our interns this year on this front. If you are involved with video production in your office or work, what software do you use to create videos? Any tips or tutorials are welcome!

Blog Prompt: New to Me, Anyway

Highlight an App: Fitness

By Brenda Bethman

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I would much rather read a book than run or play a sport — and that I love to eat (really, truly love it). Combine that with a (mostly) sedentary job, a husband who is an excellent cook, and the inevitable slowing metabolism that comes with hitting middle age — and well, I could stand to get some more exercise (because I weighed the options and decided that eating nothing but salads or giving up wine were both unacceptable — so moving more it is).

Oh, and I should apologize for the lateness of this post — I was working on a new website yesterday and completely forgot about posting. So, here we are today. Now, where was I? Right, looking an apps — or really a gadget. Yes, I finally broke down and bought a Fitbit, under the assumption that a true geek girl would find data motivating. I’ve had it for a couple of days, but so far that is correct.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Fitbit, is a small wireless tracker that you wear and that tracks the number of steps taken, flights of stairs (or the equivalent when walking/running hills), calories burned, and miles traveled. Combined with the website, the Fitbit apps (or other apps such as MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, Nike+, etc.), you can also track calories consumed, water drunk, and workout activity. I am less interested in the calorie counting aspect as I find nothing more dull than tracking one’s food. Nothing. But the activity tracking has been an eye-opener — I knew that I spent a lot of time being inactive (especially in the summer), but it was shocking to see just how inactive (especially if it really is true that sitting a lot really is super bad for you). So, I’ve turned to technology to help me stop sitting so often (ironic, no?) — first, with the Fitbit, as seeing the numbers and charts is, as I noted, really very sobering. Also, with another app, BreakTime, that I’ve installed on my office computer and laptop. BreakTime can be set to automatically force your computer into an inactive state for a set amount of time at set intervals (currently, I do 5 minutes every 55 minutes). It’s configured so that I can’t stop it and I can’t quit the break early. So, once a hour, I can’t use my computer, which is my signal to get up and go take a quick walk outside or around the building. I am hopeful that I will be able to keep this up once classes start up again in a bit.

The other cool thing about the Fitbit (and the reason I chose it over other gadgets) is that it will also track sleep activity. Here’s mine from last night:

This is the kind of data my geeky heart just loves. And I’m hoping that it will also be useful should my not-so-great semesterly sleeping patterns reemerge with the start of classes.

So far, I’m pleased with the Fitbit and its associated apps — and hopeful that it will help me keep moving more even with the craziness of the semester. What about you? What apps do you use to try to work fitness into your busy day? Tell us in the comments. And here’s hoping that your openings / first day of classes/ beginnings of the semester go well!


Highlight an App: Fitness

Linkage Love: Finding Good Deals Online

by Kathryn Magura

I enjoy shopping online. The ability to shop at my own pace without anyone hassling me makes the entire experience more enjoyable. Also, I’m a tall woman so I’m used to being told that the long pants or other clothing for tall women are available online only.

While I enjoy a good deal from sites like Living Social or Groupon, I find that those sites are mostly about getting you to buy something you may not otherwise be looking for, but can’t resist the deal. When I shop online, I am doing so with a particular item or shopping need in mind. Therefore, I’m not as interested in the latest deals, I’m interested in coupons and deals for sites I frequently shop.

I’ve compiled a list of some good coupon sites to share with you all. The first one is a site I frequent, the others are ones that came from my Twitter community when I asked for feedback. Please feel free to add any I’ve missed to the comments!

  • Retail Me Not: Before I go to a website to shop, I usually go to Retail Me Not to see if there are any current deals on the site. Retail Me Not compiles discounts and coupons from popular sites, and then lets users vote on whether the coupon worked for them. When you type in a company, you’ll see all the deals the site can find, and how successful each one has been for fellow users of the site.
  • Fat Wallet: A colleague on Twitter referred me to as another good site for great deals. Fat wallet has a number of easy to navigate categories, and aggregates the top deals of the day on the main page. There’s also an extensive forum page for users of the site to add their tips and feedback.
  • Coupon Mom: Not sure what I think about the stereotypes associated with this site, but another friend referred me to Coupon Mom as a good site to find deals. One thing I noticed about this site is that it looks very user friendly, and makes it easy to find printable coupons if you want to go into a store to make your purchase.
  • Penny Pincher Gazette: Another recommendation was Penny Pincher Gazette. This site appears to focus mostly on groceries, and even has a page to share recipes.
  • Deals Plus: Another Twitter user recommended I follow Deals Plus on Twitter. This account finds the best deals being marketed on Twitter and shares them with followers.

I hope these sites can help you save on your shopping. If you have other recommendations on how to save money shopping (online or otherwise) please feel free to share them!

Linkage Love: Finding Good Deals Online

Where did the summer go?

by Colleen Riggle

I know I am not alone when I question where the summer went.  Colleagues across campus and other Institutions equally have questioned the speediness of summer this year.  We are in the midst of orientations and in the final days of summer we are approaching the start of classes in less than two weeks!

But I have been enjoying the Olympics over the past week!  Did you catch the Opening Ceremony last week?  What did you think about it over?  While the opinions across the board have been mixed I have loved being able to catch many of the sports!

Olympic Fountains
Do you have a favorite?  Personally, I love the swimming, gymnastics and track and field events! I am just in awe of what those athletes are able to achieve, especially the World Records in time, medals and breaking the standards of gender and race!

How has technology enhanced and or changed your Olympics experiences?  I know for one DVR has been essential in just being able to VIEW the various sports, but I’ve heard some critique about seeing who has won what medals because of social networking updates.  But overall, I am continually impressed how we are able to keep up, watch and network with friends and family across the world in the spirit of what brings us all together through sports!

As summer comes to a close for many of us, I hope that you’ve been able to find a little time to relax and enjoy time away from the office!

Where did the summer go?