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How To Own Your Technology (and not the other way around)

Choose the Right Technology for You

Warren Buffet has a very simple way of picking the right investments: understand them first.

You may be shocked to hear that even as a good friend of Bill Gates, and being the savvy and prolific investor he is, Warren has never invested in Microsoft because he says he does not understand how the company works.

Just because you grew up with a smartphone, or get 10+ Likes for every picture you post on Facebook doesn’t mean you understand technology. I bet Warren has used Microsoft products for 3 decades, and still he has the humility to stay away from it, despite the potential gains he might have accumulated.

Photo courtesy of the wonderful Fortune Magazine (please don’t sue us)

If you understand how each piece of technology fits in to your life, then you’re halfway to every tech company’s dream – being a customer! But what’s more important is to understand why technology works for you, and whether it’s actually worth your time.

Establish your Limitations

If you ‘need’ any aspect of technology, then you’re already in the deep end. Try removing yourself from the grid for a few hours at a time – maybe even days if you’re crazy. The point is to own your technology. You be the master. Be cognizant of the real effects it has on you. Do you rely on technology so much you feel like you’re missing out? Are you accomplishing more during the day? Are you unhappy?

These seem like silly questions, but most of us are scared to admit what type of separation anxiety kicks in when we don’t get push alerts or have Words With Friends moves to play.

If you consciously attempt to control the time you spend on a connected device, you will help separate yourself from your virtual self, and heck, maybe go for a run or read a book. Try these tips  from Dave Boehi on how to establish your technology limitations.

Alert Your Friends

This is more of a courtesy rather than a rule, but it could save your mother  a heart attack when all of your closest friends text your mom ‘haven’t heard from Lloyd in like 7 minutes…is he ok?!?!’. This is not how to own your technology, this is technology owning you.

User Your Time Well

Drop the phone, the laptop and the tablet, and make sure to occupy your time with something relatively useful. You can proceed with your normal day, but do it 21st century Thoreau style – with no connectivity.

Pursue things you enjoy doing, and if the desire comes for any types of technology, you can be the judge on whether or not it’s worth it (I cannot get away from Evernote).

Most of the time technology speeds up our lives or makes them more efficient, but sometimes we need life to slow down to human pace to keep us happy.

 

Automate the Boring Part of Life

Why Automate?

Because boring tasks should be automated, duh!

No matter which browser you use (Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer), everyone should learn how to use iMacros by iOpus, an automation tool to optimize the repetitive things you do on your computer. Combine this with a few other tools and you’ll shave hours off of your weekly or monthly schedule.

At work, I have to fill out a time sheet every week, but it’s a laborious and annoying process. I need to specify exact arrival and departure times for work and even for my lunch breaks. Additionally, the servers are usually slow and overloaded on Friday, so I find myself waiting around for drop downs to populate, pages to refresh, and time entries to be added.

So, I automated the whole thing.


Now I click a button, and what used to take me 10 minutes takes 10 seconds. What’s even better is the social benefits of passing this along to your co-workers who share the same administrative frustration.

The wiki tutorial is really the best place to learn about the depth of iMacros, but I’ll also provide a brief overview of how it works in conjunction with some other cool (and Free) automation tools.

We’re going to back up through this process, starting with the most detailed part of automation (iMacros) and then moving outward to the bigger tasks (running your iMacro automatically and then opening your browser automatically).

Identify Your Boring Tasks

Think about the way you navigate your web browser. Do you visit the same 6 sites? Do you enter usernames and passwords over and over? Do you input online forms? Retrieve flight info or stock numbers?

Almost anything can be automated, but it’s only useful if it adds value to you. Once you identify something that fits the bill, it’s time to record.

Record Your Actions Using iMacro

What iMacros essentially does is record all of your actions as you click and navigate through your browser.

It stores inputted information, and you can even use wildcard characters to generalize a search or drop down selection.

So record your macro by navigating exactly how you want the computer to navigate automatically.

*Avoid keyboard shortcuts, even simple ones like Tabbing into new fields or using the arrow keys to scroll up or down. I find that clicking into specified locations and typing is the safest way. May take an extra minute for you to record but it’ll be a cleaner macro.

Once you’re done recording your action, you can replay your iMacro and watch the computer do everything on its own. It’ll likely take a few run-throughs to iron out your code and get it to the point where you can repeatedly achieve your desired results.

Configure Your iMacro to Run Automatically

After you’ve created a bulletproof macro, you can use Firefox’s Weekly Browsing Schedule to automatically trigger and run your macro.

You do this by right clicking your saved macro (in the left sidebar), and saving the macro as a Local Bookmark.

Now, when you open up Weekly Browsing Schedule, you can trigger your bookmark to run at a recurring time and on a specific day(s).

Configure Your Browser to Open Automatically

So you have an automated macro, and you can trigger that macro to run whenever you want. Now you just need to make sure you have your browser open!

For Mac users, Cronnix does the trick. It’s a no-frills tool that will perform a command at a specified time and day – similar to Weekly Browsing Schedule, but this can open applications like your web browser.

Figure Out the Logistics

Using timesheet entry as an example, here’s the simple breakdown of events:

Cronnix: opens Firefox at 4:00pm every Friday

Weekly Browsing Schedule: triggers iMacro bookmark for ‘Timesheet Entry’ at 4:01pm every Friday

You’ll want to test the timing of everything before relying on this. But you can see the added benefit of automating things like this.

Other Examples

I’ve also used this to register guest vehicles in parking garages.

Since they require a guest vehicle be registered with the 3rd party parking enforcement at all times, I simply created a macro to register my car for a 7 day permit, and scheduled it to run every week. Eventually I added a dozen other entries so that any of my friends could come and go as they please.

Just took a little upfront work, but now my friends and I never have to worry about it again.

Contact me if you have something you’d like automated or need help with. I’m no expert but I love to help and love to learn.

And please comment below if you’ve used automation to simplify your daily activities as well.


Google Glasses and Augmented Reality

I came across these Google Glasses for the first time today. It’s basically an augmented reality (AR) head-mounted-device (HMD). In the real world, these are called SAG’s, or “sweet-ass glasses”. Some more sweet ass wearables, (infographic provided by VoucherCoders.co.uk). The possibilities that this technology holds seem endless.

With respect to health and fitness, imagine mapping a jog on the fly. Or, as a football player, run drills ANYWHERE without cones. All the while monitoring your heart rate and blood pressure on the top corner of your screen.

Project Glass, as it’s called at Google’s X Lab, might also not be the only player. Earlier this year, Apple filed a patent that they described as a, “display resolution increase with mechanical actuation.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7TB8b2t3QE[/youtube]

P.S. The idea of “wearable computers” was first toyed with when Edward O. Thorp created a device for increasing odds in roulette.

 

 

 

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