Friday, September 23, 2011

Password Managers: Last Pass

Forget Me Nots
If you're anything like me, you wear multiple hats on any given day. Between running errands, going to work and balancing your life, passwords are easy to forget--especially since every single Web site seems to want you to create a password. Every site's requirements are different, whether they want a non-alpha-numeric character, a capital letter or a 25,000 character password for security.

My nerd had started to use Last Pass some time ago and when I once again locked myself out of an account, I decided it was time to find out more about it. Last Pass is a password manager. Their tag line is "The Last password you'll have to remember". That sounded good to me, so sign me up!

First thing I found was that it was easy to get started. I downloaded Last Pass from their Web site and pretty much let it do it's thing. I chose the option to import my saved passwords from my browser. I've been able to use it on all the browsers that are on my computer (Chrome, IE 9 and Firefox). When I start up, I log into Last Pass. Anytime I go to a Web site that requires a password, if it's not already auto-filled, I just click on the Last Pass icon and choose which user name to use and it auto-fills. When you go to a new site and create a password or enter a password that Last Pass does not have saved, you will receive the options to save password, not now, or never for this site. I don't use Last Pass for things like my PayPal account or my online banking. Pretty much anything else is game.

I find it very helpful to use Last Pass. I spend a lot less time trying to remember which password I created for which site and waiting for password reminder e-mails to be sent to me. Now I just log in once and I'm good for the day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Gadgets: GPS

Manitoba Canada North Star Highway Map (1955)I talk about living with a nerd, but the truth is that I'm a bit of a nerd too.  My favourite gadget is my GPS.  Last summer, there was a point when I was the only driver in the house.  I had to drive my nerd to places I'd never been.  Using Google Maps or Mapquest was fine when I had someone to navigate, but when I didn't it was hard to read my print outs and drive.

I insisted on a GPS.  I was too stressed driving in areas I didn't know that I needed help.  I love my GPS!  My stress levels while driving have gone way down. I still get lost, because whenever it says turn in 700 meters, I am trying to figure out if it's the next street or the one after that.  But, when I go off course, the GPS gets me back on track.

We have a Garmin Nuvi.  I couldn't tell you what model number it is, but it's very easy to use.  We have fun with the Nuvi.  There are several voices that you can choose for your GPS to use.  The kids love "Squirrelly".  For awhile, Angel would only let us use Squirrelly.  She'd talk to Squirrelly like he was a real person.  I was afraid she'd pick up his phrase for recalculating which was "Oh, nuts!" but thankfully, she didn't.  Squirrelly would ask if there were trees nearby, tell us that our car was "swell" and lots of other fun things.

Doctor Nightmare was too scary for Angel, so we had to change from that voice very quickly.  Now we seem to be using an Australian lady's voice and it's OK, but there are no funny or unexpected phrases.  I may have to change it up again soon.

GPS BackupI like that you can also change the Nuvi to give you walking directions.  This is very handy if you want to participate in an activity called geocaching.  More about that another time.

Don't Try to Out-Nerd a Nerd: Tech Support Phone Scams

razor wire on fence - silent sentryNerds On Site recently posted a blog about tech support phone scams. In this scam, someone calls you out of the blue, says that they are your computer person and ask you to give them access to your computer. My nerd had told me about this scam and this afternoon, he was absolutely giddy to tell me that he'd actually gotten the call. Yep, someone called my nerd claiming to be from Microsoft Tech Support. 

This is where my darling husband became an evil nerd. He played along with the guy. We have one computer that is connected to the internet, but not part of our network at home. This will sound crazy, but it has no antivirus on it and he actually wants it to get infected so that he can practice cleaning it. Anyway, he granted the guy access to this computer and let him go through his whole spiel while trying not to laugh at the phony information he was being fed. I'm impressed that my husband was able to hold his laughter in while this fake support person told him lie after lie.

He even tried to say that our Microsoft product key had expired. He was all set to get hubby to sign up for a plan to "protect" his computer when hubby finally told him that he wanted nothing to do with their scam and to take him off the list. He immediately disconnected the computer from the session and hung up the phone.
Bortusk Criminal Swag
I asked him why he went to all that trouble when he knew it was not a legitimate phone call and his response was that, "I figured he was wasting my time, so I might as well waste his!" This is not the way to deal with people who are trying to get you to buy in to their scam, and I do not think he had the best idea, even if he did have a lot of fun. Believe me when I say that the computer will be cleaned thoroughly.

It surprises me everyday how many people fall for these types of scams. The fact that these people keep calling shows that it must be lucrative for them. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has said that this computer scam has gone viral across Canada. It's important to be vigilant about who you share your personal information with. For tips on how to recognize fraud and scams, see the Anti-Fraud Centre's tips. Don't be a victim.

I think the best piece of advice on their tip list is "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is".  It reminds me of one of my favourite phrases, "Don't take any wooden nickles."  Don't take things at face value.  Do a little digging, ask some questions.  Legitimate businesses don't have anything to hide.  Scammers do and they will not be forthcoming with information.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Chances are that by now you've heard of Twitter. When I first heard about it, my nerd was the one who told me that it was "micro-blogging". Does that not sound completely boring? He was telling me that he was following people and that people were following him and to be honest, the whole thing sounded just a little creepy. I mean who wants someone following their every move? You might be surprised then to know that when it comes to Twitter, I officially know more than the nerd in the family. I went from hating the very idea of Twitter to becoming a Twitter-aholic. I wouldn't say that I'm an expert, but I'm fairly comfortable with Twitter and know my way around fairly well. I started a Twitter account when my blogging mentor advised me to. She advised it as a good way to network and market my writing. I found Twitter to be all that and more. On Twitter, I not only found writers to connect with, I found parents to connect with to talk about our special children. When you think you are the only one dealing with the stress of having a special needs child, it's great to know that you're not alone. I've made some friends through Twitter. I've shared some laughs, found some interesting articles and participated in tweetchats. I'd say that Twitter is an invaluable resource for me . It helps me stay on top of important issues and to be involved in communities and discussions that matter to me. If you don't already follow me on Twitter, please do! I tweet about a lot of topics and share interesting things I find as well. My button is at the top of this article. Over the next while, I'll share some Twitter best practices and cool things that I've learned. If there's something that you want to know about, please tell me by adding a comment to this blog. Ask away!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My New Favourite Game: Plants Vs Zombies

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a bit of an app junkie when it comes to my iPhone.  Truth be told, most of the apps I download are free trial versions, and I delete some of them because there is not enough time in the day for me to play all the games I have on my phone.  I do pay for some, but not many games.

My nerd was playing Plants vs Zombies on his Windows Phone 7 and it sounded cute, so when I saw it on one of my game Web sites in a trial form, I had to try it.  Here's the thing--this game is addicting and fun.  The whole idea is that Zombies are coming to attack your house and you have to defend yourself with--plants.  Sounds corny, right?  Well it is, but it's fun too.  Using peashooters to save humanity is a lot of fun.  Bowling for Zombies on the front lawn with a Wall Nut, is also fun.  Using cherry bombs to blow stuff up?  You betcha!  Lots of fun.

Gamehouse has a free trial version for online play or you can buy a download for Mac or Windows computers.    The trial version takes you through the first two levels which is actually a lot of game play.  Google Chrome also has a trial version of the game in the Chrome Store.  The game is available for a lot of platforms, including Nintendo DS, Apple iPad and iPhone.  I'll probably be adding it to my phone some day, but since I played the first two levels non-stop on my computer, I think I'll wait awhile.

If you liked Angry Birds, you'll probably like Plants vs Zombies. Let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Word from the Nerd

Nerd Talk Since my husband was such a good sport about yesterday's rant about him having no off switch, I've decided to get him to guest post on this blog.  Once a month, or when the spirit moves him, the Nerd will share something Nerdy right here on my blog.  I figured that since my blog is about technology from the sidelines and being married to a Nerd that he would be a great contributor.

Have a question for the Nerd?  Have a question for me?  Let us know and we'll be happy to tackle the topic here!  Keep your eyes open for his first guest post, coming as soon as I can bug him to write it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Nerds are from...?

My husband is a nerd.  One of his sisters is a nerd.  His friends are nerds.  I love his nerdiness.  It's endearing and quirky and it's just him.  He's brilliant.  But he doesn't get the little things.
Windows Phone 7
He's got this phone that he loves and he talks about it to everyone.  Did I mention that he talks about it to EVERYONE?  Seriously.  I get that he's super hyped up about how great this piece of technology is, but in the end, it's a phone.  You can use it to make phone calls.  The extra bells and whistles are nice, but I don't really care as long as it can make and receive calls.

As a nerd's wife, I get to hear a lot about his newest or current obsession.  Right now, he's all about the Windows Phone 7.  I've been part of conversations where I hear far more than I ever cared to know about the Windows Phone and all that it does.  I don't care that they are getting people to try it out and blog about their experiences.  I don't care that you can't get viruses on them.  I just don't care.

Here's the thing about my nerd.  There is no off switch.  There needs to be one, for those times when he doesn't recognize the Nod and Smile Technique, or my eyes glazing over or the fact that I'm starting to get angry because I've already mentioned more than once that I've had enough of this conversation.

The biggest turn off. 93/365.I've been married to my nerd for 13 years.  You would think I would have found an off switch by now.  Maybe I just need a remote, one that would let me change channels so that I could access other parts of his brain for short periods of time just to give me a break.

I know I'm griping about something that he can't really help.  He's wired differently.  After all, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Now, I have to wonder where nerds are from....any ideas?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Survey Sites I Recommend

3D Character and Question MarkSomething I didn't mention in my last post about surveys is that when you sign up for a survey site, most sites will ask you to complete some profiles.  Usually they are short surveys that let the company pre-qualify you for surveys.  These save you time because you won't get as many surveys that you don't qualify for.

One site I love is Opinion Outpost.  This site is one where you collect points toward your payouts.  Surveys start at 5 opinion points for 5 minute surveys and go up from there.  Generally, the more time involved, the higher the points offered.  With new reward options, you can cash out from as little as 50 Opinion Points or $5. I find that it does not take me very long to reach a cash out threshold with Opinion Outpost.  I like the survey topics and I have not had any issues with not receiving credits or payments.  In fact, cheques have always come fairly quickly.  Available in US & Canada.

I also like Survey Lion  This one is a Canadian site and pays out in Canadian dollars.  There is no minimum cash out threshold, so any time you complete a survey, you can request a payout.  Each survey is worth a set dollar amount and you always know what it will be before you start.  You don't want to wait when you receive a survey invitation because they go quickly!  I find that I don't receive a lot of survey invitations from Survey Lion, but the ones I do receive are well worth taking.

Next is Canada Talk Now.  As the name implies, it's a Canadian site and payouts are in Canadian dollars.  You earn points for taking surveys, referring friends and when you complete a survey, there is a "slot machine" that gives you a chance to win more points.

And how could I forget NetPanel?  Also a Canadian company.  This one lets you collect Net Points for each survey you attempt. You'll know how many points you will get if you are disqualified and if you are qualified and complete the survey.

There are other good survey sites, but four is a good start.  In the interests of full disclosure, the link for Opinion Outpost is my referral link.  If you would like referrals to the other 3 sites, contact me and provide me with the e-mail address you would like to use and I'll send one to you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Earn Online: Surveys My Top 5 Tips

man with a clipboardToday, I thought we'd talk about surveys. I started taking surveys a couple of years ago. There are a few important things to remember before you start taking surveys.

Don't Pay to Participate

If you are asked to pay a fee to join a survey club, or in order to earn money, don't do it. Reputable companies pay you for taking the time to provide them with feedback. If they are asking for money, they are likely not legitimate.

Look for affiliations like Better Business Bureau or membership in an organization like MRA (Marketing Research Association).

Don't Expect to Get Rich From Surveys

Typically, surveys don't pay a lot. Read the terms and conditions before you join a site. While some sites will pay you a dollar amount for each survey completed, many accumulate points that you can cash in for a check, PayPal, charity donation, gift card or other form of reward. Some sites pay automatically and others need 4-6 weeks (sometimes more) to send your reward.

Keep an eye out for survey companies that "retire" your points or allow your points to expire after a certain amount of time. If it takes a long time to accumulate a balance, your points may expire before you can use them!

Decide how much time you are willing to spend answering questions. Most surveys will tell you in advance how long it will take and what the general topic may be and what you will earn. You can judge if it's a good value for you to spend that amount of time answering a survey. Keep in mind that most surveys have screener questions that you have to answer before you get to the survey. Some companies will give you a few points if you are disqualified, but some will not.

Set-Up an E-Mail Address Just for Survey Invites

Unless you enjoy getting lots of spam, it's a good idea to set-up an alternate e-mail address for survey invitation e-mails. I did this when I started and any time I sign up for a newsletter or coupon offer, I use the same e-mail address. I keep my personal e-mail separate from my survey e-mail this way.

Be sure to read the Privacy Policy for the company and check how they will use your information.  If you don't feel comfortable giving them your information, don't do it.

Get a Referral

If you know someone who participates regularly in surveys, ask them to send you a referral link to their favourite sites. Ask your friend for their honest opinion. If they are a real friend, they will only send you referral links for the sites that they like and they earn money from. It benefits you and your friend. You'll know it's a good site with fairly good earning potential and your friend will usually earn a benefit for referring a new member.

Have Fun!

For me, surveys are relaxing and fun. If they are boring, I won't do them. It's not a way to get rich quick, but it's certainly nice to have a little extra pocket money now and then. In a couple of years of doing surveys, I've earned some cash, Chapters Gift Card codes, Amazon Gift Card codes, a couple of PayPal deposits and sweepstakes draw entries. Occasionally, I'm asked to test out a product and provide feedback. I've tested a few different types of products for different survey companies. It's very hush-hush and you are not allowed to tell anyone about the products for various reasons. Later this week, I'll talk about which survey companies I've found to be good and those that I haven't liked as much. I'll give you my honest opinions on them.