How To Make Technology Work For You

by Michael Dzura
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Technology is a big part of our world these days. It has enabled us to do many things, and capable of transitioning through various stages of our activity. At its most it is a number crunching analytical machine, calculating and spitting out tons of computational data, and at its least it can be a basic gateway for two people to communicate. Although it starts to get complicated. It’s not as simple as turning on a device and immediately you can start working. There are choices, like choosing between Mac, Windows, or Linux for an operating system, or iPhone, Samsung, or Blackberry for a mobile phone. Then whichever you choose, there are specific apps to go with it and sometimes they only work on one platform. Most of us have probably experienced situations where we have numerous files like pictures, music, and documents spread out among multiple devices, along with contacts, emails and reminders. It becomes frustrating because even though we refer to these devices as being smart, they are actually hindering productivity due to lack of diversity and not allowing us to easily access or share files. What causes this is that the industry is full of companies always competing to achieve popularity to see who can create the next best thing. A company will create their devices and software around a closed ecosystem. Once you buy into a product, you are forced to use whatever software or services they provide. People end up being split between multiple worlds, and for the most part just accept it without much thought. It just becomes part of the norm and we end up not actually using the technology to it’s maximum potential.

However it doesn’t have to end there. We can gain control of technology and make it work for us like it was intended in the first place. All it takes is knowing what options are available to you in regards to software and services, and then a little bit of extra configuration and planning. So here is a list of must have applications and services that you can use across all your devices to make your own ecosystem that does not put limitations on what device you use:

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1. DropboxBy far the most versatile application that everyone should be aware of. Why? Because it is free and a life saver! You no longer have to worry about carrying a thumb drive or other portable storage device everywhere. With ease it allows you to sync all your important files across all your devices. Works on every PC platform Mac/Win/Linux, and all mobile devices. All that is required is to create a free account which gives you 2GB of free space (it’s possible to get more for free). Then install the software, and drag and drop your files into the Dropbox folder. On a mobile device Dropbox creates additional functionality too. It becomes the means for actually having a way to move your data off the phone to another device. Best example, if you take a picture on your phone, Dropbox will immediately upload the images directly to your account so they can be accessed elsewhere. Besides that it is most notable for it’s file sharing capabilities. You can easily create folders to share with other Dropbox users when collaborating, or you can create direct download links to your files that can be shared with non-Dropbox users.

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2. Skype – Keeping in touch with friends, family, and colleagues couldn’t be easier. With Skype you can have crisp clear conversations from anywhere around the world. Supports conference calling with video (although video is only through paid subscription) and instant messaging for those who don’t have a microphone. You can also file share and even screen share on a computer. It’s perfect for hosting your own private voice chats when gaming, instead of using the sometimes obnoxious in-game voice chat, and for collaborative meetings that require visual demonstration. Even if you are on the go, Skype works over cellular networks and can help reduce the extra cost of making long distance calls by calling Skype-to-Skype. You can even create your own level of immersion by video streaming through chat over the cell phone network so the other person can see what you are doing.

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3. Google Chrome – Known for being one of the fastest browsers, Chrome is compatible on every platform, which is why it’s well suited if you use many different devices. A feature that should be highlighted is its bookmark synchronization. Any website that you bookmark will be accessible to all your devices, keeping you connected to all your resources whenever needed. Chrome also has a lot of add-on support, so many developers will create add-ons that work with Chrome to keep you connected with other applications and services.

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4. Ubuntu One Music Streaming – Ubuntu One is a free cloud based storage system similar to Dropbox, except specifically designed for the Ubuntu Linux ecosystem. Part of its storage system offers music streaming, however there is a monthly or annually subscription fee. It’s not as popular as the notorious iTunes, and the music store does not have the same selection. But if you want to be able to store and access your own previously downloaded music anywhere, then Ubuntu One is your best choice because it works with everything, unlike iTunes which primarily supports the Mac and iPhone with some support for Windows. There are other cross platform music services through Google and Amazon, but unfortunately they are limited to the United States Only.

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5. Kindle Ebooks – Part of Amazon’s online ebook store. Even though it was designed in part with the Kindle Reader, Amazon offers a desktop and mobile application that users can download separately. With the Kindle Reader software, any books that were purchased online can be accessed for viewing. The online store has a wide selection of many well known publishers, so it’s easy to find any kind of reading material. This is particularly useful for students because they can purchase their textbooks through the Kindle store and then have them available in class and at home without carrying a heavy load.

 

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6. Google Services As much as we are trying to avoid being tied within one ecosystem of services, Google is one of the ones that you can’t immediately say no to. While Google’s ecosystem primarily favours the Android platform, it is also nice enough to support others as well – Or maybe the other platforms are more welcoming of Google. If you are looking for a versatile service for keeping track of contacts, calender events, notes and reminders then Google’s got it covered well. It doesn’t matter whether you are using an iPhone or Android, or even Mac or Windows, somewhere within each platform there are settings to link up with another account. All you have to do login with your Google ID and then you can start having Google keep track of important things and sync it to your other devices.

So there you have it. Now you can create your own technological ecosystem and free yourself from the constraints that tech companies try to impose on you with their products. Keep in mind that there are many other applications and services available besides what I listed. However I chose these as they are the most well known and easy to use.

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