Social Media: The Good, The Bad & The Detox

The advent of social media has profoundly impacted modern society and culture. Social media can be an extremely powerful and positive platform for communications, interactions & connections, information sharing & collaboration and more. By the same token, social media if not properly checked can be misused, overused or manipulated in ways that may induce negativity and be hurtful & harmful. It is important that social media be used responsibly.

The Good

Social media is a great platform for family & friends to keep in contact and stay up-to-date with one another on life events regardless of where each person is located. From a marriage – to the birth of a child – to last weekend’s BBQ, social media allows people to connect & share from around the world. Social media is a great way for fans to connect and interact with celebrities, musicians, artists, writers & performers in ways that traditionally would not be possible. It is also a great resource for delivering news, important alerts & announcements, broadcasting live interactive feeds & events, connecting consumers to services & support, serving as an advertising, marketing & promotion platform and so forth. 

The Bad

Like with most things, there is a flip-side to social media. Negative and mean comments on social media can be hurtful, harmful and greatly affect one’s self-esteem. Social media can be misused & manipulated as a tool for cyber-bullying & shaming. Social media can become a distraction resulting in unsafe and dangerous activities like live streaming or posting while operating a vehicle or performing an extremely dangerous stunt to gain likes and views. Social media can also become overly addictive resulting in some living their lives in their social media fantasy world while alienating friends and family in the real world.

The Detox

Social media can be fun, enjoyable and positive; but, it is crucial that you use it responsibly and periodically detach yourselves from it. You don’t need to take extreme steps like deleting your social media accounts or stop using social media altogether for prolonged periods of time to detox. However, do realize that there is a world outside of social media and detoxing from social media from time-to-time is a good thing. You can take small steps by reducing the amount of time you spend on social media each day and gradually expand that break for longer periods of time. As you begin to reallocate your time spent on social media, you may start to see things a bit differently (in a positive way!)

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Backup Your Files!

In the world of computing, there are two words that will be permanently ingrained in your head . . . SAVE & BACKUP!

While it’s a no-brainer that we should frequently backup our files on our computer, there is a tendency for us not to do it or not to do it frequently enough. Often times, we’ll wait until we run into major problems like clicking hard drives, bad sectors on a hard disk, disk read/write errors, boot failures, blue screen of death (BSOD), flashing folder with a question mark and so forth. Other times, it may be something like accidentally overwriting a file (ex: using Save instead of Save As), deleting files we thought we did not need but in fact we did, file corruption and so forth.

With the availability of affordable high-capacity external storage, free & paid cloud storage and backup automation, we should all get into a good practice of frequently backing up files on our computers. Whether you choose to perform manual backups or utilize backup software to automatically perform backups, backups are a must! You’ll never know when something may happen to your files which will make them irretrievable & irrecoverable.

The most basic approach to backup is periodically copying your files manually to external physical storage (ex: external hard drive) or cloud storage (ex: Dropbox, OneDrive, Box). Set a schedule where you sit down and spend time copying your files from your computer onto external or cloud storage. Become disciplined . . . Keep a routine/set schedule for performing the manual backups. If you prefer automation, you can use backup software like Windows Backup & Time Machine for macOS which are included in the current versions of Windows and macOS, respectively. After a few configuration steps, your backups will run on a recurring schedule to the storage medium of your choice. There are also third-party backup software applications that you can use to perform similar backup functions like that of Windows Backup and Time Machine (ex: Acronis True Image, Carbon Copy Cloner) as well as direct backup to cloud storage (ex: Carbonite). Regardless of which application you choose to use for backup automation, be sure to check on the backups and review the logs to make sure your backups run successfully as scheduled. A common mistake is to setup an automated backup and make the incorrect assumption that the backup has run successfully when in fact, it has not. Don’t make this mistake!

Keep in mind that if you primarily use cloud storage to store all your files (ex: Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, Box), you should still keep a backup of those files on external storage or another storage medium. You are typically responsible for the files you store onto cloud storage and cloud storage providers will usually have a disclaimer and clause that absolves them if there is data loss (review the service agreement / terms & conditions). While providers should have backup and redundancy in place, even with a service level agreement (SLA), don’t rely on the provider to be responsible for the backup of your files on the cloud. Even if the provider should be able to restore your files after a massive data loss, the recovery and restoration can take quite some time depending on the scale of the data loss and scope of the impact. If you have files that you need to access at a moment’s notice, you don’t want to rely solely on a third-party provider. Don’t chance it and keep your own set of backups.

Tip: When using cloud storage, make sure to sign-up with reputable providers (you don’t want to use some fly-by-night provider that can shutdown at any moment). Review the security and encryption features offered with the cloud storage account and use strong-passwords to secure your account from potential breaches. Routinely change your passwords and if available, use two-factor authentication.

Save! Save! Save!

In the world of computing, there are two words that will be permanently ingrained in your head . . . SAVE & BACKUP!

It’s the eleventh hour, you’re on a deadline working on a document, spreadsheet, presentation, layout etc. You’ve spent an enormous amount of time making changes to your file. Suddenly, the application closes and you get the dreaded message that the application unexpectedly quit. You immediately try to re-launch the application and instead of getting a recovered file, the application launches with the option to create a new file or open an existing file. You quickly search for the file on your computer or storage device, open it and realize NONE of the changes you’ve made have been saved. All the time that you’ve spent working on this file and all the changes you’ve made have been lost in an instant. 

Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there at one time or another and if you’ve been fortunate enough not to experience this, you will some day! This one word cannot be re-iterated enough: SAVE . . . SAVE . . . SAVE

Develop a discipline and follow best practices of frequently saving your work. Don’t rely on auto-save and auto-recover features to be your safety net. You will quickly realize that those features are great when they do work but the simple fact is that auto-save and auto-recover DO NOT always work. Whether it’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign or any other application, you MUST save your work FREQUENTLY! Likewise, whether you use macOS, Windows or any other OS platform, the same best practices apply – SAVE . . . SAVE . . . SAVE!

Tip: Consider using Save As instead of Save. While most of the time you’ll probably just save over an existing file, when practical, use Save As to save different/multiple versions of your file. This can be useful if you need to refer back to a previous change that no longer exists in your current file or if your current file becomes corrupted (you can go back to a prior, uncorrupted version of the file).

Keep in mind that saving frequently will not necessarily prevent all data loss. If an application unexpectedly quits, there is always a risk of some data loss; however, by following best practices and a discipline of frequently saving your work, the hope is to minimize any potential data loss. It’s far better to lose and have to re-create a few minutes of work rather than an hour’s (or hours) worth of work.

Remember . . . SAVE . . . SAVE . . . SAVE!

Tech Tip: How to recover “permanently” deleted items in Outlook.com?

You’ve accidentally deleted items from your Outlook.com e-mail account. You immediately check your Deleted Items folder but no luck. You realize that you’ve probably emptied the Deleted Items folder since deleting those items so those items are no longer recoverable.

Fortunately, if you recently deleted those items, you may still be able to recover them. Items removed from the Deleted Items folder are moved to a Recoverable Items folder before they are permanently purged. You can recover items in the Recoverable Items folder using the “Recover Deleted Items” feature in Outlook.com.

  • First, login to your Outlook.com e-mail account.
  • Next, go to the Deleted Items folder and click on “Recover deleted items.” You can also right-click on the Deleted Items folder to access “Recover deleted items …”
  • A “Recover deleted items” window will appear. Locate the items you accidentally deleted and select each item.
  • Once you have selected all the items you wish to recover, click “Recover”
  • The recoverable items will be restored to the original folder where they were deleted from.
  • Search your Outlook.com e-mail and verify all selected items have been restored.

“Permanently” deleted items in the Recoverable Items folder will not remain there forever so if you accidentally deleted items that are no longer in your Deleted Items folder, use the “Recover Deleted Items” feature as soon as possible.

Doctor Who: And the Thirteenth Doctor will be . . .

BBC & BBC America officially announced today that British actress Jodie Whittaker will take over the role of The Doctor, marking the first time a female lead has taken over the role of The Doctor in the Doctor Who franchise. Whittaker will make her first appearance as the Thirteenth Doctor in the Doctor Who Christmas Special airing on Christmas Day 2017.

Whittaker takes over for current Doctor Who lead, Peter Capaldi (Twelfth Doctor) who has played the role of The Doctor since taking over for Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor) in 2013 (“The Time of The Doctor”). Both Capaldi and current showrunner Steven Moffat will depart the show following the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Whittaker is most recently known for her role as Beth Latimer in the British crime drama series Broadchurch, a series created & written by incoming Doctor Who showrunner, Chris Chibnall and starring former Doctor Who lead, David Tennant (Tenth Doctor).

With the Thirteenth Doctor named, Doctor Who fans will get one final adventure with Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor this Christmas before The Doctor regenerates. What exciting adventures does Chibnall have in store for Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor? We’ll have to wait and see!

Global Entry: A US Trusted Traveler Program – Part II

In our previous post, Global Entry: A US Trusted Traveler Program – Part I, we took a look at Global Entry which is a US Trusted Traveler Program provided by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and administered by US Customs & Border Protection (CBP).

If you travel internationally, the Global Entry program allows pre-approved members to use expedited lanes to go through US Customs when re-entering the US. Global Entry members are also eligible for TSA Precheck, another DHS Trusted Traveler Program administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA Precheck allows members to use expedited lanes for screening at participating airports (domestic travel). Members do not need to remove shoes, laptops, belts, 3-1-1 liquids and light jackets during screening.

Note: All travelers (including members of Global Entry & TSA Precheck) may be subject to additional screening by the TSA and/or US customs processing by CBP. 

Let’s continue from where we left off . . . 

Ok, I’ve submitted my application & fee for Global Entry, what’s next?

In about ten (10) business days, you should receive an e-mail notification regarding the status of your application for Global Entry. The turnaround time may vary depending on the number of applications currently being processed by US Customs & Border Protection. You will need to sign into your GOES account to check the status of your application.

If your application has been conditionally approved, you will receive a conditional approval letter in your GOES account. The letter will explain next steps which include setting up an appointment at a Global Entry Enrollment Center for your interview. The letter will also list the items that you will need to bring to the interview.

Appointments for Global Entry can range from a few weeks to several months depending on the Global Entry Enrollment Center. However, you must schedule an appointment within thirty (30) days of receiving your conditional approval. This means that you must book an initial appointment within thirty (30) days; otherwise, your application for Global Entry will be thrown out and you will need to re-apply (and pay another $100 application fee). After you book an initial appointment, you may change or re-schedule the appointment via your GOES account at any time.

Note: DHS does not currently offer expedited application service for Global Entry. Please keep this in mind if you have upcoming international or domestic travel plans and want to take advantage of the program benefits.

If your application has been denied, you should receive a letter in your GOES account explaining the reason for the denial of your application and any recourse that you may have to appeal the denial. Visit the link below for further information:

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1150/~/trusted-traveler-application-denied

What do I need to bring on the day of my interview?

On the day of your interview, you will need to bring the items listed in your conditional approval letter. These items typically include a copy of your conditional approval letter, your current, valid passport and driver’s license (if the address is current). If the address on your driver’s license is not current, you will need to bring a current utility bill or other acceptable documents reflecting your current address.

Be sure to arrive at your Global Entry appointment on-time. Plan to arrive at least fifteen (15) minutes early in anticipation of security/check-in procedures at your Global Entry Enrollment Center. Also, follow the directions of CBP officers at the Global Entry Enrollment Center. This will ensure a smooth, streamlined process.

During the interview, you will watch a video explaining the Global Entry program and how to use it, you will be interviewed by a CBP Officer who will also take your picture, fingerprints and provide you with your Global Entry Membership number which will also serve as your Known Traveler Number for TSA Precheck.

In about ten (10) business days after your interview, you will receive your Global Entry card by US Postal mail. Your Global Entry card is a DHS Trusted Traveler card that is REAL ID compliant. Global Entry cards may be used for re-entry into the US at land & sea ports of entry and are accepted by the TSA as valid identification at TSA airport checkpoints. Be sure to activate your Global Entry card via your GOES account within thirty (30) days of receipt. Keep the Global Entry card in its protective sleeve (included). The cost to replace a Global Entry card is currently $25.

If I renew my passport, do I need to update my Global Entry information?

Yes. If you renewed your passport, you can update your passport information through your GOES account provided the change does not involve a change to your name or the issuing authority. Likewise, you can also update your driver’s license and mail to address. If you need to make any other changes, you must visit a Global Entry Enrollment Center. You should contact your local Global Entry Enrollment Center for further assistance.

Will my Global Entry membership be cancelled if I don’t update my passport information?

No, but you will not be able to use your membership at Global Entry kiosks and land/sea ports of entry until you update your passport information so keep your information current and up-to-date.

Can I renew my Global Entry membership?

Yes, you will be eligible to renew your Global Entry membership. For current information on renewing your Global Entry membership, visit the link below and go to the section entitled “Renewing Global Entry Membership”:

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/frequently-asked-questions

Where can I find more information about DHS Trusted Traveler Programs, Global Entry and TSA Precheck?

Check out the links below:

DHS | Trusted Traveler Programs

https://www.dhs.gov/trusted-traveler-programs

CBP | Global Entry

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry

TSA | TSA Precheck

https://www.tsa.gov/precheck

Global Entry: A US Trusted Traveler Program – Part I

Global Entry is a US Trusted Traveler Program offered by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and administered by US Customs & Border Protection (CBP). This program allows pre-approved members to use expedited lanes to go through US Customs when re-entering the US from abroad.

Global Entry members are also eligible for TSA Precheck, another US Trusted Traveler Program offered by DHS and administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA Precheck allows members to use expedited lanes for TSA screening at participating airports. Members do not need to remove shoes, laptops, belts, 3-1-1 liquids and light jackets during screening.

Note: All travelers (including members of Global Entry & TSA Precheck) may be subject to additional TSA screening and/or processing through US customs at the discretion of DHS, CBP & TSA. Membership in US Trusted Traveler programs do not grant exemptions to additional screening or processing by the TSA or CBP.

How much does Global Entry cost and how long does it last?

The cost to enroll in Global Entry (which includes TSA Precheck) is currently $100 and membership is good for five (5) years. In comparison, the cost to enroll in TSA Precheck by itself is currently $85 and membership is good for five (5) years. If you travel internationally, Global Entry is well-worth the additional $15.

Some credit card companies offer statement credits to help offset the cost of Global Entry and TSA Precheck application fees if you pay for the fees using eligible cards. The American Express Platinum card and Chase Sapphire Reserve card are two cards that offer this benefit as part of their card membership programs.

Are there eligibility requirements?

Yes. As eligibility requirements may be subject to change, please visit the link below for current eligibility requirements:

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/eligibility

If I’m eligible, how do I apply?

First, you’ll need to setup a GOES account with US Customs & Border Protection. GOES stands for Global Online Enrollment System. You can access the current link to GOES in the “How to Apply for Global Entry” section of the US CBP website (see link below).

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/how-apply

Once you setup a GOES account, you will need to complete an online application for Global Entry. You should set aside between 30-45 minutes to complete the entire online application. You’ll want your current, valid passport and state issued driver’s license/ID readily available. Read the information in the application carefully and complete ALL required sections truthfully and accurately. Be sure to review your entire application before submitting. If you provide false, inaccurate or incomplete information, your application can be denied. As this is a Trusted Traveler Program, CBP will conduct a thorough background check when they review your application for Global Entry.

When you have completed and thoroughly reviewed your application, you can submit it along with payment of the non-refundable $100 fee.

In our next post, Global Entry: A US Trusted Traveler Program – Part II, we will take a look at what happens after you submit your application for Global Entry.