Tips & Tricks

There were an estimated 20,000 new gadgets on display at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. Some are the very devices we’ll fork over fistfuls when they hit store shelves later this year. Others provide an exciting glimpse of wildly futuristic new concepts to come.

And then, there’s the rest of it.

Here are some of the oddest and awesom-est gadgets I went hands-on with this year.


Toyota Yui Concept

Remember Nightrider’s Kitt car? That’s what it was like taking Toyota’s crazy new Concept-i Yui car for a virtual spin. Hands-down the coolest experience of the show for me, this ultra-futuristic auto read my emotions through camera sensors, monitored everything around us, and slammed on the breaks long before I even realized that a woman stepped off the curb in front of us. It even said “Hello!” to passersby or “Watch out!” to people tailing a little too close. When we hit an open stretch of highway, the seat reclined and small rollers built-in to the backrest gave me a massage. Toyota says Yui is what driving will be like in 2030, but I’m hoping it’s even sooner than that. A car that pampers you? Yes please!

Kino-Mo Hypervsn

Kino-mo had me hooked at first glance with its floating 3D “holographic” Pikachu. This London-based company drew some of the biggest crowds in the Eureka Park startup area, and for good reason: The incredibly colorful and realistic looking displays of everything from fast food to famous entrepreneur Mark Cuban made us all believe that holograms are finally here! While not technically an actual hologram, these 3D visuals float and move in mid-air just like the real thing, using a patented combo of high speed fans, magnets, LED’s and projectors. They’re used in advertising for now, so we can only hope to have them in our homes soon too.

Parihug Plushies

I miss my family like crazy whenever I’m away from home like I was all week for CES, and that’s where a little stuffed animal called Pari comes in. No matter where you happen to be in the world, give your Pari a squeeze and it sends a “hug” to a connected companion plushie for your loved one to receive. The hugs range from mild short vibrations to longer, stronger, more intense haptic feedback “embraces.” No two human hugs are the same, and neither are hugs from Parihug — they vary in intensity and duration just like the real deal. I’ll stick with a Facetime call for now, but Parihug is undeniably adorable.

Aluma Connect

On a more serious note, smartphones are safety gadgets for millions of us every day, but in a personal emergency they’re not always as helpful as they could be. Aluma Connect showcased a credit card-sized security device that attaches to the back of your phone and sync with a special app, creating a super-powered safety net. There’s a silent alarm button built in that sends notifications to your friends and family as well as an audible siren to deter attackers. The battery provides a full year of protection on a single charge. You can sign up on the company’s website for an alert when the price and launch date are revealed. I’m ordering one for myself, my daughter, and my mom right away!

In&motion Wearable Airbags

When In&motion strapped its wearable airbag vest on me I didn’t know what to expect. Then, with a tap of a smartphone, it instantly inflated with giant whoosh and great big bang. It scared the bejeezus out of me — and everyone on the showroom floor. But if I was taking a tumble down a snowy ski hill or getting bucked off an angry horse, it’s the exact right thing to protect my torso and keep my upper body intact! In&motion makes these for motorcyclists, horseback riders, and extreme sports enthusiasts, and it’s sending its first 500 vests to eager testers soon — for free.

Wair pollution scarf

Fashion statement or funky air filter, aw hell, why not make a gadget that’s both? That’s exactly what French company Wair did with a high-tech scarf that aims to protect you from air pollution. On a clear day, just wrap the silky accessory around your neck and shoulders and look all spiffy as you go about your business. The scarf constantly measures the quality of ambient air and sends an alert to your smartphone when it’s time to cover up. If that happens, you just pull the scarf over your nose and mouth, and let the built-in fan and air-filtration system do its thing. As weird as this sounds, I could actually see using it in big cities around the world — especially if I commite by bike.

Spartan undies

Yes, “booth babes” are still a thing. But the scantily-clad models in their skivvies at Spartan Underwear’s corner of CES looked a whole lot different than the rest of the show…because they were dudes. The guys were showing off undies that protect “down undy” from the radiation created by smartphones and wifi antennas. Spartan says its boxer-briefs have silver fibers weaved into the cotton that block nearly 100% of wireless radiation from being absorbed. Since science still hasn’t decided if those waves are harmful or not, keeping them away from the baby-making body parts could very well be a “better safe than sorry” move. Guys can pick up Spartan boxers right now, starting at $45.


Spinali Smart Shorts

The “booth babes” at fashion company Spinali’s CES showcase weren’t just there as eye candy either, they were wearing smart Daisy-Duke’that actually vibrate to give you directions. The weird wearable syncs with your phone and nudges one side of your waist or the other to tell you where and when to turn. It’s a bizarre way to find your way around a city, especially if you have your phone with you anyway. Spinali doesn’t have a launch date yet, but it’s already got full-length smart jeans for sale, so it probably won’t be long before the short-shorts also hit the shelves too.

Smartcane by Dring

Seniors have been forgotten by the “smart” tech revolution for way too long, and now they’re getting some attention with the Smartcane. But before you roll your eyes, don’t worry: this cane doesn’t play Spotify or flash like a disco ball, it’s actually a really helpful tool for caregivers to monitor the activity of their elderly clients, and it can even send alerts to family or friends if it falls over, which could signal potential problems. There’s no release date or price yet, but you can sign up for updates on the company’s website.

Roli Blocks

Every year I look at my bucket list and see “learn to play an instrument,” and every year I forget to find the time. Roli’s Blocks are the first gadget I’ve seen that lets you play music even if you have no idea how. It’s a mini modular music studio that gives beginners a huge jump start so that you can playing right away. Just connect the Roli Blocks to your iPhone via Bluetooth and customize the LED lighted touchpads with whatever combinations of sounds you want. When I tapped a few times, actual music came out — and it didn’t sound like a dying chicken. I was in awe. You can buy Roli Blocks now online or in Apple Stores, starting at $179.95.



Posted in Connected Kids, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, In The Press, TechNow, TechStyled, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, What The Tech

The old days where gadgets were only on a couple of your holiday wish lists is long gone. This year, everyone and their grandma — no, seriously, even grandma — has something techy and gadget-ish in mind. Here are 12 ideas to get you started (or maybe even finished) with something perfect for every member of your family.


LeapFrog LeapStart: The LeapFrog LeapStart checks off all the boxes when it comes to giving young ones a gift that’s as engaging and fun — as it is educational. The new LeapStart is a high-tech, skill-based, super fun learning system where kids solve fun puzzles and play interactive games. You slide the activity books into the battery-powered LeapStart folder and your kids command the easy-to-grasp stylus while they fall in love with the cute characters and rewarding problem solving. Each activity book is packed with more than 30 different challenges and games, so it’s downright impossible for them to get bored. LeapStart comes in two versions, one for kids 2-4 ($29.99) and one for ages 5-7 ($29.99). Extra activity books are $9.99.

Skylanders Imaginators

I’ve recommended Skylanders games in the past for their lighthearted action and hilarious stories, but this year the developers at Activision really went all-out: Now your kids can actually create Skylanders characters of their very own, and play with them in the game! In the new game, Skylanders Imaginators ($59.99), kids create a custom Skylander that gets stored on a special “Creation Crystal,” so they can even take their character to friends houses and play in their games, too. It’s a super cool idea that draws on your child’s creativity and really makes them feel like they’re in the game. Ages 10 and up.

Anki Cozmo

I just can’t get enough of this adorable little robot, and if it can enamor me, you and your kids are going to absolutely fall in love. Cozmo ($179.99) is smaller than a baseball but has more personality than any toy you’ve ever seen before. He’s just a little robot, but he’s packed with smarts and can recognize faces, scurry around your tabletop, and play games with everyone in your home. Your kids will use his cute little “Power Cubes” to construct puzzles and challenges for him, and when he looks up at you and says your name, you’ll just plain melt. Ages 8 and up.


 Lenovo Yoga Book

It’s a laptop, it’s a tablet, it’s — okay, it’s not a superhero, but the Lenovo Yoga Book ($499) will definitely make your teen feel like one. This thing does it all: It’s a canvas for digital art, an internet-browsing rockstar, and an all-in-one media center. Your kid will go from jotting down notes with the stylus and typing school papers to playing games and using apps on the gorgeous 10-inch HD display. They’ll do all of that on the same machine, without ending up with a dead battery. It’s so cool, you might find yourself “borrowing” it while they’re at class.

 Galaxy Gear VR

Let me guess: Your teenager wants a new phone for Christmas, and also a VR headset. Of course they do! But before you torch your credit card just to see them smile, believe it or not, you can actually get them both without breaking the bank. The Galaxy Gear VR ($99) is an impressive virtual reality device that uses any newer Galaxy phone (starting with the S6 and newer) as its display. You just snap the phone into place and boot up some jaw-dropping VR apps, then when you’re done, the phone goes back to being a Snapchat and messaging machine. You can pick one up for a fraction of the cost of a full-on VR headset like the Oculus Rift, and your gotta-have-it teen will be so into the games and apps they won’t even know the difference.


 Honeywell Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat

If you didn’t think a thermostat could be cool, I don’t blame you. I kind of felt the same way before I saw Honeywell’s Lyric T5 Wi-Fi thermostat ($149.99). This super easy-to-use smart home accessory makes setting temperatures and schedules a breeze, and you can add geo-fences to customize how it heats or cools your home. It can even adapt itself based on your schedule, and save you big bucks when it knows you’re out of the house. It’s like have a little energy-saving assistant who tends to your temps, and it looks so, so cool.

Amazon Echo Dot

Add the power of AI to any room in your house with the Echo Dot ($49.99). The smaller, more affordable version of Amazon’s original Alexa assistant packs the same power, so you can search the web with your voice, play songs, audiobooks, and podcasts just by asking, and even order Domino’s pizza using Amazon’s quirky virtual gal.


Another gadget pulled from my favorite reviews from 2016, Navdy ($799.00) is a futuristic heads-up-display that pops into a mount on your dashboard, plugs into your car’s OBD port, syncs with your smartphone and projects messages, maps and apps right into your line of sight. All your important alerts appear to float above the road as you’re driving, so you never have to look down to catch a text or check your GPS. Super smart, and super safe!

Nikon D3400

The Nikon D3400 ($499.95) is an easy-to-use entry level DSLR camera, ideal for someone ready to step up their photography from their smartphone. Compact, lightweight and packed with powerful imaging technology, the D3400 offers a Guide Mode, which provides step-by-step assistance in capturing the perfect shot. Another consumer-friendly feature is Nikon SnapBridge — an app makes it easy to share amazing images instantly.

HP Sprocket

 How many times have you heard “Be sure to send me that photo!” at your holiday parties? Nobody ever remembers! HP’s Sprocket photo printer ($129.99) is like a photo sharing dream come true. No more jotting down email addresses and sending messy files, just print your photos right from your smartphone, with no ink and no headache. It connects via Bluetooth and it’s so small it can just hang out in your pocket or bag. It’s a must-have for every family photo buff.



 Your best furry friend will absolutely eat this one up. Furbo ($249.00) is a treat-shooting dog camera that lets you give your pooch a tasty snack even when you’re not at home. With the Furbo app you can see live video of pup and then just swipe the touchscreen to shoot a treat. You can keep an eye on your pet from anywhere, and you know they’ll love it too.



And finally, give yourself the gift of some peace of mind — and have an expert set up your family’s gadgets so you don’t have to. Enjoy is a service that sends professional tech experts to your home to help you set up new gadgets and answer any questions that might pop up. Products run the gamut, and include top name brand sound systems, cameras, computers, electric skateboards, smart phones and more, and it’ll save you some serious headache.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY’s digital video show TECH NOW. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.

Posted in Connected Kids, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, TechStyled, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, What The Tech

Some people live for the sites, sounds, and WWE-esque smackdowns of holiday shopping. I am not one of them. I would rather wait in line all day at the DMV on my birthday (and in my birthday suit even) than so much as touch a toe in a mall on Black Friday.

This year, my goal is buy every single present from my smartphone or laptop. No traffic. No crowds. No bad holiday music. Oh, and I also want to know I’m getting the best deals on everything. Of course.

For that — I  scoured the world over for the tips, tricks and genius insider secrets of the world’s smartest online shoppers. Here’s what I’ve learned in a handy top 10 list — sure to have us all #winning online shopping this Christmas and beyond!

#10. Just save money: Honey

Buzzfeed called this one the “Lazy Online Shopping Trick Actually Saves You A Ton Of Money.” I call it: Heaven. Honey is like a magic coupon robot that automatically fills in the best money-saving discount code for tons of online stores — including Amazon. Just download the web plug-in, shop like normal, and when you get to the checkout, Honey shows you if there’s a cheaper price somewhere else and/or stacks up coupon-codes galore. It’s brilliant — almost an embarrassment of riches!

My savings so far: $127 (across three gifts)

#9. Stalk your own inbox: Shopami

Do you have any idea how many Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals emails are already in your inbox? Neither did I, until I downloaded this absolutely genius little app that connected to my email accounts, and scanned for discounts or deals, gathered them together, and led me down the path to save, save, save.  So far, I’ve seen big bucks off for Puma, North Face, and M.A.C. cosmetics.

My savings so far: $28

#8. Just Google (shopping) it.

If you’re like me, and often start and end with Amazon for all your online shopping, it pays to check get into the Google Shopping groove too. According to price intelligence firm 360pi, Google Shopping featured lower prices last month for nearly 60% of Amazon’s 750 top-selling products.

My savings so far: none yet, because I just found out about this!

#7. Let the bots: Watch A Deal

Speaking of Amazon, it does have some amazing upcoming Lightning Deals. Those are the digital version of a Doorbuster, and can slice up to 90% of the price of holiday gifts. But the limited-time sales can be tough to catch. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can get a sneak-peek of the daily Lightning Deals a half-hour before they’re going to happen through the Amazon app. Also, Amazon Deals on Twitter brings every new price drop to your Twitter timeline the moment they happen! Set your Twitter notifications to make sure you see ‘em first!

My savings so far: about one hours of FOMO!

#6.  Get savings after the fact:  Paribus

This is another awesome email add-on, but this one scans your inbox in search of shopping receipts and order confirmations. When it finds one, it snatches it for the future, and compares the price you paid with any current promotions. If you paid too much, or if those snuggly toe socks you just bought go on sale next week, Paribus automatically contacts the store and gets you a refund. It’s free to sign up, but Paribus takes 25% of whatever refunds it manages to win for you, and you need to give it full access to your email account, which might be a deal-breaker if you’re ultra privacy conscious.

My savings so far: $21.48

#5. Good Ole’ PAYPAL:

PAYPAL brings the simple and safe to whatever you’re shopping for: purchase protection, more security, and one-tap payments are a dream come true. It’s like having a little accountant in your pocket — instantly check the status of your payments, plan your budget, and even track your purchases after they’ve shipped, all from within the app.

My savings so far: hours of time and loads of sanity!

#4. Beat ‘em at their own sneaky tricks: abandoned carts and online haggling

Last week I did this three times: Log in to an online store, add what you want to a shopping cart, then go do something else. More often than not, retailers will email you an extra coupon code to entice you back and close the deal. Same with online haggling. You know when the little pop-up window comes up and asks if you have any questions? Say yes, and ask for a discount. Same rules apply as if you were doing this in person: Be nice and be willing to walk away. At the very least, ask if they have any special promotions or if they can tell you when they’re going to happen.

My savings so far: $360 on two area rugs from West Elm!

#3. Personal robot shoppers: eBay (iOS, Android)

Why on earth would you need eBay for Black Friday? I’ll let you in on a little secret: Not all Black Friday “deals” are really deals at all. If a Black Friday price beats what eBay sellers are listing for, you know you’ve found an utterly fantastic discount. And if you’re stumped on what to get someone, eBay’s brand new ShopBot on Facebook Messenger can help. It’s an digital assistant that speaks in plain language, not computer-speak, and it’ll ask you some questions and then give you seriously great gift ideas. You don’t live in the Matrix, but you might feel like after asking a robot for advice.

My savings so far: hours of time and loads of sanity!

#2. Cyber-security team: FakeSpot

It can be seriously hard to spot scams these days, even for someone who spends every waking moment on a digital screen like yours truly, but FakeSpot is great at separating great products from the frauds. FakeSpot can scan any Amazon listing and instantly know if any of the reviews are fake. Don’t fall for that $19.99 Gucci bag with five star reviews, because FakeSpot will tell you it’s all a bunch of hogwash. It’s a must-have for dedicated Amazon shoppers, and a great security blanket when you’re trying to nab those low holiday prices.

My savings so far: loads of sanity and a potential security breach!

#1. Special deal-finding agents: Deal Squad

Is there anything better than having someone else find a deal for you? Deal Squad by RetailMeNot is literally — and I really mean literally — a site where real people will scour the web to find the best price on whatever gifts you have your eye on. Just slap the webpage into the Deal Squad tool and let their team of sales sleuths sniff out the best price. Most people save 24% or more, which is a huge chunk of change, and it’s even more impressive that it’s a totally free service. What?!

My savings so far: $223.30 (on this Samsung TV)

Go forth online shoppers and be safe out there!

With these weapons in your shopping arsenal, you’ll be able to conquer your gift lists faster than you can say “I hate checkout lines,” but remember to be smart out there. If you see a deal land in your email or flying by your timeline on Facebook that seems sketchy — especially if it’s from a site you don’t recognize or haven’t heard of before — remember that some deals really are too good to be true. Throwing your credit card number into strange places is a recipe for a holiday disaster, and you might be helping some thief put a down payment on their new yacht instead of scoring that cheap iPhone you thought you bought.

Happy deal hunting — and be sure to share your genius online shopping hacks in the comments section below!


Posted in Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, What The Tech

It’s almost Halloween, and you have yet to pull together: A costume, plans, or even a shred of decent decor. In short, you’re losing at Halloween. Again. But if you can find five minutes to spare, you can get the magic of modern technology to do all the hard work for you.

Here are the top ten ways tech can help you not suck at Halloween this year.

10. Pinterest Halloween Hacker: Toss out that old sheet with two holes for eyes and play your hand at awesome instead. Open the app, pick a card and let the site randomly combine two words to upgrade “all the Halloween.” I scored “killer” + “cupcakes,” for a recipe both Martha Stewart and Morticia Addams would love.

Story from Nest

Step inside a burning building in virtual reality.

9. Trumpkins: All the rage in passionate pumpkin carving this year, thanks to social media, where you can download directions for how to turn a big orange squash into a big orange presidential candidate. “Howl-Ary” Clinton pumpkin carving is a thing too, though not trending quite as high in overall Halloween hilarity.

8. KegWorks Pumpkin Tap Kit: If you can’t carve it, you might as drink it. This tap kit turns a plain old pumpkin into a super cool temporary keg, and it actually works! Just gut the pumpkin, securely install the tap hardware, and fill it with your favorite brew.

7. Zombie Booth 2: Because who doesn’t love a good sequel?!  This awesome app transforms that sweet selfie of yours into the animated undead. You can even choose from more than 200,000 ghastly variations and add a whole host of effects like growling and even snapping at your finger. Don’t like the gore? I used a combination of the Perfect 365 app’s Skeletal setting with the PicsArt app Flare filter to create a much more pleasant Day of the Dead face.

6. Frightgeist Costume Generator: No costume? No problem. Google’s got you with its online costume customizer. You can pick from one of the most popular costumes, nationally or locally, like Harley Quinn, Joker, or Super Hero. You can also use the sites’ costume wizard to find you something totally new.

5. AtmosFX Digital Decorations: These downloadable animations that you can play on your TV, computer, or projector are a real treat for last minute mood-makers. Just download them and then play the looping scenes to scare the pants off everyone who dares to doubt your mad Halloween skills.

4. VFX Attack Puppet: Made by a real special effects studio, Sally and many others, are life-sized zombie puppets that literally hang on to your body, like something out of The Walking Dead. Your arm controls Sally’s head movements, so you can make her “attack” you whenever you want. It’s insanely creepy, and also insanely expensive, but it’s a truly genius way to win Halloween too.

3. Spooky Spotify: Don’t even try to do the DJ-dash this late in the game. Libratone, a company that makes high-end portable audio products, put together the ultimate Halloween playlist and it’s now available for everyone on Spotify. It’s an epic mix, with 31 songs including favorites like Thriller, This Is Halloween, and Monster Mash.

2. #FakeHalloweenFacts: When you need a break from trying to save your own Halloween, perusing this trending Twitter # makes it all better. My favorites so far? “Candy corn is made from recycled baby teeth,” and “dressing up as a clown is a good idea this year.”

1. Dressing the Pet: When all else fails, putting a cute costume on your pet is sure-fire way to score major Halloween points. There’s no shortage of inspiration or adoration for the perfectly costumed cat, dog, horse, or even parrot.

What are your plans this Halloween? Be sure to share in the comments section below. Happy Halloween!

This post was originally published in USA Today.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY’s digital video show TECH NOW. E-mail her at Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.

Posted in Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, TechNow, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, Uncategorized, What The Tech

Here are some awesome apps to make the most of your Halloween!

Facebook Live’s Masks
Snapchat-like masks that turn you into a pumpkin or witch in Facebook’s Live Video feature.

It’s never been easier to turn your selfies into animated vampires — fangs, blood and all.

Halloween Clip Art on PicsArt
Why spend tons of money buying makeup you’ll never wear again, and all those hours drawing your look, only to have to start over when you mess up your eyeliner? Instead, give yourself a dozen looks without spending a dime. All you need is PicsArt’s Halloween Clipart to create jaw-dropping looks for Instagram photos that thrill.

The Walking Dead: Dead Yourself App
A must-have app for Walking Dead fans, this app turns your selfie into an incredibly realistic zombie.

The new Halloween pack of Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji’s include skulls and multiple costume options.

Posted in Great Gadgets, In The Press, TechNow, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, Uncategorized, What The Tech

There are certain things you just have to do every year: Get your teeth cleaned. Change the oil in your car. Put fresh batteries in your smoke detectors. Run a security check-up on your Facebook account.

Wait, what?

That’s right, as your online life evolves, your cyber security risks grow too. But there are tools right at your fingertips that can help maintain some semblance of privacy — if you know where to find them.

Privacy Checkup

There are now 1.49 billion monthly active users on Facebook, with the average person in America spending nearly 30 hours a month hanging out on this particular site. If you haven’t gone through Facebook’s Privacy Checkup lately (or ever), this is a must-do now.

Click on the little lock symbol at the upper right hand corner of your Facebook feed. Privacy Checkup should be at the top of the drop down menu, with a little blue dinosaur right next to it. When you click on that, it walks you through the top three tools to manage who sees what via your posts, apps, and profile.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 8.48.21 AM

Posts: Manage What You Share

Starting with your posts, take control of everything you share when you post. You can set this to public, only friends, specific groups, or tailor it for each post if you want to get that specific.

This is important when you want to share certain photos, videos, or updates with some people, but not others. For example, I let the whole world see what I’m up to for work, but keep photos of my family more private, posting those just to closer friends. Those beer-bong championships in college? Keep that between you and your buddies, rather than something a potential boss stumbles across in a quick Google search.

Apps: Don’t Let Them Run Rampant

When you’re finished there, the Privacy Checkup tool leads you to into the apps section where you can see every app you’ve linked to your Facebook account, and manage what information you share with each app. This is huge.

More than 80% of the top 100 grossing Android and iOS apps now let you login with your Facebook account. This includes the biggies like Spotify, Pinterest, Airbnb, Etsy, Nike+ Running, and more.

Using your Facebook account to log in or sign up for new apps can save a ton of time and it’s often the most secure way to go since Facebook’s sky-high usage and engagement means much tighter and better security safeguards compared to the little guys.  But the caveat for that convenience and added caution used to mean sharing a collection of your personal information with those other apps, and even allowing them to post to your feed on your behalf. That’s no longer the case.

You can now edit who sees each app you use, what information you share with that app, if any at all, whether you want an app like Candy Crush to let the world know you’re playing it right now, and delete the apps you no longer use. When I did this recently, my apps were a hot mess. Some don’t even exist anymore. It’s good to let that old app baggage go.

Profile: Don’t Be An Easy Target

Next comes your profile. This is where to take even more caution of what you’re sharing with the general public. If someone Google’s your name, anywhere in the world, do you really want your phone number popping up? I don’t. Take a second to review some of the info on your profile and who you’re sharing it with. You can get really specific here, sharing your profile information with specific people such as your boss or parents, but not some ex-boyfriend who creeps you out.

One of the easiest ways for someone to hack your online life is by finding out your obvious data, such as your address, email, birthdate, and all that stuff we typically don’t share with strangers worldwide. This should not be information you’re just offering up to anyone.

Security Checkup

The Privacy Checkup tool has been out for a full year now, and just a few weeks ago, Facebook followed up with another new tool they’re calling the Security Checkup. It also calls-out the most important security features on your Facebook account and let’s you manage them quickly and easily in one place.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 11.53.22 AM

Logging Out: You Don’t Need to Be in Five Places at Once

This checkup starts with figuring out where — and on exactly what devices —  you’re currently logged into your Facebook account. For example, I know I’m logged in to Facebook on my laptop, iPhone, and iPad. But when I ran the Security Checkup, I also saw that I was still logged in from my parents computer, another tablet and an older phone that I’ve since given to other people in my family. You don’t want to stay logged-in to a device that’s not in your control, so this is an easy fix. Just checking the box next to each location you want to leave and click “Log Out of All.” No matter where in the world those computers are, everyone but you will lose access to your account in a moment flat.

Login Alerts: Be the First in the Know

Now that you’ve cleaned up where you’re logged in, the next step with Security Checkup is to opt in to Login Alerts. This is where you turn on the automated notifications from Facebook that tell you when someone’s trying to get into your account from a new device or location. If it’s you, you just ignore it, but if it’s not you, and someone’s trying to hack your account, you can shut it down instantly. Follow the prompts for “manage your alerts,” to choose how you’d like Facebook to get in touch. This can be email (the default method), or by text message if you’d added a contact number to your account. Once you turn alerts on, you’ll be able to save a list of trusted browsers and recognized devices. That way, Facebook won’t pester you if you use them again in the future.

Password: Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe

Last stop on your security tour involves your password — which should be the first word you think of when you hear someone use “internet” and “security” in the same sentence. Your password’s “strength,” or how difficult it is for a human or computer to guess it, is more important than how often you change it.

To beef up your password, make sure you’re using something unique, not the same password for every app, email, bank account, and place that you visit online. Don’t use “password,” “123456,” or something easy to guess such as your pet’s name or street you live on — especially if that information is easy to find on your public profile or posts. If you’re having remembering twenty different passwords, make sure to try out services such as 1Password, RoboForm or DashLane. Also, it’s not hot to share your password with friends or significant others. Like your social security number or the memory of what you did that one night in Vegas, there are some things that you and only you should know.
With those two checkups, you are a whole lot more locked down that you were before, and you probably learned a little something along the way. It’s great to do this annually, and since October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, this is a good as a time as any to pencil it in. Remember, it’s fun to share things about yourself online with friends and family, and with just a little bit of effort, privacy and security with social media doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. Don’t be scared. Be smart.


Posted in Connected Kids, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, TechNow, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, What The Tech

Most of us don’t think twice about trading in our smartphone for a newer one, just as soon as we can possibly afford it. I mean, really, buying a brand-spanking new i-anything is basically a promise to ourselves that we’ll be drooling over an even more awesome and amazing new i-something the second the next one comes out.

On the other hand, we have no problem living in the stone ages with a lot of our less sexy household gadgets, even long after they’ve reached their expiration date. Such as that toaster you got in college that cremates your toast. Or that hand-me-down microwave inherited from your parents in 1992. (I’m pretty sure the fireworks display you see every time you use it is not safe.) Sure, it still works — sort of — but some home gadgets may be overdue for an upgrade to save on electricity, time or just your own sanity.

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If you’re still sporting a vacuum from the 1960s, its retro charm isn’t doing you any favors in the dust-busting department. Since then, vacuums have not only lost their bags, but they’ve seriously amped up on suction.

Dyson’s Cinetic Big Ball is bagless and filterless, which means less nasty cleanup. It even claims to be the only vacuum to never lose suction because of it’s super innovative cyclone technology, so it’s catching all of those nasty, microscopic particles as small as pollen and mold spores and emitting Hepa-filtered air simultaneously. Prices start at $600 for Dyson’s trademarked Cinetic science.

If you can’t justify spending that much on a vacuum, then Soniclean has a more affordable option that’s still an upgrade from your carpet-brushing dust bags. TheirSoniclean VT Plus is $199 and relies on sonic vibrations to suck up all of the hidden dirt, dust, and other gross stuff from deep inside your rugs and carpets.

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Irons can cost you as little as $15, so it may seem hard to justify an investment in a nicer one. I get it. But if wrinkles are your kryptonite and you want the convenience of a once-over rather than having to press — and repress — your wardrobe, the Oliso Smart Iron ($99) with iTouch is worth a look. It’s got way more than just a steam feature. The heating plate is super powerful, and the steam comes in horizontally and vertically, creating a crosshatch effect of double steam action. The real techy part is the iTouch technology. The handle of the iron knows when your hand is on it and when it’s not, three little Scorchguard feet pop out, lifting it from your ironing board. Where was this when I burned an iron-sized hole in my daughter’s first communion dress a few minutes before we had to leave the house?

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The function of your average, two-slot, metal toaster is pretty straightforward, but there are toasters that get really innovative when it comes to how and what they cook. TheBreville Die-Cast Smart Toaster ($129) grabs and lowers your food like a tiny elevator, and you can even check on it mid-toast to make sure you don’t wind up with burnt breakfast. There’s even a quirky “A bit more” button that will lower your bread again for a bit more toasting. It comes in two- and four-slice models with slots wide enough for bagels, too.

If you want to get even more techy with your bread, you can watch it while it’s toasting in this glass-encased number from Magimix. It’s called the Vision Toaster ($280) for obvious reasons, and it heats with quartz parts instead of metal ones. If you don’t care to see your toast in action, you can go with the Kitchenaid Proline Toaster ($399), which will take the reigns for you. Toast can get cold really fast, so the Proline keeps it warm until you’re ready to eat it. How considerate.

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In college, it was how you cooked all of your meals and now you use to it to defrost, reheat and maybe even cook some Top Ramen in a pinch. I know, your trusty microwave has always been there for you, but maybe it’s time to let it go for something such as the MAID Oven ($449).

The MAID Oven raised more than double it’s $50,000 goal on Kickstarter last year and for good reason. It’s a microwave and convection oven in one, which means it can cook pretty much anything from cakes to your leftover pizza. It’s a super smart gadget that’s connected to an Internet database of recipes, can respond to voice and gesture controls and even adjusts the temperature to prevent overcooking. It may not make you a better cook, but it will at least give you less reasons to burn things.

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If you’re using your blender only for margarita happy hour, you deserve better. Blenders can whip up way more than cocktails and with the right one, you’re on your way to feeling like a sous chef. The Cuisinart Blender and Cook Soupmaker ($150) says it all right there in the name. You can make your breakfast smoothie and your lunchtime soup all with one gadget. Other than blending ice and swirling up sauces, this blender has a heating component, so you can bring your soup from a boil to a simmer all without taking it to the stove.

You can’t beat the blending power of a Blendtec ($480). If you’re looking to turn your kitchen into your own personal Jamba Juice, this one will have you blending like the pros with its programmed blend cycles and sliding speed control. The “Will it blend?” trend has taught us it can blend much more than food if you’re into that sort of thing.

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It’s almost time to pull out your floor fans. You know, the ones with giant rotating blades that sound like a helicopter is doing circles in your living room? Before you haul out that dust magnet for another scalding summer, you may want to check out Dyson’s Air Multiplier Fans. They look like a really classy version of a floor fan, minus the blades. Air circulates through its ring, giving off a consistent, cool breeze without a ton of noise. They come in tabletop or floor models with prices starting at $300.

Whether it’s to save money and time or just to stop burning your toast, some simple home gadget upgrades could seriously make you wonder how you’ve lived so long without them.

When we did the video that goes with this column, I hit up to see what kinds of old appliances my neighbors had lying around. The results were pretty awesome. If you haven’t seen an old leather bellows hand-vacuum from the 1900s, it’s worth taking a look.

Posted in Great Gadgets, TechNow, Tips & Tricks

**I wrote this as a sponsored guest post for WorldMate and it originally appeared on their blog site.**

The best travelers are totally organized. They have their itineraries at their fingertips, like magic, and know exactly where they have to be when, every step of the way. And then, there’s me. I forget to check-in early, lose important information – like my flight number – and have even shown up at the wrong airport on the wrong day. I could blame it on mommy-brain or on being blonde, but the truth is, I’m frazzled and busy and tired – just like a lot of people traveling these days. I just need a little extra help from time to time. Or a clone.
You know that movie with George Clooney where he travels all the time, Up in the Air? That’s kind of my life, minus the grim-reaper firing people part. I travel an average of 10,000 miles a month for work as an on-air consumer technology contributor for USA Today, the Today Show, CNN, Meredith Vieira, and many others. Sounds glamorous, right? Ha!

As you may very well know, traveling for work is often downright brutal. I’m a mom first and foremost – which means that I try to make work and travel have zero impact on my family. I’ll take the red-eye to New York, appear on a show, and fly back to San Francisco that same day (unless I accidentally go to LaGuardia instead of JFK – been there, done that). Or, I’ll do 30 appearances in five cities in three days. I’m also a small business owner, so I have to run a tight ship – keep on top of everything and try to keep costs down. I not only try to find the best travel deals, but I make all my own arrangements. Nope, no assistants. Just me and modern technology … juggling it all. I like to think of myself as a Road Warrior Rockstar. (That’s what I secretly call myself to weather anything that comes my way up in the air, or on the road. Don’t judge, it helps, it really does.)

What tools do I use to stay (mostly) sane on the go? Here’s a quick list of what’s on my smartphone or in my bookmarks bar right this very second:
· I love using Hopper to predict the best time to snag a flight deal. It analyzes billions of airfares daily to sniff-out a price drop – then alerts you so that you can grab it.

· For a small fee, site Options Away basically lets you put a flight on hold. You can lock in an airfare as much as three weeks ahead of when you actually buy the ticket. Then, if the price drops, you automatically get the cheaper faire.

· For booking that trip of a lifetime, I like Zyppos – an online sight where registered experts (aka travel hackers) help you find the perfect flight, best itinerary, and lowest fare – all in exchange for a $20-$40 finder’s fee/reward.

· GateGuru always leads me right to the closest XpresSpa so that I can get a quick neck massage before jumping on the plane.

· And for traveling like a local, there’s Localeur. It solicits advice from the people who know a place best – the locals – to find awesomely authentic places to go, where to eat, and fun things to do.

WorldMate App on an iPad
And of course, there’s WorldMate. You already knew that I was going to say that because why else would they let me rant about all my travel on their blog – right? Yep, it’s true, I actually can’t imagine how I could travel so much without it. I use it to automatically organize all my flights, hotels, car rentals, meetings, and every other pesky trip detail into one single itinerary. I also rely on the abundance of other tools within the app as well, including exclusive hotel deals and car rental offers, integrated weather forecasts, local hot-spot searches, flight schedules lookup, and even social integration with LinkedIn. It’s this kind of technology that lets me navigate my always-changing, chaotic, challenging, and downright frenetic travel schedule – so that I still have time left to be hands-on mom, successful businesswoman, Road Warrior Rockstar, and generally cool human (in my own mind at least).
You Win!
You’ve read this far? Well then you get a big fat reward. WorldMate is giving the first 50 readers who email them a free GOLD membership – just for reading this blog post. Email with “yes,” then download the app, and you’ll be on your way to become a Travel Warrior Rockstar too. Or you can give yourself your own fierce name. Either way, it’s a cool tool that you’ve just gotten for the price of reading this post. Happy Travels!

Be sure to follow me @JenniferJolly on Twitter.

Posted in Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, Sponsored, Tips & Tricks

I know it might not feel like it where you live — but Spring is right around the corner — and with it comes the perfect time to clean up, clear out, and de-clutter your favorite go-to gadgets. Here are a handful of top tips to tidy up your tech:

1. Free up space on your smartphone
google cloud backup photo
Smartphones fill-up fast with all our photos, videos, games, music, apps — and all of that overflowing information slows your phone, and your life, down. It can even cost you big bucks, according to electronics trade-in company NextWorth, which reports that trying to keep your entire digital life on your device often “forces you to buy the larger version of your chosen smartphone or pay extra to back it up.” No thanks.

One easy way to deal with that digital deluge is to back it up to the cloud. By saving to iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox (among others), you’re giving yourself instant insurance that all your files are backed up if you lose or break your phone, and that you’re not clogging up connected life with a bunch of extra junk. You can also back up to a hard drive or right to your computer, but I like the cloud because I can still access to all my important data anytime, from any device. Setup is simple, typically accessible right through your settings menu or through an app like Dropbox.

But is the cloud safe? If you’re worried about security in the wake of that Hollywood nudey photo breach, it might be comforting to know that the popular cloud storage services like Google Drive and OneDrive encrypt files as they pass between your device and the cloud servers, so you really don’t need to worry about some creeper peeping at your photos as they zip down the information superhighway. Be sure to use two-step authentication if possible, create a complicated password (not 1,2,3,4 or your pets name), and enable a tool like Find My iPhone to wipe your device clean if it does fall into the wrong hands.

If you’re so fed up that you want to kill your phone, you can always do a factory reset after you’ve backed it up. That wipes out all of your personal data, apps, contacts, and everything else that you’ve crammed onto it since you brought it home from the store. But, this is a desperate measure, so it should be your last resort.

2. Put your start screen to work for you
If it takes you more than a few seconds or taps to find exactly what you need when you need it, you’re wasting your precious time. Organizing your start screen is simple and won’t take more than 10 minutes or so. The trick is to put the apps and tools that you use every single day on the home screen — and nothing else. Move all related apps or tiles into groups and name it something that makes sense to you, such as “everyday,” “fitness,” “shopping,” and so on. Some people create file names based on actions such as “learn,” “listen,” “watch,” “share.” That’s a good way to do it as well. The key is to figure out what works best for you. Move your most important groups to the far left, where they’re always visible. Move games and less important apps on your device to a second or third page. Take a few minutes every couple months to delete apps you don’t use anymore, and organize or re-arrange the ones you do. You’ll be amazed how much this helps your overall productivity.

3. Clean up cord chaos
It happens to all of us — messy wires, tangled chargers, and completely cluttered cords. There are a dozen simple fixes for this, starting with wireless charging plates and docks. I’ve just reviewed the Nokia DT-903 ($59), which is a colorful and powerful new version of Qi charger for Lumia phones. These kinds of charging plates have been around for a handful of years already, but the DT-903 kicks things up a notch with LEDs that let you know if when you’re getting an incoming message or alert. I’m also a big fan of several of the Quirky cord management tools like the Converge ($59.99) dock and Cordies ($4.99) organizer. Poppin ($30) makes another great hideaway cord box. I’ve also used dresser drawer organizers that I picked up at Bed Bath & Beyond to organize all my different chargers as well.

4. Disinfect your gross gadgets
You might have heard, your smartphone is bacteria-magnet. One recent study shows the average cellphone often carries 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. Gross, but true. (And to think you put it up to your face how many times a day?!)

There are a ton of wireless wipes available to disinfect and clean your phone, but if you want to save money, using a little water and alcohol or water and vinegar mixture sprayed onto a microfiber cloth can do the trick as well.

I also just reviewed a new kickstarter-funded product called the UviCube ($199 via Kickstarter, $299 retail). It’s a new breed of appliance that can safely sanitize all your electronic gear with high-intensity ultraviolet light. It’s kind of like a mini dishwasher, minus the heat and water, for your go-to gadgets. It was originally created to sanitize baby bottles, but the makers figured out that also spiffs up remote controls, keyboards, tablets, and smartphones — effectively killing 99.9 percent of germs — without damaging any sensitive electronic components. It’s expensive now, since it’s brand new, but expect to see more and more of these kinds of supertech scrubbers popping up for gadget loving germaphobes over the new few years.

5. Clean up clutter on your computer

If your computer is crawling along at a snail’s pace, stuck on the spinning wheel of death, now’s the time to wipe out the digital dust bunnies. The first thing to do is stop putting off updates that might be critical to keeping your computer safe and sound. If you’ve been pressing “remind me tomorrow” on software or app update notifications for weeks at a time, that might be your biggest problem. Updates often fix bug or holes in security, productivity, and the overall health your programs.

Now then, what else is slowing your computer down? When’s the last time you dumped your trash? Do that now. Are you completely clogged with duplicate or junk files, or even worse, malware or viruses? That’s the next thing to check. With a Mac, you can use a free tool such as Avast, or Sophos Antivirus for Mac. For Windows, try Malwarebytes, BitDefender Free Edition, Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool and SuperAntiSpyware. CCleaner is another good download that works with both Windows and Mac to clear out temp files and free up space on your laptop or desktop.

Typically when I run these scans, I have a massive mess of duplicate files. Just cleaning those up frees up tons of space and makes everything run faster right away. But, before you start wiping stuff out, back it up. Consider buying that external hard drive or added online cloud storage space and upload your old files, then delete them from your laptop or desktop to create more space.

Fresh and clean
You don’t need to wait to dig out from under snow or freezing temps to get a head-start on clearing the cobwebs from your connected life. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions in the comments section below.

Posted in Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, TechNow, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news