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Why 2013 is the Year You Start Using a VPN

Why 2013 is the Year You Start Using a VPN

As an internet user in 2013, you have to deal with a whole bunch of privacy and security considerations that weren’t such a big deal a decade ago. Today, political leaders, governments, corporations, and other institutions are making subtle attempts to compromise the privacy we as internet users used to enjoy. This isn’t happening all at once, but the next few years should prove to very interesting and will no doubt define the future of the internet.

Remember SOPA and PIPA? These congressional acts were quickly protested by some of the largest corporations in America. A group named The Internet Defense League was created to quickly organize massive action online and combat such legislation should it come up in the future. However, we have not seen the last of these political attempts to encroach on individual privacy online—this is just the beginning.

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Within the last 12 months, a new policy called “The Six Strikes Policy” was based as a joint effort by the Motion Picture Association of America and the three largest Cable companies to not only track and private internet records, but to also penalize private internet users who download copyrighted files. This means that if you’re a bittorrent user or if you download any music/movies/pictures or other content online, you may be at risk.

Listen, I’m not trying to scare you. What’s important is that you’re informed of the debate surrounding internet privacy and that you take the necessary steps to protect yourself. By far the best way to protect yourself online is to start using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short. If you don’t know what a VPN is, that’s fine; it’s really not that complicated to understand. Essentially, a VPN connects your computer to a remote server somewhere in the world. Once you establish a connection between your computer and this remote server, you can start to surf the internet through the remote server. Not only does this change your IP address, it also encrypts your browsing data, making you “invisible” in a sense.

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Using a VPN is a great way to regain control of your online privacy, and it can help you achieve a level of desired anonymity that isn’t otherwise possible these days. VPN connections are also 100% legal and most, if not all, Fortune 500 companies use VPN connections to protect their data and to allow employees to safely access corporate servers while they’re out of the office. So if you’re worried about the legality of a VPN, don’t! If Microsoft, Google, KPMG, and the other big boys can use them, so can you!

Lastly, VPNs aren’t just for those who are paranoid about protecting their privacy. There are many other great benefits that come with using one. Let’s say you’d like to do some online banking or some internet shopping at a cafe over a public hotspot connection. Connecting to a VPN would encrypt your data so your online banking and credit information would remain safe and protected.

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You can also use a VPN to change your IP address, which may be important for those of you who are traveling or living outside of the United States. Services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, HBO Go, and others are protected by “geotargetting” which means that only users with an American IP address can access these services. If you’ve ever wanted to watch Netflix in Europe or access Pandora while you travel, it’s possible with a VPN, as you can easily switch to an American IP address, giving you the ability to sign up and start using these web applications. Pretty cool, right?

VPN technology has been around for over a decade and it isn’t going anywhere. As the debate over privacy carries on, it’s wise to start looking into how a VPN can help protect you from prying eyes.

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Last Updated on February 15, 2019

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

Joe’s Goals

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    Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

    Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

    Daytum

      Daytum

      is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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      Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

      Excel or Numbers

        If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

        What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

        Evernote

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          I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

          Evernote is free with a premium version available.

          Access or Bento

            If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

            Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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            You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

            Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

            All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

            Conclusion

            I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

            What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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