Upgrade Your Life

  • Best Ways to Return Gifts Bought Online

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    According to a new survey (from Fedex, of all places), one third of Americans will return at least one gift this year. But if there’s one thing worse than receiving a bad gift, it’s waiting in line at the post office to return it. Good news: in most cases, you don’t have to. Here’s how to avoid the hassle.

    Prepaid Return Labels

    If you need to return a purchase or gift from an online merchant, start by going straight to their website. Many offer prepaid, printable labels. Then you schedule a pick up with UPS or Fedex. Easy deal.

    For Vendors that Don’t Offer Free Return Shipping…

    The post office is usually cheaper than UPS or Fedex. But that still doesn’t mean you have to wait in line at the post office. You can leave a box outside your door, and arrange online to have the mailman pick it up. For that, just go here.

    How Much Postage Do You Need?

    If You Don’t have a Scale

    Best Times for the Post Office

    If for some reason, you still have to go to the post office, the lines are usually shortest on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, about a half an hour after they open.

  • Top Phone Privacy Fears

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    A new survey finds that more than half of Americans fear that friends or family will see what they have stored on their phones. What are their top fears? And if you share those fears, what can you do about it?

    Top Fears

    Shockingly, 9% of American men keep naked photos of others on their phones – and 7% store naked photos of themselves. For women, the numbers are less than half as much, but still significant: 3% of women surveyed admit to storing nude photos of themselves on their phones. But the top fear isn’t porn being seen by others – it’s bank account information.

    Here are the top privacy fears, by percent of respondents expressing fears that this information could seen by people they know (as opposed to being discovered by strangers if the phone is lost or stolen):

    The survey was commissioned by Clean Master – a free app for Android that clears your phone’s cache of residual and junk files, along with browsing history – which has a vested interest in bringing fear to the public’s attention. But that said, these fears of snooping seem legitimate.

    Who Snoops

    Solutions

  • Great Gifts for Under $25

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    Time to get your holiday shopping all wrapped up! To help, here are my top picks for techy and somewhat geeky gifts for less than 25 bucks. (Keep in mind prices fluctuate, as does availability.)

    Cocoagraph - $14-$18

    What do you get when you cross your pictures with chocolate? Edible photos! Printed on Guittard chocolate, the flavor is so good, your friends and family will eat these up! It takes a 7-10 days to make Cocoagraphs so order ASAP if you need them for the holidays.

    Monoprice Battery Backup and Flashlight - $20

    Almost everyone can use a back-up phone battery. They’ve come way down in price, and this one even comes with a built in LED flashlight.

    Monoprice Noise Isolating Earphones - $11

    Like the backup battery, earphones are something almost everyone can use. And this pair offers excellent fit and sound quality – especially given the price.

    Happy holidays. For more gift ideas, follow me on Twitter. I’m @bworley.

  • Best New Tool to Track Packages

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    Roughly one-third of all holiday shopping is now done online – and that raises a whole new set of questions: What’s the best way to check that all your gifts will arrive on time? What if the price drops – can you get a refund? And if it needs to be returned, where – in your month’s worth of junk email – is the receipt?! Good news: There’s one great tool that tracks all your purchases for you – automatically.

    The Runners-Up

    I’ve tried a number of web services that aggregate purchases and track shipments, regardless of vendor or shipper. Sites like Fara, Boxoh, and PackageTrackr all track your packages, but most don’t do a whole lot more than you could do for yourself. With Fara, for example, you need to start by forwarding them your purchase confirmation emails. But if you need to take that extra step, you might as well just put your confirmations in their own little folder yourself. What I want is for everything to be automatic.

    Best Tool: Slice

    Price Tracking

    After you make your purchase, Slice keeps an eye on the price. If it drops considerably, Slice notifies you. That means you can ask the retailer for a refund. This works on over a thousand retail websites. Ka-ching!

  • Beat Black Friday

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    Black Friday has really changed. I’ve been covering it IN DEPTH for the last eight years, and each year, this cat-and-mouse game between retailers and consumers has a different winner. This year, retailers have the upper hand because of something called “deal-staggering.” I’ll get to that in a second. But if you know the tricks, you can still land great deals – even on rarely-discounted Apple products. 

    The Best Apple Deals Are Not Always At The Apple Store

    Apple has its one sale of the year on Black Friday, but you won’t find the best deals at the Apple Store. They’re in the big-box retailers:

    · iPad Mini $299 at Walmart – How is this a deal? Because they give you a $100 gift card when you buy the device. · iPad Air $479 at Target – same story: the savings come when they hand you a $100 gift card with the purchase. · iPhone 5C $45 at Walmart – plus, they give you a $75 gift card. You actually make money on the deal! · iTunes Gift Cards – Get a card valued at $100 for just $85 at Best Buy. · Macbook Air – $150 off at Best Buy

    Shopping on Thanksgiving? Really?

    Deal Staggering

    What Where When:

    50-inch HDTVs

    Element - $229 - Target - 8p Thursday

    Laptops

  • How to Beat Black Friday

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    Black Friday has really changed. I’ve been covering it IN DEPTH for the last eight years, and each year, this cat-and-mouse game between retailers and consumers has a different winner. This year, retailers have the upper hand because of something called “deal-staggering.” I’ll get to that in a second. But if you know the tricks, you can still land great deals – even on rarely-discounted Apple products. 

    The Best Apple Deals Are Not Always At The Apple Store

    Apple has its one sale of the year on Black Friday, but you won’t find the best deals at the Apple Store. They’re in the big-box retailers:

    · iPad Mini $299 at Walmart – How is this a deal? Because they give you a $100 gift card when you buy the device. · iPad Air $479 at Target – same story: the savings come when they hand you a $100 gift card with the purchase. · iPhone 5C $45 at Walmart – plus, they give you a $75 gift card. You actually make money on the deal! · iTunes Gift Cards – Get a card valued at $100 for just $85 at Best Buy. · Macbook Air – $150 off at Best Buy

    Shopping on Thanksgiving? Really?

    Deal Staggering

    What Where When:

    50-inch HDTVs

    Element - $229 - Target - 8p Thursday

    Laptops

  • Stop Annoying Phone “Notifications”

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    Notifications on your phone – a buzz, a beep, a pop-up alert – are fine if you actually want them, like when you get a new text. But what about all those annoying notifications? Do you really want to be interrupted every time an old high school friend posts something inane on Facebook? Good news: Turning off or limiting notifications on your smartphone is easy. Watch the video above to see how.

    On iPhones

    Go first to “Settings” then “Notifications.” Then scroll down through each IOS feature and app and turn off the ones that are annoyances rather than useful alerts. You can also tweak how they appear – as banners on top as pop-ups in the center of the screen. You can even decide if you want them to appear when the phone is locked. Again, the video above shows where in the menus to find these options.

    On Android phones

    On newer models go into settings, notifications and then turn off the annoying ones. On older versions of Android, you may need to first launch the offending app, then hit the Settings button and opt out of notifications.

    [Related: How to Take a Screenshot on Your Phone ]

  • Smartphone Device Tracks and SHARES Your Blood Alcohol Level

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    We’ve fallen in love with activity monitors like the FitBit and Nike Fuel Band that track your steps and graph how many calories you burn. The quantified life provides insight that can lead to healthier behavior. But would a gadget that tracks how much you drink work the same way?

    The BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer – How it Works

    The $150 BACtrack connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Then you just download the app, enter your gender and weight – and blow into the hand-held device. It gives you a blood alcohol reading that is then saved in your phone. Less expensive (and less accurate) personal breathalyzers utilize a semiconductor sensor, but the BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer uses a professional-grade, fuel cell sensor, the same technology used by law enforcement. That said, no breathalyzer is 100% accurate – defense attorneys routinely challenge their validity in court (blood tests are the gold standard). But while I wouldn’t bet my license – or someone’s life – on this device, it still offers a number of potential benefits.

    [Related: How Accurate Are Fitness Trackers? ]

     

  • Trick for Safer, Easier-to-Remember Passwords

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    Which of these passwords is harder to crack?

    DOG!(!(!(!(!(! or PrXyc5NFn4k77

    Amazingly, it’s the easier-to-remember password. Watch the video above to find out why – and what it means for your password security.

  • 5 Shortcuts for Quicker Internet Browsing

    Upgrade Your Life 3 yrs ago

    Productivity experts say that keyboard shortcuts are 60% faster than using a mouse. So here are my top five shortcuts that work in all the major browsers: Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome and Firefox. (Note: while these tricks work in all browsers, on a Mac, you may need to use the Command key instead of Control. Watch the video above for details.) Shortcut # 1:  Move Quickly Between Tabs – Control-Tab If you need to move between multiple web pages, working in multiple tabs is faster than multiple windows. Why? Because Control-Tab lets you fly through all your tabs. Shortcut #2: Reopening a Tab You Just Closed – Control-Shift-T Sometimes you’re moving so fast online that you accidentally close a tab. That can be frustrating, particularly if the page you just closed had some crazy, hard-to-remember URL. Fear not. Control-Shift-T reopens the last closed tab. Shortcut # 3: Zooming In – Control-+ Want do see some detail on a webpage more clearly? Font too small? No problem. To zoom in, hit Control and the plus key (if your keyboard has the + sign on the same key as the = sign, you do not need to hit Shift as well). To zoom out, use Control and the minus key. Shortcut # 4: Better ...