Why Your Passwords SHOULD Be Easy

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How do you keep track of your passwords today?  A sticky note on your desk?  A spreadsheet on your desktop called "passwords.xls"?  

What about the actual passwords you use?  Are they secure using upper and lower case characters, numbers, and special characters or are you using the same password for every site and app you use?  

If your current way of keeping up with your passwords is anything like these examples, you're going to LOVE Password Manager apps.  Password manager apps let you securely store every password for every app and site you use all in one convenient location.  

Think of this like a more secure and easier to use sticky-note for your passwords that you can access on every device you own.

The way these apps work is that they ask you to memorize one strong password that lets you access all your other passwords.  Instead of remembering a password for every app and website you use, you only have to remember one master password to access all your other passwords.

Now while this might seem difficult to memorize a really secure master password, you can make this easier on yourself by choosing words that mean something to you and replacing specific letters.  For example, let's say your favorite NBA Basketball team is the Dallas Mavericks.  You could substitute the "a" letters with an "@" symbol, the "s" character with a dollar sign "$", and the "i" letter with a number one "1" to spell: "D@ll@$M@ver1ck$".  

This gives you a 15-character password that uses upper and lower case characters, numbers, and special characters that is extremely secure and is SUPER easy to remember since it's your favorite team!  If you're not a sports fan, feel free to substitute your favorite movie, TV show, or band as well :)

What's really great about this is that some password manager apps take advantage of things like Touch ID on your iPhones and iPads so you usually don't even have to type in your master password.  We personally use the password manager called 1Password and to give you an idea of how easy it is to use, let's say I need to know my Instagram password:

1.  I launch the 1Password app and use my thumbprint with Touch ID instead of typing in my master password:

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2.  I browse through the list of passwords I have saved to find my Instagram account:

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3.  I swipe right on this account and tap "Copy Password" and the password for this account is now on my clipboard so I can paste it into the app or website I'm looking at:

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4.  (Optional) Instead of copying the password, I can also tap on it and reveal the password if I want to see what it is: 

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1Password even has a feature where it will generate extremely secure passwords for you.  I told it to use 15 characters with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and two special characters and take a look at what it came up with:

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Normally I'd cringe at the idea of even typing, much less remembering, a password like "XfnR#tRbwq9pr(r" but since I'm using 1Password, I don't ever have to remember or type out this crazy password.  

I just remember my master password for accessing the 1Password app and the password manager app does all the hard work for me.  

I can access my passwords securely from any device I own and never have to worry about losing track of them.  My wife and I share the same password vault as well so that there's never any issue or confusion about what the login is for the bank, Netflix, or our garage code.  Try doing all of that with a sticky note :)

Which Password Manager Apps are the Best?

As you can probably guess, I think think the best password manager app available by far is 1Password by Agile Bits Software.  Here are just a few reasons why I recommend it:

  • It works and syncs across Windows, Mac, iPhone, and Android devices.
  • It uses Touch ID to save time when logging in.
  • It has a Chrome extension that lets you save new logins to your password vault when you create them.
  • The app and company have a fantastic track record in terms of keeping user data safe.

If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to 1Password, Lastpass and Keypass are both also widely used, but I wouldn't recommend either solution over 1Password.

If you start using a password manager after reading this article or have any other questions on how they work, please let us know in the comments below or stop by our Facebook community to chat!

 

How to Install an Ad Blocker

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While we have more ways than ever to browse the internet, advertisers have more ways than ever to get us to look at (or click on) their website ads.  Ads are often distracting and intrusive and many times are designed to play unwanted video to get your attention or even trick you into accidentally clicking on them.  

Most people don't realize this, but internet ads are also taking your time.  Ads on a webpage take time to load and often times, they're making you wait to read the article you clicked on while they load an ad you don't want to see.

Ad Blockers give you your time back.

Ad blockers are just what they sound like.  They block ads from appearing and even loading and display your favorite websites with a much more clean experience (sans ads).  You don't waste time loading ads that you don't even want to see in the first place.

Now I want to add a quick disclaimer here as there are some people who feel ad blockers are a bad thing because they lower ad views and clicks for your favorite websites.  This in turn, causes your favorite websites to make less money.  That can be a lengthy discussion so I'll just say here that if that's an issue of conscience for you, all ad blockers have "whitelists" which allow you to display ads on specific websites if you so choose.  

So, now that you know what ad blockers are, let's talk about how to install them.  I've broken this out into sections so you can jump right to the "how to" for the device you want to read about:

How to install an ad blocker on an iPhone or iPad

How to install an ad blocker on an Android Phone

How to install an ad blocker on a Windows or Mac Computer

How to install an ad blocker on an iPhone or iPad

Step 1: Choose your Ad Blocker and install from the app store

I recommend either of the following:

Best free ad blocker for iPhone: 1Blocker

Best paid ad blocker for iPhone or iPad: Wipr

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Step 2: Tap Settings

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Step 3: Tap Safari

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Step 4: Tap Content Blockers

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Step 5: Tap the switch to turn on your ad blocker

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Step 6: Enjoy an ad free web experience!

(Optional) Step 7: Turn off Ad Blocker for a Specific Webpage

If you ever think a webpage isn't loading correctly or want to see what it would look like by loading without your ad blocker, tap and hold the refresh button in Safari and then tap "Load without Content Blockers."  This will load the webpage without your ad blocker.

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How to install an ad blocker on an Android Phone or Tablet

Step 1: Update your settings to allow installations from "Unknown sources"

Unfortunately, Google doesn't allow any ad blocking software on their Play Store so you will have to make sure your phone is setup to install applications from outside the Play Store.  

You can do this by tapping Settings, then Security, and then checking the box next to "Unknown Sources"

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Step 2: Choose your Ad Blocker

I recommend either of the following (both have free options):

Step 3: Download the Ad Blocker directly from the websites linked above in Step 2

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Step 4: After the download completes, tap the downloaded file to open it  

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Step 5: Tap the Install Button to install your ad blocker

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Step 6: Tap the Open Button to start your ad blocker

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How to install an ad blocker on a Windows or Mac Computer

Step 1: Choose your ad blocker and visit the webpage linked below

I recommend: 

Note: I'll be using screenshots for installing uBlock Origin on a Chrome browser, but the process is essentially identical for Firefox or Safari.

Step 2: Click Add to Chrome

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Step 3: Click "Add extension"

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Step 4: Once you see the popup saying your installation is complete, you can begin enjoying your ad-free web browsing experience! 

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(Optional) Step 5: Turn off Ad Blocker for a Specific Webpage

If you ever think a webpage isn't loading correctly or want to see what it would look like by loading without your ad blocker, click the uBlock Origin icon in your browser: 

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Next click on the "power button" icon to turn off ad blocking on the webpage in question:

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Finally click on the refresh icon to load the webpage currently displayed without any ad blocking:

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That's all you need to know about how to block ads on your favorite device or platform!  If this helped you out, please take a moment to let me know in the comments or if I can help you at all with this process, please stop by our Facebook page and let's chat!

Top 5 Easy Technologies

Top 5 Easy Technologies

Ok so after I went on and on in my last post about why easy technologies are so great, I wanted to get really practical and show you some specific examples of some of my very favorite easy technologies.  

This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch, but this should give you a few ideas of how technology can make your life much much easier.

Without further delay, here are my top 5 easy technologies:

1.  Universal Remotes

If you're like most people, you have to use more than one remote to watch your TV.  You probably have something like one remote for the TV, another remote for the DVD player, another remote for the cable box, and still another for the DVD player, and possibly a few more for things like a Roku, Apple TV, or an audio receiver.  (That's roughly 4-6 remotes already.)

In addition to keeping up with all of these remotes, you also have to remember all of your input settings.  Does your TV need to be set on HDMI1 or HDMI3 to watch a DVD?  Is the audio for the Roku on the Optical1 or Optical2 input?  It's not exactly an easy experience.

Universal remotes let you control all of these devices with a single remote.  

Just press a single button and all the right devices turn on, set themselves to the right input settings, and you're off and watching your favorite TV show or movie. They're also extremely easy to use.  You watch TV by pressing the "TV" button.  You change the volume by pressing the volume buttons.  It knows which devices you want to use and how they should all work together and most guide you through a practically foolproof setup process as well.   

Now just in case you're thinking universal remotes will be intimidating to use, here's a picture of our universal remote (Logitech Smart Control):

Our cute little remote next to a shiny quarter

Our cute little remote next to a shiny quarter

This also makes our entertainment devices SO much easier for people like babysitters and houseguests because there's only one remote to worry about and it's easy enough for them to figure out themselves.  

Seriously, if you have more than a couple of remotes, and who doesn't these days, this one is a game changer.

2. Squarespace

 If you're in need of building a website (either for personal or business use) you have a few options:

  • Code it yourself 
  • Pay someone else to code it for you 
  • Use a "build your own website" platform

After comparing all of the options available today, I can wholeheartedly recommend Squarespace for building your next website.

When I cooked up the idea to start Make it Easy, I was out of work so I wanted to spend as little money as I possibly could.  After doing a bit of research, it seemed that I could build a Wordpress site and find hosting for it for much less than what it would cost to pay for a build your own website platform like Squarespace.

What I quickly learned though was that saving money up front on building a website would cost me a lot of time in the long run and I wouldn't save nearly as much as I thought.

Hosting for Wordpress sites can be found for as little as $5 per year, but then you'll need a template to make the site look professional.  You can use a free template from wordpress.com but if you want your site to stand out and aren't capable of programming your own template, you'll be looking at buying a paid template ($20-60).  Even after paying for the template, you'll still have to spend time to customize it to get it looking the way you want it to look.

Next, you have the ongoing responsibility making sure your wordpress installation AND all of your wordpress templates and plugins are up to date.  If you don't, you run the risk of being hacked and losing access to your site.  If you're thinking restoring a hacked site is as easy as requesting a forgotten password, just google for "my wordpress site was hacked," and see if you think all of the steps involved sound quick OR easy.

Squarespace on the other hand takes the security concern off the table for me.  While there is NO system that is 100% secure, there are no plugins to install and as long as I am using a secure password, my site is extremely safe and secure.

On top of that Squarepace's interface is extremely easy to use.  I can drag and drop page elements onto my site whenever I want and don't have to touch any code unless I want to create something very specific or customized.  

By the time I added up the total costs and the time and ongoing maintenance for a wordpress site, this was a no-brainer.  I'll gladly pay for Squarespace up front to save my time on the back end.  The result is that I have a website that has taken care of the heavy lifting for me without requiring me to customize every last detail to get it looking decent and running securely.

3.  Replace Cable TV with Streaming TV

 

    This one was such great change for our family.  My wife and I "cut the cord" and replaced our cable TV over five years ago and it has been nothing short of fantastic.  After doing quite a bit of research and trial and error, we now use a combination of TV streaming services and a TV Antenna that let us watch all of our favorite TV shows without paying an arm and a leg for cable TV.  Beyond just saving a ton of money each month, our TV is also much much easier to use than before.  

    There is so much information on this topic, I created an entire course around how to replace your cable TV; however, here are a few key points on why this is one of my favorite easy technologies:

    • No More Cable Company Nonsense - I no longer have to go through the annual ritual of calling into the cable company to pretend to cancel my service just to keep my monthly rate from jumping up $20-30.  Unlike most areas, there is actual competition for customers with online streaming services so they also don't nickel and dime you with fees for things like contracts, cable box rentals, HD upcharges, installation fees, and other random reasons to charge you more each month.
    • Devices that are easy to use - Streaming your TV shows also means you get to use devices that don't look like they were made 20 years ago.  Instead of a clunky cable box, you can use modern devices like an Apple TV or an Amazon Fire TV that let you do things like search with your voice or use your smartphones as an extra remote.
    • Better Channel Selection - Streaming TV means you can pick from providers that offer much more variety in channel packages.  That means you can pay less if you don't need Live TV and use a provider like Netflix or Hulu or you can just buy individual shows you want from iTunes or Google Play.
    • Fewer Commercials - If you're streaming shows from a service like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, or Hulu, you can completely avoid all commercials saving you roughly 15 minutes for every hour of programming you watch.  If you watch a lot of TV, that time adds up quickly! 
    • Money - Last but not least, streaming your TV shows is typically cheaper for most families compared to paying for cable TV.  If you want to find out how much you could potentially save by replacing your cable TV, check out our free cord cutting savings calculator.

    4.  Password Vaults

    Ever have trouble remembering what password you used for that one random website or app? Maybe you can't remember what you said your favorite candy bar was when you setup your security questions.  Maybe you're one of those people who has a "passwords" document on your desktop or a sticky note with your passwords on it on your desk as well.

    If any of these sound like you, I'd highly recommend you check out a Password Vault app.

    The way these apps work is that instead of memorizing a password for every site, they encourage you to memorize one really well-crafted password that gives you access to your password vault.  For example, I could use the password "M@k31t3@sy" (MakeItEasy) for my password vault as it's 10 characters long and uses, numbers, upper and lower-case characters, and uses special characters.  

    Password vault apps can then create extremely complex passwords for you that you can copy and paste into your favorite apps and websites whenever you like.  These password vaults sync across all your devices and computers and you can even use your thumbprint to login if you have an iPhone or iPad.

    You can store all your passwords securely, access them anywhere, and never worry about losing one again.

    We've been using the password vault app called 1Password for years and it has been flawless.  There are competitors out there too, but I've found 1Password to be the most secure, most reliable, and easiest to use out of all of them.  Here are some links if you want to check it out: iPhone/iPad, Mac App Store, Google Play Store.

    5.  Ad Blockers

    Last but not least, I want to share a piece of technology with you that will make your web browsing experience MUCH more pleasant by blocking annoying advertisements.

    These ad blockers work by filtering out all of the ad images that would normally clutter up your screen and displaying just the content you actually want to read.  Because this keeps you from wasting time downloading ads, your websites will actually load faster than if you were loading them without an Ad Blocker!

    If you want more details on how to install an Ad Blocker and which ones I recommend, check out our next post!