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!