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You Say You Want a Resolution
In your New Year’s frenzy to lose weight, ditch bad habits and generally become a better person, don’t forget to tidy up your e-life

By William Kanapaux

The New Year is upon us, and with it comes the annual tradition of making resolutions. Think of it as a personal upgrade of sorts, if not for that other tradition of breaking most resolutions about as quickly as you make them.

In that spirit, hereís a list of resolutions to address some of the more technologically oriented aspects of life. Iíll ignore obvious computer maintenance like backing up files, updating your virus definitions, downloading patches and keeping a firewall. Those should already be part of your regular routine.

1. Organize your e-mails.

Assuming that your ISP has spam filters in place to stem the flow of unsolicited offers, youíre probably still stuck with a mountain of electronic correspondence in need of deletion, filing in folders and/or responding to. At last count, I had 4,153 e-mails sitting in my three primary e-mail accounts. This might take a while.

2. Organize your Bookmarks or Favorites file.

Web browsing can be so much fun. So many interesting, useful and entertaining Web sites to remember. If you could only remember where you put them and why. At last count, I had 692 Web sites in my Favorites file. I promise to get to this one just as soon as Iím finished responding to those two-year-old e-mails.

3. Put together that personal Web site.

Youíve learned how to write basic HTML, or at least how to steal code from Web pages you like. Youíve got pictures, a resume, contact info and all sorts of interesting content you could add. If only you could find the time. Or motivation. Or the money to pay someone else to do it.

4. Donít let shiny new gadgets blind you to privacy issues.

All one needs these days is a microchip and a satellite to track a personís whereabouts via the Web. As a result, tracking devices are becoming increasingly popular. From cell phones to rental cars, they can find you if they want to. Sure, you have to give someone permission to track you, but if your job is at stake, or you just donít bother to read the fine print on that rental contract, you might not have as much of an out as some folks would like you to believe.

Wherifyís wireless tracking service (www.wherifywireless.com) gives you a taste of coming attractions. And while the service has useful and important applicationsósuch as locating missing children or stolen carsóit has significant potential for abuse. And this problem will recur with greater frequency as our gadgets become increasingly sophisticated. Before you buy, plug in, or download, maybe it would be a good idea to ask who will have access to this and who ultimately decides how it gets used?

5. Invent more robots to do the stuff that needs to be done.

OK, maybe you personally canít do anything about this, but itís high time for an improvement over Roomba the vacuum cleaner and the Robomower. How about something that mixes the best of the robot world with nanotechnology? Something that can run on its own while removing dust, mold and lead paint and turning them into something harmless and easy to dispose of?

Now that would be an invention. More sophisticated models could be used to clean up oil spills, toxic waste and environmentally damaged sites. Researchers are already working on bacteria that eat pollution, and harnessing the little critters in nanotubes operated by workhorse robots shouldnít be too far behind.

6. Donít get under other peopleís skinóor let them get under yours.

According to Wired magazine, the medical technology company SpectRx is developing a skin patch that monitors a personís alcohol level. The patch, placed over four microscopic holes in a personís skin, uses a miniature vacuum pump to continuously suck out cellular fluid.

The patch sets off an electrical signal when it comes in contact with alcohol. The signal, which varies in strength depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, is transmitted to a small receiver nearby, which then relays the information to a remote monitoring system.

The process is reportedly painless, and each patch lasts for about three days. Human clinical trials of the patch are set to begin in the first half of this year, and the device could hit the market in three years. For airline pilots and other professionals for whom sobriety is a major concern, the patch would replace point-in-time methods of monitoring, such as random blood and urine tests.

In the words of a spokesman for the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, ďNobody wants to be monitored quite that closely.Ē

7. Spend less time in front of the computer and TV.

With so many technological reasons these days to sit down and do nothing (at least physically), from gaming to TiVo, tearing yourself away from the screen and staying in shape is a challenge.

Fortunately, there is a solution for keeping your resolution without locking yourself into a contract with a gym that you may not like in six months. As an added bonus, itís super low-tech. Not only will it help keep you in shape but it will relieve muscle stress and the eye strain brought on by long hours at the computer. And that is . . .

8. Get a real, live, three-dimensional dog.

Technology offers a veritable menagerie of virtual petsómicropets, aquarium screensavers, robotic dogs that bark and wag their tails. But they canít beat the interactivity and companionship of a living, breathing pet.

A few weeks back, I adopted a dog from Peppertree Rescue (www.peppertree.org). She likes to run and play at 6:30 in the morning. Now, instead of reading e-mails at the crack of dawn, Iím watching crows fly overhead as the sun breaks through the morning clouds. Instead of clicking a mouse, Iím flinging a doggie Frisbee.

Sure, the weather can be a bear sometimes, but itís never as bad as you think itís going to be. And itís an amazingly efficient low-tech solution to a lot of high-tech pains and woes. The time spent walking and playing with a dog can make you more relaxed and focused at the computer, boosting productivity and bringing some extra joy to your day.

Happy New Year.


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