The corona virus infection is fraught with numerous nasty technical surprises.
We faced the problem of permanent shortage of hardware like game consoles and graphics cards. Apple announced a major shift in its data practices this year, including a tool to scan iPhones for child pornography, which critics have dubbed an invasion of privacy. Many of us had to swim in a sea of fakes trying to order high quality masks to protect ourselves from the corona virus.
Yet there was a silver lining to all of this: valuable lessons for improving our relationship with technology in the years to come, such as becoming enthusiastic online shoppers and controlling our personal data.
Think of these as New Year’s resolutions, but for the sake of technology. Here are my best suggestions.
Resolution # 1: Invest in infrastructure first.
The epidemic that prompted many white-collar professionals to work from home showed how many of us internet connections were sluggish. It underscores how little we invest in our technological infrastructure, such as networking equipment and broadband services that enable Internet connectivity for our devices.
When people spend on technology, they usually buy gadgets first and foremost. According to a research report released by Adobe last month, electronics such as video streaming sticks were among the top selling items on Black Friday.
But before equipment we have to spend on infrastructure. According to a survey of consumer reports this year, one-fifth of consumers have owned their routers for more than four years. Since we have to upgrade our Wi-Fi routers every three to five years, wireless experts say. New routers introduce new Wi-Fi standards that improve speed and technology to reduce network congestion, making it easier for multiple devices across a home laptops and game consoles to get a strong Internet connection.
If your router is very new and your connection is low, check with your Internet Service Provider. The broadband plan you subscribed to many years ago may not be enough, so invest in a faster plan. If your family streams a lot of videos and plays games online, shoot up to about 40 megabits per second.
Resolution # 2: Check before clicking the Buy button.
If you tried to buy high quality mask online during infections, you are probably facing many fakes. Counterfeiters have flooded the market with poorly structured masks, and this problem continues today.
Although counterfeit products online have been a problem for a long time, the epidemic has created a life-threatening problem with masks. Amazon and other retailers have policies banning the sale of fake masks, but new sellers with fake masks are constantly emerging. It has become a wake-up-mole game.
Lesson? Always check before clicking the Buy button. Read buyer reviews. Check the seller and if it is an unknown brand, explore its reputation. Some online tools like Fakespot can scan the product page to detect signs of counterfeit products and fake reviews.
Be especially careful when buying anything that could affect one’s health, including vitamins and dog food. If in doubt, buy these items at a reputable brick and mortar store.
Resolution # 3: Practice self-confidence with your digital data.
Apple, which has long portrayed itself as the protector of digital privacy, has delivered one of the biggest technological surprises of the year.
In August, the company announced a software update with a twist. The software includes a tool to scan iPhones for code linked to a database of known child pornography. Once multiple matches have been identified, Apple staff may review the photos before reporting them to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Apple’s positive intention to prevent the spread of child abuse images was quickly obscured by the aggressive effects of its content-flagging system, which was contrary to the company’s pro privacy image. In response to the setback, Apple postponed the release of the software feature and made it clear that the technology could be disabled if people did not back up their images in iCloud.
The episode reminds us that when we use cloud services, our data is at the discretion of a technology company. Lesson? To be independent of large companies and their cloud services, we need to consider changing how we manage our data.
The best way forward is to adopt a hybrid approach to our data, security experts advised. This includes backing up our data to the cloud, but also storing it on devices such as physical drives and miniature USB sticks. Having a local backup like this ensures access to important files even if the Internet crashes. If you are not happy with the cloud service or are tired of paying the subscription fee you can easily opt out as you already have a copy of your information.
According to data protection firm Acronis, only 17 percent of people take a hybrid approach. Do not procrastinate: The longer you wait to create local backups of your data, the harder it will be if you decide to exit the cloud service.
Resolution # 4: Avoid online sales events.
Last month, several shoppers who tried to snatch contracts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday quickly realized that something was wrong.
Many of the items we usually buy at a discount, such as new Wi-Fi routers and cheap laptops, are not for sale or in stock. This is often the result of a global chip shortage and disruption of supply chains, which in turn has disrupted the production and shipping of goods around the world.
Waiting until Black Friday is seldom wise, but the scarcity caused by the epidemic has made this clearer than ever. Throughout the year, deals will emerge that are sometimes better sometimes better than black silver ads.
The tricky part is knowing when cold products are cheap. There are many ways to look for discounts, such as following up with sites that warn you about sales. Our sister publication Wirecutter tracks deals on its TwitterAnd website, for example.
Automated tools such as Camel Camel Camel allow you to insert products sold on Amazon, set up email alerts for discounts, and monitor websites and ads for specific products. In the future, you can go beyond the holiday shopping frenzy and avoid black silver.