How to Choose a Home Security System

home securityWe haven’t talked about home security systems before, and a recent comment thread spurred us to give the topic its own post. While you may find it hard to name many companies beyond ADT (the country’s biggest security company), new technology has opened the market to lots of competitors. Some of those, like SimpliSafe (which a few readers have recommended) even let you install a home security system yourself.

If you’re not interested in a full home security system, one reader pointed out that you can find many home-safety items online. She found security company stickers (pros and cons here), a special light that makes it look like someone’s at home watching TV, and a barking dog alarm. It’s also easy to find online tips for making your home safer, from displaying fake security cameras to using motion sensor lights outside — but if you want to install the real thing, which will not only help keep your home safe but reduce your insurance premiums as well, we’ve got many tips to share today.

Looking at the lengthy list of home security companies can be overwhelming, but we’ve gathered some reviews, ratings, and other information to help you sort out the choices:

(Pictured: P is for Protect, originally uploaded to Flickr by Angelia Sims.)  
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Household Wednesday: Best Portable Speakers

best portable speakersThis is another entry in our very occasional feature on household items — see our previous discussions on the best sheets, best towels, indispensable kitchen items, and more.  

Ladies, what are your favorite portable speakers — whether for use at your office, around your home, or in the great outdoors? I’ve been on the hunt for a while now and thought I’d pose the question to the group. I recently bought a very affordable one that was recommended by the usual place I go to for these things, The Wirecutter. Not only was the sound horrible, though (and I am not an audiophile), but my toddler managed to break it within about two weeks. (The Amazon Echo is our default kitchen speaker, but it requires an outlet. I’m not sure I feel strongly enough about Alexa to get Amazon’s more portable version, the Tap.) After my “my cheap speaker sounded lousy and then broke” experience, I’m open to spending more on one but am hesitant because I feel like I ought to have a greater plan in mind. One of my friends did this — he and his wife bought a Sonos speaker pretty much every year for their big holiday present to themselves; after a few years they had a multi-room system. (Do note that Sonos speakers require WiFi, so if you hope to use them on a picnic or some such, you may be out of luck.)

So let’s hear it, ladies — which are your favorite portable speakers? Are they part of a greater home system or plan, or did you buy yours for some other reason (like the super-cute and affordable Kate Spade polka-dot speaker, pictured)? (This should be a separate post entirely, I suppose, but does anyone have strong opinions on their headphones or earphones? I just bought my husband these Bose earphones for Fathers’ Day.)

Pictured above, clockwise: SoundLink® Mini II Bluetooth® Speaker / UE BOOM 2 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker / kate spade new york ‘le pavillion’ Bluetooth® speaker

Further reading:   

  • Best Portable Mini Bluetooth Speakers [CNET]
  • The Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2016 [PCMag]
  • Amazon Echo vs. Amazon Tap [NerdWallet]
  • 5 Best Wireless Speakers Under $300 [ConsumerReports]

Psst: our favorite podcasts for working women, and my favorite songs, for no reason whatsoever. 

Tool of the Trade: Online Shopping Apps

Online Shopping AppsWe’ve talked about some of my favorite online shopping tools before, but not in a while — and a lot of the older ones have gone belly up, so let’s discuss the best of today’s online shopping apps. Ladies, what are your favorite tools these days? These are the ones I use:

  • Covvet: This takes the place of the dearly departed Shopping NotesPoachIt, and Hukkster. The idea is simple: If you see a product you like, you click a bookmarklet on your desktop and tell the program what price you’d like to pay — then they’ll notify you if/when it goes on sale. I use this a LOT, and really like it — my only regret is that it doesn’t work on my iPad.
  • Amazon Wishlist. A year or two ago, Amazon changed their wishlist so that it now can track products on ANY site. If they can match it on Amazon they’ll let you know; otherwise they link your list to the third party site. I have zillion gift idea lists in here; it also helps me keep track of all the makeup I want to try/investigate in person.

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The Hunt: Laptop Totes and Sleeves

laptop totes for womenSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We haven’t done a roundup of stylish laptop totes in a THOUSAND YEARS, so I thought we’d take a look today. Ladies, do you have any trusty laptop totes? Do you prefer a laptop sleeve or an entire tote for laptops?

Psst: we’ve talked about how to lighten your load in the past, as well as how to save your back while commuting.

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Tool of the Trade: Bluetooth Keyboard

Corporette's Tool of the Trade: The Bluetooth KeyboardI’ve mentioned my love for my Bluetooth keyboard a few times, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a whole post on it, so I thought we’d discuss. If you tend to do a lot of writing in your life (even just emails!), I highly recommend it.  There are a ton of options out there; the one that I have is the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard, which sells for around $25. Mine was a gift from my father, received around the same time I got my first iPad, and it mostly lay around collecting dust until I figured out how to use it…

Use it for focus.  For a long time now, I’ve known that whenever I have significant editing or writing to do, the regular desktop is just the death of me — too many distractions.  (At my old law firm I even tried to unplug the Internet cable so I had less distractions and, if memory serves, got a visit from tech support because they wondered what was wrong.)  One of my old tricks has always been to write longhand, on paper.  But: then you have all this text (largely illegible, if you’re me) to get into the computer, which requires time from either you or your assistant, both to enter and review.  I had been gifted a keyboard  forget the original reason why I had gotten a Bluetooth keyboard, but I had one laying around, so it occurred to me: why not try the iPad and keyboard?  I now think of it as my little typewriter for 2015 — I never switch between screens the way I do on my desktop.

Use it for travel. The Bluetooth keyboard is super lightweight and fits in most of my bags.  It’s easily turned off and on (simple switch on the bottom) so you don’t have to worry about running the batteries down or anything when you chuck it in your bag.  I’ve even started using it with my iPhone if I’m flying or taking a train because it fits on the little tray table better.

Grab and go.  It’s so lightweight that I even grab it if I expect I might have to wait a while somewhere, like the doctor’s office. No cords, no need for wifi (unless you’re using it for email, but even then I usually just work off previously downloaded emails and then sync when I’m back in a wifi zone), and it’s so lightweight you don’t feel like you’ve sacrificed anything if you didn’t actually get around to using it.

The only cons of note that I see:  1) It sometimes takes a few tries to get it connected via Bluetooth, which is annoying.  2) If you use a ton of keyboard shortcuts involving keys like Ctrl, Del, etc, this particular keyboard is laid out differently than my desktop keyboard, so things like function keys are in different spots.  3)  Yes, it is a smaller keyboard — I haven’t felt too cramped on it at all, but then I have fairly small hands.

Ladies, do you have a tool, device, or app that you aboslutely LOVE? Share it with us in the comments. 

 

Do Multiple Devices Boost Your Productivity — or Your Overwhelm?

multiple-devices-boost-productivityHow many devices do you have? Does having multiple devices boost your productivity — or just add to the feeling of being overwhelmed? Reader A has an interesting question:

So I was wondering, how many pieces of technology do you and your readers have? I am increasingly getting overwhelmed by it all. I have a desktop both at home and at work of course, then an iPad, then a MacBook Air, then my personal iPhone, and my work iPhone!! Too much I am thinking. So, if you had to ditch one (or more than one), what would it be? I would think the home desktop; yet, it is a pain to connect remotely to my desktop at work from my laptop or others. What then?

Interrrrrresting question — I’ve talked about my being overwhelmed by information, but not about device overwhelm. I’m curious to hear what readers say here, but I may have some solutions for you to help prevent device overwhelm… (That said, if possible I would ditch one of your two iPhones if at all possible — but if you’ve maintained two for so long I’m guessing it’s because there is a valid reason for it, and of course work/life separation is important.)

There’s a lot of interesting reading about how having different devices can actually boost your productivity; as this Wired article describes, it helps you focus by associating certain tasks with certain screens. (Question for the hive: does anyone have a multiple-monitor setup? How do you like it?) Here’s how I use this method:

  • I use my desktop almost exclusively for daily blog stuff.
  • I use my laptop (which doesn’t do well without a power cord) as a standing workstation (I just set it on top of our credenza), usually when I’m opening a zillion bookmarks and shopping for TPS reports or the like.
  • I use my iPad for work email as well as for focused writing with my Bluetooth keyboard. (OK, I also use my iPad for fun web surfing while watching television.)
  • I still use my netbook for work whenever I travel. (It’s very clunky but gives me a PC experience.)
  • I’m pondering getting a Kindle because I’ve learned that I simply do not read books and other long-form things on my iPad but would like something to bring to my bedside table. (Although really, if I could find the cord for the Orbo my son hates I could use that as a Kindle!)

That said, I do depend on a few different services to keep everything aligned among my devices, and I highly recommend them if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

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