How to Cut the Cord: The Streaming Services And Devices to Consider

how to cut the cordCutting the cord and freeing yourself from that monthly cable bill is becoming more and more popular — people choose to do it not only to save money, but to avoid dealing with cable companies, who have earned their industry the title of most disliked in the country (along with ISPs). Kat recently decided to cut the cord, and I haven’t had a cable subscription since at least 2007. (My son probably doesn’t even know what cable is.) Still, finding out HOW to cut the cord can be a little nervewracking — so today we’re rounding up which streaming services you should consider, as well as which devices you may need.

At my house, we stream Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and we enjoyed a few months of Showtime … after I signed up through Prime Video and then forgot to cancel the free trial. We also use our huge DVD collection, borrow DVDs from the library (mainly Blu-ray), buy the Blu-ray versions of our favorite movies (I feel old saying those things), and watch various TV clips on YouTube, from Key & Peele to The Graham Norton Show. DVDs aside, there are so many great alternatives to cable that considering all the options can be really confusing. Still, that’s a good problem to have.how to cut the cord - image of a cable remote

Here are details of the main services and devices that can help you cut the cord for good:

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Coffee Break: Things

Things app review As I’ve mentioned in the past, I love Remember the Milk for a lot of my to do list requirements, but I still have my complaints — one is that it doesn’t work with Siri; another is that it doesn’t let you do nested to-do lists (so you can break a project into pieces). A friend was just singing the praises of the iOS app Things, and when she mentioned that it addresses both of my main complaints I thought I’d buy it for myself to check it out. Verdict: it’s a very, very, very smart to do app. You can create nested to-do lists and differentiate projects, but if there are items due today they all show up on one list. You can tag items (I tend to tag things by “low energy,” as in “I can do this while watching tv”; other good tags might be “phone calls” so you can bang out many in one sitting, or, say, area of town, so the next time you’re near the train station you can remember what you need.) It’s a very Apple-friendly app — it’s even dockable on your Apple Watch. You can even share your entire to do list in one fell swoop. My one complaint about the app is that there’s no way to check it on your PC (or in the cloud), but I haven’t played with their brand new URL/handoff features at all.  (The Siri functionality is also a bit clunky, but I suspect that if I spent a bit more time playing with it it would be fine.) The app is $9.99 at the App Store.  Things 3 – Cultured Code GmbH & Co. KG

Readers, which are your favorite to do apps? 

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A Smart Home: Creepy or Cool?

Here’s a question: is a “smart home,” connected and automated via various apps and devices, cool — or does it strike you as creepy? For those of you who have automated/connected your home, what products do you love the best? (I know there will be many who have a “no way no day” attitude here, and that’s ok too — I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!) As someone who tends to have an attitude of “sure it’s kind of creepy but ugggggh I hate turning on lamps manually on and off every single day when they’re an important part of our lighting design scheme,” I’ve started to go down the rabbithole. Things I’ve looked into (all of which work with my beloved Alexa as well as my smart phone, for what it’s worth):

  • Philips Hue – I got my husband a starter kit for last Christmas — getting it set up was VERY easy, and now we have colorful lights that can dim, be set to routines (such as turning on automatically at sunset), and can be turned on or off by voice command to Alexa. (We have SmartThings set up because we also have one connected outlet that my father wired for us — I think it’s a Leviton — and I will say I prefer the routines through SmartThings than through the Hue app.)  The LightStrips are awesome if you want to add undercabinet lighting to your home, particularly if you have a long bank of cabinets or, say, a long console table, china hutch, or shelf that you wish lit up; we also really like the colorful bulbs for the boys‘ room. (You can cut the lighting strips but each one needs to be plugged in to a power source.) I’ve only just begun experimenting with third party apps that, for example, change the lighting in reaction to music you’re playing.

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The Best LinkedIn Settings for Job Hunting

The Best LinkedIn Settings for Job Hunting

2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on the best LinkedIn settings — but you may also want to check out our latest discussion on LinkedIn, including how to get the most out of your LinkedIn profile in 2018.

Ladies, do you sometimes feel a little intimidated or confused by LinkedIn privacy settings and LinkedIn etiquette? If you say “open to new job opportunities” or significantly update your profile, is that a red flag to your boss? Is it creepy if people see that you’ve been looking at their profiles? We did a story in 2012 about how to secretly use LinkedIn to change careers, and I thought it would be helpful to everyone if we did an update on LinkedIn settings, whether you’re looking to change careers or just generally job hunting or networking. – Kat 

Whether or not you’re one of those people who complain that LinkedIn is turning into Facebook, it’s important to keep up with the site’s changes and new features and to always know what your privacy settings are. (By the way, if you don’t have two-step verification set up, which became an option in 2013, go do that right now.) Have you noticed the recent changes made to the LinkedIn Settings page? It’s simpler and more streamlined, but you might find it harder to locate certain options you’ve used in the past. Now is a great time to make sure you’ve got the optimal Linkedin settings for privacy — especially if you’re looking for a new job.

Pictured: linkedin, originally uploaded to Flickr by sue seecof.  

Here’s a brief guide to ensuring your job hunting (and networking with an eye to job hunting) activities stay private by picking the right LinkedIn settings:

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The Busy Woman’s Guide to Using Evernote and Other Note-Keeping Apps

busy woman's guide to using evernoteI don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a zillion tips on how to use Evernote and other note-keeping apps — but all seem geared at freelancers or entrepreneurs.  So we thought we’d do a roundup of some top tips for busy working women, but we want to hear from you guys: DO you use Evernote or a similar system? HOW do you use it, and what are your favorite tips?

A bit of background: Evernote is a web/app-based program that is billed as being a digital brain. You can use it for almost anything: project planning; note-taking; storing and organizing things that can include to-do lists, travel details, grocery lists, and gift lists; and much more. You can organize your notes and other content into notebooks (with or without tags), clip content from ebooks and webpages, send designated types of emails to your account, create checklists and reminders, save images, save PDFs and other files (which become searchable), share content with other people, record audio, take photos and scan documents (e.g., business cards, whiteboard notes, takeout menus, product warranties, receipts), add hand-drawn pictures or handwritten notes, and sync across your devices. Evernote also works with many other applications, like Google Drive (beta), Scanner Pro, IFTTT, Pocket, and DocuSign. You can use Evernote for free (several features plus 60 MB new uploads each month) or choose one of the paid plans.

Of course, other programs are similar to Evernote — and considering the recently-announced price increase, if you want your info synced on more than two devices, now is a great time to be aware of Evernote alternatives as well, such as:

  • OneNote – Lifehacker just did a showdown comparing Evernote and OneNote.
  • Google Keep and Google Drive – Tech Republic recently discussed how to ditch Evernote in favor of Google apps.
  • Some of the functionality but not everything:
    • B-Folders – not very easy to save articles beyond copy/paste, but: very secure, includes contacts, syncs across desktops and Androids; Kat’s written of her love for it for keeping track of various lists.
    • Pinterest – nice way to save articles or recipes for later. Con: it often only works if there’s a picture in the article to pin (since it’s a graphic search engine). Also, you can’t make to-do lists or save things like emails.
    • To-do list apps like Remember the Milk, Wunderlist, Teuxdeux, Todoist, and more.
    • iPhone Notes app – allows you to make buying lists, recipes, and more; can access on your PC through iCloud.
    • Meal planning apps like Pepperplate or Cozi (family scheduling, grocery shopping, recipe keeper and more).

Here are some of our best tips for using Evernote and other similar apps — readers, what are yours?

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How to Choose a Home Security System

home security2017 Update: We still stand by these tips on home security for women, but you may also want to check out our more recent discussions on safety for professional women, including the best personal safety apps for women who live alone

We 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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