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Technology That I’m Thankful For

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Today is Thanksgiving…a day when most Americans will gather around the dinner table and argue religion and politics with a particularly surly uncle before gorging themselves silly on generous portions of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. By the end of the evening—and before slipping into a tryptophan-induced coma—we’ll each individually reflect on 2014 and all of the things that we’re thankful for.

It’s in that spirit that I offer up this column: the five pieces of technology that I’m most thankful for this year. My choices aren’t necessarily the latest, greatest, or even the most innovative things to come out this year, but each has made my life incredibly easier in some way, shape, or form.

What about you? Technology usage can both be incredibly personal and enlightening, so I’m interested in hearing about your favorite uses of technology. E-mail me your stories at mjgola+iris@gmail.com (or tweet them @mgola), and I’ll share them back in a future column!

Without further ado, these are the five pieces of technology that I’m most thankful for:

Number 5: My AppleTV. This small, hockey-pucked sized device attaches to your television, allowing you to watch a variety of content on the big screen. This includes content from the iTunes store, Netflix, or a variety of “channels” ranging from Disney to Fox Business. More impressively is its use of Apple’s AirPlay technology. AirPlay allows you to wirelessly stream audio and video from your iPhone to your AppleTV, meaning that any video you can watch on your phone—say, the NFL game on your ESPN app—can be streamed in HD to your television. This doesn’t seem very awesome until you realize that a lot of content providers have started publishing their wares through Apple’s iOS apps. If you’re looking to cut the cable cord, the app-to-TV strategy is certainly a viable one. I haven’t had cable TV for two years now, and yet I still have no trouble finding something to watch.

Number 4: 1Password by AgileBits. One of the easiest ways you can protect your online life is to make sure that you have unique, strong passwords for each web site you visit. Unfortunately, managing these credentials can be time consuming and difficult, which is why most people opt to simply re-use passwords. One solution to this problem is 1Password, a digital wallet that securely stores all of your passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information behind a single, easy-to-remember password of your choosing. It allows you to automatically log in to websites with a single mouse click followed by your master password. Best of all, it works across multiple platforms, including Mac OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android. You’ll never need to remember your passwords ever again!

Number 3: My Synology DiskStations. Data loss can cripple any small business, and one of the most important things that you can do as a business owner is to ensure that your systems are regularly backed up to a redundant storage medium before having that medium shipped off-site. The DiskStation is a toaster-sized device that automates most of these tasks, allowing you to back up all of your machinesto a single appliance that simply plugs into your network. Your backups are encrypted and striped across multiple disks, meaning that your data is recoverable even if one of your Synology’s internal drives fail. Adding to this redundancy is Synology’s replication feature, which allows you to synchronize all of your DiskStation units over the Internet. Think of it as a private cloud, allowing you to save your data both in your office as well as a remote, secure location.

Number 2: My smartphone. I can’t think of a single, modern device that is more critical to my daily life than my iPhone. It does everything, from paying for my coffee to checking me in on flights. It has almost every picture or video I’ve ever taken, all of my music, most of my books, my passwords and credit card information, as well as the bulk of my correspondence and conversations from the last several years. I can literally do almost anything I need to do with my phone—a fully-encrypted supercomputer that fits right in my pocket. The 11-year-old in me would marvel at this technology. The 46-year-old me still does!

Number 1: My Foscams. Despite the passion I have for my iPhone, the one piece of technology that I’m most thankful for are these humble, decidedly low-tech web cameras. You see, back in June of last year I became father to two little boys. Except that mom and babies were in San Francisco, and my day job was in Jacksonville, FL. These low-cost wireless cameras—along with a lot of flights on United—were the only way for me to spend early time with my little guys. They were cheap enough to where I could strategically place several of them in the nursery, and with two-way audio, I was always able to read Goodnight Moon as mom tucked the little guys into bed.

So that’s it…the five pieces of technology that I’m most thankful for. Don’t forget to send yours, and enjoy your holiday!

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