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More Favorite Productivity Tips: Cleaning Up Your Desktop

Being in the technology business for many years means I have seen a lot of computer screens and a lot of user desktops. While I have never done a scientific study, I’d guess that an easy majority of them are so full and seemingly disorganized that the user probably knows where a few key files are, but the rest…forget about it. It seems that “desktop” is a dumping ground, home base, halfway house, and miscellaneous whatever, all rolled in to one. At times I’ve been guilty of it too. My ministry productivity quotient went way up however when I finally followed these three simple tips to a healthier desktop.

Tip One: Your desktop should be reserved for documents you need to have one click access to.

Not all documents are created equal, and their relative importance can change over time. Take a look at your desktop right now and identify at least one document you haven’t opened, looked at or otherwise thought about in the last three months. Find any? If you did, it’s like trying to drive down the road and having abandoned cars just sitting there, in your way, slowing you down. Why are they there? Why aren’t they parked in someone’s garage, or towed away, or taken to the dump?

It’s your job to keep the path between you and your destinations as fast and friction free as possible. Not littered with all kinds of things that are just taking up space, making you look at them over and over again for no good reason. And then each time you look at them you think, “I should really clean this place up.” What a waste of brainpower. Knowledge workers like you need clear, distraction free paths to your work. Not an obstacle course. Clear those unneeded or unused documents away. Put them in folders. Delete them. Take a few hours. They’re digital. It won’t take long. You won’t even need to break a sweat.

Tip Two: Don’t use your desktop for applications

One of the wastes of computer desktop space is to leave or put shortcuts to application start up icons there. So you have your Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Email Client, Browser…and the list goes on. Whether you use Windows or Mac you have a Start/App Menu AND  a Task Bar/Dock. Use them for those frequently used apps. While I’ve seen some computers that do have them there, they ALSO have links to them on the desktop! Great! Two ways to get to the app. Sound more productive? Not really. You only need one. In fact, you really don’t need any icons to apps on the desktop or the taskbar/dock. Wait a minute…what? That’s right. The fastest way to open an app is to not even take your fingers off the keyboard. “Resist the mouse!” Say it with me. “Resist the mouse!”

Just tap the Windows key (on a PC) or the Command Key plus Spacebar (on a Mac) and type the first couple letters of the app you want to open and hit enter. More than likely those first couple letters will net you the app you are looking for. Your computer is smart. Let it do the work for you. Give it a try. I almost never use the mouse to open an app. Opening Microsoft Word is as easy as Windows Key -> “wo” -> Enter Key. Opening the Chrome browser is Windows Key -> “ch” -> Enter Key. Sweet!

Tip Three: Change the default location of your desktop to a cloud service.

I saved the coolest tip for last. Perhaps the geekiest too. Unfortunately I think this tip is only for you Windows users. Did you know you can change where your desktop files are stored? Basically that means that whenever you “think” you are throwing something on your desktop, you are “really” storing it in a location of your choosing. My recommendation, if you are OK with the security side of it, is pick a cloud service. I use OneDrive for instance, and have it sync to my computer. Then I change the desktop location to it, and presto, I have anything that is sitting on my desktop also synced to the cloud. This makes it easy to get at my most active files from almost anywhere and any computer…or mobile device.

It’s actually very easy to do. Here is a quick tutorial on it. Another option is to use Google Backup and Sync to make sure your desktop data is stored in the cloud. One of the most frequent “oh no” moments I’ve observed in helping co-workers is when they realize they were saving stuff else where, to the cloud, etc. But neglected to consider the stuff on their desktop. Important stuff!

So just take care to use the desktop wisely. It is a great surface on which to work. Quick. Easy. Efficient. You can now make it even better.

Additional Resources

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507 – Three Steps to Safety

WELSTech’s summer ministry resource focus continues, this week with a discussion of tech safety practices which churches, schools, and individuals would be wise to adopt. Other chatter covers ideas for working with volunteers, coffee-table ready photo books, and a Pinterest posting suggestion which has Martin dumbfounded. All this with a side of mustard!

The discussion:

Don’t sing the blues – Martin shares important tech safety practices which organizations and individuals should adopt in Let’s Be Safe Out There…In Three Easy Steps.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured video:

Get a behind-the-scenes Finalweb 2 Introduction, the newest addition to the WELSTech Product Demo playlist on YouTube.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 508 – Martin and Sallie are broadcasting from WELS’ 64th Biennial Synod Convention in at Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, WI. Release date: Wednesday, August 2.

Get involved:

Let’s Be Safe Out There…In Three Easy Steps

Back in the 80’s the crime drama Hill Street Blues popularized the phrase “Let’s Be Safe Out There.” As is common in most police departments, the officers of Hill Street attended a squad meeting prior to starting the next shift. The show regularly began at this briefing where their gruff, no-nonsense Sergeant, Phil Esterhaus, would give them their daily instruction. It ended with “Let’s be safe out there.” That’s a fitting title for this Ministry Resource post as each and every day in this internet age you embark on a “shift” that could see untold disasters — computer viruses, data corruption, ransomware, identity theft. You need to be ever vigilant. Fortunately it isn’t that hard to “stay safe out there.” I’ve condensed it down to three easy steps to protect yourself and your ministry activities.

Step One: Use a cloud backup service.

The absolute best way to protect yourself from many of the data disasters that can strike your computer is by having an up-to-the-minute backup of all your data. A couple of weeks ago I talked about cloud services like Google Drive and OneDrive that can sync your data between a local copy on your computer and one in the cloud. This is a great productivity approach, but it is not protection against data loss or corruption. You need a bonafide backup solution.

One of the hardest things about backups is remembering to do them. That is why I prefer cloud backup solutions that just work in the background and normally don’t need any intervention by you. They just hum along waiting for files to be changed or added, then they copy them up to the cloud server. They automatically will keep different versions of those files, so you can go back in time to grab an older copy, or even the contents of your entire disk.

The service I almost always recommend is Backblaze. It just works. It is relatively inexpensive, about $60/year. And it is one of the only ones that will backup everything on your hard drive AND all connected drives like external hard drives or even flash drives.

Step Two: Encrypt your data.

While step one will allow you to restore your data should it become corrupt, your hard drive fails, or someone is holding your data hostage for a ransom fee (it happens more than you think), what if somebody steals the data on your disk, or your entire computer for that matter? In that data could be passwords, social security numbers, tax returns, etc. All information that could be sold and used for identity theft or other illegal activities that would be hard to recover from.

The best way to keep that data safe wherever it may go is to encrypt it. While that sounds hard and techy, today’s operating systems like Windows 10 and Mac OS make it surprisingly easy. Encryption is the conversion of electronic data into another form which cannot be easily understood by anyone except authorized parties with the encryption password or key. Normally the process requires you to provide a master password, then the operating system takes that password and creates “encoded” content, that only a system with your key or password can decode. If you want to learn more read the article “What is Encryption, and Why Are People Afraid of It.”

The best way to encrypt the contents of your hard drive is to use the built in encryption tools. For Windows it is called “Bitlocker.” On the Mac it is “FileVault.” Once you start the process, it should busy itself in the background for a while. It may take a while depending on how many files you have. When done you will probably never notice it unless you need to do some kind of recovery process. Don’t forget the key/password you set.

Step Three: Use a password manager.

We’ve discussed how to secure the data that is on your physical device. By the way most phones and tablets these days are already encrypted, so no worries on that front. But what about all those cloud services you use — your banking website, credit cards, your church or school information systems? That is stuff you don’t want to have any unauthorized access to. But if your username and password are stolen, the door is wide open.

To truly protect your online activities you should have a different password for every cloud-based service you use. That becomes very impractical very fast as almost everything is now online. That still does not justify having the same password for any two sites. Fortunately there are tools to help. In my opinion LastPass stands at the top of the heap. It is easy to use, cross platform (PC, Mac, Android, iOS), and has some great features like strong password generation, password sharing, local copy availability, and two factor authentication. To get the mobile version, which you should, will cost $12/year. If you want to have everybody in your organization use it, you might want to investigate the enterprise version, which costs about $17/person/year for non-profits (at least the last time we renewed our licenses). A worthy investment.

These kind of tools are easy to operate. They usually just sit as an extension or add on to your browser, and when you are creating new online accounts that require passwords, they spring into action and ask if you’d like to auto-generate a strong password. Say yes! Also, when you then visit a site that you have previously stored in LastPass, for instance, it will pre populate your username and password, and you’re in! Like the encryption password, you MUST remember your LastPass password. However, it’s a lot easier to remember one password than hundreds.

So for less than $100 per year you can experience all the benefits of the tools mentioned and have a higher level of confidence that your data will be safe and available. After all, you have better things to think about and do than spend more time fighting to keep your information safe. Let technology work for you. You go ahead and work for the Lord. And, oh yeah, let’s be safe out there!

Related resources

I gave you recommendations above for each of the three steps, however there are other equally capable tools in each category. If you’d like to comparison shop:

Cloud Backup Solutions: Carbonite, MozyHome, Google Backup & Sync

Encryption: There really is no reason to stray from encryption built into your computer, however older PC hardware may not have a TPM chip in it. You can still use BitLocker however, it’s just not as foolproof as those systems that do have this hardware encryption chip. You will be notified if you do or don’t during the BitLocker installation process. There are alternatives however. Last year I would have recommended TrueCrypt, but that is no longer supported. Here is a good article on similar free products.

Password Managers: 1Password, Keeper, Sticky Password

Google Backup and Sync is a relatively new service that holds promise. I’ve included a YouTube video that was recorded by VerySlowPC.com that shows the differences between this new solution and the old Google Drive.

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495 – Friends & Family Tech Support

Join this week’s WELSTech for a lively discussion almost all of us “techies” can relate to…providing tech support for friends and family. We walk through several tips and best practices that will make your next “support call” a pleasant one for all involved. Additional discussion includes a discussion of upcoming concerts, graduation, and assignment events at synod schools, multi-media options for your entertainment and a church copyright ministry resource.

The discussion:

Dedicated to WELSTech Moms – Martin and Sallie explore various hardware and software support tactics which are helpful for supporting family and friends, especially from a distance. Secret weapons include using cell phones or tablets to snap a photo of the problem and keeping solutions simple!

Countdown to episode 500:

Revisit year 5 (2012) of WELSTech, episodes 217 to 268. The top picks of the year included long-standing favorites Raspberry Pi, MathCounts, PicMonkey, Camtasia Studio, Google 2-Step Verification, and Google Hangouts.

News in tech:

Amazon’s new Echo Look has a built-in camera for style selfies

WELS now:

Synod Schools wrap up the school year with graduation and assignment events. Visit their sites for live streaming links:

  • Martin Luther College
    • Commencement Concerts – Friday, May 12 – 4:00 & 7:30 pm
    • Graduation – Saturday, May 13 – 10:00 am
    • Assignments – Saturday, May 13 – 2:30 pm
  • Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
    • Vicar Assignment – Tuesday, May 16 – 7:00 pm
    • Graduate Assignment – Thursday, May 18 – 10:00 am
    • Commencement Concert – Thursday, May 18 – 7:00 pm
    • Graduation – Friday, May 19 – 10:00 am
  • Luther Preparatory School
    • Commencement Concert – Friday, May 19 – 7:00 pm
    • Graduation – Saturday, May 20 – 10:00 am
  • Michigan Lutheran Seminary
    • Commencement Concert – Friday, May 26
    • Graduation – Saturday, May 27

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Church Copyright

Featured video:

The newest addition on the WELSTech Product Demos YouTube playlist is LastPass 101: Meet the Browser Extension.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 496 – Next week we wrap up the Social Media for Ministry series with a look at some social media superstars and an interview with Pastor James Aderman. Release date: Wednesday, May 10.

Get involved:

480 – Backing Up

This week on WELSTech, Martin and Sallie share both inspiration and suggestions for keeping your important photos, documents, music, presentations, sermons, and lesson plans safe for years to come. Tim Plath chats with Sallie about Area Lutheran High Schools Online, and the focus on Ministry Resources continues with a look at two wonderful archives: 1) Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary essays and 2) WELSTech photos from last year’s challenge.

The discussion:

Better safe than sorry – The WELSTech discussion turns once again to the important topic of backups. Martin and Sallie share their backup strategy and favorite hardware and software and cloud solutions for backing up important files.

The interview:

Distance education – Tim Plath, principal of Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School, recently sat down with Sallie to give us an update on the Area Lutheran High Schools Online (ALHSO) program. Tim serves as chairman of the ALHSO Board, and he shared news of the popularity and growth of the program as well as a vision of possible future enhancements.

News in tech:

WELS now:

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Featured video:

The newest addition on the WELSTech Presentation/Teaching YouTube playlist is Michael Jr: Know Your Why.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 481 – Get ready for a flood of great tech-in-ministry ideas on the next episode of WELSTech. It’s community feedback week! Release date: Wednesday, January 25.

Get involved:

453 – Backup Please

WELSTech is back with week 2 of our summer series all about security. This week we share a lengthy list of tools to assist with the important backup function. And we share a fun photo shout out from our edtech (a.k.a., teacher) friends at ISTE2016 in Denver.

The discussion:

StorageBackups – Imagine trying to recover from the loss of your personal or work computer or mobile device. And then imagine how happy you will be if you have backups of your important data. Martin and Sallie share resources to help you set up a backup security blanket for your important data.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

  • A special shout out to the WELSTech-ers who attended #ISTE2016! We can’t wait to learn from you!!

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 454 – The security series continues with a discussion of online threats and virus protection. Release date: Thursday, July 21

Get involved:

408 – Your Mission: Find That Photo!

WELSTech has reached summer’s end and the the end of the Imagine That series. This week’s final series discussion covers best practices for organizing and storing your images. Listen for picks and community feedback plus a quick survey on project management in your church and school.

The discussion:

Imagine ThatDon’t Lose Your Photos – This episode marks the last installment of the Imagine That summer series as Martin and Sallie share their personal practices for image storage and organization as well as lots of tools to help you get the important job done.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 409 – A new season of WELSTech gets underway, and Martin and Sallie introduce the new WELSTech book selection, “Project Management For Churches and Schools” by … Martin and Sallie! Help shape the book contents by completing the WELSTech Project Management survey, and tune in for what promises to be an interesting season of writing and reading!  Join us Tuesday, September 8 at 4 pm Central. welstechlive.wels.net

Get involved:

180 – April Showers: Office Worker Resources

This week the WELSTech Podcast “April Shower” rains down all types of resources to make the church and school office run smoothly.

Our apologies for the audio quality during the last 10 minutes of today’s podcast.  We experienced technical difficulties with the recording.

Office Worker Resources

The discussion:

Raining resources for office workers – For this week’s “April Shower”, Martin and Sallie cover a long list of tools to assist the “nerve center” of the congregation and school, the office.

Ministry resources:

(35:55) Walther’s Law and Gospel is now available for Kindle

News in tech:

Contest winners:

(39:36) Concluding the Glo Bible giveaways on our personal blogs (martinspriggs.com and salliedraper.com), Martin and Sallie use random.org to pick winners.  Listen to find out if you are one of the newest Glo Bible owners.

Picks of the week:

Of interest:

(47:41) FinalWeb Training in New Ulm, MN and Milwaukee, WI

  • FinalWeb for Teachers in New Ulm on June 27 and Milwaukee on August 1 – bit.ly/fw4teachers
  • FinalWeb for Dummies in New Ulm June 28-30 and Milwaukee August 2-4 – bit.ly/fw4dummies

Community feedback:

Coming up on WELSTech:

(50:41) Episode 181 – The “April Showers” conclusion may turn into an April storm as Gail Potratz joins the discussion and we share a [gigantic] compilation list of teacher resources.  (Release date – 04/27/11)

The featured artist:

(51:30) We close the podcast with the music of  Branches Band (www.branchesband.com |Facebook) – Hosanna, Loud Hosanna from their “Sing, My Tongue” CD

 

Get involved:

128 – Backups, iPads and other fun

Listen to this week’s WELSTech Podcast for Backup 101 with WELS security guru Rob Benson.

The interview:

Rob BensonBack it up – Rob Benson, WELS Network Security Administrator and techie extraordinaire, joins Martin and Sallie to weigh in on the why, what, when, where and how of backup.

Ministry resources:

(23:40) Creating a Facebook Page for Your Ministry from Church Crunch

News in tech:

(27:15) More iPad reviews – Perry Lund and Rob Benson give us their first-person feedback

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Coming up on WELSTech:

(58:22) Episode 129 – Gail Potratz, our semi-regular classroom technology correspondent, joins the conversation as we discuss summer enrichment opportunities. (Release date 04/28/10)

The featured artist:

(59:04) We close the podcast with the music of Corban Creek – Empty Grave from their CD titled “Could It Be Me”

Get involved:

074 – Fry Your Pickles. Back Up Your Data.

This week the WELSTech podcast discussion centers on the important but often overlooked task of computer backups.

The discussion:

Rob BensonBackup glam  – Joining Martin and Sallie for a second time is our very own WELS Network Security guru, Rob Benson. The first time Rob was on the podcast, we talked about computer security.  This time around Rob joins us to glamorize the topic of backup and, with Martin’s help, manages to succeed! Topics include why you should bother to backup, schedules, media devices, software and backing up to the cloud.

New Technology Showcase:

Picks of the week:

Of interest:

  • (34:45) WELS Lutherans for Life, Metro-Milwaukee is sponsoring SOUL Ride on June 20, 2009
    • Ride for the Sanctity Of Unborn Life (SOUL)
    • Scenic ride north in the Holy Hill/Kettle Moraine area for any motorcyclist
    • Cost is $25 per rider
    • Details and registration at www.soulride.org

Community feedback:

Coming up on WELSTech:

(45:22) Episode 075 – Pack your bags WELSTech-style and maintain all your computing needs on the road

The featured artist:

(46:30) This week we close with music of WELS artist Kevin Loersch – Amazing Grace from his CD titled “Abide with Me”

Get involved: