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Tech Matters: 3 ways to use tech better in 2024

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 27, 2023

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Leslie Meredith

Get ready to ring in 2024 with three action items you can do now to get more out of the new year. Everyday technology should make our lives easier, more efficient and free up time to do the things we enjoy, or at least the ones that take our real thought and talent. So often we get bogged down in the details or mishaps that are common byproducts of internet access, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Let's start with an easy one: Use Google's Chrome browser. In its quest to continually improve Chrome, Google last week announced its Safety Check will now run on its own automatically in the background while you're using the browser, and added several safety and performance features to this feature. If Chrome detects any issues, you'll receive an alert via the three-dot menu at the top-right side of the browser where you can take action.

New alerts include letting you know that Safety Check has revoked a website's access to your location or to your microphone if you haven't visited the site in a long time. You'll also be alerted if you're getting a lot of notifications from sites you don't engage with that much, so you can easily disable them. It will continue to alert you to compromised passwords so you can quickly change them, known dangerous sites to avoid them, any installed extensions that it has found to be harmful so that you can remove them and, of course, a new version of Chrome available for your computer so you can keep it up to date and secure.

With this update, Google also improved its Memory Saver feature introduced last spring. If you're a Chrome user, you may have noticed that open tabs take on a different appearance when they haven't been used after some time -- that's Memory Saver in action. When activated, Chrome uses up to 40% less memory to keep your tabs running smoothly,and extend your battery when it's running low, the company said in a blog post.

This feature is particularly helpful for people who have a lot of tabs open or use resource-heavy programs like video editors while having the browser open. To turn on Memory Saver mode, go the the "Performance" section in your settings and toggle it on. Once you click on a "sleeping" tab, Chrome will reload it immediately.

Next is ChatGPT or any one of its clones. Artificial intelligence is here to stay, so it's time to use it to your advantage. To get started, you can access ChatGPT through a web browser by visiting the OpenAI website and signing up with your email and a password. The ChatGPT window will open and you'll see some ideas to help you get started. Note the free version runs on ChatGPT 3.5, which is limited to text input, memory of up to around 8,000 words and information from 2021 and prior.

The paid ChatGPT Plus option is an upgrade to version 4 and can access internet information up to the present, remember at least 64,000 words and use pictures as input as well as text. The upgrade costs $20 per month. Start with the free plan and work your way up to paid if that makes sense for your usage.

Before you upgrade, research some of the ChatGPT-powered tools that offer tailored features. If you have a blog, you should take a look at RightBlogger that has over 60 tools made for bloggers, including keyword research, posts automatically generated from a YouTube link, and Linkedin posts created from a URL or topic. This will cost you $30 a month. You can see how quickly subscriptions can add up, so make sure you do the research to find an AI tool that meets your needs. Just like with cable TV, a million channels -- or in this case, tools -- do you no good if you don't use them. In addition to offloading more mundane tasks from you, a good tool will have many positive reviews and offer a test run.

Finally, 2024 is the year to put tech in its place. Technology should free up your time to do more meaningful things. Maybe next year is the one when you want to launch a new business or start a new hobby. Maybe it's a year for spending more time with the people you love. None of these things can be accomplished when you're scrolling on your phone or browsing online. Make social time tech-free by muting your phone or putting your computer to sleep. Focus on the people around you. And when you're alone, resist the urge to fill your mind with news and trivia from a screen. Instead, use the quiet time to listen to yourself -- you're likely to find you're a very interesting person. Happy New Year!

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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