If I had to pick a theme to sum up technology in 2018, it would be “bother me less.” From social networks that collect way too much data to websites that leak your password to the world to the annual circus of hardware updates that feel less and less worthy of your hard-earned cash, it feels like now, more than ever, the tech we love is becoming as annoying to deal with as it is useful.
We soothed your tech headaches in a number of different ways this year, from helping you pick your next big upgrades to teaching you how to secure your digital life across the myriad of services you visit each day. Before you ring in the new year by downloading that app that makes a party streamer sound when you tap on it, take a quick stroll through some of this year’s top Lifehacker guides for tech.
I went with neither; I upgraded my iPhone 8 Plus to an iPhone X, finally unlocking Portrait mode selfies, because I was able to score a sweet deal on a used device from a friend who was… upgrading from an iPhone X to an iPhone XS. Not the upgrade I would have made, but I’m not complaining about the results.
That said, I’ve been using a Google Pixel 3 XL for various Lifehacker articles, and the camera is incredible—well, Night Sight is incredible. I’m very, very tempted to move to Android for my primary carry device next year, but I’m still going to wait and see what Google and Apple have up their sleeves before I make up my mind.
I’m planning to update this article on a regular schedule, because it’s important to have the latest pricing information for all the major cloud services. You might not need to pay a lot for any of them, though. I get along just fine with free Dropbox and Google Drive, and I give up $US3 ($4) a month to Apple because 5GB of free iCloud space is a joke—and I really like having a lot of backups for my stuff.
I turned off Fast Startup in 2018 and I never looked back. This setting hasn’t impacted my system load times at all—at least, not enough to make me feel as if my desktop computer takes too long to boot. And I love knowing that Windows 10 is really shutting down when I turn it off, not sort-of shutting down. Take that, tiny system issues that might otherwise persist if your system is hibernating.
Every year, I think, “This will be the year I consolidate all of my older (but speedy) SSDs and HDDs into one gigantic, top-of-the-line SSD.” And then I look at how much that would cost, and then I go back to managing my files across four different drives at once. It’s a lot easier than it sounds, trust me.
There’s no shortage of task-management or to-do apps. You don’t even really need an app, if you have a lovely notebook and handwriting that isn’t as terrible as mine. Still, I loved watching Google Tasks officially arrive on iOS and Android this year in the form of a dedicated app—as well, as a sidebar add-on directly within Gmail. Given that 99 per cent of the tasks I need to track usually all trace back to email, and most if not all of them can be summed up with a sentence of text, if that, Google Tasks quickly became one of my favourite productivity tools to use this year.
I had some struggles earlier this year with my internet speeds—not so much Comcast’s fault (for once!), but because of some funky networking situation in my house. The entire affair reminded me of one of the most important tech tips we should all contemplate regularly: Are you getting the internet connection you’re paying for? There’s no reason you shouldn’t be, whether the solution involves a fix on your end or an angry call to your ISP.
It feels as if I can filter more on Steam than I can on Instagram, and I use one of these services a lot more (but not that much more) than the other. I would love more comprehensive tools to remove and prioritise different kinds of content and subject matters on Instagram, but here are a few tricks that can tide most people over until then.
There’s no better way to say it: Microsoft fucked up its October 2018 update for Windows 10. It really fucked up this update. If I’m correct about the timeline, it released the update in October, which caused some users a lot of grief (and random file deletions). It then re-released this update in November, and there were some software compatibility issues. It then re-re-released this update in December—or, at least, made it available to everyone to download (even after recommending that only “advanced” users give it a shot.) Sigh. Operating system updates shouldn’t be this disastrous or confusing, but I’m definitely going to take my own advice and back up my system before installing any major Windows updates going forward.
How much do you want to bet that even after the FCC reclassified what a “text message” is, carriers are going to sell, rather than give, their subscribers comprehensive blocking techniques for annoying phone spam? Worse, it now allows carriers to decide what an “unwanted” text is, when that power should be entirely in your hands.
I’m not planning to leave Facebook anytime soon, but I’ve given serious thought this year to transforming Facebook into an alternative RSS feed. By that, I mean I often think about deleting all of my friends and only using the service as a way to catch up on news for various bands, brands, and other entities I care about. I probably don’t need Facebook to check up on Ohio State Football, but I do find value in the service for things like band memorabilia I otherwise might not hear about, time-sensitive promotions for special items or opportunities, cats doing cute things, Pusheen GIFs, et cetera.
As an added bonus, this means Facebook will only know the bare, boring minimum about my life, which is always good.
Semi-related story time. I went to France in November, flying via the Southwest of international travel, Norwegian Air. I used the classic-but-not-that-known trick of booking my flights by changing the language of Norwegian’s page to Norsk, which dropped the prices significantly (once converted back into USD). Sure, I had to run all of the emails I received about my trip through Google Translate, but I saved a few hundred bucks on two tickets. Not bad.
Wifi routers are relatively easy to set up, but most people then forget about them as long as they have a good wifi connection. And while some routers can automatically update themselves whenever the manufacturer releases new firmware—security updates, new features, et cetera—plenty of routers require you update their firmwares manually. When is the last time you did that with your router? When did you last change the password for your wifi networks or, dare I say it, the account you use to log into your router and change the settings? Is the password still “admin” or “password?” It’s time to fix that—and more.