Happy New Year Edition Friday Five: Resolutions to Make and Keep in 2016

Happy New Year 2016

It’s the end of the week, but that doesn’t mean an end to learning more about your favorite Apple devices. Each week, the Friday Five takes a quick look at a Mac OS X or iOS app to point out five things you may have overlooked before.

This week, since the new year falls on Friday, we’re going to take a look at five relatively easy resolutions you can make and keep in 2016.

1.) Be more vigilant about backups
Backing up your data on desktop and mobile devices is one of the best things every person can do, but it’s something that a lot of people neglect to do.

If you’re using a Mac, remember that doing a backup can be as simple as buying an inexpensive hard disk drive like the Mercury Elite Pro mini, connecting it to your Mac with a USB 3.0 cable, and running the built-in OS X Time Machine app to get a continuous backup of every change you make to every document.

For iOS users, doing a daily iCloud backup (just go to Settings > iCloud > Backup and make sure that the backups are enabled) is a great idea. It makes restoring your data in case of a reset or loading a new iPhone or iPad with data as simple as selecting your last backup.

Setting up a regular backup scheme is extremely simple. It’s also one way to have piece of mind that your information will be safe in the new year. Tech bloggers tend to hound readers about backing up, but it’s done with love. We want you to avoid data loss.

2.) Be more respectful on social media
Twitter LogoYou’re probably a very nice person. You speak nicely to people, you’re well thought of by friends and relatives, and everybody likes you. But when you get onto social media, do you keep that same persona?

Way too many people use the relative anonymity of social media as an excuse to be rude, abusive, and downright mean to others who they may not necessarily know. Let’s try to stop that in 2016. When you see something on Twitter or Facebook that hits your hot button and you’re ready to post the nastiest rebuttal you can think of, just turn around and walk away.

I must admit that in the past I would take every single post or article that rubbed me the wrong way as a personal affront, and I’d often react in the wrong way by flaming the author. Now I just shrug, feel badly for the author’s opinion, and refuse to post a response. You know something? I feel better.

If you MUST respond, do it nicely. Don’t fill your response with four-letter words, insulting comments about the author’s mentality or lack thereof, or do other troll-like things to try to poke the author into further fury. Even if you think you have a perfectly reasoned and well-researched response, think twice before posting it. Let’s stop the flame wars and just keep things civil.

My Mom said it best many years ago, and I think a lot of our parents probably said something similar at one point in our respective youthful years: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

3.) Learn something new every week
I teach iOS classes to adults about four times a year at a local community college, and one thing that is very sad to me is how many people have owned an iPhone or iPad for five or more years but have never learned more than the rudimentary aspects of their devices.

I like to instill a sense of adventure into my students by encouraging them to learn something new each and every week. Whether it’s buying some apps that are outside of their usual “comfort zone” or area of interest, or trying to use Siri more often for issuing commands or just dictating text, it’s surprising how many people suddenly become much more comfortable with their iOS devices when I push them in a new direction (sometimes against their will!).

Let’s face it: most Apple websites including The Rocket Yard will give you a ton of ideas of new things to try every week. So keep your eyes open for the apps that look interesting but aren’t necessarily in your area of interest, read the “How To” posts here and at other locations, and expand your horizons.

4.) Become a better iPhone photographer
I’m on a short vacation while I’m writing this, and if there’s one thing that makes me truly sad it’s how many people don’t think about pictures they’re taking. They just pull out the iPhone (or iPad), point it in the vague direction of something and press the shutter button. I’d like to challenge you to become a better iPhone photographer in 2016.

While there are a ton of things I could teach you, there are a few simple steps that can begin your path to taking incredible photos. First, turn on the viewfinder grid (Settings > Photos & Camera > Grid). This is a set of two vertical and two horizontal lines that are great for helping you to compose better photos. They’ll not only help you make sure that your photos are tilted crazily at some weird angle, but you can use the rule of thirds to set up photos that are visually pleasing.

Wikipedia defines the rule of thirds this way: “The rule of thirds is applied by aligning a subject with the guide lines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section.” It’s a trick that artists have used for centuries and photographers have taken advantage of the rule of thirds since the invention of the camera.

The next easy tip? If you’re taking a picture in difficult lighting conditions — say, two people in front of a bright window — turn on High Dynamic Range (HDR). This is done in the camera app by tapping the HDR button (see below) and selecting either Auto or On. Turning on Auto increases the chances that your iPhone will use HDR photography in those odd lighting conditions, while On makes every shot an HDR photo.

Turning on HDR

What happens with HDR photography? The camera actually takes three photos in very quick succession; one at a normal exposure, one underexposed one F stop, and one overexposed one F stop. The iPhone then uses a complicated algorithm to layer these photos so that areas that might come out overly light or dark instead come out at a more normal exposure.

My final tip to becoming a better iPhone photographer? Take pictures of everything! While many photos may come out rather unimpressive, your chances of getting a prize-winning shot are increased. Just think about what you’re taking a photo of, use your rule of thirds composition, and use HDR when you think it’s worthwhile, and you’ll find you’re getting a lot more compliments on your pictures.

5.) Disconnect more often
My last resolution is one that I am going to try to keep in 2016 — disconnecting more often. I often find myself grabbing my phone at restaurants, while eating dinner, and — sadly — while talking with friends. This year I suggest that all of us take some time to put the iPhone, iPad or Mac away and spend more face-to-face time with our loved ones and friends.

Have a great 2016!


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