Forget Inbox Zero: Use OHIO to Triage Your Emails Instead

Business person reading email on smartphone and laptop
NicoElNino/Shutterstock

Email is neither dead nor obsolete. It is, in fact, increasing by 10+ billion emails per year and too many of those will end up in your inbox. Here’s how to get a grip and not let them overwhelm you.

If your inbox is a desert of minimalist white and you swiftly deal with the occasional email that dares sully the pristine tidiness, this probably isn’t for you. We’ve got lots more things to read that will be of more interest to you. But if you’ve got an inbox with hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of emails in it, you need a way to get things under control. “Inbox Zero,” which aims to keep your inbox empty, is trendy—but we have a superior solution.

We’re going to focus on a system known as OHIO, or “Only Handle It Once,” but not in a way that many people have misinterpreted it. OHIO is an information management principle that put simply, says you should only handle information the smallest number of times that is required—ideally once. As an efficiency aide, this is very useful. But, as with all good ideas, some people have taken it to extremes and preached OHIO as a golden rule that must be taken literally. This is both unnecessary and counter-productive, especially when it comes to dealing with email.

What Does “OHIO” Mean?

“Only Handle It Once” doesn’t mean that you should read an email once and never reread it—that doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes you need to read an email several times to understand it, especially if the person sending it doesn’t understand brevity. OHIO also doesn’t mean you should never see the contents of the email again once it’s left the inbox. That doesn’t make sense either because it forces you to respond to every email then and there, with no thought given to your current priorities or responsibilities.

What “Only Handle It Once” does mean is that you should only deal with an email in your inbox once. After you’ve understood the email, you should deal with it—“handle it”—and then either delete or archive it. You might see the information in the email many more times as part of a to-do list task or in preparation for a meeting, but you should never see the email in your inbox again. You Only Handle It Once.

Why Is OHIO Useful?

OHIO is pretty simple to understand, but why do we recommend it? What’s the benefit of only dealing with an email in your inbox once? Well, the answer is straightforward: Your inbox is not an archive, a bin, a filing cabinet, or a dumping ground. It’s an inbox!

When you have hundreds or thousands of emails in your inbox, they quickly get buried—and out of sight is out of mind. It’s much harder to find specific emails, it makes your mail client work more slowly (even if you access your email through a browser like Gmail), and it uses up your storage (which is a particular problem if you use the Outlook or Apple Mail apps in your phone).

The bottom line: There’s no point keeping all of your emails in your inbox and plenty of good reasons not to. “Only Handle It Once” is a system that encourages you to do something with an email once you’ve read it—to handle it—and whether you ultimately archive the email or delete the email, it won’t stay in your inbox.

What Does “Handle” Mean, Exactly?

“Handle” means that once you’ve understood the email, you do one or more of the following things:

  • Reply to the email.
  • Forward the email.
  • Organize a meeting about the email.
  • Turn the email into a to-do list item.
  • Do nothing (if none of the four options above are needed)

Read the remaining 11 paragraphs

What Does a VPN Hide, What Does it Do?

VPNs are becoming an increasingly common cybersecurity tool employed by power users and newbies alike to bolster their privacy online. But what exactly does a VPN hide, and how? This is precisely the question we’ll be answering in today’s article. We’ll also present you with a list of our favorite VPN providers you can trust to keep your Internet connection safe and secure. 

By default, what you do online is unencrypted. This isn’t necessarily a problem for most users. For example, if you live in Europe, GDPR laws now protect your privacy in some fairly advanced ways. At the same time, it’s important to remember there are plenty of bad people and organizations on the Internet. Direct cyber crime alone cost the world over $600 billion last year. With that in mind, it’s worth protecting what you do from third parties, including governments and ISPs, when possible.

It’s also worth remembering that a VPN can do a whole lot more than just protect your data. It can also help you overcome censorship blocks, access the free Internet, and spoof IPs from anywhere in the world – even when you’re traveling or living in a country with strict censorship laws. Read on to learn more about what a VPN can and can’t do for you after we cover the best VPNs available online today.

What does a VPN hide, exactly?

A VPN can hide most of what you do online. This includes everything you do in your browser: the search terms you look up on Google and elsewhere, the URLs you key in, etc. It also hides the files you download, the websites you visit, and anything you may choose to stream. Moving on, a VPN also works to hide what you do when playing video games, using social media, and interacting with standalone apps. In short, a VPN makes it difficult or impossible to trace what you do back to you.

RELATED READING: How to Pretend to Be in a Different Country with a VPN

Having said that, there are some situations in which a VPN won’t do much (if anything) for you. For example, let’s say you have a computer that came with tracking software installed by an employer or someone else. If this is the case, you’ll still be pretty easy to trace. A VPN encrypts and protects your data while it’s traversing the Internet – but if your very computer is being controlled, a VPN can’t reverse that. The same is true if your connection is compromised physically, e.g. via a camera that captures what you do online. Anything that affects your privacy outside of your Internet connection cannot be resolved by a VPN, no matter how good. Last but not least, a VPN cannot protect users from themselves. If you voluntarily hand over information about what you do online, it won’t be able to protect you.

How does a VPN do this? Let’s take a look at 2 factors:

IP spoofing

One of the main things a VPN does is protect your online identity by masking your IP address to stop the government, your ISP, and other third parties from tracking what you do. It does this by creating a digital tunnel between you and a remote server located in another country. The way this works is, data is encrypted before leaving your computer (more on this later). It is then sent to the remote server before going anywhere else, giving you a new IP in the process. This is one of the core functions of any VPN – and the more servers a VPN provider has, the more IPs you get to choose from for your connections.

Here’s a simple example of how this works. Let’s say that your ISP gives you a US IP like 178.127.98.241. Usually, anything you do online is connected to this unique IP. However, if you use a VPN service, it essentially creates a tunnel between you and a remote server. This gives you a completely new IP; for example, 2.22.190.211. Anything you do online thereafter appears to originate from this IP. Depending on the VPN service you use, the IP you get can be a dedicated one that’s attached to you permanently – or a shared one that multiple people use.

Data encryption

The second “big thing” a VPN does is encrypt your data. Usually, when you’re using the Internet, data is unencrypted. This means that anyone who gets a hold of your data can listen to your audio files, follow where you go online, read your messages, etc. Many services do offer some measure of security – for example, payment processors use encryption technology, as do websites with SSL certificates – but that’s really neither here nor there. For the vast majority of your uptime, your data is transparent and easy to read.

What does this mean? Well, it means that anyone who can get a hold of your data can view it. This includes the US government and other major world governments, most (if not all) of whom have been implicated in spying on regular people in recent years. It also includes your Internet Service Provider, who can very easily access anything and everything you do online. Last but not least, it includes all kinds of 3rd parties, from corporations who mine your data to servers that pass your data en route to its final destination. With so many parties potentially getting to access your data, and with few restrictions on how they can use your data, this second VPN feature does a great deal to help you stay secure online.

The best VPN services

Now that you understand a bit more about VPNs, you’ll want to search out the best provider. Unfortunately, the market has hit a saturation point with VPNs of all caliber, ranging from high monthly fees to seemingly free services. We’ll cut to the chase–most aren’t worth your time, as striking the right balance between privacy, performance, and price is delicate work.

The following 5 VPNs are perfect for hiding your data, identity and activity online:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is the best way to hide what you do online. The gist of why is succinctly expressed in the service’s name. Although many other VPN services slow down your Internet usage, ExpressVPN always gives you fast connections, low latencies, and zippy downloads. One reason is its massive server network of over 3,000 nodes in 94 countries. With so many options, it’s always easy to find a server that’s close to you, minimizing the distance data needs to travel. Moreover, the high number of nodes means that you can easily access a server that has free traffic and bandwidth. Combined with the brand’s policy – no limits on downloads, server switches, traffic, or bandwidth – this means that ExpressVPN doesn’t slow your connection much if at all.

In addition to being fast, ExpressVPN is secure. It has a range of encryption protocols, including modern state-of-the-art ones like OpenVPN. With these encryption protocols, you can enjoy the free Internet safely, avoid slowing down your connections, and even pierce censorship filters like the Great Firewall of China. Moreover, ExpressVPN doesn’t store your Internet usage data thanks to a comprehensive no-logging policy. The policy covers traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, browsing histories, and more – and means that even if someone accesses ExpressVPN’s records, they won’t find your information there. Between the encryption, the no-logging, and the fact that ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands – a country exempt from the Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements between major governments – this is one of the best ways to hide what you do online.

Want to learn more about ExpressVPN’s performance and security? Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime
  • Superfast servers (minimal speed loss)
  • Supports ALL devices
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Customer Service (24/7 Chat).
Cons

  • Slightly pricier than competition.
BEST ONLINE PRIVACY: ExpressVPN is our best overall VPN service. Keep what you do online hidden from your ISP and the government with ExpressVPN. Get 49% off the yearly plan, plus 3 extra months free.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is a security-first VPN that’s great for staying anonymous online. It has a number of features specifically made to protect you, help beat censorship, and unlock content. Everything starts with encryption; NordVPN uses 256-bit AES keys that would take a supercomputer millions of years to crack. The specific encryption technologies used include OpenVPN, which blends speed and security, as well as less popular options like SSTP (which is excellent for overcoming national firewalls like China’s). The second layer of security comes from NordVPN’s tough no-logging policy. The service doesn’t store your browsing history, real IP address, traffic, bandwidth, and more – which gives you a very high level of data privacy protection. Moreover, with the holding company being registered in neutral Panama, what little personal information NordVPN does have is unlikely to ever be released to a third party.

One other factor in NordVPN being excellent for privacy is its server network. Not only does it have the highest number of nodes we’ve seen in the industry at 5,700+ in 60 countries. NordVPN has specialty, security-first servers specifically made to help protect your data, device, and identity. This includes obfuscated servers, which hide the fact you’re using a VPN, as well as options like Double VPN nodes that route your data through two servers and two layers of encryption. These servers make it that much easier to keep what you do online private. It helps that they also mean NordVPN’s server network is fast, with low latencies and high download speeds no matter where you happen to be.

To read more NordVPN, read our full review of NordVPN.

Pros

  • Unblocks American Netflix
  • GooglePlay users rating: 4.3/5.0
  • Up to 6 simultaneous connections
  • Extra-secure Double VPN for data encryption
  • Money back guarantee policy.
Cons

  • Automatic server selection can be unreliable
  • Refund processing can take up to 30 days.
EXCLUSIVE DEAL: NordVPN offers myriad ways to hide online. Sign up for 3 years of service, and get reader exclusive 75% discount with our link.

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is an easy-to-use VPN perfect for beginners and anyone who wants anonymity in a quick, intuitive package. The VPN is easy to install and start using no matter how you’re using the Internet. If you use a common operating system or device, e.g. the iPhone, Android, Windows, or macOS, you get to download an app that helps you get CyberGhost on your device in just minutes. If you use a less popular option, you can use the on-site instructions to figure out what you need to do and do everything manually. There are no limits on speed, bandwidth, or traffic, meaning you never have to worry about turning CyberGhost off or making extra payments.

CyberGhost isn’t just easy to install, though. It’s both easy to use and powerful on features. For starters, the app eschews complex manual settings in favor of 6 straightforward, intuitive configuration profiles. These include “torrent anonymously” and “surf anonymously”, both of which are made to hide what you do online from third parties. If you do want to choose your own settings manually, you’re always free to do so using the custom settings option. Once you’ve picked a configuration profile, you can use a number of simple toggles to further customize your connection. These extra features include “block ads”, “extra speed”, and “data compression”, all of which help tailor CyberGhost to your specific situation. Between these features, powerful AES-256 encryption, and one of the best no-logging policies in the business – not even your e-mails are stored – CyberGhost is one of the best choices for hiding what you do online.

Would you like to find out more? Then see the full review of CyberGhost for 2019.

Pros

  • LOW PRICE: 6 EXTRA free months (79% off – link below)
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Apps for ALL devices
  • Strict no logging
  • 45-days money back guarantee.
Cons

  • WebRTC IPv6 leak in macOS
  • Can’t unblock some popular streaming sites.
SAVE BIG: CyberGhost is VPN protection made easy. Try this streamlined provider for 18 months with our special 79% discount.

4. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN has incredibly powerful AES-256 encryption that prevents even the world’s most powerful supercomputer from cracking your data. It helps that PrivateVPN has a wide selection of encryption protocols, from quick, powerful OpenVPN to the new and exciting IKEv2 protocol. There’s also SOCKS5-ready servers–technology which was specifically designed to beat the Great Firewall of China, if you’re in a country with strict censorship restrictions. Throw in a no-logging policy that covers virtually everything you can think of, and you get one of the most secure VPNs on the market today.

In addition to the above, PrivateVPN has an outstanding server network and a neat range of extra features. For example, you get up to 6 simultaneous connections without having to pay a cent over your monthly subscription fee. This is a valuable feature, especially because PrivateVPN is easy to install on any Internet devices, from iOS and Windows and Linux to video game consoles and routers. Desktop devices even get a free remote installation service wherein a service staffer takes care of your VPN setup process for you. Between these extras and unlimited bandwidth, traffic, and server switches, PrivateVPN is an excellent way to hide what you do online from all third parties.

Take a look at our full PrivateVPN review for more details.

EXCLUSIVE OFFERUse the free web anonymously today using PrivateVPN. Our readers enjoy a 65% discount on the yearly plan, plus an extra month completely free.

5. PureVPN

PureVPN is a veteran of the VPN industry, and has had ample time to build a great reputation and impressive array of features. It starts with a network spanning 2,000+ nodes in a whopping 140 countries, allowing you to route your data through almost any country you can think of. This means that you can access most of the world’s local content libraries, digitally relocate virtually anywhere, and spoof an IP from any continent except Antarctica. You’ll be spoiled for choice if your current server gets too crowded, or you travel somewhere else in the world.

Your data remains hidden behind a veil of 256-bit AES cryptography, which has no known weaknesses. Choose from among a wide variety of encryption protocols, including OpenVPN for the optimal balance of privacy and performance, and the censorship-piercing SSTP. There’s also a generous no-logging policy to completely erase any trace of your activity online.

But PureVPN offers so much more beyond standard fare–it’s a complete cybersecurity suite. You’ll find app filtering, DDoS protection, getting a dedicated IP address, NAT firewalls, anti-spam filtering, and even antivirus software inside your app. Truly, PureVPN is an impressive service that has provided its users the ability to hide online for over a decade.

AMAZING VALUE: Lock down your Internet connection with PureVPN’s complete security suite. Take 74% off the 2-year plan with our link.

Is a free VPN worth it?

There are many free VPNs out there. Some are excellent, some – less so. Let’s start with some of the main reasons a free VPN may not be the right choice for you. First of all, it’s important to understand that “free” is a bit of a misnomer. Any VPN service needs to pay for traffic, bandwidth, servers, and more. This means they need to get money from users like yourself. Some do it by showing ads and encouraging you to upgrade to a paid version of their service. Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, some VPNs are quite unscrupulous when it comes to making money. There have been numerous cases of them making users less safe, harvesting data for resale, and even leasing out your processing power for botnet attacks. This is obviously not something you want in a VPN service – and it raises the question of whether it makes sense to get a free VPN or not.

Outside of the above, i.e. assuming your provider isn’t doing anything malicious, there are a few other considerations. First of all, most free services only have one or two encryption protocols. A common one is PPTP; an outdated protocol that’s useful for legacy devices and piercing hardcore censorship blocks, but slow and inferior in other situations. Second, bandwidth and speed are both likely to be capped with a free service, typically in the range of 500 MB – 1 GB per month. Third, the number of servers is also likely to be limited to countries like the US and the UK. Last but not least, a free VPN is unlikely to have extras like apps for multiple devices, around-the-clock customer support, etc. All of this means that the service quality you get is worse than you can expect from a paid VPN service.

In closing

The technology behind a VPN may be complex, but its core functionality is fairly straightforward. By encrypting your data and rerouting it through an anonymous relay located somewhere else in the world, it’s all but impossible for third parties to snoop in on your identity or activity online.

We’ve shown you some of the best providers on the market, which one will you choose? Do you have any other tips for hiding your data online? Leave us a comment below!

Read What Does a VPN Hide, What Does it Do? by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

NoScript Extension Is Now Available for Google Chrome

Firefox users have long enjoyed having a strong layer of added security with the NoScript add-on. Now there’s a version for Google Chrome.

NoScript adds an extra layer of security to your browser because JavsScript, Flash, Java are blocked from all but the site you choose, preventing security exploits and vulnerabilities.

If you want extremely safe browsing NoScript has it – it’s good enough to be included as part of the Tor browser.

When Mozilla decided on web extensions to build add-ons, it opened the door for add-ons to be developed across browsers, essentially allowing add-ons/extensions to be developed to work in any browser. Chrome users have been asking for a Chrome version of NoScript for years but until recently it wasn’t possible.

The extension is still in beta, so NoScript’s XSS (cross site scripting) isn’t available in Chrome – it requires asynchronous processing of web requests which Chrome doesn’t support right now. The developer is hoping to have a stable Chromium-compatible release by the end of June.

NoScript is a great addition, but it takes some time to get it set up so things run smoothly. This guide has almost everything you need to know.


How-To Geek Is Looking for a Mac and iOS Writer

Are you a die-hard Mac and iOS user who knows the ins and outs of working with both? We want you to write for us.

What We’re Looking For

We need an experienced writer to who can work up articles ranging from straight-forward how-tos to more complicated explainers and feature stories. You should have demonstrable writing experience and access to a Mac and iPhone (iPad is also a plus) that can run the latest versions of macOS and iOS. You should also be comfortable researching and writing stories even when you don’t have direct experience with the topic.

You should be able to explain these topics simply and effectively. It’s our job to make tech easy to understand, and the ideal candidate will need to be able to do precisely this for Mac and iOS topics. Excellent communication and the ability to make complex topics easy to understand are crucial.

Here are some examples of good how-to pieces we’ve done in the past:

And some great feature articles we’ve done:

This is a freelance position where you’ll be assigned topics to write about, but we also encourage you to pitch topics that we haven’t covered yet. It is also strictly a telecommuting job. We don’t have normal office hours—or even an office—so you can be located anywhere.

Prerequisites

To apply for this job, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be able to explain complex topics in a way that is clear and easy to understand, even to non-experts.
  • Be able to generate article ideas, take suggestions, and make topics interesting and exciting.
  • Be at least 18 years old and have your own computer.
  • Have solid English writing skills (and be prepared to write in American English).
  • Have some basic screenshot and image editing chops. HTML skills are a plus.

How to Apply

Here’s how to tell us how wonderful you are:

  • Send an email to jobs@howtogeek.com with the subject Mac and iOS Writer.
  • At the top of your email, tell us your name and location.
  • Include a brief summary (think a paragraph or two) of your qualifications.
  • After that summary, include links to at least three writing samples. Those can be professionally published pieces or posts on a personal blog, but they should show off your ability to explain technical topics in a clear and understandable way. If you don’t have online writing samples to link, you’re welcome to send them as attachments instead.
  • Feel free to attach your resume or include a link to an online resume or LinkedIn profile.

Read the remaining 3 paragraphs

Monoprice Voxel 3D Printer: An Affordable Entry to Serious 3D Printing

Monoprice Voxel 3D Printer
Monoprice

3D printers have really hit their stride, with dozens of models to choose from. Monoprice, well known for its cables and other components, has a growing number of printers including the reasonably priced Voxel 3D.

The Voxel isn’t Monoprice’s only offering—they have a growing stable of models, many under $500, and both FFF (fused filament fabrication) and SLA (stereolithography) resin printers. The Voxel, however, is kind of like Goldilocks, not too expensive, but not too cheap either. The $399 price positions it right above entry-level printers from both Monoprice, and XYZprinting, whose da Vinci printers are direct price-range competitors with the Voxel.

3D Printing Types and Terms

Before we dive into the review, a little bit of background information is in order. 3D printers are not all alike. There are two major technologies at play in the under $3,000 market. The more expensive models for the most part are SLA resin printers. These use a liquid resin material that solidifies when exposed to Ultraviolet (UV) light. The other technology in use is Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), also sometimes called Filament Deposition Manufacturing, or FDM. With FFF, a thin plastic filament is melted and extruded onto a build plate layer by layer, building up the printed object. If you are familiar with a glue gun, think of an FFF printer as a glue gun type device that is moved in three dimensions.

With the Voxel, the hot end, or place where the filament is actually extruded from, moves up and down and side to side, while the build plate also moves forward and backward. This double set of movements reduces the distance the extrusion head has to travel when building the object and reduces the amount of time it takes to build the object. Keep in mind, though, that FFF printing is very slow, and it can take hours to produce even a small object.

About the Voxel

The Voxel—actually a rebadged FlashForge Adventurer 3—is well designed and enclosed in all directions with a clear front door that swings open to allow access to the build platform. There are transparent panels on the left side and top of the printer so build progress can be monitored from a variety of angles. This serves to keep fingers away from the hot moving parts within the printer when it is in use, a nice safety feature if the printer is to be used by younger builders.

Front view of the Voxel
Monoprice

The right side of the printer has a removable panel which covers the filament spool and feeder. The Voxel uses standard 1.75mm filament on a 7-inch spool, but can’t accommodate standard 1-gram spools since the width of the Voxel spools is narrower than standard, with a maximum capacity of 700 grams.

Spool holder on the Voxel
Monoprice

The printer has a heated print bed, a must if you want to print using ABS filament, which is somewhat sturdier than PLA. PLA filament is printed at a lower extruder temperature, is slightly more flexible than ABS, and is biodegradable, where ABS is not. PLA also does not require a heated bed. The Voxel measures 15.7 x 15 x 15.9 inches, so it should fit pretty much anywhere. It does not special ventilation, though some people find the smell generated when printing ABS plastic to be objectionable.

Monoprice can supply these narrow filament spools in both PLA and ABS plastic, and they are not unreasonably priced. Monoprice .5-gram spools of PLA and ABS run between $13 and $15 depending on material and color. 1-gram spools (which won’t fit internally on the Voxel) run about $18. If you don’t mind leaving off the door on the right side of the printer which covers the filament spool and feeder, you can 3D print an external spool holder that will let you use standard filament spools available from many vendors. The Voxel comes with a spool of filament, so you might want to put this project on your to-do list once you’ve printed a few objects and become familiar with the process.

What’s in the Box?

The review printer arrived well packaged and in good condition. Included in box are the printer with the extruder already installed, a spool of filament, the power cord, User’s Manual, several tools for adjusting the print bed if it becomes necessary (which it didn’t in my testing), an unclogging tool in case the extruder becomes clogged with melted plastic, and a package of grease. The User’s Manual also lists a USB drive, which was not included in my box, nor is it listed on the Vendor’s web site as being included.

Monoprice

Read the remaining 19 paragraphs