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Online Safety

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Holiday Card Gallery

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Get Smart On Online Safety

(NAPSI)-With more than 1.9 billion Web users worldwide, not everyone is equipped with the information needed to stay safe. Everyone should know which sites to trust and how to guard against online hackers and scams. Here are five smart, simple, must-know tips for online safety:

Look for Visual Cues

There are a few easy-to-recognize visual cues that identify safe websites. When conducting transactions, make sure website ad-dresses contain “https” instead of “http” as the “s” means “secured.” Many browsers will also turn their address bars to the color green to signify the site is authentic. Lastly, scan the entire Web page for a trust mark, such as the VeriSign Trust Seal. These marks demonstrate that trusted authorities such as VeriSign, the Better Business Bureau or TRUSTe have taken comprehensive measures to certify such things as security, online business ethics or customer privacy standards.

Create Strong Passwords

Everything has a password, from online banking to e-mail to social networking accounts, and it is important not to take these passwords for granted. According to a 2010 Imperva report, the most common passwords are “123456,” “abc123” and “password1.” Stay away from these easy-to-guess passwords, don’t use the same password for more than one account and change your passwords every couple months.

Watch out for Phishing E-mails

Hackers frequently lure people through “urgent” e-mails requesting personal information or offering “too good to be true” deals. Follow the age-old mantra that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also look out for misspelled words and grammatical errors. These are telltale signs of phishing scams.

Don’t Be Susceptible

to Malware

The latest and most sophisticated tools among hackers include various forms of malicious software known as malware. Hackers use malware to steal sensitive data such as credit card numbers or other personal information. Protect yourself from malware by installing up-to-date security software such as Norton AntiVirus. Additionally, when surfing the Web, do not download content from suspicious sites or attempt to access sites that your browser flags as high risk.

Be Cautious Online

Don’t share anything online that you wouldn’t want a random stranger in the street to know, such as your date of birth, home address, phone numbers, Social Security number or mother’s maiden name. These are key pieces of information a hacker needs to steal your identity and, unlike bank or credit card numbers that can be easily changed if they are stolen, much of your personal information is static and will be associated with you for years.

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Giving The Gift Of Staying Connected

(NAPSI)-Cell phones have become the simplest and most popular way to stay in touch, but while they are used for talk these days, they are used just as much for texting, chat, e-mails, sharing photos, Web surfing and social networking.

Mobile phones have become part of how we communicate, make plans, and find places to visit and things to buy. It’s only natural that cell phones are a highly desirable gift every holiday season—because it’s something that everyone needs. Yet cell phones have been difficult to give as gifts in the past because they generally come with a two-year contract, as well as the potential for unexpected overages or “bill shock.”

Now, that’s no longer the case. Mobile phones are available without a contract with great value and quality handsets including smart phones. When choosing a phone to give as a holiday gift, there are three easy steps you should follow:

1. Choose a phone. Depending on the recipient, determine if you need a basic phone or one with bells and whistles like a smartphone. Check to see what the handset offers.

Does it have a music player, digital camera, Qwerty keyboard, stereo Bluetooth and mobile Web? Don’t settle for less than you want—you don’t have to—but also don’t pay for more than the person needs. Prepaid no longer means shoddy cell phones. For example, you can get Androids and BlackBerries: On Boost, look for the Motorola i1, and Virgin Mobile recently launched the Samsung Intercept. Both brands carry the BlackBerry Curve 8530.

2. Choose a plan. There are several affordable monthly prepaid plans available on the Sprint Nationwide Network. Virgin Mobile offers $25- or $40-monthly Beyond Talk plans for those who message and surf more than they text, with unlimited messaging, e-mail, Web and data, plus hundreds of talk minutes.

Boost Mobile has the $50 Monthly Unlimited plan with Shrinkage—for every six on-time payments, your cost is reduced by $5 down to as low as $35. It includes unlimited talk, text and Web.

3. Activate the phone. These phones are activated easily on the handset, online or automatically by phone. You can carry over an exsiting phone number or ask for a new one.

Once the phones are activated, you or the gift recipient can add money to the account to pay for the monthly charge.

For More Information

For more information, visit www.boostmobile.com and www. virginmobileusa.com.

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SAT/ACT Studying Tips

(NAPSI)-Taking the SAT/ACT is a rite of passage for most high school students. While parents are aware of how critical these tests are to their children’s futures, many don’t know how to help their children prepare.

Fortunately, there are tools available to students, including online and collaborative studying that provides a more personalized, social and interactive experience. Farb Nivi, founder of Grockit, an education technology company that makes test prep fun through the use of social networks and gaming mechanics, shares the following tips:

1. Begin preparing for the test three to four months in advance by identifying your child’s testing strengths and needs by specific academic skill.

2. Structure your preparation around your child’s unique strengths and needs with a customized program instead of a one-size-fits-all class.

3. Encourage your child to study a little bit every day rather than binge studying a few days a week. Every five to seven days, have him or her take a full day off from test prep altogether.

4. Don’t let your child take the SAT and SAT II on the same weekend. This common mistake causes unnecessary stress.

5. Don’t let your children study the day before the test. They are not going to learn anything the last day and they are more likely to stress themselves out. On the morning of the test, have them warm up by answering different types of questions without checking the answers.

Additionally, parents can consider an online studying service such as Grockit.com, says Nivi. “Research has shown that students benefit from studying in a social and collaborative environment. Grockit provides this through live online study groups while also providing a completely customized test prep program to meet each child’s needs. The result is a program that is not only fun and engaging but also affordable and produces the score improvements students and parents demand.”

For more information, visit www.Grockit.com.

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"Brain Fitness" Excercises Accelerate Learning

(NAPSI)-With education budgets across the nation being cut, schools have fewer and fewer resources available for students who may be struggling. If a child falls behind, the school may not have the resources to provide additional tutoring necessary to bring him or her up to speed. Fortunately for parents, a world-renowned software program used successfully by education and speech and language professionals for 15 years is now available in a unique home-learning program.

The BrainPro Services program combines proven school techniques with the remote support of a highly experienced and trained tutor. The school program has helped correct many students’ reading problems by exercising the brain and developing cognitive skills in a fun and engaging way. Effectiveness studies show that the software used can improve reading skills of some children by as much as two grade levels in as little as 12 to 16 weeks (just one semester).

“By regularly exercising mental processing skills to improve brain fitness, children can create physical changes in the brain that result in enduring gains in language and reading skills,” said Paula Tallal, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University. “The goal is to create better thinkers who are able to tackle all sorts of subjects and who enjoy school and lifelong learning.”

The Fast ForWord software is the most well-researched educational software on the market today with more than 220 efficacy studies and has, until now, only been available in professional settings. Teachers of students who use this program report that they are more engaged, more confident and participate more in class.

“The skills my daughter has learned and the changes that have occurred in her brain impact every area of her life, even outside of school,” says Suzy Heffernan, mother of a BrainProŽ Services-tutored student and a speech language pathologist at a Long Island elementary school.

For more information about the science of brain plasticity, brain “fitness” and the learning service, visit www.BrainProLearning.com.

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Photo Book Tips and Tricks

(NAPSI)-This holiday season, photo books are expected to be more popular than ever as families seek to bridge the miles and share special moments and memories with their loved ones. Today, with photo book technology more customizable than ever before, bookmakers have a nearly unlimited creative license.

Whether you are building a book about a recent wedding, your family dog, an exotic trip or a vacation with your kids, some basic tips from photo book experts can help you create your own personal masterpiece:

• Take the time up front to choose a subject and cohesive theme for your photo book. It helps you choose which photos to include and helps your book tell a story. Remember, these photo books can be your autobiography.

• When taking photos, take time to think about what photos you will want when making a photo book. For example, if you are making a wedding photo book, take photos of the location, centerpieces and landscapes—they may look great as full-bleed backgrounds of your pages.

• Variety is the spice of life—use free creative elements such as stickers and backgrounds to give your photo book a feel that is personalized to you and your story.

• Scan in items from your year such as ticket stubs, maps, brochures or programs and use them as stickers or backgrounds in your book.

• For a truly unique photo book, find a service such as Mixbook that gives you unlimited freedom to create your own layouts using your photos, stickers and stories.

In addition, remember that photo books can be even more fun when people work on them together. Collaborate with your family and friends and create books that speak to your relationship and special times together from each of your perspectives.

You can learn more from www.mixbook.com.

 

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Picking The Perfect Picture

(NAPSI)-A picture is worth a thousand words-which is why choosing the perfect image for your holiday photo card can be as stressful as cooking a holiday dinner. But getting it right is worth the effort; a beautiful holiday card makes a wonderful keepsake for friends and family. So whether you’re a holiday-card maestro or a nervous first timer, you can always improve your chances of staying stuck to the refrigerator door long after the holiday decorations come down. Here are some top tips for creating the perfect portrait:

• What kind of 2010 did you and your family have? Perhaps this year marked a special anniversary or a big family holiday. If yours is the kind of family that enjoys spending time together, you’ve probably got loads of recent photos that show you at your collective best. Don’t worry about posing in festive sweaters by an open fire-make it genuine!

• If none of your family photos is making the cut, why not set up a photo shoot yourself? It’s a perfect opportunity to get outside and get creative-you choose the backdrop, the styling and even the poses to suit whatever mood your brood is in. Take it seriously or go completely off the deep end-its totally up to you.

• Too many fantastic family photos to choose from? Want to personalize the cards by using a photo of the lucky recipient in the card with you? With MOO.com, you can print an unlimited number of different photos on greeting cards, so every single card in a pack is completely unique. It’s an easy way to make your cards totally personal and utterly unforgettable.

• Brand-new memory or old reliable, the most important thing for your photo is quality control-after all, you’re aiming for mantelpiece longevity. Make sure everyone is in focus, the image is properly exposed and the resolution is high enough to be easily printable.

For more inspirational ideas, visit MOO’s Inspiration Gallery at www.moo.com/ideas.

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Small Businesses Make Something Big Of Themselves

(NAPSI)-More and more small-business owners have their heads in the clouds these days--and that's a good thing.

That's because Internet-based, "cloud" computing and communications services accessible from any PC and from any location are now available at a fraction of the cost of hardware alternatives. These solutions offer small businesses tremendous flexibility and productivity advantages while eliminating the burden of managing and supporting costly, premises-based equipment.

It helps that one company known for developing innovative business communications services offers a powerful cloud communications solution that lets subscribers manage day-to-day communications online from any Web browser. This enhances business productivity while reducing overhead expense by providing integrated, one-stop access to an affordable suite of essential communications tools.

The 8x8 Virtual Office Pro cloud communications solution features an easy-to-use online dashboard that enables: • Unlimited local and long-distance VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calling (plus advanced PBX calling features) from a PC, iPhone or desk phone;

• A visual overview and online control of business calling activity; • One-click access to contacts and co-workers;

• Video Web conferencing with call recording and archiving;

• Unlimited faxes;

• Presence management that tells workers whether you're logged in, logged off, on the phone, off the phone or currently unavailable;

• A comprehensive view of all voice mails, recordings, fax messages, calls and chat history.

According to Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise voice and data at Infonetics Research, "From our IP PBX survey, it appears businesses are increasingly embracing a hosted services model to more easily ramp their capacity needs up and down without a huge cash layout for equipment."

With hosted services like 8x8 Virtual Office Pro, priced at under $50 per user, a company's administration and use of its everyday communications tools are now as simple as sending an e-mail or clicking a contact name to place a call. This is further enhanced by the efficiency and productivity advantages associated with having supplemental communications capabilities from a single provider right at your fingertips.

For additional information, visit www.8x8.com or call (866) 879-8647.

Businesses of any size can save money and gain access to valuable communications services simply and affordably.

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Helping Families In Need In Recession

(NAPSI)-Many Americans who are looking for work may get a helping hand in the form of free cell phone service.

In order to look for work, you need a working phone, and that’s a problem for many people living below the federal poverty line, as they may not be able to afford phone service. According to a recent survey by PKS Research, adults with an income of less than $25,000 are just as likely to use a mobile phone for employment searches as those with higher incomes.

Assurance Wireless is a new program that offers a free wireless phone plus 200 free voice minutes of national local and long-distance monthly calling to eligible customers.

Having a contact number and the ability to return calls to a prospective employer are important tools in a job search. Studies show that phone access can improve the chances of securing employment as well as provide a way to stay connected with families during emergencies.

Who’s Eligible?

Consumers eligible for Assurance Wireless include those who generally participate in Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA or Section 8), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) or the National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program. Customers may also qualify based on low household income.

Assurance Wireless is currently available in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington DC, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia and continues to expand. Eligibility varies by state.

“Programs like this are so important for helping individuals and families stay on, or get back on, their feet and succeed in these difficult financial times,” says business columnist and personal finance expert Louis Barajas.

Users get a free voice mail account and call waiting, caller ID and access to 911 in case of emergency. Beyond the 200 free voice minutes per month, customers can prepay for additional services as needed. To get started, call (800) 395-2171, apply and provide documentation.

For More Information

For more information, you can call the toll-free number or visit www.assurancewireless.com. Information is available in English and Spanish.

Studies show that having a phone improves the chances of securing a job.

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