Virtual Events Take Center Stage
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By Innovate Marketing Group

As the live events industry awaits COVID-19 regulations, guidelines, and phase rollouts; innovations and digital opportunities arise, virtual events take center stage, and the importance of an events agency and planner sustains.

Why go virtual? Virtual events have proven to be an effective and efficient way to convey content and engage attendees. Experts shared that future events will incorporate a digital aspect as a hybrid-type model as the events industry seeks to widen their audience and maintain contingency plans. Events will see more virtual aspects embedded into their programs moving forward.

Going virtual also brings market share and new opportunities.
“Some companies that were previously on hold to wait out COVID-19 have either pivoted to virtual or seriously considering since the recovery is so uncertain. Business still needs to go on. Leadership conferences, educational and training are still vital for companies,” said Amanda Ma, chief experience officer of Innovate Marketing Group.

All of the different elements of a virtual event need to be coordinated into one impactful and engaging experience. The event agency’s role includes helping guiding businesses to pivot to the new normal, advising and adjusting contract changes, applying event strategies to help meet goals, vendor coordination and recommendations, program management and managing multiple tracks, marketing and communication, incorporating sponsors and stakeholders and the guest experience.

Some of the many benefits of pivoting to virtual include:

  • Cost savings and lower cost per guest attending
  • Access to a wider audience and reach, and not limited by location
  • Replay capabilities and reusable on demand content
  • Lower carbon footprint and less impact on the environment
  • Attendee engagement
  • Opportunity to get creative and engage viewers in new ways
  • Metrics, instant data tracking and capture, and gaining new insights
  • Virtual events eliminate the need for a venue, catering, rentals, stage, décor, photographer, videographer, transportation, etc.
  • Taking action – calls to action link in right away; connect, survey, polling, Q&A and donate

Some challenges in comparison to a live event include emotion and energy, stimulations such as touch, taste and smell, memory and recall, networking, and viewer attention span.
Innovate Marketing Group also shares top best practices in going virtual, such as setting your goals on information, education, message, attendee and sponsor engagement, networking, etc.

Format: Determine your virtual event format – webinar, webcast, pre-recorded sessions, simu-live, live streaming, networking, exhibitors.

Registration: Reconsider the registration process, including number of users who will be accessing the website, personal data, payment processing safety, and customized questions per data you would like to collect.

Keep Your Audience Engaged: with tools such as live polling, question and answer sessions, networking opportunities, gamification, live leader boards, rewards and social media feeds. Maintain your event experience by making your guests feel involved and connected to your program. We are in the planning stages of a 3,000 people walk/run event, and one of the ideas is on the day of the event to have a virtual DJ play during the walk and the organization lowers the volume if messages need to be communicated. The music is based on what the organizers want. This way while people are walking, they can stay connected as part of the program.

Pre-Event Communication & Marketing: Communication and marketing are key. Unlike an in-person event where they must get dressed up, drive to the event, and spend more time to prepare for the event, a virtual event is simply a login to a platform. Therefore, it is very important to send out reminders and build up the anticipation of the event. In a recent virtual event, we advised the client to ask for the attendee’s cell phone number.

So, in addition to email reminders, the week of event and day of, a text notification was sent out to all attendees. We received great feedback for putting that in place. It reminded folks the virtual event is coming up and to tune in. Digital marketing, promotion, advertisement, and video content is still very important for a virtual event, before broadcasting on your event day.

Surprise and Delight Before the Event: Sending a swag bag prior to the event with items relevant to the event. For an upcoming conference, we are sending a box with a blue light blocking glasses, candle, custom door handle, notebook, T-shirt, and a coffee tumbler. We have a special note to go along with this kit to kick off the conference mindset. On the day of the conference, we asked everyone to wear the shirt provided. One less worry about what to wear on “top.”

Content is King: Offer educational, relevant, timely and meaningful content that people will want to hear. It is vital to create content that captivates guests, sparks their creativity and results in productivity.

Do Not Try to Replicate Your Live Event: Instead, look for new opportunities but stay true to purpose of your event. Keep principle of why your guests were coming together, and make it part of the equation.

Test, Test, and Test Again: Technical difficulties may occur, and it often distracts from your event. Have a run through with your speakers and moderator in advance and test the virtual release on your platforms.

Is Tesla really worth $500 billion?
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graphic of elon musk with pink and orange background and tesla label

By Rory Cellan-Jones for BBC News

It was the week when Elon Musk soared past Bill Gates to become the world’s second richest person, as Tesla’s value topped $500bn.

On Tech Tent, we ask just why investors think the electric car company is worth so much more than it was a year ago. At the beginning of 2020, Tesla was valued by the stock market at around $80bn – and even then, sceptics thought that was a high price for a business that was barely profitable.

(Image Credit – Getty Images)

Throughout the year its shares have soared, and its valuation climbed above $500bn on the news that the business was going to be included in the S&P 500 index of leading companies.

Just to put that into context: Tesla is now worth more than Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, GM and Ford put together.

‘You’re being too rational!’

I’ve done some back-of-the-envelope calculations and those businesses, some of which are undoubtedly ailing, made a combined profit of more than $50bn last year.

This year, Tesla is on course to make something like $1bn. So to believe the current valuation, surely you have to have some confidence that its technology and its market dominance will deliver a 50-fold increase in profits over the not too distant future?

“You’re being too rational!” Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge told me when I put it to her that Tesla’s sky-high share price simply didn’t add up.

“All it means is that the people who are buying the stock at this price believe they’re going to be able to sell it at a higher price.”

Eileen’s work as a venture capitalist is all about putting a value on companies which are at a much earlier stage than Tesla – and she tells Tech Tent that this is often a similarly irrational process, dependent on the mood in the wider market, and not just the qualities of individual businesses.

Tesla’s many fans will rightly point out that it has sent the automotive industry in a new direction, has unique battery technology with many other applications, and has a visionary leader.

But that was all true at the beginning of 2020 when it was worth a mere $80bn.

A short-term bet

“There are clearly no business fundamentals that point to a five-six times increase in its valuation just since the beginning of the year,” Eileen Burbidge told me. But she returns to her point that investors are making a short-term bet.

“I would like to think that the markets are fundamentally rational at the end of the day. I think the question is one’s time horizon. These buyers – they really believe they’re going to be able to sell at a higher price. And so far, by the way, they’ve been right.”

It is foolish to try to apply too much logic to short-term moves in shares. When asked by his editors why prices were rising, one legendary Fleet Street stock market correspondent used to reply “more buyers than sellers”, giving the opposite answer when the market was falling.

Just like a bottle of 1945 Burgundy, or a Picasso, or a tiny flat in London or San Francisco, Tesla’s “value” is whatever someone is willing to pay for it, however irrational the price may seem.

Nevertheless, one person who should know said months ago that the electric car company was overvalued, tweeting on 1 May: “Tesla stock price is too high imo”.

Who says? Well, it was Elon Musk himself – and the tweet knocked $14bn off the company’s value.

Since then, the share price has increased fourfold – but, hey, what does he know?

Read the original article at BBC News.

Stressed out? Blame bad technology
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By Reuters

There is no question that we are all more dependent on technology than ever. So what happens when that tech does not work?

In the past, Emily Dreyfuss used an old-school strategy: She yelled.

When Amazon’s Alexa spat out wrong answers or misunderstood questions, Dreyfuss let the virtual assistant have it.

“I used her as a scapegoat for my feelings,” said Dreyfuss, a writer and editor for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. “When you have a non-sentient and annoying device in your home, who isn’t doing what you want, I talked to her in not the nicest terms. And my husband ganged up on her, too.”

Tech frustrations like this have happened to all of us. Your wifi is always dropping out. Your passwords do not work. Your laptop crashes, and you lose everything you were working on. Just reading about those possibilities could be enough to raise your blood pressure.

Technology can damage our state of mind, and new research is bearing that out: Computer giant Dell Technologies, in partnership with neuroscience firm EMOTIV, put people through a gauntlet of bad tech experiences, and then measured their brainwaves to gauge their reactions.

Test subjects had trouble logging on, or had to navigate sluggish applications, or saw their spreadsheets crash.

“The moment people started using bad technology, we saw a doubling of their levels of stress,” said Olivier Oullier, EMOTIV’s president. “I was a bit surprised by that, because you rarely see those levels going so high. Tech stress had a lasting effect, Oullier added. “People don’t relax back into calmness quickly. It takes a long time.”

Company bottom lines have suffered along with the mental health of employees. Constant frustration with bad tech affects how staffers handle their daily workloads, especially younger workers. Gen Z and Millennial test subjects saw a whopping 30% productivity drop as a result.

“Bad experiences affect you regardless of computer literacy,” said Cile Montgomery, who leads customer experience initiatives for Dell. “But young people seem to be even more impacted, because they expect technology to work.”

Read the full article at Reuters.

The Problem With Technology
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By Forbes

What company these days doesn’t want to adopt the latest technology? Many companies today are like the proverbial kid in the candy store, reaching for the latest tools that come with shiny buzzwords like “AI” and “machine learning.” But while embracing technology can bring a lot of positive changes, the right technology is needed — not just the latest one. And all too often, companies lack solid criteria according to which to choose their tech stack.

I will share some observations of common shortcomings of technologies based on my experiences working with banks, insurers, telecoms and companies. Having worked with them and heard their experiences, I’ve come to identify the types of technologies that are more likely to provide a high ROI.

Here are some of the most common technology pitfalls, as well as the characteristics of technologies that are more likely to deliver. Despite high expectations, many technologies:

1. Are Static And Inflexible

Many tools are great for a limited time and then quickly outgrow their purpose. For example, portal apps, which are web-accessible tools that deliver additional services, are time-bound and not future-proof. Core systems also frequently have this issue. They become such an ingrained part of a company’s backend that they are cumbersome and expensive to adjust, let alone replace.

2. Promote Painful IT Siloes 

Many technologies are not easily integrated and thus promote siloes. For example, the analytics team may be able to generate business intelligence insights in the form of quarterly reports. Yet by the time these reports become available to the larger organization, they are already less relevant. Technology that isn’t real-time, that doesn’t make information widely available and actionable in the moment loses its purpose. Systems that don’t speak to each other in a holistic, timely way make it harder for different teams to coordinate their efforts. Ultimately, these IT siloes hurt end-customers.

3. Serve As Mere Point Solutions

Point solutions may be based on the latest technology, but they won’t be effective if they overlook the context of the greater problem or journey. For instance, an organization may allow customers to begin a process online, but then divert them to a physical location to complete it. Such technology will only frustrate customers. Imagine the frustration of customers who are able to add an e-signature to their documents, but must print and mail those documents — breaking the digital flow.

Continue to the full article at Forbes.

Farmworker turned astronaut Jose Hernandez urges kids not to give up
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Astronaut Jose Hernandez in spacesuit smiling holding his space suit helmet

Former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez spent most of his youth working the fields.

So many kids have struggled with remote learning, but Hernandez wants them all to know when it comes to their future, the sky’s the limit.

As a young boy, Hernandez picked fruits and vegetables alongside his family.

“We spent nine months in California, three months in Mexico, but those nine months I went to three different school districts,” he explained.

The family settled in Stockton. Jose couldn’t speak English until he was 12 years old, but STEM subjects spoke to him.

“I gravitated towards math because 1 + 3 is 4 in any language,” Hernandez said.

When he was ten, Jose told his dad he wanted to be an astronaut, so his father laid out a five-part recipe for success.

First, set a goal. Then recognize how far away you are from that goal.

“The third thing is you have to draw yourself a road map to know where you’re at to where you want to go,” Hernandez added. “And then I asked what’s the fourth? He said you’ve got to get an education.”

The University of the Pacific grad called hard work the fifth ingredient.

But his path was a difficult one.

“NASA rejected me not once, not twice, not three times but 11 times. It wasn’t until the 12th time that I got selected,” he said.

Hernandez would blast off with the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2009.

“It’s a ride that even Disneyland would be envious of because you go from zero to 17,500 miles an hour in eight and a half minutes,” he recalled.

Jose worked on the International Space Station during the 14-day trip, which covered 5.4 million miles.

“I wish we had a frequent flyer program,” Hernandez laughed.

He circled the globe 217 times but remains a down to Earth guy who tells kids how to realize their own dreams.

“Hard work and perseverance and not being afraid to dream big,” he said.

Continue on to the NBC 7 to read the complete article.

New type of atomic clock keeps time even more precisely
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A newly-designed atomic clock uses entangled atoms to keep time even more precisely than its state-of-the-art counterparts. The design could help scientists detect dark matter and study gravity’s effect on time.

Atomic clocks are the most precise timekeepers in the world. These exquisite instruments use lasers to measure the vibrations of atoms, which oscillate at a constant frequency, like many microscopic pendulums swinging in sync. The best atomic clocks in the world keep time with such precision that, if they had been running since the beginning of the universe, they would only be off by about half a second today.

(Image credit – Science Daily)

Still, they could be even more precise. If atomic clocks could more accurately measure atomic vibrations, they would be sensitive enough to detect phenomena such as dark matter and gravitational waves. With better atomic clocks, scientists could also start to answer some mind-bending questions, such as what effect gravity might have on the passage of time and whether time itself changes as the universe ages.

Now a new kind of atomic clock designed by MIT physicists may enable scientists explore such questions and possibly reveal new physics.

The researchers report in the journal Nature that they have built an atomic clock that measures not a cloud of randomly oscillating atoms, as state-of-the-art designs measure now, but instead atoms that have been quantumly entangled. The atoms are correlated in a way that is impossible according to the laws of classical physics, and that allows the scientists to measure the atoms’ vibrations more accurately. The new setup can achieve the same precision four times faster than clocks without entanglement.

“Entanglement-enhanced optical atomic clocks will have the potential to reach a better precision in one second than current state-of-the-art optical clocks,” says lead author Edwin Pedrozo-Peñafiel, a postdoc in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics.

If state-of-the-art atomic clocks were adapted to measure entangled atoms the way the MIT team’s setup does, their timing would improve such that, over the entire age of the universe, the clocks would be less than 100 milliseconds off.

Read the full article at Science Daily.

Why Virtual Conferences Are the Future
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Woman is using tablet pc, pressing on virtual screen and select

Conferences have long been a staple of the professional calendar. Now with COVID-19, the landscape for events is changing.

Sophisticated digital platforms are enabling virtual environments that simulate the benefits of real events, and attendees are beginning to shift to accessing subject matter, experts and industry networking online.

But can the digital environment really displace brick-andmortar events, where eye-to-eye meetings and chance connections can justify the often-costly registration fees and travel costs? In organizations where hundreds of executives and professionals attend several conferences a year at $1,000 or more each in total cost, a virtual conference at $500 can be attractive.

Making virtual connections at an online conference may not be an adequate substitute for meeting a key client face to face, but it seems likely that virtual events will complement traditional conferences as organizations need to balance time and resources. Increasingly, virtual platforms are offering value that has never existed in this market. It is less obvious thinking that a virtual environment could be conducive to trade in luxury goods, cars or food, but industries where virtual conferences make sense include: Knowledge industries such as medicine, pharmaceuticals, and high technology; nascent industries where innovation clusters are globally dispersed; digital industries where the product can be delivered via a multimedia format; higher education.

Here are 20 reasons why you might consider attending a virtual conference:
1. Less travel time means more time for you at work or with your family
2. Dip in and out of events without being noticed
3. No flight delays, passport control or security checks
4. Juggle work demands with conference attendance
5. No packing or unpacking and wondering whether your luggage will make it through to the other side
6. Access all conference materials and audio online for 3 months after the event
7. Show your boss demonstrable cost savings
8. Connect with a larger and more global audience, many of whom may have not previously attended due to cost and travel constraints
9. Preview and review speaker presentations on your PC while listening to other material
10. Easily locate conference attendees and arrange a conference call, rather than searching hotel lobbies for your clients
11. No waste of paper on conference brochures/fliers that only go in the bin once home
12. Save hundreds of thousands of gallons of air fuel because of the aggregate efforts of attendees
13. Catch up on missed events in the evening or your free time
14. Learn new skills in managing virtual technologies and online tools
15. Access the whole event from the comfort of your own home or office
16. No big hole in your bank balance while you wait for the expense claim to clear
17. Use the time you would be traveling to report back to colleagues on the key lessons
18. Consider the efficient transfer of information and how that will translate directly to your bottom line
19. Registration fees are as much as four times less than a regular event
20. No expenditure on hotels and sundries

We hope that your next virtual conference experience is a great one.

Source: sharpbrains.com

NASA’s First Black Man to Arrive at Space Station for Long-term Stay
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NASA astronaut Victor Glover is seen during a NASA event where it was announced that he, and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins are assigned to the first mission to the International Space Station onboard SpaceXs Crew Dragon

By Anna Sokiran

On November 17th, Victor Glover became the first African-American astronaut to begin a full six-month stay on the orbiting lab.

Victor is making history, joining the list of the Firsts Black Astronauts from NASA. The first-ever African-American man to join the NASA astronaut program was an Air Force test pilot Ed Dwight in 1961. He became the first astronaut candidate but never went to space. Guion S. Bluford Jr. was the first African-American in space in 1983, and Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman in 1992. In the past 20 years of people living on the International Space Station, the extended crew never included a black astronaut.

Along with other astronauts on SpaceX Crew Dragon, Victor Glover, will be staying on the I.S.S. for the next six months. Out of the 300 NASA astronauts to reach the International Space Station, he is not the first Black astronaut to visit the Station, 15th, to be exact. But he is the first one to stay on I.S.S. longer than a few weeks.

In 2021 Victor is likely to be followed by Jeanette Epps, who would be the first Black woman to become a member of the extended I.S.S. crew. Victor Glover is now the pilot and second-in-command on the capsule, named Resilience. In the next six months, he will be fulfilling the duties of the Flight Engineer.

NASA finally certified SpaceX to fly astronauts on its Crew Dragon spaceship, just days before its next launch
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Four Space X astronauts seated in SpaceX's Crew Dragon

SpaceX is about to launch four astronauts in the first human-rated commercial spacecraft.

This won’t be SpaceX’s first human mission. The NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley climbed aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spaceship this summer, rocketed into Earth’s orbit, and docked to the International Space Station. After two months of living and working at the space station, they climbed back into the Crew Dragon, screamed through the atmosphere, and safely parachuted back to Earth.

But that whole mission was considered a demo — a critical step for gaining NASA’s human-spaceflight certification.

On Tuesday, NASA announced it had finally certified SpaceX’s whole launch system for human spaceflight.

That decision was the result of the agency’s flight-readiness review, in which experts and officials spent two days reviewing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, the Crew Dragon spaceship, the software, and mission operations.

The certification came just days before SpaceX’s next planned astronaut launch, which is scheduled for Saturday. The company has already perched a new Crew Dragon on the rocket in preparation for that mission, its longest and most critical yet. Called Crew-1, the round-trip mission to the space station is the first of six that Elon Musk’s rocket company has contracted with NASA.

“People tend to think it’s just the spacecraft, but it’s the spacecraft, it’s the launch vehicle, it’s all the processing on the ground, it’s how you do your mission operations. All that will safely fly our crew up to the International Space Station and back and then recover,” Kathy Lueders, who leads NASA’s human-spaceflight program, said in a Tuesday press briefing. “You’ve shown us the data, and we trust you to do that. It’s a big trust factor here.”

If weather permits, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will launch the Crew Dragon into space on Saturday at 7:49 p.m. ET. On board will be astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi. They should dock to the space station eight and a half hours later, where they will stay for about six months, marking the longest human spaceflight in US history.

When it’s time to come home, the astronauts will climb back into the Crew Dragon, which will remain attached to the space station during their stay, then weather a fiery fall through Earth’s atmosphere.

“The crew’s lives are in our hands — very important responsibility,” Lueders said.

Continue on to Business Insider to read the full article. 

Photo Credit: Space X via NASA

First Passengers Travel Safely on a Hyperloop
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Josh Giegel and Sara Luchian aboard the Virgin hyperloop

Transportation history was made today in the Nevada desert, where Virgin Hyperloop tested human travel in a hyperloop pod for the first time.

“For the past few years, the Virgin Hyperloop team has been working on turning its ground breaking technology into reality,” said Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group. “With today’s successful test, we have shown that this spirit of innovation will in fact change the way people everywhere live, work, and travel in the years to come.”

Josh Giegel, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, and Sara Luchian, Director of Passenger Experience, were the first people in the world to ride on this new form of transportation. The test took place at Virgin Hyperloop’s 500 meter DevLoop test site in Las Vegas, where the company has previously run over 400 un-occupied tests.

“When we started in a garage over 6 years ago, the goal was simple – to transform the way people move,” said Josh Giegel, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Virgin Hyperloop. “Today, we took one giant leap toward that ultimate dream, not only for me, but for all of us who are looking towards a moonshot right here on Earth.”

The occupants made their maiden voyage on the newly-unveiled XP-2 vehicle, designed by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group and Kilo Design, which was custom-built with occupant safety and comfort in mind. While the production vehicle will be larger and seat up to 28 passengers, this 2-seater XP-2 vehicle was built to demonstrate that passengers can in fact safely travel in a hyperloop vehicle.

“Hyperloop is about so much more than the technology. It’s about what it enables,” said Sara Luchian, Director of Passenger Experience for Virgin Hyperloop. “To me, the passenger experience ties it all together. And what better way to design the future than to actually experience it first-hand?”

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Virgin Hyperloop, watched this historic passenger testing first-hand.

“I had the true pleasure of seeing history made before my very eyes – to witness the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years come to life,” said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Virgin Hyperloop and Group Chairman and CEO of DP World. “I have always had tremendous faith in the team at Virgin Hyperloop to transform this technology into a safe system, and today we have done that. We are one step closer to ushering in a new era of ultra-fast, sustainable movement of people and goods.”

The testing campaign, from the beginning stages all the way through to today’s successful demonstration, was overseen by the industry-recognized Independent Safety Assessor (ISA) Certifer. Having undergone a rigorous and exhaustive safety process, the XP-2 vehicle demonstrates many of the safety-critical systems that will be found on a commercial hyperloop system and is equipped with a state-of-the-art control system that can detect off-nominal states and rapidly trigger appropriate emergency responses.

Continue on to Virgin Hyperloop to read the full press release

Photo Credit: Virgin Hyperloop

 

Six Apps that Help you Stick to a Budget
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A cartoon of six smart phone being held by a group of hands, displaying various screens

In these days of furloughs, layoffs, and shortened hours, when many people are struggling to pay their rent, figure out how to manage their bills, and looking askance at their college loans, it can help to have a solid financial app to assess your situation, create a budget, figure out exactly what you can (or can’t) afford, work with those pesky and confusing figures, find a better way to save, or just keep from panicking.

We asked four staff members from The Verge to talk about what they used to keep financially sane, and here’s what they recommended.

Buxfer: All Around Accounting

First of all, I need to admit that I monitor my finances in an absurdly old-fashioned way. I don’t use an app that downloads all of my accounts and tracks everything for me (although I have played around with Mint a bit). Instead, I enter all of my expenses and income manually into my accounting software and then check off which expenses have cleared at the end of the month. That way, I can “pay” many of my bills ahead of time by entering them before the payments are actually made and end up with a much clearer picture of how much cash I’ll have available afterward.

For years, I used native accounting software that just sat on my personal computer, like Microsoft Money. In fact, I held on to Money for several years after Microsoft sunsetted it but still kept it available as a download. (Thank you for that, Microsoft!) However, I found out how much of a mistake that was the day my computer decided to (figuratively) crash and burn. I had a backup, so I wasn’t in much trouble — except I decided I didn’t want to be dependent on a backup. I wanted to be able to access my data from the cloud, so I could access it from a computer or from my phone. However, I still enter it manually.

It took a while, but I found Buxfer. This personal accounting software is simple to learn, easy to use, and flexible enough so that, while it will happily download all of your data for you, it will also let you manually enter your expenses and income (something most other current accounting apps do not). Buxfer does pretty much everything more well-known accounting apps do: it downloads your accounts (if you want it to), tracks your budget, lets you know how you’re doing using charts and tables, follows your investments, and lets you set goals for, say, saving up for a home or paying down a credit card. It even lets you split bills with a spouse or a roommate, so you can track who is paying for what.

If you only need something to manually add expenses and income to, Buxfer is free to use. If you want more sophisticated features — like, for example, automatic syncing with your bank and credit card accounts or automatic tagging of your accounts (so you can easily find “utilities” or “mortgage”) — then a “Pilot” account costs $2 / month. The cost increases up to $10 a month, depending on how many features you need.

I really like Buxfer. It has a clean, understandable interface; lets you choose how many of your features you want to use (and lets you ignore the others); and doesn’t bother you with intrusive ads — even on the free version. And although I was using the free version, when I had a question, I got a prompt reply to my email. Buxfer may not be as well-known as Quicken or YNAB, but it’s certainly worth checking out. —Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor

Credit Karma:  Keep your Data Secure

A couple of years ago, I needed to find a company (cheap or free) that I could use for identity monitoring, and someone at work recommended Credit Karma. I soon found out that, in signing up for Credit Karma, I was signing up for much more than just identity monitoring.

Credit Karma watches all of your accounts for possible data breaches, monitors your credit standing and notifies you when it changes and why, and helps you to do things like lock your credit so that it’s harder for somebody to open an account in your name, among other services. It also offers links to information about buying a home, buying or leasing a car, paying down an overdrawn credit card, and other financial services. There is an entire section on financial relief, which could be very useful for those impacted by the current situation.

The site makes a variety of suggestions for low-interest credit cards, loans, and other financial instruments. Of course, these suggestions aren’t given strictly out of the kindness of its heart — you know that Credit Karma is getting compensated if you take it up on any of its offers — but I’ve checked out a few of its deals, and most of them aren’t bad. For example, one of their savings accounts offered considerably more interest than my local bank, without charging anything extra. (Unfortunately, when interest rates began to dive, the usefulness of that particular account dove with it.)

Unlike most of the other apps mentioned here, Credit Karma will not help you pay your bills or track your bank account. But it does offer some really useful information and services, and while I don’t check it more than once a month or so, I find it helps me make sure my finances are safe and on the right track. —Barbara Krasnoff

Continue to The Verge to read the full article

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service