Technology

Privacy.com Review – Unique Credit Card Numbers for Online Shopping

Online shopping is everywhere but safe online shopping isn’t. In one year, I replaced nearly every credit or debit card due to hacking.

Even the most cautious internet shopper is defenseless when hackers steal information from websites that store your payment information.

What if there was a way to have a unique credit card number for every website you used? Then, if (read: when) you get hacked, you only need to shut down that card number. You wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of contacting your bank and getting a new credit card, followed by the pain of re-entering your payment on every single site online.

Enter an online shopper’s best friend: Privacy.com.

privacy.com review website screenshot

Privacy connects to your checking account and allows you, via a website or app, to create unique credit card numbers for each merchant you use. You can set cards for recurring or one-time use and you can attach weekly, monthly, yearly or per charge dollar limits to them as well. Setting limits can keep you from breaking your Amazon.com budget. It also prevents companies from jacking up the price of your subscription without you noticing. (I’m looking at you, cable companies / internet providers). You can only use each card with one merchant. Privacy locks cards to one store or website to keep someone from using your card somewhere else.

When to Use Privacy

Maybe this sounds neat but you’re not quite sure how you’d use it. Let me share a few of my favorite use cases.

  • Websites I’ve never used before and inherently don’t trust. Using Privacy significantly lowers my risk, especially if I use a one-time use burner card that can only be charged a single time.
  • Websites that make it difficult to cancel your subscription. I’m looking at you Beachbody.com. Let it be known that your ridiculous “phone-in-72-hours-before-your-plan-expires” policy to cancel an online video subscription is anathema. You’re the worst.
  • Places where I have to give my number over the phone. If you are calling a florist or spa to buy a gift for someone and have to give out a credit card number over the phone. No worries that the flower lady will do something suspicious with your card. (No offense, flower lady).
  • Websites with trial subscriptions I might forget to cancel. Hi, Spotify!

Recently we ordered a stroller adapter online and later got a notification that it was on backorder. In the meantime, I found the adapter somewhere else and ordered it so that it would arrive sooner. The original website wouldn’t let me login to cancel the order (!), so I just shutdown the Privacy card for that account. I got an email that my payment didn’t process and just ignored it. I knew Privacy had my back.

Other Great Features

I really appreciate being able to create a burner card for one-time use. If you know you’re only going to use a card one time (like in the florist example above), you can set the card as a burner. With a burner card, once a single payment is processed, another transaction can’t go through. This is the best option for websites you don’t trust and probably won’t order from again.

You can also pause cards without canceling them, in case you want to save a merchant to use for later, but don’t want any fishy charges potentially showing up in the meantime. You can set Privacy to alert you when a transaction is attempted. That way you’re always on top of what’s happening with your card.

There are credit card companies like Final that are doing the same thing, but then you need to sign up for a new credit card, and Final has foreign transaction fees. If you’re addicted to getting points with your credit card purchases, Privacy will likely disappoint you since it’s linked to your checking account and there isn’t a rewards program.

I don’t use Privacy for every website or merchant, but I love using it for subscriptions, giving a card number over the phone, and on websites I probably won’t order from again. Power to the consumer, baby.

You can search your cards to find the one you need to shutdown via the handy iOS app or on the website.

Click this link and you get $5 just for signing up (and I do too). Not a bad deal to keep your bank accounts safe online.

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Technology

Goodreads: My New Favorite Social Network

I didn’t think I needed another medium to connect with my online “friends.” Between life updates on Facebook, pithy posts on Twitter and too-good-to-be-unfiltered pictures on Instagram, I see and share more than enough of life online.

But! Even with all of these social networks, I’ve come across a new-to-me service1Goodreads is over 10 years old that’s quickly become my favorite: Goodreads.

At its core, Goodreads is an app to manage books you’ve read, are reading, or hope to read. The premise of Goodreads is personal reading management with a twist–you can see what your friends are reading too.

Goodreads encourages you to rate what you’ve read on a five-star scale, and after you rate 20 books, it starts suggesting other books in similar genres that you may enjoy.

It’s highly integrated with Amazon reviews and syncs with your Kindle highlights too, thanks to its acquisition by our favorite online retailer in 2013.

A Simple System for Sorting (and Discovering) Books

I don’t care what all of the popular books are on Amazon, but I am curious to see the most popular books among my friends. Most of us are far more likely to watch a movie, buy a product, or try a new restaurant because of a personal recommendation rather than just pursuing what’s popular for the masses. That’s what makes Goodreads fantastic–I can see what my friends are reading, read their reviews, and even comment or message and ask questions right inside the app.

There are tons of other goodies inside of Goodreads. A few of my favorite features include:

  • Tracking start and finish dates for books you’re reading
  • Auto-updating your progress based on where you left off in Kindle books (if you want)
  • Setting a reading challenge for a calendar year and helping you track your goal
  • Following your favorite authors

Maybe these features sound interesting, but a joining another social network doesn’t seem worth it and adding all of your books is overwhelming. But you can start small and still enjoy the benefits of Goodreads.

Getting Started

My encouragement is to start by rating books you loved and those you hated. That’ll help Goodreads get a feel for other books you may enjoy and the genres you dabble in. I’d shoot for hitting 20 books so that you can start receiving automatic recommendations.

I highly encourage linking your Amazon and Facebook accounts to your Goodreads account to quickly sync books and add friends. You can add all of your Facebook friends en masse, but I don’t recommend that since lots of people have a dormant Goodreads account. 2Being friends with those people means you just see their new friendships in your feed and not book updates, which is my least favorite part of the app. On the Home tab of the app, you can see what your friends are reading or have recently rated and then tap to add those books to your lists too.

The Goodreads app is simple and makes adding books a breeze. You can scan a barcode of a physical book you’re reading or just search for it and add it to one of your three default shelves–read, currently reading, and to-read. You can add more shelves if you want, but I like the simplicity of the defaults. If you’re a particular person (that’s me, I get you), Goodreads even shows you all the different editions of a book, so the cover and page numbers match the book you’re actually reading.

The mobile app is great, but the desktop website version has additional features including:

  • Displaying how many books ahead or behind you are on your yearly reading challenge
  • Seeing your most read authors
  • Finding duplicate listings of books on your shelves
  • Comparing books read with your friends

The last feature, comparing books, is probably my favorite. To see how your reading list compares to a friends, navigate over to Goodreads.com and click on a friend. On your friend’s profile you can click compare books and see what you have both read or hope to read and compare ratings too. Goodreads will even tell you how similar your tastes are in books.

Wrapping Up

I know I’m late to this reader’s social paradise, but maybe you tried Goodreads and gave up or haven’t given it a shot yet. I think you should check it out. I’ve read more because of Goodreads, and it’s proven a whole lot more edifying than most of my time on social media.

One final suggestion: take time to write a simple review–even just a few sentences–on why you liked or disliked a book. Leaving a short review forces me to personally process what I thought about a book. I’m also more inclined to start reading a book that a friend reviewed.

You can find me on Goodreads here.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.Goodreads is over 10 years old
2.Being friends with those people means you just see their new friendships in your feed and not book updates, which is my least favorite part of the app.
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Technology

My Favorite Apps on Sale for Black Friday

I love apps and I love finding a good deal. When those two things intersect, I can hardly resist.

Here’s a quick roundup of my favorite apps that are on sale for Black Friday first for iOS, then for the Mac.

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iOS

Due (an alert wizard with natural language input)

For tasks that have to be done at a certain time (putting out trash cans for weekly pick up, reminding someone of something at a certain date or time) and recurring reminders, there’s nothing better or simpler than Due.

I’ve spent a whole blog post convincing you of how amazing this app is, and with a 40% discount, it’s irresistible.

Universal app for iPhone and iPad, normally $4.99 on sale for $2.99.

Drafts (pushing anything you type wherever you want it to go)

One of my most used apps and so beloved that it resides in the dock of my iPhone. I use this app multiple times every single day, and the magic you can perform with text through this app is unreal.

I called it the point guard of my iPhone, and I can’t imagine not having this little Kyrie Irving on hand.

This isn’t a Black Friday deal, but the price has been lowered from $9.99 to $4.99 and is a universal app for iPhone and iPad.

LongScreen (the extended screenshot tool you need for iOS)

Have you ever wanted to screenshot an entire webpage but ended up snapping a dozen different photos and creating a mess on your iOS device?

LongScreen is here to save the day. It enables saving an entire webpage as a screenshot, all stitched together, panorama style.

I don’t use it often, but whenever I need it, I’m glad it’s there.

Normally $2.99, on sale for $0.99 as a universal app for iPhone and iPad.

Paprika (an amazing recipe manager)

I’m married to true kitchen maestro, and she saves all of our family favorite recipes in Paprika. If you ever cook (really, ever) and want to save recipes, this is the place where your best Pinterest finds belong. Tags, search, favoriting, rating and more comes along with this recipe manager.

We use the grocery feature daily, which syncs perfectly and quickly across devices, so when my wife adds to the list, it shows up on my phone. You can even choose a recipe and have it add whatever ingredients you’re missing to your list automagically.

I highly recommend the iPhone and iPad versions, but the Mac version is killer too 1I just don’t like ingredients finding their way into the innards of my computer in the kitchen..

iPhone version normally $4.99, on sale for $2.99, iPad version normally $4.99, on sale for $2.99 and the Mac version normally $19.99 on sale for $9.99.

PDF Expert (a PDF wrangling extraordinaire)

If you ever do anything with PDFs, you can’t go wrong with PDF Expert. You can highlight, reorder, sign, organize, sync to Dropbox and other cloud services and edit PDFs in a way iBooks simply can’t.

If you need a better way to organize and edit PDFs, this app is a lifesaver.

Universal app for iPhone and iPad, normally $9.99, on sale for $4.99.

Mac

DaisyDisk (the prettiest way to see what’s taking up your precious hard drive space)

Ever wonder what exactly is hogging all that space on your Mac? DaisyDisk is the app you’ve been searching for.

DaisyDisk scans your hard drive and tells you exactly what is sucking up space and where you need to go to remove it.

It’s beautifully designed and incredibly helpful, especially if you’ve got a tiny drive to manage.

Normally $9.99 on sale for $4.99 on the Mac App Store.

TextExpander (the fastest way to type a little and get a lot)

I’ve gushed about my love of text expanders in general in the past, and TextExpander (proper) is my favorite app of the bunch. It allows you to sync across devices and has, to date, saved me from typing over 120,000 characters and five hours of typing time. That makes my fingers very happy.

I’m not a fan of the subscription model, but you can snag 20% off a full license without subscription with the code MDM20.

TripMode (a tethering data saver)

If you ever use the hotspot on your phone to connect your computer to the internet, TripMode is absolutely clutch. It allows you to pick the apps that can connect to the internet so you’re not burning through your limited tethering data by backing up with Backblaze or syncing massive files to Dropbox.

Right now it’s 33% off with the code SAVEDATA. The $5.27 you’ll spend is nothing compared to an overpriced data charge on from your wireless provider.

Blockbuster Kit 2017

I snagged the precursor to this kit in 2016, and I can’t recommend these four apps highly enough. $60 is a chunk of change, but for these apps alone you’re saving $40 off of sticker price, and a few other apps are tossed in as well.

Beamer 3

If you want to stream movies from your Mac to your AppleTV, using Airplay leaves you with laggy videos and out-of-sync audio.

I don’t know how it works, but Beamer is able to send perfectly synced videos across your Apple devices.

Should an app like this be necessary? Absolutely not. But it’s a beauty when it just works.

Let’s hope and pray Apple buys this app and integrates it into future versions of macOS.

Boom 2

If the sound coming out of your Mac speakers has disappointed you, Boom is the app you need.

Boom does some voodoo magic and allows your speakers to pump out significantly more sound. Be careful, because there’s a possibility of doing damage to your speakers if you crank them too high, but for increased sound, you Boom brings the noise.

WALTR 2

If you think iTunes on your Mac is more of a bloated mess than your stomach after Thanksgiving dinner, WALTR is the solution you’re looking for.

WALTR allows you to sync songs, music, PDFs and more wirelessly to your iPhone or iPad. It works so simply it’s unbelievable. And it loads instantly, so you’re not waiting for iTunes to boot up and then tell you an update is available.

If you ever wrestled with iTunes and lost, WALTR is the teammate you want to tag in.

YouTube Converter

Want to snag a YouTube video to use during a presentation? Want to save a video for on the go (and with the wonders of WALTR sling it into your iOS device)?

YouTube Converter beats the socks off any online option out there. I’m not advocating for stealing videos, but when you need to save videos for future Internet-lacking areas, this is the tool you should turn to.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.I just don’t like ingredients finding their way into the innards of my computer in the kitchen.
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Theology

The Only Identity You Can’t Lose

Who are you?

That’s a broad question. Perhaps a narrower but maybe not easier-to-answer question is, “Where do you primarily find your identity?”

identity

Here are some options:

  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Career
  • Wealth
  • Status
  • Power
  • Body
  • Sibling
  • Child
  • Achievements
  • Sexuality
  • Freedom
  • Faith

Every person you know fits into one of those categories.

The problem is, almost all of those identities can be taken from you.

Your spouse can pass away or leave you. Your child, parents, and siblings can and most certainly will, one day die. You can lose your job and your wealth overnight. Your status is always in flux, and likely if you lose your spouse, job, or wealth, you’ll lose your status too.

Your power or influence over others will eventually wane and no matter how much you have, you’ll always want more, as with wealth and status. Your body won’t always look the way it does–gravity is undefeated in that battle–no matter what pop up ads and spam emails say.

Your achievements will dim with time and will become less important. A corrupt government or invading force can axe your freedom. Your sexuality, over time, will impress fewer people and fulfill you less and less, especially in the pursuit of “sexual freedom.”

The single thing identity that can’t be pried away is your faith.

Specifically for Christians, our identity is in Christ.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1

We are permanently united to the person of Jesus through saving faith in him. This foundation is unshakeable. His promise is unbreakable.

Death cannot strip this away.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38–39

Jesus has defeated the final enemy. His victory has already been counted and established.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
1 Corinthians 15:54

If the Biblical claims and promises of Jesus are true1A big if for many, to be sure. But nevertheless an if worth exploring. it is the only identity worth building your life upon.

But death takes nothing from the one who already has eternal life.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
John 17:3

Don’t build your life on something uncertain. Don’t live for something that will, in the end, merely fade away. Take hold of the promises that Jesus offers, for death claims everything else.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.A big if for many, to be sure. But nevertheless an if worth exploring.
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Methodology

The Challies 2016 Reading Challenge

Want to read more in 2016?

Me too.

One of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies, created the 2016 Reading Challenge to give direction to people who want to tackle more books this year.

Here’s a link to the 2016 Reading Challenge. He’s got plans for 13, 26, 52, and 104 books. You can click the image below for a larger view.

web-2016-reading-challenge-red

I’m currently tackling the 52 book challenge, aiming for a book a week to keep pace.

If your year of reading hasn’t started out how you hoped, never fear! You can start fresh today and still easily tackle 13 or 26 books, or if you’re ready for a quicker pace, you’ll need to read a book a week plus squeeze in an extra seven somewhere along the line.

Instant is in and tweets and status updates are easier to digest because of their low caloric value. But book readers continue to be influencers and leaders because books change and sharpen minds.

I had to do a little retrofitting to make the books I read so far fit this list. It’s going to take more planning going forward to make it all work, so that’s my next task.

Here’s what I’ve read so far in 2016.

Completed in 2016

  1. The Damascus Countdown – Joel Rosenberg The final book in The Twelfth Imam trilogy. My friend Grant got me hooked on Joel Rosenberg, who some call the “modern day Nostradamus.” I’m not sure his interpretations of some biblical prophecies are completely accurate, but he writes captivating Christian thrillers.
  2. The Speechwriter – Barton Swain A hilarious tale of being a speechwriter for former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, you’ll laugh a lot but probably walk away from the inside view of a political office with a more jaded perspective.
  3. The Third Target – Joel Rosenberg From ol’ Joel’s newest trilogy, a first-person perspective of a journalist meeting with leaders of ISIS and navigating reporting on a peace process in the Middle East. One of my favorite Rosenberg books.
  4. Awe – Paul David Tripp – Tripp says our problem with worship is that we aren’t in awe of God and his love for us, so we look to other things (money, sex, relationships, work) for temporary satisfaction. I agree with the premise and recommend the book because I see the battle happening for my awe daily in my own life.
  5. Stuff Matters – Mark Miodownik A fascinating look at the everyday materials that make up our world. Miodownik’s passion for the seemingly mundane (like paper and concrete) help you appreciate the simple stuff we take for granted.
  6. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr A captivating historical fiction novel set during WWII from the perspective of a young blind girl in Paris and an orphan boy in Germany. Doerr crafted some of the most incredibly, descriptive prose I’ve ever read, and the story is a simultaneously heart wrenching and beautiful picture of humanity.
  7. Do Over – Jon Acuff Acuff melds helpfulness and humor in an amazing way. I was highlighting like a madman and note taking nonstop in this book about taking charge of your career, and laughing the whole way through. I’ve already given this one away as a gift.
  8. Fool’s Talk – Os Guiness The great-great-great grandson of the famous brewer helps us think about the role of apologetics and persuasion in evangelism, tackling big objections to Christianity and sharing interesting anecdotes along the way. Fairly intellectual, but a helpful guide on evangelism in a pluralistic, postmodern world.

Currently reading

  • Triggers – Marshall Goldsmith I have a habit for reading books about habits. Goldsmith is an executive coach who helps people who dominate the business world handle that nagging problem of behavioral change, and he only gets paid if they’re successful. Chockfull of “of course!” wisdom on changing habits and behavior, but helpful because of the sheer simplicity.
  • Future Crimes – Marc Goodman We’re currently watching Person of Interest and I’m reading this book, so I’m ready to go off the grid entirely and smash all of my internet-connected devices. A pessimistic but realistic look at the reality of everything being hackable, and what that means in a world of hackers, criminal masterminds, and organized crime. Eye opening and fear inducing, and if you don’t have eternal hope for the future, well, I don’t know how you make it through this one without being entirely freaked out and saddened at the state of our world.

THE LIGHT READER (13 BOOKS)

  • A book about Christian living (Awe – Paul David Tripp)
  • A biography
  • A classic novel
  • A book someone tells you “changed my life”
  • A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • A book about theology
  • A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle
  • A book your pastor recommends
  • A book more than 100 years old
  • A book for children
  • A mystery or detective novel
  • A book published in 2016
  • A book about a current issue

THE AVID READER (26 BOOKS)

  • A book written by a Puritan
  • A book recommended by a family member
  • A book by or about a missionary
  • A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize (All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr)
  • A book written by an Anglican (Fool’s Talk – Os Guinness)
  • A book with at least 400 pages (The Damascus Countdown – Joel Rosenberg)
  • A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • A book with a great cover
  • A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers (Stuff Matters – Mark Miodownik)
  • A book about church history
  • A graphic novel
  • A book of poetry

THE COMMITTED READER (52 BOOKS)

  • A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with
  • A book written by an author with initials in their name
  • A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • A book about worldview
  • A play by William Shakespeare
  • A humorous book (The Speechwriter – Barton Swain)
  • A book based on a true story
  • A book written by Jane Austen
  • A book by or about Martin Luther
  • A book with 100 pages or less
  • A book with a one-word title
  • A book about money or finance
  • A novel set in a country that is not your own (The Third Target – Joel Rosenberg)
  • A book about music
  • A memoir
  • A book about joy or happiness
  • A book by a female author
  • A book whose title comes from a Bible verse
  • A book you have started but never finished
  • A self-improvement book (Do Over – Jon Acuff)
  • A book by David McCullough
  • A book you own but have never read
  • A book about abortion
  • A book targeted at the other gender
  • A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended
  • A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you
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