Gunning Daily News

6 Tricks for Getting More out of Your iPhone

February 14, 2013 6:28 pm

If Santa left a shiny new iPhone under your tree, you probably already know how to call, text, and check email. But, say the communications experts at Business Insider, there are tips and tricks that can help you maximize your time and effort. Bonus: most of these tips will work just as well with your iPad.

• Turn off LTE to save battery – On the iPhone 5, you can save battery life in a pinch by going to Settings, then General, then Cellular. Or choose the Enable LTE toggle; if you need to save battery and can spare some Internet speed, turn this option off.

• Lock the screen orientation – To lock your screen orientation, double tap the home button and swipe to the right. You'll see a gray circle opposite the rewind button. Tap that once and a lock will appear, so when you turn your phone sideways the orientation will stay put.

• Automatically download new apps – A handy feature if you have several Apple devices: New apps and music will download automatically to all of them if you go to Settings and navigate to the middle of the page. Select the Store option, and once inside, under Automatic Downloads, switch on options for music, apps or both.

• View websites in full screen – While browsing a web site in Safari, turn your iPhone to the side (landscape) and tap the full-screen icon (arrows coming together in the bottom right) and you can view a website without distraction.

• Create a custom vibration – This can let you know who is calling or texting without having to look at the phone. Go to Settings, then tap Sounds at the bottom of the page. You'll be able to select custom vibration or record your own – and you can adjust the length of it, too.

• Use Siri to set location-based reminders – Siri can be used to set a reminder, like saying "remind me to call mom at 4 today." But you know you can set location-based reminders on your iPhone 4S. Say "Remind me to call mom when I get home," and you'll be notified accordingly.

Trends in Baby Furniture: Unique New Designs That Combine Comfort and Practicality

February 14, 2013 6:28 pm

Decorating the nursery is a distinct pleasure for most expectant parents. But it isn’t easy to choose furniture and accessories that offer style, comfort and practicality that will last for many years.

Design mavens at the ABC Kids Expo in Louisville, Ky. spotlighted six new products for parents who are looking for something different. They aren’t cheap, but they offer unique and modern styles created with beauty, safety and comfort in mind:
• The Babycotpod – The most contemporary bassinets ever, Babycotpod designs feature an egg-shaped collection of baby furniture that is handcrafted of fine hardwoods with custom-painted exteriors. The Nuna and Cascara models offer a unique, sophisticated and comfy sleep space with built-in hood and carry handles. Prices begin at about $800.
• The Gro-Crib - A crib that turns into a toddler bed, a day bed, a desk and a play table – with no screws or hinges. Designer David Singelyn’s crib has no mechanical fasteners and takes only minutes to put together. Not cheap at $1,400, but when you consider how many pieces of furniture you get in one, it’s great for those who can afford it.
• Baby Dee Dee Sleep Nest – A cross between a soft, washable duvet and a wearable baby sleeping bag, this new innovation with shoulder snaps and a glow-in-the-dark zipper wraps baby in a soft cocoon, eliminates the need for loose blankets, and makes it easy to change diapers in the dark. Costs about $35.
• The Petit Nest – An eco-friendly, made in America collection of cribs, dressers, gliders, wall art and more designed to last long beyond baby’s early years. Whimsical, playful styling with a distinct point of view that can later be integrated into the design of any home. Cribs and dressers cost between $1,400 and $1,700.
• Ububub cribs – Unique, modern wood cribs with smooth, rounded edges and clear Lucite sides for best visibility for you and your baby. They feature a low profile, adjustable mattress positions, and no bars for baby to get stuck in. Cost? About $1,600.
• Spa Baby Hot Tub – A soothing green “baby bucket” that calms squirmy babies and keeps them safe at bath time. Provides a chest-high warm soak in a natural, womb-like position. Cost is about $38.

Considering Self-Publishing Your Book? Read These Tips

February 14, 2013 5:28 pm

Self-published books have transformed both the reading and writing landscape, with hundreds of thousands of authors now eschewing traditional publishing routes. Once reserved for distribution to a writer’s close family and friends, these books are now respected as an affordable option with every bit as much potential for becoming best-sellers as those produced by the New York houses.

“Countless books published this way have gone on to become best-sellers, from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to ‘Still Alice’ to ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad,’ ’’ says independent publisher Sheryn Hara, founder of the 30-year-old Book Publishers Network and author of the new how-to, “Self-Publish Successfully.”

“But it’s important to note that these don’t look like they were just spit out of the inkjet printer in your bedroom. You have to have a good product if you want even a shot at success. That means good content that’s well edited; a good cover; good layout; and a good print job. Additionally, you can expect to spend a lot of time and/or money marketing, promoting and getting publicity for your book.”

So, where to begin? First, of course, is getting the book written. But once you’re ready to publish, you can easily be overwhelmed with options: Do a Google search for “independent publishers” and you’ll get nearly 8 million results!

To help sort through the options, Hara offers these tips:
  • Decide how you want your book printed. Consider your budget, time frame and individual preferences when evaluating options. They include Print-on-Demand (POD), which involves lower up-front costs and is beneficial if you need only a minimum number of books. However, there are quality issues with POD, and you must pay close attention to your contract, which may assign the copyright to the publisher. Most POD publishers do not provide editing services. Digital printing is another option for small print runs, and comes without many of the pitfalls of POD. Finally, there’s standard printing, which utilizes web-fed or sheet-fed presses.
  • How to choose a printer. Get quotes from at least three printers, and ask for samples of books and papers. Use only a printer whose main job is printing; most of these are located in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The most economical size books to print are 5.5 by 8.5 inches; 6 by 9 inches; or 8.5 by 11 inches.
  • Covers. People do judge books by their covers, so make sure yours is fantastic. It’s worth the investment to have it designed professionally. Now you must decide whether you want soft cover, hard cover or both. You may have a choice of gloss lamination or matte. If you go with matte, check to see whether the printer has a scuff-free version; otherwise, books returned from bookstores may look beat up.
  • Paper. For most books, you’re probably safe going with the “house paper” recommended by the printer. If your book has a lot of pictures, you may want to use gloss paper.
  • Bindings. “Perfect bound” is the norm for soft cover books; a layer of adhesive holds the pages and cover together. Most bookstores don’t like “saddle stitch” – staples used in the center of the book, or comb or wire binding, because you can’t print information on the spines. “Layflat binding” is used for computer, music and cookbooks, which often need to lie flat for functionality when in use.
  • If you plan to work with an independent publisher – a company you’ll pay to shepherd you through all the details, Hara suggests talking to former customers about their experience. Did the company follow through on everything promised in the contract? Did it meet deadlines? Were representatives accessible, especially if there was a problem? Was the customer satisfied with the final product?“Decide on your budget, and then look at the quality of books produced by publishers you’re considering. Frankly, the better the quality, the more the book will cost,” Hara says.
“Your pocketbook and your goals should help make the decision easier.”

Sheryn Hara is founder and CEO of Book Publishers Network in Seattle, a 30-year-old company whose clients have produced award-winning books.

For more information, visit www.bookpublishersnetwork.com.

Q: What Is the Best Way to Find a Real Estate Agent?

February 14, 2013 4:28 pm

A: Begin by asking someone that you know. Friends, relatives, co-workers, or neighbors who have recently purchased a home can give you a firsthand account and attest to the agent’s professional abilities. Sometimes an agent you contact will refer you to another one who works more closely with buyers and sellers in your neighborhood. Once you have a list of names, interview at least three agents and ask questions about their community knowledge, professional experience, and commitment – some agents work full time; others only work at nights and on the weekends.

Q: How Do You Decide Whether to Add on to an Existing Home or Purchase a New One?

February 12, 2013 6:04 pm

A: There are a few things to consider, including cost, individual needs, and what will add value down the road. Also important: your emotional attachment to the existing home.

As designer and builder Philip S. Wenz, the author of Adding to a House: Planning, Design & Construction, notes, an addition is much cheaper than building a new home and can offer a “new” home without the heartache of moving.

Other considerations:
• Can you finance the home improvement with your own cash or will you need a loan?
• How much equity is in the property? A fair amount will make it that much easier to get a loan for home improvements.
• Is it feasible to expand the current space for an addition?
• What is permissible under local zoning and building laws? Despite your deep yearning for a new sunroom or garage, you will need to know if your town or city will allow such improvements.
• Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy your changing housing needs?
Explore your options. Make sure your decision is one you can live with – either under the same roof or under a different one.

Word of the Day

February 12, 2013 6:04 pm

Grantee. Person named in a deed who acquires ownership of real estate; the buyer.

3 Ways to Protect Yourself on Public WiFi

February 12, 2013 6:04 pm

Seeing that tiny sign for "Free WiFi" at a bookstore or coffee shop is always a little thrilling, especially if you need to get some work done online. But you may be paying the price when it comes to your Internet security.

As great as unsecured web access is, it can be a real problem if you want to keep your computer and its information safe. Unsecured access means anyone can be on the network. And it also means anyone can be snooping into what you're doing online.

If that makes you uneasy, you may just want to stop using unsecured public WiFi altogether. Alternatively, there are some steps you can take to to keep your information more secure. For example:
Vary your passwords. One of the most common security breaches happens when someone discovers a password that you use online. Many people reuse passwords on all or many of their accounts, which means one stolen password may place a lot of things at risk. Don't use the same password for Facebook as you use for your bank account, and try to change your passwords once or twice a year, just in case.
Stay on secure sites. Some websites are secured with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which you can tell by the web address; it should say "https" instead of "http." That extra letter means those sites are encrypting your information, such as credit card numbers and your user ID and password, so hackers can't get access to them. If you're not on a secure site, definitely don't enter sensitive information.
Double-check the WiFi network. This is a decidedly low-tech form of protection, but make sure the WiFi network you connect to is the one the coffee shop offers. Sometimes hackers will set up similarly named networks that reach the same spot in the hopes patrons will confuse them. Using the hacker's network makes it easier for him or her to steal your information while your computer is connected. You may feel foolish asking the barista for the WiFi connection's name, but it's worth it.
Source: www.findlaw.com.

Basements and Roofs – Alternative Materials That Last and Look Great

February 12, 2013 6:04 pm

In our final segment on basements and roofs, I will pass on a few of the latest developments in systems and materials available to protect and preserve your roof.

Schulte roofing (schulteroofing.com) of Navasota, Texas points out that homeowners can get the beauty of wood from a more durable material, by considering shingles made from recycled materials including cellulose fibers are popular.

They are environmentally friendly, have a Class A fire rating; are thaw and freeze resistant; have UV protection for color consistency; and can withstand up to 100 mph wind gusts.

Shulte also sees metal continuing to be a popular option because it is long-lasting and practically maintenance free; lightweight to decrease stress to an existing system; and a very painless replacement option.

It can also be coated with a variety of colors to reflect the sun's rays; with proper ventilation, metal can keep the interior of a house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It is also tested to withstand hurricane force winds and protect homes against fires.

Mark Daniel Exteriors out of Dallas, Texas also points out that:

• Metal roofing does not warp, split, rot or crack. It is also impervious to pests and termites and is almost maintenance-free.
• Metal roofing is very durable; it can resist strong winds, some hail, debris, or anything else from Mother Nature. It is also fire-resistant, meaning that it can withstand dry summer heat. When installed by a qualified contractor, it will not require repairs or replacement for many years. This saves your money in the long run.
• In addition, metal roofing has excellent insulation qualities, making it great for reducing your energy bills. If you have other energy-efficient systems at home, you should see your monthly bills drop significantly.

Cornerstone Exteriors of Schaumburg, Ill. (cornerstone-exteriors.com) also talks about the advantages of fiber-cement roofing, which has been around for some time, but is enjoying a recent resurgence in popularity.

According to the folks at Cornerstone, fiber cement roofs, unbeknownst to most homeowners have been around for more than 50 years. It is just recently that they have become popular because of their easy application and durability.

Made of a combination of sand, cement and cellulose fibers, fiber cement roofs provide the beauty of a wood roof with the durability of a cement roof. So if you are planning on a new roof this year, Cornerstone says choosing fiber cement can provide the contemporary look of more expensive roofs without the cost.

How Female CEOs Can 'Lead with Impact'

February 12, 2013 6:04 pm

A record number of women are Fortune 500 CEOs. Women are launching businesses at 1.5 times the national average. There are now 8.2 million American women running their own companies.

“The numbers are notable,” says executive and business coach Debora McLaughlin, author of “The Renegade Leader: 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits.”

“From 1997 to 2011, the number of U.S. women-owned businesses increased by 50 percent,” McLaughlin says. “And in 2011, the median compensation for female CEOs was 13 percent more than for male CEOs,” according to NerdWallet Financial Markets.

According to Catalyst, a non-profit organization, as of Jan. 1, there were 21 women running Fortune 500 companies, including IBM and PepsiCo, That’s up from seven in 2002-2003. Among the Fortune 1000 companies, there are twice as many, including the CEOs of Neiman Marcus Group, Cracker Barrel and Dun & Bradstreet.

“Nonetheless, business women still face hurdles,” McLaughlin notes. “Keep in mind, while 21 are Fortune 500 CEOs -- a record high – that’s only 4.25 percent of the total and the figures hold for Fortune 1000 companies, less than 5 percent have a female at the helm.”

A recipient of the 2012-13 Women of the Year award presented by the National Association of Professional Women, McLaughlin watches the financial trends. While women are launching more businesses, they have an upward climb; studies show that women-owned companies are less likely to hit the $1 million mark and are more likely to fail.

“To claim, own and keep the keys to the corner office, women executives need to be seen, heard and to lead with greater influence and impact,” McLaughlin says. She offers three key tips:
Develop your personal brand: Let people get to know you, your core story of experiences and how they relate to your drive and vision. As Steve Jobs said, "connect the dots," then use transparent communication to share your story. People make better connections with people who tell a great story, and they’re most interested in the story behind the person at the top. Transparency encourages greater communication, team building and leadership.
Develop and use your personal network. Find a mentor and be a mentor; seek out other women at your level; and accept the strength, ideas and energy your connections have to offer. It is no longer necessary to blaze trails alone, and women have more power than they may realize. According to a Dow Jones report, startups with five or more female executives have a 61 percent success rate. It goes further and says that odds of success "increase with more female executives at the VP and Director levels."
Stand for something; position yourself as a strong thought leader. It’s not easy being at the top. Women tend to distrust powerful women, and men may view women as weak or too collaborative and sensitive. Take a firm stand on something you care about deeply and rally the organization around that objective. You will gain the respect of your peers, customers and stakeholders.
As the numbers clearly demonstrate, business is changing. Women account for 73 percent to 85 percent of consumer decisions in the United States, which gives female CEOs yet another advantage -- insight into their customers’ values, McLaughlin says.

Debora McLaughlin, best-selling author of “The Renegade Leader: 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits;” the forthcoming book, “A League of Her Own,” and CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group combines her experience as certified executive coach and as a top sales performer in New York City and Boston to help CEOs, business leaders and organizations achieve accelerated results.

7 Mistakes to Avoid on Your 2012 Tax Return

February 11, 2013 3:40 pm

Every year, our politicians talk about the need to simplify the tax code and every year, they make it more complex.

The average taxpayer will spend an estimated 23 hours completing their return this year. Eighty percent of taxpayers will hire someone to do the work, or buy tax software, even though 64 percent of taxpayers don’t owe anything.

There are six definitions of a child; more than a dozen educational credits, and 16 different types of tax-favored savings plans. That may seem daunting, but with some basic knowledge and planning, you can avoid costly mistakes.

Here is a list of the seven common mistakes and missed deductions to help you prepare your 2012 tax return.

1. Charitable deductions - cash.
Did you make a contribution to charity last year? The IRS is cracking down on bogus deductions, so be sure to follow the donation tax rules. One of the most important rules is that you give to a charity with an IRS tax-exempt status. Don’t forget to take the mileage deduction when it applies. The IRS allows 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

2. Charitable deductions – in kind. Your used clothing donated to charity may not be seem worth much, but consider using valuation software to determine how much to claim. You may be pleasantly surprised. The same applies for furniture and other household items donated. Clothing must be in good condition or better to take the deduction.

3. Social Security number. Privacy concerns caused the IRS to stop putting taxpayer Social Security numbers on tax package labels. Most of your tax information is keyed to your tax ID number.Tax ID number errors raise red flags with the IRS, which attempts to match reported income to tax returns. This number is also important when claiming the Child Tax and Additional Child Tax credits and credits for educational expenses. Take time to verify that your tax ID number is correct on 1099s, W-2 forms and all tax documents to avoid delays processing your return.

4. Dividend reinvestments. Each time a stock or mutual fund reinvests dividends, it’s the same as making a new purchase of shares. The amount of the reinvested dividend adds to your tax basis when you calculate your taxable gain from a sale. Make sure you don’t overpay the IRS. Mutual funds generally track the average basis of shares and automatically include reinvested dividends in the calculation. Ultimately it’s up to you to make sure you calculate the gain properly.

5. Unused deductions from 2011. The tax code allows capital losses to offset capital gains. When losses exceed gains, the taxpayer can use only $3,000 of losses against other income. Any excess loss can be carried forward into future tax years. Don’t forget to carry the unused losses over to your 2012 tax return. Charitable deductions are capped based on the type of property donated and your adjusted gross income. Excess deductions can also be carried into future years. Don't let carryovers get lost in the shuffle.

6. Excess Roth contributions. Single taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is between $110,000 - $125,000 ($173,000 - $183,000 for joint filers) cannot make a full Roth IRA contribution. Check this number when you complete your tax return. Excess contributions are subject to a 6 percent penalty on the amount you contributed.

7. Overlooked medical deductions. Health insurance premiums are an often overlooked deduction. The portion paid by the employee is a deductible expense when you itemize. This includes the portion you pay to Medicare which is usually deducted from Social Security. Transportation expenses for trips to medical facilities or doctors’ offices are also deductible. The IRS allows 23 cents per mile driven for medical purposes in 2012.

If you have made a mistake or missed a deduction you can file an amended tax return to correct the problem. Some taxpayers worry filing an amended return will increase their chances of being audited. Amending the return doesn’t focus the IRS’s attention on your return but it will extend your exposure to their challenges. The IRS looks back three years from the date you file a return. When you amend your tax return you reopen the three-year window.

No one likes to deal with the IRS and taxes, but you could be leaving money on the table by not filing an amendment. If the total amount of tax you owe is smaller than your original return, the IRS will refund the difference.

Also file an amended return if the correction results in additional tax owed. The IRS will add interest to the amount if you amend after your filing deadline, but it rarely adds penalties. Correcting the mistake early saves interest and can avoid penalties.

Certified Financial Planner® Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa., and author of “The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach to Retirement Planning.”

For more information, visit www.RodgersSpeaks.com.