I had an epiphany the other day. Not a Pauline, Damascene moment of stunning clarity, granted, but a vague, momentary sense of eyebrow-lifting disquiet. As I was helping my dad set up his blog it occurred to me that, for many people, technology is a barrier to convenience.
Just because PC software and hardware has the potential to make life easier, it doesn't mean it always does. In this age of rapid technological change, if you miss out on one development you can find yourself trailing behind everyone else. And asking for help isn't easy if you feel your query is a simple one. No one likes to feel stupid.
For Mr Egan senior, a lifetime of working in an office meant that email and the internet held no terrors, but cutting and pasting were alien concepts. It sounds simple - and indeed it is. After five minutes of Egan skill-sharing the old boy was posting like a good 'un. But it's only easy if you know how.
Of course, PCA readers are a tech-savvy bunch. And I'm not about to patronise you with that level of advice. But the fact remains that simple tech tips are often the best, and life is tough enough without having to do anything the hard way.
Thankfully, the web is good for providing answers and time-saving tricks. The following tips, suggested by Lifehacker.com editor Gina Trapani, are designed to help simplify the way you work, save you the odd headache and help you become more organised.
We're not just talking dull task lists and time-management tools, either. Over the following pages, you'll find tips to help save you money and add a little home-entertainment colour to your life. Each tip is simple to follow, won't cost you a penny and can be implemented right now.
Not every piece of advice will work for every person, of course. One man's time-saver can be the next man's nightmare. But with advice on making email and printing more efficient, sourcing free TV and digital audio gems and getting fit in both mind and wallet, we guarantee to help you enjoy the easy life.
1. Cut your commute by working at home and accessing the PC in your office with free remote-control software such as LogMeIn and TightVNC. You can save on petrol, claim tax relief on home IT kit and convince your boss you'll be more productive without leaving home.
2. Backing up files is dull but crucial, so set up software to do it for you. SyncBack schedules backups to external storage. To protect your data against fire, lightning or theft, back up online. Carbonite and Mozy Home offer affordable web space.
3. Take some shortcuts: Ctrl, C to copy; Ctrl, V to paste is just the start. Launchy can start programs, open documents and perform advanced actions via your keyboard. You can also assign key combinations with TypeItIn.
4. Services such as FitDay.com and WeightWatchers.com log and guide your fitness regimen. To get your finances in shape, try registering your monthly income and regular outgoings at Mint.com or Wesabe.com. MoneySavingExpert.com is another good information source.
5. Don't be a slave to email. Create three folders: Action, Later and Archive. Each day, delete emails you don't need. Respond to ones you can answer immediately, and file those you want to keep in Archive. Put those that will take longer than two minutes to reply to into Action, and move those you need to follow up on to Later.
6. Remember The Milk is our favourite site for creating an online to-do list. You can even sync it to your phone, should you wish to. Remember The Milk also has a Firefox extension that integrates the service with your Gmail inbox, so you can turn emails into tasks.
7. Ditch your laptop and take your PC with you on a USB flash drive or iPod. Portable Windows software such as MojoPac and U3 put a desktop on a drive, enabling you to run applications and save documents. See our workshop on portable software.
8. Use a single mailbox. If you've got several email accounts, you can get lost trying to keep on top of them all. Google Mail's Mail Fetcher can retrieve messages from up to five POP3 email accounts. You can send mail from your non-Gmail addresses via Gmail's Compose screen too. GMX.co.uk offers similar functions.
9. Get on top of your busy schedule by setting up an automated email reminder for recurring events or tasks. Google Calendar will happily send alerts via SMS or email, but most web-based calendars and task managers, as well as sites such as HassleMe, support alerts of this type.
10. Never forget your usernames and passwords. Instead of writing everything down on Post It notes, lock up your store of sensitive passwords in a secure, encrypted password database. KeePass assigns a single master password to your secure database.
11. If you want to secure a business plan, family snaps or other private files from prying eyes, TrueCrypt is ideal for storing files in a password-protected vault. TrueCrypt can secure a folder or an entire disk. And it's great for a USB drive, which could easily be lost or stolen.
12. If you'd like to get TV and music online, try episode-collection sites such as Joost.com. BBC iPlayer now offers whole series for streaming and download. You can stream music for free to your PC from Deezer and Last.fm - or get an internet radio, of course.
13. Search smarter. Drill down through Google search results with advanced operators. Enclose phrases and proper names in quotes to bring up exact matches. Use the + and - signs to specify meaning and use the filetype: operator to find certain kinds of documents (as in budget filetype:xls).
14. Reduce print costs. Print at the lowest quality, opt for duplex printing and shrink several pages on to each sheet of paper (use preview first). Use the Aardvark Firefox plug-in to delete ads from web pages. CutePDF will also print documents as PDF files.