11. Consolidate Multiple E-Mail Addresses With Gmail
You have more e-mail addresses than you do pairs of socks--so it makes sense to keep them all in one drawer. If you have mail coming to your ISP's account, your work address, your school address, and your throwaway Yahoo account from 1998, and you're having difficulty juggling everything, it's time to consolidate all those messages into one inbox. Google's free Web-based Gmail service is both an e-mail host and an e-mail client. Use Gmail's built-in Mail Fetcher to retrieve messages from up to five external e-mail accounts using the POP3 standard. In Gmail's Settings area, visit the Accounts tab to set up your external e-mail addresses, and you'll then receive all your mail in one roomy inbox. You can even send mail from your non-Gmail addresses via Gmail's Compose screen, too.
More: Get Organized in Gmail
12. Never Forget a Birthday, Teeth Cleaning, or Oil Change Again
When you're tired of scrambling to send Mom flowers at the last minute every year, set up a scheduled e-mail reminder for her birthday--and for any other long-term recurring tasks. Google Calendar can send upcoming-event alerts via SMS ("Pick up the dry cleaning at 3 p.m. today") or e-mail ("Schedule a hair appointment; it's been six weeks!"). Most Web-based calendars (like Google Calendar) and task managers (like Remember the Milk), as well as Web sites such as HassleMe and Sandy, support e-mail alerts.
13. Never Forget a Password Again
Your Web browser can save your user name and password for sites you log in to often, but you still have lots of other passwords to remember--Wi-Fi network names and passwords, computer log-ins, PINs and passphrases, even security questions and answers. Instead of writing everything down on a sticky note tacked onto your computer monitor, lock up your store of sensitive passwords in a secure, encrypted password database. The free KeePass works in Windows, Mac, and Linux, and assigns one master password to your database. Park your passwords, PINs, and software serial numbers in your personal secure database, and save yourself the hassle of having to call the IT department the umpteenth time to reset your password.
14. Encrypt Your Private Files
Everyone has a folder or two of private files that thieves, children, competitors, coworkers, or casual passersby should never see. Whether you want to secure your stealth startup's business plan or some personal photos, the free, cross-platform TrueCrypt encryption software (review; download) is ideal for storing sensitive files in a password-protected virtual container. Only someone with the master password can open that container and read or write the files within; to everyone else, it's a nondescript single file full of jumbled-up junk. TrueCrypt can secure a single folder on your hard drive, or an entire disk--it's great for a thumb drive carrying precious data that could be exposed if the drive is lost or stolen.
15. Stream Content From Your PC to Your Tivo, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or Wii
You don't need yet another box under your TV in the living room to enjoy your digital music and videos. If you own a game console or TiVo box, you're ready to start streaming media from your PC today--no Apple TV or set-top media box needed. Find out how to get started.
Microsoft also recently announced that, by this holiday season, Xbox 360 owners who are also Netflix subscribers will be able to stream "thousands of movies" using just their game console. In the meantime, you can stream Netflix movies from your PC to your Xbox 360 with the vmcNetFlix plug-in.