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9
Apr

After Math: Flying high


It’s been a big week for aviation achievements. DARPA successfully flew a model of its next VTOL aircraft, Dr. Peggy Whitson is tacking on three more months to her ISS stay (and breaking another record along the way), and SpaceX is saving big on its reusable rocket costs. Numbers, because how else would you join the 1.60934 kilometer-high club?

9
Apr

GameStop looks into a potentially serious credit card breach


Did you shop at GameStop’s online store for the holidays, or take advantage of its post-holiday clearance sales? You might want to check your credit card statement. GameStop has confirmed to security guru Brian Krebs that it’s looking into a possible data breach that compromised credit card info between September 2016 and February 2017. Krebs’ financial industry sources claim that the intruders not only took card numbers, expiration dates and cardholder addresses, but the three-digit security number that’s ordinarily hard to get (as it’s not usually stored online). This suggests the attackers planted malware on the site to harvest the info before it was transmitted — this was clearly not a run-of-the-mill breach if so.

GameStop isn’t providing much official detail at this point, but it understands that the payment data may have been “offered for sale on a website.” The company adds that it hired a “leading security firm” to investigate on the same day it caught word of the intrusion.

There are still quite a few unknowns, provided the breach report is accurate. How many people are affected? How did the perpetrators get in and operate for months? The one consolation is that GameStop is acting relatively quickly — there have certainly been incidents where companies took their sweet time discovering that something was amiss.

Via: Kotaku

Source: Krebs on Security

9
Apr

Renovate with caution: These add-ons might not be worth the investment


Smart-home products and renovations tend to vary widely in terms of cost. A smart bulb can cost about $20, while more expensive renovations — namely those which require a company to install tech throughout a home — check in at several thousand dollars.

More: Start a smart home for under $50 with these inexpensive upgrades

Before long, a growing number of homeowners may opt for investments in smart features, especially those capable of reducing monthly expenses. If you want an idea of how mainstream smart-home products are becoming, just look at Ikea’s lineup.

But is it worth it to install smart-home renovations throughout your house? It might depend on whether you’re hoping to make your life easier or get a return on that investment. Transforming your home to suit your needs, tastes, and hobbies is fine, but you probably don’t want to look at these changes as investments. While some features may help increase the resale potential of a home by reducing expenses or adding a “wow” factor, others probably don’t justify the money. To help, we’ve compiled a few home renovations that might not pay off.

Overly smart kitchen

Remodeling a kitchen can consist of refinishing cabinets, adding backsplash, painting walls, and buying a few bar stools for the countertop. Or it can be a major endeavor when you decide to replace everything down to the studs.

As of 2017, a major kitchen remodel costs roughly $62,158 to complete (on average) and at resale time, the average recuperation of such costs is around $40,560. This means homeowners typically get about 65 percent of their money back, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report. A minor remodel costs an average of $20,830 to complete, with homeowners recouping roughly $16,700 of those costs, meaning a minor remodel recuperates more of its cost — about 80 percent — at resale.

If you fill a kitchen with the latest tech during a remodel, you might end up over-remodeling to the point where it’s impossible to recuperate the initial investment. If you purchase all the latest smart appliances, for instance, you’re looking at a cost of around $4,000 for a refrigerator, $4,000 for an oven, and another $1,000 for a dishwasher. You’ll still need a range hood, a wine cooler, and small appliances, before even adding the cost of the essentials — cabinets, flooring, labor, etc.

At the moment, you probably don’t need a dishwasher that reorders its own detergent. In some ways, buying connected appliances makes sense when it comes to future-proofing. Manufacturers can deliver updates that add helpful or fun new features. Just keep in mind that your Samsung oven isn’t going to make small talk with your Whirlpool dishwasher. That might not be a big deal right now, but imagine how cool it would be if your oven knew it had a heavily soiled lasagna pan after tonight’s dinner, and the dishwasher could adjust its settings accordingly.

9
Apr

The 8 best Android VPN apps for privacy and security


Maybe you want to hide your location to get U.S. Netflix from another country, maybe you’re connecting to a public Wi-Fi network and you don’t want to expose any sensitive data, or perhaps you’re just concerned about being snooped on in general. The online world is rife with threats to your security and privacy, especially since Congress voted to quash regulations that would prevent broadband internet providers from selling your browsing history without your consent.

By using a VPN service — aka a virtual private network — you can ensure that all of your internet communication is encrypted and potentially protected from prying eyes. You can also use it to connect to servers in different countries and fool websites such as Netflix. However, not all Android VPN apps are created equal. There are countless services on offer, so it can be tough to choose the right one.

More: How dangerous is public Wi-Fi? We ask an expert

You should also consider what you’re signing up for. You’re placing a lot of trust in the VPN service you choose, and some of them have questionable policies when it comes to privacy. If the service is being offered for free, it’s important to stop and think about the business model. Are they selling your data, or exposing you to other threats? To give just a couple of examples, Hola was found to be selling users’ bandwidth, and VPN Defender is owned by analytics company App Annie.

It’s important to do a little homework on the service you choose, read up on the privacy policy, and decide what you’re comfortable with. Everything here supports OpenVPN protocol, which is the most secure option on Android.

VyprVPN

Vypr

Possibly the fastest and most reliable service on the market, VyprVPN is provided by Golden Frog, a company that has a solid track record when it comes to online privacy and security. It owns and runs its own networks without third-parties, doesn’t share your data with anyone, and only keeps logs of IP addresses, connection times, and bytes used for 30 days. It offers 50 server locations spread across the globe, support for 256-bit encryption, and a proprietary technology called Chameleon, which masks the fact you are using a VPN service. Chameleon is ideal if you’re looking to stream content from another country.

The Android app is also incredibly easy to use. You can just tap connect to find a local server, choose the fastest server, or browse the list if you want to specify a particular country. You can see basic info on your connection, check a speed graph, and see a connection log. The nice thing about the VyprVPN app is that you can also configure it to automatically connect according to your preferences — such as any time you join an untrusted network — which is perfect for public Wi-Fi protection.

You can try it for free with a 1GB monthly data usage limit. The standard account costs $10 per month or $60 for a year, and allows three simultaneous connections. We recommend going for the Premium account, which is $13 per month or $80 annually. Doing so will grant you a few extra features and support for five simultaneous connections. You can test the service for yourself with the free 3-day trial.

Download now from:

Google play

ExpressVPN

Active

With ExpressVPN, you have a choice of nearly 100 different locations around the world. The service is also generally reliable and touts excellent 24/7 customer support, along with support for 256-bit encryption and the ability to have two simultaneous connections.

The company doesn’t log traffic data or browsing activity, either, and the app is straightforward to use. It provides a list of viable locations to connect with, and it usually works pretty well — allowing you to connect within seconds. There’s also a home screen widget for quick connections. You can try ExpressVPN free for 24 hours. After that, you’re looking at spending $13 per month, $60 for six months, or $100 for a year. The feature set is the same across the board, though, and each comes with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

Download now from:

Google play iOS

PureVPN

VPN 9

This service has more than 500 servers spread across 101 countries, and it has a self-managed network, so there are no third-parties involved. It supports 256-bit encryption, offers round-the-clock support, and boasts a zero logging policy for your online activities. You can also have five simultaneous connections on different devices.

The Android app is easy to use. You can browse based on your country of choice, simply tap to join a server, or just pick the fastest server available. You can also set a purpose for your online activity, whether you intend to stream movies, share files, or look for higher security and anonymity. PureVPN also says it has dedicated servers for these specific purposes, though it’s unclear what this impacts.

You initially get 2GB of free data when you sign up, allowing you to briefly try the service before you have to pay the necessary fee. Subscriptions are currently priced at $11 per month, $54 for six months, and $72 for two years, but those prices are a special promotion at the time of writing.

Download now from:

Google play

TunnelBear VPN

Tunnel 1

If you want something cute and stylish, then TunnelBear is for you. The USP here is simplicity in a friendly, bear-themed package. There is minimal logging, and TunnelBear promises to never track what you do online, to not log your IP, and to not share your data with any third-party. It also supports 256-bit encryption, has servers in 15 major countries, and offers fairly quick speeds.

The Android app is even cute and easy to use, if a little light on data. You can see server locations on a map and tap to have your bear tunnel to them. There’s also a handy widget for the home screen. You can get 500MB of free data every month. The normal subscription costs $10 per month or $50 for the year, which gets you unlimited use on up to five devices simultaneously.

Download now from:

Google play

9
Apr

Ben Heck’s mini pinball game


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As the team works on bringing their projects into production, it’s time to turn our attention to the Super Space Shuttle mini pinball game. This was definitely an element14 community favorite, and the first thing the team needs is some critical analysis on how well the original hardware was put together. Changing up the design is the first order of the day — ultimately, the team needs to nail the layout and use the right materials. Karen and Ben use Autodesk’s Fusion 360 to design new flippers, while Felix assembles a new set of solenoids and mosfets with a powerful spring kit. Meanwhile, the main consideration is what size bearing to use. How do you think the design should be laid out? Perhaps a different theme of pinball? Let us know over on the element14 Community.

9
Apr

Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Custom 3D-printed sandals and desktop foam cutters


awesome-tech-you-cant-buy-yet-280x75.png

At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion crowdfunding campaigns on the web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there — alongside some real gems. In this column, we cut through all the worthless wearables and Oculus Rift ripoffs to round up the week’s most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects. But don’t grab your wallet just yet. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project can fail — even the most well-intentioned. Do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Cora Ball — anti-pollution laundry ball

Laundry machines, like most of the convenient things we take for granted in this modern world, aren’t all that great for the environment. As it turns out, when you wash your clothes, tiny little fibers (known as micro fibers) are shed from your garments and mix in with the wash water.

After this water is pumped out of your washing machine and funneled away from your house, it eventually makes its way out to the open ocean. These microscopic fibers are then ingested by marine animals like fish and crustaceans. Because we eat these animals, we ultimately end up eating the microfibers that we unknowingly flushed out to sea.

Scientists have only recently begun to see the effects of this problem. Microfibers, and the chemicals they’re made of, are now so prevalent in our oceans and marine life that they’re beginning to have a noticeable effect on human health.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t anything we can do about it. This new gizmo, called the Cora Ball, is designed specifically to capture microfibers in your washing machine and prevent them from making their way into our waterways. All you need to do is toss it in with your next load and hit start — the ball takes over from there.

Read more here

9
Apr

Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Custom 3D-printed sandals and desktop foam cutters


awesome-tech-you-cant-buy-yet-280x75.png

At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion crowdfunding campaigns on the web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there — alongside some real gems. In this column, we cut through all the worthless wearables and Oculus Rift ripoffs to round up the week’s most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects. But don’t grab your wallet just yet. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project can fail — even the most well-intentioned. Do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Cora Ball — anti-pollution laundry ball

Laundry machines, like most of the convenient things we take for granted in this modern world, aren’t all that great for the environment. As it turns out, when you wash your clothes, tiny little fibers (known as micro fibers) are shed from your garments and mix in with the wash water.

After this water is pumped out of your washing machine and funneled away from your house, it eventually makes its way out to the open ocean. These microscopic fibers are then ingested by marine animals like fish and crustaceans. Because we eat these animals, we ultimately end up eating the microfibers that we unknowingly flushed out to sea.

Scientists have only recently begun to see the effects of this problem. Microfibers, and the chemicals they’re made of, are now so prevalent in our oceans and marine life that they’re beginning to have a noticeable effect on human health.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t anything we can do about it. This new gizmo, called the Cora Ball, is designed specifically to capture microfibers in your washing machine and prevent them from making their way into our waterways. All you need to do is toss it in with your next load and hit start — the ball takes over from there.

Read more here

9
Apr

Man-made global warming makes droughts and floods more likely


We already know that man-made global warming is bound to affect our planet, but it’s hard to connect human activities to specific events. Now a team of Penn State scientists have published a study that says human-caused climate change makes extreme weather conditions such as droughts, heat waves and floods more likely. With the help of actual observation data and climate models, the researchers studied weather events caused by narrow bands of strong winds called jet streams in the northern hemisphere. While these winds flow eastward, they sometimes get stuck due to certain temperature conditions. When they do, whole regions in Europe, North America and Asia have to endure whatever weather event they bring for extended periods.

As The Guardian explains, jet streams undulate, and you can be located north or south of it at different times even if you stay in one place. Since it’s typically hotter when you’re somewhere south of a jet stream, study co-author Stefan Rahmstorf says “sunny days can turn into a serious heat wave and drought” if it gets stuck in that position. On the other hand, wet weather could lead to extended periods of heavy downpour and floods.

So, how exactly does man-made climate change fit into all these? Well, jet stream patterns are maintained by the temperature difference between the polar region and the rest of the world. Problem is, the Arctic is heating up faster than the rest of the planet due to greenhouse gas emissions. As the temperature difference gets smaller, the more likely it is for streams to get stuck and to cause extreme weather events.

Penn State professor and team leader Michael Mann said in a statement:

“Using the simulations, we demonstrate that rising greenhouse gases are responsible for the increase… We are now able to connect the dots when it comes to human-caused global warming and an array of extreme recent weather events.

We came as close as one can to demonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather events.”

Via: The Guardian (1), (2)

Source: Scientific Reports, Penn State

9
Apr

Bernie Sanders quietly launched his own podcast


Just because Bernie Sanders is no longer a presidential candidate doesn’t mean that he’s out of the internet’s spotlight. In fact, it might be easier than ever to listen to his ideas: the Vermont Senator has released a podcast version of his Facebook Live stream, The Bernie Sanders Show. The podcast has actually been available since late March (there are three episodes as of this writing), but Sanders is just now advertising its existence.

It won’t surprise you at all as to what he’s talking about: surprise, it’s left-wing issues. To date, he has had guests like Bill Nye discuss climate change, civil rights and other common issues on his side of the political fence. He probably won’t sway you if you weren’t already inclined. Still, the combination of the livestream and the podcast may be important simply because they keep his message alive at a time when it could easily be overshadowed by the news of the day.

Source: Bernie Sanders (Twitter), iTunes

9
Apr

Kobo will sell discounted digital copies of your paper books


Kobo, the Canadian e-reader titan, has snapped up a little-known e-book platform called Shelfie and will incorporate its features into its apps. Shelfie was a service that sold digital copies of print books you already own at a discount before it shuttered in January. You had to take photos of your book shelves (hence, its name) to prove you own the titles you want to buy. The service’s technology would then identify your books and make an inventory of everything you own by scanning their spines.

Unfortunately, the process might have been a bit too much for casual users, because Shelfie never really took off. When it shut down in January, Kobo stepped up and gave the smaller company’s users the chance to transfer their libraries. Now that Kobo has completely taken over, it’ll add Shelfie’s capabilities to its Android and iOS apps.

It’s still unclear if you’d have to go through the same process to score discounts. As The Digital Reader notes, though, Kobo’s partnerships with brick-and-mortar bookstores could play a role in how the incorporated feature works. Kobo’s apps might simply access your purchase data from its partners to conjure up the right recommendations. We’ll know for sure once Shelfie’s integration is done sometime in the next few months.

Via: The Digital Reader, Liliputing

Source: Shelfie

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