Archive | Technology

Alexa-powered microwave brings us one step closer to having a personal chef

Amazon

Ok, maybe it’s not the same as a personal chef, but let’s face it, an item that can heat up food while we sit on the couch is a win.

Amazon has just introduced its AmazonBasics Alexa-powered microwave, letting you tell Alexa to start heating things up. Even the installation (if you can call it that) is easy, provided you have the Amazon Echo already set up (it is required for the microwave to respond to voice commands). Just plug in, connect to the app, and away you go!

You’ll have the option to activate the microwave the same way you do with Echo, by saying “Alexa”, or you can hit the “Ask Alexa” button on your microwave and proceed with your instructions. Voice presets will help eliminate the need for you to know how much cooking time is required. For example, you can tell Alexa to cook a potato, defrost peas, or reheat a cup of coffee. It’s practically magic.

Can’t get enough of stay-in movie nights? If you so choose, you can sign up to automatically reorder popcorn. Alexa will keep track of how many times you use the Popcorn button or voice command, and reorder popcorn for you when it knows you’re running low.

For those of us that aren’t quite ready to embrace voice technology, the microwave still has the “old-fashioned” keypad.

For the affordable price, the compact size, and the ease of use, this microwave is perfect for your dorm room!

Size: 17.3″ x 14.1″ x 10.1″
Cavity Size: 0.7 cu.ft.
Power levels: 10
System requirements: Alexa app, Echo device
Price: $59.99 USD
Buy: Amazon.com

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DOSS SoundBox Touch: A bluetooth speaker for when you need music, but also need to save

Amazon

When you’re grinding through those hefty assignments, having a pump-up playlist in the background can make all the difference in keeping you going. With hundreds of bluetooth speakers to choose from, a student-sized budget can really narrow down the options. However, not all inexpensive speakers are poor in quality!

The best, most affordable bluetooth speaker we’ve come across is the DOSS SoundBox Touch, which comes in at a delightful $28.99 and comes in four colours – blue, red, white, and black. It boasts a high-def, 360 degree stereo sound and fingertip controls and up to 12 hours playtime for your all-nighters (though you should expect 9 to 10 hours). It’s sleek and attractive, and both looks and sounds more expensive than it is – which is always a plus!

You’ll only need to connect your phone to the speaker once; from then on, the speaker will automatically connect to the last used device.

Keep in mind this speaker isn’t water-resistant, so you may want to refrain from using it for pool parties, but the sound is loud enough that you’ll be able to add a soundtrack to your sunny days in the park.

Overall, it’s hard to find cons for this device – for the price, the quality is superb!

Sound: 12W high-performance drives; <1% harmonic distortion; 360-degree stereo sound Battery Life: Up to 12 hours at 75% volume; recharge in 3-4 hours
Compatibility: Connect to bluetooth-enabled devices up to 33ft; aux-in; micro SD card
Colors: Black, white, blue, red
Size: 6.6 x 2.9 x 2.7 in
Accessories Storage bag, aux cable, USB charging cable, audio adapter
Price: $28.99 USD
Buy: Amazon

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5 Reasons Employees Love ‘BYOD’

Bring your own device

Photo by EigenmannZaak on pixabay.com

Most employers can’t keep up with changing technology as easily as their workforce can, so adopting a “bring your own device” policy is common for businesses these days. It allows employees to do work on their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones instead of company-issued equipment.

The widespread adoption of BYOD (bring your own device) to work has changed the nature of how connected we are — or are expected to be — in an office setting.

As our availability shifts, so do expectations that we should be more connected to work 24-7. Employees don’t even seem to mind this as they’d rather use their own devices for business purposes than unfamiliar work-issued equipment. Why? Here are five reasons.

Work & Play

The line between work life and personal life can be pretty blurry sometimes. Whether we like it or not, our smartphones connect us to both personal and professional endeavors. Many of us embrace the blurriness because it’s all part of “life,” and we tend to spend most of our waking hours on work related stuff anyway, whether at home or in an office. But it can be intrusive if you let it, which is why striking a balance may be necessary. Versatile business devices, for example, separate business apps from personal apps so you can use your device for both work and play. It beats having two separate phones.

“Considering 20 percent of the 1,500 job seekers surveyed by FlexJobs last year would take a cut in pay for more flexible work options, the BYOD trend is necessary to creating more work-life balance,” states an article on Entrepreneur’s site. “Not to mention, working from devices that employees are already familiar and comfortable with can help them complete tasks quickly and efficiently.”

Efficiency Queens & Kings

Instead of learning how to use computers or technology you’re not familiar with, it’s easier to stick with what you know as it saves time. When companies allow you to use your own mobile device, they are basically letting you choose the tool you see most useful to get the job done. Just imagine if a painter couldn’t pick his own brushes or if a mechanic couldn’t use her own tools. Similar philosophy, right?

Keep the Talent

Millennials and creative types especially like flexibility in the workplace because they often work outside of the 9-to-5 office paradigm. BYOD is a good recruitment and retention tool as many tech-savvy workers see their personal devices as an employee benefit. They can work either in the office or at home on the weekends and evenings with more fluidity than switching between devices. BYOD is particularly important for tech-heavy jobs like graphic design, UX design and programming because different operating systems support different products.

Expanded job titles

Speaking of creative types, our super mobile society has widened the job possibilities endlessly. In the marketing field in particular, technology is transforming the old marketing landscape with new career opportunities in a huge range of content channels. If you’re in marketing, you could actually help companies look at gaps in the their marketing plans and offer skills that will help a potential new employer step up their game and separate themselves from the competition.

Morale Booster

Even though the employee is usually the one who ends up paying to use their own equipment, which doesn’t seem that enticing on the surface, there’s still a sense of freedom or independence associated with being able to use your own device. Sometimes it’s the simple things that encourage employees to stay with a company, especially if the employer actually pays for the device of your choice.

This article was contributed by guest author Devin Morrissey.

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Wireless Charging: Should You Get on Board?

phone cable

Image by stockunlimited.com

Is your phone cable holding you hostage? Feel like you can’t go anywhere without towing three chargers in your bag?

Wireless charging is the latest advancement in technology (even though it’s been around for decades). Now that companies have figured out how to use it for our many devices (even for our cars), we can expect to see a lot more of it. The iPhone 8 and iPhone X both have wireless charging capabilities – but what does that mean? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:

PROS

Less wear on your cables – and your devices

Using a wireless charging pad means you don’t actually need to plug your devices in anymore. No more dragging around cables or risking electrical shorts on your devices from constant plugging and unplugging. Your cables – and your devices – shouldn’t wear out as quickly.

Multiple device charging and integration

Now you can throw all your devices on one charging pad! No need to find multiple outlets, or carry around different cables and charging devices for your smartphone, smartwatch, and rechargeable batteries. Provided your device has wireless charging capabilities, it should work with any charging pad.

Security

It’s always risky to plug into unknown cables. Dropping your phone on a wireless charging pad should remove this security risk.

CONS

Inefficiency means energy is wasted and it takes longer to charge

Wireless charging isn’t the most energy efficient technology. Up to 20% of the power needed to charge your phone is wasted. It seems that this issue goes away with the wireless charging of larger devices like cars. Many people use a charging pad if they want to charge their device overnight, and use a wall charger if they need a quick boost.

Price

Wireless charging pads aren’t yet mainstream, which means they’ll cost you more than regular cables. Depending on the brand and features, pads could cost anywhere from $20 to $120 CAD.

Can’t move your phone

Probably the biggest con is the inability to move your phone while it charges. With cables, you could pick up your phone and move it as far as the cord would allow, and it would barely impede your ability to scroll and text. However, with a charging pad, your phone needs to stay flat, making it harder to type.

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The latest news from the iPhone world

Image from apple.com

Wait, what? Two new iPhones launch at the same time? Why? What’s the difference?

Let’s talk about it.

Design

  • The screen: The iPhone X (pronounced “ten”) has a screen that goes right to the edges, with a small portion that dips down a bit at the top – this houses the front-facing camera and sensors.
  • The back: Both new iPhones have glass backs. Are they durable? We’ll have to see.
  • The home button: Now here’s a point of contention. The home button remains the same on the iPhone 8, however, when it comes to the iPhone X – say goodbye to the home button and hello to Face ID. That’s right, there’s no more physical home button, but there will be a virtual one (tap to turn the phone on, swipe up for the home screen and down for the control centre), so don’t panic just yet. This will be an interesting adjustment, as gone are the fingerprint sensors – so now you can pay with your face.
  • Speaking of Face ID – we’re still undecided on our feelings for this feature. Is it cool? Absolutely. Will it get annoying to hold your phone up to your face to unlock it? Maybe.
  • Headphone jack: Still not on either phone – sorry!
  • Colour: The iPhone X will only come in black and silver, where the iPhone 8 still comes in gold.

Specs

  • A11 bionic processor should lead to longer battery life on both phones
  • Screens: iPhone 8 has the same LCD screen as the 7, while the iPhone X has an OLED screen (what Samsung and LG are using). This allows for more vibrant colours and higher resolution (2,436 x 1,135 pixels).
  • Back cameras: The iPhone X is similar to the iPhone 8 Plus (dual 12MP cameras with an extra sensor as telephoto zoom lens)
  • Front cameras: The iPhone X has a new front-facing camera with Portrait Mode effect (hello, selfies!)
  • Size: physically, the iPhone X is the same size as the iPhone 8 (5.8 inches), but due to the maxed-out screen size, it looks bigger
  • Features: Both new iPhones are water resistant, and can be wirelessly charged (though Apple’s AirPower mat for wireless charging won’t come out until 2018)
  • iOS: Both phones come with iOS 11, which features a new control centre layout that you can customize and updated Siri, along with typical tweaks like more vibrant colours and transitions

Availability

  • The iPhone X starts shipping November 3, and the iPhone 8 starts shipping September 22.

Price

  • iPhone X – starts at $999 US (for 64GB)
  • iPhone 8 – $699 US (for 64GB)

One thing many people have noticed is that Apple has gone from the iPhone 8 to the iPhone X. No iPhone 9. Curious…

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The Return of the Intercom

Image from amazon.com

Have you been to a house built in the 1970’s and noticed that weird speaker system in various rooms? Intercoms were very popular in this era, allowing parents to tell their kids when dinner was ready without yelling across the house.

It seems that now, texting and instant messaging have taken over that role, but it’s possible that intercoms are coming back in a new, modern form.

Amazon just introduced an intercom feature on their Echo devices, allowing you to converse across rooms. It uses a teleconferencing software called Drop-In, and will work with your connected devices once set up on the Alexa app.

All you need to do is name the devices (ie. “Kitchen,” “Bedroom,” “Den”). Then you can activate the intercom simply by instructing Alexa to call that room. The intercom also works from the Alexa tablet and smartphone apps – so you can place calls to the Kitchen straight from your phone.

We can see it now – you’re on your way home from school and starving. You open the app and say, “Hey Alexa, call the Kitchen,” and it would probably immediately be followed by, “Hey mom, what’s for dinner?” Whether your mom will like this feature or not is to be determined.

An interesting feature with the intercom is that it doesn’t work on Wi-Fi – meaning you can connect devices that are in different locations. Now, this is something your mom probably would like – especially if you’re away at school and you bring an Echo device to your dorm.

If you’ve already got Echo devices, the intercom feature is available with the latest app update. If you don’t have Echo devices, here’s where to start for more information.

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3 Ways Tech is Changing Lives

Image by paulbr75, pixabay.com

We know technology has grown exponentially over the past 20 years in ways that make our lives fun and efficient, but it has also made life easier and safer for some. Here are three tech advances in 2017 that are really changing lives:

1. Smart watches for blind people
Think about the last time you had trouble finding where you were going. Now imagine being disoriented again, only this time you’re blind. Sometimes we take things like vision for granted, and Sunu is changing things. Fernando Albertorio is co-founder of this company, and legally blind. He recognized a need for a product that could help him navigate without bumping into objects, and created a wristband that emits ultrasound waves and uses varying levels of vibrations to let him know how close objects are. Not only is this product practical for the blind or visually impaired, but it increases their confidence and way of living. Albertorio even ran a 5K race wearing it.
Price: $299
Availability: Starting August 2017

2. Self-driving wheelchairs
You’ve heard of self-driving cars – so it’s only logical that self-driving wheelchairs would be just as possible. A Canadian research team has claimed to develop technology that would allow wheelchairs to drive themselves. The idea has presented itself before, however, the price for one of these was in the range of $30,000 – not exactly affordable. Toronto’s Cyberworks Robotics and the University of Toronto say they can create one for a cost of $300-$700. Self-driving wheelchairs would assist those who have low mobility in their upper body and may not be able – or find it difficult – to use joysticks and similar features on current motorized vehicles. While still a work in progress, it’s a good move towards improving the quality of life for those confined to wheelchairs.
Price: TBD
Availability: In development

3. A device to prevent sexual assault
Sexual assault cases are constantly in the news, and MIT researchers wanted to develop a way to help detect it and prevent it. Too many times on campus, students are intoxicated and end up in situations where their judgment isn’t clear. The Intrepid Smart Sticker was created with the idea that it can be fastened to the inside of your clothing and sync to your phone. The sticker recognizes when clothes are being removed, and sends a notification to the wearer’s phone asking for consent. If a response isn’t received, the phone will start buzzing loudly, and if a response is still not received, the identified contacts in the user’s “safety circle” will be notified and receive their location and a phone call. The app will also start recording the phone call and any other noises. Based on input from assault survivors, volunteers, and users, the Intrepid team believes this device could really help cut down the number of assault cases.
Price: TBD
Availability: In development

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Why you should start blogging in college and how to make it successful

Years ago, when blogging first started, blogs were just glorified journals, and the main goal wasn’t to make it a profession or make money. However, blogging has evolved to a completely new level over the years. Whether you chronicle your travels, report on the issues in your industry or share your latest fashion finds with the world, blogging can be a nice way to build your brand, or even just a line to add on your resume that can help you land a job.

But, when is the right time to start? Especially when starting university, it can be an amazing way to earn some extra cash, as well as improve your written communication, analysis and interpretation skills.

What can I do with blogging?
Running a blog gives you an amazing opportunity to help others by teaching them what you know or sharing your thoughts with the world. By helping others with your advice, you will gain a confidence boost, especially if you’ve just started college. You can pick a topic you want to be recognized as an expert in, and start doing your research! With consistency and effort, your knowledge will expand and it becomes an incredibly effective way for you to become credible and establish yourself as an expert. You can also learn a few more valuable things – blogging isn’t just about writing, it also includes content, layout, design, etc. Starting a blog is easy and doesn’t take much technical skill at all. However, if you’re dedicated, there is always room for improvement.

How do I start a blog?
While studying and working may be difficult and time-consuming, a great way to earn some money is with blogging. If you’re studying, that means there must be something you know a lot about. The best kind of blogs are the ones that reach out to people and teach them to explore new ideas. Here is a list of things you need to do if you want to start a blog:

  • Pick a topic
    Whether it be healthcare, travelling, food, or reviews – whatever topic that comes to mind that you can talk about day and night, that’s the subject for your blog. Be careful not to start a blog without a clear idea of what to write about, because you’ll bore yourself to death or run out of ideas quickly.
  • It’s not all about writing
    There’s some designing, too. You can add visual and artistic elements to your blog that will make it look more appealing and interesting to your readers. Photography, photocopied notes, artwork, sketches and mind maps are all good ways of presenting your thoughts without having to write long paragraphs of text.
  • Consistency
    If you want your blog to become successful, you have to be consistent. That means your content and style of writing should remain the same, as well as your publishing time. You can’t just write one post a month and expect people to read it over and over again. The more familiar and consistent your content is, the more likely will people return to your blog.

How do I make my blog popular?
Although there are many ways in which you can invest your time and effort into creating a good blog on a budget, you’ll have to consider investing in it as well, if you take blogging seriously. If this is something you really want to do, you should be prepared to treat it like your business and make financial investments in it.

The key to the success of your blog may also be search engine optimization – get to know this marketing strategy and try to understand how to be closer to your readers. Writing a blog also requires you to keep up with the trends: you can follow and read what SEO experts have to say on the matter, learn how to optimize your blog, how to use social networks in order to promote your content, and even cooperate with other more influential writers.

Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun while doing it. Blogging will never be honest if you’re doing it just because you want to make more money. After all, if you make it look like a “job” or a “chore”, you won’t enjoy it, and neither will your readers. Blogging can be great way to turn your hobby into an extra income to help you finance your degree!

This article was contributed by guest author Cate Palmer.

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How Can Students Protect Themselves Against Online Fraud?

Image by unsplash.com

Cybercrime is on the increase, and we are all at risk. It is easy to assume that cyber criminals target the wealthy or the elderly, but statistics show that the most common targets are those on lower incomes and individuals who spend more time online. In other words, today’s American students are right at the top of the risk profile.

The effects of cybercrime are not restricted to financial loss, as serious as it is. Even if the fraudulent transactions are relatively minor, the consequences can have repercussions that run on for years, with an impact on your credit score that can affect your ability to get a loan or mortgage when you have completed your studies. Here are five tips relating to cybercrime that every student needs to know:

1) Heed the warnings

If you get a warning that your information has been breached, take it seriously. Research shows that one in five people who receive such warnings become fraud victims, compared to one in 20 of those who do not. This doesn’t mean clicking on links in emails; if you receive something suspicious, call your bank and ask if it’s a real threat.

2) Watch your accounts

The most popular way for fraudsters to get your details is by changing your address or adding another registered user to your account. Keep an eye on your account settings and look out for anything unusual.

3) Lack of money doesn’t mean you’re safe

Lower-income victims are actually hit harder than the wealthy. The average fraud victim is hit for $345. Among those on lower incomes, the average amount is $895. This actually means that students face a higher risk factor than wealthy workers.

4) Fraudsters love Facebook

With more than three quarters of Americans on social media, it should come as no surprise that these platforms provide rich pickings for criminals, too. Think about what information you share on your social media account. Where you grew up? The name of your pet? Your favorite high school teacher? Great, now anyone can answer your security questions for online banking.

5) Guard your bank account

Speaking of online banking, this is the most common type of non-card fraud. Watch your account closely and check the individual transactions. Fraudsters commonly go for multiple small amounts rather than one big hit, gradually bleeding their victims over time.

Vigilance is key

Online fraud is big business, but it is relatively easy to protect yourself by using common sense and vigilance. The greatest mistake is to think it won’t happen to you – it is exactly that attitude that the fraudsters depend on to make you a victim.

This article was contributed by Sally Writes.

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How to Keep Your Identity Safe When Using Campus WiFi

Image by Omar Prestwich, unsplash.com

You’re going to need to use the internet a lot when you’re on campus. Your campus probably provides WiFi for everyone, and while that seems generous, the problem with that public WiFi is that everyone has to share it. It’s a lot like a public swimming pool that isn’t actively being maintained. Before you dive into that campus WiFi, make sure you’re doing it safely. Your personal information could be at stake, and all it takes is a single computer sciences student with dubious intentions to mess things up for everyone.

Don’t Postpone Updates

When you’re finished with your school work, you probably want to run straight to your Netflix Queue or check your YouTube subscriptions. This may lead to you clicking the “Remind me later” button on those important antivirus software updates. Don’t do it. Vulnerabilities change every day, and hackers are only getting smarter. If an update has been released, it’s because the added protection is necessary. Let your updates run while you’re taking a shower or eating lunch if you need to – just don’t skip them.

Be Smart With Your Passwords

Having a million different passwords can get confusing, but using the same password for everything is foolish. No matter what you do, it’s even worse when you keep the same password for a really long time. Make sure you’re changing up your passwords every few weeks, and don’t use passwords that are easy to guess. It’s okay to use something easy to remember, such as the name of your favorite movie, but make sure you’re making it difficult for others to figure out. Incorporate uppercase characters, numbers, and symbols.

Use a VPN if You Can

VPNs are the most secure way to browse the internet. You may be connected to campus WiFi, but you’re in your own private tunnel. VPNs encrypt all of your activity, so lurking cyber predators won’t know what you’re doing. This is especially important if you store your bank information in your Amazon account, or if you’re a frequent online shopper. Every VPN is different, so do your research. You might want to find the best VPN for Windows 10, or the best VPN for your phone. They may be completely different.

Check Your Automatic Connection Settings

Both phones and computers come equipped with the option to automatically connect to any available network. You might assume you’re using your campus WiFi when you’re actually connected to something that belongs to a total stranger. Make sure you know which networks you’re connecting to from any internet enabled devices you use. Set all connection settings to manual, because your device may not always choose what’s best for you.

Make Sure You Know What You’re Sharing

Almost anything on your computer can be shared with other people on the same network. This is more than just Bluetooth devices or printers. All of your photos and documents could be accessible to anyone else using the same connection that you’re using. Make sure all sharing options are turned off to keep your information private. You don’t want to work hard on a paper only to find out that your roommate turned in something almost exactly the same. You also don’t want your educators to see photos of you on Spring Break.

 

You might be used to the way your internet connection worked at home, but on campus, everything is different. Make sure you’re protecting yourself from vulnerabilities at school, as well as at the coffee shops or popular study spots you frequent with your peers.

This article was contributed by guest author Amelia Dermott.

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