Tech News This Week: March 5 – 10th

This week included a lot of news in the Tech Industry including the new WikiLeaks! Here the run-down on the tech headlines for this past week.

Wendy’s Kiosks

This week, food chain Wendy’s announced it will be installing self ordering kiosks in over 1,000 of their stores! This isn’t surprising with McDonald’s doing the same. These kiosks will appeal to younger customers who are tech-savy and prefer using tech to order food. The kiosks will also help shorten lines during peak times. However, a con of this new tech is that it could put Wendy’s workers out of work.

This is a popular topic in any industry. Will machines eventually do our jobs for us and put workers out of a job? In society, we are already seeing this happen. For example, with all the fitness technology like fitness bands, and food tracking & fitness apps, who needs to have a trainer in person? This is a topic that will continue to pop-up over the years to come.

Facebook Dislike Button?

Facebook has finally come out with a dislike button, sort of. In the messenger, you can now add emojis to express your mood/feeling. Included is a thumbs down hand/dislike emoji. The reason Facebook hasn’t added a dislike button for posts is because it doesn’t want to get negative reactions. Honesty, having a dislike button won’t make a difference. If a person really dislikes something, they comment and express their opinion. So whether Facebook has the dislike button or not, there will negative reactions to posts no matter what. I mean, look at Twitter! No matter the positive users, posts, and hashtags, there are always those who are negative.

WikiLeaks

On Tuesday, March 7th, WikiLeaks released thousands of CIA documents. This was the largest CIA leak in history. The documents released pertained to CIA software tools used to break into cell phones, internet connected devices (TV), and computers. Described in these documents was how they could target and crash specific computers. The source of these documents was never released nor if the CIA has used these tools against Americans. This brings up the question on many Americans minds: What’s preventing the CIA from spying on anyone’s devices? We have seen bugged phones and computer software for tracking in Movies, which is supposed to be make believe. But now, it is becoming a reality. Are we safe from CIA spying? Who knows!

The topic of spying and recording without one’s permission is a hot topic right now. This past week, President Trump made accusations, without evidence, that former President Obama and his team, bugged the Trump Tower phones during the election. Officials, including Obama, have denied these claims. In my opinion, Trump made these claims to create buzz about a hot topic without cause. If you are going to make an accusation like this about a former President, you better have evidence to make your claim!

Google Play Music Original Podcast

Google Play Music created its first Original Podcast. The name of the podcast is, City Soundtracks, which is available on both Google Play Music and iTunes. With each episode, you are guided through a major city with the music it is known for. The first three episode feature Austin, TX, Los Angeles, and Oakland, CA. The podcast section of Google Play Music is fairly new, only launched last April.

These are some of the tech headlines this week you should be aware of. So, next time you go to Wendy’s, keep a look out for those kiosks! Always stay up-to-date with tech news!

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Why Parks & Rec Was The Best Political TV Show

From the West Wing to Scandal to House of Cards, there are plenty of politics-based V shows over the years. The ins and outs of politics provide plenty of dramatic fodder for writers to use when creating storylines and characters. It is such a rich field to draw from that there have been a number of award winning political TV shows, but most of those have been dramas, and they tend to focus on national and global politics. Although the characters can be compelling and the plots intriguing, no political show has grabbed my attention like Parks & Rec.

Starring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, the deputy director of her small town’s parks and recreation department, the show has plenty of funny moments and lots of heart. It’s because of this comedic lens that Parks & Rec captures local politics better than any other show. As Leslie Knope navigates the waters of local politics she attempts to fund the building of a new park. The show does a good job of illustrating how one small municipal improvement can become a political miasma. Finding money in the city’s budget for things like environmental impact studies and community focus groups can become a huge obstacle for a small parks department.

It is this kind of honest portrayal of local governance that makes this show so much fun for fans of political stories. When Leslie runs for a seat on her local city council the show begins to dive into the insane world of political campaigns. Even for a small campaign there are lots of issues to overcome. Leslie finds herself battling against opponents with more campaign funding and reporters that start crazy rumors. The way that characters help her overcome these roadblocks with innovative ideas and legal loopholes is a much more honest look at what goes on in the hallowed halls of government.

Once Leslie (five year old spoiler alert!) wins the council seat she faces even more pushback than when she was a simple bureaucrat. Because her political initiatives need the full backing of the city council she finds herself fighting and compromising in entirely new ways. There are several plots that involve her going head-to-head with other council members that block her plans for their own political and financial gain. Although the stakes are much smaller at the local government level, it is a good representation of how a good idea can get bogged down among bad actors.

The show also includes a great extended cast of characters that showcase all the crazy personalities in local government. The administrators and employees of the city government have their own lives that often get in the way of government and politics. Leslie Knope’s love interest is a failed former mayor, and his political past causes him to second guess decisions and take flak from journalists. Because of his struggles overcoming his past he brings a different attitude to governing than Leslie Knope – another good illustration of how people and politics intersect.

The stories do come with a lot of love and heartwarming details that makes the politics easier to handle. The love story arc of Leslie and Ben take a couple of seasons to blossom, but it’s because of their strong partnership that they can overcome the haters in their lives. It goes to show that having strong family and friendships can help people work hard to improve their communities and cities.

Finally, the side characters of Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza) are one of the most adorable TV couples. April learns to climb the ropes of politics from Leslie, but it is her strange relationship with her childlike husband. Andy’s enthusiasm for the simple work of being a parks department admin assistant make local government seem so much more fun that it probably is in real life.

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What You Need to Know about Depression and Social Media

Millions of people experience depression sometime during their life.  It is caused by a variety of things from self-doubt, medical illness, job loss, medication side effects, loss of a loved one, and so on.  Studies have shown more people are using social media to express their depression, but in some cases people may not realize it is a form of depression or understand they are really depressed.  There are different ways people use social media to get help for their depression. Unfortunately, there is a downside of depression with social media being the brunt of something we wish we never saw in the first place.

Suicides on the Rise via Social Media

There have been multiple reports of people using social media to take their life.  When you see such reports people wonder why someone would do such a thing.  You often wonder if the person sought help or what their situation was that drove them to that decision. The act of taking your life or harming yourself on social media is an alarming trend on the rise.  Mental health professionals feel sufferers may feel comfort to share their feelings because they are unseen behind a computer screen when it may not be the best way to cope.

Knowing When Someone is at Risk

People with depression can feel hopeless and lost.  They may use similar words when online sharing their feelings with others.  Adults and people under 18 go online to share their thoughts.  Parents may not realize they have a depressed child, especially if they are not following them on social media or know who they hang out with.  If a person you know is online sharing related feelings and it seems sudden reach out to them.  Offer them support or help them get to someone that can help them.

Can Social Media Help Someone Depressed?

Yes and no.  It really depends on the situation of the person who is depressed. It can help because there are social groups and organizations with pages inviting people to contact them for further support.  Some pages are started by average people sharing personal situations and events in their life. In many cases, it helps to talk about what you are going through with others that can relate.  Some are not comfortable talking to someone in person, but this very action could be more beneficial than exchanging messages online.

On the other hand, social media may not be as helpful for different reasons. If a person is really depressed it can be difficult to make them do something positive.  You don’t know what else they are thinking beyond what they just typed on the page.  They could be at their last straw but what they share on the computer could make it hard to know where they stand mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Here is How You Can Help

If you or someone you know is depressed there are resources available.  You can take advantage of free options that include talking to someone on the phone or discuss options with a medical professional.  If the word suicide is mentioned seek help immediately.  Contact a local crisis center, a church leader, school counselor, or close friend or family relative.  Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.  There are helpful depression and suicide sources available via social media.  Look for organizations with a history of providing emotional and mental support for people with depression. Share your feelings with someone that cares and work on seeing things from a positive view.

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How Netflix Changed The Way We Watch TV Forever

How Netflix Changed The Way We Watch TV Forever.jpg

Netflix, the most popular video streaming service, has introduced many new benefits and is continually changing the way that we watch TV. Netflix has eliminated the need for hardware and wiring, it has introduced us to “binge watching,” it has given us a wider variety of shows to choose from, and it has made entertainment much more accessible.

Streaming – No Hardware Needed

Without the need for a cable box or satellite, Netflix has cut down the cost of providing movies and TV shows. This savings was then passed on to their customers. For an extremely different price, Netflix has turned many people away from cable or satellite.

The only thing needed for Netflix is an Internet connection and a device to play it on. There is no longer a need to wait for the cable guy to show up, drill holes in your wall and install an ugly satellite dish on your roof. You no longer have a need for cable boxes in all rooms that you want to watch TV. With one account, you and your entire family can enjoy hundreds of movies and shows without the limits of cable or satellite.

“Binge Watching”

Most everyone today is familiar with the term “binge watching.” Because Netflix offers full seasons of TV shows without commercials, people rarely stop watching after just one episode.

Before Netflix, people had to wait an entire week to see the next episode of their favorite show. The only option for binge watching was to hope that your favorite show was having a marathon. Except after sitting through that many commercials, nobody wanted to keep going after two episodes.

Wider Variety To Choose From

Based on previous shows that you have watched, Netflix automatically suggests similar shows that you may enjoy. By doing this, they have opened people up to a wider variety of shows and have taken the legwork out of searching through many different channels.

To find a new show, it used to be that you would have to search through hundreds of different channels and just hope that one of them is playing a show that you are interested and haven’t seen before. Now, Netflix does all of this for you while you just sit back and enjoy.

Accessibility

Cable and Dish allow you one cable box, unless you want to pay more to get additional boxes. This is very limiting to people on where they can watch TV and how many different shows can be played at once.

Netflix on the other hand, allows you to have multiple people watching at the same time, in any location. You can watch on your TV, lying in bed, at work, or even on the other side of the world. This accessibility is one of the best features that Netflix offers.

What Others Are Doing To Try To Keep Up

Because of Netflix and its growing popularity, other providers have had to step up their game in order to survive. Cable and satellite companies are attempting to put more of their programs online and accessible to their customers. But they are still requiring commercials. This attempt to keep up with Netflix is a small step in the right direction, but is it enough?

Since Netflix’s arrival, many competitors have tried to break in on the action. Hulu is one of their biggest competitors. But even by offering nearly the same services, Hulu struggles to keep up. Hulu still requires commercials and doesn’t offer nearly as many options as Netflix.

Netflix is still the king of entertainment right now, but none of us know what the future will hold and how much of an impact Netflix has really had.

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How to Decide Between a Tablet and a Laptop

One of the most difficult decisions for people right now when it comes to electronics is deciding between a tablet and a laptop. There have been a lot of advancements made in the tablet industry that has made these products similar to a laptop. Not only in size but also in processing ability. Some even have a foldout keyboard that enables them to literally function just like a laptop without a disc drive.

As the world becomes more and more dependent on cloud technology and less on local storage and disc copies, it’s becoming easier and easier to rely on the cloud for storage and processing. There are a lot of people out there who have no idea whether they should get a laptop or a tablet. Or they go ahead and just get a tablet because they don’t know which one is going to be able to best fit their needs. That’s why there are people like me who write reviews on things so that people like you can make an educated decision on electronics.

Tablet or Laptop?

Tablets are More Mobile

A couple of the great tablets that are out there, like the Microsoft Surface series and the iPad Pro, make a great replacement for someone that’s trying to get away from their laptop. That’s because these devices are much lighter than the majority of laptops out there, especially older models. If weight is a factor in the device you are looking for then it might make more sense to go ahead and go for a tablet. Just make sure that it has a foldable keyboard so that you can still type on it as if it was a laptop.

Laptops Have More Processing Power

Those that are worried about the ability of their device to have a lot of processing power are going to want to go ahead and go for a laptop. Top-of-the-line laptops have much faster CPUs and more RAM than tablets. However, mid-grade laptops are going to be more comparable to a tablet, so depending on how much you are able to spend, it might make more sense to just go ahead and get a laptop.

Tablets are Better for Students

As a student, one of my favorite devices is my Microsoft Surface 4 Pro. It’s lighter compared to the laptops currently available on the market, which makes it much better for transporting and taking from class to class. If someone is worried about getting a heavy laptop that weighs down their backpack, it would be better to go ahead and get a lighter tablet that can be transported without giving them back problems.

Laptops are Better for Entertainment

For playing games and watching movies online, a laptop may be one of the better choices. Whether someone is into PC gaming, watching 4K-quality content online, or using their device as something strictly for entertainment purposes may want to go with a laptop. The exception to this rule is if they are satisfied using apps and games that don’t require a lot of processing power.

There are a lot of people out there who may be trying to decide between a MacBook Air and an iPad Pro. There are a few key points that may help someone decide when it comes to this decision. At the end of the day, there’s no wrong answer.  Microsoft advertised their Surface as the tablet that can replace a laptop, and they weren’t wrong. From a great laptop by ASUS or HP to a new Microsoft Surface 4 Pro or iPad Pro, there are a lot of great choices.

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How to Use Snapchat

Those that aren’t as familiar with social media may have never heard about Snapchat. But it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular social media platforms out there. It’s got an app for smartphones, and users are able to send pictures and short videos for their friends to see, or post them on what’s called their “Story” for all of their friends to be able to watch.

While there are already lots of other social media apps out there for them to compete with, Snapchat has still been able to amass quite a following, and even gain recognition from major television broadcasts and sports programs. Many publications have a feed that can be seen. COMPLEX, Comedy Central, People, and VOGUE all have a feed that Snapchat users can see. Even the NFL and NBA use Snapchat.

But those who are unfamiliar with the app may need to learn a thing or two and practice before they’re fully sufficient with everything it offers.

The How-to of Snapchat

Send Clips to Your Friends

One of the original features of Snapchat was the ability to send photos and videos to your friends. The best part about it is that with Snapchat, the files are stored by Snapchat until the recipient opens them. Then once they are finished viewing them they have the option to replay (just one a day). If they don’t choose to replay the photo or video, it’s deleted forever. Some say this is what makes Snapchat the focus of some risqué messaging, but that depends on the person who is sending.

Post on My Story

Another neat feature of Snapchat is the ability that people have to quickly and easily post content onto what is called “My Story.” Anyone they are friends with can view all of the different stories, and view them one-by-one if they wish. This is one of the best features of the app because it allows people to post something for their friends to see without it having to send the photo or video to everyone they know. The content that gets posted to “My Story” stays visible for 24 hours before it gets deleted. But more on that later.

Watch Others’ Stories

That brings us to one of the other cool things about having a Snapchat. No one sending you Snaps? It could be that your friends are busy posting content on their story for everyone to see. Swipe left and see all the different stories that have been posted by your friends. You can even see how many people have viewed your story.

Memories

A recent addition to the Snapchat platform is the Memories section. This is where users can save their favorite snaps that they don’t want deleted in 24 hours. They’ll be saved in the story section, which can be accessed by pushing the little circle that’s below the record button on the main page where you take photos and videos.

See the Feeds of Publications

This was discussed briefly in the introduction, but one thing that has happened since Snapchat became more popular is that there are now more and more people who use Snapchat as a way to broadcast their brand and get their name out there. There are lots of magazines, shows, and companies that post on Snapchat. Even celebrities post, if you are able to find their username.

Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social media platforms. It’s fun and easy-to-use, so those who are considering getting involved with it would do well to go and download it as soon as possible and start practicing!

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Benefits of the iPhone 7 Plus

The benefits of the latest release from Apple are numerous, but more importantly the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus both spearhead a change to the design of Apple’s smartphone. Some of those who were wondering whether they should upgrade to the 7 have opted to wait for the 10th anniversary iPhone which should be released next, but the iPhone 7, particularly the Plus, still offer some upgrades that make the smartphone worth owning.

From the f/1.8 aperture that makes the new iPhone’s camera much more proficient in lowlight situations, to the complete lack of a headphone jack, the new phone brings some changes that are worth noting. It has a faster processor as well, and there are a variety of benefits of the iPhone, features that those who are wondering if it is a good investment that people want to be aware of.

iPhone 7 Plus Features

Design

The new iPhone 7 Plus has dropped in weight down to 188g. It has a jet-black style that makes it look like the smartphone of Batman. Overall, t’s a great look that has iPhone fans pleased. It’s also waterproof, it not just highly water-resistant, rendering the splashes and spills that took older iPhones out of the game harmless against the new model.

Camera

One of the biggest new features of the new iPhone 7 Plus, even over the standard iPhone 7, are the dual cameras positioned on the back. One has a telephoto lens, and these two cameras enable the iPhone 7 Plus to capture amazing DSLR-quality photos. There is even a 2x zoom magnification that’s an improvement on the digital zoom feature of previous iPhone models.

Video

One of the biggest benefits of the new camera system on the iPhone is that it is able to shoot in lowlight situations. Those that use their iPhone for making videos are enjoying the ability to finally use their smartphone to make great vids in lowlight situations.

Audio

One of the biggest changes in each of the iPhone 7’s is the lack of a headphone jack. It was a controversial move by Apple and not well-received at first, but the lack of a headphone jack made the new phone lighter, and may have been part of what helped them make room for the second camera. The audio is great, it only requires an adapter to plug headphones or a speaker into the USB-port.

Screen

The display of the iPhone 7 Plus has retained the features of the 6s. It still has a 1080p display feature that is LED backlit.

Battery

The iPhone 7 has an improved battery over the 6. The iPhone 7 Plus can do about 13 and a half hours of web browsing on one charge, or even watch 8 hours of video. The downfall in the 7 is that it takes a while to charge. On a standard 5V/1A charger it will take about 4 hours to charge.

iOS

This may go without saying, but the iPhone still runs the same good ol’ iOS system, meaning all of Apple fans’ favorite apps and games will still be available.

There are numerous new features included in the iPhone 7 Plus, including a telephoto lens with 2x magnification giving it the ability to take breathtaking photos. Its lowlight camera lets its video recorder take great videos even in situations with little light. It is lacking in a headphone jack, but as long as the user has the USB-adapter it won’t be a problem. There are many reasons to invest in the newest iPhone from Apple.

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The Best Electronics for Wilderness Activities

Anyone who has ever been hunting, hiking, or fishing knows the incredible benefit that having the right electronics can do for someone out in the woods. Sure, it’s nice to rough-it sometimes and head out there without any help from a satellite phone or a headlamp. But many of the men and women that enjoy being outdoors have no problem taking an extra gadget or two if it means that their time will be more enjoyable.

Whatever particular outdoor activity someone enjoys, there’s bound to be an electronic gadget that na make their time easier, more fun, or safer. That’s why it’s important to be up-to-date on the best electronic equipment out there. These are a few of the top gadgets for wilderness activities.

The Top Wilderness Gadgets

Swarovski ATS HD Observation Compact

This is one of the best spotting scopes available on the market. Swarovski makes the finest optics, from rangefinders to spotting scopes to scopes themselves. Consumer Files has a great article on some of the specs behind this impressive spotting scope from Swarovski. It’s protected against shock by rubber armoring, which makes it durable when one is hiking around out in the woods. It also has fluoride-containing HD lenses, which give it the clearest image possible. It’s not a cheap spotting scope but it’s hard to find a better optics manufacturer than Swarovski.

High Sierra LED Lightweight Headlamp

This headlamp from High Sierra is great for any outdoor activity. It could even be a good idea to store one of these in the glove compartment of a car in case of emergencies. Either way, a headlamp is an essential that belongs in the arsenal of every outdoorsman. It can be used to hike up to a blind in the early morning when one’s hands are carrying a rifle. A headlamp can also be useful in a camping situation when one is trying to gather firewood. It’s definitely one of the most useful electronics in the woods.

Bracketron Reload Power Bank

This power-bank from Cabela’s is affordable at under $15, and allows the owner to charge their phone or electronics from what looks like a shotgun shell. It’s great for outdoorsmen who spend a good bit of time in the woods and need access to their phone or a tablet. One of the best ways to ensure that one’s phone never runs out of power is to bring along an extra charger, and the Bracketron Reload Power-Bank is the best way to go about doing that.

USCAMEL Professional Metal Compass

Though not technically electronic, this compass has all the benefits of something that an outdoorsman needs when camping or hiking through the woods. It’s available for around $50 on Amazon, and is one of the best friends of anyone who knows what they’re doing outdoors. Sure, there are a lot of tricks to finding one’s way around in the wilderness, but the most reliable source is a compass. This one is waterproof and luminous so it’s easy to read. There’s also a reference table for distance and scope.

Zippo Emergency Fire Starter

This Zippo lighter designed for starting fires in an emergency may not be electronic either, but in a life or death situation it’s going to be far more important than most pieces of electronics while out in the bush. The ability to start a fire is what can be the difference between life and death if someone finds themselves in a tough situation. That’s when having a proper fire starter makes all the difference in the world. It’s just $10 from Amazon.

Many people aren’t familiar with the best electronics that can come in handy out in the bush. Sure, a couple of these aren’t technically electronic, but each one can really come in handy out in the wilderness.

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Fire HD vs. iPad Pro Tablets

These are two of the best tablets on the planet. The Fire HD From Amazon and Apple’s iPad Pro both have the top specs in the market when it comes to tablets. There are a variety of reasons why users would choose either one of these great tablets. The Fire HD Is more affordable and has a lot of great apps available from Amazon’s Underground, and iPhone users will be familiar with the iPad Pro and all of its features.

But there are more differences between these two tablets than just the apps. The specs are different, and so is the screen size. Dissecting the differences between these two great tablets will help users make an informed decision on the tablet that’s right for them. It’s important that users are able to make the best decision possible when investing into an electronic item. That’s why it’s so important to compare these two tablets.

Comparing the Fire HD and the iPad Pro

Screen Size

There are a couple different sizes available for the iPad Pro; a 9.7” and a 12.9” model. The Fire HD comes in somewhere in the middle, with the biggest possibly screen size of the Fire HD being 10.1”. There’s also an 8” a 7” option for the tablet from Amazon, the advantage of these being their price. The 7” Fire HD is only $40.  

Display

Comparing the two tablets, the iPad Pro comes in with a significant advantage when it comes to display resolution. The screen of the iPad Pro has a resolution of 2732 x 2048. On the other hand, though the Fire is HD is HD-quality like its name suggests, it lacks in resolution compared to the iPad Pro, with a resolution of 1280 x 800.  

Storage Capacity/Memory

Each model presents a couple choices when it comes to memory. Obviously, more GB is going to mean a more expensive product. While the Fire HD has choices between 16GB and 32GB of storage space, the Apple iPad Pro lets the customer choose between storage spaces of 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB. One thing that Fire HD users can do to make up for storage space is use a microSD card that can give them up to 200GB more memory.

Battery Life

The Fire HD gives its user about 8 hours of battery life, compared with the 10 hours on the iPad Pro. Either of these are acceptable in the area of battery life.

Camera Quality

This is another area where the iPad Pros differ from each other. The 12.9” iPad Pro has a 8MP iSight camera, but the 9.7” model has a 12MP iSight camera that’s capable of shooting 4K video and 240-fps slo-mo shots. The Fire HD has a 5MP rear-facing camera that can shoot 1080p video. The front-facing camera can take video in 720p, making it acceptable for Skype calls. Overall, the iPad Pro comes ahead in the area of cameras.

Price

The Fire HD wins bigtime in the area of affordability. For the price of the iPad Pro with the biggest screen, a decent laptop could be purchased. This is one reason why so many shoppers have opted to go with the tablet from Amazon. The 10.1” Fire HD with 32B of memory is going for around $230 on Amazon, while the 12.9” iPad Pro with the same amount of memory is going for nearly $800 on Amazon.

Each of these tablets has its strength. For one that wants a good deal in a tablet with some great features and the ability to watch TV, movies, or read an eBook, the Fire HD is a great choice. The Apple iPad Pro is a good choice for those that are wanting a little more firepower in their tablet.