Three Essential Tools for Any Windows User

mysystemsjournal1Getting the most out of your computer involves using the right software. There is a such a lot of free and paid software out there that despite lots of reviews it can be difficult to find the right ones. Here are three great applications you might have missed:

Teamviewer

You can use teamviewer to connect and take control of another computer (with their permission, of course). But more importantly, it allows you to connect to your computer from a remote location. This is useful for connecting to your home pc to either shut it down, copy some data to a dropbox or even help someone who is using the computer.

7-zip

This is the single archive file manager that can take care of most of the major archive types. The most important part here is that it is free. You can create or access zip and rar files, or just use 7zip format. For the power use 7zip has several advanced features that most basic archival programs lack. This includes features such as security, test and zip etc.

Notepad++

A great replacement for Notepad. Notepad++ has some advanced options and is perfect for coders or anyone who has to deal with a lot of text files. You can search all text files within directories with specific wildcards.

The Best Cloud Storage Providers

mysystemsjournal4There is less and less of an emphasis on local storage when purchasing computers or phones. This is mostly due to a lot of services moving online. Streaming video services like Netflix negate the need to store video or our hard drives. In the same vein, services like Spotify and Apple Music mean we don’t need to keep our massive music collections on any of our devices, even our phones. For all our other storage needs, there are several cloud storage providers to choose from:

Dropbox

This service was the most popular. Due to being written into almost every major iOS app, it grew from startup to a billion dollar company. Although its star has faded recently due in large part to growing competition, its integration with iOS apps means that it still is the way to go for iPhone and iPad users.

iCloud

One of the biggest complaints with iCloud was its lack of stability and space. While you still need to purchase additional space, Apple has fixed all other issues with the service. Its popularity is growing within apps and is probably the best choice if you are all-in on the Apple ecosystem.

Google Drive

After a late launch and a mixed start, Google Drive has finally evolved into a mature cloud storage product. For mixed environments Google Drive is the best storage provider available. Excellent integration into Android, iOS support along with Windows and Mac clients give it a multi platform edge.

How Warfare Changed Calculations

WarfareBy Samuel Phineas Upham

World Wars I and II significantly changed how we used calculators. It’s strange to consider that dropping bombs required greater computational urgency than sending a man to the moon, the latter being accomplished with the use of a slide ruler, but the reality is that warfare and math go hand in hand. For the military to perform precision air strikes, or to shoot down incoming planes with any sense of accuracy, real-time calculations had to be performed.

Math had another coveted property: encoding. Using mathematic principles applied to language or numbers could produce a code for communication. The enemy on both sides struggled throughout World War II to gather intelligence in order to crack these codes. A great deal of money was poured into programs designed to crack intelligence codes and decipher communications to gain the upper hand in war.

Most of these attempts were more like machinery you’d find in a factory, complete with turning gears and rotating cylinders. It wasn’t until 1946 that the first object resembling what we’d recognize as a modern computer came to be. ENIAC (the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was basically a large calculator. It was designed to perform calculations rapidly, and had the ability to hold a ten digit memory. It was a marvel for its time, easily thousands of times faster than anything that had come before it.

It wasn’t until the miniaturization of valves and tubes that the office calculator began to take shape. The basic design used push buttons and a modest storage to perform a range of calculations, only evolving throughout the ages to the desktop you’re no doubt reading this article on.


About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Twitter.

Measuring Stress using your Smartphone

mysystemsjournal3Stress has been shown to cause several diseases and be detrimental to your health. Now there is a way to measure that stress using your cellphone. There are two methods. They both use the same technology, known as Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

Heart rate variability is the measurement of the time between heart beats. Although counter intuitive, a steady heartbeat with little to no variation is actually considered to be a sign of physiological stress. A healthy low stress individual would have a heartbeat with a high degree of variability.

The two methods are both smartphone based but vary on the method of getting the heartbeat data. The first method requires a bluetooth heart rate monitor. That data is fed into a HRV app and then the data is analyzed and current stress levels are displayed. This is the most accurate method but involves purchasing a heart rate monitor. To maximize accuracy, a chest strap based heart rate monitor is preferred.

The second method, is to use the camera of the smartphone to analyze your heartbeat. Although not as accurate, it has been shown to correlate very well with dedicated heart rate monitors. This is also the cheapest and most accessible method for most users. People who are not the most physically active and have no use for an actual heart rate monitor will find this method the most useful.

Microsoft Unveils New Corporate Philanthropy Division

Microsoft plans on expanding their philanthropic section into an integrated organization.

Microsoft has been long known for their corporate philanthropy. In 2015, Microsoft kicked off their Windows 10 launch with a $10 million gift to charity. And, it doesn’t stop there. In January of this year, Microsoft donated $1 billion worth of Cloud Computing Services to charities.

A Commitment to Helping Others

By the end of 2015, Microsoft fulfilled their commitment to corporate philanthropy by creating a new organization known as Microsoft Philanthropies. CEO Satya Nadella clearly defined how he wants to empower every person to achieve more in the world. What’s his goal? He wants to create change in the world through the use of Microsoft technology.

Disconnected From the World

Microsoft is rapidly expanding. Their products have reached countries all over the world. But, this isn’t enough for Nadella. He claims that too many of technology’s benefits do not reach the people who need them. Everything from poverty to displaced communities, a multitude of challenges prevents technology from benefiting families everywhere. Nadella wants to change this and provide communities the technology and information that they need.

Steve Doctrow, EVP of Integrated Marketing at Rogers & Cowan, along with Richard Davis, CFO of Rogers & Cowan, partnered with Microsoft on numerous occasions for marketing campaigns. Working with Microsoft, he applauded them for integrating philanthropy within their company values.

Microsoft Philanthropies also plans to invest in digital inclusion programs as well as partnerships. Through these relations they will integrate the technical talents of their employees and brand to reach out and achieve a greater outcome for the world.

How to Access Geo Blocked Content

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Netflix recently launched its services in an additional 130 countries. Amidst all the fanfare, what they did not mention was that not all countries would get the same catalog as Netflix USA. They did hint at different licensing restrictions for different shows. It turns out the differences are quite large. Most countries have less than 20% of the complete catalog.

For Netflix and other services that limit their services to specific countries, users ended up using third party services to use the full catalog. There are two main ways of doing this.

The first are called SmartDNS services. DNS is how website names are resolved into actual server addresses. Once you sign up for a Smart dns service, you change the DNS servers on your router. The next time you call up the Netflix website, it redirects it to a server owned by the dns provider. They then route traffic through their network and it looks like you are coming from their network. This allows you to select any geographic territory they support.

The second method is through a VPN. A VPN, knows as a virtual private network, allows you to connect to a server in the target country and then you are basically operating through a network tunnel from that country. This method is more secure as it does not involve any of your traffic passing through a server owned by the dns provider. In addition, traffic on VPNs are usually encrypted.

Both of these methods will cost you. Usually in monthly subscription fees. But be warned, these services are constantly blocked by service like Netflix and Spotify.

How Does Current VR Technology Work

mysystemsjournal2Virtual Reality is being hailed as the next big thing in tech. The highlight of the last Consumer Electronics Show was every company showing or announcing their VR plans. Even Apple is rumored to have up to 800 people working on some form of virtual reality tech. At present there are two products on the horizon which are generating the most buzz. The two products are by Oculus and HTC.

The Oculus rift is a head mounted virtual reality stereoscopic 3D display. You get a controller and can look around in every direction. However, VR is more than just about games. While gaming is the primary draw, the ability to look around in 3D limited mostly to cockpit based interactions. You can be in the cockpit of a fighter and can actually look around for enemy fighters. The other two uses for VR are movies and exploration. With exploration you can explore any location in the world in 3D. Think of it as an upgraded version of Google streetview. When it comes to movies, you can simulate being in an IMAX size cinema. It could possibly be the future of movie watching from the home.

The HTC Vive takes the above one step further. In addition to watching movies etc the gaming on the Vive has a new angle to it. It requires a room with a minimum size of 9 by 12 feet. Sensors are placed along the edges of the walls and you get two controllers. The games are different in that you can now move around this virtual area.

The demos of these games have been called “game-changing” by the tech media. However, it remains to be seen if these are mass market products.

Three Steps to Safeguard your Computer From Malicious Software

mysystemsjournal1There are many more security risks on your computer than ever. In the past we only had to worry about viruses. Now there are viruses, trojans, rootkits, zombies etc. However, with just a few simple steps you can prevent 90% of the threats facing most users today. These steps including operating without admin rights and staying clear of unknown or pirated software. These steps are detailed below.

Admin rights

Make sure that your everyday account on the computer does not have admin rights. Admin rights are only needed when changes are being made to the computer. Instead create a separate account that does have admin rights and use that whenever you need to install software or make a change. On Windows and Mac OSX,the computer will popup a request for admin rights if the running user does not have them. This prevents most malicious payloads from executing on your computer without your knowledge.

Unknown Software

If the need arises to run or test software from an unknown party, make sure that you first check if there are any known issues with that software. Then if possible do not install it in your standard profile. Use a hypervisor like Hyper-V and run another instance of your OS only to run applications you are unsure of. This is another often used vector for infecting computers.

Pirated Software

Whatever you do, do not instal pirated applications. They almost always have some form of malicious software attached.a

Creating Diamond-like Carbon Coatings

Written by: Denton Vacuum, LLC

Diamond-like carbon coatings can be created in a laboratory.

Diamond like carbon coatings can be deposited in a variety of ways using different methods. Some of these methods include: ion beam, electron beam, lasers, and sputter coating.

The Coating Process

The entire coating process takes place in a specially designed vacuum chamber that varies by system. Some of the more optimal systems utilize a fixated carousel that the vacuum lies on. The source material is then preheated to a specific temperature, typically less than 150 degrees Celsius. During the preheating process, the substrate that is going to be coated is rid of all of the moisture produced by the material utilizing the vacuum attached to the sputter coater. The adhered moisture can affect the product’s properties as well as the final result.

The next phase requires there to be a scrubbing of the surface with ions to enhance the overall adhesion and scatter. Once the cleaning process has completed, an optional gas is added into the chamber which then transitions into the coating step. Finally, the electrical charge created by the carousel then draws the hydrogen and carbon ions to the surface therefore creating the thin film layer. The carousel can also rotate to improve the uniformity and prevent any thin film evaporation from occurring on the final product.

The Final Product

Diamond like carbon coatings are high quality films that surpass the conventional plating methods used regularly. By redefining the film’s properties like hardness and structure, one can expect a uniform film that is optimal for various applications.

The Advantages of Self Driving Cars

Picture a future where you don’t own a car. Whenever you want to go anywhere, you start the app and request a ride. A car arrives, waits for you and takes you to your destination and leaves. This could be our future if Googles self driving car program is realized. This comes with several advantages.

Cost

The cost of car ownership will be shared. Travelling will basically become a larger taxi service. You will only pay for the cost of your ride and not for any unused time of the car. This is unlike modern taxi services where ride costs include the total cost of owning the vehicle. Because of nearly 100% utilizing of a vehicle the per mile cost lessons dramatically. This makes it cheaper than owning your own vehicle.

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Safety

In a world where the majority of cars will be self driving, you can expect almost no accidents. The average number of vehicular deaths in the USA in the last few years has been close to 50000. This number can reduced by as much as 90%.

Time

With better utilization of vehicles, there will be less cars on the road. This will means less or no traffic and better use of time. Now estimates of travel time will be much more accurate.

Pollution

With less vehicles on the road there will be a lot less pollution. By the time autonomous driving is realized, fossil fuel based cars would have been phased in favour of electric or other more efficient and cleaner alternatives.

Thanks to autonomous cars, we will live in a safer, cheaper and cleaner world where we will arrive at our destinations of time.