Achieving “Happiness” With Your Smartphone!

 

The app is actually part of a research project, launched by Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth. It’s more than just a traditional mood tracker, it’s more like a mood analyzer. The aim of the app (and the project) is to better understand what causes our happiness.

To use the app, sign up with your email address. Then, answer a couple of general questions about how you feel:

  • How satisfied are you with your life as a whole?
  • On average, during the moments of your life how do you feel?

After that, the app will send you periodic alerts asking about what you’re doing in that moment, how you feel, and so on. It will ask if you have to do whatever task you’re doing, and if you actually want to do that task. After a few of these sessions, you’ll get a report that gives you an idea of not only when you’re happy (which is what a regular mood tracker does), but what correlates with (and maybe even causes) your happiness.

The app is totally free and doesn’t ask for money later or bombard you with any advertisements, and that’s because it’s just for research. Unfortunately, that also means there’s no Android version in the works. Of course, it also means the app will use your demographic information and answers in the study, but your personal information will never be shared, and the app protects your data with SSL encryption (here’s their full privacy policy).

To try it for yourself go here.

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Government’s Struggle With IT

NPR’s amazing “Science Friday” radio show and podcast recently discussed something dear to my heart. No the topic was not “Star Trek” or the “Denver Broncos”, “Disney World” or “Vinyl Records” but something even more critical today, “Information Technology and the Struggles Facing Government”.

Two of the challenges with IT in respect to government mentioned in this episode include:

  1. Project Management. This is incredibly important and if not efficient will of course result in project overruns, increased cost and poor outcomes. This often occurs in the public sector.
  2. IT in government often lags behind the private sector especially relating to embracing innovation.

I believe our 2 planned technology projects in 2016 demonstrate our unique mission at the Borough of West Chester of “embracing technology in order to provide the best service possible to our staff and community”

Our projects here at the Borough of West Chester next year include:

First – “Skype for Business” voice/video system which is focused on mobility, availability and collaboration.

Second – Our move towards a digital document management system demonstrate our goal of improving workflow while reducing paper usage and achieving a smaller carbon footprint.

The goals of these 2 projects in particular are often not seen in government.

In respect to information technology I selfishly believe we are doing very good at West Chester because we have fully embrace innovation.

You can check out Sci-Fri’s episode titled, “Government Glitches – What Happens When IT Projects Fail” here.

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Facebook’s iOS Battery Drain Resolved?

If you are an iPhone owner who uses Facebook I recommend applying the latest iOS Facebook app update as soon as possible. This is because you will probably find that the battery life of your device improves after the update. After ongoing complaints about iPhone battery drain, Facebook reported last week that it has released a new version of its app that resolves two key issues leading to the problem.

Apparently, iPhones with the app were prone to experiencing CPU spin, according to Facebook engineering manager Ari Grant. “A CPU spin is like a child in a car asking, ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?’ with the question not resulting in any progress to reaching the destination,” he explained in an update on his Facebook page.

The other culprit behind fast-draining iPhone batteries was Facebook’s approach to managing audio sessions, Grant said. Even when users left the Facebook app after watching a video, the audio session sometimes stayed open as if the app was playing audio silently.

“This is similar to when you close a music app and want to keep listening to the music while you do other things, except in this case it was unintentional and nothing kept playing,” Grant noted. “The app isn’t actually doing anything while awake in the background, but it does use more battery simply by being awake. Our fixes will solve this audio issue and remove background audio completely.”

The description of the updated app on the Apple App Store mentioned that “continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically decrease battery life,” but Grant noted in his post that the location history feature didn’t have anything to do with the battery draining issue many iPhone users have been experiencing.

So there you go, if you use Facebook on your iPhone make sure you go to the app store and update the app. Your battery will thank you!

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Windows 10 Tips & Tricks

Now that I am on the lamb for a few much needed days away at the most magical place on Earth I decided I would share some great Windows 10 tips with everyone. Windows 10 has proven quite the success for Microsoft as Windows 8 is fading into the same dustbin of history where Windows Me & Windows Vista reside.

However to me personally Windows 8 was not the terrible disaster that many make it out to me. The problem was that the hardware many of us were using was not quite ready for it and Windows 8 needed much more polish before it was pushed out to the public, Thats where Windows 10 comes in to save the day for our friends at Microsoft.

Windows 10 is very new and many Windows users are seeing it magically appear on their Windows 7 devices. I am not sure that Microsoft pushing this major update down to devices everywhere is a good idea but that is what they are doing.

With all of this in mind here are some Windows 10 tips I am sure you will enjoy.


 

1. Delete your previous Windows version installation After you upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 (where your installed programs are brought over to the new OS, and personal files are retained), a backup of your previous version of Windows resides on your hard drive (or SSD). It’s put there in case something goes wrong where you need to roll Windows 10 back to the older Windows. These files can eat up as much as 20GB of storage.

To get rid of this backup, freeing up space, run the Disk Cleanup application. (It’s listed in the Start Menu under the “Windows Administrative Tools” folder.) In Disk Cleanup, click the “Clean up system files” button, and wait for the program to scan your hard drive or SSD. From the list of file categories, put a check by “Previous Windows installation(s)” and “Temporary Windows installation files,” and click the “OK.”

Windows 10

2. Know how to sign out of Windows 10 Where’s the option to sign out of Windows 10? Click your user account name at the upper-left of the Start Menu; a small panel will slide down from your name with “Sign out” listed. The fastest way to sign out remains as it was in prior Windows versions: Just press the Windows logo and “L” keys together, and you’ll be instantly signed out.

3. Pick whatever accent color you want You can change the accent color of Windows 10, but you’re given only a limited palette of 48 colors to choose from under the Personalization page of the Settings app. But the classic Control Panel that’s still in Windows 10 gives you tools to create nearly any color you want for the accent. In the classic Control Panel, this color picker is nested under “Appearance and Personalization,” “Personalization” and “Color and Appearance.”

4. Use the new delay timer in the Snipping Tool There isn’t a new screenshot app in Windows 10, but the desktop application, Snipping Tool, gets a slight update. It now has a “Delay” button: Click it and select a range from 1 to 5 seconds. Then, when you click the “New” button, the capturing will be delayed by the time-delay you chose. This can be helpful to capture, for example, a menu in an application that’s designed to go away if you click away from the application. You would set the Snipping Tool to delay itself by 5 seconds, and, from there, quickly click open the menu in the application that you want to capture an image of, doing so within 5 seconds.

5. Change Edge’s default search engine from Bing to another oneMicrosoft’s new browser in Windows 10, Edge, also uses Bing as its search engine, but it’s not obvious right away how to change it, should you prefer a different one. If you look up the option to change the default search engine under the browser’s settings, the buttons are grayed out. The first thing you need to do is visit the search engine’s site. While the site is open in a tab in Edge, you then go to the browser’s settings: Click the “More actions” button that’s to the upper-right of the browser, select “Settings,” scroll down and select “View advanced settings,” scroll down to “Search in the address bar with,” click “Bing (www.bing.com)” and click “<Add new>”. The search engine’s domain and name will appear listed in a sidebar. Click it, and finally click “Add as default.”

6. Delay automatic updates over Wi-Fi Under the Home version of Windows 10, updates to the OS by Microsoft are automatically pushed out and installed. With the Pro, Enterprise and Education versions, you can defer updates “for several months,” according to Microsoft, but security updates are exempt.

Supposedly, updates are downloaded only on a non-metered Internet connection. So, if you’d rather delay receiving updates (such as, to avoid the possibility of a new driver being installed that doesn’t work with your system), one trick to try is to set your Wi-Fi connection under Windows 10 as a metered one. While you are connected to a Wi-Fi signal, click the Wi-Fi icon on the notification tray, and then click “Network settings” in the panel that opens. This will launch the “Network & Internet” page of the Settings app. Scroll down and click “Advanced options,” which will take you to another page where you can set your Wi-Fi connection as metered.

If you are connected to the Internet via Ethernet, there are two other, more technically involved ways to delay the automatic updating process, using either Microsoft’s “troubleshooter” program or the Group Policy Editor. Here are detailed instructions.

Windows 10

7. Record video clips using the Xbox app The Xbox app’s “Game bar” feature is meant for recording video clips of a game app as you play it, but it can also be used to record your activity on other programs. (This function may not work on some desktop applications and non-game apps. And you cannot use the Game bar to record your interaction with the desktop environment or File Explorer.) You turn on the Game bar by pressing the Windows logo and “G” keys together, and then, in the small panel that appears, checking the box by “Yes, this is a game.” The Game bar will appear. Click its red button to start recording; the gear icon to the right takes you to a settings panel where among its options you can set the maximum time for a video clip. You can also grab a screenshot by clicking the camera icon on the Game bar.

8. Remove the OneDrive folder from File Explorer If you’re not using Microsoft’s cloud drive service, OneDrive, and would rather not have the OneDrive folder appear in the File Explorer, you can remove it by tweaking the Windows 10 registry. Launch the Registry Editor: Press the Windows logo and “R” keys together, and then enter “regedit” in the Run panel to launch the program. From Registry Editor, navigate to: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{018D5C66-4533-4307-9B53-224DE2ED1FE6 Double-click “System.IsPinnedToNameSpaceTree” and change its Value Data from “1” to “0.” Sign out of Windows 10 and sign back in, or restart your computer.

9. Pin Windows apps to the desktop Windows 10 is designed to let you pin Windows apps to the taskbar and the Star
Menu’s tiles panel, but not to the desktop. Pinning apps to the desktop is possible once you create a new folder on the desktop and name it “NAME.” (You can replace “NAME” with whatever name you want.) This creates a modified shortcut to the File Explorer, which, when opened, will show an alphabetical listing of all the desktop applications and apps installed on your Windows 10 system. To pin a Windows app to the desktop, right-click on its icon here, select “Create shortcut” from the small pop-up menu, and then click “Yes” to have the shortcut for the app appear on the desktop.

Windows 10

10. Access all Windows 10 settings under one user interface Windows 10’s various settings are spread across its Settings app and the classic Control Panel, but if you’re frequently fiddling around with the OS, it becomes a pain switching between the two. The solution: Evoke all the settings for Windows 10 under one program (which has been referred to as “GodMode”). You do this by creating a new folder on the desktop, and naming it “NAME.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}”. (Replace “NAME” with whatever you want to call this folder.) The folder’s icon will change to that of the classic Control Panel. Double-click it and you’ll be taken to a long listing of all the adjustable settings in Windows 10, organized alphabetically by category.

11. Uninstall default Windows apps Just like Apple has been doing with their iPhone and iPad line of products Windows 10 comes with several Windows apps that cannot be uninstalled, including the Calendar, Mail, People and aforementioned Xbox app.

Windows 10

Tech blogger Thomas Vanhoutte has compiled a collection of commands that you run under the PowerShell program to remove these default apps. To launch PowerShell, find it under the “Windows PowerShell” folder in the Start Menu, and right-click on Windows PowerShell and select “Run as administrator” from the pop-up menu. Then find the specific listing that Vanhoutte has provided for uninstalling the specific Windows app you want removed, and copy-and-paste it into the PowerShell command prompt.

For example, to uninstall the aforementioned People app, copy-and-paste “Get-AppxPackage *people* | Remove-AppxPackage” into the PowerShell command prompt and press the “Enter” key. Vanhoutte also provides a script to restore all the default Windows apps, in case you’d like them back.

These great tips were found at Computerworld’s website.

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Halloween 2016 Brings Our Planet Another Close Encounter

Not another closer call from our asteroid friends, but that’s what it looks like.

This time we have news about asteroid 2015 TB145 which is a sizable asteroid that is hurtling through space at speeds of over 78,293 mph , and it’s heading this way. Discovered only 10 days ago, the asteroid has caught the attention of scientists at NASA because on October 31 (Halloween night – you can’t make this stuff up), it is expected to draw closer to Earth than anything this size has since July 2006.

Don’t panic friends and tech blog readers. When NASA says “close”, they are talking “relatively close”, which in this case means 1.3 lunar distances, or about 310,000 miles from our comfy little planet.

“This is the closest approach by a known object this large until 1999 AN10 approaches within 1 lunar distance in August 2027,” a NASA report states. “The last approach closer than this … was by 2004 XP14 in July 2006 at 1.1 lunar distances.”

Detected on October 10 by the Pan-STARRS I survey in Hawaii, which employs several astronomical cameras and telescopes from around the world to identify potentially threatening near-Earth objects, asteroid 2015 TB145 is estimated to be between 918 to 2,034 feet in diameter.

NASA reports that we have had closer encounters recently, but not by something on this scale. In 2013, Russian motorists filmed a very large meteorite as it burn up in Earth’s atmosphere back in 1908, and crashed into a Russian forest.

According to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program, as of October 16 2015, 13,251 near-Earth objects have been discovered, 877 of which are asteroids with a diameter of approximately 1 kilometre or larger. Some 1,635 of these have been classified as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs).

If all of this makes you a little nervous, don’t worry. NASA suggests that none of the asteroids or comets that they have identified will come close enough to impact Earth anytime in the foreseeable future. “All known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids have less than a 0.01 percent chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years,” they reported back in August.

For me, the scarier part is that NASA did not spot 2015 TB145 until less than two weeks ago!

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Facebook is Watching for Hackers

Facebook accounts are notorious for being hacked, usually through poor passwords or phishing scams. Facebook at least is trying to help users stay safe on their social network. Facebook has recently announced that it will soon start sending banner notifications to anyone whose account may have been compromised or if Facebook suspects someone is trying to hack into your account.

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In a blog post about the new security precaution, Facebook states that the privacy of its users are the most important thing:

While we have always taken steps to secure accounts that we believe to have been compromised, we decided to show this additional warning if we have a strong suspicion that an attack could be government-sponsored. We do this because these types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts.

Facebook also notes that these notifications do not mean the site as a whole has been compromised.

Going forward if you see one of these notifications (above example) you should change your password immediately. Also this is another great time for me to go into a rant about how important strong encrypted passwords are and managing your passwords with services like LastPass.

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Flash Player Gets Emergency Patch

Adobe released a patch for a critical vulnerability in Flash Player faster than it originally anticipated in response to high-profile cyberespionage attacks against governmental targets.

The latest Flash Player updates released Friday address a flaw that’s already exploited by a Russian espionage group known as Pawn Storm, as well as two other critical vulnerabilities reported privately to Adobe.

The CVE-2015-7645 vulnerability is actively exploited by the Pawn Storm group in attacks targeting several foreign affairs ministries from around the globe, security researchers from Trend Micro reported Tuesday.

Adobe confirmed the vulnerability Wednesday and initially scheduled a fix for this week. It then exceeded its own expectations and delivered the patch Friday.

Users of Flash Player on Windows and Mac are strongly advised to upgrade to version 19.0.0.226, and Linux users to version 11.2.202.540. Users of the extended support release should make sure they’re running the latest 18.0.0.255 version.

In addition to fixing CVE-2015-7645, the new updates also address two type confusion vulnerabilities — CVE-2015-7647 and CVE-2015-7648 — reported by Natalie Silvanovich of Google’s Project Zero team.

If left unpatched, all three flaws can allow attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected computers and take control of them.

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LastPass & LogMeIn Join Forces

LogMein has purchased LastPass. LastPass, in my opinion has been the best password manager available. Many are concerned that this merger could be bad news for LastPass. Will it be?

The sale is expected to close in the coming weeks, after which LastPass’ services will continue to be supported in the near term. Over the long term, LastPass will keep operating under its own brand name while also incorporating the product line of Meldium, another identity management firm acquired by LogMeIn last year, the firm said.

In addition, the entire LastPass team will continue working on the company’s products as a new LogMeIn unit. Founded in 2008 and based in Fairfax, Virginia, LastPass reportedly has around 7 million users.

LastPass Addresses Concerns of It’s Users

“LastPass has a great business, a beloved and award-winning product, millions of loyal users, and thousands of great business customers — they are synonymous with the category,” said LogMeIn chairman and CEO Michael Simon in a statement. “We believe this transaction instantly gives us a market leading position in password management, while also providing a highly favorable foundation for delivering the next generation of identity and access management solutions to individuals, teams and companies.”

Addressing customers of the LastPass freemium service on his own company’s blog, LastPass CEO Joe Siegrist noted, “I want to personally assure you that this is good news for our users.” Siegrist said despite the acquisition LastPass has “no plans to change our existing business model.” He added that the deal “provides us with access to resources that will enable us to innovate faster.”

LastPass has long billed its service as “the last password you’ll have to remember”. The service for the most part works as promised. It works via a browser add-on that encrypts and saves users’ passwords for various Web sites. That approach reduces the security risks that people incur by using the same passwords for multiple sites.

Passwords Continue to Dominate

Today standard passwords remain more usable and even more secure than other methods.

Passwords are either correct or wrong, there is no threshold acceptance or rejection values. If the password is strong and complex they will continue to provide excellent security.

LogMeIn is a strong tech company that hopefully will continue to support and enhance LastPass.

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Skype for Business Available on iPhone

Microsoft announced this morning that Skype for Business iOS is now available as a new universal app in the iTunes Store. iPhone users will get the upgrade from Lync 2013 automatically, but iPad users will need to download the new app manually from the store. I checked and there was my Skype for Business upgrade ready to go!

Microsoft made Skype for Business generally available on Windows earlier this year, but it shipped a preview version of the mobile app for iOS and Android in August.Today’s release means that Skype for Business is generally available on iOS (iPhone and iPad).

New features include:

One-touch meeting access. You can now join a meeting with just one touch thanks to an updated dashboard view that provides links to upcoming meetings alongside your most-recent conversations.

Enhanced meeting experience. The in-meeting experience has been enhanced with larger buttons for muting, adding participants, and other commands; full-screen video, and simultaneous viewing of shared content and video.

New authentication and security options for IT admins. Office 365 commercial customers can now use Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL)-based authentication, multi-factor authentication, and ADAL-based authentication.

iPhone users with Lync 2013 will automatically get updated to the Skype for Business app, but iPad users with Lync 2013 will need to download the new Universal app from the iTunes Store.

Android user? Microsoft says that the final version of Skype for Business for Android will ship “later this year.”

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Lifetime Backups at an Affordable Price

Backups are very important. I cannot stress that enough friends. For home use I have been using Mozy which is about $125 a year for up to 4 computers. I just stumbled upon this deal and jumped right on it. A lifetime of backups for 4 of your computers for a one time cost $49.99. So far I like what I have seen. It is very easy to use and setup.

It’s rarely an easy task to find the perfect balance of space, access and security to suit your cloud storage needs.

Some services are good, but prices tend to rise after a set period of time, and the cheaper services are rarely secure. The most well-known services (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) sell monthly/yearly subscriptions but usually offer restrictive limits in storage space, often forcing you to buy into higher plans.

A great solution can be found in the SkyHub Cloud 1TB Backup: Lifetime Subscription, now just $49.99 on TNW Deals.

With SkyHub Cloud backups, you can keep your files safe for life on SkyHub’s servers, away from whatever natural disaster or external threat that might threaten your devices. You’ll get unlimited encrypted backups of any size from up to three computers, and can view them from any device.

There are a number of reasons it’s been credited for ‘online file storage excellence’ by the Wall Street Journal:

  • Get 1 TB of automatic backup for 4 computers, add more to your account anytime and backup all your devices, discs & thumb-drives
  • Back up 1 TB of data as needed—there’s no catch!
  • Quickly & easily get set up
  • Rest assured that all your data is secure thanks to the advanced encryption security
  • View all your backed up files on the web, store them long term, or take advantage of the innovative SkyHub hybrid storage system

There’s no tricks or catch here. You can store a full terabyte of data in the Skyhub Cloud, as well as all your devices. And this will be stored in SkyHub’s servers forever.

Check it out here.

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