A distant future involving robotic package deliveries is now very much a reality. Advances in robotics, GPS tracking, automation, and navigation now mean you might not find a delivery person at your door with your package.
You might find a delivery robot instead.
With semi-autonomous robots beginning to enter the world, here’s a look at how delivery robots work.
A delivery robot is an automated robot that brings your delivery directly to your door. These robots aren’t walking and talking humanoids; rather, these robots are cute delivery containers on six wheels, resembling giant (but friendly-looking!) bugs.
As with other delivery services, you make your purchases through an app with vendors based on your location. The robot trundles to the vendor—whether for shopping, food, drinks, or otherwise—and then it makes its way to your home.
The primary example of delivery robots in action comes from Starship Technologies, a company based out of San Francisco with engineering facilities in Estonia and Finland. Starship Technologies is the brainchild of Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Anti Heinla, and they are currently the largest “last mile” delivery robot company around.
So, how does an autonomous delivery robot make a delivery?
The robots have a cargo capacity of around 9kg, can travel at a maximum speed of 4 mph, weigh around 25kg, and cost over $5,000 to manufacture. The delivery robot uses many of the same features as an autonomous car: 10 cameras for 360-degree vision, several ultrasonic sensors, GPS navigation, measurement units, gyroscopes, and much more.
The route between a vendor and a delivery point might look A-to-B if you plug the locations into a navigation app… but there are extra considerations for a delivery robot, including sidewalks, crossings, driveways, humans, animals, vehicles, and so on.
Starship’s robots calculate a route based upon the shortest distance and satellite imagery detailing the route. Each feature on the route (crossings, driveways, etc.) receives a time calculation, which the robot factors into route selection and delivery time.
Over time, the robots build a collaborative memory of an area, creating a wireframe map of constant features (buildings, crossings, statues, pathways, etc.) and ensuring that future journeys through the area are faster. The collaborative area-building makes navigation easier for every robot in the vicinity, with all units contributing to building out the local map.
But navigation isn’t always smooth sailing. Aside from regular navigational dilemmas, a malfunctioning robot comes with its own problems. For example, a Starship robot in Milton Keynes malfunctioned—and drove straight into a canal.
While the Starship Technology robots are autonomous, they are not disconnected from their operators. If a robot comes up against a significant challenge, such as a particularly massive curb (they can climb up and over regular sidewalk curbs), a human operator can take control and find a solution.
But for the most part, the robots are designed to take everything into account, focusing strongly on the sidewalk. Delivery robots sharing the same routes as pedestrians has all the potential for irritation.
All these potential issues are all considered, but the robots must learn the correct way to interact with humans. How many times have you faced the awkward situation of walking at a similar pace to someone just ahead of you? Do you speed up to pass, then continue walking faster? Do you slow down to give them time to move further ahead? Is your destination close enough so that you don’t need to overtake?
The delivery robots are learning how to solve these problems, as well as countless others.
If you want to get involved with robotics, check out these DIY robotic arm kits.
Starship’s robotic delivery team are currently operating in several US cities but in limited geographic areas. For example, you can order via Starship at Arizona State University, in Fairfax City, Virginia, or Modesto, California—but only in a limited area. The images below show the delivery areas for those respective locations:
If the vendor you want to order from and your delivery address are with the bounds of the robot, you can order from the Starship Delivery app. The app displays a list of vendors you can make an order with. You place your order, and a local delivery robot makes its way to the vendor to pick up your order. The robot then trundles to your front door. You track the delivery robot using an app, as well as unlock the secure cargo compartment, too.
The Starship Technologies delivery service costs $1.99 per delivery.
For vendors, the reality is slightly different. The delivery robots are cute and get the job done, but Starship’s terms of partnership can take up to a 20% cut per delivery, after a free month’s trial of the service.
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic provided a new and interesting dynamic for Starship Technologies and its delivery robots. With huge numbers of people entering lockdown at differing times and with many people attempting to self-isolate and socially distance from the general public, the delivery robots present a perfect non-human delivery system.
In Milton Keynes, UK, the demand for robot deliveries rose significantly during the early stages of the UK COVID-19 lockdown. The US cities and university campuses also saw similar demand for robotic, almost zero-human interaction deliveries. For those on at-risk lists due to pre-existing conditions or healthcare workers struggling to purchase groceries after a long shift, robotic deliveries are a vital lifeline.
Starship Technologies was the first company to use delivery robots as its core delivery method. Recognizing that last-mile delivery is a phenomenally large market is a masterstroke. But the world’s largest online marketplace, Amazon, isn’t far behind.
Amazon Scout is another six-wheeled robot that moves across sidewalks and crossings at walking pace, but this one brings your Amazon delivery directly to your door. Scout is currently available to Amazon customers in the area near Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, as well as Irving, California, with recent trial expansions to Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee.
A friendly delivery robot bringing curry to your door is charming and is a reality for millions of people. The rollout of delivery robots won’t be overnight, and there are significant challenges for the delivery robotics sector, as well as rural communities.
If you like the sound of robots, check out these robots that’ll do your chores!
Image Credit: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock
Read the full article: How Do Delivery Robots Work? How They Safely Deliver Your Packages
Source: MakeUseOf | 19 Aug 2020 | 11:00 pm(NZT)
If you’ve ever used the Pomodoro Technique, you’ve probably noticed an increase in productivity and focus. But most people aren’t aware that there’s a lot more you can do with it. The way that it breaks up your day can lead to some powerful benefits.
Let’s take a look at some less traditional methods to apply the Pomodoro Technique to. If you’re not familiar with it, check out the basics of Pomodoro first.
Have you ever finished a day and felt like you didn’t get enough done? Sometimes you might have actually had a productive day, but just weren’t sure once it was over. One of the first, best, and easiest ways to make the most out of your Pomodoro practice is setting micro-goals.
If you decide to accomplish 10 complete Pomodoros in one day and complete this, you can be confident that you did your best that day. Even if the day wasn’t the most productive, you can rest easy knowing you met your productivity goal.
If you do Pomodoros right and only count the ones you did without distraction, doing 10 a day is quite productive! It’s also a good idea to give yourself thresholds. For instance: if you finish 12, you’re a hero; complete eight, and you still did great.
Doing Pomodoros is a great way to stay on track for short bursts of time. In the same vein, planning your days around your Pomodoros is an excellent overall management technique.
If you find you get sucked into one task but neglect other essential tasks, planning your days in terms of Pomodoros can help greatly.
For example, you can set aside one Pomodoro a day for responding to emails. Or if you need to handle a small project, you can assign three Pomodoros on Tuesday to knock it out.
If you keep irregular hours, using Pomodoros for time management can help you do the work you need to whenever you can.
After you’ve spent some time planning your weeks around how many Pomodoros you finish, you can start tracking them on a spreadsheet. There are two ways to do this.
You can plan ahead using the time management technique and listing all the Pomodoros you wanted to get done that week. As you go through the week, highlight the items you finished.
The second technique is less rigid: list the overall projects you want to work on that week. You can set goals for the number of poms you want to finish and add them to the total as you complete them.
If you manage projects for a small team of people, you can use Pomodoros to increase productivity and better track how everyone spends their time. The tricky part can be getting everyone on board to use the Pomodoro Technique. But once you do, this gets a lot easier.
If you get employees to use the techniques above to track their time, you can find out exactly how long a task or project took down to the half-hour. Even better, you’ll know that the time spent on that project was optimized by using Pomodoros.
You can also assign people to research projects and make sure they don’t go down any rabbit holes by limiting the amount of Pomodoros they can spend on that project.
This is a more advanced technique that becomes easier after you have a good amount of experience using Pomodoros to manage time. After you’ve become confident at tracking your Pomodoros, you’ll start to get a feel for how many cycles certain tasks take. Once you get used to this, you can give clients much sharper estimates.
For example, a graphic designer might need to give a client an estimate of how long it will take to deliver a landing page design. If the designer has done enough of this type of work, they can give clients highly accurate estimates within a tight range.
Once you’ve gotten used to tracking everything you do with Pomodoros, it becomes a snap to see exactly how much time you spent on every aspect of each project. All you have to do is look at your week as you tracked it and find the work you did for your client.
There are at least two benefits of using Pomodoros for billing. One is that your charges will match your estimates more closely. Another is that you can bill your clients down to the half-hour, showing them that you respect their time and money.
Doing something productive during your break is a great way to maximize your day. Meanwhile, doing something relaxing is a great way to manage stress. Here are some ideas to put into practice.
Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and improve overall health and well-being. Using it as a break time activity can help ensure that you’re doing something physical throughout the day.
One of the benefits of doing Pomodoros is that you can keep yourself off social media. But you can also use it to limit the time spent on social media if you have a problem with using it too much.
Email can be a huge time suck. A five-minute break is the perfect time to work on getting your inbox to zero. And if you need to send responses, schedule a Pomodoro for getting through those.
Many highly successful people, like Tim Ferriss, read at least one book a week. Five minutes is all it takes to pick up a great one; Ferriss’s own Tools of Titans is full of good advice.
YouTube can be a huge time suck if you get into the rabbit hole of videos. But if used responsibly, it can also take your mind off work for a few minutes.
You might be surprised by how much cleaning you can get done in just five minutes. And if you do five minutes of cleaning multiple times a day, you can keep your place spotless.
It’s a good idea to stretch your legs and hydrate, so take a walk to the water cooler or fridge. Or if you’re still ramping up, you can grab a cup of coffee.
You can keep a pad of paper and a pencil in your desk drawer and pull it out to give your analytical brain a much-needed break. If you want to get serious, you can use YouTube to learn to draw.
If you work from home, this is a great way to use your break. There’s no better way to interrupt your work than to give someone or something a big hug.
Reading this was a great way for you to spend five minutes, and there are many more articles like it on the site.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea on how to apply the Pomodoro Technique to other aspects of your life. With some time invested, you can really supercharge both your working and relaxing time.
If you’re after something different, take a look at some unique productivity techniques you haven’t heard of.
Read the full article: Step Up Your Pomodoro Productivity With These 6 Methods
Source: MakeUseOf | 19 Aug 2020 | 10:00 pm(NZT)
Most portable solar panels are tiny and really only designed to trickle charge a smartphone. If you have a large portable battery pack then finding a suitably powerful and genuinely portable solar panel can be tricky.
The Maxoak SP120 is both affordable, portable, and with 120W output, powerful enough to charge even the largest of battery storage. It takes less than a minute to deploy or pack away and weighs a mere 6.2 pounds (2.8kg). You don’t get much more portable than that.
Retailing at $400 or £300, if you’re quick you can grab one at 30% off during IndieGogo crowdfunding. Those in Germany or the UK can get one even quicker from Amazon (under the PowerOak brand), and use our exclusive £30/€30 coupon–just enter the code makeuseofA at the checkout.
The Maxoak SP120 unclips and folds out to reveal four panels. A convenient carry handle is located on one end, with three loops on the other end for hanging the panels. on the rear of each section is a stiff leg, secured with velcro, allowing you to angle the SP120 up to 45-degrees.
Each panel is made of monocrystalline solar cells. These are more efficient than cheaper polycrystalline cells, allowing for greater power from the same size panels. Each panel is coated in ETFE, and Maxoak claims they can be bent to around 20-30 degrees before snapping. This isn’t to say you should make a habit of bending these panels, but rather that you needn’t worry should you accidentally apply a little pressure to them.
The SP120 is IP65 rated, meaning it should withstand some rain, but don’t get it soaked.
The hardwired 3m cable which terminates in MC4 plugs is stored in a zipped side pocket. These are standard solar panel connectors, so you can easily daisy chain a couple of panels together (or even supplement a static panel if you wanted). However, the adaptor cables to feed this into a battery are not included. In the case of Maxoak, the adaptor cable is supplied with the battery, but if you’re pairing this with a battery from another manufacturer, you may need to source your own cable. I found the pocket on the side was large enough to also store the cables that came with the EB240 (MC4 to DC9mm).
One of the great things about being so easy to carry and move around is that you can easily reposition the SP120 to take advantage of the sun any time of day. You can lay the panels flat for the high midday sun, then angle them or hang them vertically for morning or evening. This allows you to get the most efficient charge possible—more so than you would with bulky static panels. Our rooftop panels only start to generate after lunchtime!
Of course, you shouldn’t expect it to output 120 watts all the time, but I was able to get a good 8 hours of solid charging on a good day.
Assuming eight hours of good sun per day, let’s say you average 100W; that’s 800Wh total. The Maxoak EB240—which is admittedly an enormous store of energy—holds a maximum of 2400Wh. So that would take about 3 days to charge. For a smaller battery like the Maxoak AC50 (500Wh), you could easily charge it and more, in less than a day.Maxoak AC50 Maxoak AC50 Buy Now On Amazon $399.99
With standard MC4 panel connectors, it’s easy to daisy chain these panels together and charge twice as fast.
Solar technology can be a little confusing at times. Solar panels output a variable voltage depending on the intensity of the sun, which isn’t much use by itself. You need some sort of regulator to fix the voltage at a certain level. Smaller panels that are designed to trickle charge smartphones include a built-in regulator that drops the voltage to 5V (USB).
The SP120 doesn’t include a regulator, so it must be paired with something else before you can utilize the power. Because the amount of power it produces is more than you’ll usually use, the best thing to do is to put that power into a battery.
A battery backup like the EB230, EB150, AC200, or AC50 incorporates a voltage regulator, battery, and AC/DC converter. It takes the solar output, stores it, and converts that power to whatever voltage you need later. That might be 110V AC, 45W DC for your laptop, or 5V USB for your smartphone.
As a portable solar panel, it really doesn’t get more convenient than this. 120W is a good amount of power and paired with a convenient travel battery like the AC50, you have an unlimited source of power for your adventures and off-grid needs.
But consider if you really need to carry a solar panel around, because you’re paying a premium for the privilege. A similarly specced or even higher efficiency static panel can be purchased for $150 or less. That means you’re paying about three times as much per watt as the price of being ultra-portable. If you’re considering the SP120 to carry between your home and cabin in the woods, for instance, you might be better off buying two higher-powered rooftop panels instead.
Grab yourself a bargain on the IndieGogo now. But be quick, there are only a few days left on the campaign to get 30% off.
Thanks to Maxoak, we have not one, but THREE portable solar panels to give away, to winners in the US, Germany, and the UK. Enter below for your chance to win!
Read the full article: Portable, Powerful Solar Panel: Maxoak SP120 Review
Source: MakeUseOf | 19 Aug 2020 | 12:30 am(NZT)
Wherever you are in the world there is always a reason to want to bypass region blocking. For example, internet users outside the US might want to access Netflix or Hulu; those in the US might want the UK version of BBC iPlayer.
To combat this, VPNs are popular—but they’re not the best solution. Here’s how to watch geo-blocked videos without VPN software.
When you connect to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) your internet traffic is forwarded through the VPN server. So, if you’re in the UK and you connect to a VPN in the United States, websites will see you as browsing from the United States. The VPN server acts like a middleman.
This allows you to use VPNs to access US streaming services, such as:
…and many other region-restricted media websites.
While VPNs have many other uses, they’re less than ideal for bypassing region locks.
Until relatively recently, you could switch your router’s DNS server to access streamed video without relying on a VPN. While the effect was the same for streaming—you appear to be viewing from elsewhere—there was no encryption.
However, as with VPNs, Netflix and other streaming giants got wise to this tactic. As such, standard DNS providers are no longer suitable.
Fortunately, several new methods are available for you to bypass region blocking.
Here’s what you need to know about how to watch region locked videos without DNS or a VPN.
If you want to access region-restricted websites quickly and easily, a proxy server is a good option.
Proxies can be accessed via a website, but it’s easier to simply use a browser extension.
To access Netflix, consider Weechee, a browser extension for Google Chrome. This is designed to unblock Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer, wherever in the world you’re based.
Download: Wachee for Google Chrome (Free)
Proxies are a great option for US residents trying to access BBC iPlayer in the UK. See our guide to watching BBC iPlayer with a proxy for more details.
Encountered blocked videos on YouTube? Use this block-checking tool to find out which countries the video is available in, then set your proxy extension accordingly.
Relying on a proxy browser extension is smarter than simply visiting a standard proxy site.
Want to know how to watch geo blocked videos? Changing your device’s DNS can help. While this isn’t the number one solution and has been largely defeated by streaming services, it remains an option.
You’ll need something a little extraordinary for this to work, which is where Unblock-Us comes in. An all-in-one solution with a $4.99 monthly subscription, Unblock-Us offers a seven-day free trial. It aims to give you enhanced internet security, better speed, and the freedom to avoid region blocking.
Should you rely on this enhanced DNS solution? It’s certainly an option; the free trial is worth it to find out if it works for you. Unblock-Us features detailed setup instructions and works computers, consoles, mobile devices, TVs, and TV streaming boxes.
Check our guide to changing DNS settings to learn more about what is required.
Region-locked content can be frustrating. If a proxy browser extension won’t work and a specialist DNS service is drawing a blank, consider downloading the video. While this probably won’t work with Netflix, it’s a good solution for YouTube.
To bypass region locks on YouTube videos, a downloader can help. One example is ssyoutube.com. To use this:
The video will then be downloaded to your device via the ssyoutube.com site, bypassing region blocking.
While using a VPN to access region blocked streaming services isn’t the fastest option, some VPN services have provided an alternative. Smart DNS can be considered a sort of “VPN lite” solution, which allows access to region blocked content (such as all the Netflix you can watch) without the encryption and IP masking a VPN delivers.
How can you use smart DNS? One option is to find a specialist provider such as www.smartdnsproxy.com. However, if you’re already using a VPN you might have smart DNS access without knowing it.
For example, ExpressVPN (MakeUseOf readers can get 40% off our top-rated VPN) offers the MediaStreamer DNS service as part of the VPN subscription. This is a great way to view region blocked videos from all streaming services. Like other smart DNS solutions, it can be used on almost any platform, including games consoles and smart TVs.
Note that other VPN providers offer smart DNS.
Accessing blocked content isn’t as simple as it was. You can’t just visit a proxy and view all your favorite Netflix content anymore.
Solutions like UnoDNS, Tunlr, and MediaHint have fallen by the wayside. These days, you need smarter solutions to region blocking, tools that will give you reliable access to Netflix and other region blocking streaming services.
Trying to access restricted content at work or school? Use these methods to bypass blocked sites.
Read the full article: How to Access Region Blocked Videos Without a VPN
Source: MakeUseOf | 19 Aug 2020 | 12:00 am(NZT)
The number of quality programs on cable TV has declined dramatically in recent years. Which is one of the reasons why cord-cutting has become so popular. However, even if you hate modern TV and you’re an experienced cord cutter, there will still be times when you want to indulge in a spot of mindless channel hopping.
If you have bought an Android TV device as part of your cord-cutting strategy, you’re in luck. It’s possible to enjoy free live TV on Android TV, completely legally, and without having to pay a hefty monthly fee to access live programming through streaming services like Hulu.
So, if you want to know how to watch free live TV on Android TV, keep reading. Here are some of the best free live TV apps for Android TV…
Pluto TV provides more than 100 TV channels across several categories. News, sports, movies, viral videos, and cartoons are all well-represented. It even offers some channels dedicated to single shows.
The company itself has been around since 2013. In that time, it’s built up more than 70 content partners, including cable TV staples like CNBC, MSNBC, and Sky News, as well as web-only channels like CNET, The Surf Network, Classic Movies, and IGN. The app does not offer any on-demand content.
In addition to Android TV, the app is also available on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and some smart TVs. If you install it on the mobile version of Android, it is Chromecast-compatible.
Download: Pluto TV (Free)
If you’re interested in the world of finance and global markets, you’ll already know about Bloomberg. Along with CNBC and FOX Business News, it’s one of the go-to business-focused channels in the United States and beyond.
However, unlike CNBC and FOX Business, Bloomberg’s output is free to watch through the company’s app. You will have access to the network’s live streams, as well as a wide selection of on-demand shows from the last couple of days.
Download: Bloomberg TV (Free)
SPB TV World is similar to Pluto TV in that it offers a wide selection of legal channels rather than just being a one-channel app.
Formerly called MobiWorld Media, SPB TV World is headquartered in Zurich but has offices in Russia, the United States, Brazil, Switzerland, Singapore, and Thailand.
At the time of writing, it boasts more than 100 channels. This includes international channels (both premium and free-to-air) and some exclusive channels. Some of the most well-known channels that are available include France 24, Fashion TV, Deutsche Welle, and Russia Today. All of the channels are available in high-definition.
Download: SPB TV World (Free)
The NBC app offers a mix of live TV and on-demand videos. In order to access the live TV feature, you need to have a TV service provider that includes NBC in your package
NBC’s on-demand content is impressively expansive, making it one of the better Android TV apps around. You can watch the latest episodes of the network’s shows 24 hours after they air on regular TV, but can also view many TV classics such as Miami Vice, Battlestar Galactica, and Knight Rider.
Furthermore, unlike the other apps we’ve covered so far, NBC offers support for closed-caption subtitles. As such, it’s probably the best free cable TV app for Android for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Download: NBC (Free)
Plex is a well-known home theater app. It lets you stream content around your home, manage your media libraries, and watch content remotely.
In mid-2017, the developers introduced the live TV feature. This lets you watch local TV channels without cable in your area for free.
If you live in the United States, that means you’ll be able to enjoy all the major US networks, including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and The CW. Plex Live TV also includes a DVR; you can pre-program recordings in advance and all the content you record will be integrated with your existing Plex libraries.
In mid-2020, Plex further expanded the feature. Today, more than 80 live TV channels are available over the web; you won’t need an aerial to tune in. Some of the most noteworthy free channels are the Fubo Sports Network, Yahoo Finance, and Reuters.
Download: Plex (Free)
If you live in the UK, you can use TVPlayer to watch 25 British channels for free. The available networks include BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, CBBC, and BBC News. You’ll also get free access to less popular networks like TLC, Discovery, History, and Crime & Investigation.
For £7/month, you can watch premium channels such as Comedy Central, MTV, and HGTV.
Download: TVPlayer (Free)
Another perennial favorite of cord-cutters, the BBC iPlayer app provides live access to all of the BBC’s TV channels, as well as a vast catalog of on-demand shows, classic BBC shows, and straight-to-TV movies. Like TVPlayer, you’ll need to use a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer if you live outside the UK.
Download: BBC iPlayer (Free)
Instead of using proprietary services to get live TV for free, you could use an M3U playlist. The playlists are comprised of links to free-to-air channels from around the world, and you can watch them all in a single app.
Many IPTV players are available, but the current market leader is Tivimate. The interface looks exactly like a cable TV interface, you can import an electronic program guide (EPG), set programs to record, and organize your favorite channels into custom lists.
The app itself does not come with any M3U playlists; it is an empty shell. You will need to find the content for yourself.
Download: Tivimate (Free)
These apps will help you watch free live TV on Android TV. Remember, if you live outside of an app’s region, a high-quality paid VPN could be your new best friend.
To learn more about other Android TV apps worth downloading, here are the essential Android TV apps you should install.
Read the full article: How to Watch Free Live TV on Android TV
Source: MakeUseOf | 19 Aug 2020 | 12:00 am(NZT)
Chances are that you’re familiar with the word encryption. You’ve probably heard about how important it is, as well as how vital it is for keeping so much of our hyper-networked lives secure.
Use WhatsApp? You’re using encryption. Log into online banking? Same again. Have to ask the barista for a Wi-Fi code? That’s because you’re connecting to a network using encryption—the password is the key.
But even though we use encryption in our day-to-day lives, most encryption terminology remains mysterious. Here’s a list of 11 essential encryption terms you need to understand.
Let’s start with the most basic encryption term, which is simple but just as important as the others: plaintext is an unencrypted, readable, plain message that anyone can read.
Ciphertext is the result of the encryption process. The encrypted plaintext appears as apparently random strings of characters, rendering them useless. A cipher is another way of referring to the encryption algorithm that transforms the plaintext, hence the term ciphertext.
Encryption is the process of applying a mathematical function to a file that renders its contents unreadable and inaccessible—unless you have the decryption key.
For instance, let’s say you have a Microsoft Word document. You apply a password using Microsoft Office’s inbuilt encryption function. The file is now unreadable and inaccessible to anyone without the password. You can even encrypt your entire hard drive for security.
If encryption locks the file, then decryption reverses the process, turning ciphertext back to plaintext. Decryption requires two elements: the correct password and the corresponding decryption algorithm.
The encryption process requires a cryptographic key that tells the algorithm how to transform the plaintext into ciphertext. Kerckhoffs’s principle states that “only secrecy of the key provides security,” while Shannon’s maxim continues “the enemy knows the system.”
These two statements influence the role of encryption, and keys within that.
Keeping the details of an entire encryption algorithm secret is extremely difficult; keeping a much smaller key secret is easier. The key locks and unlocks the algorithm, allowing the encryption or decryption process to function.
No. Well, at least not entirely. Key creation is a result of using an algorithm, whereas a password is usually a user choice. The confusion arises as we rarely specifically interact with a cryptographic key, whereas passwords are part of daily life.
Passwords are at times part of the key creation process. A user enters their super-strong password using all manner of characters and symbols, and the algorithm generates a key using their input.
When a website encrypts your password, it uses an encryption algorithm to convert your plaintext password to a hash. A hash is different from encryption in that once the data is hashed, it cannot be unhashed. Or rather, it is extremely difficult.
Hashing is really useful when you need to verify something’s authenticity, but not have it read back. In this, password hashing offers some protection against brute-force attacks (where the attacker tries every possible password combination).
You might have even heard of some of the common hashing algorithms, such as MD5, SHA, SHA-1, and SHA-2. Some are stronger than others, while some, such as MD5, are outright vulnerable. For instance, if you head to the site MD5 Online, you’ll note they have 123,255,542,234 words in their MD5 hash database. Go ahead, give it a try.
As you see, a hashed password doesn’t automatically mean it is secure (depending on the password you chose, of course). But there are additional encryption functions that boost security.
When passwords are part of key creation, the encryption process requires additional security steps. One of those steps is salting the passwords. At a basic level, a salt adds random data to a one-way hash function. Let’s examine what that means using an example.
There are two users with the exact same password: hunter2.
We run hunter2 through an SHA256 hash generator and receive f52fbd32b2b3b86ff88ef6c490628285f482af15ddcb29541f94bcf526a3f6c7.
Someone hacks the password database and they check this hash; each account with the corresponding hash is immediately vulnerable.
This time, we use an individual salt, adding a random data value to each user password:
Quickly compare the hashes for the same passwords with and without the (extremely basic) salt:
You see that the addition of the salt sufficiently randomizes the hash value that your password remains (almost) completely safe during a breach. And better yet, the password still links to your username so there is no database confusion when you sign into the site or service.
In modern computing, there are two primary encryption algorithm types: symmetric and asymmetric. They both encrypt data, but function in a slightly different manner.
The overwhelming majority of online services we use in our daily lives implement some form of public-key cryptology.
Now we understand more about the function of keys in the encryption process, we can look at public and private keys.
An asymmetric algorithm uses two keys: a public key and a private key. The public key can be sent to other people, while the private key is only known by the owner. What’s the purpose of this?
Well, anyone with the intended recipient’s public key can encrypt a private message for them, while the recipient can only read the contents of that message provided they have access to the paired private key. Check out the below image for more clarity.
Public and private keys also play an essential role in digital signatures, whereby a sender can sign their message with their private encryption key. Those with the public key can then verify the message, safe in the knowledge that the original message came from the sender’s private key.
A key pair is the mathematically linked public and private key generated by an encryption algorithm.
HTTPS (HTTP Secure) is a now widely implemented security upgrade for the HTTP application protocol that is a foundation of the internet as we know it. When using a HTTPS connection, your data is encrypted using Transport Layer Security (TLS), protecting your data while in transit.
HTTPS generates long-term private and public keys that in turn are used to create a short-term session key. The session key is a single-use symmetric key that the connection destroys once you leave the HTTPS site (closing the connection and ending its encryption). However, when you revisit the site, you will receive another single-use session key to secure your communication.
A site must completely adhere to HTTPS to offer users complete security. Since 2018 the majority of sites online began offering HTTPS connections over standard HTTP.
One of the biggest encryption buzzwords is that of end-to-end encryption. Social messaging platform service WhatsApp began offering its users end-to-end encryption (E2EE) in 2016, making sure their messages are private at all times.
In the context of a messaging service, EE2E means that once you hit the send button, the encryption remains in place until the recipient receives the messages. What is happening here? Well, this means that the private key used for encoding and decoding your messages never leaves your device, in turn ensuring that no one but you can send messages using your moniker.
WhatsApp isn’t the first, or even the only messaging service to offer end to end encryption. It did, however, move the idea of mobile message encryption further into the mainstream—much to the ire of myriad government agencies around the world.
Unfortunately, there are many governments and other organizations that really dislike encryption. They hate it for the very same reasons we think it is fantastic—it keeps your communication private and, in no small part, helps the internet function.
Without it, the internet would become an extremely dangerous place. You certainly wouldn’t complete your online banking, purchase new slippers from Amazon, or tell your doctor what’s wrong with you.
On the surface, encryption and encryption terminology seems daunting. I won’t lie; the mathematical underpinnings of encryption are at times complicated. But you can still appreciate encryption without the numbers, and that alone is really useful.
If you want to start encrypting your digital world, check the easiest ways to encrypt your daily life with minimal effort.
Read the full article: 11 Basic Encryption Terms Everyone Should Know by Now
Source: MakeUseOf | 19 Aug 2020 | 12:00 am(NZT)
Fans inside your Mac provide a necessary airflow to cool critical components. They’re important because overheating can lead to physical damage. By default, the fans automatically start when the system gets hot and stop once it cools down. There’s no way to configure them out of the box.
But sometimes, you might hear the fan too often, or maybe you don’t notice the fan running even when your Mac feels hot. We’ll explain how your Mac’s fan works and show how you can monitor and control its speed with third-party utilities.
In day-to-day usage, an app might need some extra processing power to complete its task. In such cases, your fans will run heavily and make noise. But when your system isn’t experiencing heavy usage and the fan is still constantly running, that’s a red flag.
Here are some factors that might affect your Mac’s fans:
Like most computer manufacturers, Apple does not let you directly control the fan’s workings. A third-party utility for this purpose can be useful in many situations:
When your Mac gets hot, it starts throttling your CPU until the temperature gets under control. Your Mac might run slower, but there’s nothing to worry about. You can artificially increase the fan speed to further reduce the CPU’s heat, but this will also increase fan noise.
If you hate fan noise, you can manually decrease the fan speed. When you do so, your Mac might run hotter, which could lead to system instability. With either option, you should continuously monitor the temperature of components to ensure you don’t cause any irreversible damage.
Many third-party utilities in the App Store lets you monitor components, check the hard drive temperature using SMART technology, and review overall system health. We’ll cover only those apps that have specific features to monitor and control the fan speed.
Macs Fan Control is a utility that lets you monitor fan speed and temperature sensors. Right upon launch, you can monitor fan speed. Though a helper utility is necessary for controlling the fan speed, the interface is intuitive and easy to navigate.
The left pane shows the fans and their speed in RPM (revolutions per minute). Meanwhile, the right pane shows the temperature of each thermal sensor. To take control of a fan, click the Custom button next to the fan and select how you want to control it.
The Constant RPM option lets you manually set the RPM value. With this, the fan will spin at the desired speed regardless of temperature and sensor values. In the Sensor-based value option, you get to select a sensor and define the temperature at which the fan speed will increase.
If you notice high CPU temperature (over 80 or 90 degrees Celsius), and the fans aren’t running right, you might have a hardware issue. The basic features of the app are free, but the Pro version lets you set custom fan presets.
Download: Macs Fan Control (Free, $14.95 for Pro version)
TG Pro is another utility that lets you quickly view CPU, GPU, and hard drive temperature, as well as checking battery health and other hardware parameters. You can also keep track of and control the fan speed, run diagnostics, and generate a complete report for the fans.
The left pane shows a hardware list and its corresponding sensors on the right. For each sensor, you’ll see the current temperature and a bar showing temperature anywhere between 0—105 degrees Celsius. The bar changes its color from green to orange to red, depending on the temperature at that particular state.
The Fans area displays the fan speed. From here, you can quickly change the fan control mode with various rules to decide its speed in any conditions. Just like the temperature bar, the color changes with fan speed. If you consistently notice high fan speed, that’s a red flag.
At the bottom is the diagnostics area where you can get valuable data on the last shutdown, health of your fans, and battery health. If there’s an issue, a help button will guide you towards more information on fixing the fan.
Download: TG Pro ($20, free trial available)
Your Mac’s firmware is capable of controlling fans in response to temperature changes. The apps mentioned here give you more help in analyzing the temperature patterns of your system. Aside from this diagnostic benefit, taking charge of the fans yourself should be the last resort. Only do so if you’re confident and nothing else has worked.
Apart from the fans, other Mac components can start showing warning signs before they run into a major issue. Find out other warning signs your Mac has a problem to spot these issues before they get worse.
Read the full article: How to Control Your Mac’s Fan Speed
Source: MakeUseOf | 18 Aug 2020 | 11:00 pm(NZT)
If you’re resetting your computer, changing your email app, or just playing around with something that could affect your emails, you may want to make a backup of your Microsoft Outlook emails through exporting them.
Outlook allows you to export your messages in various formats. We’ll show you which one to use, depending on how you plan to use the exported emails (including working with them outside of Outlook).
If you use Outlook on a Windows computer, you can export your emails to PST format. This format includes not only your emails, but your contacts and calendar as well. You can then use this PST file on another computer to import all your emails into Outlook.
Some of the scenarios where you’d want to use this export method include when you’re moving from one PC to another, switching from Windows to Mac, moving emails from one account to another, or just making a regular backup of your emails.
You can do this from within Outlook; the following steps will walk you through the procedure:
What you do with this is up to your needs. You can copy the file to cloud storage for a safe backup, move it to another computer if you will use Outlook there, or copy it to an external drive for archiving.
Outlook works differently on macOS than it does on Windows. On a Mac, you can export your Outlook emails to an OLM file. Like the PST format on Windows, this format also saves all your emails, contacts, and calendar entries.
The only difference here is the actual file format; Outlook uses the preferred one for your operating system. Here’s how to save your Outlook emails to an OLM file on your Mac:
The OLM file will now be available in your chosen folder. You can move it whenever you want.
If you’re not saving them as a backup, you may wish to export your Outlook emails to import them into another email account such as Gmail or Yahoo. As it turns out, Outlook allows you to move your emails between your accounts, as long as they’re all available in the app.
If you’ve added your destination email account to Outlook, you can easily and quickly move all your current Outlook emails to your chosen email account within the app.
Here’s how to perform this account-to-account email transfer process:
If you’re looking to analyze, sort, or perform any bulk tasks on your messages, you might prefer to have them in an Excel spreadsheet. Luckily, Outlook has an option that allows you to export your emails right to an Excel file.
This file will look like any other spreadsheet, with all your emails neatly organized in various columns. This makes analyzing your messages much easier than going through them in Outlook or another mail program.
You can do this with the following steps:
If you’re only looking to export a handful of emails, it’s convenient to do so using a drag and drop method.
To do that, open Outlook, select the emails you want to export, and drag and drop them onto a folder in File Explorer. For each one, Outlook will create an MSG file containing the message.
Whether you’re moving to a new email app or just want a backup copy of your emails, exporting messages from Outlook is easy to do, as shown above.
If you’re looking to move to another email app, have a look at the best free alternatives to Microsoft Outlook for some other desktop mail options.
Read the full article: How to Export Emails From Outlook
Source: MakeUseOf | 18 Aug 2020 | 10:00 pm(NZT)
If you’ve worked as a marketer or author of some content form, you’ve likely had times when finding the right image wasn’t easy. You can’t just pick any image from the internet and use it, as you may not have the right to do so.
Pro users, however, know where to look for the images they want. There are certain websites and services that offer you thousands of images to use on your website or blog. These sites often update their image libraries with new content so you always get something new. JumpStory is one of these services where you can get access to millions of visuals.
JumpStory Authentic Stock Photography is a service that offers unlimited access to over 25 million visuals that you can use on your sites. No matter the type of website you run, you’ll find dozens of appropriate images with this service. This will surely make your content stand out from the crowd.
Not only do you get access to static images, but there’s also a pool of over 500,000 professional videos. That helps enhance your video content.
MakeUseOf Deals is running a promotion for this service: you can subscribe for life at just $99.99. The regular price for this service stands at $2,340, meaning this deal discounts it by 95 percent.
With JumpStory, you’ll get more than you can ever consume. With over 20 million professional photos, you’ll never be short of any media content for your written copy or blog posts. You’ll always have a unique image to use in your articles and other content.
There are over 500,000 illustrations and 100,000 vectors, which is likely much more than you’d ever need for your projects. It includes 50,000 icons as well.
With an offering as large as this, it sometimes becomes difficult to drill down to the actual content that you need. That’s where the service’s AI tools come into the picture.
It offers a search helper to find you exactly the images you need. Then it tells how an image will perform using various AI algorithms. Those predictions help you decide what image you should use in your content to have more people see it.
When you like something on the site, you can add it to your favorites list. This gives you quick access to your marked content later when you come back to the service.
JumpStory also includes an image editor so you can refine your images before downloading them to your device. You can quickly and easily remove backgrounds from your images with the AI tools, crop your images, add text to your images, and perform other basic editing.
Head over to the JumpStory Authentic Stock Photography page at MakeUseOf Deals to take advantage of this offer. The subscription lasts forever, giving you access to both the existing visuals on the site as well as any freshly added content. It’s a fantastic resource for all your multimedia needs.
Read the full article: JumpStory’s Lifetime Membership Offers Over 25 Million Visuals
Source: MakeUseOf | 18 Aug 2020 | 5:30 pm(NZT)
Learning a new language is one of the best skills to acquire. Here are a few creative ways to pick up a new tongue, whether by reading, writing, or watching.
There are two popular ways to learn a language. You can use Duolingo or some of the other best free language learning apps, or you can try the language immersion methodology.
The right path is up to you, depending on your skill level in the new language. These websites and apps will help you learn or practice a language based on the way you prefer to learn.
Parallel Text believes the best way to get better at a language is to read a favorite book in that language. So it offers a split-view reading experience, where a book is presented in the language you know, alongside the language you want to learn.
Start by choosing a language you already know (like English) and a language you want to learn or practice. Current options include Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.
Parallel Text will then show a list of book options available in both languages. All the books are classics whose copyrights have expired, so you can legally read it for free.
Make your selection to start reading. You can choose a Compact View to only see the translated language, or a Split View to see both languages side-by-side. It’s an excellent way to practice reading with a full translation readily available when you need it. You can also click any sentence to have it read out loud by the browser so that you aren’t guessing pronunciations.
Productivity experts, memory experts, and teachers all say that writing things down helps you remember them better. You actually need to put pen to paper, and that act ingrains what you learned. To that end, here’s how to set up a language learning notebook.
Writer and language-learner Elzette Wilkinson shares how she set up and organizes her own notebook to learn and practice a new tongue. You can use any type of notebook in this method, and you’ll need a few highlighters and tabs. She says you can also use it in a digital notebook app, but use something with a stylus so that you’re physically writing, not typing.
Broadly, Wilkinson breaks down the notebook into a schedule, habit, and goals to set your patterns, and worksheets for practice. For example, a vocabulary worksheet will have spaces for a new word, its meaning, its memory prompt, synonyms and antonyms, and how to use it in a sentence. Fill everything in diligently to commit it to memory.
The whole article on Fluency Pending will explain how to set up other spaces, like diary entry or journaling, themed pages, resources, etc. You might also want to add in tips from other language notebook guides like Not So Translation’s language hacks and Michael Sunderland’s notebook.
Simply Learn Languages is a fantastic app to learn the basic words and phrases that a traveler will need in a foreign country. Download the language to use it offline, and start learning it through flashcards and quizzes.
Start with beginner phrases and basic sentences for travelers, across categories like numbers, directions, emergencies, accommodation, etc. You can unlock further phrases (advanced traveler and expat) for a price. At any point, you can review what you learned through quizzes.
Each Simply Learn Language category depicts the phrase in English script as well as the language’s original script. It also pronounces the phrase in a local person’s accent, so you can hear what it’ll sound like. Of course, a smart traveler could also use the app to quickly communicate with a foreigner.
Right now, the iOS version isn’t available, but you can download the Simply Learn app for any specific language for free. This will give you the same features (albeit with ads), and you can unlock more phrases and remove ads by paying.
Fluent is a Chrome extension that changes a few words on each page to help you learn a new language. Most of the page stays in English, but you’ll find a few highlighted words in French. Hover over them to learn the English meaning, and click to hear the pronunciation. You can even save words to your favorites.
At any point, you can toggle Fluent to pause or resume it, including a timed pause. You can also tweak settings so that the extension doesn’t activate on important websites like Google Docs or your online banking account. You can also manually whitelist some websites. Choose a difficulty level to tell Fluent how aggressively it should translate words.
At the moment, Fluent only teaches English users how to read and write French. But the team is looking to add new languages, and you can vote to choose the next language. It’s a fantastic app that teaches you to read through language immersion on the web.
Download: Fluent for Chrome (Free)
If you don’t want to learn French, there are a few other similar apps. Kypsis Language Immersion supports the widest variety of languages. Its settings also let you choose the difficulty level, and how many websites to apply it to. The interface isn’t as nice as Fluent, but it gets the job done.
Download: Kypsis Language Immersion for Chrome (Free)
Most Common Words (MCW) reckons that instead of learning a new language start to finish, you should learn its most common words. It’s actually not a bad idea if you club MCW with other language-learning apps or practices.
In a flashcard format, the site teaches English language speakers the 1,000 most common words from Spanish, German, Italian, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Business Chinese. “Business Chinese” is, as the name suggests, the most common words and terms used in the corporate world. Similarly, for Chinese speakers, it also teaches Business English.
One of the best ways to learn or practice a new language is to watch movies in it. But there’s a trick to that. Pick a film or TV series that you’ve already seen, not something you’re watching for the first time. When your brain is trying to learn a new language, don’t task it with other things like following the plot, figuring out the characters, and so on. Reruns help you enjoy something you are familiar with, while also learning something.
To that end, Netflix is the best service to learn a language while you binge-watch TV. There are a bunch of apps and extensions to watch Netflix and learn a language, and it’s not just reading subtitles.
Read the full article: 5+ Creative Ways to Learn a New Language for Free
Source: MakeUseOf | 18 Aug 2020 | 4:30 pm(NZT)