4 Apps to Make Traveling Easier

maps 2 goWhen on the road, even the most routine and everyday events can be made difficult. Internet connections can be hard to find, technology may not work correctly (or at all), and you’re forever searching for a free outlet. With all of these hang ups, it can be hard to check email or even locate your flight information in a timely fashion. But thankfully, there’s an app for everything, even for traveling.

Use these helpful apps to make the traveling process go as smoothly as possible, no matter how far you’re headed.

Apple’s Passbook

Coming standard on iOS devices, Passbook allows users to store all their important flight info in one, easy-to-tap location. This also goes for movie tickets, coupons, rewards cards, etc. Handy while on the go, Passbook is also great for everyday events. Simply load boarding passes, rental car info, or whatever other travel documents you need, and continue about your events paper-free.

Google Flights

Tired of searching around for the best deal? Download Google’s free compare app for a second opinion any day of the week. Use it to compare flight prices, or see which airlines are offering the best deals and when. The platform even offers suggestions and lets you know when to buy for the best deal possible.

City Maps 2Go

Out of your data network area? Try these pre-loaded city maps instead. The app offers easy-to-follow maps without the overage fees or slow data time. (Think of them as paper maps, but in a smaller package.) It even locates restaurants, shopping areas, or other specific types of businesses so you can find your way even when your phone has other ideas.

Packing Pro

Take the stress out of packing with this user-friendly app. Make a list of necessary items, and then check them off as you go. Adjust each list based on location, or email family members reminders of what to bring. For a small fee, packing becomes easier with this organized packing app.

Whether needing directions or expatiating your next flight, these apps are meant to take the hassle out of the traveling process. And considering users are on their electronic devices more often while traveling than any other time, pulling up these helpful screens shouldn’t be a problem. Just remember to charge up and log in for a stress-free traveling experience each time you leave the house.

How to reduce, remove, and block profanity online

word filterAs the Internet grows, the ability in which it’s used is constantly expanding. Teens, adults, and even kids of all ages are logging in and seeing what posts the net has to offer. Likewise, they’re sharing, sending, and commenting along for the world to see … whether or not their content is appropriate. Whether containing curse words, questionable photos, or suggestive text, in many areas of the net, there’s virtually no filter to weed out offensive messages. Users are free to post what they want, when they want, leaving the content for anyone to see.

So as a parent, teacher, or someone who just doesn’t appreciate reading the X-rated, what do you do? How do you filer out this inappropriate content?

Report It

On social media, content can easily be reported for being less than kosher. All users need to do is click the “report” button for the content to be sent into Twitter, Facebook, or alternative social media platform. Each post will then be reviewed and determined whether or not it should be taken down. Punishments are even given out to repeat offenders, such as limiting their log-on time or suspending them from a site.

Block It

For those with young Internet surfers, it may be a good idea to invest in blocking software, which doesn’t allow the use of certain websites without parent permission. Settings can be adjusted, based on desired freedom level and age, but the general idea is to keep kids from seeing anything too “advanced” for their years. Parents can purchase a program or subscribe to a monthly service.

This software is often found in schools or public libraries as well.

Scan It

web purifyA new way to look out for cursing or adult content comes by way of scanning. Companies like WebPurify work to check content directly from one’s web browser. By enabling the monthly service filer, users can avoid profanity from any corner of the web, thanks to an algorithm that constantly updates itself. With the service, users can block four-letter words, or a custom list of phrases, in multiple languages. Much similar to page-blocking software, WebPurify charges a monthly fee in order to keep one’s online searches curse-word free. However, the two differ in that scanning services place responsibility on the website owners to stop inappropriate content from reaching kids, not the parents or searchers.

No matter your approach to keeping the Internet clean, there are plenty of options to consider. Through the help of specialized software and workers who are dedicated to keeping sites safe, users of all backgrounds and ages can enjoy a more appropriate virtual space.

Should We Save the Optical Drive?

disc drivesIt’s nothing new to hear that Apple’s latest MacBook models come without a disc drive. They’re sleeker and thinner, and leaving out the “dated” technology allowed the company to pack in more features in less computer. They first did it with the MacBook Air in 2008, and with soaring sales, it’s likely the company didn’t see much of a draw back.

And because few people actually need their disc drive on a regular basis, computer engineers argue that the change is simply moving with the times. Games and CDs now come with digital download capabilities, and most software and entertainment can now be purchased completely online. As for CD lovers, audio book nerds, or vintage game players, a simple attachment can help cross this technological jump.

But what about the rest of computer companies? For now, most full-size laptops are still including a disc drive, but that isn’t the case for ultrabooks or tablets, which are being used more frequently as full-time computer substitutes. Due to both cost efficiency and technology trends, more and more people are finding it’s better to leave the drive behind. Custom models can still be ordered to include it, but not without a hefty price tag. And within only a few years, older models that still host the slot will become outdated, eliminating the pre-made option as well.

In time, it looks as though the disc drive may be almost completely extinct.

What We Lose

Without the ability to physically hold our own copy of music, movies, software, etc., a great deal can be lost. Digital copies are difficult, if not impossible, to lend to others because of DRM. Many downloads are given a one-click lifespan, meaning if a connection is lost or there’s a technical difficulty, you’re usually on the phone with customer support. And once you upgrade to a new device, replacing all your programs becomes a huge headache.

Even with completely legal tensions in mind (no illegal copies, etc.), losing the disc itself takes away a multitude of freedoms. Another issue comes with price, as few digital copies account for much of a discount. Despite not spending funds on physical materials, sales companies offer only a small price difference between their digital and in-person products. If you’re going to take away our ability to lend, can’t we at least save some cash?

Time will tell what’s really in store for our disc drives, and until then, we’ll be sure to borrow and share as many CDs as our drives will allow.

How much social media usage is too much?

social mediaIn a time where social media rules the Internet, it’s easy for users to become overwhelmed with the vast amount of profiles they can host. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., where does one draw the line as to how many profiles are enough? Especially when each platform is trying so hard to draw you in. Now companies host Facebook logins, and they’re constantly tweeting information that can only be seen by card-carrying members. They’re enticing us, and it’s working.

But there does come a point when all the social media is truly overwhelming. When too much time is being spent each day just keeping up with what others are doing online. We comment, like, share, and retweet all their best post from the day. And then we have to post things too, so other people can see them. Before long, keeping up with social media becomes a part time job.

Of course, celebrities can hire others to do it for them. When their day gets too busy, some social media professional is behind the keyboard, telling everyone about their busy day. Then thousands of responses come in. But what about the layman? Those who are logging in and putting up each post the old fashioned way?

Everyday Social Media

On Parks and Recreation, social media addict Tom Haverford is arrested for wrecking while tweeting. His tweets “Gotta pass this lady on the ejkerkj.” And “Just hit a fire hydrant, but I survived. #Unbreakable #WhatsMrGlassuptothesedays? #Whynosequel?” gave him away. As punishment, the judge took away all technology. No email, no phone, no mobile devices.

Should the rest of the world see the same punishment? When overwhelmed with technology, should we cut back? Cold turkey, no more electronics until a solid break has been had?

Of course, usage is different for everyone; we all have that friend who seems to be tweeting every second of the day. But after profile upon profile has been created, even the occasional users get bogged down with social media.

There’s truly no way to say how much to too much time online; that’s up to the individual. But to avoid a scene like Tom’s, or to just keep our heads straight between Facebook and all its minions, be sure to schedule break time each day. Otherwise we may just see what the effects of too much social media can do.

New beverage technology can identify “spiked” drinks

cupsIt seems that each day a new piece of technology is being invented. From new electronics, to items that allow us to live “greener” lives, to those that seem practically unnecessary, creative types are bringing new items into the world. One recent invention, however, can actually help create a safer nightlife environment. By combining chemical reactions to everyday items – plastic cups and straws – bar drinking can now be made safe.

Thanks to Drink Savvy, all users need to do is use a specific cup to know their beverage is free of common date-rape drugs, such as GHB, Rohypnol, and ketamine. Though they host many different street- or nick- names, these are the three main active components in date rape drugs, and each will almost immediately show up when present in Drink Savvy products.

How it Works

Drink Savvy items – plastic cups, straws, and swizzle sticks – react and change colors when date rate drugs are present. The cups contain spots or stripes, depending on the type of cup, when drugs are detected, while the straws and swizzle sticks turn bright red. As a chemical reaction takes place, the color changes, warning the drink owner the drink has been tampered with.

The cups can be purchased by bars or anyone throwing a party. Glass versions are even in the works for a sturdier, earth-friendly way to test one’s drinks. And when the cups can’t be easily obtained, consumers can throw in a swizzle stick or straw for easy identification on the go.

Similar products come in the form of testing strips, which can be dipped into one’s drink. But with beverage products that double as testers, there’s no need to worry about re-testing or waiting for results to come in.

What it Means

With more and more date rape drugging taking place each year, the introduction of products like these means consumers can stay safe while still having a good time. By combining science with actual products that users can transport, Drink Savvy’s efforts bring mobile stability to any party. Thanks to this growing area of technology, practices like drink spiking can soon be greatly reduced, if not stopped altogether.

Though this drink testing technology is not yet available, Drink Savvy is staying active to make others aware about their new inventions. Head to Drink Savvy’s website to find out more on product and research.

Is Chromecast the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread?

chromecastBack in July, Google announced the release of Chromecast — its latest pride and joy to come from the billion-dollar idea factory. The device, which is only about two inches long, works to stream video (or simply screens) from a computer, tablet, or phone, onto one’s TV. Basically, any television with an HDMI port can magically be turned into a smart TV of sorts. Easy, right? And unlike some of Google’s other releases, this one is surprisingly affordable. No subscription or ongoing fees — just a flat $35 to enjoy Chromecast for as many hours as the device will last.

The Setup

Chromcast can be purchased at any local electronics store or even Amazon. Then all that’s required is to plug in the device, and set up the streaming medium from a website Google automatically displays on the TV. Once in place, users click a box in the top right-hand corner of the screen (the “cast” button), and can start viewing. Remember that YouTube video you wanted to show to an entire room of people? Size is no longer a limitation. Or when ready to view Hulu Plus’s “computer only” content, you now have the upper hand.

Other Perks

  • Users can give their Chromecast a customized name.
  • Though Chromecast is optimized for specific websites (like YouTube), any content can still be shown through tab mirroring.
  • Content is streamed via the cloud, not from the device itself, so users are free to use the computer, tablet, or phone, for other tasks without interrupting their program.
  • Chromecast can be setup for multiple devices at once — use whichever one’s the closest.

This brings us to the next question: How did we ever live without it? Seriously, think of all the online TV, movies, and clips we could have been watching. If Google has anything to say about it, we’ll no longer need cable subscriptions, and rather just a strong Internet connection and a fully charged computer.

Of course, there are a few flaws with the device. For instance, software developments are still being updated, and Chromecast isn’t compatible with older iOS or Windows versions. Plus, videos stream as they appear on the computer. On HDTVs, that means less than crisp quality, but considering all the perks, a slightly grainy picture seems like a small price to pay.

Rural Internet Options are Slim, Expensive

rural internetFor those that don’t live in the heart of a metropolis, logging into the interweb may just be a timely, expensive process. Rather than free hi-speed WiFi lining the blocks, online access is hard to come by, is slow, and not all that reliable. To the majority of the population, however, this may come as a shock. When web access is so readily available, it’s hard to remember that it’s not a luxury for the entire country.

According to the FCC, 19 million Americans don’t have access to hi-speed or broadband Internet. These figures are purely location wise; the option to purchase isn’t available. For comparison, that’s the same size as the U.S.’s seven most populous cities combined: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Antonio. Can you imagine any of them without hi-speed Internet? Let alone all of them?

Slow to Grow

While steps are being taken to get these rural communities connected, it’s safe to say they’re going nowhere fast. Grants are being awarded for communities to dig cable or obtain broadband access, for instance, in rural Kentucky, while Internet companies themselves are slow to move forward.

In fact, many communities don’t have access to cable Internet – and never will – simply because of their population. Even in communities where cable lines are only a few miles away, companies won’t lay the extra line because there’s not enough business to be gained. To the rest of us, this seems like a no-brainer; once the work is done, there’s steady profit flowing in. But apparently, that isn’t the case.

Some rural communities are looking to broadband connections instead, which works via satellite, however this is a lot slower, inaccessible in certain weather events, and equally expensive at 1/20th of the speed. Personal satellites are also available, but are almost double the price and limit one’s usage; half of paid data has to be obtained between 2 and 8 am (though some companies’ hours differ slightly). Yet because this is many users’ only option, there are growing wait lists, depending on location.

So what will save these rural Internet users? Will enough grants finally come through to grant them online access? Or will Google Fiber upstage every current Internet provider and bring in lightening-fast Internet to those whose current option is dial-up?  Whatever the answer, it’s beyond time. Nineteen million people is just too high of a number to ignore.

Why is Facebook so inconsistent about removing inappropriate photos?

flagAny Facebook user has had the option – at one point or another – to report a friend’s photo. Whether or not it was inappropriate, hilarious, or even sentimental, the site brought our moral stands to question, and tested us between friendship and appropriate viewing material. Of course, the majority of those times, the pictures were nothing to balk at. They may have been a nice nature scene, or a group of girls giving their best “skinny arm,” but because it’s a photo, the report option was still present.

As for actual inappropriate photos, there are those who report them every day. They click the button, Facebook goes through the necessary channels, and the pic may or may not be taken offline. But what’s the criteria? Who decides what’s offensive and what isn’t? Because, as is, there doesn’t seem to be a sweeping standard. I’ve seen pictures of naked children get flagged (all of the necessary parts were still covered), as well as those with no actual cuss words or inappropriate subjects. But because they eluded to something we shouldn’t be talking about, apparently, the photos were deleted. In some cases, the poster is even banned for a certain amount of time, depending on the seriousness of their crime.

But why are pictures of scantily clad adults – often in suggestive poses – perfectly acceptable? (Then again, if the public began reporting those photos as well, maybe their deleting terms would make a little more sense.)

We don’t get it, Facebook.

Private vs. Public Social Media Accounts

On more private ventures, such as Snapchat, Draw Something, or Words With Friends, users receive little to no guidance by app creators. This anything goes mantra may provide for some private humor, but by the time users log into Facebook, Twitter, or other public platforms, those same rules no longer exist. Because others can see it, whether or not under privacy settings, the site becomes responsible for all content.

Within its fine print, Facebook states that there’s a copy made of each and every post; just because they remove it from the site, doesn’t mean it’s gone. Which brings even more questions into light, such as what the company is doing with all of these discarded pics – hopefully they’re saved for staff training and staff training only. But whatever the rules, it seems to be on a per-case basis, and one that holds no rhyme or reason.

To stay on the safe side and avoid being banned, it’s best to stay overly cautions. You never know what Facebook may find offensive.

5 Reasons Pinterest is a Better Search Engine than Google

pinterest_badge_redDespite its premise, platform, and overall demographic (crafty women), Pinterest comes out as one of the world’s most accurate search engines. Even better than actual search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sure, it was made as a social media website, and for leisure or entertainment time, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less accurate as a searchable device. Whatever the magic formula, Pinterest’s creators seem to have nailed down the best way to search photos without receiving a plateful of spam.

5. Pinterest is more visually appealing

Hosting large, quality photos, Pinterest gives users an accurate overview of each post. This eye-catching perk shows what each link will hold, as well as providing a short customer-written response, so there’s no need to worry about keyword or phrase stuffing. Every single search query is organic.

4. Its results are more dynamic

No matter the topic, Pinterest shows users an array of results and related topics, where traditional search engines tend to stick within a single comfort zone. For instance, if searching “tech,” Pinterest brings up news articles, products, must-have articles, fabric patterns, etc. In contrast, Google shows a mixture of electronic and college websites. Which option is more helpful?

3. It doesn’t correct our spelling or grammar

Non-traditional spelling is practically a norm now; having search terms automatically “fixed” requires a re-search, taking time and falsely adjusting our saved search features. Pinterest sidesteps this auto adjustment, allowing correct searches to take place on a first-time basis. Users save on time and results, all in one helpful swoop.

2. No ads

No pop ups, banners, or videos that play automatically. It’s searching uninterrupted.

1. There’s no spam

Without paid searches or keyword stuffing put into web pages, searches bring up actual relevant information. Users don’t have to waste time scanning for content that relates to their needs, and clicks won’t be wasted on sites scamming for traffic. With Pinterest, users know they’re gaining relevant, organic searches that actually hold useful information – not paragraphs of filler that reads in circles. No scanning, no pop-up ads, and no spammy content. For a population used to all of the above as the everyday norm, Pinterest’s search engine approach is a truly novel idea.

Are we too dependent on technology?

pyramidIn a day and age where almost everything runs on electricity – lights, entertainment, cooking, communication – it can be hard to fathom a life without it. From smartphones to Saturday night movies set to dim lights and the scent of microwaved popcorn, power is a part of our everyday lives; we’ve grown accustomed to such amenities, but what happens when those capabilities aren’t available? Whether due to Mother Nature, dead batteries, no signal, or some other unforeseen circumstance, sometimes power just isn’t as readily available as we’d like.

Without our normal everyday access, certain tasks become seemingly impossible – at least at first, like checking the weather or looking up which Grease actor won the most Tonys in 1972. One is left to memory (or, *gasp*, an encyclopedia) and the other requires a technology that was invented more than a century ago: the radio. However, no matter how cave-like life without technology may sound, some days it’s just a necessity.

How Would We Fare?

Should worse come to worst, though, how would we stand up against life without technology in today’s world? Zombie apocalypse, natural disaster, electricity overload – whatever the cause, could the human race make it? How many of us actually know how to build a campfire, build a shelter, and live off the land without looking up instructions online?

It may sound like a long shot, and in all likelihood, when the power goes out, it’s usually only for minutes at a time (sometimes even hours or days), but the possibility is always there that it could be much worse.

A Growing Trend

Ever since inventions such as televisions and computers started making their way into middle class homes, their use has been a part of everyday activity. And, as the technologies grew, so has the amount of use they get each day. Now, it’s normal for users to be on a phone and/or computer the majority of the day. With so much time logged on, however, it’s left few hours for us to contemplate life without such amenities. The more time we spend plugged in, the harder it is to imagine life unplugged.

No matter your stance on electronics and the future, it’s always a good idea to accept the possibility that things can and often do go wrong. Phones won’t get service, TVs will break, and internet connections can be interrupted. While it may not happen often, having a backup plan is a great way to stay prepared, no matter what happens.