Sony Xperia Eye could thrust AI-based ‘lifelogging’ into the limelight

Before diving in the Xperia Eye, let’s take a quick survey of the lifelogging genre to throw into better relief the advantages Sony is hoping to bring to the table. Lifelogging, for those new to the concept, is the process of using technology to track personal data generated by our own behavioral activities. In its most ubiquitous form, lifelogging consists of recording health and fitness metrics. This is part of what’s been termed the quantified self-movement, the bulwark of which is formed by many popular smartphone apps such as Health Tracker and Under Armour Record. Lifelogging cameras take this a step further, adding a visual record to the layer cake of data that represents one’s unfolding life experience.Lifelogging cameras, despite having been floating around in various R&D labs for well over a decade and inspiring many a strange and wonderful science fiction tale, have categorically failed to take hold in the mainstream. Now Sony is stepping up to the plate to have another crack at this concept with the Xperia Eye.
Xperia Eye
Lifelogging cameras have been touted on the basis of capturing important visual moments that one would otherwise miss if only possessed of a conventional camera, such as the gleeful exclamation spilling from a child when they glimpse a surprise birthday cake. And this is where Sony thinks they might have arrived at a means of improving upon the previous offerings. Rather than generate terabytes of superfluous photos and video footage, they have equipped their camera with forms of AI such as face recognition and voice detection, such that it selectively records the moments most likely to be significant to the individual. We have reported on similar developments before involving scene recognition by artificial intelligence, and it’s likely that Sony is using similar technology in their Xperia Eye.
Despite these kind of software breakthroughs, the Xperia Eye will still have to contend with a host of problems, the most significant being the lack of a really compelling use case. For most users, the inconvenience of wearing a camera 24/7 outweighs the benefits of capturing that one interesting photo or phrase that might occur during the course of a day. Rather than fancy voice-recognizing AI, Sony may be better served by taking a page from science fiction to promote the use of their device. In The Final Cut, a 2004 sci-fi thriller, Robin Williams plays a man who is responsible for curating video montages taken from a lifelogging device and forming a highlight reel of one’s life. Given the millennial generation’s penchant for selfies, a fast and easy method for both creating and sharing such a highlight reel might be the magic bullet necessary to take a device like Xperia Eye to prime time.
But science fiction also warns of a dark side to lifelogging and one we should probably heed before going gaga over video selfies. I will call this the Too Much Truth Dilemma, and it’s most clearly spelled out in an episode from Black Mirror, in which a husband and wife see the fabric of their lives gradually unravel thanks to the small disturbing truths they learn about each other from their lifelogging devices.
It turns out nature has already equipped us with a kind of lifelogging device in the form of our long and short term memories, which are in most cases curated to help us remain stable and happy individuals. Start examining our experiences in too much detail through the unapologetic lens of the lifelogging camera, and we may find that the truth is a poor substitute for fiction.

Newly Formed Neurons Help Brain “Catalog Memories In Time”

Newly Formed Neurons Help Brain “Catalog Memories In Time”

March 11, 2016 | by Ben Taub
photo credit: The human brain generates 1,400 new neurons per day, but their function had until now remained unknown

Sometimes it can feel every day is Groundhog Day: you wake up, go to work, see the same people as the day before, and come home again. And yet, you experience each day as a completely new event, fully aware that you are living it for the first time. Exactly how the brain distinguishes between apparently similar contexts without mixing them up has perplexed scientists for some time, but new evidence suggests that “newborn” brain cells may hold the answer.
The vast majority of brain cells – or neurons – are formed before birth and do not divide or regenerate at any point during a person’s lifetime. However, a small subpopulation of cells located in a tiny brain region called the dentate gyrus are able to do so, producing new cells via a process known as neurogenesis. Yet while the human brain produces around 1,400 of these so-called adult born granule cells (abGCs) per day, the function of these young neurons had until now remained completely unknown.
To investigate this, researchers from Columbia University and the Zuckerman Institute used 2-photon calcium imaging to monitor and compare the activity of newly-formed and mature neurons in the dentate gyrus of mice as they encountered certain stimuli. The study, published in the journal Neuron, is the first to monitor abGCs in live animals.
During the experiment, mice were placed on treadmills that were lined with a range of multisensory cues, such as textured materials, lights and smells. Results showed that abGCs less than six weeks old were significantly more active than mature neurons as the mice encountered these stimuli, suggesting that they may be have been actively encoding memories of the sensory experience.
In contrast, mature neurons appeared to be less sensitive to these multisensory inputs, instead becoming stimulated only by major changes in spatial arrangements.
Speaking to IFLScience, study coauthor Mazen Kheirbek explained that “unlike the mature neurons, the younger neurons seem to be very sensitive to the changes in the stimuli around them, so we think that they are much better at taking in novel information.”
Even when every day feels the same, we know it is not.
To test this hypothesis, the researchers genetically engineered mice to carry light-sensitive genes that can control the firing of abGCs – a method known as optogenetics. These mice were repeatedly placed in a chamber and given an electric shock to the foot, until they learned to associate the environment with the shock, causing them to automatically freeze in fear every time they entered the room.
Using flashing lights to inhibit their abGCs, researchers then placed the mice in a similar but slightly different room, in which they did not receive a shock. While “normal” mice were able to tell the two chambers apart and therefore only exhibited the conditioned fear response in the shock room, those with silenced abGCs displayed this freezing reaction in both rooms, suggesting an inability to distinguish between the two settings.
As such, the study authors conclude that the sensitivity of newborn neurons to multisensory cues enables the brain to distinguish between highly similar yet novel contexts – a phenomenon known as pattern separation.
This research could lead to the development of new treatments for mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which occurs due to “a deficit in the ability to catalog memories in time or distinguish a new experience from a previous traumatic experience.”
Accordingly, Kheirbek says researchers’ “long-term goal is to stimulate the activity of these young neurons so that we can treat different cognitive disorders, especially those involving deficits in the ability to distinguish between something new versus something in the past.”

Biologists discover electric bacteria that eat pure electrons rather than sugar, redefining the tenacity of life

Some intrepid biologists at the University of Southern California (USC) have discovered bacteria that survives on nothing but electricity — rather than food, they eat and excrete pure electrons. These bacteria yet again prove the almost miraculous tenacity of life — but, from a technology standpoint, they might also prove to be useful in enabling the creation of self-powered nanoscale devices that clean up pollution. Some of these bacteria also have the curious ability to form into ‘biocables,’ microbial nanowires that are centimeters long and conduct electricity as well as copper wires — a capability that might one day be tapped to build long, self-assembling subsurface networks for human use.
As you may recall from high school biology, almost every living organism consumes sugarto survive. When it gets right down to it, everything you eat is ultimately converted or digested into single molecules of glucose. Without going into the complexities of respiration and metabolism (ATP!), these sugars have excess electrons — and the oxygen you breathe in really wants those electrons. By ferrying electrons from sugar to oxygen, a flow of electrons — i.e. energy — is created, which is then used to carry out various vital tasks around your body (triggering electrons, beating your heart, etc.)
These special bacteria, however, don’t need no poxy sugars — instead, they cut out the middleman and feed directly on electrons. To discover these bacteria, and to cultivate them in the lab, the USC biologists quite simply scooped up some sediment from the ocean, took it back to the lab, stuck some electrodes into it, and then turned on the power. When higher voltages are pumped into the water, the bacteria “eats” electrons from the electrode; when a lower voltage is present, the bacteria “exhales” electrons onto the electrode, creating an electrical current (which could be used to power a device, if you were so inclined). The USC study very carefully controlled for other sources of nutrition — these bacteria were definitely eating electrons directly.
A beautiful photo of a geobacter metallireducens bacterium

All told, various researchers around the world have now discovered upwards of 10 different kinds of bacteria that feed on electricity — and, interestingly, they’re all pretty different (they’re not from the same family), and none of them are likeShewanella or Geobacter, two well-known bacteria that have interesting electrical properties. Kenneth Nealson of USC, speaking to New Scientist about his team’s discovery, said: “This is huge. What it means is that there’s a whole part of the microbial world that we don’t know about.”
[Read our featured story: We are slaves of electricity.]
As for the repercussions of finding bacteria that eat and excrete electrons, the most obvious use is in the growing fields of molecular motors and nanomachines. These bacteria, at their most basic, are machines that consume raw electricity — and so, with some clever (genetic?) engineering, it stands to reason that we might one day use them to power tiny machines that can perform tasks that are currently carried out by expensive, human-operated machines (cleaning up chemical spills, for example). These bacteria might also allow us to find out exactly how much energy a living cell needs to survive; put them in a test tube, and then slowly dial back the electrode voltage until they die. A cruel experiment, but one that would yield very informative results.
In a separate study a few years ago, researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark found that some electric bacteria also have the ability to form microbial nanowires — long chains of bacteria that can span several centimeters. These nanowires ferry nutrients to bacteria further down the chain, which might be stuck underneath some mud. Curiously, these nanowires are about as conductive as standard copper wires, which leads us to wonder if electric bacteria might one day be coerced into building subsurface networks for human use. It would be a little more efficient than spending billions of dollars on laying submarine cables

Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let’s ban elementary homework

Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let’s ban elementary homework

Homework does have an impact on young students — but it’s not a good one

Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let's ban elementary homework(Credit: KatarinaGondova via iStock)
“There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.”
This statement, by homework research guru Harris Cooper, of Duke University, is startling to hear, no matter which side of the homework debate you’re on. Can it be true that the hours of lost playtime, power struggles and tears are all for naught? That millions of families go through a nightly ritual that doesn’t help? Homework is such an accepted practice, it’s hard for most adults to even question its value.
When you look at the facts, however, here’s what you find: Homework has benefits, but its benefits are age dependent.
For elementary-aged children, research suggests that studying in class gets superior learning results, while extra schoolwork at home is just . . . extra work. Even in middle school, the relationship between homework and academic success is minimal at best. By the time kids reach high school, homework provides academic benefit, but only in moderation. More than two hours per night is the limit. After that amount, the benefits taper off. “The research is very clear,” agrees Etta Kralovec, education professor at the University of Arizona. “There’s no benefit at the elementary school level.”
Before going further, let’s dispel the myth that these research results are due to a handful of poorly constructed studies. In fact, it’s the opposite. Cooper compiled 120 studies in 1989 and another 60 studies in 2006. This comprehensive analysis of multiple research studies found no evidence of academic benefit at the elementary level. It did, however, find a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school.
This is what’s worrying. Homework does have an impact on young students, but it’s not a good one. A child just beginning school deserves the chance to develop a love of learning. Instead, homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning. And it’s a long road. A child in kindergarten is facing 13 years of homework ahead of her.
Then there’s the damage to personal relationships. In thousands of homes across the country, families battle over homework nightly. Parents nag and cajole. Overtired children protest and cry. Instead of connecting and supporting each other at the end of the day, too many families find themselves locked in the “did you do your homework?” cycle.
When homework comes prematurely, it’s hard for children to cope with assignments independently—they need adult help to remember assignments and figure out how to do the work. Kids slide into the habit of relying on adults to help with homework or, in many cases, do their homework. Parents often assume the role of Homework Patrol Cop. Being chief nag is a nasty, unwanted job, but this role frequently lingers through the high school years. Besides the constant conflict, having a Homework Patrol Cop in the house undermines one of the purported purposes of homework: responsibility.

win phone must hav apps

1. Facebook

I see a lot of people looking at cell phones on my way to work every day, and the number-one thing I see them doing is looking through their Facebook newsfeed. These days, not having Facebook is pretty much like not having a telephone. The built-in Windows Phone People app lets you hook up your Facebook (and Twitter) contacts and see the latest updates, but the official Facebook app lets you do every kind of Facebooking—posting updates, photos, and check-ins. You can pin tiles to the home screen for Facebook messages, places check-in, or groups, as well as just for the overall app. One of our absolute favorite features, though, is that you can have the app set your lock screen to cycle through your top-liked photos.

Windows Phone Store Link: Facebook 

2. Skype

2. Skype [slide ID: 386788] The video phone is here, and it's Skype! Of course, your videocalling partner doesn't need a Windows Phone: You can Skype with anyone on just about any platform you can think of—Android, iPhone, Mac, or Windows PCs. And there's a whole lot more to Skype than just the marquee video-chatting feature: It also lets you send instant messages, and make calls and send SMS texts to regular cell and land phones for very low rates.

Windows Phone Store Link: Skype

3. Yelp

What's the point of having a smart phone if it doesn't show you where the nearest Starbucks, pizza place, bar, or gas station is? You could use the built in maps for this, but Yelp is the last world on crowd-sourced ratings for all manner of local storefronts. The Yelp community is the best measuring stick I've found for ratings of local establishments. You can also check in for deals and add your own reviews right from the app.

Windows Phone Store Link: Yelp 

4. The Weather Channel

With all the drastic weather that's been going on during this past year, you really never know what to expect. Today in New York is a good example: The day started out in the mid-50s, but is going down to 5 degrees at night. You could really be in trouble if not for consulting an app like the Weather Channel. Yes, like iPhone, Windows Phone comes with a tolerable weather app pre-loaded. Like the stock app, the Weather Channel's Windows Phone app But it offers far more detailed weather information from a reliable source in a pleasing and clear design. In it you'll find radar maps, hourly and ten-day forecasts, and videos of local and general interest. Extras include the severe weather center and the ability to browse user-contributed iWitness weather photos.

Windows Phone Store Link: The Weather Channel 

5. Twitter

Twitter seems like such a simple thing: write 140-character microblog entries and subscribe to those of other people. But what about seeing full conversations or dealing with multiple accounts? The Windows Phone Twitter app lets you do these things in an ad-free, clearly designed user interface. It also lets you include photos and location with your tweets, and you can watch Vine videos right inside the app.

Windows Phone Store Link: Twitter 

6. Netflix

The smallest screen has gotten bigger, and now provides a reasonable way to view video entertainment. As the predominant source of streaming movie and TV show content, Netflix is the go-to source for such entertainment, and the Windows Phone Netflix app is up to the task. It lets you continue watching shows you started on a bigger device, or choose new selections and add them to your queue. It's full-featured yet minimalist player interface make for a viewing experience that's just right.

Windows Phone Store Link: Netflix 

7. Pandora

Listening to your favorite music on the go is a mobile must. The Windows Phone Pandora app lets you do just this. It was officially completely ad-free till the start of 2014, but I still don't notice ads in the app. The streaming music service has a genre and even sub-genres for every taste. Though you can't specify exact songs for your playlists, you can skip up to 6 songs that don't please. The app lets you pin your favorite stations as start screen tiles, which display the currently playing song, as does the lock screen. It even knows to block explicit songs if a child's account is using the mobile. Just as important as any of this is the services top-notch sound quality.

Windows Phone Store Link: Pandora 

8. Mint

Windows Phone users shouldn't have to miss out on the best personal finance management service, Mint, and now they don't have to. The Mint app for Windows Phone may not match every feature found in the iPhone and Android versions, but it does an excellent job nevertheless. The app, with a clean, clear design gives you instant access to your account balances, financial transactions and spending habits, and budgets. It also alerts you to unusual spending patterns.

Windows Phone Store Link: Mint 

9. Vine

I was a real Vine skeptic when it first came out: Six seconds? What can you show in six seconds? It turns out that a lot of very clever Vine users have proven me wrong, in this video version of Twitter. The Windows Phone app lets you enjoy all those mini-vidis from your followeds and even shoot and upload your own. It does lack a couple of its iPhone counterpart's shooting helpers like the ghosting feature for stop motion, but it does have everything you need to get your Vine on.

Windows Phone Store Link: Vine 

10. 6tag

I know that there's now an official Instagram app for Windows Phone that's perfectly serviceable even though it's still in beta, and I know it's a top downloaded app. But 6tag, at least for now, offers a far richer Instagram experience, You get in-app photo and video shooting (not in the official app) with all the filters, tagging, and so on. It even offers a cool map view of your photos. The latest version even lets you save videos to your SkyDrive cloud storage. My only concern is the possibility of Instagram shutting down 6tag's API access, in which case you can simply switch to the official app.

Windows Phone Store Link: 6tag

10 Ways to Boost Your Wi-Fi Signal

You want the strongest wireless signal you can get from your router, wherever you are in your home. Here are some quick tips for achieving optimal reception.
10 Ways to Boost Your Wireless Signal
Browsing slowing to a crawl, the inability to stream, dropped Wi-Fi signals, wireless dead zones—every one of these problems is maddening in a world where getting online has become, for some, as necessary as breathing. Well, maybe not that critical, but important. If the only way you can get decent reception is to be in the same room as your wireless router, these simple tips can help optimize your network.
Distance is the most obvious problem—there is a certain optimal range that the wireless signal can travel. If the network has to cover an area larger than the router is capable of transmitting to, or if there are lots of corners to go around and walls to penetrate, performance will take a hit. Interference is also a big issue, especially for those who live in densely populated areas. Signals from other wireless networks and electronics can impact speeds, as can physical obstructions, such as walls. Many phone systems and other wireless devices can also interfere with signals. This is a good thing to consider when you are shopping for a new phone system—many of them use DECT 6.0 nowadays, which coexists very nicely with standard Wi-Fi networks.
It's also possible the problem isn't interference or other networks. Is there a chance you have unwanted guests piggybacking on your network? You can always look at your router's administrator interface to see how many devices are connected. Or use a network analyzer tool to see if you have unknown machines on your network. If it's an open network, close it. Set up security—preferably WPA2, as WEP isn't as strong—and put in a strong password that's hard for others to guess.
There are many other reasons why your connection may be less than ideal. Fortunately, we have some troubleshooting tips to help, and many of them won't cost you a dime.

Update Your Firmware
Update Your Firmware
Perhaps your router just needs an update. Router manufacturers are always tweaking software to eke out a little more performance and speed. How easy—or how hard—it is to upgrade your firmware depends entirely on your device manufacturer and model. Most current routers have the update process built right into the administration interface, so it's just a matter of hitting a firmware upgrade button. Some models, particularly if they're older, still require you to first find and download the firmware from the router manufacturer's website. It's tedious, but still a good thing to do.
In fact, even if your wireless network isn't ailing, you should just make it a point to update your firmware on a regular basis. You will get performance improvements, better features, and security updates that way.

Move It, Move It
Optimal Router Placement
Not all rooms and spaces are created equal. The fact is, where you place the router can affect your wireless coverage. It may seem logical to have the router inside a cabinet and out of the way, or right by the window where the cable comes in, but that's not always the case. A wired router can be tucked away, out of sight, out of mind. A wireless router, on the other hand, needs open spaces, away from walls and obstructions. It's not just physical obstructions either; heavy-duty appliances or electronics running in close proximity can impact Wi-Fi performance.
If your router has external antennas, orient them vertically to bump up coverage. Elevate the router if you can. You can mount it on a wall, or put it on top of a shelf or a table to get a better signal. There are plenty of tools to help you visualize your network coverage. I personally like Heatmapper, or our Editors' Choice, inSSIDer for Office, which shows you both the weak and strong spots in your Wi-Fi network. There are plenty of mobile apps, too, such as Netgear's WiFi Analytics.

What's Your Frequency?
Take a look at your network's administrator interface, and make sure you have it configured for optimum performance. If you have a dual-band router, you'll likely get better throughput by switching to the 5GHz band instead of using the more common 2.4GHz band. If nothing else, you will likely encounter less interference from other wireless networks and devices because the 5GHz frequency is not as commonly used. Switching is quite simple. See if your router's administrator interface offers 5GHz. If it does, enable it, and set up the network as you would normally.

Change That Channel
Change That Channel
Ever play with walkie-talkies as a kid? You may remember how if the units weren't on the same channel, you couldn't hear each other. Or if you wound up on a different channel, you could listen in on someone else's conversation on a completely different set. Same thing with baby monitors.
In the same vein, all modern routers are multichannel, so they can switch across different channels when communicating to your devices. You tend to use whatever the router default is, but if neighboring wireless networks are also using the same channel, then you are going to encounter signal congestion. On Windows-based PCs, you can see what channels neighboring Wi-Fi networks are using. From the command prompt (in Windows 7) if you type netsh wlan show all, you will see a list of all wireless networks and the channels being used in your vicinity. At PC Labs, for instance, most of our networks and those of our neighbors are using channels 6 and 11.
Once you know what channels are in use, pick one that's less congested and manually switch your router to broadcast on that channel. You can find this setting in your wireless network's administrator interface. While the interface differs by device and manufacturer, you will generally find the option under the basic wireless settings category.

Control Quality
Control Quality
Most modern routers come with Quality-of-Service (QoS) tools to limit the amount of bandwidth that apps use. This is handy if you do lot of video streaming or use Voice over IP (VoIP) often. The last thing you want is to have your video or call quality degrade just because someone is downloading a gigantic video file from Dropbox. You can, for example, specify which applications and services get priority, and set downloaders as lower priority at certain times of the day. Sure, it will take longer to get that file, but everyone else on the network will thank you. QoS settings can typically be found under advanced settings in the network's administrator interface. Some routers may even make it easier by offering a multimedia or gaming setting, so you know those applications will be prioritized.

Don't Rely on Obsolete Hardware
A lot of the tips so far have been about getting the most out of your existing equipment, but if you are running old hardware, you can't expect the best performance. We have a tendency to subscribed to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality with back-end devices, especially networking gear. If you bought your router years ago, you are likely still on the 802.11g standard. There are still even 802.11b/a routers in the wild. All three wireless standards cap at fairly low bandwidths. Thus, all the tweaking we've outlined above won't get you far, when you consider the maximum thoughput for 802.11g is 54Mbps. Compare that with the more modern 802.11n at 300Mbps, and the latest 802.11ac at 1Gbps. Our list of the best wireless routers is a good place to start your search.
It's not just the age of your router you should consider. If you bought a PC within the last couple of years, you likely have an 802.11ac wireless adapter, or at least 802.11n, so it should be compatible with newer routers. But if your laptop doesn't have an integrated updated adapter, you can get a USB wireless adapter. In some cases, they may yield better performance than the built-in ones, so if your network router is on 802.11ac, but you are still not getting the kind of performance you expect, look into an adaptor. They aren't that expensive, and having one can make a huge difference.

Replace Your Antenna
Replace Your Antenna
If your router has a built-in antenna, adding an external version would be a good idea, as the latter tends to send a stronger signal. Many router manufacturers sell omnidirectional antennas, which send a signal to all directions, or directional ones, which send a signal in one specific direction. Most built-in antennas tend to be omnidirectional, so if you are buying an external one, it should be marked "high-gain" to actually make a difference. A directional antenna tends to be a better option, since odds are that you aren't experiencing weak spots in your network in every direction. Point your external antenna in the direction of your weak spot, and it will broadcast the signal accordingly. Check your router manufacturer's website for details on how to buy them.

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi Range Extender (EX7000)
Set Up A Wireless Range Extender
Perhaps it's just a matter of room size. All routers are only capable of broadcasting reliably up to a certain distance. Any further, and the signal gets weak. If your wireless network covers a large area, you need a wireless range extender—also known as a wireless repeater or a Wi-Fi expander—to help boost your signal. This is also a good idea if there are thick walls or other physical structures that block signals.
The range extender looks similar to a router, but it works differently. For starters, it picks up the existing Wi-Fi signal from your wireless router and just rebroadcasts it. As far as your network router is concerned, the range extender is just another client with an IP address, much like your laptop. Even though it's not a router, you should still use the same rules when figuring out where to put the extender. It should be close enough to your main network router to pick up a good signal—80 percent or more is a good rule of thumb—but close enough to the weak spots of the network so that the repeater actually can do its job.
We've reviewed quite a few extenders, and the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi Range Extender (EX7000)$160.99 at Dell is our Editors' Choice. There are some models which you plug directly into a power outlet, such as the TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE450) £59.99 at Novatech Ltd. You don't have to pick an extender that is the same brand or model as your existing router, but you should pick one capable of broadcasting your signal. For example, don't buy an 802.11n extender if your router is on 802.11ac. If you are willing to tinker, and you happen to have routers lying around, you can also make your own repeater, but that's another story altogether.

Amped Wireless High Power 700mW Dual Band AC Wi-Fi Access Point (APA20)
Add Access Points? 
For an alternative to extenders, consider access points (APs). These can get really expensive, but they work together to create a mesh network, in which each unit transmit signals to each other, creating a strong and stable wireless network. APs are ideal if you are covering a large space, like multiple floors or even a campus with different buildings. The Amped Wireless High Power 700mW Dual Band AC Wi-Fi Access Point (APA20) and our Editors' Choice Meraki MR16 Cloud Managed Wireless Access Point offer easy-to-use cloud portals to help you create large wireless networks, but that may be beyond your needs or budget if you're dealing with a home network.

Get in the Guts
Get Into the Guts of Your Router
The adventurous should look at the open-source DD-WRT router operating system. Belkin maintains a line of DD-WRT-equipped routers in its Linksys lineup, as do other major router manufacturers, such as Buffalo, Netgear, D-Link, and TrendNET. Or you can just download DD-WRT and install it on any router you have lying around. DD-WRT can ramp up performance and give you access to more advanced networking features. This isn't a project to embark on lightly, however, as it's not easy to remove DD-WRT from some routers. Be prepared to sweat and toil, but the rewards may be worth it.
Most of the recommendations here are free or low-cost, and utilize the features already built into your router. Get to know all the capabilities hiding inside the wireless network's administrator interface, and you will be surprised to see how much faster and reliable your network can be.
For more tips to help speed up your surfing, check out Router Features You Should Be Using and How to Set Up and Configure Your Router. Having problems with even getting or maintaining a signal? Then 10 Tips for Troubleshooting Your Internet Connection is worth a read.
Once you've made all the necessary tweaks to optimize your wireless network, test your Internet speed below.

ff tips

Search Better With Keywords

If you find yourself searching through the same sites over and over again, you may want to consider utilizing search keywords. For example, if you're an avid Wikipedia-er, you can use search keywords to access an intra-Wiki search directly from the main address bar.

To create a search keyword, right-click on the search box within the site you'd like to add. This action will prompt a pull-down menu where you can choose "Add a Keyword for this Search." This in turn prompts a pop-up bookmark window, which includes a "Keyword" field where you can create a nickname for your search, e.g. would get "IMDb" and would get "HellaAwesomeTechSite" (from experimenting, it appears that you can't use a multi-word keyword).

Once added, you access that search by typing the keyword followed by the search into the address bar. For example, you would just need to enter Wikipedia Charles Darwin in the search bar to be taken directly to Darwin's Wiki page. #boom

Explore Firefox's Secret Interface

Firefox has a secret interface which allows users to really get into the coding weeds and tweak how their browser performs (including items not included in the Options menu).

We should note that this function comes with the pop-up warning "This might void your warranty!" and furthermore "You should only continue if you are sure of what you are doing." Mozilla's own information comes with similar scary language.

However, if you're feeling adventurous, you can check it out by entering about:config in the Location bar. You'll be greeted with the aforementioned pop-up warning. Just click "I'll be careful, I promise!" to move on. (You can't break things by just looking.) Here, you'll find a number of preferences that you can change and tweak.

For most users, this window will look a bunch of impenetrable codespeak nonsense. If you want to try some things out, the website has a handy list of config tweaks (though we should note that they are specifically tailored for Firefox 40, so things may have changed in subsequent versions).

Have fun! (But be careful.) 

Easily Jump Through Tabs

Have a lot of tabs open? You can easily toggle through them via simple keyboard shortcuts:

Focus on the next tab on the right: Ctrl + Page Down
Move to the left: Ctrl + Page Up (on a Mac, you can toggle between tabs using command + option + [left/right] arrow)
Jump between multiple tabs: Ctrl + [1 through 9] allows you to jump between a long set of tabs where 1 represents the one on the far left and each subsequent number represents the next tab over. (On a Mac use the command key.)

But if you really want to step up your tab game, check next tip... 

Enable Tab Previews

Firefox has a helpful (but non-default) feature that presents thumbnail previews of all your open tabs, but you have to go into the aforementioned (and thoroughly code-y) about:config interface to do it. As stated earlier, this interface comes with warnings that it might mess with your browser's performance (and it's probably also worth noting that this function hasn't been included in the Options menu).

But THAT all being said, I enacted this feature and can say the following two statements with confidence: 1) it's pretty handy, and 2) I haven't noticed any issues on my system (but can't guarantee that you won't on yours). If you're feeling bold, here's how you do it:

Enter about:config into the Location bar > click "I'll be careful, I promise!" > enter "browser.ctrlTab.previews" in the Search bar in the new window > double click the entry. This will toggle the value from default "false" to "true." Now, try holding down the Ctrl + Tab keys and you'll be presented with thumbnails of all your open tabs, which you can navigate through using the arrow keys or your mouse.  

Refine Your Search

Firefox aids your searches by auto-filling suggested sites based on your bookmarks and browsing history below your search bar. This can be an overwhelming form of assistance—particularly if you have many bookmarks and a voluminous browsing history. Fortunately, you can refine this search using the following modifiers (be sure to add a space between them):

^ for matches in your browsing history
* for matches in your bookmarks
+ for matches in pages you've tagged
% for matches in your currently open tabs
~ for matches in pages you've typed
# for matches in page titles
@ for matches in web addresses (URLs).

For example, if you wanted to find that online magazine about PCs, which you have saved somewhere in your bookmarks, you would easily find it by typing PCMag * in the address bar—it will then appear in the autofill pull-down section below your search bar sans all the other PCMag articles that may exist in your browsing history. You can even use these search refiners in combination with one another (just remember to include a space between symbols).

How Healthy Is Your Browser?

Firefox collects data on your behavior and your browser's overall performance so as to "provide you with meaningful comparisons and tips," as well as to "aggregate the data shared by everyone to make Firefox better for you." This function is turned on by default, but if you don't like the idea of Mozilla keeping an eye on you, it can be disabled under Options (Mac: Preferences) > Advanced > Data Choices [tab].

Firefox also uses these collected facts and figures to render a personalized data-licious report of your browsing data, such as how long you've spent on your browser, how many times it has crashed, and even how long it has taken to open (measured in milliseconds). To access this "health report," Just go to Help > Firefox Health Report. 

All About That Master Password

A master password can keep you secure by requiring it to be entered in order for Firefox to access your stored passwords (that particularly comes in handy if you share your computer with anyone). To create a master password, go to the Menu button (AKA the hamburger icon) > Options > Security tab > check the box next to "Use a master password." Follow the directions in the pop-up window. You can also disable or change your master password through this same window.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having lost your master pass, you can re-set it in a roundabout way. NOTE: This action will remove all your saved usernames and passwords. To re-set, enter "chrome://pippki/content/resetpassword.xul" into the location bar > Enter > Reset in the ensuing pop-up page.

You can then go and create a new master password from there using the above directions.

Learn Yer Keyboard Shortcuts

Are you still pointing and clicking? Like an old person? You need to learn your keyboard shortcuts. Mozilla provides a comprehensive list of Firefox key commands here, but here are a few good ones that will make browsing easier (Mac users, just replace all the "special keys" with the command key):

Back/Forward: Alt + left/right arrow
Reload Page: F5 or Ctrl + R
Reload Page (override cache): Ctrl + F5 or Ctrl + Shift + R
Zoom In/Out: Ctrl + [plus symbol]/[minus symbol] (Zoom Reset: Ctrl + 0)
New Window: Ctrl + N (New Private Window: Ctrl + Shift + P)
Undo Close Tab/Window: Ctrl + Shift + T/N

Design Yer Own Shortcuts

You could take some time to learn all of Firefox's aforementioned set of shortcuts. But you're not a mere sheep who just accepts what you've been handed, are you? I thought not.

Users can use the Mozilla-blessed Customizable Shortcuts extension (for Mac and Windows) to trick-out their commands. Once downloaded, just go to Options and you'll find a new Shortcuts tab. 

Customize Control Panel

You can customize which items you see in the control panel (and even find some new tools you might not have known about). Click the hamburger in the top-right corner and then click Customize at the bottom.

In this new pop-up window you can drag-and-drop (d+d) items from the window on the right into the "Additional Tools and Features" window on the left, and vice-versa. (Don't worry, you can always hit "Restore Defaults" in the bottom right corner to go back to where you started.) You also have the ability to (d+d) items to/from the bar in the top right.

We'll revisit this feature later when we investigate some of Firefox's hidden Easter Eggs.

Zooma Zoom Zoom

You can use the aforementioned keyboard shortcuts to zoom in or out on a page (Ctrl + [plus symbol]/[minus symbol]), however you can also do it with your mouse: Just hold down the Ctrl key and move the click wheel in or out (Mac: command key). Alternatively, you can zoom via the View menu or the three-line menu button located in the top-right corner of your browser.

You also have the ability to just increase the size of the text while keeping the images stable. Just go to View > Zoom and check "Zoom Text Only." Now when you zoom in and out, only the font size increases or decreases.

If you wish to set the default to a larger font size, go to Options (Mac: Preferences) > Content [tab] and then click on the "Advanced" button in the "Fonts & Colors" section. There you will find the "Minimum font size" pull-down menu. Make your selection and remember to click save.

(If you were playing with the zoom function and got stuck in some unwieldy aspect, you can always go back to the default by pressing Ctrl + 0; command + 0 on Mac.) 

Learn Yer Media Shortcuts

Firefox even has keyboard codes to control media playback, and Mozilla has a comprehensive (though in my experience, not always functional) list here.

If you want it to navigate to a particular piece of media you usually have to "focus" on the video or sound file by clicking directly on it. Like I said, these commands didn't always appear to work—they did work with YouTube clips, but not on SoundCloud tunes, which as far as I know both utilize HTML5 technology. But here are some good ones to know:

Play/Pause: Spacebar
Increase/Decrease volume: Up/Down Arrow
Seek Back/Forward: Left/Right Arrow
Beginning: Home
End: End

The last few don't appear to have a compatible control function on a Mac.  


This trick becomes less useful as the number of new Web domains explodes: Firefox gives you the ability to autofill a URL without typing its prefix or suffix. For example, if you just type "wordpress" into the address bar and then press Ctrl + Enter (Mac: command + enter), Firefox will fill in the www and .com and bring you to Presto.

However, if you want to save time on your way to (or any dot-org), you would type "Wordpress" followed by Control + Shift + Enter (Mac: command + shift + enter). For any dot-net sites, you would type the URL followed by Shift + Enter. 

Manage Your History

Back in 2011, an intro video to an episode of America's Got Talent included a screengrab of a Web browser to illustrate how YouTube was being integrated with the show. Unfortunately, the video editor didn't realize the screengrab included an auto-filled search history riddled with past YouPorn visits. Don't get caught with your pull-down menu down.

While it's probably best to use Firefox's "Private Mode" for such private endeavors, Firefox users have the ability to prune their search history to avoid such mishaps. When you start typing in the search bar, Firefox autofills your search with recent and common sites you visit. To delete them, just use the arrow keys to navigate down and then hit delete. On a Mac, it appears you have to hit shift + delete.  

Mouseless Scroll

Mice are for squeaking, not for the serious business of navigating webpages. Fortunately, you don't need them—at least for the scrolling part. You can scroll down a page just by pressing the space bar, and then scroll back up by pressing Shift and the spacebar. 

Firefox Lays Some Easter Eggs

And like most technology folks, the developers over at Mozilla like to include little bits of hidden whimsy in their product. Here are three:

Type about:Mozilla in the address bar and receive a bit of apocalyptic text from the "Book of Mozilla" (be sure not to include any space between the colon and "Mozilla")

Type about:robots and receive a message of love from the robot community. Hit the "Try Again" button; mild lunacy ensues.

Alright, this third one takes a bit of work on your end. First, click on the three-line menu in the top right and hit the "Customize" button. Next, remove all the menu icons from the field on the right into the larger "Additional Tools and Features" field on the left. Make sure to include the "Zoom Controls" and "Edit Controls" icons. Then hit the "Exit Customize" button at the bottom. Now, whenever you hit the top right button there will be a roving bouncing black-and-white unicorn that will turn Technicolor whenever your mouse hovers over the field.

He's like your own personal magical browsing buddy! Or something. When you get bored of that, you can go back into the customize window and put all the tools back or click the "Restore Defaults" button.  

Firefox Share

You might have noticed in your most recent update of Facebook there's a little paper plane icon in the top left corner. That's the new Firefox share button. It allows you to share to a number of social media accounts—no add-on necessary. It's also super easy to set up.

As long as you are already logged in to the account(s) you'd like to add, you can do it with a single click. Just go to this link in Firefox to find the accounts you'd like to choose. Scroll down and choose which accounts you'd like to include (Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, etc.). You can change/delete these options later by going to your Add-ons manager > services

Firefox Hello

Firefox last year introduced its very own chat client (with video chat), Firefox Hello. To access it, just click the little smiley face in the top-right corner. If you're familiar with Google Hangouts, you'll be able to find your way around. There's no need to download any software to use Hello, in fact other people don't even need to be on Firefox (they just need to be using WebRTC-supported browsers like Firefox, Chrome, or Opera). You can just start a new chat-room with its own link and send it to whoever you'd like to join.

Note: Though we had some problems with the audio in the video above, we were able to get it to successfully work off camera. 

All the Movies and TV Shows Coming to Netflix in March

All the Movies and TV Shows Coming to Netflix in March
Netflix comes in like a lion in March with lots of original shows and movies.
House of Cards Season 4
Post-Oscars, movie releases are generally less than award-winning. But while March at the multiplex may be meh, Netflix has some original movies and shows that are marvelous (and, in one case, Marvel-ous).
House of Cards: Season 4
If you need a break from a political season that seems too unbelievable to be true, then season four of House of Cards will remind you that things could be worse. Or not. Frank and Claire Underwood tear each other and the country apart.
Marvel's Daredevil: Season 2 - March 18
Jessica Jones kept Hell's Kitchen hot while Matt Murdock wasn't around, but now Daredevil is back with a new season and things are still pretty steamy. In this second season, Murdock reunites with college flame Elektra Natchios and, of course, he's still taking on Punisher.
Pee-wee's Big Holiday - March 18
The man-child character gets a movie produced by his modern-day counterpart, Judd Apatow. Pee-wee is back or, rather, he's going on vacation. After a fateful meeting with Joe Manganiello (yes, Joe Manganiello), Pee-wee sets off for the Big Apple and has a big adventure along the way.
Here's everything else you can stream this month:
March 1
Adult Beginners
Ahora o Nunca
Aldnoah.Zero : Season 2
American Pie Presents: Beta House
American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile
Before We Go
Blue Mountain State: The Rise of Thadland
El Desconocido
Fresh Meat: Series 2
Frog Kingdom
Good Burger
Groundhog Day
Heaven Knows What
Hot Sugar's Cold World
Midsomer Murders: Series 17
Road Trip: Beer Pong
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
The Young Kieslowski
March 2
For Grace
March 4
House of Cards: Season 4
Lab Rats: Season 4
LEGO Friends: The Power of Friendship
LEGO: Bionicle: The Journey to One : Season 1
Louie : Season 5
March 5
Hell & Back
March 7
Cuckoo: Seasons 1-2
Halo: The Fall of Reach
Sin Filtro
March 8
Digimon Fusion: Season 2
March 9
The Returned: Season 1
March 10
Comedy Bang! Bang!: Season 4, part 3
Hateship Loveship
March 11
Flaked: Season 1
Netflix Presents: The Characters: Season 1
Dinotrux: Season 2
Popples: Season 2
March 12
March 15
10,000 Saints
The Falling
Final Girl
Finders Keepers
Power Rangers Dino Charge: Season 1, part 2
War Pigs
March 16
Are You Here
Charlie St. Cloud
Gridiron Gang
Happy Valley: Season 2
Larry Crowne
Promised Land
March 18
Marvel's Daredevil: Season 2
Pee-wee's Big Holiday
He Never Died
Jimmy Carr: Funny Business
The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show: Season 2
My Beautiful Broken Brain
March 22
The Art of Organized Noize
The Ouija Experiment 2: Theatre of Death
March 24
The Forbidden Kingdom
A Promise
March 25
VeggieTales in the House: Season 3
March 28
Trailer Park Boys: Season 10
March 31
Bachelor Party 2: The Last Temptation
Fright Night 2
Murder Rap: Inside the Biggie and Tupac Murders
Sunshine Superman
Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time
Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal: Seasons 1-2

Samsung Now Shipping 'World's Largest' Hard Drive

Samsung Now Shipping 'World's Largest' Hard Drive

The 15.36TB "PM1633a" drive is designed for use in enterprise storage systems.
Samsung PM1633a
Need a lot of storage? Like, a lot a lot? Samsung has you covered.
The Korean tech giant on Thursday announced it has started shipping what it calls the "industry's largest solid state drive"—the 15.36TB "PM1633a" we first heard about in August. To put the size of this thing in perspective, the largest hard drives made by Seagate and Western Digital top out at 8 to 10TB.
Samsung's PM1633a is based on a 12Gb/s Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) interface, designed for use in enterprise storage systems. In a statement, Samsung's Senior Vice President of memory product planning and application engineering, Jung-bae Lee, said Samsung created the drive "to satisfy an increasing market need for ultra-high-capacity SAS SSDs."
"We are directing our best efforts toward meeting our customers' SSD requests," Lee said. "We will continue to lead the industry with next-generation SSDs, using our advanced 3D V-NAND memory technology, in order to accelerate the growth of the premium memory market while delivering greater performance and efficiency to our customers."
Samsung still has not yet revealed how much the massive drive will set you back, but don't expect it to come cheap. The company did mention that it will also release 7.68TB, 3.84TB, 1.92TB, 960GB, and 480GB versions later this year, so they should be a tad more budget-friendly.
"The secret sauce behind Samsung's 16TB SSD is the company's new 256Gbit (32GB) NAND flash die; twice the capacity of 128Gbit NAND dies that were commercialized by various chip makers last year," Ars Technica UK explained in August. "To reach such an astonishing density, Samsung has managed to cram 48 layers of 3-bits-per-cell (TLC) 3D V-NAND into a single die. This is up from 24 layers in 2013, and then 36 layers in 2014."
And the PM1633a? It uses between 480 and 500 of the new NAND flash chips.
Samsung said the drive allows for "significant improvements in the efficiency of IT system investments," offering "random read and write speeds of up to 200,000 and 32,000 IOPS respectively, and … sequential read and write speeds of up to 1,200MB/s."

When the architects were asked to design a new urban university campus in Ho Chi Minh City, they had something radically non-urban in mind.

It occupies the easternmost coast of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia.

Here is Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon).

Located in southern Vietnam, it's the country's largest city, with a population of almost 8 million people.

And here's what Ho Chi Minh City looks like.

It's a big city with big buildings and lots of people, which makes for many a challenge.
"Cities, especially in thriving countries like Vietnam, are growing at such a speed that infrastructure is unable to keep pace," said the team at Vo Trong Nghia Architects in an interview with Dezeen Magazine. "Environmental stress is observable through frequent energy shortages, increased pollution, rising temperatures, and reduced greenery."

When the architects were asked to design a new urban university campus in Ho Chi Minh City, they had something radically non-urban in mind.

What they produced was a verdant design — grassy, leafy, nature-inspired. It's like a city within a city, intentionally overrun by vegetation.
Welcome to the jungle, kids. All images by Vo Trong Nghia Architects/FPT University.
The firm, which specializes in green architecture, is bringing their expertise to FPT University, a private university in Ho Chi Minh City, for the second time. Their first project is currently under construction in Hanoi.
They describe their approach as a blend of culture and sustainability:
"By experimenting with light, wind and water, and by using natural and local materials, Vo Trong Nghia Architects employ a contemporary design vocabulary to explore new ways to create green architecture for the 21st century, whilst maintaining the essence of Asian architectural expression."

Their design for the university stands out against Ho Chi Minh City's built-up urban sprawl.

They wanted a different kind of sprawl — a 242,000 square-foot site that explodes with plant life. The centerpiece is a unique building stretching over several city blocks, its staggered floors climbing higher in the corners, and framing a massive courtyard.

They don't just use greenery to adorn the structure. Their concept actually relies on it.

Balconies and rooftops will be lined with plants, giving the building the appearance of "an undulating forested mountain growing out of the city."
Trees will spring from the courtyard.
And gardens will be planted at every step and turn.
All of this, according to the architects, "will provide shade and improve air quality, reducing the campus' reliance on air conditioning." And to save water, ground level gardens will seep into circulation wells that feed plants throughout the building.

They want to give Ho Chi Minh City "a new icon for sustainability."

Rapid urbanization has turned Ho Chi Minh City into a heat island, which is when cities grow warmer than their rural surroundings because land, plants, and forests have been replaced heat-trapping concrete, brick, steel, and asphalt.
Today, say the architects, only 0.25% of the Ho Chi Minh City is covered with plant life. They think that while urbanization may be inevitable, turning our cities into ovens doesn't have to be.
So they get especially excited about designing educational facilities. To them, it's a chance to "aid the recovery of greenery that once flourished" and "foster a new generation of thinkers."
And if more students, like the future enrollees of FPT University's new campus, can be exposed to and learn to truly appreciate the astonishing form and function of nature, then there is, indeed, hope for the future of our cities — and our planet.

armitage archlinux

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