Aug 23, 2016

Two Apps That Will Help You Lose Weight

I could have sworn I wrote about this already, but I can't seem to find a post for it in my archives. Oh well, if you've already heard this from me you can skip this post. If not, and you are looking for the miracle in weight loss then keep reading!

A few years ago I discovered these two powerful apps that are available both for Android and iPhone called My Fitness Pal and Map My Fitness. They work hand in hand to help you keep track of what you are eating (Calories in) and your exercise (Calories out) and they are both 100% free!

My Fitness Pal is where you want to start. It lets you set your weight loss goal, and by using your current weight it figures out how many calories you can eat in a day and still lose weight. Every time you weigh yourself, you need to log it so it can make calorie adjustments as needed.

My Fitness Pal is very convenient and makes calorie counting as easy as it can possibly be because not only can you scan food items, but you can also look up calorie counts at your favorite restaurants using their extensive database. I love this method because I can pretty much still eat what I want as long as I have enough calories for it and still lose weight. Cheese burgers? Do I have enough calories left? Yes? GET IN MY BELLY!

Map My Fitness is very cool also, because it can keep track of your calories burned by doing just about any exercise imaginable. It also has GPS capabilities to keep track of things like your mileage and pace if you go for a jog or a bike ride. Even if you are doing something like mowing your lawn, you can keep track of the time it takes to do it with Map My Fitness and it will log your calories burned doing it!

Map My Fitness automatically syncs with My Fitness Pal as well to better keep track of calories burned and consumed so you know if you can eat more or not. The more you work out, the more you can eat! How is that for motivation?

I started actively trying to lose weight again this past January and already I've lost 40 lbs! I've lost 50 lbs since I moved back to Colorado in 2014! Check out these pictures:



If you want to keep up with my weight loss and fitness journey, and help keep me motivated (I need all the help I can get) I started a Facebook page called Fat Slob 2 Dad Bod where I post about my workouts, my progress and other stuff to try to keep me motivated. I have a Twitter account as well @FatSlob2DadBod if you want to follow me there!

Are you trying to lose weight? What are you doing that works? Let me know in the comments!

Aug 22, 2016

Vonage Business Is Down Hard. It's Not Just You. cc @VonageBusiness

Are you a Vonage Business customer? Can't make or receive phone calls can you? Well, join the club! Oh, have you tried to call their support number but can't? Yep, join the club! Did you try to go to your control panel, but that is down too so you can't even contact Vonage support using their ticketing system? Yep, join the club!

Vonage Business is down for millions of customers across the country right now. You're only option is to sit and check their status page which for the last hour or so has looked like this:


You can also check their Twitter posts too, and see some seriously pissed off clients in the process, but all you will see is them telling you to check their stupid status page:



Just a tip Vonage, you can't tell people to check your status page and NEVER update it!

Well, my company is joining the HUGE list of clients that will be leaving. Their support has always been attrocious, and their service has always been very spotty. This really is just the straw that broke the camels back.

Do you use Vonage? Are you leaving too? Tell us about it in the comments!

3-D Printing's Role in the Manufacturing Industry

One of the most interesting forms of prototyping and manufacturing is 3-D printing in large part because it is so new to the consumer space. Many are wondering if this new, cheap form of manufacturing is going to push traditional methods such as injection molding out of the space and make it obsolete. Here's a deeper look at 3-D printing and its role in the manufacturing industry.

Injection Molding vs. 3-D Printing

The short answer is no. Both injection and 3-D printing have their strengths and weaknesses.
Injection molding has the advantage of being able to make many objects at a single time very quickly. These objects also can be made out of a lot of different materials that have a variety of features in terms of their strength and durability. Where this method falls short, though, is the high initial cost of the machine, which can be prohibitive to smaller businesses.

On the other side, 3-D printing is considerably cheaper to start using. In fact, depending on the size and resolution needed, several can be bought for the price of an injection molding machine. Also, depending on the size of the parts being made, multiple objects could be printed in each machine, which helps offset the relatively slower per piece time that 3-D printing requires. Another advantage is that the designs can quickly be changed if a problem is discovered. One disadvantage of 3-D printing is that the items have an inherent weakness because they are made out of individual layers that are laid down on top of one another. This means that if a perpendicular force is applied to the layers, it has an increased chance of being damaged.

Hybrid Methods

A good solution to each method's challenges is to combine the best parts of them. For example, 3-D printers can be used to make the molds needed for injection molding. The combination works especially well for small businesses because they can cut some of the costs and time needed for traditional manufacturing.

Printed molds are not as sturdy as aluminium ones, but they can be more cost efficient when only a few hundred or so parts are needed. Only minor design changes need to be made between an aluminium and 3-D printed mold because of the differences in thermal properties for cooling the objects. Both types of materials can withstand the heat needed for injection molding, so businesses can still use the same range of materials, such as Viton or flueorocarbons, that traditional injection molding requires.

Neither 3-D printing nor injection molding are going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, businesses need to think more about choosing the right method for the materials they need and how long it will take to create a final product. Especially for small and medium-sized businesses that are too big for 3-D printer farms, a hybrid method may be a great solution.

Jul 8, 2016

Protect Yourself from Cyberthieves When Using Public Wi-Fi Networks

Nine out of ten Americans expose themselves to the risk of public Wi-Fi networks at least once a month, and more than four out of 10 connect at least once a week. According to Avast estimates, hackers use public Wi-Fi networks to attack millions of Americans a day.

If you're using public Wi-Fi networks, here are some things you need to know to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.

Why Public Wi-Fi Networks Are Vulnerable

Public Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable because they rely on radio waves to transmit information, explains internet security provider Norton. Just as more than one person can tune into the same radio station, cyberthieves can intercept your Wi-Fi broadcasts.

Criminals wait near public Wi-Fi hotspots in order to stalk victims. Some even set up their own networks with names such as "Free Public Wi-Fi" in order to lure unsuspecting victims. You can become exposed to this type of risk whether you're logging into a public Wi-Fi network from a coffee shop, a library, your workplace, an airport, an Airbnb or anywhere else.

Protecting Yourself on Public Wi-Fi Networks

The FTC offers a few tips to protect yourself when using Wi-Fi public networks. The first key is to use only encrypted public networks or websites. A secure wireless network that uses encryption protects all information you send over that network, while an encrypted website protects only the information sent from that site.

Most public Wi-Fi networks aren't encrypted. The most secure encrypted networks currently use a security protocol known as WPA2. Other security protocols are WEP and WPA, which are common but have more vulnerabilities than WPA2. Adjust the settings on your mobile device so that you don't automatically log into local public networks.

An encrypted website's URL starts with an "https" extension instead of an "http" extension. Sometimes only part of a site is encrypted. If you suddenly notice you're on a page that isn't encrypted, log out. When visiting sites, don't stay logged into an account permanently, but log out when you're done. Use strong passwords with a mixture of capital and small letters, numbers and symbols, and don't use the same passwords on multiple sites.

Pay attention if your browser gives you a warning about a site that may be hacked or that is trying to download a malicious program. You can use add-ons or plug-ins such as Firefox's Force-TLS and HTTPS-Everywhere to force websites to use encryption.

Most mobile apps don't use encryption or don't use encryption properly, so when using mobile apps, it's best to use an encrypted network.

One way to make sure your network is encrypted is to use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt information you send and receive even if you're using an insecure network. You can get a VPN from your Internet provider and from your employer at some companies. VPN options are also available for mobile devices and apps.

You should also be on guard against "shoulder surfers" trying to watch or film what you type when you log in. To stop shoulder surfing, turn your screen away from vulnerable viewing angles or use a laptop privacy screen.

Protecting Your Home Wi-Fi Network

The FTC also cautions that you should make sure your home wireless network is secure from nearby neighbors and hackers. You can protect your home network by using encryption at home as well. You can also limit your network to specific devices and take steps to secure your router.

Change your router's default names and passwords to something more secure, turn off remote management features, log out as administrator and keep your router up to date. Make sure your computer is protected by a firewall and antivirus program. Finally, use strong passwords for your mobile devices and apps.

Jun 22, 2016

Keeping Your Phone Safe

If there is one piece of property that you would want to save from a fire today it would probably be your computer. It is a treasure trove of memories and important documents and it is one of your major gateways into the greater world.

Now imagine that power in your pocket. Imagine still that you leave it at the restaurant you were just at or the cab you were just in. What do you do now? Hopefully you have security enabled because nearly everything your computer contains, your smartphone does too.

Why You Should Secure Your Phone

Your phone is arguably more valuable than your wallet. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you might lose a bit of cash, have to cancel your credit cards and get a new license. A smartphone can hold all this information and more if you haven’t done your due diligence to secure it. With wallet-less payments like Apple Pay becoming more popular, a thief doesn’t even need your wallet. This information along with access to your email and other electronic services means that you could come under identity theft in the future. With the rise of wearable technology and better sensors, your phone has some degree of access to your health information as well.

The Lock Screen

The lock screen is the first line of defense to keeping your smartphone information private. Just like you wouldn’t leave your car or house door open, don't forget to lock your phone.

Pins and Patterns

These are the easiest to remember and use, but they are also the least secure. This mainly comes down to a numbers game. A four digit PIN has 10,000 combinations while a five digit one has 100,000 options. The longer the pin or pattern, the more guesses it would take to get through it by brute force. Thankfully there are software features that limit this possibility by having penalties for getting a wrong answer. Longer time between guesses and a delay in how quickly numbers can be entered are among the typical penalties.

These are still relatively safe for the average user, just never commit the cardinal sin of passwords. Birthdays and important dates, names of friends and pets and a password and 12345 are always on the weakest passwords list, so never use them.

Software

Encrypting your data protects you from a better than average thief. Encryption scrambles the information on the phone in such a way as to make it unreadable unless the correct password is entered.

While no form of security is perfect, an encrypted phone can give you enough time to locate your phone if you leave it somewhere or to perform a remote wipe to completely destroy any important information before it can be broken into. It used to be that encryption was not turned on by default when you got a new phone. That is increasingly not the case because of the current political climate. This was because older phones were not as powerful as they are now and turning on encryption had a tendency to slow down the performance. But today, phones like the Galaxy Note5 have more than enough speed to keep full encryption without a noticeable dip in speed and performance.

Jun 7, 2016

How to Outwit the Credit Card Fraudsters

If you conduct a lot of business online, you're probably giving your credit cards a good workout. And why not? You get airline miles, bonus points and discounts. But keep in mind that credit card fraudsters stay a step ahead of the game. Here's how you can outwit the scammers.

Review your credit card statements

As more people open online shopping accounts, fraudsters are targeting the accounts, not actual credit cards, to run up charges. So if you shop online regularly, be smart and review your statement each week. Do this online; in fact, cancel those paper statements. Be especially alert for small charges for about a dollar — scammers test a stolen card with small charges.

Keep in mind that scammers don't need your credit card number to use it. Online stores that hold your credit card information may be vulnerable to break-ins. You might discover a breach by reviewing your statement even before a site's owners do.

Follow security industry reports

The security industry pays a lot of attention to scam developments and is eager to enlighten the public. Follow a consumer-oriented service like LifeLock, which posts useful information on social forums like Facebook. There, you can read about data chips, fraud alerts and security tips on your phone during a lunch or coffee break.

Look for news from major industry players and think tanks like Forrester Research, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Kaspersky Lab's blog.

Shop at sites that require two-factor authentication

Limit your shopping to sites that require two-factor authentication (2FA) to open an account.
The 2FA method of security asks for more than a PIN or password to log on. It asks several additional security questions and records the answer. They rotate questions with each logon. For example, you may be asked to provide your father's hometown or the model of your first car — information that isn't readily available for crooks to discover.

If you shop via mobile, Kaspersky recommends using only official apps. Make sure they are upgraded to the latest version, and install strong mobile antivirus software on your phone and tablet.

Shop only via secure Internet connection

Mobile web is so tempting. It lets you make purchases anywhere through your smartphone.
Before you do this, make sure your phone isn't on an open Internet connection. If you're asked for a password before you can even connect to the Internet, be very grateful. This means no one can casually steal your information. It's even better if the shop providing the free connection changes its password every day.

Still, nothing is better than shopping through your own password-protected network.

Change your passwords frequently

Finally, change your passwords frequently everywhere one is demanded.

It's tough to keep up with new passwords, so use a password manager that creates new ones for you. Use the manger to access the sites, rather than typing in a password someone can steal. Password managers will also prompt you to change credentials and prevent you from using duplicate passwords on different sites.

May 9, 2016

How to Better Manage Businesses with Multiple Locations

Just a few of Business News Daily's top 2016 business trend predictions include continued small business growth, an increased desire for human connections within business, same-day delivery and cross-border selling, and on-demand delivery and logistics services. With all these predictions come multiple business locations as enterprises expand to serve more customers locally, nationally and globally. Challenges businesses with multiple locations face include guaranteeing compliance across marketing messages and customer communications, maintaining brand consistency in advertising, and delivering accurate analytics to benefit the entire company.

For business headquarters, managing multiple moving parts to benefit the entire company requires technological tools to streamline efforts and make them more efficient. Here are ways to save a business with multiple locations time and money.

Prioritize Security

To protect businesses against physical theft and keep an eye on what employees are doing in multiple locations, HD security cameras act as owners' eyes while they're not there and help protect locations from internal and external fraud committed by employees, shoplifters and burglars. They can also give a bird's-eye view of how employees are working at any time, which helps give owners insight into the way operations are conducted.

Data security protection from hackers, natural disasters, equipment damage and theft is also vital. A centralized backup system like Mozy that encrypts data and makes it accessible to team members with user-granted permission saves money on IT costs while protecting precious digital assets. A digital financial software tool with password protection, such as Intuit Quickbooks, keeps company financial data stored safely.

Execute Consistently

For distributed marketing networks with corporate headquarters and local franchises or independent sales representatives, it's important to empower all markets to optimize communications with their customers while still using compliant language and corporate-approved materials that fit with the brand. Research firm Gleanster reported that the best performers in the distributed marketing space used messaging that was relevant and timely to each local community. To allow all markets to customize branded materials, upload them to a centralized cloud-based marketing resource management system such as Siebel that allows them to be downloaded and amended based on immediate local needs.

This is also the place to upload guidelines on compliant language, so workers in every area can learn brand standards and more efficiently create materials that fall in line with legal regulations and are likely to be approved by corporate. Systems such as these also allow for inventory tracking to ensure stock never runs out, as well as vendor communication and budget monitoring. Integrating campaigns with an analytics tool, even a free one such as Google Analytics, allows all locations to gauge factors that contributed to success and identify techniques that should be improved or eliminated.

Keep Teams Connected

Inc. magazine cites a lack of spontaneous communication and a lack of team cohesiveness as two of the most significant challenges businesses with multiple locations face. Because employees want to feel like an integral part of overall business goals, fostering a team mentality across the organization helps workers in various locations still feel like they're working toward meaningful objectives.

Video conferencing tools such as Skype allow team members to meet "face to face" even when they're in different states or countries. Project management tools like Trello allow for transparency in project progress, including for those working remotely. An internal social network like Yammer allows team members to offer ideas for collaboration and learn more about each other no matter where they are. Hosting annual team summits in a central location allows team members to bond in person and reinforces company-wide goals, while a broadcast service such as Livestream allows businesses to broadcast events live to any device for those who can't physically make it.

Look for opportunities in every area of a business to use technological tools to streamline efforts while unifying your team. Employees who have clear expectations and experience consistency and organization in a business with multiple locations will work more efficiently and improve overall efforts.

May 2, 2016

Hacking my Earthwise lawn mower battery

I bought an Earthwise 24-volt lawn mower last year to keep my lawn in check. It worked pretty good, but the battery didn't last the summer. It just stopped charging. I of course got lazy and didn't contact Earthwise to get a replacement. When I pulled it out of the garage this year and noticed that I couldn't mow longer than ten minutes I remembered... Oh yeah, I was going to call them about this...

Well, the one year warranty expired so that left me with one choice... buy a new battery. I decided to look online for replacements and found one at Home Depot for almost $150!

 

$150 is a little more than I was willing to spend, so I started looking around and I found a blog post talking about how the internal components of the battery are just two basic universal batteries!

It turns out the post was right. You can open up the battery housing by unscrewing the screws around the under ledge of the housing.


When you pull off the top you have two super cheap generic 20 Ah Chinese batteries.


For replacements, the post recommends two Universal Power Group UB12220 22 Ah batteries which fit perfectly in the battery housing. On top of that they are only $40 each with free shipping! You just have to make sure you hook up the wiring the same way that the old batteries were hooked up.


 
After putting it back together, I found that it was already fully charged and my mower started working like a champ again!

So there you go, pay Home Depot $150, or hack your battery yourself and only pay $80. What would you choose?



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