Tag Archives: Tech

Energy and the Internet: How To Be A Conscious Browser


Many people around the world are concerned with the real impact of global warming, but they often think in terms of large-scale energy users such as factories or municipalities, ignoring one of the biggest factors in energy use: the Internet.

As a growing percentage of people conduct business, shop and communicate online, companies must be mindful of building a “greener” Internet, and those who are concerned with saving the planet must be aware of which companies are working to power their services and websites with renewable energy. Continue reading

The Best Green Gadgets to Look For in 2014

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 7.17.04 AMby Elizabeth Eckhart

Green living is all the rage right now, as is reverting back to other, healthier lifestyles which benefit both us and our environment. But for those of us who have long raged against technology as the bearers of pollution and energy crises, it may be time to reevaluate.

This year the International CES conference not only has dedicated two full discussion panels to the topic of energy awareness (“Energy Efficiency Initiatives for Electronics: What’s Working and What’s Not” and “Green Standards: Who Should Run the Show?”) the judges have also awarded a select few products their Economic Innovation Award. CES 2014  will also find itself the show grounds for breakthroughs in home improvement, home automation — mainly temperature and energy control — as well as new and improved electric vehicles.

By home improvement, I don’t mean tools you’d use to build your own household additions, but rather appliances that, if added to your home, could do wonders in terms of improving energy efficiency. For example, you may already have a programmable thermostat (and if you don’t, what exactly are you waiting for?) but you definitely don’t have the Eversense by Allure Energy, Inc. This beauty goes one step further than programs, and actually adjusts temperature and energy usage based on how far or near each resident is from the home. This Proximity Control Technology is made possible by the complimentary mobile app.

If you’ve been leary of using a gas guzzling ride lawn mower, fear no more! Finally, someone has taken the initiative and created the first fully electric lawn mower. The mower uses zero gas and oil, which is obviously energy efficient, but also quieter. The RZT S Zero by Cub Cadet might be the green solution to lawn maintenance that you’ve been looking for.

Cooking and cleaning are two of the major tasks that can waste energy. For most homeowners, a good chunk of their water use is in laundry, which is why LG, who has swept up an incredible 15 innovation awards at CES this year, is debuting their new LG Front Load Mega Capacity Turbowash Washer. The name is a mouthful, but the washer is impressive due to its Smart Diagnosis, which changes the water and energy amount based on the size of load it senses. LG also contributed the LG Electric Double Oven Range with EasyClean, which implemented a high performing Infrared Grill system which cooks faster than ever, using far less heat than conventional ovens. Samsung, too, brought forth their addition to household chores with the DV457 Front-Load Dryer, which is the first dryer to ever receive an Energy Star Emerging Technology Award. The dryer is super efficient, and the first to have a temperature modulation system.

More efficient appliances are one way to go greener, but anyone that is even a little studied on the Consumer Electronics Show of 2013 knows another watched area will be home automation. Security Choice ADT was the first to roll out a complete home automation system with Pulse in 2010 and last year added increased energy control and an additional television interface. The benefit of home automation is the ability to control energy use from virtually anywhere. Using your smartphone, you can adjust temperature up and down, turn lights and appliances on and off, and even lock windows and doors to prevent drafts (or break-ins). ADT will have some competition this year, with both Lowes and Home Depot unveiling similar products to the market, which will no doubt be more affordable.

One of the biggest trends in green engineering is the increased availability of electric cars. The Tesla Model S, currently hailed as the top electric car in the game, has mentioned that they will be previewing their new “Autopilot” technology, which could sense people and objects around the car, and successful avoid them. Toyota will also be debuting new electric vehicles, such as the Rav4 EV and their brand new Fuel Cell Vehicle Concept.

CES 2014 will also feature greener and more energy efficient versions of hundreds of other products, though none quite as earth-friendly or innovative as those mentioned above. The show is grounds for some majorly impressive technology, and it is definitely a good sign that so much time and effort is being taken to recognize the products making a difference.

CES 2014 will be held Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas.

Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

*Photo from CESWeb.org.

5 Ways to Monitor Your Health with a Smartphone

iPhone 4SWe’ve come to associate our smartphones with unhealthy habits, such as stress, questionable social habits, lack of sleep and not getting enough exercise. But app developers are changing this perception with an abundance of apps to help us eat better, move more and rest adequately. Here are the best ways to turn your smartphone into your greatest health advocate.

Keep Track of Calories

Who has time to count calories? Quit bending your brain and let your smartphone take over. There are tons of apps for this, but the top rated apps are

  • My Fitness Pal
  • Calorie Count by Fat Secret
  • Calorie Tracker
  • Lose It!
  • 40:30:30

These apps include the calorie count of foods you eat, help you track the calories you eat each day, count the calories you burn through exercise and allow you to keep a journal of your progress. The one that’s different is 40:30:30. This unique app helps you keep your nutrition in balance while you’re cutting calories so you don’t neglect important sources of iron, calcium, fiber, antioxidants and other critical nutrients for health.

Compare the Nutritional Value of Foods

Being healthy goes beyond weight. Good, healthy habits include getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. Apps like Restaurant Nutrition allows you to compare the choices offered by restaurants so you can pick something healthy before you sit down to eat. Fooducate is a great app that scans the barcodes of food you’re contemplating and tells you exactly what you’re getting, including calories, fiber, vitamins, etc.

Monitor Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Gluten

Sticking to a special diet is hard in our world of fast, highly processed foods. Fortunately, there is no shortage of apps for the BlackBerry 10 smartphones and others to help us stay on track. For example, dLife Diabetes Companion allows you to look up diabetic-friendly foods, watch helpful videos, get your questions answered, find diabetic recipes and manage your blood sugar all from your smartphone.

For those managing high blood pressure, there’s Heartwise Blood Pressure Tracker and Heart Pal. The advantage of Heart Pal is that not only does it help you make healthy decisions about your blood pressure, it also keeps your doctor informed of your progress.

Those with gluten intolerance will enjoy the Gluten-Free Scanner, which examines the barcode of foods to determine if it’s safe for you to eat. Find Me Gluten Free helps you find businesses catering to your gluten-free dietary needs.

Get Some Exercise

Staying active is a challenge when work, family and social obligations are so demanding. Apps like Endomondo help you stay social and active by allowing you to connect with your friends from Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo! and other social sites and track each other’s activities by GPS. Fitbit is an app about all things fitness, including calorie counting, how much exercise you get, your weight, heart rate, glucose levels, blood pressure and even sleep. The app is free, but you’ll need to invest in the monitors and other gadgets to take full advantage of Fitbit’s capabilities.

Build Better Sleep Habits

Sleep deprivation affects our mental and physical health. As mentioned, Fitbit One offers some helpful sleep tracking aids. Jawbone Up is an updated release of Jawbone and shows marked improvement over the original. This app can keep track of your sleep habits, such as when you’re sleeping peacefully versus tossing and turning. It also helps with your activity levels and eating habits.

Who knew your smartphone was the ticket to better health?

Silicon Valley Sex Workers Cater to “Geek” Audience

Retro Night Dorky Glasses GirlThe United States largely has Northern California’s Silicon Valley to thank for satisfying and propelling our appetite for technology. With the job rate increasing at nearly dot com levels, Silicon Valley is becoming a highly sought after region, especially for talented young adults eager to enter the tech world. You might expect from all of this a flourishing of cultural niches, a boom in real estate, a swell in diversity. Well it turns out there’s another industry capitalizing on the tech world’s success.

CNN recently reported on the effect Silicon Valley’s tech growth has had on the sex work industry. Some sex workers in the area are able to charge up to $500/hour, and now many take payments by credit cards using the “Square”. Several of the women interviewed also discussed marketing their brands specifically to a “geek” audience, donning t-shirts that say “Geeks Make Better Lovers,” or hosting podcasts. Take a look at the full report:

Technology and social media are nothing new in the sex work industry. A growing number of sex workers have developed online presences, proudly harnessing the entrepreneurial nature of the Internet as any other independent businessperson might. The difference, of course, is that prostitution is illegal in most of the United States, and sex workers take a big risk by marketing their services online (where, it seems, nothing is private.)

What do you think? Should sex workers take advantage of social media and Silicon Valley’s tech boom to promote the industry?

5 Business Survival Lessons from Google’s Spying

 Google recently got caught sniffing unencrypted wireless transmissions as its Street View photography vehicles drove around neighborhoods and businesses. It had been “accidentally” listening in on transmissions for more than 3 years – potentially viewing what websites you visit, reading your emails, and browsing the documents you edit and save in the cloud. 

Public opinion blames Google, because Google is big and rich and scarily omnipotent in the world of information domination. It’s fashionable to blame Google. What Google did was, to me, unethical, and they should eliminate both the collection practice and their archive of sniffed data.

But the greater responsibility lies with the businesses and homes that plugged in a wireless network and did nothing to protect it. Don’t tell me that you don’t know better. When you beam unencrypted data outside of your building, it’s no different than putting unshredded trash on your curb – YOU NO LONGER OWN IT. In fact, when you take no steps to protect the data that flies out of your airwaves and into the public domain, you really have no claim against someone taking it. It’s like finding a $100 bill on an abandoned sidewalk – you can claim it or the next lucky person will. Tom Bradley of PC World agrees:

“The lesson for businesses and IT administrators is that you have to put forth some effort to at least give the appearance that you intend for the information to be private in order for there to be any inherent expectation of privacy. The burden should not be on Google, or the general public to have to determine whether the data you let freely fly about unencrypted is meant to be shared or is intended for a specific audience.”

The Google story illuminates 5 Business Survival Lessons:

  1. This, like so many other business issues, is not a technology problem. The technology to keep out unwanted eyes exists (unless a government wants to tap you) and is accessible and affordable. The problem is human — someone has decided to ignore what they know should be done (especially having read this article)
  2. Private information that you fail to protect is no longer your private information(pragmatically and probably even legally).
  3. In the marketplace of data, just like in business, it is your responsibility to control what you can. Not everything is in your power, but safe wireless transmissions are. Whether it’s trash in a dumpster, posts on Facebook or wireless signals, the responsibility is yoursand your business’s, not just Google’s, Facebook’s and corporate America’s. You must do your part.
  4. If you don’t employ at least WPA2 encryption currently on your wireless networks, I can nearly guarantee your data is being watched. And the expense of upgrading is minor compared to the prospect of breach, so lose that excuse.
  5. Prevention isn’t sexy, but it’s profitable. Whether you are preventing data leakage, budget shortfalls, or a heart attack, the key is to do the hard work before it happens.

John Sileo is the award-winning author of Stolen LivesPrivacy Means Profit (Wiley, August 2010) and the Facebook Safety Survival Guide, a professional Financial Speaker and America’s leading identity theft expert. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Learn more about him at www.Sileo.com .



Do Computers Benefit or Burden the Planet?

Recently, the world computer population surpassed 1 billion. It’s a legion of artificial intelligence that will never die, at least not while humans are around to see it.

The computer species appears to have a high mortality rate (whether due to the rapid progress of technology or an industry conspiracy to ensure that products must be replaced regularly). They "crash" and "die" in droves, their human counterparts literally kicking them to the curb. But there is no heaven, no place in the clouds, for the cold, hard shell once warmed by electrical currents. Once it has left your desk, your computer doesn’t disappear. In a sense, it lives on.

Each year, ten million computers land in the toxic graves that are landfills. Nestled among other CPUs and laptops and monitors, their lifeblood oozes out, leaking hazardous materials such as lead into our earth and water sources. Like many products we discard, defunct computers are dead to us but remain a force with which the earth must reckon.

It takes even more energy and resources, pound for pound, to produce a Dell than a Dodge. A 2004 study at United Nations University found that desktop computers require 10 times their weight in fossil fuels and chemicals to manufacture, versus two or three times for cars. This energy-intensive process depletes resources and makes a significant contribution to climate change.

A computer’s energy usage has just begun once it leaves the factory, though. In your hands, a standard desktop PC sucks up to 300 watts when in use, nearly half the amount used by your refrigerator It’s worth noting that if your computer carries the "Energy Star" sticker and was made before July 2007, the label is somewhat bogus–until that date, the rating only factored energy use while in "standby" mode.

Computers have had their share of positive environmental impacts, such as reducing our paper trail and rendering CD production archaic. But their birth, life and living-deadliness have downsides that you can minimize:

Never toss a computer in the dumpster. It’s illegal in most states, and deplorable in all states. Most cities have annual collection days for electronic waste. If your machine is salvageable, find a local company or organization that repairs or beefs up computers for re-use.

Reduce your tech sidekick’s impact by programming it to shut down when not in use for, say, 20 minutes (it’s hogwash that doing so degrades the machine).

When buying computers, look for greener machines. Dell is one manufacturer attempting offset carbon emissions by investing in green technology. Consult the Electronics Products Environmental Assessment Tool before you shop. Biodegradable plastics and other production improvements mean computers one day might die a natural death.

Read the full post here, and the entire Life Cycle series here.

This post was written by Sarah Smarsh and Simran Sethi. Thanks to the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Lacey Johnston for research assistance.

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