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Betting on the Smog Test

Posted by on Jul 26, 2012 in Blog, Las Vegas | 2 comments

No Gambling Allowed Sign

 

Just when I was convinced Las Vegas had pretty much become like everywhere else, I was reminded once again that this city is a very unique place.

Yesterday, I renewed my car registration.  In Nevada, all vehicles must be smog checked once per year.  This means, you drive your car to local station where they run a series of diagnostic tests.  Sort of like Medicare, only it’s your car that gets a government-mandated check up, instead of you.

The cars are hooked up to a machine with a bunch of wires and switches and tested for emissions.  What this really means is — the state and the auto merchants get to shake you down for $20 a pop, per car, each and every year.

On the west side of Las Vegas, I pulled into what’s called a “smog station.”  Inside a small kiosk was a man who looked pretty much like you would imagine when I say the words “auto mechanic.”

“Need a smog check, today?” the man barked out as rolled down my window.

“Absolutely,” I replied.

As I passed my car keys over to the auto technician (that’s what they’re called now – “auto technicians”) I couldn’t help but notice a white sign plastered above the entrance.

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Three Dogs and a Mexican (Part 2)

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 1 comment

 

It was a Sunday.

Boulevards normally jammed with traffic were less so and moved more freely.  It was a day of leisure.  People were out and about.

The park was busier than the day before.  Children ran in circles.  There was laughter.  Music played.

And, my eighth run began alongside the concrete aqueduct.

Just as the day before, I ran about a mile, and then veered off the right.  I scaled the first wall effortlessly and ran a considerable distance before coming upon the same cinder block barricade I remembered from the previous day.

I had arrived at the blue tent.

But this time, the tent had an occupant.  A small-framed man, perhaps 30 or so, sat upright on what appeared to be a sleeping bag.  I did not want to startle or disturb the man.  So, I quietly made my way over the wall and began to proceed down the path to continue my run.

Suddenly, one of the dogs started barking.  And the other dogs too, joined in unison.  The canine alarm bells had gone off.

I could not see the man’s face clearly.  But, he must have been fearful.  After all, few passersby run along the aqueduct and certainly no one scales over two barricades – on a weekend, no less – to invade the solitude this man had etched for himself in what was a gigantic foreign metropolis.

Alerted by the barking mutts, the man quickly rose to his feet when he saw me.  He appeared startled, and it was easy to understand why this was so.

Seeing a invader passing along the aqueduct, in a place off-limits to pedestrian traffic, had to be a terrifying prospect for this frightened man resting in solace, who was clearly Hispanic, probably Mexican — and almost certainly an illegal alien.

That’s right — an illegal alien.  Chew on those words for a moment.

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Three Dogs and a Mexican (Part 1)

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 2 comments

 

This is the story of a man you will never know.

This is the story of a man you will never see.

Yet, it’s the story of so many who live amongst us – hidden away within the crevices of all towns and cities, invisible to the contemporary consciousness.

Los Angeles’ arteries are not highways — but rather its aqueducts. They are a meandering maze of concrete vessels bringing life to millions. Mostly unseen and largely ignored, they lie burrowed amid a gigantic quilt of industrial parks and busy freeways choked with traffic and frustration, channeling clear water from the snow-packed High Sierras down to valleys, and ultimately to our sinks, bathtubs, toilets, garden hoses, swimming pools, and restaurants.

There is one man  the who calls the aqueduct his “home.”

This is the story of how I came to stumble upon that man and how I became aware of the numerous challenges he faces each day.  It is the story of an unintended series of personal events which reminds us that compassion and generosity are not measured by volume of deeds but rather by the simplest acts of human kindness.

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Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X: Your Trusted Gigabit Ethernet Router For Your Homes

Posted by on Jul 15, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

Founded in 2005, Ubiquiti Networks has been simplifying IT and producing quality yet affordable products for customers around the world. It has been modernizing network solutions not only for businesses but homes as well. They came up with Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X which is an advanced Gigabit ethernet router. It has a lot of added features and is comparable to more expensive wired routers in the market. Well, its price may be its comparative advantage which can go as low as $50.00 per unit. If you want to know about this ethernet router, then keep reading. We’ll be talking about the specifications of the Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X and why it is one of our favorite ethernet routers out in the market. 

 

Sleek hardware design and specs

Compared to other bulky ethernet routers, Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X is lightweight and small. It weighs around 175g and has a dimension of 110 x 75 x 22 mm. The design is pretty straightforward, with a black matte finish, focusing more on its functionality. It’s a dual-core 880 MHz processor, though it is advised to do hardware offloading for optimized speed. Includes  5 Gigabit RJ45 ports that are all configurable for switching. It has a system memory of 256MB DDR3 RAM. Ports configurable for line-rate, and layer-2 switching. It has a Passive PoE passthrough option that can power an airMAX device. You may mount the router into the wall for better coverage as it comes with four-way mounting brackets found at the back, or simply placed on a tabletop. You may add a wireless access point to the network for wireless connections.

 

Is it easy to set up? 

Of course, we will also feature in this Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X review how to do the setup. The router configuration requires a bit of research and reading since it can get confusing. Once you learn your way around, you’ll be able to use it to its full potential. However, the hardware installation is pretty easy. All you need to do is connect it to the power outlet, connect your computer via ethernet cable, and go to https://192.168.1.1. You’ll see a login screen, enter the credentials asked that will lead you to the Terms and Agreement. Once you agree to it, you now have access to the router’s operating system. Make sure that the firmware is updated to its latest version as well. When creating the configuration, it is advised to download a backup. Pretty simple, right?

 

Can support data-heavy activities

The EdgeRouter X was also dubbed as one of the best gaming wired routers. E router also works well for streaming and video conferences. If you want your connection to perform well without lags and buffers, you have to configure the SQM under the QoS tab. 

 

Its operating system is the EdgeOS

All EdgeRouters supports this operating system. For easy configuration, you may use the browser-based interface. For more advanced configurations, you may refer to the Command Line Interface (CLI). Through CLI, the router may also act as an OpenVPN server. You may also do a traffic analysis of your EdgeRouter X, as well as the types of network traffic. The user-interface makes it easier for users to adjust configurations and customize according to their needs. 

 

Takeaway 

For a compact Gigabit ethernet router, Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X one of the best in the market when you’re on a budget. This device is a great solution and highly recommended for home setups. Its operating system, EdgeOS, is flexible and customizable. With the right configurations, you can maximize the device’s potential.

 

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Zero Day Attack: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

 

Nowadays, the digital landscape is where the magic happens. Lots of things can be done digitally, such as working, buying consumer goods, and communicating, among others. However, like most things, the digital landscape also has its weaknesses. As such, IT teams and software developers are also tasked with the protection of specific software.

This is most evident when new software is released. Before releasing it, developers should make sure that everything is secure. However, due to oversight, it does happen that new software can be targeted by hackers. When hackers attack a new software that’s released on the same day, it’s known as a zero day attack.

 

What is a Zero-day Attack?

As mentioned previously, a zero-day attack is when hackers target a new software that’s released on the same day. However, there’s more to the story.

Zero-day attacks are usually done on software that’s considered an easy target, such as having low-security measures. A zero-day attack is more harmful than other forms of computing attacks because there’s little to no chance that developers can buff their security measures in time to protect the software. By the time that developers take care of the problem, chances are the hackers are already successful in their attack. Regardless, there are still several ways to prevent zero-day attacks.

 

Preventing zero-day attacks

If you’re worried about zero-day attacks, you shouldn’t be. While it poses a big threat to cybersecurity, there are still lots of ways you can prevent it. Below are some ways.

 

Conduct penetration tests

A penetration test is also known as “ethical hacking”. The term is called so because it’s a test that developers use when testing the security level of software. Once a penetration test is done, developers can find out the vulnerable areas of software that can be possibly used by hackers. Should they find these vulnerabilities, you can immediately get to work on improving them.

 

Download the latest security patches

A patch is defined as a change or a set of changes in a computer system. These changes include fixing internal errors to security patches. If your software is updated with the latest security patches, you don’t have to worry about a zero-day attack. Security patches just add to the protection of your software or system.

 

Use antivirus software

This one is a no-brainer. Antivirus software repels viruses and malware that can harm your computer. To add, hackers use trojan viruses to hijack and enter your system. When a trojan enters your system, hackers can get personal information from it. In a general sense, a virus entering your device’s system makes you prone to attack and zero-day attacks to an extent. With antivirus software, protection is guaranteed. There are several excellent antivirus software you can get out there, such as Norton, Avast, and Kaspersky, among many others.

 

Educate yourself

This is probably the most important step to take when it comes to preventing zero-day attacks. You should be proactive when it comes to protecting your system. As such, it’s important to research and train yourself to see possible exploits that can be used by hackers to target your system.

 

Conclusion

Zero-day attacks pose a large threat to cybersecurity. However, you should not be spooked. There are several ways for you to prevent zero-day attacks, and you should take the time to educate yourself about them. Not only that, but you should also take it upon yourself to get the necessary countermeasures in order to protect your system. When you have a protected system, you can use your device freely and you can rest easy knowing that you’re safe as you use it.

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How To Protect Yourself From Zero-Day Attack

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

Using different software may come with different risks. Some hackers exploit the vulnerability of software to leak information and data or disrupt services. As someone who uses a computer, it is better to inform yourself about these kinds of scenarios. One famous thing that some hackers would do is a zero-day attack.

 

What is a zero-day?

Developers can overlook some mistakes when creating software. Zero-day refers to the recently discovered vulnerabilities of software. Since the software developer only found out these gaps, a way to mitigate them is yet to be created. The software developer must create a solution patch to solve them and protect their users. Some vulnerabilities are not detected by the software providers right away. Sometimes it would take around days and even months for developers to detect software loopholes and write the patch. Once a loophole is detected, let’s just hope that a developer sees it first. If a hacker found out about these discrepancies, he may use it to his advantage and attack the systems. Most of the time, the attacker discovers the vulnerability first. The developers will only find out about the loophole once it becomes public and software users start to report software malfunctions.

 

What is a zero-day exploit?

A zero-day exploit is when the hacker finally attacks the system through the loopholes of the software. This cyber-attack is committed on the same day a vulnerability emerges. More threats will arise once a zero-day is released to the public. For example, a company released a software that will help in group collaboration. Your company will buy it and will be used by all employees. In the unfortunate event that the software company overlooked some loopholes, hackers will write a malware script. This puts all your company’s files, data, and even employee profiles in jeopardy. An attack could happen at any time and any day. Government and big businesses are the usual targets of zero-day exploitation.

 

What could happen during a zero-day exploit?

Not to scare you but a zero-day attack is no joke. Once hackers get through the system, they can steal all the files and data from your computer. They may even send out spam emails using your personal email. Hackers can also control and damage your computer. Spyware and other malware can be installed to disrupt your activities. All the data and files retrieved can be sold to the black market.

 

How can I protect myself from a zero-day attack?

Getting attacked comes in different forms. However, there are different things you can do to protect yourself before a zero-day attack happens. For starters, your first line of defense is reliable security software. This will shield you from different threats, including unknown ones. Big companies should invest in a good firewall to block threats. Make sure that your security software is up to date. There are a few good firewall security available on the market. Subscribing to these added securities is worth it. Trust us when we tell you that you don’t want to be in the receiving end of getting hacked. Big companies should also consider covering an advanced computer literacy program.

 

You should also avoid installing software that you probably won’t use. Similarly, consider uninstalling the software and plug-ins that you already have on your computer to minimize the risk. Moreover, you should be wary of suspicious and malicious emails. Some malware can infiltrate your computer once you click on a link or download a file attachment. These are just a few steps to protect yourself and your company from a zero-day attack.

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Dos and Don’ts when you get back to work

Posted by on Jul 1, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

After what could potentially be termed as the strangest period in most of our lives, we are finally seeing green shoots of normality sprouting up. Many of us might have been off work or struggling at home with the home-schooling of children whilst trying to deliver a day job that might have even more pressure than before.

But regardless of the situation, you have found yourself in throughout this lockdown period, within the next few months it appears it will mostly come to an end. At this stage, no one can be clear precisely when (or if) things will return fully ‘to normal’, but it is safe to say that most of us will find ourselves going back to work in some capacity or another. Whether it be full-time back into a low-skilled role, something much more technical and demanding or even flexible working again in your old office, companies are finding ways to enable us to work safely.

It is without a doubt that many of us have concerns about our return to work; however, it might happen, so what are the dos and don’ts? Take a look at our list to help you…

 

DON’T!

Lose any good habits such as regular movement. Did you know that health issues can be caused by a sedentary job? For example, sitting down too much can cause constipation and problems in your gut can suppress your immune system. So make sure you move a lot to keep yourself healthy.

Slip back into bad habits such as junk food meals at lunch or dinner. Work-life balances have seen a marked improvement lately so these should be maintained going forwards.

Forget what’s important. We have all learnt a few valuable lessons in this period, such as how much more interaction with friends and family means than some material possessions so cling onto that and keep your priorities sound.

Place too much pressure on yourself to go back to how things were too quickly or even to achieve everything you think you ‘should’. Hopefully, we have all learnt that the pressures we placed on ourselves were too harsh and a healthy, happy family isn’t one that has all the perfection and possessions they can think of!

 

DO!

Make sure that before you go back, you have absolute confidence that social distancing can be maintained to keep you, your colleagues and customers safe

Keep up high levels of hygiene – wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds when you have been in contact with potentially contaminated areas, use hand sanitiser regularly, cough and sneeze into your elbow, keep your clothes clean and disinfect items

Respect others. We all have different requirements as an individual or as a family, and we never know who might need to shield more than others or who might feel more robust than others. If in doubt, communicate and seek to understand the motivations of those around you.

Think about your overall health and well-being, both physical AND mental. Nothing is more important than being physically well so we must continue to take care of ourselves and each other.

Here are  5 tips of going back to work, which should be a positive experience, so if you take care of yourself and follow these guidelines, we hope you’ll stay safe, well and happy.

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Masters of Disguise: 7 Facts About the Praying Mantis

Posted by on Jun 29, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

Although their names make them sound like a prophet, a praying mantis is a known carnivore. If you see them up close, the praying mantis got its name from their unique posture. Don’t be deceived by their appearance and size, they’re deadly predators. They even eat their partners after mating! If you want to know more about these majestic insects, then you came to the right article. Though they are small in size, the praying mantis holds a lot of wonders. Here are some praying mantis facts that will amaze you: 

 

Some praying mantis can fly

Technically, some of the mantids can fly. However, not in a way other insects and animals do. They can only fly on short distances. If you see them leaping from one point to another, that’s a mantid flying in action. Only adult male mantids can do this. Female mantids have smaller wings compared to the male mantis. There are also other factors to consider if a mantid can fly, like their species and weight. 

 

They only have one ear 

It has been debunked that mantids are deaf. Because of having one ear, mantids have a weak sense of hearing. Their ear is located in the between of their hind legs, in the middle of the chest. Most of the time, they use their sense of hearing to spot if a bat is about to prey on them. 

 

A praying mantis can turn their heads 180 degrees

This may be one of the creepiest facts about mantis since they are the only insects that can do that. This is helpful when it comes to hunting and detecting other predators. 

Farmers and gardeners love them

If you like taking care of plants, then you’re going to be fond of the praying mantis. Often called the ‘preying’ mantis, they usually devour other insects for sustenance. They usually eat pests that are harmful to plants like moths, flies, grasshoppers, and crickets. Mantids are practically harmless for men. Some even kept them as pets even though they only live for one year. 

The praying mantis is a carnivore

They may mimic plants and flowers for their own protection, but the praying mantis is actually a carnivore. You already know that they eat other praying mantises when mating. However, they can attack other insects and animals that are twice their size. They can also hunt for mice, hummingbirds, and lizards. 

There are over 2,300 mantis species

Yes, you’ve read that right! A person would encounter mantids a handful of times in their life. It’s fascinating to know that there are more than a thousand mantid species out there. The largest praying mantis ever recorded was around 18 centimeters in length. Some of the coolest mantids out there are the Orchid mantis, Idolomantis Diabolica, Iris Oratoria, and the Chinese mantis. 

Martial art was developed based on the movement of the praying mantis 

This is called the Praying Mantis Kung Fu. It is a Chinese martial art divided into two factions: the Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu style and the Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu style. The technique mimics the hand position of the praying mantis. 

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Interesting Facts About New York City That Are Not Much Talked About

Posted by on Jun 29, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

Most of the world knows about New York City. New York is a city that seems as if it’s in its own plane of existence. The skyline of the city contributes to the overall feel. New Yorkers are also very diverse, as lots of people from all walks of life spend their days in the city. You’d think that whenever an immigrant goes to America, chances are they’ll take their chances in New York.

 

Like all well-known places around the world, New York has also its humble beginnings that shaped it to be the city that it is today. Below are some interesting New York facts that are not often talked about.

 

New York City was the first capital of the United States

That’s right. Before Washington, D.C., it was New York. New York’s status of being capital lasted for more than a year, beginning from April 1789 to July 1790. It was during this time that George Washington was sworn in as president. The decision to change the capital to Washington D.C. was made because of several decisions from the founding fathers; Thomas Jefferson wanted the capital to be in a location that’s accessible to slave-traders at the time, and Alexander Hamilton wanted the government to take care of the Revolutionary War’s debts.

 

Cowboys used to be a common sight in New York

When you think of a cowboy, the first thing that comes to mind is that they inhabit the Wild West. However, cowboys used to patrol the 10th Avenue of Manhattan from 1850 to 1941. The city had its team of cowboys that also acted as law enforcement. Manhattan’s West Side is home to the poor immigrants who came to take their chances in the city. The West Side is also where the train that brings in supplies such as food is located. Tragedy often struck as accidents happened to the inhabitants involving the train. As a response, the city hired cowboys to act as traffic marshalls of sorts.

 

The Statue of Liberty arrived in pieces

The Statue of Liberty is a well-known New York City landmark, and some inhabitants would say that the statue is everything that the city stands for. The part of the statue that first arrived in the city was the arm. It arrived a decade earlier than the rest of the pieces and was put on display in Philadelphia to raise funds for the statue’s construction. The other parts of the statue followed in 1885 where pieces of the statue were put in 214 crates which housed 350 parts.

 

Times Square was named after The New York Times

Yes, the famous commercial area is named after the famous newspaper. Before the New York Times moved in, the place was known as Longacre Square. The Times Square name was chosen in honor of the newspaper. 

 

The Mall is where the elite hang out

The Mall in Central Park houses the only straight path in all of New York City. It was designed that way to let the wealthy residents of New York stroll and interact with people in their social class.

 

Conclusion

New York is, without a doubt, a beautiful city. There’s a lot of history to be found throughout the city’s nearly 400 years of existence. If ever you plan on visiting or moving in, you should brush yourself upon these facts so you won’t feel out of place when you arrive in the city.

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6 Amazing Facts About Harpy Eagles

Posted by on Jun 29, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

Rarely seen by humans, harpy eagles are one of the biggest eagles in the world. They can go up to 41 inches in height and up to 9 kilograms in weight. Like other eagles, they are perceived as majestic, bold, and big. Harpy eagles are famous on the internet for their unique appearance. Their odd face features make it seem like they are humans wearing a bird costume. It even stirred some debates about whether they are real or not. 

 

Due to man’s activities, they are on the verge of extinction. They also garnered different names: the Papuan eagles, monster birds, Amazon’s great hunter, one of nature’s killing machines, to name a few. If you want to know more harpy eagle facts, then you came to the right place!

 

It is the national bird of Panama 

In 2002, harpy eagles became the official national bird of Panama. It is one of the places where these majestic eagles can be found. If you want to spot them, try visiting the region of Darien. As a Neotropical rainforest species, it thrives in a biodiverse environment. 

 

Its name is derived from Greek mythology 

In Greek mythology, harpies are mythical monsters that are half bird and half man. As spirits of the wind, they are said to be punishers of the guilty. Like in Greek mythology, harpy eagles are known as one of the most powerful predators in the world. They also can prey on animals that are bigger built than them. For example, their diet consists of tree-dwelling animals like sloths, monkeys, or reptiles like iguanas. 

 

Harpy eagles can move their facial feathers

If you think that their face resembles a man is creepy enough, then there’s more to it. Harpy eagles can move their facial feathers, or disk features, for practical reasons. First, it helps them hear better, especially when they are out hunting. It also helps in redirecting sound waves towards their ears whenever they’re on the flight. 

 

Harpy eagles don’t migrate

Unlike other birds, harpy eagles establish their territory and hunts in the same area for the rest of their lives. Some of the known areas where these birds reside, specifically in South America, were turned into sanctuaries. Yet, this does not always guarantee their safety from poaching, deforestation, and illegal logging. 

 

Harpy eagles are monogamous

Once a harpy eagle finds its partner, they stay together forever. A harpy eagle usually mates every 2 to 3 years and lays 2 eggs. Both birds incubate the eggs together. Once one of the eggs hatches, they shift their focus on the hatched egg and provide its needs. Because of this parenting practice, sometimes the other egg dies due to the lack of incubation. 

 

The largest talons among the eagles 

To put it into perspective, a harpy eagle’s talons are larger than a bear’s claw. If that’s not terrifying, then I don’t know what is. Their talons can go up to 5 inches. It is no surprise why harpy eagles can prey on animals that are larger than them. You don’t want to get on their bad side. Its talons can exert up to 50 kilos of pressure and can crush a bone with no problem.

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