Post-holiday electronics madness: how to conserve electricity
As kids, my siblings and I would always be running in and out of every room in the house. We would turn the TV on in one room, have the stereo blasting from another room, and leave the lights on in every room in between. My father would come home from work, see that his day’s check had already been spent on the electricity bill, and would then ask us if we owned stock in Commonwealth Edison.
I never understood what the big deal was until I got older and learned about the unnecessary waste of electricity and expenses that come with leaving everything on all the time. This particularly becomes an issue during the holiday season when, in addition to the trees and lights taking a toll on the electric bill, we often receive gifts under the tree that require life from plugging them into the wall.
The National Resources Defense Council recently reported on four simple ways of adjusting your electronic usage in order to benefit your electric bill as well as the environment.
First suggested was changing the picture settings on your new flat screen. Although new models tend to use less energy than older versions, you may be wasting more energy than necessary without realizing. In order to eliminate energy waste, go to the picture set-up menu on your TV and choose either the “home” or “standard” setting. This cuts out settings titled “vivid” or “retail”, which tend to be brighter than necessary and are said to burn 15-20% more energy.
One of the most important steps
Newer televisions are becoming more and more likely to come Internet ready. This means that you can have access to video streaming built right into the television. Having television and the Internet blend into one, convenient device allows the elimination of secondary devices, such as an Xbox or a Playstation, to perform the same task. Ending the use of these devices to stream shows will cut down on energy costs. However if your television does not have Internet applications built in, the NRDC suggests the use of Chromecast or a Roku which only uses less than 5 watts.
An extremely important step in energy conservation is making sure your devices are not still using electricity while not in use. For many devices this can simply be done by unplugging them, i.e. phone chargers and kitchen appliances. However devices that continuously stay plugged in, such as televisions, computers, and gaming consoles, have settings that can be adjusted in order to lessen your bill.
Even if a gaming console appears to be off, it can still be taking in electricity, which can waste up to $75 worth of energy annually. In order to stop this from happening, go into the settings on the console and enable the “auto power down” feature that will turn the system off after one hour of inactivity.
How to save $40 this year on this one device
Desktop computers are also known to waste energy when not in use and the NRDC reports that a computer running all day, every day for a year can waste up to $40 worth of energy. This can be avoided by putting your computer to sleep when it is not in use. Also try to avoid the use of screen savers when the computer is idle, as this is shown to be an energy waster.
Lastly, the NRDC suggests that, instead of throwing away your old devices, it is best to hang onto them or give them to others who will use them. This is due to smartphones, tablets, etc. representing up to 80% of the manufacture’s total carbon footprint and it is better to hang on to these devices rather than let them waste in a landfill.
Now having the knowledge of ways to reduce energy wastes and costs, you will be able to enjoy your new gadgets all the more. And if you have that one neighbor that just will not turn off his Christmas lights, take my father’s advice and invest in some ComEd stock to pay for next year’s presents.
Chrome can now group and color code your open tabs
(TECH NEWS) Do you have too many tabs, and can’t tell what’s what? Google has tab groups that make it easier to find what you’re looking for.
Are you a tab collector? That’s Google’s name for people who have tabs upon tabs upon tabs open on their Google Chrome browser. And while third party apps are already available to help collectors manage tabs, Google is now stepping in with Tab Groups.
Tab Groups, try it here, allows users to color-code, group and add text or emoji labels to separate clusters of tabs in their browser.
Right-click on any tab and choose Add to New Group. A gray dot will appear to the left of the tab and outline it in the same color. Clicking on the dot lets users update the color, label and name the group. Once grouped together, the tab groups can be moved and reordered. They’re also saved when Chrome is closed and reopened.
Google said after testing Tab Groups for months, they noticed people usually arranged their tabs by topic and that appeared most common when people shopped or were working on a project.
“Others have been grouping their tabs by how urgent they are, “ASAP,” “this week” and “later.” Similarly, tab groups can help keep track of your progress on certain tasks: “haven’t started,” “in progress,” “need to follow up” and “completed.”
Of course, this new feature does nothing to dissuade users from opening too many tabs, despite research that says multitasking may change the structure of your brain and Chrome is notorious for using too much RAM. So now you can’t concentrate, and your computer is running hot and slowing down.
A solution? Use Chrome extensions such as The Great Suspender, which suspends tabs that have been inactive for a specific amount of time. Don’t worry, you can whitelist specific websites so if you always need a tab for Twitter open, it won’t be suspended.
Another tip is to focus on one task at a time using the Pomodoro Technique, breaking tasks and your workday into 25-minute bursts of productivity with five-minute breaks in between. FocusMe uses a timer and website blocker to reduce the risk of getting distracted. You’re on the internet, after all.
Quarantine bod got you down? AI trainer Artifit lifts you up
(TECH NEWS) If staying home has caused some unfortunate weight gain, Artifit can help you keep your home body fit during and way after quarantine is over.
Mandatory lockdown’s have changed people’s routine’s in every conceivable way. From the way we work and cook to how we exercise. Home workout routines have been a hot topic in the last couple of months. People are trying to find a way to retain some sense of normalcy and maintain their healthy lifestyles We’ve all heard jokes about the so called “Quarantine 15” online and maybe you’ve even made a disparaging comment or two about your weight since gyms closed.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a little weight gain the face of a global pandemic. The world is changing, your life is changing, and times are scary. Be gentle with yourself and those around you.
If you are looking for a way to get regular workouts back into your life and YouTube videos just aren’t cutting it, there is a high-tech solution. Artifit is an AI personal trainer designed to make your solo workouts safer and more effective. The app acts as your personal trainer by creating your workout plans, tracking progress, and providing posture corrections.
The app uses your phone’s camera to track your reps and spot errors in form while providing real time audio feedback. According to the app creators, [Artifit] recognizes 20 major joints movements via mobile camera, and we are constantly working on adding new joints and improving the algorithm.”
Beyond the workouts, Artifit taps into your competitive side by providing you with a score at the end of each work out that you can then share with friends. The app measures and analyze your progress over time and uses this data to create a workout plan that is best suited for you.
There are a ton of reasons you might be looking for a tech-driven approach to your workout routine. Most of us already rely on technology to track out movement in one way or another – think about the Health app on your phone or your Fitbit. Working out from home isn’t for everyone, but some are thriving under a more flexible schedule and want to keep it that way.
If you are not sure when you’re going to feel comfortable going to the gym again or you no longer want to fuss over scheduling appointments with a personal trainer, this could be the app for you. Artifit can help you keep your homebody tendencies intact way after quarantine is over.
Google has another video conference tool, but are they too late?
(TECH NEWS) Google is making their Google Meet, available for anyone with a gmail account, leaving us to wonder if it’s a little too little, too late.
Google Is now making its business video meeting tool available for free to everyone with a Gmail account. Wait! What? We already have that, don’t we? We do, kind of. Google has long offered free Google Hangouts, a messaging function that includes chat and video chat features for groups of up to 25 people. Google Duo is a video meeting app that has been available for cell phones and tablets, previously available for up to 8 people, but now for up to 12 people.
Sooooo, why do we care about free Google Meet? Isn’t this taking us back to, say, 2009? The difference is that with Google Meet, you can include up to 100 participants. This service used to be available only to paid G-Suite customers. Video conferencing has never been more popular or necessary, with Zoom leading the pack. Google wants you to blow off the others and give Google Meet a shot.
Why should we care? If you are already using a video meeting tool that works for you, what’s the incentive to switch? If you’re using Skype, you can only have up to 50 participants, while you can have up to 100 participants on Google Meet. On Zoom, you can also include up to 100 people on a video meeting. With a free Zoom account, you can meet for up to 40 minutes, and Google Meet has expanded their free Meet calls to 60 minutes.
Zoom has had serious issues with security and privacy. While Zoom is scrambling to enhance the safety and privacy of users, including ways to prevent illegal Zoombombing. Yet, it will be harder to trust Zoom again, now that the damage has been done. Google Meet already has a robust security system, including end-to-end encryption of all video calls. All calls go through Gmail, which already lives behind a bunch of protections, which has to be a good thing.
Google Meet also offers easy live captioning through their own voice recognition service and other accessibility considerations such as screen readers and magnifiers. People who are already familiar with Google chat/meeting tools will likely try Google Meet right away to see how it compares to Zoom, Skype, and other video conferencing tools. Google is betting on it.
However, if you already have a tool you love, you might be like, “Meh.” If you are the type who loves researching all of the tools to find your perfect match, then this is likely exciting news for you. Options are always good, though. The strangest thing is that Google has had this capability all along. When schools started shuttering during the pandemic, Zoom immediately stepped up and offered educators its professional tools for free–a clutch move that garnered them loads of positive press and help propel them past competitors into the top spot.
Google Meet will have to prove to be at least as clear, fast, easy to use as Zoom. With Google’s collection of launched and abandoned video tools, though, we have to wonder if it will be. At least Meet is already starting out more secure, which is a superb start. With the launch of Zoom 5.0, though, will it be too little, too late for Google Meet to capture a good chunk of the video tool?
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