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Cryptocurrency Guide

Different cryptocurrencies’ logos

A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency designed to work as a medium of exchange. It uses cryptography to secure and verify transactions as well as to control the creation of new units of a particular cryptocurrency. Essentially, cryptocurrencies are limited entries in a database that no one can change unless specific conditions are fulfilled.

History

There have been many attempts at creating a digital currency during the 90s tech boom, with systems like Flooz, Beenz and DigiCash emerging on the market but inevitably failing. There were many different reasons for their failures, such as fraud, financial problems and even frictions between companies’ employees and their bosses.

Notably, all of those systems utilized a Trusted Third Party approach, meaning that the companies behind them verified and facilitated the transactions. Due to the failures of these companies, the creation of a digital cash system was seen as a lost cause for a long while.

Then, in early 2009, an anonymous programmer or a group of programmers under an alias Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin. Satoshi described it as a ‘peer-to-peer electronic cash system.’ It is completely decentralized, meaning there are no servers involved and no central controlling authority. The concept closely resembles peer-to-peer networks for file sharing.

A stranger in a red scarf and bitcoins around

One of the most important problems that any payment network has to solve is double-spending. It is a fraudulent technique of spending the same amount twice. The traditional solution was a trusted third party – a central server – that kept records of the balances and transactions. However, this method always entailed an authority basically in control of your funds and with all your personal details on hand.

In a decentralized network like Bitcoin, every single participant needs to do this job. This is done via the Blockchain – a public ledger of all transaction that ever happened within the network, available to everyone. Therefore, everyone in the network can see every account’s balance.

Every transaction is a file that consists of the sender’s and recipient’s public keys (wallet addresses) and the amount of coins transferred. The transaction also needs to be signed off by the sender with their private key. All of this is just basic cryptography. Eventually, the transaction is broadcasted in the network, but it needs to be confirmed first.

Within a cryptocurrency network, only miners can confirm transactions by solving a cryptographic puzzle. They take transactions, mark them as legitimate and spread them across the network. Afterwards, every node of the network adds it to its database. Once the transaction is confirmed it becomes unforgeable and irreversible and a miner receives a reward, plus the transaction fees.

Essentially, any cryptocurrency network is based on the absolute consensus of all the participants regarding the legitimacy of balances and transactions. If nodes of the network disagree on a single balance, the system would basically break. However, there are a lot of rules pre-built and programmed into the network that prevents this from happening.

Cryptocurrencies are so called because the consensus-keeping process is ensured with strong cryptography. This, along with aforementioned factors, makes third parties and blind trust as a concept completely redundant.

What can you do with cryptocurrency

Buy goods

Cryptocurrencies can be used to pay for even a college degree.

In the past, trying to find a merchant that accepts cryptocurrency was extremely difficult, if not impossible. These days, however, the situation is completely different.

There are a lot of merchants – both online and offline – that accept Bitcoin as the form of payment. They range from massive online retailers like Overstock and Newegg to small local shops, bars and restaurants. Bitcoins can be used to pay for hotels, flights, jewelery, apps, computer parts and even a college degree.

Other digital currencies like Litecoin, Ripple, Ethereum and so on aren’t accepted as widely just yet. Things are changing for the better though, with Apple having authorized at least 10 different cryptocurrencies as a viable form of payment on App Store.

Of course, users of cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin can always exchange their coins for BTCs. Moreover, there are Gift Card selling websites like Gift Off, which accepts around 20 different cryptocurrencies. Through gift cards, you can essentially buy anything with a cryptocurrency.

Finally, there are marketplaces like Bitify and OpenBazaar that only accept cryptocurrencies.

Invest

Cryptocurrencies are high-risk investments.

Many people believe that cryptocurrencies are the hottest investment opportunity currently available. Indeed, there are many stories of people becoming millionaires through their Bitcoin investments. Bitcoin is the most recognizable digital currency to date, and just last year one BTC was valued at $800. In November 2017, the price of one Bitcoin exceeded $7,000.

Ethereum, perhaps the second most valued cryptocurrency, has recorded the fastest rise a digital currency ever demonstrated. Since May 2016, its value increased by at least 2,700 percent. When it comes to all cryptocurrencies combined, their market cap soared by more than 10,000 percent since mid-2013.

However, it is worth noting that cryptocurrencies are high-risk investments. Their market value fluctuates like no other asset’s. Moreover, it is partly unregulated, there is always a risk of them getting outlawed in certain jurisdictions and any cryptocurrency exchange can potentially get hacked.

If you decide to invest in cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin is obviously still the dominant one. However, in 2017 its share in the crypto-market has quite dramatically fallen from 90 percent to just 40 percent. There are many options currently available, with some coins being privacy-focused, others being less open and decentralized than Bitcoin and some just outright copying it.

While it’s very easy to buy Bitcoins – there are numerous exchanges in existence that trade in BTC – other cryptocurrencies aren’t as easy to acquire. Although, this situation is slowly improving with major exchanges like Kraken, BitFinex, BitStamp and many others starting to sell Litecoin, Ethereum, Monero, Ripple and so on. There are also a few other different ways of being coin, for instance, you can trade face-to-face with a seller or use a Bitcoin ATM.

Once you bought your cryptocurrency, you need a way to store it. All major exchanges offer wallet services. But, while it might seem convenient, it’s best if you store your assets in an offline wallet on your hard drive, or even invest in a hardware wallet. This is the most secure way of storing your coins and it gives you full control over your assets.

As with any other investment, you need to pay close attention to the cryptocurrencies’ market value and to any news related to them. Coinmarketcap is a one-stop solution for tracking the price, volume, circulation supply and market cap of most existing cryptocurrencies.

Depending on a jurisdiction you live in, once you’ve made a profit or a loss investing in cryptocurrencies, you might need to include it in your tax report. In terms of taxation, cryptocurrencies are treated very differently from country to country. In the US, the Internal Revenue Service ruled that Bitcoins and other digital currencies are to be taxed as property, not currency. For investors, this means that accrued long-term gains and losses from cryptocurrency trading are taxed at each investor’s applicable capital gains rate, which stands at a maximum of 15 percent.

Mine

Miners are the single most important part of any cryptocurrency network, and much like trading, mining is an investment. Essentially, miners are providing a bookkeeping service for their respective communities. They contribute their computing power to solving complicated cryptographic puzzles, which is necessary to confirm a transaction and record it in a distributed public ledger called the Blockchain.

One of the interesting things about mining is that the difficulty of the puzzles is constantly increasing, correlating with the number of people trying to solve it. So, the more popular a certain cryptocurrency becomes, the more people try to mine it, the more difficult the process becomes.

A lot of people have made fortunes by mining Bitcoins. Back in the days, you could make substantial profits from mining using just your computer, or even a powerful enough laptop. These days, Bitcoin mining can only become profitable if you’re willing to invest in an industrial-grade mining hardware. This, of course, incurs huge electricity bills on top of the price of all the necessary equipment.

Currently, Litecoins, Dogecoins and Feathercoins are said to be the best cryptocurrencies in terms of being cost-effective for beginners. For instance, at the current value of Litecoins, you might earn anything from 50 cents to 10 dollars a day using only consumer-grade hardware.

But how do miners make profits? The more computing power they manage to accumulate, the more chances they have of solving the cryptographic puzzles. Once a miner manages to solve the puzzle, they receive a reward as well as a transaction fee.

As a cryptocurrency attracts more interest, mining becomes harder and the amount of coins received as a reward decreases. For example, when Bitcoin was first created, the reward for successful mining was 50 BTC. Now, the reward stands at 12.5 Bitcoins. This happened because the Bitcoin network is designed so that there can only be a total of 21 mln coins in circulation.

As of November 2017, almost 17 mln Bitcoins have been mined and distributed. However, as rewards are going to become smaller and smaller, every single Bitcoin mined will become exponentially more and more valuable.

All of those factors make mining cryptocurrencies an extremely competitive arms race that rewards early adopters. However, depending on where you live, profits made from mining can be subject to taxation and Money Transmitting regulations. In the US, the FinCEN has issued a guidance, according to which mining of cryptocurrencies and exchanging them for flat currencies may be considered money transmitting. This means that miners might need to comply with special laws and regulations dealing with this type of activities.

Accept as payment (for business)

Accepting cryptocurrencies as payment is the same as accepting cash.

If you happen to own a business and if you’re looking for potential new customers, accepting cryptocurrencies as a form of payment may be a solution for you. The interest in cryptocurrencies has never been higher and it’s only going to increase. Along with the growing interest, also grows the number of crypto-ATMs located around the world. Coin ATM Radar currently lists almost 1,800 ATMs in 58 countries.

First of all, you need to let your customers know that your business accepts crypto coins. Simply putting a sign by your cash register should do the trick. The payments can then be accepted using hardware terminals, touch screen apps or simple wallet addresses through QR codes.

There are many different services that you can use to be able to accept payments in cryptocurrencies. For example, CoinPayments currently accepts over 75 different digital currencies, charging just 0.5 percent commission per transaction. Other popular services include Cryptonator, CoinGate and BitPay, with the latter only accepting Bitcoins.

In the US, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been recognized as a convertible virtual currency, which means accepting them as a form of payment is exactly the same as accepting cash, gold or gift cards.

For tax purposes, US-based businesses accepting cryptocurrencies need to record a reference of sales, amount received in a particular currency and the date of transaction. If sales taxes are payable, the amount due is calculated based on the average exchange rate at the time of sale.

Legality of cryptocurrencies

As cryptocurrencies are becoming more and more mainstream, law enforcement agencies, tax authorities and legal regulators worldwide are trying to understand the very concept of crypto coins and where exactly do they fit in existing regulations and legal frameworks.

With the introduction of Bitcoin, the first ever cryptocurrency, a completely new paradigm was created. Decentralized, self-sustained digital currencies that don’t exist in any physical shape or form and are not controlled by any singular entity were always set to cause an uproar among the regulators.

A lot of concerns have been raised regarding cryptocurrencies’ decentralized nature and their ability to be used almost completely anonymously. The authorities all over the world are worried about the cryptocurrencies’ appeal to the traders of illegal goods and services. Moreover, they are worried about their use in money laundering and tax evasion schemes.

As of November 2017, Bitcoin and other digital currencies are outlawed only in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam, with China and Russia being on the verge of banning them as well. Other jurisdictions, however, do not make the usage of cryptocurrencies illegal as of yet, but the laws and regulations can vary drastically depending on the country.

Bitcoin in the courtroom

Most common cryptocurrencies

  • Bitcoin — The first ever cryptocurrency that started it all.
  • Ethereum — A Turing-complete programmable currency that lets developers build different distributed apps and technologies that wouldn’t work with Bitcoin.
  • Ripple — Unlike most cryptocurrencies, it doesn’t use a Blockchain in order to reach a network-wide consensus for transactions. Instead, an iterative consensus process is implemented, which makes it faster than Bitcoin but also makes it vulnerable to hacker attacks.
  • Bitcoin Cash — A fork of Bitcoin that is supported by the biggest Bitcoin mining company and a manufacturer of ASICs Bitcoin mining chips. It has only existed for a couple of months but has already soared to the top five cryptocurrencies in terms of market cap.
  • NEM — Unlike most other cryptocurrencies that utilize a Proof of Work algorithm, it uses Proof of Importance, which requires users to already possess certain amounts of coins in order to be able to get new ones. It encourages users to spend their funds and tracks the transactions to determine how important a particular user is to the overall NEM network.
  • Litecoin — A cryptocurrency that was created with an intention to be the ‘digital silver’ compared to Bitcoin’s ‘digital gold.’ It is also a fork of Bitcoin, but unlike its predecessor, it can generate blocks four times faster and have four times the maximum number of coins at 84 mln.
  • IOTA — This cryptocurrency’s breakthrough ledger technology is called ‘Tangle’ and it requires the sender in a transaction to do a Proof of Work that approves two transactions. Thus, IOTA has removed dedicated miners from the process.
  • NEO — It’s a smart contract network that allows for all kinds of financial contracts and third-party distributed apps to be developed on top of it. It has many of the same goals as Ethereum, but it’s developed in China, which can potentially give it some advantages due to improved relationship with Chinese regulators and local businesses.
  • Dash — It’s a two-tier network. The first tier is miners that secure the network and record transactions, while the second one consists of ‘masternodes’ that relay transactions and enable InstantSend and PrivateSend type of transaction. The former is significantly faster than Bitcoin, whereas the latter is completely anonymous.
  • Qtum — It’s a merger of Bitcoin’s and Ethereum’s technologies targeting business applications. The network boasts Bitcoin’s reliability, while allowing for the use of smart contracts and distributed applications, much how it works within the Ethereum network.
  • Monero — A cryptocurrency with private transactions capabilities and one of the most active communities, which is due to its open and privacy-focused ideals.
  • Ethereum Classic — An original version of Ethereum. The split happened after a decentralized autonomous organization built on top of the original Ethereum was hacked.
Bitcoin on top of a mountain, Litecoin, Dash and Ethereum are climbing

How to store

Unlike most traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies are digital, which entails a completely different approach, particularly when it comes to storing it. Technically, you don’t store your units of cryptocurrency; instead it’s the private key that you use to sign for transactions that need to be securely stored.

There are several different types of cryptocurrency wallets that cater for different needs. If your priority is privacy, you might want to opt for a paper or a hardware wallet. Those are the most secure ways of storing your crypto funds. There are also ‘cold’ (offline) wallets that are stored on your hard drive and online wallets, which can either be affiliated with exchanges or with independent platforms.

How to buy

There are a lot of different options when it comes to buying Bitcoins. For example, there are currently almost 1,800 Bitcoin ATMs in 58 countries. Moreover, you can buy BTC using gift cards, cryptocurrency exchanges, investment trusts and you can even trade face-to-face.

When it comes to other, less popular cryptocurrencies, the buying options aren’t as diverse. However, there are still numerous exchanges where you can acquire various crypto-coins for flat currencies or Bitcoins. Face-to-face trading is also a popular way of acquiring coins. Buying options depend on particular cryptocurrencies, their popularity as well as your location.

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Hair Washing Guide

From shampooing to conditioning, you need to do it right to keep your hair healthy and shiny

Time to pay attention to your hair

Do you feel your hair has lost its natural shine and become weaker? While there are many factors you can point your fingers at (pollution, water, chemicals in products), sometimes it is the basics that we get wrong. Experts will tell you that from shampooing your hair to applying conditioner after the wash, you need to do it right to get healthy hair. More than anything else, it is important to understand one’s hair type first. Go to a professional if need be and find out if you have a combination scalp, an oily scalp or one that is prone to dryness; and accordingly choose the right hair products.

Did you know that you should never wash your hair daily? Experts suggest washing hair at least thrice a week and oiling at least two times a week to keep it healthy and strong. So have you been washing your hair the right way? If you have a clueless expression, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it right:

1. Prepare your hair

To prepare your hair for the wash, oil it two to three hours beforehand. An oil massage opens pores and enables better absorption of oil nutrients. Oil your hair from roots to tips and don’t massage too hard. You can use coconut, mustard or olive oil and even a combination for your pre-shampooing routine.

hair oil

Oil your hair from roots to tips

2. Rinse gently

Start by rinsing your hair with lukewarm water. This will remove extra oil from hair and scalp and wash off dry skin on the scalp. It will further help open the cuticles and soften the hair. When rinsing, keep in mind to not start rubbing hair immediately but wait for your hair to be soaking wet.

hair 650

Rinsing will remove extra oil from hair and scalp

3. Pick the right shampoo

Choosing the right shampoo is important if you want your hair’s natural shine and moisture to stay intact. For dry and damaged hair, it’s best to opt for sulfate and paraben-free shampoo. Whereas for thin hair, go for a volumising shampoo. In any case, avoid shampoo with synthetic ingredients so that your hair doesn’t get damaged.

Take a small amount of shampoo and work it up to lather. Start from the scalp and gently move on to the body straight down to the tip. Don’t rinse off the shampoo with warm water. Wash your hair with lukewarm water as hot water is bad for your hair.

shampoo mistakes

Choosing the right shampoo is important

4. Apply conditioner

Hair conditioner is applied after you have rinsed out the shampoo completely. It helps in retaining moisture and binding hair cuticles. Apply it evenly along the length of hair (but not the scalp). Leave it on for a minute or so and then rinse it off with cold water.

shampoo

Hair conditioner helps in retaining moisture

Extra care for your hair

*Apply a conditioning mask once a week – a hair mask can offer deeper hydration and repair, leaving hair lush and shiny.

*Let your hair dry, the best way is to take a towel and wrap it around your head and soak all the extra water.

*Do not ignore dandruff. Use an anti-dandruff shampoo and alternate it with your regular shampoo till dandruff persists.

*Do not switch between brands. Using different brands may show you different results but can also damage your hair.

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Android Camera Guide

Smartphone photography keeps getting better. The Camera and Gallery apps that come with Android 4.2 (still called Jelly Bean) have evolved into powerful tools for taking, viewing, editing, and sharing photos.

Before you take a picture, you can fine-tune the exposure, set the white balance, and tell the camera where to focus. You can photograph the entire world around you, 360 degrees horizontally and vertically. Afterward, you can add filters, tweak the exposure some more, fiddle with the colors (or remove them), crop the image, straighten it in both 90- and 1-degree increments, and put a frame around it. And when you’re happy with the result, you can upload it to whatever social media sites you choose.

I spent some quality time with a Google Nexus 4 smartphone to find out just what Android 4.2’s photography apps can do. This is a pure Android phone, with no manufacturer additions or alterations to the operating system. In other words, anything I could do here should be available on other smartphones running Android 4.2.

The Camera app

The main camera screen.

Get to the camera right away

Has this ever happened to you? You see a perfect photo moment. So you whip out your phone, press the power button, enter the PIN, password, or pattern to unlock your phone (and if you haven’t secured your smartphone with one of these, you should), wait for the home screen to appear, and launch the camera app.

And by that time, the perfect moment has passed.

Not an issue with Android 4.2—if you know the trick. First, press the power button. Then, instead of entering your PIN (or whatever), swipe the lock screen from right to left. The camera app will come up immediately.

Yes, if someone steals your phone, they will be able to take pictures. But that’s not a real security issue. They won’t even have full access to the gallery, let alone your private information.

Of course, you can also launch the Camera app the conventional way (after you’ve unlocked the phone), but by then your perfect shot will be no more.

Take a simple photo

Aim the camera, and a white circle will appear in the center. This circle shows the area on which the camera will focus and set exposure.

Tap the screen to focus on a specific area.

But your picture might not really be about what’s in the center of the frame. Tap another part of the screen, and the circle will move. That way, you can focus the shot on something—or someone—off to the side.

If you’re too far away from the subject, you can zoom in with the same two-finger gesture you use to zoom in on a webpage. Just remember that your Android device probably lacks a real zoom lens; the app can give you only an inferior digital zoom.

When the image is just right, press the big blue shutter button on the right side of the screen (which will be on the center-bottom if you’re shooting in portrait mode).

Fine-tune via the camera menu

On the main screen of the Camera app, you’ll find another, smaller, white circle in the upper-right corner (lower-right if you’re in portrait mode). Tap that, and a radial menu will give you assorted options for controlling the look of your photo.

The camera menu.

Let’s consider these options, clockwise from the top.

HDR: Digital cameras often have dynamic range problems. If the scene has a lot of bright light and dark shadows (a common problem on sunny days), either one part of the image will be too bright or another part will be too dark. A high dynamic range (HDR) mode helps fix this problem by sampling the light in multiple exposures and creating a composite photo. You can turn this feature on or off; the app gives you no other options.

Flash: You get the usual options, on, auto, and off. Auto—in which the camera decides whether it needs the flash—is a good default. But there will be times when you and the camera will disagree about that.

The various white balance options.

White balance: White light—the basic default of what we see—is seldom pure white. It changes depending on the dominant light source, namely incandescent light bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, sunlight, and so on. The Android Camera app offers five options for the different types of lighting you may encounter, but the Automatic setting (the one with the A/W icon) works well for most situations.

Settings: This isn’t really an option, but a submenu with three additional options of its own.

  • Scene mode lets you tell the camera about your environment. Are you shooting at night? At a party? If you’re unsure, stick with the default, Auto (which doesn’t mean you’re in a car).
  • Store location has nothing to do with where you bought your tablet or phone. It’s about geotagging your pictures so that you create an automatic record of where you took them.
  • Picture size lets you adjust how big of a photo you take (in terms of megapixels).

Exposure: At the default 0, you get the exposure that the camera selects. The other options let you cheat that up or down if you want an overexposed or underexposed image.

Switch camera: Your phone or tablet likely has a second, front-facing camera intended for video calls. But it also allows you to take photos of yourself. You may find it useful as a makeshift mirror, too.

Other camera modes

The camera app features different shooting modes.

Shoot videos

Below the shutter button is an icon shaped like a camera. Tap it, and up come three additional photography modes. Going from left to right, they’re Photo Sphere, Panoramic, and Video.

Android 4.2 doesn’t provide as much control over shooting video as it does with still photos. You have no way to tell the camera where to focus, and you can’t set the exposure. But at least you can set the resolution and the white balance (using the same menus as with still photos).

You can also control the flash, although the word flash may not be appropriate (turn it on, and the light stays on until you turn it off). You get no Auto option.

When you visit the Settings submenu, you’ll find a setting for time-lapse photography, allowing you to condense a very long period of time into a few seconds.

Turning on the time-lapse function can be a bit confusing.

Turning it on the first time can be a bit confusing, however. When you tap the time-lapse option, the app will tell you that the time-lapse feature is off, and that you have to turn it on if you want to use it. That’s helpful.

To turn on time-lapse photography, tap the OFF button. This brings up a dialog box where you can set the time interval. The default, 0.5 seconds, will shoot only two frames a second, so an hour’s worth of video will go by in 2 minutes.

With few exceptions (sitting in a moving car’s passenger seat is one of them), there’s little you can do with time lapse that doesn’t require a tripod. Few phones or tablets can easily accommodate a tripod.

Whether you’re shooting in time lapse or real time, you press the shutter button—which is red in video instead of blue—to start and stop capturing images.

One other interesting trick: Touch the screen while shooting video, and you’ll also save a still image of your current frame.

Use Panoramic mode

I’m sure you can guess that this mode allows you to capture very wide landscapes. Once in this mode, point your camera to the extreme left or right of the landscape you want to photograph. Then press the shutter button and start panning.

The camera screen while taking a panoramic photo.

The camera won’t tell you when it snaps the individual sections of the photo, but an icon of a wide, curved screen will tell you how much of the photo you’ve captured so far.

No matter what camera or software you use, panoramas have their problems. Moving objects, including people, ruin the illusion. And objects too close to the camera will not blend well between images.

When you’re done, don’t tap the X that appears in the corner … unless you want to delete what you’ve just done. Instead, wait for the camera to stitch together the panorama.

Capture the environment with Photo Sphere

Photo Sphere lets you capture all of your surroundings in a single image. Like a panorama, Photo Sphere works best when you’re standing in a single spot and capturing a stationary environment.

Photo Sphere lets you take pictures of your surroundings.

When you select Photo Sphere, a grid replaces the photographic image on your screen, except for a small window with a white circle in the center. You should also see a blue dot on the screen (if it’s not present, move the camera until it appears). Move the camera until the blue dot is centered in the white circle. The camera will automatically take a picture.

Other dots will appear. Move the camera so that one of them is centered, and the camera takes another picture. Continue until you’ve covered as much area as you want to capture, or until you get bored.

Press the shutter button when you’re done, and the Camera app will begin rendering your Photo Sphere.

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Motorcycle Washing Guide

If you want to keep your motorcycle clean, you have two options: wash it, or keep it covered, in a garage, and only bring it out for photos when your social media profile needs rejuvenating.

How to wash a motorcycle

  1. Prepare the motorcycle and work area
  2. Soak the motorcycle with plain water
  3. Lather and clean the motorcycle with an appropriate chemical
  4. Rinse
  5. Dry
  6. Lubricate the drive chain
  7. Seal the paint with wax or polish

Knowing how to wash a motorcycle correctly will save you time, money, and more than a little disappointment along the way. Cleaning a motorcycle not only removes corrosive substances (i.e. road salt and grime) from important parts and finishes, but is also is a great opportunity for you to look over the bike carefully for any structural or connection issues that may not be immediately evident from your daily perch in the saddle.

Step 1: Get your cleaning supplies together

The best way to wash your motorcycle always starts with ensuring you have what you need to get the job done, and done right. Few things are as frustrating as clearing your schedule, rolling your motorcycle into position, cracking open a beer, and then realizing that you don’t have the right supplies to get started.

Motorcycle cleaning supplies
Getting the right supplies together is the first step to cleaning your motorcycle.

There are plenty of motorcycle cleaners to choose from, so you don’t have to make do with something else. All that glitters is not gold, and all that makes suds is not meant to clean motorcycles. From detailing spray to rinseless wash, when selecting products to clean a motorcycle, be sure they are designed for that purpose.

The less you touch your motorcycle while cleaning it, the better (more on this later). However, when you must touch the motorcycle, make sure you have the right materials for the task:

  • Sponges: Great for gently removing stuck-on grime without damaging finishes, but be sure they do not pick up pieces of dirt in the process or they can scratch your paint.
  • Brushes: Mainly designed for areas like spoked wheels that can handle a bit of elbow grease, but should be used in a very limited capacity, and only when other methods of dirt removal fall short.
  • Cloths and flannels: These work great for the initial drying pass post wash.
  • Chamios: Ultra-absorbent leather cloth that is safe for all surfaces.
  • Microfiber: Best for the finishing touches and final pass with detailing spray. Microfiber does a great job of trapping leftover dust, lint, etc.

Step 2: Get your work area in order

Once you have everything you need in order to properly clean your motorcycle, you will want to be sure that both your motorcycle and your work area are ready to go. First, before you begin, make sure the motorcycle is cool. Like a temperamental toddler, your motorcycle needs to be in the right mood for its bath. A hot engine + cold water = thermal shock. When metal gets hot, molecules expand. A quick shot of cold water creates an unceremonious snap back that could cause damage.

You’ll also want to avoid working in direct sunlight, which will make the soap dry faster and thus will make it much more difficult to do a good job cleaning your motorcycle by increasing the probability of streaks and water spots.

Selecting the right place to clean a motorcycle
Keep your cleaning supplies handy, your bike out of direct sunlight, and set up in an area that allows you to splash around a bit.

Step 3: Plug exhaust holes

While your motorcycle is generally pretty resilient when it comes to water, it never hurts to plug your exhaust with something like the Bike Master Muffler Rubber Plug. You can also just stuff a rag in the exhaust hole, or simply cover it with a rubber glove in order to keep the water out. This step is most commonly seen with dirt bike riders, but is something to consider for all motorcycles that feature exhausts that are angled in a way that would allow substantial amounts of water to pool in them during the washing process.

Step 4: Give the motorcycle a quick spritz

In general terms, the less friction applied while cleaning a motorcycle, the better. The more you rub and scrub, the more likely you are to have your sponge pick up small particles of dirt and then grind them over delicate surfaces. To lessen the likelihood of this, spray down the entire motorcycle with a combination of motorcycle cleaner and water prior to touching it with anything else. This will help loosen up some of the gunk and wash it away before you finish it off with elbow grease.

Motorcycle detailing spray
Using a spray cleaner and some warm water is a great way to dislodge any grit and grime before soaping up your bike.

Start with a spray cleaner. Motorcycle spray cleaners should be applied to a dry bike before rinsing. They work to take a first pass at loosening up dried muck, bugs, and other unsavory remnants of the road.

Then rinse the motorcycle. After letting the motorcycle spray cleaner do its job (be sure to read the directions on how long to let it sit!), you will want to rinse it away with a standard-pressure hose. While rockin’ a power washer sounds like an efficient and fun method of doing this, don’t! Unlike the siding on your house, your motorcycle has a multitude of intricate pieces that power washers can damage.

Step 5: Suds up your motorcycle

After your initial pass with the hose, you can start getting to the meat of the process of cleaning your motorcycle. This is the part everyone thinks of when they think “motorcycle wash.” As always, be very careful with the amount of force you employ.

Here are some other tips to make the job easier:

  • Start at the top of your motorcycle and work down.
  • Ensure that the solution you are using is right for the surface that you are using it on.
  • If your sponge picks up any dirt, grime, grease, etc., be sure to clean it thoroughly or swap it out before continuing. You will also want to change out the wash bucket, as grit and grime have a tendency to pool at the bottom.
  • Water and soap will spill on your bike’s chain and brakes of your bike. This is to be expected (more on that later). However, you should not be scrubbing these areas as the coating on each is part of what makes them function correctly.
Washing a motorcycle
While a spray cleaner or rinseless wash is a solid start, sometimes you need to get your suds game on and lather up your iron pony.

Step 6: Rinse your motorcycle

This step should happen relatively quickly after lathering up your ride. You don’t want to let soap dry on your motorcycle as it will cause swirls and streaks that are hard to remove. Don’t be afraid to be thorough here. You really want to splash away any residue, so get at it from all the angles.

Step 7: Dry the motorcycle

Rather quickly after washing a motorcycle, you should dry it thoroughly. Water left in creases and crevices over time can cause corrosion. One of the best ways to do this is to use an air blower of some type (leaf/snow blower, shop vac on reverse, etc). This allows for a hands-off approach that will reduce swirls and save you some energy.

If you prefer a more tactical approach, you can always use something like the S100 Drying Towel or natural chamois to gently wipe away any excess water droplets.

Drying a motorcycle
When finished washing, be sure to dry your motorcycle thoroughly so that water doesn’t pool in hard-to-reach places.

A lot of people will take their bike out for a ride as a way to finish off the drying process. While this is a much more fun way of getting the job done, it’s important to note that if your bike has fairings, the air may be deflected away from some areas, which will stay wet. Additionally, you will need to be sure to ride long enough for your engine to get hot enough (for enough time) to really get the excess water to evaporate.

When riding your motorcycle for the first time post-wash, your brakes will most likely perform somewhat differently as they work off any excess water. It is best to ride cautiously and work them out at low speed prior to hitting the streets at full force.

Step 8: Re-lube the motorcycle chain

In a perfect world, the exact parts of your bike that you wanted to clean would get hit with precisely the right amount of water and cleaning solution. The world, however, is not perfect. By this point, you will have undoubtedly splashed more than a little bit of cleaning spray or soapy water over lubed up parts of your bike. Most notably, the motorcycle chain. Your best bet is to ensure that you have re-lubed prior to logging any more miles.

Motorcycle chain lube
While not technically part of “washing” your motorcycle, you should always re-lube your chain once the suds are washed away and the water has dried.

Step 9: Waxing a motorcycle

By this point, your motorcycle is clean. You have aggressively taken the fight to the opponent and come out victorious. However, diligence is key, and with that comes the need for defense of your masterpiece. The processes for polishing and waxing a motorcycle are an article unto themselves, and as noted above, we won’t be getting deep into the details here. If you are interested in hearing more on the topic, be sure to leave us a note in the comments and we will get it addressed.

Waxing your motorcycle will make the most of your motorcycle cleaning. A product like S100 Carnauba Paste Wax will seal in the glistening goodness of your paint while simultaneously protecting it from degradation handed down from the elements.

While wax levels out and protects imperfections in surfaces, polishing shaves them down entirely. Honestly, you really shouldn’t be polishing, as it is literally cutting away layers of your clear coat on each pass.

All done

A final note on washing your motorcycle

As you can imagine, there are many ways folks go about this task of cleaning their bikes. From a deep understanding of the chemistry between solutions and materials, to a litany of other tools, tips, and tricks gained through various experiences, there are almost an infinite amount of additional thoughts on the topic.

There are alternate methods, additional tools, various motorcycle cleaning products, and a multitude of opinions on the matter. So, if there is something that you feel we missed, or if you have a question that pertains to a specific aspect of cleaning your motorcycle, hit us up in the comments and we will be happy to discuss.

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Healthy Sleeping Guide

It’s well-established that sleep is essential to our physical and mental health. But despite its importance, a troubling percentage of people find themselves regularly deprived of quality sleep and are notably sleepy during the day.

Though there’s a wide range of causes and types of sleeping problems, expert consensus points to a handful of concrete steps that promote more restful sleep. Organizations like the CDC1, the National Institutes of Health2, the National Institute on Aging3, and the American Academy of Family Physicians4 point to the same fundamental tips for getting better rest.

For many people, trying to implement all these strategies can be overwhelming. But remember that it’s not all-or-nothing; you can start with small changes and work your way up toward healthier sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene.

To make these sleep hygiene improvements more approachable, we’ve broken them into four categories:

  • Creating a Sleep-Inducing Bedroom
  • Optimizing Your Sleep Schedule
  • Crafting a Pre-Bed time Routine
  • Fostering Pro-Sleep Habits During the Day

In each category, you can find specific actions that you can take to make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up well-rested.

Creating a Sleep-Inducing Bedroom

An essential tip to help fall asleep quickly and easily is to make your bedroom a place of comfort and relaxation. Though this might seem obvious, it’s often overlooked, contributing to difficulties getting to sleep and sleeping through the night.

In designing your sleep environment, focus maximizing comfort and minimizing distractions, including with these tips:

  • Use a High-Performance Mattress and Pillow: A quality mattress is vital to making sure that you are comfortable enough to relax. It also ensures, along with your pillow, that your spine gets proper support to avoid aches and pains.
  • Choose Quality Bedding: Your sheets and blankets play a major role in helping your bed feel inviting. Look for bedding that feels comfortable to the touch and that will help maintain a comfortable temperature during the night.
  • Avoid Light Disruption: Excess light exposure can throw off your sleep and circadian rhythm. Blackout curtains over your windows or a sleep mask for over your eyes can block light and prevent it from interfering with your rest.
  • Cultivate Peace and Quiet: Keeping noise to a minimum is an important part of building a sleep-positive bedroom. If you can’t eliminate nearby sources of noise, consider drowning them out with a fan or white noise machine. Earplugs or headphones are another option to stop abrasive sounds from bothering you when you want to sleep.
  • Find an Agreeable Temperature: You don’t want your bedroom temperature to be a distraction by feeling too hot or too cold. The ideal temperature can vary based on the individual, but most research supports sleeping in a cooler room that is around 65 degrees.
  • Introduce Pleasant Aromas: A light scent that you find calming can help ease you into sleep. Essential oils with natural aromas, such as lavender5, can provide a soothing and fresh smell for your bedroom.

Optimizing Your Sleep Schedule

Taking control of your daily sleep schedule is a powerful step toward getting better sleep. To start harnessing your schedule for your benefit, try implementing these four strategies:

  • Set a Fixed Wake-Up Time: It’s close to impossible for your body to get accustomed to a healthy sleep routine if you’re constantly waking up at different times. Pick a wake-up time and stick with it, even on weekends or other days when you would otherwise be tempted to sleep in.
  • Budget Time for Sleep: If you want to make sure that you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, then you need to build that time into your schedule. Considering your fixed wake-up time, work backwards and identify a target bedtime. Whenever possible, give yourself extra time before bed to wind down and get ready for sleep.
  • Be Careful With Naps: To sleep better at night, it’s important to use caution with naps. If you nap for too long or too late in the day, it can throw off your sleep schedule and make it harder to get to sleep when you want to. The best time to nap is shortly after lunch in the early afternoon, and the best nap length is around 20 minutes.
  • Adjust Your Schedule Gradually: When you need to change your sleep schedule, it’s best to make adjustments little-by-little and over time with a maximum difference of 1-2 hours per night6. This allows your body to get used to the changes so that following your new schedule is more sustainable.

Crafting a Pre-Bed Routine

If you have a hard time falling asleep, it’s natural to think that the problem starts when you lie down in bed. In reality, though, the lead-up to bedtime plays a crucial role in preparing you to fall asleep quickly and effortlessly.

Poor pre-bed habits are a major contributor to insomnia and other sleep problems. Changing these habits7 can take time, but the effort can pay off by making you more relaxed and ready to fall asleep when bedtime rolls around.

As much as possible, try to create a consistent routine that you follow each night because this helps reinforce healthy habits and signals to mind and body that bedtime is approaching. As part of that routine, incorporate these three tips:

  • Wind Down For At Least 30 Minutes: It’s much easier to doze off smoothly if you are at-ease. Quiet reading, low-impact stretching, listening to soothing music, and relaxation exercises are examples of ways to get into the right frame of mind for sleep.
  • Lower the Lights: Avoiding bright light can help you transition to bedtime and contribute to your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
  • Disconnect From Devices: Tablets, cell phones, and laptops can keep your brain wired, making it hard to truly wind down. The light from these devices can also suppress your natural production of melatonin. As much as possible, try to disconnect for 30 minutes or more before going to bed.

Fostering Pro-Sleep Habits During the Day

Setting the table for high-quality sleep is an all-day affair. A handful of steps that you can take during the day can pave the way for better sleep at night.

  • See the Light of Day: Our internal clocks8 are regulated by light exposure. Sunlight has the strongest effect9, so try to take in daylight by getting outside or opening up windows or blinds to natural light. Getting a dose of daylight early in the day can help normalize your circadian rhythm. If natural light isn’t an option, you can talk with your doctor about using a light therapy box.
  • Find Time to Move: Daily exercise has across-the-board benefits for health, and the changes it initiates in energy use and body temperature can promote solid sleep. Most experts advise against intense exercise close to bedtime because it may hinder your body’s ability to effectively settle down before sleep.
  • Monitor Your Caffeine Intake: Caffeinated drinks, including coffee, tea, and sodas, are among the most popular beverages in the world. Some people are tempted to use the jolt of energy from caffeine to try to overcome daytime sleepiness, but that approach isn’t sustainable and can cause long-term sleep deprivation. To avoid this, keep an eye on your caffeine intake and avoid it later in the day when it can be a barrier to falling sleep.
  • Be Mindful of Alcohol: Alcohol can induce drowsiness, so some people are keen on a nightcap before bed. Unfortunately, alcohol affects the brain in ways that can lower sleep quality, and for that reason, it’s best to avoid alcohol in the lead-up to bedtime.
  • Don’t Eat Too Late: It can be harder to fall asleep if your body is still digesting a big dinner. To keep food-based sleep disruptions to a minimum, try to avoid late dinners and minimize especially fatty or spicy foods. If you need an evening snack, opt for something light and healthy.
  • Don’t Smoke: Exposure to smoke, including secondhand smoke, has been associated with a range of sleeping problems10 including difficulty falling asleep and fragmented sleep.
  • Reserve Your Bed for Sleep and Sex Only: If you have a comfortable bed, you may be tempted to hang out there while doing all kinds of activities, but this can actually cause problems at bedtime. You want a strong mental association between your bed and sleep, so try to keep activities in your bed limited strictly to sleep and sex.

If You Can’t Fall Asleep

Whether it’s when you first get into bed or after waking up in the middle of the night, you may find it hard to drift off to sleep. These tips help explain what to do when you can’t sleep:

  • Try Relaxation Techniques: Don’t focus on trying to fall asleep; instead, focus on just trying to relax11. Controlled breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are examples of relaxation methods that can help ease you into sleep12.
  • Don’t Stew in Bed: You want to avoid a connection in your mind between your bed and frustration from sleeplessness. This means that if you’ve spent around 20 minutes in bed without being able to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing in low light. Avoid checking the time during this time. Try to get your mind off of sleep for at least a few minutes before returning to bed.
  • Experiment WIth Different Methods: Sleeping problems can be complex and what works for one person may not work for someone else. As a result, it makes sense to try different approaches to see what works for you. Just remember that it can take some time for new methods to take effect, so give your changes time to kick in before assuming that they aren’t working for you.
  • Keep a Sleep Diary: A daily sleep journal can help you keep track of how well you’re sleeping and identify factors that might be helping or hurting your sleep. If you’re testing out a new sleep schedule or other sleep hygiene changes, the sleep diary can help document how well it’s working.
  • Talk With a Doctor: A doctor is in the best position to offer detailed advice for people with serious difficulties sleeping. Talk with your doctor if you find that your sleep problems are worsening, persisting over the long-term, affecting your health and safety (such as from excessive daytime sleepiness), or if they occur alongside other unexplained health problems.
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Buying Electric Switchboards

Electrical switchboards are an integral part of the power distribution system in your home. The different electrical panels in a switchboard divide the power into smaller components and distribute them across various devices. It performs a controlling function and hence acts as a guard for the power system in your homes. So, it is highly important that you take at most care in installing switchboards in order to avoid instances of electric shock. Here are a few pointers to be kept in mind before buying an electric switchboard for your home.

Electrical hazards and safety

The safety of your family and the building should be the first aspect that is considered while buying an electric switchboard for your home. Since switchboards control the entire electrical system, it is important that you understand the details and specifications of the equipment which will best suit your home. It is always better to consult a qualified electrician who can guide on understanding the specifications required. Make sure you choose a device that surpasses all the safety needs of the building.

Ideal location

You need to identify appropriate locations to install your equipment. Designating places for switchboards are very easy during the planning stage. The room allocated for installing your switchboards should be spacious and well ventilated. It is generally observed that most of the electrical rooms are decided at the end of the planning stage resulting in cramped spaces. Also, it is important that you restrict the entry of kids to this room in order to avoid electrical hazards.

Efficiency and functionality

Efficiency is yet another important factor that needs to be taken into consideration before buying an electric switchboard for your home. Only an efficient switchboard can operate under unforeseen circumstances. For instance, a generator must automatically function in case of a power cut during the day or night. The efficiency of a switchboard and its functionality are interconnected. In order to make it user-friendly, colour coding can be incorporated into your devices. Using different colours for control functions can be more effective than using labels and marks. It is also highly important to use switches that have an interlock mechanism. This will protect the entire circuit system from control failures.

Reliable brand

Quality, reliability and durability are the other important factors that will determine the lifespan for your electrical equipment. Always use switchboards of reputed brands which have surpassed all quality and safety standards. Try to talk to your peers or a qualified electrician to understand the commonly used brands dealing with electrical household equipment. It is always advisable to choose brands which will offer you good customer service and long warranty periods for your devices, like Finolex electrical switches.

Customisation

The design of a switchboard depends on various factors such as the type of construction, the capacity of current and voltage it can hold and insulation type. Some types of construction require exclusive designs, and in the case of such customisations, it is always ideal to depend on a credible brand for their experience and knowledge. They can offer you a specialist who has expertise in strategising advanced electrical technologies according to your needs.

Installation and maintenance

Once you make a purchase, it is always wise to call a company expert or a qualified electrician for proper installation. The most important thing to be noted while installation is the appropriate fabrication of all the devices to ensure safety. Also, during the purchase, it is important to read through all the terms and conditions of warranty and double check on the maintenance services offered by the company. Mostly, switchboards of reliable brands have a long lifespan and last up to 30 years or more if maintenance is done at proper intervals.

Faulty switchboards can lead to severe loss of life and property. It is always ideal that you follow appropriate safety guidelines during the installation. A thorough understanding of your building is also important in order to avoid problems such as voltage fluctuations and power shutdowns.

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GPS Guide

GPS, or the Global Positioning System, is a global navigation satellite system that provides location, velocity and time synchronization.

GPS is everywhere. You can find GPS systems in your car, your smartphone and your watch. GPS helps you get where you are going, from point A to point B. What is GPS? Read this article to learn more about how it works, its history and future advancements.

What is GPS and how does it work?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a navigation system using satellites, a receiver and algorithms to synchronize location, velocity and time data for air, sea and land travel.

The satellite system consists of a constellation of 24 satellites in six Earth-centered orbital planes, each with four satellites, orbiting at 13,000 miles (20,000 km) above Earth and traveling at a speed of 8,700 mph (14,000 km/h).

While we only need three satellites to produce a location on earth’s surface, a fourth satellite is often used to validate the information from the other three. The fourth satellite also moves us into the third-dimension and allows us to calculate the altitude of a device.

What are the three elements of GPS?

GPS is made up of three different components, called segments, that work together to provide location information.

The three segments of GPS are:

  • Space (Satellites) — The satellites circling the Earth, transmitting signals to users on geographical position and time of day.
  • Ground control — The Control Segment is made up of Earth-based monitor stations, master control stations and ground antenna. Control activities include tracking and operating the satellites in space and monitoring transmissions. There are monitoring stations on almost every continent in the world, including North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.
  • User equipment — GPS receivers and transmitters including items like watches, smartphones and telematic devices.

How does GPS technology work?

GPS works through a technique called trilateration. Used to calculate location, velocity and elevation, trilateration collects signals from satellites to output location information. It is often mistaken for triangulation, which is used to measure angles, not distances.

Satellites orbiting the earth send signals to be read and interpreted by a GPS device, situated on or near the earth’s surface. To calculate location, a GPS device must be able to read the signal from at least four satellites.

Each satellite in the network circles the earth twice a day, and each satellite sends a unique signal, orbital parameters and time. At any given moment, a GPS device can read the signals from six or more satellites.

A single satellite broadcasts a microwave signal which is picked up by a GPS device and used to calculate the distance from the GPS device to the satellite. Since a GPS device only gives information about the distance from a satellite, a single satellite cannot provide much location information. Satellites do not give off information about angles, so the location of a GPS device could be anywhere on a sphere’s surface area.

When a satellite sends a signal, it creates a circle with a radius measured from the GPS device to the satellite.

When we add a second satellite, it creates a second circle, and the location is narrowed down to one of two points where the circles intersect.

With a third satellite, the device’s location can finally be determined, as the device is at the intersection of all three circles.

That said, we live in a three-dimensional world, which means that each satellite produces a sphere, not a circle. The intersection of three spheres produces two points of intersection, so the point nearest Earth is chosen.

Here is an illustration of satellite ranging:

Ranging

As a device moves, the radius (distance to the satellite) changes. When the radius changes, new spheres are produced, giving us a new position. We can use that data, combined with the time from the satellite, to determine velocity, calculate the distance to our destination and the ETA.

What are the uses of GPS?

GPS is a powerful and dependable tool for businesses and organizations in many different industries. Surveyors, scientists, pilots, boat captains, first responders, and workers in mining and agriculture, are just some of the people who use GPS on a daily basis for work. They use GPS information for preparing accurate surveys and maps, taking precise time measurements, tracking position or location, and for navigation. GPS works at all times and in almost all weather conditions.

There are five main uses of GPS:

  1. Location — Determining a position.
  2. Navigation — Getting from one location to another.
  3. Tracking — Monitoring object or personal movement.
  4. Mapping — Creating maps of the world.
  5. Timing — Making it possible to take precise time measurements.

Some specific examples of GPS use cases include:

  • Emergency Response: During an emergency or natural disaster, first responders use GPS for mapping, following and predicting weather, and keeping track of emergency personnel. In the EU and Russia, the eCall regulation relies on GLONASS technology (a GPS alternative) and telematics to send data to emergency services in the case of a vehicle crash, reducing response time. Read more about GPS tracking for first responders.
  • Entertainment: GPS can be incorporated into games and activities like Pokémon Go and Geocaching.
  • Health and fitness: Smartwatches and wearable technology can track fitness activity (such as running distance) and benchmark it against a similar demographic.
  • Construction, mining and off-road trucking: From locating equipment, to measuring and improving asset allocation, GPS enables companies to increase return on their assets. Check out our posts on construction vehicle tracking and off-road equipment tracking.
  • Transportation: Logistics companies implement telematics systems to improve driver productivity and safety. A truck tracker can be used to support route optimization, fuel efficiency, driver safety and compliance.
helicopter

Other industries where GPS is used include: agriculture, autonomous vehicles, sales and services, the military, mobile communications, security, and fishing.

How accurate is GPS?

GPS device accuracy depends on many variables, such as the number of satellites available, the ionosphere, the urban environment and more.

Some factors that can hinder GPS accuracy include:

  • Physical obstructions: Arrival time measurements can be skewed by large masses like mountains, buildings, trees and more.
  • Atmospheric effects: Ionospheric delays, heavy storm cover and solar storms can all affect GPS devices.
  • Ephemeris: The orbital model within a satellite could be incorrect or out-of-date, although this is becoming increasingly rare.
  • Numerical miscalculations: This might be a factor when the device hardware is not designed to specifications.
  • Artificial interference: These include GPS jamming devices or spoofs.

Accuracy tends to be higher in open areas with no adjacent tall buildings that can block signals. This effect is known as an urban canyon. When a device is surrounded by large buildings, like in downtown Manhattan or Toronto, the satellite signal is first blocked, and then bounced off a building, where it is finally read by the device. This can result in miscalculations of the satellite distance.

Fortunately, many critical issues facing GPS technology have been identified and are nearing resolution. High-quality receivers provide better than 2.2 meter horizontal accuracy in 95% of cases, and better than 3 meter accuracy in 99% of cases.

A brief history of GPS

Humans have been practicing navigation for thousands of years using the sun, moon, stars, and later, the sextant. GPS was an advancement of the 20th century made possible by space-age technology.

GPS technology has been used globally throughout history. The launch of Russia’s Sputnik I satellite in 1957 ushered in the possibility of geolocation capabilities and soon after, the U.S. Department of Defense began using it for submarine navigation.

In 1983, the U.S. government made GPS publically available, but still kept control of the available data. It wasn’t until 2000 that companies and the general public gained full access to the use of GPS, eventually paving the way for greater GPS advancement.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)

A GPS is considered to be a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) — meaning it is a satellite navigation system with global coverage. As of 2020, there are two fully operational global navigation satellite systems: the U.S. navigation signal timing and ranging (NAVSTAR) GPS and Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). The NAVSTAR GPS consists of 32 satellites owned by the U.S. and is the best-known and most widely-utilised satellite system. Russia’s GLONASS consists of 24 operational satellites with three remaining as spares or in testing.

Illustration of GLONASS, GPS and Galileo Satellites.

Other countries are also racing to catch up. The EU, for example, has been working on Galileo, which is expected to reach full operation capacity by the end of 2020. China is also building the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, with 35 satellites planned to be in orbit by May 2020. Japan and India are also well on their way with their own regional systems, the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) and the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), respectively.

GPS vs GNSS Devices

Though GPS is a subset of GNSS, receivers are differentiated as GPS (meaning GPS-only) or GNSS. A GPS receiver is only capable of reading information from satellites in the GPS satellite network, while the typical GNSS device can receive information from both GPS and GLONASS (or more than these two systems) at a time.

A GNSS receiver has 60 satellites available for viewing. While a device only needs three satellites to determine its location, accuracy is improved with a larger number of satellites. The chart below shows an example of the number of satellites available (shown in green), along with its signal strength (height of the column), to a GPS receiver. In this case, 12 satellites are available.

Typical GPS-only test board showing 12 satellite signals (green), using U-Center software.

A GNSS device can see more satellites, which helps improve device accuracy. In the chart below, there are 17 available satellites. Green bars are part of GPS and blue bars are part of GLONASS.

Typical GNSS test board showing 17 satellite signals (GPS = green; GLONASS = blue), using U-Center software.

A larger number of satellites providing information to a receiver enables the GPS device to calculate location with greater precision. More satellites give a device a better chance of getting a positional fix when the receiver has calculated the location of the user.

That being said, GNSS receivers have some drawbacks:

  • The cost of GNSS chips are higher than those of GPS devices.
  • GNSS uses a wider bandwidth (1559-1610 MHz) than GPS (1559-1591 MHz).This means standard GPS radio frequency components, such as antennas, filters and amplifiers, cannot be used for GNSS receivers, resulting in a greater cost impact.
  • Power consumption would be slightly higher than with GPS receivers as it connects to more satellites and runs the calculations to determine location.

The future of GPS

Countries continue to build and make improvements to their GPS systems. Efforts worldwide are being made to increase accuracyand improve reliability and GPS capabilities.

For example:

  • GNSS receivers are expected to become smaller, more accurate and more efficient, and GNSS technology is set to penetrate even the most cost-sensitive GPS applications.
  • Scientists and rescue workers are finding new ways to use GPS technology in natural disaster prevention and analysis in the event of an earthquake, volcanic eruption, sinkhole or avalanche. For the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers are looking at using cellphone location data to assist with contact tracing in order to slow down the spread of the virus.
  • The launch of new GPS III satellites will refine GPS accuracy to 1-3 meters, improve navigation abilities, and longer-lasting components as early as 2023. By broadcasting on the L1C civilian signal for interoperability with other satellite systems.
  • The next generation of GPS satellites will include better signal protection, decreased susceptibility to signal jamming and more maneuverability to cover dead zones.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Deep Space Atomic Clock is set to use a powerful onboard GPS satellite to help provide better consistency in time for future astronauts embarking on deep space journeys.

The future of GPS tracking will likely be far more accurate and effective for both personal and business use.

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TV Buying Guide

TV buying guide

This TV buying guide is your decoder ring for all things TV. From simple buying advice to the technical details that matter, this guide walks you through everything you need to know when shopping for a new TV, from the differences between 8K and 4K resolution, the basics of smart TV features, why you want and HDR, and the differences between LED and OLED.

Today, there’s a ridiculously wide array of high-definition (HD), 4K Ultra HD and even 8K TVs in stores, from bargain big screens to the high-end displays that distinguish the best TVs available. The technologies and features are amazing, but it can be hard to keep up with it all, let alone determine what’s important. We’re here with our TV buying guide to help you decide.

TV buying guide quick tips

If you’re in a hurry, here are the most important things to consider before you buy a television. We explain each of these points in greater detail in our TV buying guide below:

  • Don’t buy a TV with less than 4K resolution. Avoid full HD or 1080p sets.
  • You can skip 8K TVs (for now). 8K TVs are super expensive, and 8K movies and shows aren’t available yet.
  • Expect to pay about $500 for a good 55-inch 4K TV. And at least $900 for a 65-inch model.
  • Look for 60 Hz or 120 Hz refresh rate: When it comes to refresh rates, 60 Hz is good, but 120 Hz is better. A higher refresh rate provides smoother motion for everything from movies and shows to live sports and gaming.
  • Look for an HDR-compatible set: This offers more realistic colors and better contrast.
  • OLED TVs look much better than most LCD sets: But QLED TVs from Samsung, Vizio and TCL are an affordable middle ground.
  • Look for at least four HDMI ports. And opt for the newer HDMI 2.1 format if you can.
  • Plan to buy a soundbar. TV speakers are worse nowadays because the screens are thinner.
  • Avoid extended warranties. Your credit card company may already provide purchase protection

Screen size: Finding the sweet spot

Whether you’re looking for a basic or high-performance TV, the biggest factor in your decision will probably be screen size. Consider how many people in your family typically watch at once and where you’re going to put your new set. Then pick the largest screen size that will fit comfortably into that space — and your budget. The sweet spot today, considering price, performance and the typical living room, is between 55 and 65 inches.

Screen size also depends on how close you sit to the TV. Basically, if you can see the individual pixels of the screen, you’re too close. A good rule of thumb is that you should sit at a distance from the TV that is three times more than the height of the screen for HD and just 1.5 times the screen height for 4K Ultra HD. In other words, you can sit twice as close to a 4K UHD TV.

No TV buying guide, no matter how detailed, can replace your own experience and judgement. If you have the opportunity, go to a store (and maybe bring your family) and look at the TVs. Even though 4K content is less common than 1080p, you may want that higher-resolution technology if you plan to sit close to a very large screen.

But you should also consider where the TV will be going in your home. While the above advice is intended for living rooms and home theaters, you’ll want to consider what size is appropriate for other parts of the house, like the bedroom or the kitchen, where a smaller TV may be a necessity. (And if you want something for outdoors, you’ll also need a TV built to go outside. Check out the SunBriteTV Veranda Outdoor TV review, or the new Samsung Terrace outdoor TV for some outdoor alternatives.)

Bottom Line: Choose a screen size and resolution appropriate for the distance you will sit from the screen. We’d start at 55 inches, unless you’re in a small apartment or dorm.

Screen resolution: 8K, 4K or HD?

Resolution describes the number of pixels that make up the picture on a display, described in terms of horizontal rows and vertical columns. More pixels translate into sharper picture and finer details, so higher resolution is (almost always) better.

No TV buying guide would be complete without a discussion of resolution. For many years, the 1920 x 1080 resolution, also called full HD, has been the standard, and is still the most common resolution in TVs across globe. However, TV manufacturers are rapidly shifting to Ultra HD sets (also called 4K). These 4K models have four times the number of pixels as current HDTV screens. We’re talking 2,160 horizontal lines, or 3840 x 2160 pixels.

The biggest benefit of 4K TVs is that small objects on the screen have more detail, including sharper text. Overall, images appear richer and more life-like than on an HDTV, but the benefits can be subtle. The sharper picture also has the added benefit of letting you comfortably view the screen from a shorter distance, making larger TVs more comfortable to view in a regular-sized home.

Ultra HD video looks great, and it’s getting easier to find. Several streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon Video and even YouTube have started offering 4K content, making smart TVs and streaming sticks your best bet for easily finding 4K movies and shows. While ultra HD Blu-ray discs are becoming more common, they’re still less common than standard 1080p. Live TV hasn’t fully embraced 4K yet, but DirectTV, Dish Network and Comcast Xfinity have all started offering 4K movies. Although Ultra HD sets can upscale existing HD content, the results can be mixed and do not look as sharp as original 4K programming.

You might start getting 4K TV over the air in 2020. The new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard (also called NextGen TV) will be rolling out to several cities across the United States in the next 12 months, bringing the potential for better signal, better picture, and smarter features with Internet connectivity.

The first affordable 8K TVs hit the market this year, with more slated for this fall. These displays quadruple the resolution seen on 4K sets, offering a giant leap forward in picture quality, but finding content to full take advantage of that higher resolution is extremely limited. While we currently recommend sticking to 4K, the first 8K-ready game consoles will be out in late 2020, bring the first real source of 8K content just in time for the holidays.

Bottom Line: Ultra HD resolution, also called 4K, is increasingly becoming the standard, and it’s a better choice if you want to future-proof your investment. You can already buy higher resolution 8K TVs, but we suggest holding off.

HDR: Get it if you want the most colors

HDR is a new feature of 4K Ultra HD sets and it stands for high dynamic range, a reference to its ability to deliver more colors, more contrast levels and increased brightness. HDR is essentially an upgrade of the 4K, or Ultra HD, format (it is not applicable to 1080p HD sets). For this new feature, TV makers are christening new monikers for the sets to distinguish them from standard 4K Ultra HD TVs.

The basic standard for high-dynamic range content is called HDR10, as set forth by the UHD Alliance, an industry trade group. Dozens of companies are supporting this basic minimum specification for HDR compatibility, so you will see “HDR10” or “Ultra HD Premium” on a growing number of sets this year.

Dolby Vision is a more demanding version of HDR, created and licensed by the folks that brought us Dolby noise reduction and surround sound. In theory, a Dolby Vision set has to meet a stricter set of criteria to display HDR content, and our testing seems to bear this out. So far, Dolby Vision has led the industry in terms of proprietary HDR formats.

There continues to be some HDR confusion. Every HDR-enabled set on the market is currently HDR10-compatible, but Dolby Vision is only found on sets that both meet Dolby’s technical standards and pay licensing fees for the standard. Nonetheless, Dolby Vision has quickly become the industry standard for HDR content, and can be found on premium models from most brands (including LG, Sony, TCL and Vizio). 

Samsung has introduced it’s own premium HDR format, called HDR10+, for all of its smart TVs. (Yes, Samsung’s naming makes things very confusing.) While the HDR10+ format offers a great viewing experience, it’s far less common than Dolby Vision, with HDR10+ content offered on Amazon Prime Video and a handful of UHD Blu-rays. Even more troublesome, many UHD Blu-ray players don’t support HDR10+ at all, so your options are even more limited if you want to go all in on Samsung’s proprietary HDR format. You’ll still be able to enjoy the more basic HDR10 format through any HDR-capable player or TV, but HDR10+

Both Technicolor and IMAX have also brought their own proprietary standards to the market, called Technicolor Advanced HDR and IMAX Enhanced, respectively. It’s still far too soon to know if either of these newer formats will have much impact on the market.

There’s not much HDR programming available, but it’s starting to look a bit better. There are a few dozen movies in the new 4K Blu-ray disc format,  with a growing number of HDR shows available via streaming services, like Amazon Prime and Netflix. Some new 4K Blu-ray players also promise to be upgradable to handle the new HDR discs, but check before you buy. Finally, cable and satellite have their own form of HDR, called Hybrid-Log Gamma (HLG), so you should start seeing HDR pop up now and then for movies and even live TV.

Bottom Line: Don’t choose a set just for its HDR support because the standard has not yet been settled. However, if you want the best, buy an HDR set that is compatible with Dolby Vision, as that format seems to be gaining momentum.

Refresh rate: Faster is better

The refresh rate, expressed in Hertz (Hz) describes how many times per second a picture is refreshed on the screen. The standard refresh rate is 60 times per second, or 60 Hz. However, in scenes with rapidly moving objects, a 60 Hz refresh rate can make things look blurry or jittery, particularly on LCD HDTVs. So, to create a more solid picture, manufacturers doubled the refresh rate to 120 Hz (and in some cases up to 240 Hz).

Since there aren’t that many per-second images in original video content, TVs handle the faster refresh rates in different ways. One method is to simply insert black images between the original pictures, tricking the viewer’s eyes into seeing a less blurry, more solid picture. Another technique is to generate and insert new images — showing a state of movement in between the two adjacent pictures — to display more realistic-looking motion. However, depending on how the video-processing is done, it can make a movie or sitcom look flat, or as if it were a poorly lit, old-time soap opera.

Some new models are boasting High-Frame Rate (HFR) support, which means that they have both a higher refresh rate and added support for content with higher than 60 Hz frame rates. With HFR content set to come from both movies and live broadcats, and HFR will be especially good for live sports, so it’s definitely a feature to watch out for.

Gamers will be especially keen to get higher refresh rates, but if you’re using a gaming console, 60 Hz is the sweet spot. Most gaming consoles top out at 60 frames per second, and even the best 4K gaming TVs offer the best performance well below the 120 Hz we suggest for other content.

A word of caution: beware of terms like “effective refresh rate,” which means the actual frame rate is half the stated rate (e.g., a “120 Hz effective refresh rate” is actually a 60 Hz refresh rate).

Bottom line: Gamers will get a lot from a 60Hz TV, but most TV shoppers shouldn’t buy a TV with less than a 120 Hz refresh rate.

HDMI and connections: Go for more

It may seem like an afterthought, but pay attention to the number of HDMI inputs a set has. Manufacturers looking to shave costs may offer fewer HDMI plugs on the back. These ports can get used up quickly: Add a sound bar, a Roku or Chromecast and a game console, and you’ve used three ports already.

If you have decided to take the plunge and get a 4K Ultra HD, make sure the set’s ports support HDMI 2.0 to accommodate future Ultra HD sources. Many TVs on the market have only one port that supports the 4K copy-protection scheme known as HDCP 2.2 (high-bandwidth digital content protection).

The newer HDMI 2.1 format has started cropping up on TVs in recent months, and while the biggest benefits of the new standard will be seen in delivering 8K content, there are still plenty of goodies coming to 4K sets. The biggest improvement is variable refresh rate (VRR) support, which introduces the same sort of frame rate matching seen in Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync technologies. By matching the TV refresh rate to the frame rates of you content source – in this case the graphics card inside your game console or PC – you’ll get smoother action and zero screen tearing. It also adds higher frame rates for 4K video and richer HDR data that will allow adjustments at the scene level for more-precise backlighting control. 

As of now, we’ve seen HDMI 2.1 capability popping up on a few models, like the one in our LG CX OLED review, which uses the faster standard for all four of its HDMI ports. And HDMI 2.1 is appearing on more TVs this year, with models from LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL, Vizio, Philips and Hisense. Keep an eye on this TV buying guide to understand how HDMI 2.1 can benefit you and whether it’s worth holding out for in the coming year.

Bottom Line: Look for at least four HDMI ports; and opt for the newer HDMI 2.1 format if you can.

TV types and jargon explained: LCD, LED LCD, OLED

Aside from projection sets, there are basically only two types of TVs on the market: LCD and OLED. Unless you have a lot of disposable income, you’ll probably be buying an LCD TV.

LED and LCD Sets

The lion’s share of televisions today are LED LCD. These HD and Ultra HD sets use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to illuminate the LCD screen and can be extremely thin. Many of these TVs can dynamically light up specific portions of the screen and dim other parts to better represent a mix of light and dark areas in a scene — a feature known as active dimming or local dimming. No-frills LED LCD sets can be had for as little as $200 for a 32-inch screen, while a top-of-the-line 90-inch model can go for $8,000.

Most LCD sets use LEDs on the edge of the screen. The better of these models support active dimming, but it takes some digital sorcery to do this by merely manipulating lights along the edge.

Full-array LED sets have light-emitting diodes directly behind the screen, in a grid of “zones” that can be lit up or darkened individually. Such an arrangement makes the backlight more precise and allows a more-detailed picture regarding contrast. Full-array backlighting was once reserved for top-tier models, but with more Ultra HD sets appearing at lower prices, this feature is becoming more common on modestly priced sets.

Another LCD technology, called quantum dots, is becoming more common, spurred on by the requirements of HDR to produce a wider array of colors and more brightness. An LCD that uses quantum dots basically has another layer, or added “rail,” of different size nanocrystal dots that light up when the LED backlight hits them. The result is a wider color spectrum and increased brightness.

Be aware that some brands offer confusing labels. The biggest offender is the name “QLED”, featured prominently on Samsung’s premium sets and other manufacturers are jumping on the QLED bandwagon. These are quantum-dot LCD TVs with LED backlighting — not to be mistaken for OLED. And while quantum dot displays still can’t match the true black levels of OLED, the gap is narrowing as manufacturers work to improve the technology. For an affordable middle ground between basic LCD and pricey OLED displays, quantum-dot enhancement is a smart way to go.

Pros: Wide array of prices, sizes and features; Some affordable Ultra HD 4K models; Bright screens visible even in a sunny room; Image quality steadily improving with full-array backlighting and quantum-dot technology.

Cons: Exhibits imperfections when displaying rapid motion, as in sports; Loses some shadow detail because pixels can’t go completely black (even with full-array backlighting); Images fade when viewing from the side (off-axis).

OLED TVs

OLED TVs go one better than full-array LED-LCDs with a few dozen lighting zones. In place of a backlight, OLEDs use a layer of organic LEDs, controlled at the pixel level, to achieve absolute black and stunning levels of contrast. (Footage of fireworks against a black sky is a favorite demonstration of OLED technology.)

LG isn’t the only company actively pursuing OLED technology in large screen sizes, however. Sony has been offering OLED models for several years, and we expect to see new OLED offerings from both Vizio and Philips later this year.

The best-in-class display technology is seen exclusively on 4K sets (and higher, with the introduction of LG’s Z9 8K OLED), and range in size from 55 inches on up to 75 inches or larger. But OLED has also gotten much more affordable, with 55-inch models selling for less than $2,000, and 65-inch models selling in the $2,000-3,000 range. (Sony is notorious for its premium pricing, and it’s selling the new Sony Bravia A8H OLED TV in 55- and 65-inch sizes for $2,299 and $3,099, respectively.)

We might even see the first sub-$1,000 OLED displays later this year as new companies compete and smaller OLED panels come to market.

Pros: Best TV picture, bar none; Colors truly pop, deeper blacks and better contrast and shadow detail than LCD TVs achieve; Retains image quality when viewed from the side.

Cons: Premium prices; lower peak brightness than some LCD sets, uncertainty about how screens will fare over time, including whether they will retain “ghost” images (also known as burn-in) from displaying a static picture for too long.

8K resolution: Hold off

If you thought the jump to 4K resolution was amazing, you’ll be floored by 8K, which ratchets up the detail even further with 7680 x 4320 pixels. It’s amazing to see, and it’s the next big thing in consumer TVs. But any worthwhile TV buying guide should be telling that it’s not worth spending your money on just yet.

TV manufacturers are betting big on 8K displays, and there’s no doubt that it’s the next big thing in TVs. But all that eye-popping detail is still missing an essential element: Content. There are no 8K movies available for purchase, and streaming in 4K is already more taxing than many people’s internet connection can handle.

So far, companies are hoping that fancy AI-powered upscaling will make everything look good enough to justify prices that far outstrip the cost of premium 4K sets. The 8K models on the market are more expensive than the 4K competition, but it’s getting better. While early models boasted enormous screens and equally outsized prices (the LG Z9 8K OLED has an 88-inch screen and sells for $29,999), smaller, more affordable 8K sets have emerged, like the 65-inch Samsung Q900TS, which is currently $4,499 – not much more than some of the top 4K smart TVs.

Bottom Line: You can leave the pricey 8K TVs to the early adopters. Until content is available, you’ll just wind up paying a lot of money for upscaled 4K video.

Smart TVs: Most already are

An increasing number of sets come with built-in Wi-Fi for connecting Internet-based services like Netflix for streaming videos or to run apps for watching special-interest programs, downloading on-demand movies, playing games or even posting to Facebook. The latest models can even search for content across streaming services and live programming on cable and satellite.

The interfaces are generally getting better. Vizio, LG and now Samsung use a handy bar of icons at the bottom of the screen. Roku offers its famously intuitive interface in budget TVs from Hisense, TCL and other inexpensive brands. Google provides its Android TV platform to companies such as Sony and Westinghouse, and Amazon has jumped into the mix with Amazon Fire Edition TVs from Toshiba and Insignia (Best Buy’s brand). While most smart TVs include the major services, such as Pandora, Hulu and Netflix, check to make sure the TV you buy has the options you want.

Streaming apps available on smart TVs are also one of the best ways to find and enjoy 4K and HDR content. With movies and shows offered by services from Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube, it’s quick and easy to find both 4K resolution and HDR-enabled content – easier than finding Blu-rays with the desired formats. The only concern is whether your internet connection can provide enough bandwidth.

But not all smart TVs are created equal. Many budget-friendly brands will offer smart TV functionality without naming the actual platform that they use. In these cases, expect to run into limitations. Off-brand smart platforms frequently suffer from severely limited app selection, sub-par performance and gaping security holes.

In the past, you could have bought a less expensive “dumb” TV and made it smart with a streaming device like the $50 Roku Streaming Stick. But nowadays, it’s hard to get a TV that isn’t smart, even if you’re going for a small bargain model. Find out more about the functions and features in our guide to smart TVs.

Bottom line: Smart capability is now a standard feature in TVs, so it’s less and less of a factor in your buying decision.

Don’t forget gaming: Features matter

While movies and shows may get top billing for most TV shoppers, gaming has become a bigger focus for TV manufacturers in recent years. A good gaming TV won’t just have a great picture and sound. You also need to consider the connectivity options, gaming features and overall responsiveness of the TV.

While we already recommend holding out for more HDMI ports, an extra HDMI port can mean the difference between leaving your console connected and swapping it out for your Blu-ray player every time you want to fire up a round of Call of Duty.

While HDMI 2.1 is still relatively new, it’s a must have for any of the next-gen consoles. And certain features offered by the 2.1 spec have become much more common, like Auto-Low Latency Mode (ALLM), which switches to game mode as soon as the console is turned on, and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), which matches the screen to the frame-by-frame output coming from the TV, synchronizing the two for judder-free gaming.

Contrast ratio: Unreliable numbers

The contrast ratio describes the range of brightness levels a set can display. Better contrast ratios display more subtle shadows and hues, and thus better detail. However, the way manufacturers measure such ratios varies widely. Indeed, the specification has been so thoroughly discredited that if a salesperson uses it as a selling point, you should shop somewhere else.

We use the same method for examining contrast ratios in all the TVs we test, so we can say roughly how well they compare to each other. Nevertheless, it’s still best to see for yourself how a TV displays shadow detail by finding a movie with dark scenes and seeing how well it reveals detail in the shadows of, say, a Harry Potter movie. Experiment with the TV’s brightness, sharpness and other picture settings before making a final judgment. (Hint: select “movie” or “cinema” mode on the TV.)

The best TVs will have deep, dark black levels while less expensive displays glow with a dark gray, even when they should be showing black. These grays are called “elevated black levels” and are a common problem on less premium LCD TVs.

Bottom line: You can ignore manufacturers’ contrast-ratio specs, since they are not comparable across brands. Instead, look for deep black levels and minimal haloing around high contrast objects.

Audio: Get a soundbar

Even the finest, most expensive HDTVs have an Achilles’ heel: poor sound. It’s a consequence of the svelte design of flat panels — there’s not enough room for large speakers that produce full, rich sound. So, you have three choices: Use headphones (which can make you seem antisocial), buy a surround-sound system (which can be a hassle to set up and produces clutter), or get a soundbar.

Soundbars are popular because, for $300 or less, they can significantly improve the cinematic experience and yet be installed in minutes. The best soundbars are thin enough to fit under a TV stand without blocking the bottom of the picture. Most can also mount under a wall-hanging TV. Several companies also offer sound boxes or stands that can slide under a set.

Some TVs and soundbars also support Dolby Atmos, a newer audio standard from Dolby that includes overhead sound for a fuller listening experience. While you can get the Atmos effect using in-ceiling speakers, many soundbars have Atmos audio processing and upward firing speakers built-in to create more realistic sounding audio that doesn’t require the multiple speaker placement that you’d have with 5.1 or 7.1 Surround Sound.

And don’t stress about additional cable clutter. Nearly all current TVs feature at least one HDMI port with Audio Return Channel (ARC) capability. This standard HDMI feature provides lets you use HDMI as both an input and an audio output, letting you not only send audio to the TV from your external media devices, but also out to your soundbar. That ARC connection means that you get great sound for all your devices, with no special receiver needed.

Extended warranties: Save your money

One of the biggest revenue generators for big-box electronics stores is the extended warranty. Why? Because they are so rarely needed, especially for a flat-panel LCD set. Most of the components in an HDTV are remarkably resilient; even the LEDs used to light the picture are virtually shockproof.

So, if you do get a lemon, it’s likely to be apparent immediately or at least within the first 30 days of ownership — a time period usually covered by a regular store-return policy. Beyond that, most manufacturers offer a one-year warranty. Credit card companies may offer additional automatic coverage on purchases, so check with your provider.

Bottom Line: Save your money and contact your credit card company to see if it has a price protection policy.

Pay the right price: Bargains are out there

While you’ll always get the latest features and best capabilities by paying full price, a lot of shoppers are holding off because they think current TVs are too expensive. The reality is that TVs have not only never been better, they’ve also never been this affordable. While premium models can easily run upwards of $2,000, there are plenty of great TVs – complete with all of the 4K resolution, HDR support and smart features we recommend – for much less.

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Toilet Cleaning Guide

The toilet is one of the most-used seats in your home, which means it requires a certain level of attention when it comes to cleaning. But it doesn’t take tons of time or loads of elbow grease to get that porcelain throne sparkling clean. Here, find our no-fail, no-germ-left-behind guide to getting the job done.

Gather Your Supplies

Trust us, you don’t want to stop mid-task to search for a pumice stone. Instead, have all of your tools within arm’s reach, perhaps organized in a handy bucket.

  • Disinfecting spray and wipes, such as Seventh Generation Lemongrass Citrus Disinfecting Wipes
  • Paper towels
  • A sturdy pair of cleaning gloves (Melissa Maker, author of Clean My Space, is a fan of the cuffed kind that guarantee unwanted runoff won’t touch your wrists)
  • A toilet bowl cleaner, either one that you’ve DIYed or a store-bought option that contains hydrogen peroxide or oxygen bleach, such as Lysol Power Toilet Bowl Cleaner ($3.19, amazon.com) or Greenworks Toilet Bowl Cleaner ($8.97, amazon.com)
  • Tiff-bristle toilet brush
  • Pumice stone on a stick ($9.13, amazon.com)

Make the Outside Sparkle

When cleaning the commode, most people tend to focus on the bowl’s interior—but every inch deserves attention, says Donna Smallin Kuper, certified house cleaning technician and author at Unclutter.com. Grab that disinfecting spray and liberally spritz the entire exterior of the toilet, including harder to reach areas like the back of the base and the underside of the seat. Also spray the walls behind and beside the toilet. A University of Arizona microbiologist found that with each flush, bathroom particles can launch into the air before settling onto nearby surfaces. That makes the floor and walls around the toilet prime spots for microscopic splatter. After spraying, let the cleaner sit for at least five minutes. “So many people spray and then immediately wipe away, but you have to give the cleaners time to do their thing,” says Maker. While you’re waiting, move on to the toilet’s interior.

Cleaning the Bowl

“A lot of super-strong toilet cleaners are so harsh because they then get diluted when you put them into a toilet bowl full of water,” says Leslie Reichert, green-cleaning coach and author of The Joy of Green Cleaning. She recommends draining the water out of the toilet before applying the cleaning solution. “If you get the water out of toilet, you can use a milder cleaner with the same squeaky-clean results,” she adds. Plus, you get a better clean with less work. It’s easier than it sounds: Simply turn the water valve at the base of the toilet off, flush once, and you’re good to go.

Reichert mixes her own big batches of toilet bowl cleaner using one cup table salt, one cup baking soda, and one cup oxygen bleach—we like OxiClean ($12.98, amazon.com). When it’s time to tidy the bathroom, she grabs her container and sprinkles the toilet bowl liberally. “The baking soda removes any gunky build-up, the salt is a natural abrasive for scrubbing, and the oxygen bleach cleans and disinfects,” she says. Smallin Kuper prefers to pour one cup of baking soda and one cup of distilled white vinegar directly into the toilet bowl, for similar sanitized-and-sparkling results. If you’d rather a store-bought solution, look for brands that rely on hydrogen peroxide or oxygen bleach, rather than chlorine bleach, which can be a lung irritant. But if you rather stick with chlorine bleach, make sure to prop open a window and wear gloves when using.

Whichever toilet bowl cleaner you prefer, use generously and remember to apply some under the bowl’s rim. Then, while you’re waiting five to ten minutes for those suds to fully work, turn your attention back to the toilet’s exterior.

Wipe It Down

“I’m not usually a fan of disposable products but wiping down the toilet is one task where durable paper towels are ideal,” says Maker. And while you might be tempted to use a wet cloth, when it comes to a disinfectant spray, water isn’t necessary. Using a paper towel, wipe the disinfectant off the toilet’s exterior, working from the top to the bottom. Toss those paper towels straight in the trash rather than letting them pile up nearby.

Scrub Out Stains

For those difficult toilet bowl stains, grab a stiff-bristled toilet brush to scrub the bowl’s interior and under the rim. If you notice a rust-colored ring inside the bowl, the culprit is likely minerals in your water system. Cleaning experts agree the surefire way to attack such stains is with a pumice stone. Choose a stone on a stick, so your hands don’t have to get too close to the toilet bowl. A few swipes with the pumice stone should do the trick. Don’t worry, as the pumice is a softer stone, it won’t scratch the porcelain surface. Turn the toilet’s water back on, then flush to rinse the bowl.

Sanitation Is Key

As a last step, clean your supplies. Prop the wet toilet brush under the seat cover and pour bleach or cleaning solution over its business end, into the toilet bowl. Let sit for a minute, then rinse with a pitcher of water. Clean the brush’s canister by filling it with warm, soapy water; you can dump it right in the toilet, too. Resist the urge to stick the damp brush back in the canister and be done with it, suggests Maker. Instead, you want to let the brush air out completely before putting it away, to ensure you’re not encouraging bacteria growth.

Once the toilet’s clean, you’ll probably want to peel off your gloves right away. But before you do, head for the sink and give your gloved hands a good scrubbing with soap and hot water. “It’s the best way to make sure you don’t get your hands dirty and get every inch of the gloves clean,” says Maker. Hang or prop them up to fully dry before putting them away, and your next use.

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Linux OS Guide

Linux is an open-source operating system like other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS, iOS, Google android, etc. An operating system is a software that enables the communication between computer hardware and software. It conveys input to get processed by the processor and brings output to the hardware to display it. This is the basic function of an operating system. Although it performs many other important tasks, let’s not talk about that.

Linux is around us since the mid-90s. It can be used from wristwatches to supercomputers. It is everywhere in our phones, laptops, PCs, cars and even in refrigerators. It is very much famous among developers and normal computer users.

Evolution of Linux OS

The Linux OS was developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991, which sprouted as an idea to improve the UNIX OS. He suggested improvements but was rejected by UNIX designers. Therefore, he thought of launching an OS, designed in a way that could be modified by its users.

Nowadays, Linux is the fastest-growing OS. It is used from phones to supercomputers by almost all major hardware devices.

Structure Of Linux Operating System

An operating system is a collection of software, each designed for a specific function.

Linux OS has following components:

What is Linux

1) Kernel

Linux kernel is the core part of the operating system. It establishes communication between devices and software. Moreover, it manages system resources. It has four responsibilities:

What is Linux
  • device management: A system has many devices connected to it like CPU, a memory device, sound cards, graphic cards, etc. A kernel stores all the data related to all the devices in the device driver (without this kernel won’t be able to control the devices). Thus kernel knows what a device can do and how to manipulate it to bring out the best performance. It also manages communication between all the devices. The kernel has certain rules that have to be followed by all the devices.
  • Memory management: Another function that kernel has to manage is the memory management. The kernel keeps track of used and unused memory and makes sure that processes shouldn’t manipulate data of each other using virtual memory addresses.
  • Process management: In the process, management kernel assigns enough time and gives priorities to processes before handling CPU to other processes. It also deals with security and ownership information.
  • Handling system calls: Handling system calls means a programmer can write a query or ask the kernel to perform a task.

2) System Libraries

System libraries are special programs that help in accessing the kernel’s features. A kernel has to be triggered to perform a task, and this triggering is done by the applications. But applications must know how to place a system call because each kernel has a different set of system calls. Programmers have developed a standard library of procedures to communicate with the kernel. Each operating system supports these standards, and then these are transferred to system calls for that operating system.

The most well-known system library for Linux is Glibc (GNU C library).

3) System Tools

Linux OS has a set of utility tools, which are usually simple commands. It is a software which GNU project has written and publish under their open source license so that software is freely available to everyone.

With the help of commands, you can access your files, edit and manipulate data in your directories or files, change the location of files, or anything.

4) Development Tools

With the above three components, your OS is running and working. But to update your system, you have additional tools and libraries. These additional tools and libraries are written by the programmers and are called toolchain. A toolchain is a vital development tool used by the developers to produce a working application.

5) End User Tools

These end tools make a system unique for a user. End tools are not required for the operating system but are necessary for a user.

Some examples of end tools are graphic design tools, office suites, browsers, multimedia players, etc.

Why use Linux?

This is one of the most asked questions about Linux systems. Why do we use a different and bit complex operating system, if we have a simple operating system like Windows? So there are various features of Linux systems that make it completely different and one of the most used operating systems. Linux may be a perfect operating system if you want to get rid of viruses, malware, slowdowns, crashes, costly repairs, and many more. Further, it provides various advantages over other operating systems, and we don’t have to pay for it. Let’s have a look at some of its special features that will attract you to switch your operating system.

What is Linux

Free & Open Source Operating System

Most OS come in a compiled format means the main source code has run through a program called a compiler that translates the source code into a language that is known to the computer.

Modifying this compiled code is a tough job.

On the other hand, open-source is completely different. The source code is included with the compiled version and allows modification by anyone having some knowledge. It gives us the freedom to run the program, freedom to change the code according to our use, freedom to redistribute its copies, and freedom to distribute copies, which are modified by us.

In short, Linux is an operating system that is “for the people, by the people.”

And we can dive in Linux without paying any cost. We can install it on Multiple machines without paying any cost.

It is secure

Linux supports various security options that will save you from viruses, malware, slowdowns, crashes. Further, it will keep your data protected. Its security feature is the main reason that it is the most favorable option for developers. It is not completely safe, but it is less vulnerable than others. Each application needs to authorize by the admin user. The virus cannot be executed until the administrator provides the access password. Linux systems do not require any antivirus program.

Favorable choice of Developers

Linux is suitable for the developers, as it supports almost all of the most used programming languages such as C/C++, Java, Python, Ruby, and more. Further, it facilitates with a vast range of useful applications for development.

Developers find that the Linux terminal is much better than the Windows command line, So, they prefer terminal over the Windows command line. The package manager on Linux system helps programmers to understand how things are done. Bash scripting is also a functional feature for the programmers. Also, the SSH support helps to manage the servers quickly.

A flexible operating system

Linux is a flexible OS, as, it can be used for desktop applications, embedded systems, and server applications. It can be used from wristwatches to supercomputers. It is everywhere in our phones, laptops, PCs, cars and even in refrigerators. Further, it supports various customization options.

Linux Distributions

Many agencies modified the Linux operating system and makes their Linux distributions. There are many Linux distributions available in the market. It provides a different flavor of the Linux operating system to the users. We can choose any distribution according to our needs. Some popular distros are Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, Linux Mint, Arch Linux, and many more.

For the beginners, Ubuntu and Linux Mint are considered useful and, for the proficient developer, Debian and Fedora would be a good choice. To Get a list of distributions, visit Linux Distributions.

How does Linux work?

Linux is a UNIX-like operating system, but it supports a range of hardware devices from phones to supercomputers. Every Linux-based operating system has the Linux kernel and set of software packages to manage hardware resources.

Also, Linux OS includes some core GNU tools to provide a way to manage the kernel resources, install software, configure the security setting and performance, and many more. All these tools are packaged together to make a functional operating system.

How to use Linux?

We can use Linux through an interactive user interface as well as from the terminal (Command Line Interface). Different distributions have a slightly different user interface but almost all the commands will have the same behavior for all the distributions. To run Linux from the terminal, press the “CTRL+ALT+T” keys. And, to explore its functionality, press the application button given on the left down corner of your desktop.