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Meet Kiddle – A Search Engine for Kids!

While Google search engine does have a decent content filter, it fails consistently in providing safe search results for children specially when children search for terms that can have multiple meanings. To make matter worse, an alarming number of websites, mostly hosted in EU, intentionally create content that deceive search engines in redirecting traffic to their pages.

I myself have faced this problem as my kids are now using search engines to find both educational and entertainment content. Enter Kiddle, a new search engine specially designed for children. Kiddle doesn’t rely just on smart programming to filter search results. The editors of Kiddle constantly review websites manually for appropriate content in addition to listing search results from Google’s Safe Search.

Kiddle

Kiddle is indeed an important tool considering the number of deceptive websites that are now just a few keystrokes away from our kids. Please visit the Kiddle website at www.kiddle.co and make it your default search engine.

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A New Mobile Phone Scam!

There is a new kind of scam that con artists are running at busy market places. Here is how it works.

You would be at a busy market place when a man will come near you. He will be talking to someone on the phone about this guy who has just received a very expensive mobile phone (usually Samsung) as a gift and wants to sell it. The con artist will sound excited and the conversation would be something like this:

“Ali this man has this brand new Samsung S5 box packed with all accessories and he doesn’t even know how much its worth. He just got it as a present but he doesn’t want it and is selling it for 20000. I am trying to break him on 15000 but he is not going to sell it for less than 20. Its a 50000 phone and we can get easy 30000 profit. I am short of cash so please send me 10000 immediately”.

The so-called seller would also be standing near by, usually appearing irritated because the con artist has been haggling with him for half an hour or so. The con artist will not look at you while talking on the phone but he will be speaking loud enough so that you can hear him. Then he will move away as if he is going to collect money from Ali bhai (or whoever he called). This is where you will consider it a lucky chance and will try to convince the seller that he should sell you the phone instead. You will probably offer him 5000 more than what the con artist was offering him. The seller, apparently irritated, will agree and sell you the phone for 25000. Most people will try to take the phone and move out of there as quickly as possible to avoid any confrontation with the con artist.

When you get back home and check the phone closely, you will find that it is a cheap Korean replica that sells for less than 10000 in the market. Because of its close-to-original packing and accessories set, most people will not be able to judge its price there and then. Also, this type of con usually happens in the evening or night hours. Nobody is stupid enough to sell a 50000 Samsung phone for 20000, even if they didn’t buy it. So please be careful and do not buy mobile phones from such people without thoroughly checking them first.

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Facebook on TOR!

Last month, Facebook announced that users will be able to access the social network through Tor, a popular privacy-protecting program. This is a bit of a big deal for the tech world as Facebook is the first major tech company to step out into the so-called “dark web” and provide a way for users to use the website while also protecting their private location information.

How does Tor work?

Tor (short for “the onion router”) was started in 2002 as an open-source software program designed to protect a user’s privacy on the web. Tor accomplishes this by directing a person’s web traffic through a worldwide network of servers safely and anonymously. By going through these various servers, Tor adds extra layers of encryption that makes it more challenging for anyone who may be monitoring web traffic activity to pinpoint where it started.

Tor users had access to Facebook before this but they regularly encountered challenges. Non-Tor users send their location and IP info from one steady source. This isn’t the case when using Tor, which regularly changes your IP info to maintain privacy. A Facebook user using Tor may login via a server in Sydney, but minutes later that may change to a server coming from Berlin, then Tokyo, and so on. Facebook servers flag this kind of activity as dangerous as this kind of behavior can come from a compromised account or malicious attack. Now, Tor users will have a direct connection to Facebook’s servers, which will recognize it as a legitimate user.

It’s worth keeping an eye on other major tech companies to see if any follow suit. This is a sure sign that mainstream tech industry is reaching out to users who value privacy in a direct way.

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The Man Who Killed A Planet

If you ask anyone “who was the most dangerous and destructive person in the history of the world?”, you are most likely to hear names such as Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, Genghis Khan etc. But that would be wrong. While these gentlemen indeed get the “honorable mention” on the list of most dangerous and destructive people in the history, they are far behind the one man who beats this collective lot by a mile.

Meet Mr. Thomas Midgley, Jr., a man who single handedly destroyed the only planet we have in the whole universe.
ThomasMidgleyJr

Leaded Gasoline
Midgley was an employee of General Motors in 1921 where we worked on two projects that had catastrophic effects on earth’s atmosphere. Midgley was interested in the industrial application of chemistry. While working for the General Motors Research Corporation in Dayton, Ohio, he investigated a compound called tetraethyl lead (also known as lead tetraethyl), which when added to gasoline, significantly reduced the juddering condition known as engine knock. GM, along with Du Pont and Standard Oil Company, introduced it for public consumption in 1923. Almost immediately people who came in contact with the compound started experiencing health issues which eventually lead to deaths. Midgley furiously advocated the safety of the compound.

Chlorofluorocarbons – CFCs
After the success of leaded gasoline, Midgley focused his mind on another technological problem of the times: the use of toxic and inflammable gases for refrigeration. He started research to create a gas that was stable, nonflammable, noncorrosive, and safe to breathe and in the process invented chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. The CFCs went into production in 1930s and were found useful in more applications than you can think of. From refrigeration to paint and deodorant sprays cans; it was everywhere. It wasn’t until half a century later that their use was connected with the depleting Ozone in the stratosphere. By then it was too late. Ozone, in case you do not know, is a form of Oxygen with three atoms of oxygen in a molecule instead of the usual two. On ground level, ozone is a dangerous and is considered a pollutant. But up in the stratosphere, it shields us from the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

And here is the ‘real’ bad news: ozone is not that abundant. If you take all the ozone on earth and distribute it evenly in the stratosphere it will only be one-eighth of an inch thick. CFCs are not abundant either, but they are seriously destructive – one pound of CFC can capture and destroy seventy thousand pounds of ozone in the atmosphere! And, it is a really, really stubborn gas. It stays in the atmosphere for about a hundred years. And as icing on the cake, one molecule of CFC is about ten thousand times more efficient at creating the greenhouse effect than a molecule of carbon dioxide.

Midgley died in 1944, but his inventions have left the planet in a serious condition that will take centuries to repair, if ever. A recent investigation discovered that the ozone hole is actually getting bigger despite the worldwide ban on CFCs. An accurate estimate of the damage caused by his inventions to animal and plant life (on ground and in the oceans), to the environment and to the stratosphere is impossible. But it is safe to say that Thomas Midgley has single handed reshaped the planet Earth.

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Quick Tips on Writing A Great Blog Post

These are short but important points to keep in mind while writing a blog post.

1.Tell your story– it is one of the key things that will make your content stand out of the crowd.
2.Share how you feel – it will take your readers to a deeper place and make it more relatable.
3.You’ll never please everyone – the sooner you make peace with this reality, the better!
4.Write about things that matter to you – passion is infectious and your readers will catch ahold of it. Tell the world something important.
5.Inform, inspire and interact – aim to do these things every week.
6.Experiment with different styles of writing – it will help you find your voice.
7.Mix up the length of your posts – short can be sweet but long can be epic!
8.When an idea strikes – drop everything and capture it!
9.Do everything you can to understand who is reading your blog – it will make you much more useful to them.
10.Before you publish – ask what you want your reader to do after reading your post – and edit accordingly. Calls to action are important!
11.Become hyper aware of problems – and obsessively write posts that solve them.
12.Put aside time to create quality content – it doesn’t just appear.
13.Put aside time to edit and your posts – it will take them to the next level.
14.Ask your readers questions – it will make them feel like they belong and you’ll learn a lot from their answers!
15.Take your readers on a journey – posts that build from one to another can be powerful. Build momentum and create anticipation and you’ll hook readers for the long term.
16.Brainstorm regularly – generating ideas for future posts now can save a lot of pain later and help you keep things rolling.
17.Not every post needs to go viral – shareable content will help you grow but it may not serve your current readers best.
18.Write, Write and Write – the more you practice, the better you will get.
19.Publish selectively – you don’t need to publish everything you write.
20.Never take credit for content written by someone else. You will lose credibility.

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The Last Circus

It was a quite Sunday morning in 1995, when my friend Sohaib knocked on my door. Sohaib was part of a music band and they also sold music equipment as a side business. They had recently sold some equipment to the famous Lucky Irani Circus and the staff there were having some problems setting it up. So he asked me if I could give them a ride to Sharaqpur, where the circus was playing. Since I had nothing to do that Sunday, I happily agreed. Another two of our friends Moeen and Waris were to accompany us.

When four of us arrived at the venue, we were given a VIP welcome. While Sohaib and Moeen went to check the equipment, Waris and I were offered a chance to see the circus, which we happily accepted. As VIP guests, we were seated inside the ring just at the edge of the entrance. The ring was guarded by a 10 foot high cage, outside which the villagers had gathered in hundreds to enjoy the circus. Acrobats on trapeze were the first act. Then came the clowns who were very funny indeed. After their exit, there was a brief break during which Waris and I were chit chatting. And then, all of a sudden, a lion walked passed me. Then another, and another, and another. Waris and I were totally frozen in our seats as one after the other lions walked passed us into the ring. It was the ’12 lions in the ring’ act for which the Lucky Irani Circus was famous. The last one was a lioness who, unfortunately, unlike her male colleagues, noticed our presence and stopped right at the entrance to take a “better look” at us. We wanted to run but there was only one exit and a rather large and curious cat was blocking our way. By then the other lions had also noticed us and were now starting to ‘check us out’, perhaps contemplating lunch ideas.  I had seen lions a hundred times, and thrown peanuts at them, but that was when I was outside their cage, not inside with them. My mind was totally numb and I wasn’t able to think of anything to do.

Then, just as I was about to say my prayers for the last time, their handler walked into the ring. Although he saw us only for a brief moment, I am amazed how quickly he judged the situation and moved quickly between us and the lioness and started waving his steel wand, which had spikes on it, at her to push her back. After some protesting roars, the disappointed lioness decided to leave us alone and joined other lions who were still starring at us with not-so-friendly looks.

It was all the chance we needed. I don’t think I ever ran that fast in my life. I was out of the ring in a flash uttering all the four-lettered curse words I knew, and Waris was right behind me with Punjabi version of the curse words.

That was the last time I ever went to a circus. Now that I look back, I realize how disrespectful we are towards these animals. We can train them to amuse us; put them in cages and throw food at them, but only when we stand face to face, without the power of weapons or the protection of iron bars, that we learn our place in the animal kingdom.

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BlueStacks – The Android Emulator for Windows

Recently I have been obsessed with running Android apps on my Windows 7 PC. Don’t ask me why, but even though I have a great 10″ Android tab, I still get the urges to multi-boot my PC.

I have tried a number of emulators including Andy, WindowsAndroid and YouWave, but in the end I couldn’t find any that would stand against BlueStacks. Although BlueStacks doesn’t have the feature set of Andy, it does let me run almost all apps smoothly. I can enhance its basic, and to be honest boring, interface by installing launchers (currently running ADWLauncher). Some apps refuse to install due to version incompatibility, but otherwise I am happily mimicking my tab’s functionality on my desktop PC.

One problem though – lately Google is refusing to let me download BlueStacks from their website as it seems there is a malware problem with their download page. Visit BlueStacks at www.bluestacks.com

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Introducing Tor

No, not the super hero. Its a browser. A free software and an open network that protects you from traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance, that is against the very essence of the Internet.

When you live in a country like Pakistan, you have to face restrictions on your freedom of speech – some really annoying ones – especially if you are looking for the truth. For an average citizen like you and me, this means that we suffer as a collateral damage while the actual restrictions are aimed someone else, a political opponent maybe. Filtering the Internet access has been a major problem for the last a couple of years. I have personally suffered the effects of this policy when, as a curator of TEDxLACAS, I struggles to share our event’s videos on the official TEDx channel on YouTube.

The usual workaround that many people have been using is HotSpot Shield. It works, but it also kind of destroys the experience of using the Internet with its highly intrusive, and sometimes dangerous, promotions. I have been using an alternative for quite some time and I must say that I have been impressed with its performance. Here is how the website describes Tor:

"The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked."

In addition to this, Tor also lets your enjoy highest level of security by disabling all settings that might compromise your system. There are easily accessible options to changes these settings, of course.

Visit www.torproject.org for more information on Tor and to download the browser.

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Wireless Brain Implant Aims To Give Paralyzed Power Over Their Limbs

http://tpt.to/a4dn588

I guess this will eventually take a direction where people without disabilities would use this technology to improve physical limitations.