What is 2-Factor Authentication & Why is it Important?

You may have heard the term before but if you are not a tech nerd there is just as good a chance that you have not — and that is truly a shame. With hacking on the rise and people’s entire lives residing on the internet, it is more important than ever to think about your digital security.

So what is 2-factor authentication?

Simply put, 2-factor authentication (two-factor autentication or 2FA) is the technology used to gain access to a site/service/app using more than just 1 method of authentication (the most common single method being a username/password). Instead, 2-factor authentication relies on both a username/password combo in conjunction with something that typically cannot be guessed or “hacked” remotely, such as a code sent to a user’s mobile phone or biometrics (fingerprint, iris scan etc.).

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Google Maps’ New “Typical Traffic” Route Planning Feature

Google Maps has just introduced a new feature that I have been patiently awaiting for several years now — Route planning with typical traffic conditions!

Route planning allows you to plot a course between two points and not just with current traffic but with typical traffic for various times during the week and day. Previously, you could only see current traffic conditions, which was not very helpful if you were trying to plan your trip to the airport a week in advance.

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What is a Camless Engine, and Why Should You Care?

So as not to bore the car fanatics, I will keep the following description brief.

A camshaft is found in a car engine that enables the opening and closing of valves as the engine rotates to enable combustion — bringing in the fuel (intake valve) and expelling what’s left after combustion (exhaust valve).

I have embedded a video below illustrating the purpose of a camshaft.

The important thing to know about a camshaft is that it cannot operate on valves or cylinders independently of the others. The rotation of the engine moves the camshaft through the same motion every time. As a result, a camshaft creates efficiency limitations.

Enter the camless engine!

Instead of a camshaft, the new Freevalve engine uses pneumatic actuators to independently control each set of valves for each cylinder. This allows for enormous flexibility, including the ability to dynamically control the number of cylinders in use.

As a result, the technology, right off the bat, will improve power and torque by 30%, and increase fuel efficiency by 50%. That’s huge! The new engine is also smaller — truly incredible.

There is even talk about being able to use such engines to run multiple types of fuel, such as diesel and gas in the same engine, though this would require a separate tank and system for each.

The only drawback to the engine so far is that the pneumatic system that will control the valves may be more susceptible to damage than a camshaft. This could be a big problem as camshafts are currently extremely reliable, standing the test of time. However, we have to start somewhere and the benefits will surely outweigh the costs if the pneumatic system can be built in a robust manner.

You can learn more about the new cam-less engine here. I, for one, am very excited.

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Dell XPS 18 Review | My New “Ridiculous” Computer

“I just bought a new computer”. Normally this is something someone will post to FB, grab a few likes and move on, however the computer I recently purchased is pretty unique, so I thought I would share it in a more detailed post.

I recently picked up the Dell XPS 18, an 18-inch All-in-One / tablet. You read that right. It’s essentially an 18-inch tablet. Except, well, it’s not.

The Dell XPS 18 functions primarily as a desktop. It’s large screen size means it has a full-size monitor “built right in”. It’s secondary purpose is as a tablet. 18 inches is pretty massive for a tablet but the picture below will hopefully make the use-case a little clearer.

Dell XPS 18 as a Tablet

You see, the XPS 18 is not meant to be held in one hand like smaller tablets; instead it is perfect company resting on your lap on your couch. It comes with a charging stand that you can set up on your desk and when you want to relax with it on the couch, you simply grab it off the stand and away you go!

You can see in the main image (above) that it is a very flexible device. You can lie it flat, stand it up, put it in the stand or hold it in your hand.

The decision to pick it up wasn’t easy, though. I spent months agonizing over which new computer to buy to meet what I thought were simple requirements:

  • 90-95% use as a desktop
  • 5-10% as a tablet

I was pretty excited about the Surface Pro 2, an amazing tablet that operates as a full desktop, but the price tag blew me away and the 10-inch screen was lacking, considering I would use it primarily at my desk. There were very few machines that were both portable and powerful with good screen real estate.

The XPS 18 is definitely the best of both worlds. It weighs 5 lbs so it is easy to grab off the stand and carry around, it’s quite fast and comes with ample storage (500GB). Complete with 8GB of RAM, it can run anything you throw at it easily, with the exception of intense games.

So if you’re looking for a new desktop with some versatility, try the Dell XPS 18. It does help that I got it on sale for $699 down from over $1,000.

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iPhone Users Listen Up: Keyboard Shortcuts (Autofill) are a Lifesaver!

If you have yet to discover the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts, you are about to have your mind blown. This function, tucked away in the settings, has two awesome functions: to create shortcuts for strings of text you frequently type, and to serve as a dictionary override. The second use is a best-kept secret, so be sure to read on.

Shortcuts function can be found in Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts

Create Shortcuts for Frequently Typed Items

iPhone Shortcuts — Autofill

The primary use of iPhone shortcuts is as their name implies — shortcuts. Simply press the “+” button in the top right and enter the text that you frequently type as the “Phrase” and the shortcut for the autofill as the “Shortcut”. For example, you can enter your address as the phrase and have your email automatically filled in when you type in “myemail” if you set “myemail” as the shortcut (see image). This is particularly useful for those with long emails or for longer phrases like full postal addresses.

Other great uses of shortcuts are:

  • Addresses (“myaddress”)
  • Phone numbers (“mynumber”)
  • Stop texting me, you’re crazy! (“crazyex”)

Create Dictionary Overrides (Particularly Useful for Swear Words)

Do you find it super annoying that Apple tries to strip you of the colourful language you like to use? Worry no more! Simply add a phrase for the word that you don’t want to have autocorrected and leave the shortcut field blank. Voilà! Steve Jobs will no longer try to correct your exclamations to “Duck!”

Of course, this isn’t limited to swearing. If there are any words that you type that are frequently “corrected”, incorrectly, simply add them to your list of shortcuts.

Have you been using the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts? If so, what are some of the shortcuts you have created?

Avast Antivirus Review — The Best Free Antivirus

Over the last 12 years or so, I have used many different antivirus software packages in search of the perfect one. I have tried Norton, McAfee, AVG and Avast. Based on the title of this post, you already know where I’m going to end up, so if you want to skip straight to installing Avast immediately, here’s the link:

Avast, The Best Free Antivirus:
http://www.avast.com/en-ca/get/V21zfH6Z

First of all, I want to start by saying that Norton and McAfee are by far the worst. They are little more than bloatware that will absolutely ruin the performance of your PC. In fairness, I have not used them in years but they were certainly terrible pieces of software for many years. AVG on the other hand is great — it’s free and runs much more smoothly than Norton or McAfee. However, it is not quite as feature-rich or polished as Avast so after years of using AVG, I made the switch.

Avast is by far the best free antivirus software. It is snappy, easy to install and work with, completely free and has some very powerful features. Unfortunately, Avast has gotten slightly worse over time in trying to convert you to a premium user but for the most part it sits in the background and minds its own business. When you go to register or renew the software each year, just look out for the free option which is somewhat hidden but always there.

Another thing to keep in mind with Avast is that they continue to add new features each year, which should be great, however, many of the new features are unnecessary and may slow your PC down. I keep the bare minimum features on — typically just the anti-virus and anti-malware. I turn off their browser plugins as well.

One of Avast’s best features is the ability to do a pre-boot scan. You can select which harddrives you would like Avast to check, then restart your computer and Avast will run through all your data to look for viruses or malware. I have used pre-boot scans many times to salvage computers full of viruses that went undetected by regular scans with other antivirus software.

Another great thing about Avast is the interface, which is absolutely gorgeous. Navigating through features is painless and very intuitive and the overall suite has a well-polished feel. I am also a sucker for their great branding and colour scheme (and no, I was not paid to write this, just a big fan).

I highly recommend Avast as the best overall antivirus software on the market. I give it a 9/10 even though it deserves a perfect score. I do so only because they have been more pushy with their premium versions but it is still easy enough to take advantage of the free version and upgrade if you require one of their premium features.

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Teach Your Children the Most Important Language: Code

Parent’s always want the best for their children; whether it is private school, language immersion or special extracurricular activities. In Canada, for example, French immersion is very common to ensure that children grow up to be bilingual.

Being bilingual has many advantages, particularly for countries with multiple primary languages like Canada, but these advantages pale in comparison to the advantages of learning the global language of code.

Essays and literature are not translated internationally easily, unlike code. A well-written program or application can be used globally with only small modifications to the interface. More importantly, however, because of the increased prevalence of technology, those that know how to code will find success more readily in today’s world than those that do not.

Learning to code should become a priority, and education should begin at a very young age. According to J. Paul Gibson, a computer scientist at the University of Ireland, “Children aged from 5-11 have so much potential for learning about algorithms and computation that it would be a shame to wait until they are teenagers before we teach them the foundations”. Gibson found that older students (18 or 19 years old) struggled to learn the concepts of programming compared to much younger students. This applies to technology-use in general, not just programming.

Teach your children how to code and use technology!

Gibson’s insights may seem obvious to some  — that people learn things easier, and more wholly, as children — but to many it is still frowned upon to introduce children to technology at a young age. There is a delicate balance between allowing your children to learn technology, and allowing them to get lost in it, but you absolutely have to try. I would argue that it is better to have your children “get lost” in technology then for them to never “find it”.

The argument is simple:

  • Technology is becoming a very big part of everyday life, globally
  • Knowing how to interact with technology, including learning to code, is important to play a role in the new world economy as a result of this global transformation
  • Coding is much easier to learn as children
  • Therefore, teach your children how to code and use technology!

North America is already falling behind when it comes to producing strong programmers, mathematicians and scientists. Programming, like education in general, is still viewed as “nerdy”, so many students avoid the subject. The reality is that, nerdy or not, the technology sector produces some of the most lucrative careers — much better than flipping burgers for the rest of your life.

Of course, parents always have to balance their children’s interaction with technology with other activities like sports, social activities and outdoor fun, but introducing technology and coding to children early is vital to their success in the ever-changing world of technology.

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