Explore Our Planet with Google Earth's Voyager

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If you’re anything like me, then you’ve spent quite a bit of time traversing the globe… on Google Earth. Since its release in 2001, Google Earth has been helping take the edge off for people who suffer from wanderlust, by allowing you to explore the globe from your computer. Google Earth’s update that was released last week makes it even more of a time-sink – there are a lot of really cool new features, and it can now be accessed straight from your browser.

The first awesome new feature is called “Voyager.” This is a section that is all about discovering new parts of the world and learning more about them as you do it. Google Earth has always encouraged exploring, but this new feature goes even further. It offers curated content that takes you around the world in what is essentially themed journeys around the globe that come with rich media like 360 videos, and Street Views including inside buildings and underwater.

The guided tours around the world come from companies that Google partnered with, such as Digital Globe and the BBC. They are providing rich, detailed tours that take you to exotic locales. There are currently around 40 different journeys you can take, but new tours are supposed to be added regularly. Each voyage that you go on takes you to roughly ten locations, swooping around the globe as you go on to the next location.

Two other cool features that come along with Voyager are city guides that take you to different points of interest within a city, and the option to send virtual post cards from these locations. This post card feature is unique to the mobile app. And, once you’ve traveled through all of the guided tours, you can use the new feature called “I’m feeling lucky,” that will digitally transport you to a far-away place on the planet where Google will give you a card that has local trivia on it.

Google Earth has always been a great way to spend some of your leisure time by searching for fascinating locales across the globe, and this is truer than ever with the latest update. The ability to go on guided tours and discover new aspects of locations and cultures has opened up a whole new way of utilizing Google Earth to satisfy your wanderlust. As one Google employee said, “you use Maps to find your way, Earth to get lost.”

Purple.com and Other Fantastic Websites

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If you've ever had your computer's internet connection set up by a DormNet Assistant, you may be familiar with a website called purple.com.  Purple.com is an easy to remember, easy to load, one-page website that is commonly used as a quick test site to ensure a working internet connection.  Its simple design makes it quick to load on even the slowest of computers.  While purple.com may be an in-house favorite here at DormNet, a wide variety of one-page websites exist that can be used in the same way.  Each of the sites in the following list can be used as a purple.com analogue, but each has a unique flavor.  (Some are decidedly more "unique" than others.)  Try them out and see which one is your favorite, and perhaps one site might even become your new home page!


Windows 10 Creators Update

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It's that time of year again -- Microsoft has released a new major update to Windows! Earlier this month the creators update was pushed to the public, with new features focused towards users who rely on Windows to create content.

Night Light
Tired of your laptop blinding you while working on a paper at 1 AM? Microsoft has a solution for you! A new feature called 'Night Light' allows you to change the amount of blue light your screen emits. You can schedule it to turn on whenever you'd like, and adjust the level of the filter. While third party applications that do this have existed for years now, it's a welcome addition.

Windows with Night Light enabled

Enhanced Security and Antivirus
Microsoft has redesigned the Windows Defender interface from the ground up. They now provide a console to control your PCs security, such as it's anti-virus and firewall, in one place.

The new Windows Defender interface

Paint 3D
Paint has always been a staple of Windows, with it been included ever since Windows 1.0. With the creators update, Microsoft has added a new paint app which is much more powerful than what is currently included with Windows 10. This new app, called Paint 3D, allows you to create images with layers, similar to how Photoshop works. While it's not likely for Paint 3D to be replacing Photoshop any time soon, it's good to see that the company is bundling a more powerful application.

Left: Paint 3D (New); Right: Microsoft Paint (Old)

Gaming Mode & Game Streaming
Microsoft has also made a few additions hoping to improve gaming on Windows. Gaming Mode will allow your PC to kill unnecessary background processes to help boost your game's performance. There is also a built-in way to stream your gameplay online.

The new streaming interface

Microsoft released the Creators update on April 11th. You can update any Windows 10 PC by going to your PC's settings, open the Update & security page, and click check for updates.

Source: https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2017/04/11/whats-new-in-the-windows-10-creators-update

Magnetic charger

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Dealing with the everyday struggle to plug in your phone, now there is a better solution! A magnetic charger. There are many out there, but this one is strong and connects easily.

Magnetic chargers are not new, so what makes this one so special? First the magnet is strong and it easily connects, with out a struggle for the prevent alignment. There is an indicator light showing that the cord and plugin are connected and working. However, the light does not indicate full charge. One of the nice things about this is that it is an adaptable system. There are android and iphone adapters that will both work with the cord. I have found similar items for sale online at Walmart and Amazon. 

These are just two examples of similar products. Make sure you check the reviews before you buy and see what they say about the magnetic strength, charging efficiency and speed, and durability.  

PlayStation Now: Sony's Solution to Backwards Compatibility

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     Are you a nostalgic gamer? Do you buy the newest iteration of a gaming system, simply to leave your former system to gather dust in a closet? Do you long for the days of games past, yet you are too lazy to actually set up your old console? Congratulations, you are not alone.

     If you are like me, the previous scenario has happened to you, and you hold at least a modicum of resentment towards companies like Sony for not making their systems backwards compatible. Well, if you were not aware, Sony developed somewhat of a solution to this problem, at least for lovers of the PlayStation 3. In 2014, PlayStation Now was announced, and full access was available in 2015 to all owners of the PS3 and PS4; however, access via the PS3 was discontinued on April 1 of this year. 

     Sony's motivations for enacting such a service, besides making more money, is rather obvious, for we are gradually entering a more digital age each day. Subscribers to the PlayStation Now service can stream more than 480 PS3 titles directly to their PS4 for either a 30-day or 3-month subscription fee. Each month, Sony is releasing more games to satisfy our nostalgia, and they are currently planning to release PS4 games in the streaming service as well. 

     Rumors continue to surface as to whether Sony will one day include PS2 and original PlayStation games in the PS Now library, but I personally hold high hopes for the service. For many gamers, such as myself, those old games hold sentimental value. I believe Sony plans to play on those emotions, and I am actually okay with that. 

     I have not actually subscribed to this service yet (because money); however, Sony offers a 7-day free trial for those who are interested, and I would love to hear that this will be worth it. Perhaps one day, video game companies will completely transition to digital titles. Personally, I will enjoy having the extra space in my video game cabinet. If you are interested in the service or want to see what games they currently have available, check it out here: https://www.playstation.com/en-us/explore/psnow/games/

Happy gaming!

Xbox Game Pass - An Xbox Fan's Dream Come True

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     Microsoft recently announced a new way for Xbox One owners to take full advantage of their consoles - a subscription based game service known as Xbox Game Pass slated to release late spring of 2017.

     Xbox Game Pass will provide Microsoft loyals with access to hundreds of titles in a rotating catalog at a flat monthly rate.  Due to customer feedback, the Game Pass team decided that downloading the game in full is a smoother, more reliable way for players to access the games than streaming.  At the end of a game's life on the catalog, it is simply inaccessible to Game Pass players who do not own the full game.

     Though the price has not been officially listed on Microsoft's site, news outlets report a very affordable price point at $10 per month.  This is great news for those of us who find the often $50+ barrier to entry to simply try a new game to costly to justify.  Not only is the service inexpensive, but players receive 20% off of a game's base price should they choose to purchase it while it is still part of the Game Pass collection.  The service can quickly pay for itself for gamers who buy several games per year.

     Xbox Game Pass does not replace Xbox Live Gold.  Multiplayer titles on Game Pass requiring Gold access to play online will function the same way any other game would for non-Gold members.  In short, Game Pass is simply a catalog service that is separate but complimentary to Gold's network service.  More information on Xbox Game Pass and the anticipated launch catalog can be found at xbox.com.

The Phone for Humans

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Are you bogged down by the strain of constant notifications on your phone?
Do you have a bunch of applications on your phone that you don't need, and don't even really want, but feel like you need to have because being a tech user in the 21st century somehow demands that you have it?
Do you want to have good posture, instead of getting a weird back hump from constantly looking down at your phone?

Let me introduce you to Siempo - The Phone for Humans.

Founded by a team that wants to put the focus back on our humanity, while also appreciating the efficiency and power that technology gives us, Siempo hopes to minimize distractions and limit our phone use to when we actually need it.

While the team recognizes that there are many apps and built-in features to other phones to help limit these distractions and help moderate time spent on the phone, these can be difficult to set up and hard to maintain, while also being very easy to bypass and disable. In order to use the phone, you need to have an 'intention'. Obviously having an intention each time you use your phone can be tiresome, but this is exactly what Siempo is trying to accomplish. They want to minimize phone usage to turn your attention back to what matters, instead of allowing your attention to drift to the latest post by some famous person you don't know, will never know, and whose up to the minute notifications on how their dog was getting a pedicure really aren't important to you.

The phone comes with the basics: camera, 4G LTE, maps, and navigation. It also has a web browser and an email client, but it currently doesn't have access to the Google Play store, and has very limited app functionality. Any apps that do come to this phone will have to adhere to additional specifications laid out by Siempo in order to maintain their ideals of a minimally intrusive device.

One of the key features of the Siempo is its ability to set a tempo for notifications or completely stop them from happening. Set your phone to receive notifications in intervals of 15 minutes, or completely stop any notifications at all. This can be done using the phones interface or via an external button on the side of the phone. This feature can be set to allow certain people's notifications to come through, but will stop your phone from receiving any other notifications.

Another feature is it's ability to help you create a routine. Save your morning routine and have timers set to help you follow that routine. It also makes taking notes super easy, with it's 'intention' based interface, just type the note and save it as a note. No navigating to other apps which can lead to more distractions.

The intention field also allows you to send messages directly from itself, the same as taking notes. You can also delay notifications, making it easier to not forget that your mom has texted you about Aunt Irene's 149th birthday bash in a few days.

Obviously this phone is not practical for everyone. Especially coming in at $349, it's a hefty price to pay for something that will have limited smart phone capabilities and will actually make it impossible to do certain activities. But if you've been trying to get away from the distractions of life, and are looking for something that will do it for you, or you are super Type A and want even more streamlining in your life, consider backing this campaign on kickstarter to make your supremely organized life an even greater reality.