Do I need a VPN?

TechRadar looks at the simple question: “Do I need a VPN?” (Spoiler alert: Yes, you do). The real value in this article is that it explains just why you need to use a VPN, and what benefits there are when you have one. It also discuses the disadvantages of using a VPN, and offers advice on what to look for in a VPN provider.


With so many fly-by-night VPN providers popping up, it can be hard to separate the good from the not-so-good. Fortunately, there are a few key characteristics to look for in a VPN. First, make sure the server offers private browsing. Most subscription-based VPNs host their own network servers, which means they’re able to allow their users the comfort to browse anonymously. Most free VPNs, on the other hand, use open networks which are often unsecured and full of privacy gaps.

I personally use Freedome, with a fallback to KeepSolid’s VPN Unlimited. I’m a big fan of F-Secure products, so that’s why I like Freedome. VPN Unlimited is my fallback simply because I got a great price on a lifetime VPN through them.

A Laser, Aimed at Earth!

So apologies for nearly a week of silence – I’ve been in training all week and busy at night so I’ve been barely online lately. Today’s news brings us the update that ICEsat-2 will be launching next month. This satellite will be used for mapping the earth, doing so by firing 10,000 laser bursts per second at the planet.

Firing 10,000 pulses per second at the blue planet, ATLAS will pick up “more than 250 times as many height measurements as its predecessor” (ICEsat, which ended its mission in 2010), said NASA Goddard project manager Doug McLennan.

I love sharing laser news, as the very idea of shooting lasers to do productive things makes me happy.

The Skim Reaper – a Credit Card Skimmer Detector

If you have heard about credit card skimmers, you probably know the advice to tug on a credit-card scanner before using it. That’s not really that effective against more and more of the scanners, as they are getting smaller, and more easily hidden within or on top of real scanners in such a way that a sharp tug just won’t reveal them any more. Enter the Skim Reaper, a scanner that works instead by checking for multiple voltage spikes such as those caused by a hidden reader.

We have partnered with law enforcement agencies to comprehensively characterize skimmers, with the goal of designing and delivering strong tools to reduce this kind of crime. As a result, we created the Skim Reaper™, which specifically targets overlay and deep-insert skimmers.

A better  brief explanation can be found at Ars Technica, one of the finest geek sites on the web.


SkimReaper is aimed specifically at overlays and inserts. It uses a card-shaped sensor with a printed circuit that, when powered, can detect the voltage spikes created by coming in contact with magnetic reader heads. If it detects two or more, there’s a skimmer in play.

While I have found no information yet on how to build your own nor how to buy your own Skim Reaper to keep yourself safe, I am sure that both a DIY guide and a pre-made Reaper purchase option will happen before too long.

Gettin’ all Sciency in Here

As a follow-up to yesterday’s brief bit on the Parker Space Probe, I thought it was worth taking some time to share more information about the project. This is some of the best we have going on in the scientific community (in my not so humble opinion), and I thought it was worth learning and teaching more about it. Watch live in the embedded video above, or read on for more details than you ever realized you needed.

The Parker Space Probe launch window opened this morning around 3:30 Eastern Time and extends to August 23rd. So depending on the weather at Cape Canaveral (Space Launch Complex 37, more specifically), the probe may already be on the way to the sun by the time you read this (I’m writing it a day before launch but posting around 7 hours post possible launch time).

Continue reading Gettin’ all Sciency in Here

Drive Fast, Speed Turns Me On…

Image stolen from the Engadget article to which this news item is linked

So if you ever wondered just how fast we puny humans can make things go, it turns out that right now something around 430,000 miles per hour is our peak achievement. That’s the projected speed of the Parker Solar Probe which will be launching tomorrow morning, just a few hours from now. I have more reading to do to come up with a more substantial post on the probe, but I hope to put something together tomorrow so you can get learned. Just know that this probe is going towards the sun to study solar winds so we can learn how to better prepare for them in the future. (Image stolen from the Engadget article to which this news item is linked).

The spacecraft will also reach speeds up to 430,000 mph, making it the fastest-ever human-made object. That’s nowhere near fast enough to reach Alpha Centauri within our lifetime — it has to travel around 7,000 years to reach the star closest to our sun — but fast enough to get from Philadelphia to DC in a second.

The Top 100 Women of History

Young Margaret Sanger

I heard one of the local radio station’s morning crew talking this morning about the women who changed the world and decided it might be interesting to see what some thinkers online came up with for their top 10 or top 100. The first list I found was this ThoughtCo. list of the top 100 women of History. My knowledge of historical women is pretty sparse, but I was happy to find I could at least recognize most of the women on this list, even if what I know about each of them is quite limited. I’ll be reading up more on the particular details of these women to expand my knowledge.

What’s most interesting about this list to me is that it isn’t something based on some small group of “experts” deciding who makes the cut – this is a list of women ranked by searches online. So while number one on the list may get disagreement from all corners (I’m sure of it, in fact), there is a reasonable basis for how she got there. 

Continue reading The Top 100 Women of History

Blender 2.79b

When last I was active blahgging, I mentioned an update to Blender had been released recently. Since that time, a lot has happened in the world of 3D modeling. I have tried to learn how to use Blender, buying and viewing video tutorial courses, books, and spending time reading the documentation. I still can’t create squat in Blender, but there are some amazing projects getting created with this tool. So I decided to share news of the latest version, 2.79b, just in case someone reading here has a knack for 3D modeling but isn’t already familiar with Blender. Check it out and see what you can build. I’d love to hear from someone who uses Blender to make something cool. Maybe even come share it in the Facebook Blender group.

Blender 2.66

One of my favorite applications is sadly one for which I have no capacity to master. I’m speaking of the outstanding, open-source modeling tool Blender. Version 2.66 of this fantastic tool has just been announced. And while I’m sure almost everyone who uses the tool already knows about it, I mention it just in case someone drops by here and isn’t familiar with the tool but possesses the skills necessary to create something great with it.