Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Top 5 WordPress Blog Enhancement Plugins

Wordpress-Blog-Plugins

Bloggers who use WordPress, beginners or pros alike, always face one question - what are the best plugins to use to optimize the performance of your website? WordPress has over 40,000 plugins - most free and some premium so it’s understandable that the choices can be endless and as a result, confusing. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all plugins are reliable or even that good.

Some can actually slow down your website, while others create conflicts with other plugins. If you’re not that well-versed with WordPress or are a complete beginner, you can spend the whole day just configuring one plugin and still find that it doesn’t function the way it is supposed to.

Under such circumstances, it becomes essential for you as a blogger to know what plugins will be most efficient for you. One way you can go about doing this is trying and testing out a variety of plugins - but not everyone has that kind of time or even expertise. So here is a list of 5 plugins that you as a blogger should use to optimize your experience with WordPress and blog away without any worries

Wordfence Security

As the name suggests, WordFence is a security plugin. Fairly basic in nature, it works by adding another layer of security, thus preventing people or bots who might try to hack into your website. It can even block bots by blocking the IP addresses they use to try to access your site. The plugin has been downloaded and is currently actively installed by one million plus users and is the most downloaded security plugin on WordPress. WordFence will also let you know quickly if your website has been compromised. While the plugin is free, there is a premium service that allows you to block specific countries, audit passwords, schedule scans and also check whether your IP address is being used to Spamvertised. In addition, you can also avail of tech support in case of any glitches.

VaultPress

It is extremely important for every blogger to have backups of his or her blogs. It is equally important that these backups be located off-site but still be secure. There is a reason the term ‘human error’ exists and you never know when years of hard work can just disappear in an instant. This is where VaultPress comes in. It backs up and secures everything on a site such as posts, comments, all uploads, Meta data, users, themes and even databases. The plugin is a Premium feature with different plans for different budgets and needs. It has over 20,000 active installs. The best part is that it can restore whatever you have lost in just two clicks.

Yoast SEO

This plugin needs no introduction. It is on every top 5, top 10, top 15 list of the best WordPress plugins for a very simple reason - it is the best SEO plugin out there. It helps you write better and more SEO friendly content and even shows you a snippet of what your post looks like in search results. It lets you know if the title of your blog is of the optimal length and even whether the description you’ve written helps improve the ranking of the page in search results. It makes you choose a focus keyword and ensures that you use that keyword as much as possible. In addition, it also analyses your page for things such as whether you have written a meta description, whether your post length is long enough, whether the images in your post contain the focus keyword and so on. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Frizzly

One thing that is absolutely essential to ensure the success of any blog is that it is shared on social media. Obviously, you need the appropriate buttons for the same. However, too many buttons and you have confused users who will be too overwhelmed by the choices of social media to share anything. If you’re just starting out or you want to keep it basic and simple, Frizzly is the plugin for you. It adds three buttons - Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to images on your post. Whenever anyone hovers over the image, the buttons come up encouraging the reader to share.

Disqus

As any blogger knows, one of the primary needs on your site is a comment box. It allows readers to express how they feel about what you have written and share their opinions with others. Disqus Comment System does just that. It allows comments to be more interactive and connects commenters and websites. The popularity of the plugin can be seen by the fact that it currently has 200,000 plus active installs. It is SEO-friendly, which means that the comments can be indexed by search engines, allows you to import existing comments and even backs up the comments. Comments and their replies can be viewed as threads. You also receive email notifications. It filters out spam and has some optimal admin tools. It even shows you aggregated comments.

Security firm Sucuri says that, during the first three months of 2016, the company saw a large number of attacks targeting websites running on the WordPress CMS platform. The company released yesterday its first-ever Website Hacked Report, in which it compiled statistics from over 11,485 compromised sites it was called upon to investigate.

Nearly four in five hacked websites were running WordPress. More precisely, Sucuri reveals that 78 percent of the total number of hacked websites it investigated were WordPress sites, with Joomla in a distant second, taking up only 14 percent of the data sample. Further, six percent were no-CMS websites, 5 percent were running Magento, and 2 percent were using Drupal.

Read Article (William Morrow | huffingtonpost.com | 05/28/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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ACLU Joins Microsoft in Suit Against the DOJ

Suit-Against-DOJ

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft got an ally in its lawsuit against the Justice Department Thursday. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a motion to join Microsoft’s effort to challenge DOJ gag orders that prevent the tech company from telling customers when the government has ordered it to turn over data.

The ACLU is a Microsoft customer. Microsoft filed its lawsuit in April, one of a number of legal challenges the Redmond, Wash., company has mounted against growing law enforcement requests for its cloud-based consumer data.

“A basic promise of our Constitution is that the government must notify you at some point when it searches or seizes your private information,” said Alex Abdo, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Notice serves as a crucial check on executive power, and it has been a regular and constitutionally required feature of searches and seizures since the nation’s founding.”

Microsoft spokesperson David Cuddy said the company "appreciates the support from the ACLU and many others in the business, legal and policy communities who are concerned about secrecy becoming the norm rather than the exception.”

Requests from law enforcement agencies for access to users' personal information routinely flood tech companies that store vast amounts of data in the cloud. Massive data centers run by Microsoft, Amazon and other big tech companies allow businesses and individuals to access email, photos and other content from multiple devices, wherever they are.

Law enforcement officials say that access to such data is critical to fighting crime and terrorism. Using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the U.S. government is increasingly targeting such data, according to Microsoft, which says the government has mandated secrecy in 2,576 instances over the past 18 months. People would know if the government went through their filing cabinet or their hard drive, but are unaware when their privacy in the cloud is intruded upon, they argue.

The 1986 law was written before the Web was born and long before Americans started sending, receiving and storing so much of their personal communications and documents on the Internet.

Microsoft alleges the Electronic Communications Privacy Act violates users' Fourth Amendment right that a search be reasonable and Microsoft's First Amendment right to talk to its users.

"Notably and even surprisingly, 1,752 of these secrecy orders, or 68% of the total, contained no fixed end date at all. This means that we effectively are prohibited forever from telling our customers that the government has obtained their data," Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith wrote in an April blog post when the suit was announced.

Tech companies increasingly are being drawn into legal battles with federal agencies over access to consumer information. A broad swath of major technology names filed amicus briefs on behalf of Apple during the iPhone maker's protracted battle with the FBI earlier this year over access to the smartphone used by one of the San Bernardino killers.

Read Article (Marco della Cava | usatoday.com | 05/26/2016)

Today Microsoft is fighting a battle to protect your digital privacy, tomorrow you may need to fight your own battle to protect your digital privacy. But only if you realize it’s been hacked and only if you know what you are talking about.

By now you should have some idea of what we are about, if not read our about page. But our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing digital literacy and how to fully use devices that connect to the Internet and the Internet itself.

The digital industry is not going to provide this type of effective solution. Join the cause and donate to our startup today, let’s make it real. By helping those around you, you are really helping yourself in the long run.

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On This Test, Girls Do Tech Better than Boys

Girls-Do-Tech-Better

There’s a scarcity of female employees at tech companies, but that doesn’t mean girls don’t have the skills or knowledge to succeed in that field.

New results from the National Assessment for Educational Progress — also known as the Nation’s Report Card — show that eighth-grade girls are, on the whole, outperforming boys in measures of technology and engineering literacy. The exam was administered in 2014 and represents the first time NAEP has tested students on these topics.

Over 20,000 eighth-graders in private and public schools across the country used computers to take the test, which focused on three content areas: technology and society, design and systems, and information and communication technology. Students were asked to solve problems about real-world scenarios using an interactive, multimedia format.

Overall, 43 percent of eighth-grade students are proficient in technology and engineering literacy, according to the NAEP results. But some groups are performing much better than others. The test revealed a number of gaps in student scores based on sex, where students are from, their racial backgrounds and their families’ income levels.

Overall, 45 percent of girls proved proficient in technology and engineering literacy, compared to 42 percent of boys. This is particularly surprising, according to Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. Girls do not typically outperform boys on measures of math and science — two subjects that require skills also used in technology and engineering fields, Carr said. This gender gap was especially pronounced for white and black girls, while Hispanic and Asian-American girls performed on par with their male counterparts.

“We did not expect this pattern, and the pattern does seem to be pretty clear from the data overall,” Carr told reporters. “It looks like girls have the ability and critical thinking skills to succeed in fields of technology and engineering, and that is worth noting.”

Carr hypothesized that these gaps might exist because parts of the test emphasized collaboration or communication, skills that could favor female students. Still, girls also performed well in other sections of the test.

More affluent students performed substantially better than their poorer counterparts, with only 25 percent of lower-income students scoring at or above the proficient level, compared to 59 percent of wealthier students. Only 18 percent of black students and 28 percent of Hispanic students achieved proficient scores or higher, compared to 56 percent of Asian-American and white students.

In a questionnaire associated with the exam, students indicated that they had gained a number of technology and engineering skills outside the classroom. Just over half of students said they took a class in school related to technology or engineering. Sixty-three percent of students said they picked up some of these skills from family members.

The scores clearly show that when students have opportunities to engage with technology and engineering, they become fluent in the skills that prepare them for living and working in the modern world. But access to these opportunities from place to place is patchy,” Tonya Matthews, president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center, said in a press release.

Read Article (Rebecca Klein | huffingtonpost.com | 05/17/2016)

The open secret in Silicon Valley is that, despite nominal gains, gender and minority representation remains problematic.  “Elephant in the Valley,” a survey that painted a dreary portrait for many women in Silicon Valley, underscored that reality when it was released earlier this year.

Our Technological Landscape now reflects the Diversity of our Global Population, as should the Industries that provide these Technologies.

As the internet seamlessly integrates itself in everyday routines, we will continue our campaign efforts to assist the millions that struggle with Digital Literacy. Please join our efforts to assist those left behind.

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Connect Everyone to Internet & Gain $6.7 Trillion

Gain-$6.7-Trillion

Bringing internet access to the 4.1 billion people in the world who do not have it would increase global economic output by $6.7 trillion (£4.6tr), and raise 500 million people out of poverty, according to a study by PwC’s strategy consultants.

The report, titled Connecting the world: Ten mechanisms for global inclusion, was prepared for Facebook.

Getting everyone in the world online is not as tall an order as one might think, according to the company: affordability, rather than infrastructure, is the main barrier to internet adoption in most areas. More than nine-tenths of the world’s population live in places where the infrastructure exists to get them online, but the majority of them cannot afford to do so.

For 66% of the world, a 500MB data plan costs more than 5% of their monthly income, the level the report’s authors describe as “unaffordable”. But some people decide to get online despite the cost – in China, just 22% of people can have a high enough income by that measure to make internet access affordable for them, even though 46% of the population is online. Even if it’s expensive, if there’s enough of a reason for someone to get online, they may look past the cost.

By contrast, in most of the developing world, the necessary infrastructure is already in place to get internet to the whole population, if they could afford it. China, Brazil and Indonesia all have 100% of their populations covered by internet-capable infrastructure.

While cost reductions sound easier to achieve than total infrastructure creation, that can understate the magnitude of the reductions needed. To get 80% of their populations online, for instance, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Philippines would all have to see a cut in the price of internet access by well over 90%.

Improvement of existing technology, or even simply installing existing technology in developing nations, will suffice to bring about much of this cost reduction. For instance, the vast majority of the world’s mobile spectrum is being used to deliver 2G internet: if it was upgraded to 3G or 4G, the cost of mobile data would plummet. But such an upgrade requires money spent upfront, not only by carriers, but also by users, who must buy (comparatively) more expensive phones.

The focus on cost reductions marries with Facebook’s own Internet.org project, which is aimed at partnering carriers in developing nations to give low-cost internet access. It has come under criticism, however, from web luminaries such as Tim Berners-Lee, who dislike Facebook’s approach of limiting the low-cost access to a subsection of the web.

So-called zero rating, which lies at the heart of efforts by Internet.org to expand web access, involves allowing internet users to access some websites, such as Wikipedia and Facebook, without paying for the data they use. But the approach is criticized by net neutrality advocates like Berners-Lee, who said: “I tend to say ‘Just say no.’ In the particular case of somebody who’s offering … something which is branded internet, it’s not internet, then you just say no.”

But Jonathan Tate, technology consulting leader at PwC, argues that Facebook’s approach is worth it in the long term. While zero rating provides access to a slimmer version of the internet than the full web, he says it’s a crucial stepping stone to full access. “The important thing here is to get things moving,” he added.

Facebook’s motivation for paying for Internet.org is partially explained by PwC’s estimates of where the benefits of new access accrue. While most of the economic benefits of new internet access come to those freshly online, the consultancy estimates that content providers such as Facebook stand to gain a $200bn (£138bn) opportunity over the next five years.

But new technology will still be needed to achieve total connectivity. The reports’ authors estimate that the last 500 million people to get online won’t be able to rely on piecemeal improvements. Instead, they’ll need new “disruptive technologies” being created by companies like Google, with its Project Loon plan to mount internet access points on balloons, and Facebook, with its solar-powered, laser-armed 4G drone called Aquila.

Read Article (Alex Hern | theguardian.com | 05/17/2016)

Though self-serving Facebook does stand to gain monetarily over those five years, the access all those individuals will gain is worth it, I believe. And as they’ve already said, it’s an important stepping stone to full access. It’s also better than doing nothing at all.

But even though Internet access is without a doubt important, knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself is an issue just as important, it not more. Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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Best 5 Laptops Under $200 Shopping Guide

Best-5-Laptops

Great news! I’ve done some of the work for you. If you only have $200 to spend on a laptop, your options are far better than they used to be. While these machines aren't built for hardcore gaming or video editing, they're more than enough for web browsing and writing papers.

These days, sub-$200 laptops commonly ship with HD displays, full Windows 10 (rather than something more limited, like Google's Chrome OS), and a decent chunk of internal storage. Many also come with a free year of Microsoft Office 365—perfect for the students they're targeting.

To find the best of this affordable bunch, we put the most popular models through a series of performance and display tests in our state-of-the-art labs. Then we put them to the test at our desks, to get a feel for real-world factors like keyboard feel, trackpad responsiveness, and build quality.

The result? We can tell you with authority that if you want the best affordable laptops available today, these are the ones to buy.

Asus E402SA – Best Overall - The Asus E402SA (also known as the EeeBook E402SA) won us over right away. While it's not much faster than its competition, its 14-inch screen is bigger than most. The display is a mere 1366 x 768 pixels, but it's glossy, looks great, and isn't a major drain on the battery. Its $249 MSRP is a little above our target price, but we've seen it on sale as low as $179. (Amazon $191.00)

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 (2016) - The Inspiron 11 3000's biggest flaw is the included McAfee install, which can be a real hog on system resources and annoys with frequent popups. But all things considered, Dell offers up a package that's colorful, modern, and just fast enough for schoolwork or surfing the web. It may not be inspiring, but this Inspiron is worth its asking price. (Best Buy $169.99)

Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 - While you can find a 16GB version, you should avoid that one at all costs; our test model had 32GB of storage and even that filled up right away. You can add more memory with an SD card, but since it's not microSD, it'll stick out the side of the machine. In our opinion, your best bet for inconspicuous extra storage on the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 is probably a low profile USB drive. (Amazon $148.00, Best Buy $206.99)

Lenovo Ideapad 100s 11.6" Laptop - Inside, it has an older Intel Atom Z3735F chip. It may be quad core, but it's still slower than the Celeron N3050 dual-core processor found in rival machines. The 100s is also stuck with USB 2.0 ports, which can't keep up with the 3.0 ports on better machines. It's not all bad though. You can add storage through the compact microSD slot, the hinge rotates a full 180 degrees, and it had the best battery life of any of the sub-$200 models we tested. (Amazon $158.38, Best Buy $199.99)

HP Stream 11 (2016) - The worst part of using the Stream 11 is its iffy trackpad, which isn't nearly as responsive as we'd like. The screen also seemed a little duller than the rest of our test group. Unfortunately, HP also bundles McAfee with this computer; it's a pain, but you can uninstall it to speed things up. (Amazon $208.77, Best Buy $199.99, HP.com $199.99)

To get a better idea of the authors pitch: Check-Out the Video

Read Article (Staff | laptops.reviewed.com | 05/11/2016)

Now let’s do some serious shopping, here are rankings from 3 other review sites for “Best 5 Laptops Under $200”:

  • Wiknix – 1) HP Stream 11-r010nr, 2) Acer Aspire One Cloudbook, 3) ASUS VivoBook E200HA-US01-GD, 4) Lenovo IdeaPad 100s 11.6" Laptop, 5) HP 11-p110nr x360 Convertible
  • Best Laptop Advisor – 1) Acer Chromebook 11.6-inch HD, 2) HP Stream 11-r010nr, 3) Samsung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US, 4) Acer Chromebook CB3-111-C670, 5) ASUS C201 11.6 Inch Chromebook
  • Best Buy – 1) Dell - Inspiron 11.6", 2) Dell - Inspiron 14", 3) Lenovo - Ideapad 100s 11.6" Laptop, 4) Lenovo - IdeaPad 100s 11.6" Chromebook, 5) Samsung - 11.6" Chromebook

Notice that the HP Stream 11-r010nr and Lenovo IdeaPad 100s 11.6" Laptop is ranked in 3 out of the 4 reviews. If you are seriously considering the purchase of an inexpensive laptop, I would start by checking-out these two. Although my personal choice would be the Asus E402SA but you need to check-out the video to see why.

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, inevitably the day will come when even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology. And ownership doesn’t always translate into Intuitively knowing how to fully use it to ones’ best advantage.

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