Category Archives: Operating System

Information about Windows, Macintosh, Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora…)

Arch Linux and Eduroam on a Raspberry Pi, No Ethernet Cable Required

Raspbian may be the most common OS on Raspberry Pi devices, but it is definitely not alone in the market. Arch Linux is one such competitor, offering a minimalist disk image that can be customized and specialized for any task, from the ground up – with the help of Arch Linux’s superb package manager, Pacman.

The office website for Arch Linux Arm contains all the necessary files and detailed instructions for the initial setup. After a reasonably straightforward process, plugging in the Raspberry Pi will great you with a command line interface, CLI, akin to old Microsoft DOS.

Luckily for those who enjoy a graphical interface, Arch Linux supports a wide variety in its official repository, but for that, we need the internet.  Plenty of tutorials detail how to connect to a typical home wifi, but Eduroam is a bit more challenging. To save everyone several hours of crawling through wikis and forums, the following shall focus on Eduroam.

To begin, we will need root privilege; by default this can be done with the following command:


After entering the password, we need to make the file:

nano /etc/wpa_supplicant/eduroam

Quick note: The file doesn’t need to be named eduroam.

Now that we’re in the nano text editor we need to write the configuration for eduroam. Everything except the indentity and password field needs to be copied exactly. For the propose of this Tutorial I’ll be John Smith,, with password Smith12345.


Quick note: the quotation marks are required, this will not work without them.

Now that that’s set, we need to set the file permissions to root only, as its never good to have passwords in plain text, unsecured.

chmod og-r /etc/wpa_supplicant/eduroam

Now just to make sure that everything was set properly, we will run

ls -l /etc/wpa_supplicant | cut -d ' ' -f 1,3-4,9

The correct output should be the following

-rw------- root root eduroam

If you named the config file something other than eduroam, it will show up on the output as that name.

Now that that’s all set, we can finally connect to the internet.

wpa_supplicant -i wlan0 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant/eduroam &

Provided everything is set correctly, you will see “wlan0: link becomes ready” halfway through the last line of the page, hit enter and just one more command.


Now, just to check we’re connected, we’ll ping google

ping -c 5

If everything is set, you should see 5 packets transmitted, 5 packets received.
Now that we’re connected, its best to do a full update

pacman -Syyu

At this point, you are free to do what you’d like with Arch. For the sake of brevity I will leave off here, for extra help I highly recommend the official Arch Linux Wiki. For a graphical UI, I highly recommend setting up XFCE4, as well as a network (wifi) manager.


Example of a customized XFCE4 desktop by Erik Dubois



Disclaimer: UMass IT does not currently offer technical support for Raspberry Pi.

How to use Audacity to Edit Photos

Photo: qubodup on DeviantArt

Glitch art is an increasingly popular form of art that uses digital interference or glitches to make interesting art. In this tutorial I will be showing you how to use Audacity to edit photos as if they are sound, which can create some cool effects.

Here’s what you need:

  • Adobe Photoshop (I use the CC version so your experience may vary.)
  • Audacity (free at
  • A picture

The first step is to open the image in Photoshop. Go to File> Open > Your_file. After opening, we need to save this file as a format that Audacity can understand. We will use the .tiff format. So go to File>Save As Then go to .tiff next to “Save as type”. See the below photo for an example of how this should look:

Displaying Capture2.PNG

Then Photoshop will ask you about the settings for the .tiff file. Leave everything as it is except “Pixel Order” change it to Per Channel. Per channel splits up where the color data for the photo is stored, allowing us to edit individual parts of the RGB spectrum. See below photo again:

Displaying Capture.PNG

Once the file is saved as a .tiff file, open up Audacity and click File>Import Raw Data then select your .tiff file. Once this is complete Audacity will ask for some settings to import the raw data. Change “encoding” to “U-Law” and “Byte Order” to “Little-endian” then click import. See photo of how it should look below:

Displaying Capture3.PNG

You now have your image in Audacity as a sound file! Here is where the creativity comes in. To glitch up the image, use the effect tab in Audacity and play around with different effects. Most images have a part in the beginning of the file that is needed to open the image so if you get an error trying to open the picture don’t worry; just don’t start the effect so close to the beginning next time. There should also be some noticeable sections in the waveform — these represent the different RGB colors. So if you only select one color, you can make an effect only happen to one color. Once you finish your effects, it’s time to export.

To export go to File>Export. When prompted set the file type to “Other uncompressed files”. See photo of how it should look below:

Displaying Capture.5PNG.PNG

Then click option at the bottom right. For “header” select “RAW (header-less) and for “encoding” select “U-Law” again. Then hit “OK” and save your file. Now you should be able to open the RAW file and see how your work came out. See photo of how it should look below:

Displaying Capture4.PNG

SOS: Emergency Response in the Smartphone Era

By now, we’ve all seen or heard stories about a recent scare in Hawai’i where residents were bombarded (ironically) with an emergency notification warning of a ballistic missile heading towards the isolated island state. Within seconds, the people of Hawai’i panicked, contacting their families, friends, loved ones, and stopping everything that they were doing in their final minutes of their lives.

Of course, this warning turned out to be false.

The chaos that ensued in Hawai’i was the result of an accidental warning fired off by a government employee of the Emergency Management Agency. Not only did this employee send off a massive wave of crisis alert notifications to Hawaiians everywhere. In some cases, it took up to 30+ minutes to signal to people that this was a false flag warning. With the rising tensions between the United States and the trigger-happy North Korea, you could imagine that this could be problematic, to put it simply.

The recent mishap in Hawai’i opens up a conversation about Phone notifications when responding to crisis situations. While Hawaiians, and more broadly Americans, aren’t used to seeing this type of notification appear on their lock screen, this is a common and very effective tool in the middle east, where Israel uses push notifications to warn of nearby short range missiles coming in from Syria and the Gaza Strip/West Bank.

Image result for israel missile defense notification

In a region full hostilities and tense situations, with possible threats from all angles, Israel keeps its land and citizens safe using a very effective system of Red Alert, an element of Israel’s Iron Dome. According to Raytheon, a partner in developing this system, the Iron Dome “works to detect, assess and intercept incoming rockets, artillery and mortars. Raytheon teams with Rafael on the production of Iron Dome’s Tamir interceptor missiles, which strike down incoming threats launched from ranges of 4-70 km.” With this system comes the Red Alert, which notifies Israelis in highly populated areas of incoming attacks, in case the system couldn’t stop the missile in time. Since implementation in 2011 and with more people receiving warnings due to growing cell phone use, Israelis have been kept safe and are notified promptly, leading to a 90% success rate of the system and keeping civilian injuries/casualties at very low levels.

If this Hawaiian missile alert was true, this could have saved many lives. In an instant, everyone was notified and people took their own precautions to be aware of the situation at hand. This crucial muff in the alert system can be worked on in the future, leading to faster, more effective approaches to missile detection, protection, and warnings, saving lives in the process.

In an era of constant complaint about the ubiquity of cell phone use, some of the most positive implications of our connected world have been obscured. Think back to 1940: London bombing raids were almost surprises, with very late warnings and signals that resulted in the destruction of London and many casualties. With more advanced weapons, agencies are designing even more advanced defense notification systems, making sure to reach every possible victim as fast as possible. In an age where just about everyone has a cell phone, saving lives has never been easier.


For more reading, check out these articles on Washington Post and Raytheon:

Types of SSDs and Which Ones to Buy


By now it’s likely you’ve heard of Solid State Drives, or SSDs as a blazing fast storage drive to speed up old computers, or provide reliable uptime compared to their replacement, Hard Drives, or HDDs. But there are countless options available, so what is the best drive?

Photo: Asus

There are several connector types that SSDs use to interface with a computer, including SATA, PCIe, M.2, U.2, mSATA, SATA Express, and even none, as some SSDs now come soldered to the board. For a consumer, the most common options are SATA and M.2. SATA is known as the old two-connector system that hard drives used, including a SATA Power and SATA data cable. SATA-based SSDs are best for older computers that lack newer SSD connector types and have only SATA connections. A great way to boost the speed of an older computer with a spinning hard drive is to clone the drive to an SSD, and replace the Hard Drive with an SSD, increasing the computer’s ability to read/write data, possibly by tenfold. However it should be noted that these SATA drives are capped at a maximum theoretical transfer speed of 600MB/s, whereas other un-bottlenecked SSDs have recently exceeded 3GB/s, nearly five times the SATA maximum. This means SATA-based SSDs cannot utilize the speed and efficiency of newer controllers such as NVMe.


NVMe, or Non-Volatile Memory Express, is a new controller used to replace AHCI, or Advance Host Controller Interface. AHCI is the controller that Hard Drives traditionally use to interface between the SATA bus of a Hard Drive and the computer it is connected to. AHCI as a controller also provides a bottleneck to SSDs in the form of latency the same way the SATA bus provides a bandwidth bottleneck to an SSD. The AHCI controller was never intended for use with SSDs, where the NVMe controller was built specifically with SSDs only in mind. NVMe promises lower latency by operating with higher efficiency, working with Solid State’s parallelization abilities by being able to run more than two thousand times more commands to or from the drive than compared to a drive on the AHCI controller. To get the optimal performance out of an NVMe drive, make sure it uses PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) as a bus which alleviates all the bottlenecks that would come with using SATA as a bus.

If the latest and greatest speeds and efficiencies that come with an NVMe SSD is a must have, then there’s a couple things to keep in mind. First, make sure the computer receiving the drive has the M.2 connector type for that type of drive. Most consumer NVMe drives only support the M.2 “M” key (5 pins), which is the M.2 physical edge connector. SATA based SSDs use the “B” key (6 pins) but there are some connectors that feature “B + M” which can accept both a SATA and NVMe drive. Second, the computer needs to be compatible with supporting and booting to an NVMe drive. Many older computers and operating systems may not support booting to or even recognize an NVMe drive due to how new it is. Third, expect to pay a premium. The PCIe NVMe drives are the newest and greatest of the SSD consumer market, so cutting edge is top price. And finally, make sure an NVMe drive fits the usage case scenario. The performance improvement will only be seen with large read/writes to and from the drive or large amounts of small read/writes. Computers will boot faster, files will transfer and search faster, programs will boot faster, but it won’t make a Facebook page load any faster.

In conclusion, SSDs are quickly becoming ubiquitous in the computing world and for good reason. Their prices are plummeting, their speeds are unmatched, they’re smaller fitting into thinner systems, and they’re far less likely to fail, especially after a drop or shake of the device. If you have an old computer with slow loading times in need of a performance boost, a great speed-augmenting solution is to buy a SATA SSD. But if being cutting edge and speed is what is what you’re looking for, nothing that beats a PCIe NVMe M.2 drive.

Why Macs have taken over College Campuses

If you ever visit a college campus you will notice the plethora of Apple laptops. Apple seems to supply a huge percentage of college students’ laptops, but why?

To start off with, Apple has a brand image that few other companies can match. From my experience in IT many people think that Apple machines “last longer” and “won’t break as easily” when compared to their PC rivals. And from my experience that isn’t necessarily false. Certainly in terms of build quality the average Mac will beat the average PC, but it’s not really a fair comparison. Macs cost far more than the average PC, and this higher build quality is priced-in. That said, even some higher-end PCs have build qualities that seem to degrade over time in a way that Macs don’t. My guess for why this happens is that PCs are constantly trying new things to differentiate themselves from the pack of similarly specced competitors which leads to constant experimentation. Trying new things isn’t bad, but with this throw-everything-at-the-wall mentality there will certainly be a few products that weren’t truly tested and that may have been pushed out to quickly. Apple on the other hand has a handful of laptops which for the most part have been around for years. They have mastered the art of consistently making reliable laptops. It’s that consistency that is really important. In all likelihood every major laptop manufacturer has made a very reliable computer, but very few have the track record that Apple has. It’s this track recorded that makes people trust that their new computer will last all four years.

To add to their reliability Apple also has the upper hand in its physical locations. Every urban area in the U.S. has an Apple store, somewhere to take your device if it’s acting up or check out a new laptop before you buy it. I think this plays a big role in Apples success. Being able to try out a product before buying it is a clear advantage. People get to know what the product will be like in person, which might make them more likely to buy it.  Secondly, knowing that if anything happens to your device there is a physical location where you can bring it can be very reassuring. If you buy an Apple laptop no longer will you have to wait on the phone for 3 hours trying to get ahold of someone helpful.  Just walk into the store and you’ll get the assistance you need.

I am not the only one to notice that stores are a big part of Apple’s success, as Microsoft has been building more and more stores to help compete. They realized that Apple would always have better customer service if they didn’t make there own stores. This has become even more important for Microsoft as they built up there hardware.

Finally one of the biggest reasons in my mind is that people buy Apple laptops, because they have Apple phones. It’s seems logical that one would buy more products from a company if they are satisfied with the one they have. I think this is what is happening with Apple computers. iPhones are incredibly popular with college-aged kids, so naturally they will gravitate towards the laptop manufacturer that makes their phones. Furthermore iPhones and Apple laptops work together in a way that a PC and an iPhone can’t. Apple devices can send iMessages, they integrate with iCloud seamlessly, and they share similar programs which can make picking either one up faster.


What is Statcast?

The Technological Marvel that is Statcast

Next time you go to a baseball game look towards the press boxes; you may just spot a black box that looks inconspicuous. That black box is the reason Disney paid 1.1 Billion for a third of MLB Advanced Media. That black box collects data for a program called Statcast.

statcast blackbox

For those of you that aren’t aware of Statcast, you can think of it as a way to track everything that goes on in the baseball stadium. For those of you who are paranoid that you are always being watched, don’t worry: MLB didn’t spend millions of dollars to see how far and how fast you spill your drink. The Statcast tracking system is a combination of two other systems, one a system developed by Trackman that is based on the Doppler radar (flight paths of baseballs are infinitely easier to track than storms) and a few cameras that help with the three-dimensional aspect of the game. Statcast provides a better fan experience by helping the common view to see the subtleties that allow each player to make a catch, hit a home run, or fool a batter. This isn’t just for the viewer though, it is also for the player and other personnel actively part of the game. The players can use this data to determine where to play, to either side or further back or forward,


or can help a smaller batter to realize that at the launch angle they usually hit the ball all they have to do is hit the ball just a bit harder and their home run numbers would increase

.Stat cast

For those front office executives that build teams it helps them determine which pitcher throws pitches with a higher spin rate (the spin of the ball that goes from a pitcher’s hand to the glove of the catcher in a matter of milliseconds), which regardless of the prior results should trend to more strikeouts.


Even though this was introduced in 2013 teams are still figuring out how to take full advantage of the new data. At a sabermetric seminar (a gathering of some of the brightest minds in baseball) some teams’ executives were actively trying to find the best uses of the hitting portion of the Statcast.

Android Auto

Most cars these days offer some form of phone syncing capabilities. Usually, though, they don’t offer much support beyond hands free phone and text. Any app support is often native to the software and doesn’t interface with the app on your phone. Map support is either a separate navigation system in the car or limited to direction readout from the phone, with no accompanying visual.

Android Auto give you all these capabilities and more. Although initial native support was small, currently almost 87 2015 cars come with it built in and there are plans to expand that number to almost 150 for the 2017 models. Many major aftermarket headunit brands include Android Auto as well, including Pioneer, Kenwood and Alpine.

Google developed Android Auto to comply with common safety standards including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In order to do this, all apps supported by Android Auto must be checked by Google to ensure that they comply with those standards. They currently list 53 compatible apps on their play store which can be found here. A great example of this safety focus is text messages: no texts are displayed on the screen, instead they are read back to you. In addition voice commands , including “OK, Google” commands, are heavily relied on to maximize its hands free capabilities.

Right now in order to use Android Auto you have to plug it into your car via USB cable. When this happens all interaction is either through your car’s stereo or via voice commands (it’s unclear whether the phone’s microphone can be used for this or if the car has to have one). Google recognized this convenience and announced in May that they would be working providing Android Auto just through the phone. The interface would still look relatively similar, and all the voice commands would remain.

Although the platform is still relatively young, it looks like a promising app for drivers. At a time when distract

Datamoshing What it is and How it works

Modern video formats have been designed in such a way as to minimize the storage they take up while maximizing things like resolution and frame rate. To achieve this goal they have developed some clever techniques that can look very cool when they don’t work as they should.

Let’s start with frames. Each frame of a video is like a picture. Most videos very between 24 and 60 frames per second and as you can imagine having 60 pictures for only one second of a video would take up a huge amount of space. So what the developers of modern video formats did was only have full pictures when absolutely necessary. If you think about it a lot of the frames in a video are just a very similar picture with slight differences. So what many formats do is simply tell the old pixels on the screen where to go to make the new picture instead of creating a whole new picture. This process allows for much smaller file sizes for videos as well as allowing datamoshing.

What datamoshing does is it gets rid of the new full picture frames and instead only keeps the frames that tell the pixels where to go. What results is a new video moving based on another videos directions or an image from the same video where the pixels go in directions they’re not suppose to. This process can lead to some very cool and unique glitch effects that have been used to various degrees within different mediums to create an interesting and unique effect.

Here are some examples:

Top Ten Most Useful Keyboard Shortcuts for Mac

Keyboard shortcuts can be a great way to save small bits of time and to optimize the time you do spend on the computer. In this blog article, I will talk about the top ten most useful keyboard shortcuts for mac. In the spirit of the old OS X naming scheme, the editor is adding cat pictures.

#1 Hide

Hide completely hides the program you are currently on. It doesn’t minimize it or close it, instead, it is hidden. To use hide just hit Command+H.

#2 Minimize

Minimize does what it says. It will minimize whatever program you are currently using. To use minimize hit Command+M.


#3 Spotlight

Spotlight allows you to instantly open up a search bar to check through all your files and applications, which can be extremely useful when looking for a file or application on the fly. To access spotlight hit Spacebar+Command


#4 Adjust Levels More Precisely

When you adjust volume and brightness on your mac you see 16 little rectangles that represent the brightness/volume level. You might think that there are only 16 levels of adjustability, that’s where this shortcut comes in. It allows you to get far more precise with your levels. Just hold down Option+Shift; then use the volume/brightness keys as you usually would.


#5 Switching to Last Used Program

Sometimes when multitasking it is useful to be able to switch between two applications quickly.  To do so hold down Command+Tab.


#6 Switching Between Programs

Similar to #5 it can often be useful to move between programs that may not have been the last used. To do this hold down Command+Tab again, but keep holding Command down. Then use your arrow keys to move left and right


#7 Force Quit

Sometimes a program will freeze up or stop functioning and oftentimes the best way to fix it is to force quit it and then reopen it. Unfortunately sometimes the program can make it hard or impossible to do on screen, so it’s useful to know the keyboard shortcut. To force quit an application hit Option+Command+Escape. To normally quit a program, hit Command+Q.


#8 Taking a Screenshot

Taking a screenshot of your screen can often be very useful if you are having a technical problem as well as generally being a great way to show others things from your perspective. To take a Screenshot hit Command+Shift+3 or to capture only a certain area use Command+Shift+4

#9 Adding Emojis

If you ever felt like you needed more emojis this shortcut is for you. It allows you to open up the emoji window on your mac. Hold Command+Ctrl+Spacebar


#10 Open Preferences

Each Application has its own preferences that let you make the application work how you want; to access them quickly hit Command key and the , key at the same time.

How To Find Your Device’s MAC/Physical Address

The Physical address of a device is an unchanging number/letter combination which identifies your device on a network. It is also referred to as a Media Access Control Address (MAC Address). You may need it if you’re having issues with the campus network and UMass IT wants to see if the network itself is the problem.

To find the MAC/Physical address on a Windows 10 device:

Right click on the Start button to make a menu appear:


Select Command Prompt from the menu.

In the window that appears, type “ipconfig /all” without the quotes:


The resulting text displays information about the parts in your computer which communicate with the network. You’ll want to find the one that says “WLAN adapter” and look under that heading for the Physical Address:











To Find the MAC Address of a Apple/Macintosh computer:

Click the apple menu in the top left of the screen and click System Preferences:


In the window that appears, click “Network”:


Highlight WiFi on the left-hand side and click advanced:


Navigate to the Hardware tab to find your MAC address:


To Find the MAC address of an iPhone:

Use the Settings app, go to General>About and the MAC Address is listed as “WiFi Address”:


To find the MAC address of an Android device:

The location of the MAC address on an android device is unique to the device, but almost all versions will show it if you navigate to Settings>Wireless and Network; the MAC address will be listed on the same page or in the Advanced section:


You may also be able to find the MAC address in the “About Phone” section of the setting menu:



CyberGIS: Software

Image result for carto cool map
(Superbowl Twitter Map — CARTO)

What is CyberGIS (Cyber Geographical Information Science and Systems)? CyberGIS is a domain of geography that bridges computer science and geographic information science and technology (GIST). It is the development and utilization of software that integrates cyber infrastructure, GIS, and spatial analysis/ modeling capabilities. In this TechBytes article I will discuss two current and popular CyberGIS software for academic, industry, and government use.

CARTO: Unlock the potential of your location data. CARTO is the platform for turning location data into business outcomes.

CARTO Builder was created for users with no previous knowledge in coding or in extrapolating patterns in data. A simple user interface comprised of widgets allows the user to upload their data and instantly analyze a specific subset of the data (by category, by histogram, by formula, or by time series). From calculating clusters of points, detecting outliers and clusters, and predicting trends and volatility with the simple press of a button — CARTO Builder is truly made with efficiency and simplicity in mind. While CARTO builder “can be used in every industry, we are targeting financial services, to help them predict the risk of investments in specific areas, and telecom companies,” Javier de la Torre, CEO at CARTO.

For more information about CARTO from TechCrunch , click here.


 Mapbox: Build experiences for exploring the world. Add location into any application with our mapping, navigation, and location search SDKs. 

Unlike Carto, Mapbox was built for developers and cartography enthusiasts. While the graphical interface is easy to navigate (similar to photoshop or illustrator) Mapbox’s goal was to “create something equally useful for tech developers who have no idea how to design and designers who have no idea how to code” (Wired). While MapBox lacks the data analytics features of CARTO Builder, it makes up in its ability to manipulate a map any way the user likes. Based in both DC and San Francisco, Mapbox is partnered with large companies such as The Weather Channel, National Geographic, and CNN. Mapbox is optimized for navigation, search, and vector maps rendered in real time.

For more information about Mapbox from Wired, click here.

As a CyberGIS geographer myself, I use both CARTO Builder and Mapbox in my classes and in my research. When I have a dataset that needs to be geo-referenced on a map and not necessarily analyzed — Mapbox is my first choice. The ability to not only alter the color scheme to highlight the various features of the map, but to choose fonts and for labeling is something I take for granted. When using CARTO Builder those features are still present but are quite limited  — and when using ArcGIS online those features are non-existent. If an assignment requires more analysis on a given set of data, CARTO Builder is a simple way to parse data and run the specific algorithms.

Links to the CyberGIS software:



Thinkpad is known throughout the enterprise and consumer markets as Lenovo’s rugged, minimalistic, and business-oriented laptops, tablets, and mobile workstations division. Started under International Business Machines (IBM) in 1992, Lenovo acquired the division in 2005 and has owned the company ever since.  For 25 years, Thinkpads have been beloved by power users, demanding businesses & corporate environments, enthusiasts and even astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). Today we take a brief look at the Thinkpad 25 Anniversary Edition, and the features that have persisted through the years of one of the longest continual laptop series.

Looking at the Thinkpad 25, there appear to be more similarities with modern Thinkpad laptops than the older era of Thinkpads it is supposed to be reminiscent of. The Thinkpad 25 comes with ULV 15w 7th gen Intel Processors, NVMe storage, a 1080p display, Nvidia 940MX dedicated graphics, the beloved trackpoint, and the distinctive minimalist black matte finish. The Thinkpad 25 also comes with a separate box of documentation and items that look back upon the series’ history and development, 25 years of such.

The biggest difference in the Thinkpad 25 has to be the keyboard. The inclusion of a seven-row keyboard in the Thinkpad 25 when almost all modern computers are six row keyboards is nothing short an industry nod to when the seven-row keyboard reigned supreme. The Thinkpad 25 keyboard also has other references to earlier models, such as the blue enter key, dedicated page up and down keys, the delete “reference” key and traditional, non-island styled/chiclet keys. Omitted from the Thinkpad 25 are several antiquated technologies from over the years, such as the Thinklight, legacy ports (Serial, VGA, expresscard), and handle batteries.

To many enthusiasts, the Thinkpad 25 was a letdown; essentially a T470 with a seven-row backlit illuminated row keyboard.  The Thinkpad 25 is also expensive, at nearly $2,000 fully configured, and with such minimal specifications, many businesses will shy away from these devices. So, who is the Thinkpad 25 meant for then? This device was nothing but a limited-quantity device, for enthusiasts and collectors who yearn for a nostalgic legacy; for those who stubbornly resist modern design and technology implementations such as shiny plastic or brushed aluminum with a certain illuminated fruit. For those that have stood by the Thinkpad line through two and a half decades of cutting-edge innovation and performance, and are willing to pay the price for a computer that nods to this era of computing, then the Thinkpad 25 may be a worthwhile investment.

How To Create A Helpful Tech Tutorial: The Tutorial

Have you ever found yourself watching tech tutorials online? Nothing to be ashamed of, as everyone has run into an issue they need help solving at some point in their lives. Now, have you ever found yourself watching a BAD tech tutorial online? You know, one where the audio sounds like it’s being dragged across concrete and the video is literally a blurry recording of a computer screen? It ironically feels like a lot of the time the people who make tech tutorials need a tech tutorial on how to make good quality tech tutorials.

So join me, Parker Louison, as I wave my hands around awkwardly for ten minutes while trying my best to give helpful tips for making your tech tutorial professional, clean, and stand out among all the low effort content plaguing the internet!

What’s KRACK, and Why Should It Bother You?

You may have recently noticed a new headline on the IT Newsreel you see when logging into a UMass service. The headline reads “Campus Wireless Infrastructure Patched Against New Cybersecurity Threat (Krack Attack)“. It’s good to know that UMass security actively protects us from threats like Krack, but what is it?

The KRACK exploit is a key reinstallation attack against the WPA2 protocol. That’s a lot of jargon in one sentence, so let’s break it down a little. WPA2 stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access Version 2. It is a security protocol that is used by all sorts of wireless devices in order to securely connect to a Wi-Fi network. There are other Wi-Fi security protocols, such as WPA and WEP, but WPA2 is the most common.

WPA2 is used to secure wireless connections between the client, such as your smartphone or laptop, and the router/access point that transmits the network. If you have a Wi-Fi network at home, then you have a router somewhere that transmits the signal. It’s a small box that connects to a modem – another small black box – which might connect to a large terminal somewhere in your house called the ONT, and which eventually leads to the telephone poles and wiring outside in your neighborhood. Secure connections have to be implemented at every level of your connection, which can range from the physical cables that are maintained by your internet service provider, all the way to the web browser running on your computer.

In order to create a secure connection between the router and the client, the two devices have to encrypt the data that they send to each other. In order to encrypt and decrypt the data they exchange, the two devices have to exchange keys when they connect. The two devices then use these keys to encrypt the messages that they send to each other, so that in transit they appear like gibberish, and only the two devices themselves know how to decipher it; they use these same keys for the duration of their communications.

WPA2 is just a protocol, meaning that is a series of rules and guidelines that a system must adhere to in order to support the protocol. WPA2 must be implemented in the software of a wireless device in order to be used. Most modern wireless devices support the WPA2 protocol. If you have a device that can connect to eduroam, the wireless network on the UMass Amherst campus, then that device supports WPA2.

This KRACK exploit is a vulnerability in the WPA2 protocol that was discovered by two Belgian researchers. They were able to get WPA2-supporting devices to send the same encrypted information over and over again and crack the key by deciphering known encrypted text content. They were able to get WPA2-supporting Android and Linux devices to reset their WPA2 keys to all zeroes, which made it even easier to crack encrypted content.

The real concern is that this is a vulnerability in the WPA2 protocol itself, not just any one implementation of it. Any software’s implementation of WPA2 that is correct is vulnerable to this exploit (newsflash – most are). That means essentially all wireless-enabled devices need to be updated to patch this vulnerability. This can be especially cumbersome because many internet-of-things devices (think of security webcams, web-connected smart home tools like garage doors) are rarely ever updated, if at all. Their software is assumed to just work without needing regular maintenance. All of those devices are vulnerable to attack. This WIRED article addresses the long-term impact that the KRACK exploit may have on the world.

The good news is that many software implementation patches are already available for your most critical devices. UMass Amherst has already updated all of our wireless access points with a patch to protect against the KRACK exploit. Also, with the exception of Android & Linux devices which are vulnerable to key resets, it is not very easy to exploit this vulnerability on most networks. One would need to generally know what they are looking for in order to crack the encryption key, but an attacker may be able to narrow down possibilities with social cues, such as if they see you at Starbucks shopping for shoes on Amazon.

The general takeaway is that you should update all of your wireless devices as soon as possible. If you are interested in learning more about KRACK, how it works on a technical level, and see a demonstration of an attack, check out the researchers’ website.

Use Windows 10 Taskbar for Google Search

Search is a versatile feature in Windows 10. This tool allows you to browse files or programs on your computer, answer basic questions using Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant tool, and browse the web. The latter feature is what we will be focusing in this blog. By publishing this article, I do not intend to make a statement about which search engine or browser is better. It is simply a way for users to customize their PC so that it aligns with their search preferences.

Browsing the web is one of the most important features in a modern PC user, but Microsoft restricts web searches in the taskbar to use it’s own search engine, Bing, and will use the Microsoft Edge browser by default for any web links. Many Windows users install Google Chrome or another alternative to Microsoft’s default browser, and the best way for them to search the web with Windows 10 would be if it was using their preferred browser and search engine combo.

This How-To will mainly focus on using the search feature with Google search on Google Chrome. Again, I do not mean this article as an endorsement of one browser / search combo over another, and will specifically reference Google Chrome, because it is the most widely-used browser in the United States, and can re-direct searches using specific extensions not available on other browsers.

Step 1: Change Default Browser

First make sure you have Google Chrome browser installed on your Windows 10 machine.

Next, go to the bottom left and click the windows icon. From here, you can access the Windows search. Type “default” and you should be provided with an icon for “default app settings.” Alternatively, you can open the settings app and navigate to System, then Default Apps.

From here, scroll down to the “Web browser” section, and make sure that Google Chrome is selected.

At this point, any web search through the Windows search feature will open in Google Chrome (or your browser of choice). However, these links will still be performed using Bing, while the majority of people use Google as their default. Redirecting Bing searches to Google will be handled via a Google Chrome extension in the next step.


Step 2: Download an extension to redirect Bing queries to Google

To re-route searches from Bing to Google in the Windows search bar, you can use a third-party extensions, Chrometana. Chrometana will automatically redirect bing searches to your prefered search engine when you type in a query and are presented with an option that says “see search results.”

That’s it! From now on, any web search in the Windows search bar will open up a new Google search in Google Chrome. Hopefully you find this feature useful to you and allows you to browse the web the way that works best for you.

Maximizing your Windows 10 Battery Life

Maximize your Windows 10 Battery Life and Reduce your Device Performance, featuring X1 Carbon 2nd Gen.

Recently I was preparing for a trip to a music festival while taking classes over the summer. I knew that I needed to keep up with my courses but I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to charge my computer’s battery very often, so I decided to write a short article on how you can maximize your computer’s battery life beyond normal power-saving methods.

After this guide you’ll be saving battery like nobody’s business and your laptop will be significantly less usable then before! Before we get started it’s important that you’re aware of my computer’s specs; depending on your computer’s specifications and application usage, results may vary.

The make of my computer is Lenovo and the model is the X1 Carbon 2nd Gen.

OS: Windows 10 Pro

Version: 1607 build 14383.1198

Processor: Intel Core i5-4300U at 1.90 Ghz – Turboboost to 2.49 Ghz

Ram: 8.00 GB (7.68 Usable) DDR3 at 1600 MHz

Hard Drive: 256GB M.2 SSD eDrive Opal capable

Wireless: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 (2×2, 802.11ac) with Bluetooth® 4.0

Integrated Lithium Polymer 8-cell (45Wh) RapidCharge battery

Also note that the only application that I was using was Microsoft Edge – to save battery over using Google Chrome.

First head over to Device Manager (Note: you’ll require internet for this step). This can be accessed from the Windows Power User menu by pressing the Windows Key + X at the same time. From the Device Manager menu go through every device and make sure that the drivers for each device are up to date. This should ensure that all of your devices are using the best possible drivers that are more efficient for your system’s battery; out of date drivers can adversely affect your systems performance as well.

While in Device Manager we’re also going to make a few more changes. Depending on how you use your machine, you may want to adjust these settings to your needs. Click on the “Network adapters” drop down menu and double click on the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC (this may be named differently depending on your device’s wireless card). Click over to the Advanced tab and change the “Preferred Band” to 5.2 GHz, “Roaming Aggressiveness” to a lower setting (lower is better unless in a congested wireless area). Now click over to the “Power Management” tab and make sure that the “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power” is checked. Click the “OK” button and move on to the “Intel Ethernet Connection I218-LM (also may be different on your device) and double click on this as well. Make sure that “Enable PME” is set to enabled, “Energy Efficient Ethernet” is set to on and “System Idle Power Saver” is set to enabled. After that, navigate over to the “Power Management” tab and make sure again that the “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power” is checked again.

After going through your drivers, head over to the Power & Sleep settings for your laptop. This can be accessed by pressing the Windows key, navigating to Settings -> System (Display notifications, apps, power) -> Power & Sleep. I’d recommend setting your Screen to turn off after at maximum of 5 minutes and setting your computer to Sleep after a maximum of 15 minutes. Then, navigate to the bottom of that page and click on Additional power settings. This will bring your to your computer’s Power Options.

You may want to switch over to the Power saver plan, which should automatically drop your computer down to a more efficient battery saving mode, but we want to push that even further. Click on “Change plan settings” to make some changes.

Consider changing “Adjust plan brightness” to the minimum usable brightness, as it’s one of the biggest aspects of battery saving. I however made sure that the computer’s brightness was always at minimum possible level was a must to keep my laptop alive.. Primarily I used the computer in the early morning or late at night so that I could keep the screen at the minimum brightness while still being able to use the laptop.

After changing your brightness to the minimum, click on “Change advanced power settings”. Here’s where you can adjust the fine controls for different hardware and software’s battery usage. Make sure that the top drop down menu says “Power saver [Active]” and move on the the main table of items. I would recommend changing this to your own personal preferences but there are a few major aspects I would recommend adjusting in this panel.

In “Desktop background settings” -> “Slide show” I would recommend setting this to paused while on battery power.

In “Wireless Adapter Settings” -> “Power Saving Mode” switch this over to Maximum Power Saving on battery power as well.

In “Sleep” -> “Sleep after” make sure these are set to the values you set earlier, around 5 and 15 respectively to On battery and Plugged in. Also in “Allow hybrid sleep” is set to off for both options, this is because hybrid sleep is more taxing on the battery. In “Hibernate after” set these to slightly higher values than your “Sleep after” values. This will allow your PC to conserve more battery than typical sleep. Also set “Allow wake timers” to disabled on battery power. We don’t want anything taking your laptop away from it’s beauty sleep.

In “Intel CPPC Energy Efficiency Settings” -> “Enable Energy Efficient Optimization” and make this enabled for both options. Also in “Energy Efficiency Aggressiveness” and set both options to 100%.

In “USB settings” -> “USB selective suspend setting” set both of these options to enabled.

In “Intel Graphics Settings” -> “Intel Graphics Power Plan” set both of these options to maximum battery life.

In “PCI Express” -> “Link State Power Management” set both of these options to Maximum power savings.

In “Processor power management” -> “Minimum processor state” set both options to 5%. This is the minimum percentage that your processor will run at. I wouldn’t recommend setting this to below 5% for minimum operation. Also in “System cooling policy” change both options to Passive cooling, which will slow your CPU before slowing your fans. Also in “Maximum processor state” set this to below 100%. I personally set my computer to a maximum of 50%, but depending on your use case, this will vary.

In “Display” most of these setting we’ve already touched earlier, but in “Enable adaptive brightness” and disable this setting. We don’t want the system to decide it wants a brighter screen and eat up valuable battery resources.

In “Battery” I would recommend just making sure that hibernation comes on in your “Critical battery action” settings and that your critical battery level is set to around 7%.

A couple additional changes that I made is to upscale the resolution on the computer so that it’s not having to display content in native 2K on the X1’s screen. This depends on the machine that you are using however, and your preference of how you want your machine’s screen to look.

Now there are a few things left to be changed, if I haven’t missed anything in Windows 10. For these you’ll want to shut down your computer and enter its BIOS settings. On the X1 Carbon that I was using, this is done by hitting Enter repeatedly after hitting the power button.

BIOS settings user interfaces tend to vary dramatically across computers and manufacturers, but for the X1 Carbon that I was working with it looked something like this

Image result for x1 carbon gen 2 bios(aside from the fact that this isn’t a Gen 2, it’s a very similar interface.)

In the BIOS I was working with, it doesn’t recognize mouse or trackpad input, so you’ll likely have to navigate with arrow keys, enter and escape; bear with me.

Navigate over to the “Config” tab and down arrow down to the “> USB option”. Make sure that the “USB UEFI BIOS Support” is enabled, “Always on USB” is disabled, and “USB 3.0 Mode” is set to auto. Now hit escape and down arrow down to the “> Power” option. Hit enter and I would recommend switching all of the settings over to battery optimized settings. For this X1 specifically, make sure that “Intel SpeedStep technology” is set to Enabled, “Mode for AC” is set to battery optimized, “Mode for Battery” is set to battery optimized. Also, make sure to switch the settings under “Adaptive Thermal Management”, “Scheme for AC” is set to balanced and “Scheme for Battery” is set to balanced. Now under “CPU Power Management”, make sure this is set to enabled, and make sure that “Intel Rapid Start Technology” is set to disabled. After modifying all these settings, hit escape again.

Depending on your personal use, you can head over to the “> Virtualization” settings and disable the Intel Virtualization and VT-d features, although this may adversely affect performance and prevent operating system virtualization entirely, so use at your discretion.

Thanks for bearing with me until now. Now you should have a remarkably effective battery-saving laptop that performs significantly worse than it did before. This worked out great for me working on course assignments while on a camping trip. I hope this works out well for you as well!

Setting Roam Aggression on Windows Computers

What is Wireless Roaming?

Access Points

To understand what roaming is, you first have to know what device makes the software function necessary.

If you are only used to household internet setups, the idea of roaming might be a little strange to think about. In your house you have your router, which you connect to, and that’s all you need to do. You may have the option of choosing between 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels, however that’s as complicated as it can get.

Now imagine that your house is very large, let’s say the size of UMass Amherst. Now, from your router in your living room, the DuBois Library, it might be a little difficult to connect to from all the way up in your bedroom on Orchard Hill. Obviously in this situation, the one router will never suffice, and so a new component is needed.

An Access Point (AP for short) provides essentially the same function as a router, except that multiple APs used in conjunction project a Wi-Fi network further than a single router ever could. All APs are tied back to a central hub, which you can think of as a very large, powerful modem, which provides the internet signal via cable from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) out to the APs, and then in turn to your device.

On to Roaming

So now that you have your network set up with your central hub in DuBois (your living room), and have an AP in your bedroom (Orchard Hill), what happens if you want to go between the two? The network is the same, but how is your computer supposed to know that the AP in Orchard Hill is not the strongest signal when you’re in DuBois. This is where roaming comes in. Based on what ‘aggressiveness’ your WiFi card is set to roam at, your computer will test the connection to determine which AP has the strongest signal based on your location, and then connect to it. The network is set up such that it can tell the computer that all the APs are on the same network, and allow your computer to transfer your connection without making you input your credentials every time you move.

What is Roam Aggressiveness?

The ‘aggressiveness’ with which your computer roams determines how frequently and how likely it is for your computer to switch APs. If you have it set very high, your computer could be jumping between APs frequently. This can be a problem as it can cause your connection to be interrupted frequently as your computer authenticates to another AP. Having the aggressiveness set very low, or disabling it, can cause your computer to ‘stick’ to one AP, making it difficult to move around and maintain a connection. The low roaming aggression is the more frequent problem people run into on large networks like eduroam at UMass. If you are experiencing issues like this, you may want to change the aggressiveness to suit your liking. Here’s how:

How to Change Roam Aggressiveness on Your Device:

First, navigate to the Control Panel which can be found in your Start menu. Then click on Network and Internet.

From there, click on Network and Sharing Center. 

Then, you want to select Wi-Fi next to Connections. Note: You may not have eduroam listed next to Wi-Fi if you are not connected or connected to a different network.

Now, select Properties and agree to continue when prompted for Administrator permissions.

After selecting Configure for your wireless card (your card will differ with your device from the one shown in the image above).

Finally, navigate to Advanced, and then under Property select Roaming Sensitivity Level. From there you can change the Value based on what issue you are trying to address.

And that’s all there is to it! Now that you know how to navigate to the Roaming settings, you can experiment a little to find what works best for you. Depending on your model of computer, you may have more than just High, Middle, Low values.

Changing roaming aggressiveness can be helpful for stationary devices, like desktops, too. Perhaps someone near you has violated UMass’ wireless airspace policy and set up and hotspot network or a wireless printer. Their setup may interfere with the AP closest to you, and normally, it could cause packet loss, or latency (ping) spiking. You may not even be able to connect for a brief time. Changing roaming settings can help your computer move to the next best AP while the interference is occurring, resulting in a more continuous experience for you.

Scout’s Honor: Will the Rise of Sabermetrics and Data Replace the Role of Baseball Scouts?

As popularized by the book-turned-movie Moneyball, a large portion of baseball relies on sabermetrics, a newer analysis of statistics to gauge players and teams. Where in the past RBIs and batting average were heavily relied on as be-all indicators, newer statistics have emerged as more accurate in measuring ability, since the game has changed so much in the 100+ years since its inception. With all these new statistics and measurements, software has been developed over the past 30 years to calculate and simulate different scenarios. If you are curious, Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) is a yearly video game series in which you manage a baseball team, simulating games and poring over stats just like loads of front-offices do. Alongside the software, there are devices in most ballparks measuring every pitch (called PITCHF/x), and even players on the field, just collecting all the data possible for use.

An example of a spread chart from PITCHF/x

With all the tools available now to measure just about every fine detail about a player, some teams are cutting back on their scouting team. Scouts have been essential for baseball teams since the beginning of the sport, looking at prospects, or talent on other teams, measuring them and seeing if they are of any interest to the team. The Astros just cut eight scouts from their team, so scouts around the league are becoming weary about the future. Some teams still heavily rely on scouts and find them indispensable, with teams like the Brewers using them for players in the lower minor leagues, where there are not enough stats to fully screen players. There is also some information that can’t just be measured through just data and film.

Scouts with their radar guns ready

In a similar vein, all this technology also frees up the scouts and allows them to just watch the game for qualitative factors. Whenever a scout is recording the reading off a radar gun, or writing down the time for a sprint, they aren’t looking at the game. This issue is the same for sports reporters, because whenever you’re writing something down, you’re not paying attention to play as it happens. With the advancements of PITCHF/x and the like, scouts don’t need to spend time doing the busy work of recording numbers, where devices can do them automatically. This frees the scouts from tedious tasks, and watch the players as they play and how they interact in detail. They can see how other players react to a play not directed at them, see their energy while playing, and just their general dispositions. Used properly, modern baseball technology might free up and help scouts, maybe not replace them entirely.

The Scroll Lock Key, A Brief History

Long ago in the year 1981, IBM released their original PC keyboard. It came with a set of 83 keys which have since become industry standard. However, the keyboard has evolved much over the 36 years since its creation. Most have changed key placements and adding, combining or removing keys due to evolving technological needs

But there is a key that has managed to hang on through history, despite most people not knowing what it even does. Today, we explpore the Scroll Lock  key.


Image result for scroll lock


The Original Purpose

Back when the Scroll Lock key was first invented, mice and graphical operating systems were still not mainstream like they are today. Today when when typing documents, we can use our mouse to point and click to move the typing cursor. Back then, the arrow keys were used to move your typing cursor, or to scroll the page. Toggling the Scroll Lock key would disable scrolling with the arrow keys, and allow you to move your typing cursor through the page.

But mice are widespread now, so why is the key still there?


There are two very popular uses for the Scroll Lock key today:

Microsoft Excel
In Excel, the arrow keys navigate cells by default. However, when the Scroll Lock key is toggled, the arrow keys will now scroll the entire spreadsheet either vertically or horizontally. This allows for more advanced users to have both hands on the keyboard at all times, decreasing the time it takes to use the spreadsheet.

“Free” Key
Another popular use for the Scroll Lock key is as a “Free” key. What this means is that people will remap the key to perform other functions and macros. For example, if I wanted to create a New Incognito Window in Google Chrome, I could hit CTRL+SHFT+N or I could remap the whole shortcut to the Scroll Lock and have it be done in one press.

The Scroll Lock key is a vestige of an older time that has remained a standard since the dawn of the keyboard, and managed to carve out relevance, staying useful long after its original purpose expired. In a world of constantly evolving technology, where many feel the need to update their skill-sets to fit new fads and trends, we can all learn a lot from the Scroll Lock key, finding new and exciting ways to apply our talents.

5 Microsoft OneNote Features that Make You a Productivity Machine

You may or may not know that all UMass students get access to Microsoft Office 365 for free! Sign up is super simple and can be found here:

Microsoft OneNote is a versatile note taking software that has transformed the way I participate in class and take notes. Maybe it can do the same for you!

Here are some of its features:

  1. Sync Notes on All Devices – Notes you take in class on your computer can appear on your phone and iPad almost instantly, and the other way around!  There is no need to worry about your laptop dying half way through class if you can pull your tablet out and continue right where you left off! To make it better, you don’t even need the app.  OneNote has a web browser version as well!  Now you can access and add to your notes on ANY device by logging in with your UMass account.  Study sessions can happen anywhere at any time.
  2. Complete worksheets and Syllabi Digitally – I present to you now my favorite feature of Microsoft OneNote: Insert File PrintOut.  Any assignments posted on Moodle can be inserted directly into your OneNote notebook, next to your notes, and completed right on your computer. Then you can print out the completed sheet.  Or how about putting the class syllabus and assignment schedule right in the front of your digital notes.  No more clogging up your downloads folder with ClassSyllabus(8).pdf!
  3. Hand Write Notes – Many laptops are touch and stylus enabled!  Digital notes are often criticized because studies show that hand writing information is a superior way to commit information to memory.  If you have a Microsoft Surface, An HP Spectre, A Lenovo ThinkPad or YogaBook, or a bunch of other models, you might be able to hand write notes directly into OneNote!
  4. Create To-Do Lists Right Next to Today’s Class Notes – Among the one million other ways OneNote lets you format your info is a to-do list.  After taking your class notes, make a home work to-do list right where you leave off.
  5. Share your notes with others – Finally, sharing your notes, to-do lists, work sheets, or even entire notebooks is super easy.  You can email specific pages, invite other OneNote Users to collaborate on the same page, and take screenshots and share them quickly, with no hassle!


I was always a traditional pen and paper student until I found Microsoft OneNote. Now all of my notes are taken either by typing or handwriting with my laptop’s stylus, and I can access them quickly on my phone, iPad, or any web browser.

Anti-Virus on Linux

Do I even need one?

Linux has many benefits that make many people want to use it as their main operating system. One of these benefits is strong security. This security mostly stems from the fact that programs are typically run as a user instead of as root (admin) so the damage a malicious program could do is somewhat limited. It also stems from Linux‘s very nature; it‘s an open source operating system to which many people contribute their time to improve and packages are not rushed by a central corporate authority before they are truly finished. Linux is not often targeted with malicious programs and the average user will likely never encounter a malicious program during their Linux use. Nevertheless, having an anti-virus that can scan both your Linux OS and a Windows installation, among other things, can be very useful.

What else?

While you yourself may not encounter malicious programs that will affect your Linux machine, you could encounter ones that could affect others’ machines. To that end, some anti-virus programs support scanning Windows based machines (as well as others on the same network), scanning E-mail attachments before you forward/send them to others, and any other files that you plan on sharing otherwise.

Okay, so what do I use?

There are many anti-virus programs available through whatever package manager you may be using. Some popular ones include:

  • ClamAV
  • AVG Antivirus
  • Avast! Linux Home Edition
  • Comodo Antivirus for Linux
  • BitDefender Antivirus

Installing these programs is very straight forward. Just go to your package manger or download and install them. Alternatively, you can refer to their respective websites and use terminal.

It should be noted that some anti-virus programs on Linux do not have a GUI (Graphical User Interface) so they must be accessed through terminal commands. When choosing an anti-virus program, make sure you‘re choosing one that has a a user interface that you‘re comfortable with.

You should now be well on your way to improving the security of both your system and those of the people around you. Farewell and browse safely!

What is S.M.A.R.T?

Have you ever thought your computer might be dying but you don’t know what? Symptoms that people might be familiar with may include slowing down, increased startup time, programs freezing, constant disk usage, and audible clicking. While these symptoms may happen to a lot of people, they don’t necessarily mean the hard drive is circling the drain. With a practically unlimited number of other things that could make the computer slow down and become unusable, how are you supposed to find out exactly what the problem is? Fortunately, the most common part to fail in a computer, the hard drive (or data drive), has a built-in testing technology that even users can use to diagnose their machines without handing over big bucks to a computer repair store or having to buy an entire new computer if their computer is out of warranty.

Enter SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology). SMART is a monitoring suite that checks computer drives for a list of parameters that would indicate drive failure. SMART collects and stores data about the drive including errors, failures, times to spin up, reallocated sectors, and read/write abilities. While many of these attributes may be confusing in definition and even more confusing in their recorded numerical values, SMART software can predict a drive failure and even notify the user of the computer that the software has detected a failing drive. The user can then look at the results to verify, or in unsure, bring to a computer repair store for a verification and drive replacement.

So how does one get access to SMART? Many computers include built in diagnostic suites that can be accessed via a boot option when the computer first turns on. Others manufacturers require that you download an application without your operating system that can run a diagnostic test. These diagnostic suites will usually check the SMART status, and if the drive is in fact failing, the diagnostic suite will report a drive is failing or has failed. However, most of these manufacturer diagnostics will simply only say passed or failed, if you want access to the specific SMART data you will have to use a Windows program such as CrystalDiskInfo, a Linux program such as GSmartControl, or SMART Utility for Mac OS.

These SMART monitoring programs are intelligent enough to detect when a drive is failing, to give you ample time to back up your data. Remember, computer parts can always be replaced, lost data is lost forever. However, it should be noted that SMART doesn’t always detect when a drive fails. If a drive suffers a catastrophic failure like a physical drop or water damage while on SMART cannot predict these and the manufacturer is not at fault. Therefore, while SMART is best to be used as a tool to assess whether a drive is healthy or not, it is used most strongly in tandem with a good reliable backup system and not as a standalone protection against data failure.

Multiple Desktops in Windows 10

The concept of using multiple desktops isn’t new. Apple incorporated this feature back in 2007 starting with OS X 10.5 Leopard in the form of Spaces, allowing users to have up to 16 desktops at once. Since then, PC users have wondered if/when Microsoft would follow suit. Now, almost a decade later, they finally have.

Having more than one desktop allows you to separate your open windows into different groups and only focus on one group at a time. This makes it much easier to juggle working on multiple projects at once, giving each one a dedicated desktop. It’s also useful for keeping any distractions out of sight as you try to get your work done, while letting you easily shift into break mode at any time.

If you own a Windows computer and didn’t know about multiple desktops, you’re not alone! Microsoft didn’t include the feature natively until Windows 10, and even then they did it quietly with virtually no advertising for it at all. Here’s a quick guide on how to get started.

To access the desktops interface, simply hold the Windows Key and then press Tab. This will bring you to a page which lists the windows you currently have open. It will look something like this:

Here, you can see that I’ve got a few different tasks open. I’m trying to work on my art in MS Paint, but I keep getting distracted by YouTube videos and Moodle assignments. To make things a little easier, I can create a second desktop and divide these tasks up to focus on one at a time.

To create a new desktop, click the New desktop button in the bottom right corner of this screen. You will see the list of open desktops shown at the bottom:

Now you can see I have a clean slate on Desktop 2 to do whatever I want. You can select which desktop to enter by clicking on it. Once you are in a desktop, you can open up new pages there and it will only be open in that desktop. You can also move pages that are already open from one desktop to another. Let’s move my MS Paint window over to Desktop 2.

On the desktops interface, hovering over a desktop will bring up the list of open windows on that desktop. So, since I want to move a page from Desktop 1 to Desktop 2, I hover over Desktop 1 so I can see the MS Paint window. To move pages around, simply click and drag them to the desired desktop.

I dragged my MS Paint window over from Desktop 1 to Desktop 2. Now, when I open up Desktop 2, the only page I see is my beautiful artwork.

Finally, I can work on my art in peace without distractions! And if I decide I need a break and want to watch some YouTube videos, all I have to do is press Windows+Tab and select Desktop 1 where YouTube is already open.

If you’re still looking for a reason to upgrade to Windows 10, this could be the one. The feature really is super useful once you get the hang of it and figure out how to best use it for your needs. My only complaint is that we don’t have the ability to rename desktops, but this is minor and I’m sure it will be added in a future update.


An Introduction to Discord: the Latest and Greatest in VoIP for Gamers

PC Gaming continues to grow annually as one of the primary platforms for gamers to enjoy their favorite titles. E-Sports (think MLB/NFL/NBA/NHL-level skills, commentary and viewership, but for video games) also continue to grow, creating a generation of hyper-competitive gamers all vying to rise above the rest. Throughout of the history of PC gaming, players have used a variety of voice communication programs to allow them to communicate with their teammates. Skype, Mumble, Ventrilo, and Teamspeak are just a few of the clients that are still used today, but in late 2015, a new challenger appeared: Discord!

You heard them. It’s time to ditch Skype and Teamspeak!

Discord was created to serve as VoIP platform that can host many users at a time for voice, text, image and file sharing. It’s the perfect solution for users that were looking for a voice chat program that is easy to use, resource-light, and capable of just about anything. 

Here’s what Discord looks like once you’re logged in. In the center of the screen, users can use discord like they would any typical messenger program to send files, links, texts, images, videos, and other files. Slightly to the left, you can connect to channels to communicate with others over chat.

Traveling even further to our left is a list of discord servers you can join. These are specific groups of channels that you usually have to be invited to and are usually filled with members of various online communities. It’s a great way to chat with people who share similar interests! Many subreddits and YouTube communities have dedicated discord servers.

Discord’s popularity is exploding, with over 45 million users as of May 2017. It’s ability to provide services in an easy (and free!) to use platform that others have failed to match in the past makes it a strong contender for the best VoIP program to date. It even boasts fairly robust security features, such as having to confirm a login via email every time you try to log in to discord from a new IP address.

To get started, head on over to to sign up. Discord is also available as a client application on desktop machines, as well as for mobile devices like iOS and Android.


My Top 5 Google Chrome Extensions

A Google Chrome extensions are like apps for your phone, except they’re for your browser. Extensions add functionality for specific things. In this article I will go over the top five extensions that I find myself using the most.

Many websites such as Reddit and Twitter make it very hard to see pictures with out clicking on them, this is where Imagus comes in. Imagus is an extension that makes it easier to see pictures that are too small or maybe cropped due to the layout of the website. When you move your cursor over an image Imagus opens it up to full size next to the cursor, which makes it much easier to see. Not only that Imagus lets you keep the image open without keeping your cursor on the image by simply hitting enter. To make it disappear simply hit enter again. Check it out here

Magic Actions for Youtube.
Magic Actions adds a lot of much-needed features to the already great site, which is Youtube. Magic Action adds the ability to full screen a window within a tab, something that I constantly find myself doing. It also allows Youtube to be turned to dark mode as well allowing users to take quick screenshots of Youtube videos. Check it out here

Writing can be hard especially when many websites don’t have a built-in grammar and spell checker. This is where Grammarly comes in. Grammarly brings a spell checker to every text box on the internet. Not only that Grammarly can also catch less obvious errors such as a lack of a comma or a misplaced modifier. Check it out here

Tab for a Cause.
Almost everyone wants to help those in need, but often it can be financially difficult to give money to charity. Tab for a Cause makes it easy to help out. Simply enable the extension and tab for a cause will become the screen that appears every time a new tab opens. On the new screen there is a small ad which is used to generate ad revenue for charity. Every time you open a new tab ad money is generated. If you are like me and constantly open tabs you will be raising a lot of money for charity by simply browsing the web. Check it out here URL Shortener.
Almost every day I copy and paste a URL whether it be to send to someone, put in a document or saving it for later. The problem with standard URLs is they are often long and not very pretty to look at. URL Shortner makes it easy to use googles URL shortening website with one click to the icon at the top of Google Chrome. A shortened URL looks like and can be done to any web page. In fact I’ve been using it for every link so far. So check it out here