Smart ways to stress less about technology

Published: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 @ 10:45 PM
Updated: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 @ 10:45 PM

This article is presented in partnership with whil, a new brand created by technical apparel design pioneers, Chip Wilson — founder of lululemon athletica — and his wife, Shannon Wilson. whil is an initiative promoting peace of mind featuring a 60-second meditation program that targets urban professionals who are on the brink of burnout and providing them with the tools to thrive in today's world. We promise nothing. You create everything.

Modern technology certainly has its advantages. We can stalk friends on Facebook and get real-time Twitter updates on Beyonce’s pregnancy. But having access to all these digital gadgets can also be a huge source of stress.

Among people in their early 20s, those who use their cell phones and computers a lot (defined by criteria such as receiving and answering at least 11 phone calls or text messages per day) are more likely to struggle with depression and problems sleeping, especially if they see that technology as stressful in the first place [1] [2]. And sometimes we can grow so comfortable with swiping and tapping that not having access to digital technology can be a whole other source of anxiety. One survey of United Kingdom residents found that nearly half of respondents said they would be more stressed if they couldn’t surf the Web than if they were cut off from television or from basic utilities.

The worst part is that stress doesn’t necessarily disappear the minute we put our iPhone back in our pocket. People who feel overwhelmed by technology tend to be more dissatisfied with their lives in general.

The good news is there are at least 24 solutions to these issues, and none of them involve living like a Luddite. Email, texting, and social media shouldn’t drive us crazy — they should be tools to help us connect with people when and how we want. Read on to find out how to reduce the stress associated with modern technology — and don’t forget to share your favorite tips in the comments section.

Digital Down-Low -- Your Action Plan

1. Sleep soundly.
Stop using the phone and computer a few hours before bedtime — the light from digital gadgets can interfere with our ability to fall and stay asleep. When it’s finally time for snoozing, keep those gadgets somewhere out of reach so you won’t be tempted to start emailing or online shopping (or sleep-texting!) from between the sheets. For a better way to unwind, pick up a (hard-copy) book or magazine. May we suggest Goodnight Moon?

2. Spread the word.
Once you’ve decided on some email- and phone-checking rules to keep you sane, let other people know about them. For example, tell coworkers, friends, and family that you won’t be checking email or returning calls after 8 pm so no one freaks out thinking you’re MIA.

3. Ease in.
We’re tempted to tell you to leave the phone at home all day, but we’re also not trying to induce a series of panic attacks. Instead, ditch the digital stuff gradually by first placing the phone in another room for a few hours and then running errands without it. For those worried that they might need the phone in case of an emergency, consider texting a friend before leaving the house to let them know where you’re going so that if anything does happen, someone will know where to find you.

4. Pack it up.

“Phantom vibrations,” or the feeling that our phone is vibrating when it’s not, is a relatively new phenomenon. We can be walking down the street when a slight breeze blows past us, and suddenly we’re convinced that our phone is blowing up in our pocket. Instead, consider keeping the phone in a backpack, where vibrations can’t be heard or felt.

5. Shut it down.
Once you’ve designated those gadget-free time periods, be even bolder and turn the phone off completely. (Yes, checking into a restaurant on Foursquare counts as having the phone on.) Unless you’re expecting an important phone call or email, you’re probably just wasting the phone’s battery life by keeping it on all the time.

6. Face the filters.
Most email programs have options to filter out certain emails from the inbox based on addressee or subject line. Consider filtering out everything except relatively urgent messages (e.g. email from the boss), so that messages from friends, family, and coworkers don’t fill up the inbox and distract us from other tasks we might be working on. When it’s email-checking time (see number one), go in and check those non-urgent folders. Also consider setting up separate accounts for work and personal emails so you won’t be tempted to read the latest gossip from your BFF in the middle of a staff meeting.

7. Shut the windows.
We may think we have an unlimited attention span, but research suggests multitasking is actually detrimental to our productivity [3]. Moreover, multitasking can actually trigger the release of stress hormones. When possible, stay calm and focused by working in just one window at a time. (So if you’re writing, Microsoft Word should be open, but the web browser shouldn’t.)

8. Don’t dawdle.
An overflowing inbox is no place to hang out. When an email comes in, spend just three seconds deciding what to do with it: respond, delete, archive, or add its contents to a to-do list. It’ll save precious time and brain space for projects that actually require a lot of attention.

9. Take off.
Research suggests taking an “email vacation,” or a few days without looking at the inbox, can actually reduce stress and boost productivity. Try it out over a long weekend and make sure to let everyone know you won’t be available.  (See number two.)

10. Press pause.
You’re watching a movie, totally engrossed in the romantic attraction between Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, when suddenly the urge to check your phone strikes. Before whipping it out, stop and think about what you’re going to gain from checking, instead of waiting until the lovebirds finally get together (or don’t). That five-second-long pause is a great opportunity to realize that refreshing our inbox yet again probably isn’t going to make much of a difference.

11. Be present.
“Mindfulness” is a big buzzword these days, but the term has a lot of significance in our always-accessible age. During conversation with a friend or coworker, make a conscious effort to actually pay attention to what he/she is saying, instead of half-listening and half-scrolling through Twitter. It’s a way of ensuring that we genuinely get something out of every interaction.

12. Get your game face on.
When out with a group of friends, play the “phone-stacking” game. Everyone puts his or her smartphone in the center of the table, one on top of the other, and no one’s allowed to touch the pile. The first person to reach for their phone has to pay the whole bill!

For the full list of 24 smart ways to stress less about technology, go to Greatist.com.

 


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Ransomware attack: What you need to know

Published: Friday, May 12, 2017 @ 11:01 PM

On Friday, ransomware attacks hit tens of thousands of organizations in what is thought to be the biggest cyberextortion attack recorded, according to a report from The Associated Press.

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The attack gained attention from media largely after it impacted National Health Service operations in England. It has hit computer networks across the globe in more than 60 countries. The New York Times reported that FedEx in the United States and telecommunications companies Telefónica in Spain and MegaFon in Russia were affected.

Here are things to know about the ransomware attack.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is malware that locks and disables a user’s computer system and demands ransom in order for the user to regain access to their computer and the files on it. Kurt Baumgartner, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told The AP ransom demands start at $300 and two hours later, increasing to $400, $500 and $600. 

How does the  ransomware attack happen?

The attack exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was patched in March but not on machines that had not been updated or patched, according to NPR. It then prompts the pop ups that tells the user their files are encrypted and can be unencrypted if they pay ransom money. Once one computer is affected, the malware spreads itself across the network.

How can future attacks be prevented?

Updating computer operating systems when prompted and maintaining up-to-date software is the best bet against ransomware attacks. Many groups were affected by the attacks because machines had not had updated versions of Windows or had versions that Microsoft was no longer offering patches for.

Google launches 10,000-person study to predict how and when people get sick

Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 @ 1:42 PM

A scientist examining cells in a 96-well plate. These plates allow scientists to look at lots of cells at the same time and directly compare cells that have or have not been treated with a drug.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Verily Life Science — a Google life sciences company owned by Alphabet — is finally kicking off the massive study it first announced three years ago.

» RELATED: The hottest features from the new Google Earth mobile, desktop launch this week 

In partnership with both Duke University School of Medicine and Stanford Medicine, the landmark study, part of its Project Baseline, aims to collect health data from 10,000 participants over the course of at least four years, the company announced in a news release Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news 

Baseline’s official website describes the project as “a quest to collect comprehensive health data and use it as a map and compass, pointing the way to disease prevention.”

Using physical and biochemical traits of the study population, researchers hope to better understand how people get sick, when they get sick and identify any additional risk factors and biomarkers leading up to disease, including diseases related to both cardiovascular disease and cancer.

“The Project Baseline study is the first step on our journey to comprehensively map human health,” Verily Chief Medical Officer Jessica Mega said.

With the help of experts at Duke, Stanford and other collaborators, the project also seeks to develop new technologies to better access and understand health data, Mega said. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Over the next few months, Project Baseline will begin enrolling its 10,000 American adult participants at Duke and Stanford’s committed study sites.
  • Once a year for at least four years, at the study sites, researchers will record participants’ blood samples, genetic data, images from chest X-rays and from the electrocardiogram. Also assessed: tears, saliva, stool samples and a psychological assessment.
  • If participants are willing to share, researchers will also gather additional data including electronic health records, insurance claims, phone calls, texts, social media activity and more.
  • Participants will go home with a sleep sensor and wristwatch/health monitor and wear the watch during the day, wile placing the sleep sensor under their mattress at night. The sensor and watch will measure participants’ heart rate, sweat and steps — but he or she will only see the time when wearing it. 
  • Throughout the study, participants will receive compensation and perks, regular updates and early insights into discoveries, certain test results to share with their doctors and access to Baseline’s community, events.
  • After four years (or longer, if the participants are interested in continuing), researchers will use the health data from the annual visits and watch to understand how people progress from healthy to ill.

» RELATED: Google honors Ghanaian business woman with doodle 

Past studies that have focused on understanding patterns, causes and effects in a study population — at least in cardiovascular disease research — have seen huge strides, according to American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown.

While Verily has also been busy with other projects, such as developing smart contact lenses and reducing the use of glucose monitors for people with diabetes, Project Baseline is the company’s first serious public test.

“I hope that 20 years from now, 30, 50 years from now … people will say ‘wow this really led to a transformation of human health,’” Sam Gambhir, one of the study’s lead investigators, said.

More about Project Baseline here.

New features in Google Earth mobile, desktop launch this week

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 6:43 PM

Sean Askay, right, engineering manager with Google Earth, demonstrates features on Google Earth, displayed in background, Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in New York. Google Earth is getting a revival, with the mapping service becoming more of a tool for adventure and exploration. (AP Photo/Anick Jesdanun)
Anick Jesdanun/AP

Just in time for Earth Day 2017, tech giant Google debuted a brand-new version of its virtual explorer program, Google Earth, packed with a multitude of exciting new features.

“We want to open up different lenses for you to see the world and learn a bit about how it all fits together; to open your mind with new stories while giving you a new perspective on the locations and experiences you cherish,” Google product manager Gopal Shah wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

Here’s what you can expect from the new version:

Voyager: Interactive, informative and fun guided tours

The new Voyager feature allows you to go on interactive guided tours with the help of “some of the world’s leading storytellers, scientists and nonprofits,” Shah wrote.

For example, you can use the feature to go on a tour of Tanzania’s Gombe National Park and learn about chimpanzee research and conservation efforts from Jane Goodall herself.

Or you can journey to Earth’s major habitats -- islands, mountains, deserts, jungles and more -- to learn about the wildlife in each with guidance from experts at BBC Earth.

You can even make a stop in Mexico to meet one of Sesame Street’s “Girl Muppets Around the World”, Lola, and learn about modern Mayan cultures or see what traditional homes from cultures around the world look like in a special Voyager story called “This is Home.”

Shah said Voyager includes more than 50 immersive stories with more added on a weekly basis.

“I’m feeling lucky” button: See where the world takes you with the click of a button

The new “I’m feeling lucky” Google Earth button could throw you into the depths of the Amazon rainforest, the Zao Hot Spring in Japan or one of the other 20,000 curated places around the globe.

At any given place, you can open a Knowledge Card and view images, learn about the history and more.

3D button: See any place from any angle

A new 3D button appears in the corner wherever you (virtually) are, so you can take in drone’s-eye views of the the world’s marvels.

For example, Shah wrote, you may choose to uncover the awe-inspiring architecture of the Château de Chambord in France’s Loire Valley or perhaps plunge into the depths of the Grand Canyon’s geological layers.

Postcards: Share the beauty you stumble upon with loved ones

This new feature allows you to share your favorite Google Earth finds with family and friends. Share a Postcard and your loved ones will be able to click on the link and immerse themselves too.

Shah said the new Google Earth is now available on the web in your Chrome browser.

This week, it will roll out on Android devices and will be available on iOS and other browsers in the “near future.”

Here's how to watch NASA's first live 360-degree video of a rocket launch

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 6:44 AM

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will carry supplies to the International Space Station stands ready at complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Monday, April 17, 2017, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The launch is scheduled for Tuesday morning and for the first time, NASA cameras will provide live 360-degree video of the rocket heading toward space. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/AP

NASA and United Launch Alliance will broadcast the first 360-degree view of a rocket launch live Tuesday as a cargo payload heads to the International Space Station.

>> Read more trending news

The launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is scheduled for 11:11 a.m. EDT with a 30-minute window. The broadcast begins at 11 a.m. EDT.

To see the launch live, go to NASA’s YouTube channel and use your mouse to manipulate the view.

>> Click here to watch the livestream on YouTube

“While virtual reality and 360 technology have been increasing in popularity, live 360 technology is a brand-new capability that has recently emerged,” NASA said in a statement. “Recognizing the exciting possibilities opened by applying this new technology to spaceflight, NASA, ULA and Orbital ATK seized this opportunity to virtually place the public at the base of the rocket during launch.”

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft will be loaded with 7,600 pounds of research, supplies and hardware for the space station. It will launch on ULA’s Atlas V rocket.

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