4 Serious Health Issues From Sitting Too Long & How To Avoid Them

sitting too longWhen you work at any job that requires long hours sitting at a computer – programming, accounting, writing – it is very easy to stay in that one position for eight to nine working hours every day.

Sure, you might get up for  a drink of water, a bathroom break, or for lunch, but I’m sure you can remember days when, before you knew it, you’d been sitting in that chair for two to four hours at a time. Deep down you know that sitting for such long period of time can’t be good, but really, how bad can it be?

I really started the long stretches at the computer starting at a very young age. I played video games as early as grade school, and did so for long hours into the night when I was in high school. Sitting for four or five hours straight during the weekend while playing an RPG was not unheard of. Time flies when you dive into those virtual worlds – it’s surreal sometimes.

I never really stopped to think what sort of damage I was doing to my body as a teenager. And once I graduated college and went to work as an engineer, I didn’t even consider what would happen to my body once I started sitting at a desk for almost eight hours every day – usually a couple of hours at one stretch before doing any walking.

Sure, the increasing waistline and tightening shirts after a year of full-time professional work gave me some clue what might be happening, but I figured once I started hitting the gym every day for an hour after work I could quickly handle that little problem.

Little did I know until many years later that not only was I making it biologically more difficult to lose weight later, but by allowing myself those long stretches at the desk, I was shortening my life by nearly seven years.

Killing Yourself by Sitting

You’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, “Oh great, another article telling me how unhealthy it is to be sitting here reading this article.”

Look, I’m not about to start preaching turning off the computer and going for a long walk this very moment. I love computers. I don’t think I’ll ever quit sitting in front of a computer – but when you really start looking at the facts, it isn’t so much the fact that we’re all sitting in front of a computer, it’s the fact that we’re doing it for such long stretches of time without any break.

It’s important to understand just how seriously this behavior can affect you, because the threat is very real and it’s significant. There are four categories of health that studies show sitting too long can impact – cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Overall – You’ll Die a Lot Earlier

Countless studies show time and time again that being physically inactive leads to a whole list of health problems that will kill you. Taking everything into account, the World Health Organization reports that being physically inactive comes in fourth as a leading risk factor for death. That’s Death with a capital D.

Just how much of a difference can it make? Well, a study published in the March 26th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine found that after taking a sample of 200,000 people into account, there was a clear “association” between the act of sitting and “all-cause mortality”. Bottom line – sitting over eleven hours a day results in a 40 percent higher chance of dying from any cause at all. That’s crazy.

sitting too long

The WHO report mentioned above solidifies this finding. Inactivity was found to be the main cause of about a quarter of breast and colon cancers, 27 percent of diabetes cases, and 30 percent of heart disease cases.

The study in the Archives of Internal Medicine came from researchers at the University of Sydney, who reported that going to the gym or taking a walk is important, but prolonged sitting may actually be counteracting the health effects of that workout entirely.

Sit Too Long Can Increase Your Risk of Cancer

It seems like everything causes Cancer these days. Cellphones. Microwaves. Cat scans and X-Rays. But sitting?

Yup. Sitting increases your risk of getting cancer in a very big way.  The American Institute for Cancer Research held its annual conference early in 2012 and highlighted at that conference were specific research findings showing that 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 cases of colon cancer in the U.S. could be linked to inactivity.

sitting too long can kill you

It seems like such a cop-out doesn’t it? Like, researchers can’t find a specific correlation so they point at the fact that most of the people that got cancer sat around a whole lot. Well, good guess Sherlock, right? Well, not quite. Researchers, such as Dr. Christine Friedenreich, PhD, the leading epidemiologist at Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care who presented at the AICR conference, reported research results that physical activity may actually reduce inflammation linked to increased cancer risk.

The good news is that experts give you a very clear path to wipe out the risk starting right now. Take a break. The AICR responded directly to the research by urging readers to take a break from sitting every single hour – taking a couple of minutes to walk around, stretch, get a drink – whatever – can literally save your life.

There is a solid, proven benefit to taking those breaks. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) published its research findings in the European Heart Journal showing that for 4,757 participants in the study, short periods of light activity – even just a minute at a time – could reduce waistline, increase levels of good cholesterol, and even increase insulin resistance.  This is really serious stuff.

That Chair May Give You Diabetes and Heart Disease

Okay, so you know if you don’t give yourself at least a minute break every hour or so, you could be in for some trouble down the road with the C word, but is cancer the only concern (as though that’s not bad enough on its own)?

Well, unfortunately, Diabetes is the other risk factor when it comes to sitting around for hours at a time.

One study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, took into account published scientific studies dating from 1970 all the way to 2011 and found that collectively, the data from those studies reveal a clear correlation between more than two hours of TV viewing time and risk factors for type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease. The risk of heart disease increased by 15 percent. For diabetes, the risk increased by 20 percent for people that watched TV more than two hours a day. 20 percent!

sitting too long can kill you

Yet another published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in August of 2011 revealed that when people lower their activity from over 10,000 steps a day to less than 5,000 steps a day, physical changes in the body directly increase that person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.

Obviously, the opposite must hold true. If you get up from from that desk every 40 minutes and take a good 10 minute walk, and then take a nice 60 minute walk after work, the odds are pretty good that you could achieve a daily goal over 10,000 and significantly reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.

There are many other studies, like the one out of the University of Mass at Amherst that showed that “1 day of sitting elicits large reductions in insulin action”, and another study from the University of South Carolina that found a direct correlation between time spent sitting and riding in a car, and cardiovascular disease death.

Sitting Too Long and Obesity

It should come as no surprise to anyone that if you sit too long during the day, you’ll get fat. So I’m not going to bore you with research that proves that, it’s pretty obvious. However, there was one particular study related to obesity and sitting too long that really threw me for a loop.

Clearly, the inactivity of sitting burns fewer calories and most people likely are not cutting down on calories just because they’re sitting so long (in fact, they’re probably snacking more), so that positive calorie balance will go directly to your bottom – or for some people, their spare tires.

But did you know that the mechanical pressure on your backside itself literally forces the cells in your fanny to transform into larger fat cells? Crazy right? It’s true.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University found that the preadipocyte cells, which are the cells in your body that turn into fat cells, will actually transform into fat cells faster when they are put under long periods of “mechanical stretching loads”.

sitting too long

This means – my dieting friends – that you can try and cut calories, but if you plan to continue sitting behind that desk for three or four hour stretches at a time without a single break, the odds are pretty good that you’re going to have some major junk in the trunk.

Unfortunately, the list doesn’t stop there. During my escapades through literary journals and University research websites, I discovered studies showing links between sitting too long and everything from increased risk of kidney disease, to a high risk for blood clots in the legs.  In fact, the blood clot issue related to excessive computer use is becoming known in medical circles as “e-thrombosis”.

So, now that you know sitting on that chair for several hours at a stretch is nearly as bad for your health as smoking, what are you going to do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to install an Android timer on my tablet, set it to go off at work every 40 minutes, and take a 5 minute walk. It may not sound like much, but those breaks could literally save your life.

Do you have any ideas how to take some pressure off your backside during the day? What do you plan to do – if anything – to make a change? Share your ideas with everyone in the comments section below.

Image Credits: Fat Businessman via Shutterstock, Fat and Lazy via Shutterstock, Sitting Too Long via Shutterstock, Fat Driver via Shutterstock

The (remarkably Friendly) Things People Say Anonymously On Twitter

People can now anonymously talk to their friends on Twitter – but what are they saying? We decided to find out.

Creating a separate Twitter account to anonymously send messages to people — whether you know them or not — is a little weird. Thanks to a new service called Whisperly, however, anyone can send an anonymous tweet from their own account. With Whisperly regular people get all the “fun” of sending anonymous messages without dealing with secret Twitter accounts.

Here’s how it works: you direct message the Whisperly Twitter account and a few moments later it tweets out what you said. If there’s space, it will preface your message with “Anonymous [random animal] says” and add the hashtag #shh. Otherwise, it just sends your exact message.

Abuse is a big problem on Twitter so it’s good to see that Whisperly appears to have some content filters in place to stop abusive messages. The odd nasty tweet seems to have made it through but, for the most part, most messages are remarkably friendly. I suspect that over time they’ll further tweak their filters to eliminate even more of the abuse.

As of the time of writing, the Whisperly account has a little under 600 tweets, so I decided to dig in and see what kind of things people were saying.

Insulting Your Friends

As a consummate professional, my first instinct when I tried Whisperly was to send anonymous insults to my work mates. It seems a lot of other people had the same idea. Some jokes just never age.

Testing Out the Service

A lot of people were even less imaginative than me and my other schoolyard level buddies; a huge number of early tweets were some variation on “test” or “testing”. Give a developer the ability to say anything they want completely anonymously and they default to the most boring thing possible.

Fortunately, a few wild people broke from the pack and varied their tests a little.

Pure Confusion

One user seemingly loved the idea of Whisperly but wasn’t quite sure how to use the service. They did the logical thing and sent Whisperly a direct message asking what to do…

It was tweeted out straight away.

The Existential Crisis

Most interestingly, one Whisperly user seemed to have an existential crisis while using the service. The four tweets, which followed in quick succession, seem to show one person’s struggle with the world.

The conversation starts with a simple plea for help. Why anyone would turn to an anonymous Twitter account for help I don’t know, but someone evidently did.

Whisperly obviously tweeted their direct message out which, for some reason, surprised our unnamed protagonist. Their plea for help, apparently, was no secret.

Again, Whisperly broadcast their message to the world calling into question all they held dear. Our protagonist demands answers, none of which were forthcoming.

The Shower Singer

The ways Whisperly can be used passive-aggressively are nearly limitless. One tweeter announced to the world that someone they knew sings loudly in the shower.

Putting on my detective hat, I tried to dig deep into who might be the secretly serenaded person.

Unfortunately, Sunny knew no more than me.

I tried to follow up but the leads went dead. This would be just another unsolved online mystery.

Other Weirdly Specific Messages

Sunny wasn’t the only recipient of a weirdly specific message. Some people used Whisperly to send very odd messages that didn’t need to be anonymous:

Shocking shirt revelations.

Deep personal criticisms.

Earth shattering discoveries.

Hair raising sentiments.

Confessions of Love

Of course, this article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t feature some of the confessions of love. It would seem secret admirers are alive and well on Twitter.

Is it Really Anonymous?

It’s very very difficult to be truly anonymous online. Even when you aren’t aware of it, services like Twitter collect a huge amount of data every time you use them.

While any tweet sent from Whisperly’s account can only be traced back to the service itself, they know who sent each message. The chances are that any message you submit will remain anonymous, however, if you threatened someone or said anything illegal, I doubt Whisperly would protect you — they’re not the EFF. As with all things online, don’t act like an ass and you’ll probably be fine.

Whisperly is out there and ready for you to use. What do you want to say anonymously? Any friends to insult or confessions of love to make? Let us know what you think of it in the comments.

7 Reasons To Return A Lost Phone

If you happen to find an expensive smartphone on the street, youll probably wonder what to do with it. In short: return it! Don’t allow yourself to get attached! Your mission is to re-unite the phone with its rightful owner. It’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s what you would want somebody to do if they found your fancy phone. And it’s what I did.

The other day I found an iPhone on the street. It wasn’t hard to reach the owner. Lucky for me, the phone wasn’t locked and it contained plenty of contacts and recent messages. Within minutes, I was in touch with the owner’s mom and a friend. Less than half an hour later, the owner – who turned out to be just a kid – had his phone back. He said he didn’t even realize it was missing. Returning a lost phone is not always that easy, but that’s no excuse.

In case you are still contemplating how to handle such a situation, let me nudge you into the right direction.

It’s Not Yours

Let’s begin with the obvious: Just because you found something doesn’t mean you own it! Every lost item has a rightful owner. As the person who found it, you actually have a legal obligation to return the lost item to its owner.

Hand and Smpartphone

Consequently…

Keeping It Is Illegal

Just to make this very clear: Keeping something that doesn’t belong to you is illegal! Depending on your country or state, you could be charged with a felony for larceny by finding or stealing by finding, if you’re caught in possession of an item that was reported as lost. The law typically requires that the finder of an object takes reasonable steps to locate the owner and returns the found object to them. If you fail to make any attempts to return the item, you are committing a crime.

Gavel and Books

In case you are clueless about how to track down the rightful owner, my colleague Kannon wrote a piece on how to return a lost phone. If finding the owner is too challenging or time consuming, you can dispense the phone at a local lost and found. Typically, police stations or citizen centers run lost and found offices. And if the owner doesn’t pick the item up for a set amount of time, usually 12 weeks, it passes into your possession, meaning you can keep it and maintain a clear conscience.

Tracking May Be Enabled

The previous owner may have been smart enough to take precautions and installed tracking software to find a lost phone or tools that activate the camera to identify the person who took the device. My colleague James Bruce, for example, reported how he retrieved his wife’s stolen iPhone using Find My iPhone. Now you wouldn’t want a clever geek hunting you down for his precious phone, would you?

Smartphone Navigation

You Don’t Need It

Your life has been fine until you found the phone and it will be fine after you returned it to its rightful owner. Seriously, you don’t need it! You have enough stuff already. And if you want it that badly, earn it.

Collect Your Reward

Some countries and US states have statutes to provide for a finder reward, whether or not the owner of the object has offered one. In Germany, the reward is a percentage of the item’s value; 5% for devices costing up to €500 (approximately $665) and 3% for everything worth more than that. If there is no legal requirement to pay a reward, you can just hope for a friendly gesture.

Make Someone’s Day

Gratitude is one of the greatest rewards to receive because it makes you feel valued; even more so if it comes from a total stranger. Apart from a cell phone plan, contacts, and other important data, the phone probably contained a lot of personal memories, including text messages and photos. Some things cannot be retrieved or replaced and it might just be the time to configure a new phone. They will be so happy and relieved they won’t have to go through this all over again!

Hands

Be The Change You Wish To See In The World

Imagine you lost your beloved smartphone. Would you sympathize with someone who kept it because they really like it? Well, you would probably curse them and rightfully so!

Dominos

You may not believe in karma, but if you watch closely, you will see that what goes around really comes around. In the fate department, it’s clearly better to pay it forward than to feed negativity.

What Are You Going To Do?

Are you going to return the lost phone (if you found one)? And if your answer is no, why not?

Have you ever lost or found something and what happened?

Image credits: Hand and Phone via Shutterstock, Gavel and Books via Shutterstock, Smartphone Navigation via Shutterstock, Hands via Shutterstock, Dominos via Shuttestock

4 Things To Remember For Your Next Technical Interview

technical interview questionsI recently had an interview (for a summer internship) for which I was told beforehand I needed to bring a pencil in case there were technical interview questions to do with coding. I was particularly nervous about the last bit but soon enough, Google winded down my nervousness a bit. I scoured the web for any type of prep material and was glad to find many sources of guidance for situations like mine.

If you’re soon facing a technical job interview, here are a few resources you should probably check out before the big day.

Find Out What NOT To Say Or Do

technical interview questions

This really applies to all types of job interviews, not just programming job interviews. I think it’s safe to say that you should really think your answer through before you blurt anything out or do anything. That’s quite common sense, but when you’re nervous, it’s easy to blank out and forget things. Well, you’re not alone.

There’s a relevant discussion on Stack Overflow called “What is the worst interviewee answer?” where you’ll see a lot of amusing things interviewees have said or done. Here are samples from the poll:

I can’t tell you how often this happens in phone interviews: Me: [asks interview question about a specific technology]
Them: [repeats question as I can hear them typing]
[short delay]
[I hear a “ding” from IE when Google gives them a list of pages, “click”]
Them: [reads from a webpage]
Me: OK, well, thank you for your time. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

That was the top voted poll answer. Lesson to take away – don’t cheat. Surprised?

Here’s another one:

I’ll never forget it. I said…
“So tell me a bit about yourself…
and he replied…
“I recently invented the div inside a span.”
He had it listed on his resume too – just like that – invented it.

You probably should NOT say you invented invalid markup. Just a thought.

Here’s another simple thing you should not say:

“Will you write out a little function for me on the whiteboard here?”
“No.”

Not putting a lot of effort into an interview might just bite you back later on. Lying on an interview might also bite you back.

The setup: “I’m an expert web programmer, was a DBA for a few years, lots of background in security, yeah I know all about that
The lowball: “Okay, so how would you go about preventing SQL Injection?”
The fumble: “Weeell, thats not really the type of thing I’ve ever dealt with….what is it exactly?”

For more responses, be sure to visit the original poll. Though you may feel tempted to mock some of the poll responses, just remember that when nervousness strikes on the big day, it’s not all fun and games anymore. What you can do before the big interview is realize that there are actual lessons to be learned from these funny responses.

Find Out What Coding Questions To Expect

technical interview

There’s no guarantee that you will receive a coding question that’s been posted on the web but if you can answer some of the ones that have been asked and shared online, you might have a better chance of not freezing during this part of the interview.

Here are a few sample coding questions:

“Coding exercise: return the summation of a list of line-separated numbers from a text file.”
Give a one-line C expression to test whether a number is a power of 2. [No loops allowed – it’s a simple test.]
“How would you count the number of words in a string consisting of uneven number of spaces between words( not dictionary words)? With and without library functions.”

Test yourself with more questions on GlassDoor and Kundan Singh’s website, the latter of which also provides excellent general strategies for technical interviews. Don’t assume all data is given to you during a coding question, think out loud, etc.

If you want actual books on the topic, here are a few titles that have been recommended (links lead to Amazon):

Get A Refresher In C/C++/etc. And Logic

technical interview questions

If the last tip revealed that you are rusty in a programming language, here are a few places that will help you get a refresher or crashing course. The book, Programming Pearls (2nd edition) is a classic book that has been recommended quite a bit since it has lots of exercises and tutorials in C and C++ to help you think like a programmer. James also is posting a course here on MakeUseOf, so go check that out. There are also many websites with tutorials (and even video tutorials!) that you can review.

For actual coding practice, a site that I haven’t seen talked about anywhere but that my Java professor had us frequent a lot is CodingBat. It’s a site with simple (and sometimes difficult!) coding exercises in Java and Python. For practice with your logic thinking skills, Project Euler has lots of logic/coding challenges.

Find Out What The Overall Interview Experience Might Be Like

image

There’s a lot of people that have blogged about their overall experiences while being interviewed for corporations like Microsoft and Google. Even if you’re not interviewing with precisely these companies, your technical interview experience may be similar. Here are a few blog posts of interest:

There are plenty more if you search around. From these posts, you’ll find out that the candidates had a lot of preparation beforehand. The other thing you’ll learn is that the interview process lasts some strenuous 6 hours or more. There are other little things that will help you get a feel for what to expect during on-site interviews, which come after the initial screening interviews. Regardless of how far you get in the interview process, it’s always good to know that there are similar people in your shoes that have survived these interviews, and it is always interesting to read their experiences.

I unfortunately didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for my interview, so I invite you to prepare yourself now with the steps outlined and get lots of practice in logic and coding problems.

Have you had a technical or programming interview before and wish to share your experience? Let us know in the comments!

Image credits: Ambrophoto, Andre Blais, winnond, kentoh

How To Become A Paranormal Investigator [best Sites]

how-to-become-a-paranormal investigatorIn case you don’t understand what I mean by ‘paranormal investigator’, I mean someone who tries to figure out if ghosts, spirits or other alleged phenomenon are responsible for certain events. When I first saw the term, I thought of Dirk Gently, the holistic detective from Douglas Adams’ books. Turns out he was just an abnormal investigator. That was too obscure of a reference for a joke, wasn’t it?

Since I am the self-proclaimed tin-hatter here at MakeUseOf, I’ll give you my take on how to become a paranormal investigator and some great sites to help you on the way. I’ll give you a hint to start with though – you better be a history buff and love hitting libraries and archives because that’s where the real action happens.

Psican.org

psican_logoYes, the first site I recommend is Canadian and that is pure coincidence. Or is it? *cue creepy music*

Paranormal Studies and Investigations Canada has a great site with tons of information. The information is well-organized and easy to read, even for a neophyte. Psican hosts a forum and has a membership base of localized research and investigation groups.  The group researches not only ghosts and hauntings, but U.F.O.’s , cryptozoology (weird animals like Bigfoot)  and psychic phenomena. I highly recommend it whether you are Canadian or not.

About.com – Paranormal Phenomena

aboutIt may seem like a bit of a cop-out to list About.com. However, if it’s good, I’m going to list it. Stephen Wagner, the About Guide for this topic, has a pretty extensive background, having written articles for many magazines and being a paranormal investigator with the Central New York Ghost Hunters.

The Atlantic Paranormal Society

tapsAlso known as TAPS, the gang over there are responsible for the show Ghost Hunters on the SciFi channel as well as Beyond Reality Radio. The link above will provide you with a treasure trove of information on parapsychology as well as some of the more religious aspects of the craft. Hey, where there are spirits, there are religious implications.

Ohio Paranormal Investigation Network

opinIt seems like a lot of these groups are located in the U.S. of A. I’m thinking it has to do with the fact that they are older than Canada. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be too many of these groups in Europe. Odd. I can’t explain that. Yet OPIN can explain the basics of a paranormal investigation quite well. Heed their advice to stay away from paranormal investigation courses that you have to pay for. All the information you need to get started can be found in books or on the web for free.

ParanormalInvestigators.org

pi_orgI recommend this last site based on the strength of its list of paranormal investigators and groups. Perhaps the most important step in becoming a paranormal investigator is finding an established group and joining them. The process is much like an apprenticeship, where there are technical things to learn as well as the art of it all. It will take time to become part of the group and advance to the point where you might lead an investigation.

Go through these sites with a fine-tooth comb and learn as much as you can. Read what it takes to conduct an investigation – lots of time and sleepless nights. This is something that you do because you love it, since there really is no money to be made from it. If you are already a believer, you’ll have to tone that down as this is a field that is serious about being taken seriously and scientifically. If you aren’t a believer, heed the wisdom of Mark Twain, who said, “I don’t believe in ghosts, but that doesn’t make me any less afraid of them.”

If you can do this, who knows? Maybe you’ll be the first to uncover incontrovertible proof of the afterlife.

Bonus Site: Ghostfacers

gf-logoIf you haven’t seen or heard of the show Supernatural, then you are missing out on fiction’s second greatest ghost-hunting team – The Ghostfacers! They face ghosts when others will not, they even stay in the kitchen when the kitchen is hot! Yes, they are that serious. Hot kitchens are no source of concern for them. Go on over and pay them a visit – they need to get out more often.

If you’d like to go ghost hunting, Ryan will reveal how it’s done.

Had any ghostly experiences? Anything you’d like to add to the list? Any starter tips on how to become a paranormal investigator? Share it with us in the comments.

How To Get To Grips With A Foreign Keyboard While Travelling

foreign keyboardHave you ever travelled abroad and sat down in an Internet café only to find that you can’t work out how to type anything on the foreign keyboards? Well, you’re not alone. This happens to many travellers and is a huge source of frustration – especially considering how much Internet cafés can cost! No-one wants to waste time searching for a key that must be typed.

The problem arises from all the local variants on keyboards, which are adapted to make it easy to type in local languages and currencies. This means that sometimes the letters are rearranged from QWERTY to AZERTY in France or QWERTZ in Germany, while around the letters, access to the @$€£ symbols (and more) may be removed in favour of locally used accents and currency symbols.

Here’s how to deal with the changes in keyboards as you travel.

To illustrate just how often foreign keyboards trip people up, take a look at how often people in France type in FRQNCE instead of FRANCE. You’ll see that there’s a spike in searches for FRQNCE every summer when the tourists visit and forget that it’s not a QWERTY layout. So, you’re not alone in your frustration!

foreign keyboard

travel keyboard

Learn The ASCII Code Numbers

No matter what computer you’re on, if you press and hold the ALT key and type the right code it will input the character of your choice. So, the trick here is to memorise the codes for all the important symbols which are likely to move around, such as @ and any currency symbols you need. That or you could search quickly for a table of ASCII codes when you arrive at your internet café and refer to it.

Copy & Paste The Symbols

If you’re not keen to learn codes and the idea of searching for a page of symbols doesn’t sound too hard, then you could always copy and paste the symbol you need into whatever you’re typing. This could well mess up your text formatting, but it will do the trick if absolutely necessary.

Re-Map An Under-Used Key

If you’re using the keyboard for a decent length of time, you could consider re-mapping an under-used key to be the symbol you want. This is different for all operating systems, but in Windows you can either use a registry hack or try some free key re-mapping software.

travel keyboard

Use A Portable Keyboard Layout

Users of alternative keyboard layouts like DVORJAK often use portable keyboard layouts to switch computers to their chosen layout. This is also a great way to switch back to your preferred keyboard layout from the international varieties you’ll find when travelling. To use it you will need to be proficient at touch-typing.

Re-Map The Keyboard

Another method for touch-typers is to use a way to change the keyboard entirely to one you’re familiar with. In any operating system there will be options for language locales and associated keyboards. Head into the language settings and switch to your preferred layout. See the following article for more instructions:

foreign keyboard

Bring A Wireless Keyboard

If you have a little space in your luggage and you know sticking with a familiar keyboard is the best idea for you, you could always bring your own keyboard. Often wireless keyboards aren’t that big and can be easily connected via USB to whatever computer you’re using.

More Reading

If you’re a travelling geek, you should also check out these articles:

What’s your favourite way to deal with keyboard problems while travelling?

Image Credit: Shutterstock, Shutterstock

Usenet Tips And Tricks

This guide is available to download as a free PDF. Download Usenet Tips And Tricks now. Feel free to copy and share this with your friends and family.

Are you looking to discover the world of Usenet? There is a lot you can do on the newsgroups, but learning how to use it can be rather complicated.

Our new tips and trick guide for Usenet will guide you through getting everything up and running. You will be able to use all the file sharing and other features with the knowledge gained from our free cheat sheet.

Usenet Tips And Tricks usenet thumb

Please find the contents of the cheat sheet below.

Places to find Content

Free Usenet Clients

Tips for Choosing a Provider

  • Days of Full Binary Retention – Retention is the number of days you’re guaranteed to be able access to a file after its posting date. Mostly, providers offer around 200 days. See if that’s enough.
  • Monthly Transfer – Total amount of data you can download in a month. Usually in GB.
  • Connections – The number of simultaneous connections you can make at a single time. Usually you are provided with a sufficient amount of connections, regardless of the chosen account type.
  • Security – If you want to make your data transfer even more secure, you might want to check extra security offers from your provider.
  • Support – Sometimes you need to contact your provider and it’s always better if their support has a decent response time.
  • Cancellation and Trial Periods – It’s always a good idea to try their services without paying anything ahead. Just to check if everything fits your needs.

Top Usenet Providers

You may also download this cheat sheet in PDF format as seen in the image above.

Test Your IQ With The Pew Internet Quiz [Weird & Wonderful Web]

If you’re a regular reader of MakeUseOf then you probably consider yourself something of a geek. A geek who knows all there is to know about technology and the Internet. But do you, really? It’s time to find out by taking this short quiz from Pew Research.

By answering the 12 questions all about technology and the Internet, you’ll be able to determine how knowledgeable you are on all things geeky. You’ll also be able to compare your results to the representative sample of 1,066 people who officially took the quiz.

Well, what are you waiting for?

Test Your Web IQ

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As part of its ongoing commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, the Pew Research Center recently put a sizeable number of Internet users’ geeky knowledge to the test with a quiz related to technology and, in particular, the Web.

The quiz is now online for anyone to take. We couldn’t resist taking it, and we suspect you’ll be similarly inclined to test your knowledge of the Internet. So, we invite you to go and do that right now by taking the Pew Internet Quiz, before coming back here to take a look at the results.

Dissecting The Results

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Q1: The Internet and the World Wide Web are the same thing… True or False?

The correct answer is False. Just 23 percent of respondents answered this correctly. Any of you who answered incorrectly should read our explanation of the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Q2: Twitter limits the number of characters per tweet to 140… True or False?

The correct answer is True. An impressive 60 percent of respondents answered this correctly. Which suggests that even those people who don’t actively use Twitter know about its self-imposed limitations.

Q3: Moore’s Law relates to how many transistors can be put on a computer chip… True or False?

The correct answer is True. A measly 34 percent of respondents answered this correctly, but then they obviously never read our explanation of Moore’s Law. Those dummies.

Q4: When a company posts a privacy policy, it ensures that the company keeps confidential all the information it collects on users… True or False?

The correct answer is False. A total of 44 percent of respondents answered this correctly. To be fair, it’s a rather confusing question, but it’s important to remember that signing a privacy policy doesn’t guarantee your privacy.

Q5: The first widely popular graphical Web browser, released in 1993, was… Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, Mosaic, or Opera?

The correct answer is Mosaic. This was shows to be the hardest question included in the quiz, with just 9 percent of respondents answering it correctly. This isn’t surprising, but it is rather sad as we owe a debt of gratitude to Mosaic and the people who developed it.

Q6: Who is this technology leader (Picture of Bill Gates)… Steve Jobs, Sergei Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, or Bill Gates?

The correct answer is Bill Gates. A whopping 83 percent of respondents answered this correctly. But, to be honest, we’re a little surprised it wasn’t even higher given Gates’ notoriety as a geek and status as the richest man in the world with a fortune of $76 billion.

Q7: Who is this internet leader (Picture of Sheryl Sandberg)… Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, Meg Whitman, or Arianna Huffington?

The correct answer is Sheryl Sandberg. Just 21 percent of respondents answered this correctly. This is hardly surprising as unless you’re a keen follower of technology news you wouldn’t recognize any of the names offered as possible answers.

Q8: The Apple iPhone was first released in what year… 2005, 2007, 2009, or 2011?

The correct answer is 2007. Just 36 percent of respondents answered this correctly, which we found rather surprising. Apple fan or not, the moment Steve Jobs stood on stage and unveiled the first iPhone was, after all, a turning point for consumer technology.

Q9: Choose the bigger amount of information… A kilobyte or a megabyte?

The correct answer is a megabyte. A whopping 74 percent of respondents answered this correctly. The other 26 percent can be forgiven for making such a simple mistake. However, they should read our guide to memory sizes.

Q10: ‘Net Neutrality’ refers to… “The postings on websites that are nonpartisan,” “A promise by users of some websites that they will not make critical comments,” “The way Wikipedia editors are instructed to handle new entries on their site,” or “Equal treatment of digital content by internet service companies?

The correct answer is, “Equal treatment of digital content by internet service companies.” A disappointing 61 percent of respondents answered this correctly. Perhaps if more people understood what net neutrality actually is there would be more of a push to protect it.

Q11: Which university was the first on Facebook… Harvard, Stanford, MIT, or University of illinois?

The correct answer is Harvard. Just 42 percent of respondents answered this correctly. But then answering it correctly would require you knowing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg attended Harvard.

Q12: What does ‘URL’ stand for… Ultra Reliable Linkage, User Responsibility Liability, Unique Rate Limit, or Uniform Resource Locator?

The correct answer is Uniform Resource Locator. A euphemistic 69 percent of respondents answered this correctly. That would surely have been lower if the other possible answers hadn’t been quite so preposterous.

How Many Did You Answer Correctly?

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So, how did you do? Did you answer all 12 correctly? Or, like me, did you get one wrong? Be honest and let us know your score in the comments below. And remember, no one likes a liar.

Are you pleasantly surprised that 61 percent of people know about net neutrality? Or are you shocked to discover a measly 23 percent of people know that the Internet and the Web are two different things? Either way, let us know your thoughts below.

Image Credits: Michael Surran via Flickr, Wade M via Flickr, Oliver Tacke via Flickr, Alan Cleaver via Flickr

What Is An SQL Injection? [MakeUseOf Explains]

sql injectionThe world of Internet security is plagued with open ports, backdoors, security holes, Trojans, worms, firewall vulnerabilities and a slew of other issues that keep us all on our toes every day. For private users, viruses and worms seem to be the worst of the possibilities. But for anyone running a database, the SQL injection is one of the most destructive security flaws out there.

Databases are extremely valuable in the realm of computers. They’re essential for storing data as memory and showing the various relationships between points of data. Here at MakeUseOf, we have numerous databases dedicated to various tasks: one for all of our articles, one for our userbase, one for our Rewards program, and the list goes on. What happens when our databases are maliciously attacked – or even destroyed?

When you don’t have actual access to a database, the SQL injection is one of the most prominent forms of attack. Keep reading to learn what it is exactly and how it can be so dangerous.

What Is SQL, Anyway?

To understand SQL injection, you have to first understand what SQL is and how it relates to a website. SQL, which stands for Structured Query Language, is a type of programming language optimized for managing tabular data. For all intents and purposes, it’s just a way for programmers to communicate with a database and give it commands.

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Whenever a database is being acted upon, there are SQL commands being given and processed. If you think about all of the times when a database is being acted upon, you’ll conclude that it only happens in a handful of circumstances:

  • When new data needs to be inserted,
  • When current data needs to be changed,
  • When old data needs to be deleted,
  • When a particular piece of data needs to be searched and retrieved.

Any time one of these actions needs to occur, an SQL command is being executed somewhere on a server. For the most part, the programmer gets to determine when and where these SQL commands occur in the source code. However, there are unavoidable circumstances when a user can force a manipulation of a database – and those opportunities are all around you.

Have you ever logged into a website? Have you ever posted a comment on a blog article or a reply in a forum thread? Ever sent a Facebook message to a friend? Typed an email in Gmail? Searched for a website on Google? Any time you see an input field on a website (username, password, search query, message box, etc.), that text is sent to the database and acted upon.

Now, if a malicious user wanted to tamper with a database, there aren’t very many choices for him. One possibility would be to gain actual physical access to the server and destroy it at its base. But otherwise, it makes the most sense for the malicious user to hijack an existing SQL command when using an input field, thus forcing the server to perform a command different from what was originally intended.

The SQL Injection Technique

This act of hijacking an existing SQL command is what SQL injection refers to. Why is it called injection? Because hijacking an SQL command requires the user to inject his own SQL code when using an input field. Does that sound confusing? Let me illustrate with an example.

Consider MakeUseOf’s login page. When you enter your username and password and hit “Submit“, you’re forcing the web server to generate an SQL command that involves the information you just gave–that is, your username and password. The database receives the information, verifies that the username/password combination is correct, then gives you the proper access to other areas of the site.

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Now imagine what would happen if a malicious user didn’t enter his username and password, but instead typed an SQL command as his username? If the server code isn’t properly secured, the database will receive the faulty username (which is really an SQL command) and actually run it as a command.

And that’s why it’s called injection. The SQL command is injected into the database through entirely legitimate means, manipulating it such that it ends up doing something it wasn’t meant to do.

An Advanced Example

Up until now, I’ve described SQL injection in high-level terms so that anybody can understand–even those without programming knowledge. In this section, I’m going to give an actual example of how this technique is possible. If you’re an SQL newbie, or if you’ve never dealt with programming before, then you can quietly skip this section.

When logging into a website, here’s a possible way that the code could be written in SQL:

SELECT user_id
FROM users_db
WHERE username=’$username’ AND password=’$password’

Basically, the command asks the database to return all user_ids from the table users_db that match the inputted username and password combination. Looks all fine and dandy, right?

Let’s suppose that the login form was given the following inputs:

Username: David
Password: fubar’ OR ‘x’=’x

Notice that the password field does not begin or end with an apostrophe. When the server receives this login attempt, it will take everything given in the password field and put it in place of the $password in the code. The resulting SQL command will look like this:

SELECT user_id
FROM users_db
WHERE username=’David’ AND password=’fubar’ OR ‘x’=’x

When the server runs this command, the last part of that SQL command will always return true. This means that the malicious user could input any username and instantly gain access to that account because the login would work whether or not he got the password right.

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Of course, logging into someone’s account is a rather mild offense when you compare it to all the other possible hack attempts: deleting entire databases, mucking up all of the data, or even stealing the data in the databases.

Professional web developers are getting better and better at preventing such tricks, but every once in a while you’ll hear that a company suffered loss at the hands of an SQL injection attack. When it happens, you now know what it means and how it’s possible.

Image Credit: Intro Image Via Shutterstock, Database Schema Via Shutterstock, HACKED Via Shutterstock

How We Watch Movies [INFOGRAPHIC]

How We Watch Movies [INFOGRAPHIC] cinema popcorn It was only a mere 15 years ago when I was working at Blockbuster Video in Scotland, raising money for my numerous overseas travels. Back then, the VHS videotape ruled supreme, and DVD’s were something that had just been introduced (and were a bit of a passing fad, not expected to last). Now, 15 years on, Blockbuster is gone, the videotape is becoming extinct, and we have moved on from DVD’s to Blu-Rays and 3-D television. Isn’t technology wonderful?

Then there’s the online services available today. At the cost of the cinema, and what movie rental services are left, we are now using sites such as Netflix and LoveFilm, as well as movie & TV series downloading at iTunes. This, combined with a DVR machine, allows you to watch what you want, whenever you want. Plus there’s the illegal downloading via torrents, but we’re not going to get into that today.

Today’s infographic comes courtesy of www.popsecretlabs.com and shows the rapid advance of how we watch movies. From the days of the cinema to the present day of digital renting.

Let us know in the comments how you watch movies.  Are you still an old-school cinema-goer or do you prefer to get your movie and TV fix via digital streaming onto your TV set or computer screen?  Or maybe you do a little of both?  Let us know where you stand.

How We Watch Movies [INFOGRAPHIC] howwewatchmovies small

Image Source: Happy Face In Popcorn via Shutterstock