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The quest for internet privacy and security is no game these days; hackers with malicious intent are really out there and they want your valuable personal information.
One way to protect yourself is with a virtual private network (VPN), but there are lots of VPN options out there to choose from – both free and paid. Picking a VPN that’s right for you can be tough, and many people are concerned about their privacy while online.
In this piece, we’ll be giving you our opinion on the Private Internet Access VPN; a paid VPN service that holds a solid reputation among its many users.Private Internet Access – do you get what you pay for?
For as low as $2.91 per month, if you sign up for a one-year subscription, Private Internet Access offers five main features with its VPN service:
IP Cloaking – hide your true IP address and geographic location from websites and apps.
Encryption – keep hackers from snooping on the information you send over the internet.
Firewall – prevent unwanted connections from connecting to you over the internet.
Identity Protection – keep your identity a secret across all of the websites you use.
Unblocking Websites – unblock websites that may be blocked in your area or institution.
For that price, the feature set seems like it’s a fair deal, but what about speed, reliability, and cross-platform support? – You’ll be happy to know that Private Internet Access promises ‘unlimited bandwidth,’ no data caps imposed each month, reliability as a VPN service, and also the service provides apps for popular platforms like OS X, iOS, Windows, and more.
Other price points are also available if you don’t want to be a long-term subscriber, such as $6.95 per month, or $3.33 per month for one year, or even $2.91 per months for two years. Obviously, the two-year subscription for $2.91 per month gives you the most bang for your buck, and it’s the subscription we would recommend.Does the VPN throttle data speeds?
I have Verizon FiOS Quantum at home, and I pay for 50 megabits per second of both download and upload speeds; I take my bandwidth very seriously.
With that being said, one of the things I’ve always hated about many of the free VPNs I’ve used is how they throttle my speeds to anywhere between 1/10 or 1/2 of my expected speeds. I’ve tried VPNs that only allowed 1-5 megabits of download and upload speed per device, and that was a headache for me after getting used to fiber optic internet.
With Private Internet Access, I decided to try a few tests, and what I found was that my download speeds were mostly unchanged before and after toggling the VPN on. The upload speeds, on the other hand, were slightly impacted, but not enough that I would complain.
Before VPN is turned on:
After VPN is turned on:
With Verizon FiOS Quantum, I pay for 50 megabits per second, but they’re always generous enough to throw me another hefty 20 megabits per second in upload speed for no apparent reason.
With that being said, my upload speeds in megabits per second after enabling the VPN were consistently in the mid 40’s range, which is pretty darn close to the 50 megabits per second I should expect from Verizon. On the other hand, it’s still lower than the 70 megabits per second of upload speed I had before enabling the VPN. My download speeds were pretty much the same in my testing, which is awesome in my opinion.
Will I gripe about the lowered upload speeds? – Probably not. More than likely, the speed difference is a limitation of the VPN server and isn’t a throttle imposed by the service.
Even 43-45 megabits per second is pretty darn fast, and it’s rare that I ever upload anything huge to the internet. I mostly use the internet for consuming content, such as videos, social media, forums, and writing here on iDownloadBlog. To me, the slight upload speed trade-off is a fair one for security and privacy, and it’s nice that the download speed is mostly unchanged.Does the VPN encrypt connections?
Another thing people want when they sign up for a VPN service is to know they’re getting encryption that keeps hackers from intercepting data and decoding it to make sense of sensitive information. Private Internet Access is no slouch in this department – users get a wide array of encryption options.
When connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots, such as those at McDonald’s or the local coffee joint, you’ll want encryption. Without it, your personal information is very easy to snoop on. Private Internet Access lets you manually configure the level of encryption you want, whether it’s AES-128, AES-256, Blowfish, or none.
Different encryption levels are available because the more secure the connection is, the longer it may take to decode that information. For that reason, you should select an encryption option that is efficient in speed, but still rather protective enough that you’re going to feel safe using the internet in public locations. The default AES-128 option is a relatively safe option, but AES-256 is more secure.
It’s also worth mentioning that Private Internet Access offers IPSec/L2TP, PPTP and SOCKS5 technologies as a part of the package deal, so you’re getting security and privacy all in one deal.Are there any limitations?
As we noted earlier, the Private Internet Access VPN doesn’t appear to throttle your speeds, but there are other kinds of limitations that VPN providers are known to impose, such as the amount of devices you can use and the amount of data you can consume every month.
Fortunately for Private Internet Access users, you have unlimited data to blow through every month. You can download and upload to your heart’s content while using the VPN and you’ll never get a message saying you’ve used too much data or get throttled in terms of data speeds.
Additionally, you can have up to 5 devices on one Private Internet Access account, which should be more than enough for your personal computer(s) and mobile device(s). Many VPNs limit this even further to where you’d have to pay separately for each device, but that’s not a problem with Private Internet Access.
In terms of the platforms that are supported, Private Internet Access offers an app you can download on iOS, Android, Mac OS X, Windows, and even Linux.How reliable is Private Internet Access?
Reliability is a huge factor in VPN services, and Private Internet Access appears to have some pretty reliable service. I’ve not once had the VPN cut out on me while I was using it. On the other hand, the VPN doesn’t appear to like sitting idle for hours at a time on my iPhone and will auto-disable itself until I’ve re-enabled it myself.
Turning the VPN back on is relatively easy and once you’re re-connected, you’re good to go. Still, while I don’t really consider this a reliability issue, I think it’s one relatively annoying part of using the VPN on a day-by-day basis.How private will the VPN make me?
Private Internet Access claims there will be absolutely no logging of your IP address of any kind on their servers. What this means is there will be no history on their end of you ever using their service. Without logs, the VPN service doesn’t know what websites you might be visiting.
Additionally, with the spoofing of your location, websites you visit won’t actually know who you are or where you’re accessing the internet from. With the VPN turned on, you could be in Florida like I am, but the IP address the website sees might say that you’re from Texas (or another location) instead. This is particularly helpful with forums, and other sites that log your IP address information.
With the layer of encryption security that you get, hackers who are trying to use packet sniffers to read into the data you’re sending back and forth over the internet will have a hard time decoding your precious internet session, so you’re pretty well protected. Usernames and passwords that you use to log in to your favorite sites will be encrypted too, so hackers can’t steal your log in information.How is the Private Internet Access used? Using Private Internet Access on your Mac
If you’re using a Mac, you’ll download the app and install it after signing up for your subscription from the Private Internet Access website and then you’ll launch it from your Applications folder or by searching for it from Spotlight.
Once open, you can access the VPN from your Menu Bar. Here, you’ll be able to select the server location you want to use, and then connect or disconnect on demand.
Additionally, you’ll find a “Settings” option where you can tinker with some of the VPN’s settings. We’ll show you a sneak peek below:
This is where you’ll log in with your account after being emailed the account details following your VPN subscription purchase. After signing in, there are a variety of settings you can configure to your liking, including:
Choosing whether or not the app will start when you log into your Mac
Choosing whether or not the VPN will start automatically when the app is opened
Choosing the region you want the VPN to connect to by default unless another is specified
Configuring the type of connection you want
Configuring the remote port you want to use
Configuring the local port you want to use
Killing all internet access when the VPN is not connected to secure all internet traffic
Disabling IPv6 while you’re connected to the VPN to prevent leaking
Configuring the encryption level you want to use
Configuring the data authentication method you want to use
Configuring the handshake method you want you use
When the Private Internet Access VPN is connected, the icon in the Menu Bar displays a check mark at the bottom right. When the VPN is not connected, no check mark is displayed on the VPN icon in your Menu Bar.Using Private Internet Access on your iOS device
Using the VPN on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad is significantly dumbed-down for the mobile experience, but it’s still easy to use.
You can download the Private Internet Access VPN app from the App Store for free after having purchased a VPN subscription from the Private Internet Access website, and then you can sign in with your login details that you should have received after your purchase.
Once installed, you can launch the app and you’ll install the VPN profile on your device; afterwards, you’ll be able to turn the VPN on right from the app and you can even configure the region you want to use for your VPN connections.
Alternatively, you can also launch the Settings app on your iPhone and the VPN toggle switch located under the Personal Hotspot cell will turn on your VPN too.
When the VPN is turned on on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad and successfully connects to a VPN server, a “VPN” icon should appear in your Status Bar to indicate the connection.My thoughts on Private Internet Access
I think Private Internet Access has a wonderful price point for what you’re getting, and what makes it even cooler is you might not even have to pay with your hard-earned money to enjoy VPN access.
If you have any gift cards laying around that you’ve never used, Private Internet Access will take a straight trade for the value of your gift card towards VPN days. For example, A $50 Walmart gift card is worth a full year of VPN service, or a $25 Starbucks gift card is worth 100 days of VPN service. Many different gift card types are accepted.
Another thing that I liked was that they offer a 7-day money-back guarantee, so if you don’t like what you purchased, you can always request a full refund. Since your privacy can be a big investment, it’s always nice to know that a company will stand behind their product if you’re not happy with it.
After having used the VPN for a while myself, I’m happy with the service and reliability of the VPN. The selection of servers and the additional layer of security help give me peace of mind anywhere I go. If anyone asked me what the best paid VPN service was, I couldn’t particularly say because I’ve tried very few; but, I’d definitely recommend Private Internet Access based on my current experience with it.
Give a try to Private Internet Access today.Conclusion
If you’re in need of a VPN to protect your privacy while surfing the web, I wouldn’t hesitate to give Private Internet Access a try. It’s a very good VPN service at an affordable price with your privacy being their main concern.
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LibreOffice may be the most popular open-source Office Suite around, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other good open source office suite that you can use. If you are looking for a simpler, yet equally powerful office suite for your Linux system, Calligra might be a good alternative to LibreOffice (or is it?) Let’s check it out.Installation
Calligra is mainly created for the KDE desktop manager, but it will work in Gnome and all other DEs as well. However, for non-KDE system, you will have to install a bunch of KDE files for it to work.
In Ubuntu, you can install it via the command:
Other Linux distro can check out the Calligra Installer page for the relevant packages.Usage
After using Calligra for a while, I actually prefer its interface to LibreOffice. Most of the tools are well-organized into its respective section and searching for the functions you need is often an easy task.
One thing though, it doesn’t support saving to Ms-Word .doc and .docx format. It only supports the Open Document Format (ODF). You can open, view and edit .doc and .docx file, but you can only save to .odf format.
Calligra also has support for Google document, so you can link to and open Google document for editing on your desktop.
The project management app – Plan in the Calligra suite is also a useful app that allows you to set project range, add tasks, set date, allocate resources, and even view reports. In Microsoft Office suite, you will have to purchase the Microsoft Project to have these features, but in Calligra, you get it for free.Screenshots
Calligra also includes Kexi (a database management program similar to Microsoft Access), Karbon (A vector graphics editor), Krita (an image editor) and Braindump (a notetaking and mindmapping application) which I didn’t review in the article. If you add up all these application together, Calligra is actually more useful and versatile than LibreOffice.
If you have no issue with the limitation (unable to save in .doc chúng tôi format) and doesn’t require any LibreOffice-only or MS Office-only features, then Calligra is definitely a good alternative, particularly if you are using the KDE desktop manager. What do you think?
Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.
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#Satchat is a great example of the power of social media to improve education, and the benefit of expanding an educator’s personal learning network (PLN). The premise behind this Twitter chat/hashtag came about when Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco) and I (@bradmcurrie) connected on Twitter in February 2012. Both of us had a passion for education and knew other school leaders around the globe who shared our enthusiasm. What we would soon realize is that this passion was not restricted to local or national educators, but had a global reach.
The concept started simply one day when we began direct messaging each other on Twitter and tossed around some ideas related to school leadership. In particular, how could ideas be shared and topics discussed pertaining to all things administration? We agreed upon a discussion group that would chat on Saturday mornings and focus on current and future school administrators. After some further discussion through direct messaging, a topic was picked and promoted through Twitter, and on Saturday, April 14, the first #Satchat debuted. The event was a resounding success due to the 20-plus school leaders/educators that participated. Fast forward to July, and #Satchat averages 75 participants from around the world on a weekly basis.
What makes the weekly #Satchat Twitter discussion work is the growing number of participants who continue to share their wonderful insight from the world of education. Current and emerging school administrators from the Middle East, Europe, Australia, Canada, California, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Alabama, Pennsylvania and other parts of the world have contributed to this lively and healthy weekly discussion. Over the weeks topics have ranged from why educators become school leaders to how you get others to believe in you as an administrator. The insight is tremendous, providing professional development and food for thought that can be brought back to your school and possibly implemented the very next week.
The Power of Tech
The tools of the ever-evolving #Satchat discussion are many. During the week, Scott and I use Twitter’s direct messaging feature as we prepare and discuss questions and topics for the upcoming chat. Periodically, we use a Twitter Poll to survey participants about what they are interested in discussing during #Satchat. Daily promos go out on Twitter and also by way of an Audioboo. During the actual chat, Twitter for iPad, HootSuite and other Twitter tools enable participants to communicate and get their points across. After the chat, we use Storify to archive the chats and make them available to those who participated. A wiki and #Satchat website are maintained by the very talented co-founder of #NJED Bill Krakower (@wkrakower).
The impact of #Satchat has been inspiring, to say the least. Superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals, assistant principals, teachers, technology coordinators and various other education-related personnel have shared and consumed pertinent information related to improving the field of education. Moving forward, it’s our hope that hundreds if not thousands of school leaders will join #Satchat and make it a one-stop sharing experience for all things administration and all things education. What we’ve all learned quickly through the first few months of #Satchat discussions is the value of a PLN and the power we have in sharing information that will make us all better educators. Please join us every Saturday morning at 7:30 am (Eastern) for #Satchat.
Scott Rocco is the co-founder of #Satchat and contributed to this blog.
Founded in 1999, Shutterfly has been in the online photo printing business the longest among all its DIY photo book competitors. It’s very popular, with millions of customers ordering photo books, prints, cards, and other photo products every year.
Shutterfly has three options for creating your photo book: Make My Book, Custom Path, and Simple Path. The Make My Book service is where Shutterfly’s designers create your book for you. Custom Path has you make your book and arrange your photos. And Simple Path is where you make the book but the photos are automatically arranged for you.
The books come in six sizes (all measured in inches): 8×8 (starting at $19.99), 8×11 (starting at $24.99), 11×8 (starting at $24.99), 10×10 (starting at $29.99), 12×12 (starting at $69.99), and the new 11×14 (starting at $74.99). Various styles are available for additional costs, including hard or soft covers in leather and other materials, matte, glossy, and layflat pages, and more.
In our review, we made a Custom Path book with a matte hardcover and standard pages in the newest and largest 11×14 size. The book came to $102.37 excluding shipping. Our theme: a yearbook of PCWorld’s “The Full Nerd” YouTube show.
Editor’s note: This review is part of our best photo book roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested themCreating the book
Shutterfly’s app was at times disorienting and cumbersome. But after playing with the photo book builder for 15 to 30 minutes or so, you should hopefully have the hang of it.
The same small scroll space also lets you view the pages, which makes re-ordering them equally annoying. Instead, hit the Arrange tab to more easily review and move pages around.
Shutterfly’s Arrange tab is a much more pleasant way to order photos compared to the tiny scroll space you can see on the bottom of this image.
You’ll find a wide range of layouts for placing your photos. Here’s an example of a three photo layout we used.
Shutterfly warns you right away when it thinks a photo’s resolution is too low. It does this with an exclamation point, which basically means you need to choose a new photo or resize it so it’s smaller.
There’s also a huge range of clip art you can put in the book under the Embellishments section. Finding clip art is easy thanks to the search bar—just type in what you’re looking for to bring up stickers.The final printed product
Shutterfly includes 6 to 10 business day economy shipping on all orders of $39 and more if you use the code “SHIP39” at checkout. Looking for something faster? You can even order 2 business day rush shipping for an additional cost. The price for faster shipping varies depending on the size of the book. (See all of Shutterfly’s shipping options here.)
The photo book came in a branded, bright orange cardboard packaging that protected the book in transit. Like other photo books, it was wrapped in cellophane. But you can also choose to have your photo book sent in a gift box.
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
Unlike some photo book services, Shutterfly was able to print the same images on a larger surface while preserving quality.
The pages were fairly thin, though, because we didn’t order the premium lay flat option. The front and back cover was also thinner than the other books we reviewed. And the blank white paper pages at the front and back of the book were somewhat flimsy and seem prone to tearing. The white pages don’t share the same paper stock as the photo pages, and create a rather jarring disconnect for the book as a whole.
Probably the worst thing about Shutterfly’s book is that some text was trimmed off the page. We didn’t receive any warnings about the trimming risk in the editor, and by all accounts the text was correctly placed in the margins. This should be a major concern if you’re working with text. The good news: You can request a refund or new book via Shutterfly’s customer service for situations like this.
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
As you can see in the lower left corner, the “I” in “Installing” is missing. This shouldn’t have happened because the text was never flagged in the web editor, and was placed within the printable area. The caption at the top was trimmed as well.
Another frustration is the white barcode in the bottom right of the outer and inner back cover. Shutterfly did charge us to remove its logo, but there was no option to get rid of this barcode. None of the four other services we reviewed print a barcode on the back. It just looks tacky.Bottom line
We ordered Shutterfly’s largest available 11×14 photo book for $74.99, paid $9.99 to remove the logo on the back page, and paid $15.99 for the matte finish, totaling $102.37 with free economy shipping. Of course, we went with a very large size and there are definitely cheaper options out there for as low as $24.99 for an 11×8 book without customizations.
Still, we find Shutterfly pretty pricey considering we didn’t even get the premium lay flat options or additional customizations. AdoramaPix makes a much thicker, sturdier 10×12.5 book with silk lay flat pages for $75.99 including shipping.
But if want a huge 11×14 photo book, Shutterfly is the way to go. No other services capable of printing high-quality photos on a photo book of this size are out there—yet.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll choose your holiday accommodation partly based on whether it has Wi-Fi, and preferably resort-wide free Wi-Fi.
It’s tough to turn off the tech completely, and it’s nice to catch up with what’s going on at home. Perhaps you’re away when there’s a major sporting event on or you just want to watch the latest episode of your favourite TV show or YouTube channel.
Often you’ll find that content is blocked because you’re out of the country and the video is restricted to residents only. It doesn’t matter that you’ve paid for the service or for a UK TV Licence: as far as on-demand services are concerned, your location – not who you are – determines whether you can watch or not.
There is a solution to this problem: a VPN service. It allows you to have precisely the same internet experience you get at home no matter where you are. You simply install the VPN app, enter your details and select your home country as your location. Bingo: websites and social media apps think you’re in the UK and allow you to watch shows and access content.
If you’re an ex-pat living abroad, a VPN serves the same purpose, allowing you to get around ISP and government geo-blocks so you can read news sites, use YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and stream video just as if you were in the UK.
Without a VPN, you’ll tend to get redirected to the local version of a website, such as chúng tôi when you actually want chúng tôi But if you use a VPN, that doesn’t happen: you’ll get the same localisation and personalisation you’re used to when at home.
Obviously, make sure you choose a VPN service that has a server in the country whose video or website you want to access: details should be readily available on the provider’s website.
Certain countries filter access to the internet using firewalls so you can only access websites that the governments approve. So if you’re travelling to these countries and want the internet to be like it is at home, once again a VPN is what you need.
When you’re at home, you’re pretty safe from hackers as your Wi-Fi network is protected by a password. So when you’re on holiday, a VPN will keep you safe even if you have to connect to public Wi-Fi at your hotel or in a restaurant.What is a VPN?
Put simply, a VPN is a secure connection between your phone, laptop or tablet to the internet. When you connect to a VPN server, it uses encryption so that no-one can see the data going between your device and the website to which you’re connecting.
It also replaces the IP address of your device – the information which tells a website where you are located – with a new IP address from the country in which the VPN server is based.
This means that the usual geo-blocks don’t apply and you can defeat censorship or specific blocked media on websites, and it also means your activity is anonymous: the internet provider you’re using cannot tell which site you’re browsing and neither can any government.Why choose IPVanish?
There are plenty of VPN services, so choosing one can be a confusing affair. Aren’t they all the same?
In a word, no. If you’ve ever tried a free VPN you’ll probably already know most of the usual limitations in terms of connection speed and the limited amount of data you can use before the service either stops entirely or throttles your speed even more.
With paid-for services, which cost just a few pounds per month, you should look for not just the number of servers on offer but where they are located. IPVanish has over 1100 servers in 60 countries, including the UK, US and all popular holiday destinations.
It doesn’t keep any logs, so there’s no record of when you used the VPN nor your activity while you used it.
It’s ideal for streaming video thanks to the fact that IPVanish owns and operates all of its servers and network. This means you get the best speeds thanks to intelligent routing and it also means you are truly anonymous.
Some VPN services simply rent servers or use a hosting company, and may not be able to guarantee the privacy of its users.
It also offers 24/7 customer support (as well as phone support in the US) should you ever run into any difficulty. With easy-to-use apps for iPhone, Android, Windows, macOS and Chromebooks, no technical knowledge is required.
Finally, unlike some VPN services which limit you to just a couple of devices, you can connect up to 10 simultaneously, so the whole family can watch iPlayer, Netflix and other videos.IPVanish deal
Tech Advisor readers can get up to 60% off of an IPVanish subscription by
After iTunes erroneously deleted my music collection a few years ago, I started looking for alternatives. Being a part-time Windows user, I had grown to love the simplicity of Winamp, with its file and folder based music management. Unfortunately there was no port available on OSX. Thankfully, I stumbled across a little open source project named Cog.
Cog is a lightweight music player, which supports many audio file-types including MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC, Apple Lossless, Musepack, Monkeys Audio, Shorten, Wavpack, Wave/AIFF and much more. It also offers HTTP streaming, as well as some neat features like gapless playback, support for Apple remotes, chúng tôi integration and Growl notifications. Additionally, it lets you specify which audio output device to use, should you happen to have more than one.Layout
The layout is as straightforward as they come. It has a window which serves as the playlist, into which you can drag and drop music from Finder or the “file drawer”. You are able to save and load playlists, and both m3u and pls formats are supported. There are also options to turn on shuffle and repeat as one would expect from any music player, and you are able to search the playlist to jump quickly to a specific file.Music Library
Some people find iTunes’ management of our music folders less than ideal, in the way that it reorganises and renames files and folders. As mentioned earlier, my music collection suffered a catastrophic setback a few years ago when iTunes decided to delete the entire collection of files. I was able to recover most of it, but needless to say I’ll never trust iTunes again. Thankfully, Cog takes a very hands-off approach to managing your music.
Cog has what it calls the “file drawer”, which is basically an integrated finder window attached to the main playlist window. The first thing you’ll need to do is specify which folder to use as the base for the file drawer in the application preferences, as per the image below.Shortcut Keys
Cog supports the Apple remote and also lets you specify shortcut keys in the preferences, under the “Hot Keys” tab. It also offers full support for media keys, should your Mac keyboard have them. One issue you might run into, however, is that iTunes might also start when you use one of these keys.Conclusion
All in all, if you’re looking for a music player that won’t chew up a lot of RAM and is fast and functional, Cog’s the app you’ve been waiting for.
You can find and download the latest release of Cog here.
JJ runs a company that specialises in IT Support and cloud IT Solutions in Australia. He also moonlights as a tech blogger.
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