Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Speed Up Your Internet for the Long, Slow Pandemic

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2020 at 10:26 AM

  • BigStock

I recently flagged down a technician from my local internet provider about why the service seems so darn slow all the time. He confirmed one problem I’d always suspected. Upgrading infrastructure is expensive so a company tends to put far too many customers onto the bandwidth than can ever hope to achieve the promised upload and download speeds.

So, the first uncomfortable reality of your slow home internet is that it’s likely there’s an infrastructure problem that will not be addressed until the customer complaints reach the intolerable level.

Even after local economies return to whatever passes for normal in the near future, expect that many who went home to work during the pandemic will not return to the office, thus creating even more demand for the finite resource of internet bandwidth.

The good news is that there’s a solid chance that a few tweaks to your router and applying other tricks of the trade can speed things up considerably while you wait for your provider to crack open the wallet and undertake a full-scale upgrade.

Test Your Speed First

There’s not much point in changing anything until you know what you’re working with. That means you should test upload and download speeds to see if they happen to be anywhere near what was promised in the package you signed up for.

Once you have numbers for both your upload and download speed (the latter is typically much faster), compare them against what area providers say they deliver. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised, but there’s a good chance you won’t. If your real world numbers are too far removed from your plan numbers, a phone call to the home office might be in order.

Advertised speed is usually calculated as a “best case” scenario and intended to be used as the top end of a range.

Turn Off Unused Devices

Every single internet device in your house is sipping (maybe even gulping) data at all times unless it’s turned off or the wifi capability is switched off. Wait! Don’t just speed through this suggestion as too Mickey Mouse to try. It really can help.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

OSIRIS-REx: New Information On Asteroids' Shapes, Formation

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2020 at 10:00 AM

  • Courtesy NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
Scientists from the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx space mission have released new findings about the origins of small astronomical bodies based on observation of the asteroid Bennu.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launched from the Earth in September 2016 and is planned to return in 2023. The spacecraft, part of a NASA program, will collect rocks and dust from the surface of Bennu in order to better understand "the initial stages of planet formation and the source of organic compounds available for the origin of life." Since arriving at Bennu in December 2018, OSIRIS-Rex has mapped the asteroid's rocky and carbon-rich surface.

In studying Bennu, scientists have discovered that the asteroid is composed of fragments of larger bodies that shattered upon colliding with other objects. The small fragments then reaccumulated to form an aggregate body, which explains Bennu's extremely rough surface and a partially hollow interior. 

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Banner Unveils Virtual Waiting Rooms To Help With Social Distancing

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2020 at 3:30 PM

  • University Medical Center Tucson - Banner

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Banner Health launched virtual waiting rooms for its 300 clinics across the country. The virtual waiting rooms are equipped with chatbots from the health technology company LifeLink that assist patients via text-based communication.

The normal waiting room experience, which included close proximities of patients, needed to be updated for pandemic distancing. According to Greg Kefer, Chief Marketing Officer at LifeLink, the chatbot automates the paperwork patients normally fill out while sitting in the waiting room. This process is now completed in advance.

Patients communicate with the chatbot through text messaging on any device. As Kefer explained, this makes it especially accessible because no app needs to be downloaded nor does any password need to be created or remembered.

Kefer also suggests that this new process may serve as a solution to patients who have resisted going to the doctor.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Powwows move online to keep Indigenous communities together

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 12:00 PM

PHOENIX – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some Native Americans have found a way to safely host traditional powwows by moving them online.

In many Indigenous communities, powwows are celebrations of culture in which tribes gather to share art, stories, food, song, dance and the company of one another.

But the ongoing pandemic has made it impossible to hold these gatherings safely – in person, anyways. The Navajo Nation, for example, has set curfews and asked the 173,000 tribal members living on the reservation to stay home because 142 Navajos have died of COVID-19 and 4,071 cases have been diagnosed.

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Friday, April 24, 2020

FC Tucson Finalist in 2020 USL eCup Rocket League Tournament

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2020 at 11:00 AM

If you're craving sports right now, you might be surprised to learn that some are still going - in a more virtual format.

For instance, NASCAR has gone online to iRacing, Formula 1 had its own virtual Grand Prix, and even boxing fought it out in a video game format.

click image fc_tucson_schedule.png
Now, after weeks of bouts and climbing up the brackets, FC Tucson has taken its place in a head to head finalist round for the USL eCup Rocket League competition.

If you're not familiar with Rocket League, it's an online video game of soccer with some twists. Instead of people on the field, there are cars being controlled by the players. These cars also have rocket boosting ability (thus, the title of the game) that is key to getting in place at the right time to score or block a goal.

See the highlights from last night's semifinal match between FC Tucson and Tacoma Defiance, including the 200th goal of the tournament from FC Tucson.

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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Raytheon awarded $13.72 million Navy Contract

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2020 at 2:00 PM

An RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) off the coast of Southern California, on 23 July 2010. - U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST SEAMAN MATTHEW J. HARAN
  • U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew J. Haran
  • An RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) off the coast of Southern California, on 23 July 2010.
Raytheon employees in Tucson will lead the way on work for the United States Navy’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile system after a $13.7 million contract modification was awarded to the company on Wednesday.

More than 90 percent of the work will be done in Tucson, according to a press release announcing the decision. Work will also occur in the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, and Australia, in addition to sites in West Virginia, Canada, Spain, and Turkey.

The missile program is described as an international cooperative effort and is a medium-range surface-to-air system designed to protect ships from missiles and attacking aircraft. Development of the Sea Sparrow program began with NATO in 1990, and Raytheon delivered the first production system to the Navy. The missile entered into service in 2004.

Work on the current project is expected to wrap up in December and the contract includes purchases for the Navy and the governments of Thailand, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Raytheon was originally awarded the contract in 2016 at a potential value of $197 million.

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Friday, April 10, 2020

Make Way for Books opens the door to early childhood literacy

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2020 at 2:09 PM

Make Way For Books' app provides free books for young children, along with literacy tips for their parents. The local nonprofit recently launched a Facebook story time series open to any family with young children. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Make Way For Books' app provides free books for young children, along with literacy tips for their parents. The local nonprofit recently launched a Facebook story time series open to any family with young children.
With libraries and schools closed there are families across Pima County without reliable access to free or low-cost books, but adventures are available in the palm of your hand thanks to Make Way for Books’ smartphone app.

The literacy nonprofit works with families with young children ages 0 to 5 in order to empower them with the skills and confidence they need to be their child’s most important teacher, according to Fernando González, the Digital Director of Make Way for Books.

Too often, children enter kindergarten lacking important early literacy skills. Make Way for Books goes out into the community to provide programming so families can access high-quality literacy aid.

Normally, their work consists of a couple of strategies, including the Family Education and Literacy, The Story Project and Neighborhood School Readiness Project programs, which provide literacy aid both in and out of the home. The Story Project, for instance, includes at-home education, on-site workshops, and lending libraries.

According to González, Make Way for Books tries to provide a two-generational approach in which parents are there with their kids providing a reading lesson while also learning explicit strategies on how to share books with their children.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Rise of the Online Avatar

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2020 at 8:15 AM

While the cancelation of events and changes to schedules here in Tucson are relatively new, closures are happening everywhere all over the world and have been for months now. Because of this, people are having to identify alternative means of gathering in groups for activities.

Although online avatars have been a thing for some time now through video games and other casual online forums, businesses have been trying to break into the online space for a few years for professional reasons. And, sure, live-streaming your event (a la SXSW) is also a great alternative, but it's definitely not as engaging or interactive.

Now, there's an even greater purpose than just creating your inner self into an online world. With the rise of social distancing comes the rise of the online avatar. For the most part, we don't even need newly created software. Everything we need is already available to use.

Japan, like other Asian nations, has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for some time now. Schools have been closed, and other ways of learning have been instituted. This hasn't stopped students from enjoying things like graduation.

In the below tweet you can see students using online avatars in Minecraft to hold a graduation ceremony.

click image "The venue is also very well made." - @BACKYENNEW
  • @backyennew
  • "The venue is also very well made."

Of course, this isn't the first time that Minecraft has been used for something outside of just being a game. Recently, Reporters Without Borders opened, "The Uncensored Library" in the game so that people from all over the world could share banned news articles from other countries.

VR Chat is another place where people from all walks of life gather in a virtual space. Most of the time it's silly chit chat, but every so often there are more serious talks. YouTuber Syrmor holds interviews with various people inside the game on sometimes difficult topics.

Second Life has been around for a long time but still has a strong group of hardcore users, some of which have experienced shopping, selling, dating, marriage, divorce, pride parades, and more. There's even an American Cancer Society Relay for Life event scheduled in June.

Then there's World of Warcraft. While technically it's not meant to be anything other than a Role Playing Game, because of this it can really be whatever you want it to be. Hardcore role-players have known this for years, and you can find them on many of the roleplaying servers that are provided for play. Others, though, have found different uses.

Of course, not every meeting held in World of Warcraft goes down as expected.

For a more professional take on the online avatar, there's XPlaneVR, who has made its software available for parties interested in hosting large events, classes, or symposiums.

  • XPlaneVR
There are other examples all over the internet if you just take a look. You never know which one might be right for you, and what you may use it for in the future. 

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