7 Ways a VPN Makes Life That Much Cooler

VPN stands for virtual private network. Essentially, anonymity and security while browsing the internet are its main attributes. In this article, we’ll be looking at some surprising and very handy uses of VPNs.

Some basics: When you do a search, every request you make passes through your ISP (Internet Service Provider) before reaching the server that hosts your destination website. All the data in this exchange is unencrypted, meaning your ISP can read it. What’s worse, they can also hand your activity logs over to third parties, like government agencies or advertisers.

Envisage VPN as a safety channel which keeps the traffic between your computer (or any mobile device) and the site you visit, completely anonymous. Instead of connecting to that site’s server directly, your computer connects to the VPN and all resulting exchanges are safely held within that secure connection.

In other words, you function as if you were on the same local network as the VPN. An encrypted request is forwarded to the website via the VPN and the response is likewise forwarded back to you.

Now, let’s get to the meat of some nifty ways to use a VPN.

1. Access Geo-Blocked Websites

Your VPN connection will let you use the Internet as if you were connecting from the VPN’s location. Let’s say you’re traveling and you want to watch a documentary premiering on Netflix or BBC’s iPlayer. There are VPN services which have multiple servers located in several countries, giving you the ability to choose where you appear to be connected from.

2. Dodge Targeted Ads

Who wants to be easy prey in the creepy era of personalised targeted ads? Information regarding your food and music preferences, where you shop, or general health issues, are just some of the data that can be gathered about you. Unfortunately, there is no official regulation overseeing what can or can’t be handed over by your ISP to aggressive online marketing corporations. To make matters worse, the US senate recently voted to allow ISPs to sell your browsing history to advertisers, by eliminating privacy rules which would’ve required your previous consent.

Yep, ISPs can now build a detailed profile of their customer’s viewing and listening history. HTTPS helps reduce the Big Brother style mapping, but they will still be able to see that you visited a particular domain. With VPN though, traffic encryption means anytime you listen to a podcast, or look up the nearest pharmacy, you’ll appear to be at your VPN’s IP address, instead of your own.

3. Browse from a park, a bus, or a sushi bar without getting hacked.

Hackers are always going to come up with new malicious programs, viruses and more threats. The insecure connection implicit in public networks such as WiFi can be mitigated by passing through a VPN connection. If an attacker tries to gather sensitive data, what they would see instead are the incomprehensible characters exchanged from the end user to the VPN server. Antivirus and firewalls do a relatively good job at keeping us safe, but VPN adds an extra layer of encryption between end users and the big bad wolves lurking around the internet.

4. Optimize Connectivity Speed

ISPs around the world purposely slow down popular streaming sites. Both Youtube and Netflix get throttled to reduce bandwidth usage. This is sometimes referred to as ¨traffic shaping¨, and it really, really slow things down. Other targets are MMO games such as Minecraft or World of Warcraft.  At the outset, this practice poses the advantage of fighting internet traffic congestion. Ultimately though, it hampers with connectivity and users even end up paying their ISP more money for increased speed.

By utilising a VPN, you save yourself a lot of hassle caused by traffic shaping, as your ISP won’t be able to detect that you’re connected to these sites.

5. Talk to your Friends and Family Abroad for Next to Nothing

Spending time away from home? We all know that with Skype or any other VOIP (Voice Over the Internet Protocol) long distance calls are more affordable than calling direct. Nevertheless, depending on the country you’re calling and how long for, rates can get pricey. By connecting to the service via a VPN which shares server location with the destination you’re dialling up, the cost becomes equivalent to making a local VOIP call. Sweeeet.

6. Outsmart the Airlines

We’ve all had that moment when you get excited about the price of a flight, only to find that after checking out a few more options, the original fare goes up significantly.

Blasted cookies!? Actually, it’s not just the multiple searches for ¨Istanbul¨ on different airline and travel sites that are foiling your ultra cheap ticket. Geo-location and newer forms of data-collection are getting increasingly sophisticated.

If you’re in a country which gets targeted with higher fares, you can avoid geo-location pricing by connecting to a VPN service that is located elsewhere. Added to that, encrypted browsing means you can totally bypass the airfare data-profiling tug of war.

7. Safer and Faster File Sharing

It’s no secret that VPN connections are used by many to download files from Torrent services. There is a legal way to do file sharing though and we can only hope that’s how you roll. However, if you think your good intentions on Torrent sites can’t be monitored by government agencies, such as the NSA, think again. Nobody wants to be blacklisted by these guys or their equivalent around the world. The most sure-fire way to keep your identity from being disclosed is by using a VPN.

Also, as mentioned above, ISPs often throttle very popular services and that includes Torrent sites like BitTorrent. So not only do you stay safer, you also get improved speeds when sharing files via a VPN connection.

I’m converted. Now where do I sign up?

Getting a VPN is fairly straightforward now as most providers offer one-click installation. If you have any VPN life hacks you would like to share, please add them  in the comments section below.

Why you’re nuts not to adopt continuous integration and deployment cycles

Continuous delivery is the next phase to guarantee automating of all the necessary pre-deployment steps. We don’t ever want the lower lead time to result in increased re-work time do we? Instead, let’s aim for a smooth path where each integration complies with release criteria to update the new code on a live application or website.

Need For Speed

¨I want this code in live production faster to get my UX numbers soaring.¨

Don’t keep this phrase in your musty drawer of unmet goals. Continuous integration, delivery and deployment could be the differentiators that’ll make you ace the summit on that low to high web performer hike.

A software delivery lifecycle can take anything from weeks to months. Today’s top performers automate the build and deployment, environment provisioning and testing processes to open up the possibility of focusing on better products which yield higher returns.

The first component is Continuous Integration (CI). When developers merge their code to mainstream branch or working code base as often as possible you’ve got CI.

It’s basically triggering a build whenever a change gets committed to the source code. In other words, the developer fetches the code from the source code repository, compiles it and runs automated tests to create a build. This gives you full visibility of the project code and forges the way for earliest possible error detection.

The prime factor here is risk reduction.  Risk is majorly reduced when creating a build after running automated test for every commit. With each integration, bugs and errors are easy to find and easy to fix–making the build every more simplified.

Let’s break down how drastically lowering your lead time will simplify life and enable you to cash in on the goods.

Work in small batches and get feedback sooner from users before spending long amounts of time and resources on each integration. Agile web development is also a good way to see profits sooner as the delivery lifecycle is based on a product in live production. This can be even be integrated into A/B testing  to help you decide upon final implementation (more on that later).

The hypothesis-driven approach to product development reduces possible costs of building out whole features without knowing for sure what is preferred by the user.

Therefore, you see which features bring you ROI and measure the differences in performance for each.  You can also lower the fixed costs that a release process involves by having a build/ test and deploy pipeline that relies on automation, thus bringing down costs associated with delivering incremental changes to software in the traditional release process.

So continuous delivery is hot. But to go the whole hog and stand out in this business you need to bump that up a notch toward continuous deployment. Say unit test, platform test, and staging integrations are all automated, meaning that you have effectively achieved continuous delivery but deploying to production is still a manual, painful, time consuming procedure. Well, what we’re going to look at next is when automation takes over this step too.

Qua-li-ty

Deployments should be low-risk and performable on demand. The new functionalities do need to be tested and controlled though. A continuous delivery pipeline will apply patterns like blue-green deployments that significantly reduce any possibility of relative downtime.

Safety and QA are two of the staples that continuous deployment instrumentation looks after.  An infrastructure that lets you back out new feature when a certain defect has been overlooked by the automated process is required to guarantee successful continuous deployment.

So to  ensure that live users on an application have new code running for them error free, we need instrumentation to foresee that the automated integrations do not churn out a poor result. Such an external instrument should immediately interrupt the process and roll back any updates­–meanwhile notifying the developer(s).

Fast regression detection made possible by automated tools can save individual web professionals or entire teams heaps of time allowing them to focus on usability and coding additional new features.

Beware

Simply cranking up the frequency of deployments to the max should by no means be considered a foolproof way to ensure quality.  You have to ascertain you’re working with the right target and avoid common mistakes in agile practices

Here’s an enjoyable graphic representation of agile practices which is about as easy to navigate as the Tokyo subway map:

https://www.agilealliance.org/agile101/subway-map-to-agile-practices/

Simplify your life and improve your dev wellness

Continuous delivery and deployment improves the overall process by allowing teams or individuals to better understand which resources are going into the right features and which aren’t.  The continuous approach is improving UX on a global scale, reducing levels of peer frustration and improving overall zen dev–yes, it’s a thing. Ommmm. 

What is the most important sweet spot shared by all of us? Happy users.  By automating software delivery cycles to allow developers to focus on building great products we are entering a new era of application and website development.

 

From Puppets 2016 State of DevOps report :

  • High-performing IT organizations deploy 200 times more frequently than low performers, with 2,555 times faster lead times.
  • They have 24 times faster recovery times and three times lower change failure rates.
  • High-performing IT teams spend 50 percent less time remediating security issues.
  • And they spend 22 percent less time on unplanned work and rework.
  • Employees in high-performing teams were 2.2 times more likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work.
  • Taking a lean approach to product development (for example, splitting work into small batches and implementing customer feedback) predicts higher IT performance and less deployment pain.

 

Barcelona’s top tech events for 2017

Makers fairs, Fab Lab, Mobile World Congress, Big Data and IOT meetups are just a taste of what makes Barcelona a technology freak’s haven.

People from all over the globe flock to the Catalan capital’s sunny streets to get a feel for a place that goes from ever-so stylish to grungy in just a few blocks. Despite the bachelorette revellers, stag night lads, and skaters galore, one thing that can’t be denied how much is being invested to make Barcelona something more than a cruise stop destination.  Yes, a newer type of tech tourism, entrepreneurship and local innovation initiatives are giving BCN a geek chic edge that is taking Europe by storm.

Contentcult is delighted to share the scoop on this year’s most happening technology-related events. From high profile events like the Mobile World Congress or music and technology festival Sonar and  to lesser known 3D printing fairs, these happenings will give your calendar that in-the-know oomph.

Tech Experience Conference Nov 2017

Smart City Expo  November 2017

Mobile World Congress March 2017

Sonar June 2017

IOT World Congress October 2017

4YFN  Ongoing

Barcelona Maker Faire June 2017

In3dustry 3D printing event October 2017

Barcelona Games World  October 2017

Gamification Think Tank Meet up

cropped-cropped-blog_bloomua_155528621.jpg

After  last year’s loved up buzz over our very own Cuitat Comtal hosting the 4th Gamification World Congress, 2016 brings us monthly Think Tank meet ups to keep BCN gamifiyers linked up and yapping  game dynamics.

Focusing on socially conscious gamification methodologies for education and civic good,  the meet ups also bring together individuals who work within this field or might be needing to incorporate some gamification elements into their projects.

Discussions are geared towards understanding the expanse to which game dynamics can reach and breach mental lulls spurred on by mundane task completion or stagnant structures of learning. We look at what’s happening in other cities and try to gain insight from models of game-like services that are working.  Whether digital or IRL, well-designed games and play have the ability to trigger our instinctual wish to be in flow.  Pooling of knowledge and resources at Barcelona Gamification Think Tanks is open to all.

RSVP the next meet up here:

 http://www.meetup.com/Barcelona-Gamification-Meetup/events/229457662/

The Human Library

human_library_facebook

 

The Human Library is a worldwide ongoing project where the reader takes out a human book.   With the aim of breaking down stigma and preconceived notions of members of marginalized communities, Content Cult is bringing this event to Barcelona’s historic centre this spring/summer 2016.

Real people – Real Conversations. Stay tuned for when and where!

 

The Human Library es un proyecto en donde el material prestado es un libro humano.Se ha realizado en más de 70 países durante los últimos 15 años.  Rompiendo barreras que crean discriminación.  Content Cult está trayendo este evento a Barcelona para primavera/verano 2016.

Gente verdadera – Conversaciones verdaderas.  Pronto publicaremos donde y cuando.

 

 

The Human Library projects around the world:

https://www.facebook.com/HuffingtonPost/videos/10153720493441130/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/human-library-copenhagen_us_56e34408e4b0860f99d91fec?utm_hp_ref=good-news

http://www.upworthy.com/check-out-a-human-library-where-you-borrow-people-instead-of-books

http://indianexpress.com/article/trending/trending-globally/would-you-like-to-borrow-a-human-being-like-you-do-books-theres-an-actual-library-for-that/

BCN Gamification Think Tank 1

bartles 1

March 30th 2016 marked the first Gamification Think Tank Meetup in Barcelona.

The first monthly Think Tank was dynamic and full of lively banter.

We were fortunate enough to enjoy beautiful modernist surroundings for our first location, where slides of player type frameworks dominated the buzz around the first half  of our session.

Are Bartle’s player types to be applied to gamification at all? Differentiation between MMO/gamers and users of a gamified solution or service.

Initial conceptualising on flow took us to ask questions such as: What entices the user to engage in an activity that is difficult but rewarding? What type or rewards, intrinsic and extrinsic, encourage us to continue?

The second half of our Think Tank focused on positive projects ranging from environmental to educational:

What’s happening in other cities?

Environmental gamification services like Recycle Bank.

Education

Children’s attention capacities.

Games created by kids, game like solutions for math and reading.

Philanthropy games for science and healthcare.

Check out the links below:

http://pixie.es/

https://www.sumdog.com/

https://scratch.mit.edu/

https://www.recyclebank.com/

http://no1leftbehind.eu/

http://72cast.com/

https://fold.it/portal/

http://www.nailab.co.ke/startups/ninja-prep/