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Capital Gains: DC Again Ranks Best For U.S. Internet Speed

North, south, east and west, Internet speed matters. From small-town America to the nation’s most populous places, commerce, education and entertainment rely on high-speed Internet. For the second consecutive year, the Internet Providers staff has examined data on Internet connectivity and security, and especially speed. How does last year’s fastest community rank this time around? How is the United States trending for global Internet speed? See where your state ranks, and read about initiatives to bring fast Internet to more people and more places.  

Cloud services provider Akamai tracks connection speeds nationwide, and Washington DC has now placed first for 2 years in a row. Treating DC as a state, the study discovered web subscribers there have an average speed of 22.47Mbps. That puts the nation’s capital atop the list for Internet speed for the second consecutive year. Akamai’s study covers Internet connectivity and security. DC registers 3Mbps faster than second-place Delaware (19.57). Massachusetts (19.39), Rhode Island (19.37), and Maryland (18.58) round out the top 5. Utah (18.45) dropped out of the top 5, to sixth. Rounding out the top 10: New Jersey (18.11), Virginia (17.87), New York (16.84) and Washington (16.84). The report also includes data on average and top speeds in 10 countries. It shows the U.S. (15.22) second to Japan (in Internet speeds, 17.2). The United Kingdom (14.63), Canada (13.41) and Russia (11.77) rank 3-5. Of the 10 nations studied, India still lags behind with 3.73Mbps.

Other tidbits from the findings:

    • Washington DC’s average speed is twice that of 45th-ranked West Virginia (11.16Mbps.)
  • Once again, the South didn’t register until the middle third, at No. 20. Tennessee (15Mbps) leads the way again south of the Mason-Dixon line, followed by No. 21 Florida (14.91), and No. 25 Georgia (14.59). That reads like college football rankings.

States with the most growth

Ohio (82.18%) jumped the highest compared to last year, more than 50% higher than the second-fastest moving state (Alaska, 29.70%). New Mexico (28.38%), Oklahoma (25.91%), and Montana (23.97%) also had considerable increases. None of those states, though, averages more than 14Mbps. Rhode Island led the way with 75.55% of residents who have access to at least 10Mbps speeds. All but two states in the top 10 in this category were also ranked among the 10 fastest for average speed. Connecticut (60.99%, ninth) and New Hampshire (60.48%, 10th) were the only outliers. Two notable initiatives: COLORADO | In November 2016, 26 communities approved ballot measures that allow them to offer broadband Internet service. That vote allows towns, now up to 95 in the state, to invest tax dollars in broadband networks. Longmont in 2011 first offered residents gigabit Internet as part of the initiative. RURAL AMERICA | America’s Electric Cooperatives, along with 71 Congress members, called on President Donald Trump to help deliver broadband Internet to rural areas. The push is not just for education in those regions, but also to integrate web-based programs in the agricultural space.

What else can we learn?

That Internet speeds continue to rise globally isn’t the story. It’s what’s happening as a result. Cities such as Chattanooga have developed municipal fiber networks. Chattanooga leases the infrastructure it built with a federal grant to Internet carriers. Businesses in the network area pay about $300 monthly for incredible 10-gigabit Internet. Santa Monica, Calif., leaders built a network with similar roots as Chattanooga’s, in 2000. Business and residential customers can buy service on the network. Santa Monica upgraded the infrastructure in 2016 to support 100-gig speeds. The network is the first nationwide to reach those speeds. Remember when Google chose Kansas City as its first fiber city, in 2012? Six others have since joined: Austin, Texas; Provo, Utah; Atlanta; Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Salt Lake City; and San Antonio. Effect of increasing speed and bandwidth EDUCATION | Initiatives to bring faster Internet to rural communities have parallels in metro areas. High-speed Internet costs have dropped, but remain prohibitive in some places. A competitive market benefits potential customers who haven’t had options. STEM ACCESS | An uptick in faster Internet access also helps kids, especially girls. Kids can gain exposure to science, technology, engineering and math. Global competition for university admission and in the job market make it crucial that kids in the U.S. keep up. BUSINESS GROWTH | Especially for a startup, greater broadband means gains in less conspicuous areas. This includes cloud storage and the need for large-file upload. As download times become faster, so too do symmetric, upstream speeds. They're used for sending data to the web, rather than extracting.

How fast is fast?

How much speed do you need? We took a look at popular speed tiers common Internet service providers offer. Here's what they’re capable of. True speed isn’t easy to gauge. Several factors can affect how much speed you get at a given time. Some of the more common include: COMPUTER COMPONENTS | Fiber Internet can’t reach its potential on outdated devices. Low memory, slow processor speeds and computer configurations can bog a network down. WI-FI STRAIN | Even fast broadband isn’t infinite. The more devices you connect to a network, the less speed there is to go around. Also, those connecting in rooms far from your router won’t get the full effect of network speed. Wireless repeaters can strengthen your signal in more rooms. BROWSERS | Which browser’s best? Depends on who you ask. Many devices default to Internet Explorer. That platform has improved in recent years. Plenty of users, though, choose alternatives, such as Google Chrome, Opera, and Mozilla. Some browsers are also better for customization and privacy.

What can I do with my speed?

5MBPS | Usually a base offering from providers, this speed will usher you easily from site to site, email to email. Conducting significant downloads or letting many users on the network won’t be so easy. 12MBPS | It’s likely not strong enough to support a family of browsers. A single user who doesn’t game and stream all the time should find browsing, social media and video clips a smooth operation. 24MBPS | Song and videos will download in half the time they would at 12Mbps. At this speed, you should notice an upgrade in sound and video quality, too. 50MBPS | Stream, game, and connect everyone’s device to the network. You could even begin that startup in your basement at this speed. Cloud computing is also within your realm. 75MBPS | This’ll support a startup or family with several users. Symmetrical speed at this tier would be excellent for sending video and audio files. 100MBPS | Video chats, streaming TV, gaming, and other bandwidth-dependent activity becomes virtually buffer-free. It doesn't matter if you're using several devices. As a home network, 100Mbps can handle about anything.

Internet speed tests

Your Internet service provider likely has one. So does Google, as well as other independent sources, if you’re skeptical. A typical Internet speed test will measure data speed through a connection. It will account for download and upload speed, download first, usually. It also takes into account latency, that pause between a request and answer from a server. Turn off access to all other devices when you conduct a speed test, to ensure the most accurate results.



Best of the Best Series 1: Sites That Will Elevate Your Coding Game

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Best of the Best. This series will examine our favorite things on the web. Look to us for the top picks for assets, resources, and other must-see items online. The lists will be a culmination of surveys, editor’s picks, online reviews and our personal favorites. Looking to learn to code? You won’t have to look far. Code refers to the complex binary instructions written in 1s and 0s. It helps to power computers, smartphones, and even automobiles, with software capable of communicating and receiving data. The onslaught of programs and websites to teach code appeal to an array of users. Children, computer scientists and multitudes in between them use these sites to learn code. With a considerable breadth of code-reliant devices, demand for coders – those who write these binary instructions – has been on the rise for years. Yet, 17 states don’t recognize computer science for high school graduation requirements. The site says 42,969 computer science grads ventured into the job market last year. As of Q1 2017, 512,340 open computer jobs have gone unfilled. Coding isn’t a one-size-fits-all language. Far from it. Code education caters to a variety of needs. We’ve found helpful sites, for those who know the difference between Ruby and Ruby on Rails, and for those who don’t. (They’re different programming languages, by the way.) Some designers up their game with these sites. Others go there for the basics. There’s learning space for bloggers, game developers, website administrators, and more. We’ve chosen the best of the best when it comes to popular categories of code education.  




Code Avengers Code Avengers offers free and for-pay courses. Users pay per course, not a monthly fee, as with some schools. At about $21 per course, Code Avengers’ curriculum is geared for the true beginner. Bigger outfits such as Treehouse and Code School have more offerings. Code Avengers’ laid-back feel and a la carte course selection give it the edge for beginners, though.

Honorable mention

UDEMY | Lots of free, self-paced online courses. It’s also a marketplace for users to sell or offer free teachings through courses. LEARN CODE THE HARD WAY | It’s less a code school and more of a library for code beginners. Following a “learn, then implement” style, it offers online, print and video options.



Scratch Designed for kids 18 and under, Scratch caters to users of all ages who have a grasp of coding principles. Scratch is by no means an easy platform. Its superpower is that it breaks code into logical sections such as motion and sound. Like Code Avengers, Scratch takes a simple approach to education. Users can download projects from this platform for use in other places.

Honorable mention

LEARNPYTHON.ORG |Python is a code language that uses a simpler syntax than other high-level programming languages, with similar results. UDACITY | This site includes training for several jobs, including computer science and programming. Users can access coaching and standardized feedback tools, and receive verified certificates.



Coursera Coursera has online courses from dozens of top computer science universities. The courses are free, and come in five languages. Video lectures run about 20-30 minutes, a fraction of time a user would spend in class at the schools. Quizzes and tests from college professors and varied final-exam formats set Coursera apart.

Honorable mention

CODEPROJECT | Subscribers can take part in forums and access a Quick Answers section. They can also register for weekly updates. Developers worldwide contribute to the site’s article library. 4GUYSFROMROLLA.COM | Demand remains high for coding on the .NET platform. Experienced coders visit this site for ASP and ASP.NET tips and JavaScript tutorials.


1 More robust than the free .com version, offers capacity to customize. Popular with bloggers and business site developers, offers custom plug-ins. These create a multitude of functions on a website, such as flash players and PDF readers. The .com entity, WordPress’ free site, works well with beginning bloggers. It includes plenty of contemporary templates for basic blogging.

Honorable mention

GHOST | Site developers created Ghost to make life in code easier for bloggers. Its Kickstarter campaign raised$320,000 in 48 hours to ensure its launch. DRUPAL | While not one of the easiest platforms to navigate, Drupal offers a ton of functionality. This includes advanced menu management and a graphics modifications tool. Bloggers can create advanced sites, boards, social networking pages and more.



Game Development @ Tuts+ This platform can carry the user from beginner to advanced. Experienced game developers offer e-books, free tutorials and online courses. The concept goes for building and designing games. The courses and community discourse cover game development and theory. That includes understanding steering behaviors, creating a 3D city and more.

Honorable mention

INFINITE SKILLS | Go here for user-friendly classes and a vast video library. Some videos are free, and users choose from downloads, DVDs, and on-demand viewing. The site even has an iOS app. GAME CODE SCHOOL | It’s tough to find a more comprehensive course offering. Industry pros offer screencasts on this site, just be aware the material is not for beginners.


Find the Best Deals on the High-Speed Internet


10 Romantic Gifts (Technically Speaking) for Valentine’s Day

Planning on that classic box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day? A bouquet of roses? Good luck. What’s classic can feel a bit … trite. There’s gobs of competition, too. Why fuss around with something predictable? It’s 2017, people. We’ve come too far to lean on the trusted standards – at least completely – to move the hearts of our valentine. It’s gotten techy, Valentine’s Day. Get with it, with these winners we’ve found. Hurry, though, and don’t wait for the last minute. You’ll find yourself in line for an overpriced and picked-at selection of flowers if you drag your feet.

For those who can pull off the classics

Bloomsy | $39.99-$48.99 per month To whip out a bouquet on Feb. 14 is expected. Having a bouquet of seasonal blooms hand-picked and delivered to your amor's door? A higher level altogether. Pick (see what we did there?) from three-, six- and 12-month options. They’re delivered with love – and info cards about the blooms, too.

Honorable mention

From Your Flowers | Besides flowers, nothing shows affection quite like confections. Vermont Teddy Bear | Log in and pick out the perfect teddy for your squeeze.

For the succinct wordsmith

Telegram Stop | $7.45 I<stop>LOVE<stop>You. Okay, you’ll want to be more elaborate and creative than that, obviously. Type a love message into the site, something profound and wonderful. Preview what your telegram will look like (not even Thomas Edison could do that!) and TelegramStop will lick the stamp.

Honorable mention

The Holiday Spot | Readymade love letters, for free. For the thrifty and energy-efficient. Love Poetry Generator | An ad-lib approach. Enter factors such as feelings, colors, and verbs, and voila.

For the long-form wordsmith

Kind Notes | $34.95 and up When you can’t say it in one, send 31. Pick a jar, a stationary, envelope style, and ribbon. Pick from ready-made messages of love, or craft your own. The Kind Notes staff with hand-write them on each card. Your darling can read one a day, or one an hour, or whenever they could use a little love.

Honorable mention

Invisible Boyfriend | Or girlfriend. Build a beloved to send you sweet nothings. Baggage not included. Timeless Message | Send a message in a bottle - not an S-O-S - to your L-O-V-E.

For the ‘appy lovers

Avocado | free The Aztecs considered avocados as symbols of love and fertility. This avocado is also an app, for two and two alone. No virtual PDA. Share chats, photos, lists, and more. Speak your own love language to each other, with taps and swipes. Sync it with Google calendar and it’s your own one-on-one dating app, too.

Honorable mention

Valentine’s Day Special |  You can’t buy love – but you can add it up on this app’s love calculator. Red Stamp | Free iOS app lets you stamp photos with text and send by mail or social media.

For device-driven love

Kissenger | $74.99 Send a replica of your kiss to a far-off love through a high-tech transferal device.  The unit looks like a mini water tower with lips.  Lay one on the device with your heart in it, and your connected connection will feel it. When the miles stretch out between you, though, let tech bridge the divide with love.

Honorable mention

SleepPhones | These wireless headphones for bed could save your love life (if you’re a snorer). Polaroid Snap Instant Digital Camera | Court old-school with your honey with instant photos.

For practical partners

The Trackr | $29.99 Give the gift of not having to rummage for your phone or keys every time it’s time to go. Imagine the quality time you could recoup. TrackR attaches to your love’s oft-lost item. Locate it through the TrackR app. Works with – but isn’t recommended for – use on your actual partner.

Honorable mention

Rainbow8 multi-color LED smart bulb | Set the mood with this Wi-Fi enabled light bulb. Chocolate Smartphone | The only swiping you’ll do on this phone is stealing a bite after you give it.

For those with a song in their hearts

Milktape | $14.99 Handpick 15-20 songs, straight from your heart. Drag and drop them on your iTunes account. Plug in the USB hidden in the case casing, and let Bon Jovi and Celine Dion belt out all the love you feel inside. You can even scribble love notes on the tape cover like your parents used to do.

Honorable mention

Revolution Turntable | Spin the vinyl on your romantic night – and rip your tunes to an MP3. Mars Levitating Speaker | Dazzle her with space-age, gravity defying musical magic.

For those who could write the book of love

LoveBook | $44.95 Tell your love story in a printed book. You create it, from title to cover concept, illustrations, and personalization. LoveBook will print and ship your creation to your dearest, anywhere in the world. Go paperback for the fleeting romance, or hardcover if you’re not even playing.

Honorable mention

Amazon Kindle | Keep your flame kindled with all the love stories she can take in. Smart Pencil Stylus | Nothing says love like a hand-written note sent to your Apple device.

For those who stick together

Tine | $9.99-$14.99 Don’t settle for a note to your long-distance love. Send a voice or video message on a tag sticker. Each tag contains a code that holds your message. When your honey scans the code, they receive your message, in living color (or sound). (The app will let you know he's scanned the message, too.)

Honorable mention

Aera Smart Fragrance | Forget candles. Share scents in your room and his for long-distance ambiance. Medis 24/7 Xtreme charger | Ensure his device is ALWAYS powered to get your calls and texts. Every single one of them. ALWAYS.


On Clothing and Human Dominance: Why the New England Patriots Will Win Super Bowl 51

You can bet there will be tons of wagers for Super Bowl LI. Bettors plunked down a record $132.54 million on Super Bowl 50 last season, according to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's five-year contract is worth $29 million less than that figure. For $132 million, you could renovate a college football stadium. (That’s what the University of Illinois did with that kind of dough, for perspective.) When it comes to wagering mega bucks, you’d think gamblers would lean on a surefire way to pick the winner. This might involve heavy analysis of match-ups and key players. There's also coaching acumen and style of play to consider. That’s not always how it goes. Here are unorthodox methods of choosing a Super Bowl winner. So long as you win big on the big day – it shouldn’t matter how you got there, right? Keep that in mind for Sunday as you pick a winner between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

The white jersey factor

American Football Conference and National Football Conference champions alternate as official game hosts. Hosts get first dibs on uniform color choice. This season, the NFC’s Atlanta Falcons chose to wear their red jerseys. The question is: Why?? Teams in white jerseys are 32-18 in Super Bowls, including the Denver Broncos last season. Broncos general manager John Elway shook up the recipe and chose to leave the team’s signature orange jerseys back at the ranch. Denver had worn orange in four Super Bowls – and went 0-4 in those games. Opponents have outscored them 167-38 in those four losses, too. In white, Denver lost Super Bowl XXI to the New York Giants, beat the Atlanta Falcons in them 12 years later, and won against Carolina last season. (Denver also has a win in blue jerseys, vs. the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII.) There's one exception in the white-jersey era. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, in green jerseys, in Super Bowl XVL. Atlanta wore black jerseys in Super Bowl XXXIII, it’s only other game appearance, but Denver won that game 34-19 in – you guessed it – white jerseys. Edge: New England. The Patriots are 2-1 in white jerseys in Super Bowl play.

The game before the game

Before players take the field, gamers take a seat and play out the game on a flat screen. Will Brinson of  CBS Sports simulated the season game-by-game before a single game was played. He used the popular EA Sports video game  7. That model pitted Atlanta and Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. Atlanta won that pretend game, 41-35. The video game, notable for incredible graphics, enhanced control and attention to detail in each new rendition, accurately predicted a surprising disappointment of a season for the Arizona Cardinals. It also gave the Jacksonville Jaguars far too much grace with a division title and conference title game appearance. The Jags actually finished 3-13 as the AFC’s worst team. The official EA Sports simulation has predicted nine of the past 13 Super Bowl winners. That includes three of the past five. It missed on the Carolina vs. Denver Super Bowl last season. It also pegged the winner (New England) and final score (28-24, vs. Seattle) the season before. Edge: Atlanta. Not bad for a team that opened the season with 40-1 odds of winning the Super Bowl.

Other predictors

Talk shows and other creative outlets roll out porcupines and a panel of puppies to pick a winner. But even methods with decent track records are little more than chance. For instance, being first in the alphabet for your location name holds no advantage. Same for being northernmost or southernmost in your matchup. (Easternmost has a 30-20 edge on the West through 50 Super Bowls.) One spot that plays out bigger than geography or alphabetization: Man vs. Animal. Exclude the one machine vs. animal Super Bowl (Jets 16, Colts 7). Suspend belief long enough to consider Giants and Saints human. Do that, and there’s a distinct mascot trend. Humans have beaten animals head-to-head in 23 of 28 Super Bowls. Much of that, but not all, can be attributed to dynasties from the 49ers, Steelers and Patriots. (Also to rough Super Bowl histories from Denver, the Buffalo Bills, and Miami Dolphins.) Edge: New England. A bird of prey from the genus Falco, despite all its majesty, is no contest for a trained soldier with a musket. Especially if he’s wearing white. Patriots fans can order those championship hats. Wearing the jersey of champions lately (New England’s white jerseys) and given mankind’s dominance of animals in the NFL world, too, the odds are looking good for Tom Brady and his teammates. Unless Atlanta leaves them seeing red.



You Give Love a Bad Name: Valentine’s Day Scams to Avoid

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and that means you’re probably scrambling to get your significant other something nice. Or if you’re lazy, a great e-card. While Valentine’s Day tends to bring out the romantic in many of us, it also brings out the scammer is some of us. And while we all want that bouquet of roses or edible chocolates in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, there are some scams you should be on the lookout for. In 2014, 1.26 percent of online dating transactions during Valentine’s Day were fraudulent and the FBI received more than 5,000 romance scam complaints. Most scammers play into two things, our desire for love, and our trust in certain organizations. They do this by crafting emails or messages that trick people into believing they are a legit organization, like a greeting card company or a delivery company. Here are the top scams to be on the lookout for this year.

1. Fake E-Cards

This is one of the more popular ones around the holiday. If you get an email that sounds like it’s from someone you know, or from a legit looking card company, be wary. Sometimes the subject line will include something like “Someone special sent you an e-card,” which of course pique’s even the most cautious person’s interest. If you click on the link, it could load malware or other harmful viruses onto your computer.

2. Phishy flowers

If you are sending someone flowers or expecting flowers on February 14, be extra careful. Often scammers will send an email from a flower company saying they need you to re-enter your credit card information for the flowers to be delivered. This scam works more often than most because so many people order flowers for Valentine’s Day. Many people don’t take the time to check the origin of the email because they don’t want their flowers to be late - but scammers can get their credit card information. Call the florist directly to make sure the email is legit.

3. Fake deliveries

Similar to the flower scam, someone will create a fake delivery email that asks you to download a form or click on a link to another site in order for your package to be delivered. If you do either it could put a virus on your computer, or take you to a site asking for personal information. Before you click on the email or any of the attachments, call the shipping company to confirm they sent out an email.

4. Catfishing

A catfish is a scammer who creates fake profiles on dating sites to attempt to lure their matches into sending personal information or money. They create fake profiles on sites such as or Tinder and try to find susceptible matches. A few ways to spot scammers on these sites include:
  • Lack of photos
  • Poor English use
  • Lots of grammar and spelling errors on their profiles and messages
They also might ask for money early to help with a crisis, or are never be able to meet because they are always traveling or don’t have any knowledge of the area you live in. Love is hard enough without having to worry about scammers and online threats. If you think you might have been a victim of online scam, you can report it here: The Federal Trade Commission The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center



5 Terrific (and Unusual) Pinterest Boards you Should Follow Now

I recently saw a tweet from Tragically Ally, a popular champion on Twitter. And it made me laugh. It also made me think:

Turns out funeral pins are a thing. Just search for funeral pins in Twitter – some tweets are in jest, sure, but not all. I didn’t get swept away in thoughts of my own funeral. I did, however, begin to think of other Pinterest boards that might exist. Here are some eye-catching Pinterest boards. They're work safe.

1. Alternative Disney Mashups rock, don’t they? Take a look at what characters such as Ariel and Pocahontas would look like if they were in The Walking Dead. Check out a real-life, man-sized Buzz Lightyear. And check out impressive Disney poster GIFS like this one:

2. Cartographic Curiosities This board boasts more than 12,000 followers. It includes a book lover’s map of literary geography, circa 1933. It features cartographic works of art that originated in Boston and Cambridge. See a historic atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. And have a look at this visual history of mapping the universe:

3. Funeral ideas It’s not all about how folks hope to peace out of this world. Pins include balloons printed with “You are loved, you are missed, you are remembered.” Find ideas for how to display a favorite quote at the service. And peruse the collection of poems, such as this one:

4. Humor fingers (dedicated to the art of finger people) With this board I’d need both hands and feet to count my favorites. You have to hand it to people who can be so clever. Lots of people have nailed it on this board. Others kind of toe the line. Here’s a favorite of mine:

5. Too PRETTY to EAT! This board takes dessert to a sweet, creative level. Check out a detailed ruffle cake, in deep purple. There’s a jaw-dropping wedding cake that looks like it’s part of an enormous carnation. I loved this one, of Alice in Wonderland, even though I’m not sure whether to eat or pour tea from:


5 Awesome Sites to Boost Your Elf on the Shelf Game

As if Christmastime madness wasn’t mad enough. A tradition has emerged between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (AKA, the longest month ever when you’re 5; the shortest, as a parent):  The Elf on the Shelf. He’s an 8-inch spaghetti-armed Santa spy on a mission. He carries in his plastic noggin a dossier of iron-clad rules – don’t touch me, being foremost. Author Carol Aebersold and daughter, Chandra Bell, introduced the elf in a rhyming kids’ book. It published in 2005, and a marketing blitz ensued. When the stardust settled, the elf became an award-winning toy. All as Santa’s heavy for tracking behavior of naughty girls and boys worldwide. Parents move the elf every night around the house and into his next adventure. He often leaves clever notes (imagine an elf with a miniature surfboard and a sign that reads, “surf’s up! And you’d better be too – time for school!) Usually, the elf emerges on the day the family tree goes up. Kids find the elf each morning, revel in his antics and read his message. If they touch him, he loses his magic. This calls for an apology letter to Santa, and a sprinkle of cinnamon next to the elf’s magic-stripped body at bedtime. Ten times out of 10, he’s good as new the next day. Love him or lump him, you must give him his due. This elf has flung himself into the American mainstream holiday environment. He’s not self-sufficient, either. He relies on parents who rack their holiday-assaulted minds for clever placement and theater. Parents seek tips for colic and advice about SnapChat on the Internet. Now, too, elf ideas. Entire blog posts and Pinterest boards exist for his glory. We’ve compiled three clever elf treatments found on the web. That’ll carry you through almost a half a week! You are welcome.

For the lazy parent

Doctor’s Note

Darn Kid Reindeer live in a hostile, frigid environment. It stands to reason that environment fosters the survival of the fittest, even for ticks. Ticks cause Lyme disease, transmission to reindeer and to elves, and, well, time missed from work. Herein lies a parental work-around. This idea earns you a one-year reprieve.

For the planner

30 Days of Elf

Macaroni Kid If you’re like most parents,Elf planning, dinner planning, or – who are we fooling? – LIFE planning, a source that gives you a step-by-step guide for an entire month of ANYTHING is akin to a gift from Santa himself. Blogger Christel Hoydic. The writer behind Macaroni kid, advises rookies to start modestly. Christel’s suggestions include:*
  • Pitting the elf in a wrestling match with a gator
  • Granting him access to mom’s makeup kit
  • Throwing him into a marshmallow war with a Captain America figure
*The elf has acquired a taste for messy mischief over the years. [Check out Christel’s Elf Pinterest presence, too. #ElfLife]

For dads out of ideas

Appliances, solitude, mystery

Daddy Realness We’ve known this from Ward Cleaver to Fred Flintstone: Dads possess an alternate world view. Not down with plopping your elf in the middle of an intricate handmade peppermint forest? This blog will lend some real-life (and Breaking Bad-like) ideas. Mike’s suggestions include*:
  • Leaving the elf in the middle of the floor
  • Framing the elf with empty beer bottles
  • Forcing the elf’s antics outdoors
*Mike says “I’m not that creative. Guess I should have led off with that.” [Check out Mike’s blog, with straight talk about fatherhood.]

For the family-friendly family

Naughty-behavior strikes, flour messages, and cookie-and-pretzel dumb bells

Skinny Mom Gator-wrangling and outdoor exile aren’t for everyone. Still, there’s a lot of room for creativity. Jenna Gross writes for the blog Skinny Mom. She crowd-sourced for ideas for parents whose brains are “completely elfed out.” Her 101 ideas more than covers the season – and could spur your creativity. Jenna’s ideas include*: The elf beginning a holiday-themed coloring page for the kids to finish A rigged game of UNO with a Christmas gnome Hidding in the freezer and binging on ice cream *Jenna’s post links to tons of clever parent blogs [Check out Jenna’s posts on fitness, food and other fun.]

For the overachiever parents

Upgrades, downgrades, and ways to snuff him out

The elf is head-heavy and spaghetti-armed – if he had the mobility and strength of, say, a He-Man action figure, can you imagine? Also, you must consider the elf’s Christmas exit and farewell until next year. For some parents, though, a more permanent close is tantalizingly close, too. Check out these sites: Dirty Diaper Laundry | Kim Rosas’ tutorial will demonstrate how to give the elf’s arms some muscle – and his hands some grip. She knows | Elaina Verhoff’s suggestions include packing a suitcase for his Christmas-day departure, serving Santa his Christmas Eve cookies and milk, and the gift of pajamas for the big night. Sunshine and Hurricanes | It’s easy to find ideas for violent ends to the elf’s service. Blogger Kira Lewis simply says, “hey, elf. It’s me, not you.” She’s penned the perfect breakup letter for the elf.


Buyer Beware: Online shopping scams and how to avoid them

Think you’re safe from online scammers? Think again. Last year, identity theft affected more than 13 million U.S. consumers.  According to the Insurance Information Institute, identity thieves have stolen a whopping $112 billion from U.S. consumers in the past six years. These days, online criminals are more likely to target you that criminals on the street. Online hackers and scammers want credit card information and scammer activity will spike during the holiday season. Here are a few easy steps to identify and avoid online scams as you scramble for last-minute deals.

Top 3 Identity Theft Scams

Gift-card Scams: A too-good-to-be-true gift-card offer is tough to pass up, especially with tons of people to buy for and shopping on a budget. An email offer that asks you to enter your banking information to claim it is a sure sign it’s fake. Trusted brands and retailers don’t ask for that kind of information. Coupon Scams: Following in the too-good-to-be-true vein, many online scammers use emails and website pop-ups claiming deals to top gifts and tech gadgets at a discounted price. Clicking on the links to these coupons will typically take you to a site asking for personal information. Thieves take the information entered to make purchases in your name, and steal your identity. Other ways to spot a fake coupon:
  • No expiration date
  • It doesn’t take you directly to the retailers’ site
  • The offer is too good- like over 50% off good
Bad Links: Online scammers who try to steal your information often do so via a method known as phishing. They use emails that mimic legit retailers, or with information that looks like it’s from your bank in the attempt to get you to enter personal information. These links can also often install malware onto your computer. Not sure you can spot a fake? This site gives you a few examples.

Ways to spot a fake:

Look for poor grammar and spelling: Oftentimes you can spot a fake email or coupon just by the amount of misspellings and over-the-top guarantees. Plus, if a link takes you to a site with tons of pop-ups, that’s another dead giveaway it’s not a legit offer. Look for safe payment systems: Apple Pay, Android Pay and Amazon Payments are all great examples of ways to safely pay online. Plus, if you are banking online, or doing anything involving a payment on the web, be sure the site has the lock icon in the link followed by http://. This indicates it is secure and that your data is private. Look for secure Wi-Fi networks: Never purchase something over public Wi-Fi. It doesn’t have the same kind of security measures in place that a home connection would, which means it’s much easier for hackers to access your phone or computer and steal personal information. Buying online can be quick and painless as long as you are taking steps to keep your information safe. Installing Anti-Virus software and Anti-Phishing software on your home computer is another great way to fight hackers and scammers. Plus, you can fight back. If you believe you have been a victim on identity theft, immediately report it here.



What is Mirai botnet and how did it smash the Internet?

On October 21, the U.S. saw a massive outage of Internet sites. Hackers launched three waves of attacks that took out the web operations of Internet powerhouses such as Amazon, Pinterest, Netflix and The New York Times. Many people were left wondering how this could’ve this happened. Let’s take a look at who attacked what, how they did it, and what implications this could have for the future of the Web.  

Who was it?

Two hacking collectives claimed responsibility for the attack: New World Hackers and Anonymous. The groups say they carried out the operation in retaliation for Ecuador cutting off Internet access for Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. However, experts aren't confident it actually was those groups. With Mirai, the open-source tool used to launch the attack, it could have been any other hacker or group.  

What broke?

The attack was on Dyn, a Domain Name Service (DNS) provider. You use a DNS provider whenever you point your browser to a URL like Think of DNS as a switchboard operator. The operator gets your request and finds the IP address of a server that holds the website you want. Then it and connects your computer to that server. DNS is important to the web, and the blackout showed us just how much depends on it.  

How did it break?

The hackers used a technique called DDoS, which stands for “distributed denial of service.”. The "distributed" part means that the attack came from multiple computers in different locations. In any Denial of Service attack, the attacker bombards a website's server with lots of network requests. With too many requests, the server gets overloaded. It can't respond to legitimate requests and the website becomes unreachable. In the attack on Dyn, the botnet (collection of hacked computers used for the DDoS attack) comprised Internet-enabled devices such as remote cameras, baby monitors and printers. Mirai was the malware that infected them. Mirai's creator specifically targeted the security weakness of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. A hacker shared the Mirai source code with a community of hackers, giving them a powerful open-source weapon. When Mirai infects a device, the device continues to function normally in the household. But in the background, that device searches for and infects other vulnerable devices. These devices form a virtual army that a hacker can use to barrage online targets with traffic. A Computerworld article said an estimated 100,000 devices were involved in the attack, but the total number of infected devices could be half a million. The attack was likely the largest DDoS attack in history.  

Now what?

The Mirai malware is still out there. But while many devices are now infected, not all of them are controlled by the same hacker. In reality, “Mirai botnet” is many botnets that run on the same malware. Security experts have seen smaller DDoS attempts, but it seems competition among hackers to take over devices has fragmented Mirai’s power. It's unlikely that another big outage will happen from the same source any time soon. But the event should spark caution for device manufacturers and consumers alike. The IoT devices in Mirai botnets were vulnerable because they used weak or default passwords. Manufacturers should require strong, unique passwords during device setup. Users should always change the default password when setting up a new Internet-connected device.