A little privacy please: Encrypting your online connection

     As a student, making sure you’re safe offline and online is important. From making sure your valuables are secure and that you don’t get your identity or money stolen, being conscious about your security is something to keep in mind. However, the security of your online information is often overlooked. It is easy for someone to steal your personal data, passwords, banking data and more private information that is transmitted each time you go online.

     Everything we do online is recorded in one way or another. From the moment we connect to the internet, everything we do online is tracked and stored by the companies that provide our internet. The fact that this is stored by internet providers is an issue.

     However, with Net Neutrality laws removed, this allows those same internet providers to sell your information to companies like Google and Facebook without you having a say in the matter.

     With growing concerns of who has access to whose information, a number of organizations have established a way to provide a measure of security online for the average person.

     Virtual Private Networks or VPN’s have been on the rise, run by for-profit organizations that believe that people should have a choice about who can see their data. A VPN’s purpose is to encrypt your information.

     It creates a tunnel between you and a location where a VPN server stops your information from being seen by others while also making it harder for someone to trace information back to you. This is useful for protecting your information when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network­—because unsecured networks are the easiest way for thieves to see, steal and record your information.

     Another use of VPN is to gain access to websites that have been blocked by the government. Even though this is not a big issue here in the U.S., it is something that is important for many other countries.

     Even though VPN’s do increase your security online, it still has its limitations and downsides. It is important to note that if someone truly wanted to track you and had the technical know-how, they could find ways to get around a VPN.

     Even though VPN’s are there to keep your information away from prying eyes, VPN companies still fall under the laws of the country they are based out of, and some will be forced to hand over information in response to warrants from law enforcement.

     It is also important to consider that devices like a Chromecast, Roku or smart home devices will not work with a VPN. There are workarounds, but it involves a more complicated process like encrypted routers.

     Many streaming services, like Netflix, don’t work well with VPN’s because companies like Netflix don’t want you to get around restrictions they placed that change from country to country. However, some VPN services work to make sure that people can stream with their service.

     Finally, many VPN services are businesses, so they will have monthly fees, for the more popular VPN’s like ExpressVPN or NordVPN they will range from $12 to $13 a month, or cheaper if you get a yearly subscription. In a time where the difference between the offline and online world is beginning to blur, the protection of your online data is something everyone should keep in mind even if it costs a little extra.


Espresso 41 hosts an ‘Open Mic Night’

     Performing usually gives everyone the jitters as they walk on the stage to express their talent. Pegasus gave students and anyone else that chance on Feb. 21.  at Espresso 41.

     At a little before six, a guitar was strumming and students were rehearsing their material. I happened to be one of those performers, even though I am not musically talented. I picked a song, got some instrumental music and prepared myself to sing, all the while my heart beating faster than I could talk. I was afraid my voice was going to crack when I let that first note out.

     My hands were shaking on my steering wheel as I drove there. All the thoughts in my head were racing, “Will they enjoy it?,” “What if I forget the words?,” “What if I miss a note,?”

     Around 30 people showed up at 6 p.m. and more cars began to pack the parking spaces. Jeff Newberry was the first reader. He read a few of his pieces that were very strong, powerful stories. Different professors from ABAC joined the open mic night and some read and listened to the pieces students and faculty chose to read.

     One of the students, Hannah Robinson, read her own written narrative nonfiction piece to the crowd. “‘See Me’ was something I wrote a couple months after my twenty-first birthday when I was dealing with a lot of thoughts about my life so far. I was in an abusive situation as a kid, and as a result, I deal with depression and anxiety. I also have been dealing with a chronic illness called fibromyalgia since I was about 16. All of those things together inspired that piece.”

     “The end of ‘See Me’ is basically about me realizing that even those bad parts of my life are a part of me. And I think that’s a beautiful thing to come to realize.”

     After Robinson read her piece, the crowd burst into cheers and encouragement while congratulating her for standing up on that platform to read her story. A few moments later, after everyone went inside and grabbed a bite to eat and drink, a little girl grabbed the microphone and announced, “Next up, we have Kristen Davis.” Everyone’s eyes were immediately directed toward me. I froze in panic and my heart began to beat a hundred times faster. I steadily walked toward the small platform outside and I stood behind the mic and the man next to me plugged my aux in.

     My mind was racing with all the songs I could’ve picked, but of course, I picked one of the most famous, well-known songs nearly everyone has heard, “Take On Me” by A-ha. In my mind, I have sung that song so much better alone, but when I stood in front of people, my voice became quiet.

     I sang the song and I thought I did absolutely terrible, but the crowd thought otherwise with their claps and cheers when it was over. So, I was partially shocked. I thought everyone would laugh at me and think it was terrible, but they all congratulated me and said I did great.

     So, after all, I guess I did okay, but the experience of the whole event was really fun. If anyone has the chance to attend one of these open mics, I would highly recommend going. It is a very free-spirited atmosphere and it was filled with laughter and cheers and fun.


Car Talk: Restoring your headlights

     Over time, headlights will develop a haze that allows less light through the outside lens. This can become hazardous when driving at night or in poor visibility conditions. As an alternative to buying new expensive headlights, there is a simple way to restore a vehicle’s existing headlights. The process involves using two stages of sanding to remove the built-up, yellow film.

     To restore your headlight you will need safety glasses, gloves, 80 grit sandpaper sheet, 120 grit sandpaper sheet, glass cleaner, car wax/polish, four microfiber cloths, a small bucket and water.

     Begin the restoration process by spraying one of the headlights with glass cleaner. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the headlight thoroughly. Repeat this process until the headlight is clean to the touch. Be sure there is no dirt or debris on the headlight. Use a dry microfiber cloth to dry the headlight.

     Fill a small bucket with plain tap water. Wet the headlight with plain tap water. Next, tear a whole sheet of 80 grit sandpaper in half. Take this half sheet and fold it in half. Make sure that the fold exposes the rough side of the sandpaper to the outside. Submerge the sandpaper in water.

     At this time, put on a pair of gloves to keep your hands clean in later steps. Take the sandpaper from the water and begin sanding the headlight. Apply light pressure to the headlight with the piece of sandpaper. Most headlights have small dimples that come off the headlight, so be sure not to sand down these dimples.

     Use a horizontal or vertical scrubbing pattern to slowly sand away the first layer of yellow film. If you start by sanding in an up-down pattern, do not vary with left and right sanding or vice versa. This is to ensure a clean wear pattern throughout the entire process. Varying the sanding pattern will result in possible headlight damage.

     Continue to sand in the chosen pattern until the entire headlight is foggy white in color. This may appear as if the damage is worse, however, this is just the start of the solution. Use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe away any water before beginning the next step. This also allows for any missed sanded areas to be seen and fixed.

     Next, use 120 grit sandpaper to sand the headlight. This will get rid of the foggy texture left from the first sanding process. Rewet the headlight and submerge the sandpaper. Sand the headlight in the same pattern as before. Sand the headlight until there are few or no scratch marks from the sandpaper.

     With the final sanding step complete, the headlight must once again be cleaned. Wipe down the headlight with a dry microfiber cloth.

     Apply a small portion of Turtle Wax polish on a damp microfiber sponge. Use the sponge to rub in the wax in small circular motions. This is to fill in any small scratches made by the sandpaper. Do this until the entire headlight has a light layer of wax on it.

     Let the wax dry for about five minutes, then wipe down the headlight with a clean microfiber cloth. The headlight should appear to be much clearer than before. Sometimes, the sanding process must be repeated for best results.


Could have gone ‘Without You’ ‘RENT: Live’

     “RENT” is a Broadway musical that started in 1996. It is a show that depicts the lives of several characters living in the East Village of New York City. In the show, the characters face their own personal struggles—such as sexuality, drugs, paying rent and aids.

     The show’s characters feature Mark Cohen,  a struggling Jewish filmmaker, Roger Davis, an HIV-positive ex-rock musician; Mimi Maquez, an HIV-positive heroin addict who serves as Roger’s love interest; Rom Collins, a gay philosophy professor with AIDs; Angel Dumott Shrunard,  a drag queen and street musician with aids who serves as Collin’s love interest; Maureen Johnson, Mark’s ex-girlfriend and a bisexual performance artist; Joanne Jefferson, who serves as Maureen’s love interest and a Harvard graduate; and Benny Coffin III, landlord of the building Mark, Roger and Mimi live in.

      From its Broadway debut in 1996, Director Chris Columbus made a film adaptation of the Broadway musical featuring six of the original Broadway cast reprising their same roles.

      The show was then reprised once again on Jan. 27, 2019, but this time with a twist. This is because Brennin Hunt who played as Roger broke his foot during dress rehearsal on Jan. 26.

     So, instead of having Hunt do the whole show live in a wheelchair, the broadcast consisted mostly of a prerecording of the dress rehearsal from the prior night with only 15 minutes of the program performed live.

     Since the show primarily consisted of a prerecording of the dress rehearsal, the actors didn’t give it 100 percent. This is due to the actors trying to save their voices for the live recording. But “RENT” is the type of show that if the actors are not giving it everything they have it is not worth watching, and it was clear the actors were singing off-key without the enthusiasm needed to make this show work.

     Another thing I didn’t like about the show is how they did a live performance in a theatre for an audience while the viewers who were watching the TV broadcast had to sit through the trashy dress rehearsal.

     This ticked me off because Hunt did perform the show in a wheelchair for this audience and from the videos posted on Twitter it sounded phenomenal. I was mad because FOX could have recorded the show live and given us the “RENT” experience we all deserved.

     Although we were forced to watch a poorly performed dress rehearsal, FOX did grant us the final 15 minutes of the live show. During this segment of the show, viewers were able to see the live cast consisting of Jordan Fisher as Mark, Brennin Hunt as Roger Davis, Tinashe as Mimi Marquez, Brandon Victor Dixon as Tom Collins, Valentina as Angel, Vanessa Hudgins as Maureen Johnson, Kiersey Clemons as Joanne and Mario as Benjamin perform the songs “Finale,” “Your Eyes,” and “Finale B.”

     The viewers were also granted with an encore performance of “Seasons of Love,” the song that made ‘RENT’ what it is today. But in this performance, the live cast was joined onstage by the original 1996 Broadway cast, which consisted of Anthony Rapp, who played as Mark; Adam Pascal who played as Roger, Daphne Rubin-Vega who played as Mimi; Jesse L. Martin who played Collins; Wilson Jermaine Heredia who played as Angel; Idina Menzel who played as Maureen; Fredi Walker who played as Joanne; and Taye Diggs who played as Benny.

     Even though the somewhat live version of the show on FOX was basically trash, I would suggest watching the original Broadway version of the show or the 2005 film adaptation to gain the full ‘RENT’ experience.


Tech Talk: weird wired technology

     In college, you have your standard devices: a phone, a laptop, headphones and maybe a smartwatch. However, in the tech space, someone is always trying to create the next cool thing that will take your money. This leads to random but interesting products like smart forks and wine bottles. Things that you might want but then ask yourself “But why though?”

     As college students, we spend a lot of time studying alone. Imagine having a small robotic partner that just rolls around your desk playing with his small cube until you need him. That is when you get the Vector Robot by Anki­- a small palm-sized robot that goes around discovering his surroundings like a plastic puppy with wheels.

     However, Vector isn’t just there to help you procrastinate, it’s also there to help answer questions, take pictures, check the weather and most importantly, dance if there’s music playing. You can also activate Amazon’s Alexa on Vector if you use it. Vector is $250, but a cute robot pet that is pretty helpful, couldn’t be a better waste of money.

     Now you have a little robot friend, but have you thought about having a robotic cuddle pillow? Well for the low price of $550, you can have one. The Somnox™ Sleep Robot is a foot-long peanut shaped pillow that you cuddle to your chest. According to Somnox, it helps you sleep better by regulating your breathing, using “calming sounds”, and most importantly, all the robotic affection you want.

     The pillow simulates breathing, which is supposed to help you relax and makes it easier to sleep. It can also play calming sounds that turn off after you’ve fallen asleep.

     This device isn’t available yet, it releases sometime in March or April according to the website, but you can pre-order it.

     After those overly expensive devices, the last one on this list is a humble $18.99 on Amazon. The SoundBot SB210 Wireless Smart Beanie Headset is the perfect device for those who love wearing beanies and giant headphones. Now you can listen to your music discreetly and look fashionable while doing it or, at the very least, keep your ears warm while you listen. The beanies come in a bunch of different colors and they are washable after taking the headphones out. So, if you were thinking of buying a new beanie and a new pair of headphones any time soon, then this might be a good choice for you.