What to Pay Attention to When Buying A Pressure Cooker

Most people have their hands full with everyday work and non-work related obligations. If you are in that group it probably means that you don’t have much time to spend cooking and waiting for your food to get done. In such cases getting yourself a pressure cooker is very good idea. Perhaps you already have one, but feel the need to upgrade it, or you are buying one for the first time. Nevertheless, here are some pieces of advice.

Pressure Cooker

BRANDS AND MATERIALS

Naturally when you buy something new, you opt for the best products available for your budget. Here is how to choose the best pressure cooker for your kitchen:

  • The most important thing to pay special attention to when buying a pressure cooker is the material. Regardless of the features offered by the product, you would want to acquire a pressure cooker that is made of high quality materials, such as heavy-gauge steel. If you choose a cooker made of below par materials you will not end up making a smart choice.
  • In order to ensure proper and equal heat throughout your food, and avoid the risks of interior scorching you would need a pressure cooker that contains a thick, heavy disk at the base of the product. Also, the sides should be straight and not rounded. Furthermore, opt for a pressure cooker that is shorter and wider as opposed to a tall one, since the former distribute heat more efficiently and equally. Those can be used on bigger burners, ensuring even faster cooking.
  • The materials, which the product is made of, should be corrosion and stain resistant. It should have a nice shine to itself as well. Generally, the best ones are made of stainless steel. It contains 10.5% chromium at the very least, and if that percentage is higher it is even better in terms of strength and durability. To make them look even shinier manufacturers may add nickel to the mix.
  • It would be a nice idea to test the functionality of the pressure indicator and quick release function before you make a purchase. Naturally, when you browse for a pressure cooker you see those features and automatically assume they are working as they should. To avoid making a mistake, ask the seller to perform a test for you. It is absolutely crucial that the cooker can reach the indicated levels of pressure and the indicator is correct.
  • Any products that rely on high pressure are potentially dangerous. Before deciding which pressure cooker to buy, make sure it is safe to use. Fortunately, contemporary products of that category are equipped with the necessary safety features. They contain appropriate valve stems which are designed to release extra steam. Therefore, opt for a quality brand which allows excess steam to be released when necessary.
  • Non-stick surfaces are very tempting since they are really practical when it comes to washing and cleaning, but they are a really bad choice. They are not really famous for its durability, and more importantly, there have been many health related issues raised from cooking on non-stick surfaces due to the materials used to make the surface as such.
  • There are countless of brands manufacturing pressure cookers and all claim to be the best of the best. However, it is advisable that you stick to well-known brands. If you don’t really have an idea of the best brands on the market, it doesn’t hurt to do a little research online and familiarize yourself with the matter. Check for customer service, guarantees and customer complaints before you make a definitive choice. Be aware that it doesn’t necessarily mean that well-known brands will always have faultless products, just like it doesn’t mean that lesser brands will always have faulty products.

Conducting Proper Research before Purchasing

pressure cooker

The pressure cooker market is swamped with all kinds of products. No two of them are the same. If you want to be sure that you have bought the best pressure cooker for you, abide to the aforementioned tips and pieces of advice. An extremely pricy product does not guarantee satisfaction. Make a list of what you expect from a pressure cooker and buy one accordingly. If you take all of these things into consideration, you will certainly make the right choice.

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Tips for Earphones That You Might Not Know

You have to travel a lot, or you don’t like heavy and full – sized headphones? Don’t worry because earbuds are ready to serve all your need about headphones and private hearing devices in general. You can have the best wireless earbuds, but you might still need some tricks to make it better and last longer without being broken or malfunctioned. One more thing you should know that these tricks are not only for in – ear headphones, there are also common ways to keep your over ear headphones safe and secured.

headphones

There are some people who need to work with wireless headphones as well, so in this article, I also present some small tips that might help you even if you are wearing a Bluetooth headphone without any wires. I hope you guys might learn something new by reading and following these simple tricks.

#1 for earphones: The left cord should be cared more… maybe a knot.

Caution: This trick might make your earphone work a little worse if you don’t do exactly what are told. I can’t take any responsibilities for any damages caused by knotting the cord, so be careful and do it at your own risk.

earphones

This is one of my best and favorite tips for earbuds. I often use this trick to solve some problem with the signals and the joints inside the ear pads. Sometime it’s quite hard to distinguish two sides of the earphone, and it might took you a long time struggling with the left and right cords especially in the dark. This tip will help you out with this. Remember just use it with small earphones that have wire.

Someone would ask that why this tip is helpful. Actually, not everyone can look for the right sides of the earphone for some first times looking and using it. In addition, the L or R characters printed on sides of the earphones are quite small and very hard to find even with young people.

When the light’s out or in some cases when the letters are worn of due to long time using, I can say that it would be impossible to distinguish them. So that’s why tying a knot in the left cord is an effective way to have something that is not similar and don’t have to see to find out. You just need to feel the knot with your hand each time holding the earphone and remember that is the left side.

So how can you do that? It’s quite simple. Firstly you have to know where the left one between these two earphone sides is. When you finally know where the left cord is, gently tie the knot so that it will be recognized easily. However, don’t tie too tight because you don’t want to bend the cord. It could lead to inside damage for the cord.

Tip #2 for earphones: Have you known any other benefits of hair claws?

earphones2

This trick is not only applied for earphones but also works with any devices that have long and thin wires such as headphones, earbuds, laptop accessories… Using the hair claw to keep the wired tidy and neat is very easy but not everybody knows this simple trick.

This is how you done with the wrapping: Hold the buds with one hand. The other hand is used to fold the cable in half of the length. Do the folding for two more times then let the hair claw to pinch in the middle and it’s done! It’s very easy to do with just simple small and cute accessory.

If you want to use the earphone, just remove the hair claw and pinch it whenever easy to find for later use. These mini hair claws are very easy to buy with many shapes and colors. If you want your collection to be luxurious and gorgeous, just take some time finding the hair claws that match the color of the cords.

Tip #3 for earphones: What can a straw can help you?

earphones3

This tip might be a good solution for cables with extra length. If you are using a wheel chair, you must have been annoyed by the wires that are wrapped up the chair wheel many times. Well, this tip is here to save your day! You just need a small straw and a scissor to do this. First of all, cut the straw off but keep its original form. Then wrap it around the wires so the it would hold the cable in a straight shape. Finally, tape the cut off path so that the wires won’t pop off anymore.

After finishing all the step, gently pull the straw down along to the cables so that it would be in the right position and doesn’t interrupt the earphone’s operation.

5 Tips Help You to Find the Best Running Headphones

 Running Headphones

Nowadays, headphones are not strange to music lovers. They enjoy all music genres such as pop, ballad, country, rock, or even disco. After the old Walkman, a large number of people look for the best earbuds under 50 which can bring them a great deal with nice features.

best earbuds under 50

It will be beneficial when owning a pair of headphones that can both listen to music and run. However, there are many types of headphones on the market. In what way can you choose the best running headphones for yourself? You will be based on the brand, won’t you? Or should you find the expensive one? In fact, people select their headphones based on the style or the hobby. They see reviews of users in order to find the suitable headphones. How about you? How do you have to do to find one for you? Let’s learn together!

5 Tips Help You To Find The Best Running Headphones

To look for the best running headphones, you need to consider plenty of factors. Before purchasing a set of headphones, hearing is a problem. If you want to ensure the safest listening, it forces you to keep something in mind. There are 5 tips which help you choose the suitable running headphones as well as your needs.

Best Running Headphones

Step one: to know your ears

People are based on decibels (dB) in order to recognize the noise volume. In fact, the safe level for your ears is about 85 decibels which are considered as the maximum safe level. If you use excess, it will be able to damage to your ears. You should know that you only need to turn on the maximum volume for 5 minutes which you are able to be heard-loss. Consequently, to find the headphones with the shape fit your ears which is the first step. You have to be sure that the sound quality is enough to hear the surroundings clearly when turning low down.

Step 2: the safety

The risk of the headphones brings to not only hearing-loss but also decreasing the awareness of the senses. We all depend on the senses which can help us avoid the damaged surroundings like an angry dog or even an oncoming car. Generally, cupped running headphones need to be excluded from the selection list because they almost minimize the outside noise. This one is dangerous for runners.

Step 3: a fit

To avoid falling out, the headphones for runners need to have to fit their ears. This one is pretty important. A pair of headphones should be equipped properly unless they will cause dangerous and uncomfortable during running. If your headphones do not fit, it will be easy to fall out when sweating; even, they can break down. From step 2, the purpose is to help you to find the fit headphones for you.

Step 4: passion or preference

What things can affect your selection? As a whole, there are two factors that people are based on here in order to look for their favorite objects. In particular, you will have plenty of acts while wearing the running headphones.

To avoid falling out, if you tend to purchase the new headphones for running yours, the best should choose a pair of quality headphones. Today, there is a variety of styles, sizes and models on the market so that you can choose. The fit and the average volume are the headphones behind the ears. In addition, the value headphones also need to have the ability to suffer moisture as your sweat. In case, you often have problems with the cord, the wireless headphones will be a perfect choice. Beyond that, sport ear-bud headphones also suit for running. Their sound quality is pretty good – about 85 decibels. Even, they are quite fitted.

Step 5: carefully consider

You do not see the appearance; then, you choose a set immediately. When selecting a pair of headphones, you ought to consider 4 above steps. In addition, you should also see reviews of users because of having countless headphones on the market. The quality is the first. Color or appearance is the final factors. An indispensable object is your budget. If you are a music lover, a good and active pair of headphones that will not be luxurious.

Conclusion

The earbuds under 50 are not necessarily bad. It depends on how you choose. Based on 5 these steps, you can consider and choose the set of suitable headphones for yourself. Let’s remember that the quality and safety are always the first problems when selecting anything, the headphones, too.

Do You Know Much About Headphones?

best studio headphonesHeadphone has become one of the most essential accessories in people’s everyday life. You have to make use of this little devices almost everywhere, from outdoor places such as the park, playground, on the streets… to somewhere in your house when you want to have private atmosphere just on your own. Sometimes you also need the best studio headphones not only for your entertaining purposes but also use as a supporting tool to study foreign languages. With the advancements of the technology, headphone innovated itself and becomes one of the most indispensable ones for everybody.

The first designs of the headphone consisted of 2 small speakers in the owner’s ears. Through many decades, with the help of modern technology and fashion, the headphones have changed not only in structures and quality but also in styles. This article will introduce some main changes of the headphones from the beginning till now.

  1. Did you know about the original of headphones?

headphones

Many people use headphone on a daily basis but don’t know much about this device. From the first time headphones were introduced, they were designed as 2 units that transmit voices to the inner ears hanged on the edge of the ears. From that day till now, the headphone has many styles and shapes that suit the need of people at all ages. We can buy an over – ear headphone for the best music experiences, or just a compact earphone so that you can immerse yourself into music while travelling or doing something else.

The first and original type of headphones is the hear wearing one. Because of its beginning models, they are quite heavy with poor sound quality. People don’t like to use this type of headphone very much because of its inconvenience and heavy weight to carry.

Then there came the earplug. It’s a completely breakthrough that bring the headphone to a whole new level. The most amazing thing is that you don’t have to worry about the size of the headphone anymore. It can be held within a hand now. Its small size created more than just convenience. Nevertheless, because of the need in eliminating surrounding noise, in – ear monitor is designed and applied to headphones so that it can be used by people who travel a lot or have to use the headphone in an atmosphere with too much noise.

Another product that is concerned by customers not only by the functions but also excels in wearing style is the ear loop. It can be described as the intermediate product between earplug and earphone. It gains the popularity among people especially the youth because of its compact but beautiful style design. There is just a small flaw on this product line is that manufacturers don’t actually put efforts into them. That’s why the sound quality and the diversity of this type of headphone are quite limited.

Lately there is a new technology for headphone call bone conduction. Basically, the sound is transmitted through the skull directly so that the music experience of the owner will be enhanced greatly. It works based on the theory of vibration in sound. However, this technique is not applied greatly because of the price and not many people have heard about it. But I personally believe that this technique will be the replacement for the old technology of transmitting sounds through the inner ears that are being used.

  1. Types of headphones

type of headphones

As a person who is interested in headphones or not, you might have heard about many types of headphones. Yet generally, they are divided into 3 main types open headphones, closed headphones and semi – open ones.

People who need the comfort for their ears often purchase the open headphones because of its comfortable in long – term uses. However, this type of headphone is easily affected by the surrounding noises.

In contrast, closed headphones are used in areas that have too much noise because the ear pads are designed to cover the whole ears. This has a positive effect that keeps the sound away from the noisy sound outside the headphone while you are listening to music. There is a weakness of closed headphone is that you will feel uncomfortable a little bit when using for a long time because the air can’t flow through the headphone.

The last type of headphone is common to people who don’t have much money for a full – sized one. Semi – open headphone is great for many purposes and especially good to be used for a long time. Of course the effect of reducing the noise can’t compare to the closed one but it’s still good within the reach of many people. You can use it while travelling or at home. The sound quality is quite good because this product line is cared by manufacturers quite well.

Why Adding a Pressure Cooker to Your Kitchen Is a Good Idea

The original pressure cookers were too big and, more importantly, too noisy and people really struggled to see the advantage of owning and using one. Naturally, after the initial success, these first generation pressure cookers slowly began to disappear.

pressure cooker

However, thanks to the advances made, second generation pressure cookers have become a very useful, convenient and reliable tool to keep in the kitchen. They are definitely not as big, not as noisy and not as difficult to operate. If anything, they are extremely easy to use.

That being said, if you happen to own an older pressure cooker model and have completely lost faith in it, you should definitely think about upgrading. Newer models are not going to produce the hissing and popping sounds your old one did. You don’t necessarily have to get the best electric pressure cooker there is, but you should make it your mission to get the best one your money can buy.

Pressure cookers are invaluable to people who don’t have extra time to spend in the kitchen and want to be as efficient in cooking as possible. Provided you take good care and maintain it properly, your pressure cooker will last for years and years to come. One thing you need to have in mind though, they are not kitchen decorations. If you get one, you better do it because you plan to use it.

Food Is Healthier

Perhaps you haven’t really considered cooking like this before. Maybe you struggled to see the advantages, or you just weren’t bothered with it. Well, then you need to consider the following facts. For starters, experts in diets and nutrition claim that a pressure cooker will produce food that is healthier, as well as tastier. The reason for this – they are watertight. They do not allow any nutrient and vitamin to escape by keeping pressure and steam in them during the entire cooking process.

These are not the only conveniences a pressure cooker can offer. The majority of meals require little to no oil when being prepared in a pressure cooker. This will not leave your food feel dry and hard. On the contrary, all of the pressure that builds up inside will ensure that the food will be enriched by the natural meat and vegetable oils. And thanks to these facts, the food prepared in a pressure cooker is healthier and richer in nutrients.

Food cooked

Food cooked in a conventional pot contains higher levels of fat and cholesterol in comparison to food prepared in a pressure cooker. Not to mention the difference in fat in cholesterol between fried food in a normal pot and that same food prepared in a pressure cooker. This is exactly what makes them ideal for people that want to lose weight or simply want to maintain their fine figure.

They Are Easy To Carry Around

You can’t take your range with you on a camping trip. However, you can take your pressure cooker. Yet another advantage they have is portability, especially the electric ones. You will not have to look for a range to put them on, you just need a source of electricity.

The stove-top models are also a great tool for cooking while camping. They can be placed on any heat source. Therefore, a simple bonfire will be sufficient for your pressure cooker to prepare your meals.

Last but not least, another advantage they offer is flexibility. This means that they come with many different kinds of add-ons which will allow you to prepare virtually any type of food you want. These add-ons can be used to bake, steam, boil, fry and broil food.

Having all of the advantages and benefits of a pressure cooker in mind, you should consider investing in the one that will suit your budget and needs. There are many different manufacturers, offering different models, which is why it is important that you do your homework on them and choose the one you think will work best for you.

Your Life Is Stuck With Music…

Music is very effective, it have huge influence to everyone’s everyday life. Only human can feel the music and sense it. Many researches has pointed out that music, especially symphonies has good effect to the brain, arouse it to develop. In fact, according to doctor’s advices, parents should let their kids to listen to music regularly to develop their mental abilities, maybe the best record player from our store can help playing the best symphonies for our beloved children.

best record player

Many centuries ago, mostly in Roman age, before rushing to the battlefield, warrior often hear strong music with epic beats to encourage their braveness and the fighting spirits. When fighting, to arouse the strength, people often play drums continuously to encourage them charging in. In Chinese battlefields, an officer has play flute under the silver moonlight that made their enemy terrified and fled. The war ended with the least blood and deaths.

People also say that music can calm a person down. A treatment is applied to cure mental illness victim is that the doctors let them heat music to calm their excitement and bring them to sleepy state.

  1. Music improves language ability and memory

Learning to play any musical instruments can improve the language ability of children greatly, and even recover memories of brain damaged patients. Psychologists from China University have claim the research on Neuropsychology magazine.

Music

The researchers found out that student that have studied music can remember much more words than others that do not, even at 30 minutes later from the experiment. In addition, they also find the positive connections between the times studying music with the word memorizes ability of students: the longer they study, more words they can remember. However, there is no difference between two groups in remembering images.

  1. Healing ability of Mozart symphonies

Recently, scientist has found out that listening to Mozart symphonies has healing factors: reducing stresses, increasing intelligence, stable heart rate…

From an occasion that doctors in London cure one patient, they accidently found out that listening to Mozart at least 45 minutes a day can help patient recovers faster. After the treatment, the brain test showed that there was a noticeable change in the number of brain cells, increasing working and listening abilities, IQ, and increase in vision.

To explain this situation, scientists show that in human and animal brains, there is an area that is very sensitive to music, its mission it adopting the tones from music we heard. When contacting with suitable tones, this area will be aroused, following with the healing ability of other function area inside the brain. Besides, scientists also proved that Mozart symphonies is the kind of music that have high quality with the mixture of tones and structures that require high brain functioning.

Therefore, when hearing this kind of music, listeners feel like their brains are “awaken” in some functions. Their brains was like being sent strong waves like brain waves and that thing helps brain to work effective.

After an IQ test in USA, scientist found out that: the group of students that was relaxed with sonata K488 of Mozart has average IQ test results which are higher than other groups from 9 to 10 points. The working speed of the brain and other activities when hearing Mozart became faster, help them to become more sensitive and energetic than normal.

Moreover, listening to music can stable your heart rate effectively. In 23 cases of voluntary researches, doctors from Oberwalliser Hospital – Swenden claimed that: listening to music is very healthy for the heart. In these researches, beside Mozart symphonies, doctors have found many pieces from the famous symphony writer Bach that have the same effect in calming down the heartbeat.

Listening to music is not just a hobby but it also has many advantages to everyone’s life. It helps you to have cleverer mind, improve the mental and physical abilities of human and have healing factors that were proved by doctors around the world. So let get up and get yourself some favorite pieces of symphonies for a brand new fresh day! And don’t forget to check out my new articles. Hope you guys finds my writing helpful to your lives. See you soon!

The Last Line Of Defense: How to Make a Realistic Assessment of Your Home-Security Situation

home defense

You look to your home to provide refuge, respite and peace of mind. In most cases, it does. So taking home defense seriously can be difficult. But in order for your home to truly be a safe haven, to protect you and your family and friends from the cruel world outside, you must be realistic. With that in mind, I’ve listed the top five most important elements of home defense.

  1. Threat analysis:

home security

A realistic threat analysis should include examining the physical aspects of your residence-locks, doors, lighting, an alarm system, etc. -as well as learning who the people are who occupy your neighborhood. After you take a critical look at your residence inside and out, take a few extended walks throughout your neighborhood, and pay attention to the area. Look for threat indicators such as accumulated trash, cars in the street without license tags and/or vehicles that have been parked in the same spot for an extended length of time. Leaves or trash piled beneath the car and tires are good indicators of inactivity.

Make your inspection tours at various times of the day and night, and take notes. Examine your neighborhood for at least five blocks in all directions. Neglect no street, bypass, underpass, and foot path or bike trail.

What should you look for? Abandoned hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia or empty alcohol containers. When possible-without trespassing-get off the beaten path farther than most folks venture. A caution: Moving 50 yards off of any road also hides you from the outside world. You’re on your own. As legal, I suggest that you be armed with both a gun and pepper spray. (A cell phone might be helpful, but if you’re isolated, how are the police going to find you?)

While home invasions and burglaries are down nationwide, “down” does not mean “done.” When outside your home, think like the bad guy. What are good entrance and escape routes? Look for the blind spots such as tree-or shrub-obscured windows, which are perfect for unobserved entry. And, like an intruder would, don’t limit your thinking to doors and windows. It doesn’t take much to push in the wall air conditioner nor much time or noise to make an entry hole through walls or the roof.

  1. PHYSICAL SECURITY

Based on what you see and find, you now have a realistic basis on which to design your home-defense system, which should be both passive and active. Passive measures-leaving the problems to others-include home-security systems, locks and solid doors along with upgraded outdoor and indoor lighting. Most police departments and insurance companies have this sort of proper-upgrade information available.

home defense system

If and when you do install passive systems and better secure your home, remember that you are relying on the kindness of strangers to protect you. Sure, we expect the police to arrive quickly when our alarm trips, but what if they’re involved in another demanding situation? You’ll wait, as you would want someone else to wait if you were the one bleeding out. Improving physical security-locks, doors, alarms and lighting-is a very good idea. But the downside is that you may be lulled into thinking that these steps, on their own, are enough.

  1. ACTUALLY HAVE A GUN

When it comes right down to it, you alone are ultimately responsible for your wellbeing. In reality, you are the “defense” in home defense.

gun

Ideally, you should wear a gun at home every waking minute. OK, I agree this is over the top for almost any locale and for most everyone who wants to enjoy a normal lifestyle. But unless you’re only a few steps away from a ready-to-go firearm, you are essentially unarmed.

Having any gun on your person is, hands down, better than having a custom 1911 or high-speed, low-drag rifle or shotgun locked away in a container. To beat on this observation a bit more, any law enforcement High Risk Response Team worth its BDUs can make dynamic entries in most family dwellings in less than 10 seconds. My point is that a determined intruder can get into your house more quickly without a key than you can with a key.

There is nothing wrong with carrying a little gun. I’ve never met anyone who complained about the caliber of bullet (or its design) with which they were shot. No, their concerns were to void getting shot again and to stop the bleeding. A .22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP or .38 Special is more than enough gun if you’re willing and able to use it effectively. Having said this, some firearms are more suited to home defense than others.

A double-action revolver chambered for .38 Special is simple enough for anyone to learn to use effectively. The only drawback comes when it must be stored unloaded; stuffing five or six cartridges into the cylinder in an emergency requires fine motor skills and takes practice.

Semiautomatic handguns require two motions to load-inserting a magazine and working the slide to chamber a round. Most folks, with some instruction, can do this quickly. Here the problem is not nervousness but the lack of strength needed to retract the slide. The semiauto stores better since the loaded magazine can be in one place and the gun in another, and when combined the loading takes but a few seconds. Still, you’re not armed until you’ve got the two together.

Then there’s “old reliable,” a double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun. There’s just one lever to move to open the gun, which can be done by anyone with a minimum of body strength. The chambers are huge by comparison to the revolver, and the gun can be loaded very quickly. Two loads of shot used in time beat a magazine full of .30-06s if you’re late.

Other rifles and shotguns can do double duty. Hunting rifles and shotguns are not the best choices due to barrel length and caliber, but if you already have one, it can do. This trite statement is still dead-on: “The first rule of a gunfight [or home defense] is to have a gun.”

  1. HAVE PLANS A, B and C

Without a firearm on your person, have a plan as to what you would do if surprised in every possible location in your home. Determine the shortest route to the gun; call this Plan A. Plan B is to be used if and when Plan A doesn’t work. If you can get away from the attacker, or see an attack coming, plan for you and yours to evacuate your residence. If you can slip out a bedroom window and get to your car or a neighbor’s house, so much the good-so long as your neighbor doesn’t have all the windows shut, the TV on or music blaring and the air conditioner running.

And why not carry your car keys? If your car is relatively new, it may have a car alarm with a panic button. Set it to “off” as you run to your car, then get in and simply drive away.

  1. STAND UP AND FIGHT

Realize that in the worst-case scenario, you may have to physically defend yourself and your family. Your final option is to fight. You may well have to fight to get your gun. You may have to fight with the gun. Or you might have to fight with your bare hands and feet. You must use any object you can get your hands on to help you in the fight, but make up your mind now that you are going to fight until your last breath. And the fight is to destroy the assailant, not to chase him away with the false hope that resistance will scare him off. Trying to scare someone is for kids on Halloween, not for home defense.

In review, home defense includes, but is not limited to, realistic threat analysis and evaluation; thorough planning for all contingencies, no matter how remote; and having the means, the ability and the will to defend yourself and your family.

Spy Cam? Using Your Camcorder for Security, Surveillance and Safety

camcorder

You’ve used your camcorder to tape weddings, babies, parties and special events. Having done all of those and similar things, perhaps you feel you’ve run the gamut of what your camcorder can do for you. If you feel that way, you should be aware that you haven’t even scratched the surface. Indeed, some of your camcorder’s best applications may be yet to come.

Combining your camcorder with the Internet and your computer produces a host of futuristic possibilities. Best of all, given some new and relatively inexpensive technology that future can be right now. (By the way, don’t think that this article is just about installing a Web cam. We’ll start there, then work up to using a camcorder, so that you can get full-frame up to 30 frames per second (30fps) video, with sound.)

For example, have you considered using your camcorder for video surveillance? That was my motive in looking into information that led to this article. I have a cabin about 600 miles from my home. It’s not in the wilderness, exactly, but, then again it’s not in an area that’s easily accessed. And, most of the neighbors, like myself, are seldom there, so it’s a prime target for vandalism. I wanted to set up a surveillance cam that periodically could check out the cabin and its surroundings, so I’d be able to see just what was going on.

But, perhaps surveillance is not something that you need. In that case, what about conferencing? Could you use a setup at work that allows you to clearly see and hear conferences conducted simultaneously at two or more locations around the country, or the world?

What about something as simple and as important as watching your baby or child in another room, or even at another home? Would you find it useful to see what’s happening on a real-time basis? (The idea of spying on baby-sitters came and went a few years ago, but it’s certainly a practical possibility given today’s technology.)

On the other hand, maybe you want to market a product online. Having a Web site is common fare these days. But, what about a Web site that demonstrates your product in a real-time window, live?

Maybe you’d simply like to monitor your home or office from your cell phone? Or??

As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless. Today. you can put that old camcorder to use far more and far better than you may have ever imagined. And, it’s easy to get started.

WHAT ABOUT WEB CAMS?

webcam

Let’s start with Web cams. These are inexpensive video cameras that deliver images through your computer to your screen via a USB port, and through an Internet connection to just about anywhere else in the world. Combine this with some motion-detection capabilities, and you have the beginnings of a home security/surveillance system.

Of course, you need software to make this all happen. One of the best products I found for this is the iVISTA Personal Security System from INETCAM ($99). This allows you to use your Web cam to look at a subject after you’ve been alerted through a motion detector.

The iVISTA system lets you customize the severity of the motion you’re detecting. Then a detection module allows you to set up how you want the response. For example, it will allow you to be notified by e-mail. Or, it can post the alert and the picture to your Web site. Or, with additional modules, you can broadcast both the video and the sound. You can even schedule when you want the system on (just on weekends, for example), or which camera to use (the front door; the back door, etc., which requires an additional multi-camera module).

The system is easy to set up, and if it fits your needs, can be very effective.

Of course, so far we’re just talking about Web cams that supply images over just about any kind of Internet connection from dial-up to DSL. The problem, if you’ve used these sort of Web cams–particularly with a dial-up type connection is that the pictures are fuzzy and the frame rate is painfully slow, resulting in a jerky image.

What you probably really want is what a camcorder delivers–a picture that’s clear, even at full-screen resolution. And, you want the ability to go up close in wide angle, or far out in telephoto. Finally, you may also want to be able to move the camcorder, so that it isn’t locked into a single position. After all, what if what you want to see is off to the right, or just below the reach of the lens? So, how do you do that?

A REMOTE CAMCORDER

I’ve found two companies that offer a solution here. The first is Tele-Cam from Televiewer Systems. Tele-cam allows you to plug-in your own digital camcorder at a remote location on a separate computer and use it to transmit high-quality video and audio over the Internet back to your computer.

webcam

Tele-cam uses its own codec (compression-decompression) system to transfer images. The result is that you get up to 640×480 video at a frame rate of between 23fps and 25fps (30fps is standard video, anything above 24fps is usually seen as a smooth picture).

The resolution you’ll get depends upon the speed of your Internet connection. At the minimum required speed of only 100kbps (kilobits per second, no dial-up connections allowed), you could expect to receive 320×240 video at 23fps. If your connection is over 500kbps, you could expect a faster frame rate with resolutions as high as 640×480.

Tele-cam allows you to store the signal stream to your hard drive in addition to the VCR portion of your camcorder. You can manually start and stop the Record function. (Unfortunately, you cannot preset recording times). If you want a single image, you can snap this as a bitmap (which can be converted to a TIFF or JPEG file using Adobe Photoshop or a similar program).

With Tele-cam, you can also fully control your camcorder at a remote location. This includes zooming in and out, adjusting the iris, focusing, switching to VCR mode, fast-forwarding and fast-rewinding, and so forth.

The company says you can use Tele-cam with just about any ISP provider, even those with a dynamic IP address that changes every time you boot your computer. However, the system is only available for the PC at present, not the Mac.

You can, however, allow others to watch the stream of video you’re generating. You can control the viewers through the use of a password you originate.

Tele-cam comes in two versions. The Standard ($60) allows you the basic function of watching the remote video stream of your camcorder, using your cam’s VCR mode, and includes security by providing 128-bit encryption technology.

The Professional Edition ($150) offers you full remote control over your camcorder (zooming, adjusting picture quality settings and so forth), and lets you resize the video window. It also gives you control of other features of your video such as contrast, brightness, and saturation.

There are two software parts of the system. The host generates the video and sends it to the client. For the host, you’ll need Windows 2000 or XP and a Pentium III 1GHz computer or better, plus a broadband Internet connection (DSL or cable modem). For the client, in the Standard system only, a Windows 98 operating system or higher with a Pentium III running at 500MHz is required. For the Professional system, that bumps up to Pentium 4 at 2GHz or better, and again Windows 2000 or XP. And, of course, you’d need a broadband connection.

TRACK YOUR SUBJECTS

While a camcorder gives you a lot more options than a Web cam, you’re still limited to one view, unless you’re able to tilt and pan. That’s made possible by another product, PowerPod from Eagletron for $169.99.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the first generation of this product, TrackerPod. It allowed you to put your Web cam on a remote robotic base that could tilt and pan. The problem was that camcorders were simply too heavy for the Trackerpod. The new PowerPod solves this by accommodating camcorders up to three pounds with heavy-duty motors. (It does make a slight grinding noise as it twists and turns.)

The DVdriver software that comes with the PowerPod captures video from the cain’s FireWire port (both streaming and single images). It also controls the PowerPod, a robotic base that pans and tilts, via a USB port. According to Eagletron, it fools any software that can work with a Web cam into working with a camcorder.

You can also pan, tilt and digitally zoom with any DV camcorder. Using the optical zoom is possible with any camcorder that has an IEEE1394/FireWire interface. That should include virtually all digital cams, however, the company apparently has only confirmed this with Canon ZR models. As noted, for camcorders that don’t have the FireWire output, you can only use the digital zoom.

The PowerPod comes with a small attachment that connects to the base of your camcorder and allows it to hook up with the PowerPod. Also included in the package are a USB cable, for powering and using the PowerPod, and software.

With the software, you can also set up a special Web page to view the video. Then, you can give others password access to the Web page, so they can see what you’ve captured.

Finally, you can use special tracker software to identify movement in the picture and track it automatically. This is something you’ll definitely want, if your main purpose in setting up the installation is surveillance.

By the way, another new product from Eagletron allows you to remotely control and view your Web cam from Internet-enabled cell phones, TrackerCam Software Version 5.1. TrackerCam 5.1 offers a Get Online button that enables yon to choose the image size and type, as well as the pan/tilt/zoom functions, you want cell phones to perform. The software is free.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS

While I’ve presented this as a kind of panacea for remotely accessing and controlling your camcorder, you should be aware that there are limitations and possible pitfalls. For example, you must have a camcorder, or be prepared to buy one. And, you’ll also need a computer and a broadband connection at two locations. This can be fairly costly,

In addition, you are at the mercy of your Internet service provider. For example, as noted at the beginning, my purpose was to connect visually at a remote cabin I have. Remarkably, there’s DSL available in the area. However, at my cabin’s location, the DSL line seems to be down more than it’s up, due to problems with the provider. Whenever it’s down, my surveillance is also down. (I have a cable modem at my regular home that’s much more reliable.)

Also, power outages can easily take out the system. And, any possible burglar can simply cover up the camera and mic, thus eliminating the surveillance, although this, in itself, can be an alert.

Finally, you or someone must monitor the system, unless you pay for a security company, and you’re likely to often be unavailable.

Remote control of your camcorder for surveillance, security, safety, conferencing or just about any other purpose is not expensive. It works (most of the time). And, it might just revolutionize the way you use your camcorder.

Safety At Home Personal Security Starts With Preparedness

Seven ways to prevent terrorism, and make one’s home and finances safer, include: adequate insurance coverage; frequent computer backups; home emergency preparedness; and document security.

Size up your insurance needs

Higher insurance premiums for property, casualty, and disability policies are expected to be one effect of the recent terrorist attacks, as insurers pay out up to $100 billion in claims.

Premiums for auto and homeowners policies, which were already on the rise, may continue to inch upward as insurers face lower profits.

If your family was properly insured before September 11, most experts say there’s no reason to consider changing your coverage. But now is a good time to find out if you are adequately covered.

  • Automobile: Compare your current insurance costs with estimates from three other companies, using web sites such as InsWeb.com and Quotesmith.com. Buy only from a company with a satisfactory rating, indicated on the web sites of Standard & Poor’s (www.standardandpoors.com) and Moody’s Investors Service (www.moodys.com).
  • Disability: You need sufficient protection to replace between 60 percent and 75 percent of your total taxable income, the maximum most insurers will allow. “Do you have the coverage you need?” a free worksheet on our web site, www.ConsumerReports.org, can help you estimate your requirements.
  • Homeowners: Get complete coverage by insuring your home for 100 percent of its reconstruction cost. Ask, too, for an inflation-guard option that raises your coverage to keep pace with increases in building costs. Update your coverage to reflect major home improvements. Ask for replacement-cost coverage for the contents of your home. Otherwise, you will receive only the depreciated value of anything damaged or stolen. Insure your valuables. Review your coverage every two to three years.
  • Life: Life insurance helps safeguard your dependent survivors’ living standards by replacing income if you die prematurely. To assess your family’s requirements, check out worksheets at www.financenter.com or www.insuremarket.com. For most people, term insurance with its lower premiums is far more cost-effective than cash-value policies that combine insurance with an investment plan. If you have a cash-value policy, however, it’s probably not a good idea to trade it in for a term plan now.

Protect your computer records

computer security

For many people, a personal computer serves as the primary file cabinet for financial, legal, and personal records. A good way to protect those records from fire, flood, or a computer hard-drive failure is to make copies–called backups–of important files on a diskette, CD, or other medium that can be removed from the computer and stored for safekeeping.

Since many records are too big to fit on a single diskette, the most convenient and economical device for creating backups is a CD burner, which can copy more than 600 megabytes of data onto one CD-R disc costing less than a dollar. CD burners are standard or optional with most new computers. You can also add one to an older computer for $100 to $200.

Records you should back up most often–perhaps every few weeks or monthly–and store away from your home are those whose loss would create serious financial or legal consequences. Those include computer files containing your checking-account transactions (Quicken or Microsoft Money, for example), investments and retirement plans, or legal documents such as wills and contracts. If you work at home, add files such as customer, sales, and tax records.

Other files you wouldn’t want to lose, such as digital photographs and some e-mail messages, should be backed up at least quarterly.

Preplan your estate

You need a will to transfer what you own to the people or charities that matter to you. Without a will, your state determines which family members get what.

Not all property need be included in your will. Life insurance, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and trusts require you to name beneficiaries. That designation overrides any preference you state in your will; make sure it’s up-to-date. Similarly, if you and another person own an asset such as a house, the title determines what happens to it after you die, not your will.

The will should name a guardian to raise your children if no other parent is available. A court must appoint the guardian but will generally go along with a parent’s choice. If the guardian is good with kids but can’t manage money, your will can create a trust fund for your kids and designate another person to oversee it.

Consider drawing up a letter of instruction, which details other information you want to pass on, such as funeral arrangements, and a side letter, which states who should get personal property not listed in your will.

You should also execute a living will describing the medical care you want (and don’t want) should you become incapacitated. A health-care power of attorney allows someone to decide on your medical care under circumstances not described in your living will. A durable power of attorney gives another person the authority to manage your money when you can’t do so.
Title: Safety At Home: Personal Security Starts With Preparedness

Be alert to phony charities

The terrorist attacks have elicited unprecedented charitable giving. But not every “collection for the victims” is legitimate. Here’s how to contribute wisely to any charity you might be considering:

Get the facts. An appeal should describe, preferably in writing, how money will be spent.

Give with a check. Make the check out to the charitable organization, not to an individual.

Avoid giving on the spot. Don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails, and resist pressure from phone solicitors wanting an immediate donation. Don’t give out personal information.

Get more information. To research a charity, contact the Better Business Bureau, your state’s charity-registration office (often part of the attorney general’s office), the BBB’s www.give.org or Philanthropic Research’s www.guidestar.org.

Remember other needs. There is no shortage of worthy causes around the world, such as international hunger, medical, and relief efforts.

Prepare for home emergencies

  • Post important phone numbers (adults’ and teens’ work numbers, those of doctors, the poison-control center, and emergency contacts) by all phones.
  • Teach children how and when to call 911; practice with them what to say.
  • Make sure every level of your home has working smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors. (See reports in our August and October 2001 issues.)
  • Teach each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main switches.
  • Take a course in first-aid and CPR.
  • Create an evacuation plan for your home, with two escape routes from each room. Practice the plan at least twice a year with all household members. Make sure windows and screens aren’t stuck and that security bars can be opened properly. Pick a specific place to meet right outside your home, in case family members become separated while escaping. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides details at www.usfa.fema.gov/safety/getout.htm.
  • Determine a place outside your neighborhood where your family will meet in a flood or other disaster, when you can’t go home. Ask an out-of-state friend to be your “family contact.” In a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance than to call inside the disaster area.
  • Assemble these basics of a disaster supply kit: a three-day supply of water and food that won’t spoil; first-aid supplies including your family’s prescriptions; bedding and a change of clothing and footwear per person, all in airtight plastic bags; a flashlight, a battery-operated radio, and fresh batteries; sanitary supplies; special items for infants and elderly or disabled family members; important family documents stored in a portable, waterproof container. A more detailed list is available at www.fema.gov/pte/diskit.htm.
  • Learn which of your neighbors has helpful skills such as medical training.
  • Consider how you could help neighbors, such as elderly or disabled people, who may have special needs.
  • When you will be away from home, inform a trusted neighbor or friend in the area and leave a number where you can be reached.

Practice workplace safety

Do you know the emergency evacuation plan for your workplace? Despite the devastating toll from the World Trade Center disaster, experts believe it could have been much higher. Some companies located in the 110-story towers managed to get nearly all their employees out safely, thanks in part to orderly evacuation procedures. Fire and security experts offer tips on how to protect yourself at work.

  • Encourage your employer to provide proper building security and proper training for security officers and fire wardens. Know your fire exits and participate fully in fire drills.
  • Local codes require every building to have an evacuation plan. Its specifics depend upon the type of building (low-rise, high-rise, etc.) and its uses (school, office, factory, store). You should know the plan for your building, and fire drills should be conducted at least once a year. Make sure that fire exits are not blocked or locked during the workday. And never use elevators in a fire, explosion, or blackout. Employers should include fire safety information in all new employee orientations.
  • Notify your supervisors, the union, or your company’s security department if you feel your employer should be doing more to promote workplace safety. If you get no response, contact the local fire marshal or the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • Follow procedures, but also rely on your own judgment. Evacuation plans are based on case studies and hypothetical scenarios; safety experts can’t anticipate every circumstance, however. “Someone may not always come on the communications system and tell you exactly what to do and when to do it,” says Robert Solomon, a chief building fire-protection engineer for the National Fire Protection Association. “In the end, each one of us has to take the responsibility that we can for our own safety.”

Keep documents safe

Here’s a list of papers to hang onto and where to keep copies. Safe-deposit boxes, available at banks, rent for $15 and up a year. They are nearly impregnable, but floods have occasionally ruined papers, so store them in a water-resistant plastic bag or container. Make a friend or relative cosigner, so that if you are incapacitated papers can be accessed. But don’t leave your will or funeral instructions inside; safe-deposit boxes are sealed upon the owner’s death.

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