Smart Cities- Masdar

This is a rough idea of how the city is going to look when complete (all it needs now are drawbridges)

This is a rough idea of how the city is going to look when complete (all it needs now are drawbridges)

Hello my friends, I trust you’re all doing well, today we are going to talk about smart cities again, this time though, we’re going to talk about a specific one called Masdar city. This one is a city still in the process of being fully built, it’s located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, it’s a self-sustaining, energy-efficient, low-carbon city. So now, without farther ado, let’s take a look into this smart city shall we?

So before we get ahead of ourselves and talk about the things that this city is building and what separates it from other’s of its kind, let’s come to understand a bit of its history and goals of its construction. The initial plans for the construction of this city began in 2006, under the order of Masdar, also known as the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company. The main idea behind this city is to create a completely sustainable city, with power mainly coming from solar power, and being zero-waste as well. As stated earlier, it’s still in the process of being fully constructed, right now phase one is being close to done, it’s estimated completion is in 2015. The entire city is planned to be complete between 2020 and 2025. The city was supposed to be originally completed in 2016, but due to the global recession of 2009, construction had to be greatly slowed down, hence the reason for the delay in completion of course. When the city is completed, in addition to being a smart city, it’s also going to be home to Masdar’s headquarters as well. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a university created by Masdar for the purpose of working towards a greener future is also being built there, with help from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also known as MIT. The University is going to use around 70% less electricity, and portable water then most other buildings around the same size. The city itself is going to be 2 square miles in size when completed, with walls on its perimeter to block out the hot desert winds of the surrounding area. The estimated population of the city is going to be around 50,000 people, give or take a couple thousand. In addition the estimated total cost of the entire project is around US $18 and $19 billion.

Unfouratly, this was one of the few idea's that was not able to get past the inital testing phase.

Unfortunately, this was one of the few idea’s that was not able to get past the initial testing phase.

Alright, now we have a bit of an idea of what this city is doing right? So, now let’s talk about what they are doing currently, and if they are still going for the most part with their original goal. As I stated before, they are using solar power as one of their primary renewable energy sources, they are building around a 60 megawatt pv solar power plant constructed by Conergy. In addition to solar power, they are also going to use wind farms and geo-thermal. They also plan to build the world largest hydrogen power plant there as well. Since Masdar city is basically being built right next to the Persian Gulf, they are going to have a solar power desalination plant to use the salt water as drinking water safely. Also, they plan to recycle around 80% of their water supply. For example, grey water is going to be used to help crop irrigation among other things. In addition, originally they were also going to be a car-free city as well, relying on public and personal transport systems such as, trains and monorails for mass transit, or podcars for personal transport. Unfortunately, due to the cost of creating a undercroft large enough to hold all of the personal transports higher than intended, they had to drop that part of the plan. So instead, they are going to use regular mass transport, all-electric and green vehicles to move people around the city. They are also extensively using palm wood for much of the exterior areas, they say it’s going to be used on entrance gates, screens, and doors among other things. What’s really interesting about palm wood is the fact that it’s a hardwood substitute made from coconut palm trees. I must say, they have some big ideas, and for the most part so far they have been able to go forward with most of them. Unfortunately, they are not going to be a car-free city as they intended, and the fact that due to some limitations, the city’s now going to be low-carbon, instead of zero-carbon. This seems to be mainly because they are going to be green/hybrid cars in the city.

I hope you enjoyed this post, it’s always interesting seeing how far progress has come, we just need to be careful about letting it get out of hand though. Even though this city is still under construction, I can definitely say that it’s a very ambitious project. I wish them the best and hope that they can fulfill many of their original ideas, without straying to far from the overall goal of course. Next post is going to hit a bit closer to home, that is if you live in an area where there are traffic cameras next to stop lights and stop lights that seem to have shorter and shorter times between changes. As always, if you have something to say please leave a comment below. Talk to you all soon, good day.

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Filter bubbling- A quick look and overview on this invisible code that is changing the face of the internet

Imagine a world were everything you search for is exactly what you want, and ONLY what you want every time? A world were the things you don’t want to hear, but need to are completely edited out, rendering them nonexistent. Well, whether or not you enjoy the thought of that, we are for the most part living in that kind of world already. I’m talking about filter bubbling. It’s basically being told ONLY what you want to hear, and editing out the rest, leaving you with a censored view of the world in a way. Did you know that just about every major search engine, news/media and social media site out their uses filter bubbling, as a way of personalization.


Alright, now let’s come to understand what this filter bubbling is shall we? A filter bubble is, as quoted by Wikipedia: “A result state in which a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behaviour and search history) and, as a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.” All this basically means is that many search engines, news and other media sites, as well as social media give you a personal, censored view of the world compared to someone else, who has the same thing happening to them, but instead their own personal view of it all. An example of this is very simple, say you ask two people in different areas of your country or world, to search the same exact thing. In this example let’s say two people search for a new tv, instead of getting the same exact result or price, they get two different results and prices. This is depending on what they have searched for in the past, and their location, as well as likes and dislikes. Another way for them to find out about you is from your cookies in your browser, if you log out of a site, they can still track you with the standard cookies and super cookies, also known as flash cookies. This goes for EVERYTHING you search, not just tv’s. For the most part, its been a long time since two or more people can get the same exact result for something. A few search engines still do that, a couple of which are Duckduckgo and Ixquick/Startpage. So if you want an unfiltered experience out their on the internet, those are some engines you can use to help you out.


Now that we know a bit about filter bubbling, let’s also talk in-depth about why company’s use it in the first place. Well, the most obvious reason is to keep consumer’s interest, an example of this ideal is from the head of google Eric Schmidt in reference to individual targeting/filter bubbling “The technology will be so good it will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them.” On a similar but unrelated note another one of his quotes is “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” One of the other reasons to use filter bubbling is to be able to track consumer trends, by isolating what people the things people look at and think about the most, and comparing that to the majority of others, you can predict the current and future trends, making it MUCH EASIER to conduct business.


We should also talk about the effects of this, and think about if having filter bubbling in our lives is a good or bad thing . The first problem is in a way it’s censoring our view of the world, because it’s only letting you see what YOU ONLY want to see, and NOTHING ELSE. Because of this, it effectively limits the amount of information that people can see, which in this day and age is a horrible, HORRIBLE thing. With the filter bubbling in effect, company’s as I said before could use the information to predict current and future trends, in turn that could possibly influence the population as well. The reasons we need to look into the effects of this is obviously because of this day in age where everything is not black and white, but more of a grey area. In an age where its hard to tell who is being truthful and who’s not, as well as legitimate information sources being limited and hard to come by now. All the more reason we need to research more about the world today to get a better and more clear view of it. I think we can all agree that it’s a bit hard to do that with filter bubbling limiting our ability to see all information clearly right? As I stated earlier in this post there are still some search engines around that can help you bypass filter bubbling, but more than anything I see we should really stop and think if we should allow it to grow more than it already has, reduce its use or destroy it completely. With the corporations in control of that though, it would be a miracle to even get a reduction in filter bubbling though to be up front unfortunately.


I hope you enjoyed this post, as you can see, almost everywhere your vision of the world is censored in a way. Filter bubbling is just one of those many ways. Between filter bubbling, media outlets, “official” statements from corrupt politicians and corporate executives, it’s hard to tell what’s the truth and what’s not these days. But, just keep looking hard enough and you can still find some truth around though. You know, it’s been said before that filter bubbling could completely undermine the Internet’s original intent, which was to create an open world with universally accessible information and ideas. But with filter bubbling around that could turn it all into a place where everyone finds a different meaning for the same thing and only hears more and more of what they want to hear. So my friends, what is your take on all of this, how do you feel about the increasing growing trend with filter bubbles? Do you enjoy the fact that you have your own personalized internet, but at the expense of  repeatedly being influenced by things that YOU ALONE, ONLY want to hear, and not what you SHOULD? Or, do you think that this could cause some major problems down the road? Either way, as always if you have a thought, please leave a comment below. Just to let you all know, for the next post I am going to talk about another smart city. It’s been a little while since I have last talked about them, and I think you’ll all find this specific one very interesting. Untill we meet again my friends, good day.

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Data Breaches: A look into the cause and effects of this growing major epidemic

Data breaches, what do you think of when you hear those words? Do you still feel angry about it or do you accept it as a fact of life in this day and age? Well my friend, today let’s talk a bit about these major problems that are unfortunately becoming a regular occurrence with the ever-increasing technological society. In fact, from January 2005 to July 2008 alone, there were 227,052,199 losses of people’s personal data because of a data breach. So, enough talk let’s get on with understanding these breaches shall we?


What is the reasoning behind these breaches you ask, before we talk about that let’s come to understand what a data breach is of course. A data breach is the intentional or unintentional release of secure information to an untrusted environment. So, a breach could be intentional, isn’t that a funny thought? Since we already live in a untrusted environment where it’s almost impossible to know who to really trust, it makes sense. Living in a technologically advanced society and time has the setback of losing trust. In order to live without data breaches for the most part you would have to throw out the corruption and technology. Which at this point in time, would be next to impossible to successfully achieve unfortunately, while still keeping the good parts of technology today.

Now that we know a bit about data breaches, let’s talk about the effects of these problems shall we? Well, one of the most obvious one’s is less consumer trust with specific brand’s or company’s, that are directly or indirectly affected by a breach. The consumer is less willing to give out their personal information, hence making it harder for company’s to conduct business, which one of the main parts is collecting consumer personal information to serve them better. Another is the stock market share going down considerably referencing the company’s lessened credibility, mainly keeping consumers information safe and secure. With enough breaches happening at once or in close timing to each other could wreak havoc on many different industry’s, to the point where no one is safe. Which is basically the point we are at now, more or less. Examples of this problem are all around you. Remember the 2011 Sony Playstation Network Breach, in April that year around 77 million users had their information stolen. A more recent one, which I’m sure most if not all of you have heard about is the 2013 Target Breach. In November that year around 40 million people had their credit card information stolen.

In recent years though breaches have gotten horrible, to the point where it’s almost common place, which is a very scary thought. So I say it’s time to step back for a second, and think about this. The more we push for an increasingly technologically advanced society, with everything working perfectly and efficiently. We have to give up more privacy, allow more technology into our lives, do more and more things online, see people face to face less in daily interactions and more. It’s even going to get to the point where we aren’t going to be driving ourselves everywhere, it’s going to be the car itself driving us around. I myself prefer being the one driving around, I don’t know about you, but it’s going to be very hard the day that it would be forced to use a self driving car. So how does all of this relate to data breaches you ask? Well, it’s very simple, the more technology, the more electronics used. As more electronics are used, more data is put on our devices, so our data is MUCH more vulnerable, hence the reason for most data breaches. It’s getting to the point where everything is hackable, all information is VERY EASY to steal. You think data breaches are bad now? Think about how it’s going to be in 10 or 20 years, if things continue on as they are right now. If things are going to continue getting worse I honestly shudder to think about what the future holds in that regard.


These problems with data breaches are getting worse as the years go on. We are getting more and more complacent with it, close to the point of not giving a second thought when hearing about one, but still have a ways to get there. So, as previously stated we need to do something to fix this problem, whatever it takes. I hope you enjoyed this post, I already knew my fair share about data breaches when looking into this, but after hearing more and more about it, I figured it’s time to talk about this growing epidemic. I hope you learned something, or maybe at least think about the effects of the growing problem. As always, if you have something to say, please leave a comment below. Until we meet again, talk to you all soon.

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Solar power: An information guide

Solar power, one of the most well-known and most used alternative resources. To think that if we use solar power as our main power source, we could solve most of the global energy problems. Not only are major city’s using solar power to keep large areas running, but you can power your own house with it, maybe even COMPLETELY, if you choose to do so of course. So, enough talk, let’s get on with it shall we?

First off, let’s come to understand what solar power is, it’s the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaics convert light into electric current using the photoelectric effect. So, all solar power means is converting solar radiation into DC power. Which can then be converted into AC power, to be used to power houses or other buildings, among other things. What I just explained is another way to understand what photovoltaics (PV) means. The conversion process from solar radiation to DC power is called the photoelectric effect. What this means is what electrons are, when emitted from atoms when they absorb energy from light.

Alright, now that we have covered the basics of solar power, how could you power your home with it you ask? Well there are two ways you can do this, the first is by still being on the grid, but using a small amount of solar panels to get yourself a bit of free energy. The other way is going entirely off the grid, with no help from the electrical company AT ALL. Now, there are benefits to using one over the other, depending on the amount of money you are willing to put into it and what your overall goal is. With an on grid system working in tandem with a small amount of solar panels, the problem with it is very simple, you don’t completely get off the power grid, you still use it for most of the day, but during the most expensive hours or when you are sleeping through the night, you use the solar power. In addition to that, you can generate excess power, than sell that back to the electrical company, to make some extra cash. You obviously aren’t going to make a fortune that way, but you can probably pay for some groceries with that money. With this kind of system, you aren’t going to spend all that much getting it set up, all you really need is a couple of solar panels, some deep cycle battery’s to hold the generated power and a grid inverter. This is because the power you generate is DC, also known as direct current for those of you who don’t know. This means that the electrical current only goes one way. A grid inverter converts DC power to AC power. As expected, homes run on AC power, this is known as alternating current, this means that the electrical current goes back and forth. It would be dangerous to run a home on purely DC, this is because at high voltage levels required to power a house could result in death by electrical shock if used incorrectly. With AC power you can run at a lower, safer voltage minimizing the risk of death, which actually is already lower today than ever before. This is because of GFCI outlets, which are especially useful near sinks in kitchens and bathrooms. With an off grid system, you pay for it all at once, but that’s basically it though, the only expenses then are when you need to replace some parts, such as battery’s or solar panels. Keep in mind, you need to have quite a bit of cash for this type of setup. This is because you need to pay for a large amount of panels, grid inverter, and battery banks with batteries. You also need to have it figured out how much energy you use per day or per month, then size your system according, but make sure you generate enough energy for excess just in case. The system pay’s for itself after a certain amount of time, which is of course directly proportional to the amount of money you put into it. The urgency for solar power is greatly needed these days, because of this we need to increase our use for it. Lest we live in a world where we have depleted its resources, then we would have a problem wouldn’t you say.

I hope you enjoyed this post, solar power is definitely something interesting, I myself am looking into an off grid house when I build someday. On top of that solar-powered houses are getting more and more common, obviously you don’t see one on every corner just yet, but in time we could come to see it as the norm though. As always, if you have something to say leave a comment below, talk to you all very soon.

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NSA reforms, are they going to change anything?

Hello everyone, by now you probably have heard about Obama’s speech on NSA reforms two Friday’s ago right? It’s been a little over a week now. Well, maybe you have maybe not, either way, this week let’s go over a quick over view and in-depth look into these proposed reforms and see if they are really going to change anything.

First off, let’s think about this for a second, what is Surveillance? As quoted by Wikipedia, “Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting them”.  Now what is monitoring, well, as also quoted by Wikipedia, “Monitoring generally means to be aware of the state of a system.” So surveillance basically means that we need to be watched over CONSTANTLY in order to be “Protected”, with or with out anyone’s consent. How should we feel that someone we don’t know at all get’s to know more about us then we know about ourselves? You maybe asking your self, how do you know? This is something I have talked about many times now, but corporations and governments monitor everything. With corporations, they know where you are at all times due to geo-locations on cell phones, which almost everybody uses nowadays. They know what you think about based on what you search online, or watch on TV, and even what you buy. All of that information is sorted, then used by data brokers to sell you information to other company’s, so they can use your personal data against you. The main reason corporations do this is so they can serve you better, but at the cost of knowing all about the part of yourself that you hide from everyone else, including the exterior.

Of course by extension, governments’ also have access to that treasure trove of data, but they also have some unique tools that corporations don’t or can’t use. Such as, license plate scanners, to track your personal automobile all over your country, CCTV cameras watching your every move out in public, monitoring your email, browsing habit’s, where you’ve been traveling national or internationally, and of course monitoring your cell phone calls and your position based on your phone. Some of these things corporations already do, but I just needed to reiterate what corporations and governments know about you, about everyone, so much dirt on you or anyone else to completely destroy their life. Governments say they have to do this to protect us, how, by watching our every move, twenty years ago, we still had much privacy compared to today, but twenty years from now, we’ll be lucky to have what little privacy we have now, if they have their way of course. It’s honestly sad to think that in order to protect everyone, they have to know every single little detail about them, when it has been proven time and time again, it’s not as effective as they say. When the NSA was testifying in court around mid to late last year, they said they stopped at least five terrorist attacks in this country, but in reality they only stopped about one or two, they rest were foreign country’s. Even when they knew about some of these attacks or at least had an idea, they weren’t able to stop it, even with all of the information they “have” to have.

Now that we know what these people are capable of, let’s discuss the reform’s Obama talked about two Friday’s ago. Simply put, Obama talked about scaling back the phone monitoring program, reforming the surveillance court, changing section 215 of the patriot act and more. One of the main things is ending section 215 of the patriot act in its current form, which is of course the F.B.I’s ability to detain or acquire anyone or anything for as long as they deem necessary to prevent terrorism. In its current state they do not need any probable cause or suspicion of anyone in order to detain them, practically indefinitely. He also talked about a restructure of the surveillance court, which is currently in horrible condition, with little to no oversight on the rest of the intelligence community. With the phone program Obama wants to over time move the collection from the NSA’s hands to the private sector. It’s also interesting to note, that the US Government has been spying on its citizen’s in one form or another since at least the mid 40’s. In 1945 the US Government started Project SHAMROCK and Project MINARET, both working in tandem. The overall job these two project’s was eerily similar to today’s phone collection, but with telegraphs though, the projects centered around collecting all inbound and outbound telegraphs coming in and out of the US and getting them to appropriate government agency’s. If you think about it, we basically already had this problem 69 years ago. For the most part it had no regulation or oversight, and US Citizen’s names were put on “Watch List” dictated by Government agency’s. How were these projects shut down you ask? Well, in 1978, the program’s got exposed, so the NSA director at the time, Lew Allen, shut down the programs personally, rather than someone else. At the time of is shut down, 150,000 messages a month were printed and analyzed by the NSA. Unfortunately, we can’t shut down the NSA programs today like we could back then, we have to do things a bit differently to achieve a similar effect. As well as maintain the necessary level of security, without digging that much into everybody’s personal lives. At the end of the day, it’s honestly uncertain if these reforms are going to change anything or not, at the moment, it’s best to see how this all play’s out before forming a solid opinion.

I hope you enjoyed this post, I have been trying to write this in a bit of a different style that took some adjusting to make since when you read it. After reading it multiple times, I feel it turned out good, and I hope it was interesting to you. I also want to say sorry about the post times being a bit infrequent for about the past month or so, I have been finishing my last class in school and I’m learning electronics repair on the side as well, but the school I have been working on is just about done, it should be this week actually. Once that is done, there should be a post every Wednesday, that is if there is not a problem with internet, power failure, or being away from the computer many day’s at a time. Other than that, there should be a post every week, at roughly the same time. I have another post this week about solar power and how to use it to power your home, whether it be off the grid or on, in the case of being on the grid, to help generate a little free power. As always, if you have a thought about this post, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Other than that I shall be talking to you all very soon, have a good day.

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Vpn’s: An Information Guide

Vpn’s, one of the best weapons out there to defend yourself out in the wild west we call the Internet. They mask your location, change your ip address, and prevent eavesdropping. Today, let’s talk in-depth about vpn’s, let’s come to understand what a vpn is, who uses them, and their history. So without farther ado, let’s begin with what a vpn is.

A vpn is a piece of software used to enable secure remote communications, simply put working online or working long distance for a company thousands of miles from headquarters. This is accomplished by creating a secure tunnel from your current location to that of a vpn provider, usually hundreds or even thousands of miles away from your current position. If you are using wi-fi, then instead of having a direct unsecured connection to the router and to your destination online, you have a secure tunnel from your computer to the router. This prevents eavesdropping, which is especially handy when on public wi-fi where anyone can eavesdrop on each other. From there, the secure tunnel goes to the vpn provider, then to your intended destination. From using the vpn, it makes the destination think you’re from the area where the server is. Effectively changing your ip address, location, and of course prevents eavesdropping. This is because no one knows its really YOU.

Vpn’s have been around for a while, the precursor to this was the PDN, also known as the Public data network. The modern-day version of the PDN is the internet we all use today. A public data network is usually a telecommunications company providing data transmissions to the public, which is exactly what an ISP is. For many years, vpns just protected corporate employees working on their work securely from huge distances away from their desk. This was the vpn’s original intent, as such is still today. Today, not only do company’s still use vpn’s, but the public can have them for private use, which protects a number of people’s personal information. This is especially true in public locations, as I have stated before.

As stated previously, company’s use vpn’s so their employees can work long distance securely as if they were working at their desk. So let’s also talk about why the public would use such a tool. Well, there are many different reasons for this. They could be privacy advocates(like myself), trying to prevent their personal information from being used against them, and preventing their commutations from being eavesdropped.

I hope you enjoyed an in-depth talk on vpn’s, it’s a very interesting piece of software that can GREATLY help protect you while travelling around online. As I have stated in a previous article there are many different vpn providers out there, some paid some free. Just pick which one you feel most comfortable with, I myself use a free/paid provider called Spotflux. Either way, I hope you enjoyed this post if I find anymore info I shall at it, if you have anything to say please don’t hesitate to comment below. As always talk to you all next week.

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Smart Cities: Málaga, Spain

It's unfournete most city's don't do this yet. (Not only does you get power from the wind, but it looks very cool as well.)

(1.) It’s unfortunate most city’s don’t do this yet. (Not only does you get power from the wind, but it looks very cool as well.)

Hello everyone, hope this year is off to a good start for you all. This week, let’s talk about smart cities again. We are going to talk in-depth about one of the best examples of a smart city today, located in Málaga, Spain. So let’s go ahead and get right into that shall we.
In Málaga, the idea of this smart city is to increase renewable energy use, increase efficiently, and reduce emissions. It creation came about with the help of Endesa, which is the largest electric company in spain. In addition to Málaga, they also have 4 other smart cities in progress as well.  Many things have gone into this project to make it a useful solution. Since 2009, there has been major progress with this city, everything from a smart grid to replacing around 100 street lights throughout the city with LED and Halogen.

Electic cars are another thing Malaga is really pushing.

(2.) Electic cars are another thing Málaga is really pushing, SHOCKING isn’t it? (Haha)

Let’s talk about what the things this smart city is doing to separate themselves from other cities shall we? First off, one of the biggest things is the smart grid. This grid controls most of the city’s energy production. Mainly through the use of extremely efficient electricity management, for solar panels on many buildings roof’s across the city and wind power. Unlike conventional electric utilities, with use a one way system to deliver electricity, the smart grid uses a two-way system. This system allows communication between the utility and the house or business, to solve all of the electrical needs perfectly. In addition to the smart grid they are also pushing electric car use, to reduce emissions and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.(Maybe say reducing dependence on fossil fuels?) The electric cars energy consumption is going to be closely monitored, to use the energy from the smart grid very efficiently, while using the least electricity possible. There are also V2G (Vehicle to Grid) Systems installed around the city. These systems BOTH power an electric vehicle, as well as receive energy from it. What I mean is that the system takes power from the grid to power the cars, but also the grid can power itself from the car. This essentially makes electric cars a portable storage system for electricity. I also want to add real quick, remember near the beginning of the post when I talked about the 100 lights being replaced with LED and Halogen? It turns out they are powered by BOTH solar and wind power, with the devices connected to the light pole itself.

As you can see, there are very interesting smart cities’ being built all over the world, this is just another example. I hope you enjoyed learning about this, I myself learned a great deal. Next week, we’re going to talk in-depth about Vpn’s, this post is something I’ve been talking about doing for a bit now. So be on the look out for that, as always if you have something to say please leave a comment below and talk to you all next week.

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