10 Christmas Light Tips to Save Time, Money, and (Possibly) Your Life

By Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Here’s how to light up your Christmas light display safely and economically.

Christmas lights can be modest displays to show good cheer, or million-bulb light-apaloozas that draw gawkers from near and far. Here are some tips on how to get the most from — and spend the least on — your holiday display.

1. Safety first. Emergency rooms are filled with home owners who lose fights with their holiday lights and fall off ladders or suffer electric shocks. To avoid the holiday black and blues, never hang lights solo; instead, work with a partner who holds the ladder. Also, avoid climbing on roofs after rain or snow.

2. Unpack carefully. Lights break and glass cuts. So unpack your lights gingerly, looking for and replacing broken bulbs along the way.

3. Extension cords are your friends. Splurge on heavy-duty extension cords that are UL-listed for outdoor use. To avoid overloading, only link five strings of lights together before plugging into an extension cord.

10 Christmas Light Tips

10 Christmas Light Tips

4. LEDs cost less to light. LED Christmas lights use roughly 70% to 90% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. You can safely connect many more LED light strings than incandescents. Downside: Some think they don’t burn as brightly as incandescent bulbs.

5. Solar lights cost nothing to run. Solar Christmas lights are roughly four times more expensive to buy than LEDs, but they cost zero to run. They’re a bright-burning, green alternative. Downside: If there’s no sun during the day, there’s no light at night. The jury’s also still out on how long they last; they’re too new on the market for results.

6. Dismantle lights sooner than later. Sun, wind, rain, and snow all take their toll on Christmas lights. To extend the life of lights, take them down immediately after the holidays. The longer you leave the up, the sooner you’ll have to replace them.

7. Plan next year’s display on Dec. 26. Shop the after-Christmas sales to get the best prices on lights and blowups that you can proudly display next year. Stock up on your favorite lights so you’ll have spares when you need them (and after they’re discontinued).

8. Permanent attachments save time. If you know you’ll always hang lights from eaves, install permanent light clips ($13 for 75 clips) that will save you hanging time each year. You’ll get a couple/three years out of the clips before sun eats the plastic.

9. Find those blueprints. Instead of guessing how many light strings you’ll need, or measuring with a tape, dig up your house blueprints or house location drawings (probably with your closing papers) and use those measurements as a guide.

10. Store them in a ball. It sounds counterintuitive, but the best way to store lights is to ball them up. Wrap five times in one direction, then turn the ball 90 degrees and repeat. Store your light balls in cardboard boxes, rather than in plastic bags: Cardboard absorbs residual moisture and extends the life of your lights.

2014 Data Breaches up 24.8% over Last Year.

The ITRC breach list is a compilation of data breaches confirmed by various media sources and/or notification lists from state governmental agencies. This list is updated daily, and published each Tuesday.

This week’s year-to-date total, of 744 breaches, represents a 24.8 percent increase over the same time period last year (596 breaches).

Read more: ITRC Breach Reports

Quote of the Day: “This is not an alternative to a gasoline vehicle. This is a quantum step up.”

“This is not an alternative to a gasoline vehicle,” says Scott Samuelsen, an engineer and director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California at Irvine. “This is a quantum step up.”

Toyota’s new $62,000 hydrogen-powered Mirai

Samuelsen is referring to Mirai, Toyota’s new $62,000, four-door family sedan, powered by a polymer fuel-cell stack under the hood. Toyota hopes the Mirai will become the first mass-market hydrogen car.

Already on sale in Japan, it will be available in the U.S. and Europe in late 2015.

More: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-12-17/toyota-embraces-fuel-cell-cars-for-post-gasoline-future

Holiday Alert: You are at greater risk for Identity Fraud thanks to Social Media

Social Media Behaviors put consumers at greater risk for Identity Fraud, according to the 2012 Identity Fraud Report by Javelin Strategy & Research.

Social Media Behaviors Put You at Greater Risk for Identity Fraud

Social Media Behaviors Put You at Greater Risk for Identity Fraud

According to the report, identity fraud increased by 13 percent in 2011 and more than 11.6 million adults in the U.S. were victims, while the dollar amount stolen held steady. The report also took the nation’s most comprehensive quantitative look at consumer behavior and fraud, and found consumers’ social media and mobile behaviors may be putting them at greater risk.

Selected Key Findings from the study you should know:

  1. Identity fraud incidents increased, amount stolen remained steady—The number of identity fraud incidents increased by 13 percent over the past year, but the dollar amount stolen remained steady. Additionally, consumer out-of-pocket costs have decreased by 44 percent since 2004, likely due to the improved prevention and detection tools that have come available as well as fraud alerts leading to reduced detection time.
  2. Social behaviors put consumers at risk—For the first time, Javelin examined. social media and mobile phone behaviors and identified certain social and mobile behaviors that had higher incidence rates of fraud than all consumers.
  3. Despite warnings that social networks are a great resource for fraudsters, consumers are still sharing a significant amount of personal information frequently used to authenticate a consumer’s identity.
  4. Surprisingly those with public profiles (those visible to everyone) were more likely to expose this personal information. Specifically,
    1. 68 percent of people with public social media profiles shared their birthday information (with 45 percent sharing month, date and year);
    2. 63 percent shared their high school name
    3. 18 percent shared their phone number
    4. 12 percent shared their pet’s name—­all are prime examples of personal information a company would use to verify your identity.
  5. Smartphone owners experience greater incidence of fraud—The survey found seven percent of smartphone owners were victims of identity fraud. This is a 1/3rd higher incidence rate compared to the general public.

Part of this increase may be attributable to consumer behavior:

  • 32 percent of smartphone owners do not update to a new operating system when it becomes available;
  • 62 percent do not use a password on their home screen—enabling anyone to access their information if the phone is lost; and
  • 32 percent save login information on their device

Data Breaches increasing and more damaging — One likely contributing factor to the fraud increase was the 67 percent increase in the number of Americans impacted by data breaches compared to 2010.

Javelin Strategy & Research found victims of data breaches are 9.5 times more likely to be a victim of identity fraud than consumers who did not receive such a data breach letter.

The 2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming the New Fraud Frontier was released by Javelin Strategy & Research, sponsored by Fiserv, Intersections, Inc. and Wells Fargo.

Read more: https://www.fiserv.com/resources/2012-identity-fraud-report.aspx

Samsung reportedly planning Apple Pay rival compatible with 100% of cards & terminals


ApplePay vs. Samsung? Will it work?

Originally posted on 9to5Mac:

On the same day that Apple Pay reached a sign-up rate of 90% of US bank cards by transaction volume, Samsung is reportedly planning to launch a rival mobile payment service that would work with 100% of cards and payment terminals on day one.

Re/code suggests that the company is in talks with LoopPay, a startup which describes itself as “the most accepted mobile wallet on the planet.” Instead of using an NFC chip for contactless payment, LoopPay transmits a magnetic signal which simulates the swiping of the magnetic strip on a card. That means it works with all cards and all payment terminals, contactless or not … 

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Hackers can reportedly snoop on data sent between smartphones and smartwatches

Featured Image -- 5038

Originally posted on PandoDaily:


Bitdefender has shown off a method through which an attacker can use “a little ingenuity and some open-source tools” to intercept data sent from a smartphone to a smartwatch. The antivirus software-maker says this attack could be used to collect messages sent via Facebook, SMS, or Google Hangouts and allow the hacker to read them as plain text files.

The attack is made possible by the Bluetooth connection required for smartwatches to receive information from a paired smartphone. The connection relies on a six-digit PIN for its security; Bitdefender says it “wouldn’t take long to brute-force [that] number,” which allows a hacker to eavesdrop on the connection and collect information from it.

Bitdefender demonstrated the attack using the latest version of Android and Samsung’s Gear Live smartwatch. “The implications of these recent findings are only moderately surprising,” the company says on its blog. “We know from past experience that adoption of new technologies does not always…

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SXSW Interactive Reveals Co-Hosts for Gaming Awards Ceremony

SXSW Interactive Reveals Co-Hosts for the Second Annual Gaming Awards Ceremony Actress Janet Varney and YouTube Sensation Markiplier.

Gaming Awards Submission Deadline Approaching December 12th

“The gaming world is growing rapidly and people everywhere are looking to games as their first choice for entertainment,” said Justin Burnham, SXSW Gaming Project Manager. “The SXSW Gaming Awards honor some of the best and most exciting games in the industry. We are thrilled to have entertainers Janet Varney and Markiplier host the show this year and give recognition to the impressive titles the industry is producing.”

The Hosts

As the voice for the title character on Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra, host of the Nerdist’s The JV Club podcast, a regular guest on the stage show and podcast phenomenon, The Thrilling Adventure Hour, and co-founder of SF Sketchfest, the San Francisco Comedy Festival, Varney brings more than 15 years of entertaining to the SXSW Gaming Awards stage.

Mark Edward Fischbach, well known as Markiplier in the YouTube community for his video game commentary and voiceover work, has quickly grown his YouTube audience to almost five million dedicated fans in less than three years.

The Gaming Awards

This year, SXSW has added six new award categories to the roster, featuring new categories such as “Mobile Game of the Year,” “Table Top Game of the Year,” “Most Anticipated Crowdfunded Game” and “Most Valuable Esports Team,” among others. With 21 award categories, the SXSW Gaming Awards will celebrate creativity and overall excellence of games across PC, console, mobile, and table top platforms. Indie and AAA developers alike are encouraged to submit. Eligible games or titles must have been released during the 2014 calendar year, with the exception of the Most Anticipated Crowdfunded and Gamer’s Voice categories. There is no application fee for entering.

Last year’s Gaming Awards showcased the industry’s leading talent from the “Gamer’s Voice Award” for Nidhogg and the “Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award” for Paper, Please to “Excellence in Art” for Bioshock Infinite to “Game of the Year,” The Last of Us.

The deadline for the SXSW Gaming Awards submissions is Friday, December 12, 2014, at 11:59 p.m. CT.

The 2015 SXSW Gaming Expo, March 13-15, at the Palmer Events Center, with additional programming at The Long Center for the Performing Arts, is filled with game demos, tournaments, panels and geek swag that appeal to industry experts and consumers alike. The Gaming Expo has become an integral part of the SXSW Interactive experience, attracting more than 48,000 attendees last year.

For more information on the SXSW Gaming Awards, please visit: http://www.sxsw.com/interactive/awards/gaming.

About SXSW Interactive

The 22nd annual SXSW Interactive Festival returns to Austin from Friday, March 13 through Tuesday, March 17. An incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity, the 2015 event features five days of compelling presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer. From hands-on training to big-picture analysis of the future, SXSW Interactive has become the place to preview the technology of tomorrow today. Join us in March 2015 for the sessions, the networking, the evening events, the 18th Annual SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards,SXSW Accelerator, the SXSW Gaming Expo, the SXSW Trade Show, SXSW Create, the Digital Creative Job Market, cross-industry conversations with attendees from SXSW Film and  SXSW Music, and, most of all, the unforgettable inspirational experiences that only SXSW can deliver.

SXSW Interactive 2015 is sponsored by Miller Lite, Esurance, AT&T, IFC, Mazda, Monster Energy and The Austin Chronicle.


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