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5 Ways Technology Will Bring Us Closer to the Outdoors

5 Ways Technology Will Bring Us Closer to the Outdoors

An old Greek myth claims that Prometheus, a Greek Titan with an affinity for the human race, stole fire from the ancient gods on top of Mount Olympus and gave it to mankind, enabling early men and women to accomplish feats previously impossible for them. The use of fire provided humans with a prehistoric means of harnessing large quantities of energy, methods that still stick with us today. Cars, cooking, and manufacturing all still owe much to spurred combustion, making fire one of the first and longest-lasting forms of technology in existence.

For all its humble roots in nature, we tend not to think of most modern technology as “natural”. Here are five ways that technology is bringing us closer to nature, and one way it might drive us away from it forever.

1. Drinking Poop Water with Portable Water Purification Devices

we go to extremes to demonstrate confidence in the donations we distribute (life straws demonstrated here)
    Image via Wikipedia

    It took the mastery of fire to truly tame water, and for a long time in human history, boiling water was the only way to sterilize it and make it potable. For a liquid as imperative to survival as H2O, and considering that a majority of the human body consists of water, it’s surprising that technology has taken so long to create a portable purifier. Utilizing a charcoal and iodine filter with an advanced membrane, products like the LifeStraw have been created as the the aquatic equivalent of flint and steel: a piece of technology that provides instant access to water.

    Portable water filters now allow the avid outdoorsman/woman to go further and longer than they ever have before, freeing them from the weight of water as cargo or the unnecessary expense of energy boiling water. Imagine possessing a straw that would allow you to drink out of virtually any water source, wherever you go (including “poop water”). Brooks and streams all become nature’s cross-country water fountains with technology such as this, and murky wells can effectively support and sustain life in simple, rural villages. That’s powerful.

    Other, more advanced pieces of equipment utilize UV rays to eradicate harmful microbes and bacteria from drinking water (though it’s worth noting that they are nowhere near as heavy duty at sanitization as the LifeStraw yet). Much like most traditional purification devices will need a change of filter, a UV purifier will eventually run out of battery — as will most any other piece of tech you take into the wilderness.

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    2. Charging Anywhere with Portable Power Sources and a Global Power Grid

    “If it weren’t for electricity, we’d all be watching television by candlelight.” – George Gobal

    The problem that most futurists face when they think about technology and the great outdoors is the same question most iPhone users face after a day’s worth of heavy use: the damn devices lose their charge so quickly! Silly jabs aside, the eternal struggle for more battery life may be witnessing its final days. For those that want to pay homage to Prometheus, the VOTO charger is basically a power strip with a tail that converts carbon and hydrogen into energy once engulfed in flame, and the BioLite CampStove is a miniature twig-consuming furnace that internalizes the process (though it’s not very powerful). For those that fancy themselves more of an Icarus than a Prometheus, portable solar power chargers are cheap and effective — but what if you never had to charge any of your devices again?

    Wireless power for mobile phones is set to revolutionize the industry. By the end of 2016, it’s predicted that most major Android phone manufacturers will follow Samsung’s lead and include wireless charging as a standard in all new phones. While current wireless charging utilizes a mat that you rest your device on, companies such as Ossia are already building prototype “charging hubs” that will power your devices from up to 30 feet away.

    If distanced wireless charging ends up working well, there’s no reason that an advanced network of charging hubs couldn’t manufactured and juiced up to create a global wireless power grid. Your cellphone would never need a charge again. But what good is a cell phone in a wilderness with no internet access or service?

    3. Project Loon Keeps Us Crazy Connected

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      Image via YouTube

      Connectivity is the future. Urban centers sprawl across the globe, connected by highways and power lines like steel and concrete nerve cells. Clearly, those connections are growing at a rapid pace, even if they aren’t visible. Think about the fact that you are able to pick up a hunk of metal and plastic and use it to talk with somebody on the the other side of the earth in real time. Of course, there are still places in the world where internet can’t be accessed, or where internet isn’t affordable to for the natives — but Google aims to change that.

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      Project Loon is an R&D project that uses high-altitude balloons to deliver internet access to otherwise unreachable areas. The potential applications here are endless, and as the reliance of standard technological devices on the internet grows, so too will the internet. Eventually, wilderness rescue might use it to hone in on missing persons’ cellphone signals, meaning that missed steps and bad falls in the woods won’t be as fatal.

      Innovations with results such as those will leave us hard-pressed to fathom a time when we weren’t connected to the internet — though not everybody thinks this is such a good thing.

      4. Cameras, Drones, and Wearables, Oh My!

      While the most traditional outdoorsmen and -women may decry the use of modern technology in the back country, more people have been drawn to the wilderness because of tech recently — cameras, to be exact. A recent study has shown that a trend in hunting, fishing, and back country activities like skiing and snowboarding has been declining, while photography, especially in groups, has risen. A new form of photography, however, has been attracting an increasing number of practitioners. As materials and models become more inexpensive, drone art, like the kind seen in this YouTube video, is growing in popularity.

      Still, why fly a drone when your drone could fly itself? That’s the question Team Nixie asked when they entered Intel’s “Make It Wearable” contest. Think of the Nixie like a GoPro mixed with a drone, mixed with a wristwatch. Currently, it’s designed to detach, fly out, take a picture, and then return to the wearer. Watch the video below:

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      Wearable tech and automation will continue to grow and mesh — some say to the point that we’ll all be integrating tech into ourselves. Not to worry. That won’t become a trend for a long time.

      5. Augmented Reality Will Change Your World

      On the horizon, however, is augmented reality (AR). This new technology aims to overlay images and pictures on top of the real world, sort of like a real life heads-up-display. If you’ve ever seen Iron Man, where Tony Stark plays with and seems to pick up and play with holograms — that’s augmented reality. While we’re still a ways away from manipulating and tossing around holograms like footballs, the HUD-style systems are just around the corner. In fact, DARPA, the military’s R&D department, are currently funding research into contact lenses that provide augmented reality solutions. Think Google Glass, but without the wearable device.

      Whether it’s through contact lenses or glasses, augmented reality has the potential to positively alter many different activities. Hiking, rock climbing, and paintball/airsoft all have begun experimenting with augmented overlays, usually through phones, or the in-visor HUD and GPS of advanced paintball masks. Some think that AR may even help get more kids outdoors and learning about nature with programs such as this one at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) National Wildlife Refuge. But what if instead of getting more people outdoors, technology causes people to alienate themselves from nature?

      -1. Virtual Reality… and the Death of the Outdoors?

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        Image via Wikipedia

        Perhaps the most mind blowing technology set to hit shelves this year is Virtual Reality (VR). Development kits and headsets have already been sent out to the public, and even Volvo has developed an app that is supposed to work with an Android phone and Google Cardboard to provide an immersive VR experience. The entire VR market, which doesn’t actually technically exist yet, is predicted to be worth over $30 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of cash.

        The question still remains, however: will technology and VR keep us placated and happy to the point where we never enter the outdoors again? Maybe even never leave our living rooms again? Linden Labs, the firm responsible for the virtual worlds in Second Life might like to think so. Project Sansar is Linden Labs’ attempt to create an immersive secondary reality accessible through VR headsets by the end of 2016. If their original property is any indicator, Project Sansar may become the new addiction of the future with certain users seemingly putting more care into their second life than their first. Much like fire, Prometheus’s gift to mankind, technology will burn us if we don’t control it properly.

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        On the other hand, until they can simulate the smell of the earth rising up or the feel of droplets on your face during a warm rain, plenty will still operate in a real life over a virtual one. Nevertheless, technology is, and always has been, a slippery slope.

        What are your experiences with technology and the outdoors?

        Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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        Andrew Heikkila

        Owner-Operator of Earthlings Entertainmnet

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        Published on September 25, 2020

        10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

        10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

        When it comes to digital security, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t safe enough, making it much easier for hackers to access your personal data. Whether you are studying in a library or scrolling through Facebook in a coffeehouse, it is vital to have a VPN installed on your device.

        VPNs work wonders when it comes to securing your internet connection. By creating an encrypted tunnel between a remote server run by the VPN service, they protect your personal data from prying eyes. There is a variety of VPNs available on the web, and we have collated a list of the best VPNs that stand out from the rest.

        How to Choose a VPN

        • Free trial period – Free trials allow you to try the product risk-free. The same idea technically applies to those with 30-day full refunds as well.
        • Speed – You want your VPN to be just as fast as the internet speed at home. Good quality VPNs are ones where you see little difference between those speeds.
        • Device connection – Of course, the more devices that can connect to VPNs, the better. It increases the customers’ coverage and the product’s value. You also want to consider compatibility since fewer VPNs may work for Mac or Windows only.
        • Number of servers – The number of servers determines how much capacity a VPN can handle while you are connected. The more servers there are, the more users it can handle without running into potential disconnections or slow speeds.
        • Kill switch feature – Having this feature means that your IP address isn’t exposed if the VPN disconnects for some reason. A lack of this feature is a big deal since the whole reason why you’re paying for a VPN is to hide your IP address, among other things. (Find out how to avoid getting tracked online here: Big Brother Is Watching You Online: How To Avoid Being Tracked)

        Why You Should Trust Us

        Our hand-picked VPNs are incredibly efficient and offer such distinctive features that grant you safe browsing. They outperform many VPNs in terms of both speed and security. Their primary aim is to provide you the utmost security, thus enabling you to surf the web safely and prevent any potential threat from causing harm.

        Among the best VPNs’ many unique features include split tunneling, strict logging policies, high encryption level, and availability of international servers. We have gathered them in this article to enlighten our readers and offer the best pieces of advice before you get one. Therefore, take our word for it, and if you go for a VPN mentioned below, you’d be fully appeased.

        1. NordVPN

        The most popular VPN on the market these days is NordVPN, and it’s easy to see why. It has widespread coverage, offering a selection of over 5,000 servers spanning across 59 countries.[1] Due to the high number of servers, its speed is similar to your Wi-Fi at home.

        Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, has been using NordVPN for many years and wants to recommend it for its remarkable server count in different locations with no-logs policy. The VPN perfectly works with Netflix and Fire TV stick, too.

        NordVPN is also compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can download the app onto Chrome, Firefox, Android, and Mac OS. Thanks to its massive coverage, it’s easy to connect multiple devices onto these servers.

        In terms of pricing, while NordVPN doesn’t have a free trial period, they argue that their plans are considerably cheaper than those of their competitors. For example, a one-year plan for ExpressVPN costs $8.32 per month, but NordVPN only charges $6.99 monthly.

        NordVPN has a new protocol called NordLynx that is based on WireGuard with speed benefits, though it’s still under development.[2] If you’re looking for general quality and affordability, this is one of the best VPNs around.

        Buy this VPN.

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        2. ExpressVPN

        ExpressVPN is the second-best option out there for keeping your privacy while browsing the internet. Like many other VPNs here, they will encrypt your IP address, offer vast coverage, and can have multiple devices connected to their servers.

        Compared to NordVPN, while the pricing point is higher, ExpressVPN’s biggest selling point is the number of countries that their connection covers. Depending on where you are in the world, this may be the only option you have. They have fewer servers — 160, to be precise — but they make up for the low server count by covering 94 countries.[3]

        Cost-wise, your best bet is to go with the yearly plan where they charge $8.32 a month. They also have one- and six-month plans.

        Buy this VPN.

        3. Surf Shark

        With regards to Surf Shark, you can connect multiple devices to its servers, and it’s compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac. It is also available on Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and FireTV.

        Furthermore, Surf Shark can whitelist apps and sites, letting them bypass the VPN. This, along with the lines of split-tunneling, is another feature that many VPNs offer. The difference is that Surf Shark allows you to whitelist specific apps or any website, while most VPNs will whitelist all sites or none at all.

        The other consideration for this app is the price. While lower-tier plans are more expensive compared to others, Surf Shark’s 24-month plan is priced at $2.69 a month, so it’s cheaper than even NordVPN’s equivalent plan!

        Buy this VPN.

        4. CyberGhost

        Another top-reviewed VPN is CyberGhost. They’ve been around for 15 years and have fine-tuned their offers and features to stay competitive. They provide the standard package of browsing the web and logging into accounts safely and give you access to regionally blocked content.

        The network also maintains security from hackers, malware, and phishing. Aside from that, you can connect multiple devices, and it’s compatible with all kinds of platforms.

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        What separates CyberGhost from the others is their extensive coverage. They have multiple servers, and the pricing point is still very low. It covers over 88 countries and has roughly 6200 servers for you to choose from, all while charging $2.75 for their 18-month plan.

        Buy this VPN.

        5. IPVanish

        IPVanish’s prime purpose is to give users online freedom by providing fast speeds and private connections. It’s clear that they can meet that promise as they provide many of the features that have been listed previously from their competitors.

        IPVanish is a part of SugarSync now. What is that, you may ask? It’s a cloud-based service that syncs files across devices and computers for sharing, backup, and many more. What this means is that other devices can access various files and videos so long as they are connected to your specific VPN. Furthermore, it can serve as a backup plan if you get hacked or lose your device for some reason.

        Buy this VPN.

        6. Private Internet Access

        Private Internet Access (PIA) is a remarkably generous company in many ways. Aside from the obvious features, they offer great incentives and discounts for people to try out their products. They claim to be the most trustworthy and reliable VPN around, and we believe that.

        One notable thing is that PIA offers a free two-month trial. Compared to other VPNs to this point, none have provided free trials (though all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee). On top of that, small businesses can avail of their VPN at a discounted rate. There is also the fact that their pricing plans go as low as $2.69 a month for two years, and they let you pay with gift cards.

        In terms of specs, PIA has over 2695 servers that cover 47 countries right now.

        These particular aspects make PIA unique and one of the best VPNs to consider.

        Buy this VPN.

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        7. Hotspot Shield

        Hotspot Shield is all about offering protection while you’re browsing the internet or using streaming services like Netflix. The encryption is military-grade, and its speed is ultra-fast. In truth, it is even marketed as one of the fastest VPNs.

        Hotspot Shield offers a plan that only costs  $7.99 a month; however, it’s one of the few in this list to provide its services for free. Like other Freemium apps, the free version comes with limited features. That said, it gives you a much better feel for the VPN.

        Also, take note that the encryption feature is still there, though the limitations in the free plan include connecting to one location in the US and having limited streaming options and speed.

        Buy this VPN.

        8. TunnelBear

        As unusual as a name choice for an online security protection service can be, TunnelBear is nothing short of incredible. It makes our list of the best VPNs for various reasons.

        The biggest one is that the company goes through a yearly security audit. This is notable because many VPNs don’t bother about independent audits to ensure their systems are secure and safe from any issues. This is critical as VPNs have gotten some bad reputation over the years, as TunnelBear has noted in their post about their security audit.[4] The fact that they are doing this annually ensures that nothing is being compromised.

        Furthermore, TunnelBear offers limited services for free, but even their paid plans are pretty cheap. For individuals, you’re merely paying $3.33 per month. The only catch is that you can connect five devices regardless of which paid plan you pick.

        Buy this VPN.

        9. Norton

        Norton has been on the security scene for some time, and it’s actually one of the founders of the internet security industry. It started with virus and malware protection in 1991 and has since branched off to other sectors as the industry has shifted.

        As you might expect from a company that’s been around for a long time, Norton provides excellent services, and a few of their other services have gone into the VPN package. In reality, Norton is the only one thus far to offer a password manager with their VPN services. They provide 50GB of cloud storage as well.

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        Norton has one of the cheapest VPNs, considering you can get their deluxe plan at $49.99 per year. That comes up to roughly $4.17 a month. It might be slightly higher than other equivalent plans, but you get a lot of extra value that makes it worth the price.

        Buy this VPN.

        10. StrongVPN

        The final VPN we want to cover is StrongVPN. Like many others, it’s great at blocking unnecessary web traffic and providing a fast and simple solution to navigating the internet without any hindrance.

        StrongVPN has over 900 servers. It is available in more than 30 countries and compatible with all devices. Beyond that, the only notable selling point it has compared to others is that it also offers Sugarsync services and 250GB of storage, irrespective of your chosen plan.

        As for the pricing, their year-long plan costs $5.83 a month, while their month-long one is $10.

        Buy this VPN.

        Bottom Line

        Getting online protection is important these days, and companies recognize this.

        With more hacks and breaches occurring every single day, the best VPNs can provide an excellent haven for many people who value their security and privacy.

        We hope that by putting together this list, you’ll be able to find the best VPN that you can trust and enjoy using. As you can see, there are several great options with no real wrong one out there. Pick the VPN that’s best for you.

        Featured photo credit: Petter Lagson via unsplash.com

        Reference

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