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4 Awesome Advantages of Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

4 Awesome Advantages of Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN is known as the easiest and most convenient method to keep online privacy and security ensured. It is a common perception that because of internet users’ online security and the need of sending internet traffic via encrypted tunnel, VPN technology has been developed. But beside this role, a VPN has much more to offer. I would like to shed some light on a few incredible, yet not-so-known, advantages of a VPN service. So, let’s begin, shall we?

Ok, hold on for a moment! Before getting started with the advantages, let’s have a small introduction of what a VPN is.

In so many words, a virtual private network (VPN) is a safe, private Internet connection where your data and information are encrypted and routed via a private channel, reducing the chances of anyone affecting it.

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Some Really Cool Uses of A VPN

As mentioned earlier, the most commonly known advantages of a VPN are to improve online security, utmost privacy and total freedom. But there are plenty of other benefits of a VPN, which most of us don’t know. Let’s have a look on them:

1. Use A VPN to Book Flights and Hotel Rooms at a Cheap Price

Travelling abroad can be expensive, but research shows that by employing minor hacks such as using a VPN to change your location virtually, you can get cheaper rates. A recent research conducted by Northeastern University reported that airlines offer different rates based on your locations and browsing activities (not to mention, e-commerce stores do this as well)[1]

So how exactly do you find the best prices for your tickets? You got it right, you use a VPN and switch your location to check the fares of a flight from a different country’s IP address. For example, you are living in the US; you are going to travel to the UK, and from there, fly to Spain. Now, if you book your UK to Spain flight from the US, it might cost you more. But if you do so from the UK, you may be able to get a much better price. So, why wait to reach the UK? Use a VPN, connect to a UK server and book your flight to Spain. Tada! You must have saved quite a few bucks by now.

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Hey! The same theory applies to hotel rooms as well. Don’t forget to repeat the same process to save on hotel rooms as well.

(Please note that while this may not be illegal (yet), it does violate most companies’ policies.)

2. Use A VPN to Buy Books and Avoid VAT

If you are a Kindle user and you buy e-books from Amazon, a VPN is a must for you. First, you can buy e-books that are not available in your region with a VPN. Secondly, if you live in Europe and Australia, you can save money on the value-added tax (VAT). In Europe, you will be charged with VAT based on your location. For example, readers living in the UK may pay 20% VAT. If you are from Ireland, you may pay 23% VAT, German 19%, Estonia 21%, Italy 4% and Luxembourg 3%. On average every e-book reader will be paying 17% more for e-books. Fortunately, a VPN can help you save on VAT. You simply need to change your original IP address with one of the VPN server’s IP to avoid paying extra charges for VAT.

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(As noted, please research your country’s laws and regulations on this, in addition to Amazon’s policy, to see if this is illegal, as it’s not advisable to conduct any form of illegal activity.)

3. Use A VPN to Watch Sports Channels in Your Native Language

A large percentage of people are die-hard fans of one sport or another. Some love cricket; some can die for Football; and some have deep-feelings for tennis. But what if you are a German and you are living in the UAE—can you enjoy the FIFA world cup in Arabic? Probably not. A VPN can help you watch sports in your native language by simply taking you back to your home country virtually. Replace your UAE IP address with a German IP and enjoy FIFA in German.

4. Enjoy MMO Games with Your Friends Abroad

VPN can also help when it comes to massive multiplayer online (MMO) gaming. Most games like DOTA 2, World of War Craft, The League of Legends and Battle Field are not available in many regions. So, maybe your friend in China cannot be a part of the tournament. Well, here comes a VPN. A VPN can bypass the restrictions and make your friend a member of your team. It will also help reduce latency and ping. So, enjoy MMO games with your friends from around the globe.

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(Please research the specific gaming policy of whatever game that will be affected by the VPN change, as doing this may be in violation of that gaming policy.)

Final Thoughts

A VPN can be more than just a tool for online security, privacy and freedom. It has unlimited advantages. It also shows how important a VPN has become for every Internet user, with the increased censorships and geological restrictions.

That said, please research the company policies and your country’s laws concerning VPN changes before you decide to change your VPN, as doing this may be illegal federally or in violation with company policy in some cases. As mentioned before, it is never advisable to conduct any form of illegal activity.

Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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George Olufemi O

Information Technologist

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

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