Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How safe are Mobile Phones?

Cell phones are almost as common as pocket change these days, may be even more common than pocket change, since widespread use of credit cards have reduced the personal dependence from the cash on a daily basis. It seems nearly everyone, including an increasing number of children, carries a cell phone wherever they go. Cell phones are now so popular and convenient that they are far surpassing landlines as the primary form of telecommunication for many people. Many of my friends entirely abandoned the conventional phone, and use their mobile phones for all purposes.

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The question over whether cell phones may pose any health risk for users has been debated for years, and researchers say the final answer could still be years away.  Since the wireless industry's early days, there have been fears that cell phones could be harmful to your health. Some 600 studies have been conducted on the health effects of cell phone use, but the results have been conflicting.

Several reputable organizations, including the World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute, say there's no conclusive evidence that using cell phones can harm your health. Other independent research, meanwhile, indicates a link between health problems and cell phone use.

How does a mobile work?

Mobile phones (as well as wireless home phones) send and receive voice and text messages via radio waves. These waves – a form of electromagnetic radiation – connect your phone to a wireless network of fixed antennas called base stations. If you move out of range from one base station, the network will automatically connect you to a nearer one with a stronger signal.

The radiation given out by mobile phones is in the microwave range. It is very low level, but some experts believe long-term exposure could be damaging.

'Your phone is continually 'checking in' with its nearest base station to ensure a good connection – it's what we call a 'handshake',' explains Glynn Hughes, a former telecommunications engineer who now runs a wireless protection company.  'It's that short but powerful pulsing you can hear if your mobile is near the radio, which is your phone is trying to 'handshake' with its closest antennae, emitting radiation in the process,' he says.

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

Wireless cell phones transmit signals via radio frequency (RF), the same kind of low-frequency radiation used in microwave ovens and AM/FM radios. Scientists have known for years that large doses of high-frequency radiation—the kind used in X-rays—causes cancer, but less is understood about the risks of low-frequency radiation.

Studies on the health risks of cell-phone use have produced mixed results, but scientists and medical experts warn that people should not assume no risk exists. Cell phones have been widely available for only the past 10 years or so, but tumors may take twice that long to develop.

Because cell phones haven’t been around very long, scientists haven’t been able to assess the effects of long-term cell-phone use, or to study the effects of low-frequency radiation on growing children. Most studies have focused on people who have been using cell phones for three to five years, but some studies have indicated that using a cell phone an hour a day for 10 years or more can significantly increase the risk of developing a rare brain tumor.

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Mobile Phones are Safe (Brief Overview of Related Studies)

  1. According to some studies, the use of a cell phone can slightly decrease the risk of developing the brain tumors glioma and meningioma.
  2. Cell phone radiation, like radio, TV, and visible light radiation, is non-ionizing and cannot cause cancer. Ionizing radiation, including x-rays and ultraviolet light, produces molecules called ions that have either too many or too few electrons. Ions are known to damage DNA and cause cancer. Cell phone radiation lacks sufficient energy to add or remove electrons from molecules, and therefore it cannot ionize and cause cancer.
  3. Cell phone radiation levels are tested and certified by the manufacturer to meet the safe levels established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Random tests of phones on the market by FCC scientists further ensure that radiation levels meet FCC guidelines.
  4. Cell phones do not cause cancer or other health problems. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), US Government Accountability Office (GAO), and numerous other agencies have concluded that there is no evidence in the scientific literature proving that cell phones cause brain tumors or other health problems.
  5. If cell phones were causing cancer we could expect a rise in the rate of brain and other related cancers. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, there has been no increase in the incidence of brain or other nervous system cancers between the years 1987 and 2005 despite the fact that cell phone use has dramatically increased during those same years.
  6. Many activities that distract drivers are much more dangerous than talking on a phone. Research shows that cell phone use is a factor in less than 1% of accidents and that adjusting the radio or CD player, talking with passengers, or eating, and drinking while driving are all responsible for more accidents than cell phones.
  7. Studies correlating head tumors and cell phone use show inconsistent results, may have been tainted by recall bias (participants not remembering how often and for how long they have used their cell phones), and have not been replicated. Most studies have not found any association between cell phone use and the development of head tumors.
  8. Cell phones increase personal safety by providing an easy means of contacting others during an emergency. According to an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) poll, 56% of people over the age of 65 cite safety as a reason they have a cell phone.
  9. Despite popular belief, it is safe for persons with a pacemaker to use a cell phone. According to the American Heart Association, the radiofrequency emissions (RF) of cell phones available in the United States do not affect pacemaker functioning during normal use.

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Mobile Phones are NOT Safe (Brief Overview of Related Studies)

  1. Studies have shown an association between cell phone use and the development of glioma, a type of brain cancer. According to one meta-study there is a "consistent pattern" connecting cell phone use and the increased risk of developing brain cancer.
  2. Many studies have found that long term cell phone use increases the risk of tumors of the head. According to one Swedish study, the risk of acoustic neuroma (a tumor formation on the nerve near the ear) was greater on the side of the head that the cell phone was held.
  3. Using a cell phone while driving, even with a hands-free device, is unsafe and can make accidents more likely. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that driving distractions, including the use of cell phones, contribute to 25% of all traffic crashes.

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  1. The radio frequency (RF) emissions from cell phones have been shown to damage genetic material in blood cells which is a common precursor to cancer.
  2. Driving while talking on a cell phone is as dangerous as driving drunk. According to researchers at the University of Utah people who drive while talking on their cell phones are as impaired as drunk drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.08%.
  3. Children are at an increased risk for adverse health effects from cell phone radiation. One study has shown that children under the age of eight absorb twice the amount of radiation into their brain tissue as adults due to their lower skull thickness.
  4. The radiofrequency radiation from cell phones can damage the DNA in sperm. Cell phone storage in front pockets has been linked to poor fertility and an increased chance of miscarriage and childhood cancer. According to the Cleveland Clinic Center for Reproductive medicine, semen quality "tended to decline as daily cell phone use increased."
  5. Long term cell phone use can increase the likelihood of being hospitalized for migraines and vertigo by 10-20%.
  6. The use of cellphones by people with pacemakers is unsafe. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), radiofrequency energy from cell phones can create electromagnetic interference (EMI) that may disrupt the functioning of pacemakers, especially if the cell phone is placed close to the heart.
  7. Lithium-ion batteries, used in most cell phones, can explode from exposure to high heat, or from overcharging a faulty counterfeit battery. These explosions have caused injuries and started fires.

What can you do to reduce your risk?

Confusing, mixed results? Sure. There is no substantial proof that mobile phones are dangerous to your health, but that does not mean that the risk does not exist on long-term scale. Therefore, being proactive and reducing your exposure to the radiation they produce is definitely a good idea. There are several recommendations how can you limit your exposure to the potential threat without giving away the convenience of using the device:
  • Keep calls to a minimum, especially when talking to young children.
  • Avoid using your phone in areas of poor reception. Calling when you're in an area with good reception allows your phone to transmit with less power, meaning lower radiation.
  • Get into the habit of using your fixed landline phone (but not cordless) when you know you'll be on a long call.
  • Send a text message in place of a call where possible so you're not bringing the phone close to your head.
  • Use a 'hands free' device for calls. Keep your phone on a desk or table a good distance away from you and put it on speakerphone.
  • Never keep a switched-on phone in a breast or trouser pocket. Studies have shown that mobile phones might affect male fertility. Mobiles can interfere with pacemakers but little research has been done into their effect on healthy hearts.
  • Turn your phone off at night and stick to a conventional alarm clock for your wake up call. If you have to keep it on, place it away from your bed.
  • Choose a low radiation phone. The American Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists all phone models and their SAR rating (specific absorption rate).

Sources and Additional Information:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3 Free Mobile Applications for your Tax Season

1. The IRS's App

IRS announced its first of a kind app called IRS2Go which allows taxpayers to find basic tax information and track the status of their refunds. The app is available on iTunes and in Android Market. Take note that you are required to enter your SSN in order to check your status.

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IRS indicates that if you e-file your tax return and are owe a refund, you will be able to check your refund status via the app after 72 hours. If you mailed your tax return, it may take 3-4 weeks.

2. Tax Reference 2010

This Chesnut designed application provides you with a wealth of tax information at your fingertips including corporate tax rates, retirement contribution limits, depreciation, business deductions, personal tax rates, itemized deductions, estate and gift taxes and lots of other useful financial data and so much more. Definitely a great app to use for tax planning all year round, and it is available for Android and iPad (iPhone).

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3. iTaxMama

Created by Tax Anxiety Inc., this app helps keep your tax due dates organized by providing an easy to use tax planning calendar. It includes reminders for quarterly tax payments, tax filing deadlines, and has been fully updated for this tax season.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

10 Practical Steps of Troubleshooting Thumb Drive not Recognized in Windows XP

You attach a USB-based device to a computer that is running Windows XP. Then, you try to scan for hardware devices. However, the computer does not detect the attached device, and you do not see the device in the My Computer folder. Does the problem look familiar to you? Well, it happens once a while with everyone.

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To fix the issue, I would recommend the following plan of actions:

  1. First, wait patiently a bit to ensure that the problem is not related to your computer being busy and dealing with other tasks.
  2. If you have plugged this drive into a USB hub, it might point on the hub failure to perform due to the power out or simple malfunction. Try plugging the drive in directly to one of the USB ports in the front, or if that does not help, to the back of your computer.
  3. Reboot the computer and try again plugging to the back.
  4. Check the USB drive performance on another computer, and see if the problem associated with drive itself.
  5. If the USB drive works fine on another PC, you can back to your initial host computer troubleshooting.
  6. Go to Start->Settings->Control Panel->Administrative Tools->Disk Management with the drive in the computer and see if there is a drive letter associated with the thumb drive. If not, assign a drive letter.
  7. Access the Device Manager and check if you see any signs of your drive there. Note that depending on the computer configuration, your USB drive might appear in different sections, like Disk Drives, DVD/CD-ROM drives, or Universal Serial Bus controls as USB Mass Storage.  If you do see if with yellow question mark, uninstall it. Then, scan for software changes, and see, if the drive will reappear as a healthy element of configuration.
  8. Access the Device Manager and remove all the items, associated with USB such as USB root hub etc, than reboot the computer TWICE to let Windows to reinstall them properly, then try the flash drive again.
  9. Next step is the registry modification related, so you should be careful, making any changes. The best way is playing safe, and making registry backup (by exporting registry into registry patch) before you do any changes.
    1. Get into the Registry Editor - Press Start ->Run, type regedit in the window, and press Ok.
    2. Click on My Computer. Then press File Export, assign easy recognizable file name to backup the registry.
    3. Navigate to the following registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/StorageDevicePolicies.
    4. In the right pane select "writeprotect".
    5. RESET the value to '0'.
    6. Repeat the same for the registry keys ControlSet001 and ControlSet002, in case they exist.
    7. Now plug in your USB drives and it should work. Else just reboot the machine and try.
  10. The last step is also related to the registry changes, and is recommended by the Microsoft Knowledge Base, by deletng the UpperFilters registry value and the LowerFilters registry value. To do so, follow these steps:
    1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
    2. Locate and then click the UpperFilters registry value. This value is located in the following registry subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{4D36E967-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}
    3. On the Edit menu, click Delete, and then click OK.
      Note If you receive an error when you try to delete the registry subkey, you may not have appropriate permissions to edit the subkey.
    4. Locate and then click the LowerFilters registry value. This value is located in the following registry subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{4D36E967-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}
    5. On the Edit menu, click Delete, and then click OK.
      Note If you receive an error when you try to delete the registry subkey, you may not have appropriate permissions to edit the subkey.
    6. Exit Registry Editor.
    7. Restart the computer.

How to set a fresh partition to USB Drive?

If the USB drive has a permanent recognition failure, and the data on the drive is not essential for you, you may just try creating a new partition. Definitely, if the drive has hardware failure, that would not be helpful. Follow the instructions:
  • Go to the Start menu and then click on the Run option.
  • Now type the command 'diskmgmt.msc' and then hit the Enter button.
  • Locate the thumb drive in the lower part of the window that opens, and right-click on it.
  • Now delete the partition on the thumb drive.
  • Create a new partition by right-clicking on the thumb drive option. Format it in FAT or FAT32 format.
  • Remove the thumb drive and reinsert it into the PC.

What can you do to prevent the USB corruption?

If you plug in a flash drive into Windows XP, it normally recognizes the flash drive and immediately sets up the flash drive for use as a regular storage device. When you need to disconnect the flash drive, use the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon and tell Windows that you want to remove the flash drive. Then, Windows will write any waiting data (Windows XP uses a delayed-write cache to speed up programs) and then tells itself that the drive is not connected. Finally, it tells you that the flash drive can now be removed. BUT, if you just pull the flash drive out without doing the Safely Remove Hardware step, you may lose the data that you thought was already written to the flash drive. Also, Windows won’t properly turn off its internal settings for the drive. That means, if you insert the drive again, Windows XP won’t recognize it. You need to reboot your computer to restore the flash drive recognition.

Instead of using Windows option, I personally prefer one of the free portable utilities EjectUSB, which will perform all the flash drive closure for me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Photovisi – Make Professional Photo Collages Online

Photovisi is a free and easy to use online tool to create photo collages. Select one of the many collage templates, add your photos and then customize by dragging items around. After the collage is finished, it's available for download and print!

Registration is not required, but In order to access some of the services on this site, you will be required to use an account and password that can be obtained by completing our online registration form. Registering is fast and easy, and the submitted data will not be shared with third parties.

Uploading photos is quick and simple, you just click the big “add photos” button and your usual finder window comes up to select the files. The photos are automatically positioned on the template that you chose and they are easy to arrange across the canvas. The interface is intuitive and easy to understand: to move an image you just click and drag, to bring an image to the front you just click on it, and to crop it, you click on it and press the big “crop” button.

When your new collage is ready, you can download it as 1024x768px, and you can also order it as a magnet, postcard, poster, mug or mouse pad from Zazzle (which is naturally not a free option).


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Drawback: The output image resolution is limited, so you will not be able to use the service for big posters printing.

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