“Instagram Music isn’t Available in Your Region”

First introduced in 2018 in over 50 countries, Instagram’s music feature allows users insert a clip of a song into their Instagram story post.

Users would be able to find the music option below the home screen itself or alternatively after creating a story by selecting the Music sticker. Upon tapping on Music, users will see three columns – popular, moods and genres. In moods, there is a list of ten different options such as party hits, inspirational and more. In genres, options are available such as Rock, and even regional content language such as Tamil etc.

On top of that, users are able to add filters or even lyrics for their songs, however, lyrics aren’t available for all songs, but are still available for a high number of them.

It is obvious that certain regions, such as Malaysia are not immediately available to use this certain function that seems to be trending around the outside world. The reason behind this is because Instagram needs license to play music.

In regions where the feature is unavailable, there are still a various legal procedures that have to take place as there is no one law for copyright and privacy issues. It may take some time before it is finally rolled out on the global scale.

The feature is now only included in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, France, Canada, and Germany.

However, upon a search on the internet, there are certain ‘ways’ that people use to curb this copyright and privacy issue to having Instagram music available to them, even if outside the regions mentioned above.

1) Storybeat

Storybeat gets its audio tracks from  public third-party media service. What seems like a short term solution may in fact work out for some time, but it is unclear which, licensing problems or Instagram’s native music support will come knocking on their door first. Nonetheless, it works and that’s all that matters to the users.

2) VPN

Users can bypass these geo-restrictions by changing their virtual location with a VPN. All they have to do is to connect ton Instagram with an IP address from any of the participating countries and Instagram music will become available. It does come with a price though as VPNs are often not available to download for free.

3) Spotify

Spotify allows its users to share an album art of a song on Instagram stories, but just only the album art without the music playing in the background. This is one of the ways non-Instagram music users choose to use as Spotify also provides animated video backgrounds that will play behind certain album arts in an Instagram story.

How does plastic turn into fashion?

At a time where plastic bottles are being a threat to our oceans and environment, innovation has taken another step as plastic is now being used to manufacture garments. 

With many taking the step towards a more sustainable future, brands such as Adidas, Nike, Gucci, H&M and Timberland have been steering towards to idea and eventually paving the way for smaller brands to follow suit.

So how in fact does plastic gets utilised and given purpose again in the fashion industry? Here’s a less complicating step by step list on how the plastic waste we produce gets given another chance at life.

1) Collection

– The plastic water bottles are compiled from various locations such as waste centres and transported to a proper recycling facility

– Only 16% of plastic bottles in Malaysia are collected for recycling purposes, a study found.

– Malaysia’s plastic bottles recycling rate is lower than the average among the six Asean countries studied.

2) Separation

– A conveyer at the recycling station separates green and clear plastic bottles

– The caps are then removed to be discarded

– Only PET (polyethene terephthalate) plastic made bottles are used 

3) Cleaned

– The bottles are washed, sterilized, dried and chopped up into small flakes

– The flakes are then compressed into bales

4) Heated

– The dried plastic is then heated until it forms a sticky, pliable substance

5) Transformation

– The heated plastic is then put through a machine to be turned into threads 

– It is then stretched and pulled before being moulded into a spool.

6) Colour

– The PET based yarn is then submerged in different coloured dyes

7) Threads into cloth

– The now dyed yarns are then fed into a knitting machine

– The machine turns the threads into bolts of knitted cloth

8) Released as clothing material

– Manufacturers then purchase the bolts of cloth and proceed to use it to make clothing

While we may never completely get rid of plastic waste, we could definitely do our part in reducing the amount of plastic waste we generate in our lives.

What other ways do you use to reduce plastic waste? Feel free to share in the comment section below!

6 weird Facebook groups that actually exists

Social media, the place where we can come across like-minded people and those not so. If there’s a subject that interests you, there’s a chance that someone else feels the same way too. 

With 620 million groups out there on Facebook, the average user creates just under 2 Facebook groups; but out of all these group, some may be informative and some may be downright weird or comedic.

We did our research and found some of the wonderfully abnormal Facebook groups, pages and interests that shows just how broad the demographic on Facebook is. Here are 10 of the weirdest Facebook groups, yet.

1) Previously Unsaid Sentences in Human History

A group that shares bizarre statements, headlines, comments, videos, or really anything you believe has probably never been said before, this Facebook group contains some of the most absurd and unsaid statements ever in human history. One of the most notable facts would be that out of 212.8K members, Facebook’s very own Mark Zuckerberg is a member of the group and that said has even dedicated its cover page to an image of Zuckerberg “claiming” that “Previously Unsaid Sentences In Human History has completely and irreversibly reinvigorated my passion for all things Facebook!!!”. 

2) “a group that makes small decisions for you

Yes, you did in fact read that right. Decisions related to dying one’s hair, what to do with that last piece of bread, naming one’s cat and many more, members of the group ask for help with deciding pretty much anything you could think of. 

3) A Different Picture of Chicken Rice Every Day

Where do we even start with this Facebook page? An image of chicken rice for literally every day, this page is categorised under “Art” and shares an image of a different pack of chicken rice every day without stop since its creation back in January 2018. The page doesn’t have a confirmed page owner but it seems to be managed by one or two individuals in Canada and Singapore.

4) Did this work? Are they married?

We’ve all been there some way or another, being on the receiving end of a weird pick-up line or even being the one to use said “moves”. The group focuses on all the awkward moments that one may experience when being pursued by another and this group lightens up those moments sharing mostly about the “don’ts” of flirting giving members an insight of the world of flirting.

5) Masak Apa Tak Jadi Hari Ini

With over one million members and counting, the group translates loosely into “What you cooked that didn’t turn out well today”, referring to cooking mishaps and fails. Gaining popularity ever since the movement control order (MCO) period, this group features burnt baking goods, burnt fries and absurd cooking methods that eventually “tak jadi”.

6) “those are certainly all words

Have you ever seen one of those signs or article titles that don’t make sense? You’d look at the words and question your understanding of a language and so on. Well this is the place for you to share them put for members to have a good laugh. Weird word combinations to downright abuse of language vocabulary, this group is no way short of fun as accidents happen with language and those accidents and typos can be highly amusingly at times.                                                                                                                                                                    

Trump praises doctor who claims sex with demons makes you sick

A Houston doctor who frequented around the talks of alien DNA, demon sperm and Hydroxychloroquine has received support from two unlikely sources in Donald Trump himself retweeting her video and Donald Trump Jr. declaring her a “must watch”.

Stella Immanuel who had garnered tens of millions of views on YouTube had also gained a reputation of becoming a viral right-wing internet star. 

Immanuel is a paediatrician and religious minister. However, she has had a history against her due to her claims about various medical topics and issues. The internet icon who has an active Twitter following of 177,000 users, has had infamously meddled into talks of alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams.

In one of her claims, she alleged that alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. Despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.

Stella Immanuel has caught the US president’s attention for claiming hydroxychloroquine cures Covid-19

On the steps of the Supreme Court at the “White Coat Summit”, Immanuel has also claimed to successfully treated hundreds of patients using hydroxychloroquine, in which unfortunately plays to Trump’s highly disputable promotion of him using the drug when studies have failed to find proof to be beneficial in treating COVID-19.

“Nobody needs to get sick,” Immanuel said. “This virus has a cure.”

She also said that the due to the supposed hydroxychloride’s potency, protective face masks aren’t necessary; she then claimed that she and her staff had avoided contracting COVID-19 despite wearing medical masks instead of the more secure N95 masks.

At a White House press conference, Trump expressed confusion over why “American Frontline Doctors” video had been removed from social media. 

“I don’t know why,” he told reporters. “I think they’re very respected doctors. There was a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it and she’s had tremendous success with it.”

Facebook and Twitter cited rules against COVID-19 disinformation being the reason behind the removal of the videos. Immanuel responded by declaring Jesus Christ would destroy Facebook’s servers if her videos weren’t restored to the platform.

Kaitlan Collins, White House correspondent for CNN, challenged the president during a White House conference on the 29th of July.

CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins

“The woman that you said was a ‘great doctor’ in that video that you retweeted last night said that masks don’t work and there is a cure for Covid-19, both of which health experts say is not true,” she said.

“She’s also made videos saying that doctors make medicine using DNA from aliens and that they’re trying to create a vaccine to make you immune from becoming religious.”

Becoming increasingly agitated, Trump replied: “Maybe it’s the same [person], maybe it’s not, but I can tell you this. She was on air along with many other doctors. They were big fans of hydroxychloroquine and I thought she was very impressive in the sense that, from where she came – I don’t know which country she comes from – but she said that she’s had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients.“And I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her.”

Microsoft in plans to purchase TikTok operations

So what exactly is happening at the TikTok headquarters?

TikTok a short video streaming platform has gained a worldwide following since its introduction and is known for its comedic short videos; it has also long been thought to be the successor of another widely used, but now extinct short video streaming platform, Vine.

It features users that range from celebrities, digital creators or teenagers dancing, lip syncing and acting out to audio clips. To summarize, the TikTok experience is fun or downright silly at times but informative to those who utilise it that way.

President Trump

In recent days, U.S. president Donald Trump vowed to ban the video-sharing app. 

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the president would take action in the coming days against Chinese-owned software that he believes pose a national security risk.

Officials in Washington have become increasingly concerned over time that Americans who use TikTok could risk having their data accessed by the Chinese government due to the app’s Chinese ownership by ByteDance.

TikTok has reportedly denied that any of its operations are being influenced by Beijing.

Microsoft’s involvement 

In a bid to Microsoft said it was looking to purchase the TikTok service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and would operate the app in these markets.

“Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the tech firm said.

The tech giant also added that it “may” invite other American investors to participate in the purchase “on a minority bases” but added that the discussions were still in its “preliminary” stage. 

It also added among other measures, that all private data of TikTok’s American users is “transferred and remains in the United States”.

According to a story by the Wall Street Journal, TikTok’s U.S operations to Microsoft has been on hold ever since. The sale was close to an agreement until the warning posted out by the U.S president on Friday.

As on Monday, Microsoft said it will move forward with said plans subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States after Nadella’s conversation with Trump.

TikTok users respond

“I think that a lot of people didn’t like Trump before, and this has driven people to not like him even more,”

Fearing what could be the end of their TikTok days, viral and mainstream users across the U.S. began livestreaming and posting videos in tribute to their beloved video platform.

Content ranging from heartfelt goodbyes to persuading their current followings to Instagram and YouTube, it was a rollercoaster of a weekend for many who called the platform their entertainment outlet or even workplace.

The information and entertainment hub is also widely used by Gen Zs and politically-minded young people, it also serves as an educational outlet about issues such as climate change, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

As reported by the New York Times, Ellie Zeiler, 16, who has 6.3 million followers on TikTok, said that Mr. Trump’s threat to ban the app may even sway more young people to vote against him.

“I think that a lot of people didn’t like Trump before, and this has driven people to not like him even more,” she said.

TikTok responds

Upon release of the news, TikTok released the following statement in regards to the platform coming under fire.

“Our $1 billion creator fund supports US creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”

On TikTok’s official TikTok account, its US General Manager Vanessa Pappas appeared in a video thanking American users for their support.

“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Papas said. “When it comes to safety and security, we’re building the safest app because we know it’s the right thing to do … We’re here for the long run. Continue to share your voice here and let’s stand for TikTok.”

How a 28-Year-Old Ended Up Making RM212,775 a Day

Recreate Flappy Bird's flight mechanic | Wireframe #29 - Raspberry Pi

In 2013, Vietnamese game developer Dong Nguyen quietly released a mobile game called Flappy Bird.

It was a simple but extremely addictive app that involved navigating a cartoon bird through a series of neverending obstacles. The objective was to keep the bird afloat as long as possible.

According to Rolling Stone, Nguyen built it over the course of a holiday weekend. It wasn’t his first game, but rather another project in a long line of flops. He didn’t expect this one to be any different, and for a long time, it wasn’t.

Then, one day, fortune struck. For months, Flappy Bird’s small collection of players had been rage-posting their high scores on social media. The game was designed so that all the progress you’ve made can be wiped out with just one wrong move, which made making mistakes especially painful. And when players lost, they turned to Facebook and Twitter to vent, or on rare occasions, celebrate.

Eight months into Flappy Bird’s launch, these passionate social media posts reached critical mass, catapulting the game to viral status. Not “viral” in the casual sense, but viral, as in 50 million-plus downloads and worldwide, chart-topping prestige.

Its success earned Nguyen a jaw-dropping payday. Monetized via in-app ads, Flappy Birds brought in a staggering $50,000 in revenue per day. The most amazing part? Aside from a single social media post announcing its launch, he had spent zero effort on marketing.

This is a true underdog story, especially for someone who came from a poor family, like Nguyen. But if you’re tempted to chalk his success up to luck, you’d only be half right.

The truth is, whether it was conscious or not, Nguyen built Flappy Bird on a foundation that stacked the odds of virality in his favor. Let’s take a look at how.


What Made Flappy Bird Special?

Here are four key takeaways.

1. Simplicity is addictive

In his interview with Rolling Stone, Nguyen traced Flappy Bird’s inspiration to the Nintendo games he played growing up — specifically, their simplicity.

Struck by how complicated modern games were, he set out to build a game that could be played with one hand. The result? To play Flappy Bird, you only needed to do one thing: tap the screen.

This is a lesson that appears over and over again in business. Whether it’s a video game, online store, or consulting service, the key to attracting customers is to make their experience frictionless.

The easier your product is to use, the more customers will want to return to use it again.

2. Free is contagious

Free breeds virality.

The easier it is for users to access your product, the more likely they are to share it with their friends and get them on board. This, in turn, raises your chances of going viral.

In simple terms, Flappy Bird’s free-plus-ads model made it easy to acquire users. Who’s going to say no to downloading that app all your friends are talking about when it costs nothing to check it out?

This is the same model email newsletters use to build massive subscriber bases. Most newsletters gladly send out their editions for free. Once they’ve built an audience, they can monetize through multiple streams, including ads, sponsorships, and premium tiers.

3. Nostalgia sells

Nguyen isn’t shy about the fact that Flappy Bird’s visual design was influenced by the early Nintendo era. But take a step back and you’ll realize it’s much more than just the Super Mario pipes and pixelated graphics.

Really, everything about the game is reminiscent of Nintendo, from its ridiculously simple playing style to its catchy sound effects. These were critical components to its success: in an era where games are built on futuristic graphics and complex gameplay, Flappy Bird succeeded because it fulfilled a desire for the good ol’ days.

According to marketing genius Gary Vaynerchuk, this is the same reason throwbacks like sports cards and Pokemon are making a comeback. Nostalgia is a powerful motivator for consumers and must be taken seriously as a brand strategy.

4. Good products market themselves

Finally, the common thread that ties all of these elements together is that quality is the best form of marketing.

Without a good product, all the marketing tricks in the world won’t help you sell. But make your product the best in the industry and your customers will do your marketing for you.

The fact that Nguyen spent $0 on marketing is exhibit A on why this works. He simply created a superior game, then gave it away. Because it was so sensationally addictive, the product marketed itself.


Epilogue

You may have noticed everything in the first section is worded in the past tense. That’s because Nguyen deleted Flappy Bird several months after it went viral, citing concerns about his family’s privacy, as well as ethical concerns that the game had become too addictive.

(Don’t worry, he’s still making money thanks to those who downloaded it before its demise.)

While some view this as tragic, I think it’s a net win for Nguyen, who no doubt made enough money during the game’s apex to be financially set for life.

Regardless, the real value here is the nuggets of marketing wisdom. One man showed everyone the power of simplicity. In a world filled with increasingly complex technology, that might be exactly the marketing angle your business needs to stand out

Comparing e-wallets in Malaysia

E-wallets are starting to become one of the fastest trending payment methods in Malaysia amid the release of e-wallets such as Boost, GrabPay, Maybank E-wallet (MAE) and Touch ‘n Go eWallet just to name a few. With all these e-wallet platforms to choose from, which one should you use and which is the best? We’ve taken all the e-wallets in Malaysia into comparison so that you don’t have to, here is a verdict of the best e-wallets in Malaysia.

1) Maybank E-wallet (MAE)

– The Maybank payment platform serves both Maybank and non-Maybank customers; once registered on either the MAE or Maybank 2U app, users will have their own virtual Visa debit card along with a Maybank account number. 

– The e-wallet is pretty much usable anywhere that supports QR pay and can be topped up using any bank account. 

– MAE has a maximum wallet size of RM4,999.99 and a transaction limit of RM2,999.99.

– One of the more notable features is being able to split bills; just split it in the app and notify your friends via the app of how much they owe. It’s as simple as that!


2) GrabPay

– GrabPay integrates with GrabRewards to ensure points for every Ringgit spent. 

– Users go through the usual registration and can pay for cashless rides, food or shopping and also transfer GrabPay credits as part of its ecosystem. 

– The Grab app also helps wih topping up mobile phone credits for Celcom, Maxis and U Mobile. 

– GrabPay’s partnership with Maybank also allows cross-plaform use between users. 


3) Touch ‘n Go eWallet

– The first of it’s kind in Malaysia, the Touch n’ Go eWallet can be used to pay tolls at participating highways, thus reduced traffic congestion in the central region by 48.2% in 2019. 

– Other than tolls, users can pay for Apple Store and iTunes purchases, street parking, taxi rides and food delivery services.

– KLIA Express and KLIA Transit Tickets can also be purchased through the platform.

– Users can send up to RM5,000 per month to other Touch ‘n Go wallet holders.


4) Wechat Pay

– Malaysia holds the title of being the first foreign country outside of China to have WeChat enabled in a local currency.

– WeChat Pay allows payment through Quick Pay, QR Code, In-App Web-Based, or Native In-App Payments.

– It deals with the issue of cross-border foreign currencies. Users can pay in Chinese yuan but with the transaction being settled in a foreign currency.

– A fun party trick would be also to be able to send virtual money packets to family and friends during holidays such as Chinese New Year and Hari Raya.


5) Boost

– Launched in 2017, it boasts up to 7 million Boosties and is still growing as we speak. – Accepted at over 140,000 physical and online stores, it is recognize as one of the more widely notable competitors as it has partnerships with 17 banks across the country such as CIMB, Hong Leong Bank, RHB Bank and so on. 

– Users can pay for petrol at 800 Shell station countrywide and also pay for parking at Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) parking spots. 

– On top of that users can also pay bills for Astro, Syabas and Telekom.


6) Razer Pay

– Debuted in 2018, Razer Pay can be used at over 1,000 online stores.

– Participating banks include AmBank, Bank Islam, CIMB, Maybank and Public Bank,

– It benefits gamers and app streaming services through services such as being able to purchase zGold, MOLPoints, Steam Wallet, Garena, Sony PlayStation, Spotify, iFlix and more.

– Verified accounts are entitled to a transaction limit of RM3,000, and RM48,000 for annual transactions.


What is the difference between an e-wallet, credits cards and debit cards?

With the future seemingly more and more cashless, we have a vast number of options to pay for our dinner, ride to work and also online purchases. So, with all these payment methods in hand, we decided to break it down in this section.


Credit cards

With credit cards, you pay for a service via a borrow now and pay later method. Once you reach the end of every month, you’ll be required to pay the bank at least a partial of the money spent. It’s also important to know to not over use a credit card as it’ll show up on your credit score, which in turn affects you in the long run when renting a room or requesting a loan of any kind.


Debit cards

The way debit cards work is with the direct opposite of credit cards. Instead of paying with borrowed money, purchases are made with money that is in already present in your bank account.


E-wallets

If you have a mobile device, you’re already halfway through the steps of owning an e-wallet. In other words, a digital wallet requires you to add money in it first whether with an actual debit or credit card. It may seem that they functions intertwine at times, but the way they operate is completely different.

All in all, the e-wallet industry is a growing industry and one wouldn’t want to get left behind do they? With the world emphasizing social distancing at times like this, why not try your hand at e-wallets today!

Should you wash your face mask?

Reusable face mask

With face masks being mandatory from August 1st onwards, one can’t help but to wonder about the already rising number of disposable face masks being used in the country.

Those caught in public places without a face mask will be fined 1000 ringgit as of said date, it is inevitable that many of those who didn’t do so before to start following the guidelines one way or another and those who already do before, continue doing so without hesitation.

Sights of facemasks on the ground have been a usual sight and it’s hard fact to swallow that perhaps more facemasks are being thrown away or dropped when compared to the ones that are actually being used.

In combat to that, the public have shifted to using bandannas, face scarves and masks made of fabric, such as cotton with hopes to reduce the wastage.

According to Hopkins Medicine, you should clean your mask after every wearing. This not only reduces the risk of spreading the coronavirus or other germs but also reduces the waste as we are so succumbed to throwing away facemasks after each use.

Now why should we wash our face masks? The reason is simple.

A face mask whorks by keeping you from breathing out if you happen to be sick and asymptomatic. 

Imagine your saliva being contaminated with coronavirus. That’s where the mask fulfil its roll, the mask keeps your spit contained at the cost of itself becoming full of the virus. 

You wash your hands to prevent the spreading of viruses to surfaces or other people. So, you wash your mask for the same reason.


How should you do it?

  • Bandanas, face scarves and masks made of fabric and cotton can be washed such in a regular laundry machine using hot water.
  • However, it is important to know that disposable blue surgical are to be disposed of immediately after use and not to be washed.
  • After washing your fabric mask, tumble dry them in the dryer on a high setting or hang them out on the clothing line to dry for at least a few hours.
  • Consider using a non-scented laundry detergent if you are sensitive to the smell as you’ll be wearing it for pretty much all day depending on your schedule.
  • You can also hand wash your mask under hot, soapy water for 20 seconds while scrubbing.
  • Remember to store your mask in a clean and dry place when you’re not using them to prevent contamination of other kinds.

Do you know of any other places that make fabric face masks? Feel free to share in the comment section below!

How to Find Hidden Cameras in Your Airbnb, and Anywhere Else

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By Michael Grothaus

Inrecent months there’s been a number of alarming reports of Airbnb hosts installing hidden cameras in their properties but not disclosing them to the guests staying there. Back in January Fast Company reported on a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who discovered two hidden cameras recording him and his family in an Airbnb. And just last month The Atlantic reported on a New Zealand family who was renting an Airbnb in Ireland and found they were being live-streamed from a hidden security camera.

Unfortunately, these aren’t isolated incidents and in response to increasing reports of guests finding hidden cameras in their Airbnb rentals, Airbnb says they are cracking down on hosts who don’t disclose hidden cameras in their property listings.

Yet just because Airbnb has a policy forbidding hosts from hiding cameras in their property without informing their guests, that’s no guarantee all hosts are complying. So if you don’t like the idea that you could possibly be being spied on in the comfort of your Airbnb — or wherever else you’re staying — is there anything you can do besides taking the host at his word that there are no cameras on the property? Thankfully, yes.

Keep an eye out for any odd-looking gadgets

Let’s start with the most basic deterrent: keep your eyes open for any odd-looking gadgets in your Airbnb. Gadgets that look bulky or out of place in their surroundings may contain a hidden camera.

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A camera disguised as a USB plug. Photo: Johannes Ulrich

Admittedly, it’s not the easiest thing to spot a gadget containing a hidden camera that looks out of place, because cameras have become so small, they can be hidden in virtually any device — and ones anyone can buy on Amazon. Here’s just a small sample of the types of devices you can buy on Amazon with cameras hidden in them: alarm clockswall clockssmoke detectorsplantsmirrorslight bulbsspeakers, and even USB wall plugs.

Still, if you see an alarm clock in a bathroom or some other place you wouldn’t expect one to be, that could be a tip-off that something is amiss. Similarly, if you see any devices, such as a USB wall plug pointed directly at a bed or shower, something could be up.

When trying to visually spot gadgets with hidden cameras, keep an eye out for devices that have a clean, unobstructed line of sight.

Use a flashlight to check for camera lenses

Another trick to use to visually spot hidden cameras is the flashlight trick. A hidden camera necessitates that its lens is embedded in a regular object. Usually, that lens is made of glass and the object it’s hidden in is made of plastic or other non-glass materials.

Glass is generally more reflective than other materials, so the lenses of hidden cameras can be rather easy to spot if you shine a light around a room. The small camera lens should be more reflective than the surface of the surrounding object.

So it’s worth giving your Airbnb a once over with your smartphone’s flashlight. Turn out all the lights in the Airbnb and activate your flashlight. Slowly do a few sweeps of every room looking for any small, bright flashes of light relative to the surrounding area. If you spot any coming from an object, examine it more closely. You may have just found a hidden camera.

Use Wi-Fi-sniffing apps to check for smart devices

Unfortunately, the above visual checks of an Airbnb aren’t always enough to spot hidden cameras, even for the keen-eyed person. The good news is there’s an even better way to identify hidden cameras.

Virtually all modern hidden cameras, especially the types like the ones listed above, use wireless technology to connect to the router in the Airbnb so they can stream the footage over the internet where the host can view it remotely. But the very fact that these devices are covertly using a wireless signal to stream footage online makes them vulnerable to detection.

Smartphone users can use apps like Fing (available for both iOS and Android) that can display all the wireless devices connected to a Wi-Fi network. So after arriving at your Airbnb and connecting to the host’s wireless network, whip out Fing and give that network a scan. It’ll show your device and any other connected to that same network.

While Fing and similar apps can’t always identify what types of devices are connected (is it a hidden camera or just a wireless printer?) the app can display the MAC address of the connected device, which can give you a hint as to what the connected device is. Simply enter the MAC address of any identified gadget at MacVendorLookup.com to see who the manufacturer is and white type of device the MAC belongs to.

Use an RF detector

Of course, Fing and apps like it will only reveal connected hidden cameras if they are on the same wireless network as your smartphone. However, if the host has a second private wireless network that you don’t have access too, apps like Fing aren’t going to help you spot hidden cameras.

In that case, your only solution is to use a dedicated piece of hardware known as an RF detector. All wireless devices give off a radio frequency (RF) — it’s what allows Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to exist. An RF detector can hone in on devices emitting these RF signals, showing you where they are located in an Airbnb.

RF detectors are small handheld devices that can also be purchased on Amazon. They’ll usually set you back about $30 to $50 depending on the model you buy. But they’re worth the cash if you’re worried about shady Airbnb hosts watching you traipse around their property half undressed after taking a shower.

Using an RF detector is simple: just sweep it around the room. If it starts beeping repeatedly, it’s found a wireless signal coming from some device. Move the RF detector in the direction that makes the beeps increase until you spot the likely culprit. If the RF detector is going crazy by a potted plant or smoke detector, chances are good there’s a hidden camera inside.

What to do if you find a hidden camera

The first thing you should do if you find an undisclosed hidden camera in your Airbnb is contact both the host and Airbnb directly and report the camera. It’s up to you if you also want to file a police report. Hidden camera laws vary by state and country.

If you can’t immediately get a hold of the host and feel comfortable staying in the Airbnb for the time being, consider unplugging the hidden camera if it has a power cord, which should be enough to stop the camera from working (provided it doesn’t have an internal battery). If you don’t see any kind of plug, you can also simply place an object in front of or over the camera.

Finally, it’s not just cameras you should keep an eye out for. As smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home become ubiquitous, you should keep an eye out for these too. While the host might be including the smart speaker in the rental for non-nefarious purposes, remember that all smart speakers have microphones, so it’s conceivable that someone with enough know-how could use these devices to listen in on your conversations remotely.

As with hidden cameras, if you find a smart speaker and that bugs you, it’s best to unplug it. Just if you do unplug any smart connected devices (speakers, cameras, hidden or otherwise) in the Airbnb, be sure to let the host know so they don’t think you’re the one trying to do something amiss.

Why Can’t America Stop Trolling Science and Wear a Mask?

DIY face-mask brace from ex-Apple engineer gives masks a tighter ...

If things continue as is, by November 1, Covid-19 will have killed more than 224,000 Americans. The adjusted forecast, released last week by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), is largely attributable to the surge in infections and hospitalizations in states like Texas, California, Arizona, and Florida. No place on Earth is immune from the pain and suffering this global medical crisis has wrought, but the United States of America has behaved as if it’s determined to lead in deaths.

The latest IHME projections went up by 16,000 — a nearly 8% rise — but there’s a simple way to prevent more than 40,000 deaths from that dire total. All Americans have to do is stop trolling science and wear a mask.

“If 95% of Americans wore masks each time they left their homes,” the IHME said in a statement, “infection rates would drop, hospitalizations would drop, and forecast deaths would drop.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees. “If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said during an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Dr. Howard Bauchner. “I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control.”

But things rot from the head down. I remain my angriest at the person influencing these fools. As I’ve said it for months to anyone who will listen: We were collectively doomed when Donald Trump couldn’t be bothered to put on a mask.

On Monday, Surgeon General Jerome Adams took to Fox & Friends to literally beg viewers to do just that. And he used a curious new position to make his case: According to him, “This whole administration is now supportive of masks.” I usually have a soft spot for people named Jerome thanks to kinfolk and old episodes of Martin, but this Negro (I’m not Roger Stone) used the word “now.”

Now.

It’s been months since the coronavirus pandemic began, so “now” sounds about 140,000 deaths too late. But the only thing more loathsome than what Adams said was the fact that his claim remains meaningless — and will be for as long as the administration refuses to act.

As we learned the day prior in President Trump’s interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, while Trump professed to be a “believer in masks,” he continued to display a flippant attitude toward the science. When Wallace mentioned that the CDC stresses that widespread mask-wearing in America can reduce its infection rates, Trump barked back, “I don’t agree with the statement that if everyone wore a mask, everything disappears.”

A simpleton loves nothing more than to tell you that they “don’t agree” with a fact. In this case, the facts (based on new reviews of a range of studies) are that wearing a mask can reduce your own risk by up to 65% and that if all people wore a mask transmission from asymptomatic people would be cut by nearly a third. I don’t know who took Donald Trump’s SATs, but I do know that the American education system ought to focus less on multiple-choice tests and more on critical thinking in order to minimize the odds of another dummy like this having sway over our fates.

Between that and his claim that “masks cause problems too” — a conspiracy theory aimed straight at the people who have become convinced that Covid is a hoax and masks are a tool of social control — it’s no wonder that Trump, “very stable genius,” is so impressed that he “aced” a test requiring him to identify the star of Dumbo. But nothing sounded more inane than his rationale for refusing to issue a nationwide mask mandate: “I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that, no.” The person currently sending secret police to cities like Portland to escalate peaceful protests is a champion of freedom?

Meanwhile, Trump’s surgeon general is trying to convince Fox News viewers that science has nothing to do with the Constitution. If anything, Adams sees it in more moralistic terms. “Please understand that we are not trying to take away your freedoms when we say wear a face covering,” he said. “We’re not trying to take away your ability to go out when we say keep restaurant capacity under 50%. We’re saying if we do these things, we can actually open and stay open. We can get back to school, to worship, to jobs. We can do this. And I’m a hopeless optimist. But I really do believe Americans will do the right thing.”

Adams must be an optimist if he went on a Fox News program and tried to use reason with an audience craving anything but. Either way, this is the sort of statement that presidents are supposed to make when faced with a national crisis, not their appointees. Too bad I don’t share his optimism about what can be expected to happen under this president.

While his pleas seem earnest, this American nightmare can’t be solved solely by the actions of Americans. Yes, I resent people confronted with the fact that masks can prevent the spread of the coronavirus — and elect not to do so anyway. That includes Trump loyalists, people who liken masks to the Holocaust, and folks insisting on partying inside or at packed gatherings. All of you motherfuckers are a) goofy and b) on my last damn nerve.

And those of you (usually boomers, almost always White) who are posting photos wearing lace and mesh masks like you’re cute, why is this a game to you? It’s like you’re actively trying to court and spread “the shit,” as my countriest folks back in Houston are calling it. How many more Zoom funerals, how many more stories of mask doubters dying, do you need to hear about to take the hint?

But things rot from the head down. I remain my angriest at the person influencing these fools. As I’ve said it for months to anyone who will listen: We were collectively doomed when Donald Trump couldn’t be bothered to put on a mask.

In May, the president reportedly was worried that wearing a mask would “send the wrong message” and make him look “ridiculous.” He focused on reopening the country’s economy while minimizing its medical crisis, not grasping how intertwined the two were. People died — people are still dying — because a stupid, insecure, shallow man was worried that we wouldn’t think he looked like the Lone Ranger in a mask and couldn’t understand that the economy won’t work if a sizable portion of the workforce is sick and/or dead.

Even a fool should be able to tell people to put on a mask. Even a man of little intellect and curiosity should be able to grasp that doctors should be in charge of medical crises. No adult should believe you can simply ignore a medical crisis and have it go away. But here we were again, with Trump doubling down using the logic of a broken clock: “I’ll be right eventually.”

Republican governors like Greg Abbott of Texas and Brian Kemp of Georgia followed Trump’s poor examples to predictably disastrous results for their citizens — the Black and Brown of whom are being infected at triple the rate of their White counterparts. And for local government officials who did buck the president, they were reminded of how little influence they yield by comparison. “When we were trying to get people to wear masks, they would point to the president and say, well, not something that we need to do,” Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, told the New York Timesas part of a lengthy exposé on the Trump administration’s failings on the pandemic.“People follow leaders. People follow the people who are supposed to be leaders.”

Adams is likely to see similar results from Trump’s core audience on Fox News. Worse, Adams is trying to rally people’s better consciences on behalf of the Trump administration, even as the Trump administration is trying to cut funds for more testing, contact tracing, and money to the CDC. Between that and the administration trying to take control of Covid-19 data reported to the CDC, it’s clear what the Trump administration’s collective message to people during the pandemic: Go ahead and die — just be quiet about it.

By comparison, in France, face coverings became required in all public enclosed spaces as of Monday. On Friday, England will begin enforcing new rules that make masks mandatory inside supermarkets and other shops. The differences in those countries and ours can not be tied to personal responsibility.

We didn’t have to repeat the same (ultimately lethal) mask debates that we had with the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago. We could have been better. He could have been better, and in the process, cemented his reelection that he’s so obviously obsessed with over public health. But by Monday, when he finally tried to reverse his poll slide by wearing a mask, the damage was long done — not that using racism is really a helpful way of encouraging people to do the right thing.

The people protesting masks aren’t the cause of these issues, but a symptom. The entire country saw what happened in New York in the spring; medical authorities advising the government knew exactly what was needed to prevent other states from sharing that fate. The fault here lies solely with Donald Trump, the person with more control over what happens in America than any other American. His personal negligence has let untold thousands of Americans die. His putting on a mask on Monday does not change that — and certainly not when he’s actively spreading more misinformation about the pandemic, as he doubtless will when daily White House coronavirus briefings resume this week.

If Americans do the right thing and mask up en masse, if they finally do the one thing that will help us put this nightmare to rest for good, it won’t be because of the president. It’ll be because science means more than ideology. That’s something we’ve been always been able to count on — I just hope we still can.