Sunday, June 4, 2017

3 steps to becoming a savvier online shopper

(BPT) - Every day, people use data to influence their decision making — from where to go for dinner, to selecting stocks in which they should invest, to where to live. Every Google search we perform, every Yelp review read or written, each item of clothing, houseware or electronic device we put in our virtual cart, is another data point companies can use to personalize our experience with their brands.
Despite all the data at their disposal, it seems many brands still don’t fully understand what consumers want from them in terms of products or services or how to best engage with their end buyer. A recent survey from cloud and big data integration company Talend shows 88 percent of information technology leaders believe their organization truly understands its customers, while only 61 percent of consumers believe companies understand their needs.
This begs the question: How do we differentiate between those brands that are using our data the right way, versus those that have a long way to go? Second, how do we help the brands we love understand us better without sacrificing our privacy?
1. Understand which data to share.
Think about your favorite shopping app or website. Does it know which brands you prefer? What about your shoe size? Does it have your zip code stored for shipping estimates? Does it make appropriate recommendations? The strongest relationships in life work both ways, so if you want a brand to know what you want from them, perhaps it’s time to share a little. Taking five minutes to fill out some basic profile information in your “preferences” could, at the very least, save you time on future shopping excursions and might even lead to a surprise find.
2. Use data to get the best deals.
When you’re shopping online, you can quickly compare prices for the exact item you want to purchase across multiple vendors, and, if you have time to wait, be alerted should the item go on sale. The best example is travel. There seems to be a never-ending list of websites available for booking flights and hotels, but booking the first flight you see without shopping around is rarely going to get you the best deal. Countless studies have shown booking on certain days of the week, or a particular number of weeks ahead of your trip, will yield the best results. From there, one still has to compare prices against different websites to find the best fare. Luckily, some of the top search engines are making this even easier for consumers by indicating whether the price is high or low. The art of finding the best deal is really in comparing the data.
3. Know where to draw the line.
At the end of the day, privacy is still important, and it’s prudent not to share too much personal information. Think critically about which data is going to be absolutely necessary to enhance your experience with the companies you rely on. For example, it’s not necessary to share your contact list, your geolocation or (if you’re on a mobile device) access to your camera if you’re using a music or financial app. Some brands ask for too much, and it’s up to each individual to determine which data makes sense to share with each brand and what doesn’t. For example, don’t be too quick to provide broad access to an app you've just downloaded. Also, as painful as it may be, do read the privacy policy of the sites you frequent and understand how they use and protect the personal information they collect on you.
Ultimately, most companies today are still just scratching the surface when it comes to understanding the impact customer data can have on the profitability and success of their business. There is still a lot of room for growth when it comes to companies effectively using data to address consumer needs. It’s up to each one of us to make sure we are sharing the right data with them, while also using that data to our advantage to get the best deals and online experience possible.

5 precise points to look for in the perfect PC

(BPT) - What drives you in the search for the perfect PC? Is it premium design and the high-end components? Or are you a performance person where nothing but the best specs will do? And what about price? Do you worry that you'll have to sacrifice some of the things you want simply because they are too expensive?
There are many things to consider when looking for the perfect PC but price and performance are not mutually exclusive. With today's modern devices, you can have both. So start your search by focusing on the parameters below and you'll find the perfect PC that fits your needs, and your budget, in no time.
Modern design
This is where your tech really shines, thanks to the latest advancements that separate the newest devices from their predecessors. Crafted from 100 percent aluminum, the Acer Swift 3 packs the power of a 7th Generation Intel Core processor into an ultra-slim .7” frame with full high-definition capabilities and 12 hours of battery life.
Meanwhile, the versatile Dell Inspiron 13 5000 Series 2-in-1 can transition from a laptop to a tent to a tablet with ease, and has a full high-definition wide-viewing angle display to play media powered by its Intel Core processor.
Finally, the HP Pavilion x360 allows you to work, write and play naturally on the touchscreen. It's a convertible 2-in-1 with an optional active pen, the enhanced experience of FHD IPS display and audio tuned by the experts at Bang & Olufsen. It also allows you to store millions of documents or hundreds of movies with up to 1 terabyte of HDD storage.
Powerful and portable
The size of your new device plays a huge role in how you use it. If you plan to travel with your device, then you’ll want a more compact model like the slim, lightweight, ultraportable 2-in-1 ASUS Transformer Mini. This powerful tablet features a comfortable, angled keyboard and a handy kickstand delivering 140-degree views no matter where you take it. Plus, channel your inner creator with Windows 10 Creators Update and Active Pen, which creates the feeling of writing with a pen on paper.
Whether you plan to carry your PC into that next business meeting or out with friends, appearance matters, and nothing tops sleek and stylish. The Samsung Galaxy Book 10 is a 2-in-1 with a gorgeous display and a brushed metal finish that’s sure to get noticed. And with the included Samsung S Pen, 10 hours of battery life and the ability to sync up with your Samsung phone, its functionality can't be topped.
Safe and secure
The more time you invest in your PC, the more important it is to protect it. The Lenovo Yoga 510 (Flex 4) keeps your content uniquely yours with a simple, secure log-in fingerprint reader and Windows Hello. It’s the perfect gatekeeper for a device with plenty of storage for all your most cherished keepsakes.
Personalized for you
Each of the devices mentioned above is available at an affordable price allowing you to find the perfect PC to meet your needs and your budget. Once you narrow in on the features and functionalities that are a must have for you to help you tackle your personal and professional to-do's, you'll find that there is a PC out there to fit your needs.
So don't delay. Start your search for your next device today, and put the power of state-of-the-art technology on your table, your lap or in the palm of your hand. Stop by your nearest Microsoft Store, microsoftstore.com, or your local retailer to find the one that's right for you.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Get safer drinking water

(BPT) - Your home plumbing could be making you sick and costing you money. Hard water, which contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, may be directly contributing to the buildup of dangerous bacteria in your household pipes. This is a serious problem across the United States, especially when you consider that nearly 90 percent of American homes have hard water.
Left untreated, the water you use to wash your fresh fruits and vegetables may actually contain more bacteria, and the problem isn't only in the kitchen. When you take a hot shower the steam you are inhaling can also contain the same microbial contamination that is in the rest of your plumbing, exposing you to bacteria such as Legionella, which can cause Legionnaire's disease.
Normally, the piping used in home plumbing, whether it is copper or PVC, has very smooth interior surfaces that don't permit bacteria to settle and grow. However, hard water results in scale formation on the interior surfaces of those pipes and that provides a perfect home for bacteria.
Researchers at the School of Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University found bacteria may grow in pipes filled with both hard scale and soft scale at the same rate. This is important new information because some forms of water conditioning produce this soft scale.
The only solution is to remove both hard and soft scale in the pipes with a traditional salt-based water softener. These work by running the incoming hard water through a resin filter that traps the calcium and magnesium in the water - as well as iron, manganese or radium ions - and replaces them with sodium ions.
A salt-based water softener doesn't just help protect your health, it protects your appliances, as well. Hard water scaling clogs waterlines and plumbing, forcing appliances to work harder and operate less efficiently. Hard water can reduce the efficiency of water heaters and increase electricity costs by as much as 48 percent, according to the Battelle Memorial Institute. Hard water also damages appliances like water heaters, dishwashers, shower heads and faucets. These must be repaired and replaced more often as a result.
Kitchens also benefit from soft water because it is up to 12 times more effective at cleaning dishes than increasing the amount of detergent used. Researchers found that for clothes washing machines, the most important factor in removing stains from clothing was water softness. Reduction of water hardness was up to 100 times more effective at stain removal than increasing the detergent dose or washing with hotter water. In fact, soft water can reduce soap use by as much as half.
To determine if you have hard water, look for spots and scale buildup on fixtures. You can also test your water yourself to check for hardness with home water testing kits or you can have a water treatment professional do the testing. For more information on water softening and salt health please visit www.saltinstitute.org.

Smart storage ideas to squeeze extra space from your bathroom

(BPT) - Shampoo bottles, makeup tools, lotions, linens and laundry — the bathroom is one of the most frequented rooms in the home and clutter can collect quickly. Stop the chaos before it gets out of control by implementing some smart storage solutions. With these simple ideas, your bathroom will be the most functional and fashionable room in the house.
Streamline shower shelving
It’s time to say goodbye to hanging racks from shower heads and precarious corner shelving. The new Store+ shower from Sterling has customizable storage accessories, minimizing clutter and ensuring everything you need is close at hand. Sturdy shelves and accessories are easily snapped into any of eight pre-molded locations within the shower — no tools necessary. A fully accessorized wall includes four rimmed shelf/soap dishes, two 4-inch deep storage bins, and soap dishes with towel bar and two shower hooks. Plus, the back wall has molded foot ledges on either side, providing a safe, handy shaving ledge. To clean up your shower clutter for good, visit www.sterlingplumbing.com.
Dare to go vertical
Expand the storage potential of a small bathroom by using vertical storage options. Floor space may be limited, but by installing shelving and other smart storage options on walls, you dramatically increase space for necessities. For example, floating shelves are an elegant and space-saving option that are easy to install over the toilet or between a mirror and a pedestal sink. That small space above the door? Perfect for a shelf to store mason jars full of supplies or those beautiful perfume bottles. Need extra space to store linens and washcloths? Install stacked towel racks on the back of your door or hang baskets on the wall and then place folded linens inside for a tidy look that keeps fluffy towels within easy reach.
Vamp up the vanity
From shaving and combing to primping and curling, the vanity is center stage for your daily routines. That means clutter can easily take over the countertops and drawers if you’re not careful. A few thoughtful steps will help you organize and maximize your vanity space. To start, dispose or donate of any products or tools you don’t use. Then purchase some drawer organizers or reuse small plastic containers to get items in order. On the inside of doors, install small pieces of PVC pipe vertically to store hair tools and cords. You can also repurpose spice racks on doors to hold a slew of personal products. For hair accessories or other small metal objects, a magnetic strip on the inside of a door or drawer is amazingly effective.
With these simple storage ideas, you’ll cut clutter, keep spaces clean and never trip over a random bottle or towel on the floor again

Sunday, February 5, 2017

5 simple steps to boost your immune system now

5 simple steps to boost your immune system now

(BPT) - Whether it's battling the rampant germs of cold and flu season or maintaining wellness throughout the year, the immune system is your main line of defense. In order to feel good as often as possible - and recover quickly when you don't - it's important to keep your immune system strong.
"The immune system is the part of the body that monitors both internal and external environments," says Dr. Chris Oswald, certified nutrition specialist and chiropractor in Hudson, Wisconsin. "It's important to understand that both too much immune response and too little immune response, including inflammation, is not good, so maintaining that happy medium is the name of the game."
To achieve that "happy medium," Dr. Oswald recommends incorporating five simple steps into your daily routine:
Support natural sleep cycles
"Sleep is the time when our bodies repair and rejuvenate, so it is something to not be taken lightly," Dr. Oswald says. "Generally speaking, the older we are the less sleep we need, but for adults 7-9 hours is usually the sweet spot."
He says a good way to know if you are sleeping well is if you fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying down and you are able to wake at approximately the same time every day without an alarm clock.
"It is also very important to maintain regular hours as our body's circadian rhythms do not like to be disrupted," he adds.
Eat fermented and unprocessed foods
Dr. Oswald says the body's microbiome health has a huge impact on the immune system. The microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that inhabit the intestinal tract, creating a mini-ecosystem.
"Every bite of food we eat impacts microbiome balance, so it is important to eat foods that promote its health," he says. "I like fermented foods and foods that are minimally processed or as close to their form in nature as possible. When the wrong foods are eaten, certain microbiota are able to 'gain strength' and offset the health promoting benefits of other more beneficial organisms."
He adds that dietary fiber is also very important to maintaining the health of the microbiome. Additionally, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA help boost the immune system.
Use supplements to support digestive health
"The digestive tract is a barrier to the outside world which selectively allows molecules to pass through," says Dr. Oswald. This is why a healthy gut is a big part of overall health - it filters out the bad while keeping in the good.
Eating plenty of probiotics in foods like yogurt and kefir helps maintain digestive health, but it can be difficult for the average person to get enough to make an impact. "Supporting digestive health with a comprehensive probiotic supplement such as Nordic Naturals Nordic Flora Probiotic Daily is a great foundational health strategy for everyone," Dr. Oswald says.
Move your body
"Higher levels of fitness are definitely associated with improved immune function," says Dr. Oswald. He recommends high intensity interval training (HIIT), where you alternate short periods of intense exercise with brief rest periods.
"I like people to choose any activity they like and have a nice gentle 5 minute warm-up followed by up to six 100 percent work intervals for 30 seconds with 60 seconds of rest," he says. "Once complete with the circuit, a five minute cool down completes your workout in 19 minutes or less."
Embrace mindfulness and meditate
Dr. Oswald says both acute and chronic stress have an effect on the immune system, which can potentially decrease your resistance to illness. One easy way to combat stress is to try to meditate every day.
"Meditation is a very powerful option and I firmly believe that all should find some way of increasing mindfulness," he says. "It is important to remember that meditation is different for everyone."
Meditation can be sitting quietly with eyes closed, staring at a flame, walking in the woods, etc. Try something that feels right to you that allows you to relax and be mindful of the present.