Automotive (Writing Sample)

"Imagine that one day you decide to go on a joyride. The weather is beautiful, and the windows are down. Then, out of nowhere, you begin to hear thump, thump, thump, thump. You know right away that the noise is coming from a tire, due to changes in tempo as you slow down. Your perfect day just hit a bump in the road — and it gave you a flat tire. Now what?"

Read How to Extend the Life of Your Vehicle on for more.

Cryptocurrency (Writing Sample)

Blockchain Versus Cryptocurrency

Blockchain and Cryptocurrency—two largely misunderstood technologies—are quickly becoming commonplace terms in our lexicon. Often times, the two are erroneously used interchangeably. And while they are different, they can work together. Let’s take a closer look at what they are, how they are similar, and what makes them different.

Blockchain is a technologyCryptocurrency is a digital currency.

Keeper of the Records

The specialty of blockchain technology is keeping records. There’s an important component of how it keeps records: it’s decentralized. This means that a central authority, such as a bank, is not needed to verify a transaction happened. And while the world banking system will not disappear, blockchain will have disruptive effects on banking in its current form.

Transparency, Tracking, Trust—these are the Three T’s associated with blockchain. Blockchain is transparent because a network of nodes validates transactions. The transactions that happen in a blockchain are public. Therefore, the ledger records are easily tracked and are verifiable. Blockchain is tamper-proof which gives the technology a heightened level of trust.

Assets Gone Digital

Cryptocurrency is the dollar of the 21st century. It’s a medium of exchange that takes place digitally. And here’s the best part: the transaction is created and stored in the blockchain. That means fraud, abuse, and identity theft can be greatly reduced due to the transparent nature of blockchain technology.

You may have heard of Bitcoin since it’s the most popular digital currency. However, it’s not the only one. Ethereum, Ripple, Stellar, and Litecoin are also some of the major digital currencies. Cryptocurrency is unique to the effect of you being able to create your own digital currency. The only value it would have is what someone else is willing to pay for it.

Benefits and Applications

Blockchain and cryptocurrency each have numerous benefits. They can one day be used in conjunction with:

• Voting systems.
• Healthcare records.
• Fractional ownership.
• Smart contracts.
• Digital identification.

The 2016 presidential election was mired in controversy. Chief among the disputes was the security of the voting booth. There were numerous claims of votes being hacked and going to the opposite party. Voting with a blockchain code would guarantee correct voting results.

There are numerous healthcare laws, such as HIPAA, which are aimed at data privacy and safeguarding information. Information in a blockchain is encrypted which meets HIPAA criteria. Furthermore, patient records can be simultaneously shared with numerous providers, saving time and money.

Blockchain can be used for manage fractional ownership. For example, a hundred real estate investor could decide to invest in one property. Each investor would have their portion of the deal noted in an incorruptible blockchain record. This brings us to our next point: smart contracts.

Smart contracts are digital contracts which have no need of a third party, such as a notary. These contracts digitally verify, facilitate, and enforce the agreement. Security and affordability are features of smart contracts.

Finally, all forms of physical identification can be replaced. Drivers license, passport, Social Security card—these physical ID cards can be integrated into one secure and transparent form of digital identification called Blockchain ID.

Future Disruption

Blockchain and cryptocurrency have only begun to disrupt the way we spend money, keep records, and conduct business. These emerging technologies are sure to play a larger role in the coming years. As more governments and companies adopt blockchain and cryptocurrency we can be certain that transactions will become safer, smarter, and more efficient.

Cyber Security (Writing Sample)

"Let’s talk about what a security patch actually is. A security patch—one of the many forms of updates—fills a hole in the security of the software. This hole, or vulnerability, is the entrance a hacker uses to control the software. This unwelcome guest might then be able to go further and navigate around your computer.

Do you have important files on your computer? Who doesn’t? Financial records, family photos, business documents—if a hacker gains access to these files, they could delete them or misuse them."

Read Yes, You Really Need to Install Those Software Updates on for more.

Finance (Writing Sample)

Choose to Retire When You're Young

Imagine this: you’re 60 years old and have $100k in the bank. $100k might sound like a lot right now. But it’s not enough to retire with. What will you do? Do you want to be an Uber driver in your 60s? I saw an older man this morning working as an Uber driver. He didn’t look like he was having fun! When I’m 60, I plan on spending time snowboarding in the Alps. The older Uber driver I saw might have to work for another 10-20 years.

This article isn’t about quitting the workforce at a young age. It’s about planning your future retirement at a younger age. You can’t depend on government programs such as Social Security to take care of you. If you’re lucky, you may receive around $25k/year in Social Security payments. This is assuming that the program will even still be around when you retire decades from now. How do you prepare for retirement then? You invest.

Start Investing…Now

There’s nothing to stop you from investing. Either a 401(k) or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) would be a great option to start with. These retirement options come with tax deductions or deferments which help you maximize the money you’ll enjoy in retirement. There are a number of reasons to invest early. The top reason is this: compound interest.

Albert Einstein, the celebrated physicist and Nobel Prize winner, proclaimed “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.”. Einstein was a genius mathematician. If he holds compound interest with such regard, you should too.

How will compound interest work in your favor? Simple: try this compound interest calculator. First, use a regular calculator. Compute $5,000 * 30. Let’s assume you’ll save $5,000 a year for 30 years. The answer is $150,000. Now, use the compound interest calculator. Input 7% in the “Interest Rate” block. 7% is generally known as the average stock market return over time. What’s the answer? $505,000. What a difference!

Increase Cash Flow

To increase cash flow you need to do two things: decrease expenses and make more money. Cancel cable, eat out less, and buy affordable clothing. Just doing these three things should free up hundreds of dollars for you. Consider also switching to a less expensive phone plan. And lastly, dare I say, work an extra couple of hours each month. A few minor inconveniences can allow you to have a wealthy retirement.

You’re going to get a raise. Throughout your life, you’ll get many. Don’t waste that extra income. At the same time, have some fun. Investing for retirement is all about balance. You might want to invest half your additional income each month and use the other half for fun.

As you age, it gets harder to retire if you haven’t begun to invest yet. The longer you put off planning for retirement, the older you’ll be when you quit your final job. Nobody wants to work in their late 60s or 70s. Start investing now. You’ll be glad you did when you’re on the beach decades from now.

Gaming (Writing Sample)

Halo 2: A Look Back

Few video games can be called disruptive forces. Doom, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario 64—these titles helped create what gaming is today. Halo 2 is arguably front and center among these great titles.

Long Lines in the Dark

The 2004 release of Halo 2 was wildly anticipated, so much so that it went on sale at midnight. Long lines formed outside of malls, video game stores, and mom-and-pop stores around the country. I remember feeling the electricity in the air that night. I was in line!

Not since Super Mario 64 was released eight years earlier was I so excited to own a video game. Once purchased, my friends and I reveled in the artwork of the Instructional Booklet. It was a happy time to be a geek. I had two separate strategy guides to get me through Super Mario 64. With Halo 2, I didn’t need a guide; it wouldn’t help much. You would join a matchmaking game and then all hell would break loose.

Let’s Connect … Then Shoot Each Other

Halo 2 wasn’t the first online multiplayer game; however, it brought the concept to the masses. Never before could you hear a twelve-year-old boy say perverted things about your mom while killing you with a sticky grenade. It was infuriating and incredible at the same time because you couldn’t wait to respawn and get your revenge.

All you needed was an Internet connection and an Xbox Live membership. Halo 2 revolutionized how online multiplayer games worked. Players would separately join a pregame “playlist” which automatically brought them together. These playlists were layered depending on your skill ranking. Players with more experience were matched with those of similar skill. Matchmaking games still work this way nearly fifteen years later.

Legacy and Future

There have been nearly ten more Halo games since Halo 2 was released. A multitude of online-enabled multiplayer games has been influenced by Halo 2 including Titanfall, Destiny, Killzone, and Crysis.

Halo 2 introduced or expanded more than just online multiplayer gaming. The title also featured an effective controller layout for first-person shooters, a regenerative health shield, and a two-weapon wield.

Technology has allowed virtual and augmented reality video games to exist. Gaming facilities, such as MassVR, allow the gamer to jump inside the action. We’ll soon have the option to don a full body haptic suit, allowing us to feel stimuli from inside a game.

What does this mean for the future of the Halo franchise? Gamers are hoping for this dream to come true. Microsoft has recently indicated that we should expect it soon. Either way, I have no doubt that, given the perpetual popularity of the franchise, Microsoft will continue to release new Halo games for decades.

HVAC (Writing Sample)

Why A Smart Thermostat Will Save You Time and Money

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is not always the best advice. Case in point: replacing an old thermostat. An older thermostat might be costing you more money than necessary. New smart thermostats act as a conductor of energy efficiency.

Smart thermostats are also time savers. Older, analog thermostats required you to physically change the temperature on the dial. With smart thermostats, you can change the temperature, and more, without even being in the house. The benefits of owning a smart thermostat include:

• Saving money on monthly energy bills.
• The ability to change temperature without being home.
• Being able to control your thermostat from your smartphone.
• Allowing you to see real-time usage and diagnostic data.

What You Save

Let’s talk dollars. After all, saving money is a primary reason for switching to a smart thermostat. Energy Star, a program started by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), studied the efficiencies of smart thermostats. Their study found that “a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs”.

Your savings will depend, in part, on your current energy usage. If you live in an area with very cold winters and very hot summers you’ll benefit the most. This is because you’re probably using your HVAC system more often. Honeywell, a leading thermostat company, offers a free Energy Savings Calculator. This estimates how much money you will save with a smart thermostat. Try it!

A WiFi-enabled Device

Smart thermostats are being integrated into the Internet of things. That means the device will be part of a larger network which can be controlled over WiFi. Did you go on vacation or leave the house and forget to turn down the thermometer? Do it remotely from your smartphone! Simply download the app and log in (we can help with that).

Smart thermostats can also be programmed to run at particular temperatures for certain times. For example, during the work week, the HVAC system can be turned off for most of the day. It can begin running an hour before you return home. The home will be at the desired temperature upon entry.

Usage Data and Diagnostics

With old thermostats, energy usage was revealed on the monthly energy bill. Smart thermostats provide real-time energy usage data. This allows for you to better plan in case you’re watching your energy usage.

Smart thermostats can also conduct system tests which provide diagnostic data. This automated analysis evaluates all major elements of the HVAC system. It can even tell you when the air filter needs to be changed!

Contact Us

HVAC Company 123 has been serving the residents of Reston, Virginia, and surrounding areas for over 15 years. Purchasing a smart thermostat is an investment which pays you back over time. Our expert technicians install and maintain these smart thermostats which will save you time and money. Contact us today to learn more about what our smart thermostats can do for you.

Technology (Writing Sample)

"F5Bot is a service that emails you when your targeted keywords appear on Reddit, Hacker News, and Lobste.​rs. Here’s the best part: it’s completely free. If someone on Reddit mentions your website, you’ll receive an email with a link to the discussion. You’ll be able to join and help steer that conversation. It might mean addressing a certain unanswered question. It might also mean ultimately gaining more followers or customers."

Read Tracking Keywords and Topics with F5Bot on for more.

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