Look Before You Buy: Virtual Reality Comes to Home Improvement

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF-You’re about to shell out a significant amount of money to upgrade your house, and the choices make your head spin. Traditional asphalt or slate shingles? Summer blue or teardrop blue paint for the walls?
Until recently, unless your imagination rivaled a sci-fi novelist’s, you wouldn’t know if you’d made the right choice till the project was finished. And then, if you’d gotten it wrong — if you had one of those “what was I thinking” moments — you’d either have to live with your mistake or spend even more bucks to fix it.
Until recently, unless your imagination rivaled a sci-fi novelist’s, you wouldn’t know if you’d made the right choice till the project was finished. And then, if you’d gotten it wrong — if you had one of those “what was I thinking” moments — you’d either have to live with your mistake or spend even more bucks to fix it.
But now, thanks to the explosion of online virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D rendering tools, all that has changed to the point where consumers can get a pretty clear vision of what those shingles, say, would look like on their roof before committing.
“It’s definitely the wave of the future, because it allows the general population to make design decisions without feeling hesitant or insecure,” Khoi Vo, a professor and the chair of the department of interior design at Savannah College of Art and design, told the New York Times.
Feel like playing architect and interior designer all at once? One of the more advanced programs, RoomSketcher, lets you do just that by creating your own floor plan, furnishing and decorating the space, and then visualizing your work in 3D “as if you are actually there.”
Heck, Better Homes & Gardens even has a tool that lets you create an elaborate garden design plan — complete with a pond — by dragging and dropping “more than 150 trees, shrubs and flowers.”
But back to those shingles.
Homeowners have had it (correctly) drummed into their heads how critical roofs are to a house’s curb appeal, so this is one decision you really want to get right. By using the brand new Virtual Home Remodeler launched by GAF (www.gaf.com), North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, you can play around with different looks by first either downloading a photo of your own home or choosing from among the many styles — everything from Victorian to ranch to French country — pictured on the website.
“It’s an easy way to see what would look best with your home,” says Paul Dellanno, assistant marketing manager at GAF. “Because what may work for a ranch-style house may not work for a Tudor or colonial. We’ve even designed it so that you can see how things look at different times of day and seasons.”
Once you’ve picked the house style, things get even more interesting. Are the antique slate color shingles from the company’s Camelot Shingle line you clicked on, for example, more to your liking than the golden prairie color ones from the Glenwood Shingle line?
What about the house trim and exterior walls? White or something more daring?
It’s worth noting that one of the nicer features of most of the virtual reality tools, including GAF’s, is that they let you solicit feedback from others by sharing your finished creation via email or social media. That way — like having a friend along while trying on clothes at a brick-and-mortar store — you can get a second opinion on whether your choice is becoming or not.

Sunshine State Shining New Light on the Banking Industry

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Florida is becoming the modern-day Wall Street for many international and U.S. banking companies. Today there are 141 commercial banks in Florida with more than $140 billion in assets, and 18 international banking conglomerates who have their U.S. headquarters in the state.
The high cost of doing business in places such as New York and Chicago are no longer a necessity to succeed. From Jacksonville to Miami, Florida has established itself as a powerful resource in the industry that cannot be overlooked.
Part of a Wall Street trend known as nearshoring, banks are moving operations away from expensive financial centers to more affordable and business-friendly locations.
Companies like Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, JPMorgan, Banco Santander International, Banco do Brasil and Citigroup have engaged in this practice setting up substantial operations in Florida.
The Sunshine State has developed as a bridge for business to Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe with a highly-skilled, young workforce, who understand the culture, appealing quality of life and supportive local governments that encourage and accommodate new business growth.
“In Florida, it’s the access to these resources that make the difference,” says Hernan Mayol, chairman of the Florida International Bankers Association, a non-profit association that provides comprehensive support to the global financial services industry.
“When banks need lawyers and accountants with targeted expertise, the infrastructure is here. We don’t have to be in New York or Chicago for these resources. Florida has built them from the ground up through our state’s excellent higher education facilities and training programs.”
Mayol also believes the mantra, “if you build it, they will come,” is alive and well in Florida.
And they are coming. Millennials are a driving factor in the state’s transformation and appeal for the banking industry. The young workforce in Florida expect to live in places that are more convenient and have a better quality of life, inexpensive cost of living, entertainment opportunities and work flexibility, Mayol says.
Anthony Glenn, head of the Jacksonville office of Macquarie Group, an Australian-based global provider of financial, advisory, investment and funds management services, agrees.
Macquarie has invested more than $3 million in their downtown Jacksonville location. The office has an open floor-plan concept, modern space that promotes collaboration and creativity and state-of-the-art technology -; all the elements millennials are requesting.
“The main thing we’ve looked for is the talent pool to pull from and expandable growth,” Glenn says. “Plus, the local government is very supportive and understands the market. Florida provides for a positive change from more traditional financial markets, and it has been a rewarding investment.”
Glenn says he is committed to 100 new jobs in the first year, and has plans for expansion in Jacksonville.
“The first year has been a success. It’s not just about delivery: it’s about collaboration, diversity and balance — qualities and a lifestyle one doesn’t have to travel north to experience.”
For more information about banking in Florida, visit www.enterpriseflorida.com.

News Site Rantt Takes The Time to Get It Right

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – In the age of nonstop news and often limited fact-checking, a new digital news publication, Rantt, is moving in the other direction, focusing on slowing the story down, and getting the facts right, even if it means not being the first to publish a seemingly hot story.
“We’re taking an episodic approach to covering stories, and pride ourselves on slowing down the news,” Rantt CEO and co-founder Zak Ali says in a feature in The Huffington Post on March 6, 2017.
“We want to be the opposite of everything we see wrong with the news media: sensationalism, misleading clickbait, false equivalency, etc.,” Ali says. “Also, we feel like we are a voice for the disenfranchised population who feel let down by the mainstream media. Rantt will be the first episodic news source that people turn towards to get the full truth the first time,” he emphasizes.
Rantt launched online in November 2016, in the wake of the controversial presidential election. The Washington, D.C.-based startup reports more than 100,000 unique visitors as of March 2017. Data from the company suggests that visitors to the site encompass a range of demographics, but most of its readers are millennials. Rantt’s growing popularity also supports the idea that there is still an audience for unrushed, well-documented news stories.
The company was initially funded by Tricent Capital, a Silicon Valley investment firm, but their success is prompting them to expand and raise additional funds. The site’s popularity reflects the public’s desire for and interest in accuracy in the news, according to Ali.
Public interest in politics and current events surged at the time of the election and remain high, opening the door for alternative media options to serve a news-hungry readership. The founders cite the Drudge Report, Politico, and Talking Points Memo as examples of independent online news organizations that are able to fill a niche and serve as an alternative to the traditional mainstream media sources.
Rantt.com, includes a news section, an opinion section (known as Rantts), a section devoted to news related to President Donald Trump (known as Unpresidented) and a section called Underreported that provides a weekly summary of top news stories.
Check out rantt.com to read the latest stories, explore contributors’ profiles, and follow stories on the company’s Twitter feed.

The Importance of Protecting Patents

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – America’s economic engine is fueled by innovation. The ideas and inventions that emerge from researchers’ labs or the garages of budding entrepreneurs have spawned powerhouse companies, even new industries.
But turning ideas into products usually requires a crucial step: getting a patent. Patents provide years of protection, ensuring that innovators’ investments won’t be undercut by copycats. As Abraham Lincoln once famously said, patents add “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”
So it’s not surprising that intellectual property can be immensely valuable. Universities bring in millions of dollars every year from licensing patents. Billions of dollars in damages have also been awarded when patent holders sue companies for infringement.
In fact, patents can be so valuable that some people and companies do nothing but snap up obscure patents, often of dubious quality, to use as weapons to extract licensing fees or damages from major corporations. The tech industry derisively calls these entities “patent trolls” and has set up an “anti-troll” organization, Unified Patents, to challenge the validity of patents.
So is it possible to tell the legitimate innovators from the trolls? There are two ways. First, did the company actually make the invention — and file for patent — itself? Second, have the company’s patents survived the inevitable challenge from Unified Patents?
There’s one interesting company for which both answers are a resounding Yes.
Long before the iPhone was introduced, the engineers at Voip-Pal (OTCQB: VPLM) had a vision that telephone calls, text messages and other information would travel over the Internet. So they invented and patented all the technology needed to route calls back and forth from the Internet to other networks.
That technology is now used by major telecom and social media companies, but none have licensed the patents. That’s why Voip-Pal has sued a number of giant telecom companies for billions of dollars in damages. And, crucially, the effort by Unified Patents to invalidate Voip-Pal’s patents failed.
Voip-Pal hopes to either win or settle the cases, demonstrating once again the enormous value of high-quality patents.

Tax Law Changes Mean Refund Delays Will Affect Millions of Holiday Shoppers

(NewsUSA) – For many gift buyers, the tax refund is that extra paycheck that arrives just in time to pay off holiday bills. However this year, new provisions under the PATH – Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes – Act will impact early tax season refund timing. For tax returns that include the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and/or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), the IRS will issue your refund no earlier than February 15, 2017. Last year, over 26 million Americans received EITC, meaning this change could surprise many who typically plan to get their refund early in the year.Jackson Hewitt Tax Service is responding with a way to help hardworking Americans bridge the gap and get access to money. Taxpayers may prequalify for an Express Refund Advance, a no fee, 0 percent APR loan offered by Metabank available when clients file their taxes with Jackson Hewitt.Those interested should visit www.ExpressRefundAdvance.com, answer a few simple questions, and within minutes see if they prequalify for up to $1300. There’s no credit check, and visitors may prequalify with a refund as low as $500."We are committed to helping our clients get early access to money," said David Prokupek, Jackson Hewitt CEO. "With expected refund delays this year Express Refund Advance is important for millions of hard-working Americans."Starting December 15 when Jackson Hewitt offices begin to open, clients may get started using their last paystub, and receive between $200 and $400. The loan is automatically repaid when clients receive their tax refund from the IRS. Jackson Hewitt kiosks located inside of more than 3,000 Walmart stores will also offer Express Refund Advance, and will open beginning December 27.To learn more or to make an appointment with a tax pro, visit www.JacksonHewitt.com.The Express Refund Advance is a tax-related refund loan provided by MetaBank; it is not the actual tax refund. Available for a limited time and in participating locations. The amount of the advance will be deducted from tax refunds and reduce the amount that is paid directly to the taxpayer. Tax returns may be filed electronically without applying for this loan. Availability is subject to satisfaction of identity verification, eligibility criteria, application, approval, underwriting standards, and other terms and conditions. Only $200-$400 is available with a paystub (or other acceptable pre-year-end income verification), and remaining amounts are available with a W-2 and upon filing tax return with the IRS. IRS delays may affect the delivery timing of loan proceeds. Disbursement rules apply. Funds loaded onto a card within an hour and direct deposit the next business day. Ask tax pro for details. 

Too Much Stuff? Give Kids Experiential Gifts This Holiday Season

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – If, like many parents, you struggle with what to get your kids for the holidays, consider thinking outside the box and giving them gifts that will expand their horizons.
Underscoring the importance of combining adventure and education, experts say that school is much easier when kids can draw upon skills they’ve learned through outside experiences.
“Experiential gifts can teach a new, lifelong skill, provide a fun, new way to spend family time, and build memories together in a way that no toy or gadget could,” says Emily Levitt, vice president of Education for Sylvan Learning.
To this point, Levitt encourages parents to get creative this holiday season, and give the gift of learning.
“These kinds of gifts are special not just for your child, but for everyone who participates. And I can’t think of a better way to spend the holidays.”
To that end, here are a few holiday suggestions for parents that kids will not only love, but learn from as well:
* The Science of Cooking. Your little chef will not only get to make and eat delicious food that they’ll be able to recreate at home, but will learn how to incorporate math, since this intrinsic skill is necessary for making flavorful dishes. Following a recipe requires learning how to measure and getting familiar with fractions. If they want to double a recipe, they’ll have to use multiplication and addition skills.
* Getting an EDGE on the competition. For a gift that encompasses science, technology, engineering AND math, look no further than Sylvan Learning. A package of Sylvan EDGE classes will empower kids to lay the groundwork for future success and have fun while doing it. The combination of fun and academic mastery is unique. Whether it’s designing a video game from scratch after school, programming a LEGO robot on Saturdays, or engineering seriously cool super structures, your child will be learning something new every time and will be delighted to try the next series of courses as soon as they finish!
* Giving the gift of music. Music lessons are a great way to uncover a talent and passion that is both creative and math-based. From guitar to piano or maybe even the sax, you can give kids the option to choose which instrument to explore. Both music and math go hand-in-hand because they both involve patterns, ratios, fractions, proportions, and memorization.
* Getting moving. Kids with a ton of energy will enjoy classes such as gymnastics or rock climbing. These activities not only teach kids about the human body, but are developmental sports, which require a progression of steps. The skills needed in these activities can stimulate problem solving, math, and reading in school.
For more information, please visit www.getsylvanedge.com.

How to Build Better, Stronger Bones in Kids

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – It’s been ingrained in our heads since we were little: building strong bones is important. The problem is that these days many children aren’t getting the daily recommended diet and exercise needed to do so. And, with technology use at an all-time high, children are spending less time playing outdoors, which increases the risk of obesity.
Today, approximately 32 percent of American children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 are considered overweight or obese. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) wants to help empower families to get up, get out and get moving to ensure optimal bone growth and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other diseases later in life.
“Building your child’s bone bank is like a college savings plan: the earlier you start investing, the better,” says AAOS spokesperson Dr. Jennifer Weiss, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles. “Parents should ensure that kids are getting adequate calcium to keep their bones strong as well as appropriate levels of vitamins D and C to allow the body to absorb the calcium.”
So what’s a parent to do? The following tips from the AAOS will help get your kids (and you) moving while building better, stronger bones:
* Move it. Make physical activity a part of a child’s schedule for at least 30 to 60 minutes per day. Make it fun. With fall weather coming in, walking around the block to see the colors, throwing a football in the yard, or riding a bike is a perfect way to engage with your kids and still get in some exercise. Bonus? Being outside gets you and the kids some much-needed vitamin D, which also helps build strong bones.
* Watch what you eat. Life is busy. Which makes on-the-run snacks and meals an easy fix for harried parents. Unfortunately, most of this kind of food does not have the nutrients to ensure good bone health. Adolescents should consume a healthy diet with calcium to maintain strong bones and lower the risk of excessive weight gain.
* Lift things up, and put them down. Studies show that strength training is key to healthy bones. During resistance training, muscles have to work harder and, over time, become stronger. Although resistance exercises focus on increasing muscle mass, they also put stress on bones and have bone-building capacity.
* Set limits. It’s understandable that kids’ whims change with the seasons, as do the number of teams they want to play on. However, try to limit the number of teams a child plays on in one season to avoid overuse injuries. In addition, if your child tells you that something hurts, discourage him or her from playing through the pain.
For more information, visit orthoinfo.org.

How to Plan the Perfect Buddy Golf Getaway

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Customization is trending in the world of golf-buddy trips and resorts are upping their game to accommodate groups who want to put their own unique stamp on an outing. While the pursuit of extraordinary golf remains at the core of this annual trek, the golf-buddy trip is expanding beyond tee times to include adventure-based activities, elevated culinary experiences, personalized amenities and more.
Not sure where to start when creating that special buddy trip? The team at central Florida’s Streamsong Resort — home to two nationally-ranked courses with a third, designed by Rio Olympic course architect Gil Hanse, on the way — has some tips to make your next getaway memorable:
* Location: Select a place that offers “memory makers” for everyone in your group. For example, Streamsong will up its “bucket list” status in 2017 with the addition of Streamsong Black, making it the only place in the world where guests can enjoy courses designed by the industry’s top minimalist architects — Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse.
* Engage with the Destination Early and Often: Communicate and build rapport with the golf pros and your event planner; nobody knows the destination and all that’s possible like these folks do. Challenge the staff to come up with new and creative ideas — they love to personalize.
* Dining: Nothing pleases, delights and unites a golf-buddy trip like food. Most resorts have multiple restaurant options, so don’t dine in the same place every day — mix it up, but be sure to make reservations in advance. Based on the size of the group, a private banquet room can be ideal for creating a memorable dining experience that’s complete with a customized menu and your favorite wines.
* Recreation: The time between rounds can be filled by more than pool time or a sports massage. For example, at Streamsong, groups can enjoy a variety of adventure-based experiences, including guided bass fishing excursions, sporting clays challenges and even archery. These signature experiences keep groups talking long after the last putts drop on the final round.
For more information, visit www.streamsongresort.com or call 1-844-330-1676.

Florida Remains Launch Pad to Space Thanks to Private Firms

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Since the first U.S. moon landing in 1969, we have been fascinated with the mystery of space. Fast forward to 2016, when we’re celebrating the 5th-year anniversary since NASA launched JUNO and the August 19 ULA Delta IV launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Despite the current U.S. space program weathering some storms, the aerospace industry is enjoying a renaissance, thanks to private firms in Florida and its recognition as the next high-tech utopia.
The High-Tech Corridor, located in Central Florida, is home to a plethora of companies such as Craig Technologies, Northrup Grumman, United Launch Alliance (ULA), Blue Origin and Space Florida, among others.
These companies are shaping the future, which holds a generous helping of manned space travel. ULA — a partnership between Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company — has been working on a crew launch vehicle to fly the first Operation Test Flight (OFT) in late 2017. Blue Origin is building its new 750,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, set to open in December 2017.
“Today’s Florida space industry is a far cry from what it was six years ago,” says Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, an economic development organization for the aerospace business. “We have revitalized the industry and today, we’re not only the busiest space port, but we’re now building and landing rockets, next-generation spacecraft, in state-of-the-art facilities.”
In order to feed the contractors who are flooding the Sunshine State, Florida’s colleges and universities are preparing a new workforce for the opportunities that a new space program will offer.
Colleges such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach and Florida Institute of Technology are producing some of the world’s most elite and sought-after engineers and the next generation of rocket scientists. At the University of Central Florida, students are leading the world in simulation and nanotechnology sciences, as demand for these sciences continues to grow in both the public and private sector.
In addition to the presence of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), there are two spaceports in Jacksonville and on Florida’s Space Coast, Brevard County’s Cape Canaveral. An aerospace manufacturing powerhouse, Florida houses companies such as L-3 Crestview Aerospace in Florida’s Panhandle, B/E Aerospace in Palm Beach County, and HEICO in Broward County.
“Florida’s in a very unique position with a longstanding history, NASA, the various military bases, as well as some of the commercial aerospace industry that’s been here,” says Anish Patel, President of Radiant Power Corp. “We’ve got a strong foundation for technology, great universities, and good high schools that are feeding those universities.”
For more information, visit www.enterpriseflorida.com.

Why Encryption Is Important to You

Mobile security or protection concept. Smartphone with padlock. 3d

Much has been made about encryption lately. And on some level, you probably have a vague idea about what it means. Maybe.

You might recall, for instance, that the FBI and Apple have tangled over it. (Apple won.) Most large companies such as Google and Facebook support Apple’s position. And that encryption keeps your “stuff” safe from unwanted eyes.

The problem is that the idea of privacy is just that these days — an idea.