7 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Home Faster

Looking for ways to spring clean your home in no time? Good. I’ve got some tried and tested ways that I’m going to share with you. Spring cleaning is one of my favorite things about the spring season, but unfortunately, I can’t enjoy it to the fullest since my schedule is always overloaded. So I’ve found a few ways to spring clean my home fast that are also great for those who don’t like cleaning.

1. Clean mini blinds
Yes, I want to start with the worst part about spring cleaning. I’m sure many of you would agree that cleaning mini blinds is a great pain. However, I’ve learned a small tip that makes it really easier. Just take your mini blinds down and wash them in the bath. They’ll be cleaner in no time!

2. Wash your walls
If you used to wash your walls by hand, this spring try washing them with a mop instead. This will save you a lot of time, I promise! Now that I know this little trick, washing my walls isn’t a big problem anymore. Give it a try and you will never think of washing the walls as a great pain.

3. Clean your oven
I don’t understand those people who clean their oven by hand when they have a self-cleaning one. A self-cleaning oven works amazingly and is so easy to operate. If you have a self-cleaning oven, just turn it on and it will do its thing. While it’s cleaning, the oven gets extremely hot and there can be a terrible smell, but you can go outdoors to avoid the smell, or do another chore to complete your spring cleaning faster.

4. Give your carpets to the professionals
If you have carpets, I suggest you to hire them done. It’s better and easier. It’s also incredibly time-saving. The professional knows what they’re doing and they can be more experienced at stain removal than you are. If you can afford, give your carpets to the professionals.

5. Purchase a ceiling fan cleaner
Purchase a ceiling fan cleaner so that you don’t have to climb up and take it all apart. Indeed, there’s a great device that you can purchase that cleans the ceiling fan. It’s like a duster but created to fit over every blade. While you still should clean the globes, it helps save you immense amounts of time and headache.

6. Clean your curtains
If you have trouble cleaning your curtains, I recommend doing all of your curtains at once. Take the day, take your curtains down and wash them. After washing, hang your curtains back up. Don’t forget to check the instructions and learn how to properly launder them. Maybe your curtains are dry clean only ones. Follow the instructions on the label and you won’t have any problems.

7. Don’t do it alone
If you share a home or if you have a big family, don’t do your spring cleaning alone, it’s just too much for one person. Have everybody muck in and help and you’ll get it done quicker and you will even have time for a spring picnic or family BBQ.

Follow these tips and you will do your spring cleaning faster and easier. Which tricks do you use to do your spring cleaning quicker? Share them with me, please, I will certainly try them all!

5 Tricks to Help You Make Faster Decisions at Work

Whether you are employed as a member of someone’s team or run your own business, work-based decisions carry a lot of responsibility.

We all feel this weight on our shoulders, it is just part of adult life. But there are some decision-making tricks and tools to make the process a little less stressful, and give you a better chance of a great outcome.

Here are five things I have learned to do from both my past as an employee and my present as a small business owner.

1. The 5×5 rule


This one has been doing the rounds on social media as quote cards and motivational posts. But despite its personal development cheesiness, it still rings true. If it will not matter in five years time, do not spend more than five minutes worrying about it.

I know it might sound a bit harsh, to not give something more than five minutes, but seriously, we are all so time poor. I like this because it is about the big picture.

If something will not matter in the long-term, then it is not worth disrupting your working time for. Focus on the things that do affect the long-term of your company.

2. What does your gut say?
This is a super-quick one. If you allow your monkey-mind to think about the question, you will not be able to hear your gut. So you have to get in there quick.

When there is a decision to be made, quickly and before the mental chatter sets in, ask your gut and write down the answer. That is right – do not act on it, but right it down.

You need to write it down so that you can come back to it later. Because your mind needs to do its thing too. You will have to make sure that your gut instinct was not to do something crazy.

But once your brain has checked your decision for common sense, go back to what you wrote down. Does it feel right? This, I have often found, is the safest way to make an authentic decision. Your gut gets to have its say, and so does your anxious monkey-mind. But ultimately, you get to listen to your intuition.

3. Pros and cons
Ah, the good old pros and cons list. This is less about listening to your intuition, and more about satisfying both your busy mind, and your employer, or partner, or bank manager.

Whatever decision you make, if you can show that you considered all options carefully, that goes a long way to covering your back if your decision does not turn out to be for the best.

At least you can demonstrate your efforts to do your best. Knowing this can help you to stop putting off your decision out of fear.

4. Set yourself a deadline
Speaking of fear-based procrastination, sometimes a time-bound goal is the best solution. If the decision you need to make carries a lot of responsibility, then it is only natural you will want to put off making it. Set a time and date in your diary, and get a manager, colleague, or friend to hold you accountable to it.

5. Limit the advice you seek
They say, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

For the sake of making your decision sooner, and for your sanity, do not ask everyone in the office what they think you should do.

You will get too many conflicting answers, and not everyone is qualified to help you. If you want other opinions to consider, then go to just a couple of senior teammates that you trust.

At the end of the day, if you are tasked with making a decision, then remember it is not all about the pressure and responsibility. You have been trusted with something important and you can be proud of that fact.

More: Why You Have to Stop Checking Your Email Over the Weekend

Often there is no right or wrong choice either, so you do your best with the information that you have. So do not procrastinate or try to avoid the situation. Trust yourself and do what feels right. No one can ask more of you than that.

10 Great Pedicure Techniques

Anyone can do their own pedicure, but if you want truly professional results at home, you need to know a few things. Just a handful of techniques can turn an ordinary pedicure into a great one.

1. Use cuticle oil
While cuticle oil may seem like a waste of time at first glance, it actually gives you a more professional pedicure. It can be tough to avoid painting your cuticles. Nail polish on the cuticle can look messy and very unprofessional, so carefully apply a little cuticle oil before you start painting, but after you have soaked your feet. If you don’t have any specialized oil, olive oil also works well.

2. Avoid painting your skin
It is fairly common to paint the skin just above your toenail when working on a pedicure. This gives you the annoying task of trying to eliminate the nail polish later on from your skin. You can skip the whole issue by just slipping a bit of newspaper under your nail. If you cut it to be slightly curved, the paper will fit better. When you slip up, the paper will be painted, rather than your skin. Toss the paper at the end of the session to enjoy nice, neat nails.

3. Fix mistakes quickly with nail polish remover
A Q-tip and nail polish remover will make it easy to fix any mistakes you make with your pedicure. Rather than leave the smudges or uneven edges, you can use the Q-tip dipped in remover to gently smooth out those wobbly lines. It’s easier to handle than a brush and will give you great results every time.

4. Apply polish the right way
To get a perfectly smooth finish, you need to work quickly when applying nail polish However, the strokes you use will also affect the end result. Start in the center, near the cuticle, and gently push down to fill in the rounded space above the cuticle. Then sweep the brush straight up the center of the nail. Without reloading the brush, move it up each side from the cuticle to the tip. This will redistribute the excess polish and make it look nice and smooth. The trick here is to avoid using too much polish.

5. Dry your nails faster
There are a few methods of getting your polish to dry faster than usual. You can dip your toes in ice water, which will also harden the polish more than letting it air dry. Another popular method is to use a quick dry top coat. This is a special substance that will not smudge your polish, but will help it dry extra fast. If you are always in a hurry or don’t want to smudge your nails, a quick dry top coat can be a good investment.

6. Avoid split nails with a crystal file
A crystal nail file is far superior to the usual metal or sandpaper ones. If you have brittle toenails, you will find that a crystal nail file is a better choice. It can handle even the most fragile nails and shape them without breakage. Better yet, the file can be washed, dried and reused for years to come.

7. Keep your feet moisturized
It can be a real hassle to scrub and scrape and exfoliate your feet when you want a nice pedicure. If you keep up with the maintenance, a pedicure can be as simple as sitting down to paint your nails. Take some time each evening to rub baby oil or coconut oil into your feet. After each bath, use a pumice stone to remove dead skin, especially around the nails.

8. Leave time for drying
It can be tempting to rush the drying times on your pedicure, but it’s best to wait at least 5-10 minutes before you add another layer of polish or attempt to do anything that could smudge the polish. The longer you wait, the harder the polish will be and the longer it will last.

9. Add a few layers of clear polish
Whatever the design you have chosen, a few coats of clear polish will help seal the design in. You can use any kind of transparent nail polish. Using a couple of extra layers is an excellent way to eliminate the bumpy feel of glitter polish, without losing the look of the glitter polish.

10. Loosen clumpy polish
Is your nail polish getting dried out and hard to use? Before painting it on your nails, add a few drops of nail polish thinner, cap and shake well before using. Just make sure the product you use is actually nail polish thinner. Nail polish remover will not work the same way and will ruin your bottle of polish.

The perfect pedicure is not necessarily simple, but when you have all these tricks up your sleeve, you can get those nails looking great. Your toes will sparkle in no time.

9 Incredible Benefits of Lemon Water

The role of water in our body is immense. It is important to control our water intake in order to be healthy and beautiful. Doctors say that we should drink nearly eight glasses of water daily. Only this way your body will stay hydrated and you’ll be able to slake thirst when it is hot. Most of us usually prefer to consume other sweet and delicious beverages instead of water, however, they are not good for our health and some of them may be even harmful. Recently I have found out that it can be so easy to drink a lot of water and enjoy its taste at the same time. For this you need to add some fruits to your water and you will get a yummy and healthy beverage. Lemon water is the most preferable choice these days. Lemon juice is extremely beneficial for you since it is packed with a great number of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help to improve your health. If you drink pure lemon juice it may harm the enamel of your teeth, so you’d better mix it with water. I would recommend you to use warm water as it will aid the process of digestion in your body. Make it a rule to drink lemon water every morning before breakfast and you will feel all its benefits. Here are some of the greatest reasons why lemon water is good for you.

1. It Aids Digestion
Lemon water has a wonderful ability to promote your digestion and remove toxins from your digestive tract. Therefore, you should include it into your daily diet by all means. Sometimes we can suffer from indigestion and its annoying symptoms like nausea, heartburn and bloating. Lemon water will be a nice solution for you. By drinking it you’ll easily get rid of these health problems. Plus, if you are overweight and want to burn some calories, I would advise you to prepare a mixture of warm water, lemon juice, honey and consume it regularly.

2. It Enhances Your Immune System
Another convincing reason why we should start drinking lemon water right now is its beneficial impact on our immune system. It has been proven that people who use this water each day have stronger immune system than those who choose clear water and they are more resistant to different infections. When it comes to the flu or colds, lemons are the most helpful remedy because they are full of vitamin C. Plus, this citrus fruit contains ascorbic acid, which is considered to have anti-inflammatory properties. Saponins, which are found in lemons, will help you to fight bacteria and avoid colds in winter.

3. You Will Have Clear Skin
Lemon water is also an amazing way to make your skin clear and glowing. Due to the fact that lemons are rich in vitamin C and numerous antioxidants, you’ll have a great opportunity to reduce blemishes and wrinkles on your face. Moreover, lemon juice can be applied on age spots and scars in order to make them less visible. The consumption of lemon water will guarantee the perfect and fresh look to your skin. Try to care for your skin naturally instead of using various chemicals.

4. It Boosts Your Energy
Being an enormous source of vitamins and minerals, lemon water is a good thing to drink to increase your energy. Lemons are one of those foods that can give you negative charged ions, providing your body with extra energy. If you are under stress and feeling anxious, you need to consume lemon water to overcome this emotional state. The smell of lemons has a positive influence on your nervous system so that it can cheer you up and refresh your mind.

5. It Cleanses Your System
The conducted researches have shown that lemon water is efficient in eliminating toxins from our body. This happens because of the citric acid in lemons that stimulates enzyme function. What is more important, this fruit can purify your blood if taken regularly. People who have diseases of urinary tract will benefit from lemons as they work perfectly to release toxins from your body. According to medical studies, lemons may assist your body to dissolve gallstones.

6. It Promotes Healing
Taking into account the fact that lemons are high in the ascorbic acid, they can be a fantastic and natural remedy for your wounds. Put a little lemon juice on your injury and it will heal faster. In addition, the ascorbic acid is excellent for your bones, cartilage and connective tissue. The regular intake of lemon water will make them healthier and stronger. You’ll be astonished how quickly lemon juice can decrease inflammations. To achieve all these results you should drink as minimum one glass of lemon water per day.

7. It Will Give You Fresh Breath
I’d like to say that lemon water contributes greatly to the health of your teeth. Everybody knows that toothache is really terrible and it brings us big discomfort. Lemon water will be the right option for you to combat toothache and forget about unpleasant feelings connected with it. Today we have an incredible choice of chewing gums and drops that freshen our breath effectively. But they are full of chemicals and can be dangerous to our health. So, I would suggest you to use lemon water to make your breath fresh. The only thing you should bear in mind is the necessity to avoid brushing your teeth after lemon water since it can destroy tooth enamel. You may only rinse your mouth with clear water to keep your teeth healthier.

8. It Can Help You Break the Coffee Habit
If you want to break the caffeine habit, try drinking lemon water. I kicked my coffee habit about three months ago and now I feel much better and I have even more energy each day. Adding lemon water to my diet was more than essential. Perhaps you know that it’s hard to kick the coffee habit. You need something to replace it with to make the transition less shocking on your body. Lemon water is a great option here.

9. It Helps You Lose Weight Faster
When your body is out of balance, it’s not easy to lose weight. One of the fastest ways to lose weight is to have a healthy body and mind. Lemons have a high alkaline mineral content, and people with a more alkaline diet tend to drop weight quicker. Moreover, lemons are high in pectin fiber that helps your digestive system and keeps you feeling fuller faster.

Drinking lemon water is one of the basic rules you should stick to if you want to improve your health. It will be a nice substitute for sweet beverages that are high in calories and chemicals. These are only a few benefits of lemon water, but I hope they will convince you to switch to this healthy drink. Have you ever drunk lemon water? Have you felt its positive effect on your body? If you know any other reasons why lemon water is salubrious for us, we’ll be glad to hear from you.

5 Tricks to Help You Make Faster Decisions at Work

Whether you are employed as a member of someone’s team or run your own business, work-based decisions carry a lot of responsibility.

We all feel this weight on our shoulders, it is just part of adult life. But there are some decision-making tricks and tools to make the process a little less stressful, and give you a better chance of a great outcome.

Here are five things I have learned to do from both my past as an employee and my present as a small business owner.

Tricks to Make Faster Decisions at Work
1. The 5×5 rule
This one has been doing the rounds on social media as quote cards and motivational posts. But despite its personal development cheesiness, it still rings true. If it will not matter in five years time, do not spend more than five minutes worrying about it.

I know it might sound a bit harsh, to not give something more than five minutes, but seriously, we are all so time poor. I like this because it is about the big picture.

If something will not matter in the long-term, then it is not worth disrupting your working time for. Focus on the things that do affect the long-term of your company.

2. What does your gut say?
This is a super-quick one. If you allow your monkey-mind to think about the question, you will not be able to hear your gut. So you have to get in there quick.

When there is a decision to be made, quickly and before the mental chatter sets in, ask your gut and write down the answer. That is right – do not act on it, but right it down.

You need to write it down so that you can come back to it later. Because your mind needs to do its thing too. You will have to make sure that your gut instinct was not to do something crazy.

But once your brain has checked your decision for common sense, go back to what you wrote down. Does it feel right? This, I have often found, is the safest way to make an authentic decision. Your gut gets to have its say, and so does your anxious monkey-mind. But ultimately, you get to listen to your intuition.

3. Pros and cons
Ah, the good old pros and cons list. This is less about listening to your intuition, and more about satisfying both your busy mind, and your employer, or partner, or bank manager.

Whatever decision you make, if you can show that you considered all options carefully, that goes a long way to covering your back if your decision does not turn out to be for the best.

At least you can demonstrate your efforts to do your best. Knowing this can help you to stop putting off your decision out of fear.

4. Set yourself a deadline
Speaking of fear-based procrastination, sometimes a time-bound goal is the best solution. If the decision you need to make carries a lot of responsibility, then it is only natural you will want to put off making it. Set a time and date in your diary, and get a manager, colleague, or friend to hold you accountable to it.

5. Limit the advice you seek
They say, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

For the sake of making your decision sooner, and for your sanity, do not ask everyone in the office what they think you should do.

You will get too many conflicting answers, and not everyone is qualified to help you. If you want other opinions to consider, then go to just a couple of senior teammates that you trust.

At the end of the day, if you are tasked with making a decision, then remember it is not all about the pressure and responsibility. You have been trusted with something important and you can be proud of that fact.

 

Often there is no right or wrong choice either, so you do your best with the information that you have. So do not procrastinate or try to avoid the situation. Trust yourself and do what feels right. No one can ask more of you than that.

Risk For Bipolar Disorder Associated With Faster Aging

New King’s College London research suggests that people with a family history of bipolar disorder may ‘age’ more rapidly than those without a history of the disease.

SCIENCE DAILY— LONDON, United Kingdom, 26-Jul-17— The study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, also shows that bipolar patients treated with lithium – the main medication for the illness – have longer telomeres (a sign of slower biological ageing) compared to bipolar disorder patients not treated with lithium. This suggests that the drug may mask the ageing effects associated with bipolar disorder, or even help to reverse it.

Faster ageing at the biological level could explain why rates of ageing-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and obesity are higher amongst bipolar disorder patients. However, more research is needed in the relatives of bipolar disorder patients to better understand if they are also at a higher risk for ageing-related diseases.

Unaffected first-degree relatives represent a group of individuals at risk for bipolar disorder who have not been treated with medications, so studying them may represent a truer reflection of the relationship between ageing and bipolar disorder. To measure biological ageing, the researchers studied a feature of chromosomes called telomeres in 63 patients with bipolar disorder, 74 first-degree relatives and 80 unrelated healthy people.

Telomeres sit on the end of our chromosomes and act like ‘caps’, protecting the strands of DNA stored inside each of our cells as we age. Telomeres shorten each time a cell divides to make new cells, until they are so short that they are totally degraded and cells are no longer able to replicate. Telomere length therefore acts as a marker of biological age, with shortened telomeres representing older cells, and commonly older individuals.

The rate at which telomeres shorten across our lifespan can vary, based on a range of environmental and genetic factors. This means that two unrelated people of the same chronological age may not be the same age biologically.

The researchers from King’s College London and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that healthy relatives of bipolar patients had shorter telomeres compared to healthy controls (who had no risk for the disorder running in their family). This suggests that genetic or environmental factors associated with family risk for bipolar disorder are also linked to faster biological ageing.

They also conducted MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to explore the relationship between telomere length and brain structure, particularly in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in the regulation of mood. They discovered that higher rates of biological ageing (i.e. shorter telomeres) were associated with having a smaller hippocampus.

The study authors suggest that a reduction in telomere length may be associated with a reduced ability of new brain cells to grow in the hippocampus, which can reduce the size of the hippocampus and consequently increase risk for mood disorders such as bipolar disorder.

Dr Timothy Powell, first author of the study, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, said: ‘Our study provides the first evidence that familial risk for bipolar disorder is associated with shorter telomeres, which may explain why bipolar disorder patients are also at a greater risk for ageing-related diseases.

‘We still need to dissect the environmental and genetic contributions to shortened telomeres in those at high risk for bipolar disorder. For instance, do those at risk for bipolar disorder carry genes predisposing them to faster biological ageing, or are they more likely to partake in environmental factors which promote ageing (e.g. smoking, poor diet)? Identifying modifiable risk factors to prevent advanced ageing would be a really important next step.’

Dr Sophia Frangou, co-senior author of the study, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said: ‘Our study shows that telomere length is a promising biomarker of biological ageing and susceptibility to disease in the context of bipolar disorder. Moreover, it suggests that proteins which protect against telomere shortening may provide novel treatment targets for people with bipolar disorder and those predisposed to it.’

Dr Gerome Breen, co-senior author, also at IoPPN, said: ‘Up to now it has been unclear whether or not bipolar disorder patients are at risk of accelerated ageing. This study shows that they are at greater risk of faster ageing and drugs commonly used to treat the disorder may actually mask or reverse this effect.’

This study was funded by a Psychiatry Research Trust grant, the National Institutes of Mental Health and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre.

Everything It Will Take To Get Faster Wi-Fi On Planes

I bring tidings from the frontier of airplane Wi-Fi. I experienced faster internet with my own two thumbs aboard a 757! I did a series of speed tests and received between 17 and 27 megabits per second while also flying through the sky. This is streaming-Netflix-while-streaming-Spotify territory — and a far cry from the measly speeds one can attain on most current flights.

Airplane Wi-Fi is technically measured on a scale from makes-you-want-to-throw-your-computer-out-of-the-plane to makes-you-want-to-throw-yourself-out-of-the-plane. That’s because it is hard to direct data to a plane 30,000 feet in the air. You need an antenna pointed down at ground towers or up at a small number of bandwidth-limited satellites. And yet some internet is better than none. And so despite the speed, Wi-Fi aboard planes remains indispensable for work travelers, who might even pay $40 for the privilege of sipping bits through a tiny kinked straw for four or five hours.

As you might expect, the airlines and the people who provide tech components to them are trying to make that experience better. Our sighs have made their way to research team’s ears. Our muttering has led to and starred in PowerPoints.

RELATED: Inside Gogo’s Plan to Build an In-Flight Wifi Monopoly of the Future

Here’s the good news: Yes, it will get better. Even though it’s hard, no fewer than three companies are willing to challenge physics to bring you your streaming video.

And now for the bad news: It’s gonna take a while before you get to use that better Wi-Fi.

As you might expect, the airlines and the people who provide tech components to them are trying to make that experience better.

* * *

My adventure to the future of airplane Wi-Fi began at a part of the San Francisco airport that I’d never seen: Signature Flight Support, the name bold and rich, the planes private. I’d been summoned to the place by the noted thermostat-maker Honeywell, which has been a major supplier of airplane components for decades. They had invited a group of journalists for a ride aboard their hardware-testing plane, and by the time I arrived, the presenters and audience were gathered into a small conference room at the terminal.

Before we flew, Kristin Slyker, Honeywell Aerospace’s VP of “Connected Aircraft” wanted to fill us in on the current aviation industry. The pitch was familiar but compelling: They don’t make the thing you know (the airplane), but they make the thing you know better.

RELATED: Boeing Used 20,000 lbs of Potatoes to Test Its In-Flight WiFi

Imagine any Boeing or Airbus: Each one is a conglomeration of parts created by all kinds of different suppliers. Honeywell, for example, does a good business with auxiliary power units, a small engine that lets the pilots turn on the air conditioning, even when the main jet engines aren’t running. Not something you probably think about everyday, but Honeywell has 36,000 of these units flying around on airplanes right now.

They also supply wheels and electrical power infrastructure, cabin pressure control systems and LED lighting, radios, sensors, gyroscopes, accelerometers, and a bunch of other things.

And this is where the Wi-Fi comes in. What is Wi-Fi, from the plane’s perspective?

It’s a system with a few pieces:

A big, specialized antenna
Powerful radio transmitters to communicate with a satellite or ground towerson a particular band of the electromagnetic spectrum
A modem for receiving information
A distribution system for splitting that bandwidth among the people and machines on the plane.
And those kinds of things — antennas and radios and aircraft systems — are what Honeywell makes. If airplane Wi-Fi is gonna get better, it’s gonna be through improvements in these parts and the systems that animate them.

Honeywell’s technology testing plane (Alexis Madrigal).
So, I boarded the Honeywell plane with the other journalists. On the outside, it looks like any other plane — tube-y, white. But inside, the wall and ceiling panels have been torn out, so all the plane’s cabling is visible. There are bundles of cords spanning the length of the craft, and most of them would be present in any commercial plane, not just this specially kitted out one.

RELATED: Towards the End of Pilots

It’s a striking visual: A plane is a flying data-generating machine. Honeywell wants to tie all of these data streams together. They want to sell airlines components, the service for assessing the data that the sensors on those parts generate, apps for pilots, and a host of other services they have rolled under Slyker in a business they call the “Connected Aircraft.” And the charismatic avatar of their capabilities and the coming change is their next-gen internet technology, the Wi-Fi, which they have branded Jetwave.

Honeywell believes that Jetwave is faster and more reliable than the current products from competitors like GoGo, the major incumbent in airplane Wi-Fi, and ViaSat, a general satellite internet company that’s moved strongly into the airplane space.

Those companies are also working on next-generation products, like Gogo’s 2ku and ViaSat’s Gen-2 set of equipment. Both of those companies have a stronger current presence in the commercial airplane Wi-Fi market, especially in North America, so it could be a while before you use this particular technology on your flight from Birmingham to Dallas.

Nonetheless, all of the next-generation systems make use of satellite technology, so what Honeywell showed me is a good indicator of how you’ll eventually stream Netflix from a window seat.

* * *

On board, I couldn’t help but follow the cords towards the back of the airplane until I ran into Stéphane Klander, who is an engineer working on Jetwave. He wore a red Honeywell polo shirt and straight leg khakis. He’s blunt, funny, less media-trained than his executive colleagues.

Slyker introduced him as their “communications specialist.” So, eyes twinkling, Klander announced with a light and unplaceable accent, “I know everything about communication. What do you want to know?”

This was the man who could tell me what I wanted to know about how the internet works aboard airplanes, and why it could get better. He invited me back to his workstation on the plane and I strapped into the three-point harness that would keep me in the leather seat next to Klander.

He pulled out his reading glasses and began to run through his standard checks. It was automatic; these guys spend 400 hours a year flying around in this thing.

Stéphane Klander (Alexis Madrigal).
Honeywell’s new system works with Inmarsat’s satellite system. Built to provide maritime communications, Inmarsat is one of the big, established satcom companies. Honeywell works with three newish Inmarsat-5 satellites in geostationary orbit. That means — with small corrections — the satellites orbit in time with the Earth’s rotation, which to an observer on the ground (or in a plane) means that they appear fixed in the same place in the sky.

The satellites can only cover a slice of the Earth, so when a plane flies out of the range of one, it has to hand-off to the next satellite.

On our flight out of San Francisco, Klander is excited to gather data on how their system performs on the Pacific Ocean Region (POR) satellite, which they’ve tested less than the Atlantic and Indian regions.

Inmarsat-5 satellite coverage. Dark blue: Pacific Ocean Region (POR); light blue: Atlantic Ocean Region (AOR); and green: Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Inmarsat calls this particular satellite array Global Xpress. Each satellite uses dozens of beams that provide up to 50 megabytes per second of bandwidth to each commercial plane flying down on Earth.

A key feature of the satellite system is that it operates in the Ka part of the spectrum — that’s roughly 30 gigahertz. That’s extremely high frequency, technically! Consider that cell phones use frequencies in the low thousands of megahertz. FM radio uses spectrum around 85 to 110 megahertz. And AM radio is measured in kilohertz.

Even for satellite communication norms, the Ka band is substantially higher frequency than the Ku band used by many satellites today. And there is one of those massive and acrimonious debates that you’ve never heard of going on between Ka and Ku proponents pushing their technology for higher-throughput satellite communications.

Ku is tried and true. Ka is newer, less congested, and allows for smaller, more powerful data beams.

Suffice to say that the Inmarsat/Honeywell solution is the only global Ka band option. Gogo’s next-generation tech uses the Ku band and Viasat’s second-generation tech uses Ka, but with less blanket coverage.

Honeywell, obviously, stands with the Ka-band proponents for one reason: bandwidth.

“These high frequencies allow us to pass a lot of traffic,” Lander said.

But there’s a tradeoff. Higher frequency means shorter wavelengths, and that tends to make it more difficult for the radio waves to travel long distances. (Longer waves tend to travel farther in the atmosphere: see AM versus FM radio).

So, to use this Ka high-frequency spectrum, the Honeywell radio transmitter applies 25 watts of power. Your phone’s transmitter might have 1 or 2 watts of power.

“This would fry your brain if it were used in a cell phone,” he said. “There is a safety distance we have to respect. No one can be on top of the airplane while we are transmitting. It would harm you physically if you were standing in front of it.”

In fact, the Jetwave amplifier’s 25 watts of power is roughly comparable to the transmission power of a ground-based cell tower.

* * *

Lander pulls up a photograph of the antenna that’s sitting on top of the plane under a little dome. Installing this specialized hardware and getting it approved to use with each class of aircraft is one reason why Wi-Fi took so long to roll out and why it will probably be a few years before you regularly encounter the next generation technology.

The antenna itself is beautiful. It can rotate to pick up signals close to the horizon (zero degrees) and up to straight above it (90 degrees). If your hand was the antenna, a karate chop would pick up horizon signals, rotate your hand to an open palm, and now you’d be picking up signals from directly above you.

Honeywell aircraft-mounted Jetwave antenna (Honeywell).
The antenna needs that flexibility because it needs to be able to lock onto the data beams that the Inmarsat spacecraft are projecting onto the Earth no matter where the plane is relative to the satellite.

Klander showed me the detailed map of how the beams fall on the Earth. And it’s complicated! “Right under the satellite, they are very circular, but as we go along the world,” he said, “they are more elongated because there is more room for the RF [radio frequency] to use the space.”

He didn’t want me to take a photograph of the map he’d pulled up on one of his three screens, but it looked like a zoomed-in version of this map from an Inmarsat presentation:

We were in region 82 of the POR. But if we’d flown into region 81, the internet traffic would be seamless. That’s because the plane has two receivers, one of which would lock onto 81, the new adjacent beam, so there’d be no interruption of service when we left 82.

While Honeywell makes the antenna controller, the antenna, the radio, and the modem, Inmarsat’s network software actually makes the decisions on when and how to switch beams and satellites. Inmarsat’s constantly trying to load balance between satellites and beams, as well as effecting seamless transfers from region to region.

They also have to manage the ground operations, called satellite anchor stations. The only one in the United States is located in Lino Lakes, Minnesota (pop. 20,948), and serves as one of two redundant spots for the Atlantic region. (For completists, Inmarsat’s other ground stations are in Canada, New Zealand, Greece, and Italy.)

“The antennas there need to be massive with a lot of gain, so they can receive fine information and push a lot of data,” Lander said.

Lino Lakes ground station (Google).
And all this, the whole system, is what will make your airplane Wi-Fi experience a little bit better. New satellites up in space. New antenna designs down here. Huge satellite dishes in little towns in Minnesota. Eight hundred hours of troubleshooting and testing by a guy named Stéphane. Raging blog debates about frequency bands. Deals with various regulators and aircraft maker and airlines.

It takes a lot of time to build a new system like this or Gogo’s or ViaSat’s. But man, are we getting close.

And indeed, after we lift off, I open up a speed test app at 9,000 feet and get 17 megabytes per second, despite the bevy of aviation and travel journalists who are doing the exact same thing at that moment. Soon, actual commercial travelers on some Lufthansa flights will carry out this same action, and probably be equally delighted.

As we circled around California, everyone happily Instagramming and tweeting and speedtesting, I couldn’t help but think about that famous of indictment of our era: Louis C.K. talking about how everything is amazing and yet no one appreciates it, using the example of airplane Wi-Fi.

But what is most amazing about our era is not the fact of the whining about modern inconveniences, but rather that the whining is read as demand by ever-more-nimble companies. Wi-Fi grumbling initiates global, technological change enacted by some of the most potent corporate forces on the planet. Our expletives, muttered over peanut bits and stray pretzel salt, have caused satellites to be launched.

Faster Programs, Easier Programming

New system lets nonexperts optimize programs that run on multiprocessor chips.

Dynamic programming is a technique that can yield relatively efficient solutions to computational problems in economics, genomic analysis, and other fields. But adapting it to computer chips with multiple “cores,” or processing units, requires a level of programming expertise that few economists and biologists have.

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Stony Brook University aim to change that, with a new system that allows users to describe what they want their programs to do in very general terms. It then automatically produces versions of those programs that are optimized to run on multicore chips. It also guarantees that the new versions will yield exactly the same results that the single-core versions would, albeit much faster.

In experiments, the researchers used the system to “parallelize” several algorithms that used dynamic programming, splitting them up so that they would run on multicore chips. The resulting programs were between three and 11 times as fast as those produced by earlier techniques for automatic parallelization, and they were generally as efficient as those that were hand-parallelized by computer scientists.

The researchers presented their new system last week at the Association for Computing Machinery’s conference on Systems, Programming, Languages and Applications: Software for Humanity.

Dynamic programming offers exponential speedups on a certain class of problems because it stores and reuses the results of computations, rather than recomputing them every time they’re required.

“But you need more memory, because you store the results of intermediate computations,” says Shachar Itzhaky, first author on the new paper and a postdoc in the group of Armando Solar-Lezama, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. “When you come to implement it, you realize that you don’t get as much speedup as you thought you would, because the memory is slow. When you store and fetch, of course, it’s still faster than redoing the computation, but it’s not as fast as it could have been.”

Outsourcing complexity

Computer scientists avoid this problem by reordering computations so that those requiring a particular stored value are executed in sequence, minimizing the number of times that the value has to be recalled from memory. That’s relatively easy to do with a single-core computer, but with multicore computers, when multiple cores are sharing data stored at multiple locations, memory management become much more complex. A hand-optimized, parallel version of a dynamic-programming algorithm is typically 10 times as long as the single-core version, and the individual lines of code are more complex, to boot.

The CSAIL researchers’ new system — dubbed Bellmania, after Richard Bellman, the applied mathematician who pioneered dynamic programming — adopts a parallelization strategy called recursive divide-and-conquer. Suppose that the task of a parallel algorithm is to perform a sequence of computations on a grid of numbers, known as a matrix. Its first task might be to divide the grid into four parts, each to be processed separately.

But then it might divide each of those four parts into four parts, and each of those into another four parts, and so on. Because this approach — recursion — involves breaking a problem into smaller subproblems, it naturally lends itself to parallelization.

Joining Itzhaky on the new paper are Solar-Lezama; Charles Leiserson, the Edwin Sibley Webster Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Rohit Singh and Kuat Yessenov, who were MIT both graduate students in electrical engineering and computer science when the work was done; Yongquan Lu, an MIT undergraduate who participated in the project through MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program; and Rezaul Chowdhury, an assistant professor of computer science at Stony Brook, who was formerly a research affiliate in Leiserson’s group.

Leiserson’s group specializes in divide-and-conquer parallelization techniques; Solar-Lezama’s specializes in program synthesis, or automatically generating code from high-level specifications. With Bellmania, the user simply has to describe the first step of the process — the division of the matrix and the procedures to be applied to the resulting segments. Bellmania then determines how to continue subdividing the problem so as to use memory efficiently.

Rapid search

At each level of recursion — with each successively smaller subdivision of the matrix — a program generated by Bellmania will typically perform some operation on some segment of the matrix and farm the rest out to subroutines, which can be performed in parallel. Each of those subroutines, in turn, will perform some operation on some segment of the data and farm the rest out to further subroutines, and so on.

Bellmania determines how much data should be processed at each level and which subroutines should handle the rest. “The goal is to arrange the memory accesses such that when you read a cell [of the matrix], you do as much computation as you can with it, so that you will not have to read it again later,” Itzhaky says.

Finding the optimal division of tasks requires canvassing a wide range of possibilities. Solar-Lezama’s group has developed a suite of tools to make that type of search more efficient; even so, Bellmania takes about 15 minutes to parallelize a typical dynamic-programming algorithm. That’s still much faster than a human programmer could perform the same task, however. And the result is guaranteed to be correct; hand-optimized code is so complex that it’s easy for errors to creep in.

“The work that they’re doing is really foundational in enabling a broad set of applications to run on multicore and parallel processors,” says David Bader, a professor of computational science and engineering at Georgia Tech. “One challenge has been to enable high-level writing of programs that work on our current multicore processors, and up to now doing that requires heroic, low-level manual coding to get performance. What they provide is a much simpler, high-level technique for some classes of programs that makes it very easy to write the program and have their system automatically figure out how to divide up the work to create codes that are competitive with hand-tuned, low-level coding.

“The types of applications that they would enable range from computational biology, to proteomics, to cybersecurity, to sorting, to scheduling problems of all sorts, to managing network traffic — there are countless examples of real algorithms in the real world for which they now enable much more efficient code,” he adds. “It’s remarkable.”

Molecular Imaging Hack Makes Cameras ‘Faster’

A new Rice University technique grabs images of chemical processes that happen faster than most laboratory cameras are able to capture them.

The technique, super temporal resolution microscopy (STReM), allows researchers to view and gather useful information about fluorescing molecules at a frame rate 20 times faster than typical lab cameras normally allow.

The work by Rice chemist Christy Landes and her team, along with Rice electrical engineer Kevin Kelly, appears in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

The Rice researchers start with a Nobel-winning microscopy technique that views objects like molecules at “super resolution” – that is, things below the diffraction limit that are smaller than most microscopes are able to see.

“Super-resolution microscopy lets us image things smaller than about half of visible light’s wavelength – around 250 nanometers,” Landes said. But she noted a barrier: “You couldn’t take pictures of anything faster than your frame rate,” she said.

The Rice lab’s new enhancement, which uses a rotating phase mask to encode fast dynamics in each camera frame, will help researchers understand processes that occur at interfaces like adsorption and desorption of proteins or molecules’ trajectories as they move along two-dimensional surfaces.

Typical charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras max out at frame rates of 10 to 100 milliseconds, Landes said. While other techniques like electron microscopy can see materials at the subnanoscale, super-resolution microscopy has a distinct advantage for fragile samples like biomolecules: It doesn’t destroy them in the process.

The technique manipulates the phase of light to give the image at the detector a more complicated shape. This process had previously been used by other researchers to encode where the object is in three-dimensional space within an otherwise two-dimensional image.

The Rice lab’s contribution was to note that by manipulating the phase over time, it would also be possible to encode faster time resolutions within a slow image frame. Thus, the group designed and built a spinning phase mask. The resulting images capture dynamic events that happen faster than the camera’s intrinsic frame rate. The shape of each image within a frame effectively gives it a unique time stamp.

The technique takes advantage of a characteristic of microscopy familiar to anyone who’s ever taken a blurry picture. Point spread functions are a measure of the shape of images both in and out of focus. When the subjects are as small as single molecules, shifting in and out of focus happens easily, and the size and shape of the resulting blur can tell researchers how far from the focal plane the subject is. Phase-mask engineering makes it possible to make focus-dependent blur easier to detect by introducing distinct point spread functions. On film they look like the lobes of a barbell and rotate with respect to focus.

STReM uses point spread function changes from the spinning mask to collect temporal information, Landes said. With the new technique, changes in the lobes’ angles reveal the time an event has occurred within each frame.

“The purpose is to allow scientists to study fast processes without the need to buy faster and much more expensive cameras,” said Rice graduate student Wenxiao Wang, lead author of the paper. “This involves extracting more information from single images.”

Landes, who recently won ACS’s prestigious Early Career Award in Experimental Physical Chemistry for her work to integrate super-resolution microscopy with information theory to understand protein separations, said designing and building the mechanism cost the lab only a few hundred dollars, a fraction of the cost of buying a faster camera. The phase mask is based on work by Kelly, who drew upon his contributions to Rice’s single-pixel camera to design what amounts to a piece of plastic with variable thickness that distorts light en route to the CCD.

“Like the single-pixel camera, we’re doing compressive analysis,” Landes said. “With the static phase mask, three-dimensional information is compressed into a 2-D image. In this particular case, we have compressed faster information into a slower camera frame rate. It’s a way to get more information in the pixels that you have.”

Fanning the Flame a Little Faster in Space

NASA started another large fire in space on June 4, when ground controllers ignited the third in a three-part series of spacecraft fire experiments (Saffire-III). Set inside an Earth-orbiting cargo spacecraft that is filled with trash and disposal items from the International Space Station, the flame spread across a 3.28-foot-long (1 meter) sample of cotton-fiberglass fabric.

Saffire-I, conducted in June 2016, burned an identical cotton-fiberglass sample inside an identical flow duct with fans controlling a low flow rate. Saffire-III was ignited under the same conditions, except this time, the fans ran faster to produce a higher flow rate on the flame. Saffire-II burned nine different, smaller samples.

The Saffire compartment holds the fabric sample, fans, a power and avionics panel, and cameras.
Credits: NASA

Gary A. Ruff leads Saffire at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. He explains that increasing the flow rates for Saffire-III will improve the accuracy of computational models that NASA uses to predict flame spread in microgravity. “For Saffire-I, we measured flame spread rates for burns both in the same direction as the air flow and in the opposite direction of the air flow,” Ruff said. “We need to get additional data at another air flow speed using the same material to compare with the predictions of the computational model.”

Before Saffire, the largest fire experiments in space were conducted with much smaller (3.9 inches or 10 cm) samples, and showed that flames in space burn at a lower temperature, lower rate, and with less oxygen than in normal gravity. Even with this existing data, researchers encountered new surprises with Saffire.

“The biggest surprise is how slowly the flame are spreading across the samples,” said Ruff. Based on smaller samples in controlled burns on the space station, we expected flames on these larger samples to be up to three times faster than we’ve observed.”

A slow-moving flame might seem more favorable than a fast flame, but it also means that smoke production could be slower, resulting in a time delay for a smoke detector to detect a fire. Slow-moving fires also produce larger amounts of carbon monoxide, the leading contributor to suffocation in house fires.

A clean-room team stands behind Saffire before it is loaded into the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo module, shown in the background.
Credits: NASA

Understanding fire detection and the build-up of toxic gases is an important part of fire protection. Saffire IV-VI, in development now, are being designed to continue to address large scale flammability, but also to investigate fire detection and post-fire monitoring and cleanup.

Saffire is managed at Glenn, and is funded by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division as part of its ongoing work to develop habitation systems for astronauts on future missions beyond Earth orbit.