Microsoft Launches Windows 10

Microsoft’s latest operating system had its date with destiny earlier today at its Redmond, Washington headquarters when it rolled out what they’re calling “the next chapter” in Windows: Windows 10. During the live-streamed keynote, several new features were unveiled – many to remove the cumbersomeness that gripped Windows 8 – including an overhaul that takes into account the manner in which people use devices today. By creating a responsive experience that runs with a familiarity across all mediums, from personal computers and tablets to smartphones and gaming platforms, aggregating these devices will allow apps to work in similar fashion. With Android and Apple devices retaining the lion’s share of the mobile/tablet market, this move will look to help Microsoft gain a bigger piece of the pie.

In a play that’s meant to contend with Apple’s Siri, Windows 10 will debut its own voice-activated apparatus, called Cortana which will be integrated into the system’s new-look web browser. Capable of acknowledging commands, Cortana serves as a digital assistant of sorts available via voice control or at the click of a key.

Additionally, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will be released as a free upgrade for anyone owning a computer or gadget that’s currently running Windows 8.1 or 7, the two previous versions of the software. With these recent developments, Windows 10 hopes to be a reinvigorated desktop experience.

Check out more of what the operating system has to offer in terms of key features below.

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9 Brutally Honest Reasons Why Your Finances Suck

It seems like everyone is struggling to make ends meet, especially in this day and age where the 35 and younger demographic are have to work multiple jobs, move back in with their parents, take on roommates, and delay the things they’ve wanted to do in their lives (like marriage, kids, vacations, luxuries etc) because they have become wage slaves. The US has over 800 billion in credit card debt and over 1 trillion in student loan debt. Hopefully some of this information will help you to remove yourselves from such statistics.

1. You don’t know where your money is going

I think this is one of the biggest steps to figuring things out. First and foremost, you need to write down everything. Take a look at your income, and subtract from it obligatory expenses. Then you need to see what you’re doing with any money that’s left over. One of the issues here is what do people consider “obligatory.” I know that in this day and age, for instance, everyone needs a phone. Do you need the latest and the greatest phone on the market, or can you manage with a crack-dealer flip phone that doesn’t have a whole lot of features? Maybe you can just switch to a cheaper plan.

There are online programs out there that help you manage your money so that you can get a bigger picture of what’s going on. Three that come to mind (all of them free) are Mint, Personal Capital, and You Need a Budget. When you’re managing student loans, monthly bills, trying to save, and just leisure expenses, it gets hard to keep track of it all. These programs will help alleviate that.

One thing that rings true is that there is stronger effect psychologically if you use cash instead of a credit/debit card. It’s easy to swipe your card, but with cash, you actually see your wallet getting a little emptier with each purchase. It will make you think a little bit harder before you make the next purchase.

2. You don’t work enough

I know the job market sucks right now, so working more is easier said than done. Additionally, there’s stuff like school (and the homework that goes with it), possible childcare, and of course time for yourself. That being said, the benefits of working more (especially more than 40 hours) is two-fold. Firstly, you’re making that much more money. Secondly, you have less time/energy during the day to go out and spend that money. It definitely would be nice to have one good job as opposed to multiple crappy jobs, but until you get to that point, utilize your time to the best of your ability.

3. You don’t do your homework with your shopping

Someone is always having a sale, especially if it’s close to a holiday. Some companies benefit certain demographics (teachers and military for instance). Sometimes going on sites like craigslist/ebay for certain merchandise is the best course of action. Online shopping in general tends to be beneficial because you can get things straight from the warehouse, and it’s easier to compare prices of various items. Also, sometimes it’s as easy as talking to your friends and coworkers. Someone may be trying to get rid of something that you’re trying to buy, or they may know of some particular location that sells things a lot cheaper than your typical go-to places.

4. You love your name brands

Store brand stuff is always cheaper. I know that store brand soda might not be as awesomely delicious as that Coke/Pepsi product, but if you’re trying to get your numbers in order, this is another way to cut corners. You would be surprised how much people really DON’T care about how up-to-date you are with the trends. Me, for instance, I couldn’t care less about your $200 Air Jordan 4s when you already have them in another color…along with having the 6s, 11s, and 13s. Having dollar tastes on a dime budget is just going to create a lot of heartache.

5. You give in to peer pressure

I’ve had plenty of friends tease me about not wanting to do things that involved spending money. But when we compare notes, I’m doing better than they are. I know people want to enjoy life to the fullest and don’t want to feel like they’re “missing out,” but there should be some significant planning for the future. 1-2 years of sacrifice now will make for a world of difference.

6. You’re stretched too thin

You are out on your own and, you’ve got your big boy pants on, so you want to conduct yourself like one. You get married, get a house, have your 2.3 kids, and get the latest cell phone, the fastest internet, cable TV with a million channels, and the 2 cars, and of course insurance for all over the place. SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. Maybe put a good chunk of those things off for a while. I personally believe that someone shouldn’t look into the whole family life (aside from marriage) until their student loans are paid off.

7. You’re not aggressive with your debt

Let’s crunch a few numbers. $25000 student loan with 5% interest rate paying $250 a month. With just the minimum payments, you pay $7283 in interest and it takes you almost 11 years to pay off. An extra $100 a month (probably about the amount you spend on eating out) saves you 45 months in payments and $875 in interest. Maybe the $875 isn’t all that big of a deal, but going almost 4 years without having that thorn in your side should be enough. I don’t know about other people, but I am not exactly a fan of getting a monthly reminder by some company telling me that I owe them money.

8. You’re trying to date (more targeted at men)

Let’s be honest here. As much as we’d love to delude ourselves in thinking that women are our equals and all that cultural Marxist mumbo jumbo, we know fully well that (as Chris Rock once said) nothing dries up a woman’s vagina faster than her having to open up her purse. So you spend all this time, money and energy trying to date and essentially get laid on a regular basis. Before you start talking about companionship and having someone in your corner, etc. You probably have plenty of deep and meaningful relationships already. Even if she actually is comfortable being with paying for herself, all the money spent going out as opposed to being boring and staying home adds up.

9. You don’t understand finance

This is probably the biggest one out of all of them. All these terms like subsidized/unsubsidized loans, interest rates, compounding, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. The language in and of itself can be quite daunting, and it seems like everyone is a guru (even me). I have found that the easiest give-away that someone doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about regarding money is when they start talking about trying to save AND pay off debt at the same time.

A Quick Financial Crash Course: Once you’ve saved up an emergency fund ($1-2k), you need to stop trying to save and start focusing on grinding away at your debts (not including the mortgage). If you have a specific short term goal, then you pay the minimums on your debts and save for that goal, and once your goal is paid in full, go back to your debts. When you get to the point where all you have left is your house payments, 6-8 months’ worth of expenses should be saved up, which should be easy by then because you don’t have all those other thorns in your side.

The overall trend that I tend to see is that people want to live a certain lifestyle and maintain a certain standard of living. This being despite not nearly having the means to afford it. I think one of the common saying that I hear is that people want to live to the same standards as their parents. However they forget how long it took their parents to get to where they are now. Have a sense of perspective. Have a little humility. Unless you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you’re probably going to have to struggle. Don’t make things harder on yourself for longer than they have to be.

Hyatt Hotels to Offer Free Wi-Fi Access in All of the Guest Rooms and Lobbies of Its Worldwide Locations

The Hyatt Hotels chain has announced plans to offer free Wi-Fi access in all of its guest rooms and lobbies across the world beginning in February 2015. The service will be made available free of charge to all guests, while elite members of the Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program will be upgraded to premium service, free of charge. Hyatt brand vice president Kristine Rose said the move comes as the perception of wireless services shifts from amenity to necessity.

Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity. It has become an integral part of travelers’ daily lives and a basic expectation. Travelers shouldn’t have to remember which brands or locations offer it for free or the strings attached to get it.

LEGOLAND® Sets May 15 Opening for LEGOLAND® Hotel

LEGOLAND® Hotel at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is officially opening May 15, 2015. The announcement came today from General Manager of LEGOLAND Hotel, Kevin Carr, during a press event at the Hotel site, located just steps away from the theme park entrance. LEGOLAND Florida Resort General Manager Adrian Jones also announced Heartlake City, the newest land based on the popular LEGO® Friends line of toys, is opening this summer.

“We’re moving the Model Shop into our Hotel and guests will be able to learn and build with our Model Builders daily in the Master Model Builder Workshop.”

“LEGOLAND Hotel offers a unique experience unlike any other in Florida,” said Carr. “Imagine how excited children will be to wake up in a giant toy box full of LEGO bricks and to be the first to enter the theme park each day.” Jones also announced a Master Model Builder Workshop being offered exclusively to Hotel guests. “LEGOLAND Hotel is an extension of the theme park experience and the stars of our Park are our Master Model Builders,” said Jones. “We’re moving the Model Shop into our Hotel and guests will be able to learn and build with our Model Builders daily in the Master Model Builder Workshop.”

Today’s event at the Resort included a hardhat tour with a behind-the-scenes look at the Hotel. Media and VIP guests were taken to one of the fifth floor suites to experience the spectacular views of Lake Eloise, the theme park with its 50 rides, shows and attractions, and the site of the future expansion, Heartlake City.

“When it opens in summer of 2015, Heartlake City will be a colorful and vibrant new land offering adventures for all ages,” said Jones. “The centerpieces will include a fantastic horse-themed disc coaster called Mia’s Riding Adventure and a new interactive show, ‘Friends to the Rescue’ as well as new shops inside Heartlake Mall. Between our constant expansion, the new LEGOLAND Hotel opening in May and the Water Park re-opening in March, LEGOLAND Florida Resort is definitely a multi-day attraction.”

Guests may book reservations by visiting www.LEGOLANDHotel.com.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort is a part of Merlin Entertainments Group, the second largest attractions operator in the world. For the most current information, log on to www.LEGOLAND.com.

Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts? This Map Shows Where Americans Get Their Coffee Fix

Think Starbucks has a stranglehold on the American coffee market?

You must not be from the Northeast.

When it comes to getting a cup of joe, Starbucks is the place to go for many — some 46 million Americans got a Starbucks gift card for Christmas — but its rival Dunkin’ Donuts is putting up a solid fight.

As the map below shows, Dunkin’ Donuts shops actually outnumber Starbucks locations in the caffeine-fueled Megalopolis stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C.

Created by Reddit user cingraham using POI Factory data, the map shows how many coffee shops are in a region — the bigger the hex, the more stores — and whether Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts has more locations in that region.

On Reddit, commenters were quick to defend their favorite coffee place — or attack the competition.

“I hate Starbucks, it tastes like burnt poop,” one commenter quipped.

“How is Dunkin’ Donuts even competing?” a pro-Starbucks commenter asked, returning fire. “Their coffee is not even close.”

A few commenters noted the benefits of healthy competition.

“Dunkin and Starbucks have set themselves up in working class and high income areas, respectively, and in some areas such as downtown [Chicago] it’s a fierce battle,” one commenter wrote. “We as the consumers are winning in the end.”

Of course, even in the Northeast Starbucks is still a gigantic player.

Crain’s New York Business reported that Starbucks rules Manhattan, with 205 locations on the island, while Dunkin’ Donuts’ owns the Big Apple as a whole with 536 NYC locations.

The fight stretches across the nation.

As Starbucks tries to become the “Willy Wonka of coffee” with its new, fancier store options, Dunkin’ Donuts is unleashing a ground-level assault, opening new stores across the U.S.

Dunkin’ Donuts announced Monday that it had opened 405 new restaurants in 2014, in such new territory as California, Nevada and Colorado — the Seattle-based Starbucks’ heartland.

Dunkin’ Donuts plans to open as many as 440 new stores in 2015, and the company’s long-term goal is 17,000 U.S. locations.

For the moment, Starbucks has a decided numerical advantage.

The number of Starbucks locations nationwide has held steady at around 12,000 for the past few years, while Dunkin’ Donuts reports having roughly 7,000 stores nationwide.

Polk County’s Record Year for Tourism

Pinellas and Hillsborough counties weren’t the only ones that enjoyed record years for tourism in fiscal 2014.

Polk set a new high water mark for bed tax collections with $7.7 million, a 12 percent increase over the prior year.

Like its more populous western neighbors, Polk continued a five-year trend in tourist tax growth going back to 2010. Its previous record was $7.3 million, set in ’08.

Pinellas bed tax revenue for the most recent fiscal year was $33.1 million. Hillsborough notched $23.7 million.

A statement issued by Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing, the area’s convention and visitors bureau, said the county performed well in an array of hotel metrics such as average daily rate, RevPAR (revenue per available room) and occupancy rate.

Polk lacks the beaches of Pinellas or Tampa’s allure for conventions. So why the boost? The agency attributed its strong year to a number of factors, among them:

  • The continued success of three-year-old Legoland Florida in Winter Haven.
  • Worldwide interest amid the golf community in Streamsong Resort, which opened in early 2014.
  • An extremely harsh winter up north.
  • The development of marketing platforms aimed at Latin America and the efficient targeting of key domestic and in-state visitor markets.

The CVB also cited the county’s ability to diversify the type of youth and collegiate sports events it hosted as a major contributor.

Absurd Florida: You Must Be Connected to Big Electric or We’ll Kick You Out of Your Home!

Robin Speronis lives off the grid in Florida, completely independent of the city’s water and electric system. A few weeks ago, officials ruled her off-grid home illegal. Officials cited the International Property Maintenance Code, which mandates that homes be connected to an electricity grid and a running water source.

That’s like saying our dependency on corporations isn’t even a choice. The choice to live without most utilities has been ongoing for Robin, the self-sufficient woman has lived for more than a year and a half using solar energy, a propane camping stove and rain water.

In the end, she was found not guilty of not having a proper sewer or electrical system; but was guilty of not being hooked up to an approved water supply.

Speronis is still being hassled by the municipality of Cape Coral for not having a connection to city water, nor proper sewage. That. regardless of the fact the city capped her sewers themselves.

Is Off-Grid Really Illegal?

In essence yes. To live off the grid means to not have to hook up to any corporate or municipal utilities. If a municipality makes it illegal to disconnect from any given utility, they are in essence making off grid living illegal.

“It means living independently, mainly living independently of the utility companies. Providing your own power. It does not mean living in the stone age, it’s not about bush craft. It’s about generating your own power, your own water, dealing with your own waste. Probably as part of a community, not living on your own like a hermit. It’s also about being more self-reliant and being less dependent on the system. Perhaps realizing that the system isn’t really protecting us anymore and we have to look after ourselves.” – George Noory

Exploring Our Potential Beyond The Grid

Our potential as a human race is quite extraordinary, we just don’t realize it. Sustainable living is not about giving up a certain lifestyle. We can still have all the modern amenities, design and beyond. We simply need to transition from one way of seeing housing to another.

One potential issue with off the grid living is that corporations will lose their ability to control others with their utility. This could be the type of political and corporate agreements that give people like Speronis issues to begin with.

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozled has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” – Carl Sagan

Moving Away From Dependence

The human race does not need to be dependent on these corporations for basic needs in the manner we have now. While we continue to feed this dependency, the planet continues to suffer. In order to move forward, we must start cooperating with each other, and realize just how much potential we have to create something we can take into our own hands and do sustainably. We can’t wait for these corporations to come up with solutions as they will likely be very profit oriented.

Facial Hair Is Back in Style in Business Settings

A century or so after the handlebar mustache made boardrooms look like a convention of Kaiser Wilhelm II impersonators, facial hair has found its way back to the professional setting.

As a new generation of men rises into positions of power in the workplace — helping to relax standards for what constitutes executive style — beards and even Hercule Poirot-esque waxed mustaches are becoming more common in the office.

The secret to pulling off this look, according to barbers and style consultants for businessmen, is striking the right balance of hair and common sense. That means understanding one’s industry and taking into account one’s age, general appearance — and physical limitations.

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“Facial hair can look great, but it has to suit the right person,” said Brent Pankhurst, owner of the Pankhurst salon in London’s Mayfair neighborhood. (It offers haircuts in the style of Steve McQueen, for the tousled tough-guy effect, and Montgomery Clift, for the more classically handsome.) And there’s a facial hair approach à la Michael Fassbender (stubble) or Ryan Gosling (medium length).

“A good barber takes into consideration how a guy looks when he walks through the door, what’s he interested in, and then makes him look as good as he can and gives him something he can manage,” Mr. Pankhurst said during an interview in his über-masculine salon.

In the booming industry of upscale men’s grooming, facial hair is like any other element of executive style. From a simple evaluation in a barber’s chair — Mr. Pankhurst’s chairs are designed by Bentley, with the same leather and cross-stitching as the company’s car seats — to a session with a consultant who dresses professionals and advises on facial hair, fingernail length, what-have-you, the aim is to find what works best for the individual in an environment where individualism may not always be celebrated.

“For example, the fisherman’s beard is a trend, but it will go out of fashion,” Mr. Pankhurst said, referring to the moppy, bunchy beards that can grow inches below the chin. “People will look back on photographs in 10 years and ask, ‘What the hell was I thinking?”’ he said. “Anything longer than a medium-length beard is a no-no for the boardroom.”

Of course, the workplace and the company’s style help determine what’s acceptable. For Joseph Rosenfeld, a personal brand and style strategist in San Jose, Calif., the hipster look of the Silicon Valley executive, combined with the nerd factor, has changed the approach to facial hair in the last decade or so, as the goatee went from an innovation to a trend to almost a cliché.

“When you’re dealing with a base of engineers who create all the different products and solutions in this area, it’s pretty acceptable for guys to wear facial hair in all different configurations,” Mr. Rosenfeld, 45, said in a phone interview. “But you have to be very careful because of the messages that could be conveyed by a beard that looks incomplete or not fully grown. It can be incongruous with a guy who gets the job done.”

Mr. Rosenfeld also sees facial hair as more than just a fashion statement or even something beyond an expression of masculinity or sexuality — especially in the workplace. It can help some workers feel more comfortable.

“Facial hair might give someone a cover if he’s more introverted, or he can grow a beard to put on a better face if, for example, he has pockmarks,” he said. “It’s no different than a woman putting on makeup.”

But especially in the start-up and tech world, many people have become executives at a young age — and with it attendant wealth and self-importance, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

“There’s a bit of ego at that level that they want to do what they want to do,” Mr. Rosenfeld said, citing Mark Zuckerberg’s fondness for wearing hoodies to Facebook’s board meetings and corporate events.

A prototype of the tech wunderkind is Lawrence J. Ellison, who founded the software company Oracle in 1977 and now, at age 70, is one of the world’s richest people. He has long sported some sort of beard-mustache combination.

“Larry Ellison of Oracle has facial hair, but it can look at little rough, like sandpaper on him, and he could be perceived as being abrasive to some,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “I’m concerned about that kind of thing when I work with my clients.”

Mr. Ellison, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

As with any business, discovering what works best for the client involves a continuous quest. At the Ottoman Crew in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London, the 18-year-old owner, Hasan Yaman, manages a group of young barbers. Many display their own styles of facial hair, in a sort of self-experimentation as they cater to ever-changing customer whims.

“About six or seven years ago most young guys wanted a slim jawline cut and, over the lips, something more detailed and more sharp,” Mr. Yaman said. “Now they’re going for a more natural look.” But, he cautions, “when it’s too natural, it’s a bit scruffy and out of hand.”

His old-style Turkish barbershop, complete with lavish gold-trimmed mirrors and sparkling chandeliers above rust-colored leather chairs, is at once cozy and spiffy. The barbers wear red-trimmed vests and serve Turkish tea. Mr. Yaman said it’s all part of the mood for the repeat customer, many of whom come in every couple of weeks for a tune-up, especially executives who want to maintain a consistent and clean look.

“With hair, you can really fix it up, but a beard is more stubborn, so it takes a bit of time and effort. When you comb it down, you still get bits sticking out,” he said. “Mustaches are becoming more trendy now, and I’m even seeing guys curling them up.”

The amount of care and use of “product” previously restricted to hair grooming is now often devoted to facial preening, Mr. Yaman said. “They’re twisting their mustaches and rubbing their beards instead of running their hands through their hair.”

Too fussy, though, is too much, according to Mr. Pankhurst, the Mayfair barber. “The most important thing is not to have hard, clean lines,” he said. “You should always leave it as natural as possible.”

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That is the aim of one of the Pankhurst patrons, Daniel Millar. Mr. Millar, 37, owns a Dubai-based commodities trading firm, Ferrocadia, but has his barbering done back in his native London whenever possible.

“In Dubai, with the locals you see a lot of beard-staches and lots of laser hair removal so that they have these perfect lines on their beards,” Mr. Millar said. “I always just leave a bit of stubble. I don’t like the long-bearded look. I don’t think that fits with board meetings.”

Another Pankhurst regular is Clive Darby, 48, a fashion and luxury consultant, who owns CD Consultancy in London.

“I dip in and out of going heavy on the beard, and I think the perception of facial hair today has changed so dramatically,” Mr. Darby said during a recent interview over drinks in the guyishly swanky Map Room at Claridge’s Hotel. “Men have all those metrosexual things and, just like for the ladies, these become security blankets. You like to put them on and you like to feel good and smell good. Men actually sit around a table and say, ‘By the way, you’re hair is looking great’ or ‘I really like your beard.’

“That would have never happened in my father’s era.”

Starbucks launching mobile ordering, will add beer, wine and snacks

Starbucks Corp, aiming to give cooling U.S. traffic a jolt, on Thursday announced it will add beer, wine, and evening snacks to thousands of domestic cafes, widen lunch offerings and roll out mobile ordering.

Such efforts are part of the world’s biggest coffee chain’s plan to broaden its appeal as a destination with consumers who are spending more time shopping online rather than in malls and Main Street stores.

The company, which is hosting its biennial investor meeting in Seattle, said it would lay out its five-year plans to double U.S. food revenue to over $4 billion by expanding food choices, particularly during lunch hours.

Starbucks plans to reap about $1 billion in new sales from the addition of evening menus, including beer, wine and food, at nearly 3,000 of its 11,900 cafes in the United States.

The company also will detail the launch of a new mobile ordering and payment system that it says will make getting a coffee fix even more convenient. That same technology will underpin deliveries in select U.S. markets next year.

Additionally, in coming months, it will debut express stores, coffee trucks and upscale “reserve” shops, which will offer premium specialized coffee sourced from small farms.

Starbucks’ U.S.-dominated Americas unit had a traffic gain of 1 percent in the latest quarter, versus the 5 percent jump in the year-earlier period. An increase in sales of food, such as croissants and breakfast sandwiches, has helped offset slowing traffic in the last three quarters.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz in January warned that a “seismic” shift to online shopping was taking a bite out of traffic to U.S. brick-and-mortar stores.

That, executives said, contributed to a moderate slowdown in traffic in December 2013.

Traffic softened earlier this year than last and the weakness is expected to continue through the holiday season, said Steven Barr, who leads PwC’s U.S. retail and consumer practice.

The chain, which has 21,000 shops worldwide serving 70 million customers weekly, forecast fiscal 2019 revenue of nearly $30 billion, up from $16 billion in the fiscal 2014 ended Sept. 28.

Plans for the Asia-Pacific region include doubling its cafes in China to over 3,000 by 2019.

Snapchat & Square Team Up to Launch Snapcash

Snapchat and Square have found a way to send money to your friends at the touch of a button. The new feature is called Snapcash and it can change how millennial users transfer money. It’s easy – after entering your banking info into the app, users can wire money from their accounts to their friends instantly. Snapchat made the official announcement via a blog post:

We set out to make payments faster and more fun, but we also know that security is essential when you’re dealing with money. Square has a ton of experience in this area and our teams have been hard at work to make Snapcash a great experience for everyone.

For now, Snapcash is only available to users in the United States who have a debit card and are 18 years of age or older.

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