16 Amazing Places to Visit Via Google Street View

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iStock

When Google Maps first rolled out the Street View feature in 2007, its collection of images was restricted to destinations within the United States, and mostly urban ones. Since Street View went international in 2008, its portfolio has expanded to include digital postcards of the suburbs, museums, tourist attractions, and natural landmarks in 48 regions and counting. Now anyone with an Internet connection is just a few clicks away from a panoramic view of their dream vacation.

1. Adélie Penguin Rookery – Cape Royds, Antarctica 

Leave the double-layered down parka behind; you won’t need it for this quick jaunt to the South Pole, which is much sunnier than you’d expect. Just off the water, this particular Street View doesn’t have much in the way of stoplights, but it does have plenty of penguins. Who doesn’t love penguins?

2. Céide Fields – County Mayo, Ireland

For a coast of a different color, here’s a quietly picturesque view of Ireland’s Céide Fields. The fields comprise an archeological site whose windblown grasses hide a secret from the Stone Age: homes, tombs, and other complex man-made structures dating from nearly 6000 years ago. The visitor centre (pictured) leads tours across the blanket bog covering the ancient civilization’s structures, for which it advises guests to wear sturdy shoes.

3. Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona, United States

A screenshot can’t quite capture the breathtaking depths of the Grand Canyon, but the 360-degree digital view from the Bright Angel Trail is a considerable step up from a gift shop postcard. For those prone to vertigo, it’s also a much safer way to peer up and down thousands of feet of rock face.

4. The Colosseum – Rome, Italy

Between gladiator battles to the death and mock sea battles with scaled-down naval vessels, the ancient Romans knew how to put on a spectacle. The Colosseum, custom-built for such purposes, is similarly scaled down here to fit inside a computer screen.

5. Pena National Palace – Sintra, Portugal

The palace on the hill is one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders, and a colorful example of 19th century Romantic architecture. Pictured are the Arches Yard, the bright red brick clock tower, and the chapel. Not visible here are the 200 hectares of parkland that surround the palace, containing exotic varieties of trees from as far as New Zealand and Japan. Some careful zooming will reveal an impressive view of the city in the distance.

6. Stonehenge – Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Stonehenge, the great prehistoric mystery, has been located squarely in the middle of an English field since about 3100 B.C.—not that there was such a concept as England then. Speculation about its purpose have included suggestions that it functioned as a burial site, a religious space, an astronomical observatory, or something else entirely, but no one is really quite sure about why it’s there. Although the Google view of the site is unusually blurry, the monument might best be viewed from afar as an out-of-focus whole, rather than in closer details as just a confusing bunch of rocks.

7. Palace of Versailles – Versailles, France 

Google’s cameras aren’t just limited to the great outdoors, as this interior shot of the Palace of Versailles proves. Though at the time, Louis XIV’s opulent redecoration scheme was a slap in the face to his starving French subjects, the grand artistry of such rooms as the Hall of Mirrors survives to dazzle visitors both in person and online.

8. The White House – Washington, D.C., United States

Forget submitting an official request to your designated member of Congress and providing government-issued ID for a tour of the White House. Instead, meander along the virtual path at your own pace, taking in the same sights included on the public walking tour, including paintings of past presidents and plenty of bald eagle-embellished furniture. It’s easier than going through security clearances anyway.

9. Heron Island – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

No need to hold your breath for this one (unless you’re using underwater Wi-Fi). Google’s cameras have done the deep-sea diving so you don’t have to. Yes, that’s a real turtle. 

10. Wilson Island – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The view from above the water is just as nice as from below.

11. Diagon Alley – Leavesden, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

You can visit the Warner Bros. Studio set used to film the back-to-school shopping scenes of the Harry Potter film franchise. Though there’s no option to peek in through the windows of such stores as Ollivanders and Quality Quidditch Supplies, a virtual stroll through the magical business district offers plenty of detail for fans to pore over, from the Puking Pastilles display in the doorway of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes to copies of The Daily Prophet announcing Lucius Malfoy’s arrest. Keep an eye out for a suspicious masked figure lurking in the shadows… 

12. Crystal Mountain – Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington, United States 

Crystal Mountain is a popular ski destination for obvious reasons. Click around, pan up and down, check all 360 degrees of the view: all you’ll see is snow for days.

13. Times Square – New York City, United States

Sure, the lights and yellow cabs and tourists littering the sidewalks are all there, but without the auditory overload and ever-present danger of being run over while crossing the street, is it really Times Square?

14. Lago Bianco – Bernina-Abula, Switzerland

The white snow-capped mountains in the distance are, of course, the Swiss Alps, with Lago Bianco (“White Lake”) in the foreground. These shots were captured by a camera attached to a train car traveling down the Rhaetian Railway tracks, so this particular composition isn’t one likely to be found on the average mountain hike. 

15. Kohala Coast – Hawaii, United States

Hello, perfect beach vacation!

16. Everest Base Camp – Mount Everest, Nepal 

For the vast majority of us, this is the closest we’ll ever get to climbing Everest.

All images are courtesy of Google Maps.

What's the Difference Between a Router and a Modem?

iStock.com/Grassetto
iStock.com/Grassetto

Despite using it every day, the internet is still a mystery to many of its users. If asked to explain how your home internet connection works, you may start with your router and modem. Both devices are essential to setting up a wireless network, but they serve distinct functions. Here are the major differences between the two pieces of hardware that make home internet run.

What is a Modem?

Cable modem.
iStock.com/sambrogio

The modem is your home's gateway to the World Wide Web. It's often a skinny box with a row of LED icons on the front that tell you if it's on and connected to the internet. The name is short for modulator-demodulator—a phrase left over from the days of dial-up when modems worked by modulating telephone signals into frequencies that could send digital information.

Today, most modems use broadband connections like cable or satellite to transmit data. There are different types of modems built to fit different connections. If your internet service provider (ISP) uses cable or fiber internet, you'll need to plug a cable into the back of your modem, and if you still use a digital subscriber line (DSL), you'll have to plug in a phone line.

What is a Router?

Internet router.
iStock.com/farakos

You can connect to the internet with just a modem as long as you don't mind plugging your device directly into the Ethernet port. But if you want to provide internet to all the laptops, desktops, and smartphones in your home at the same time, you'll need a router.

Routers usually lie flat and have antennas sticking out of them. The router hooks up to your modem via an Ethernet cable and acts as a conduit between the direct internet and your home network. After connecting your devices, the router "routes" your modem's networking traffic their way, either through Ethernet wires or wirelessly through Wi-Fi (that's what the antennas are for). The router also works in the other direction by routing data sent from your computer back to the web.

Why Knowing the Difference Matters

When they've been sitting in the same spot in your home for years, it's easy to think of your router and modem as basically the same thing. But it's worth knowing the difference—especially if you care about improving your internet connection. Now that you know the router is what directs Wi-Fi signals, you can boost your home network by placing it in a central location away from electronic appliances. And as long as it doesn't interfere with the router, feel free to hide your modem behind a houseplant.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Hackers Used Facebook Quizzes to Steal Data from 60,000 Users

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iStock.com/bombuscreative

It’s been a tumultuous few months for Facebook. A data breach in fall 2018 exposed information about 30 million of its users to hackers. Only a few months later, the company was also criticized for paying individuals to voluntarily install an app that collected information about their smartphone habits. Now, it’s dealing with concerns that some of the quizzes available on the platform have been used to collect data from unsuspecting users.

According to CNN, the scheme is detailed in a lawsuit Facebook filed in California last week against developers Andrey Gorbachov and Gleb Sluchevsky. The defendants, who are based in Kiev, Ukraine, allegedly created quizzes like, “Do you have royal blood?” or “What does your eye color say about you?” as a way to access private user data. When Facebook users interacted with these tests, they were prompted to install browser extensions that allowed the alleged hackers to pose as those users, collecting information as well as taking control of their browsers. The improperly obtained information consisted of names, ages, and friend lists, which hackers then used for targeted advertising that they injected into users' feeds.

It’s possible the breach also resulted in the publication of 81,000 private messages in 2018, which was initially blamed on unspecified malware browser extensions that have not yet been publicly identified. Facebook has yet to confirm the two incidents are related, however.

Facebook said that the primary targets of the operation were Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking users, with 60,000 browsers compromised.

This isn't the only time Facebook quizzes have been tied to data breaches. Last year’s Cambridge Analytica controversy revealed that the firm used quizzes and questionnaires on Facebook to surreptitiously compile data on millions of users.

So what should you do about it? Online security experts caution against third-party apps that are accessed through Facebook. If you’re concerned about utilities that you installed without much thought, you can see a list by clicking on Settings, then the Apps link on the left menu. If you don’t recognize an app, it’s best to delete it.

[h/t CNN]

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