Internet Streaming: What is it and How Does it Work?

Smart TV displaying streaming service apps
Manuel Esteban/Shutterstock 

We’ve been streaming content from the internet for a long time, and it’s gotten to the point that the internet is synonymous with services like Netflix and Youtube. But what exactly is streaming, and how does it work?

Streaming Happens Bit by Bit

When you want to watch a video or play a song on your computer, you need to download it first. There’s no way around that. Knowing this, you may look at Netflix or Spotify and ask “how did we figure out how to make videos and music download instantaneously?” Well, that’s just the thing. When you stream media, it isn’t downloading to your computer instantaneously; it’s downloading piece by piece in real-time.

The word “streaming” is self-descriptive. Information arrives at your computer in a continuous, steady stream of information. If downloading movies is akin to buying bottled water, streaming movies is like using a faucet to fill an empty bottle.

You could compare streaming a movie to watching a VHS tape. When you play a VHS tape, every second of video and audio is scanned piece by piece. This happens as you’re watching in real-time, which means that any interruptions will suddenly pause or end your movie watching experience.

When you stream a movie or a song, your computer downloads and decodes itty-bitty pieces of a media file in real-time. If you have an unusually fast internet connection, then the file may be fully downloaded before you’re finished watching or listening to it, which is why a stream will sometimes go on for a while even if the internet cuts out. That being said, anything that you stream doesn’t go into your computer’s permanent storage (although some services, like Spotify, will put some small cache files on your device to make future playbacks faster).

Businesses Work Hard to Make Streaming Fast

Streaming video and audio from the internet isn’t new; it just feels new because it’s finally convenient. Watching a video or playing a song from a website happened bit by bit used to be an annoying and time-consuming affair. The stream would constantly stop and start, and you could spend minutes just waiting for media to buffer (and sometimes, it wouldn’t buffer at all).

But the way that streaming works has mostly stayed the same. Files download bit by bit as you’re watching or listening to them. It’s the infrastructure that’s changed, and businesses like Youtube and Netflix have worked hard (and spent a lot of money) building that infrastructure.

abstract filing cabinets bulging with files

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Gamer Deal: Buy a Nintendo Switch, Get a $35 eShop Credit

Have you been holding off on that Nintendo Switch for months? Well, Nintendo isn’t about to reduce the price of the Switch, but the company is offering a $35 eShop credit with new console purchases on Amazon.

Nintendo isn’t known for slapping big discounts on games or consoles. The company refuses to sell a Switch for less than $300, and first-party games seem to be perpetually stuck at the $60 mark. But that’s what makes this $35 eShop credit so sweet.

When you buy a new game console, you have to grab some new games (otherwise, there’s no point). A free $35 eShop credit is, essentially, a fat discount on a copy of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey.

Now, some of you keen gamers may be thinking about the Nintendo Switch bundles, don’t those come with a free game? Well, those bundles usually cost more than $360, and some of them have become collectors items that go for more than $400. The $35 eShop credit is actually a much better deal.

Are IR Scanners in Phones Bad for Your Eyes?

a woman's face being scanned by an iPhone
Maxim P/Shutterstock

New Apple and Samsung phones use infrared light to verify your identity. It’s like a hands-free version of the fingerprint scanner. But can the infrared lights used for Face ID and Iris Scanner hurt your eyes?

It’s a fair question. People don’t know much about infrared light, and it’s hard to find information that explains the potential risks of infrared in layman’s terms. Not to mention, Samsung’s safety disclaimer for the Iris Scanner makes infrared sound kind of scary. But what is infrared, and should we be worried about it?

What is Infrared?

Infrared (IR) is a form of invisible radiation, and it occupies the lower end of the electromagnetic spectrum. Like visible light, microwaves, and radio waves, IR is a form of non-ionizing radiation. It doesn’t strip molecules of their electrons, and it doesn’t cause cancer.

It’s important to know that IR radiation can come from a lot of places. In some ways, you could consider IR a natural byproduct of heat production. Your toaster emits IR light, the sun emits IR light, and campfires emit IR light. Interestingly enough, 95% of the energy produced by fluorescent bulbs is translated into IR. Even your fleshy, disgusting body emits IR light, and that’s how the heat-tracking cameras in spy movies work.

graph of the electromagnetic spectrum. far infrared is close to microwaves, and near infrared is close to visible light

The IR-LED that’s built into your phone is classified as near IR (700–900 nm). It straddles the line between the visible light spectrum and the IR spectrum. Near IR is very similar to visible light, it’s just a lot more difficult for you to see.

The radiation from both visible light and near IR light can heat objects, depending on light intensity and exposure time. Prolonged exposure to high-intensity IR and visible light (staring at the sun or a bright lightbulb) can cause your photoreceptors to bleach and your lens to develop cataracts. To experience vision loss with a low intensity visible or IR light, you would need to keep your eyes open within a millimeter of the light source for almost 20 minutes. This could happen with a light bulb or an IR-LED.

The main concern with near IR is simply the concentration of your exposure. With visible light, it’s easy to tell when you’re being exposed to a blinding amount, and your reflexes cause you to squint or look away. But your eyes aren’t built to see IR light, so it’s impossible to tell when you’re being exposed to a dangerous amount. You know how you’re not supposed to stare at an eclipse, even though it doesn’t seem that bright? It’s kind of like that.

Far IR radiation (25 – 350 µm) is invisible, and it isn’t used in your phone. Far IR radiation overlaps with microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum, and like microwaves, far IR radiation causes water molecules to heat up. As you can imagine, prolonged exposure to far IR radiation can cause burns to the eyes and skin, but we don’t need to worry about that, because your phone only uses near IR radiation.

IR Scanning is Very Simple

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The Best Toothbrushes for Your Dog’s Dirty Teeth

Does your dog’s breath smell like a public bathroom? It may be time to hunker down and invest in some doggy toothbrushes.

Oral hygiene is just as important for dogs as it is for humans. While dogs don’t eat nearly as much processed sugar and coffee as we do, they can still develop gum disease, plaque buildup, and tooth decay. Your dog’s breath may be more than a gross inconvenience—it could be a sign of a dirty, unhealthy mouth.

RELATED: The Best Dog Toothpastes to Fix Your Dog’s Bad Breath

Luckily, brushing your dog’s teeth isn’t too difficult. You just need a good dog-friendly toothpaste, a good toothbrush, and a touch of self-confidence. But every dog has different needs (and fears), so you can’t just shove the first toothbrush that you come across into your dog’s stinky mouth. You’ll want to consider your dog’s current oral health (unhealthy gums can become sensitive), and how obedient your dog is when a non-food item ends up in its mouth.

Lucky for you, we’ve taken the time to find the best doggy toothbrushes, for every mutt’s mouth.

Pet Republique 6 Handled Toothbrushes ($8)

Nothing beats the traditional toothbrush. It’s cheap, easy to use, and very effective. If your dog is happy to practice some oral hygiene, then you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you can stick with the tried-and-true.

Pet Republique sells a set of 6 dog toothbrushes for just $8. These toothbrushes are double-sided, with a large brush on one end and a smaller brush on the other. They’re great for reaching far back into your dog’s mouth, and they should last you for a few months.

FOMATE Gentle Silicone Brush Kit ($10)

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Google Glass Isn’t Dead; It’s the Future of Industry

Google Glass

Google Glass lived a short, sad life. And when you look back, it feels like a bit of a dream. But the dream isn’t over yet, because Glass has found itself an industrial career.

Why Glass Failed as a Consumer Device

man wearing Google Glass
Joe Seer/Shutterstock

There was a lot of hype around Google Glass when it was announced in 2012. It was featured in TIME magazine, endorsed by celebrities, and touted as the future of smart devices. But the smart eyewear was ridiculed by the media, and it became a big joke in the public eye. Google made some awkward attempts to keep the public interested in Glass (they put Google Glass in the shower, and they interrupted a Google+ keynote to push Glass wearers out of an airplane), but the Glass never picked up steam, and its public life ended in 2015.

Why did it fail? For one, nobody knew what Glass was supposed to do. Google itself couldn’t seem to find any uses for the product. Instead of developing life-changing software to show off the Glass’ capabilities, they released some awkward videos that made the Glass seem like a dorky extension of your cellphone. Customers that were part of the “Explorer” program (anyone that bought the device) were encouraged to build software on their own, a prospect that would be more exciting if the device cost less than $1500.

But most of the Glass’ woes were related to privacy and safety issues. The Glass was equipped with a camera, and people were understandably afraid of a future where anybody can walk around with a camera on their face. There was no way to tell when somebody was using their Glass to record video or take photos, so people assumed that Glass users were recording everything. A lot of states banned people from wearing the Glass while driving, because it’s an obvious visual distraction, and a lot of businesses (movie theaters, especially) banned the device because of its camera.

This isn’t to say that Glass is a bad piece of hardware; it just wasn’t ready to be thrown into the consumer market. If anything, the product was still in a beta mode. It had a lot of obvious kinks that Google needed to work out. The device’s safety and privacy issues were also legitimate and predictable, and Google should’ve taken the time to consider them before giving the product so much publicity.

How Glass Quietly Joined The Workforce

man stocking warehouse shelves and wearing Google Glass

While Glass was publicly floundering, Google was quietly testing it in the world of industry. Google’s “build your own apps” approach didn’t appeal to many consumers, but it sounded like a good deal to some corporations. Early adopters, like Boeing, could afford to drop thousands of dollars on smart glasses, and they had the resources to develop some useful software.

When Google noticed that Boeing and other corporations were much more interested in Glass than your average consumer, they leaned into it. After the Glass Explorer program came to a close in 2015, Google began work on an “Enterprise” edition of the device—a version that’s built specifically for industrial use, yet addresses most of the problems that people had with the Glass.

Glass Enterprise is a lighter, more comfortable pair of glasses than the Explorer edition. It has a battery life that exceeds eight hours (perfect for holiday shifts at a warehouse), and it’s equipped with an LED that tells others when you’re taking photos or recording video. The Glass Enterprise hardware is also a lot more flexible than the Explorer edition. People can remove the Enterprise from its standard glasses frame and attach it to safety glasses or the inside of a helmet.

You could theoretically use the Glass Enterprise while wearing sunglasses, safety glasses, or even a pair of goggles.

Glass Enterprise Cuts Costs and Increases Safety

man using drill and wearing Google Glass

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