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June 04 2020

18:00

How to Wi-Fi Unlock Your Android Phone With Smart Lock

wifi-unlock

Because our phones have so much personal information, most people are horrified at the thought of someone fiddling with their phone. Even worse is what could happen if you lose your smartphone completely.

Thankfully, modern devices come with multiple security options. Protecting your device while out and about is easy. But what about when you’re safely at home? Manually unlocking your phone each time you want to use it is a pain.

Android Smart Lock lets you keep your phone unlocked at all times, under certain circumstances. But can you keep your phone unlocked when connected to your home Wi-Fi network? Let’s take a look.

What Is Android Smart Lock?

Android Smart Lock first hit devices with Android 5.0 Lollipop. The Smart Lock feature allows you to specify certain circumstances where the device’s lock screen security will remain off.

You can enable and configure these options by heading to Settings > Security > Smart Lock (this may differ slightly depending on your device). Enter your PIN, then you can select the Smart Lock option you want.

It’s possible to use multiple Smart Lock methods in conjunction, too. Here’s how they work.

On-Body Detection

With this option, after unlocking it once, your Android device will remain unlocked as long as it detects motion, such as you holding or carrying the device. Your phone will lock automatically again when put down.

On-body detection poses some security issues. The lock mechanism doesn’t always activate immediately after you put the device down. Furthermore, it can sometimes take longer if you are in a car, train, bus, or other forms of transportation.

Trusted Places

Use this option and your Android device will remain unlocked while in the vicinity of a specific location. Once you enable Trusted Places, your device will detect its location using GPS. If the signal shows you are within the range of a specified location, it will unlock.

There are three Trusted Places modes:

  • High Accuracy: Uses your phone’s GPS, Wi-Fi connection, provider network, and more to maintain an accurate location.
  • Battery Saving: Trusted Places will use less power-intensive location tracking tools, such as your Wi-Fi connection or mobile network.
  • Device Only: Uses only GPS to update the location of your device.

Trusted Places is a handy unlocking tool. Like the other options, though, it has limitations. For example, if you live in an apartment building, Trusted Places finds it extremely difficult to differentiate between your apartment and your neighbors’ residences. Since the GPS location is almost the same and the range for the unlocking can cover multiple apartments, your device might stay unlocked outside your home.

Although Trusted Places can take your Wi-Fi connection into account, you cannot tell your phone to stay unlocked when it connects to a certain network. However, there are workarounds for this that allow you to unlock your phone when connected to a Wi-Fi network. We’ll cover more on these in a moment.

Trusted Devices

You can keep your Android device unlocked if it has a connection to a separate trusted device. For example, you could set your smartwatch, in-car Bluetooth speakers, or fitness tracker as a trusted device. Then, while the two devices share a connection, the Android phone will remain unlocked.

Trusted Devices uses a Bluetooth connection to check Smart Lock status. If the Bluetooth connection between your devices drops for any reason, Smart Lock will disable, and your device will lock.

Voice Match

On certain Android devices, if you use Google Assistant, you can use the Voice Match option to keep your Android phone unlocked. Smart Lock recognizes the tone and inflections of your voice to create a unique unlocking tool.

If you switch on Voice Match, “OK Google” becomes the unlock tool. Check out our guide on how to use Google Assistant to lock and unlock your phone, plus the handy video walkthrough. Unfortunately, Google removed this option in Android 8 Oreo and above, but it still works on older devices.

How to Unlock Your Phone When Connected to Wi-Fi

One glaring Android Smart Lock omission is the option to keep your device unlocked when you connect to a specific Wi-Fi network. You can work around this issue with the Automate app; here’s how to keep your Android device unlocked when connected to Wi-Fi.

Automate is a user-friendly Android automation app. You can it for our intended purpose of staying unlocked on Wi-Fi. First, download the Automate app.

Now, open Automate. Given the nature of the service (it automates everything on your device), you must accept the permissions.

Select More Flows from the options, then search for disable screen lock on home wifi. The version you want is the creation of user p s, as you can see in the below image. Select Download, then head back to the Automate homepage.

Next, select the Disable screen lock on home wifi flow from the list, tap the blue pen icon in the bottom-right, then hit the circuits icon just above. This opens the Automate flow edit screen.

Tap the third box on the left, When Wi-Fi connected. Input the Wi-Fi network’s SSID in the box. Alternatively, select Pick Network, then select the Wi-Fi network from the list.

Now, you can Start the Automate flow, and your device will remain unlocked while connected to the Wi-Fi network you specified.

If there’s another Wi-Fi network you want to stay unlocked on, you can duplicate the Automate flow by tapping the three-dot menu and selecting Duplicate. Then in the duplicated flow, switch out the Wi-Fi network SSID for another one.

Is Smart Lock Secure?

Android’s Smart Lock is a handy tool in the eternal battle between security and convenience. Using Smart Lock is a security compromise, but is it one worth making? That depends on the situation.

When you’re at home, why not keep your device unlocked? Finding your phone suddenly locked is infuriating at times. Think about if you’re cooking from a recipe or following a DIY tutorial. You glance away for a moment, only to find you need to unlock your device at a critical moment.

The key is finding the correct Smart Lock use that suits you. Unlocking your device when you connect to your home Wi-Fi is a great option for most people.

Whatever you do choose, make sure you use some form of security on your Android device. Here are some of the best Android anti-theft apps to get you started.

You Can Unlock Your Device Automatically

Now that you know how to unlock your device automatically when you join a Wi-Fi connection, you can consider automating other tasks on Android. Automate is a great free app with countless community-made automation flows.

That said, Automate isn’t the only Android task automation tool. Tasker is a paid automation app that is much more powerful than Automate. Check out these Tasker tricks you can use to automate more on your Android phone.

Read the full article: How to Wi-Fi Unlock Your Android Phone With Smart Lock

17:00

Binge-Watching vs. Binge-Racing: What It Is and Why You Should Try It

binge-racing-netflix

Everyone knows about binge-watching, which is where you watch lots of episodes of a TV show in a row without a break. These days, mainly thanks to streaming, binge-watching is a mainstream activity. Because binge-watching lets you finish a show before any spoilers hit the internet.

However, have you heard of binge-racing? Which is one step up from binge-watching. Binge-racing is a competition to complete a TV show within a certain amount of time. And in this article we explain exactly what binge-racing is and what the pros and cons of binge-racing are…

What Is Binge-Racing?

Binge-watching is when you watch lots of episodes of the same TV show back-to-back. It’s long been a concept, but was really popularized with the boom of streaming services such as Netflix.

However, for television fans, binge-watching just isn’t enough any more. Now, there’s the next level, and it’s called binge-racing.

what is binge-racing?

Binge-racing is where fans commit to finish shows within 24 hours of their release.

You probably think that sounds mad. How can you possibly finish an entire TV show in 24 hours? The truth is, you can’t, unless it’s a new show with not many episodes. However, what you can do is speed through one season of a show as soon as it gets released on Netflix in your region. That’s what binge-racing is all about.

When Did Binge-Racing Begin?

Netflix coined the term in 2017. In a press release at the time, Brian Wright, Vice President of Original Series, said:

“There’s a unique satisfaction that comes from being the first to finish a story—whether it’s the final page of a book or the last, climactic moments of your favorite TV show. Netflix allows you to watch in a way you never could before, and there’s nothing better than seeing a show engage our members and ignite a passion for viewing.”

Between 2013 and 2016, the amount of people binge-racing increased more than 20 times. With Netflix now offering a wider range of content, and there being lots of other great streaming services, there’s no doubt that the amount of people binge-racing will have increased.

Binge-racing is a global phenomenon and brings a spirit of competition to proceedings. Binge-racers don’t just want to skim through the storylines, they want to be the fastest to do it. For them, the speed of watching is an achievement to be proud of. Similar to how some people speed-run their way through video games.

The Pros and Cons of Binge-Racing

If you have ever marathoned a show before, you probably know what’s good and bad about binge-watching. So let’s take a closer look at binge-racing and discuss the pros and cons of the practice.

Pro: You Get a Show Watched Quickly

If you choose to binge-race a new show, you guarantee only spending one day (and one night) on it and not an hour longer.

When you’re facing a choice between watching a great TV show or doing something productive, the chances are you’ll go for the first option. With the amount of great content available on streaming services, it becomes all too easy to procrastinate and keep choosing TV over completing work.

It might seem odd, but by choosing to take a break and watch the whole season in one go (and in under 24 hours), you’re choosing to be more productive. Rather than being distracted by this interesting show for weeks, you can get it over with quickly and get back to your normal schedule afterwards.

Pro: You Don’t See Spoilers

We all have that one friend who spoils shows and movies on social media, even when they know you haven’t seen it yet.

It goes without saying that if you’re the first one to finish a new show, you no longer have to worry about spoilers. Plus, if your friend turns out to be a binge-racer too, they’ll probably be a little too busy with their own viewing deadlines and won’t have time to spoil things for you.

Con: It’s Easy to Miss Crucial Details

One obvious downside of speeding through new shows is that you risk missing the little things that might be crucial to the plot.

In order to avoid that, we recommend taking your binge-racing seriously, planning your sessions, and being fully prepared for them. Stock up on snacks and make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before. And of course, one sure way to avoid missing small details is to have a binge-racing buddy that you can discuss the show with when you’re finished.

Con: It Can Make You Less Social

Unfortunately, if you don’t find anyone who shares your passion for binge-racing, it might make you a little less social in the long run.

You’ll become that person who has already “seen it all”. Which means that while your friends are discussing the first few episodes of that new amazing show they’ve started, all you’ll be able to do is nod and smile as you don’t want to spoil any important plot twists for them.

the number of binge-racers

However, if you do happen to find yourself a binge-racing buddy, it’s hard to imagine an experience more fulfilling. Being stuck on that same couch together for 24 hours is a great chance to bond. As long as you both have the same policies about talking (or not talking) while watching TV.

Why Become a Binge-Racer?

First, “binge-racer” is a great name. If you’re already a fan of binge-watching, why not take it one stage further?

Second, binge-racing is perfect if you want to watch more TV and can’t afford to spend too much time on all of the shows. Binge-racing will help you bring more organization into your TV viewing habits. You’ll have to be aware of new shows prior to their release. Plus, you’ll probably have to plan every single session of binge-racing in advance.

And of course, you get to be a part of a growing trend which everyone will probably be doing in the future. Especially when the robots take our jobs and leave us with more free time on our hands!

How to Find the Best Netflix Shows to Binge-Race

According to Netflix, in the past four years, the number of binge-racers all over the world has grown from 200,000 people to more than 8 million.

the most binge-raced shows

In 2017, the top 10 binge-raced shows included Gilmore Girls, The Defenders, and Stranger Things. However, it varied by country. For example, Club de Cuervos was most binge-raced in Mexico, while Ecuador were all about Fuller House. Interestingly, Canada had the most amount of members of the binge-racing club.

If you decide to jump on the bandwagon and become a binge-racer, you just need to find the right show to kick start your habit. Binge-racing is all about watching a whole series as soon as it drops, so your best bet is to keep an eye on shows coming soon to Netflix and other streaming services.

However, if there’s a show you’re keen to binge-race that has already aired, you can always watch a previous season over a weekend and still consider yourself a binge-racer.

What Shows Should You Binge-Race?

Have we managed to get you excited about this emerging television trend? Now that you know what binge-racing is and why you should consider trying it, the only thing left is to pick a show to watch.

If you need help deciding what to watch, here are the best TV shows to binge-watch when stuck indoors.

Image Credit: jameschipper/Depositphotos

Read the full article: Binge-Watching vs. Binge-Racing: What It Is and Why You Should Try It

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20:51
16:00

The 11 Best Free Word Game Apps to Play on Android and iPhone

When you are in the mood to play a new game on your smartphone, the options can be overwhelming. Both the Android and iOS app stores are packed full of fun and challenging games.

This is especially true when it comes to word games. So, if you’re looking for something enjoyable to play when you’re bored, here are the best free word games to play on your phone.

1. Wordscapes

Wordscapes is a game that combines creating words with a crossword puzzle. You just swipe to connect the letters to create words that fit into the crossword. Keep in mind that not all possible words are correct. They must fit into the crossword puzzle for you to progress.

If you enjoy relaxing word games, then Wordscapes is definitely one to check out. The puzzle packs are themed with beautiful imagery from sunrises to forests to oceans. The game also has a pleasant soundtrack to enhance your experience. For a casual and challenging word game, Wordscapes is fantastic.

Download: Wordscapes for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

2. Words Crush: Hidden Themes

Another letter-connecting word game with a balanced challenge is Words Crush: Hidden Themes. You are presented with letters to connect that create words for the theme. But, the trick is that when you swipe through them, the remaining letters fall. So, be careful to connect them correctly when you have more than one of the same letter.

Try not to make mistakes, and earn stars so that you can unlock additional themes. You can head to the beach, kitchen, farm, and even outer space when you do well. Words Crush: Hidden Themes has a simple concept, but enjoyable gameplay.

Download: Words Crush: Hidden Themes for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

3. Pictoword

Maybe when you play a word game, you like to mix pictures with it. If so, take a look at Pictoword. This out-of-the-ordinary word challenge tests your solving skills. You will see two pictures that combine to create a word. For example, one picture might be a key and the other a chalkboard. Fill in the number of letters shown to create one word based on the images.

Pictoword offers quests for you to complete for extra game goodies, so be sure to check for new ones often. You can also join the daily challenges and earn coins. Then, use those coins to obtain hints that remove or reveal letters or let you skip the puzzle. Pictoword is a great combination of picture and word game.

Download: Pictoword for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

4. Wordalot

Another cool word game that uses pictures is Wordalot. Very different from Pictoword, Wordalot is a crossword puzzle. Your clues for each word exist within the displayed picture. So, you must open up your observational skills toolbox for this one, because it can be challenging.

To play, tap one word in the puzzle that you believe you know. Fill in the letters from the ones shown, see if you are correct, and then keep going. If you change your mind about a letter, just tap it to remove it from the puzzle. The letter set changes for each word you tap, which in itself is a hint.

Download: Wordalot for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

5. Word Cookies

With an upbeat theme and jolly music, Word Cookies will have you baking up words to solve its puzzles. You will see spots that show how many words you can create and the number of letters in each. Then, drag though the letters at the bottom to create the correct words that fit.

Word Cookies lets you shuffle the letters or use hints when you get stuck. You will start as a Novice Chef, but with your solving expertise, you will become an Ultimate Chef in no time. The game currently has over 2,000 levels of fun to play through.

Download: Word Cookies for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

6. WordWhizzle Search

WordWhizzle Search is similar in gameplay to Word Cookies, but contains a whopping number of levels at over 2,700. You see a theme displayed at the top and spots for words at the bottom. Swipe through the letters to create the words that both match the theme and fit the spots.

This word game is a little trickier in that you can only connect letters in straight lines. But, you can use letters more than once. The better you do, the further you progress, and the harder the game gets. For fans of word games, WordWhizzle Search provides a terrific challenge.

Download: WordWhizzle Search for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

7. Languinis

Languinis is a matching word puzzle game that features a funky story to go along with it. Match three or more tiles to reveal letters. Then, use those letters to create words and meet the level objectives. Your ultimate goal is to free the little Languinis.

The game has well over 1,000 levels, unique boosts and power-ups, challenging gameplay, and awesome graphics and sounds. Match more than three items to create special tiles and then combine them for massive explosions. And remember, longer words and letters with higher points will get you to your objectives quickly.

Free the Languinis with your words of wisdom in this upbeat game.

Download: Languinis for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

8. AlphaBetty Saga

If you like to stick with story-based word games, AlphaBetty Saga is a very entertaining option. It’s developed by King, the creators of Candy Crush Saga. This one takes you into a mouse world with Betty and Professor Alpha. Connect touching letters to create the highest scoring words you can and complete the level goals.

AlphaBetty Saga boasts over 100 levels with cute characters and colorful graphics. Watch your move limit and number of lives, create powerful letter tiles, and have fun with words in this cheerful game. And if you like other types of puzzle games for your smartphone, take a look at these awesome mobile puzzle game collections.

Download: AlphaBetty Saga for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

9. Bold Moves

Bold Moves is another matching puzzle word game, but still manages a unique play style. You swipe to swap the tiles and make matches of three or more. However, your goal is to match the tiles containing letters to release them into the puzzle. The puzzle is displayed above and consists of an inspirational quote, for a nice touch.

When you release enough letters and know the answer to the puzzle, tap Solve. Then, fill in the missing letters and move onto the next level. Bold Moves offers challenging obstacles, special tiles, and helpful boosts like other, similar games.

With beautiful graphics and charming music, this word game from the Oprah Winfrey Network is a definite winner.

Download: Bold Moves for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

10. Infinite Word Search Puzzles

Sometimes the time-tested types of word games are the most enjoyable. Infinite Word Search Puzzles brings back the enjoyment of paper puzzle books. With two game modes, you can either race against the clock or solve the puzzles at your own pace.

The game has a huge variety of single-player word search categories. Pick from topics such as animals, art, TV shows, and sports with plenty of levels within each. You can also unlock special categories by watching a video or paying to remove the ads. Infinite Word Search Puzzles is ideal for fans of this genre.

Download: Infinite Word Search Puzzles for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

11. Alpha Omega

Alpha Omega has been on the scene for a while, and with good reason. This is a crossword-style word game (apps to help you solve crossword puzzles) and boasts some rather challenging puzzles. You receive limited hints with letters that are in the wrong order. Just tap to swap the letters, keep the hints in mind, and solve your way to the next challenge.

What makes Alpha Omega stand out, aside from its brain-teasing gameplay, are the audio and visual effects. You can select from attractive themes and enjoy the soothing soundtrack as you play. If relaxing mobile games are your favorites, then Alpha Omega is a must-play.

Download: Alpha Omega for iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

What’s Your Favorite Type of Word Game?

This list covers the full gamut of word games, from word searches to crosswords to matching games. Many word game fanatics like all of these genres and play them avidly. If you want more games to play and learn from, try these free Google games for kids and adults alike.

Read the full article: The 11 Best Free Word Game Apps to Play on Android and iPhone

15:00

6 Reasons Why You Should Start Shooting Videos in 4K

shoot-in-4k

With 8K video right around the corner, it’s strange to think that loads of people are still resisting shooting in 4K. They’re put off by concerns about large file sizes and slow editing, and the videos taking ages to upload.

However, if you haven’t made the leap to shooting in 4K yet, it really is time to do so. The old excuses no longer make any sense. Start shooting in 4K now, and you’ll thank yourself later. And here are the reasons why…

1. 4K Gives You More Options

screen sizes for 4k videos

Just because you’re shooting in 4K, that doesn’t mean you have to work in 4K. For many projects, 1080p is good enough. The benefit of shooting in 4K is a quadrupled resolution, allowing you to zoom in cleanly since you have a much better source video to work with.

This is perfect for cutting to close-ups, effectively eliminating jump-cuts from your finished product entirely. This effect can commonly be seen in single-camera interviews, where the perspective shifts between a wide full-body shot and a close-up shot of the interviewee talking.

Pull it off well and it can be used for dramatic effect to add emphasis and connect better with the subject.

You could take it a step further and apply a “Ken Burns” pan-and-zoom effect to a still shot. Imagine being able to crop or add movement to any shot you want, without losing image quality in the process. There’s no chance of you accidentally wobbling the camera, either.

You can even grab fairly high-resolution still images from your footage. They won’t look amazing, but they’re good enough to use on the web, as YouTube thumbnails, or even Instagram posts.

2. 4K Capture Looks Better

Even if your end product will be presented in 1080p, shooting 4K will deliver a higher quality downsampled image. Capturing four times the amount of information you need won’t produce an image that’s four times better looking, but the end result will be noticeably sharper.

You’ll also reduce the chance of color banding, since most cameras record 4K at a higher bitrate. That means more color detail is captured, which will vastly improve gradual changes, like deep blue skies or other solid colors.

Sometimes the camera makes all the difference. Modern mirrorless, digital SLR, and premium compact cameras like the excellent Sony RX100 VII shoot 4K using larger sensors, effectively downsampling a 6K or 8K image to 4K. The Panasonic GH5 even does 6K video and 4K video at a bitrate of 400 megabits-per-second.

Sony RX100 VII Sony RX100 VII Buy Now On Amazon $1,198.00

3. You Can Stabilize Your Footage in Post

Whatever you do with your footage, it’ll probably look better if you held the camera fairly still when you shot it. Sometimes this isn’t possible, and three-axis stabilizers like the Zhiyun Crane 2 can be pretty pricey. This is where software stabilization comes in; a feature that’s built into most modern editors.

Most generally recommend avoiding software stabilization since it works by stretching the image. For 1080p productions, 4K source material will result in software-stabilized footage with no loss in image quality whatsoever. 2K (1440p), the 720p of the 4K world, is another great compromise in order to take advantage of software stabilization.

4. You’ll Thank Yourself in the Future

more pixels

You know how 720p videos look on a 1080p screen? Do you remember what every single Wii U game looked like? Well that’s what your 1080p videos look on a large 4K panel. They have to upscale the HD video to fit the 4K screen. Some TVs are better at it than others, and the larger the display the worse it tends to look.

And the situation is not going to improve. In five years or so, when you’ve bought your new 8K TV with 16 times the resolution of HD, those 1080p videos are not going to look good at all.

You’ll regret your decision to have sacrificed image quality for storage space, especially if some of your movies contain treasured memories.

5. Storage Is Cheap

Another reason you may be resisting jumping to 4K is increased storage demands. If you’re shooting primarily on your smartphone, the answer is simple: don’t store videos on your phone long-term. They’re probably the biggest hoarder of free space in your pocket, so move them to your computer and store them safely elsewhere.

Portable hard drives like the WD Passport and Seagate Backup Plus are also cheap, and it will probably take you a while to fill up a couple of terabytes. If you combine a few cheap external drives with the best cheap cloud storage services, you’ll never have to worry about storage space again.

WD Passport 2TB Hard Drive WD Passport 2TB Hard Drive Buy Now On Amazon $64.99

If you’re really serious about video—and you want to eventually make money or more involved productions—invest in a proper storage device like a network drive with a RAID array with regular online backups.

6. You Can Work Around Hardware Limitations

macbook pro colors Image Credit: Simon Waldherr/Flickr

A lack of editing grunt is probably the most common reason to continue shooting in 1080p. Assuming you’ve upgraded your desktop or laptop in the last few years this shouldn’t actually be as big a problem as it once was.

Your choice of video editor can play a big part. Many Mac users prefer Apple’s own tools like iMovie and Final Cut Pro since they have been designed by Apple, for Apple hardware. They are generally better optimized for the hardware than their Windows counterparts.

Windows users will have to conduct a little trial and error of the best video editors for their particular setup.

There’s also the small issue of budget. If you’re lucky enough to be using a professional editor like Adobe Premiere Pro as part of the Creative Cloud suite, you can make use of a feature called proxy editing to create lower-resolution versions of your 4K files for editing.

This will allow you to edit huge resolution files with relative ease, and Premiere will replace your files with the 4K source files for the final render.

Even older versions of Premiere Pro allow you to transcode to one-quarter or one-eighth quality on the fly, which can make a huge difference to performance. If you’re stuck editing 4K footage on an underpowered machine, you can optimize performance by:

  • Restarting your computer, then opening only your video editor.
  • Disconnecting external displays, since driving another monitor will tax your GPU.
  • Copying your files to your fastest local drive, ideally an SSD if you have one.
  • Connecting to power if you’re using a laptop for editing.

When you do finally take the plunge on a new machine that eats 4K for breakfast, you’ll be glad you have some footage to play around with.

Make the Switch Already for 4K’s Sake!

If it feels like 4K has been around for ages, that’s because it has. The benefits of a 1080p image were clear as day to an audience raised on VHS tapes and standard definition broadcasts, but 4K doesn’t seem like quite such a captivating jump.

Regardless, don’t resist the change. Buy a few spare hard drives and embrace ultra high-definition (the differences between 4K and ultra HD). In 10 years’ time we guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

Once you’ve made the switch you can set about improving your videos in other ways. Check out our guide detailing how to make your home videos look more professional for some great tips to get started.

Read the full article: 6 Reasons Why You Should Start Shooting Videos in 4K

13:00

The 5 Best VPN Routers

best-vpn-routers

Everyone should be using a VPN by now. The news is consistently awash with articles detailing the abject destruction of your privacy. And once gone, it is gone forever. The trouble is that using a single VPN requires you to set up each device in your house.

Luckily, there is an alternative method. There are plenty of reasons to use a VPN. However, instead of painstakingly entering credentials on individual devices, why not upgrade to a VPN router and protect every device all at once?

Here’s what you need to know about VPN routers.

What Is a VPN Router?

Before we delve into the best VPN routers, let’s quickly establish the difference between the VPN on your laptop or smartphone and a VPN router:

  • VPN client: A VPN client on your computer protects data transmissions for that system alone. Once you sign-up and download a client, the VPN protects the individual device. Many services offer protection for multiple devices under the same subscription, but you have to download the software/app for each device.
  • VPN router: A VPN router provides the security and privacy of a regular VPN, but covers every device on the network. All of the devices in your home can simultaneously use and benefit from a VPN without fiddling around with masses of login credentials and app downloads. The tradeoff, however, is having to set up a VPN router.

VPN routers were once the sole reserve of security and network buffs. But as internet users seek to improve their privacy and security, VPN routers have become more accessible.

Different Types of VPN Router

VPN routers come in a few different flavors depending on your requirements. Almost all require you to run a custom router firmware, like DD-WRT or Tomato. These Linux-based custom router firmware projects offer far greater customization than a standard OEM setup. Support varies from router to router, depending on the manufacturer and device hardware.

In that, you have two options: Purchase a router with your firmware choice preinstalled or buy a compatible router and take matters into your own hands.

The Best VPN Routers

Without further ado, here are the best VPN routers you can lay your hands on.

1. Asus RT-AC5300

ASUS RT-AC5300 ASUS RT-AC5300 Buy Now On Amazon $295.11

The Asus RT-AC5300 is a visually impressive router that will make your friends wonder about their inferior router choices. It has eight antennas and can blast wireless signals across 5,000 square feet, making it perfect for anyone with a large home or office.

The RT-AC5300 is a tri-band router that uses Asus’s Smart Connect feature to level out demand. This means the router switches between 5GHz bands to make sure there is no network congestion.

In addition, the router packs a decent 1.4GHz dual-core CPU with a similarly decent 512MB RAM, has eight Gigabit Ethernet ports for cable connections, and uses MU-MIMO for better speeds with multiple devices. Another bonus is the USB 3.0 port for external storage devices, as well as a USB 2.0 port too.

This VPN router is an excellent choice for network intensive environments, or even just large, bandwidth-hungry families, albeit at a high cost. The RT-AC5300 supports DD-WRT but not Tomato.

2. Netgear Nighthawk R7000

Netgear Nighthawk R7000 Netgear Nighthawk R7000 Buy Now On Amazon $109.00

The Netgear Nighthawk R7000 is one of the cheapest options on this VPN router list. But cheap VPN router status aside, the Nighthawk R7000 is well worth your time. The R7000 features a 1GHz dual-core processor with 256MB RAM, as well as four gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port.

The Nighthawk R7000 is a dual-band router, allowing it to switch seamlessly between bands. Also, the router has several Quality of Service (QoS) features to boost streaming and data throughput. For instance, you can optimize traffic for video streaming or online gaming, and so on. You also get some NAS functionality through Netgear’s ReadyShare technology, allowing you to use a large external drive as a basic NAS.

This isn’t the fastest or most powerful router on the list (most models have 802.11ac mode, but some only have “b/g/n”—do not buy any router without at least “n”). But the Nighthawk R7000 provides a cheap entry-level VPN router experience, especially if you purchase the router and flash the firmware yourself. The Nighthawk R7000 supports DD-WRT and Tomato, as well as other custom firmware. It also looks cool.

3. Asus RT-AC86U

Asus RT-AC86U Asus RT-AC86U Buy Now On Amazon $189.99

The Asus RT-AC86U is a powerful dual-band VPN router featuring 512MB RAM and a 1.8GHz dual-core processor. It comes with three high-power antennas that broadcast over a huge area, as well as packing in NitroQAM technology to boost your data transmission rates by utilizing extra wireless band capacity.

The RT-AC86U features four Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port. You can use Asus’s AiPlayer and AiDisk as a media server and file server in conjunction with an external hard-drive, doubling up as a NAS of sorts.

But best of all, the Asus RT-AC86U is easy to set up with your own custom VPN router firmware, with support for Asuswrt-Merlin (a customized version of Asus’s existing firmware), Tomato, and DD-WRT variants. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a retail option with a pre-installed VPN provider and custom firmware. However, there are several tutorials online that will guide you through.

  • Purchase without VPN provider or custom firmware via Amazon

4. Linksys WRT3200ACM

Linksys WRT3200ACM Linksys WRT3200ACM Buy Now On Amazon $209.99

The Linksys WRT3200ACM consistently features in roundups of the best VPN routers and for a good reason. Like the RT-AC86U, it features a powerful 1.8Ghz dual-core processor with 512MB RAM.

As well as this, the WRT3200ACM uses MU-MIMO to keep those speeds high. In addition to MU-MIMO, it utilitizes the Linksys Tri-Stream 160 technology to boost Wi-Fi speeds across wireless bands (somewhat similar to NitroQAM). The WRT3200ACM broadcasts using four antennas with an extensive range. You’ll also find a USB 3.0 port, along with a combined USB 2.0/eSATA port for plugging in peripherals.

Finally, the router supports OpenWrt and DD-WRT custom firmware, allowing you to customize your VPN router as you see fit. However, pre-installed WRT3200ACM VPN routers are available, with the ExpressVPN/OpenWrt combination one of the easiest to use. This VPN router really does have a considerable amount of support, allowing you to fine-tune your setup.

5. D-Link AC5300 DIR-895L/R

D-Link AC5300 DIR-895L/R D-Link AC5300 DIR-895L/R Buy Now On Amazon

The D-Link AC5300 DIR-895L/R comes with a 1.4GHz dual-core processor with 256MB RAM, broadcasting using eight antennas. The router is tri-band, using MU-MIMO to provide consistently high speeds to every device in your household or office, with a total theoretical combined throughput of 5,332Mbps (1,000 Mbps in 2.4GHz, plus 2,166 Mbps in 5GHz and 2,166 Mbps in 5GHz).

The DIR-985L/R also comes with four gigabit Ethernet ports, along with a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port. Like most of the other listed routers, the DIR-985L/R will function as a simple-but-effective NAS if you attach an external hard drive of sufficient size.

The AC5300 DIR-895L/R has extensive support for DD-WRT, with some support for other OpenWrt projects such as LEDE. This is a well-rounded VPN router that provides ample power for a large household with multiple devices (up to 20) or even a small office.

  • Purchase with VPN provider or custom firmware via Amazon

Which VPN Router Will You Choose?

You have five excellent VPN routers to choose from. But if these VPN routers don’t suit your requirements, there are plenty more on the market to check out.

Using a VPN router extends the protection and privacy of a regular VPN to your entire family. And with the range of online support available, setting up a VPN router is no longer a daunting task that only network savants should attempt.

Read the full article: The 5 Best VPN Routers

12:00

20 Fast and Quick Mobile Games to Kill Time on Android and iPhone

mobile-games-quick-fix

When you’re sitting in a waiting room or standing in line, you don’t have time to play a lengthy game. Save those for later and check out these fast, fun, and free mobile games for a quick fix. From awesome arcade challenges to perplexing puzzlers, these games will keep you entertained.

All of the games are available for free on Android and iOS, though some contain optional in-app purchases…

Arcade Games

Arcade games have come a long way and are now available in many forms. No quarters are required to play these fun challenges.

1. iSlash Heroes

Sharpen your blade and prepare for iSlash Heroes. Your goal is to slash pieces of the board away until the meter reaches the red ribbon. The trick is to watch out for the bouncing ninja stars because if you hit one, you must begin again. The more pieces you remove, the less space there is for the stars to move.

Download: iSlash Heroes for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

2. Fishing Break

Fishing Break is a casual, colorful, and fun challenge. You hop into your boat and travel to different watery worlds catching fish and creating a collection. Swipe to cast, then tap and hold to reel in your catch. Just be careful not to pull them in too quickly, or they may break the line. Earn coins for the fish you sell and you’ll unlock better fishing spots.

Download: Fishing Break for Android | iOS (Free, in app-purchases available)

3. Doodle Jump

Doodle Jump has been around on smartphones for many years, but it remains just as addictive as ever. The aim is to control a little jumping creature, tilting your phone to avoid enemies and collect power-ups like jetpacks, and see how high you can get. There’s lots of different themed levels to play in, missions to complete, and global leaderboards to try to place on.

Download: Doodle Jump for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

4. Polyforge

There are plenty of relaxing puzzle game apps for iPhone, and Polyforge is another great option. As the crystal rotates, you tap to hit each side of it with color. But be cautious, because if you hit the same side twice, you must start again. Each correct tap creates a nice music tone, but a wrong tap will give you an off-key note.

Download: Polyforge for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

Puzzle Games

Puzzles include more than jigsaws and crosswords. With birds, balls, and dots, you can enjoy a speedy brainteaser.

5. Two Dots

Containing over 1,000 levels, Two Dots has you collect colored dots to win. Connect dots of the same color to collect and remove them from the board to reach the level goal. You have a limited number of moves and lives, can use boosts and power-ups, and enjoy gifts for checking in daily and inviting friends.

Download: Two Dots for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

6. Angry Birds Blast

You don’t have to be an Angry Birds fan to have fun with Angry Birds Blast. In this matching game, you pop adjacent balloons of the same color to set the birds free. Each of the 250 levels has a goal and you can use boosts and power-ups if you get stuck. Make large matches to create bombs and laser guns to blast away balloons. Be strategic, because you have limited moves. Plus, be sure to play the daily challenges for helpful rewards.

Download: Angry Birds Blast for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

7. Roll the Ball

If you enjoy slide puzzles, then Roll the Ball is one to check out. You simply slide the tiles to create a path to guide the ball to the goal. Do your best to arrange the tiles so that you can collect three stars in each level. There are no time or move limits and you can play your way through tons of levels. It’s also one of the Android games you can play offline.

Download: Roll the Ball for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

Turn-Based Multiplayer Games

Many multiplayer games let you take your turn when you have the time. This turn-based selection is perfect for when you have minutes to spare.

8. Dice With Ellen

For a fun dice game with a Yahtzee concept and Ellen DeGeneres as the host, check out Dice with Ellen. Take turns rolling for high scores in the ones, twos, and threes as well as the full house, straight, and three-of-a-kind categories. Build up XP with your wins, choose custom dice, and challenge Ellen and her staff.

Download: Dice with Ellen for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

9. Trivia Crack Kingdoms

Mix the original Trivia Crack game with royalty and you have Trivia Crack Kingdoms. Play against your pals to see who rules in the world of trivia. Choose a channel topic like sports or TV shows, answer correctly to earn the crowns before your opponent, and then reign supreme.

Download: Trivia Crack Kingdoms for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

10. Word Chums

If you like Words With Friends, then you’ll love Word Chums. In the vein of Scrabble gameplay, you can take on your Facebook friends to see who’s the better wordsmith. What makes this multiplayer word game stand out is the cute characters (Chums), colorful interface, and upbeat experience. Word Chums also offers power-ups for blasting away your letters and getting high-scoring hints.

Download: Word Chums for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

11. Draw Something

You don’t need to be the next Picasso to have fun with Draw Something. In fact, it’s funnier when your drawings aren’t the best. This game is like Pictionary, where you are given a word to draw and your friend has to guess what it is. You could be mean and draw something purposely obscure to get your friend guessing, or use all the tools and colors available to create a work of art.

Download: Draw Something for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

Sports and Racing Games

Knock down pins in tropical locations or take a spin around the track. These games are quick and cool.

12. Bowling Crew

Bowling in your local alley is all well and good, but with Bowling Crew you can knock down pins on a boat, in a rock club, in the snowy mountains, and more. It’s a fast-paced, frenetic bowling game that is easy to pick up and play, but also has a decent learning curve so that you can master it over time. Bowling Crew also lets you play live against other players, if you want to put your skills to the test.

Download: Bowling Crew for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

13. Subway Surfers

Swipe up to jump, down to slide, and move left and right as you charge ahead in Subway Surfers. In this upbeat, endless adventure, you’ll strap on your jetpack, hop on your hoverboard, and collect coins as you maneuver around the obstacles. Stay on top of your game, get a big score, and outrun that cop on your tail.

Download: Subway Surfers for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

14. Horizon Chase – World Tour

There are plenty of amazing racing games to choose from and Horizon Chase – World Tour is one of them. Race laps around the track with easy controls, an awesome soundtrack, and turbo boosts. Challenge your friends and do your best to take first place. You receive two cars and five tracks in the free version and can unlock the full game for $2.99.

Download: Horizon Chase – World Tour for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

Word Games

Put your brain to the test with word games that challenge your love of letters.

15. 7 Little Words

In 7 Little Words, you create words using blocks of letters to solve the seven clues. You can solve them in any order—shuffle the letter blocks or use a limited number of hints if you get stuck. Your goal is to make it through each level and you can stop and pick up where you left off later if necessary.

Download: 7 Little Words for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

16. Four Letters

It takes a quick draw to succeed in Four Letters. When the four letters display, click them in the right order to spell a word. You score for each valid word you create and there are multiple answers available. The quicker you move, the better, because the challenge increases the faster you go.

Download: Four Letters for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

17. WordBrain

In WordBrain, you swipe through the letters to create words. Those words must fill the empty slots at the bottom, so you can see how many letters each word contains. Just keep in mind that the words aren’t necessarily related. You can make as many attempts as needed to pass the level and get limited hints. The game boasts over 700 levels and will definitely puzzle even the smartest linguists.

Download: WordBrain for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

Music Games

Combine your love of music and challenges with these upbeat and fast-paced music games.

18. SongPop 2

Do you think you know everything about music? Put yourself to the test in SongPop 2. It features over 100,000 music clips, spanning many genres and decades, and you need to try and name the artists and song titles. It’s a lot trickier than it sounds and you get bonus points the faster you answer.

Download: SongPop 2 for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

19. Beat Blade: Dash Dance

Dive into a neon wonderland with Beat Blade: Dash Dance. Load up one of the songs and you will see blocks coming towards you. Slide your character towards them and slash them to get points, all the while moving out the way of obstacles. There are lots of great songs to choose from and it’s very addicting to try to beat your best score.

Download: Beat Blade: Dash Dance for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

20. Infinite Tiles

As the tiles slide quickly towards you, tap them in order to build up your score. It sounds easy, but as the pace quickens, the tiles grow in number, and you need to touch multiple tiles at the same time, it soon gets tricky. You can earn coins to unlock special tracks and play on an endless mode to build up your reflexes.

Download: Infinite Tiles for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

Free Mobile Games With No Ads or IAPs

When you have a few minutes to burn, no matter if you have an Android or iPhone, one of these fast and fun games will entertain you.

If you’re tired of seeing ads in your games or being pressured to buy things, here are the best free mobile games without ads or in-app purchases.

Image Credit: Maria Savenko/Shutterstock

Read the full article: 20 Fast and Quick Mobile Games to Kill Time on Android and iPhone

11:00

How to Use SketchUp for 3D Design

howto-sketchup

Sometimes you need to describe a building in a way that can’t easily be explained in writing. Often, these structures are of the 3D variety, such as architectural models or interior design.

If you’re already familiar with 3D modeling, then you’ll definitely be aware of this more “descriptive” need. However, what if you’re just a hobbyist who wants to create 3D objects for fun? If you fall under this category, you can try SketchUp. While SketchUp does have a paid version of its app, there is a free web version for casual enthusiasts, too.

In this article, we explain what SketchUp is, what the free version offers, and how to use SketchUp if you’re brand new to the program. This is 3D modelling for everyone, including absolute beginners.

What Is SketchUp?

Trimble SketchUp

SketchUp, formerly Google SketchUp, is a 3D modeling program that was released in the year 2000. It is now owned by a company called Trimble.

As a program that is devoted to 3D modeling, SketchUp is perfect for a wide range of uses. These uses vary, from architectural design and landscaping to film and game development. With pre-fab models that you can use in your designs, this app also acts as a collective engine where you can easily build 3D structures and render them.

The History of SketchUp

The story behind SketchUp is really cool, in that it was originally designed by @last Software. SketchUp was acquired by Google in 2006, before being passed off to Trimble in 2012.

The company behind this app designed it with the expressed purpose of creating a program that was simple to use. This simplicity was much needed, as 3D modeling programs usually have a steep learning curve.

Unfortunately, that curve can also affect who is allowed to learn a program and how fast they learn it (not the general public on a budget).

In the current era, SketchUp and its parent company have stuck to the mandate of helping you “visualize your ideas.” The company encourages its users to use sustainable design practices in their creations, and through its app you can also share your designs within the 3D SketchUp community as a whole.

While all these features are very neat, they might not be something you need to explore if you’re still learning the basics. Fortunately, SketchUp has several different plans for users to choose from, including a free version that can be accessed through the web.

Is Google SketchUp Free?

Google SketchUp Download

Yes and no. While there is a free version of Trimble’s (Google) SketchUp, it is very pared down when you compare it to the professional paid version of the app.

SketchUp Free

  • With the basic version of SketchUp, the intent of the program is to help you “discover 3D modeling.”
  • This app is web-only, which means you can only use SketchUp online.
  • You have 10GB of cloud storage for your projects, along with community support via the forums.
  • The downside to the free version is that it does not allow you to use custom styles, custom materials, performance-based designs, or the style builder tool. You also cannot use the models you are creating in the free version of SketchUp for commercial intent.

SketchUp Shop

  • In comparison, SketchUp Shop, the paid version of SketchUp for personal use, allows for basic access to custom styles.
  • It also includes more features like unlimited cloud storage and email support.
  • While SketchUp Shop does have more features, it still doesn’t give you full access to the program. Still, if you end up really loving this program, it’s worth a shot for $119/year.

SketchUp Pro

  • If you want to have full access to the program, or if you’re a professional designer, then you need to use SketchUp Pro.
  • SketchUp Pro gives you access to all features. It can also be used on desktop or through the web.
  • However, this version of the program is the most expensive by far, sitting at $299/year without accounting for seasonal sales, as can be seen in the picture above.

Our Verdict: While SketchUp is not free to use if you’re a designer, if you’re just learning the basics, this free version will work just fine. Additionally, if you use it in conjunction with our beginner’s guide to 3D printing, you’ll have every angle of your 3D modeling hobby covered.

Let’s walk through the basic interface for SketchUp’s free app.

How to Use SketchUp: A Basic Introduction

Trimble SketchUp Free

The great thing about SketchUp is that when you sign up for the free app, you’re offered a guided tour. There are also accessible help forums that will guide you through your very first 3D project, with topics ranging from using SketchUp in comics, to sharing SketchUp projects with a friend.

When you open SketchUp, you should see a “working space” with a three-dimensional axis, a horizon line, and a 2D person for scale. On the left-hand side of your screen, you will see your Toolbar (shown here in red):

SketchUp Toolbar

This Toolbar contains the items that you will need to draw. Here, you’ll be able to locate your:

  • Eraser
  • Paint tools
  • Line tools
  • Push/Pull tools
  • Move tools
  • Tape Measure tools
  • Orbit controls

At the bottom of your screen, you’ll see your Status bar. The Status bar will help you learn how to use SketchUp by clicking on the Help button to access the app’s tutorials.

SketchUp Status Bar

Finally, on the right side of the screen, you will see your Panel section. Here, you can adjust your model using different materials, components, and layers.

SketchUp Panel

To Recap:

  • Draw in SketchUp using your left-hand Toolbar.
  • Adjust your drawing with your right-hand Panel.
  • Learn how to draw with your bottom Status bar.

Try SketchUp If You’re Interested in 3D Modeling

Now that you know all about SketchUp and how to use the basic interface, you can look into the free version of the program and try it out yourself. The best thing about SketchUp is that if you decide to upgrade from Free to Shop or Pro, you can do so easily.

If you’re looking for more information on the world of 3D modeling, check out our list of the best free 3D modeling software.

Read the full article: How to Use SketchUp for 3D Design

10:00

How to Spot and Avoid Tech Support Refund Scams

tech-support-refund-scam

If you receive an email letting you know about charges for a service you’ve never used, or offering a refund because the company is going out of business, you should beware. Following up with this email will very likely open you up to a scam.

These tech support refund scams are similar to the usual tech support scam, but they differ in a few ways. Let’s look at how scammers set up refund scams so you can identify the signs and stay safe.

What Is a Refund Scam?

If you’ve sold items on sites like eBay or Craigslist, you may be familiar with the core of a refund scam. In these schemes, someone “accidentally” overpays you for an item you’re selling. They then ask you to send them back the difference, but if you do, you end up losing money because they cancel the initial payment and steal what you sent.

The tech support refund scam is similar, but incorporates elements of the classic tech support scam. You receive a phony email alerting you of a pending refund for some service, and when you reach out via phone, the scammers pretend to refund the money.

However, by “mistake”, they “overpay” and ask you to send them the extra money using gift cards. Sending them money in this way means you’ll never get it back.

Let’s walk through a typical tech support refund scam to see how it operates. We’ll unmask the scammers’ tricks and common methods so you know what to look for.

How Do Refund Scams Start?

Typically, this scam begins by you receiving a phony email, though you may also see a popup alert, especially if you mistype a website name.

Refund Scam Email Image credit: PC Matic

The email will be something like the following:

  • A company offers you a refund because you haven’t used its services in a while.
  • Your bank tells you that it’s refunding a transaction because there was an issue with the payment.
  • A retailer claims that you’ve been double-charged for a purchase and thus need to contact them to resolve the error.

Knowing how to spot a phishing email goes a long way in stopping the scam here. While emails like this might look official at a glance, they almost always come from unrelated addresses, don’t contain any information specific to you, and may be full of grammatical errors.

Remember that legitimate companies will not ask you to confirm payment details via clicking a link in an email, either. However, if you proceed, what happens next?

Signing Into Your Bank With the Scammer

If you reach out to the number provided in the email, you’ll be connected with “the refund department” of “Microsoft” or whatever company the email mentioned. You might tell them that you don’t want the service on offer, in which case the “representative” will be happy to help you with the “refund” process.

They’ll guide you through installing TeamViewer, AnyDesk, or similar remote access tools so they can connect to your machine. After connecting, they might even set up unattended access to let them connect to and control your PC anytime it’s on in the future.

Now, the scammer will ask you to log into your bank’s website so they can “initiate the refund.” Once you’re signed in, they will likely ask you to note how much money is in your checking account, so you have that value in mind.

Fake Bank Login Page

The Fake “Money Transfer”

Now that the scammer has access to your online banking, the process begins. They’ll black out your screen (using the remote access software) so you can’t watch what they’re doing. They claim that this makes the connection “secure,” and may even ask you to write down a “refund code” or other meaningless info to distract you.

Now, they don’t actually transfer any money to your bank, of course. Since most people have another bank account aside from checking (such as a savings or retirement account), they’ll transfer money between your accounts to “increase” your checking balance.

Crucially, the con artist will “transfer” much more money than initially promised. So if they offered a $300 “refund,” they might move $3,300 instead.

After they do this, to disguise the fact that they just moved money between your accounts, they may edit the HTML of the website to make it look like you received a payment from the “refund department.”

The Mistake and “Repayment”

After they finish the phony “transfer,” the scammer will let you see the screen again and ask you to confirm that you “received the payment.”

When you mention that the “refund” was much more than expected, they’ll act surprised and ask you to send them back the extra money. To appear “generous,” they might say that you can keep a portion of the extra funds.

At this point, they expect the victim to ask how they can refund the money. The scammer insists that they can’t take the money back the same way they sent it, so the victim will need to go buy gift cards for iTunes, Amazon, or similar.

If you somehow believed them up to this point, this request should be a giant red flag. No legitimate company will ever ask you to pay them in gift cards. They urge you to go out and buy them right away so you don’t have time to think about it. If you refuse or ask questions, they will get angry and accuse you of stealing their money.

Should you continue on and buy the gift cards, they’ll ask for you to read the claim codes on the phone or enter them into Notepad. Once you’ve done that, they take the codes and immediately redeem them, and your money is gone.

The primary reasons that scammers ask for gift cards is because they’re almost impossible to track, unlike a bank transfer.

Refund Scam Variations and Other Tactics

We’ve described the basics of a refund scam, but each thief uses slightly different tactics.

For example, once they black out your screen, the scammer might try to put a password on your Windows account if you don’t already have one set. Using this, they can lock you out of your computer and demand payment as ransom. This is why it’s important to use a strong password for your account.

On older versions of Windows, they might use the SYSKEY function to require a password on boot. This effectively does the same as the above, by locking you out of your system.

As another variation, the scammer might install two remote access tools on your machine. For instance, they might start with AnyDesk, then use that to install TeamViewer on the victim’s computer, connect to the scammer’s PC, then switch who’s controlling who. They do this because TeamViewer has the critical screen blackout functionality. However, that software blocks outgoing connections from certain regions due to frequent scams.

If you refuse to buy the scammer gift cards, they will likely get upset. They might employ the same HTML editing trick as earlier to make it look like your bank account balance is zero, claiming that they’ve drained your account and won’t give the money back unless you pay.

Some scammers get much more upset and start looking at your photos, deleting your files, or trying to access your webcam. It’s nasty, and illustrates why you should just hang up on these crooks. Once they have remote access to your computer, you can only kick them off by disconnecting from the internet or shutting down your computer.

Don’t Let Refund Scammers Steal Your Money

As we’ve seen, refund scams are similar to tech support scams, but add a few layers that can make them confusing for people who aren’t technically inclined. Due to the nature of the “refund,” they may also target those who’ve fallen for similar scams before.

Never let someone control your computer unless you know and trust them. Certainly don’t sign into your bank account at the request of that person. And never buy gift cards as a form of payment. The scammers’ tricks are easy to understand once you know them, but have unfortunately fooled many people.

For more advice, see the telltale signs you’re on the phone with a scammer. Share these tips with those who aren’t as knowledgeable so they don’t fall victim to these vile criminals.

Read the full article: How to Spot and Avoid Tech Support Refund Scams

05:30

Learn How to Make Money From Home With This $30 eBay Sellers Guide

While physical stores have been shuttered over the past few weeks, many people have recently started shopping online. As a result, the e-commerce industry is booming, with 129% year-over-year growth in the U.S. and Canada. If you would like to jump on this lucrative trend, The Essential eBay Sellers Blueprint Bundle can help. The bundle includes four courses that teach you exactly how top sellers make money, and it’s now only $30 at MakeUseOf Deals.

Make Money from Home

The great thing about platforms like eBay and Amazon is that you can start making money on day one. All you need is something to sell, and an understanding of how to attract customers.

This bundle helps you get started, with 13 hours of tutorials from top e-commerce pros. Through concise video lessons, you discover how to research the market and source trending products. This includes finding physical stock and sourcing products for dropshipping, where you allow someone else to handle the logistics.

The courses also show you how to upload products, create a compelling sales pitch, and optimize your copy for search. These tips are tried and tested by top sellers, meaning you can put them into action immediately.

The Perfect Blueprint for $30

These courses are worth $796 in total, but you can grab the bundle now for just $30 with lifetime access included.

Prices subject to change

Read the full article: Learn How to Make Money From Home With This $30 eBay Sellers Guide

June 03 2020

22:30

You Can Now Watch More Free TV on The Roku Channel

The Roku Channel now offers more than 100 channels for free. Which means cord-cutters and other fans of free stuff now have more content to choose from. And to help users navigate the free stuff, Roku has also launched a Live TV Channel Guide.

In 2017, Roku launched The Roku Channel. This was a free, ad-supported channel full of movies. It has since evolved into a hub full of channels showing a diverse range of content. Most of which is free to watch if you’re willing to put up with the occasional ad.

The Roku Channel Expands Yet Again

As of the start of June 2020, The Roku Channel boasts more than 100 channels in the US. This is thanks to an expansion adding another 40 channels. These include The Bob Ross Channel, Vanity Fair, Wired, XUMO Free Movies, Redbox Free Movies, and Reuters.

The channels offering free content include news, sports, kids, and lifestyle programming. And there’s also Spanish-language channels, including AFV Español, América TeVé, Latido Music, Love Nature Español, MOOVIEMEX by Pongalo, and Pongalo NovelaClub.

“Now more than ever it’s important for our users to have easy access to free content, such as news, and the ability to find it quickly. We’re excited to enhance the streaming experience through a Live Channel TV Guide and bring more free content from The Roku Channel to the forefront.”
— Ashley Hovey, Director, AVOD Growth, Roku.

With so many channels and so many thousands of hours of programming available on them, Roku has also launched a new Live TV Channel Guide. As the name suggests, this lets you see at a glance what’s playing on the live TV channels now and in the future.

The Live TV Channel Guide is accessible via a new Live TV tile on The Roku Channel. You can also press left on your Roku remote to open it when watching something. When you open it you’ll see a list of channels, plus what’s playing now and in the future.

The Best Streaming TV Services to Watch

The Roku Channel is one of the best streaming TV services. There are plenty of others, both free and paid, so don’t bother watching content that doesn’t interest you. With its broad range of channels and TV guide, The Roku Channel is a good place to start though.

Read the full article: You Can Now Watch More Free TV on The Roku Channel

18:00

How to Use Dictation on a Mac for Voice-to-Text Typing

mac-voice-control

Typing isn’t for everyone. If you have clumsy fingers or difficulty spelling, typing might be your least favorite part of using a computer. Fortunately, you can use the built-in dictation software on your Mac to speak what you want to type instead.

Unlike Voice Control—which is Apple’s fully-featured accessibility tool—dictation is easy to use. It’s also so accurate at translating your voice that some of the best dictation software developers, like Dragon Dictate, stopped making their own dictation apps for Mac to compete with it.

How to Use Dictation on a Mac

Popup window for enabling Dictation on a Mac

Double-press the Fn button to start dictating on your Mac. You should see a microphone icon appear or hear a macOS confirmation tone. If this is your first time using Dictation, click OK in the popup window to confirm you want to use it.

After activating Dictation, start saying what you want to type to see it appear on screen. Dictation ignores pauses in your speech, allowing you to take a moment to compose your thoughts. However, this does mean you need to dictate your own punctuation, which we explain below.

Dictation microphone icon on Mac

Apple suggests you dictate in short bursts of 40 seconds or less. This keeps your Mac from falling behind, since you can speak much faster than it can process what you say.

You can dictate text anywhere you’d usually type on your Mac. That includes writing documents, using Spotlight or search bars, entering web addresses, and composing emails. If that sounds useful, you might want to take a look at these dictation apps for your Android phone as well.

Use any of the following methods to stop dictating:

  • Press Fn again
  • Hit Return
  • Click Done beneath the microphone

Your dictated words appear underlined while your Mac is processing them. After you stop dictating, they’ll reformat themselves, and any words your Mac was unsure of appear underlined in blue. Click these words to pick an alternative option or type it out manually if it was wrong.

The more you use Dictation, the better your Mac gets at understanding your voice. This means you’ll see fewer mistakes and words underlined in blue less often.

How to Add Punctuation and Format Your Dictation

Chances are that you need to add punctuation to your dictation to make sure it’s formatted correctly. This is easy to do while dictating your text by saying the particular punctuation marks you want to add.

For example, to dictate the following text:

Hello, my name is Dan. How are you?

You need to say:

Hello comma my name is Dan period how are you question mark

Dictation on a Mac with punctuation

Apple includes a long list of over 50 punctuation marks, typography symbols, currency signs, mathematical signs, and voice commands you can use with Dictation in the macOS user guide. Visit Apple’s voice dictation commands page to take a look at the list yourself.

Along with adding punctuation, you can also use a small set of voice commands to change the formatting of dictated text on your Mac. These commands include capitalization, line breaks, and even typing without spaces.

Say the following voice commands to format text with Dictation:

  • New Line: Equivalent to pressing the Return key once
  • New Paragraph: Equivalent to pressing the Return key twice
  • Caps On/Off: Types the following words in “Title Case”
  • All Caps On/Off: Types the following words in “ALL CAPS”
  • No Space On/Off: Types the following words “withoutspaces” (useful for website URLs)

Troubleshoot Dictation Problems on Your Mac

Dictation is a fairly simple tool, but it doesn’t work all the time. There are a few different problems that might stop you from being able to use Dictation on your Mac. Here’s what they are and how to fix them.

Change the Dictation Shortcut

If nothing happens when you double-press the Fn button, you might have changed the Dictation shortcut on your Mac. You can change this shortcut to whatever you like, or check what the new shortcut is and use that instead.

To do so, open System Preferences and go to Keyboard > Dictation. Open the Shortcut dropdown menu and choose the dictation shortcut you want to use. To create your own, click Customize, then press the keyboard shortcut you’d like.

Dictation shortcut dropdown menu in System Preferences

Test Your Internet Connection

Your Mac requires an active internet connection to use Dictation. This is because Apple processes your voice on its servers—using the latest language data—rather than locally on your Mac.

Without an internet connection, the microphone icon appears with three dots in it, but vanishes before you can start dictating.

To make sure your internet connection is working, try streaming a video on YouTube. To fix problems with your connection, restart your Wi-Fi router and follow our steps to get your Mac connected to Wi-Fi again. Contact your internet service provider for more help.

Choose a Different Microphone to Use

As you dictate, you should see a white bar in the microphone icon that fluctuates with the loudness of your voice. This shows the microphone input on your Mac. If nothing appears in the microphone, your Mac can’t hear you. You need to use a different microphone to fix it.

Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation. Open the dropdown menu beneath the microphone at the left of the window to choose a different microphone. If you can’t see your microphone, make sure it’s connected with the latest drivers installed.

Microphone selection from Dictation System Preferences

Change the Dictation Language

To dictate in a different language, you need to add that language in System Preferences and select it from the Dictation icon. Using the wrong language results in a lot of mistakes, as Dictation will use regional spellings or replace what you said with similar-sounding words from another language.

In System Preferences, go to Keyboard > Dictation and open the Language dropdown menu. Click Add Language and check the box next to whichever languages you want to use. Make sure you choose the appropriate region if your language is used in multiple countries.

The next time you activate Dictation, you should see the current language displayed beneath the microphone icon. Click it to change to another dictation language instead.

Dictation microphone with language options

How to Make Dictation as Private as Possible

Dictation communicates with Apple’s servers to convert your speech to text. This means it’s never completely private, as explained by the popup message that appears when you enable Dictation for the first time. That said, there are still steps you can take to reclaim as much Dictation privacy as possible.

To change the data Dictation uses, open System Preferences and click on Security & Privacy. Go to the Privacy tab and scroll down to select Analytics & Improvements in the sidebar. Disable the option to Improve Siri & Dictation to stop Apple from storing or reviewing your future Dictation recordings.

Improve Siri & Dictation option in Privacy System Preferences

Apple usually does this to help improve Dictation. Even with this option disabled, you still need to delete existing recordings from Apple’s servers. Go to System Preferences > Siri and click Delete Siri & Dictation History to do so.

Do More With Your Voice Using Voice Control

Although many people confuse the two, Dictation and Voice Control are two separate features on your Mac. As we’ve explained, Dictation allows you to convert your speech to text, adding punctuation and line breaks where necessary. But Voice Control unlocks an entire world of voice commands that control your Mac.

If you want to save documents, switch applications, open menus, and do much more with your voice, you need to use Voice Control. This is primarily an accessibility tool; it lets anyone control a Mac using nothing but their voice. Take a look at our Mac Voice Control guide to learn how it works.

Read the full article: How to Use Dictation on a Mac for Voice-to-Text Typing

17:00

How to Clean Your Keyboard and Sterilize Viruses and Bacteria

clean-keyboard

When was the last time you cleaned your keyboard? It’s not something we think about as we clean up our homes, but it’s a good idea to keep on top of your keyboard hygiene.

Let’s explore why you should clean your keyboard and how to do it properly.

Why You Should Clean Your Keyboard

First, keyboards aren’t the cleanest object in your home or office. Lots of crumbs from computer-side snacks work their way among the keys and build up underneath them. As a result, holding a keyboard upside-down can dislodge some nasty morsels from the past.

It’s so bad that the keyboard can be a safe harbor for germs. Time reported on how 27% of keyboards in the office have an ATP count of 300 or higher, which means they have “high levels of contamination.”

The keyboard tends to go under the radar when people clean their office space, allowing germs to flourish on and around the keys freely.

General Precautions When Cleaning a Keyboard

Before you learn how to clean a computer keyboard and eliminate all that grime, take a moment to remember the precautions for cleaning a keyboard.

1. Unplug the Keyboard From the Computer

First, ensure no power is going through the keyboard while you clean it. Unplug the keyboard from your computer while you clean, as this keeps you safe from both electrical problems and accidentally typing nonsense as you clean.

Of course, if you’re using a laptop, this is a little harder to do. As such, it’s best to power off the laptop and unplug it from the mains before you start cleaning.

2. Overturn the Keyboard Over a Suitable Dirt Catcher

You can get rid of some larger specs of dirt with minimal effort. Position the keyboard over a bin or sink, then give it a strong shake. This easy trick should clear out any big particles before you begin the proper cleaning procedure.

3. Remove the Keys Carefully

If you need to remove the keys on your keyboard before you start, be careful when popping them off. Forcing them too hard will cause more issues than a dirty keyboard. If you want, you can try a special key removal tool that makes the task easier. We recommend the WASD Keyboards Wire Keycap Puller Tool for this.

WASD Keyboards Wire Keycap Puller Tool WASD Keyboards Wire Keycap Puller Tool Buy Now On Amazon $6.99

How to Clean a Keyboard

Now that we’ve broken down why you should clean your keyboard, as well as some important safety tips, it’s time to choose your weapon of choice. There are several options available, so take a read of them all and pick out the one that fits your needs best.

1. Blast Dust With Compressed Air

One of the most-loved accessories for anyone who hates dust on their electronics, compressed air is the best way to clean a keyboard that has accumulated a thin layer of grime.

Compressed air is what it sounds like; a can of air that keeps its contents under a high amount of pressure. When you press the stopper at the top, the compressed air rushes out and blasts the dust in front of the nozzle. This is used to dislodge dirt from electronics, such as the insides of computers.

One of the best aspects of compressed air cans is how compatible they are with other components. These Rosewill Compressed Gas Dusters are great for cleaning out keyboards, but you can use it to clean other electronics such as the inside of your PC.

Rosewill Compressed Air Rosewill Compressed Air Buy Now On Amazon

If you’re an avid console gamer, be sure to keep that can of compressed air handy. It’s one of the best ways to clean the dust from your PS4, which is important if you want to keep your consoles cool.

2. Removing Dirt With Keyboard Cleaning Slime

Slime sounds like the last thing you want to put onto a grimy keyboard, but cleaning slime really helps.

A good cleaning slime product aims to be the right amount of sticky. It’s gooey enough to catch all the dirt and lint on your keyboard, but not sticky enough to gum up your keyboard or your hands. You press it down over your keyboard keys, then peel it off to remove all the gunk.

This ColorCoral Cleaning Slime is a great starting point for a beginner. It’s cheap, easy to use, and doesn’t get your hands sticky. It has a nice lemon scent that keeps things smelling fresh. While it won’t be effective versus dust underneath the keys, it’s great for a quick and easy surface-level clean.

ColorCoral Cleaning Slime ColorCoral Cleaning Slime Buy Now On Amazon $7.99

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even make your own at home. There are several clever ways to put DIY cleaning slime to use, so consider this if you like the sound of keyboard cleaning slime.

3. Achieving a Deep Clean With Rubbing Alcohol

If you want to learn how to clean a sticky keyboard, compressed air and cleaning slime aren’t good options.

To give your keyboard a deep clean, you’ll need something strong. Rubbing alcohol (scientifically called “isopropyl alcohol”) is your best choice for cleaning your keyboard. Make sure you choose a solution that’s at least 70 percent alcohol to give it the power to kill off any germs.

Rubbing alcohol is the trickiest of the keyboard cleaning methods. Take a cotton swap stick (e.g. a Q-tip), dip it in the liquid, then brush against the side of the keys. You may need to remove each key to get a thorough clean. As such, while it’s not easy-to-use like compressed air or slime, it’s the best method for stubborn dirt and stickiness.

4. Sterilizing Your Keyboard From Bacteria and Viruses

We briefly mentioned above how rubbing alcohol can help defeat bacteria and viruses. While it does do the job, you may not want to treat your entire keyboard with strong alcohol. Fortunately, there are other ways you can clean your keyboard from germs.

First, if you’ve ever wondered if you can use Clorox wipes on a computer keyboard, you’re in luck. Give the keyboard a wipe-down and don’t be afraid to remove keys to clean the whole surface better. Just be sure you don’t use any cleaning wipes that contain bleach, as this can do more damage than good.

You can also use a UV-C sterilizing wand to clean your keyboard. These emit ultraviolet light which damages bacteria and viruses to the point where they die off. The American Journal of Infection Control tested UV light effectiveness on hospital keyboards and found them a useful way to clean a keyboard with minimal interruption.

If you’re interested, you can pick up a UV wand from stores like Amazon. For example, the Hygea Steri Wand is budget-friendly and works well on keyboards.

Hygea Steri Wand Hygea Steri Wand Buy Now On Amazon $59.95 ($59.95 / Count)

How to Clean a Laptop Keyboard

With regular keyboards, it’s easy to pry off the keys and clean among the gaps. If you’re using a laptop, however, there’s a good chance that they’re embedded into the system and harder to clean.

Double-check to see if you can pry the keys off. We don’t advise you do a few test tugs on the keys; instead, look up your laptop manufacturer’s documentation to see if they have any advice on cleaning the keyboard. If they don’t, it’s best to leave the keys on and play it safe.

Once you’ve checked, shut down the laptop and unplug it from the power supply. Then, follow the manufacturer instructions if you have them. If you don’t, use keyboard cleaning slime to get rid of the larger particles, and isopropyl alcohol for more stubborn stains.

You can also turn the laptop upside down and give it a shake to dislodge dirt. Do it over a sink or bin to catch all the dust that falls.

As well as being hygienic, cleaning up the keys is one of the key tips for fixing faulty laptop keyboards. It’s worth trying if your keys aren’t working as they used to.

How to Clean a Mac Keyboard

If you want to know how to clean a MacBook keyboard, Apple has documentation explaining things. In short, they advise against cleaning solutions that use a lot of moisture and aerosol sprays.

As such, it’s best to use the advice they give on the website; lightly wet a lint cloth, and wipe it over the surface of the keyboard. For dried-on dirt, you’ll have better luck using a cotton swap stick and isopropyl alcohol; ensure the swab isn’t soaking with the alcohol before you clean, or you’ll do more damage than good.

Interestingly, this is similar advice that Apples gives for cleaning an iPhone speaker. Giving the phone a clean is one of the ways to fix a faulty iPhone speaker, so be sure to keep these cleaning tools handy.

How to Clean a Mechanical Keyboard

Mechanical keyboards can be a little trickier than membrane keyboards, given the complex switch mechanisms under each key. For an ideal clean, grab a key remover, some cotton swabs, and some isopropyl alcohol before starting.

First, take off all the keys on the keyboard. Be careful, though; if you can’t remember the exact layout of the keys, take a photo first or find an image of it so you can put the keys back correctly. If you don’t, typing might get a little trickier afterward!

Then, take the swabs and alcohol and gently clean around the keys and the switches. If you like, you can prepare a bowl of warm soapy water and leave the keys in it for a few hours; just be sure to dry them properly before you put them back.

Spills are the biggest problem with mechanical keyboards. If you spill a liquid on your mechanical keyboard, try not to tilt it, as the spillage may get inside the key mechanisms.

Instead, remove the keycaps and gently mop up any liquid you find among the keys. Afterward, perform a deeper clean with isopropyl alcohol to remove any stickiness.

Giving Your Computer a Spring Clean

Keyboards naturally gather grime, but people often neglect this when cleaning. Now you know why you should clean your keyboard, as well as how to. After you’re done cleaning your keyboard, why not clean your iPhone too.

Read the full article: How to Clean Your Keyboard and Sterilize Viruses and Bacteria

16:30

Sega Announces Game Gear Micro Retro Gaming Console

Retro gaming has never been more popular. The past few years have seen the significant gaming manufacturers cash in on this wave of nostalgia, releasing modern, cheaper variants of their classic consoles.

Now, you can add another fan favorite to the list, with the release of the Sega Game Gear Micro.

What Is the Sega Game Gear Micro?

As part of Sega’s 60th-anniversary celebrations, the company has refreshed and downsized its much-beloved handheld console from the early 1990s. Back then, you had two choices for portable gaming; Nintendo’s Gameboy or the Sega Game Gear. While the Gameboy was the more commercially successful of the two, the Game Gear won praise for its graphics, gameplay, and color screen.

The Game Gear Micro, which will initially only be available in Japan, is a miniature redesign of the original console. The Micro moniker can be taken literally as well; the unit measures just 80mm in width and 43mm in height with a 1.15-inch display. While this is an enjoyable novelty, it remains to be seen how practical gaming is on such a small device.

Sega Game Gear Micro Features

Sega Game Gear Micro

Despite being a portable console, the original Game Gear was bulky and power-hungry, devouring six AA batteries in a matter of days. On the other hand, the Game Gear Micro is powered by just two AAA batteries or via a micro-USB charger. Uniquely, Sega has decided to release four colored variants of the console, each configured with a different set of pre-installed games.

It’s not clear whether this is for practical considerations (which seems unlikely given the low storage requirements of these older games), or to create a collector’s market for the newly released console. However, each unit will ship with four in-built games, including family favorites like Sonic The Hedgehog and Sonic & Tails.

Sega Game Gear Micro Availability

The Sega Game Gear Micro will launch in Japan on October 6th for ¥4,980 ($45). There is currently no word on whether the console will be available in other regions. That said, other retro gaming units have launched with limited availability before entering a more significant production run. So, there is still hope of a wider release.

In the meantime, to get your fill of nostalgia-based gaming, consider investing in one of the best retro gaming consoles you can buy right now.

Read the full article: Sega Announces Game Gear Micro Retro Gaming Console

16:00

The 10 Best Ways to Check Stock Prices Online

stock-prices-online

If you have money invested in the stock market, you want to keep a close eye on how your stocks are doing. Stock performance, market trends, and futures change and need to be monitored in real time.

There are lots of websites that will help you do that—but which is the best website to check stock prices? We’ve found them; here are the ten best ways to stay on top of stock prices online, in no particular order.

1. MarketWatch

Marketwatch Stock Checking App

MarketWatch is a comprehensive website that provides a heap of information for investors. You can see real-time stock prices for many sectors including currency rates, futures, and cryptocurrencies.

You can drill down individual stocks to see stock performance over different periods of time. You can see the highs, the lows, and the stock makeup for indexes.

MarketWatch has an intuitive charting tool that provides a visual aid for investors wanting to monitor investments. These charts can be customized to include overall market performance or key indicators alongside your stock.

This website also has a robust flow of news and opinion articles to gather more information about the state of affairs in the money market.

2. CNN Markets

CNN Business Stock Checking App

CNN Markets has a clean layout with easy access to stock information. You get refreshed information on indexes like the DOW and Nasdaq, trending stocks, world markets, currencies, and commodities. Top trending stories are available on the front page if you’re hungry for news.

You can click on stocks from the home page and get a detailed breakdown of the stock performance on CNN Business. These charts provide market performance spanning one day to 10 years of the stock price. You will also find detailed financial information, forecasts, and analysis for advanced traders.

3. U.S News

US News Money Stock Checking App

U.S News is a great choice for its stock checkers and personal finance section. You can read up-to-the-minute news on your favorite stocks, view high performing stocks, and keep an eye on different stock sectors.

You can also find various investment guides about stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, and financial advisement.

4.Google Finance

Google Finance Stock Checking App

If you’re a fan of the Google Suite, this is a nice way to check stock information. It is a simple interface with information about select markets, stocks you’ve searched for, and various news articles to stay on top of current events.

You can find individual stock information that matches most other sites closely in detail. It’s not a powerhouse of information but Google Finance gets points for being able to integrate very easily into your apps if you’re a fan of Google products.

5. Investopedia

Investopedia Markets Stock Checking App

Investopedia is a one-stop-shop for budding investors. This site is a great resource to learn about all different forms of investment and money management.

You can learn about stock trading, mutual funds, Roth IRA, 401k, money management, economics, and more. They even have a trading simulator that lets you try your hand trading on a real market with fake dollars.

It seemed only natural to provide stock information as well.

6. Yahoo! Finance

Yahoo Finance Stock Checking App

Yahoo! Finance brings a heavy dose of news on the front page to go along with stock prices. On the homepage, you’ll find tickers with today’s index prices, cryptocurrency rates, and trending stocks.

If you drill down on individual stocks you can see the opening price, closing price, day’s range, 52-week range, and average volume to go along with stock charts.

You can set up watchlists to monitor stock and see information about different markets if your investments include certain types. Yahoo! also offers a premium service with advanced dashboards and investment analysis.

7. Stocks (Mac)

Apple Stocks Stock Checking App

Stocks by Apple is a simple stock viewer for macOS and iOS. You can see business news by Apple and search for stocks. It’s not as much of an aggregator as other apps, you have to know which stocks you’re looking for to look up.

Once you look up the stock, it will display on your app with pricing, day change, charts, and today’s price data (Open, close, volume, etc.).

It’s convenient if you have Apple products. It will sync up on your iPhone or Mac for easy access to your stocks at a glance. If you’re looking for additional features, you may be better suited with another stock ticker.

8. Nasdaq

Nasdaq Stock Checking App

NASDAQ isn’t just a stock exchange; it has a comprehensive web app for checking stock prices. You’ll find stock information, indexes, commodities, futures, and cryptocurrency rates. The home screen has some all-inclusive information like global market activity and active stocks.

The presentation is beautiful. It’s a very clean interface with simple colors that are easy to read. Despite the simple layout, the Nasdaq app provides deep insights. You can see the stock price, key data, dividend history, earnings, SEC filings, and more on each stock you browse.

9. CNBC Markets

CNBC Market Stock Checking AppIf you’re looking for a stock checker with a simpler layout, CNBC Markets is easy to check daily. You can view the performance of major indexes, popular stocks, bonds, futures, and commodities. The CNBC pre-market page gives insight into index futures for the major stock indexes.

Looking up the stock data will provide more history and pricing information. Earnings, company financial data, cash flow, SEC filing, and more are available to read.

10. Bloomberg Markets

Bloomberg Markets Stock Checking App

Bloomberg Markets is primarily a news aggregator, but there is stock market information available as well. It has a good looking stock tracker with accompanied news and video content for traders.

Investing and Stock Information

These are 10 great ways to get all the stock pricing you need. Stocks, bonds, cryptocurrency, futures, it’s all there for you. Whether you’re starting out or make a living investing; there’s something for everyone. Bookmark your favorites and stay up to date on all the latest stock information.

Continue your investment journey on the go with the best investment apps for beginners. If you want to get some practice before you jump in with real money you can try these virtual stock market games that can teach you to invest.

Read the full article: The 10 Best Ways to Check Stock Prices Online

15:00

The 10 Best Therapy and Counseling Apps for Mental Health Aid

Mental health has increasingly come into focus as an essential part of your overall well-being. More people are taking the steps to seek the help they need to cope with anxiety, depression, and other disorders.

If you need help managing your mental health, but can’t see a therapist in person, there are various apps that you can turn to for guidance. From online therapy apps that link you to remote counselors to free mental health apps that help you manage symptoms, here are 10 of the best mental health apps to choose from.

Of course, if you already have a therapist and can’t see them in person, there are also video calling apps to use for remote counseling.

1. BetterHelp

This app is for: People who want to see a licensed counselor or therapist remotely

Areas of focus: Depression, anxiety, relationship counseling, counseling for LGBT individuals, grief, eating disorders

BetterHelp is a paid service that matches users with counselors who specialize in their areas of concern. After answering a few questions about your mental health needs, the app will link you to a qualified and licensed counselor. You can even specify preferences for counselors, such as gender and age, so that you’re matched with someone you’re comfortable with.

A few benefits of the app include the ability to switch counselors if you are unhappy with your current one, as well as specifying the communication types you prefer (such as text, phone, or video).

The app requires a weekly subscription fee, ranging from $40 to $70. The exact price is determined by numerous factors, such as your whether you receive a low income or if you have a disability.

Download: BetterHelp for Android | iOS (Free download, subscription required)

2. MindShift CBT

This app is for: People who need a free mental health app for anxiety

Areas of focus: Anxiety, panic attacks

MindShift CBT is a completely free mental health app from the Anxiety Canada Association. It uses a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach to help you cope with anxiety symptoms.

The app includes a variety of tools and the ability to monitor your progress over time. These tools include mood tracking, belief experiments, coping cards, and more.

You can also set goals for yourself, such as expanding your comfort zone and tackling a challenge.

Download: Mindshift CBT for Android | iOS (Free)

3. Sanvello

This app is for: People dealing with stress, anxiety, and/or depression

Areas of focus: Depression and anxiety

Sanvello is a comprehensive app that helps users cope with depression and anxiety by using various tools to dismantle thought traps and false beliefs. The app has a variety of ways to offer help, including guided meditation, mood tracking, health habit tracking, and CBT-based exercises.

The basic version of the app is free, with a premium subscription available.

Download: Sanvello for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

4. Clear Fear

This app is for: People who need help managing anxiety

Areas of focus: Anxiety

Clear Fear is a free app to help you cope with anxiety and phobias. While it is recommended for those between 11 and 19 years old, it’s usable for anyone who wants to find out more about their anxiety.

The app includes a variety of resources, such as information on anxiety types and self-monitoring tools. You can also set up a “Grit Box,” which is a set of affirmations and reminders to help you when you feel defeated.

The safety net tool provides a list of activities you’ve set for yourself when your anxiety is overwhelming, as well as people you can contact when distressed.

Download: Clear Fear for Android | iOS (Free)

5. Headspace

This app is for: People who want to practice mindfulness and meditation

Areas of focus: Mindfulness, guided meditation, stress, insomnia

Headspace is a mindfulness and meditation app aimed at helping users deal with stress, insomnia, and anxiety. It isn’t strictly aimed at people dealing with mental health issues and disorders. Rather, it’s about mental well-being in general.

That said, guided meditation can be useful in dealing with certain symptoms of anxiety and depression, such as insomnia.

If meditation helps you with your symptoms, Headspace can be a useful tool. The app offers a certain number of free meditations, with additional options available with a subscription.

Download: Headspace on Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

6. Moodpath

This app is for: People with depression

Areas of focus: Depression and anxiety

If you’re just getting started on your journey of coping with depression, Moodpath is a useful tool that offers insight and self-monitoring tools. The app asks you questions about your mood and thought patterns and delivers an assessment every two weeks.

In turn, your doctor or therapist can then use these assessments to help you decide on the right course of treatment. This tracking can also help you figure out potential triggers and understand patterns that emerge over time.

The app also includes a variety of free courses that help you understand depression, its causes, and how it affects the body and thought patterns over time.

Download: Moodpath for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

7. Rootd

This app is for: People who have panic attacks or panic disorder

Areas of focus: Managing and preventing panic attacks

Rootd is a mental health app that helps you deal with a very specific symptom of anxiety: panic attacks. Rather than focusing on anxiety in general, Rootd focuses on short-term and long-term relief from panic attacks and coping with panic disorder.

The app provides information on panic attacks and why they happen. It also includes the Rootr tool, which you can use when you sense the start of a panic attack.

Other tools include breathing and meditation exercises to help you cope with the anxiety that leads to panic attacks. The app includes its basic tools and information for free, but requires a subscription for further lessons.

Download: Rootd on Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

8. Therapeer

This app is for: People who want a place to chat and vent with peers about mental health

Areas of focus: A broad range of mental health disorders and major life events

Therapeer is a peer emotional support app that lets you talk to others who have experience with mental health disorders and topics. You can sign up to receive support or give support to others.

Within the app, you’re able to join “rooms” to offer others advice on issues they’re facing. You can also set up your own room to ask for support. Therapeer offers support for a wide range of mental health issues, matching you with peers who’ve had similar experiences.

However, the app does not include access to therapists and thus isn’t a substitute for professional help. Rather, it provides a place to discuss your challenges and receive support from peers.

Download: Therapeer for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

9. NOCD

This app is for: People with OCD who want to connect with a community and therapists

Areas of focus: Obsessive-compulsive disorder and its various subtypes

NOCD is a free app for people with OCD that aims to connect you with a community, specialized therapists, and management tools.

A major benefit of the app is that it doesn’t just focus on the disorder in general, but its subtypes. This means that it tailors advice and suggestions according to the specific symptoms and compulsions that you are struggling with.

The app includes a community feed, helping you know you’re not alone in dealing with the disorder. Meanwhile, you can also schedule a free call with a therapist to help tailor your exercises and treatment plan.

Download: NOCD for Android | iOS (Free)

10. Calm Harm

This app is for: People who feel the urge to harm themselves

Areas of focus: Self-harm

The urge to self-harm is a symptom that can occur across a variety of mental health disorders, and it’s something many people struggle to talk about. Calm Harm provides users a way to cope with these urges without judgment.

The app uses the concept of “riding the wave”—providing you with activities and exercises until the urge passes. These include suggestions on how to release the anxiety or frustration causing the urges, providing comfort, distraction, and other ways to cope with the tension.

Calm Harm doesn’t treat the underlying cause of the urges, but provides a way to cope with the overwhelming feelings that lead to self-harm.

Download: Calm Harm for Android | iOS (Free)

Is It Time to Speak With a Professional?

If you have the access and means to set up professional one-on-one mental health care, that remains the best option. However, these apps can help you cope with symptoms or find remote therapists when you aren’t able to access in-person counseling.

Looking for more apps to help you cope? Have a look at some apps to help manage depression and change your mood, as well as apps for positivity and managing your mental health.

Image Credit: chuanpis/Shutterstock

Read the full article: The 10 Best Therapy and Counseling Apps for Mental Health Aid

14:00

How to Sync Your Google Calendar With Your To-Do List

sync-google-calendar-todo-list

When it comes to keeping your life organized, there are two indispensable tools that you must have: your calendar, and your to-do list. Knowing what you need to do and when to do it ensures that nothing gets forgotten, especially if you’re working remotely or at home.

However, most task management solutions keep these two items separate. Sure, you can see the due dates in your to-do list app, but wouldn’t it be nicer to see them on your calendar, where all your events are listed?

Here’s a list of to-do apps that sync with Google Calendar, along with a quick explanation on how to integrate them.

Why Use Google Calendar?

Why Should I Use Google Calendar

First, because it’s extremely popular. While there are tons of competitors on the market, almost everyone has or has had experience with a Gmail account. This means that they’ve glanced at a Google Calendar at least once.

Second, you should use this app because it’s so easy to find to-do lists that sync with Google Calendar.

If you prefer iCal? No problem, you can easily marry the two. Use Fantastical or the Windows Calendar? No issue with either of these as well.

Syncing these apps can be done in a couple of easy steps, and for this reason Google Calendar is a great, central place to manage your task list. Last but not least, Google Calendar also works with both IFTTT and Zapier, which means that you can make it work with almost every other app.

The Easiest Option: Sync Google Calendar With Google Tasks

Sync Google Calendar With Google Tasks

As you might expect, Google’s Tasks app is tightly integrated with Google Calendar. If you want to know more, you can also find out how Google Tasks helps you manage your to-do list.

Google Tasks is not as advanced as some of the other task management systems on this list, but if you need a place to jot down your thoughts, and you want to see those due dates on your calendar, it’s perfect.

To access Google Tasks:

  1. Go to calendar.google.com.
  2. Click on Tasks under My Calendars in the left sidebar. It should be automatically located in a separate category under Reminders.

You can also click on the Tasks icon on the top right-hand side of your calendar, seen below in red. When you do, you’ll see an expanded task list as well as reminders for the days that the tasks are due.

Sync Google Calendar With Google Tasks

Also, you can open up Google Tasks in Gmail. You can find the app by clicking on the Tasks app icon to expand the menu inside your inbox. Once again, it’s located on the top right-hand side of your screen.

Sync Google Calendar With Google Tasks From Gmail

Also, if you want to see Tasks in full-size, you can go to mail.google.com/tasks/canvas, which will redirect you to your calendar with the Tasks app fully expanded. You won’t get any more features by doing this, but you will have a full tab to work with.

In any of these app views:

  • Click on the edit icon next to a task to add a due date.
  • Once you’ve assigned a due date, you’ll see that task displayed on your Google Calendar.
  • You can also add notes or “details” to a specific task.

It’s as simple as that.

The Third-Party Option: Syncing Other To-Do List Apps With Google Calendar

To Do Apps That Sync With Google Calendar Remember the Milk

Now let’s say you’re using a third-party task manager, such as one of these options on this list of Mac reminder apps. Even if you’re using a third-party app, there’s still a good chance that you can sync it with Google Calendar.

If we take the app Remember the Milk, you can easily sync it by adding the Google Calendar gadget.

For other apps:

  • Most well-known task management apps have some sort of Calendar integration.
  • Evernote can sync with Calendar and task-list apps.
  • Trello can be synced, too.

Basically, if there’s a task management system out there, there’s a good way to sync it up with Google Calendar. Just consult the app’s documentation processes to find out how to sync it.

The Safe Option: Sync Microsoft To Do With Google Calendar

Microsoft To Do Google Calendar

Out of all these third-party apps, there’s one we want to give its own section to. That’s because both Microsoft and Google are heavyweights when it comes to online organizational tools.

If you’ve never tried it out before, Microsoft To Do is an organizational app available for Windows, Mac, and Android. Through it, you can quickly locate your daily task lists across multiple devices, share those lists, and use the app’s integration with Outlook Tasks.

Additionally, you can also sync Microsoft To Do with Google Calendar using an automation service like Zapier. Conveniently, this brings us to the next section.

Going Custom: Using an Automation Service to Sync With Google Calendar

To Do List That Syncs With Google Calendar Zapier

If your third-party app isn’t amendable to sync with Google Calendar, you do have other options. Zapier and IFTTT can connect a huge number of apps together, and many of them allow you to sync up with Google Calendar.

For example, here is a short list of task and project management apps that Zapier supports:

  • Asana
  • Todoist
  • Google Tasks
  • Omnifocus
  • Toodledo
  • Week Plan
  • Nozbe
  • Remember the Milk
  • Checkvist
  • Focuster
  • Zenkit

Setting up automated integration using Zapier or IFTTT is really easy. Here’s one that adds Evernote reminders to your Google Calendar.

IFTTT also lets you add your follow-up reminders from followup.cc to Google Calendar, so you can always see who you need to be emailing and when. And with Zapier’s multi-step zaps, you’re really only limited by your imagination.

Be Bold: Try out a Completely Different To-Do List App Like “Sorted”

If you’re a fan of time blocking and highly specific scheduling, and you’re not satisfied with the apps that connect to-do lists that sync with Google Calendar, then you might be interested in going completely off the well-trodden path.

Try Sorted, an app that makes it easy to schedule all your tasks in a day. Just add those tasks to your list, use gestures to reorganize them, and you’ll see what you need to get done.

How Do You Stay in Sync Using a Calendar?

There are plenty of ways to find to-do apps that sync with Google Calendar. The degree to which you want to sync them and how many details you’d like to share between the two largely depends upon your own personal time management system.

Beyond to-do lists, you can also sync Google Calendar with other services. Here’s how to use a third-party app to sync Google Calendar with Microsoft Outlook.

Read the full article: How to Sync Your Google Calendar With Your To-Do List

13:00

The Hottest Live-Streaming Social Apps Worth Trying

live-streaming-apps

Live-streaming continues to grow in popularity, in part thanks to how accessible it is. If you have a smartphone, you can live-stream to your followers—whether you’re cooking, gaming, or just chatting away merrily to yourself.

Live streams on social media are great because you can interact with your followers and build an audience. Or you can just mess around with friends and family. So, in this article, we run through the best live-streaming social apps.

1. Instagram Live

Instagram has remained pretty similar to how it was when it launched in 2010. Back then it was a photo-sharing social app, though now videos are a big part of the platform too.

As well as sharing pre-recorded video on Instagram, you can also broadcast live to your followers. To get started, open Instagram and tap the camera icon at the top. At the bottom of the screen, scroll to Live, and then tap the red broadcast icon.

As you live-stream to your social followers, they can leave comments which will appear on the video. You can also invite someone to join the live stream with you.

When you’re ready to finish, tap End at the top, and you can choose to save the video to your device and to your Instagram feed for 24 hours. You can also share it to IGTV, which is a separate Instagram app for viewing specially made videos.

For more guidance, see our article detailing how to start a live video on Instagram.

Download: Instagram for Android | iOS (Free)

2. Facebook Live

If Facebook is your main social media app, it makes sense to go live there. Although Facebook also owns Instagram, the two have their own live streaming features. To go live on Facebook, make a new post and choose Go Live.

With the camera now open, scroll along the bottom until you reach Live. Next, tap To at the top to change who you want your live video to be accessible to, like just friends or for everyone. Give the broadcast a description and you can also tag friends and a location if you want.

When you’re ready to go, tap Start Live Video. Your live stream will then appear in the social feeds of whomever you granted permission to earlier. You can broadcast for up to 90 minutes, during which viewers can chat with you and send reaction emojis.

When it comes time to wrap it up, tap Finish. Your video will then appear on your timeline to be viewed later. Unlike Instagram, there is no time limit—your live video can stay there for as long as you want.

Download: Facebook for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

3. Twitch

Twitch originally began as a way for people to broadcast video games from their desktop computers, but it has expanded to allow for other types of live streams too. You also no longer need any complicated software to get started—just your smartphone and the Twitch app.

With the Twitch app open, tap your profile icon in the top-left and then tap Go Live. Give your stream a catchy title and select the category. You can tap Share to and give the live stream link to friends in other apps. When you’re ready to go, tap Start Stream.

Twitch is a great platform for when you want to live-stream, interact with the viewers, and build a dedicated community. People can subscribe to your channel and be notified when you go live. They can also donate money to you. Some people base their entire career around Twitch live-streaming, but it also works as a great way to live-stream to a small group.

Your live stream will be saved on Twitch for 14 days, unless you are Twitch Partner, Prime, or Turbo member, in which case it will be saved for 60 days. Here’s everything you need to know about Twitch subscriptions.

Download: Twitch for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

4. YouTube Live

YouTube is the largest video service in the world and it’s a breeze to host a live stream using the app. That said, there are a number of requirements you need to meet before you can host a live stream, such as having at least 1,000 subscribers and having no Community Guideline strikes on your account.

Once you’ve passed approval, open the YouTube app. Tap the camera icon in the top-right and then choose Go live. You will need to grant the app various phone permissions if this is your first live stream.

Set the various options for your stream, such as the title, thumbnail, and chat customization. You can tap the right arrow at the top to share the live stream to your social media followers on other platforms. When you’re ready, tap Go live and you will start broadcasting.

Streaming live on YouTube is a great choice because the platform has solid infrastructure and your live stream will be archived on your channel. This means that those who missed the stream at the time can come and watch it later.

For more advice, see our article explaining how to live-stream on YouTube.

Download: YouTube for Android | iOS (Free)

5. TikTok

You probably know TikTok best for its short and funny videos. It’s especially popular with youngsters, and features a lot of dancing and comedy sketches.

What you might not know is that you can also host a social media live stream with TikTok. However, you must have at least 1,000 followers to do so. Also, although you can make a TikTok account at 13-years-old, you must be at least 16-years-old to live-stream.

If you do fulfil those requirements, kicking off your live stream is simple. Open TikTok and press the central plus icon, like you normally would when making a video. This time, though, swipe along the bottom until you reach the Live option.

Now you can add a title and apply any filters that you desire. Once you’re ready to broadcast to your TikTok followers, tap the Go Live button.

Download: TikTok for Android | iOS (Free)

6. Periscope

Periscope is an app dedicated to social live streams. It’s a great platform for all sorts of live streams, like question and answer sessions, music performances, tourist destination tours, and more. It’s also the platform that Twitter uses for its live streams, since Twitter owns Periscope.

One of the great things about doing a live stream on Periscope is that it’s very social. People can chat in the comments, send hearts to let you know they’re enjoying the stream, and share it with their friends so that they can join in too.

To get started, open Periscope and tap the camera icon at the bottom. Name your live stream and select who you want to share it with. Use the relevant icons to set your location, chat, and sharing preferences (this is important to control your privacy).

When you’re ready to go, tap Go Live and you can start broadcasting to and chatting with your social media followers. When you’re done, swipe down on the screen and tap Stop Broadcast.

Download: Periscope for Android | iOS (Free)

Build Your Live Stream Audience

For most of these apps, live streams are just a part of the experience. Experiment with each of them and see which you prefer when it comes to hosting live streams and building an audience.

And once you have settled on one of these live-streaming social apps, check out our tips for building an audience for your live-streaming channel.

Read the full article: The Hottest Live-Streaming Social Apps Worth Trying

12:30

TickTime: The Best Pomodoro Timer If You Work From Home

ticktime personal pomodoro time tracker
Our verdict of the TickTime:
It’s dead-simple to use, efficient, and better than what’s out there. Buy it if you want the world's best Pomodoro Method timer for your remote office.
8 10

Looking for the best Pomorodo Method time tracker? The TickTime beats all work-from-home competitors, but it comes with a high price of $39 for its IndieGogo launch, rising to $59 when it reaches retail.

It’s only worth it for hardcore Pomodoro-technique users. But if you’re looking for a better way to manage work from home, there’s nothing better than a TickTime.

Let’s talk about why the TickTime leveled up my personal productivity game; and the end of this review, we’ve got one to giveaway to one lucky winner.

Why Most Time-Tracking Devices and Apps Suck

If you’re anything like me, there are a dozen open tabs in your browser and you’ve lost track of all but one. And to top things off, you can’t even remember what day it is. And it feels like the word “deadline” is more literal than it is figurative.

And on top of the stress and dread, you share an office with someone who demands complete silence.

And that’s why your mechanical kitchen timer, which sounds like a bomb nearing detonation, just won’t do.

Do you reach for an app or your smartphone personal assistant? Neither are good options. Constantly checking your phone means also looking at distracting notifications. You might as well stream Netflix instead of work. And talking to your phone is just going to drive your partner insane. You need an alternative that’s dead-simple to use and distraction-free.

If you use the Pomodoro Method, then you’re already familiar with the Pomodoro Timer. But for those who aren’t, it’s a productivity management system, perfect for those who work from home.

What Is the Pomodoro Technique?

ticktime compared to pomodoro timer

The Pomodoro Technique entails breaking large tasks down into smaller blocks. It works like this: you break a larger, complex task down into smaller, more manageable subtasks. You then work on a task for 25 minutes, tracking each block of time with a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, known as a Pomodoro Timer—this is where the method gets its name.

The Pomodoro Timer winds up like an old clock. And like an old clock, Pomodoro Timers are loud, making an audible tick every second with relentless, maddening agony. If you’re sensitive to repetitive sounds, it’s impossible to concentrate while it’s running. Fortunately, there are a variety of specialized digital timers, such as the TimeCube Plus, digital kitchen timers, and as of May of 2020, the TickTime.

TickTime Features

Build Quality and Components

ticktime outer shell is metal

The TickTime has a mostly high-quality build. It’s made from a combination of plastic and aluminum. The outer jacket of its prism-shaped body is composed of aluminum. The LED-face numerals are semi-transparent plastic which are embedded in the metal shell.

A blue LED inside of the prism shines through the plastic when it’s turned on, repetitively blinking for each second that elapses. As time elapses, its light blinks faster. The timer can determine which side is facing up through a gyroscopic sensor. A gyroscopic sensor (also referred to as a “gyro”) can determine whether the device is tilted and the angle of tilt, just like smartphones and other electronic time-tracking cubes.

The LCD Counter

ticktime lcd display and button

On one end of the device there’s a hexagonal plastic face, which is the only plastic side of the device. Embedded in it is a backlit color LCD screen. The display includes a radial dial which shows how much time is remaining and a digital counter. The LCD screen partially rotates in order to match the device’s angle. Placing the device with a three facing up rotates the display 180 degrees. Rotating it to the 30-minute numeral rotates the screen another 180 degrees.

Unfortunately, the display does not rotate to match the orientation of the other timer settings, so on the five-minute setting, the display is at a near 45-degree angle. Still visible and readable, but I wonder why the manufacturers made the decision to only rotate the screen at two positions.

Buttons

ticktime buttons closeup

It also includes four buttons: a pair of volume-up and volume-down buttons and a minute-up and minute-down button. Pressing the volume-up and volume-down buttons at the same time turns the device off or on. The time adjustment buttons allow for you to set granular timers. For example, if you needed seven minutes instead of five.

The buttons themselves are constructed from plastic and aren’t anything to write home about.

Using the TickTime

Using the TickTime is dead simple. Just turn it on by pressing the Volume+ and Volume- buttons and then put it on a flat surface with the desired time numeral facing up. The TickTime then immediately begins counting down.

The TickTime offers two modes: Distraction-Free mode, in which the timer shuts off its LCD display and begins silently counting down. Normal mode, in which the timer begins counting down from one of its preset, or custom, timers.

Using the TickTime’s Normal Mode

The TickTime comes with six pre-set timers: 30, 25, 15, 10, 5, and 3 minutes. Setting a time requires just placing the desired numeral facing up, and then TickTime begins counting down.

Using the TickTime’s Distraction-Free Mode

ticktime distraction-free mode

To use its Distraction-Free mode, you place the timer with one of the faces up, and then turn the timer over with its LCD display facing down. The TickTime then shuts off its LCD display (you’ll have to trust us on that, you can’t see it because it’s facing downward). It then begins its countdown from the last preset timer you set. For example, if you last had it on a three-minute timer, it starts at three minutes.

I highly recommend using Distraction-Free mode. It significantly extends battery life while at the same time it reduces the number of distractions by switching off the LCD display.

Battery Life

ticktime lcd screen closeup

For those concerned about battery life, the TickTime does not automatically shut itself off, although it does drop into a low-power state when not in use after a period of inactivity. In its suspended mode, the timer can get weeks of standby time.

In Normal mode, its usage time isn’t great. The illuminated LCD screen and blinking LED lights give it no more than three working days of battery life.

I managed to finish two eight-hour workdays and most of a third before the battery needed recharging. But compared to other dedicated timers, like a TimeCube or digital kitchen timer, the battery life is poor. Even the cheapest of digital timers can get months of battery time, rather than days. Had TickTime used a monochrome LCD screen and dispensed with the blue LEDs, its battery life could have been far greater.

Compared to a smartphone’s battery life, though, it’s not as bad. And running a timer app all day long would leave your phone with little life left at the end of the day. For for those concerned about carrying a charger around, the Micro-USB port inside of the TickTime allows you to charge using any smartphone charger. Combined with its fast charging speed of around 3o minutes, and tiny size, the TickTime is the best personal timer for mobile usage on today’s market.

In Distraction-Free mode, the TickTime gets at least a week of battery life or more.

The TickTime Vs. Digital and Mechanical Timers

I pitted the TickTime in a head-to-head competition against a Pomodoro Timer, an hourglass, a Fossil Gen 5 WearOS smartwatch, and a Google Home assistant.

TickTime Vs. Pomodoro and Hourglass Time Trackers

ticktime compared to hourglass and pomodoro timers

Like all electronic time-tracking devices, the TickTime is surgically precise, unlike mechanical timers. While they might not need batteries, an hourglass or wind-up kitchen timer is inherently unreliable. To get a better understanding of how timers improve productivity, I tested the TickTimer against an hourglass and a wind-up Pomodoro-style kitchen timer. Here are some of the observations that I made after two months of testing.

Mechanical Timers Are Inaccurate

Hourglasses and Pomodoro Timers are anywhere from 10-20% less accurate than digital devices. In other words, during a typical 25-minute session, your timer could be anywhere from two to four minutes off—which makes it undesirable as a productivity management tool or kitchen timer.

Pomodoro Timers and Hourglasses Are Distracting

Mechanical timers aren’t bad. But they’re garbage for tasks that require immense concentration, like writing or reading. Neither task is helped by the staccato of a grandfather clock or a bomb. Neither of which have ever been used to manage someone’s productive hours.

An hourglass’s silence is exactly the opposite. It’s completely silent. Perfect for someone who is easily distracted by repetitive sounds. However, its silence leads to another productivity issue: it causes the user to constantly have to shift attention from the task and hand and the timer. Without any feature that alerts the user that time has expired, an hourglass provides more distractions than it does benefits.

TickTime Vs. Electronic Trackers

ticktime compared to digital timers

If you’re using an electronic timer, like a smartphone or Fossil Gen 5 WearOS smartwatch, setting a timer requires spending precious minutes fidgeting with the device. While artificial intelligence software, like Google Assistant, can respond to voice commands, that’s potentially a source of conflict in a shared office. The selling point of the TickTime is that it can run completely silent. Whenever the time expires, the hexagonal prism flashes blue lights, letting you know time has elapsed.

A smartphone or WearOS watch, on the other hand, can be configured with an army of applications, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Toggl (which we officially recommend as the best time-tracking app on all platforms).

The closest competitor in the personal-timer space is the TimeCube Plus and its clones. Time cubes perform all the same functions as the TickTime, but with one major disadvantage: they only have four functional sides for tracking time. That means the TickTime has a wider range of uses and more flexibility for cooking and tracking activities. And on top of that, time cubes are oversized and feel like cheap junk.

On the downside, the TickTime costs two to three times more. And while the TickTime is much smaller and lighter than a Time Cube, its integrated battery means once the lithium-ion battery dies, you’ve got to throw it away. A time cube, on the other hand, can use two AAA batteries, either disposable or rechargeable. And while it has fewer faces, Amazon and other online retailers offer different variations. The red TimeCube Plus model includes the 25-minute timer neccessary to use Pomodoro.

Criticisms

It’s Expensive

While better than its competition, the TickTime’s price is too high. For $59, you could buy two of the cheaper time cubes. It may not be as pretty, portable, or well-designed as a TickTime, but it does pretty much the same thing. And it will do it for a longer stretch of time, both in the lifetime of the device and in battery life.

It Could Use More Pre-Set Times

hexagonal antiprism has 12 sides instead of eight Image Credit: Stella Software

The TickTime also doesn’t have enough faces to match the flexibility of an analog Pomodoro timer. While it does offer the ability to manually set a time by using the minute up and seconds up buttons, for someone who wants to set a 99 minute and 99 second timer, it requires hitting its buttons 198 times: an absurd amount of button pressing.

Would have been better as a hexagonal antiprism. An antiprism structure would have allowed for 12 faces, which would have enabled a wider range of times.

It Was (Successfully) Crowd Funded

Crowd-funded projects cost less and you get it before anyone else, but with a serious caveat: if the manufacturer fails to produce a product, you get nothing. In other words, you take on serious risk in exchange for a discounted product. Some crowd-funded projects don’t even refund your money if the funding fails.

The TickTime, however, has already been successfully funded and is in production. There are still $39 Early Bird units available, although once those sell out, the price jumps up to $59.

Short Battery Life in Normal Mode

The battery life is too short at around three days of all-day usage in Normal mode. However, in Distraction-Free mode, battery life is significantly increased, so it can run with daily use for weeks, instead of days.

Frequent charging degrades a lithium-ion battery, which can lead to a short life. With frequent use, I estimate the device’s lifespan to be around two to three years. But as with all devices that include lithium-ion batteries…

The Battery Isn’t Replaceable

My least favorite feature of the TickTime is its non-replaceable lithium-ion battery. A typical consumer-grade lithium-ion battery may last for around 1,000 charges before it dies. Although in truth, they rarely last more than three years of frequent use, regardless of the number of charge-discharge cycles you put it through.

Other time tracking devices, such as the TimeCube Plus, have replaceable AAA batteries. And that means your device will likely last as long as the electronics and not the battery.

No Pause Feature

The TickTime lacks a pause feature. Some of its competitors, like the TimeCube Plus, timer-apps on smartphones, and other digital timers, include a pause feature.

Always Flashing Blue Lights

If you find blue light distracting, this is not the device for you. Whenever you set a timer, regardless of its mode, the TickTime is always flashing a blue light. While that’s a lot less distracting than an analog timer ticking away, it’s still perfect for productivity techniques.

Should You Buy the TickTime Personal Timer?

Everyone who uses the Pomodoro Method, and works from home, should consider using a digital time tracker instead of one of those clunky tomato timers. Trust me, they’re garbage. But the TickTime fits into a special niche within the world of time-tracking gadgets. While it’s much better than its competitors, it has one serious fly in its ointment: an unreplaceable battery.

For those who can overlook its flaw, the TickTime is the hands-down best Pomodoro Technique time-management device on the market.

Enter the Competition!

TickTime Pomodoro Timer

Read the full article: TickTime: The Best Pomodoro Timer If You Work From Home

12:00

7 Ways to Upload and Share Videos From Your iPhone

Your iPhone captures amazing video whether you’re shooting in 4K, slow-motion, or good old 1080p. But what use is glorious video if nobody can see it?

Sharing just about anything from iOS is a painless affair, and video is no exception. The best method or service for you depends on who you want to share with. We’ll even show you how to create a link for videos on your iPhone so people can watch them from any device.

Let’s look at the best ways to upload and share videos directly from your iPhone.

1. Share Videos From the Photos App

When you shoot a video, it saves to the Photos app on your iPhone, possibly uploading to iCloud Photos if you use that service. To view all your videos, open Photos and go to the Albums tab, then scroll down and tap Videos.

The easiest way to share videos from your iPhone is using the Photos app itself. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the video you want to share in the Photos app and tap the Share button.
  2. The top row of the Share Sheet shows your recent AirDrop and Messages contacts. The second row lists apps you can use to share videos.
  3. Tap the contact or app you want to share your video with.

iOS Photos Share icon

This is the best way to share videos that you want to send using the Messages app, especially since the top row of the Share Sheet lists your most recent contacts from that app. However, your iPhone might compress videos you send using Messages (if it sends over SMS) to meet your service provider’s size limits.

Tapping an iPhone app in the second row of the Share Sheet usually opens a new window that lets you add a message or choose exactly how to share the video using that app. Alternatively, you can open the app itself and use the sharing features inside the app for even more options.

Why choose the Photos app? Sharing directly from this menu is a great way to go if you want to browse through the videos on your iPhone before choosing which one to share.

2. Share to Local Devices Using AirDrop

The best way to share videos from your iPhone to nearby Apple devices is by using AirDrop. It’s much faster than uploading videos to the internet and doesn’t compress their contents at all. Even better, AirDrop lets you share across any Apple device: iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

Here’s how to share your iPhone videos using AirDrop:

  1. Open the Photos app and find your video.
  2. Tap the Share button, then select the AirDrop option in the second row.
  3. You should see every Apple device within Bluetooth range that has AirDrop turned on. Tap the one you want to share your video with.

AirDrop is a little temperamental and seems to work best with newer devices. You don’t need to be on the same Wi-Fi network, but you do need to have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on. Check out our AirDrop troubleshooting guide if you run into any problems.

Why choose AirDrop? Transfer speeds are lightning-fast since AirDrop doesn’t rely on an internet connection. AirDrop also doesn’t need to compress your videos at all.

Sharing to Local Android Devices

AirDrop doesn’t work with Android devices, so you need to use third-party apps to share locally across platforms. Generally speaking, for this to work, both devices need to use the same third-party app and connect to the same Wi-Fi network.

If you can’t connect to the same Wi-Fi network, create a personal hotspot on your iPhone instead. Go to Settings > Cellular > Personal Hotspot to do so.

Plenty of third-party apps are available for cross-platform sharing, but we recommend apps like SHAREit or PhotoSync. Both of these are available for free on iPhone and Android devices.

Download: SHAREit for iOS | Android (Free)
Download: PhotoSync for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)

3. Upload Videos to Social Media Platforms

Share Sheet social icons in iOS

If you want to share your iPhone videos with all your friends, family, and followers, then social media and video-sharing platforms are the best choice. Simply download your favorite app, log in, and upload your video using the app itself.

Here are some of the best apps to upload your iPhone videos to:

  • YouTube: Public, private, or unlisted videos, with almost no size limits.
  • Vimeo: Public and private high-quality videos limited to 500MB/week.
  • Instagram: Public videos of up to one minute or longer with IGTV.
  • Facebook: Public or private videos with a limit of 240 minutes or 10GB in size.
  • Twitter: Public videos with a limit of two minutes and 20 seconds or 512MB in size.
  • Flickr: Public or private videos with a limit of three minutes or 1GB in size.

All of these video hosting sites offer slightly different ways to upload videos from your iPhone. Most of them are available from the Share Sheet in the Photos app, but you can also choose to Upload, Post, or Share videos from within the apps themselves.

Which platform should you choose? If your videos aren’t particularly long, use whichever service most of your friends and family already use. Just be warned that many social media apps employ fairly aggressive video compression.

4. Upload Videos to a Shared Album in iCloud

iCloud Shared Albums are one of the best ways to share videos with other friends and family members who have an iPhone. Shared Albums work like a private social media feed. Everyone gets notifications for new photos or videos and can add comments. You can even let other people add their own videos.

Shared Albums in iCloud don’t use any extra iCloud storage, so you won’t lose space because other people keep uploading more videos. For this to work, Apple compresses the uploaded videos. So they won’t look as good on recipients’ devices as they do on yours.

Here’s how to create a Shared Album for sharing videos over iCloud:

  1. Launch Photos and find the video you want to share. Select multiple photos and videos if you want.
  2. Tap the Share button, then choose Add to Shared Album beneath the first two rows.
  3. In the popup that appears, add a comment to your video. Then choose a Shared Album or create a New Shared Album and pick who to share it with.

iCloud photos new shared album

Why use iCloud Shared Albums? iCloud Shared Albums are free and easy to use with any Apple device, letting you add more pictures and videos to the same Shared Album time and time again.

Create an iCloud Link to Share Your iPhone Videos

To use iCloud Shared Albums, everyone needs to have an Apple device. But if you create an iCloud link for your videos instead, people can watch or download your videos from any device.

You can share these video links to people over text, email, social media, or even add a link on your blog. The links expire automatically after 30 days, but you can also choose to stop sharing your video earlier if you want.

Here’s how to create an iCloud link for videos on your iPhone:

  1. Open Photos and select the video you want to make a link for.
  2. Tap the Share button, then scroll down and select Copy iCloud Link.
  3. After your iPhone prepares the video link, Paste it into a text message, email, or social media post to share it with whoever you want.
  4. To stop sharing an iCloud link, go to the For You tab in Photos and find the Recently Shared section. Tap the video you want to stop sharing, then tap the three-dot menu () and choose to Stop Sharing.

Copy iCloud Link from Photos Share Sheets

5. Share Videos Using Google Photos

Google Photos is similar to iCloud Photos, but it’s a better option for sharing with Android and Windows users. After uploading your iPhone photo and video library to Google Photos, you can share a link to your videos to anyone with a Google account.

Google lets you upload all your photos and videos to Google Photos for free in “high quality,” which uses minimal compression to reduce the size of your files. You can upload original-quality videos instead, but these files will eat up your available Google Drive space (you get 15GB for free).

Here’s how to share your iPhone videos using Google Photos:

  1. Open Google Photos on your iPhone. If this is your first time using it, sign in using your Google account and upload your iPhone photos and videos to Google.
  2. Select the video you want to share, then hit the Share button.
  3. Choose a recent Google contact or use the Search button to find a Google account using someone’s name, phone number, or email address.
  4. Tap Next and write a message to send with your video, then tap Send to share it.

Why use Google Photos? It’s perfect for sharing videos with non-Apple devices that can’t access iCloud. Plus, you can use Google Photos to back up your videos online.

Download: Google Photos for iOS (Free, subscription available)

6. Create a Link Using Cloud Storage Services

If you only want to share a file with one individual or a small group of people, cloud storage services are the way to go. These services don’t usually compress your videos, which means you can share them in the highest quality. This also means you might need more space for longer, higher-definition videos.

The lack of compression makes this the best way to share your iPhone videos when quality is a concern for editing or production purposes.

The key to success is having enough storage available on your chosen service. Our favorite options include Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. Each one gives you a small amount of cloud storage for free.

Google Drive storage promo

Most cloud storage services work directly from the Share Sheet in the Photos app. But you can also upload files and make video-sharing links within the apps themselves on your iPhone. After creating a link, send it to your friends or family members in a text, email, or social media message.

Which service is best? Google Drive gives you a generous 15GB of space for free. Plus, if you use Gmail or YouTube, then you already have a Google account.

Download: Dropbox for iOS (Free, subscription available)
Download: Google Drive for iOS (Free, subscription available)
Download: Microsoft OneDrive for iOS (Free, subscription available)

7. Peer-to-Peer Transfer With Resilio Sync

You can share videos with a peer-to-peer setup using an app called Resilio Sync (formerly BitTorrent Sync). This removes the need for a cloud storage service, as Resilio Sync sends the file directly from your iPhone to the recipient’s device.

Although Resilio Sync is secure and fast—limited only by your internet speed—both devices need to be online and using the app for the transfer to take place.

You need to leave Resilio Sync open on your iPhone for as long as it takes to transfer your videos. Thus, it isn’t ideal for large files.

Here’s how to share videos using Resilio Sync on your iPhone:

  1. Open Resilio Sync on your iPhone and make sure the recipient has it open on their own device.
  2. Tap the Add (+) button and choose to Share file. Select the video you want to share from your photo library.
  3. From the Share Sheet, choose how to send the Resilio Sync link to a contact.
  4. Once your contact starts receiving the file, you should be able to follow the transfer status at the bottom of the screen.

Share File option from Resilio Sync

Why choose Resilio? If you want a secure peer-to-peer connection for sending uncompressed video, then this is the best way to share videos from your iPhone.

Download: Resilio Sync for iOS (Free)

Edit Your Videos to Perfection Before Sharing

For most users, sharing videos on Facebook or Instagram is good enough. iCloud Shared Albums is the way to go for private sharing if your friends and family all use Apple devices; otherwise Google Photos is a great alternative.

If you have the online storage space available, then cloud services like Dropbox are a good option for sharing uncompressed video files. And if you don’t have enough storage, securely transfer videos directly between devices with Resilio Sync instead.

Choose the option that’s right for you and keep the camera rolling. Just make sure you use some iPhone video editing apps to perfect your videos before you share them with the world.

Read the full article: 7 Ways to Upload and Share Videos From Your iPhone

11:00

How to Spot and Avoid Fake Virus and Malware Warnings

fake-virus

As you use your computer and browse the web, you may occasionally run into infection warnings that appear to be legitimate. These anti-malware warning messages—appropriately called “scareware”—are designed to force you into installing fake anti-malware programs that are actually malware in disguise.

While scareware can be, well, scary, let’s explore how to tell if a virus warning is real.

3 Most Common Fake Virus Warnings

While fake virus alerts could theoretically crop up in any manner, history has shown that three types frequently appear. As such, if you can learn to spot these, you should be safe.

1. Website Advertisements Disguised as Virus Scanners

A fake virus scanner advert Image Credit: Ron A. Parker/Flickr

Advertisement designers will sometimes resort to underhand tactics to persuade you to click. Some shady antivirus companies will get you to visit their website by showing you a fake alert. For example, the image above shows a webpage modeled to look like a virus scanner.

Malware-laden advertisements, known as “malvertisements,” aren’t anything new; however, they can still be scary. When browsing a webpage, you might see flashing ads that claim to know your IP address, where you live, and that your PC has thousands of virus infections.

It’s important to note that a malvertisement that claims to know your location isn’t anything special. After all, your IP address tells every website you visit where you’re connecting from. This is why, if you access a US-based store, they may ask if you want to visit the UK version instead.

The only solution is to ignore these adverts. No self-respecting anti-malware company would ever report their alerts through a website ad, nor can a company know what kind of infections are on your system simply by you visiting a webpage.

2. Browser Popups Claiming to Be Virus Scanners

A fake virus popup Image Credit: Atomicdragon136/Wikimedia

Banner ads are admittedly easy to notice and avoid, but there’s another form of advertisement that’s more convincing.

These popups often copy the actual appearances of warnings from real anti-malware software. What’s worse is that these popups often disguise their “X” buttons and show a fake one. If you click on the fake “X,” it counts as if you clicked the ad itself.

You can usually tell that a popup is fake because it will be over-the-top in its scariness. It will tell you that you must “act immediately” to prevent the destruction of your computer or the loss of your data. The urgency is only there because they want you to act without thinking.

3. System Tray Notifications Pretending to Be Operating System Warnings

A rarer but more severe form of scareware appears in the system tray as a notification, usually telling you that there’s a massive infection in your system that needs to be resolved pronto. Unfortunately, these can be pretty convincing.

Windows 8 and 10 both use toast notifications instead of balloon notifications, but they’re still vulnerable to fake messages. Full-screen videos or browsers can also show fake warnings.

Ultimately, the warning signs of a fake popup apply here as well. Look for over-the-top scariness and a sense of urgency that makes you want to act immediately. That’s a good sign that the warning isn’t real.

What to Do If You Suspect a Fake Alert

If you ever encounter one of the alert types mentioned above, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world. Here’s a simple checklist of what you should do ensure you circumnavigate the alert safely.

Don’t Click the Fake Alert

The worst thing you can do is to act hastily and accidentally do something that you’ll come to regret. Even if the alarm is flashing distressing words at you, don’t click it right away. This is how scareware works best, by preying on your fear and getting a reaction before you realize what you’re doing.

Make Sure It’s a Fake Warning

Next, be sure the warning is actually fake, and not a legitimate warning. Common giveaways include fake-sounding product names, features, vague promises, and a high frequency of alerts—more than once per day.

Also, keep an eye out for traits such as poor English. Any reputable antivirus software will ensure their English is perfect. For example, take a look at this fake antivirus alert and see how many grammatical errors you can spot:

A fake antivirus alert with telltale signs Image Credit: Michael Ragsdale/Flickr

The biggest giveaway is an alert that demands money immediately. For example, it can ask you to purchase a security product, upgrade a product you don’t actually have, or wire money somewhere. While reputable free antivirus programs may prod you to buy a product or subscription, they’re not as brash as a malvertisement.

Search for the Antivirus Product’s Name

If you don’t recognize the product name, search for it. If it’s legitimate, it will rank somewhere on the first page of results. If you can’t find any mention of it, or if there are a lot of other people asking about the legitimacy of the same product name, then it’s probably fake.

Close Your Browser and Check the Alert Again

If the alert popped up while you were browsing the web, don’t click on the “X” to close it. Instead, close your browser altogether (either through the Task Manager or by right-clicking on your browser in the taskbar). If the alert closes with the browser, it was fake.

Perform a Full Virus Scan on Your System

Spotting a fake malware alert doesn’t necessarily mean that your system has malware on it; however, malware infections can cause fake virus scanner ads to pop up. As a result, it’s a good idea to do a virus scan; doubly so if you haven’t been checking your computer’s hygiene recently.

Fortunately, these days, you don’t need to pay up for an effective virus scan. Just grab one of the free antivirus programs we recommend for everyday use.

If you find that the malware won’t go away, you may need a more advanced solution. Check out our complete malware removal guide for tips on how to give your PC a decent scrubbing.

Keep Yourself Safe From Online Threats

Scareware, as the name suggests, can be scary for a user. If you see one, don’t give in to their demands; after all, that’s exactly how they trap you in the first place. Fortunately, now you know how to tell if a virus is fake, and what to do if you see one.

If you want to keep yourself safe online, be sure to ask yourself these security-related questions.

Read the full article: How to Spot and Avoid Fake Virus and Malware Warnings

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