I like to think of myself as a reasonably punctual, conscientious guy who shows up when he says he’s going to show up. So imagine my embarrassment when I dozed right through my Android alarm on a recent morning, missing an early meeting and earning a reproachful glare from my hungry 4-year-old.
What happened? I did, after all, have my Android Clock app set to wake me at 6:30 a.m., and it’s not like I didn’t hear the buzzer; it simply never went off.
As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons why an Android alarm might fail to buzz. Maybe your Do Not Disturb rules are to blame, or perhaps you’re being a tad too aggressive with Total silence mode. And even if your Android alarm does buzz, you might have the volume set too low, or maybe it’s just too easy to hit the snooze button.
Preventing the spread of malware and/or dealing with the consequences of infection are a fact of life when using computers. If you’ve migrated to Linux or Mac seeking refuge from the never-ending stream of threats that seems to target Windows, you can breath a lungful of fresh air—just don’t let your guard down.
Though UNIX-like systems such as Mac OS X and Linux can claim fewer threats due to their smaller user bases, threats do still exist. Viruses can be the least of your problem too. Ransomware, like the recent version of KillDisk, attacks your data and asks you to pay, well, a king’s ransom to save your files. (In the case of KillDisk, even paying the ransom can’t save you if you’re running Linux.)
Sure, Google Maps makes it easy to find the shortest distance from A to B. But sometimes it’s not the fastest route you’re after, but the nicest one. Luckily, speed and ruthless efficiency aren’t the only things Google Maps is good for.
Enable the right settings, and Google Maps for Android and iOS can help plot the perfect meandering route to your destination, find restaurants with local flair, keep track of what you saw, scout out the most charming B&Bs, and keep you oriented while you’re hiking in the signal-free countryside.
Take the scenic route
If you want Google Maps to find the roads less taken for your next weekend getaway, try this.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting ways to spice up the New Tab page in the browser. The standard new-tab pages in Chrome and Firefox are useful enough, but they’re hardly beautiful things to look at.
A great solution for anyone looking to add a little flair—especially if you’re a virtual-reality fan—is a new extension for Chrome called SVRF Tabs. Created by SVRF—a company focused on search and discovery for virtual reality—the extension supplies a 360-degree image when you open a new tab. You can get stunning images of the California coastline, a tropical destination, a Welsh town, and many others.
You’ve spent a good amount of time getting Alexa to properly activate your wireless speakers, living room lights, and smart cam, but is your new IoT setup secure?
BullGuard has a quick and easy tool that can help you find out if there are any basic problems. It’s called the Internet of Things Scanner. The service checks to see if any of your devices are on Shodan, a search engine that lets anyone find Internet of Things devices like cameras, printers, and thermostats that are publicly accessible on the internet. Anything that’s publicly accessible may also be vulnerable to hackers if there are any security flaws in the software that can be exploited.
Tech novices need our help. They tend to run into the same pitfalls, and some of them make the same mistakes over and over. A novice friend may have cost you hours of informal tech support. Here's something you can show them before that next desperate phone call. To the novices out there: Get smarter by reading this.
Don’t fall for a remote support scam
Remote support scams usually start when someone calls you out of the blue, saying you have some computer problem or have been hacked. You might see a dialog box pop up on your computer, prompting you to call or download something. The person who answers may say they’re from Microsoft or Windows support, or are certified from them.
If you thought that deluge of political rants, memes, and arguments in your Facebook feed would end with the 2016 Presidential Election, think again. If anything, the thrum of political debate has only grown louder since the final votes were tallied. Whether you participate in these posts, just seeing them is proven to be wearing and stressful , and can ultimately be a drain on your productivity.
You don’t necessarily have to swear off social media completely to get relief, nor do you have to start a campaign of “unfriending” folks with offending opinions. There are several free browser add-ons that will help you purge your feed of politics—or at least keep it out of sight long enough to get your work done. Here are a few of the best.
One of the more useful online services for getting things done is IFTTT.com, which stands for If This, Then That. For example, if rain is the forecast for tomorrow, then send me an email.
A new program for the Windows called Ellp (currently in beta) is kind of like IFTTT for the desktop. It can’t carry out the wide number of actions that IFTTT can, but Ellp doesn’t have to. This program is more about managing actions on your PC than interacting with online services—though it does have a few features that are straight out of the IFTTT playbook.
At this writing, Ellp has only 11 actions, but over time it will hopefully develop more than that. Some of the more useful actions Ellp currently has include the ability to automatically run disk cleanup once your hard drive gets too full.
In Windows 10, Microsoft added a new feature for fans of digital pens called the Windows Ink Workspace. With this new feature, you get a centralized spot built into Windows 10 for your system’s pen-friendly apps.
Many users will never see the Ink Workspace if they aren’t using a digital pen with their PC. Nevertheless, Microsoft makes it possible for non-pen users to turn on the Ink Workspace in Windows 10 and check it out.
The holidays are over and the new year is upon us. It’s a great time to get your productivity needs in order for the next 12 months. The first thing you’ll need is the right software to get things done. Personally, I’d go with Office 365.
Microsoft’s productivity suite costs $99 per year for up to five users on Office 365 Home, or $70 for one user on Office 365 Personal. It may seem a little strange to pay for the Office suite in this age of Google Drive, free desktop suites like Libre Office, and even Microsoft’s free Office Online.
Using keyboard shortcuts may seem complicated since you have to memorize a bunch of key combinations. However, when it comes to efficiency you just can’t beat them. It’s much faster (and eventually easier) to keep your hands on the keyboard while navigating around your PC.
Still, it can be hard to know where to get started with keyboard shortcuts. I talk about this briefly in reference to the shortcut-oriented Chrome browser extension Vimium—a must-have extension in my opinion.
So you’ve got a new PC. Awesome! That humble metal box is the key to a wide world of potential. It can help you with everything from juggling your finances to keeping in touch with Grandma to blowing off some steam on, uh, Steam.
But a new PC isn’t like a new car; you can’t just turn a key and put the pedal to the metal. Okay, maybe you can—but you shouldn’t. Performing just a few simple activities when you first fire it up can help it be safer, faster, and better poised for the future. Here’s how to set up a new PC the right way, step by step.
Anyone who’s been using Windows long enough has probably heard about all the wonderful customizations you can do to the operating system through the registry. You’ve also probably been warned away from touching the registry for fear of messing up your PC.
Direct meddling with the registry is a tool best left to power users, but there is a great little Windows customization program that can do some of these advanced customizations for you. It’s called Winaero Tweaker for Windows 7 and up, by Russia-based developer Sergey Tkachenko.
It’s nearing the end of the year, and most people are busy finishing up the last week’s worth of work, and students are finishing up finals. For me, the last week and a half of December is usually a time to catch up on sleep, and take it easy. But an endless flow of cookies and Netflix can get tiresome.
Even if the end of the year is full of family commitments, dinners, and last-minute oh-geez-what-do-I-buy-my-brother-in-law shopping, a small project that doesn’t take too long can be rewarding, and may yield future benefits. Here are a few ideas that shouldn’t take more than a few hours.
1. Try a new Linux distro
A lot of Linux users love the OS because of the level of customization it allows. Once everything is set up just right, workflows can be quicker, and computing can be more personal and enjoyable. But sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone.
We’re big fans of OneNote around here, but there’s one killer feature that often gets overlooked in coverage of the note-taking program: recorded audio. The ability to record audio (or video, hardware permitting) sounds pedestrian. Your PC, smartphone, or tablet could easily do that with any number of apps.
But recording audio with OneNote on Windows has a special advantage. Not only is the audio recorded, but the program tracks your concurrent note-taking with time stamps during the recording process. This means you can jump to a specific point in a lecture or meeting recording just by selecting a certain paragraph in your notes.
A virtual private network is a great way to keep your internet usage secure and private whether at home or on public Wi-Fi. But just how private is your activity over a VPN? How do you know if the VPN is doing its job or if you’re unwittingly leaking information to those trying to pry into your activities?
One simple way to see if the VPN is working is to search for what is my IP on Google. At the top of the search results, Google will report back your current public Internet Protocol (IP) address. If you’re on a VPN, it should show the VPN’s IP. If it doesn’t, you know you have a problem.
Jimmie Bates wants to know if he should ever update his Windows recovery disk. I checked with Microsoft to get the full story, and here’s what I found out.
First of all, let’s be clear about what the recovery disk is. It’s not an image of your entire OS installation, or a full system backup. According to Microsoft, a user-created recovery disk for Windows 10 includes a bootable recovery environment along with the following:
As powerful as Gmail is, you make it even more productive with add-ons from Gmail Labs. If you’re new to Labs, it’s the testing ground for Gmail’s more experimental features. The successful ones go on to become standard Gmail capabilities—the much-loved Send & Archive button was once a Gmail Lab experiment—but while they’re in the Labs, there’s always the outside chance they could break, change, or disappear.
Microsoft’s OneNote is a surprisingly versatile tool for jotting down and organizing notes, random facts, and anything else that doesn’t fit into a spreadsheet or organized database. To keep it from turning into a virtual junk drawer, take advantage of its hierarchies of pages and outlines, sections and section groups, and notebooks. I'll walk you through those fundamentals and then show you my other favorite features.
I’m concentrating here on OneNote 2016—the version that comes with current versions of Microsoft Office, whether you're using the desktop version or Office 365. In older Office versions, exact commands described below may vary slightly. There’s also a limited free version, which comes with Windows 10 and can be downloaded in earlier Windows releases.
If you’re not familiar with the term sideloading, it means you’re adding extensions to your browser through unofficial channels. This is something you were able to do with Chrome, but for regular users it is now more or less banned. Android devices also support sideloading.
You’d think the Command Prompt (formerly known as the DOS prompt) would be long-gone after 30 years of Windows’ graphical interface, but it’s not, and there’s a good reason why. Though many of its duties have been replaced by icons or tiles, there are still things a DOS command does better or faster, as any IT professional already knows.
Most users don’t need to go into the deep weeds with command prompts (check out Microsoft's A-Z reference if you do), but there are a few tasks and tricks that are handy for everyone to know. What are your favorite commands? Tell us at email@example.com and we might add it to this article.
We’ve talked before about how to keep the desktop clean. But for desktop addicts it’s not so simple, is it? The desktop is a convenient place to quickly store files that you download or want to have readily available. At least at first. Over time, the files build up and before you know it the desktop is a mess again, the exact opposite of efficient.
OneNote is a great tool for creating notes, to-do lists, and even journaling. The problem is, those are just the kind of things you want to title by date (or at least have the date as part of the title), and then organize them in descending order. OneNote does not make this process easy. You could just type the date in every time, but that’s not ideal.
Here are two strategies for dealing with this problem.
The Excel Date & Time functions I’m covering here—EDATE, YEARFRAC, EOMONTH, and NETWORKDAYS.INTL—are four of the many used for counting days. For each function listed below, I’ll define it first, then show the function’s arguments, which are the values that functions use to perform calculations. Then I’ll show a sample of the function’s syntax—how the formula is arranged, which includes the function’s name, parentheses, comma separators, and its arguments.
Note that Arguments are always surrounded by parentheses, and individual arguments are separated by commas.
EDATE is a practical function for returning a date some number of months in the future or past, using a positive value for future dates, a negative value for past dates. For instance, you can use this function to calculate a retirement date or expiration date, to calculate someone’s age from a birthdate, or to add a given number of years to a specified date.
Patrick Scott bought some laptops for his kids, but they were so slow the kids stopped using them. This is a common issue with bloatware-laden consumer laptops, sadly. He performed a “factory reset,” with the hopes of reinstalling the OS without all the crap that was preinstalled. To his horror he discovered the factory reset reinstalled all the bloatware, leaving him back where he started.
Luckily for Patrick, there’s a way to get a clean installation of Windows 10, without all the apps that came with your PC. Here’s how it works.
1. From Windows 10’s Start menu, go to Settings > Update & security > Recovery. You can also get there from the traditional Control Panel by clicking Recovery. At the bottom of that window, click the long hyperlink that reads, “If you’re having problems with your PC, go to Settings...”