How-To Geek We Explain Technology Fri, 16 Nov 2018 17:59:58 +0000 en-us hourly 1 The Best Artificial Christmas Trees You Can Buy For A Perfect Tree Year After Year Fri, 16 Nov 2018 13:00:07 +0000 Jennifer Allen

Real Christmas trees are great but they’re messy and require a lot of maintenance. An artificial tree reduces the hassle, but you need to make sure you get one that looks the part. Here are the best artificial Christmas trees you can buy.

The trick is to know what you’re looking for. Much like how real trees differ depending on what type of tree they are, different artificial trees mean different things. We’ve stuck with some at the mid-range price point to the more expensive options as oftentimes, cheaper alternatives look understandably cheap in quality.

Trees with needles made from PE (polyethylene) are the most realistic looking, but you’re also good to go with needles made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride). The latter tends to be a little bushier so they look better from a distance than other artificial trees but have that classic artificial “ribbon needles” look up close; the former have needles that look like the genuine thing up close but sometimes lack the fullness the wider ribbon-needles provide. In all cases, you want to make sure you spend some time “fluffing” up and shaping the tree, so it looks how you want it to look. Artificial trees typically need a little time to expand and look at their best. If that sounds baffling to you, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with a variety of different trees.

Here are some of our favorite artificial Christmas trees.

Balsam Hill Classic Blue Spruce Narrow Artificial Christmas Tree ($200)

Balsam Hill has a pretty great reputation for high-quality artificial Christmas trees so don’t be surprised to see them mentioned a few times here. Their Classic Blue Spruce Narrow Artificial Christmas Tree looks suitably realistic. A narrow shape, it’s 6 foot tall and 42 inches wide so it fits the majority of living spaces.

Its needles are made from 100% PVC so it has a fuller appearance than many other artificial trees, with 1,280 branch tips meaning you won’t have to worry about any obvious gaps.

For the price, you also get a tree stand, storage bag, and cotton gloves to help you put the tree up a little more safely.

Balsam Hill Adirondack Spruce Artificial Christmas Tree ($320

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Microsoft Just Crammed Ads Into Windows 10 Mail. When Will They Stop? Fri, 16 Nov 2018 17:42:06 +0000 Chris Hoffman

Whether it’s preinstalling Candy Crush Saga, showing full-screen ads on your lock screen, or displaying banner ads in File Explorer, Microsoft has been shoehorning ads into every inch of Windows 10. The Mail app is getting them next.

As originally spotted by Italian blog Aggiornamenti Lumia and noticed by Mehedi Hassan over at Thurrott, Windows 10’s Mail app is getting a a personalized ad banner at the top of your inbox. Here’s what Microsoft’s Mail app says about it:

The ads at the top of the message list come from Microsoft. You’ll see them whether you are using a Microsoft email account, like, or an account from another email service provider, like Google.

You can only get rid of these ads by paying for an Office 365 subscription. They have nothing to do with—they’ll appear no matter which email account you’re using, even if you’re using a work email account.

This feature is new and just in Insider builds of Windows 10—for now. Microsoft could be A/B testing—in other words, testing advertisements in Mail for some Windows users, but not others, to see what the response is like (and how much money they’ll make.)

But, even if Microsoft is A/B testing this advertisement, it’s our job as Windows users to be upset about it and show Microsoft we aren’t happy. If we don’t, Microsoft will slowly place ads in every inch of Windows 10 where there’s some free space. Of course, Microsoft might do that even if we’re unhappy about it.

This just shows the problems with “Windows as a Service.” Microsoft would probably say it needs this additional revenue to help keep Windows continually updated, but lots of Windows users would rather have an ad-free operating system than constant feature updates.

Remember, Windows 10 isn’t free! Microsoft actually charges $200 for Windows 10 Professional licenses, and people who pay that $200 to get work done have to put up with Candy Crush Saga and all these other advertisements, just like the rest of us.

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How to Fix Corsair Mouse and Keyboard Issues on macOS and Linux Fri, 16 Nov 2018 16:23:00 +0000 Anthony Heddings

Corsair makes excellent “gaming” mice and keyboards with many great features, like custom RGB lighting, profile modes, macro support, and fine-tuned performance settings. Most of these require iCUE, Corsair’s proprietary software, which is great but only works on Windows. If you have a Mac, you’ll have to turn to third-party drivers to get the features for which you paid.

Install CKB-Next

CKB-Next is the actively maintained fork of the original CKB, which was abandoned by the creator. You’ll want to download the latest release and install it, although you can build from source if you prefer.

Once it’s installed, plug in your device, and it should display as a new tab in the settings window. From here, you have support for different profiles and can configure the lighting effects for each zone on the device. The animation effects are quite good for a third-party app, and while they’re not as intuitive as iCUE, they’ll get the job done.

To set up the number pad on a mouse like the Scimitar, you’ll need to click each button individually and set that button to type the corresponding key. It’s tedious, but it works. The “Typing” drop-down holds a list of every character for which you can configure the mouse.

Under the other drop-downs and tabs, you’ll find modifier keys, function keys, mouse buttons, and mouse wheel actions.

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How to Take Screenshots on an iPhone X, XR, XS, and XS Max Fri, 16 Nov 2018 15:24:00 +0000 Oliver Haslam

With the arrival of the iPhone X and its lack of a Home button, Apple had to change the way to handle some relatively common tasks. One of those is taking a screenshot, and the same method has carried over to the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max.

Taking a screenshot on an iPhone X, XR, XS, and XS Max is the same combination of button presses no matter which device you own, and we expect that to remain the case for the foreseeable future now that Apple has taken the next step on the company’s long road towards removing the physical Home button altogether. That’s all just fine, but if you don’t know how to take a screenshot now that the Home button is no more, you’re out of luck no matter how great that Liquid Retina or OLED screen may look. There’s no need to fret though. We’re here to set the record straight.

Here are the steps you need to snap a screenshot on one of Apple’s recent iPhones.

Similarly to previous iPhones, the process requires pressing two buttons simultaneously. This time those buttons are the Side button and the Volume Up button. The Side button is the same button you use when sleeping or waking your device; we highlighted both buttons below.

Once you have pressed and released the two buttons, you will hear the familiar shutter sound (unless you have your phone muted) and your screenshot is taken. You’ll also see a preview of the screenshot you just took. The preview will disappear after a few seconds, but if you’d like to edit or mark the screenshot up, you can tap it and do so before saving it in the Photos app or discarding it altogether.

The positioning of the two buttons used for taking a screenshot has an upside and a downside. On the upside, it’s much easier to take a screenshot one-handed now that you don’t have to press the Home and Side buttons together. On the downside (and it’s not that big a downside), it easy to take a screenshot accidentally if you hit those buttons while just holding your phone.

RELATED: You’re Probably Swiping on Your iPhone X Wrong, Here’s How to Do It Right

How to Stop Windows 10 from Reopening the Last Open Apps on Startup Fri, 16 Nov 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Brady Gavin

With the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update back in 2017 came a change in the way Windows handles open apps when shutting down. During a normal shutdown, Windows tries to “bookmark” open applications and then reopen them when you start your PC again. There are ways to shut down Windows that stops that from happening.

How to Stop Windows From Reopening Last Opened Apps on Startup

Before the Fall Creators Update, shutting down your PC worked the way it always had: Windows closed all open apps, and after starting the system back up, you’d have to re-open them. After the update, Windows tries to remember open apps and launch them again when you start Windows.

While this does sound like a seamless approach to the whole user experience, it can cause delays if you’ve left a few resource-intensive apps open, like Photoshop or 3D rendering software, which will take priority to start again before you can begin opening other apps. These are some of the ways you can get around this feature if you want, all of which involve shutting down Windows in a slightly different way.

RELATED: Why Does Rebooting a Computer Fix So Many Problems?

Hold Down the Shift Key when Shutting Down

You can perform the old-style shut down by pressing and holding the Shift key on your keyboard when you click the “Shut Down” command. This works from the Start menu, the power options on the sign-in screen, or through the security screen after pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete.

On the Start menu, you’d click the Power Button first. Then, hold down Shift while clicking the “Shut Down” command.

Click Start, then power button, then hold down Shift while clicking Shut Down

All applications will force-close, and Windows will shut down immediately.

Use the Classic Shut Down Dialog

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Should You Buy a Second Hand Full Frame Camera or a New Crop Sensor Camera? Fri, 16 Nov 2018 13:00:00 +0000 Harry Guinness

One decision that a lot of improving photographers face when it’s time to buy or upgrade their DSLR or mirrorless camera is whether they should buy a new crop sensor camera or an older, second-hand full frame camera. There are arguments to both sides so let’s dig in.

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already familiar with the differences between full frame and crop sensor cameras. If you’re not, you should check out our full article on the subject, but, in brief, there are two main formats of DSLR and mirrorless cameras: 35mm or full frame and crop sensor or APS-C. Full frame cameras are based off the 35mm film standard while APS-C cameras use a sensor that’s about two-thirds the size. Professional cameras tend to use full frame sensors while consumer and entry-level cameras use crop sensors.

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between a Full Frame and Crop Sensor Camera?

Brand new full-frame cameras, like the Canon 5D Mark IV, cost a few thousand dollars. Even the Canon 6D Mark II starts at $1,600 on Amazon, although its list price is $2,000. Crop sensor models are a lot cheaper. The Canon Rebel T7i is $749 while our sister site’s pick for the best beginner DSLR, the Nikon D3400, is just $400—with an 18-55mm lens.

The thing is, you can buy second-hand full frame cameras for crop sensor money. You can get a good Canon 5D Mark II, one of the most successful professional cameras ever made, for around $600. A Canon 5D Mark III, the camera I use, can be had for less than a grand if it’s a bit beat up or about $1,300 if it’s in good condition. This means that, especially for improving photographers, there’s a choice to be made.

Consumer and Professional Cameras

As I mentioned above, full frame sensors get used in professional cameras while crop sensors get used in consumer cameras. The differences between the two are worth highlighting.

  • Build quality: Professional cameras are designed to take a beating. They’re made out of aluminum alloys, often have weather sealing, and generally work anywhere. Consumer cameras are meant for vacations and family photos. They’re made from plastic, and a proper rainstorm might not be good for them.
  • Better controls: Consumer cameras have lots of automatic modes, so you don’t really have to think about taking pictures. Professional cameras give you a lot more manual controls. Expect to see things like dedicated shutter speed and aperture dials, custom presets, and a more ergonomic layout.
  • Multiple card slots: Multiple storage card slots let you shoot to two cards at once, so all your photos are backed up. Consumer cameras only have one.
  • Different lens mounts: Consumer and professional cameras have different lens mounts. In general, full frame lenses will work on crop sensor cameras while the reverse is not true. If you have a lot of DX or EF-S lenses, this might be a dealbreaker.
  • Better autofocus: Professional bodies—or at least recent ones—tend to have better autofocus with more points than consumer bodies.

And we haven’t even talked about image quality yet!

Although, that’s where things get a bit trickier and really, it depends on what two cameras you’re comparing. For example, a 5D III has a 22.3 megapixel full frame sensor while the T7i has a 24.2 megapixel crop sensor. They both have the same ISO range of 100-25,600. The 5D III, despite being older, definitely has the superior sensor. On the other hand, the 5D II has a 21.1 megapixel sensor and an ISO range of 100-6400. In good light, it is better than a T7i but in low light things are a lot less cut and dried.

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How to Configure a HiFi Desktop Audio System Fri, 16 Nov 2018 11:40:00 +0000 Anthony Heddings

A HiFi system is a set of components designed to make music sound as good as possible. HiFi aims for clear, noiseless audio, not just high volume and boosted bass. Music on a HiFi system will sound radically better than music on the headphones that came with your phone, due to many different factors like less signal interference (and thus, less noise), higher frequency response and clarity on the headphones, and a much better listening experience with over-ear headphones.

People who enjoy high-end audio are called “audiophiles,” and the audiophile scene is complicated and can seem hard to get into. Here, we’ll break down what each part in a HiFi setup does, and how it contributes to the overall sound.

Digital Audio Converters (DAC)

The DAC is essentially a really high-end headphone jack. It’s the starting point for all the audio in your system. Because of electrical noise in your computer, audio from the built in headphone jack sounds very noisy. You might not notice this noise on most headphones (as most headphones are noisy anyway), but on HiFi headphones it becomes apparent.

The solution is to isolate that electrical interference with an external DAC. These are built with much higher quality components than the built in DAC in your computer. They’re often are capable of powering higher impedance headphones and supplying phantom power to mics that need it.


For most speakers, and some headphones, you’ll want an amp to power up your audio before listening to it, as it may be quiet coming straight off the DAC. If you have lower impedance headphones, a USB DAC should power them just fine, but anything requiring 250 Ohm and above means you’ll probably want an amp so that the noise from the the DAC doesn’t ruin things.

The reason amps are necessary is because most DACs are not made to amplify audio beyond a certain point. If you were to turn the DAC up to 10, it would sound incredibly noisy (the bad kind of noise). However, you could turn it to 5, and then set the amp to crank it up 200%, and the audio would still be clear

Headphones and Speakers

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Geek Trivia: Which Movie Is Claimed to Have “Cursed” Companies Featured Within It? Fri, 16 Nov 2018 07:02:00 +0000 Jason Fitzpatrick

Which Movie Is Claimed to Have “Cursed” Companies Featured Within It?

  1. Star Trek
  2. Poltergeist
  3. Blade Runner
  4. Superman

Think you know the answer?

New Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ Packs in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; Will Be Last of Classic Line Thu, 15 Nov 2018 19:07:55 +0000 Andrew Heinzman

Don’t treat any of your friends to lunch today. You could use that $25 to buy the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+.

This morning the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced the newest and final iteration of the “classic” Raspberry Pi family. The new Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ features Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connectivity, 1.4GHz clock speed, and an itty-bitty form factor. It’s basically a miniature version of the celebrated Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. Like the B+, the new A+ is powered by a microUSB cable, and supports 1080p video output from its HDMI port. It uses less power than larger Pi boards and is certified as a “radio module” by the FCC, which is great for Internet of Things products that use the Raspberry Pi because it reduces the cost of performance testing.

Fans of the original Model A+ have been asking for an upgrade for years. The original A+ sported a wimpy 256MB of RAM (the new A+ has twice as much RAM), and you could only transfer data by its single USB port—it didn’t have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity. While the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero has held hobbyists’ attention for the last few years, it also lacks Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, which can severely limit the use of such a small board.

Of course, you can’t expect the new A+ to replace your desktop computer. The A+ only has 512MB of RAM, which is only half of what the Raspberry Pi Model 3 B+ packs. It doesn’t have an Ethernet port, and it only has one USB input. But for $25, this much-requested product will certainly find a lot of use in education, DIY projects, and the Internet of Things.

The new A+ is a good, cheap product with a lot of practical applications, but there isn’t anything revolutionary about it. That’s why the Raspberry Pi Foundations has announced that the A+ is the final iteration of the “classic” Raspberry Pi family. They plan to take advantage of new hardware and memory technology to “evolve” their products. Hopefully, we’ll see a new, revolutionary Raspberry Pi board in the next few years. In the meantime, we should celebrate the inexpensive, reliable hardware that the Raspberry Pi Foundation is known for.

Source: Raspberry Pi

Roku Launches New Wireless Speakers, But They Only Work With Roku-Powered TVs Thu, 15 Nov 2018 16:09:14 +0000 Michael Crider

Roku is best known for its affordable set-top box streamers, but it’s also become a popular software platform for budget smart TVs. If you happen to own one, you can kit it out with Roku-branded stereo speakers starting tomorrow.

The $200 set, simply called the Roku TV Wireless Speakers, work exclusively with Roku TVs—they can’t be connected to anything else via a conventional wired input since there aren’t any. That includes standard Roku streaming boxes, by the way—it’s a Roku TV or nothing. They use your home’s Wi-Fi connection for both audio and automatic software updating, and can equalize noise levels for more comfy listening. That’s a major boon if you’re sick of obnoxiously loud commercials.

The design trades flexibility for simplicity, as is Roku’s wont, with a two-piece setup that goes for stereo separation without a dedicated subwoofer. The included stick remote can control both the speakers and a Roku TV with voice commands, but there’s a secondary “tabletop” remote included, too. This little gadget looks like a hockey puck with buttons, but it’s meant to be a more dedicated music controller, allowing for easy pausing and skipping on dedicated music apps like Pandora. It has voice controls, but it requires a dedicated button press in order to start listening, which seems a little awkward now that Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are so ubiquitous.

In terms of specs, both speakers use a .75-inch tweeter and 3.5-inch woofer and need a dedicated power outlet, though Roku doesn’t mention a watt rating. Though the Roku TV Wireless Speakers can’t connect to anything via a cable, they’ll take a Bluetooth A2DP signal like most TV sound bars. They can be mounted on a standard .25-inch thread if you like.

If you’re sold, you might want to hold off on an order for a week or so: the $200 speaker set will drop to just $150 on Sunday, November 25th and the following “Cyber Monday.”

Source: Roku via The Verge

The Best 360-Degree Action Cameras Thu, 15 Nov 2018 16:00:21 +0000 Michael Crider

Normal action cameras are… well, normal. But if you’re looking for something a little different, there are models that record video in 360 degrees at once using multiple lenses. Here are the best among them.

There are a couple of ways you can use this 360-degree video trick: edit your video later and choose where to point a conventional video frame, upload the whole thing to a special video gallery (or just YouTube) and let the user control where the view is pointed, or watch them with a VR headset and look around freely. All the cameras below support these modes to a greater or lesser degree, but some include the editing tools you’ll need to do it yourself. We’ve made selections for the best standard, budget, and upgraded models, as well as a dark horse pick for users that are already invested in the action camera segment.

All of the cameras below use MicroSD cards for storage. You can find the best cards to use in this article.

Best Overall 360-Degree Camera: Rylo 360 ($450)

rylo, rylo 360, action camera, camera, vr,

The Rylo 360 looks pretty unassuming: a little rounded pill of a camera, with a screen that only barely shows the battery level and recording mode. But that’s because it’s packed to the gills with tech. Two 208-degree lenses, one on either side, sport a f/2.8 aperture for drinking in light and details. Together they combine for a 360-degree image with a resolution of 5.8K in the standard 24fps recording mode, or a little smoother in 4K. 180-degree stills or full circular panoramas can be captured in “6K” detail.

But it’s the ease of use that makes the Rylo particularly notable. Connect it directly to your phone with the included cable—Android and iPhone variations cost the same—and it will automatically load the video files into the editor app. From there you can frame clips in a standard 16:9 aspect ratio, post the full 360-degree video to an online gallery or have the footage dynamically cropped for software stabilization, all without touching a desktop PC. Accessories, like mounts for bikes and helmets and a waterproof case, can extend its functionality.

Best Upgraded 360-Degree Camera: Garmin VIRB 360

garmin, virb, camera, virb 360, 360 degree,

GPS specialist Garmin probably isn’t the first name that pops into your head when you think of action cameras, but the company’s VIRB 360 is worth a second look. Though it’s roughly twice as expensive as the mobile-focused Rylo, it’s much more capable, with a similar resolution that can do full 5.7K, 360-degree recording at 30 frames per second. If you bump it down to 3K it will give you super-smooth 60fps video, as well. The double lenses and quadruple microphones are surprisingly capable, with a 15-megapixel stitched resolution and automatic HDR support. The little camera doesn’t need a case, since it’s waterproof and the toughened glass lenses can be replaced by the end user. It’s mountable to a standard tripod to boot.

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What is AutoArchive in Outlook and How Does it Work? Thu, 15 Nov 2018 20:00:00 +0000 Rob Woodgate

If you’ve used the mailbox cleanup tool, then you’ll have seen the AutoArchive button, but you may be wary of how it works and what it’ll do. Here’s what it does and how you can put it to use.

Clicking the AutoArchive button causes a process to swing through all of the folders in Outlook and apply any AutoArchive rules you’ve set up (don’t worry, the default AutoArchive rule is to do nothing, so you can’t do any harm by clicking the button). But if you want to move your older items to an archive where they’re out of the way, AutoArchive is how you automate the process. Let’s go through setting it up and running it.

How to Turn On AutoArchive

First, you need to turn on AutoArchive and choose its settings. Go to File > Options > Advanced and then click the “AutoArchive Settings” button.

As long as the “Run AutoArchive every” option is switched off (which is the default), AutoArchive will never run.

Once you turn the “Run AutoArchive every” option on, all of the options are now available.

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Windows 10’s October 2018 Update Breaks Mapped Network Drives Thu, 15 Nov 2018 18:29:26 +0000 Chris Hoffman

Microsoft’s October 2018 Update drama is largely over, but there are still a few lingering bugs. Microsoft has confirmed an issue where mapped network drives are broken after a PC restarts. This will not be fixed until 2019.

Liam Tung covers this issue over at ZDNet:

Within days of Microsoft’s first release of Windows 10 1809 at the beginning of October, IT pros noticed that Windows File Explorer indicated that mapped network drives appeared to be broken.

“Testing the new 1809 update, and everything seems to be fine except all mapped drives to Windows 2012 file servers show disconnected (red x) after reboots or logoff/on,” wrote one IT pro on October 5, with many others confirming the same issue on company networks.

“Everything is fine if user opens the mapped drive. This causes problems when user opens a file located in map drive A but links to another file in mapped drive B.”

Mapped network drives are primarily used on domain and other large networks, so this isn’t a problem the average home user will likely notice.

Microsoft has acknowledged the problem and provided some suggested workarounds. The Windows 10 version 1809 status page says “Microsoft is working on a resolution and will provide updates in the 2019 timeframe.”

RELATED: Windows 10’s October Update Returns, Promises Not to Delete Your Files

Trend Micro and AMD Radeon Problems

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The Best Advent Calendars For Counting Down To Christmas With Your Kids Thu, 15 Nov 2018 13:00:39 +0000 Jennifer Allen

Tis the season to be jolly and to keep your kids vaguely sane in the run up to Christmas. An advent calendar simultaneously provides them with something fun to do every day while also reminding them of how close Christmas is getting.

Yeah, maybe it’s a little counterintuitive in keeping them calm. Either way, they’re a fun tradition and we’ve checked out the best advent calendars out there for your kids.

Now, it’s worth bearing in mind that you need to get in fast. The best advent calendars sell out quickly so you don’t want to wait around. No one wants a disappointed child because you waited too long and even with overnight shipping it won’t be here in time, right? We’ve covered a wide selection of advent calendars so there’s something for mostly every taste. Many of the advent calendars provide toys or gifts that you can use all year round too, making them good value.

Here’s our pick of the bunch.

Best For Older Kids (Or Kids Who Like To Think They Are): Mouttop Advent Calendar Charm Bracelet ($20)

The Mouttop Advent Calendar Charm Bracelet is a rather cute idea. On the first day, you’re given a charm bracelet with the rest of the month devoted to providing you with a new charm to attach to it each day. The charms represent a mixture of Christmassy style icons, hearts, stars, and other cute things.

The jewelry is made from environmental alloy and is free of any allergens, so it’s decent quality stuff. This is the perfect advent calendar for children that are adamant they’re more grown-up than they used to be but are still keen for cute, glitzy stuff.

Best For Variety: Hatchimals Colleggtibles Advent Calendar ($18)

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Google Says Faster Updates Are Coming: All Android Pie Phones Include Project Treble Thu, 15 Nov 2018 17:11:15 +0000 Tom Westrick

Android’s update situation is notoriously bad, with even flagship phones like the Galaxy series taking months for the latest feature updates to come out. Google hasn’t stood still on this though, and its hard work with Project Treble is starting to pay off.

What is Project Treble?

Up until last year, building an Android update took much more effort. Here’s what had to happen with each update, no matter how small:

  • Google builds the new update and adds it to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository.
  • Silicon vendors like Qualcomm and MediaTek would add in and test code so that their processors would support the new software version.
  • Hardware vendors like Samsung and LG add in and test code to support other hardware in the phone and their own software features.

Project Treble simplifies that a bit. Starting with phones that shipped with Android 8.0 Oreo, the silicon vendor code can be separate from the hardware vendor code. Instead of Qualcomm, MediaTek and other SOC-makers needing to write new drivers for each and every update, the driver interface can be used on newer versions of Android and still work. Samsung, LG, and other device manufacturers don’t have to wait for this code to start their work on the update, meaning it gets rolled out to consumers that much faster.

It was optional for phones that were updated to Oreo to be compliant with Treble, but with Pie that goes away: every phone that receives an update to Android Pie must be compatible with Treble.

It’s Starting to Working

After a year of use, Project Treble is already starting to pay off: Google expects more devices to be updated to Android 9.0 Pie by the end of this year than were updated to Android 8.0 Oreo by the end of 2017. At the 2018 Android Dev Summit, Google showed off multiple phones from different hardware vendors that were able to run on the exact same Generic System Image (GSI).

Showing the GSI running on all these different phones is a great testament to how well Treble works, and application developers can use the GSI to test app compatibility with Android Pie on a device that hasn’t been officially updated by its manufacturer.

That’s all well and good if you’re an app developer, but if you’re the average consumer it may be hard to care. But what it boils down to is this: it’s likely that your phone will receive a software update faster because some of the work to get that update out can be skipped. This also makes providing the update cheaper for the phone manufacturer, giving them more incentive to support older devices.

But it’s Still Not Perfect

While these improvements are great, if fast updates are the most important factor for you, there are still only a handful of manufacturers to choose from. Google’s Pixel phones would be the fastest, but Android One phones like Nokia’s line aren’t far behind. We’ll see if the Treble improvements help any, but Samsung has a tendency to hold onto software updates until the next Galaxy S phone is released, which means users have to wait until Spring to see platform updates.

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How Do I Open a Port on Windows Firewall? Thu, 15 Nov 2018 16:23:00 +0000 Brady Gavin

Firewalls are there to protect you from threats on the internet (both traffic from the internet and from local applications trying to gain access when they shouldn’t). Sometimes, though, you’ll want to allow otherwise restricted traffic through your firewall. To do so, you’ll have to open a port.

When a device connects to another device on a network (including the internet), it specifies a port number that lets the receiving device know how to handle the traffic. Where an IP address shows traffic how to get to a particular device on a network, the port number lets the receiving device know which program gets that traffic. By default, most unsolicited traffic from the internet is blocked by Windows Firewall. If you’re running something like a game server, you might need to open a port to allow that specific kind of traffic through the firewall.

Note: This article shows you how to open a port on a particular PC’s firewall to let traffic in. If you have a router on your network (which you likely do), you will also need to allow the same traffic through that router by forwarding the port there.

How to Open a Port on Windows 10

Clicking Start, type “Windows Firewall” into the search box, and then click on “Windows Defender Firewall.”

Once Windows Firewall opens, click on “Advanced Settings.”

This launches Windows Defender Firewall with Advanced Security. Click the “Inbound Rules” category on the left. In the far right pane, click the “New Rule” command.

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How to Create and Use Sticky Notes on Mac Thu, 15 Nov 2018 15:24:00 +0000 Anthony Heddings

The Stickies app for macOS gives you Sticky Notes for your desktop, turning your Mac into a virtual bulletin board and letting you jot down short bits of text to remember later. The notes are desktop specific, so you can organize them however you want, and they’ll retain their layout and contents even after closing the app.

Getting Started With Stickies

Stickies is an old app, and recent versions of macOS have buried it in the “Other” folder, along with a lot of other utilities. You can launch it from here, or by searching for it in Spotlight.

Immediately you’ll be presented with two example notes containing some instructions, and showing off how Stickies will look on your desktop.

You can either edit these notes or close them and make your own by selecting File > New Note (or by hitting Command+N).

Once you make a new note, you can write what you want and use all the formatting you’d use in TextEdit or the Notes app.

Arranging Notes

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How to Disable and Deactivate iMessage on iPhone or iPad Thu, 15 Nov 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Oliver Haslam

Apple’s iMessage is one of the most popular messaging platforms around, and it’s a great way for Apple to lock people into its ecosystem. As great as iMessage is, there may still be times you need to disable or complete deactivate it.

Some of those times may be down to good old-fashioned troubleshooting (or perhaps you really did make the jump to Android) Whatever your reasons, you will not only need to turn iMessage off on your iPhone or iPad but potentially tell Apple to remove your number from iMessage on the server-side, too.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

How to Disable iMessage on Your iPhone or iPad

Disabling iMessage on your iPhone or iPad is often the first step to take if you’re having issues with sending or receiving messages. A simple toggle off and then back on can often wake iMessage up, and while we might not like to admit it, the age-old suggestion of turning something off and then back on again does work more often than not.

To disable iMessage, head into the Settings app and tap “Messages.”

Complete the process of turning iMessage off by flicking the switch. If you do need to turn it back on, here’s where you would do that too.

How to Deactivate iMessage

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Should You Buy Off-Brand Camera Batteries? Thu, 15 Nov 2018 13:00:00 +0000 Harry Guinness

Batteries are dangerous—they’re practically a bomb—so you need to be careful when you buy them. Sure, they’re not likely to take down an airliner but a bad battery could definitely damage your camera. It also might not work as expected. Here’s what you need to know about buying batteries for your DSLR or mirrorless cameras.

RELATED: Why Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Explode?

First-Party and Third-Party Batteries

The battery that came with your camera is called a “first-party” battery because it was made by the manufacturer of the camera (or at least by a licensee they supervise). It’s the battery with which your camera is designed to work. You can buy additional first-party batteries but they tend to be quite expensive.

Third-party batteries are made by a company other than your camera’s manufacturer. They range from high-quality batteries made by reputable camera manufacturers—like this third party battery made by Blackmagic—to cheap Chinese knock-offs, churned out by factories where safety standards and testing are foreign concepts. It’s a pretty wide range.

The (Potential) Problems With Third Party Batteries

With first-party batteries, you always know what you’re getting (as long as you’re really getting a first party battery and not a counterfeit; more on that later). It’s the exact same as the one that came with your camera when you bought it. With third-party batteries, however, things aren’t quite as certain.

Third-party batteries are almost always cheaper than original batteries. Canon’s LP-E6N battery costs $64 while Blackmagic’s—presumably high quality—replica costs $35. That’s a pretty steep difference. I’ve seen batteries from less reputable manufacturers cost as little as $10—and no, I won’t link to them.

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Fix: My Microphone Doesn’t Work on Windows 10 Thu, 15 Nov 2018 11:40:00 +0000 Chris Hoffman

Windows 10 may not hear your microphone’s audio for several reasons. All the usual PC microphone troubleshooting steps are still important, but Windows 10 contains a new system-wide option that completely disables microphone input in all applications.

Check Windows 10 Microphone Options

Windows 10’s Settings app has a few options that disable your microphone system-wide, in all applications. If your webcam is disabled in Settings, even desktop applications can’t receive microphone input.

This is a bit confusing. In general, the app permissions under Settings > Privacy only affect new applications from the Store, also known as Universal Windows Platform, or UWP, applications. But the microphone and webcam options also affect desktop applications.

If your microphone isn’t working, head to Settings > Privacy > Microphone.

At the top of the window, check that it says “Microphone access for this device is on.” If Windows says microphone access is off, click the “Change” button and set it to “On.” If access is off, Windows and all applications on your system can’t access audio from your microphone.

Below that, ensure “Allow apps to access your microphone” is set to “On.” If microphone access is off, all applications on your system won’t be able to hear audio from your microphone. However, the Windows operating system itself will still have access.

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Geek Trivia: What Was The First Console Video Game To Save A Player’s Progress? Thu, 15 Nov 2018 07:02:00 +0000 Jason Fitzpatrick

What Was The First Console Video Game To Save A Player’s Progress?

  1. Final Fantasy
  2. Dragon Warrior
  3. Kirby's Adventure
  4. The Legend of Zelda

Think you know the answer?

The Best Toolboxes For Any Garage Wed, 14 Nov 2018 16:00:33 +0000 Michael Crider

If you have tools, you need someplace to put them. Someplace spacious, protected, and preferably somewhat parallelepiped. A box-like device, if you will. For your tools. What would you call that?

You can pick up a toolbox at just about any hardware or department store, but they’re not all created equal. We’ve selected the best models in niches from full-metal to plastic to rolling mechanic’s center, all of which are good values and come highly recommended. Check them out below.

The Best Metal Toolbox: Craftsman 3-Drawer Metal Portable ($126)

For the classic tough-as-nails toolbox, you can’t do better than this double-latch model from Craftsman. The primary compartment holds all your bulkier tools and parts, while three sliding metal trays can handle hand tools and loose widgets.

This particular model is 20 inches wide, and every one of them is full rolled steel, so filling this thing to the brim will mean somewhere between 35 and 55 pounds of tools—lift with your legs, folks. But if you’re looking for a toolbox that’s at least technically portable and also likely to survive a nearby nuclear detonation, this is it. Craftsman makes similar models in bigger and smaller sizes, with and without dedicated drawers.

The Best Plastic Toolbox: Stack-On PR-23 ($24)

Plastic toolboxes can’t take the same beating as steel ones can, but they’re generally reliable for hand tools and loose parts, and much easier to lug around. This 23-inch model from Stack-On is capacious, with a huge primary compartment and a handy removable tray built into the top for your most frequently-used tools.

I especially like the way it incorporates bit holders on either side. And the toolbox is cheap enough that you can pick up two or three for the cost of a steel version, enough to keep tools with different applications more easily organized. Note the metal clasps for the lid: something that isn’t often seen at this price point.

The Best Soft-side Toolbox: Dewalt 18 inch Pro Contractor’s Tool Bag ($55)

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You’re Probably Swiping on Your iPhone X Wrong, Here’s How to Do It Right Wed, 14 Nov 2018 20:00:00 +0000 Craig Lloyd

With the introduction of the iPhone X, Apple changed the way users interact with their devices by getting rid of the home button entirely. While it’s fairly easy to use the new gestures, some users may not be using them quite right, which can cause some frustration.

RELATED: Should You Buy or Upgrade to One of the New X Series iPhones?

Mainly, it comes down to knowing how to swipe to either go back to the home screen, bring up the app switcher, and instantly switch between apps, all of which are three different gestures. We’ll show you how to conquer these gestures, as well as a couple of other swipe gestures to help you out.

Going Back to the Home Screen

Without a home button, the iPhone X, XS, and XR use a simple swipe-up gesture from the bottom of the screen to exit an app and go back to the home screen.

It’s more of a flick than a swipe, but you get the point. You also don’t have to swipe up from the very bottom of the screen. It’s a bit forgiving in that you can swipe up from a bit higher up, and you don’t necessarily even have to touch that narrow bar at the bottom of the screen, but it depends what app you’re in and whether or not there’s a button there to get in the way. And the best part about letting you swipe from a bit higher up is that it’s kind of where people are used to hitting the home button if they come from older phones.

Bringing Up the App Switcher

If you don’t want to go back to the home screen, but rather would like to bring up the app switcher, you perform the same swipe-up gesture like you normally would if going back to the home screen, but instead of flicking, you swipe up and hold for a split second.

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Marshall Stanmore II Voice Review: Powerful Notes Wed, 14 Nov 2018 14:50:21 +0000 Jennifer Allen

When it comes to Bluetooth speakers, style and good sound quality don’t go together as frequently as you’d like them to. Enter the Marshall Stanmore II Voice, keen to buck that trend and offer some powerful sounds while still looking pretty great. Oh, and Alexa is built-in too for good measure.

It’s a pretty great speaker although, as you’ll see in a moment, the Alexa integration is more of a novelty than a core feature. Here’s what we made of our time with it.

The Design

Marshall’s guitar amps are some of the most recognized in the world so it’s hardly surprising that the Marshall Stanmore II Voice takes that familiar look and merely tweaks it a little to fit the home speaker appearance.

It has a meaty looking presence to it. It looks expensive and is suitably heavy at just over 10 pounds and at 13.78 x 7.68 x 7.28 inches it’s a decent size too. Hefty enough to pack a punch, but small enough that you can still put it somewhere in your living space without feeling like it’s dominating the space. There’s no need to make concessions in exchange for portability, as this speaker requires mains powers to run. As a little nod to Marshall’s pedigree, there’s even room for the legend ‘EST 1962’ to be embossed across the fascia, just to remind you of its heritage.

The sense of class continues with how the knobs work on top of the device. There are dials for volume, bass, and treble with LED indicators that light up to reflect their position. There’s a weighty feel to them too, so don’t be surprised when you childishly tweak them at first just for the sake of it. Elsewhere on top is a 3.5mm auxiliary analog input, a source selector button, play/pause, and a mute/unmute button for the mic so Alexa doesn’t have to listen to everything you say.

The back of the device offers a pair of RCA analog inputs and a bass reflex port. Wireless connectivity offers up Bluetooth, Wi-Fi play, and Spotify Connect. Things can be almost as varied as you want them to be, although I expect most people to opt for the Bluetooth connectivity a lot of the time.


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Today’s Xbox One Update Adds Mouse and Keyboard Support Wed, 14 Nov 2018 19:28:24 +0000 Brittany Vincent

Grab your trusty PC gaming equipment and saddle up—mouse and keyboard support is finally available on Xbox One, thanks to today’s November 2018 Xbox Update deployment.

The update brings a variety of additional features as well, but the most interesting of the bunch is that you can now grab your favorite gaming mouse and keyboard to enjoy a game of Fortnite on your Xbox One console. Developers can choose to add mouse and keyboard support to additional Xbox One titles going forward, but there’s only a small selection of compatible titles right now, including Fortnite and Warframe. Bomber Crew, Deep Rock Galactic, Strange Brigade, Vermintide 2, War Thunder, and X-Morph Defense will receive support later this month, with Children of Morta, DayZ, Minion Master, Moonlighter, Vigor, Warface, and Wargroove planned for support at a later date.

Microsoft is releasing a special mouse and keyboard through a partnership with Razer as an all-new “Designed for Xbox” set as well. Both peripherals were designed specifically with gaming on Xbox One and Windows 10, and the keyboard will feature a dedicated Xbox key as well as Xbox Dynamic Lighting support. Microsoft plans to release more information about the products in CES this January.

Easier game navigation is also a part of the November update, where Xbox One search will now be expanded to include your “Ready to Install” games that exist as part of various memberships, including your EA Access, Xbox Game Pass, and other service subscriptions, which should make finding that game to play with keyboard and mouse a much simpler affair.

This wasn’t the extent of today’s announcements, however. The new Xbox Skill for Cortana, released last month, has added a selection of new commands and improvements. For instance, Cortana will now automatically discover and pair your Xbox, removing the need to log in. You can also quit apps or use the voice assistant as a “controller” now if you wish. The app is also now available in beta for all Xbox owners in the U.K., too, complete with U.K. English voice recognition.

Today, Amazon Music is also available for Xbox One for U.S. users, with worldwide support in additional countries on the way “soon.” Prime members can use the app to stream their favorite tunes and playlists straight from their Xbox One console.

For those who are primarily PC gamers, these new improvements should help make gaming on your Xbox One a much more painless affair, especially as additional developers jump on the mouse and keyboard support bandwagon going forward.

via Xbox

Windows 10’s Next Release Includes a Light Theme Wed, 14 Nov 2018 19:00:33 +0000 Chris Hoffman

Windows 10 already has a dark theme, but now it’s getting a real light theme. Interface elements like the taskbar, Start menu, and print dialog are turning light, and Microsoft even created a new desktop background for it.

This feature is arriving in Windows 10’s next update, codenamed 19H1 and expected for release around April 2019. It’s available today to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring as part of Insider build 18282. This release of Windows will make your PC faster.

Now, when you enable the light theme, everything will be light. This new light theme even extends to Windows 10’s notifications, and it looks great.

Don’t worry, though—the old behavior with a dark taskbar, dark Start menu, and light application windows is still the default after upgrading. Microsoft won’t suddenly change your desktop theme.

The Settings app now has separate options for “Default Windows mode” and “Default app mode.” With Windows set to dark and app mode set to light, you’ll use the old default theme. With both set to light or dark, you’ll use a pure light or dark theme.

Microsoft has also added a new default wallpaper. You can enable it on the Insider builds by heading to Settings > Personalization > Themes and selecting “Windows Light.”

And, to match everything else, the print dialog for Store apps also has a new light theme. Previously, it was always dark.

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Night Sight for Pixel Phones is Going to Blow Your Mind, Coming This Week Wed, 14 Nov 2018 17:52:41 +0000 Cameron Summerson

Taking pictures in low-light situations has long been a challenge, especially on smartphone cameras. Google is changing that with Night Sight, a Pixel-exclusive feature that will absolutely blow your mind.

To avoid going into too much detail on how photography works and why it’s hard to take pictures when it’s dark, we’ll put it simply: good photographs require light. Period. When it’s dark, well, there isn’t a good amount of light available for the camera sensor.

The end result? A crappy, dark, and generally grainy photo. But with Night Sight, the Pixel camera is able to intelligently make those dark, grainy, and crappy photos less dark, grainy, and crappy. To be honest, it’s pretty damn incredible.

I tested out Night Sight with a modified version of the Pixel camera on my Pixel 2 XL a few weeks ago, here are a couple of comparison shots:

Top: Without Night Sight; Bottom: With Night Sight enabled

It does this by measuring certain aspects of the scene—like the amount of available light, the movement in your hand, and how much motion in the shot. And it does all of that before you take the picture. It uses this information to process how to capture the photo, adjusting exposure and burst photography on the fly.

It also uses machine learning to balance the colors of the photograph, leading to a more naturally lit picture—not a dark photo that looks like it’s had its brightness enhanced.

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