Pandora has finally released a native desktop app. Pandora for Mac is available right now, with Pandora for Windows coming soon. While the Pandora desktop app isn’t yet as fully featured as the mobile app, it beats using Pandora through a web browser.
This is the first time Pandora has offered a native desktop app, with third-party apps previously filling the void. As detailed on the Pandora Blog, the Pandora desktop gives you (almost) everything you’re used to from the mobile app, as well as a few new features:
Starting today, Mac users can enjoy their personalized Pandora experience through our new desktop app—with features like on-screen song notifications and app-based controls for our new Pandora Modes feature. Learn more: https://t.co/5aDMXSMnpE
— Pandora (@pandoramusic) May 20, 2019
Pandora for Mac is available across all tiers. The only prerequisite is macOS 10.10 and above. Pandora for Windows is still being worked on, with Pandora asking everyone to “stay tuned for the launch of our new Pandora desktop app for Windows!”
Download: The Pandora Desktop App
The one thing currently missing from the Pandora desktop app is podcasts. Which is strange given how popular podcasts are becoming across streaming services. Pandora itself lets you stream SiriusXM shows as podcasts, but not on desktop, apparently.
The Pandora desktop app is a simple, straightforward way to listen to music. It isn’t as packed with features as either the Pandora mobile app or the likes of Spotify or Apple Music. But if you prefer a clean, uncluttered style it should suit you well.
Pandora may not be as popular or as exciting as Spotify or Apple Music, but the company has rolled out a number of new features in recent years. The biggest being Pandora Premium, which even boasts Spotify-like curated playlists.
Image Credit: Rawpixel/Flickr
Read the full article: Pandora Launches a Native Desktop App
Source: MakeUseOf | 22 May 2019 | 7:30 am(NZT)
Phone numbers are a little like fingerprints; they can reveal a lot about a person, for example, their name or where they live. If you received a call from a number you don’t recognize, the following resources can help you identify the caller before you ring them back.
Several online tools let you reverse lookup and possibly identify who a phone number is registered to.
Unfortunately, you will run into several limitations with any phone number identification:
With those restrictions in mind, let’s look at the best strategies to check for the origin or owner of a phone number.
This is the brute force method of identifying a phone number, but it’s quick, easy, and completely free. If the call is from an official or otherwise public source, a search engine like Google or DuckDuckGo might come up with every last detail about the location and owner of the phone number.
The screenshot below, for example, shows the Google result when searching for the number of the National Do Not Call Registry.
Your Google search did not amount to much, so what next?
Before you can choose the best service to identify the owner of a phone number, let’s narrow it down to a specific location first. You can skip this step if you recognize the country and area code. For automatic location lookup, you can also skip ahead and try the first online tool listed below.
Generally, a North American phone number consists of 10 digits. The first three digits represent the area code, meaning you can use these numbers to narrow down the location of the number. An easy way to do this is to type the three digits followed by the phrase “area code” into a Google search.
It’s a little more complicated if you’ve received a call from an international number. You should see a much longer number, including a country code, which can be anywhere from one (e.g. +1 for USA and Canada) to three (e.g. +506 for Costa Rica) digits long. Just as outlined above, head over to Google, type in the number with the phrase “country code”, and you’ll get an instant answer.
To find out more about the number’s location within a country, you’ll need to learn more about how their phone numbers work. For example, area codes in Germany generally start with a zero and can be three to five digits long, such as 030 for Berlin or 0711 for Stuttgart. In a long distance call from Germany (country code +49), however, the number should show up as +49-711-xxxxxx, i.e. omitting the zero from the area code.
Now that you have a better idea of where the phone number is from, choose a service that covers this location.
Location: North America
Whitepages is one of the most established online services to find people and phone numbers in the US. Use this website to do a reverse lookup for North American landline and mobile numbers. Just enter the number in the Phone search field and hit Enter.
If Whitepages does not have an entry, it will give you some basic details about the number, such as its location and spam or fraud risk.
Note: Whitepages offers monthly subscription packages for users located in the United States. Premium users will gain access to additional information, like mobile phone numbers and full address history. This is one of the more trustworthy services you’ll encounter when trying to look up a phone number online.
Location: International, but primarily North America
Do you suspect that you’re receiving unsolicited calls from a scammer, telemarketer, or a pollster? Then this is the service you should try. Enter the number in the search field and hit Search.
WhoCallsMe will tell you everything it knows about this number, including its location and any reports it has collected from other users. Once you’ve entered a number, you can contribute to the service’s database by leaving your own notes about the caller.
A similar page is Who Called Us.
Location: North America
This tool can quickly help you look up the location of North American phone numbers. Just type in the phone number, hit Search, and wait for Searchbug’s data on this number.
If they can’t find a public record for this number, you’ll at least learn whether this is a toll-free, landline, or mobile number and possibly where the caller is located.
Note: Searchbug will try to charge you for additional information, like the full name of the owner of the phone number, though you might be able to find it for free online.
This site is similar to Searchbug, but it works with international numbers, too. It appears to offer more information for free, including current and past addresses associated with a phone number; I suspect it pulls this data from Whitepages. I also had the impression it was more up-to-date than its competitors, such as ReversePhoneLookup or SpyDialer.
Note: NumberVille will log and publicly display your IP address, so you better use a VPN if you want to stay anonymous.
It’s not easy to find the owner of a phone number, including their name and location. But hopefully, you have a better idea of who’s given you an unsolicited call.
Have you been on the receiving end of spam calls? Learn how to block those unwanted calls once and for all.
Read the full article: Top 5 Sites to Identify the Owner of a Phone Number
Source: MakeUseOf | 22 May 2019 | 5:00 am(NZT)
Everyone knows Clippy. But are you friends with Pilcrow? If you are, then you know more about Microsoft Word than most people do. Do you know about “widow lines”? The extended clipboard?
There are plenty of lesser-known features that you should know about if you want to be truly proficient with Microsoft Word. Here are several important Microsoft Word features that are slightly “hidden” but can make your work easier.
Writers want peace. The visual clutter of MS Word features gave rise to a legion of distraction-free editors and undisturbed peace. But if you love Word, you can use a quick shortcut to hide the visual clutter of the Ribbon. Press Ctrl + F1 to toggle the Ribbon from view.
Tweak it by clicking on Ribbon Display Option and selecting Auto-hide Ribbon. That’s the little arrow next to the minimize button on top.
Distraction free reading is a more specialized feature in Word from version 2013 onwards. Though, it was there in Word 2010, too. Designed for touch-enabled tablets, the Read Mode works well on an everyday laptop as well. Access it just as quickly with an ALT + W-F (Press W & F simultaneously).
Optionally, use the default buttons:
Double-tap with your finger or double-click with your mouse to zoom in and make graphics like tables, charts and images fill the screen.
Outlining your main ideas and completing that first draft quickly is the surefire tip for writing productivity. If used well, the Outline View can increase your productivity with large documents by 50%.
Go to View > click the Outline button on the Ribbon.
Outline View helps you fine-tune the organization of complex documents by reordering text blocks and nine levels of headings. Outline View brings up a special toolbar called Outlining with controls for promoting or demoting selected text. Use the controls to hide or display selected text.
Double-click anywhere and begin typing. You don’t need to bother with positioning a cursor if you don’t want to. This is the closest MS Word comes to freestyle writing. Click and Type has existed since Word 2002. The feature works only in the Print Layout view or in Web Layout view.
Though this is very useful for inserting text and graphics, you can also use it for impromptu brainstorming as a freeform mindmapping tool.
Take your pick—a neatly formatted table with lots of data OR a nicely done chart visualizing that data for you?
Being visual creatures, it is often a no-brainer to opt for the latter. Word makes it easy to convert tabular information into a chart. When you don’t have too much of tabular data, create a chart in Word instead of over-killing with Excel. Select the table with the data and follow three steps…
1. Click on the Insert tab on the Ribbon.
2. Click the Object tool within the Text group and open the Object dialog box.
3. From the list of Object Types, choose Microsoft Graph Chart. Click OK.
Word displays the tabular data as a neat column chart. Modify the datasheet that appears.
You can also format this graph with a different chart type. Double-click your chart. Right-click in the white space that’s within the bounding box of the graphic and select Chart Type.
You can also use Microsoft Word to create stunning flowcharts with the shapes feature.
And you think that only Excel formulas are amazing. The Equation Editor has always been an important feature of MS Word. In the latest versions of Word, it is simply known as Equation (available from Insert > Symbols Group > Equation).
Choose Insert > Equation > Insert New Equation.
Use the Equation Toolbar to design your own advanced equations for mathematics, physics, or chemistry. Word gives you many well-known equations to insert with just a click.
The Office clipboard can hold 24 items and it inter-operable between all Office files. In the Home tab, click the little drop-down arrow next to Clipboard to reveal the panel on the left. For the shortcut, press Ctrl+C twice to open the Clipboard Panel.
This holding capacity enables you to cut and copy multiple elements and move them anywhere within the document or between open Office programs.
Use the clipboard’s Options to control its functions. For instance, you can disable the Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying that displays the number of items you’ve copied in the bottom-right corner of the Word window. It is on by default.
Microsoft Office uses Microsoft Translator to handle all translations. Use the Translate feature from the Review tab. Translate a word or a sentence. Or, translate the entire document and display it in a separate Word document.
The Translator tab appears on the right and you can choose and change languages. Use this sidebar to highlight each word and explore their meaning in full.
Kerning adjusts the space between two individual letters for a better visual look. When designing a document, each typeface requires its own specific kerning. Kerning becomes important when you are designing with large fonts on Word, e.g. an ebook cover.
Word has kerning switched off by default, and normally you don’t need to bother with it. But let’s say you need to submit a five-page homework. Save effort by increasing the width between the letters instead of writing fluff!
Click the little pop-out arrow on Font (on the Home tab). Alternatively: click Ctrl+D. Go to the Advanced tab. Select the checkbox for Kerning for fonts. Experiment by entering a small point size in the box. Remember some typefaces and font sizes don’t look good with kerning.
If you really want to get better with kerning and fonts, try out the Kern Type game we mentioned in a previous article on Font Games.
Today, an important MS Word feature is collaboration but you have to pay attention to security too. The Document Inspector in Word helps you check your document for any information you want to keep private.
Whenever you create or even edit a document, some user information gets added to the file automatically. The Document Inspector helps you erase this kind of information before sharing a document.
To access the Document Inspector:
Go to File > Info > Inspect Document > Check for Issues > Inspect Document.
Inspect hidden content by selecting the checkboxes. After the inspection, any categories with sensitive data gets an exclamation mark. A Remove All button for each category removes the data and finalizes the document.
Office Support takes you step by step on how to use the Document Inspector.
Oh yes. This feature is truly hidden. Hidden Text is a non-printing character attribute that has its usefulness. Hiding text can be useful in many situations:
Hide or Unhide Text
Non-printing characters are “formatting marks” which enables the user to troubleshoot and finetune the layout of a document.
For instance, words need to be single-spaced; your paragraphs have to be spaced with correct line breaks; all tabs should be lined up; table cells have to be formatted neatly; pagination has to flow, etc.
Pilcrows, tab-markers, spaces, line breaks, page breaks, object anchors, and hidden text are just some of the non-printing elements that are handy for controlling the layout of a Word document. Display the non-printing characters by clicking the Pilcrow button on the Home tab. Alternatively, press Ctrl + *.
Note: In Word 2013 and onwards you can also expand or collapse parts of a document to selectively display information.
Did you know about the annual Microsoft Office Championship? The participants are the experts at using the suite—and you can bet they have found faster or more efficient ways to use tools like Word for their day to day jobs. Probably, there’s a champion inside you.
To go deeper, why not check out the hidden Developer tab on the Word ribbon which will open up more ways to use Word.
Read the full article: 10 Hidden Features of Microsoft Word That’ll Make Your Life Easier
Source: MakeUseOf | 22 May 2019 | 4:00 am(NZT)
Worldwide sales of laptops have eclipsed desktops for more than a decade. In 2018, desktop sales totaled 94 million units compared to 162 million laptops. That gap is expected to grow to 80 million versus 171 million by 2023.
But just because sales are declining, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy a desktop. There are times where it might be the ideal solution.
If you’re trying to decide which you should get, keep reading. We’re going to investigate some of the pros and cons of laptops and desktops.
What are the pros and cons of choosing a laptop over a desktop?
If you regularly need to take your computer out of the house, then owning a laptop is clearly a no-brainer.
But many people only buy a laptop due to its smaller size. In practice, they leave it sat on a desk in their home office 24/7.
If you fall into that category, do you really need a laptop? You might be better served with a desktop computer and a high-quality tablet for using on the sofa.
Fixed peripherals are one of the most significant drawbacks of laptops. It’s the big trade-off that you make in exchange for portability.
When you buy a laptop, you’re stuck with the same screen, keyboard, trackpad, ports, speakers, etc. for the duration of its life.
Sure, you can use external components, but then you’re compromising portability. Again, it might be cheaper and wiser to buy a desktop machine instead.
And of course, if you buy specific peripherals, you’re going to end up with two of everything. It’s just going to make things cluttered and confusing.
Discrete graphics is the term used to describe a separate graphics subsystem in a computer. It could either be a standalone graphics card in a motherboard slot or an entirely separate GPU.
Very few laptops offer discrete graphics. Instead, they use integrated graphics. Integrated graphics are on the same chip as the CPU and share its memory.
The presence of discrete graphics on laptops only matters if you’re a gamer. The extra cost and weight mean the feature isn’t necessarily desirable for most users.
Most laptops don’t have many components that you can upgrade—there’s the RAM and the hard drive, and that’s about it.
If you want to improve other parts of your hardware, you will probably be out of luck. There’s simply not the space inside a laptop chassis for you to add any extra components you desire.
Of course, many desktop users do not upgrade their computers, so how much importance you give to this point is a personal matter.
Laptops use less power than their desktop counterparts; their smaller parts mean less electricity is needed to make them work.
Laptops also have a battery. That can save you from losing work during unexpected power fluctuations and outages.
And now, what are the pros and cons of buying a desktop computer?
When you’re about to drop a serious amount of cash on a product, you probably want to do a couple of hours of research beforehand to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want.
Many desktop computers don’t have reviews. We’re not talking about all-in-one computers from Dell or HP—we mean a rig that your local PC hardware shop has put together and is selling in the local paper.
The lack of insight can be off-putting to non-experts.
The lack of reviews for desktop rigs also means they can be harder to buy than a laptop.
For example, if you’re buying a custom rig from a local shop, you need to trust that store implicitly. Have they tested the machine in the way they claim? Do the internal components match what the store says? Are you getting value for money? The entire process is much more personal.
You can mitigate some of these issues by buying from a chain like Best Buy, but you will end up paying a significant big-box markup.
And that leads onto our next point: cost.
All else being equal, desktop computers are significantly cheaper than laptops. You will get a lot more bang for your buck.
For a few hundred dollars, you can find a desktop computer that significantly eclipses what you’d be able to pick up for the same price in the laptop sector.
When you picture a desktop, you probably think of ugly towers, giant monitors, and endless wires.
It doesn’t have to be like that. If you want something that looks as good as it functions, the all-in-one machines from the leading manufacturers might be the way to go.
They look like a slightly bulked out monitor. And with the exception of the power lead, there’s not a cable in sight.
If you want complete control over your computer’s components, you can build your own desktop computer.
Don’t be fooled by the word “build.” If you’re not confident, you don’t actually need to put everything together yourself.
why is it called a laptop if you put it on your desk?? is it not supposed to be a desktop?
— alfonsHOE (@metro_mnl) May 8, 2019
Again, if you work with a local computer shop, you can do all the research and buying online, then pass it off to the store to do the actual construction.
There are some cons of building your own computer. It’s going to take hours and hours of research, costs can quickly spiral if you don’t keep an eye on how much you’re spending, and you ultimately shoulder the responsibility for its success or failure.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some insight about which strategy is right for you. Just remember that there is no single correct answer; much depends on what’s important to you and on how you plan to use your computer.
If you’d like to learn more, make sure you check out our article on laptop docking stations to turn your laptop into a desktop and our list of reasons why you might not need a desktop.
Image Credit: Robert Gourley/Flickr
Read the full article: Laptop vs. Desktop: Pros, Cons, and Which Should You Get?
Source: MakeUseOf | 22 May 2019 | 3:00 am(NZT)
Solid state drives (SSDs) are faster, more stable, and conserve less power than traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). But SSDs aren’t flawless, and can fail before their expected life span of five to seven years.
It’s best to be prepared for an eventual failure. If you know how to tell if an SSD is failing and how to protect yourself, you won’t be a victim of SSD problems.
Unlike in HDDs, there are no physical moving platters in SSDs, so it’s immune from old hard disk issues. However, while the storage component itself isn’t susceptible to mechanical failure, other components are.
SSDs require a capacitor and power supplies, which are vulnerable to malfunctions—especially in the case of a power surge or a power failure. In fact, in the case of a power failure, SSDs have been known to corrupt existing data too, even if the drive itself hasn’t failed completely.
The other possible problem with SSDs is that they have limited read/write cycles, an issue that exists with all kinds of flash memory.
Now, all that being said, SSDs should last many years on average so you shouldn’t worry or be paranoid. In fact, if you bought an SSD in the last couple of years, then research has shown that new SSDs are less susceptible to these read/write problems than old ones.
Either way, the read/write cycle will affect whether you can write to your SSD. Since you’ll still be able to read your data, it can all be retrieved. However, you’ll still want to know when it is nearing the end of its life so that you can upgrade.
Here are the important symptoms to be aware of.
The incessant whirring or ticking of an HDD is an easy way to know if it’s failing. However, unlike HDDs, SSDs won’t make a noise to tell you that something is going wrong.
The most hassle-free and reliable way to find out if your drive is running smoothly is to install software which checks it and silently monitors it for flaws. Windows users might want to try CrystalDiskMark while macOS users can take a look at Smart Reporter Lite.
Apart from that, here are some signs to watch out for, symptoms of a bad drive, and what you can do about it.
Much like “bad sectors” on HDDs, there are “bad blocks” on SSDs. This is typically a scenario where the computer attempts to read or save a file, but it takes an unusually long time and ends in failure, so the system eventually gives up with an error message.
The common symptoms of bad blocks are:
In case you see any of these symptoms, the best idea is to run Crystal Disk Mark or Smart Reporter Lite or Hard Disk Sentinel and check if there are any physical problems with your drive. If there are, then back up your files right away and start shopping for a replacement SSD.
There are two ways in which a bad block can affect your files:
In the first scenario, your data has never been written, so it isn’t corrupted. Usually, the system will resolve it automatically. In case it doesn’t, you can probably fix this by attempting to save the file in a different location, or by copying it to the cloud, restarting your computer, and then saving it back to your drive.
In the second scenario, unfortunately, your data can’t be easily retrieved. You can try some methods to recover data from a failed SSD, but don’t get your hopes up. Bad blocks usually mean that whatever data contained on those blocks is lost for good.
Ever seen an error message like this pop up on your screen, on either Windows or macOS? Sometimes this can happen simply because of not shutting down your computer properly. However, other times, it can be a sign of your SSD developing bad blocks or a problem in the connector port.
Thankfully, the resolution is easy. Windows, macOS, and Linux come with built-in with repair tools for a corrupt file system. Upon such an error, each OS will prompt you to run their respective tool, so follow the steps and repair the file system.
There is a chance of losing some data in this process and recovering it might be difficult. It’s yet another good reason to back up all your files periodically.
If your PC is crashing during the boot process but works fine after hitting the reset button a couple of times, then your drive is likely to blame. It might be a bad block or the sign of a dying drive, so it’s best to back up your data before you lose any of it.
To test whether it’s the drive, download and run one of the aforementioned diagnostic tools. If you have backed up your data, you can also try formatting your drive and reinstalling the OS.
It’s not that common, but some users have experienced this one. Your SSD might refuse to let you perform any operations that require it to write data to disk. However, it can still work in read-only mode. For all intents and purposes, the drive appears dead, but surprise, your data can still be recovered!
Before you throw away an SSD that you think has failed, try connecting it as an external hard drive or a secondary hard drive to another computer. Make sure you don’t boot the operating system from the SSD; you need to use the computer’s main drive for that.
In case the SSD is still functioning in read-only mode, you can retrieve all your files before securely erasing the SSD.
If your SSD is on the verge of failure, or if you’ve owned one for over five years, then the safest thing to do would be to start shopping for a replacement. Meanwhile, you can do a few things to extend its lifespan till you get a replacement:
Learn more about what you can do to protect your SSD and extend its lifespan.
Read the full article: 5 Warning Signs Your SSD Is About to Break Down and Fail
Source: MakeUseOf | 22 May 2019 | 2:00 am(NZT)
If you want to drown out the outside world while listening to your tunes, noise-cancelling headphones are a great purchase. But how do they work, and what should you look for when buying a pair?
Let’s break open noise-cancelling headphones and see how they work.
Noise-cancelling headphones come in two different types: passive, and active. As you can tell by the names, passive headphones block out the sound without doing anything extra; all of the sound-cancelling “technology” is within the headphone’s construction and material choice.
Active headphones, on the other hand, actively work to cancel out the sound using sound cancellation.
So, how do they differ, and which one should you buy?
Passive noise-cancelling headphones aren’t complicated in design. The headphones are designed to deaden external noise by using materials good at muffling sound. There’s nothing else past the material, meaning the headphones are taking a passive role in cancelling noise—hence the name
Of course, what the headphones use depends on the kind of headphones you’re buying. A pair of in-ear headphones, for example, may use different sound cancelling materials than over-ear.
In general, over-ear headphones come with the best passive cancelling. In-ear headphones can only do so much with their small size and proximity to the eardrum.
Of course, this passive noise-cancelling method won’t be as efficient as an active one. Active noise-cancelling headphones typically use passive methods on top of the additional features. However, there’s still plenty of reason why you should get them.
For one, they’re cheaper. If you want a pair of headphones that can block out soft ambiance noise, you may not need to spend extra on active headphones to achieve this. As a result, you can get passive headphones and save yourself some money.
Also, active noise-cancelling headphones require power for their mechanisms to work, via a USB cable or batteries. If this sounds like a hassle to you, you’re probably better off with the “dumber” passive headphones.
Active noise-cancelling headphones work by making a constant effort to mute the sounds around you. To do this, they need to alter the sounds that are entering your ear. That way, only the music from the headphones will be heard, and anything outside will become muted.
Active noise-cancelling headphones work by listening to the sound around you. For this, a microphone is required, which you’ll find installed on all active noise-cancelling headphones. This tracks the noises occurring around you and measures the sound waves that make up those sounds.
If you’ve ever seen someone speak near an oscilloscope, with sound waves appearing on-screen, these are what the headphones are detecting. When sound is detected, this must be cancelled out. So, how do headphones do that?
In contrast to when you speak into an oscilloscope, have you seen what happens when it’s dead silent? You’ll notice the bar flatlines. As such, it’s the headphone’s job to take the sound waves around it and cancel them out to create a flatline.
The way it does this is by emitting a wave that is the direct inverse of what it’s hearing. The peaks and troughs of the sound waves meet one another and cancel each other out, which results in a flatline; in other words, sweet silence.
Active noise-cancelling headphones don’t come cheap, but they do their job very well. If you’re working in noisy areas and regular headphones aren’t good enough to block the sound out, active noise-cancelling headphones are the best choice for you.
Noise-cancelling headphones are fabulous, but they do require a significant financial investment. As such, not everyone will need noise-cancelling headphones, so you should think hard on if you need to spend the extra money on them.
People who benefit the most from noise-cancelling headphones are those who work or travel in very noisy areas while listening to music. These outside noises can interfere with your audio and make it hard to appreciate the music playing in your headphones. Noise-cancelling headphones are a smart choice for listening to music in louder environments.
Meanwhile, if you’re thinking about buying these headphones for the sake of merely blocking out sound, you may want to consider cheaper alternatives. Earplugs, for instance, are very affordable yet efficient at blocking out noise. If you don’t plan on listening to music in a loud environment, noise-cancelling headphones may be a waste of money.
Learning about noise-cancelling headphones is one thing; choosing one that’s right for you is something else. With so many models out there, which ones are best for you?
When it’s time to choose new headphones, you need to ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend. This constraint will narrow down your range depending on your budget needs.
Unfortunately, if you’re low on funds, you may find noise-cancelling headphones too expensive for your budget—even for the passive models. Passive noise-cancelling headphones hover around the $100 range, while active models can go from mid-low $100s and upward.
Regardless, if you do have the funds for a cheap, but good, pair of noise-cancelling headphones, there’s plenty of choice. We discussed the most affordable noise-cancelling headphones for students before, so be sure to read our recommendations for some money-friendly ideas.
On the other hand, if money isn’t an issue, you’ll find that the world of noise-cancelling headphones opens up to you. The more premium models aren’t cheap—they often have a $200-300 price tag—but they’re well worth the money.
If you’re on the hunt for the ultimate in noise-cancelling headphones, be sure to try the best noise-cancelling headphones for audiophiles. Never make such a large purchase without consulting reviews first, else you may be left disappointed.
Noise-cancelling headphones may seem like magic at first, but they’re easy to understand. Passive headphones attempt to deaden the surrounding sound using dense materials, while active headphones try to create the inverse of the sound waves of your surroundings.
Noise-cancelling headphones are fabulous, but how about isolation headphones? If you need some advice on distinguishing the two, be sure to read up on noise cancellation vs. isolation headphones.
Read the full article: How Do Noise-Cancelling Headphones Work?
Source: MakeUseOf | 22 May 2019 | 1:00 am(NZT)
The Mipow Power Cube X is a Qi wireless charger, but it also sports a detachable 5000 mAh power bank for wireless charging on the go. Currently retailing for $79, and available in a choice of black or white color schemes. Is this the one charger to rule them all? Read on to find out.
Don’t forget to enter our giveaway contest at the end of this review, where you can win a Power Cube X, courtesy of Mipow.
This charger and power bank comprises of two parts. The Power Cube itself contains the battery and wireless charging components. This contains status lights, along with a USB Type-A output port, and a USB Type-C input port, for charging the battery. This sleek battery is very smooth. The rear is brushed aluminum alloy, while the front is glossy plastic. It doesn’t appear to attract fingerprints immediately. The rear of the battery also houses a proprietary two pin charging/power delivery connection. This is used in conjunction with the dock to simultaneously charge the battery, and supply power to any devices charging wirelessly.
The Power Cube X Smart Dock is reminiscent of a children’s toy. Its plain matte finish and rubber feet ensure stability on any surface. This dock houses a USB Type-C port for its main power input, along with another USB Type-A port, so you can pass through the power to charge wired devices too.
Aside from the charging connection to the battery, there’s not much else to look at. The smooth battery-shaped groove in this dock ensures the battery sits almost flush with the surface. The top edge contains an inset channel to make battery removal an easy task.
Both the Power Cube X and dock feel well designed. The smart dock measures 7.32 x 3.85 x 0.74 inches (186 x 98 x 19 mm) and weighs 4.93 oz (140g). The power cube itself weighs 4.23 oz (120g), and measures 5.66 x 2.79 x 0.59 inches (144 x 71 x 15 mm). This is quite large for such a low capacity power bank (5000mAh), but don’t forget this also houses the Qi wireless charging technology.
It features foreign object protection, so only suitable devices receive power. It also has over-charge protection so your phone battery won’t explode once it reaches 100% charge.
Inside the box, you’ll find a USB Type-C to Type-A charging cable, along with a protective bag for the battery itself. You’ll need to supply your own mains charger. Don’t forget to read our guide to USB cable types if you’re not sure what your phone uses.
This total output current of 3 amps is ample, and should provide enough power to charge all but the largest of phone batteries in a reasonable time. Unfortunately, the wireless output voltage and current of 1 amp is rather low for a device made in 2019. Sure, it will charge your phone, but slowly. The Qi specification allows for higher current delivery, so this lower wireless power output is outdated. Still, if you’re charging your phone overnight, or using the wireless charger as a mini cradle for your device throughout the day, you shouldn’t encounter any problems running out of charge.
This 5000 mAh capacity is on the low side, but it should be sufficient for one to two charges, depending on your mobile device.
This cycle life of “greater than 300 charges” is only OK. Premium battery packs can often handle over 1000 charge cycles, so the fact that Mipow won’t commit to a higher number of claimed power cycles perhaps illustrates where they may have cut corners on quality.
This charger is super simple to use. Once charged, or mounted in the dock and actively charging, you can place your phone on top to begin charging. As mentioned above, the reduced current available when wirelessly charging means modern devices take that little bit longer to fully charge. Using a Google Pixel 3 XL, Android alerts me that “this device is charging slowly”.
One quirk I noticed is that wireless charging does not often begin when using the battery alone. To initiate a charge, you have to “wake up” the charger by touching it until a light appears. Once awake, devices charge without issue. This is not a problem when the battery is connected to the dock.
Wireless charging requires your mobile devices to sit at a specific angle and orientation. Your phone won’t charge if you haphazardly throw it on to the charger, without care for its orientation. This isn’t the fault of Mipow, it’s just a limitation of the underlying Qi wireless charging technology. Still, it’s something to be aware of. You can read more about why this happens in our wireless charging technology guide.
This charger makes a very faint noise when charging wirelessly, and this only happens when a device is charging wirelessly. It’s very faint, and you’ll need to hold your ear almost next to the charger, but it’s there. This isn’t likely to cause many problems with your sleep as it’s so quiet, and it’s nothing like the high-pitched whine you sometimes hear with cheap chargers. When no device is wirelessly charging, the Power Cube X is silent.
It’s difficult to fully recommend the Power Cube X. While it’s undoubtedly a beautifully designed and well-made product, it’s a little expensive for what you get. You can easily buy a wireless charger and higher capacity power bank for less money. Many of the issues with speed are due to the limitations of Qi wireless charging itself, but many alternative wireless chargers use the newer standards for faster charging of your tech.
That said, it’s a wonderful piece of design and engineering. If you want to reduce the number of cables and devices in your life, or are looking for a well-designed charger to live on your desk or bedside unit, then the Power Cube X is a solid choice. We’d like to see a mains adapter included in the box and an increase in the battery capacity in the future, but this is still an excellent product.
If you’d like to win a brand new Mipow Power Cube X in white with Smart Dock, then enter our giveaway contest below!
Read the full article: Mipow Power Cube X: Wireless Charger AND Power Bank
Source: MakeUseOf | 22 May 2019 | 12:30 am(NZT)
VSCO. You’ve seen the name below Instagram posts and in roundups of the best photography apps. But what is VSCO and why should you be using it?
This article offers a detailed overview of VSCO, which we consider to be one of the essential tools all smartphone photographers should use. Read on to find out why.
VSCO (previously VSCO Cam) is a popular app and platform for smartphone photographers. It’s simultaneously an iOS/Android photo editor, a camera app, and a community “for creators, by creators,” where members post the photos they’ve taken and edited with VSCO.
The Instagram hashtag #vsco boasts an impressive 189 million posts at the time of writing. The app adds the hashtag automatically when you edit and post a photo, but most people are happy to add it manually, because it’s hugely popular.
VSCO regularly hosts creative challenges and contests, curates photo collections, and shares educational content—all within its social platform.
VSCO stands for Visual Supply Company, the name of the company behind the app. Visual Supply Company has been around since 2011 and is headquartered in Oakland, California, where it works exclusively on the namesake app.
VSCO comes with a built-in camera app that’s probably more functional than your default camera. There’s a catch, though: these advanced camera features are only available on iOS. According to this VSCO Support note, this is due to device limitations encountered when developing the Android version.
If you shoot on iPhone, the VSCO camera will equip you with the following advanced controls:
Of all the VSCO features, the camera probably gets the least spotlight, but it’s a nice bonus if you use the app for other reasons.
As a photo editor, VSCO is pretty capable. It may lack more advanced tools like brushes, retouching, and curves, but it’s ideal for working with colors, light, and contrast.
VSCO comes equipped with standard editing tools like Exposure, Contrast, and Saturation. There’s also the handy Split Tone that lets you adjust the tint of shadows and highlights, and the HSL tool that allows you to tweak the hue, saturation, and lightness of major colors.
But where VSCO truly shines is its filters. Its giant filter collection can easily give you choice paralysis. Filters, or presets, are grouped into collections, like the B&W Fade for monochrome photos or Isle of Dogs, a limited-time series inspired by the Wes Anderson movie. You can add the presets you like to Favorites and save entire recipes with the editing combinations you love.
Once you’ve taken a photo with the VSCO camera and achieved the aesthetic you want, you can share it with the VSCO community. The social platform has mobile photographers flocking to the app, because it allows them to express themselves creatively without much social pressure.
As a social media app, VSCO is comprised of several tabs.
As an image-centric platform, VSCO may seem similar to Instagram, leaving you to wonder what the differences are. In a nutshell, VSCO is less of a mainstream social media app and more of a community for those who love photography. It’s less about sharing your life and more about sharing your creativity.
At a granular level, here’s how VSCO is different from Instagram:
This all makes VSCO one of the best Instagram alternatives for smartphone photographers. Especially if you’re jaded by all the selfies, bots, ads, and influencers on Instagram.
VSCO has a near-cult following of teens and young adults (it’s available to anyone above 13-years-old). Because most parents neither use or understand the app, the online conversation about VSCO and safety is ripe with fear-mongering.
In reality, the VSCO platform may actually be safer than Instagram or Facebook. Being niche and creativity-focused makes it less appealing to predators, and the absence of likes and follower counts can mean less social anxiety. Users can get messages only from people they follow, so it’s going to be hard for a stranger to strike up a conversation with your child.
While these features give teens a sense of privacy, there’s actually no way to make a VSCO account private. That’s why it’s best to deny the app access to your child’s location and make sure they observe the usual dos and don’ts when sharing photos online.
VSCO membership costs $19.99/year and comes with a free 7-day trial. You can also use the app for free, but the functionality will be limited to some basic filters, editing tools like Contrast and Saturation, and browsing community content.
Some say VSCO is a great starting point to set the mood for a photo, while others say it allows you to cut down on post-processing and produce beautiful skin tones. The bottom line is that VSCO will help you become a better smartphone photographer.
This is mainly down to three things:
So, if this sounds appealing you may as well check out the 7-day free trial.
VSCO comes with quite a price tag for a mobile app, but it’s worth investing in if you’re serious about smartphone photography. It has some of the best filters out there and is the go-to app for countless Instagram influencers.
Editing is just one part of creating a great shot, though. Even more important is the shooting process. So do your research into the best smartphone cameras, and consider buying a smartphone camera lens to improve your shots even more.
Read the full article: What Is VSCO and Why Do Smartphone Photographers Use It?
Source: MakeUseOf | 22 May 2019 | 12:00 am(NZT)
About a year ago I was informed by an acquaintance that Google Slides—the free-to-use, online, collaborative presentation app—was the poor man’s version of PowerPoint.
This observation took me back a bit because I couldn’t understand where the animosity was coming from. I also found the critique unfair. Google Slides is a great program that allows you to create everything from workplace presentations to cookbooks. The only requirement is that you have a Google account.
However, this critique got me wondering about how many people are unfamiliar with Google Slides. To clear up some of these misconceptions, here’s how you can create a basic presentation from start to finish.
The first thing you’ll want to do is open up the Google Slides application. If you don’t have an account or you’re an infrequent user, here’s our beginner’s guide to Gmail, which will explain how Gmail is useful when controlling the associated app.
If you’re in Google Drive, click New > Google Slides > From a template.
You can use a blank presentation if you want, but for this tutorial, we’re just going to tweak a pre-existing design. There are fewer steps involved and it will be quicker for you.
Once you click on From a template, you’ll be taken to the template gallery.
Like Canva, Google groups templates according to the purpose. One of the most common uses for a slideshow is a work presentation, so for this tutorial lets go with a General presentation.
When you open up your template, you’ll see a screen that looks very similar to this one.
Along the top, you’ll see your navigation bar. To the left side of your workspace you’ll see your template pages in the order they are currently laid out.
In the center of your workspace, you will see a larger version of the page you currently have active. To the right side of your workspace, you should see another dropdown menu called Themes.
Google Slides is expansive, but one of the most important things you’ll need to know is the navigation bar at the top of your workspace, and what each dropdown menu contains.
Under File, you’ll see the basic options for controlling your Google Slides presentation. This includes sharing, importing slides, downloading slides, basic page setup, print settings, and language.
Under Edit, you’ll find the basic tools to control each individual page. This will include options to undo an action, redo an action, cut, copy, and paste.
Under View, you’ll see the different ways that you can view your presentation. You can also see the option to go to Animations.
If you want to include animations in your presentation, check out our tutorial on how to add animated GIFs to Google Slides.
Continuing on: if you click on the Insert menu, you’ll see different options for content that you can include in your presentation.
Under Format, you’ll find all the tools that you will need to adjust your text, from font styles and alignment to bullets and numbering.
The Slide menu allows you to make large changes to your overall presentation. The Arrange menu allows you to organize the elements on each individual page.
The Tools menu lets you fix your spelling, look up words in the dictionary, and add accessibility options to your presentation.
The Add-ons menu is a shortcut to special features you can add to your Google Slides.
Lastly, there’s the Help menu. By clicking here you can receive additional training or search for updates.
Once you finish browsing through the menus and get a general idea of what each one does, you’ll want to look at your Themes. As mentioned earlier, Google Slides groups presentations according to a purpose. Inside each group, you will find visual themes you can apply to your slideshow.
Themes can include specific fonts, colors, and styles. When you click on one, it’s a quick and easy way to make sure everything looks uniform.
To change your theme, simply scroll the options available on the right-hand side of your workspace. Click on the one that suits your needs.
After you pick your theme, you’ll want to start inputting your own information into your slideshow.
To change the placeholder text, simply click on each box and start typing. You can also change the font and font color, too.
To change the color, make sure the font you want to change is selected. Then click on the font color option, seen here in red.
When you click on it, a dropdown menu with swatches will emerge. From here, you can choose the colors that are already available to you in your color palette, or you can create a brand new color by clicking on Custom.
If you want to change the font style, once again make sure your text is selected. Then click on the font dropdown menu. Choose the style you want.
A word of warning: make sure the font you choose is easy to see. Most presentations are viewed from a distance.
When you’re putting together this presentation, you might decide that the background is boring or that you don’t like the way that it looks.
To change the background, right-click on a slide’s page. When you do, make sure the text on that page is not selected. Then choose Change Background.
Once the new dialogue box pops up, you can change your background color, put an image in the background, or reset the background a previous default state.
Under Color, you can also choose a solid color or a gradient for your background. You can create custom colors and gradients too.
Once your background is finalized, you can either choose Done or Add to theme.
If you add this background to your theme, any pages in your presentation that have a matching background will mirror these new changes you’ve made.
Once it’s applied, click Done.
What if there’s a placeholder image in your template, and you want to swap it out?
To do this, click on the image to want to replace so its blue bounding box appears. Next, click Replace Image, seen here in red. You can then choose to upload an image from your computer, search the web for an image, or insert an image via URL.
A word of warning: make sure you have permission to use the photos you’re inserting. If you’re struggling to find images, here’s a list of sites where you can find royalty-free stock photos.
While you’re working through these slides, you may notice that there’s a page or two in the template that you don’t need.
To get rid of these pages, go to the left-hand side of your workspace. Right-click on the page you want to remove.
Sometimes you’ll see a slide that you really like the layout for, but it’s in the wrong place for your presentation.
To move a slide to the end—for example—right-click on the page you want to move, then choose Move slide to end. It’s that simple.
Once you’re done setting up your presentation, you can start thinking about how you’ll “present” this slideshow. How do you want it to progress? Do you want a little animation between each of the pages?
To add a “transition” between two of your slides, right-click on the page you want to adjust, then click Change Transition.
When you do, your toolbar on the right-hand side of your workspace will show you new options that you can use. Choose the option you want from the dropdown menu. You can also choose to apply this transition to the whole presentation or just an individual slide.
And that’s it. You’re done your basic presentation.
Google Slides is an expansive application, and while we didn’t cover all the bells and whistles we did run through the basics. With this application on your side, you’ll never need to worry about your work looking unprofessional, whether you have access to other slideshow programs or not.
Want to learn more about Google Slides? Here are tips you should know before your next presentation.
Read the full article: How to Create a Presentation in Google Slides
Source: MakeUseOf | 21 May 2019 | 11:00 pm(NZT)
Do you want the features of the Android operating system combined with the look and feel of an iPhone? It is possible to make Android look like iOS by using a combination of apps, launchers, and other tips and tricks.
So whether you wish you had an iPhone, or you just want to make full use of Android’s customizability, keep reading to find out how to make an Android look like an iPhone or iPad.
One of the best ways to instantly transform the way you phone looks is to install a third-party launcher.
In case you’re not aware, a launcher is responsible for the way your device’s home screen looks, how apps start, how you make phone calls, and the way you interact with the underlying Android operating system.
There’s a launcher to suit every taste. Some focus on better design; others prioritize improved functionality.
Some of the best launchers that make your phone look like iOS include:
Modeled on iOS 12, Phone X Launcher aims to replicate the latest generation of iPhone models on your Android device. That means you’ll find a notch at the top of the screen, regardless of whether your phone model actually has one.
The launcher closely mimics the iOS experience. It includes a swipe-down search bar, an iOS-style lock screen, a custom version of the iPhone’s Control Center, smart toggles for Wi-Fi and the flashlight, and a selection of the best iOS wallpapers.
There’s an in-app purchase in case you want to remove the ads.
Download: Phone X Launcher (Free)
iLauncher is designed to look like iOS 9.
It removes the app tray, thus placing all your apps on your home screen like iOS. iLauncher also replaces the default icons of some of the main system apps like Phone, Messages, Camera, and Settings to make them appear like their iPhone counterparts.
Unfortunately, the icons used aren’t live. The clock app won’t display the actual time, and the calendar app doesn’t show the right date in the icon thumbnail.
Download: iLauncher (Free)
Another way to give your Android phone an iPhone flavor is to use an icon pack.
To use an icon pack, you need to use a launcher that supports the feature. You do not, however, have to pick one of the launchers we discussed above. You could install any launcher you like customize it in your own way. Check out our list of the best Android launchers to learn more.
Arguably the best iOS icon pack for Android is iOS 11—Icon Pack.
This icon pack offers the largest number of iOS icons for Android. That includes Gallery, Settings, Weather, Calendar, Calculator, Camera, Google Pay, and a whole lot more.
All the icons have a resolution of 192×192. They’re designed to work at 110 percent size on a 7×5 grid using the popular Nova Launcher.
Download: iOS 11—Icon Pack (Free)
iUX 12 uses the same design for apps as seen in iOS 12.
Although the design of the apps is therefore slightly fresher than the previous option, we’d still recommend the iOS 11 icon pack because it has far more icons available. If you want a consistent look across your phone, that’s important.
Additionally, the design differences between iOS 11 and iOS 12 are relatively minor—check it out for yourself. Nonetheless, if having the latest tweaks is important to you, iUX 12 is still a solid choice.
Download: iUX 12 (Free)
You can pair the above icon packs and launchers with apps that look like their iPhone equivalents. It’s the way to get the most seamless experience. If not, it can be jarring to bounce between iOS icons and launchers and Material Design Android apps.
Of course, you can never replace all the apps on your Android with iOS versions, but here are some you should check out:
As the name suggests, IOS12 Lock Screen makes your Android lock screen look like the latest version of the iPhone lock screen. It offers iOS-style notifications, music player controls that look like iOS, and iPhone-themed screen unlock options.
Download: IOS12 Lock Screen (Free)
For something that resembles the iPhone calendar on Android, check out iCalendar iOS 13. It’s compatible with Google Calendar, offers custom color coding for events, supports map view, and has an integrated task manager.
Read our list of the best calendar apps for Android for more options.
Download: iCalendar iOS 13 (Free)
In terms of design, iMusic is the closest app you’ll find to the iOS Apple Music app. The app is a full-featured MP3 player that supports tag editing, gapless playback, and smart playlists. There’s also a sleep timer, a ringtone picker, and an equalizer.
Download: iMusic (Free)
iCalculator brings the iOS calculator to Android, including the rounded number buttons and color scheme.
In addition to the basics, the iCalculator can log your equation history, provide graphing features, perform conversions, and has memory functions like M+, M, MR, and MC.
Download: iCalculator (Free)
Finally, have a look at Notification Center iOS 12. It places the iOS notification screen on your Android’s home screen. As such, you get quick access to volume controls, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a flashlight, airplane mode, music controls, and more.
The app also has some customization options. You can choose where on the notification screen the tools appear and hide ones you don’t need.
Download: Notification Center iOS 12 (Free)
We wouldn’t necessarily recommend any of these launchers, icon packs, or apps if you wanted a countdown of the best in each category. If quality and features are your number one priorities, there are better options available across the board.
However, if you’re going into this project with the sole aim of making your Android device resemble iOS as closely as possible, the choices we’ve recommended are the best available.
If you would like to learn more, check out how to install custom ringtones on Android and our list of reasons to consider installing a custom Android ROM.
Read the full article: How to Make Android Look Like an iPhone
Source: MakeUseOf | 21 May 2019 | 10:00 pm(NZT)