Archive for month: October 2017

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

Each week, I’m naming at least 3 tech products you can find on Amazon and that are worth checking out for yourself. You surely already know you can find a lot of cool different products on Amazon, but sometimes there is just so much that it’s nice to have some specific items pointed out. If you have Amazon Prime, prepare to make good use of your free two-day shipping!

Amazon Echo Dot

You’ve likely heard about the Amazon Echo and its personal assistant, Alexa. The original Echo is a taller device with a really nice speaker. The Echo Dot has the same awesome capabilities as the Echo, but it’s just smaller and has a less impressive speaker. With the Echo Dot, it is assumed you will probably connected it to a nicer sound system, though I should note that the Echo Dot’s speaker is certainly a decent one—it just isn’t as amazing as its taller sibling device. It’s also much cheaper, which is a huge selling point. You can use the Echo Dot to do tons of cool things with just your voice. You can set calendar events, add to a shopping list, ask Alexa questions, check the weather, and much more. You can enable a wide variety of skills to do things like play games, check your credit card statement, or play meditation sounds. The Echo Dot can do a whole lot for such an affordable price. If you don’t mind having a slightly less wonderful speaker than the Echo has, the Echo Dot is a highly recommended smart device.

View the Amazon Echo Dot

Tile Mate & Slim Combo Pack

Do you lose your things? Do you find yourself rushing around to find your keys, or your phone, or your wallet, or—well—any of your possessions? Tile is a great way to take care of this pesky problem. This particular Amazon product has four Tile devices; two of them are the Tile Mate, and two are the Tile Slim. The Tile Mate is a small device that can attach to anything—your purse, your keychain, whatever you want to keep track of. The Tile Slim is a slightly larger but still very thin and small device that you can place in things, like in your wallet, backpack, or whatever else you’re worried about losing track of. If you lose something that has a Tile in or on it, you can use your phone to make the Tile ring, and you can also see where Tile last recorded the item being. Tile devices are only supposed to need charging about once a year, so you don’t have to worry about them dying. It also has a convenient feature that helps you find your phone—you can use your Tile device you make your phone ring if you’ve lost it. If you or someone you know habitually loses things, or if you have very important items that you want to keep careful track of, Tile is a good choice.

View the Tile Mate & Slim Combo Pack

Sphero 2.0

Sphero 2.0 is called an “App-Controlled Robot Ball,” and it is exactly that. Sphero is a ball that you can use a device to control it and make it do all sorts of interesting things. It can move very quickly, and it can keep working for more than an hour before it needs to be charged again. You can make obstacle courses (Sphero comes with two ramps), program a course into your phone and watch the Sphero follow the course, and even install games on it. These games are twists on well-known table-top games—their product description mentions “Pass the Sphero,” which is like Hot Potato, and it mentions there are more than 30 apps you can get for it. It has a number of augmented reality games, as well. It’s also meant to be educational, as it’s able to teach about a number of subjects. You might not think you need a robot ball, but Sphero 2.0 is able to do quite a bit and is an interesting spin on the bots people usually think of.

View the Sphero 2.0

Internet 101: Which Messaging App is Right for You?

Internet 101: Which Messaging App is Right for You?

Communication has certainly changed dramatically over the years. When email entered our lives, it changed the way we could communicate. When SMS (‘Short Message Service’) texting, the form of texting we all know and love, became more accessible and cost-friendly, its popularity exploded. Since then, we’ve used many different ways to communicate. Email may not be the most popular way to communicate these days, though it’s of course common in the business world. Texting is obviously still popular, but there are far more options. Over the years, more and more messaging options have come onto the scene. Since there are so many different apps to choose from, it might seem difficult to decide which one you actually want to stick with. If you’re not sure which one you want to use, or if you’re not sure what people are talking about when they say ‘kik,’ this article might just help you figure out which app you’ll enjoy the most—or if you even want to use a messaging app.

What are the pros?

There are a lot of reasons to download a messaging app. Here are just a few reasons to consider:

  • Messaging apps can have special features that are better than typical SMS text platforms
  • Many messaging apps also include video chat and calling, which can streamline your communication
  • Most apps have fun things like extra (or different) emojis and stickers
  • You don’t have to exchange phone numbers with someone to keep in contact
  • You can feel freer to casually message people, because you know they chose to connect with you

What are the cons?

Here are a few reasons you might not want to go with an app:

  • Downloading another app takes up more space on your device
  • Your contacts might all be using different apps, because there are so many apps to choose from
  • Apps might glitch or start crashing, while the typical SMS text platform is generally fairly steady
  • Messaging apps use some of your data, while standard SMS texts don’t (as long as you have SMS texting in your phone plan)

What should you consider?

If you weigh the pros and cons and want to use a messaging app, or if you have one now but aren’t sure if it’s the right one for you, here are a few questions you could ask:

What purpose do you have?

Do you want a messaging app for business? School? Family? Friends? Some mix of these groups? Your purpose might change which app you go with. If you want a messaging app to keep up with co-workers and communicate in the workplace, you might need less bells and whistles, and it might need to be more practical (unless you have a really cool workplace). If you’re looking for an app so you can work with your classmates, you’ll probably need an app that lets you clearly define groups. If you just want a messaging app for your friends and family, you’ll likely want more of the fun features that can keep you all entertained and is pretty informal.

Is it easy to use?

When you’re choosing a messaging app, you should definitely look for one that you can easily use. Depending on your experience with smartphones, different apps, and messaging in general, you might need something different from everyone else. You’ll want to make sure it’s intuitive (you don’t have to go searching all over the place to find basic features). You can also consider whether it’s similar to other things you’ve used in the past.

What kind of messages do you want to be able to send?

If you want to just send text-based messages, most of the following apps will work great for that. If you want to focus on communicating through photos, other apps will do the job better. If you want video capabilities, many apps offer this option, but some are better than others. Make sure to see whether your app offers all the kinds of messaging you want to use.

Is the app safe and secure?

Most of the chat apps you’ve heard about are considered safe, but be careful not to add a random app that just looks cool without looking into it first. Scam apps could steal your data or do worse. Also, some apps are built entirely on the premise of being more secure than SMS texting and other apps out there. One app, called Signal, is based entirely on this idea. It’s slightly different from other messaging apps, though, in that you still send texts to peoples’ phone numbers. If you want to be extra careful with your messages, keep in mind that some apps offer more protection than others, though they might not work the same way as the typical messaging app.

Is it convenient?

Some messaging apps might be more convenient for you than others. If space is an issue, some take up less space, so take that into consideration. Also, some apps are connected with other social media platforms you might already be on, so that can be an added layer of convenience.

What are your options?

Here are just 7 of the messaging apps you might want to choose from. There are many, many more out there, so consider asking around to learn what your friends and family prefer. These are just some of the apps that are widely discussed and used!

Facebook Messenger
Offers texts, photos, videos (including video calling), and voice calling
Facebook Messenger is, obviously, Facebook’s connected messaging app. Messenger is separate from the Facebook app, so you do have to download another additional app to use it. Messenger has a lot of different options, like making group messages with fun group names, sending photos with face filters and other decorations, and using Facebook’s stickers. Facebook Messenger is interesting because there are so many things you can do with it. One thing people may not be as aware of is the ability to play games through the app, like Word Streak with Friends. There are other games, too, built into the Messenger app. It seems like you can do just about everything with the app, even send money and share your location. You and most of your connections are probably on Facebook already, so you’ll know you can contact just about everyone here. If you want to send just about any kind of message and you have Facebook, try this app out. Facebook Messenger is free to download—check out their website to get started!

GroupMe
Offers texts, photos, and videos
GroupMe lets you connect with groups of people to keep in touch for whatever purpose. It’s certainly popular in the college world and in the workplace. You can create as many different groups as you want. It has its own set of emojis, which are pretty cute and keep things a little interesting. GroupMe has a nice gallery view, so if you’re in a group that sends a lot of media, it’s easy to flip through what’s been sent. It also easily lets you send your location, quickly inviting group members to join you where you are. GroupMe really relies on its usefulness in communicating with groups, particularly if you don’t want to share your number (though users without the app can still receive GroupMe messages, which is convenient). If you want to be able to message groups easily (like for a group project or work event), this is a great app for it. GroupMe is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Instagram Direct
Offers texts, photos, and videos
Instagram Direct is Instagram’s answer to a messaging service. Instead of just posting your Instas and liking your friends’ photos, you can also message people directly through the app. Like Snapchat, your photos and videos will automatically disappear after a while (though not all of your messages disappear—just your photos and videos). You can send all sorts of media through Instagram Direct. Also similar to Snapchat, you can add face filters to your photos, and you can add cool effects to your videos. Boomerang is an especially popular video feature; you can make a short video clip loop back and forth. If you already have Instagram, you already have Instagram Direct, which makes it more convenient than some other messaging apps might seem. Of course, if you want to connect with people who aren’t on Instagram, this isn’t the app for you. If most of your friends and family are connected with you on Insta, though, this app might be just perfect. Instagram is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Kik
Offers texts, photos, and videos (including video calling)
Kik is a pretty popular messaging app that people often use if they don’t yet feel comfortable giving their phone number to someone (though this isn’t its only use, of course). You can’t make regular voice calls, but you can do pretty much everything else, so it’s a good option no matter what kind of messages you’d like to send. You can send all sorts of GIFs and stickers, and you can create group chats. Kik also has a pretty nice, clean interface, so it’s not really confusing. Kik also has some interesting special features. For one thing, you can interact with Kik bots to kill time if you’re not sure who to talk to. Also, you have a Kik code that others can scan in order to connect with you, which is convenient. Quite a few people are on Kik, so it might be a good option for you. Kik is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Snapchat
Offers texts, photos, and videos
Snapchat is the popular photo- and video-sharing app that makes your messages impermanent. Messages disappear after a short amount of time, and even the photos and videos in your personal story disappear after a short while. Snapchat centers specifically around photos and videos, though you can, of course, send text-based messages. You can use Snapchat filters to do things like weirdly distort your face and voice, give yourself cat ears, or put someone else’s face on your own. You can take short videos with these filters, too, and you can do other cool effects. You can also easily add text on top of your photos, communicating through your photos. If you want to message primarily through photos and videos, this is the app for you. Snapchat is free to download—check out their website to get started!

WeChat
Offers texts, photos, videos (including video calling), and voice calling
WeChat is a messaging app that offers all the kinds of things you might expect. It lets you message in all kinds of different ways, but WeChat also has an interesting feel to it. The main page is very basic, sort of like your typical SMS chat setup, but once you’re in a chat, it can get as complicated as you’d like it to, with voice messages, the ability to match your step count with your friends (if you each have it enabled), group chats, and interestingly, broadcasted messages that go to numerous people but don’t share who all the people are. WeChat is also a nice choice if you have friends in China (as I’ve recently learned from experience). Some messaging apps are blocked in China, but WeChat is still available there. It also has a very strange bunch of animated stickers you can download, which keeps it very interesting. If you’re looking for an app that is slightly different from the rest, this one will do the trick. WeChat is free to download—check out their website to get started!

WhatsApp
Offers texts, photos, videos (including video calling), and voice calling
WhatsApp is a hugely popular messaging app that has a lot of great features. You can send all different types of messages, you can create groups, and you can easily access it everywhere, including on your computer. It also has its own cute versions of the emojis you’re used to. The app is pretty clear and easy to use; it’s not really bulky or confusing at all. Honestly, it’s really a simple and straightforward way to message people. WhatsApp is an alluring choice, partly because it has so many nice features and partly because so many other people are already on it. It’s also nice because it’s easy to send files through the app. You can do pretty much all the things you’d expect with it. If you want a messaging app that a lot of people are on and that does all of the basics, this app might be your best option. WhatsApp is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Uber Lets Riders Add Multiple Stops to Route

Uber Lets Riders Add Multiple Stops to Route

Uber hasn’t even been around for a decade yet, and it’s still already a pretty firmly established option for getting from Point A to Point B. The popular transportation company has brought a lot of convenience for riders in the cities it’s active in, and despite setbacks (negative press, issues with some of its policies, bans in certain cities, et cetera), it’s still massively popular. The list of cities you can find Uber in just keeps growing, and it doesn’t seem ready to stop yet. Uber makes it really easy to use its app, and often it’s cheaper for riders than other options, like the typical cab. However, one small irritant when using Uber in the past has been that if you wanted to call an Uber and go to more than one stop (Point A to Point B to Point C), it was a frustrating hassle. Now, however, Uber has finally integrated a way to add multiple stops to your trips when you call for a ride.

When making more than one stop with Uber before, riders had to inform the Uber driver after they had already been picked up and were in the car with them. The driver would then have to figure out how to get to each place while they were driving. This was sometimes confusing for newer Uber drivers. It also added a layer of inconvenience if the address had strange spelling or if the rider didn’t have any idea where the first stop actually was. And it could be unfortunate for drivers and riders alike if someone stayed at a stop for too long—drivers would have to simply sit and idle, while riders would have to pay a bit extra, because the clock was supposed to be kept running while at each stop. For any of these reasons, some drivers could become annoyed if a rider asked to add another stop to their trip.

Now, though, Uber has finally caught up to Lyft in this area, making it easy to add additional stops (which Lyft has had in their app for about a year now). If you need to run into the grocery store really quickly on the way to a Christmas party, you can program that into your route before the driver even gets there to pick you up. You can even add two extra stops if you’d like, which is an added bonus. Adding an extra stop (or two) is simple. In the app, there is a plus sign ‘+’ next to the “Where To?” box. When you touch the plus sign, you can select “Add a Stop” and enter the location, then “Add a Stop” again if you are adding a second one. Then you just tap “Save” and don’t have to worry about it again. You are supposed to keep your stops to less than three minutes, but this can certainly be doable if you just need to run grab a bag of snacks or pick up something you left at work before arriving at your actual destination. If you use Uber, the ability to add multiple stops is just a nice added convenience that can make all the different trips you need to make much more efficient.

Want to Let Amazon Into Your Home?

Want to Let Amazon Into Your Home?

For years now, technology has been moving us into uncharted territory. We are able to do things now that it would have been difficult to consider just a few decades ago. Along the way, Amazon has grown to be an important player in the tech world. Amazon is everywhere and offers just about everything (even perhaps prescription medication in the future, as reported by Gizmodo). It has its own tablets and smart devices, downloadable content, and access to just about every product you might ever (or never) need. With an Amazon Prime account, subscribers can get free two-day delivery on Prime-eligible items. Soon, with the right components, you will be able to have Amazon items not just brought to your door but instead brought right inside your home.

Amazon Key is a new service that will be available soon for eligible Prime members. Amazon Key gives you a way to keep your delivered packages secure and safe. To use Amazon Key, you must purchase the Amazon Key In-Home Kit, which starts at almost $250. The kit has a Cloud Cam (in a specific version made for Amazon Key), which is a security camera, and a smart lock for your door. If you have Amazon Key and choose their free in-home delivery, an Amazon delivery person will turn on your Cloud Cam and unlock the smart lock to put the package inside your door. The Cloud Cam lets you see exactly what happens, so you shouldn’t have to worry about letting the person into your home. You can either install Amazon Key yourself or have someone else come to do it for you. It’s a fairly simple setup with a very simple premise: making deliveries easier when you won’t be at home to receive them.

Of course, Amazon Key has caused some concern for people who are worried about privacy and safety. Though Amazon Key is clearly centered on the idea of letting you see who comes into your home and who will be able to unlock your smart lock, some people aren’t interested in letting any stranger into their homes, while others don’t like the idea of Amazon being further integrated into their lives.

Potential privacy concerns aside, if you’re comfortable with the concept, Amazon Key could be pretty convenient (if expensive). It could help cut back on package thefts caused by your packages being left outside your home. Also, if you order something that you don’t want left out in the elements and you know there will be extreme weather that day, it could be very helpful. And if you’re going on vacation and don’t want packages sitting outside for days at a time, Amazon Key would solve that problem.

Amazon Key is an interesting new offering that will come out soon, so if you have the $249.99 to spare, you might start considering whether it will work for you. You also should find out whether you’re eligible to use it, because it’s currently only being offered in certain areas. Time will tell whether Amazon Key is a success and worth the money—I’ll be watching closely to see how Amazon Key might change the way deliveries work. Visit Amazon’s website to find out more about Amazon Key.

Making It Easier to Shut Off Your Phone

Making It Easier to Shut Off Your Phone

I know, I love tech and the internet, but let’s be honest—sometimes it’s smart to take a break every now and again. Smartphones are fun and useful, but it can be a good idea to set them down and take care of other things. Many people can find themselves using their phones much more than they actually want to, feeling obligated to check apps that people expect them to be on all day, every day, which can be very stressful. Also, too much screen usage might just be damaging your eyes, according to BBC Newsbeat. Of course, I’m in no way suggesting you stop altogether or cut back more than necessary, but why not take some small breaks? It can make being connected even more fun when you’re not bogged down by how much you need to use your phone every day. I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes feel like I’m tied to my phone, and I just don’t enjoy it as much then. What’s really great is that you can even take advantage of fun or pretty tech while you’re doing it. Some apps make turning off your phone much less painful than you’d expect. Here are just a few ways to encourage yourself to turn off the screen for a little bit!

Forest

Forest is an app that’s available on iOS and through Google Play. Forest makes turning your phone off enjoyable by letting you grow trees and feel like you’re being rewarded for lessening your screen time. With Forest, you plant trees in the app, and when your phone is off, your trees begin to grow. If you close the app to do other things, your tree dies. Each tree you plant has a countdown timer, and you have to leave the app open until the countdown ends to let your tree finish growing. Eventually you’ll have a whole forest of trees, which gives you a lovely visual representation of how much time you’ve been able to take away from phone usage. Also, you can earn coins while using Forest, and you can then spend those coins so that Forest makes a donation to Trees for the Future, an organization that plants trees. Forest is a great way to make turning off your phone feel really productive. Check out their website for more information!

FocusNow

FocusNow is similar to Forest in many ways. Specifically, you grow trees while you’re not using your phone, which is the core of Forest. FocusNow is available on iOS and lets you connect with other FocusNow players by sharing your habits and encouraging each other. Growing your trees (by using a countdown timer and keeping the app open) leads to what FocusNow calls a “farm castle,” a lovely area full of plant life and pretty castles. You can add your “good habits” to a list in the app and receive reminders to keep up with these habits. If Forest isn’t for you, or if you like the idea of maintaining good habits through the app, check out FocusNow for iOS!

Unplug

Unplug is an iOS app that adds a little bit of personal goal-setting to shutting off your screen. You can set limits for how much time you spend on your phone, and the app helps you keep track of just how much you’ve used your phone. It also shows how many times you’ve unlocked your phone each day. It can display your stats in different ways that might suit you. What makes it rewarding is that you can build up a collection of trophies, collect points, and go on “streaks” of good phone use behavior. There may not be any growing plants, but gathering trophies can feel fun and helpful for people who have trouble limiting their phone time. If you like the idea of point-building and trophy-collecting, check out Unplug for iOS!

Pocket Points

Pocket Points is an interesting app that rewards users in a different kind of way. Pocket Points is intended to encourage students to turn off their phones during class. While students are on campus, they can open the app, turn their phone off, and build up points while their screens are off. These points can then be exchanged for stuff at places near you. The Pocket Points website lists some of their available businesses, like Insomnia Cookies, Wendy’s, Pita Pit, and Papa John’s, among other places. You can get discounts and other cool promos, as well as just totally free stuff. If you’re a student who wants discounts and free things and is willing to shut off their phone while they’re on campus, you can get Pocket Points for iOS and in the Google Play store. Check out the Pocket Points website for more information!

Netflix Offering ‘Stranger Things 2’ Aftershow

Netflix Offering ‘Stranger Things 2’ Aftershow

Netflix is joining the post-show content arena with its new aftershow for Stranger Things 2, the just-released and highly anticipated second season of Stranger Things. The aftershow is called Beyond Stranger Things and is already up on Netflix, available the same day that the popular show’s new season went up for binge-watching. The aftershow episodes feature cast members talking about the show and developments in its corresponding episode. The episodes are hosted by Jim Rash, perhaps best known for his hilarious run as Community’s Dean Pelton. There is an aftershow episode for each episode of the new season, of course, and the length of the episodes varies, from as short as 15 minutes to as long as 25 minutes.

The choice to release its own aftershow on its platform is an interesting one since Netflix posts all of the episodes in a season at once. People typically tend to binge-watch their shows on Netflix, especially when it’s a show like Stranger Things that is hugely popular and very likely to be spoiled online if you’re not caught up quickly. How viewers will actually use this aftershow is yet to be seen. Some viewers might want to save the aftershow episodes for after they’ve completed the new season of Stranger Things so they can catch up quickly. Netflix is suggesting viewers do this so that they can avoid spoilers, which is an interesting way to set up an aftershow. Others might have more time and want to stop to watch each aftershow between each regular episode, warning or not. I do wonder how many Netflix users will actually do this, especially considering the potential spoilers. When I am watching a new episode of a show on regular television, I enjoy watching aftershows right away because it gives me something to think about and enjoy while I wait for the next episode. When I’m binge-watching a show, I don’t necessarily need this buffer. If Beyond Stranger Things is meant to be watched after seeing all of the regular episodes, it makes this aftershow very different from most. Also, it’s important to note that Beyond Stranger Things is different from many others because it doesn’t allow for any real-time interaction; many aftershows either take questions or at least let viewers respond in some way during the airing. But since Beyond Stranger Things is already recorded, this is taken out of the equation.

Whichever way viewers end up actually watching Beyond Stranger Things, releasing its own aftershow for Stranger Things on the Netflix website seems like a very smart move. The show is an absolute hit, and many fans will definitely love to hear the cast, creators, and others discuss the show. The post-show content might not end up serving the exact same purpose as it does for other shows, but it will give viewers the chance to go in-depth on the new season’s episodes and see the cast interact with each other while giving the feeling of going behind the scenes. If Beyond Stranger Things is the success Netflix is surely expecting it to be, we can hope that Netflix will come out with aftershows for more of its popular originals. Check out Beyond Stranger Things on Netflix now!

(Featured image: The Hollywood Reporter)

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

Each week, I’ll be spotlighting three or more pieces of tech that are worth checking out and buying. These items will all be available on Amazon, so get ready to take advantage of that lovely Prime shipping. This week I’m sharing a useful smart bulb, a highly-rated and affordable speaker, and a high-powered portable charger.

MagicLight Bluetooth Smart Light Bulb

You may think you don’t need a smart bulb, but having one can be fun and extremely useful. MagicLight’s Bluetooth Smart Light Bulb is a great and affordable way to give smart bulbs a try. The way it works is pretty straightforward—you screw the bulb in wherever you would like to use it and go through a quick setup process. You need to have location services and Bluetooth enabled on your phone and have the phone nearby to use the bulb. After it’s set up, you can do a lot with the bulb. Some of the fun and interesting things you can do are use a color wheel to choose what color you want the bulb to be, use an image to create a color for the bulb, turn on multi-colored strobes, and set the light to pulse to the beat of whatever music you’re playing. It can be a lot of fun. Even better, though, are the truly useful features. This MagicLight bulb lets you set sunrise and sunset timers. You can set the bulb to slowly (or immediately, or moderately quickly, whatever you want) turn off at night and do the same in the morning. If you don’t like waking up in the dark, having a sunrise timer is wonderful. You can also easily turn the light on and off from wherever you are, as well as dim or raise the lights. You can read in bed and then turn the light off without having to get out of bed. If you’re in another room nearby and you realize you left your light on, you can turn it off without getting up. This bulb is fun, but it’s also quite useful.

View the MagicLight Bluetooth Smart Light Bulb

EasyAcc Mini Portable Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker

EasyAcc offers speakers that are affordable while actually being good. It’s easy to find cheap speakers on Amazon, but many of them offer awful sound quality or will die quickly. EasyAcc’s Mini Portable Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker has 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 1,400 reviews. People have responded well to this speaker. The speaker is small and powerful. It has a microphone built in, so if you’re using your phone, you can take phone calls. You can also use a micro SD card with it, and it can be connected from a computer as well, so even if your device doesn’t have Bluetooth, it will likely work. Also, it has an FM radio, so if you enjoy listening to the radio, this speaker can give you access. It’s rechargeable, so you don’t have to keep buying batteries to replace old ones—just plug it in to charge. It has some buttons on the speaker, so you can push a button to skip a song or change the volume. Many reviews on Amazon mention that the speaker can get pretty loud, especially considering how small the speaker is. I have had an EasyAcc speaker in a different model for over two years, and the speaker I have holds a full charge for a very long time and is loud enough to use in every situation I’ve been in. This particular model looks to be a nice, small speaker for a great price.

View the EasyAcc Mini Portable Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker

RAVPower 16750mAh External Battery Pack

If you want to take your phone out without worrying about where your next charge will come from, this battery pack can do that for you. RAVPower makes a lot of battery packs, but this one simply holds a nice charge and has great reviews (4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with over 13,000 reviews). Because it’s so high-powered, their product description notes that some phones can get three or even five full charges from the battery pack before it needs to be recharged. It can also charge two devices at once, so if you have a phone and a tablet that are both about to turn off, you won’t have to choose which to charge. It even has a bit of a bonus feature—it has a flashlight. If you’re charging your phone during a camping trip, you can use your battery pack to find your way to your tent at night, too. The battery pack charges devices and itself at a pretty rapid pace, so while it might not be as fast as a quick-charge wall charger, it shouldn’t take a very long time to fully charge your phone. The charger isn’t tiny, but it isn’t all that bulky, either, so you can likely fit it in your pocket and easily charge your phone while you’re walking. If you find your phone battery dying during outings, or if you’re going on a trip, take a look at a RAVPower battery pack.

View the RAVPower 16740mAh External Battery Pack

Bringing the Internet into the Kitchen

Bringing the Internet into the Kitchen

Cooking is long past the days of just having a physical cookbook and using it to complete recipes. There are now a number of ways to use the internet while cooking. Having access to the internet while preparing dinner or dessert can be game-changing. If you have a smartphone, a smart assistant, or even just access to the internet and various websites, you can streamline your work in the kitchen and get things done more easily. Here are just some of the ways you can use the internet to aid in the cooking process.

Recipe Sites

You don’t really need to keep a cookbook on the counter if you have access to the web. There are numerous different websites with text recipes you can access. One of the most popular websites is surely Allrecipes. Allrecipes lets you search for certain recipes, but it does more than just that. You can search by ingredient, you can browse different categories (like meal type or health consideration), and you can save recipes to your favorites in order to find them more easily later. myrecipes is also popular. You can search and browse recipes, and you can “Build-a-Meal” by typing in what ingredients you have, getting suggested recipes. Some recipes are text-based, while others are videos. A very popular recipe site is also Tasty on Facebook. They create and share the delicious-looking videos you probably see shared all over your timeline. And if these websites aren’t what you’re looking for, there are also specific websites for certain health concerns. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can visit VegWeb. If you can’t have gluten in your diet, you can try Gluten Free Girl. There are a lot of options out there for finding recipes online.

Apps

There are plenty of apps you can download to help with cooking. Tasty recently began offering an app for their video recipes. There’s also Yummly, which offers recipes and searches based on ingredients, among other things. There’s the Allrecipes Dinner Spinner app, which brings the recipes from their website to a helpful little app. Kitchen Stories is also useful, offering recipes along with tips and tricks you can use in the kitchen. And then there are useful little apps like SpiceBuddy (which helps users find recipes and pair ingredients) and Kitchen Calculator (which helps you scale recipes and more).

Smart Assistants

If you have a smart device, you might just have a great way to make cooking easier. Having a hands-free way to get help while you’re cooking is wonderful. If you have Siri on your device and you’re using voice activation, you can ask Siri to do things like add grocery items to your list if you use the last of something while cooking. You can also ask Siri to set timers and convert amounts for you. Also, if you have your recipe on your phone, you can ask Siri to read it to you. If you don’t have Siri but you have Alexa, you’re still set. If, for instance, you have an Echo or an Echo Dot, you can get plenty of help during meal prep. Alexa skills can be enabled to help with cooking. You can enable a skill like Ingredient Sub, which allows you to ask Alexa what you can substitute for something you’ve just realized you’re out of. Allrecipes has a skill, so you could have Alexa read your recipe to you if this skill is enabled. Or you can just ask Alexa for help with what you need—ask her to set a timer, to convert measurements, to add items to a shopping list, and more.

Checking Back In on Pokémon Go

Checking Back In on Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go was, as you surely remember, an enormous hit in the Summer of 2016. It seemed like everyone everywhere was playing—myself included. Parks and all kinds of outdoor areas were filled with people walking to hatch eggs and running to catch highly-coveted Pokémon. As the months passed, players began to drop the game, slowly losing interest. This year, it is much less likely to bump into someone who’s playing the game like you are. (I still play when I have the time, but even I don’t get much chance to open the game.) Recently, though, Pokémon Go has popped back up in the news for a very strange reason: its connection to Russian meddling. Just last week, CNN reported that a campaign with Russian ties used Pokémon Go in order to cause problems among people during an intense election cycle. Hearing that the Pokémon-hunting game was used to influence U.S. politics is certainly an interesting reason for the game to show up in the news again. But it also creates a great opportunity to ask—what has Pokémon Go been up to since you last played? Here are some of the new things you might find if you haven’t played in a while.

Raid Battles

Raids take place in Gyms. Players can team up to fight Raid Bosses. There are special prizes to be had if the Boss is defeated. The Bosses have varying levels of difficulty. There is a time limit, which makes things a little trickier, and you use special Premier Balls to try to catch the Boss. Raids are a good reason to team back up with other players in your area—to join the team, you must, of course, be close to the gym.

Legendary Pokémon

Everyone was waiting for Legendary Pokémon, and some have been released over the past months. Over the past few months, Trainers have been able to add Legendaries like Mewtwo and Raikou to their Pokedexes. These Legendaries are caught by completing certain special raids while that specific Pokémon is still available in-game. Legendary Pokémon are very difficult to catch, so if you open the game back up while one is available, be prepared to work at catching one.

Themed Events

Pokémon Go has included themed events for some time, including over Christmas. But in the past months, there have been more fun events. What is great about a lot of these events is they often give a chance to catch a special Pikachu who is dressed for the event. For instance, there was a special Christmas Pikachu, a special Pikachu for the anniversary event in July, and a Pikachu wearing a party hat for the Pokémon Day event. These events also add special features like an increased chance of catching certain kinds of Pokémon or hatching eggs more quickly. If you’ve missed some special versions of Pikachu over the months, don’t worry—you’ll have more chances. And Pokémon Go has just launched this year’s Halloween event, with more candy to get and a chance to catch Pikachu in a costume.

Evolution Items

One interesting change over the months has been the addition of evolution items. Some Pokémon are able to be further evolved by using a special item. There are several different evolution items, and you need the right one for each Pokémon before you can evolve them. This has added an extra challenge to completing a Trainer’s Pokedex.

Pokestop Bonuses

A while back, the game added Pokestop bonuses that keep Trainers playing on a daily basis. Players can get a bonus each day for the first Pokestop of the day. Even better, players get an extra special bonus if they visit at least one Pokestop every day for a full week. Getting this special bonus can be especially important, since this is a really good way to get an evolution item.

There have, of course, been many other additions and changes over the months. It may seem like not many people are playing anymore, but actually, the game is still widely used. In July, Ars Technica wrote that the game still had about five million users every day. It may not be as widely played as before, but it’s still being played by many, and the game has evolved to keep players interested. With upcoming events and past additions in mind, it might be a good time to check the game out again.

Internet 101: Selling Online

Internet 101: Selling Online

Online selling has changed a lot over the years. Back in the earlier days of the internet, online selling options were much fewer, and it was fairly straightforward. Now when it comes to selling online, your options are not just limited to one major website. There are plenty of options, which might seem intimidating to those who haven’t sold online much (or at all). You can sell just about everything online (within reason), so you might be interested in using the internet to clear out some of your unwanted items. If you are confused about what to look out for and where to go, here is a look at today’s world of online sales.

What can you sell online?

The short answer is “just about anything.” With so many people able to get online, there are plenty of people out there willing to buy a wide variety of items. You might think what you have to sell is not worth someone else’s money, but there will most likely be someone out there willing to purchase what you have. The obvious things you can sell online are clothing, games, electronics, toys, furniture, household appliances, dishes, and other typical household items. You can also sell your old bike or your lawn tools. But you can sell more than just this. You can sell your own creations online, like your crafts. If you enjoy knitting scarves or carving wood, you can sell your stuff online. And you might be able to get some other interesting things off of your hands by selling online. People will buy your rocks and gems, spare parts, old trading cards, and more. If you do not want it anymore, give it a shot and try selling it online.

Keep in mind, though, that there are some limits to what can be sold online. Clearly you shouldn’t sell anything online if it would be illegal to sell in any other way. For instance, you shouldn’t attempt to sell any kinds of drugs or dangerous items on the web. Then there are some items that are illegal to sell online only in certain states. When it comes to guns, the laws vary state-to-state, so be sure to check whether it is illegal before you put it online for purchase. The same goes for certain animals—some states don’t allow specific animals to be sold online (or at all). Check out your state’s laws on this before selling.

Aside from some items being illegal, it is important to know that while you might be able to sell just about anything online, there are some things that are just less likely to sell. It is important to maintain your expectations when selling things that people do not typically like to buy online, especially if you will be shipping the item. People like to see and touch some items before agreeing to buy them. If you are selling a pillow, it will be difficult for people to know whether the pillow is soft, or whether it will be big enough for what they need it for, or whether it is good quality. If you are selling food, some people might not trust you as a seller, but they also might want to be able to see the food and actually look it over before giving you money. Simply keep in mind that even though you can place most things online for sale, and it doesn’t hurt to try, some items just might not be as popular for purchasing.

What are the benefits of selling online?

There are a number of great reasons to choose to sell online. Here are just a few reasons:

  • You can find wider range of people who might be interested in your item
  • You can put items online and wait for a response instead of sitting outside at a yard sale
  • You can set up auctions on some websites
  • You can join in where more and more people are now selling
  • You can more easily learn about and compete with other sellers’ prices

What are the drawbacks of selling online?

There are some things you might consider before deciding to sell online. Here are a few things to think about:

  • You have to be careful of thieves and scammers
  • You have to consider shipping costs in some cases
  • You will miss out on selling to the people who still typically avoid online purchases

What should you watch out for?

If you decide to sell online, it’s important to know what to keep an eye on. Always keep watch for suspicious behavior, and if something seems wrong, trust your gut instinct. Keep a lookout for the following:

  • Scammers just trying to get your information
  • Buyers trying to use untrustworthy forms of payment
  • Potential buyers offering unfair trades
  • Buyers attempting to meet in unsafe places (choose your meetup spot carefully—some cities even have dedicated online purchase parking spots at police stations)

Where can you sell?

Many sales sites have been around a long time, but there are some new (or at least newer) avenues for selling online. You may be familiar with some (or all) of these options. Keep in mind that there are a lot of different ways you can sell online, and you should certainly choose whichever website or app that you are most comfortable using and that will work best for what you are trying to sell. Some of these options require shipping your items, while others allow you to meet up with buyers and avoid shipping fees. Don’t forget this important aspect of selling when you’re making up your mind where you want to sell from.

eBay

eBay is probably the most well-known personal online sales website that there is. eBay may not be talked about as often as it used to, but it is still a perfectly reasonable option for selling your unwanted stuff. With eBay, you will have to ship your items, so take that in consideration. To sell on eBay, you will have to have an eBay account. In order for your items to sell, it can be helpful to have a profile that is in good standing. You might consider buying some items on eBay and making some positive transactions so that your profile looks good when potential buyers visit it. With eBay, it is a good idea to check out which items are prohibited for sale—their list might be different from what your state allows. On eBay, you can set up an auction, set a firm price, or set a price but allow for a best offer. If you decide to use eBay, do a search for the item you want to sell and get a feel for what price it typically sells for. You want your price to be competitive. When it comes to pictures, always make sure they are clear and show the product honestly, and you might want to make them look extra nice to catch peoples’ eyes.

Craigslist

Craigslist is another very well-known choice when considering online sales. Craigslist has been around for years, and it can be very useful for buying, selling, finding job listings, and more. Craigslist is pretty different from eBay, especially when it comes to product delivery. With Craigslist, you will be meeting with someone to sell your item to them, instead of shipping the item by mail. Each different location has its own separate Craigslist. When selling items on Craigslist, it’s a good idea to be careful with your information. Most people like to have their email address and phone number hidden instead of openly posting them for all to see. Like eBay, Craigslist has a page detailing prohibited items, so make sure your item doesn’t fall into any of these categories. Craigslist is a great choice for selling as long as you are comfortable selling your stuff in person. A lot of people use Craigslist, and anyone can scan through the pages and pages of items for sale, so if you sell there, you will have a pretty wide audience. Just make sure you’re careful about where you meet buyers.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook added Facebook Marketplace just last year. Before its introduction, plenty of Facebook users were using the social media platform to sell their stuff. Facebook’s addition of its own area for sales helped create a widely-accessible, easily formatted and searched area of for-sale items. If you have a Facebook account, you can sell on Marketplace. It’s very easy to sell something through Marketplace. You only have to fill out a few text boxes on a small square screen that pops up. You add categories to your postings, so buyers can browse the categories and find what they want. Facebook Marketplace is a pretty useful area of the website. If you want your items to reach people all across Facebook, it may be what you want to use. Keep in mind that you still want to watch out for scammers—just because someone has a Facebook account doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Also, take a look at the items you are not allowed to sell on Facebook.

Garage Sale Facebook Groups

Before Marketplace, there were garage sale groups for individual areas. These groups are still thriving, at least in many areas, and they are still a good option for sales. These groups often require that members be approved, so fake accounts and accounts associated with past scams are typically kept out of the groups. They also usually have rules that limit what people can sell, and most importantly, rules that make sales run more smoothly. For instance, they might have rules about whether you can raise prices and how to choose the person you’ll sell to out of several interested people. These rules help give online sales some structure instead of it being a bit of a free-for-all. I often prefer using these groups for that very reason. You do have to learn how to stay firm in your selling decisions in these groups—people are prone to haggling here, and if you don’t set firm rules about where you’ll meet or whether you’ll hold items for people, you can get a bad deal. But as long as you know what you want and make it clear, it’s typically easy to sell in these groups. To find one near you, try searching Facebook for your city’s name and words like “garage sale” or “yard sale.”

Apps

Aside from websites, there are some special apps just for selling your stuff. For an app with a wide variety of categories, there’s letgo. letgo lets you sell all sorts of things. It’s a pretty popular way to sell online—on Google Play, there have been over ten million downloads, and it has 4.5 out of 5 stars. OfferUp is a very similar app, so you might consider trying them both to see which you like best. OfferUp also has over ten million downloads on Google Play, and it has 4.6 out of 5 stars. Then there are more specific apps, like Poshmark and Vinted. Both apps specialize in selling clothing, particularly women’s. If you have a lot of clothing to sell and you want to sell it to more than just local people, you might consider one of these apps. Both services take a cut of your profit, though, with their fees—Vinted takes 19% (up to $5) and Poshmark takes $2.95 for items under $15 or 20% for items above. Despite the fees, these apps might be worth your time if you do have a lot of clothing, because you will reach a large number of people through these popular apps.