Category Archives: News

YouTube Can Encourage You to Take a Break

YouTube Can Encourage You to Take a Break

Do you watch a lot of YouTube? If you have a lot of subscriptions or find yourself going down a rabbit hole on a regular basis, you may be spending more time on the service than you really should. YouTube will now make it possible for you to limit yourself and take breaks from streaming videos through their service.

YouTube is now introducing their feature that will encourage watchers to “take a break,” says Android Authority. The newly updated version of YouTube is adding settings that let users customize how long they watch. In the “General” section of the YouTube app’s settings, users who have updated the app will find an option called “Remind me to take a break.” Using this setting will prompt YouTube to send out reminders after a certain length of time. These reminders can be dismissed and won’t actually lock watchers out of the app. But they will let people get an idea of how long they’ve been watching and then choose to pause for a while.

With this setting, users can decide how long they can watch before being prompted to stop streaming. There are six options to choose from, including “Never” as the shortest time and “”Every 180 minutes” as the longer time. There are also more moderate options like “Every 60 minutes.” If you’re really wanting to cut back on your watching, you can even pick “Every 15 minutes,” though I don’t know many people who can really stop themselves after just 15 minutes.

There are plenty of really great videos and channels on YouTube, and of course it’s not necessary to stop watching altogether. But some people can find it hard to stop bingeing videos, which means it can be really helpful to get some reminders to stop wasting so much time. Since they’re just reminders and they don’t actually lock the app, the main concern is that YouTube binge watchers will simply get in the habit of dismissing the notification periodically. But there are other apps that can do this if necessary, and YouTube’s approach will be a much gentler one for those who just need a little bit of a push.

The update is being rolled out now, according to Android Authority. Look for this new feature in your app’s settings after you’ve updated.

Microsoft Replacing Some Surface Pro 4s

Microsoft Replacing Some Surface Pro 4s

Microsoft has now announced their plan to take care of screen flicker issues with the Surface Pro 4. According to a recent article on Microsoft’s Support site, they will be replacing many of their Surface Pro 4s that have the screen flicker issue.

According to their post, Microsoft has noted that a “small percentage” of their Surface Pro 4s have a problem with the screen flickering. Customers have been posting about the issue in Microsoft’s Support section for months. Back in February, The Verge wrote about how some customers were putting their devices in the freezer so they might stop the screen flickering problem (an issue that was referred to by some as “Flickergate”). In The Verge’s article, they noted that at that time, flickering issues had been going on for at least a year, and hundreds of people had been dealing with the issue.

Now Microsoft is doing something about it. Surface Pro 4 owners who go through the replacement process within three years of buying the device can now get a full replacement for free. They do note that the device must be fully updated (to make sure the screen flickering actually does still occur) and that if the device has been damaged through other means (like having someone else try to work on the device) it won’t be eligible.

But if a customer has the screen flicker issue on their Surface Pro 4, they can contact Microsoft, get verification that they’re eligible, send the device back, and get a refurbished device within around a week after Microsoft has received the damaged one.

They also note that if a customer has “already paid an out-of-warranty fee” to take care of this specific issue, the customer can get a refund for the repair. This means people who didn’t wait around for this replacement program won’t be out a lot of extra money that other people didn’t have to pay.

If you have a Surface Pro 4 that’s been plagued with the screen flickering problem, take a look at Microsoft’s article and start taking the first steps toward replacement.

Another Snapchat Redesign is Coming

Another Snapchat Redesign is Coming

If you use Snapchat but have been frustrated with it recently, there’s some good news. Snapchat is getting a redesign…again.

You may remember how Snapchat released their new redesign in some areas back in January. When it was first released, it was only in some countries, like the UK, and the change immediately caused an uproar. Users began pleading with Snapchat to let them revert back to the old system. And once it rolled out in the US, even more people began venting their frustration, which lead to Snapchat making it clear the redesign was here to stay.

The main problem stemmed from the way Stories were suddenly mixed in with messages. It made the design cluttered and unnecessarily difficult to navigate for many users. People wanted their Stories and messages to be laid out in a more organized way (they were separate from each other before the redesign).

Now, according to The Verge, some users are getting a new version rolled out to them that should address some of the concerns. The new update is currently rolling out to many iOS users, The Verge reports. In the new update, Stories and messages will go back to chronological order, and the Stories will be on the right side of the app once again.

This should hopefully eliminate some of the complaints that have been pouring in for months. Of course, Snapchat has already had to deal with months of mockery and frustration. Social media has been filled with memes and jokes at Snapchat’s expense after their poorly-received redesign, and users were likely not happy with Snapchat’s response saying that they would be keeping the new version despite the users’ anger.

The Verge notes that the newest update is currently coming for many people on iOS, but it’s not currently clear when Android users can expect the change.

Instagram Adds New Polling Feature with Emoji

Instagram Adds New Polling Feature with Emoji

Instagram is adding another fun feature that can connect friends and start conversations. They already had a polling feature, but they are now adding a new type of polling that works differently and uses emoji.

Emoji Slider is the new feature coming to Instagram, says Mashable. There was already a polling sticker on Instagram. However, that sticker simply let users type a question and let people respond with “yes” or “no.” This new Emoji Slider polling sticker works differently and allows for different responses.

According to Mashable, the Emoji Slider is also a sticker added to Stories. However, it gives a range of response options. When you add the sticker, you can add your own question. But instead of a yes or no question, the questions will typically start with “how,” like “How much did you love Infinity War?” or “How much do you like the new gelato place downtown?” After this, you pick which emoji you want to use on the slider. There are a lot of emoji to choose from, not just a handful of basic ones. Others will then be able to move an emoji along a slider to give their response. After responding, like with the other polling sticker, they can see how the responses are currently totaling up.

This makes polling on Instagram much more intuitive and fun. Only being able to answer “yes” or “no” was very constraining and didn’t allow for any nuance or gray area. Plus it will be fun to be able to ask questions in a different way and make the visuals more enjoyable.

Mashable notes that the Emoji Slider is available with Instagram’s version 44 update. And unlike many updates that roll out slowly to either iOS or Android users, it’s currently available to most people. To see if you have the feature, update Instagram now. If you have it, simply create a new Story, tap the Stickers button, and add the Emoji Slider from there.

Hulu & Spotify Reveal How Many People Pay to Subscribe

Hulu & Spotify Reveal How Many People Pay to Subscribe

Hulu and Spotify, streaming services that have begun offering bundles of their two services, have both revealed how many subscribers they have.

Hulu, the popular video streaming service, announced on Wednesday that they had more than 20 million subscribers, according to CNN Money. These numbers aren’t as high as Netflix’s, as CNN Money notes that Netflix has about 55 million subscribers in the United States. But the numbers still suggest Hulu is a decent competitor when it comes to the video streaming game.

They could also potentially gain more subscribers, as well, as some announced changes certainly seem enticing. Hulu, like Netflix, already has some of their own original programming (like the popular Handmaid’s Tale). Until now, though, Netflix offered something Hulu didn’t: offline watching. Hulu now plans to make content available to download and watch offline, says CNN Money. The content would still play with ads, but an internet connection wouldn’t be necessary.

Spotify announced their own numbers on Thursday. Spotify is a popular music streaming service that offers paid and free accounts. According to TechSpot, Spotify now has 75 million paid subscribers to their service, and the number of people who use the service every month is also huge: 170 million. And as TechSpot also mentions, Spotify’s 75 million paid subscribers is far above Apple Music’s 40 million. This only further cements Spotify as the major competitor in the music streaming arena.

Hulu and Spotify both offer their own separate subscriptions, but over the past months they’ve begun offering bundles, as well. Last year they began offering a student plan that bundled the two services for only $4.99 a month. And just last month, a bundle was announced for everyone else that would offer both services for just $12.99, which is higher than the student price but still a significantly less expensive option.

Alexa Skills Can Now Make Money

Alexa Skills Can Now Make Money

Developers of Alexa skills now have a way to make money off their offerings.

Alexa skills can now include money-making features, according to The Verge. If you use Alexa skills, you have probably noticed they’re all free. This is a refreshing change of pace from other services, like app stores on phones that can offer apps for large amounts of money. With Alexa’s available skills, you never have to worry about whether a skill you’ve found is going to end up costing you.

But now the developers of these skills do have some small ways to make money. The Verge notes that now skills can offer one in-skill purchase. This means they can have extra content or special features available for a cost. This can be a one-time fee or a subscription that continues. Compared to many apps, having one in-skill purchase is still a nice change of pace, since so many apps lock feature after feature behind a pay wall.

Developers can also now allow users of their skills to buy items. With Alexa, users could already use their voices to buy products from Amazon. But now they’ll be able to ask to buy things within other skills. This new feature will make use of Amazon Pay, letting developers offer a way to order through the skill. The Verge mentions that TGI Fridays and 1-800-Flowers are already making use of this new feature. With these skills, you can now directly place orders for the companies’ products.

While the skills themselves are still free (and there seem to be no plans to change this in the near future), adding a way for developers to make money through in-skill purchases and the use of Amazon Pay could end up being a big change. It could make Alexa skills seem more appealing to other developers who have yet to bring their ideas to the Alexa skill format. It may also make ordering items from companies other than Amazon much easier. Keep watch on Alexa’s skills to see which ones begin making use of these new capabilities.

Some Autoplay Videos Now Blocked in Chrome

Some Autoplay Videos Now Blocked in Chrome

Chrome has been making changes to how ads are displayed in the browser for some time now. In the most recent update of Google’s browser, some autoplay videos will now be blocked, while others will be allowed automatically.

In a blog post, Google outlines how the new autoplay video update works. Now Chrome will learn your preferences when it comes to videos that autoplay with sound. Using your browsing history, Chrome will start enabling or disabling autoplay videos with sound. If you typically choose to play videos on certain websites, Chrome will allow autoplay videos to run with sound. If you typically don’t watch the videos on a site, Chrome will start disabling their autoplay videos with sound.

Even if you don’t have a browsing history, the blog post says, certain sites will have their autoplay videos enabled or disabled as you start building your history. Whichever sites have the most people clicking to play videos with sound will automatically be enabled for you until the browser learns that you don’t want videos played on those sites.

This update comes after Google has already implemented many other ways to avoid certain ads and mute sites that autoplay ads with sound. In February, Chrome’s ad blocking system went live. Their ad blocking is meant to start automatically blocking certain ads that don’t meet their standards. And in January, Chrome introduced a way to permanently mute sites instead of just temporarily muting them while the tab was open.

All of these changes mean Chrome should soon become the browser to use if you specifically want to avoid annoying ads and autoplay videos (especially if you don’t want to deal with browser add-ons). In their blog post, Google notes that their new autoplay video blocking system will block “about half” of the autoplay videos that users want to avoid. Though not a full block of autoplay videos, it should cut down significantly on the annoyance of sound suddenly blasting from your device.

Microsoft Making It Easier to Take Screenshots

Microsoft Making It Easier to Take Screenshots

Windows 10 users may have just gotten the Spring update, but Microsoft is already talking about some of their upcoming plans. Microsoft has now announced they want to make taking screenshots easier and more intuitive.

In the past, users could open the Snipping tool and screenshot certain areas of their screen, then make some slight modifications before saving the image.

In a blog post, Microsoft outlined their plans for taking screenshots. In the future, Windows 10 users will be able to use a keyboard shortcut to open up a “snipping toolbar.” This snipping toolbar will let you screenshot whatever area of the screen you choose. The screenshot will then be saved to your clipboard so you can do whatever you’d like with it. The shortcut is WIN + Shift + S, but you’ll also have other options, including changing your settings to make the Print Screen button open the snipping toolbar.

The new snipping options will also integrate better with Screen Sketch. According to their blog post, Screen Sketch is now becoming its own separate app. With Screen Sketch, you can annotate your screen using a customizable pen, eraser, ruler, and more, then save your annotated image and share it. With the new snipping setup, you’ll be given the option to go straight to Screen Sketch to make your annotations.

These changes are just a few Microsoft is introducing in their Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17661. The preview build is only available to select people, including certain Windows Insiders. It’s unclear when the updates will come for everyone and what the changes will actually look like by then. But it is promising that Microsoft is specifically focusing on making their screenshot capabilities easier to use.

iTunes is Now in the Microsoft Store

iTunes is Now in the Microsoft Store

If you use Windows 10, you can now find iTunes in the Microsoft Store.

According to Ars Technica, iTunes is now available to Windows 10 users in the Microsoft Store. Ars Technica notes that bringing iTunes to the Microsoft Store was actually supposed to happen by the end of 2017, making its addition now a bit late. But it seems to be a welcome addition.

The program still works the same way as iTunes does if you download it straight from Apple, says Ars Technica, but they also note downloading from the Microsoft Store has some advantages. In particular, you won’t get prompts asking you to download other Apple products, plus it won’t install things that run in the background (which can seriously bog down a computer).

iTunes was previously available for Windows and MacOS. This means it was likely already accessible to many people who can find it in the Microsoft Store now. But there were also some people who now have access who didn’t before: those using Windows 10 S devices. Windows 10 S devices can only install programs from the Microsoft Store, so these users can now download iTunes. This is useful since iTunes is still a hugely popular service. It’s not just a music service, either; you can download music, movies, shows, podcasts, and more.

The Microsoft Store previously already offered other popular music programs. You could already find the streaming services Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, SiriusXM, TuneIn, and more. So if you’re simply interested in streaming and you have an account with any of these services, the addition of iTunes may not excite you much.

But if you specifically enjoy iTunes and like having a way to organize your media and access more than just music, this new platform may be good news for you. You can find iTunes in the Microsoft Store right now.

Google Makes Major Changes to Gmail

Google Makes Major Changes to Gmail

Gmail users on desktops and mobile devices are going to spot some major changes to the popular email service.

Gmail has now been updated to include some interesting (and welcome) new features. NBC News reports that there are a number of changes in the update. Though it doesn’t look all that different, there are some great new features.

Disappearing messages are one notable new feature. Gmail users can set their messages to disappear in whatever time frame they choose. And they can also decide to essentially “un-send” an email after already sending it to someone else (even if the other person isn’t using Gmail).

NBC News also reports that there’s a new “nudge” feature that reminds you about emails. Gmail will learn to recognize which emails are most pressing, then make them show at the top of your inbox to suggest you respond.

There are also other little additions, like the ability to get a reminder to reply to an email (using the new “snooze” feature) and “smart replies” that suggest what you might want to respond to a message with.

You can get this updated version of Gmail by clicking the settings button above and to the right of your inbox, then choosing “Try the new Gmail.” Once you click to switch over, you get the opportunity to choose a layout (including one that will look almost exactly the same as the one you’re used to). You might notice bigger, clearer fonts and more rounded buttons instead of quite a few links. You’ll also spot the sidebar on the right side that has a calendar, note keeper, list of tasks, and a plus sign that once clicked on lets you choose other tools to keep handy on your screen.

You’ll also soon spot one specific new feature from this update if you use Gmail on an Android device. Android Police reports that the new snooze feature is also rolling out Android users. Like the desktop version, you can snooze emails and get reminders to check back in on them later.

Look for the option to try the new Gmail on desktop now, and look out for the snooze feature on Android as it continues to roll out.