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.

Choosing a Video Streaming Device

Choosing a Video Streaming Device

Long gone are the days when people had to wait for a show to air and watch it live. For many years now, TV shows and movies have been available to stream online. There are too many streaming services to even remember them all.

Whether you have Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, or any other streaming service, it’s very likely you’ve streamed an episode of your favorite show or a full movie in the not too distant past. You might have watched it by using your phone, your tablet, your computer, or perhaps something like a video game console connected to your TV.

There are many different streaming services and streaming options. One option is to use a streaming device (or a streaming stick). These streaming devices are focused solely on being small, unobtrusive, quick, and easy to use. You’ve likely heard of the most popular devices on the market.

You also might be wondering what the differences are between the devices. For those looking to get a streaming device, it might be difficult to choose. Or you might be wondering why so many people want to use these devices. In this article, I’m going to cover the basics as well as some of your options!

What is a video streaming device?

The video streaming devices this article talks about are typically small devices that plug into your TV. They can be tiny plugins that work with a remote, larger sticks, or other forms. While using one of these devices, people can stream videos from different places depending on the device: from specific services (using apps) or even from absolutely any service or site (using screen mirroring).

Some devices are more limited in what you can watch. Others (that use screen mirroring to let you display your phone, computer, or tablet on your TV) are nearly unlimited in what you can decide to watch.

Keep in mind that you’ll still need to subscribe to services separately. If you buy a video streaming device, you don’t get subscription services included (for instance, you’ll still need to pay to use Netflix).

Which TVs can use these devices?

Video streaming devices use recent technology to work. They typically need to be able to plug into an HDMI port on a TV. For this reason, you’ll nearly always need to have a fairly modern TV. Some devices specifically require you have an HDTV. If you have a pretty old TV that doesn’t have HDMI ports, you’ll very likely need to upgrade to a slightly newer TV.

You can check your TV’s manual to see if you have an HDTV with HDMI ports. Or you can look on your TV to find the TV model and look up its information online.

What’s so great about them?

Video streaming devices like those in this article are fairly popular at the moment, and they have been for years. One reason they are so well-liked is that they typically offer a wide range of streaming options. With most of these devices, you can choose between just about any service you use—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Vudu, YouTube, you name it. This means your video streaming might be entirely controlled through one device.

They’re also great because they’re usually very small and portable. They’re typically small sticks that can be quickly unplugged and used in a different TV. So if you buy a new TV, there aren’t a bunch of confusing cords to figure out. Or if you’re going to watch TV with someone else, you can easily transport the device to their home and set it up there.

Another positive is that there are some pretty affordable options. You don’t have to buy a new computer or use a gaming console to stream your shows. Those can be kind of pricey (though, of course, they do a lot more than just stream shows). If your main concern, though, is to stream TV and movies, you won’t have to splurge on an expensive, larger product.

And with these devices, controlling them is easy and convenient. Some of them have small remotes for controlling what you watch. Some of them also work through apps on phones. It’s no trouble at all to use the devices.

What are the most popular options?

There are a number of streaming video devices out there. If you’ve heard people talking about them, though, you’ve most likely heard them mention one of the devices listed below. The four devices in this article are some of the most popular and well-liked choices you have. Of course, they’re not your only options. But these devices are probably your likeliest contenders.

Apple TV
Apple, of course, has a streaming video device. They have more than one model, in fact. They offer the current model of their regular device (the 4th generation Apple TV) as well as the new Apple TV 4K (for use with 4K televisions). The 4K version is specifically designed to work with 4K TVs. If you have a 4K TV, you’ll want this model. It’s designed to run faster and display 4K video.

With the Apple TV, you simply plug the box into your TV with an HDMI cable (not included). The Apple TV comes with the Siri Remote so you can control what you watch. Once you’ve purchased Apple TV, you also get access to tech support for 90 days, plus you can get help from the Genius Bar.

Apple TV has many different apps to choose from. The product description specifically lists Netflix and Hulu. It also works with the other apps you’d expect, like YouTube and Amazon Video. It’s difficult to find a comprehensive list of all the available apps, but if you’re wondering whether your service works with Apple TV, a quick Google search should tell you. If you have an iOS device, you can also either cast an app to your TV or even mirror your iPhone’s screen to the TV.

Apple TV is currently $149. If you want the 4K version, you have two options: 32GB for $179 or 64GB for $199.

Chromecast
Chromecast is Google’s video streaming device. They also have two current models: their regular 2nd generation device and Chromecast Ultra (specifically designed for use with 4K TVs).

Chromecast is a little different from the other devices. It’s focused on casting from your other devices. Instead of having a remote that lets you choose between different apps, you use your phone, tablet, or computer to pick what you want to watch. Then you press the “Cast” button on the app and it’s displayed on your TV. It works with a number of devices, including those that use iOS, Android, and Windows. And there are many different apps that work with it, including the typical ones like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Google Play.

Screen mirroring is also big with Chromecast. If you have an Android device or use the Chrome browser on your computer, you can display your device’s screen. This means you can watch anything with your Chromecast. If there’s a streaming website that doesn’t have an app, you can simply open it on your Chrome browser, mirror the browser using Chromecast, and watch on your TV.

A regular Chromecast 2nd Generation device is currently $35. Chromecast Ultra is $69.

Fire TV Stick
The Fire TV Stick is Amazon’s video streaming device. There are two current models: the regular Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV (meant for 4K TVs).

The Fire TV Stick plugs into an HDMI slot and can be controlled with the included remote. The remote, called the Alexa Voice Remote, lets you control what you watch by either using the buttons or by using your voice. For instance, you can say “Alexa, open Hulu” to launch the Hulu app, or ask Alexa to play a specific show or pull up a genre of shows. And if you don’t want to use the remote for some reason, you can also use your Amazon Echo device to control your TV.

This device from Amazon doesn’t just play Amazon content (I did mention Hulu above). You can launch many different apps, including the ones you’d expect, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video (of course), and HBO NOW. You can also open web browsers and find content that way.

The Fire TV has some slight differences from the Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV isn’t the same kind of stick—it has a “pendant” design, so it looks a little different. It’s also designed to be faster, which is a definite plus. And, of course, it can display 4K content, so if you have a 4K TV, the Fire TV will be superior to the Fire TV Stick.

The Fire TV Stick is currently $39.99, while the Fire TV is currently $69.99 (or $74.99 if you get the bundle that includes a TV antenna).

Roku
Roku offers a number of different video streaming devices, each a little different. There’s the standard Roku Streaming Stick, the Streaming Stick+ (intended for 4K TVs), the Roku Express, the Roku Express+, (which works on older TVs!), and the Roku Ultra (intended for 4K TVs).

With a Roku device, you simply plug it in and set it up by creating a Roku account (or using an existing one). Depending on which device you choose, you’ll have some different features and options. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s different with each device:

  • Roku Express is designed to be easy to set up (for those who are new to video streaming devices); it still has access to the same apps and it has a remote, but its performance may not be as high, and the remote doesn’t have voice control ($29.99)
  • Roku Express+ is meant to be able to be used on older TVs; it comes with a composite cable as well as the typical HDMI cable, so if you don’t have HDMI ports, you can plug in the oldschool red, white, and yellow cords ($35)
  • Roku Streaming Stick is the standard stick, with access to all the typical apps; it comes with a remote that includes voice control ($49.99)
  • Roku Streaming Stick+ has the capabilities of the regular Streaming Stick, but it’s higher quality (it can stream 4K) and it can work well when further from your internet router, so it’s more easily used throughout your home ($69.99)
  • Roku Ultra is meant for intense streaming and can stream 4K content; it’s designed to be faster, clearer, and it comes with some extras, like headphones, a feature for finding the remote when it’s lost, and other audio features ($99.99)

Though Roku’s devices all have some things in common, like access to typical apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, they all have some slight differences, so make sure to consider each one before deciding.

Google, Apple, Samsung Updating Smart Health Products

Google, Apple, Samsung Updating Smart Health Products

Health is an important topic, including in the world of tech. There are many different smart devices and services that can help you track and improve your health. If you use some of them (or are planning to), it’s important to keep track of updates to your options.

Over the past week, news has come out about updates for Google’s Wear OS, Apple’s Health app, and Samsung’s Gear S2. Read on to learn more about what’s changing!

Google’s Wear OS updating, will extend life of battery

Wear OS by Google, previously known as Android Wear, is getting some updates soon. Google’s Developers Blog has posted their developer preview and outlined some upcoming changes to their Wear OS, specifically previewing it on their Huawei Watch 2.

One major part of the preview is its emphasis on extending battery life. Three of the five points on their outline focus on updates that will “improve power.” Specifically, certain features will be limited or turned off to make batteries last longer. According to the blog post, background apps will only be able to run if the watch is currently charging. If the watch is off the body for a long enough time, the watch will also disable services like WiFi and Bluetooth. And in the future, when Bluetooth is disabled, the watch won’t connect to WiFi automatically.

All of these features are intended to make the watch need to be charged less often. They also note other changes, including a darker theme to make the watch easier to look at quickly.

Apple Health app adding access to some medical records

Apple’s Health Records is making it a little more convenient to see some medical records from an iPhone. Apple has posted a blog detailing the new feature added to Apple Health. If you use Apple Health and are a patient at one of the health services connected to the feature, you can see some of your medical history. Not only can you see your records, you can even get an alert if or when the information is changed or added to. For those worried about privacy, don’t get too worried. Apple is stressing in their blog that the information is encrypted. You’ll also need to use your passcode to see the data. The blog post also lists some of the health systems that currently support Apple Health Records.

Samsung’s Gear S2 updated with more health features

Samsung’s years-old smartwatch is getting an update. The Verge reports that many new changes have come with the update, including some new features for fitness and health. One new health-oriented feature is the ability to set a routine. You can then get alerts that encourage you to stay active. You can also track things like your exercise, calorie intake, and heart rate. These are just a few of the changes included in the update.

Barnes & Noble’s New Book Recommendation App

Barnes & Noble’s New Book Recommendation App

Bookworms rejoice! Barnes and Noble, the popular bookseller, has released a new app for finding new book recommendations and connecting with other readers.

Barnes and Noble’s new app is called Browsery, and it’s intended to help readers discover books to read in a more personal way than some other apps. The bookseller is calling the app “[t]he first app that talks about books the way you do.”

Instead of adding books to a shelf and having other titles automatically suggested to you based on algorithms, users of the Browsery app will join a community of readers. When you use the app, you can ask specific questions looking for recommendations. Then the other people using the app can offer book recommendations. Once a recommendation has been posted, others can say whether they agree with the recommendation, making it easier to verify that a book really does fit the criteria. You can also, of course, offer recommendations to other users yourself. You can talk about the recommendations and even follow them. And as you use the app, you create a list of books you’ve read, helping you keep track of what you’ve found through the app so far.

This is a fairly different concept when compared to other bookshelf-building apps. Other apps typically let you do more to build a shelf of all the books you’ve owned and read (which Browsery doesn’t particularly focus on), but they also aren’t usually built around getting personalized suggestions. They often just suggest books based on what you’ve already read.

Barnes and Noble actually lists some examples of questions people might ask when looking for recommendations. Recommendation requests can center on pretty much anything you’d like. You might ask for a favorite children’s book on a particular topic, a book everyone should read before they die, a book that foreshadowed modern times, or anything else that piques your interest.

Browsery is now available on Android and iOS. Head over to the Barnes and Noble website to find out more.

The Battle of the Smart Speakers

The Battle of the Smart Speakers

Over the past few years, you’ve likely heard more and more about smart assistants and smart speakers. Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot have been particularly heavily advertised. This is no surprise, since the Echo is what really launched this current boom of smart speakers.

You might be thinking the Echo is the only real contender in the smart speaker race. If that’s the case, you might be surprised to learn there are actually quite a few smart speakers on the market. If you’re interested in buying your own smart assistant-enabled speaker, keep reading for the info you need to narrow down your options.

What I mean by ‘smart speaker’

You might be wondering what a smart speaker actually is. Technically, there are many different kinds of speakers that could be considered smart speakers. There are plenty of speakers out there that do more than the typical old-school speaker.

However, when I talk about smart speakers in this article, I’m referring to a specific type of smart speaker. This is a speaker that has a built-in virtual assistant. These smart speakers can usually be controlled by voice and by app. You can ask them questions, have them perform virtual tasks, and of course, play music through them.

Who are the smart assistants?

Smart speakers come with smart assistants (or virtual assistants) ready to respond to your requests. Here are the smart assistants I’ll mention again later in this article:

  • Alexa—This assistant comes from Amazon. Alexa comes ready to do all sorts of things, including answer questions, make jokes, play music, give a weather forecast, make calls, and more. She can then be personalized by enabling additional skills that let her do a wide variety of other things.
  • Cortana—Microsoft developed this assistant. You might have heard Cortana on your Windows 10 computer or a Windows phone. Cortana can do all the basic things like answer questions (using Bing search results), create reminders, and give the current weather. She also now has third-party skills available to expand her capabilities.
  • Google Assistant—Naturally, Google offers this assistant. You can access Google Assistant through many different devices, including quite a few Google and Android phones. The Assistant can answer questions, create alarms, make purchases, change settings, and more. You can also enable third-party apps that expand your Assistant’s possibilities.
  • Siri—You likely already knew the name of Apple’s smart assistant. Siri has been available for quite some time through devices like the iPhone. Siri can do all the basics, like answer questions, set reminders, change settings, and more. She can also send messages and make calls. You can also enable some apps to work with Siri.

What options are there?

There are a few main smart speakers that are typically considered the frontrunners—the best of the best. However, some others are coming up against the competition to give consumers more options.

This is not a full, completely definitive list of smart speakers. But the 9 smart speakers listed below are some of the most popular, recent, and talked about options. Keep in mind there are many more features available on each speaker, not just the handful I mention!

Amazon Echo

Ratings: 8.1/10 CNET, 4.5/5 PC Mag
What it is: A smart speaker with Alexa—from the people who created Alexa.
Some key features:

  • Built in Alexa, a well-received and popular assistant
  • Good sound quality from the 2.5” woofer & 0.6” tweeter with Dolby
  • 7 microphones that help the Echo hear and understand from a distance and in noisy places
  • Multiple wake words to choose from (“Alexa,” “Computer,” or “Echo”)
  • Style options, with 6 colors to pick from
  • Connects to Bluetooth and has an audio output
  • 4 buttons on top: action, volume up, volume down, microphone off
  • Also works through the Alexa app (for Android & iOS)

Price: $99.99

Amazon Echo Dot

Ratings: 9.5/10 CNET, 4/5 PC Mag
What it is: The smaller version of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled smart speaker.
Some key features:

  • Built in Alexa, a well-received and popular assistant
  • Small and easy to place anywhere without taking up much space
  • 7 microphones that help the Echo hear and understand from a distance and in noisy places
  • Multiple wake words to choose from (“Alexa,” “Computer,” or “Echo”)
  • Connects to Bluetooth and has an audio output, so you can improve sound quality by connecting to another Bluetooth speaker
  • 4 buttons on top: action, volume up, volume down, microphone off
  • Also works through the Alexa app (for Android & iOS)

Price: $49.99

Apple HomePod

Ratings: 8/10 CNET, 3.5/5 PC Mag
What it is: Apple’s smart speaker with their popular voice assistant Siri integrated. This smart speaker is set up by using an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad.
Some key features:

  • Built in Siri, Apple’s well-known smart assistant
  • Good sound quality from its high-excursion woofer and 7 tweeters
  • Visually stylish, with a mesh exterior
  • Intelligent sound, with the ability to hear from across a room and through noises, as well as change its sound based on where you are at the time
  • 6 available controls on top of the device: play/pause, next track, previous track, volume up, volume down, Siri

Price: $349

Google Home

Ratings: 8.3/10 CNET, 3.5/5 PC Mag
What it is: Google’s smart speaker with their Google Assistant built in.
Some key features:

  • Built in Google Assistant
  • Connects with Chromecast
  • Uses Voice Match to recognize who’s speaking and perform tasks appropriately
  • Works like a Bluetooth speaker, so you can connect other devices
  • Multi-colored lights on top indicate what the Home is doing
  • Responds to touch: mute, wake the Assistant, play/pause, change volume

Price: $99

Google Home Mini

Ratings: 8.2/10 CNET, 3.5/5 PC Mag
What it is: The smaller version of Google’s smart speaker with Google Assistant.
Some key features:

  • Built in Google Assistant
  • Style options, with 3 different colors
  • Small and easy to place anywhere
  • Connects with Chromecast
  • Uses Voice Match to recognize who’s speaking and perform tasks appropriately
  • Works like a Bluetooth speaker, so you can connect other devices
  • Dots on top indicate what the Home Mini is doing
  • Responds to taps: change volume, start/stop, mute

Price: $39

Harman Kardon Invoke

Ratings: 7.3/10 CNET, 2/5 PC Mag
What it is: The first smart speaker with Microsoft’s Cortana built in.
Some key features:

  • Built in Cortana
  • 360° sound from its 3 woofers, 3 tweeters, and 2 passive radiators
  • Connected Skype for voice calling
  • 7 microphones and multiple technologies to hear commands from all directions and in noisy environments
  • Touchpad on top for touch controls
  • Lights indicate when Cortana is responding

Price: $99.95

JBL Link 20

Ratings: 8.2/10 CNET, 4/5 PC Mag
What it is: A Google Assistant-enabled smart speaker from speaker and electronics company JBL.
Some key features:

  • Built in Google Assistant
  • Recognizes commands from across the room with its far-field voice recognition
  • Connects with Bluetooth so you can play audio from other devices
  • Battery powered and portable—its battery can last up to 10 hours
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Built in Chromecast connection so you can cast to the Link 20

Price: $149.95

Sonos One

Ratings: 8.7/10 CNET, 4/5 PC Mag
What it is: A smart assistant from electronics company Sonos, with Alexa built in (and Google Assistant coming soon).
Some key features:

  • Built in Alexa
  • Wide variety of music services available to connect (including Amazon Music and Pandora)
  • 6 microphones that help the One hear commands from a distance and over noise
  • Built for good sound quality using Class-D amplifiers
  • Touch controls on top: volume up, volume down, skip, mute
  • Moisture resistant
  • LEDs on top to indicate the One’s status

Price: $199 or two for $349

Sony LF-S50G

Ratings: Not available on CNET or PC Mag
What it is: Sony’s smart speaker with built-in Google Assistant.
Some key features:

  • Built in Google Assistant
  • 360° sound and a speaker with a two-stage diffuser & bass reflex duct
  • Bluetooth connectivity so you can listen to music from other devices
  • Responds to touchless gestures—wave to change the volume
  • Volume adjustment that automatically changes volume based on sound in the room
  • Splash-proof
  • Digital clock on the side of the speaker
  • LEDs to display what the speaker is doing

Price: $199.99

Don’t forget…

This article gave some of the basics you need to know when choosing your smart speaker. Take a closer look at the speakers you’re most interested in to see even more about their features!

Apple Updates—Animoji, AR Upgrades, & Battery Life

Apple Updates—Animoji, AR Upgrades, & Battery Life

A lot has been going on with Apple over the past week or so. Quite a bit of news has come out about Apple devices, particularly concerning the future release of iOS 11.3 later in Spring. Here are just a few of the things you may have missed recently!

New Animoji will be added

When iOS 11.3 is released, you can expect new Animoji to be released with it! A preview from Apple has announced that four more Animoji will be added, joining the currently available twelve.

As you might know, animoji are the animated emoji that have been available on iOS 11 since late last year. Using animoji, you can make certain characters move based on your own movements and facial expressions. Some of the previously available animoji include a pig, an alien, a panda, and a unicorn.

The new animoji will include two typical animals—a bear and a lion—as well as the fun-sounding skull and dragon.

Apple’s augmented reality has been upgraded

Apple’s preview also discusses their new upgrades to their augmented reality (AR) technology. ARKit 1.5, the newest version of Apple’s AR tech, has been released for developers, and with it comes some cool new updates.

Previously, ARKit could allow users to place objects on horizontal surfaces (like, say, the floor). With ARKit 1.5, users will be able to also place objects on vertical surfaces (such as walls). This is a huge upgrade, making Apple’s AR experience even more compelling. In addition, users will be able to point their phone at a flat item (like a picture on a wall), and their phone will use AR to display any available facts about the item if it’s recognized by the system. For example, if you were visiting an art gallery, you could perhaps use Apple’s AR to find more information about certain pieces you were looking at.

iPhone slowdown to become optional

You may recall hearing a lot of talk last month about how iPhones were being slowed down. People were reporting that their iPhones seemed to slow down over time. Eventually Apple confirmed the speeds of these iPhones were being throttled, says CNN Money, though it wasn’t for some nefarious reason.

According to an open letter from Apple, iPhones were being slowed in order to prevent phones from being shut off as the phones’ batteries aged. Many people were upset this slowdown hadn’t been properly communicated to them, leading to Apple offering a heavily discounted battery replacement for certain affected customers.

Now Apple is going to make things even more transparent and open by allowing users to decide whether their iPhones are slowed down. In their iOS 11.3 preview, Apple describes their upcoming performance feature settings. These settings will make it possible to see whether your phone is set to slow down (preventing your phone from shutting down unexpectedly as your battery ages). If it is set to be throttled, you’ll be able to switch off this feature.

For more about what Apple is up to, take a look at their Newsroom.

Internet 101: Childproofing Your Devices

Internet 101: Childproofing Your Devices

The internet can be a wonderful place, but for people with children, it can also be a cause for concern. It’s pretty common these days for children to have regular access to the internet. Whether it’s a family computer, a parent’s tablet or smartphone, or even the child’s own device, many kids are able to get online every day.

For some, letting children use smartphones, tablets, or computers at all is troubling. At least one study has showed that children getting too much screen time can be bad for their mental health. And of course, some people believe that using the internet and playing video games just isn’t a worthwhile way for a child to spend their time. Some argue that there are better things kids could be doing in their off time.

While these ideas are obviously worth considering, many parents weigh the pros and cons and decide they want their children to have access to the internet through some kind of device. Depending on how old their children are, parents will likely find it extremely difficult to keep kids off the internet anyway. And though there are some serious downsides to consider, there are certainly positives when it comes to letting children have access to apps and certain websites. It’s hard to argue with the idea that there are a lot of different educational apps, games, and websites available for kids. Plus, it seems as though it’s most important to just limit screen time and keep watch on a child’s activity. A little screen time, then, can be fun.

When someone wants to let their child have access to a computer or smart device, there are a lot of things to consider. Specifically, how can adults keep their children as safe as possible, and how can they protect their devices, too? Childproofing can seem complicated, but depending on what you want to do, it might be easier than you think.

Before we get started…

It’s important to note that if you’re looking into childproofing your devices, you should also talk to your kids about how to be safe on the internet. Communication is key when it comes to letting your children use computers and smart devices. If kids don’t know what to watch out for, they could still get themselves into bad situations. And if children know they can talk to an adult about what’s been going on in an app or on a website, it’ll be easier to stop negative experiences before they can escalate. Whatever action you take to childproof a device, make sure you first talk to your kid(s) about why it’s necessary in the first place. The Federal Trade Commission has a page dedicated to talking to your kids about online communication.

Childproofing your computer

There are a number of options for childproofing a computer. Here are a few options you can consider:

Use your computer’s settings

If you have a Windows computer, then there’s a pretty straightforward way to monitor and childproof your child’s time on the device. In your settings, there is an option to set up and customize a child’s account. You can find instructions online about how to set up a restricted account on different Windows versions. For Windows 10, you’ll need to open your settings, go to “Accounts,” select “Family & other users,” and choose “Add a child.” Then you’ll fill in the necessary information to complete a new account.

When you go to manage the child’s settings, you can choose from a number of different options. You can have the child’s activity tracked so it can be sent to you. You can block or allow specific websites, or you can click a button to block websites inappropriate for children, and you can also restrict apps. You can even set certain times that the child is allowed to use the computer. Microsoft’s childproofing option can be extremely helpful.

If you have a Mac, you have just as many options for childproofing. If you go to System Preferences and choose “Parental Controls,” you can create a new account and set it up for a child to use. With Mac’s childproofing, you can restrict or allow certain websites and apps, set up time limits for use, restrict other kinds of content, view a log of visited websites, and even make the desktop easier to use by enabling “Simple Finder.”

Manage your browser’s settings

You can also set up a browser to be more child-friendly. For instance, Google Chrome allows users to create a supervised profile that blocks websites, lets you see what’s been visited, block new installations, enable SafeSearch, and more. Also, Firefox offers some extensions for parental controls.

However, browser settings can only do so much if your computer isn’t safeguarded as well. Also, changing your browser settings or adding an extension won’t do much at all to stop an older child from figuring out how to sidestep the parental controls. Browser settings should really be considered an additional layer of safety, not the primary source.

Block content through your router

You can use a service to block certain content on any device connected to your internet. One popular service is OpenDNS. They have some free and some paid services. Their free Family Shield service allows you to block adult content on the devices using your internet. Circle is another service that pairs with a router and lets you customize what devices are allowed to access when connected to your internet.

Childproofing your tablet

Tablets are popular devices for children. Here are just some ways you can childproof a tablet:

Create a restricted profile

If you have an Android tablet, you can create a restricted profile specifically for your child to use. In your tablet’s settings, find something similar to “Users” or “Profiles.” Then choose a “Restricted profile” or “child profile.” From there you can create a new profile and manage its settings. For instance, on the Kindle Fire you can enable certain books to be available, let the child use certain apps, and enable a kid-friendly browser. As long as you have a lock set for your own profile (like a PIN), when switching back to your profile you’ll encounter a lock screen.

These settings can change from tablet to tablet, so take a look at your tablet and scroll through the options. Most devices do their best to make restricted profile settings as clear and straightforward as possible.

iPads also offer Restrictions for childproofing. In your iPad’s settings, you can create a passcode for your restricted settings and customize your settings. You can restrict certain apps, music, and websites, and you can disable Siri, location services, volume controls, and more.

Lock the app store

To stop children from downloading certain apps, you can lock up a device’s app store. If your device uses Google Play, you can enable parental controls. You can create a PIN and restrict app, TV, and movie downloads to a certain rating range, restrict “sexually explicit” books for download, and restrict explicit music.

As mentioned before, iPads can also be customized for children. You can restrict app downloads in your iPad’s restrictions.

Use screen pinning or guided access

If you have an Android tablet with a later version of Android installed, you can use screen pinning when you’re letting a child use a shared device. Some tablets won’t have this feature, but some do. To check it out, try going to your Settings and tapping on your Security settings. Look for some mention of screen pinning. Screen pinning will let you open a specific app and pin it to the screen so a child can’t navigate away from it. It can be extremely useful if you want to know exactly which app your child is using at the time.

On an iPad, guided access can do the same thing. In your iPad’s settings, go to “General,” then “Accessibility” and find “Guided Access.” You can turn Guided Access off or on, set up a PIN, and learn how to restrict the device to show a certain app on the screen so a child can’t switch to a different app.

Download additional apps

You can also download some other apps to help you childproof your device. You can download an app like AppLock to restrict access to certain things. You can do the same with McAfee’s Safe Family. You can also download some child-specific versions of popular apps. Specifically, YouTube Kids lets you give a child access to some YouTube content without having to worry about the child wandering off into inappropriate content.

Childproofing your smartphone

Childproofing a smartphone is extremely similar to the techniques listed for tablets. In fact, all of the above is applicable to smartphones except for one key difference: restricted profiles do not seem to be available yet for Android phones.

Other than this, you can follow the same steps for smartphones as you would for tablets. iPads and iPhones have the same parental control features that let you restrict content or use guided access, and Android phones (as long they have a later version of Android installed) can enable screen pinning.

Amazon App Includes AR for Some iPhones

Amazon App Includes AR for Some iPhones

The Amazon app is getting way better for certain Apple users with its new augmented reality shopping tool. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide which items you want to buy on Amazon, especially when it comes to items for the home. With the Amazon app, some shoppers can now actually see what the product will look like in their house.

In an announcement about their upcoming holiday plans, Amazon also explained their new AR view. This cool new AR feature is available for shoppers using the Amazon app on an iPhone 6S or later that has iOS 11 on it. The app uses Apple’s ARKit to let people place certain items on their screen and view it in whatever area the phone is pointed at. Shoppers simply click the camera button and select the AR view to try it out. Amazon’s announcement mentions that there are “thousands” of products to choose from in AR view and that you can check out the items in a 360° view with the new feature.

As The Verge mentions, other apps, like IKEA and Target, have previously begun to offer their own augmented reality shopping experiences. Also, as Tech Crunch points out, Amazon dabbled a bit in AR shopping with their (pretty unsuccessful) AR stickers. But Amazon’s new offering is exciting for a number of reasons. For one thing, there are a lot of different items to choose from—it’s not horribly limited. Also, the products look pretty real, as you can see in Amazon’s YouTube video. The video shows items being moved and rotated using one or two fingers, respectively, so it also seems easy to use. There are different categories to scroll through and choose from, as shown in the video, so again, there’s a wide array of choices.

And of course, it’s Amazon. Amazon is a giant in the world of shopping, as we all know, so having this cool new tech just makes them even more enticing. If you’ve got an iPhone 6S or later and have iOS 11 installed, see if AR view in the Amazon app has rolled out to you now.

The Image Format Replacing JPG on Apple Devices

The Image Format Replacing JPG on Apple Devices

There have been an awful lot of image formats over the years. Most people know about JPGs and GIFs (oh, GIFs—they’re everywhere, now even taking over Facebook comment sections). People also often use PNGs and vectors for their images. All of these different image formats do slightly different things; for instance, JPGs are typically best at displaying photographs, GIFs are most commonly used for animations, PNG photos are best for images with lots of color, and vectors (which use the filename SVG) are currently better for things like logos or any other designs that are not as complicated as, say, photographs.

Now Apple is helping spread the use of an image format you probably haven’t heard of: HEIC. HEIC is an image extension that means High Efficiency Image File Format (called HEIF elsewhere). This format is now used by default on Apple devices that have macOS High Sierra (on Macs) or iOS 11 (on other devices) installed. The new image format is able to keep images looking great while making the file size smaller than with most other image formats, according to Macworld. Many are excited for this change, and for good reason. Being able to take beautiful photos without taking up a load of space is a great improvement, and though it hasn’t really happened yet, it’s possible HEIC could eventually overshadow JPGs completely if the format catches on.

Some had been previously worried about how it would work when they shared their HEIC images. There were concerns that people without iOS 11 or High Sierra would not be able to see these new files. However, when sharing these photos through an app, your photo will be uploaded as a JPG, and when transferring photos to your computer, you’ll have the option to switch your HEIC photos to a different format. The only real issues at the moment might be with cloud storage and transferring files from one device to another. The Verge points out that your HEIC files might be uploaded to the cloud, and in some of those cloud services, you might find it difficult to view your images on devices that don’t yet support HEIC. And when it comes to transferring between devices, if you save your images as HEIC on, say, a flash drive, then try to open those images on a non-compatible device, you might end up having to go to the trouble to use an image converter.

Aside from these very minor concerns, HEIC does seem like a contender when it comes to quality image formats. If you’re using iOS 11 on your device, you’re likely taking photos in the HEIC format, and it’s possible you’ll save a lot of space because of it. If you still want JPGs instead, you can turn it off, of course, but give HEIC a try and see what you think.

iOS 11 and Snapchat: Who’s Saving Your Snaps?

iOS 11 and Snapchat: Who’s Saving Your Snaps?

In case you missed it, the iPhone X has been in the news pretty much every day recently, and so has iOS 11, the new update for the iPhone operating system. iOS 11 has a number of new and updated features, but the one a lot of people are talking about is its easy-to-use screen recording feature. It was possible to record your iPhone’s screen before, but iOS 11 makes it much easier to do—a fact that has had some people excited, but some people pretty worried.

Being able to record the phone screen on an iPhone can come in handy for many different reasons. Some people may want to record themselves going through a process on the phone so they can upload it and teach people how to do something. Others might want to use it for viral video purposes. Or someone might want to record themselves doing something big, like sending an important message and getting a reply, applying for college, or anything that might be a memorable moment. People have had plenty of reasons to record their phone screens in the past, and iOS 11 just makes it much more accessible.

Mixed in with the positive response, though, was a huge concern: what would happen on Snapchat? Rumors began to swirl that the screen recording feature would allow iPhone users to record peoples’ Snaps secretly, bypassing Snapchat’s feature that tells users when their photos have been saved and who saved them. One huge draw for Snapchat is that the photos aren’t permanent, and if someone screenshots something, the original photo-taker can know who saved their photo onto their device. The idea of people being able to save photos and videos without identifying themselves had some people panicked.

It seems there’s good news and bad news. Fortunately, it’s been shown that Snapchat does, in fact, notify users when their direct messages have been recorded with the iPhone’s screen recorder. It doesn’t specify how it was saved, but it does still say that the Snap has been screenshotted. However, MacRumors tested the screen recorder on Snapchat and found that while it does notify for private messages, it doesn’t quite work with Stories, so be aware that you might not know if your Stories are being recorded.

Also important to note is that MacRumors also tested on Instagram Direct—a feature of Instagram that lets users send non-permanent photos—and the screen recorder did not alert the other user that a screenshot had been taken of their content. So while the issue with Snapchat is not much of a concern, be careful with your Instagram Direct messages until more is known about their screenshot alerts.