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22 worthwhile ways to use Google Assistant on a Chromebook

If you’ve blinked at any point in the past few months, I hate to tell ya, but you’ve probably missed something significant with the Google Assistant.

Every few weeks, it seems, Assistant’s either showing up on some new sort of device or expanding what it’s able to accomplish. And really, it’s no surprise: Assistant, as we’ve discussed approximately 72 gazillion times before, is increasingly the focus of almost everything Google does these days — and for good reason.

As a human mammal who relies on plastic and glass gadgets to get things accomplished, of course, the most important thing to know is how you can take advantage of Assistant’s latest and greatest capabilities. And if you’ve got a Chromebook, my goodness, do you have some intriguing new options to consider.

Here are some of the most useful Chromebook-specific Assistant commands I’ve encountered.

(Assistant is available on most current Chrome OS devices as of this fall. You can confirm it’s activated on your Chromebook by going into the Search and Assistant section of the system settings, clicking the line labeled “Google Assistant,” and then making sure the toggle at the top of that screen is lit up. While you’re there, you might also want to activate the voice activation option — which’ll allow you to summon your Assistant simply by saying “OK Google” or “Hey Google” — and then set the “Preferred input” setting to voice, too, if you plan to interact with Assistant mostly by speaking. You can also always open Assistant by hitting your Launcher or Search key and the “a” key together or by hitting your dedicated Assistant key, if you’ve got a Pixelbook or Pixel Slate.)

1. Start new drafts in a snap by calling for Assistant on Chrome OS and then telling it to create a new document, spreadsheet, or presentation. You’ll be transported to a blank slate in the appropriate Google service faster than you can say “Docs, crocks, faux hawks” (which, if we’re being completely honest with each other, is a pretty strange thing to say).

2. Find files in Drive without any fuss by asking Assistant for whatever you need: Open my monthly analysis spreadsheet, open my legume comparison document, and so on.

3. Control your calendar without lifting a finger by asking your Chromebook’s Assistant what’s next on my calendar — or even for something more specific, like: What’s on my agenda for Thursday?

Google Assistant Chromebook: Agenda JR

4. You can add new events to your calendar without the usual hassle, too: Just fire up Assistant on your Chromebook and tell it to add an event or set an appointment followed by the event’s title, date, and time. The system will repeat the details and then let you verbally confirm everything’s A-OK — and just like that, your schedule will be updated.

5. The Chrome OS version of Assistant can help you adjust your device’s settings without the need for any digging. Try telling it to turn Wi-Fi on or off — no clicking or menu-hunting required.

6. Assistant can also turn Bluetooth on or off in a flash, without having to interrupt what you’re doing.

7. Need to make your Chromebook louder or quieter? No problem: Just tell your friendly neighborhood Assistant to make the volume louder — or get even more specific with commands like turn the volume up to 80 percent or turn the volume down to 20 percent.

8. You can control your Chromebook’s display brightness in the same way: Tell Assistant to turn the screen brightness to 50 percent or any other number to make easy on-the-spot adjustments.

9. If your Chromebook supports Night Light mode for less harsh dim-light viewing, you can control that via the Chrome OS Assistant as well: Just ask your Assistant to turn Night Light mode on or off, and give your peepers a much-needed break.

10. Speaking of a break, if you want to stop all the interruptions for a while, ask your Chromebook’s Assistant to turn Do Not Disturb on or off. Ah…silence.

11. See exactly how much power your Chromebook has left at any moment by activating Assistant and asking it: How much battery do I have left? Optionally follow up with a choice expletive, as needed.

Google Assistant Chromebook: Battery JR

12. When you need to keep track of the time, tell your Chromebook’s Assistant to set a timer for any amount of time you want — 30 seconds, five minutes, three hours, you name it. You can then go back to whatever else you were doing, and as soon as the time has elapsed, an alert will sound and a message will pop up on your screen letting you know your timer’s done.

13. Want to snag a screenshot fast? Skip the usual shortcuts and simply tell your Assistant to take a screenshot. You’ll see the capture appear in the lower-right corner of your Chromebook’s screen and can then find it in your regular Downloads folder.

14. Just like with Assistant on any other device, you can use your Chromebook’s virtual genie to tap into Google’s cross-platform reminder system. Tell Assistant remind me followed by a nugget of info and then the time, the day and time, or even a physical location that you want to serve as the reminder’s trigger. Your reminder will pop back up at the time or place you ask on whatever device is most appropriate at that point.

Google Assistant Chromebook: Reminder JR

15. You can always check in on your pending reminders, too: Just tell Assistant show me my reminders, then do a little dance. (Dance not actually required but highly recommended.)

16. Give yourself a moment away from the workday monotony by asking your Chromebook’s Assistant to play music. You can name a specific artist, album, or even just genre or mood; whatever your wish, Assistant will abide (and you can change its default music service, by the way, by clicking the gear icon within the main Assistant interface and then selecting “Services” followed by “Music”).

17. Prefer the soothing sound of white noise? Try telling Assistant to play white noise — or get even more specific and ask for one of these ambient sound options:

  • Relaxing sounds
  • Nature sounds
  • Water sounds
  • Running water sounds
  • Babbling brook sounds
  • Oscillating fan sounds
  • Fireplace sounds
  • Forest sounds
  • Country night sounds
  • Ocean sounds
  • Rain sounds
  • River sounds
  • Thunderstorm sounds

Not available yet, unfortunately, is “screeching modem sound” — but hey, maybe one day.

18. Find your photos in a flash by telling Assistant open my pictures of — followed by a place, person, or even general theme (Thanksgiving, birthdays, children, screeching modems, etc). Assistant will sift through your Google Photos collection for you and pull up the most relevant results right then and there.

Google Assistant Chromebook: Photos JR

19. You can even use Assistant to open a website without the need for any physical input — which might be handy for those times in which you’re actively engaged in mid-workday pottery but still want to check the news. Just tell Assistant to open computerworld.com (or any website you want) or try something more specific, like open Google News, open YouTube, or open Ask Jeeves (which may or may not open a portal to 1996; proceed at your own risk).

20. For super-speedy navigation, tell Assistant show me how to get to or navigate to followed by the name of any business or address — or, if you aren’t sure where you want to go, try something like search for restaurants near me.

21. The next time the need for a quickie email enters your ever-noodlin’ noggin, ask your Chromebook’s Assistant to send an email. You can then follow its spoken prompts to provide your contact’s name and the body of the message, and it’ll handle the rest on your behalf.

22. Last but not least, perhaps the most useful Chrome OS Assistant command of all: find my phone. Issuing that gem will cause your trusty Assistant to ring any Android device associated with your account, no matter where it may be hiding.

Now, if only it could find my sanity — or, heck, even just a sandwich — I’d really be set.

Sign up for my weekly newsletter to get more practical tips, personal recommendations, and plain-English perspective on the news that matters.

AI Newsletter

[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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10 Ways to Restore Your Creative Energy Using Technology

Whether you’re a DIYer trying to solve a problem, a writer working on a new story, or a designer looking to spice up an old model, perhaps you need help restoring your creative energy.

This article is designed to help you restore your creative energy when it has upped and left you. Maybe one tip will do the trick, or perhaps you’ll have to work your way through the list.

1. Go for a Walk

If you’ve been working on the same thing for a long time, your creative juices may be running dry. If so, it’s time to take a break by doing something else entirely.

One simple idea is to go for a walk. It might not sound like much, but a short walk can reset your system and break the monotony of working.

If you’re feeling lazy, fitness trackers (the best fitness trackers with heart rate monitors


The 6 Best Fitness Trackers With Heart Rate Monitoring




The 6 Best Fitness Trackers With Heart Rate Monitoring

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) can be of great help. These devices can help keep you motivated when doing exercise. Their constant feedback about the calories you burn will help you go the extra mile. You can even add friends on some of these devices and compare your activity data.

2. Get Rid of Distractions

digital-entertainment
Image Credit: MikeRenpening/Pixabay

If you’re unable to get creative because you open Facebook or check your messages every five minutes, you need to get rid of these distractions.

While smartphones are amazing devices, they can also make us less productive. To fix this problem, you can uninstall the distracting apps from your phone or disable notifications on your phone


How to Disable Notifications From Any App in Android




How to Disable Notifications From Any App in Android

Here’s how to turn off notifications in Android, plus how to fine-tune the notifications you do want.
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to work free from distractions.

You can also try apps that limit your time on social media. We recommend OFFTIME, Moment, or Flipd.

3. Have a Snack

Hunger can play havoc with our ability to get things done. A research paper published by Science Daily shows that our stomach produces ghrelin, a hormone that affects our decision making abilities and can lead to impulsive choices.

There are several helpful apps such as Noom that will not just find the right snack according to your cravings, but also find a way for you to achieve your fitness goals.

Once you’ve satisfied your stomach your brain may just let you get back to work.

4. Come Up With 100 Bad Ideas

Instead of coming up with something good, come up with something awfully bad. And a lot of it. So that there’s no pressure on you.

If you’re a writer, come up with 100 bad story ideas. If you’re a musician, come up with a 100 awful tunes. And if you’re an architect, come up with 100 bad designs for buildings.

You can create your list of bad ideas on apps like Evernote or Google Keep. These apps store all of their data in the cloud, meaning you can revisit it at any time.

The logic behind this method is that out of those 100 ideas, a couple will always turn out to be good. When you try to create something absurdly bad, you utilize a creative side that you hadn’t ever explored before.

5. Change your Surroundings

reorganize workspace
Image Credit: Skitterphoto/Pixabay

You don’t have to make big changes. Just change something in your environment. Replace the items on your desk and reorganize the space you’re in. If you work in a typical office cabin environment, try adding some colors to your cabin.

Make use of apps such as Houzz to give your home workspace a virtual makeover before investing any real money. You can also get ideas from Pinterest or Tumblr.

Fresh surroundings make way for fresh ideas.

6. Organize Your Thoughts Visually

There are several platforms that let you organize your thoughts in a better way to help your creativity. Websites like Coggle, Popplet, and MindMaster help you visualize your ideas using flowcharts or drawing tools.

This lets you get a better picture of your ideas and reach solutions faster.

7. Discuss Your Ideas Online

You’ll find several forums where there are experts who will happily share their opinion on your creative piece. For example, if you are an artist, you can showcase your art on DeviantArt and interact with other users. There’s a thriving community that can offer you support and inspiration.

Reddit is full of great communities on every subject you can think of. And you can either be a passive participant reading other people’s threads or an active member starting conversations. Either way, as you discuss things with others, you might find a creative angle you didn’t consider earlier.

8. Listen to Happy Music

Research suggests that listening to happy music can trigger creativity. Music is known to enhance cognition and improve memory and learning, which boosts creativity as well.

Maybe all you need to restore your creative energy is a little dose of happy music. And all you need to do to find it is open up your favorite streaming service—whether it’s Apple Music or Spotify—and search for “Happy Music”.

9. Meditate to Regain Focus

meditation apps
Image Credit: akiragiulia/Pixabay

It sounds cliche but if you get rid of all thoughts (or at least try to clear your current thoughts), you get to reach your spiritual side. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, it’s the consistency that matters and not the duration. If you can spend just 3-5 minutes a day meditating, it can help your creative energies.

While most people have heard of meditation, many don’t try it because they find it difficult to focus. If you’re one of these people, you can seek help from meditation apps such as Insight Timer and Calm.

10. Enjoy a Little Humor

If you’re planning to reap the benefits of technology to be creative, have fun while you’re at it. Research suggests humor can enhance creative thinking as it lets you associate ideas more broadly and freely.

So don’t hesitate to watch funny videos on YouTube or to browse funny GIFs on Giphy.

Creativity cannot be forced. Let go of the pressure and have a laugh. But make sure online entertainment doesn’t become too much of a distraction for you. Remember, everything is good in moderation.

Carry on Training Your Brain

Creativity is like a muscle. If you don’t use it for a long time, it will lose its strength. You need to flex it every day so that it stays healthy. While some people are naturally better at it, others can build it with practice.

To flex your creative muscles, keep training your mind constantly. You can do this by playing brain exercise games on your smartphone


The 7 Best Brain Exercise Games for Android and iOS




The 7 Best Brain Exercise Games for Android and iOS

These free brain games will challenge your mind and keep you sharp. Check out these challenging puzzles, word games, and more.
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6 Ways to Remove DRM From Ebooks You Own

Many ebooks come with digital rights management (DRM) protection. Thankfully, it’s possible to remove DRM from ebooks. Several different tools make the DRM removal process simple and straightforward. And here are the ways to remove DRM from ebooks.

What Is DRM and Why Is It Bad?

In theory, DRM prevents the unlicensed copying and distribution of ebook files, thus safeguarding the commercial interests of the various parties involved.

However, DRM is a nightmare for consumers. It can prevent you from reading an ebook on all of your devices, even if you’ve bought it legitimately.

For example, if you buy an ebook on the Kindle Store, you will only be able to read it on Kindle ereaders or the Kindle app. You’ll face issues, therefore, if you decide to switch to an ereader from a different manufacturer or if you want to use an alternative ereader app on your smartphone.

The solution is to use a DRM removal tool. Don’t worry; doing so is not illegal. Here’s a rundown of some of the best DRM removal apps available today.

1. Calibre

calibre drm removal

Available on: Windows, Mac, Linux

Calibre is the best app for organizing and managing your ebook collection. You can use it to edit a book’s metadata, convert an ebook into different formats, and even download news and magazine articles onto your ereader device.

Download: Calibre (Free)

Thanks to the presence of plugins, you can also use Calibre to remove the DRM from any ebook you own


How to Remove the DRM on Every Ebook You Own




How to Remove the DRM on Every Ebook You Own

No one likes DRM. We all understand why it exists, but that doesn’t mean we’re ready to embrace it. Therefore, this article explains how to remove the DRM from every eBook you own.
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epubor drm removal

Available on: Web

Epubor is a free online tool that removes the DRM from your ebooks. The service only works with ebooks from the Kindle Store. If you want to remove the DRM on ebooks from some of the other ebook stores


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, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

To use Epubor, you will need to know your Kindle e-reader’s serial number. You can find it by firing up your Kindle and going to Menu > Settings > Device Options > Device Info. When you enter the serial number into the tool, omit any spaces and hyphens.

Next, you need to connect your Kindle to your computer using a USB cable. You can then drag-and-drop the ebooks from your Kindle directly into the web app’s interface. If you wish, you can drag several books and remove the DRM in bulk. Alternatively, you can download the desktop Kindle app, sync your ebooks, and drag them into Epubor directly from your hard drive.

DRM removal will begin automatically. When the process is complete, you will see a Download button appear. Click on the button to save the DRM-free books onto your computer.

3. ePUBee Kindle DRM Removal

epubee drm removal

Available on: Windows, Mac

ePUBee has made a name for itself as one of the best online ebook converters


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5 High-Quality Online Ebook Converters for Every Format

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. However, because you cannot perform an ebook format conversion if the book in question is DRM-locked, ePUBee has also developed an accompanying desktop app to help you remove DRM from your ebooks.

Like Epubor, this tool only works if you want to remove DRM from Kindle ebooks. Books from other stores are not supported. In total, six ebook file types are supported. They are AZW, AZW3, AZW4, TPZ, MOBI, and PRC.

To the use ePUBee app, you will need to authorize it with your Amazon ID. Some people may be uncomfortable with the security and privacy implications of doing so. You will also need to download your Kindle books onto your hard drive using the official Kindle app.

Once you’ve synced your ebooks, just drag-and-drop them into the ePUBee app as needed.

Download: ePUBee (Free)

4. Other ePUBee DRM Tools

Available on: Windows, Mac

ePUBee has developed two other DRM removal tools. One is for removing DRM from PDFs, while the other lets you get rid of the DRM on EPUB files.

Like the Kindle DRM tool, both of these apps are free to download and use.

Download: ePUBee EPUB DRM Removal (Free)
Download: ePUBee PDF DRM Removal (Free)

5. Any eBook Converter

any ebook convertor drm removal

Available on: Windows

If you want a single tool to remove the DRM for ebooks that you’ve bought from lots of different stores, you might need to pay for the privilege.

One of the best apps for the job is Any eBook Converter. It can remove DRM restrictions on books from the Kindle Store, Adobe, Nook, and Kobo. In total, 24 different ebook formats are supported. They include EPUB, PDF, MOBI, AZW, TXT, KFX, PRC, HTMLZ, and DOC. The app supports bulk removal.

In addition to its DRM removal capabilities, Any eBook Converter also has a few other useful features.

For example, you can edit an ebook’s metadata (including the title, author, publisher, data, identifiers, and language. You can also convert your ebooks into different formats, allowing you to read them on whichever ereader device/app you use. Editing and conversion can only be performed after you’ve removed the DRM restrictions.

Download: Any eBook Converter ($30, free trial available)

6. AzwSoft eBook DRM Removal

AzwSoft drm removal

Available on: Windows, Mac

A free (though less polished) app for removing DRM protection on ebooks from lots of different stores is AzwSoft eBook DRM Removal. It works with Adobe ADE DRM, Kindle AZW/MOBI DRM, and Nook DRM. And, unlike Any eBook Converter, the tool is also available on macOS.

AzwSoft eBook DRM Removal supports all the major ebook formats, including EPUB, PDF, AZW, AZW3, MOBI, and PRC. Several less common niche formats are also supported.

The DRM removal process is fairly similar to the other apps we’ve looked at. You need to drag-and-drop the respective ebook files into the app’s main window, then click the Start button to begin. The DRM-free ebook output is automatically saved on your computer’s hard drive.

Download: AzwSoft eBook DRM Removal (Free)

What’s the Best Way to Remove DRM From Ebooks?

The apps we’ve discussed here should be able to remove the DRM on almost any ebook you own. But what’s the best way to remove DRM from your ebooks?

We rate Calibre the highest; having a single app that can take care of all your ebook management needs is advantageous. However, from a DRM removal standpoint, Calibre is the hardest to get up and running. If you’d prefer a more straightforward solution, the Epubor web app is the winner. And for people who need to perform DRM removal regularly, a desktop app might be preferable.

To learn more about DRM, check out our analysis of whether DRM is a threat to your computer’s security


Is DRM A Threat To Computer Security?




Is DRM A Threat To Computer Security?


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5 Ways Your WhatsApp Messages Can Be Hacked

WhatsApp is a popular and easy to use messaging program. It has some security features, like the use of end-to-end encryption to keep messages private. However, hacks targeting WhatsApp could compromise the privacy of your messages and contacts.

Here are five ways that WhatsApp can be hacked.

1. Remote Code Execution via GIF

WhatsApp hack - GIF attack
SONY DSC

In October 2019, security researcher Awakened revealed a vulnerability in WhatsApp that let hackers take control of the app using a GIF image. The hack works by taking advantage of the way that WhatsApp processes images when the user opens the Gallery view to send a media file.

When this happens, the app parses the GIF in order to show a preview of the file. GIF files are special because they have multiple encoded frames. This means that code can be hidden within the image.

If a hacker were to send a malicious GIF to a user, they could compromise the user’s entire chat history. The hackers would be able to see who the user had been messaging and what they had been saying. They could also see users’ files, photos, and videos sent through WhatsApp.

The vulnerability affected versions of WhatsApp up to 2.19.230 on Android 8.1 and 9. Fortunately, Awakened disclosed the vulnerability responsibly and Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has been able to patch the issue. To keep yourself safe from this problem, you should update WhatsApp to version 2.19.244 or above.

2. The Pegasus Voice Call Attack

WhatsApp hack - Pegasus attack

Another WhatsApp vulnerability discovered in early 2019 was the Pegasus voice call hack


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WhatsApp Breached: Update Your App to Stay Safe

Concerned about the security of WhatsApp following the widely-publicized breach? Here’s what to do and why you should care.
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. This scary attack allowed hackers to access a device simply by placing a WhatsApp voice call to their target. Even if the target didn’t answer the call, the attack could still be effective. And the target may not even be aware that malware has been installed on their device.

This worked through a method known as buffer overflow. This is where an attack deliberately puts too much code into a small buffer so that it “overflows” and writes code into a location it shouldn’t be able to access. When the hacker can run code in a location that should be secure, they can take malicious actions.

In the case of this attack, it installed an older and well-known piece of spyware called Pegasus


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. This allowed hackers to collect data on phone calls, messages, photos, and video. It even let them activate devices’ cameras and microphones to take recordings.

This vulnerability applied to Android, iOS, Windows 10 Mobile, and Tizen devices. It was used by the Israeli firm NSO Group which has been accused of spying on Amnesty International staff and other human rights activists. After news of the hack broke, WhatsApp was updated to protect it from this attack.

If you are running WhatsApp version 2.19.134 or earlier on Android or version 2.19.51 or earlier on iOS, then you need to update your app immediately.

3. Socially Engineered Attacks

Another way that WhatsApp is vulnerable is through socially engineered attacks.These exploit human psychology to steal information or spread misinformation. A security firm called Check Point Research revealed one such attack they named FakesApp. This allowed people to misuse the quote feature in group chat and to alter the text of another person’s reply. Essentially, it allows hackers to plant fake statements that appear to be from other legitimate users.

The researchers were able to do this by decrypting WhatsApp communications. This allowed them to see data sent between the mobile version and the web version of WhatsApp. And from here, they could change values in group chats. Then they could impersonate other people, sending messages which appeared to be from them. They could also change the text of replies.

The researchers point out this could be used in worrying ways to spread scams or fake news. Even though the vulnerability was disclosed in 2018, it had still not been patched by the time the researchers spoke at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas in 2019, according to ZNet.

4. Media File Jacking

WhatsApp hack - media file jacking

A vulnerability which affects both WhatsApp and Telegram is media file jacking


How Media File Jacking Impacts WhatsApp and Telegram on Android




How Media File Jacking Impacts WhatsApp and Telegram on Android

Think your Telegram and WhatsApp messages are secure on Android? Think again! Learn about the risks of media file jacking.
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. This attack takes advantage of the way that apps receive media files like photos or videos and write those files to a device’s external storage.

The attack starts by installing a malicious piece of malware hidden inside an apparently harmless app. This malware can then monitor incoming files for Telegram or WhatsApp. When a new file comes in, the malware can swap out the real file for a fake file. The researchers who discovered the issue, Symantec, suggest it could be used to scam people or to spread fake news.

There is a quick fix for this issue. In the WhatsApp app, you should look in Settings and go to Chat Settings. Then find the Save to Gallery option and make sure it is set to Off. This will protect you from this vulnerability. However, a true fix for the issue will require app developers to completely change the way that apps handle media files in the future.

5. Facebook Spying on Whatsapp Chats

WhatsApp hack - Facebook spying

The last topic to consider is more of a security issue than a true vulnerability. It regards whether WhatsApp messages could potentially be read by Facebook or not.

In a blog post, WhatsApp implied that because it uses end-to-end encryption, it is impossible for Facebook to read WhatsApp content: “we’ve rolled out end-to-end encryption. When you and the people you message are using the latest version of WhatsApp, your messages are encrypted by default, which means you’re the only people who can read them. Even as we coordinate more with Facebook in the months ahead, your encrypted messages stay private and no one else can read them. Not WhatsApp, not Facebook, nor anyone else.”

However, according to developer Gregorio Zanon, this is not strictly true. The fact WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption does not mean all messages are private. On an operating system like iOS 8 and above, apps can access files in a “shared container.”

Both the Facebook and WhatsApp apps use the same shared container on devices. And while chats are encrypted when they are sent, they are not necessarily encrypted on the originating device. This means the Facebook app could potentially copy information from the WhatsApp app.

To be clear, there is no evidence that Facebook has used shared containers to view private WhatsApp messages. But the potential ability is there for them to do so. Even with end-to-end encryption, your messages may not be private from Facebook’s all-seeing eye.

Stay Aware of Security Issues in WhatsApp

These are examples of the way that WhatsApp can be hacked. While some of these issues have been patched since their disclosure, others have not.

To learn more about whether WhatsApp is safe, see our guide to WhatsApp security threats users need to know about


Is WhatsApp Safe? 5 Security Threats Users Need to Know About




Is WhatsApp Safe? 5 Security Threats Users Need to Know About

WhatsApp security is a challenge. It’s a favorite target of scammers and hackers. Is WhatsApp safe? Here’s what you need to know.
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6 Ways to Improve Battery Life on Windows Laptops

The Windows 10 Settings Icon.

Laptop owners have a critical enemy: a drained battery. Sure, you can plug it in, but only if there’s an outlet nearby. Here are some ways you can improve the battery life of your Windows laptop.

Windows 10 has quite a few tricks you can use to combat the power problem. There’s a power troubleshooting tool that can help you identify problems, while various power-saving settings can reduce power usage when your laptop’s in battery mode.

Battery Saver Mode

The easiest way to make use of Windows 10’s built-in power-saving options is to use Battery Saver mode. It lowers system resources and increases battery life.

RELATED: How to Use and Configure Windows 10’s “Battery Saver” Mode

This mode automatically activates when your laptop’s battery reaches a low level (usually under 20 percent), although you can customize this setting if you need to.

To check which battery mode your PC is in, click the battery icon in the notifications area of the task bar. A window displays the current battery life percentage, and a slider you can use to switch to another power mode.

Click the battery icon in the task bar, and then drag the slider to change power modes.

To enable Battery Saver mode, drag the slider all the way to the left.

If you want to change when this mode automatically activates, right-click the Start menu, and then click “Settings.” From here, click “System,” and then “Battery.” Click and move the slider to change the automatic “Battery Saver” activation point from 20 percent.

Move the slider to change the automatic "Battery Saver" activation point.

Reduce Screen Brightness

On a high setting, the screen brightness level can drain your laptop’s battery. If you reduce the screen brightness, you can lower your laptop’s power usage significantly.

There are a few ways to reduce screen brightness. With the exception of the keyboard keys, the easiest way to reduce screen brightness is to use the Windows Action Center.

To open it, click the Notification icon in the bottom-right of the task bar. The Action Center menu appears, and you see a brightness slider at the bottom; click and move it to the left to reduce the screen’s brightness.

Click and move the Brightness slider to the left to reduce screen brightness.

You can also go to Settings > System > Display to change the brightness settings.

Use Hibernation Instead of Sleep Mode

When you close your laptop’s lid or leave it unattended for a while, it enters Sleep mode. This low-power mode lets you resume your system quickly, but it continues to use the battery. Over time, your battery will drain completely.

You can use Hibernation mode as an alternative. It saves a snapshot of the current Windows session to the hard drive so you can turn off your laptop. It’s slower than sleep mode, but it will save your battery usage for a longer period.

To quickly change from Sleep to Hibernation mode, press Start+R on your keyboard, and then type “powercfg.cpl” to open the Windows Power Options menu. In the sidebar, click “Choose What the Power Buttons Do.”

Click “Change Settings That Are Currently Unavailable” at the top, if it appears. Click each drop-down menu, and change “Sleep” to “Hibernate.”

The Windows 10 Advanced Power Settings menu.

To remove the option to put your PC into sleep mode completely, uncheck the box next to “Sleep” in the “Shut-Down Settings” section. When you’re finished, click “Save Changes.”

Find and Disable Battery Draining Apps

Not all software is created equal, and you might find that some programs are too greedy and demanding on your battery. Some might be too heavy on system resources or remain active in the background for long periods.

Windows 10 logs the CPU usage of all installed software and, from that, judges how much battery each app uses. You can check this list in the Windows Settings menu.

To do so, right-click the Start menu, click “Settings,” and then click System > Battery. Under the current battery percentage, click “See Which Apps Are Affecting Your Battery Life.”

Click "See Which Apps Are Affecting Your Battery Life."

Windows lists the most power-hungry apps. It defaults to a 24-hour list, but you can switch this to show power usage over six hours or a week.

A list of apps in the "See Which Apps Are Affecting Your Battery Life" window.

This is a useful way to see if any of your software is using an unnecessary amount of power. You can then disable or uninstall it.

You can also prevent software from running in the background. Mail apps, for instance, might regularly sync with mail servers in the background and use Wi-Fi (and battery power) in the process.

To prevent this, click any of the software entries in the app usage list. Uncheck the “Let Windows Decide When This App Can Run in the Background” and “Reduce the Work the App Can Do When It’s in The Background” boxes that appear.

Uncheck the "Let Windows Decide When This App Can Run In The Background" and "Reduce The Work The App Can Do When It's In The Background" boxes.

Disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

When you’re on the move, power-hungry features that use your computer can strip hours from its battery life. Unless you absolutely need them, cut back on and disable internal functions, like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, to save your battery.

Bluetooth is a feature you can definitely disable until you need it, and you can do so quickly in the Windows Action Center if power is running low.

To quickly disable or enable Bluetooth, tap the Notifications icon in the bottom-right corner of the task bar, and then tap the Bluetooth tile. If you don’t see the quick tile, you might have to click the “Expand” button.

Click the Bluetooth tile to enable or disable it.

If you want to disable Wi-Fi, click the network symbol in the Windows Action Center. In the network menu that appears, click the “Wi-Fi” tile to disable it.

Click the "Wi-Fi" tile to enable or disable it.

If you know you’ll be using your laptop on battery power for a long time, or if the battery’s nearly depleted, restrict power-hungry features, like any Bluetooth and Wi-Fi adapters. These measures will allow you to use your laptop longer.

Use the Windows 10 Power Troubleshooter

If the battery life on your laptop is poor, and you can’t determine the cause, the Windows 10 Power Troubleshooter might identify the problem. You can use this for other issues, too.

To get started, right-click the Start button, and then click “Settings.” From here, click Update & Security > Troubleshoot > Power, and then click “Run the Troubleshooter” to activate the tool.

Click "Run the Troubleshooter."

Windows will search the current settings for potential issues that could be impacting battery life. It will change any mismatched settings automatically to fix any detected issues.

The Windows 10 Troubleshooting tool, showing completed changes to the power settings.

The troubleshooting tool isn’t perfect, but it should resolve any high-impact settings that could drain your laptop’s battery over the long-term.

If the battery life of your laptop isn’t meeting your expectations, try to give it some regular TLC. Charge it often, and try to keep the battery level above 50 percent whenever you can. If you regularly drain your laptop’s battery to zero percent, it can cause it to wear out more quickly.





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5 Ways to Display a Ruler on Your Computer Screen

You might think of a ruler as something only kids in school or carpenters use. But occasionally, everyone has a need for an old-fashioned ruler. If you don’t have a real ruler handy, why not use a computer ruler?

While they won’t help you draw a straight line, you can use these on-screen rulers to make small measurements. Let’s look at some useful options you can use on your desktop and phone.

A Quick Note on Using Computer Screen Rulers

Though these sites are simple, the rulers will look different depending on your device’s screen size and resolution. They attempt to calibrate themselves automatically, but this won’t always work out right.

Thus, while screen rulers are convenient when you have no other options, there’s no guarantee that they’re perfectly accurate. We therefore don’t recommend using these tools for any kind of precision jobs. Use a real measuring tool that you trust for more serious work.

You may wish to double-check these rulers for accuracy before you use them. It’s easy to do this using a common object with a standard measurement, like a dollar bill. A US bill is 2.61 inches tall, which you can use to test the ruler.

iRuler

iRuler is a classic PC ruler site that’s still around today. Visiting the site grants you access to a simple ruler right on your screen. It displays both inches and centimeters.

The site automatically detects your monitor size and resolution in order to display the ruler at the right dimensions. If it doesn’t get it right, click the select your monitor dimension text to fix this.

That’s all there is to using this easy tool, as it doesn’t offer much in the way of extras.

PiliApp Ruler

This alternative monitor ruler offers a few additional tools compared to iRuler.

When you first visit the page, it will ask you to confirm your detected monitor size. If it’s not correct, you can pick a different option or specify your own value. It also lets you choose I don’t know what monitor size is for a calibration tool.

With this, you can match up the size of a dollar bill, credit card, or iPhone with one on the screen to figure out your monitor size.

Once you’re done, you’ll have another ruler to utilize. This site has the centimeter and inch rulers on different pages, which makes it a little cleaner. You can also click the drag it button to put the ruler image in its own window and move it wherever you like on the screen.

FreeOnlineRuler

You might think that all rulers on your computer would be the same, but this one offers a few features that the above don’t.

First, you can click and drag to move the ruler around wherever you want it. This site also lets you hold Ctrl and drag the ruler to rotate it, which is handy if you want to measure an irregular object.

At the bottom of the page, you can uncheck centimeters or inches if you only want to show one of them. And the flipped option reverses the ruler, so you can measure from right to left.

FreeOnlineRuler also has a calibration tool. Click Please calibrate your ruler (or Calibrate if you’ve opened this before) at the bottom of the screen to open it. Here you can pick to measure a credit card, dollar bill, or sheet of paper to calibrate the ruler.

If you don’t have any of these, the site also helpfully lets you specify your own object measurement for calibration.

4. Ruler by Xalpha Lab

The above tools are great for desktop use, but they don’t work too well on a mobile device. If you need a ruler on your phone, perhaps to visualize one inch on the screen, then you should use a dedicated app.

For Android, we like the aptly titled Ruler. It’s a highly rated app that lets you make small measurements on your phone. Drag the height and width lines to display the dimensions of the object you’re measuring.

Tap anywhere on the screen to open the menu at the top. Here you can swap to the dark theme, change units, adjust the subdivisions, or calibrate it using a coin or credit card.

Of course, since your phone’s display isn’t as large as a computer monitor, you can’t measure objects as long. But as a quick electronic ruler, it’s handy to have. Even better, the app features no ads or in-app purchases.

If you need to measure larger objects, you should check out Google’s Measure app, which is one of the best toolbox apps on Android.

Download: Ruler for Android (Free)

5. Ruler by Tue Nguyen Minh

iPhone Ruler App

If you use an iPhone, you’ll find plenty of ruler apps available as well. This one goes by 3-in-1 Ruler, and offers a basic ruler as well as an AR measuring tool and option to print a ruler. Like the above, it has no ads or in-app purchases.

When you start the app, it will ask you for access to your camera. It needs this for the AR measuring feature, which uses your camera to measure the dimensions of actual objects. Pull down from the top to access the standard ruler, which measures up to roughly four inches/10 centimeters.

Modern iPhones also include a first-party Apple app called Measure, which allows you to measure objects using AR. Give that a try if you need to measure something larger than a few inches.

We’ve looked at the best ruler and distance measurements tools for iPhone before, so check those out for more options.

Download: 3-in-1 Ruler for iOS (Free)

Which Computer Ruler Will You Use?

We’ve looked at solid monitor ruler options for your desktop as well as your iPhone or Android phone. Whether you just need a quick visualization of a centimeter or need to measure something in a pinch, these will help you out. Just remember that they’re not perfectly accurate.

Looking for bigger measurements next? Check out how to measure area and distance on Google Maps and Google Earth


How to Measure Area and Distance in Google Maps and Google Earth




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.



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5 Ways to Avoid Dark, Blurry Halloween Photos – LifeSavvy

Two boys dressed up for Halloween posing around jack-o'-lanterns and fake skulls.
Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Can you say you’ve celebrated Halloween if you don’t have any pictures to prove it? Taking photos in the inevitable low-light of a Halloween party isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible! Here are some tips to get quality photos—even of the vampires.

Preparation

Every professional photoshoot, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, involves a bit of prep-work, especially when it comes to lighting. Photographers need to know how strong the light is going to be, if they’ll need extra lights and what kind, and which camera setting they’ll have to use. This saves time on the day of the shoot, so subjects can come in, strike a pose, and get on with the event.

You can approach Halloween the same way. Your family and friends will be dressed up, and you’ll want to snap a few pictures. You don’t want it to feel like a chore, or they’ll run away before you can get a good, sharp photo.

If you prepare for the event, it can save you time and stress. Before the big night, decide where you want to take the pictures, the angle from which you’ll take them, the elements you’ll use, and clear the room of anything (shiny objects, smaller light sources, etc.) that could get in the way and ruin the shots.

You can create a backdrop, decorate the background, or just rearrange a few things to make room for your models. Get as creative as you want!

The one crucial element you have to keep in mind, though, is the lighting.

Lighting

The lighting setup is a fundamental step in photography, yet, it’s easily overlooked. No matter where you take your photos, you have to make sure there’s a light source shining on your subjects’ faces and outfits. You want the light to bounce off them, so the camera picks it up and turns it into a sharp image.

A young girl dressed as a witch looking into a jack o' lantern.
MNStudio/Shutterstock

While the lack of natural light certainly makes it more challenging to get a satisfyingly good shot, you have the advantage of being able to move artificial light sources. For example, if there are lamps around the room, bring them closer, so they cast an even light on your subjects. If you don’t have enough lamps around, borrow some from other rooms.

If you only have one floor lamp, place it directly behind you; if you have two, place one on each side of you. This will prevent dark, unattractive shadows from appearing on your models’ faces—just make sure to keep some distance, so you don’t blind them!

Camera Settings

Whether you have a compact camera or a DSLR, play around with the settings ahead of time, so you have more control over the final result—especially in low light.

If you have a general idea of what auto, semi-auto, and manual modes mean and how they work, it will benefit you immensely when you take pictures in different environments—and it saves time!

Here’s a quick rundown of the main settings you should get acquainted with before Halloween rolls around:

  • ISO: This is a measurement of the sensitivity of your camera’s image sensor. The higher the number, the more light the sensor will capture, which translates to brighter images. However, it’s not as straightforward as it might seem. If you crank up the ISO too much, it can result in very grainy photos, uneven colors, and a loss of details. While some cameras can maintain good image quality at high ISO values, try to stick to a maximum of ISO 3200 if you don’t intend to make prints.
  • Aperture: The lens is to the image sensor what the eye is to the brain: the wider it’s opened, the more light travels through it and reaches the processing center. In optics, this opening is called aperture. It indicates how apt a lens is to take photos in low-light environments. You want the brightest aperture your lens can provide, which is denoted by a small number preceded by an f. To do this, set your camera to A mode, and then turn the dial until you get to the smallest possible number. Anything lower than f4 will work just fine.
  • Shutter speed: This is the amount of time the camera shutter stays open. As you might expect, the longer it stays open, the more light it’s exposed to. At night, you have to work with a low shutter speed for the image sensor to capture as much light as possible. However, a longer exposure time increases your chances of having blurry pictures because it detects even minor movements. Therefore, when you photograph people, make sure you keep the shutter speed above 1/60 if they’re standing still; you can go up to 1/250 if they’re moving. To do that, set your camera to S mode, and then turn the dial until it’s low enough to capture a sufficient amount of light in your image.

Again, experiment with these three elements because simply setting them all to their maximum measurement won’t always work. It all depends on the lighting in the room. Keep the aperture as open as possible (i.e., the lowest number) and try out different ISO and shutter speed settings to achieve the result you want.

If you can take some test shots the night before, it will save you time on Halloween.

Use a Tripod

Low shutter speeds require a steady hand and/or still subjects to capture sharp images; however, that’s not always possible. This is when a tripod comes in handy. Not only does it help you take multiple shots with the same framing (even if you’re in some of them), but you can also lower the shutter speed even further if the subject and/or scene allow for it.

It’s certainly convenient—if not essential—to have a tripod in low-light situations. If you don’t have one, find a surface from the right angle on which to place your camera and voilà!

Don’t Be Scared of the Flash

Flash can make or break a photo, which is why many prefer to avoid it. It can wash things out and, sometimes, even cause a loss of details in the image. However, it can really help in dark environments if there aren’t any other sources around to light up the subject of your work. The best way to prevent everything from turning white—and blinding everyone—is to diffuse the flash.

You can do this in a variety of ways, even if all you have is the on-camera flash. One easy trick you can use to diffuse the flash and give your photos a softer, more even look is to use a plastic bag over it. Simply grab a plastic bag, inflate it, tie a knot, and place it on top of your camera where the flash is. This prevents the harsh light from landing directly on your subjects’ faces and disperses it around the room, instead.


If you take the time to get to know your camera settings and do a trial shoot before Halloween, it can save you lots of disappointment on the big night. Ideally, you want to be able to snap your photos with confidence, so you can be proud later when you show them to everyone. The more you practice, the easier it will be to get the job done.

And if you’ve run out of ideas about what to be for Halloween, here are some must-haves that will get you ready for that last-minute party!





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Can’t Update Your iPhone or iPad? 8 Ways to Fix It

Having problems updating your iPhone or iPad to the latest version of iOS or iPadOS? There are a few reasons why you could be facing these issues. Don’t be disheartened, though—there’s almost certainly a solution to the problem.

Let’s look at some fixes that will help you get the latest software running on your device properly. Here’s how to fix your iPhone or iPad when it won’t let you update iOS or iPadOS.

Preliminary Tips to Fix iPhone Update Issues

Before you dive into advanced troubleshooting, it’s a good idea to check a few basics first. Don’t forget to run through these simple troubleshooting steps when your iPhone won’t update.

1. Charge Your iPhone or iPad

Your device won’t let you upgrade if you don’t have enough battery power. This is to prevent your device from turning off in the middle of an update, which can cause catastrophic damage to your phone.

Make sure you plug in your device and have plenty of charge before updating. It’s a good idea to leave it on the charger while the process runs, too.

2. Make Sure You’re Eligible to Update

iOS 13 Compatibility

Unfortunately, Apple eventually drops support for older devices, so not all iPhone and iPad models can update to the latest iOS iteration. To make sure your device can get the latest release of Apple’s mobile operating system, scroll down to the bottom of Apple’s iOS info page or iPadOS info page and look for your model.

3. Give It Some Time

When you try to update to the latest version of iOS as soon as it comes out, you might run into trouble. Apple’s servers go under heavy load when thousands of people are trying to update at once.

If you receive an error when trying to update to the latest version of iOS, try waiting for a while. You might have better luck later when the update servers aren’t under such a strain.

4. Force-Restart Your Device

restart iphone two iphones

A one-off bug can prevent you from updating your iPhone. Restarting your phone will refresh its processes and hopefully clear up any temporary glitches. Follow our guide to restarting your iPhone


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to learn the steps for your specific device.

Once you’ve done this successfully, you’ll see your screen turn black. Afterwards, an Apple logo will appear, and you’ll be greeted by your lock screen. Your device is now fully refreshed, so you can go ahead and try to update again.

5. Free Up Space

A lack of device storage a common culprit for a faulty update process. Luckily, modern versions of iOS help you free up space easily. Here’s how:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Scroll down and tap General.
  3. Tap iPhone Storage.

In this menu, you’ll see how much storage you have. Depending on what’s taking up space, your phone will provides a few recommendations, including:

  • Offload Unused Apps
  • Review Large Attachments
  • iCloud Photos
  • Auto-Delete Old Conversations

Offload Unused Apps deletes any apps that you rarely use. This won’t delete any of your personal data, though; only the app data itself will be deleted.

Review Large Attachments lets you see the largest photos and videos inside of Messages so you can delete them. This is often an easy way to gain a big chunk of storage, to give your iPhone a bit more room for the update.

iCloud Photos allows you to back up all your photos to iCloud. After doing this, you’re free to delete as many images as you want from your device. However, if you decide to do this, you’ll only be able to access your photos via an internet connection later on.

Auto-Delete Old Conversations has your phone clear out messages and attachments that were sent years ago in order to save space.

Once you’ve freed up some space, try the update again. Follow our ways to free up space on your iPhone


iPhone Storage Full? How to Create Free Space on iOS




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if you need to clear more.

6. Force Update via iTunes

itunes windows menu sync and update iphone

While most people are used to updating iOS right on their device nowadays, you can still run the update through your computer.

On Windows or macOS Mojave and earlier, you can update your iPhone through iTunes by following these steps:

  1. On Windows, download iTunes for Windows if you don’t have it already.
  2. Connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer with its charging cable.
  3. Open iTunes.
  4. Sync your iOS device.
  5. Click Check for update.
  6. Click Download.
  7. Once the download is finished, select Update.

Since Apple retired iTunes in macOS Catalina, you’ll need to do this through Finder instead. Connect your device to your Mac, open Finder, and click the device name on the left sidebar. This will bring you to a panel similar to the old iTunes interface, where you can follow the steps above.

After doing this, the update will install onto your device. If you have trouble, see what to do when your iPhone won’t connect to your computer


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.

7. Reset Your Wi-Fi Settings

If you can’t update through iTunes either, the next step is to take a look at your Wi-Fi connection. A slow or unreliable Wi-Fi connection means you may not be able to update properly.

Make sure you’re connected to a strong Wi-Fi network when you try to update. It’s worth restarting your router if you haven’t done so in a while. You might also try connecting to another network and seeing if you have the same issue there.

If you can’t update on any Wi-Fi network, you can reset your device’s network settings to start fresh. Note that this will clear out all network preferences you’ve saved, so you’ll need to reconnect to all previously saved Wi-Fi networks again. This will also reset any VPN configurations you use.

To reset network settings on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Scroll down to Reset.
  4. Select Reset network settings.
  5. Enter your passcode and confirm you want to do this.

8. Factory Reset Your Device

If none of the above has fixed your problem, you should consider completely wiping your device. In the Reset menu mentioned above, you can either reset all settings on your device, or perform a factory reset to erase everything.

Resetting your settings probably won’t fix an update issue, but it’s worth a try if nothing else has worked:

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Open General.
  3. Tap Reset.
  4. Select Reset all settings.
  5. Confirm with your passcode.

All your settings are now reset. Try to update again. If it works, you’ll need to put all your settings (including app preferences, display options, and similar) back as they were.

Failing that, you can go the more extreme route and reset your device to factory defaults. Keep in mind this will erase all the data on your iPhone or iPad. Make sure you’ve backed up your iPhone


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before proceeding so you don’t lose any information.

Here’s how to factory reset your device:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Reset.
  4. Select Erase All Content and Settings.
  5. Confirm with your passcode.

Your device will now revert back to its factory state. Because everything is fresh again you’ll hopefully be able to update without issue. You can restore your iPhone backup when you set up your phone after the reset.

iPhone Updating Troubles: Fixed!

It’s frustrating when your phone won’t let you update. Hopefully, one of these fixes solved your problem and you can now enjoy the latest version of iOS.

Speaking of which, after you’re finished updating, check out the best features you should try in iOS 13


The 10 Best iOS 13 Features You Should Try Out




The 10 Best iOS 13 Features You Should Try Out

Here are the best new features introduced in iOS 13 for iPhone users. There’s a lot to love about this update!
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16 Ways Book Lovers Can Satisfy Their Reading Addiction – Review Geek

Stacks of books, surrounding two that are open a table at a library.
Valeriy Karpeev/Shutterstock

There are more books than you could possibly read in your entire lifetime, so finding titles you’re likely to enjoy isn’t always easy. Fortunately, there are lots of resources available that can help you discover your new favorite author.

Libraries, Thrift Shops, and Book Clubs

A young woman in a library holding a book and looking at her laptop.
Solis Images/Shutterstock

Go to the library! Yes, they’re still around, and they’re filled with thousands of books you can check out for free. Many libraries also have movies, music, and video games, as well.

Some libraries are partnered with Overdrive (iOS, Android), an app that allows you to check out e- and audiobooks. This means you don’t even have to leave your house to check out a new book—you just need a library card and the app.

Of course, after the library, the best place to find physical books is at a bookstore. If you’re looking for discounts, thrift shops and some local bookstores sell used books. They might have a few scuff marks, but that won’t prevent you from reading them.

Another great way to find new books is to join a book club. You should be able to find one at your local library or bookstore. The club members decide on a new book to read (usually each month or every two weeks), and then all the members meet to discuss it.

When you’re in a book club, you’re constantly reading new things and thinking about what you’re reading. It also introduces you to genres you wouldn’t normally choose on your own.

Buy an E-reader

A pair of glasses resting on a Kindle e-reader.
SGM/Shutterstock

E-readers might not have that awesome new book smell, or the fun of tangible page turns, but they do save a lot of trees. However, the best reason to get an e-reader is the large library of books you can download.

You can store thousands of titles on a device smaller than most books. You can also download and read files in many formats on an e-reader. If you have PDFs or textbooks to read, you can load them onto your e-reader and take them with you wherever you go.

Here are some of our favorite e-readers:

  • Kindle: The classic device from Amazon only has four gigabytes of storage, but that still holds thousands of books. It has a 167-PPI, glare-free touch display, and a backlight so you can comfortably read at night. It downloads books from the Kindle Store via Wi-Fi, or a computer via USB cable. It also plays audiobooks via Bluetooth. Like all Kindles, its battery can last for weeks, even with daily use.
  • Kindle Paperwhite: The Paperwhite is the upgraded version of the original Kindle. It has a 300-PPI screen, an IPX8 waterproof rating, and multiple storage size options. There’s also a cellular data version that gives you a free connection anywhere you can get service (really, it’s free—Amazon covers the cost of the cell coverage). If you have the cash, the Kindle Oasis is an even better upgrade that gives you page buttons, adjustable warm lighting, and a slightly bigger screen.
  • Kobo Clara HD Six-Inch Carta: If you want to avoid the Kindle ecosystem, there are other options, like the Carta. This e-reader has eight gigabytes of storage—more than enough for thousands of e-books. It has a touch display with a backlight. The Carta displays Kindle format e-books if you convert them in Calibre. It uses the Overdrive app or a computer to load other e-book formats natively.

Online

An Amazon box sitting on a hardwood floor.
Hadrian/Shutterstock.com

It’s never been easier to acquire new books. There are so many online markets for new and used books, it’s almost impossible not to find the book you want online.

Here are some of our favorite sites:

  • Amazon: The tech giant we know today started as one of the first online bookstores. It remains the leading marketplace for ordering books and e-readers. Many writers skip print versions entirely and self-publish their books straight to the Kindle Store.
  • ThriftBooks: This is our favorite site to buy books. It has a huge library of used titles for insanely cheap (everything we’ve ordered has been under $4). Usually, if you order more than $10 to $15 worth of books, you get free shipping. The only caveat is it can sometimes take a couple of weeks to get your stuff.
  • Abe Books: Another great online site with tons of used books. This site also has a lot of first editions and rare books. If you have the cash, they even have some incredibly expensive giant maps and manuscripts from centuries ago.
  • Book Finder: This website indexes books that are for sale all over the internet. You can search by author, title, and ISBN. Then, you can search by individual entry across many sites. It’s useful when you’re having trouble finding a particular title or if you just want to find the cheapest option.
  • Project Gutenberg: This online library of 60,000+ e-books are all in the public domain, so they’re free to distribute and download. Most of these are classics and old books that are difficult to find in hard copy.

AudioBooks

A pair of headphones around three books.
Roman Samsonov/Shutterstock

If you’d like to read more, but just don’t have the time, audiobooks are a great option. They allow you to listen to books while you’re driving, doing the yard work, cleaning the house, or any other fun adult chore. The narrators also add their personal flair, which, when done right, can add a lot to the story.

Here are our favorite services for audiobooks:

  • Audible: The largest seller and producer of audiobooks, this Amazon company is also integrated into the Kindle environment. This means it’s incredibly easy to download titles to your e-reader, or you can use the Audible app (iOS, Android).
  • Audiobooks.com: This popular audiobook hub has thousands of books and podcasts available for download. You subscribe for a monthly fee, and then you can check out two books every month. There are also special offers if you want to purchase more.
  • Overdrive: You can check out thousands of audiobooks for free from your local library or school with this app. It also includes two other apps that have the same e-book collection. The Libby app has a more modern design, while the Sora app is specifically for schools and children.

Online Communities and Blogs

A bunch of hands in a circle holding phones.
View Apart/Shutterstock

If you want to discover new books and authors, you only get so much from the title, cover, and brief description. Fortunately, there are many online communities that rate, review, and discuss all forms of literature.

These sites can give you a better idea of what a book is about, and help you find new authors in your favorite genres:

  • Goodreads: This site has over 90 million members, making it the largest book community on the web. When you create an account, you can keep track of the books you’ve read, rate them, and publish reviews. You can also follow other users, and see what they’re reading and what they’ve reviewed. It’s the perfect place to connect with other readers and get recommendations.
  • Bookish: Bookish is an editorial site filled with literary articles and book reviews. It’s also a fantastic resource if you want to start a book club because it provides recommendations, discussion guides, games, challenges, and more.
  • Amazon Book Review: This popular book blog has a very active group of reviewers. It mainly sticks to books available on Amazon (which is almost every book published), but there’s also a regular podcast and newsletter.
  • Reddit: There are tons of book-related subreddits with incredibly active communities. r/books is the most popular, and it’s full of general book discussions and recommendations. r/bookclub is, essentially, an online book club. Members regularly pick new books to read and discuss. It has 70k subscribers, so it’s a great way to find new books and get involved in the community. r/booksuggestions and r/suggestmeabook are also fairly active. If you share the kind of books and genres you like, other members with similar taste will make suggestions and help you find new books.

Book lovers should never run out of options with so many great resources to find new books. Whether you peruse the stacks at your library or join a virtual book club, there will always be more books to read!





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18 Ways to Dress up Delicious Homemade Caramel Apples – LifeSavvy

delicious caramel apples coated with different toppings
Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

Making homemade caramel apples is a great activity the whole family can get involved in. From preparing your apples to coating them with caramel, each step is full of festive fun.

While making a basic caramel apple is fun, our favorite part, of course, is embellishing each apple with exciting ingredients. If you need a little inspiration for choosing the perfect toppings, we’ve got you covered.  Check out these 18 ways to dress up your homemade caramel apples.

Melted Chocolate Drizzle

Two caramel apples -- one with drizzled white chocolate on top and the other covered in colorful sprinkles.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Here is a simple way to pretty up your apples. After they have cooled and slightly hardened, melt chocolate and place it in a squeeze bottle. Drizzle the apple with melted chocolate and create a lovely looking snack.

Mini Marshmallows

You can carefully place a handful of marshmallows on the caramel-coated apple. You’ll have the best combination of crisp and tart mixed with light and fluffy.

S’mores Caramel Apple

Bonfires are always a fun fall activity and often involve cooking s’mores over the open flame. If you’d like a caramel apple version, try this one. After dipping your apple in caramel, drizzle melted chocolate and add crushed graham cracker and mini marshmallows to create a s’mores treat.

Crushed Candy Bar

Place your candy bar in a plastic baggie; then use a rolling pin to crush the bar. You can do this by rolling or lightly tapping the rolling pin over the candy bar. Either sprinkle or dip your apple right in the crushed candy.

Chopped Nuts

This one is a classic for caramel apples. You can use peanuts, cashews, walnuts, or even pecans. After your apple is coated with caramel, dip it in a bowl of chopped nuts and enjoy. For a sweet and savory flair, try dipping in salted nuts.

White Chocolate Spider Web

A caramel apple drizzled with a white chocolate spider web
Emilee Unterkoefler

If you’re hoping for a little bit of a spooky twist, create a white chocolate spider web. Melt white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and pour it into a squeeze bottle. Then carefully draw lines from the center of the apple, where the stick is located. After you draw several vertical lines, connect each with a curved line as pictured above.

Mini Chocolate Chips

Dip your fruit in a bowl of mini chocolate chips or sprinkle some all around. You can also choose to use peanut butter chips or any flavor of your choice.

Crushed Oreos

People of all ages love Oreos. They taste great on their own or immersed in cold milk, so why not crush them up and cover your apple with them? This cookies-and-cream version of a caramel apple is simply delicious.

Chopped Candy Corn

Candy Corn is a “love it or hate it” type of candy. If you fall on the “love it” side, grab a handful, chop it up, and sprinkle some on to your caramel apple.

Sprinkles

A caramel apple coated with rainbow sprinkles
Emilee Unterkoefler

Sprinkles are another classic way to decorate your caramel apple. Simply choose your favorite type (rainbow, Halloween colored, or chocolate) and dip your apple in a bowl full of sprinkles. If you don’t want that many, you can also scatter some on.

Chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Peanut butter goes great with apples, which is why Reese’s are the perfect topping for this fruit. Chop some up and place individual pieces around the bottom for a fancy appeal.

Sprinkled Sea Salt

Salted Caramel is another fan-favorite flavor. Sprinkle a little bit of sea salt right on top of the caramel and have yourself a bite.

Crushed Pretzels

Crush up some pretzels and dip your apple in for another great salted caramel version. You’ll get crispy, crunchy, salty, and sweet all in one bite.

Mummy Caramel Apple

A caramel apple drizzled with white chocolate to resemble a cute mummy.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Melt white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and carefully pour it into a squeeze bottle. After your caramel apple has been dipped and cooled, place two eyeball sprinkles side by side on the apple. Then drizzle white chocolate all around the apple until it looks like a mummy, but make sure the eyes are visible. This is a great one for Halloween parties.

Peanut Butter Drizzle

You may also melt a little bit of peanut butter and drizzle it right over the apple. However, this one gets a little messy, so grab your napkins and enjoy.

M&M’s

Kids especially love this fun and tasty decoration. Either dip your apple in a bowl of M&M’s or sprinkle some right on the apple and enjoy the crunchy sweet snack. You can even give your kids a fun project by having them create smiley faces with M&M’s.

Shaved Coconut

Coconut gives a fresh new taste to this sweet snack. You can get creative, and dip half of the apple, or coat the whole fruit.

Your Favorite Cereal

Whether you love fruit loops, or lucky charms is your thing, cereal makes an excellent coating for these apples. Have your kids choose a fun, colorful cereal and coat your apple for a crunchy and yummy bite.





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