Good morning! A whole slew of usernames and plaintext passwords were leaked for a number of different sites—at 772 million and 21 million respectively, it’s the largest data leak in history. Here’s how to make sure your information is still safe.
This collection of email address and passwords—dubbed “Collection #1”—groups together several smaller breaches into a larger master file of sorts. This huge collection of data comes from several different sites, so your personal info may have been compromised from multiple different sources. That means your information could’ve been compromised multiple times—the same email address with different passwords.
Collection #1 was obtained by Have I Been Pwned owner Troy Hunt, which he then cleaned up, uploaded to the service, and penned a detailed blog post about. For those who may not be familiar with the service, Have I Been Pwned is an excellent resource to find out whether your data has been compromised in any existing breach to date.
So, to find out if your email or passwords have been compromised with the Collection #1 leak—or any other before it—head over to Have I Been Pwned, enter your email address, and brace yourself for the results. You can also subscribe to email alerts so in the future you’ll know if your email address has been compromised as soon as the data is available.
This also serves as a good reminder to use strong, unique passwords on all sites you visit. A good way to do this is by letting a password manager do all the heavy lifting for you—a good one will generate a strong password and remember it for you. The only thing you need to do is remember the master password for the vault.
Fitbit is one of the leading fitness wearable manufacturers on the planet, and now it’s going to let users share their data with the All of Us research program. It will be the first fitness-based company to do so.
For those unfamiliar with All of Us, it’s a crowdsourced program dedicated to gathering information from a variety of users to further medical research for precision medicine (read: personalized treatments) at an accelerated rate. The program wants to gather information from at least one million participants, with data coming from surveys, electronic health records, physical measurements, biosamples, and digital health tech. It’s all opt-in and “strict safeguards” are used to protect privacy.
The big news here is, of course, Fitbit’s partnership with All of Us. This marks the first time a fitness company has opted to contribute to the goal of All of Us. Fitbit users who wish to participate can sign up for All of Us, then choose to sync their Fitbit data to the program. That data includes physical activity, heart rate, and sleep patterns.
The cool thing here is that Fitbit device isn’t even required to participate—just a Fitbit account. If you have a Fitbit account and use it “manually,” you can choose to sync that data with All of Us.
There’s also a second part to this program. Eventually, All of Us hopes to send out up to 10 thousand Fitbit devices of unknown model to random participants. This will help All of Us gather more data from users who already participate in the program.
But on a more personal note, the goal of All of Us (which I hadn’t heard of before today) is exciting to me because I’m the father of a chronically ill child. The research being done here could ultimately mean a longer life for him and many others who live with a chronic illness. More participants and more data are very small things that lead to very big results.
To learn more about All of Us, the data they collect, and what this data aims to help with, head here. You can go here to sign up to participate in the program.
Google is an ad company at heart but has been focusing on its hardware game more and more as of late. Today Fossil announced plans to sell its smartwatch tech to Google for a cool $40 million.
While details of the sale are still very light, the path is pretty clear: Google wants what Fossil has for to bolster Wear OS. Fossil has been one of the only companies to consistently release good Wear OS devices, with the latest being one of the few to currently use the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 chipset that was specifically designed for Wear OS.
The sale is for more than just that, however, as Fossil apparently has some top secret smartwatch junk in development. That was likely enough to push Google over the edge and offer to buy the tech, and Fossil was happy to make a deal.
This could potentially lead to a long-rumored-but-never-seen Pixel Watch, which Wear OD lovers have been longing for since whispers of such a product first started trickling out. That’s no guarantee, of course, but it seems more likely than ever with the acquisition.
So what is to happen to Fossil’s smartwatch releases? That’s not totally clear, but the company says it will “continue to unlock growth in wearables” alongside Google, whatever that means. All in all, Google is not only getting Fossil’s secret tech, but a small group of its employees for that dollars. Hopefully, this will work out as well for the company as well as buying part of HTC has.
Microsoft’s core Office 365 client apps—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook—all contain a setting that lets you enable “Office Intelligent Services.” So, what are these, why are they turned on, and should you turn them off? Let’s find out.
If you have an Office 365 subscription then in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook there is a section in File > Options > General called “Office intelligent services.” (If you’ve just purchased Office as a stand-alone set of apps without an O365 subscription then this section won’t be available to you.)
The single checkbox, “Enable Services,” works across all of these apps, so it’s turned on or off for all apps; there’s no individual selection. Turning it on in any app will turn it on in every app, and likewise turning it off in any app will turn it off in every app.
What are Office Intelligent Services?
Put simply, Office Intelligent Services (OIS) are dynamic, cloud-based services that provide useful extra functions to make your work better. As an example, Microsoft offers a translation feature that will translate a section of text or a whole document. This is an OIS feature that is only available for O365 users who have the “Enable Services” checkbox switched on.
Note: To use some of the other services, you need to keep another default value switched on, as well. In Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook, open File > Options > Trust Center and click “Trust Center Settings.”
It’s the year 2019, and everyone willingly carries a tracking device in their pockets. People can have their precise locations tracked in real time by the government, advertising companies, and even rogue bounty hunters. It sounds like dystopian fiction—but it’s a reality.
We like debunking sensationalist stories, but this latest controversy is true. Your phone’s precise location can be tracked in several different ways.
How Rogue Bounty Hunters Can Track Your Location
The latest controversy was touched off by Joseph Cox over at Motherboard, who gave a bounty hunter $300 and a phone number. That bounty hunter managed to find the precise, current location of the cellular phone associated with that phone number, down to a few hundred meters.
Wait, slow down: How?
Well, apparently AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all sell data—including geographic locations associated with customer phone numbers—to a variety of sketchy third-party companies. This data might be used by the bail bond industry to track people down, for example. But there’s not much oversight, and rogue bounty hunters have access to the data. “People are reselling to the wrong people,” a source in the bail industry told Motherboard.
Here’s the sad thing: This isn’t even a new problem! The New York Times reported that this could happen back in May 2018. Cellular carriers promised to do better. For example, T-Mobile CEO John Legere promised to not “sell customer location data to shady middleman” in response to the New York Times Story back in June 2018
The good news is that AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have all promised to stop selling this data to aggregators in response to Motherboard’s January 2019 story. And it seems like Verizon already stopped after the earlier New York Times story.
What You Can Do About It: Hope carriers stop selling your data to shady intermediaries this time, as promised.
How the Government Can Track Your Location
It’s worth emphasizing that the government itself can still get access to your location data from your cellular company. They just need to get a warrant, and they can serve that to your cellular service provider. The cellular provider can then provide your location to the government, even going so far as to provide real-time updates. (And yes, the US Supreme Court has ruled that police need a warrant to get this information!)
5G will revolutionize the way we use the Internet, bringing high-speed data everywhere, creating smart cities, and even replacing home Internet connections. That’s what the industry says, anyway. But when is 5G coming to your city?
What Is 5G?
Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are racing to get 5G on your phone and in your home. But what is 5G, and how is it different from 4G LTE?
5G is the wireless standard that will replace 4G LTE. It can theoretically reach speeds up to 10 gigabits per second, which is very fast—but 20 Gbps is the minimum target. To put things into perspective, that could theoretically be a hundred times as fast a 4G LTE connection, much faster than a ten megabits per second wired connection, and comparable to the speeds that people get with wired fiber connections.
And even though it’s a wireless connection, 5G has a much lower latency than the wired connection you have at home. According to the FCC, fiber connections tend to have a 17-millisecond delay, and cable Internet connections tend to have a latency of about 28 milliseconds. But AT&T claims that their 5G connections have a delay between 9 and 12 milliseconds. That shortened delay time makes streaming, downloading, gaming, and video chatting much more reliable.
Service providers have been testing 5G in the real world to see how it works. Plus, they’re racing to get your money. As a result, there are already some cities that have 5G connections. If you happen to live in one of these cities, you’ll want to keep in mind that you can’t really use mobile 5G connections without a compatible phone, so you’ll have to wait a few months before 5G products start hitting the market.
These US cities have 5G right now, as of January 17, 2019:
A lot of people won’t wash their hair every day, whether for the sake of convenience or for hair health. But how do you keep your hair looking clean between those washes? Dry shampoo.
Before you go out and buy the first dry shampoo that you see, you should consider your personal hair needs. There are a bunch of different dry shampoos that are made specifically for different kinds of hair. Is your hair super oily or is it dry and, perhaps even, chemically damaged? Do you have colored hair? Do you like to style your hair with a bit of volume?
Even when you’ve figured out what kind of dry shampoo you need, it can still be hard to find a good product. Most stores only carry one or two brands of all-purpose dry shampoo, and there are hundreds of brands and products to choose from online. That’s why we’ve taken the time to find the best dry shampoos for everybody’s hair care needs.
All Purpose and Affordable: Not Your Mother’s ($8)
Some people don’t need a specialized dry shampoo. If you’re looking for an affordable, all-purpose product that can keep your hair from looking unwashed or greasy, then you should consider looking at Not Your Mother’s dry shampoo. It doesn’t leave any powdery residue and just gets the job done.
While an all-purpose dry shampoo may work well for some people, there’s a chance that it won’t work well for you. If your hair is dry and damaged, colored, or extra oily, then you might get more use out of a specialized product. For everyone else, however, this is a real steal: 2 huge bottles for only $8.
If your hair is especially oily, then you’ll want to use a dry shampoo that’s specifically designed for oily hair. Living Proof’s dry shampoo works especially well for extra-oily hair, without making it as dry as straw or leaving a residue.
You could always use an all-purpose dry shampoo for your super oily hair, but you might find yourself using too much of it. Caking your hair with an all-purpose dry shampoo will inevitably leave residue on your head, cause a powdery discoloration, and it might make your hair look stiff or brittle. That’s where a made-for-extra-oily-hair dry shampoo really shines.
Some people have naturally dry hair, but they still need to keep it looking clean. Klorane dry shampoo is formulated with oat milk, which hydrates and cleans your hair. It’s a great option for people that have dry, dead hair, or for people that don’t like how straw-like their hair feels after using other dry shampoos.
Volumize Your Flat, Oily Hair: Redken Pillow Proof ($13)
When your hair is oily after a spell, it can look a little flat. That’s an obvious problem for anybody with a voluminous hairstyle or loose curls. Dry shampoo is great for taking those oils out of your hair, but most dry shampoos can’t replace the time-consuming process of washing and styling that are essential to maintaining a voluminous hairstyle.
Hidden in every user profile is a file named NTUSER.DAT. This file contains the settings and preferences for each user, so you shouldn’t delete it and probably shouldn’t edit it. Windows automatically loads, changes, and saves the file for you.
NTUSER.DAT Contains Your User Profile Settings
Every time you make a change to the look and behavior of Windows and installed programs, whether that’s your desktop background, monitor resolution, or even which printer is the default, Windows needs to remember your preferences the next time it loads.
Windows accomplishes this by first storing that information to the Registry in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive. Then when you sign out or shut down, Windows saves that information to the NTUSER.DAT file. The next time you sign in, Windows will load NTUSER.DAT to memory, and all your preferences load to the Registry again. This process lets you personal settings unique to your user profile, like your chosen desktop background.
The name NTUSER.DAT is a holdover from Windows NT, first introduced with Windows 3.1. Microsoft uses the DAT extension with any file that contains data.
Every User has an NTUSER.DAT File
Windows didn’t always have full support for user profiles. In early versions when you started Windows, every user of the computer saw the same desktop, files, and programs. Now Windows better supports multiple users on the same machine, and it does this by placing an NTUSER.DAT file in every user’s profile. You can get there by opening File Explorer and either browsing to:
A weighted average is one that takes into account the importance, or weight, of each value. This article will show you how to use Excel’s SUMPRODUCT and SUM functions individually and how to combine the two to calculate a weighted average.
What is a Weighted Average?
A weighted average is an average that takes into account the importance, or weight, of each value. A good example would be calculating a student’s final grade based on their performance on a variety of different assignments and tests. Individual assignments usually don’t count as much towards a final grade as the final exam—things like quizzes, tests, and final exams will all have different weights. The weighted average is calculated as the sum of all of the values multiplied by their weights divided by the sum of all of the weights.
The following example will demonstrate how to use Excel’s SUMPRODUCT and SUM functions to calculate a weighted average.
Let’s Look at an Example
For our example, let’s look at a student’s quiz and exam scores. There are six quizzes each worth 5% of the total grade, two exams each worth 20% of the total grade, and one final exam worth 30% of the total grade. The student’s final grade will be a weighted average, and we will use the SUMPRODUCT and SUM functions to calculate it.
As you can see in our table below, we’ve already assigned the relative weights to each quiz and exam in the D column.
Step One: Calculate the SUMPRODUCT
First, let’s look at how the SUMPRODUCT function works. Start by selecting the cell where you want the result to appear (in our example, that’s cell D13). Next, navigate to the “Formulas” menu, select the “Math & Trig” drop-down, scroll to the bottom, and click on the “SUMPRODUCT” function.
For the longest time, ES File Explorer was the de facto file manager on Android. As time has gone on, however, it’s proven to be less trustworthy. A recent vulnerability reminds us why there are better choices now.
As reported by Android Police, there’s a new vulnerability in ES that exposes your files to anyone on the same network—you only need to open the app once. This bug was found by researching Elliot Alderson, who posted about it on Twitter.
With more than 100,000,000 downloads ES File Explorer is one of the most famous #Android file manager.
The surprise is: if you opened the app at least once, anyone connected to the same local network can remotely get a file from your phone https://t.co/Uv2ttQpUcN
Apparently, ES leaves port 59777 open on your phone after it’s launched, giving anyone on the same network access to the file structure and beyond. An attacker can use that open port to inject a JSON payload, then get access to—and download—all of your info.
The upside is that the ES team knows about the issue and says it’s been fixed, with an update incoming:
We have fixed the http vulnerability issue and released it. Waiting for the Google market to pass the review.
Still, given ES’ rocky history, this is just another opportunity to remind everyone there are better options out there. If you insist on using ES, I would at least suggestion steering clear of it until the update that fixes this bug is available in the Play Store.
Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant has struggled to stay relevant, and it looks like it’s reached its last brick wall. Cortana will no longer compete with other voice assistants, but will instead be available as an Alexa Skill, as well as work with Google Assistant at some point.
The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, admitted during an event earlier this week that Cortana hasn’t been able to compete well with Alexa and Google Assistant, but said that it’s still a core feature for its customers, most notably those who use Office 365.
With that said, Nadella confirmed that Cortana will be available on Alexa devices via an Alexa Skill that you’ll be able to install. From there, you’ll be able to ask Alexa to call upon Cortana. Nadella also wants Cortana to be available on Google Assistant, but it seems like that integration is still in the works for now.
This certainly doesn’t seem like a surprising move, as Microsoft has greeted Alexa with open arms in the past, with Amazon’s voice assistant already integrated into various Microsoft products like Skype and the Xbox One, as well as in Windows. While Cortana was originally seen as a direct competitor, it’s clear that’s no longer the case.
Staying hydrated is important all the time, but this is especially true if you work out. And when it comes down to it, CamelBak’s Podium Big Chill bottles are fantastic. Today, you can grab a trio for just $20.
If you’re not familiar with CamelBak’s bottle lineup, here’s the quick and dirty: they have the Podium, which are uninsulated 20 ounce bottles; the Podium Chill, which are insulated 20 ounce bottles, the Podium Big Chill, which are insulated 25 ounce bottles, and the Podium Ice, which are highly insulated 21 ounce bottles.
But here’s the thing: CamelBak recently redesigned its bottles to work better for cyclists—the older design was kind of off in a bottle cage on a bike. The new design works much better in that scenario.
Because of the redesign, however, they’re knocking the price on the older design. So you can grab three of the 25 ounce Big Chill bottles for just $20 if you use the coupon code 3FOR20on CamelBak’s website. The bottles come in nine different colors, and it appears they’re all still in stock at the time of writing.
If you’re in the market for some new hydration equipment for the gym, on a run, or just for general use, these bottles are excellent. They hold a lot of water, keep it cold for twice as long as uninsulated bottles, and also look great.
You spent good money on a nice pair of headphones, so stop tossing them on your desk or leaving them dangling precariously off a drawer knob. Rest your favorite headphones on one of these great made-for-the-task stands instead.
It’s nice to have somewhere more stylish to store your cans. It can immediately make your work surroundings look so much neater and more organized than before. However, some of these headset stands aren’t just focused on looks. They also come with a few extra features—like audio passthrough—that will enhance your listening experience. Whatever your requirements, there’s a great headset stand for you here. Here’s our pick of the best headset and headphone stands out there.
Best Premium Headset Stand: Corsair Gaming ST100 RGB Premium Headset Stand ($60)
If you want a headset stand that does more than most, you can’t fault the Corsair Gaming ST100 RGB Premium Headset Stand. It has a built-in 3.5mm analog input that enables full range Stereo or 7.1 surround sound. Alongside that are two USB 3.1 inputs so you can easily charge your headset, phone, and other devices through the stand. To finish things off, there’s also dynamic RGB lighting across 9 zones which has near unlimited color options.
On top of the practical functions, it looks great too. It’s sleek and stylish looking with a non-slip rubberized base so that your headset won’t cause the stand to tip over. It costs twice as much as any of our other selections but you’re defintiely get more than twice as much value.
Best For Classic Style: Wooden Omega Headphone Stand ($28)
If form over function is more your thing then the Wooden Omega Headphone Stand is a delightful option. With a dark walnut finish to it, the stand is 10 inches tall with a 4.5″ x 5.5″ base with felt pads so your desk won’t get scratched. Simply hang your headphones or headset over the stand so they look good while resting.
There’s not much more to it but there doesn’t need to be. This is as much a form of art as it is a practical way of storing your headphones safely. It’ll look particularly good next to your sofa, as well as on your desk.
Best For Space Saving: Avantree Aluminium Headphone Stand ($19)
If you haven’t got much space to utilize, the Avantree Aluminium Headphone Stand is a good option to pursue. Its circular base has a circumference of 5.9 inches so it’ll fit in just about anywhere. The base is stable with anti-slip protection, while the rest of the construction is made from solid steel so there’s no risk of instability elsewhere.
Soft silicone support up top means there’s no danger of scratching your headphones either.
It looks pretty good too, with the kind of style that will fit perfectly on your desk or next to a games console set up. Just bear in mind that cables can look a little messy wrapped up here. Wireless headphones will look great though.
Windows 10 Mobile support is coming to an end in December. Microsoft stopped developing features for the Mobile OS in 2017, but with this news, all updates come to an end, marking a final death to a once-promising mobile OS.
All Support is Coming to an End
Microsoft recently updated its support page for Windows 10 Mobile to note the change in status. After December 10th, any Windows 10 Mobile on the 1709 build will stop receiving any updates whether security related or not. The company will also discontinue any free support options or online technical assistance.
Users on build 1703 will see end up support even sooner—June 11th, 2019. If you’re wondering about 1803 and 1809, these builds never made it to Windows Phones.
Some Services will Stop Later
After the end of support, Windows Phones will continue to work, but some features will eventually shut down. Automatic and manual backups for settings and apps will cease after March 10, 2020. And services like photo upload and device restore will stop December 2020.
Your Next Move Should be to Switch to a new Mobile OS
Microsoft says it best. Switch to Android or iOS:
With the Windows 10 Mobile OS end of support, we recommend that customers move to a supported Android or iOS device. Microsoft’s mission statement to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, compels us to support our Mobile apps on those platforms and devices.
If you’re one of the few diehards who stuck out this long, you may find welcome surprises. Microsoft apps on iOS and Android are exceptionally well supported, and offer features not seen on Windows Phones today. Both an iOS and Android version of Outlook exists, along with an iOS and Android version of OneDrive. And if you need any help deciding, we think one phone really stood out last year.
TV’s are getting cheaper and cheaper, but you shouldn’t grab the smallest, cheapest TV that you can find. If you’ve been waiting for a great TV deal, now’s your chance to buy an Insignia 39″ smart TV for just $149.99.
Whether you’re trying to replace your old TVs or add some new TVs to your home, the Insignia 39″ smart TV is a great option. It’ has Amazon Fire and Alexa capabilities, so you can stream your favorite episodes of ‘Tidying Up’ without touching a remote. And since the Insignia is a cozy 39″, it’ll work perfectly in some of the spare rooms of your home.
Best Buy is offering the Insignia 39″ smart TV for $149.99 right now, which is $100 less than the retail price. It’s their Deal of The Day, but it may sell out in a couple of hours, so you’ll have to think fast.
If you want to save a little bit more money, you can always grab a 32″ Insignia smart TV from Best Buy $129.99. Just keep in mind that neither of these deals will last long, so you don’t want to spend too much time thinking about size.
See, the $3-a-month toolset, which will come with all supported smartphone plans in March, only displays “the level of spam risk” in the system’s built-in caller ID readout. So if a spammer is calling, it will tell you it’s spam. But the call will still go through, ringing your phone and interrupting your day, whether or not Verizon is certain that the call is coming from a robot or spammer.
Update: It looks like you can use the service to auto-block Spam calls, but this isn’t enabled by default. It also uses a crowdsourced blacklist, so there’s a chance it could block calls that you don’t want to be blocked. Use it at your own risk.
What’s the point of this? Now that billions of spam calls are being made, they’re far and away the most common form of calls for a lot of people—just like spam email and junkmail have already become for email and snail mail. Of the twenty or so calls I get a week, eighteen of them are now robo-dialed spam calls. And I can tell which ones they are, no caller ID alert necessary, because they’re either a randomized number from my original area code or coming from area codes where I don’t know anyone. As long as the calls come through, they’re still bothering me. Blocking numbers one-by-one is equally useless since the VOIP systems used to randomize the numbers for each call.
Companies like Google are working on this problem: the digital assistant-powered screen function built into Pixel phones is a good start. But as a hardware and software provider, Google can only do so much. Verizon owns the connections being used to enable this scourge of distraction and wasted time. A tiny warning that comes along with your unavoidable interruption isn’t much of a help.
If Verizon can identify spam callers, which should now be ridiculously easy from a data gathering standpoint, it should be able to stop them. But it won’t. It’s good that it’s making formerly-paid tools free. It’s just too bad that those Verizon tools are essentially useless at any price. If there’s a solution to the spam call hell we’ve found ourselves in for the last few years, Verizon apparently isn’t interested in providing it.
I remember when the Wii first came out—such a killer and innovative (for the time) console. But all good things must come to an end, and its time is coming as Nintendo slowly shuts down services on the aging platform.
Nintendo initially announced that it was sunsetting all video streaming service on the Wii as of January 31st, 2019, but that date will also see the closure of the Wii Shop Channel. It’s unlikely that many people are still using the Shop Channel, but here’s your reminder: if you have pending Points, it’s time to use them now.
The Wii has had a nice, long run, but it’s about to get a little lonelier come January 31, when Nintendo plans to shut down the Wii Shop Channel. That means no more buying games online, no more downloading games you’ve previously purchased, and no more Wii Transfer tool, which allows you to transfer digitally purchased games from the Wii to its successor, the Wii U. By turning these tools off, Nintendo is effectively shutting down the last vestiges of support for the Wii.
So, maybe fire the old girl up one last time to run through the Shop and make sure there’s nothing that you’ve been putting off for the past decade or so because once the shop is closed, that’s it. You’ll still be able to play your existing games—many of which are still admittedly fun as hell—but that’s about it. No more digital purchases, no more streaming video. The end of an era.
As an aside, if anyone wants to come over and throw some Wii Bowling with me for old times’ sake, hit me up and let’s make it happen.
Most of the time, using a portrait orientation for document pages makes sense. Occasionally, such as when you have a large table that requires that extra bit of horizontal space, you might need to change to a landscape orientation instead. Here’s how to do that in Google Docs.
Unfortunately, Google Docs only lets you change the page orientation of an entire document, not just parts of it. If you’re coming from something like Word, which does let you orient different sections in different ways, you’ll have to get used to that limitation. So, you won’t be able to insert a single landscape page in an otherwise portrait-oriented document, something that would be very useful.
Still, being able to change the orientation for your entire document can certainly be useful in some situations.
How to Change Page Orientation in Google Docs
pen the “File” menu and then click “Page Setup” to open the Page Setup window.
At the top of this window, in the “Orientation” section, you can switch your document between portrait and landscape. Make your choice and then click “OK” to apply your selection.
Plex Media Servers are great for storing and accessing all your movies, tv shows, and other media. Unfortunately, Plex Server hardware can be expensive, electricity intensive, or both. To reduce both bills, use a Raspberry Pi for a Plex Server.
What You Need to Know
Running a Raspberry Pi as a Plex Server does come with several benefits. It won’t take up as much room as a server or a full-size PC. It also will use less electricity, even when idle all day. Best of all, it costs less than most other hardware capable of working as a server.
There are some downsides to be aware of, though. The Raspberry Pi 3 has an ARM processor that just doesn’t have the power to support transcoding. So when you are setting up your videos, you are going to want to choose MKV as your video format. That will usually bypass the need for transcoding. (Just about every Plex player supports MKV without transcoding on the fly, but a few smart TVs might have problems.)
Even then, while you’ll be able to watch standard Blu-ray quality locally, you probably won’t be able to view these videos remotely. And 4K Videos are likely not going to play well either. Also, keep in mind that this is not officially supported, and you’ll need to update the server software manually.
But once you account for those potential pitfalls, the Raspberry Pi does make a competent Plex Media Server.
Compared to using a dedicated full PC or an NVIDIA Shield as a Plex Server, the costs to get started with a Raspberry Pi are relatively low. You’ll need:
Geeks often ask for dumb TVs. But, as the CTO of Vizio recently explained, smart TVs are cheaper than dumb TVs. TVs are so cheap that manufacturers make their profit by tracking your viewing habits and selling ads.
Why Smart TVs Are Cheaper Than Dumb TVs
You’d think a dumb TV would be cheaper than a smart TV. After all, a dumb TV wouldn’t need the processing power and specialized software found on a smart TV. It could just act as a panel (like a computer monitor) and let you hook up devices via HDMI.
So why is every TV becoming a smart TV?
The Verge talked to Vizio CTO Bill Baxer at CES 2019. He spilled the beans:
So look, it’s not just about data collection. It’s about post-purchase monetization of the TV.
This is a cutthroat industry. It’s a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it’s pretty ruthless. You could say it’s self-inflicted, or you could say there’s a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don’t need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost.
This isn’t all bad. He goes on to explain that Vizio is investing in its old TVs and updating them with new software. For example, Vizio TVs going back to 2016 will be receiving AirPlay support. And advertising is just one part of the business model, which also includes money from movie and TV show rentals initiated from the TV.
Automatic Content Recognition Tracks What You Watch
If you never use your smart TV’s software, you might think it isn’t tracking you. You use a set-top box or streaming stick like a Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, Android TV, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One. So your smart TV’s built-in software can’t track you—right?
Wrong. Modern smart TVs use a technique called “automatic content recognition,” or ACR. When you watch something on any device plugged into the TV—yes, even if you have a device plugged in via HDMI—the TV captures some pixels from whatever you’re watching and uploads them to the TV manufacturer’s servers. The servers can match that to a movie or TV show. The TV manufacturer now knows what you’re watching, and it can sell that data to marketers and advertisers.
It’s hard to spend $12 or $15 on a meal every day, but it can be even harder to prep and pack your lunches. Why not make meal prep painless with these great products?
Taking some of your Sunday downtime to prep the meals for your work week is a great way to save money and eat healthier. But cooking a week’s worth of food can be a bit complicated, and you can end up spending hours of your day cooking and cleaning.
That’s why it’s important to arm yourself with products that make meal prep Sunday as easy and painless as possible. If you want to be able to cook foods in bulk with minimal hassle, then you’ll need to invest in some bulk cooking, measuring, and storage solutions.
A lot of these products will pay for themselves, and they can be used for any cooking projects, not just meal prep Sunday.
Cook Food In Bulk ($22+)
If you want to make your meal prep Sunday as quick and painless as possible, then you’ll need to cook your food in bulk. Luckily, there are a lot of products that can make bulk cooking easy and delicious. Remember, an expensive meal prep product will almost certainly pay for itself after a week or two of use.
Bulk cooking isn’t just easy, it’s also a great way to make healthy, flavorful food. You don’t need to use a lot of cooking oils, and you generally don’t have to worry about any meats or veggies coming out undercooked.
Crock pots and Instant Pots are also pretty easy to clean up. Since you’re cooking everything in a single container, you don’t end up with a stack of dirty pots and pans. You also have time to clean up your utensils and cutting boards while your food is cooking, which is a major plus.
Here are our favorite bulk cooking products:
Crock Pot Cook and Carry ($23): Crock pots are inexpensive, easy, and durable. A quick Google search will help you find thousands of easy crock pot recipients. If you want to have a couple of different meals during your work week, you can buy two crock pots and spend your Sunday cooking two separate meals.
Instant Pot Pressure Cooker ($100): We’ve spent a lot of time hyping up the Instant Pot, and for good reason. It’s a cheap, popular pressure cooker that can be used to make just about everything. Instant pots are great for cooking healthy meals quickly, or for slow cooking a flavorful mess.
Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker ($100): We love the Anova precision cooker. It’s an affordable way to cook big meals with a ton of flavor, and it’s relatively easy to use. Plus, you can operate the Anova with your cellphone, so you don’t have to hover around your kitchen on meal prep Sunday.
Prep and Measure Your Ingredients ($11+)
If you’re going to cook food in bulk, then you’ll want to make sure that your prep work is done right. But you don’t need to eyeball ingredients or spend an hour chopping onions, there are a lot of products that can make prep easy.
Supercomputers were a massive race in the 90s, as the US, China, and others all competed to have the fastest computer. While the race has died down a bit, these monster computers still used to solve many of the world’s problems.
As Moore’s Law (an old observation stating that computing power doubles roughly every two years) pushes our computing hardware further, the complexity of the problems being solved increases as well. While supercomputers used to be reasonably small, nowadays they can take up entire warehouses, all filled up with interconnected racks of computers.
What Makes a Computer “Super”?
The term “Supercomputer” implies one gigantic computer many times more powerful than your simple laptop, but that couldn’t be farther from the case. Supercomputers are made up of thousands of smaller computers, all hooked up together to perform one task. Each CPU core in a datacenter probably runs slower than your desktop computer. It’s the combination of all of them that makes computing so efficient. There’s a lot of networking and special hardware involved in computers of this scale, and it isn’t as simple as just plugging each rack into the network, but you can envision them this way, and you wouldn’t be far off the mark.
Not every task can be parallelized so easily, so you won’t be using a supercomputer to run your games at a million frames per second. Parallel computing is usually good at speeding up very calculation-oriented computing.
Supercomputers are measured in FLOPS, or Floating Point Operations Per Second, which is essentially a measure of how quickly it can do math. The fastest one currently is IBM’s Summit, which can reach over 200 PetaFLOPS, a million times faster than “Giga” most people are used to.
So What Are They Used For? Mostly Science
Supercomputers are the backbone of computational science. They’re used in the medical field to run protein-folding simulations for cancer research, in physics to run simulations for large engineering projects and theoretical computation, and even in the financial field for tracking the stock market to gain an edge on other investors.
Perhaps the job that most benefits the average person is weather modeling. Accurately predicting whether you’ll need a coat and an umbrella next Wednesday is a surprisingly hard task, one that even the gigantic supercomputers of today can’t do with great accuracy. It’s theorized that in order to run full weather modelling, we’ll need a computer that measures its speed in ZettaFLOPS—another two tiers up from PetaFLOPS and around 5000 times faster than IBM’s Summit. We likely won’t hit that point until 2030, though the main issue holding us back isn’t the hardware, but the cost.
The upfront cost for buying or building all of that hardware is high enough, but the real kicker is the power bill. Many supercomputers can use up millions of dollars worth of power every year just to stay running. So while there’s theoretically no limit to how many buildings full of computers you could hook together, we only build supercomputers big enough to solve current problems.
So Will I Have a Supercomputer at Home in the Future?
In a sense, you already do. Most desktops nowadays rival the power of older supercomputers, with even the average smartphone having higher performance than the infamous Cray-1. So it’s easy to make the comparison to the past, and theorize about the future. But that’s largely due to the average CPU getting much faster over the years, which isn’t happening as quickly anymore.
When most people think of how you control smarthome devices and what you can do with them, they most likely envision the ability to control things from their smartphones or using their voice with Alexa or Google Assistant.
All of this is true, and it’s certainly the basis of controlling smarthome devices, but there’s also a lot more you can do with this stuff. Let’s go over a few cool ways you can improve your smarthome experience.
Using your phone to control things like the thermostat and your lights is pretty cool, especially when you can do it while you’re away from home. But the real superpower is not having to control them manually at all.
In an ideal smarthome, everything is automated—devices control themselves based on some parameters that you’ve set up ahead of time. There are several different ways you can automate everything, including by motion, scheduling, geofencing, or triggering by a separate action.
The Chromecast Audio is no more, and while existing units out in the wild will continue to work just fine, the change just highlights how much Google needs to refresh its original Google Home.
The Chromecast Audio was Google’s audio-only version of the Chromecast, and by plugging it into the auxiliary jack of a speaker or stereo system, it allowed users to beam music from their phones to their speaker system effortlessly. It didn’t matter if your sound system was decades old or brand new, if you could plug a 3.5 mm audio cable or optical cable into it, then you could bring it into your Google Home.
You can, of course, connect an external Bluetooth speaker to your Home speaker, but Google really just needs to refresh the original Home, as it’s getting a bit long in the tooth and the lack of audio out is more apparent than ever now. Here’s what they need to do in order to breathe new life into the speakers.
Upgrade the Speaker
The Google Home has never really been the better speaker when compared to the Echo, and Amazon has since refreshed the Echo with an even better speaker. Google needs to do the same.
Don’t get us wrong—the Google Home still sounds pretty good, especially compared to the Home Mini and even the Home Hub, but when comparing it side-by-side to the 2nd-generation Echo, the Home is outclassed.
Of course, there’s always the Home Max, which offers a much better sound experience for those who want the best audio quality possible. But for $400, it’s way more money than what a majority of people likely want to spend. Plus, a lot of us don’t need the best audio quality possible, but rather just a Google Home that at least competes with Echo speaker.
Today, DIY security system company Abode has released the 2nd-generation version of its gateway that comes with 4G cellular backup support, as well as improved Z-Wave connectivity thanks to an upgrade to Z-Wave Plus.
This is mostly just an internal hardware update, as the gateway on the outside remains completely unchanged and looks identical to the previous model. However, the addition of 4G makes cellular backup a bit more reliable this time around. And support for Z-Wave Plus means that users should see much better battery life out of their devices and sensors connected to the gateway, on top of improved reliability.
The updated gateway will automatically come included with the Abode Essential Kit for new buyers, and those with existing Abode gateways that want to upgrade can purchase a standalone gateway for $199 starting today on Abode’s website.
If you find yourself constantly plugging and unplugging HDMI cables from your TV, then it may be time to buy an HDMI switch.
Most people have a handful of game consoles, digital receivers, and video players in their entertainment center. But most TVs usually have just two or three HDMI ports, a frustrating design choice that can turn a simple game night into a complicated adventure behind the TV. If only you could add more HDMI ports to your TV!
Well, it’s clear that TV manufacturers aren’t going to suddenly start bulking up TVs to house more ports, so you have to take matters into your own hands. An HDMI switch is the easy cost-efficient way to add more HDMI ports to your TV, and it can actually help you organize all of the messy cables that have snaked their way around your entertainment center.
But there are a lot of HDMI switches to choose from, and they all serve different functions that will inevitably appeal to different people. Some HDMI switches are the size of a DVD player, but they’re usually remote-controlled, and easier to organize down the road. Some HDMI switches are small enough to hide behind your TV, but you may find yourself digging around to choose your video source or to reorganize your setup. Here’s a little something for everybody.
Proster 5×1 HDMI Switch and Audio Extractor ($27)
Not all TVs, projectors, or computer monitors have audio outputs. This isn’t a big deal for most people, but if you want to use external speakers in your entertainment setup, then you should consider getting an HDMI switch that supports audio extraction.
If you’re looking for a semi-automatic remote-controlled HDMI switch that has audio extraction capabilities, then you should check out the Proster HDMI switch. Its five HDMI inputs support 4K and 3D, so you don’t have to compromise quality for convenience. Plus, it has an auxiliary output and optical audio output for external speakers. The Proster also has an automatic function that, when active, can automatically switch to whichever source is outputting video.
The Proster is also small enough to hang behind your TV, which is a plus for anyone that wants to keep their entertainment center looking clean. It requires power from a micro-USB cable, but that’s to be expected from such a powerful little device.
iArkPower 3×1 HDMI Switch With Optical and RCA Outputs ($40)
The iArkPower is a nice, premium HDMI switch. Its three HDMI inputs support 4K and 3D, and it has an RCA output and optical audio output for external speakers. This device also comes with a remote control, and it has an automatic feature that can be toggled on and off.
Really, this is an HDMI switch that you don’t have to hide behind your TV. All of the ports are on the back of the device, so it looks good and is easy to access. This is a good HDMI switch for entertainment centers that don’t have a lot of hiding space, or for situations where you’ll be plugging and unplugging different video sources.