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How To Protect Your Online Privacy In Less Than 5 Minutes

privacy guide

We’re all lazier than we should be when it comes to online privacy, but there are a few things you can do to keep yourself from being taken advantage of by companies collecting data at every turn.

Even if you don’t care about your online privacy–you’re not doing anything illegal, of course–these things could keep embarrassing and annoying ads at bay.

Don’t assume Google is the only search

Instead of searching using Google, use DuckDuckGo–a search engine that doesn’t track you. You can set all computer and phone browsers to do this by default. You should still get the search results you want without using Google, and you won’t be feeding them more information.

duckduckgo

How-to
iPhone: Settings app > Safari > Search Engine > DuckDuckGo

Android: Android phone use various browsers so the quickest and easiest method is to download DuckDuckGo search app.

On a desktop/laptop: Follow the instructions for your specific browser here.

Google collects a lot of user data, but that doesn’t mean you need to feed it everything about you. Switching to a privacy-focused search engine will keep Google in the dark about all the things you’re looking up.

Message responsibly

Use a messaging app that is end-to-end encrypted. These types of apps keep your messages between you and the recipient. That means your words can’t be used to serve you targeted advertising, or in other malicious ways.

How to: download and use a secure messaging app like Signal, WhatsApp, Wire, or use Apple’s iMessage if both people are iPhone users.

Using a secure messaging app will keep your messages private, even if you’re on an unknown network or there’s a security breach.

Say yes to two-factor

When you sign up for a service and the option to use two-factor authentication is available, use it. Logging in through multiple means (something you know like a password and something you have with you like a phone) can keep your accounts safe from security breaches.

How to: say yes to two-factor going forward. To add it to existing accounts, follow these quick links to get started on: Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

Two-factor authentication is like putting your password on steroids. Any extra time and inconvenience is well worth it for the added protection and peace of mind.

Finally…

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re now 100% protected from prying eyes or invincible against any attacks, but these few things will mitigate over sharing personal information. It will also make critical accounts harder to be broken into.

While these quick tips will help keep you from oversharing personal information and make your accounts more secure, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re 100-percent protected or invincible against any attacks.

If you’re curious about what Google knows about you, can see that on CNBC. But, let’s be real, this is the 5-minute guide and those 5-minutes are likely up.

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The USB Cable Guide: Do You Need Type-C, Micro USB, Or Lightning?

usb cables

Here’s a super quick guide to help figure out which type of USB cable you need to charge your mobile device. The three most common connection types for phones and tablets are USB Type-C, Micro USB, and Lightning.

If you use an Apple iPhone or iPad, you want a Lightning cable. Simple as that.

USB Type-C and Micro USB are a little trickier to determine because, at a glance, they’re both small and look pretty similar. Micro USB had been the default connector type for Android devices and other electronics, but USB Type-C is beginning to slowly take its place to become the new standard.

different cable connectors

One way to tell the two apart is that the Type-C connector doesn’t have a top or bottom. It’s an oval, so it doesn’t matter which orientation way you plug it in. Conversely, the Micro USB connector does have a specific way it needs to be plugged in because it’s flat on the bottom and angled on the top.

Devices with USB Type-C

There’s no hard and fast rule for whether your device will use USB Type-C. It could have been used for a device manufactured from 2015 onward. But, here are a few of the most popular devices that need a USB Type-C charging cable:  

  • Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S9, Note 8, A7, A5, A3
  • Google’s Pixel, Pixel 2, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P
  • LG’s V20, V30, G6, G7
  • The Essential Phone
  • Nintendo Switch

Motorola, Xiaomi, HTC, Huawei, and OnePlus each have USB Type-C devices as well.

If you don’t see your device listed here AND it’s more than a year or two old, there’s a good chance you need a Micro USB cable.

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A Bunch Of Reasons You Need To Try New Gmail

email gmail

Gmail, the world’s most used and generally loved email service is finally getting a refreshed look and new features. The updated website look will eventually come to all users, but here are five features that should convince you to enable it now.

For the organized: Tasks, Keep, and Calendar in your sidebar

The sidebar in Gmail is finally useful with quick access to Tasks, Keep (notes app from Google), and Calendar. You can keep a to-do list with Tasks–even dragging emails over to it and automatically making the email a task. There’s a new iOS and Android app for Tasks to manage those when you’re not in Gmail.

gmail tasks

For the secret agents: Confidential mode

Confidential mode allows you to send emails which will disappear in a set amount of time. The details aren’t important, but you can email someone information and be confident it isn’t lingering around in their account longer than it needs to.

For the procrastinators: Snooze

Don’t want to deal with a message at the moment? Hit snooze and choose when the message will pop back into your inbox like a new message. The ability to ‘snooze’ a message is not new or ground breaking in the world of email, but it’s great to finally see Gmail add it to its list of features.

For the forgetful: Nudging

Gmail can pick up on key phrases that indicate a message is time sensitive so if you haven’t responded to a message that says something like, please let me know if you need to reorder supplies by friday, it can ‘nudge’ you to do so.

For paranoid: IRM (intellectual rights management)

IRM is another feature in the name of security. It will allow you to remove the ability for people to forward, copy, download or print messages you send them. If disappearing messages with a confidential mode doesn’t make sense, this is another way to cripple people’s ability to use your message in ways you don’t want them to.

How to enable

Click on the settings gear icon on the right side and the first option should be to enable the new look and features. If your Gmail account is part of a work domain, bug your admin to help you enable it.

Don’t worry, if you hate it you can always switch back to the ‘classic’ Gmail.

gmail enable

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If You’re Addicted To Your Phone, Try This Gray Hack

gray phone face

You’re addicted to your phone and want to to do something about it, but are still having a hard time disconnecting. Well, there might be a way to trick yourself into not overusing your phone on a daily basis.

The hack is to turn your phone grayscale, and it works simply because it makes your phone less appealing.

According to the New York Times, app makers are actually working with companies to scan “electrical activity of the brain while a consumer is interacting with a phone, such as texting and scrolling Facebook.”

They know that using certain colors can help draw you to tap on their app over a different one, and your attention is extremely valuable to them.

Turning your phone gray effectively makes scrolling through Instagram about as visually appealing as scrolling through your work email.

gray home

Going gray will be a punch to the eyes

When I first said goodbye to color and enabled grayscale, my first reaction was: Wow, this is surprisingly relaxing. It’s awesome to see an iPhone X with bright, vivid colors, but, on the flip side, grey tones can be very calming and pleasant on the eyes.

Additionally, the playing field is leveled. Each of the apps on your homescreen is now equal to the one next to it. In that way, it’s a bit jarring that no one app is luring your eyes more than another.

After activating grayscale, I was constantly reminded that I was using my phone. I felt a lot less compelled to aimlessly browse and poke around with the dull shades, versus a bright and stimulating array of color.

gray map

As relaxing and interesting as the phone is to look at through grayscale eyes, I think it’d take a very long time ignore the lack of color.

Interestingly, Google just announced its focus on digital wellness, which included a bunch of uses of gray to help people disconnect easier. One it will be implementing is  Wind Down which fades your phone screen from color to gray once it reaches a preset bedtime.

I have a feeling we’ll begin to see a new, obvious trend in how companies use color, or a lack thereof; and how they acknowledge the importance of being able to disconnect.

What to give gray a go?

Here’s how:

Settings app > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters > toggle Color Filters on > select Grayscale from the list underneath

(Should you have a visual disability, this may also serve as a reminder that selecting between the available color filters may help you see your phone better in general.)

Note: this feature is just a filter for what you’re seeing. It does not affect how the phone normally behaves. For example, if you take a send a picture, it’s still taken in color. If you take a screenshot, it’s still in color. You’re not forcing others to live the grayscale lifestyle too.

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9 Hidden iPhone Settings That Will Change Everything

control center iphone

Want to blow your mind? Open the settings app on your iPhone and be amazed at what helpful features are hiding there that could change how you use your phone every day.

Type better one handed

You can make the keyboard slide over to the left or right hand side of your screen which makes it easier to use with one hand.

Settings->General->Keyboard->One Handed Keyboard

You can also long press on the emoji icon anywhere the keyboard comes up and select the keyboard screen location.

Access more apps from the lock screen

On iOS 11 (the newest version) you can customize which icons and shortcuts you see on Control Center (the screen with brightness and calculator).

Settings->Control Center->Customize Controls

You can make shortcuts to a bunch of fun things, including screen recording.

See your notifications from across the room

Want your phone to light up each time you get a message or notification so you’ll have a visual cue for new notification? This works great at loud venues, but isn’t so bright that it’s annoying at home.

Settings->General->Accessibility->Hearing section->LED Flash for Alerts

Clear out old junk

Even if you’re not stressed over space on your phone, you may want to get rid of large and forgotten pictures, videos, or gifs piling up in your messages.

Settings->General->iPhone Storage->Review Large Attachments

You can also see these under the details of individual messages, but checking this from the settings pools all the attachments together for an easier view.

Know your phone’s battery health

If you think you’re battery isn’t lasting as long as it used to – especially if your phone is more than 2 years old – you can check that. You can also see if your phone is slowing down to keep your battery from shutting off your phone. More battery info available in our other posts.

Settings->Battery->Battery Health (Beta)

Find old passwords

When you enter a password on a website and Safari asks if you want to save it, there’s actually a place they are going. Next time you need to find a password that you haven’t used in a while, check here.

Settings->Accounts & Passwords->App & Website Passwords

Let people know you’ve seen their message

text message

Turn on read receipts so people can see if you’ve read your messages.

Settings->Messages-> Send Read Receipts

You can turn it on individually, for a few significant others you’d never ghost. This isn’t about people ignoring you, but it’s nice to know whether they’re busy and just haven’t seen the message yet.

I mean, it’d be nice to know whether your spouse saw the text about needing deli meat from the grocery store and realize you should give them a call before it’s too late.

On a specific message tap the circled i in the top right corner and then turn on read receipts. (Tell the other person to turn this on for you if you want to see too!)

Locate your parked car

apple parked car

You can turn on and off whether Apple Maps automatically drops a pin on the location of where you parked your car so you can find it later. This is for all the Apple Maps users out there.

Settings->Maps->Show Parked Location

Keep the camera on the last used mode

The default action for the camera app is to go back to “photo” next time you use it (after a few minutes). You can change that so it always opens with the last mode you used, i.e. panorama, video, square, etc…

Settings->Camera->Preserve Settings->Camera Mode

You can also have it default to your last used lighting and filter options under the same settings menu.

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Why You Don’t Need To Compulsively Quit All Your Phone Apps

quit apps

True or False:  
* After you use an app you immediately double-tap the home button and swipe the app away
* You always swipe away all or most of your open apps so they don’t keep running
* You believe that if you don’t quit an app on your phone it will burn your battery quicker

If you answered ‘True’ to one or more of those statements, it’s time for some myth-busting.

In a nutshell, modern mobile apps are built to be paused when the app is not in use. Both iOS and Android are modern operating systems made for mobile devices, they know that they are running on phones with limited battery. Conserving power is job number one.

Phone apps are not desktops apps

In the past, apps designed for desktops (or computers constantly plugged into the wall), weren’t concerned with power consumption, they were more concerned with speed and getting things done fast.

But what about that time when…

Let me guess, there was a time when an app was visibly draining your battery and you quit it and everything was magical again? Every once in a while that is the case. In fact Apple has a guide and instructions to show users how to force quit an app. They also say, “You should force an app to close only when it’s unresponsive.”

Android is the same. Here’s a response from Google’s SVP of Platforms & Ecosystems for Android, Chrome, and Chrome OS, Hiroshi Lockheimer responding on Twitter.

Time to blow your mind

It takes a certain (very tiny) amount of power and battery life to launch an app. Once the app is running, it takes even less energy (battery) to leave it paused in the background than it does to relaunch the whole thing from a cold state each time.

You’re likely using MORE battery life to quit your apps after each use and re-open them, especially if the apps are ones you open a bunch of times everyday.

Just keep this in mind if you’re trying to live that full-battery lifestyle. Feel free to share this info with other people as well.

In the end…

Of course, apps like Spotify and Google maps don’t completely pause when you switch to a different app. You’d be upset with your phone if couldn’t listen to Spotify and browse Facebook at the same time.  

Running these more battery-hungry apps all day will take a certain amount of juice, but all of this to say, you should not be worrying about using all the apps on your phone. Go about your normal day, use the apps you need, and don’t spend the mental energy worrying about your phone’s software. It’s fine. It’s all fine.