Life Hacks – Spoken Edition
Summary: Daily weblog on software and personal productivity recommends downloads, web sites and shortcuts that help you work smarter and save time. A SpokenEdition transforms written content into human-read audio you can listen to anywhere. It's perfect for times when you can't read - while driving, at the gym, doing chores, etc. Find more at www.spokenedition.com
Good news and bad news for WhatsApp fans. We’ll start with the former: The app, in all likelihood, is going to soon receive a fancy little feature that will let you automatically delete messages—group and private—after a set period of time. And here’s the fun part: You decide how long that time is going to be. Well, sort of. According to screenshots from WABetaInfo, you’ll get to set your messages to disappear after an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year. While I’d like to see a bit more granularity for times within 24 hours—in case you’d want your message to be automatically deleted after a few hours, so people see it but it doesn’t linger forever, the feature’s existence is still better than nothing. About that. As WABetaInfo reports, WhatsApp is currently testing the auto-deletion aspect. So odds are good that you aren’t going to find the feature in the app if you’re using its regular version. If you’re lucky enough to be a beta tester, you might see it, but you also might not; I grabbed the beta version of the app that supposedly had the feature (2.20.84) from APKMirror, and still no dice. So, while it’s annoying that you’ll have to wait, odds are good that this feature should be arriving for everyone shortly. When it hits, accessing it is easy. Pull up a WhatsApp group chat or private message, and then tap on the group’s name to open up its options. You’ll see a new “Delete messages” option after Media visibility, as shown in WABetaInfo’s screenshot: And once this is enabled, all messages will have a little clock icon appended next to the time. That’s meant to indicate that the message, like all things in life, will eventually disappear forever.
Nightclubs around the country are closed due to coronavirus, but in their absence, a new virtual club has opened its door, and it has a pretty A-List guest list. You may know DJ D-Nice, Derrick Jones, as a member of the 90s hip-hop group Boogie Down Productions. He was also the DJ for Barak Obama’s farewell party at the White House. DJ D-Nice launched “Club Quarantine” last week, and on Saturday the “club” was open for nine hours with guest appearances from celebrities like Michelle Obama, Naomi Campbell, Chaka Khan, Halle Berry, Rihanna, Kerry Washington, Diddy, and Jamie Foxx. Tonight’s virtual club doors are already open, and more than 100,000 people are currently watching him spin tracks, presumably from his apartment. Spike Lee, Vanessa Williams, and Donnie Wahlberg all popped in while I was writing this, and there’s bound to be more names you recognize popping by. You can watch and dance along at home by going to his Instagram page on your mobile phone and then clicking his profile picture to join the live stream. Once you’re inside, you can comment to chat with other people watching the stream or just hook your phone up to some speakers and have a little solo dance party.
Grocery stores are a madhouse right now. The bottled water is gone, staples like milk, eggs and bread are flying off the shelves, and there’s barely a roll of toilet paper to be found anywhere. Added to this equation is the risk factor of navigating a crowded store. To counteract exposure, a lot of people are shifting to curbside pickup or delivery. Before you hit click on that list of groceries, take a moment to consider those who depend on grocery delivery.
Now that many of us lucky enough to be working are working from home and hosting our meetings virtually, we’re hyper-focused on making video conference calls less terrible, starting with making sure we look good on camera. But how sure are you that you actually don’t look terrible or that there isn’t something embarrassing in view behind you? Don’t you want to check one last time before hopping onto that Zoom call? You should probably check. Hand Mirror is a Mac app that lives in your toolbar and allows you to perform a quick one-step check on the view from your webcam. Click the little mirror icon to instantly open a widow that offers a peek at whatever your webcam can see right now, allowing you a chance to smooth down your cowlick or move your underwear off of the bed behind you. It’s a pretty simple idea—so simple the App Store rejected it, according to designer Rafael Conde—which is why it’s so useful. Especially if, like me, you constantly mix up your keyboard shortcuts and end up searching in an active window instead of opening Spotlight. Or if you’re constantly getting pulled into a call right after eating, I dunno, a pile of raw kale.
Like many other places around the country, the Winchester Mystery House is closed now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of physical tours, the house is offering a 40-minute video tour of the property for anyone that’s interested. The house’s website says that it is offering free video access until April 7th, the day the Bay Area’s current “shelter in place” order is set to expire.
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean the end of game night with your friends, it just means that rather than breaking out a game board and inviting your friends over you need to take things online. Turns out, almost every board game you can think of can actually be played online, and there are a number of websites out there to make the magic happen.
The only good news to come from the coronavirus—unless you have a crystal ball and have been making a small fortune in the market, /r/wallstreetbets-style—is that Comcast has finally shown that its network can probably handle all the downloading you typically do. In other words, data caps are bullshit. I don’t want to be too hard on Comcast, though, since it is nice of the company to give everyone 60 free days of limit-free downloads. The company isn’t boosting everyone’s speeds to the max—if only—but it is allowing you to download as much as you want for the next two months. Were I you, I’d do two things right now: Grab every Steam/Epic Games/Battle.net game you’ve been meaning to put on your computer but didn’t, and set a calendar reminder for May 10 to reduce your habits—as the data cap enforcement should kick back in right around then, and you don’t want to be stuck with a gigantic bill for your carefree downloading. Comcast is also letting everyone—Comcast subscribers and regular people alike—take advantage of its “xfinitywifi” hotspots around the country for free. Basically, if you’re using one of Comcast’s gateways, odds are good that you’re also blasting out an “xfinitywifi” hotspot for other Comcast users to tap into. It uses your connection as the backbone, but never counts against your data cap. So, if you see an open “xfinitywifi” hotspot nearby, consider giving it a try if you’re in a pinch. However, know that it could also be someone simply duplicating comcast’s name on their normal, open wireless network, which they could then use in an attempt to scan your network traffic or ascertain your passwords—or, worse, try to take advantage of any security vulnerabilities your device happens to have. If you go this route, all the usual security advice applies. Even in a crisis, don’t let your guard down about free public wifi. If you’re curious whether your Comcast gateway is blasting out its own “xfinitywifi” hotspot, you should be able to access its settings via Comcast’s online portal. There, you’ll see an option to turn on (or off) its built-in wifi public hotspot: I don’t have any recommendations for this one, other than if it feels like your network is slower than usual lately, perhaps you might want to try switching off the public hotspot. It’s possible that someone else might be leeching your bandwidth, so disable it for a week or so and see if the situation improves at all.
A strange iOS bug is eating up mobile data and spiking monthly bills for iPhone users. You might not be affected, but it’s worth checking out (just in case). The bug has been reported on all iPhone models that run iOS 13, and it affects nearly every major cell provider. Some users are only seeing a few kilobytes of their data plan affected, while others have reported losing several gigs of data to the bug.
Everyone needs a distraction right now. You know it. I know it. Game developers know it, too, and a few of them have generously decided to make their iOS games temporarily free for anyone looking for a fun distraction to help them stay sane while socially distancing. If you’ve never tried the tower defense series Kingdom Rush, an early iOS app store favorite, you’re in for a treat.
Toilet paper is now a more precious commodity than gold—or at least, that’s how I felt when a friend of mine reported that she was offered $40 the other day for a single roll (one roll!!!) upon leaving the sold-out supermarket. Assuming you have a pretty decent stash at home, the website “How much toilet paper” is going to be your new best friend over the coming weeks and months. As you hunker down during all things coronavirus, the site will help you get a quick estimate of how much your stash will last. Of course, there are plenty of variables at play, here. First and foremost are the aforementioned bathroom habits; if you act like you’re trying to take the finish off a table with sandpaper, you’re probably burning through number of extra (and unnecessary) rolls. You’ll definitely want to click on the site’s “Advanced Options” to increase your “average number of wipes per trip” and get a more accurate result (you savage). That’s also important for managing all the crazy configurations of rolls you can buy. The mega and ultra and super-mega and gargantua rolls usually say on the packaging what they’re equivalent in “normal rolls” happens to be, so make sure you adjust accordingly. And while none of us know how long our various quarantines will last, you can at least put in a decent estimate—30 days?—to see, percent-wise, how long your stash might last. Is this website silly? You bet. Do you probably have a good idea of how long your TP might last? Sure. But since you probably have a lot of time to kill while you work from home—and I have seen friends get meticulous about tracking every bit of food and possibly sold-out supplies in their house—why not spend a little time with the world’s most precise calculator of toilet paper? My advice? Screenshot your advanced options, then you don’t have to recalculate them when you revisit the site, which resets to defaults upon each load. That way, you can knock off your roll count without having to waste even more time thinking about how much you deal with your butt each day.
A recent Buzzfeed investigation discovered that several popular VPN and adblocking apps for Android and iOS secretly collected user data and sent it to Sensor Tower, a cross-platform data analytics service for app developers.
If you have a flight coming up soon, then you might be considering rebooking it. An airplane obviously isn’t the most ideal place to be right now given coronavirus concerns. While rebooking your flight might give you some peace of mind, it can also help you save some cash. Airlines, in general, are dealing with a pretty significant number of canceled flights right now. With the demand lower than usual, airfare for flights is also going down.
Coronavirus had made air travel something that a lot of people are reconsidering right now. When getting on an airplane more and more people are also considering giving their personal space a little wipe down to try and catch any germs that might have been left behind by the last passenger to sit there. One place you might not consider: the seat-back pocket.
If the COVID-19 outbreak has got you checking the news a little more often—or asking yourself whether it’s time to stock up on food or medications, cancel travel, or prepare to work from home—you’re not alone. But there’s a difference between preparing for the coronavirus and letting thoughts about the coronavirus take over your brain. The former can be productive; the latter rarely is. I reached out to Dr.
Cast iron is a favorite tool for serious home cooks. But what most people find really serious is the proper way to maintain their heavy metal cookware. Some people swear that soap is the enemy of a properly seasoned pan. Others hold firm that the correct method for seasoning a pan takes five hours. Well, the good news is that cast iron is easier to maintain than you may have previously thought. It does, however, require a more intensive care process than most other dishes and cookware.