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
In March, Facebook started rolling out its new redesigned desktop site as something you could choose to opt-into once it was available to you. Friday the company announced that the rollout is complete and that the new site is available for everyone globally. While it will eventually become the default for everyone, you can go ahead and proactively make the swap to the new design now if you’d like, a swap that comes with a new “Dark Mode” option.
Leave it to a bored adolescent to come up with one of the most ingenious ways to appear “present” in a Zoom chat I’ve ever seen—especially if the chat is on the larger side and someone isn’t paying much attention to your webcam in the grid view. Now that we’re in week who-knows-what of the quarantine for most people, I feel like most of us would rather do just about anything else than suffer another videoconference.
The Sumida Aquarium in Japan is inviting people to have a short Facetime call with their tank of garden eels. This is no livestream; it’s a two-way call, and they specifically want the eels to see your face. The aquarium writes that the eels are normally very shy, and hide in the sand, but that in their tank they are used to seeing visitors pass by. Now that the aquarium is closed to visitors, the eels are starting to get shy again.
Mac users who like to multitask: there’s a keyboard shortcut to turn on text dictation so you can talk instead of type. Just place your cursor where you want to enter text (it’ll work in any app where you can type), double-tap the Fn key, and start talking. The microphone icon will pop up to let you know that dictation is active. When you’re done with your message, double-tap Fn again. You can also click Done below the icon or press Return.
I don’t think it’s possible to cheat in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Or, rather, I don’t feel any guilt whatsoever about taking advantage of the game’s quirks to outfit your single-player island however you want. From time-traveling to Turnip Exchanges, there are plenty of methods you can use to circumvent the game’s slow, methodical intentions—including a brand-new duping hack that lets you clone as many items as you want. Again, do I feel bad? No.
Google is about to turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) for all Nest users. That’s a good thing! Most people shouldn’t experience any difficulties with this security-enhancing measure, but there are a few quirks you should know about. Nest users will need to authorize who they are each time they log in to Nest using a verification code sent to the email address linked to their Nest account.
Have you ever wondered what happens when you block someone on your iPhone? What really happens? You can block contacts through your Messages, FaceTime and Phone apps. Blocking a contact in one app will block them across the board. However, blocking doesn’t prevent someone from trying to reach you. They won’t get a pleasant “your number has been blocked” notification from Siri, but they might start to wonder why you aren’t answering their messages.
Accidentally summoning an AI helper like Google Assistant by inadvertently speaking the wake word (or something that sounds enough like it to fool a computer) has become a fact of life ever since Siri was first introduced. It can be a chronic problem too, depending on your living situation and how you use your smart devices: Sometimes the things can be... overzealous in their desire to serve you and will assume any vocalization means you’re trying to activate them.
Now that we’re all spending a bit more time streaming television shows and movies at home, maintain a robust “what to watch” queue is more important than ever. If you’ve signed up for a few new streaming services to keep you entertained in quarantine, it might also be a lot harder to manage—but a new feature in Google’s mobile search can help make the process easier. Sure, assembling a list of things you’d like to see is simple when you’re just using one streaming service, but if you’ve doubled down on your options or have taken advantage of a free trial or two, keeping track of what interests you on all of them can be a bit overwhelming. Yesterday, Google added a new feature to its mobile search that allows you to create a watchlist as you browse the internet: Now when you search for a movie or TV show on Google on your phone, you’ll see a “Watchlist” button beside it in search results. Tapping on it will add the program to your own personal Watchlist within the search engine. Next time you’re looking for something to watch, you can just perform a Google search for “My watchlist” to pull up all of the options you’ve put together. If you’re looking for help figuring out what to add to the queue, last year Google launched a TV and movie recommendation engine within Search that can help with a few suggestions. To get recommendations, search for “what to watch” within Google. The first time you try it, click the “Providers” link at the top of results to specify what streaming services you subscribe to. Google will save your settings and recommend things going forward based on what services you use and, now, what movies and television shows you’ve added to your watchlist. If you already know what you want to watch but just don’t know how to watch it, I’m a big fan of the app Just Watch, which allows you to type in the name of movie or television show you’re trying to watch and discover what services are currently offering it for free or where and how much it will cost you to rent it.
Staying at home more and the pandemic, in general, has changed a lot of our habits. Maybe you’re taking an ivy league course online, or working out on your exercise bike a little more. Or, maybe you’re like me and you’re just drinking a lot more than you usually do. If you’ve been making a few trips to that essential liquor store over the past few weeks, Flaviar is offering a free way for you to learn a little more about what you’re shopping for.
If you’ve been using some of your at-home time to learn how to draw, Disney Parks has a number of videos that might help. The Park’s “How to Draw” series on YouTube offers videos on how to draw everyone from Elsa and Anna from Frozen to classic characters like Donald Duck and Goofy. Each video is hosted by an actual Disney animator. Some of the videos are around five minutes, while other more complicated characters can take over 20 minutes to learn.
Last September, Disney offered a “Bedtime Hotline” for two weeks where the young and young at heart could call to listen to a bedtime message from their favorite Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, or Pixar character. Now, the free hotline is making a brief reappearance to help kids staying at home off to dreamland. Between now and April 30th, you can access the hotline by calling 1-877-7-MICKEY. When you do, you’ll be prompted to select the character you’d like to listen to a message from. Options include Mickey himself as well as characters like Goofy and Donald Duck. Unlike September’s offering, your options are just traditional Disney characters this time rather than Marvel or Star Wars characters. Once you’ve made your selection, a recorded goodnight message from your selected character will play, and then the service will hang up. If you’d like to listen to another message, you’ll have to dial in again to select another character. The prompts at the beginning are definitely geared more towards parents than little ones, so you also likely want to go through those yourself and then put the goodnight message on speakerphone rather than just dialing and handing over your phone.
Apple’s upcoming second-generation iPhone SE is available for preorder from several online retailers, but if you’re a Verizon or AT&T customer and your account is eligible for an upgrade, Walmart’s preorder deal can save you half the price of the device.
The last time I got groceries, it only happened after a solid seven days of refreshing my cart periodically, sometimes constantly, in order to secure a delivery window. A new web-based tool could make the process a lot less painful for you, provided you live in an area where curbside pickup is an option. I have bad asthma that makes it difficult for me to wear thick masks for a prolonged period of time, transforming every grocery aisle into a potential war zone. Food shopping still has to happen though, a fact that has resulted in some creative dining at my house, courtesy of the local bodega that stocks a limited selection of grocery items. Getting a delivery or pickup window on grocery store sites is increasingly difficult, so much so that Amazon has started a waitlist for new customers to sign up to use its service in order to control the demand. If you’re like me and need to get groceries from a larger store without going inside, the new service Curb Run might be able to help. After you sign up and agree to receive texts, the site will let you know when a curbside pickup option is available at a grocery store near you. The idea here is that you’ll already have filled your cart on the grocery store website of choice, including your payment info. You can then set up an alert on Curb Run indicating how far you’re willing to travel for groceries, what store you want to get them from and what day you’d ideally want to pick them up. Enter your phone number you’ll receive an automated text when the site locates a curbside pickup option available. Unfortunately, the site only works with large chains—and not all of them—but it supports a pretty healthy list of familiar brands, including Wegmans, Safeway, Albertsons, Food Lion, Vons, Smith’s Fry’s, Ralphs and Fred Meyer. I gave it a test drive this morning and received a text about available curbside pickup options 20 miles from my house roughly 15 minutes later. That text doesn’t save you a spot, it’s merely lets you know one exists. Once you get that notification, it’s up to you to quickly load up that grocery store’s site and complete your transaction—hopefully before someone else snags the available pickup time. That means the best way to pull this off is to have the page open and ready to go and keep your eye on your phone so you can pounce quickly as soon as the text alert chimes. It’s not a foolproof system, but if you’ve been trying for a while, it might be just what you need to finally make eggs and milk happen.
Gaming is great and all—especially during a pandemic, and especially now that you can play a souped-up version of Minecraft with real-time ray tracing—but you can now use your Nvidia graphics card to create real-life magic.