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
The COVID-19 pandemic has many of us spending a lot more time at home, and many companies offering options for things to do while you’re there. This week Google announced that it’s offering free access to its cloud gaming service Stadia right now. Additionally, it’s giving anyone that signs up 2 months of free access to Stadia Pro, which scores you free access to nine different games.
Social and physical distancing has a lot of us spending more time in front of screens and communicating with friends in different ways than we normally would, often through social media. Instagram, in particular, has offered a lot of interesting live shows to entertain us. One thing it hasn’t offered: a way to DM your friends from the web. Instagram DMs have historically only been available via the social networks app; however, this week Instagram brought the feature to the web as well. If you haven’t tried sending a DM from the web, you can get to it by going to your profile on Instagram from your browser, logging in, and then clicking the paper plane icon at the top right side of the page. You can also load your DMs directly by going to this page. It’s a small thing, for sure, but if you’re someone that’s been using Instagram as a way to communicate with friends then being able to access those messages on the web will definitely come in handy. Sadly, one thing Instagram hasn’t added into the mix just yet is the ability to watch all those Instagram Live videos on the web. Last week we told you about a Chrome extension that will definitely help you get the job done, but it would be great to see Instagram add that support natively in the future.
Microsoft’s big office communication app, Microsoft Teams, is getting a fun new feature that makes it just as wacky as Zoom. You’ll now have the power to pretend you’re on a beach, in some faraway city, on the moon, or sitting in front of your favorite meme when you’re on a video call—yes, custom backgrounds are rolling out, and it’s a silly feature that all videoconferencing apps should have.
If you were thinking about trying Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods Market delivery or pickup services for the first time, be aware that you might have to spend some time on a waiting list before you can use either service to shop for groceries—so you might want to put yourself on that list right now.
Downloading a Windows update can be a gamble these days, but this week’s Windows 10 “Update Tuesday” patch feels more important than most. The update includes plenty of important security fixes, including patches for two actively exploited vulnerabilities in the Windows Adobe Type Manager that affect all Windows 10 users.
One of the few silver linings to come from the big coronavirus quarantine is that a number of app developers are doing their part to be generous in times of self-isolation and unhappiness. Daylight Studios, developer of the popular “Holy Potatoes!” simulation games for Android, iOS, PC, and Mac, is offering up iPhone and iPadOS versions of all three games in its franchise for free.
I don’t know about you, but I am running out of toilet paper. I only have two rolls left in my cabinet, and my local grocery store has nothing but empty shelves. There wasn’t any toilet paper when I last visited the grocery store in person, two weeks ago—and when I put in an online order this week, which gives me the option of requesting any available item in a certain category, there were no items available in the toilet paper category.
If you’re looking for something fun to do with the family while you’re all staying at home, Cards Against Humanity has a new family-friendly version of the game available that you can download and print at home. Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition is designed for kids ages 8 and up. The site notes that “We’ve never met your kids, but we designed the game for people ages 8 and up.
If you’re looking for something new to read, Marvel is making 12 comics available to download for free right now through the Marvel Unlimited app for iOS and Android. Getting the comics doesn’t require you to sign up for the service, and the free comics are also available through Amazon’s Comnixology platform. Here are the comics it’s offering for free: AVENGERS VS. X-MEN CIVIL WAR AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RED GOBLIN BLACK PANTHER BY TA-NEHISI COATES VOL.
If you watch a lot of Disney+ on Windows or macOS, consider installing the website as a Progressive Web App (PWA) for speedier access to your favorite films and shows. PWAs split the difference between a website and a full-on app. Installing Disney+ as a PWA creates an easy-to-access desktop shortcut for a standalone version of the website.
If you’re using your time physical distancing to learn guitar, Fender is offering free guitar, bass, and ukulele lessons to the first 500,000 people to sign up for Fender Play. It’s a free trial, but you don’t have to handle over any payment details to get access, so you won’t run the risk of getting charged if you forget about it. Once you sign up, you’ll need to tell the site which instrument you’d like to learn. As you learn, the site will track your progress.
If you’re getting a little bored with your board games (sorry, I had to), the team behind the Board Game Remix Kit—which, as the name implies, provides instructions for new games stitched together from the pieces of others you may already own—just made all of their remix resources free to download. Here’s one of their many Monopoly remixes, in case you’re curious about what they have on offer: Once, Twice, Five Times a Winner The game lasts for 5 circuits round the board. Stop playing as soon as the the last player has passed GO for the fifth time and then finished their turn (this means they do get to claim their £200, and they do pay rent if they land on someone else’s property). At this point, the player with the most money wins. There’s also a Monopoly variation that requires you to correctly answer a Trivial Pursuit question before proceeding around the board, a Clue variation that invites you to hide the tiny murder weapons around your actual home and a Scrabble variant that tasks players to determine which word might beat the other words in a fight. The Board Game Remix Kit is available for free download in PDF or EPUB. The team requests that if you enjoy the kit and can afford to make a donation, you should consider contributing to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
If you’re hoping to use your physical-distancing time to pick up a new skill, Skillshare is offering a free three-month Premium account on its service to help you make it happen. To get the deal, go to this page and click the “Join For Free Today” button at the bottom of the page. The promotion requires you to create an account, but you don’t have to hand over any payment details, so you’re not at risk of getting charged later on if you forget about it. A Premium account is typically $19 a month. The free offer is being made through a partnership with Bombay Sapphire’s “Create at Home” program. That program also includes a collection of instructions for different DIY projects on Hunker. On Skillshare you can take classes on everything from cocktail making to web development. There are courses on creative writing, photography, and graphic design, and even productivity, If you’re having a little bit of trouble adjusting to your new WFH life. Courses are taught by professionals in each field and are video-based. Some courses only take a few minutes to watch, while others might involve a video an hour or longer. You can also search the site and create a playlist of sorts of all the courses you want to take, so you can just sit down and watch them when you find yourself with a little free time and nothing to do. Depending on what you want to learn, you can probably find a class (or 20) worth checking out.
If you’re having network connectivity problems on your Windows desktop or laptop—and you’ve ruled out user error or a crappy wireless connection—there’s a small chance that Microsoft might be to blame. There’s a bug affecting users connecting with proxies or VPNs, and it’s serious enough to warrant Microsoft issuing an off-schedule update to patch the problem.
Humble Bundle has an incredible deal if you need a boost to your self-quarantine/social distancing entertainment backlog while also supporting charities on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.