Friday, 22 January 2016

WhatsApp gets rid of annual subscription fee

WhatsApp has announced that it will axe its $1 annual subscription fee starting today. The Facebook-owned messaging service is nearing a billion users, and will start exploring alternate business models.
WhatsApp failed to monetize in emerging markets due to low debit and credit card penetration, which led to the service being offered for free. Today's announcement reflects a change of strategy that will see the platform acting as a facilitator between businesses and customers:
Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today's announcement means we're introducing third-party ads. The answer is no. Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight.
We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.
Facebook has already undertaken a similar strategy with Messenger, giving users the ability to chat with businesses. The feature will come in handy in countries like India, where WhatsApp is slowly becoming the de-facto method of communication.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

How to block a phone number on your Android phone

galaxy note reject call

After about the twentieth time that telemarketer bugs you with an “incredible deal” you’re probably ready to throw your phone out the window.
There’s a better way. With just a few steps you can banish that caller from contacting you forever. Here’s how to do it.
As a caveat, your specific dialer may look different or have some of the options placed elsewhere depending on which device you have. By and large, however, the process is pretty similar.
If it’s someone who called you recently, go to the dialer and then touch the three-dot menu button. Then touch Select. 
how to block a phone number in android
You can block callers through the dialer or contacts app.
Choose the offending caller and and then again touch the menu, this time choosing Add to Auto reject list. Now your phone should automatically block the number when they call again.
You can also block a caller by heading to the contacts app and making the same selection from the drop-down menu.
If you change your mind, find that same number again and choose Remove from Auto reject list. Though if you do that, get ready for more fantastic offers you’ll want to refuse.

Monday, 21 September 2015

8 great Google Maps tips for Android and iOS

 It's time to learn your way around the new Google Maps app. The old, somewhat clunky Google Maps interface has been replaced with a flatter, more modern look. Your favorite features are probably still there, but some now hide inside swipeable drawers or behind all-new menu buttons.
That explains why, for example, Street View doesn’t immediately appear when you search on an address, or why typing ok maps into the Maps search bar—a command that used to save the current map for offline use—now brings up a map of Oklahoma.
Never fear, though. The new Google Maps app for Android and iOS makes perfect sense once you get the hang of it, and the latest version makes it even easier to get where you’re going or see every detail in your virtual surroundings.
Read on for 8 essential tips for the new Google Maps, starting with...

1. When in doubt, swipe up (or tap)

google maps app address details street view 1
Swipe up on the address overlay to reveal ratings, hours, Street View, and more.
So, you searched on an address in Google Maps and it popped up, complete with a little window pane at the bottom of the screen with a street address and a blue “Route” button. what? What about the rest of the details, and where’s Street View (the 360-degree photo panorama that you can swipe and zoom)?
The answer: Swipe up on the address overlay. Doing so will reveal ratings (in the case of a restaurant, cafe or another type of retail venue), menus, hours, Street View, and more.
And what if you want to switch to satellite view, or see local traffic or biking routes?
Find the little three-line menu button on the left side of the search box. Tap it, and another window will slide into view—this time, one with controls for changing the style of the map, accessing Google Maps settings, switching back and forth between your various Google accounts (assuming you have more than one), and seeing a list of “Your places” (more on that in a minute).
And if you find yourself gazing at Google Maps with no apparent way to go back, just tap the screen to reveal the Back button.

2. Type or say some commands

google maps app voice ask for directions 2
For quick directions through the Google Maps app, just speak into the microphone.
Tap the little microphone in the search box and say, “directions to the Empire State Building.” Doing so will instantly bring up directions to the famous New York landmark.
You can also say (or just type) “find the nearest ATM,” “where is 1234 Main Street,” or “what’s the best Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood.”

3. Save a map offline

google maps app save offline map 3
You don't type "ok maps" into the search box to save an offline map in the Google Maps app anymore. Instead, swipe up on the address pane and tap the three-dot menu in the top corner.
You can have a map of Boston or Paris on your Android or iPhone, even when you don’t have a wireless connection. In just a few taps, you can save a detailed map of a neighborhood or even a whole city to your handset’s memory.
You won’t be able to search the map or get directions, but at least you’ll have a detailed street map—handy if you’re travelling abroad and don’t want to pony up for an international cellular plan.
Now, offline maps won’t be anything new for longtime Google Maps users, but the method of saving a map for offline use has changed—again.
Not all that long ago, the way to save an offline map was to center the area you wanted to save and then tap (or say) “ok maps” into the search box.
The new way to save an offline map? Search for a location (or tap and hold to select a place on the map), tap or swipe up on the details pane at the bottom of the screen, tap the three-dot menu button in the top corner, then tap Save offline map. Google Maps will prompt you if the area you’re trying to save is too big.
To access your saved maps, tap the three-line menu in the left side of the search box, tap My Places, then scroll down to the offline maps heading.

4. Find out what’s going on at any time

google maps app around this area time change 4
Find out where to get bagels in the morning or cocktails at night by changing the time of day on the "Around this area" screen.
There’s nothing new about mapping and “exploration” apps that tell you about nearby hotspots, but getting a recommendation about the latest and greatest nightclub won’t do you much good at seven in the morning.
Google Maps has a clever twist on the whole “find popular places near you” thing. Zoom in on an area, then tap the “Explore” pane at the bottom of the display.
On the next screen, you’ll see the typical “Around [this area]” recommendations, but keep your eye on a pull-down menu near the top. Depending on the time of day, it may say “Morning,” “Noon, “Evening,” or “Late night.”
Tap the menu, then select a different time for a new set of breakfast nooks, lunchtime favorites, cocktail lounges, or anything else that might be appropriate during a given time of day.

5. Get a 3D-style map view

google maps app add depth 5
Add some depth to Google Maps by swiping down with two fingertips.
Is you map view looking a little flat? Try this: Tap and hold with two fingers, then swipe up.
As you do, then entire map will tilt, adding some depth to your map.
The perspective will look especially dramatic in urban areas (like, say, lower Manhattan), where Google has added 3D buildings and skyscrapers.
Since you’re already swiping with two fingertips, try rotating your fingertips this way and that. As you do, the entire map will twirl around.

6. Get a full-screen view

google maps app full screen view 6
Tap on a blank area of the map for a full-screen view of Google Maps.
It's easy to clear away all the overlays, search boxes and other distractions so you can gaze at your map in all its full-screen glory. Just tap on the map—once to clear the details pane at the bottom of the screen, and a second time to hide the search box.
Ready to get the search box back? Tap the screen again, and it’ll slide back into place.
Note: As of this writing, the full-screen Google Maps feature only works on the iOS version of the app. It’s a good bet that full-screen mode will be making its way to the Android version of Google Maps in the near future.

7. Turn on Street View’s Compass mode

google maps app compass mode 7
Tap the "Compass mode" button to make Street View rotate as you turn this way and that.
Street View--the 360-degree panorama of streets, museums, parks, and natural landmarks around the globe--counts as one of Google Maps’s killer features. You can pull up Street View for just about anywhere from the details pane of the Google Maps app. Just swipe it up, then tap the Street View image (if available) and start swiping around.
Neat, but Street View has one more trick up its sleeves. Tap the screen, then tap the little button with the curved arrows in the bottom corner of the screen.
Doing so activates “Compass mode,” which automatically turns and rotates Street View according to the orientation of your phone. In other words, if you hold your phone in front of you and slowly start turning around, Street View will turn with you.
Note: Don’t see the “Compass mode” button in Street View? Tap the screen once to make it appear.

8. Fine-tune your directions

google maps app transit preference 8
Tell Google Maps your transportation preference--subway? Bus? Walking?--and it will adjust its navigation guidance accordingly.
Pulling up driving, walking, biking or public-transit directions to any location in Google Maps is easy. Just search or tap and hold on a location in the map, then tap the circular blue button in the details pane at the bottom of the page.
Not bad, but in addition to picking where and which way you’d like to go, you can also tell Google Maps your preferences for how you want to travel—for example, whether you prefer buses to subways (in the case of public transit), or whether you’d prefer to avoid toll routes (if you’re behind the wheel).
Just pull up a set of directions, then tap Options. When you do, you’ll get a choice of preferences depending on your mode of transportation

How to delete the windows.old folder clogging up your drive

After installing Windows 10, Roy A. Day discovered a very large Windows.old folder on his internal drive. Since deleting it the conventional way didn’t work, he asked for another solution.
The Windows 10 upgrade (which so many are enthusiastically embracing despite my warnings) leaves a huge Windows.old folder on your C: drive. On one computer I updated, it was over 25GB. And Windows won’t let you simply delete it.
There’s a very good reason why you shouldn’t. Without this folder, you will not be able to go back to Windows 7 or 8.1. Therefore, you should only remove Windows.old if one of these three situations applies to you:
  • You’re absolutely sure you want to stay with Windows 10.
  • You created an image backup before the upgrade, and can therefore restore your previous installation without Windows 10’s built-in tools.
  • It’s been more than 30 days since you made the upgrade, and Windows 10 will no longer allow you to go back.

If you meet one of those conditions, here’s how to free up a lot of room on your C: drive:
1.   In File Explorer, right-click C: (under This PC) and select Properties.
2.   On the General tab, click the Disk Cleanup button.
3.   Wait while Windows thinks about it. Eventually, the Disk Cleanup dialog box will appear.
4.   Click the Clean up system files button near the bottom of the dialog box.
5.   Wait some more. The dialog box will disappear, then a slightly different version will reappear, without the button that you just clicked.
6.   Scroll down the 'Files to delete' list until you find Previous Windows installation(s). Check that option.
7.   Check or don’t check other options. You’ll have to make those decisions yourself.
8.   Click OK. You’ll be asked twice to verify your decision. Answer in the affirmative.
You’ll have to wait a bit while Windows removes all those files. But when it’s done, you’ll have a lot more space.

Second-gen Chromecast tipped with faster Wi-Fi, Spotify support, and more

google hits misses chromecast

Two new Nexus phones aren’t the only items expected at Google’s press event on September 29. Google’s also gearing up to introduce a second-generation Chromecast, according to 9to5Google.
The new streaming device is expected to come in a round shape loaded with improved Wi-Fi, a new feature called Fast Play, support for audio systems, and feed integration with the device’s main screen. That’s about where the details end, however, as specifics are in short supply.
The current Chromecast uses 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, so it sounds like the next version will support the newer 802.11 ac Wi-Fi, but that’s just speculation at this point. The Fast Play feature apparently means the next Chromecast will connect faster than the original version when you “cast” something from your mobile device.
As for the feeds, there’s no word on what this is. 9to5Google figures it means you’ll be able to integrate social media feeds when the Chromecast flips to its idle backdrop mode. Backdrop already includes feeds from your Google+ albums.
Chromecast is also adding a feature that will let it act as, well, a Chromecast device for audio services and hardware, according to 9to5Google.
Called Chromecast Audio, the basic idea is that you hook up the Chromecast to a speaker or audio system via an auxiliary cable. Then you can stream the audio from your device to the Chromecast. In a separate report, 9to5Google says Spotify will be one of the first services to support Chromecast Audio.
The impact on you at home: Chromecast Audio sounds like a way for Google to expand Chromecast’s reach and serve users who haven’t got a Cast for Audio-compatible sound system. Cast for Audio is a hardware feature built-in to particular speakers and audio systems in order to wirelessly send audio from your phone to the speaker using the Chromecast protocols. It’s a neat feature, but sound systems are expensive to upgrade and most people won’t unless the hardware dies. Chromecast Audio will help reach those users.

Learn which startup programs are safe to remove

The longer you run your computer, the more clutter it accumulates. This takes the form of programs you no longer need, bloatware you never wanted in the first place, and/or adware you didn't intend to install.
The result: slow booting, slow operation, slow everything.
To improve the situation, you can uninstall unwanted, unneeded programs. And if you're a little more tech-savvy, you can venture into msconfig to prevent system-dragging software from running at startup.
Ah, but which programs are safe to uninstall and/or block? The last thing you want to do is remove some essential Windows element, which could do more harm than good.
Should I Remove It? is a free utility that helps you answer exactly that question. The program analyzes everything installed on your computer, then helps you determine what's safe to remove.
It does so by displaying both a rating for each program and a crowd-sourced removal percentage (i.e. how many "users and experts" elected to uninstall the selected app).
You can also click the What is it? button to access an online database with more detailed information about the program (what it's supposed to do, who published it, etc.), or click Uninstall to remove it.
This is a great little tool that can help take the guesswork out of deciding which programs you can safely banish from your PC. Best of all, although it's free, it installs no adware of its own.

AT&T says rogue employees secretly unlocked hundreds of thousands of phones

AT&T logo on Boston store

AT&T said three of its employees secretly installed software on its network so a cellphone unlocking service could surreptitiously funnel hundreds of thousands of requests to its servers to remove software locks on phones.
The locks prevent phones from being used on competing networks and have been an important tool used by cellular carriers to prevent customers from jumping ship. They can be electronically removed, usually after fulfilling a contract obligation, but many websites offer the same service for a small fee with no questions asked.
AT&T’s allegations are made in a filing with U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in which it accuses two companies, four people and an unknown software developer or developers, of participating in the audacious scheme. AT&T filed its lawsuit on Sept. 11 but it was first reported by Geekwire on Friday.
The carrier first discovered something was amiss in September 2013 when a surge in the number of unlock requests alerted the company to the possible abuse of “Torch,” the software used to unlock cellphones, it said in the complaint.
Upon investigation, the company discovered that the logins and passwords of two employees at a center in Washington were responsible for a large number of the requests and those requests happened within milliseconds of each other.
Both employees, Kyra Evans and Marc Sapatin, are named in the lawsuit.
On the computers of Evans and Sapatin, investigators found unauthorized software intended to route unlocking requests from an external source through AT&T’s computer system, it said. AT&T says its investigators uncovered numerous iterations of the software, which grew in complexity until it was eventually able to submit the automatic requests.
Investigators later found the software on a computer of a third employee, Nguyen Lam, according to AT&T. All three are no longer working at AT&T.
AT&T says a California-based company called Swift Unlocks and its proprietor, Prashant Vira, were involved in the scheme and paid Evans and Sapatin at least $20,000 and $10,500 respectively to install the software. But, AT&T concedes that it doesn’t know the full extent of Swift Unlocks’ involvement.
Swift Unlocks operates a website where people can pay to have the software lock removed from their phones. Charges vary by phone but AT&T users will generally pay $20 or less for the unlocking service.
In all, AT&T says “hundreds of thousands” of phones were unlocked as a result of the scheme. Its charges include computer fraud, breach of loyalty and civil conspiracy and the carrier has asked the court to hear the case in front of a jury.
The defendants could not immediately be reached for comment and are yet to file a reply to the allegations with the court.

How to use Windows 10's Game DVR to record videos of your PC gaming

windows10 game dvr

There are plenty of ways for PC gamers to share gameplay videos, what with YouTube and livestreaming services like Twitch. But before you can share a video, you have to capture it first.
With Windows 10’s Game DVR feature, you can easily record your gaming exploits and share with your Xbox-using friends—all without downloading and installing additional software like Nvidia’s ShadowPlay or OBS. Here’s how to get started.
If you haven’t used the Xbox app before or don’t own an Xbox console, you’ll need to first set up a gamertag—basically, your Xbox screen name. Pop open the Xbox app and follow the onscreen instructions, and the Xbox app will take care of the rest. (The Xbox app doesn’t need to be open in order for the Game DVR feature to work, but you’ll want to get set up with an Xbox account before you dive in.)
crossy road 1
Press Windows-G to get at Game DVR controls as you play.
Next, open the game you want to play: For the sake of this article, we’re going to play Crossy Road because I’ve got Frogger on the brain. Once you’re ready to begin recording, press the keyboard shortcut Windows key + G. A set of controls will appear on top of your game window: Press the Record button (the red circle) or type Win + Alt +R to begin recording. Once you’re done, hit Win + Alt + R again to stop recording.
To view your recorded clips, open the Xbox app if it isn’t already and click the Game DVR button located in the left sidebar—look for an icon of a game controller with a film reel. Click the video you want to watch, then press the play button and relive your moment of triumph (or defeat). You’ll notice that the GameDVR captures only the game window, and it also captures the game audio.
xbox game dvr 2
You can play, trim, and share your videos from within the Xbox app. (Side note: I am not good at Crossy Road).
If you like, you can rename your clips, or edit them via the Trim feature, which lets you cut the clip down to only the portion you want to save. If you’re particularly proud of your gaming triumph, click Share to share your clip with other Xbox users: Once uploaded, your clip will appear under the Shared tab.
Unfortunately, you can’t share your clips on YouTube through the Xbox app, but you can easily access the saved video files: Go to the Xbox app’s Settings (the gear icon in the left sidebar), click Game DVR, then click Open folders under the “Saving captures” heading.

 While you’re in the Settings, be sure to try out some of the other options in there! You can set your own keyboard shortcuts for Game DVR features, change the maximum length of each recording (one hour, two hours, or 30 minutes), and change the video quality. You can also set the Game DVR to automatically run in the background when you’re playing a game, which activates the ability to press Win + Alt + G to automatically save the last 30 seconds of gameplay—a nifty feature for when you just pulled off an astounding move spur-of-the-moment. Play around with each of the settings and see what each does.

Installing Linux on a Chromebook: What you need to know

acer chromebook

 Chromebooks are more powerful than you realize already, but zooming around the web in Google’s browser is just the beginning of what Chromebooks are capable of.
Chrome OS is built on top of the Linux kernel, and you can install a full Linux environment alongside Chrome OS on your Chromebook. This gives you access to Steam and over a thousand PC games, Minecraft, Skype, and everything else that runs on desktop Linux.

ARM vs Intel

If you do plan on getting a Chromebook and using Linux on it, you should consider whether it has an ARM chip or an Intel chip.
intel celeron
ARM-based Chromebooks can use a full Linux environment too, but they’re cut off from a whole ecosystem of closed-source software designed for traditional x86-based PC chips—including Steam and all its games. If you’re planning on running desktop Linux, get an Intel-based Chromebook. You could even use Steam’s in-home streaming to stream games running on a gaming PC to a Chromebook. But this isn’t possible an on ARM Chromebook, as Steam only runs on Intel CPUs.

Developer mode

Installing Linux isn’t officially supported by Google. It requires putting your Chromebook into “developer mode,” which gives you full write access to the entire operating system. Outside of developer mode, these files are normally protected to preserve the operating system’s security from attack. So you’ll have to enter developer mode before you can start installing Linux—check the official wiki for instructions, which are device-specific.
This will boot you into recovery mode, where you can “turn off OS verification.” After that, you’ll be able to have full access to the entire operating system—though that freedom entails some minor headaches. You’ll have to press Ctrl+D or wait 30 seconds every time you boot. Your Chromebook will beep at you and bug you, providing a scary warning that the normal verification process has been disabled. This ensures it’s always obvious when a Chromebook is in developer mode.

Installing Linux

There are several ways to install Linux. For example, you could install it to an SD card and boot from there.
But the best way to install Linux is to install it alongside Chrome OS on your hard drive, despite the limited storage capabilities in most Chromebooks. This lets you run both Chrome OS and a traditional Linux desktop or terminal at the same time, switching between them with a quick keystroke. You can also bring that Linux desktop straight onto your Chrome OS desktop. This also means that Linux environment can use all the same hardware drivers provided with Chrome OS, ensuring good hardware support.
I recommend using Crouton for this. It will help you install Ubuntu or Debian alongside Chrome OS. While this isn’t officially supported by Google, it is developed by a Google employee in his spare time. After you enable developer mode, you’ll be able to open the integrated Chrome OS shell, download the installation script, and run it. It’ll install and set up the Linux environment. The Crouton webpage provides instructions on installing it.

Using your Linux environment

With Linux installed via Crouton, you can run a certain command to launch the Linux session and then switch back and forth between the Linux environment and Chrome OS desktop with Ctrl+Alt+Shift-Back and Ctrl+Alt+Shift-Forward. Again, check Crouton’s webpage for more instructions.
ubuntu crouton chromebook
Linux running in a Chrome OS window courtesy of the Crouton integration extension.
But rather than constantly switching back and forth, you’ll probably want to install the Crouton integration extension from the Chrome Web Store. This will give you a full Linux desktop in a window on your Chrome OS desktop so you can see everything at once without having to switch back and forth.
If you decide you’re done with Linux, you can simply disable developer mode and go back to the normal Chrome OS system state. You’ll be prompted to do this every time you boot your Chromebook. Doing this will erase everything on your Chromebook and set the operating system back to its clean, default state.

How to set different wallpapers for multiple monitors in Windows 10


One of the nicest additions to Windows 8 was its robust support for multiple monitors, including the ability to easily set separate, individual wallpapers for each screen in your setup. All you had to do was open the Control Panel, go to the personalization section, right-click on the images you wanted, tell them which display to use them on, and you were done.
Microsoft decided to do away with that ease of use in Windows 10.
The official way to add different backgrounds in Windows 10 is to select two images in File Explorer (meaning they both have to be in the same folder), then right-click and select “Set as desktop background”. The two images will now appear on your two monitors, with the image you right-clicked occupying your primary display.

The problem is the File Explorer method automatically swaps the images between the two monitors every thirty minutes by default—a nice feature that some people may like, but personally I’d rather set my monitor backgrounds individually and leave them that way. It's also tricky to assign images to the display you'd like in a setup with three or more displays.
Windows 10 doesn’t offer an obvious way to set static, individual wallpapers for every display in your multi-monitor setup, but thanks to some help from Reddit’s Windows 10 forum, we can get back to the Windows 8 way of doing things. This trick requires a little tinkering with the Run command, but it’s nothing major.
dual displays
A screenshot of dual displays with different desktop wallpapers in Windows 10. You can click to enlarge the image if you'd like, but it's big.
First, tap the Windows logo key + R to open the Run window, then type (or copy and paste) the following:
control /name Microsoft.Personalization /page pageWallpaper
Once that in place, click OK or tap your keyboard’s Enter key. That should take you straight to Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personlization > Desktop background. This section was a normal part of Windows 8, but is hidden in Windows 10—you can't manually find it in the Control Panel or the Settings app's Personalization options.
This feature in the Control Panel is hidden in Windows 10.
In this window, you can select from the images shown or browse for other images on your PC. If you see any images with check boxes, deselect them. Once you’re ready to set your background images, right-click the image you want on your first monitor and select Set for monitor 1. Then do the same for the second display, only choosing Set for monitor 2, and so on if you have additional monitors.
Once everything's configured to your liking, click Save changes and you’re done. Unfortunately, you’ll have to use the Run command to return to this hidden part of the Control Panel each time you want to change your background images.

Microsoft's expected to reveal Surface Pro 4, flagship phones and more at October 6 event

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

 New Surfaces. New flagship Lumia phones. Maybe even a new wearable. Microsoft could make its fans very happy on October 6, if the company comes through with new devices at an event planned for that day. 
“We have some exciting news to share about Windows 10 devices,” reads the teaser to an invitation sent to reporters to attend an event in New York City. 
The invitation did not include any other relevant information—or, it must be said, that any new devices would be launched or discussed. Reports have indicated, however, that Microsoft has an enormous launch underway.
Supposedly, Microsoft plans to launch at least one new model, and most likely two, of its Surface tablets. Intel recently launched its new Skylake processors, which include both new versions of the Core m as well as specific models designed for tablets. (The Lenovo Ideapad Miix 700, a Surface clone, uses the new Core m chip.) Microsoft shipped the Surface Pro 3 more than a year ago, and both tablets combined have contributed significantly to Microsoft’s device revenue.
Microsoft’s Lumia phones, meanwhile, have struggled. Microsoft is expected to launch two new flagship phones, dubbed 'Talkman' and 'Cityman' at the launch, in a bid to catch up with the Apple iPhone 6s and flagship phones running the Android operating system. 
Then there’s the Microsoft Band, a productivity wearable that launched as the market for wearables looms somewhat doubtful. The Band itself is quite good at what it does, though it lacks the third-party apps that have differentiated the Apple Watch. 
Why this matters: Though it was founded as a software company, Microsoft’s device business commands respect. Microsoft has already shown that it plans to break trail in the space, designing products that expand the ecosystem for Microsoft devices. We already have some excellent productivity devices in hand; does Microsoft have a surprise in store?