TIME Gadgets

Top Tech for Back to School

Back to School time is upon us. The yellow buses are all being tuned up and hosed down, the classrooms are getting that final coat of paint and the teachers are finalizing their lesson plans. It’s also the time for you to make sure your kids have all the supplies they need for a successful and happy school year.

These days, though, you need more than just a new pair of jeans, a handful of pencils and a new Trapper Keeper to get your kids ready. Here are our picks for the best – and most affordable – back-to-school tech.

Laptop: Acer Aspire E1

Acer

These days, a sturdy, reliable computer is a must when it comes to homework, research projects or just keeping in touch with friends from school. For these simple tasks, we recommend the budget-friendly Acer Aspire E1 Windows laptop.

Why the Aspire? First of all, we like the 15” size, which has a big enough screen for comfortable viewing, but still lends itself to better battery life, better portability and a lower price tag. We also like the Core i5 processor (for plenty of power), the 4GB of RAM (expandable to 8GB if needed) and the 500GB hard drive. Plus, it gets high marks from reviewers for long battery life and good performance for the price, and a respectable four stars on Amazon.

You can find the Acer Aspire E1 for $466.77 at Amazon.

Travel Mouse: Microsoft Arc Touch

Microsoft

Most laptops come with a capable touchpad, but they can be too touchy when there’s a lot of typing to do. That’s why we recommend the highly portable Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse.

The curious design of the Arc Touch Mouse is actually its best feature. It’s flexible, allowing you to flatten it when not in use for easy storage. Flattening also turns off the mouse, so you won’t waste the battery. The traditional mouse wheel is replaced with a small “touch scroll strip,” while the magnetic Nano transceiver easily stores on the bottom of the mouse when not in use. BlueTrack technology, meanwhile, allows the Arc Touch to work reliably on just about any surface – even carpet or rough wood.

The Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse is available for purchase at Amazon.com for $39.99.

Tablet: Sony Xperia Z2

Sony

Not every student needs a laptop. A tablet can be a better bet if your child needs to take notes or do some word processing and web-basesd research. Plus, a tablet can do double duty as an entertainment device. For a sturdy, solid device that best mixes work with play (and isn’t an iPad), we like the 10.1” Sony Xperia Z2 Android (4.4 Kit Kat) tablet.

The waterproof and dustproof (IP55/58) Xperia Z2 is just 0.24 inches thick and 15.5 ounces, giving it a sleek and easily portable design that’s great for going to class or around the house. It packs a powerful 2.3 GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM for demanding gamers.

Sony.com is currently offering the 16GB version of the Xperia Z2 tablet for $499.99, which includes a free charging dock for a limited time.

Smartphone: Motorola Moto G

Motorola

Here’s a pretty common problem: Your teen is finally the right age for his or her first cellphone, but the thought of a $650 device being stolen from a locker or left on the field after practice has your heart racing with panic. What’s a parent to do?

We like the off-contract Moto G 4G ($99 off-contract at Verizon; $219 unlocked at Amazon) – it’s the perfect nexus of power and value. It’s a full-featured 4G LTE phone that runs the most recent build of Android. The device has Gorilla Glass for scratch resistance, and is water resistant enough to handle a few spills in the cafeteria. Kids, meanwhile, will appreciate the selection of $14.99 OEM shells that allow you to easily and seamlessly change the color of the phone to suit any style.

Portable Charger: myCharge Hub 9000

myCharge

If you send your kids to school armed with a phone “in case of emergency,” then it’s important to make sure his or her phone has enough juice when it really counts. That’s why we like the myCharge Hub 9000, Techlicious’s pick for the best portable battery charger.

The myCharge Hub 9000 has micro USB and Lightning connector jacks built in, so there’s no need to clutter backpacks up with easily tangled cables. The 9000 mAh battery charges in just five hours when plugged in to a standard electrical outlet, storing enough power to recharge most smartphones four to six times.

You can find the myCharge Hub 9000 at Amazon starting at $116.99; 3000 mAh and 6000 mAh versions are also available at a lower cost.

Backpack: Tylt Energi+

Tylt

Obviously, no back-to-school list would be complete without a backpack to haul all those books (and gadgets) to and from class. For tech-focused older students, we like the Tylt Energi+ backpack. It’s an attractive carry-all that doubles as a mobile recharging station.

The key feature of the Tylt Energi+ is its powerful 10,400 mAh lithium-ion battery and two USB ports, which allow your kids to charge their power-hungry devices as they move around from place to place. The backpack has a hard-lined pocket for sunglasses, a specially lined laptop pocket that fits and protects computers up to 15 inches, a side hydration sleeve and plenty of secondary tech pockets for phones and tablets. And yes, the 1,450 cubic inch backpack has plenty of room for books and pencils, too.

The Tylt Energi+ is available at Amazon for $128.99, and direct from Tylt.com for $199.99.

Headphones: UrbanEars Humlan

Urbanears

Most kids are experts when it comes to getting dirty. That means their tech gadgets get dirty, too. And while it’s easy to wipe down a sticky smartphone screen or a set of laptop keys, cleaning a pair of headphones can be incredibly difficult.

Incredibly difficult, that is, unless you own a pair of UrbanEars Humlan over-the-ear headphones. The colorful, stylish Humlans quickly disassemble, allowing you to throw the ear covers and headband in with the laundry. Humlans also come with a “Zoundplug,” which allows a friend to plug their headphones in and share the tunes.

You can find UrbanEars Humlan headphones in a wide variety of bold colors for $45 each at Amazon.com. For younger kids, you may want to check out the Etymotic Research EtyKids Safe Listening in-ear headphones ($39.99), which limit sound volumes to kid-safe levels.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Tips

How to Make Your Phone Number Private

When my daughter was born, we placed an advertisement for a nanny in a local newspaper. At 6:30 a.m. on the first day the ad ran, the phone started ringing. It was the first applicant out of hundreds who would call inquiring about the position. What I would have given then for a disposable phone number — something I could turn off once I’d made my hire.

Today, there are options for keeping your phone number private. Here’s what I recommend.

Free Disposable Numbers for Incoming Calls

If you’re looking to post your phone number online — for a dating site, if you’re selling something on eBay or Craigslist — you can get post a free disposable link to your phone number on Babble.ly. When someone clicks on the link, they are prompted to enter their phone number and Babble.ly will call your phone and their phone to connect the call. The link is good for as long as you want it to be, but calls are limited to 10 minutes.

Temporary “Burner” Numbers

Burner App
Ad Hoc Labs

For a temporary disposable number, I like Burner (free on iTunes and Google Play). You get 20 minutes of talk time and 60 texts over a week for free and then you need to buy credits to extend service and buy new burner numbers. New numbers are $1.99 (three credits) for 14 days or 20 minutes or 60 texts, whichever comes first. Or you can pay $4.99 (eight credits) for 30 days of services with unlimited texts and calls.

Free Long-Term Private Number

For a more permanent calling solution, I recommend Google Voice. You get unlimited calling within the U.S. for free as well as voicemail, call screening and do not disturb, among other features. To receive a call or text, you’ll need a smartphone or computer with Internet access and the Google Voice app. Or, you can choose to forward all of your Google Voice calls and texts to an existing number. Outbound calls will show with your Google Voice number instead of your real one.

Free Ad-hoc Outbound Caller ID Blocking

If you don’t want to use your disposable phone number minutes, you can block your outbound Caller ID by turning it off in your phone’s call “settings” on your mobile phone, setting it up in your phone management software if you use a digital phone service, or dial *67 before the number on a regular landline phone or cell phone (for both you’ll need to use the country code, so it would look like *6712125551212). Your number will appear as unavailable.

While I value openness — even when it comes to Caller ID — I can see real value in protecting my privacy in a situation where I would be dealing with strangers. It’s safer and smarter.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME privacy

How to Manage Your Online Reputation

There’s plenty you can do to make sure the best parts of your virtual self pop up on that first page of search results.

When was the last time you Googled your name? If you haven’t, it’s a good habit to get into, because it’s exactly what a potential employer is likely to do when they’re sifting through a pile of resumes. “The stuff people care most about is what they find when they Google you,” says Michael Fertik, CEO and founder of online reputation-management firm Reputation.com.

That’s why it’s important that you own what you look like online. Depending on what you (or others) post on social networks or personal sites, what a search engine turns up may not reflect the accurate or professional picture you want it to.

But there’s plenty you can do to make sure the best parts of your virtual self pop up on that first page of a Google search. Here, we’ll walk you through how to do everything from maintaining current social media profiles to ensuring that your professional information appears first.

Decide What You Want Out There

While Facebook posts and photos might be for the eyes of friends and family only, privacy settings on more-public networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter can be more beneficial when relaxed. After all, you don’t want to be completely invisible on the Internet. “It’s weird for people in this day and age not to have an online profile,” Fertik says.

But if you haven’t been refining your Internet footprint over the years, your online profile may also include nuggets like ancient MySpace photos, an out-of-date company staff page, even out-of-context rants on old blogs — all of which can give someone the wrong impression.

Deleting these may not necessarily clear the Internet of the detritus. In an age of retweets, shares, and linkbacks, the same photo can exist on many sites across the web. So instead of wasting time and energy cleaning up a digital backlog, focus on strengthening existing profiles, which will help them beat the less-flattering stuff to the top of the search page.

Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

Surveys indicate that anywhere from 88% to 97% of recruiters go to LinkedIn to find candidates. LinkedIn profiles also turn up very high in Google search results, most likely due to the site’s high traffic, how often it’s linked to, and the amount of content users post everyday. So it’s not only a good idea to have a public LinkedIn profile, but to also ensure that it’s accurate, current, and grabby.

LinkedIn trainer and speaker Viveka von Rosen says that the Headline field (the line beneath your name) is the easiest — and most-often overlooked — place to grab attention when building a profile. “Rather than going with the default (your title at your current company) take the opportunity to say what it is that you do. Something like, ‘graphic artist working with startups in the Sudan,’” Von Rosen suggests.

Using keywords related to your field when describing yourself in the Summary and Experience sections can also help your profile turn up on Google if someone is searching for particular skills.

Once your profile is spruced up, you want to make sure it’s visible on the web. Head into Settings and select Edit Your Public Profile. Then check that reads “Make my public profile visible to everyone.” You can then reveal (or conceal) specific information within your public profile.

Von Rosen suggests allowing your Name, Photo, Headline and Summary to be open, while remaining cautious about revealing too much. “With identity theft, I limit what’s visible publicly – for example, in a page of Google search results,” she says.

Get Active on Twitter

If you’re on Twitter, regular posts relevant to your field can help build up your online profile for prospective employers. Like LinkedIn, Twitter profiles often turn up on the first page of Google search due to the site’s traffic and content flow.

Reputation.com’s Fertik suggests picking a Twitter username as close to your real name as possible. That way when someone searches for your name, it’s your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles that pop up alongside your personal website and company blog.

Changing your username is simple: Head to Account and enter the new name. If it’s available, it’s yours.

If your Twitter page is very personal — say, intended for friends and home to some off-color opinions — it might make more sense to limit access to only followers you approve.

Being cautious in that way can do a lot to boost your chances. A CareerBuilder survey found that two in five employers check social-media during the hiring process. Forty-three percent of employers rejected candidates based on inappropriate or discriminatory content on their profiles. On the flipside, 19% of recruiters who scanned social-media profiles hired candidates based on positives they found within.

To stop your off-color Twitter feed from showing up on Google, head to Settings, then Security and Privacy, and select Protect. Bonus: This also prevents the Library of Congress from archiving your tweets.

Dial Up the Facebook Privacy Settings

“Recruiters use Twitter to post jobs, LinkedIn to source candidates, and Facebook to eliminate candidates,” von Rosen says.

Many employers take Facebook profiles into account, even if they shouldn’t. A North Carolina State University study mapped Facebook behavior against personality traits. The researchers found that there’s often little correlation between a person’s real-life personality and how they portray themselves on Facebook, so employers could likely misjudge a candidate based on his or her profile alone.

To keep your Facebook profile out of search engine results, head into Settings, Privacy and select “No” in response to “Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?” question.

Facebook no longer allows users to hide their profiles from the website’s own search, but you can control how much of your profile will show up. For example, changing who can see your posts and photos to “Friends Only” means that a potential boss would see only your cover photo, profile photo, plus any About info — where you live, work, or went to school — that you’ve allowed to be public.

If a potential boss is in your extended Facebook network, you might want to change who can see future and past posts. We recommend setting updates as viewable to Friends Only — at least during the application process.

You can also clean up your feed post-by-post. Under Settings, Timeline and Tagging, there’s an option to check how your timeline looks to the public (note that this includes anyone logged into their Facebook account). If the photos and statuses displayed aren’t career-friendly, you can change individual visibility by selecting the photo or status, clicking edit, then changing “Public” to “Friends” or “Only Me” from the drop down menu.

If you have a fan page or are the administrator for a group with a lot of fans, allowing these pages to hit the search engines is good for boosting your online profile. For these pages, head to Settings, General, and make sure that “post targeting and privacy” is turned off. You can also lift any country or age restrictions (the page default settings are open and public).

For more on Facebook privacy settings, including how to limit what’s shown to the Facebook public, check out our comprehensive guide.

Pull Up the Positive, Push Down the Negative

Outside your own profiles, there’s content on the web that’s out of your immediate control. Things like rants from ex-employees, customer complaints, or unwanted photos from a past flame can paint a negative picture.

If you find an unflattering photo or inaccurate info on someone else’s site, the best first step is to contact the site owner and request it be removed or updated. In most cases, the site owner will comply.

However, negative reviews and undesired content that has been posted on sites like newspapers, Yelp, Amazon, or Angie’s List might be harder to take down. These larger companies are unlikely to grant a request unless you can prove the content is defamatory or inaccurate.

If they won’t budge, you can try what services like Reputation.com do: publish more content to push the offending article out of the first page of search results. For example, publish a blog post, put up a photo set on Flickr, or add information to a public social profile, such as LinkedIn or Google+. “Make sure your latest and greatest resume info is posted in short narrative and bullet format on a variety of resume sites,” Fertik says.

For bigger cleanup jobs, Reputation.com (and agencies like it) can take on the task for a fee (from $100 depending on the scale of virtual damage). Reputation.com uses patented algorithms to publish search engine optimized content. For example, the service might write and publish your professional details and biography at a selection of websites they say are picked especially for your field. By publishing lots of high-quality content with good keywords, the negative content should be pushed further down the search results list.

Depending on the industry you want to work in, other social network accounts on less popular portals, such as Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr, can help build an even more rounded online profile. If you work in fashion or design, for instance, a Pinterest profile can both show off your work and help you engage with fashion and design followers (i.e., potential customers).

Increasing the right kind of visibility — and diminishing what’s less appealing — is key to putting your best face forward online. “If you’re not findable by your subject matter and name,” says Fertik, “people aren’t going to be able to give you the opportunities.”

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

TIME Gadgets

The 6 Best Back-to-School Bags

Heavy textbooks may be on the way out, given the increased use of tablets, e-readers and other tech for students, but the weight of those laptops, tablets, chargers and other items adds up quickly. Choosing the right bag to carry your gear is key.

Whether you’re hiking across a big college campus or roaming the halls of your high school, you need a bag that’s functional as well as fashionable — after all, you’ll be lugging it around most of the day. We found half a dozen bags designed to carry the load and protect your electronic gear. Find the one that best suits your style.

1. STM Aero Small Laptop Backpack

STM

If you’re looking for a lightweight backpack, the Aero Small Laptop bag fits the bill. Padded shoulder straps give it a comfortable, secure fit, and the water-resistant micro ripstop polyester means no worries if you get caught out in the rain. This isn’t a very bulky backpack, yet it safely holds up to a 13-inch laptop as well as chargers, books, headphones and everything else you need to carry.

It has two side pockets: one for your water bottle and the other for an umbrella on rainy days. I particularly like the organizers and key ring on the inside so you don’t have to dig through all the pockets — and there are many — looking for where you stashed your keys.

Price: $79.99 at Amazon

2. Ogio Lisbon Tote

Ogio

If you prefer a tote-style bag, the Ogio Lisbon transports your gear safely while still looking stylish. Its interior padded compartment can accommodate up to a 13-inch laptop with space for textbooks and notebooks, as well as organizer flaps for small, easy-to-lose items such as pens, chargers or even lipstick.

A zippered, padded pocket on the exterior securely holds a tablet or small devices, and two outside pockets provide room for items like keys and snacks. The bag is made of lightweight nylon and comes in a variety of colors. I particularly like the mesh water bottle pocket located on the outside of the bag — easy access for hydrating on the go.

Price: $99.99 at ogio.com, $94.50 at Amazon

3. WaterField Designs Muzetto Leather Bag

 Black Muzetto
WaterField Designs

When you’re in the market for something a little more upscale, look for the WaterField Muzetto Leather Bag. Made of soft, supple leather, it feels and looks sophisticated enough to wear out to a party after class is over. The bag is styled more like a messenger bag and holds either a tablet or laptop in vertical mode.

The adjustable shoulder strap feels comfortable and doesn’t fall off the shoulder when you’re walking. I appreciated the open sleeve on the part of the bag that faces your body, perfect for tucking away gym clothes or a light sweater. An inside zipper compartment reveals pockets for your phone or other small items that you might prefer to keep separate from your laptop.

What I like about WaterField Designs’ bags is you can custom order the size you want in any particular color combination. So if you only need room for an iPad or 10-inch tablet, choose the smaller (and less expensive) portable size. The 13-inch version seems to be the sweet spot if you have a MacBook or similar laptop and still want some room for pads, books, chargers and even a snack or two.

Another thing I really like about this company is the fact that the bags are made in the USA.

Price: Starting at $209 at sfbags.com

4. Tylt Energi+ Backpack

Tylt

If you can’t seem to make it through the school day without charging up your devices, the Tylt Energi+ Backpack will suit your high-powered needs. It’s a backpack with a battery built right in, turning you into a mobile charging station for all your devices. You get two USB ports for charging phones, one higher amp USB port for charging tablets and a 10,400mAh battery to recharge them all. Keep your device tucked into an external pocket, if you like, and simply route the cables to the battery inside. The battery itself will fully charge in seven to eight hours.

The inside of this backpack is roomy with a soft, lined laptop compartment than can hold up to a 15-inch laptop. A tablet pocket provides access to your device without making you open the entire backpack. This bag is loaded with pockets for snacks, water bottles and even a change of clothes if you’re headed to the gym.

Price: $199.99 on tylt.com, $129.99 at Amazon

5. Hex Outpost Cloak Backpack

Hex

If you call Seattle or a similarly rainy climate home, the Hex Outpost Cloak Backpack will keep your electronics safe and dry. Sure, it holds a 15-inch laptop and has tons of pockets for other gear, but I love the water-resistant exterior and the interior drawstring liner underneath the top flap that keeps rain from trickling in.

Hex products don’t come in bright, fun colors. Instead they focus on form and function with details like leather zip pulls and surplus-grade web straps in a handsome slate grey canvas. Another nice touch: Magnetic snaps provide easy access without your having to open and close the buckles on the straps.

Price: $99.95 at shophex.com and Amazon

6. ChicTech Leather Wristlet with Phone Charger

ChicTech

After a full day of classes, it’s time to head off to your job or internship or a night out with friends. You don’t need your backpack with all your school supplies, but you would like something to carry your phone, some money and credit cards, your keys and maybe some lip gloss.

The ChicTech Leather Wristlet holds all those items. Even better, you don’t need to worry about draining your phone battery while you’re out. The wristlet offers a built-in 4000mAh charger—enough juice to fully charge even the largest phones—with micro-USB, 30-pin and Lightning tips; simply charge your phone as you carry it with you.

The wristlet comes in purple, pink, black, ivory and red.

Price: $79.98 at qvc.com

This article was written by Andrea Smith and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME How-To

10 Tips to Keep Your Digital Photos Organized

digital photos
Getty Images

Over the years, your photo collection will swell to the tens of thousands, you’ll migrate from one computer to another, you’ll go through several different cameras and industry formats will change.

Fortunately, organizing your digital photos has become easier and easier, thanks to new automation tools. But you still need to pitch in.

Follow these tips to keep track of your memories through all the changes.

1) Set your camera to the correct date and time

This simple step will permanently tag every photo with the correct date, allowing you to search and sort chronologically for all posterity. And if you often import other people’s photos to your own library, make sure their cameras are set correctly too!

2) Delete the junkers as soon as you take them

Fight the instinct that says every photo is precious, because in reality, bad photos are just clutter, making it harder to find the good ones. Delete them from the camera. Over your lifetime, you will thank yourself for keeping the collection manageable.

3) Know where your photos go

Put all your pictures in the same folder, such as your PC’s existing “Pictures” folder. One universal folder means that photos will be easy to back up and move to a new PC for years to come. Override any attempts by your camera’s software to store them in a proprietary folder on your drive.

4) Use a sub-foldering system

Within your “Pictures” folder, organize your photos into sub-folders that will make sense over the long-term. A common method is by year – 2010, 2011, etc., and inside those, more sub-folders by month, topic (Little League) and event (vacation). Or, rely on tags instead for organizing by that sub-level of detail, as explained below.

5) Back up your photos

Make sure your photos are stored in at least two locations, such as your own PC and an external drive. External drives are relatively inexpensive now. For added safety in case of fire or theft, also store photos at a reputable online photo site, such as Shutterfly, SmugMug, or Flickr, or an online backup service, such as Dropbox or Carbonite.

6) Give star ratings to your best photos

Each time you import photos from your camera, give star ratings to the best photos in each batch. Most image management packages use a five-star system. These let you quickly find your best photos in the future.

7) Use image management software to tag and find photos

Excellent image management software is downloadable for free, such as Google’s Picasa or Microsoft’s Windows Live Photo Gallery; Apple’s iPhoto comes pre-installed on Macs. These help you navigate your collection easily. You can further hone your searching with “tags,” which are keywords you apply in the software to photos, such as “Summer Vacation.” Most tags will stay with the image and remain searchable, regardless of which brand of software you’re using, thanks to emerging industry standards. Image management software is your gateway to helpful tools like face recognition, geo-tagging and more.

8) Make use of people tags

Facial recognition is a breakthrough technology included free with the image management software mentioned. It uses advanced intelligence to find faces in photos and guess who the people are—an incredible time saver. No need to manually tag every person in all your photos, and searching your archive to find someone’s photo is now a snap.

9) Print an annual photo book

Search on your star ratings to instantly call up your best shots of the year, and choose a service such as Blurb, Shutterfly, or Snapfish to print them in an annual photo book. Regardless of what happens to digital standards over the decades, the printed photo book will always be viewable by anyone, anytime.

10) Form good habits

Just like brushing your teeth or doing the laundry on a schedule, photos require basic maintenance habits. Getting in the habit means having access to all your photos in the coming years.

This article was written by Kristy Holch and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

10 Free Android Apps Everyone Should Download

Great everyday apps that span multiple genres

Every time I get a new Android smartphone or tablet, I install certain apps right away, before I even really start to play with the device — apps I use every week, if not every day, on the Android gadgets I test as well as the ones I own. For your benefit, I’ve narrowed down the list to 10 free Android apps I can’t live without.

SwiftKey Keyboard

SwiftKey

Because most stock keyboards aren’t that great, SwiftKey is often the first app I download on a new phone or tablet. SwiftKey’s prediction engine, which offers suggestions for words as you type as well as the next word you need, is based on the words you use most. It learns from your everyday input as well as from your email, social media accounts, your blog’s RSS feeds and other sources (if you connect them). If you have more than one Android device or decide to upgrade, you don’t have to start over with the learning. SwiftKey can store this data in the cloud and sync it across multiple devices.

SwiftKey saves typing time in multiple ways: Swype-like trace-to-type, shortcuts, long-press for alt characters and a dedicated number row on top if you want it. This is one of the most customizable keyboards I’ve used, with multiple color themes, the ability to change the size of keys and even the ability to split or push the keyboard to one edge or the other — great for phablet use.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

AccuWeather

Of the seemingly million weather apps for Android (including the one that probably came with your phone, complete with animated widget), AccuWeather offers you one solid reason to ditch them and download it instead: MinuteCast.

MinuteCast tells you the weather at this moment exactly where you’re standing or in whatever zip code you enter — not the forecast for the whole city, the forecast for right where you are right now. MinuteCast is especially useful during storms. Want to know when it will start raining, when it will stop or when it will let up enough for you to dash home? This app will tell you.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

TrustGo

Android boasts some decent built-in security measures for keeping your data safe and finding a lost phone, but they don’t address the other major mobile security threat: malware. TrustGo adds that protection plus advanced security features such as capturing images of a person trying to crack your security code, sounding an alarm to help you find a misplaced device and wiping the device remotely. Of all the free security apps available, TrustGo provides the most features for free.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Firefox Mobile

Mozilla

Firefox is our top web browser pick for your personal computer as well as your mobile devices. Google Chrome is great and comes preloaded on Android devices, but thanks to its large library of add-ons, Firefox is worth an extra step to download and install. Chrome doesn’t support extensions on Android, but Firefox users can add Adblock, a cookie cleaner, Flash video downloaders and hundreds more tools.

Beyond that, Firefox Mobile is fast, clean and attractive, with an interface that syncs bookmarks, passwords and other data between all your browsers for seamless desktop-to-mobile use.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Yelp

Google Maps is turning into a decent restaurant and business suggestion app, but Yelp still has Google beat in terms of sheer data. Yelp’s millions of user reviews are only one reason I use this app almost every day. New businesses show up on Yelp faster, and drilling down searches to a specific area brings up more results with a ton of reviews. Plus, I love Yelp Monocle, an augmented reality feature that shows ratings and business names on top of a real-time view from your camera.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

TuneIn Radio

As soon as I got a smartphone, I ditched my alarm clock. The feature I missed most after making the switch was waking up to my favorite radio station. That’s one of the reasons I like TuneIn Radio.

TuneIn Radio can access any station with an online stream, and you can choose to wake up to that station via the app’s alarm. While you listen, TuneIn brings up information about the song and artist or the program, which you can save. You can also use TuneIn to search beyond traditional radio for podcasts.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Evernote

Evernote

Most note-taking apps work fine for jotting down quick ideas and shopping lists, but Evernote offers so much more. Even if you think you need something simple, you’d be surprised how a more comprehensive app can change your daily habits. I’m a fan of receiving reminders about my notes, so I know to follow up. When I can’t write or type fast enough, audio notes save the day.

The best feature is the page camera. Take a snapshot of printed or handwritten pages, and Evernote scans them for words that it then indexes to show up in searches.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Pocket

Flipping through news using Flipboard, Blinkfeed, an RSS reader or Pulse is fine when most of the articles and posts are short enough to read in a minute or less. But for long reads, you want an app that strips away distractions (like ads) to offer an ebook-like reading experience that lets you immerse yourself in the words.

That’s why I love Pocket. Saving articles from your browser is easy, and Pocket automatically syncs all your stored articles for offline reading. Read them when you’re ready, even if you’re on a plane or a subway car. The reading experience is great, giving you control over the text’s font, size and background.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Kingsoft Office

Downloading a document from email for reading or editing can be a pain if the office suite you’re using messes with the formatting, isn’t designed as well for small screens as it is for large ones or can’t save in the most popular file formats. Most preloaded office suites are a pain, so I always replace them with Kingsoft.

On top of Kingsoft’s qualities as a good document editor, it connects to cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive to allow you to edit and sync without opening another app. It can save to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats as well as in PDF format.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

DuoLingo

Learning a new language doesn’t come easily for everyone, especially adult beginners. But there comes a time when knowing basic phrases and greetings is useful: when you’re traveling abroad, moving into a mixed-culture neighborhood, trying to meet that cute guy or girl who only speaks Italian …

DuoLingo can help prepare you for basic conversation in just a few months via fun exercises you do occasionally. You don’t have to deal with the commitment of a class or spend hundreds of dollars right from the start.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME How-To

The Best Way to Take Digital Notes

Taking notes is one of the most important activities for a high school or college student, be it in class during lectures or at the library or home doing research.

Using a laptop to take notes has become common, but recent research shows that laptop note-taking is far less effective than taking notes by hand. And even when students don’t use their laptops to multitask during class (surfing the web and chatting on social networks), they don’t process and retain information as well as students who take their class notes by hand.

This effect doesn’t mean you have to give up the convenience of digital notes. With new digital pen tools and note apps, it’s possible to transform handwritten notes into text or make scribbled notes indexable and searchable.

Write directly on a tablet

Samsung

A tablet with an active stylus allows you to write directly on the screen as if you were writing on paper. The tactile sensation isn’t quite the same, but the best pen-enabled tablets come very close and make writing comfortable with pen strokes that flow.

I recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition because it comes with an active stylus and great palm rejection. You can rest your hand on the screen while taking notes and the Note will ignore it, only paying attention to your pen strokes. The S Pen glides across the screen at the speed of gel ink pens, feeling as close to pen and paper as you can get in this format.

The Note comes with one of the best note-taking apps for Android: S Note. It records pen strokes, translates handwriting to text, offers shape and formula matching to make notes cleaner and easier to read and syncs to Evernote.

I don’t recommend the iPad Air or iPad Mini for on-tablet note-taking. Since Apple’s tablets don’t have active styluses (meaning pen-detecting tech is not built in), palm rejection doesn’t work as well and only works in certain programs. If you want a Windows tablet, I suggest the Asus VivoTab Note 8, which runs full Windows 8.1, comes with Microsoft Office Home and Student and has an active stylus.

Take notes with a smartpen

Livescribe

Even the best pen-enabled tablets can’t exactly replicate the feel of pen on paper. If you prefer analog note-taking but want the benefits of digital notes, I recommend a smartpen. Smartpens utilize special paper to record pen strokes and, in some cases, audio that is linked to the pen strokes.

The best smartpen for iPad and iPhone owners is the Livescribe 3. It’s about the size and weight of an executive pen and connects to the tablet or phone via Bluetooth. As you take notes on Livescribe paper (available in notebooks, as sticky notes or self-printable paper), they automatically and instantly sync to the Livescribe+ app.

In Livescribe+, you can organize notes by class, project or any other way you like, transforming handwriting into written text with impressive accuracy. Livescribe+ notes sync with Evernote and OneNote, updating automatically when you add new information. Evernote also recognizes handwriting and indexes it as text, making it even easier to search for keywords later.

Livescribe+ can record audio (using the iPad or iPhone mics) synced with pen strokes to create what’s called a pencast. In a pencast, you can click on a note, drawing or any other pen stroke to play the audio the app recorded at that moment. Don’t worry about writing down every single thing your professor says during class, just the gist; the pencast feature lets you access the exact words.

Livescribe+ is not available for Android or Windows right now. If you use either of those platforms, the Livescribe Sky Smartpen is a good choice. This pen sends the digital version of your notes directly to Evernote wirelessly. It also has the ability to create pencasts, recording your writing and the audio all on its own.

Capture notes with your smartphone camera

Another digital note-taking option is to use whatever pen and notebook you prefer (some of us are sticklers for certain kinds, I know), then make them digital with Evernote’s Page Camera feature. Page Camera is designed for capturing notebook pages and handwriting. Though there are special Moleskine notebooks made for Evernote, you can use any notebook or loose paper you like.

Evernote saves the captures as images you can access in any of the apps — Android, iOS, Windows or web. The service uses OCR (optical character recognition) and handwriting recognition to index the words in captured notes and index them for search. Accuracy isn’t as good as with digital pens or writing on a tablet screen, but I have found it surprisingly effective even without neat handwriting. To get best results, buy the StandScan Pro scanning box or build a smartphone scanner stand.

You can add Page Captures to any note in Evernote, including existing ones, keeping your notes and the audio of a lecture together in one note. It’s not as convenient as a pencast, but at least everything is in one place.

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

Waterproof Tech for a Day at the Beach or Pool

Tech and water usually don’t mix. But if you’re heading to the beach or pool this summer, there’s no need to unplug completely. From the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone to the Panasonic Lumix camera (below), there have never been so many great waterproof tech options to help you capture great photos, blast tunes, and even help protect your skin from sun damage.

Here are Techlicious’s favorite summertime tech picks for an active day of fun.

Waterproof Tablet

Sony

If your idea of a fun day at the beach involves taking it easy, reading an e-book or two and playing a couple rounds of Angry Birds, then the Sony Xperia Z2 tablet makes a great companion. The ultraslim 10.1” tab is high-powered – it’s got a 2.3GHz quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM and an 8MP rear camera for photos. It’s waterproof and dustproof too (IP55/58), so it can take a few minor splashes without becoming an expensive, glossy brick.

Sony.com is currently offering the 16GB Xperia Z2 for $499.99 with a free charging dock for a limited time. A 32GB version of the tablet is available for $599.99.

JUNE UV Ray Monitor

Netatmo

We all love the summer sun, but too much of it can lead to burns, premature aging and – worst of all – skin cancer. The wrist-worn Netatmo JUNE helps mitigate these risks by tracking your daily sun exposure, measuring the intensity of the sun’s UV rays and providing smartphone reminders when it’s time to re-apply sunscreen or put on sunglasses. You can bring it poolside, too: The chic, French-inspired design is both splash- and water-resistant.

The Bluetooth-powered Netatmo JUNE is available in three colors (platinum, gold and gunmetal) and includes a leather and premium silicon wristband, a USB charging cable and a storage pouch. You can get yours for $99 at Netatmo.com. And if you want a more waterproof (albeit less elegant) option for swimming in the pool, take a look at the $49 SunFriend UV Monitor.

Waterproof Camera Case and Float

Dicapac

The beach is a great place for fun family photos, but a splash of salt water can ruin the sensitive electronics inside your expensive new camera. Consider protecting your device with a Dicapac waterproof case. Each keeps your camera safe from damage while still allowing you to take great pictures up to 16 feet underwater. The Dicapac WP-ONE protects point and shoot cameras for just $16.47, the WP-S3 ($69.95) keeps hybrid cameras safe and the WP-S10 ($61.50) protects compact digital cameras with larger lens attachments.

Want even more camera protection? Check out the Chums Waterproof Camera Float. It’s a simple foam-filled wrist lanyard that attaches directly to your camera (up to 7 ounces), allowing it to float on top of the water rather than sink to the bottom of a pool or the ocean. The bright yellow color makes it easy to see in murky water. Best of all, a float won’t break the bank – you can pick one up on Amazon for just $7.60.

Waterproof Digital Camera

Panasonic

While a camera case is a great option for protecting your current camera, for the best and sharpest pictures, you’ll want a camera designed for underwater use, like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5. This tough 16.1MP camera is waterproof to 43 feet (IPX8), shockproof from 6.5 feet and pressure resistant to 220 pounds. Built-in GPS allows for the automatic tagging of photos with location names, and when it’s time to share your photos with friends, this Lumix has Wi-Fi and NFC built right in.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5D is available for purchase at Amazon.com for $299.

Waterproof Speaker

Fugoo

Want to listen to killer tunes out by pool? Check out the Fugoo Sport Speaker. It’s a portable Bluetooth speaker that’s waterproof (to 3 feet for 30 minutes), shockproof and impact-resistant enough to survive summer after summer of tough play. A powerful battery keeps the tunes going long after sundown – the Fugoo can go 40 hours (at 50% loudness) on a single charge, making it perfect for overnight camping and canoeing trips.

The Fugoo Sport Speaker is available on Amazon.com for $199.99. If you’re thinking the speaker might take a lot of abuse, check out the even sturdier Fugoo Tough Speaker – it’ll costs you $30 more, but the fiber-reinforced resin and solid aluminum housing will offer added protection.

Have your own waterproof favorite? Share it in the comments section below!

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME privacy

How to Delete Yourself from the Internet

Americans love the Internet, with 87% of us active online. We have accounts everywhere, letting us kill time at work on Facebook, check Twitter for the latest news, cruise Pinterest for inspirational moodboards and hit Amazon for great shopping deals. On top of that, most of us also have a pile of inactive accounts created for discounts or one-off purchases.

With our digital footprints expanding, we are relaying more personal data than ever to trackers, hackers and marketers with and without our consent. Are we sharing too much? Do we have the right not to be tracked? Is withdrawing from the Internet entirely to preserve your privacy even possible? Let’s go over each of these issues.

Data dangers

Creating profiles at sites you use regularly has many benefits, such as ease of log-in and better suggestions for links or products you might like. But with growing concern over privacy terms that change at the drop of a hat, the sale of personal data by less scrupulous websites and the challenges of keeping stalker-y exes at bay, more and more Americans are deciding to reclaim and delete their personal data.

If you’re among the roughly 23% of Americans who use a single password for a handful of accounts, deleting inactive accounts is an important security measure. If a hacker cracked that password, you could suffer a domino-effect hacking of your other accounts too, especially if they are linked via a common email address.

Aside from the accounts and profiles we willingly create, our data is also exposed as hundreds of people search websites that comb police records, courthouse records and other public records such as real estate transactions, making our personal data publicly available to anyone who looks for it. Deleting this data isn’t as easy as you might expect — and many companies won’t remove your personal details fully.

Deleting your online presence

Tracking down all your data won’t be easy. There is no one service that will trawl the Internet for pieces of you, so start by tearing down your social profiles.

Start with JustDelete.me

A site called JustDelete.me provides an incredibly comprehensive list of email, social media, shopping and entertainment sites, along with notes on how difficult it is to completely erase your account and links to actually get it done. This is a great resource to help you remember and find unused profiles as well as gauging how much effort you’ll have to expend to shut it down.

Find other open accounts

Next, review your email accounts, looking for marketing updates and newsletters to get wind of other accounts you may still hold or companies that have bought your email address. Then go through your phone and check for apps that have required you to create accounts.

Once you’ve created a list of accounts, you then should sort them according to how often you use them, if at all. Delete any you don’t use. “Data is an asset to these companies,” says Jacqui Taylor, CEO of web science company Flying Binary. “Not only are these companies able to monetize you as their product, you aren’t even receiving a service in exchange.”

Working off your list of accounts, head back to JustDelete.me and use it as a springboard to start deleting accounts.

Downloading and removing your content

If there’s data you’d like to keep — say, photos or contact lists — you may be able to download them before deleting your account. Facebook and Twitter data can be downloaded in the respective Settings tabs, while LinkedIn contacts can be exported via Contact Settings.

At many sites such as Evernote and Pinterest, you won’t be able to delete your account. You can only deactivate it and then manually remove personal data. At sites such as Apple, this process includes a call to customer service.

Don’t forget background checking sites

To find out which background check websites have posted information about you, check out the list of popular sites on this Reddit thread. Then go to each and try searching for your name. See if you pop up in the first few pages of search results. If you do, the same Reddit thread has information on opting out, but get ready for a hassle: usually calling, faxing and sending in physical proof that you are who you say you are. After that, expect to wait anywhere from 10 working days to six weeks for information to disappear.

Sites that don’t allow complete withdrawal

A large number of companies make it impossible to delete all traces of your accounts. According to JustDelete.me, this list includes Etsy, the online marketplace for home crafters, which retains your email address no matter what; Gawker Media, which retains the rights to all posts you made; and Netflix, which keeps your watch history and recommendations “just in case you want to come back.”

Then there’s Twitter, which signed a deal with the Library of Congress in 2013 giving it the right to archive all public tweets from 2006 on. This means that anything you’ve posted publicly since then is owned by the government and will stay archived even if you delete your account.

To prevent future tweets from being saved, convert your settings to private so that only approved followers can read your tweets. (Go to the settings in the security and privacy section.)

Shut down your Facebook account by going to Settings, Security and then click “Deactivate my account.” You can download all of your posts and images first by going to Settings, General and then click “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”

However, you’ve already agreed to the social media giant’s terms and conditions, which state that Facebook has the right to keep traces of you in its monolithic servers. Basically any information about you held by another Facebook user (such as conversations still in the other person’s inbox or your email address if it’s in a friend’s contact list) will be preserved.

The divide between companies that make it easy to delete your data and the companies that make it difficult is clear. “If you’re the product (on such free services as the social platforms), the company tends to make it difficult,” Taylor says. Monetizing your data is the basis of the business model for such companies.

For services like eBay and Paypal, Taylor adds, you aren’t the product (both collect fees from sellers), making it easier to delete your account and associated data.

The right to be forgotten

Being able to erase social and other online data is linked to a larger issue: the right to be forgotten online. In the European Union, a recent Court of Justice ruling gave EU residents the right to request that irrelevant, defamatory information be removed from search engine databases. However, no such service is available to the residents of United States.

“You should be able to say to any service provider that you want your data to be deleted,” Taylor says. “If someone leaves this earth, how can their data still be usable by all these companies?”

When erasure isn’t an option

Much of our personal data online is hosted on social platforms that regularly update their terms of service to change how our data can be used. A privacy policy that you were comfortable with when you signed on could evolve to become something you don’t agree with at all.

“Your digital footprint is not under your control if you’re using these free services,” Taylor says.

But in an increasingly connected, virtual age, it can seem inconceivable not to have a footprint at all. Most of us use a social account to log in to dozens of other sites. Some sites require that you do so: for example, Huffington Post requires a Facebook log-in, while YouTube commenters need a Google+ log-in.

Employers frequently perform background checks through Google or dedicated third-party social media checkers. In many professions, an online portfolio of work on the likes of WordPress or Tumblr is a necessity. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to communicate socially without the aid of a Facebook or Twitter account.

Given the realities of our connected world today, not being online can be seen as a negative. The key, Taylor says, is to take ownership of your data. Control how much of your personal data is available online by pruning inactive accounts. Create new accounts selectively, and post with the understanding that within a single update to the terms of service, your data could become publicly shared or further monetized.

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Smartphones

How to Get Great Fireworks Photos with Your Phone

Watching the July 4th fireworks has been a long-standing family tradition. But capturing the beautiful aerial displays can be hard if you stick with the auto settings on your smartphone, so try these simple tricks for fireworks photos you’ll want to keep.

1. Use a tripod

joby-griptight-gorillapod-286px
Joby

When you take picture of fireworks, your phone’s camera needs to hold the shutter open long enough to “see” the fireworks. The longer the shutter is open, the more susceptible your photo is to motion blur. So use a tripod to make sure there’s no movement. Joby’s GripTight Gorillapod, which can wrap around trees and poles or stand up on the ground, is a great option that fits most smartphones. Price: $29.95 on joby.com or $16.74 on Amazon.

2. Use the “landscape” mode

camera-plus-focux-lock-400px
The app for iOS lets you set and lock focus manually. Camera+

Your phone’s camera automatically tries to find an object on which to focus. And when presented with a black featureless sky, the camera doesn’t know what to do. By putting your camera in “landscape” mode, you’ll be presetting the focus to infinity and narrowing the lens opening, which keeps both near and far objects in focus.

If your smartphone’s camera app doesn’t have landscape mode, you’ll want to manually set the focus to infinity. There’s an infinity focus option with Shot Control ($2.99 in Google Play) for Android phones. For iPhones, you can use Camera+ ($1.99 in iTunes) and manually select and set a focal point in the distance.

If you have access to a camera, you’ll want to look for “fireworks” mode. Most point-and-shoot cameras have a button or dial with “SCN” or “Scene” on it. Otherwise you’ll find it under the “menu” button. When you put your camera in scene mode, a list of the available modes will pop up on screen. Select the one that looks like a spray of fireworks and/or says “fireworks.”

3. Turn off the flash

Turning your flash off will let your phone’s camera know that it only has available light to take a picture. This is important because the camera will then keep the shutter open long enough to capture the fireworks. The flash button is usually a separate button on the main camera app screen.

4. Turn down the ISO

High ISO will crank up the sensitivity of your phone’s camera so it can see details in the dark. However, the fireworks themselves are quite bright. So, to avoid overexposure and reduce noise, take your camera out of Auto ISO and change the setting to ISO 100 or even lower. The ISO setting is usually found under the main menu. You may have to put your camera in program mode to change this setting.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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