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

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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

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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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TIME Smartphones

10 Free iPhone Apps Everyone Should Download

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There are tons of apps on my iPhone that I love and use all the time, from my local supermarket’s app to fun games like Threes. It’s really hard to choose favorites, but that’s exactly what my editor Suzanne asked me to do: Pick my 10 favorite free iPhone apps.

It wasn’t easy. But after much deliberation, I narrowed the apps I use every day down to a list of 10 that spans multiple genres, from GPS navigation to fitness tracking. Take a look at my faves, and if you’d like, use the comments section to tell us all your favorite free apps that I might have missed.

 Maps
Google

Google Maps

To be sure, the stock Maps app on your iPhone has improved a lot since its disastrous launch two years ago, but it’s still not as well designed and robust as the Google Maps app it replaced. Google Maps 3.0 offers highly accurate traffic reports, construction alerts and road closings provided by Waze, lane guidance so you don’t miss your next turn, the ability to save maps for offline use and even mass transit directions with schedules built in. And if a new, faster route becomes available, Google Maps will alert you and ask if you’d like to switch.

You can download Google Maps for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Weather Channel App

Yahoo has long been the provider of your iPhone’s stock weather app, but that’s about to change later this year in iOS 8 when Apple will switch to The Weather Channel. But you shouldn’t wait for iOS 8 – the stand-alone Weather Channel app is leagues ahead of Yahoo’s version now. It offers extended 10-day forecasts and hyperlocal rain reports down to your exact location. It looks great, and as an added bonus, it doesn’t glitch out like the stock iPhone app occasionally does.

You can download The Weather Channel app for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Stitcher

I’m a big fan of NPR shows like Radio Lab and Wait, Wait, but I’m rarely around a radio when the shows are broadcast. That’s why I like the Stitcher radio-on-demand app. It streams podcasts direct to your phone from all the biggest names, from popular NPR shows to The Nerdist to Penn Gillette to Joe Rogan. There are plenty of news briefs, too, so you can stay current on what’s going on in the world.

You can download Stitcher for iOS on the Apple App Store.

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Gas Buddy

Gas Buddy

I recently took a cross-country road trip, and as you can imagine, I spent a lot of money on gas along the way. But I was able to save a lot of money on gas, too, thanks to the Gas Buddy app. It relies on crowdsourcing to constantly update gas prices at fueling stations across the country, letting you compare prices no matter where you are. You can even overlay prices on a map, pinpointing the best, cheapest location to refuel on your route. Prices tend to be accurate, and are generally quickly updated when they’re not.

You can download Gas Buddy for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Facebook

Pretty much everyone is on Facebook these days, for better or worse. To stay connected with everyone in your social circle, I recommend downloading the official Facebook app. It learns your preferences as you use it, delivering content it thinks you’ll find most relevant. And you can change your own profile and write your own updates on the go, making all your friends jealous of your exciting night out on the town. It’s a guilty pleasure that I just can’t do without.

You can download Facebook for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Google Now

It the past, I’ve called Google Now “creepy” – and it is. But that’s just because it’s so good at learning about you and your life. Google Now learns where you work, where you live, and where you travel, providing you with instant weather alerts, traffic and mass transit updates based on where it thinks you’re going. And if you’ve got a Gmail account, Google Now pulls travel bookings and restaurant reservation confirmations from it, automatically notifying you if your flight is delayed and letting you know when you’ll need to leave home to catch it. Plus, it learns from your Google searches to deliver sports scores and news headlines it thinks you’ll be interested in. You have to give up a lot of privacy to Google to use it, but Google Now is so good that doing so feels worth it.

Google Now is part of the Google Search app and is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Adidas miCoach

There are plenty of great fitness apps available on your iPhone, but one of my (and Suzanne’s) favorites is Adidas miCoach. It offers coaching, training plans, exercises, performance tracking that includes steps taken and calories burned, and GPS tracking. You’ll get the most out of miCoach by pairing it with a compatible activity monitor, but it still works great as a standalone app. Give the free app a try – you have nothing to lose but a few pounds.

You can download Adidas miCoach on the Apple App Store.

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Yelp

Yelp

Whenever I’m feeling hungry away from home, I reach for the Yelp local discovery app. It ranks local businesses based on user-submitted ratings and reviews, making it easy to discover a great new hair salon or the place with the best pizza in your town. Yelp learns your preferences as you use it and check in to businesses, tailoring recommendations to your own individual tastes. Yelp also helps you save money: Occasionally, businesses offer coupons and specials on the app just for stopping and checking in.

You can download Yelp for iOS on the Apple App Store.

RedLaser

RedLaser is a shopping assistant app designed to help you find the best prices on any item with a barcode. Just use the app to take a photo of an item’s barcode and RedLaser will figure out what the item is, which local stores and websites sell it, and at what prices. And as a bonus, the app stores all your loyalty card info and offers coupons, helping you turn a good deal into a great deal.

You can download RedLaser for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Spotify

I’ve said it before, but Spotify is my absolute favorite app for streaming music to my iPhone. I pay for the $9.99 monthly premium service, but there are plenty of free listening options available for those who don’t mind a few ads every now and then. Spotify lets you create and modify your own radio stations, create playlists and shuffle through songs by your favorite artists. And if you install the app on an iPad, Spotify now lets you listen to individual songs on demand without you having to shell out the cash to become a premium subscriber.

You can download Spotify for iOS on the Apple App store.

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

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TIME How-To

Where to Find Free and Cheap Ebooks

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Summer is officially here. It’s a great time to sit back at the beach and enjoy a good read. But at prices as high as $15 a pop, a summer’s worth of ebooks can get real expensive real quick.

The good news: There are plenty of places to find great ebooks for free or at significant discounts. Here are some of our favorite places to go for summer reading on the cheap.

Your Local Library

The best place to start for free books is your local library, and the same holds true for ebooks. The vast majority of libraries now offer popular ebook titles to borrow, just like their hardcovered cousins. To find out what books are available near you, either visit your library in person or search online using the OverDrive website at overdrive.com.

Project Gutenberg

Free is hands down my favorite price for books, and few places offer more free books without subscription or commitment than Project Gutenberg. The non-profit is full of approximately 46,000 public domain titles from authors like Shakespeare, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jane Austin and F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you’ve ever wanted to check out a classic novel, Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) is a great place to start.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

If you’re already a member of the $99-per-year Amazon Prime premium service, then you already have access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. The service now contains over 500,000 ebooks, including the entire Harry Potter series and a number of other New York Times best sellers. They’re not all top-tier reads, but they are free for Kindle owners to download and try.

Kindle Daily Deals

Like most major bookstores, Amazon has a sale section, too. Before you pay full price for an ebook, check out Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals where you can find titles for teens and adults priced between 99 cents and $3.99. There’s a little bit of everything to discover, from historical biographies to mystery novels to light summer romance fare. And if you don’t like what’s currently available, check back tomorrow – the deals are updated every day.

Samsung Galaxy S5

If you picked up Samsung’s newest flagship smartphone, then you’ve also picked up access to a free rotating selection of ebooks via Kindle for Samsung. You get four “prominent” books to choose from every month on your Samsung Galaxy S5, up to a total of 12 per year. There’s no telling if you’ll want to read the limited selection, but hey – free is free.

Oyster and Scribd

If you’re the type of person who craves new reads rather than re-reading old favorites – or if you just blaze through a ton of books each month – then you’re a perfect candidate for Oyster and Scribd. Both are relatively new subscription services, something akin to a Netflix for books. The services have access to approximately half-a-million titles each, including ebooks from top publishers HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. In short: Even the pickiest readers are guaranteed to find something worth their time.

New members get a free month of service on both Oyster and Scribd, allowing you to get through prime summer vacation season without spending a dime. After the free trial, Oyster costs $9.95 per month; Scribd is $8.99 but with approximately 100,000 fewer titles. You can check out Oyster by visiting oysterbooks.com and Scribd at scribd.com.

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

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TIME Innovation

Smart Home Gadgets for Stopping Disasters Before They Happen

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Whether I’m traveling or anticipating the arrival of guests, I worry something will happen while I’m gone. Did I forget to turn off the iron? Will my guests arrive while I’m out picking up more milk?

With a smartphone or computer I can easily allay these fears by checking on that iron or even unlocking the door. In fact, there are products that provide remote control or monitoring of most of the important systems in a home. Better yet, you can install most of these yourself.

Wireless video monitoring camera

Dropcam

Do you want to make sure the neighbor fed your fish, that packages aren’t sitting on your front porch or that Fido isn’t sitting on the sofa again? With a wireless video-monitoring camera, you can perform a visual check on your home while you’re away. The new Dropcam Pro is a good choice with its 130-degree field of view and ability to digitally pan and zoom (8x) in on a scene. Plus, it has enhanced night vision and two-way audio communication (for chastising Fido or otherwise). Video is encrypted and can be saved, based on your needs.

If you want to take your Dropcam Pro to the next level, take a look at the $29 Dropcam Tab wireless movement sensors. They attach directly to your door or window, sending an alert to your smartphone if someone opens or closes one. They’re also rated for outdoor use, so you can attach them to a gate or garage door if you’d like.

Price: $199.00 on dropcam.com, $199.99 on amazon.com

Belkin

Remote control electrical outlet

Plug any device into the Belkin WeMo Home Automation Switch and you can turn it on or off with your iOS or Android device. So you can make sure the iron is off and the front lights are on wherever you happen to be. You can also set the WeMo outlet to work on a schedule, turning on or off at certain times of day.

Price: $49.99 on belkin.com, $49.95 on amazon.com

To automate hardwired light fixtures, you’ll need aBelkin WeMo Light Switch instead. It looks and functions similar to a standard wall light switch, but also adds the same kind of functionality you get from the Home Automation Switch. The only catch is that you’ll need to do a bit of wiring to install it (or pay an electrician do it for you).

Price: $49.99 on belkin.com, $44.00 on amazon.com

Nest

Remote control thermostat

There’s no need to turn down the thermostat when you leave town for the weekend. The Nest thermostat has sensors built in so it knows when you’re away and will automatically go into energy-saving mode. You can also turn up the heat remotely with your iPhone or Android phone so your home is just the right temperature when you arrive. And best of all, it learns your preferences as you use it, eliminating the need to deal with complex scheduling.

Looking for an even smarter smart thermostat? Check out the Honeywell Lyric. The Lyric automatically turns your heat or air conditioning on based on the GPS location of your phone. If you’ve got a schedule that fluctuates wildly, the Lyric can make sure your home is the perfect temperature the moment you step through the front door, whenever that happens to be.

You’ll need to wait until August to pick up the $279 Lyric. The Nest, meanwhile, is available now wherever home improvement goods are sold.

Price: $249 on nest.com or amazon.com

Wally Home

Water and flood alert system

Will the leaky pipe you just fixed in the upstairs bathroom hold over the long weekend? With the Wally Hub, wireless sensors will monitor for changes in humidity and temperature under the sink, next to the hot water heater or by any other appliance or pipe you’re worried about. An included smartphone app will keep an eye on all your sensors at once, with mobile alerts delivered the moment a change in wetness is detected. With Wally, you can address small problems before they turn into a catastrophic ones, even when you’re away from home.

The Wally Hub comes with 6 sensors included for placement around your house. Additional sensors are available at wallyhome.com for $35 each, or 6 for $199.

Price: $299.00 on wallyhome.com

Chamberlain

Smartphone garage door opener

Did you remember to close the garage door? Eliminate any question with new Chamberlain MyQ Garage System, a simple-to-install add-on to most major garage door systems made after 1993. It connects to your home Wi-Fi, letting you use your smartphone to check whether you left the door up no matter how far you travel from home. And as we mentioned in our Father’s Day Gift Guide, the device can also deliver alerts to your phone whenever the door opens, letting you know exactly how long past curfew your teenager stayed out.

Price: $110.49 on amazon.com

UniKey

Remote control door lock

Expecting guests to visit while you’re away? You could hide a spare house key under the welcome mat, but that’s pretty dangerous — that’s the first place most thieves look. Instead, take a look at the Kwikset Kevo powered by UniKey, a deadbolt that can be unlocked with a key, an included Bluetooth key fob or a Bluetooth capable smartphone. Giving guests access to your home is as simple as using the Kevo app to send a digital key to their phone. You can choose to receive alerts when keys are used, and digital keys can be retrieved when the visit is over.

In Techlicious’s review of the Kwikset Kevo, we discovered the lock can be installed in 15 to 20 minutes. It’s powered by four AA batteries, which will need to be replaced about once a year.

Price: $219.00 on amazon.com

First Alert

Smart smoke/carbon monoxide detector

Having a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector in your home or apartment isn’t just smart safety sense. In many places, it’s the law. Get in compliance with the First Alert ONELink Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector with Voice. Should the detector sniff out smoke or a dangerous quantity of CO gas, an audible voice alarm will sound. And if you pair the device with an optional INSTEON Smoke Bridge and INSTEON Hub, you can have email or text message alerts sent directly to your phone. The system can even be set up to turn your home’s lights on in case of fire emergency, so you won’t need to worry about fumbling through the smoke.

Price (First Alert ONELink): $69.99 at smarthome.com, $61.75 at amazon.com
Price (INSTEON Smoke Bridge): $34.99 at smarthome.com, $34.99 at amazon.com
Price (INSTEON Hub): $129.99 at smarthome.com, $129.99 at amazon.com

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

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