TIME Smartphones

These Are the 15 Most Useful iPhone and Android Voice Commands

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You can get the answer to virtually any question

I’ll be honest: Even though I’m supposed to be a technology expert, I’ve long resisted using Siri and my smartphone’s voice commands. For the longest time, voice recognition on phones just wasn’t that good. All the errors were frustrating and often seemed to eat up more time than just typing in commands and opening up apps manually.

These days, though, I’ve found myself using Siri more often. Speech recognition has gotten a lot better, and Siri has gotten a lot smarter and more powerful. You can do virtually anything via your phone’s voice commands, from posting to Twitter to finding the best pizza pie to figuring out just how deep 20,000 leagues really is.

Not sure how to get the most out of your phone just by speaking to it? No worries – those of us here at Techlicious have put together this guide of the 15 most useful phone voice commands for iOS and Android. Take a look and give some of these a try – I really can’t rave enough about how useful and easy these commands are.

How Voice Commands Work

In general, Apple iPhone owners will want to issue voice commands through Siri (hold the home button); Google Android users should use Google Now (via the Google app) and tap the microphone icon. You can place a Google app widget on your home screen or, if your Android phone has a home key button, download the Home2 Shortcut app (free on Google Play) and configure your home button to launch Google Now with a double tap (Samsung owners may have to go to S Voice > Menu > Settings, and uncheck the second option to launch with the Home button.). iPhone owners can also download and use Google Now via the Google app for voice commands too, but Siri is more convenient.

Most commands can be issued in plain English, as if you were asking your friend to do something for you. Want to make a phone call? Then access Siri or Google Now and tell your phone you want to make a phone call. If your phone needs more information, it’ll ask for it.

Make a call

Okay, so we’ve already covered the basics – to make a hands free call, tell your phone you want to make a call. You can tell your phone to call a specific contact (“call Dr. Leo Spaceman,” “call mom”) or dial a specific number (“call 800-555-1234”). If you have multiple numbers for a contact in your phone, you can specify which you’d like to call: “call mom mobile” or “call mom home.” Easy!

Sending a text via voice command on iOS

Send a text

If you tell your phone to text a contact, it will follow up step-by-step by asking who and what you’d like to text. Or, you can just get it all out at once by saying, “text Dan, Did the contractor arrive yet?” Don’t worry if you flub a word or two – you’ll be able to correct your message if you mess something up (or if your phone mishears). You can add punctuation to your text by dictating it – just say “comma,” “period,” “exclamation mark” and the like when you want one entered into your message.

Send an email

Sending an email is simple, too – just tell your phone you’d like to send an email. It will follow up by prompting you for the recipient, subject and body in a step-by-step manner. Or, to save some time, give all the information to your phone at once: “email Anne, subject: Meeting, message: Can we reschedule our meeting for 3PM?” Note that for this to work smoothly, you’ll need to save people’s email addresses in your phone’s contacts.

Set a timer/alarm

Once you learn to set timers on your phone, you’ll never burn the roast again. Just tell your phone to “set a timer for 20 minutes,” and the countdown will start immediately. Or, you can request to set an alarm for a specific time in the next 24 hours instead – say “set alarm for 1PM.” If you’d like to set an alert further in the future than that, you’ll need to set it up as a reminder instead.

Google Now reminder

Set a reminder based on place or time

Want your phone to remind you to call your mother when you get home from work? You can tell your phone to “add reminder to call mom when I get home” and it’ll add the item to your list. The reminder will trigger for any address you have set up in your address book, including your home address. You can also add a specific date and time to the reminder – “add reminder to buy milk tomorrow at 5PM.”

Schedule a calendar entry

You can add an event to your calendar simply by giving your phone information about it. Say, “schedule meeting with Anne for 3PM” or “add trip to Canada to calendar for June 18 at 8AM” and your phone will know what to do. If you don’t provide enough information, as always, your phone will prompt you for more.

Launch an app

Don’t know where you misplaced your favorite app, or simply want to launch Google Maps without searching for it? Just tell your phone to “launch [app name here],” and your phone will quickly obey.

Siri Voice Activated sports score (NJ Devils)

Get sports scores and stats

Are you out and about, missing the game? Just ask your phone how it’s going – for example, “what’s the New Jersey Devils’ score” – and it’ll tell you the results of the current or most recent game. (Good news! They won 3 to 1 on Saturday!) You can also ask for statistics like “what’s the New Jersey Devils’ record?” or “how many passing yards did Tom Brady have last season?”

Play music

To play a song that you’ve downloaded to your phone, just ask your device to play it, e.g., “play Edge of Seventeen.” You can also request your phone play a specific artist, album or playlist by name.

ID a song that’s playing

Have you ever wanted to know the name of a great new song playing over the radio or the speakers at the gym? Simply ask your phone “What’s this song?” and point the receiver end toward the source. If the song is loud and clear enough for your phone to hear, it’ll be able to identify its name, artist and more.

Get movie show times

You can ask your phone, “what movies are playing near me tomorrow at 2PM?” to get a list of films, parental guidance ratings, reviews and times that meet your query at nearby theaters. You can also search for specific movies, specific actors or simply for “best rated movies playing near me.”

Post to social media

If you’ve chosen to integrate your phone with your Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus accounts, it’s an absolute breeze to post to social media via voice commands. Just tell your phone to “post to Facebook” and then the message you’d like to share as a status update. You can even ask your phone to tell you what’s trending on Twitter.

Voice activated weather forecast on iOS

Check the weather conditions anywhere

If you request the weather forecast, your phone will tell you current and future conditions based on your current GPS location. Or, you can ask how the weather is in Las Vegas, Paris, or Istanbul. And if you’re as worried about the next cold snap and snowfall as those of us in the Northeast are, you can ask your phone “Is snow in the forecast for this week?” or “Is it windy right now?”

Search the web

Sure, you already know to get all your technology news and reviews here on Techlicious. But if you need to access content elsewhere on the web, just ask Siri or Google to perform a web search for you. “Search the web for delicious candy,” Siri! Hurry! I’m hungry.

Get the answer to virtually any question

Who’s the governor of Utah? How tall is the Statue of Liberty? How many inches are in 20 centimeters? Your phone can answer all these fact-based queries and more – all you need to do is ask your question in plain English. If your phone can’t determine the exact answer, it will search the web for you to help find an answer. You can even ask, “What does the Fox say?” This is a really powerful feature, so give it a try!

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

How to Get Bluetooth to Actually Work

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What to do when you just can't get your tech to connect

Back in the mid-90s when Bluetooth launched, few us would have considered someday using our portable phones to play music through a miniature speaker on the other side of a room. Nowadays, laptops, smartphones and tablets use this wireless technology to connect to a vast range of devices — from speakers, keyboards and headsets to in-car entertainment systems, smart-home devices and personal fitness gadgets.

Or at least they’re meant to connect. The last time I tried to pair my iPhone 5S to a Beacon portable speaker, my phone simply did not “discover” the speaker. On the other hand, a friend’s Samsung Galaxy S4 instantly paired, pushing out sweet, sweet music in short order.

While the most recent updates to Bluetooth technology have added better pairing, increased range and lowest-ever power usage, you may still encounter the odd obstacle when getting set up.

Troubleshoot your Bluetooth connection with these tips and let us know how they work for you in the comments.

Make sure you’re in pairing mode

Many simpler devices such as headsets or portable speakers have one button for multiple functions. For example, my portable speaker has one button that you short-press to turn on it on or off, and long-press to activate its Bluetooth discovery mode.

Make sure you’ve correctly put your device in its pairing mode by reading its manual, suggests Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which oversees the development of the Bluetooth standard.

Charge up both the devices you’re trying to pair

“Some devices have smart power management that may turn off Bluetooth if the battery level is too low,” Powell says. If your phone isn’t pairing with that Bluetooth light bulb, make sure it’s got enough juice.

Power down likely interferers

Say that faithful Bluetooth speaker usually connects to your partner’s smartphone instead of yours. If you’re having trouble pairing your phone with the speaker, it could be because the speaker is trying to activate its usual connection. “Some older devices are very simple. They just try to connect with the last thing they paired with,” Powell says. If a Bluetooth device was previously paired with something else, turn off that other gadget.

Restart the connection

The old standby for problematic Macs and PCs works with reluctant Bluetooth connections, too. Sometimes the quickest solution is simply to turn Bluetooth off for both devices, then turn it on again for the devices to re-discover each other.

Place the devices right next to each other

“Pairing works best when the devices are next to each other,” Powell says. Once you’ve got the connection, Bluetooth is robust enough to transmit between devices that may be more than 30 feet apart, but the initial pairing can sometimes use a nudge.

Get away from the Wi-Fi router

Another potential obstacle to successful pairing is interference from devices that use the same spectrum, such as your Wi-Fi router. “Wi-Fi has been designed to cope with this, but it might not be a good idea to have your devices directly on top of the router,” Powell says.

And move away from a USB 3.0 port

“Interference from USB 3.0 is also possible,” Powell says. Newer laptops, for example, often have the higher-speed USB 3.0 port, so if the connection isn’t happening, try pairing your Bluetooth gadgets away from the computer.

Download a driver

In the computer world, a driver is a piece of software that lets two pieces of hardware communicate. If your PC or Mac refuses to pair with your new wireless keyboard (or other device), you may be missing the necessary driver. Head to the manufacturer’s website and find its Support section. There’s usually an area called “Downloads” or “Drivers” that should list the latest software updates, including drivers. Alternately, do a Google search for “driver” after your device’s model name.

Use the latest version of Bluetooth

Wireless speakers and headphones that support the latest Bluetooth 4.1 standard, which launched last December, are better at pairing, Powell says. Many currently available devices support Bluetooth 3.0, which launched in 2010, and you can still buy speakers that use 2007’s Bluetooth 2.1 standard. Though Bluetooth’s backward compatibility means that these devices should still be able to connect to smartphones, for example, newer versions of Bluetooth have steadily increased abilities such as longer-range connections and quicker pairing.

If you’re in the market for a new Bluetooth gadget, look for a sticker that says it supports Bluetooth 4.0 or newer. And if you can wait a bit, Bluetooth 4.2 was announced this December, so devices that support the update – with features including more secure connections and better pairing — should be available soon.

If pairing a fitness gadget, check that your phone is Bluetooth Smart Ready

In general, Bluetooth is backwards compatible: Bluetooth devices supporting the just-announced Bluetooth 4.2 standard should still be able to pair with devices using, say, the ancient Bluetooth 2.1, launched back in 2007.

The exceptions are gadgets that use a low-energy version called Bluetooth Smart, which works on a different protocol than older, or “Classic” Bluetooth devices. Bluetooth Smart devices are not backward compatible and won’t recognize (or pair with) older devices that support Classic Bluetooth. (For example, an old Sony Ericsson phone sporting Bluetooth 3.0 won’t be able to connect to a Bluetooth Smart device.)

However, if a device supports Bluetooth 4.0, it can potentially recognize both Bluetooth Smart and Classic. If it does, it’s officially labelled Bluetooth Smart Ready.

Gadgets that commonly use Bluetooth Smart include personal health gadgets such as fitness bands or heart-rate monitors. These gadgets will only pair with a smartphone or tablet that also uses Bluetooth Smart – or are Bluetooth Smart Ready.

iPhones running iOS 7 and newer should be Bluetooth Smart Ready as should Android phones running 4.3 or newer, Windows Phone 8.1 devices, and all BlackBerry 10 devices. Ensure your phone is running the latest version of its operating system – but if your device isn’t new enough to run relatively current software, you may not be able to pair it with that fitness band.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME computer

How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer

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Follow these tips for a lean, mean processing machine

If you haven’t been organizing and discarding files as you go, it’s likely your hard drive is stuffed with downloads, unwanted photos, file copies and other digital dust bunnies. This can reveal itself in slower performance, that unsettling humming noise, and the Mac’s dreaded spinning wheel or Windows’ inverting hourglass.

You may even have, like me, taken advantage of the Mac’s awesome Migration Assistant to shift all your documents, files and settings from one Mac to another — only you now have duplicate Downloads and Documents folders in different destinations, causing bafflement every time a file is saved.

Deep cleaning your computer of unwanted files and streamlining your folder system can not only free up storage space, but improve your computer’s performance. From decluttering tips to apps that do your organizing for you, here’s how to spruce up your computer and make sure it stays that way.

1. Cleaning

Find duplicate files

You’d be surprised how much storage is used up by duplicate files, whether they’re files you saved twice to different locations or multiple downloads of the same file. If you buy music on iTunes, you may have a few gigabytes of duplicate songs from, say, buying a greatest-hits album that contains tracks you already own.

The easiest way to find those superfluous files is to download a third-party app that will scan your folders for duplicate content, then let you review the dupes to decide if the extras should be deleted.

Mac: Head to the App Store on your computer and search for “duplicate cleaner.” We like Duplicate Detective ($2.99), a simple app with a straightforward interface for hunting down duplicates. Duplicate Cleaner For iPhoto (free for a limited time) is an easy to use app for zapping double images, even if they’ve been edited.

If you fancy doing it manually, you can also click All My Files, order the files by sealecting Name from the drop down sorting icon, then scan for files that have the same name. However, this method is less effective if you’ve saved the same file under different names.

Windows: There are quite a few good options for free duplicate zappers for Windows, so we’ll skate over the manual method, and recommend Duplicate Cleaner (free) and DupeGuru (free), which comes in three versions: regular, a Music edition and a Pictures edition that can find duplicate songs and images even if the files are coded differently. For example, if you have the same music track at different bitrates, or if a picture has been resized or slightly edited, DupeGuru will flag it and let you decide which to keep.

Clear your system’s cache

The processes your computer runs through when you use files or programs creates tons of tiny, temporary files that help it retrieve the information you’re need faster. Clearing your computer of all these can often help speed up its performance.

Mac: Start with Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities), and hit First Aid > Repair to scan and patch up your hard drive. Next, search for “Mac cleaner” apps on the App Store, such as Dr. Cleaner, to clear your computer’s cache of temporary files from browsers and other programs. Dr. Cleaner found 12.89GB out of my meager 140GB storage that could be reclaimed, with 12.82GB coming from application-cached files. This app also gives you to option to clear your Downloads folder, but unless you have a clever structure in place to automatically save important downloads (see the final section for relevant tips), don’t check that box just yet.

Windows: For Windows 8, head to the Control Panel and find Disk Clean-up. If you’re on older versions of Windows, find it in System Tools. You can then start cleanup for temporary and system files that are no longer needed.

Clear the downloads folder of unnecessary files

The Downloads folder can be expunged of detritus such as PDFs of old plane tickets, GIFs and humorous cat pics from emails, torrent links to files you now have, .dmg (Mac) or .exe (Windows) installers of apps you now have, and so on.

Mac and Windows: Open the Downloads folder, and view its contents by file type, then go through each category and drag the unneeded files to the Trash (Mac) or Recycle Bin (Windows).

Leave the documents, photos, music and videos for now. They can be dealt with when you’re ready to start sorting the files you want to keep (see the next section).

Delete applications

Mac: You can delete unused programs by dragging them from the Applications folder into the Trash. This deletes most files associated with the app, such as data generated, but not preference files and support files. Preference files contain info about your settings in the app and are usually only a few kilobytes, while application support files can range from kilobytes to gigabytes when it comes to large media apps such as DVD Studio Pro or GarageBand.

To delete these, head to Finder, click on Macintosh HD (or Home) > Library > Application Support, where the files will be listed by app. You may even find some old files from apps you’d thought you were totally rid of. Dump them in the trash by dragging and dropping. Be careful in here: only delete files from apps you know you deleted, otherwise you may end up deleting crucial files from, say, Microsoft, which makes the Silverlight video plugin you probably use regardless of whether you have any Microsoft programs. Alternately, try out AppZapper, which lets you delete five apps and all their associated files for free; after that it costs $12.95.

Windows: Windows PCs have a pretty spiffy uninstall feature that removes everything associated with an app, so on all versions of Windows, head to Control Panel > Programs and Features, select a program and select uninstall.

Although some programs may leave behind settings info in the registry, a database of configuration settings, the data is minimal and Microsoft recommends not modifying the registry unless you really know what you’re doing.

Defrag? Still?

In the long-ago times of early 2000s computing, most of us incorporated disk defragmentation into our cleaning rituals. Disk fragmentation occurs as a file system loses its ability to keep related data together, causing the hard drive to work harder to bring up data related to current tasks, thus slowing down performance.

In general, Mac computers don’t need to be defragged, especially newer Mac laptops that have solid state drives (SSD), use a different method of maintaining data. Windows 8 automatically runs a disk defrag (now called disk optimization) on a weekly schedule.

If you want to hasten a defrag (or optimization), Windows support has the lowdown for Windows 8 computers as well as PCs running Windows 7 or older.

Zap spyware and trackers

It’s possible that in the course of your internet browsing, you acquired some trackers, spyware or even minor viruses (unless, of course, you have been using up-to-date security software). Even so, malware is an ever-evolving beast, so it’s a good idea to run a scan of your system with an anti-malware program such as Avira Free (Mac/PC), which scans for viruses, trojans, trackers and other malware.

Finishing touches

Mac: In Finder, if your Favorites column contains links to unused folders, delete them by right-clicking and selecting “Remove from Sidebar.” And don’t be afraid to remove applications from your Dock unless you really need daily access to them. Just close the app first, then hold on its icon in the Dock, and drag it to the Trash.

Windows: Minimize the number of programs that get to be in the Start Screen (Windows 8) or Start Menu (Windows 7) by right-clicking the unwanted app, and selecting “Unpin from Start Menu.”

2. Sorting

Now that we’ve cleaned things up a bit, we can get down to gathering all files of a type.

Merge duplicate folders

If you have two folders with the same name and they should really be the same folder — say, two “Invoices” folders squirreled away in different parent folders (or in my case, two of every important folder) — you can manually merge them.

Mac and Windows: Choose which folder will be the one you use henceforth, then select all the files from the other folder and drag or Copy/Cut+Paste into the desired folder. If files have the same name – either because you saved twice to different locations, or simply because you accidentally named different things the same – select to “Keep Both” and sort out the naming later.

Find a home for photos

First, identify where all your pictures might be – for example, the Downloads folder if you often download from email or Facebook; folders for imports from phones and digital cameras; or a cloud storage service such as Google+ or iCloud where they may have auto-synced from your smartphone.

If you use an iPhone and a Mac, assuming you’re on iOS 7 or newer, your photos will be synced to Photo Stream and viewable on iPhoto on the Mac.

If you use an iPhone and a Windows PC, Apple’s My Photo Stream automatically downloads the most recent photos to your PC, viewable in C:\\Users\[user name]\Pictures\iCloud Photos\My Photo Stream. Make sure you have iCloud installed and that Photo Stream is turned on in Settings > iCloud > Photos.

If you use an Android phone, your photos may be auto-synced to your Google+ account (on the phone, open the Photos app > Settings > Auto-backup toggle), or you can import them via USB connection to a folder on your computer.

Mac and Windows: Next, create the master collection of photos. You may want to simply download all photos from, say, Photo Stream or Google+ to your computer, but with digital cameras allowing infinite shots of the same scenes, this can quickly fill up your hard drive.

Instead, consider purchasing an external hard drive specially for photos, then transferring photos from your phone and digital camera into the hard drive, followed by moving any other photos on hard drive folders into the external photos-only drive.

Alternately, a cloud storage service for your photos can be a handy means of ensuring a backup even if your devices are lost or damaged. Our list of the best photo-sharing (and storing) sites includes ThisLife, which pulls together pictures from your social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram, and allows uploads from your hard drive too.

Move all your documents to the Documents folder

Sounds obvious, but I have docs floating on my Mac desktop, in my Users folder and in Downloads. Comb each folder for documents then move them to their rightful home via copy/cut and paste.

Move all songs to the Music folder and all video to the Movies/Videos folder

There are a finite number of file types you use on your computer, and both Macs and Windows PCs come with predefined folders for them: Documents, Movies (Videos in Windows), Music, Pictures. Sort each file type into its appropriate “master” folder, and further sort the files into sub-folders later.

Alternatively…

Sorting your files manually is simple, albeit potentially time-consuming, but if you feel like taking a crack at creating some software rules to automatically organize photos, music, documents and videos across all your folders – and keep them organized — check out the next section for Mac and Windows apps that do just that.

3. Getting Organized

Now that you’re free of all digital flotsam, the next step is to build a folder system that will allow you to save files where they should go and incorporate an intuitive naming system so that when you forget where you put things, it’s not so hard to find them again.

Make a nest

…of folders and sub-folders. Take Documents: within this master folder, create sub-folders for major categories. For example, Work and Personal, or more specific folders such as Invoices, House Budget, or Ideas. Browse your Documents folder to get an idea of the types of files you’ve built up, then create the folders-within-folders you need.

Make sure to download new files to the Downloads folder

Then implement a regular Downloads cleaning schedule where you manually sort files into Documents, Movies, Music, or Pictures. If you have a bit of time to invest in building simple software rules, you can also check out a couple of apps that automate the process.

Organize new files as they arrive

Mac: Hazel is an intuitive, easy to use app for monitoring and auto-sorting any folder on your Mac. Setting up rules is extremely simple in an interface with drop-down options for each aspect of a rule (see screenshot). For example, when setting up a rule for moving music files out of downloads, instead of needing to specify file extensions (of which there may be several), you can simply select “Image” as a file type. You specify which folders that your rules apply to at the start of setting up each rule and then Hazel works in the background, popping up notifications when it moves files. It’s $29, with a 14-day free trial and works on Mac OS X 10.7 or newer.

Windows: DropIt is a free, open-source app that allows you to set up rules for what to do with particular file types so that you can, for example, dictate that all .jpg files are to be moved to Pictures. To zing that rule to the Downloads folder, you can add a monitoring option so that DropIt scans Downloads for new files to apply the rule to. Other actions include copying, compressing, as well as extracting – handy to apply to downloaded .zip image or music packs that you want unzipped straight into the correct folder. Setting up a rule is a straightforward process: name the rule, select the file type, pick the action from a drop-down menu, then type in the destination folder the file should be sent to afterwards — for example: C:\Users\[Your Name]\Pictures.

A similar app with a more novice-friendly interface is File Juggler, which costs $25 and features a 30-day free trial.

Back up efficiently

Setting up a backup system is crucial. Better yet, it’s a system you’ve taken the time to automate so that in the event of a computer crash or data loss, your most valuable documents will still be safe. For example, a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox is handy for automatically backing up smaller files.

When you sign up for a cloud storage service, it will create a folder on your computer that constantly syncs to the cloud so that anything in the folder is saved online as well as on your computer. You might want to save all insurance applications or a long-term project to the cloud-synced folder. Depending how much storage you have, you may want to save special photos. Amazon Prime subscribers, for example, get unlimited storage for full-resolution photos. Check out our feature on cloud storage services to see what works best for you.

If you’re backing up larger media files, such as songs or videos, you can purchase external hard drives with 1TB or more of storage (A terabyte is 1000GB, which can hold up to 250,000 photos or 1,000 HD movies). LaCie and Western Digital both offer 1TB Wi-Fi drives for $179.99, and non-Wi-Fi versions for $99.99 and $64.99, respectively.

Wi-Fi-connected models allow you to send and back up files from your smartphone as well. Some, like the Western Digital My Cloud external drive, offer 2TB to 6TB (starting at $149) of storage in a personal cloud, accessible from other connected devices and handy for creating two backups – one in the cloud, one on the drive itself.

The ultimate folder nest? Save long-term projects and other crucial files to a cloud-synced folder on your Wi-Fi hard drive for one-click multiple backups of your work that won’t crash even if your computer does.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Security

This Is the Best PC Security Software You Can Buy

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Bitdefender Bitdefender Total Security 2015

Bitdefender Total Security 2015 tops the list

Security software should ideally be easy to use and should detect and remove every piece of malware — all without slowing your computer down or sounding false alarms. It should also tackle all these tasks without disturbing you with constant update notifications.

The reality is that perfect antivirus software doesn’t exist yet. In fact, the recent cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment confirms that. The FBI said the attack “appears to have been conducted using techniques that went undetected by industry standard antivirus software,” according to USA Today.

But that doesn’t mean the industry stops trying to provide consumers with the best security solutions. After all, even antivirus software that may not protect you against every single threat out there is better than going completely unprotected altogether.

We analyzed the best free and paid security software for Windows-based computers that closely matched the “ideal” solution, calculating test results from independent security experts, consumer sites, and technology specialists. Paid software had to not only meet top security ratings, but it had to cost less than $100 per year, be marketed for personal computers, and offer coverage for multiple PCs. And for freeware, we wanted something that had equally strong ratings, was easy to use, and offered a little something extra over the other freebies out there.

Here are our picks.

Best Paid Antivirus Product: Bitdefender Total Security 2015

Today, all of the best security suites offer strong protection against malware, trojans, and viruses while minimally slowing down your machine. They block or warn you about malicious websites and downloaded files, and safely quarantine items that can potentially wreak havoc on your PC. Many offer parental control features that track the activities of underage users and block unseemly URLs. And even consumers’ shopping habits aren’t ignored, as many top products store your login credentials and payment information so you can virtually shop ’til you drop without entering your credit card number umpteen times.

Overall, some paid products implement these features better than others, and in our findings, Bitdefender Total Security 2015 outperformed the rest. It offers some seriously strong security protection in an easy-to-use interface, all without slowing down your machine.

Testing

While independent anti-malware research lab AV-TEST hasn’t evaluated Bitdefender Total Security 2015, it has reviewed Bitdefender Internet Security 2015, which uses the same antivirus technology (minus some additional features, like anti-theft protection and online storage). In AV-TEST’s reviews, Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 obtained perfect marks for protection and performance, meaning it protected against malicious software 100% of the time and never slowed down the computer (on average, security software slowed things down by four seconds). And while Bitdefender never erroneously detected a website as suspicious, it did once falsely detect legitimate software as malware during system scans, placing it well below the industry average of nine false positives.

In PCMag’s tests, Bitdefender Total Security 2015 scored 4.5/5 in both antivirus protection and overall, earning it an “excellent” rating and an editor’s choice award. (For comparison, AVG Internet Security 2015 scored 3.5/5 and Norton 360 scored 4/5 in antivirus protection.)

When tested by AV-Comparatives, another independent testing group, Bitdefender again fared well. It was one of three paid consumer products — AVG Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security being the other two — that never wrongly blocked any programs. While Bitdefender ranks similarly with other top brands, it moves ahead of the pack because it costs less and subscriptions cover multiple PCs. (AVG Internet Security is $54.99 for just one PC, while Bitdefender Total Security and Internet Security are $89.95 and $79.95 for three PCs, respectively.)

Features

The web-based MyBitdefender Dashboard is the central control for all Bitdefender-registered devices, letting you scan and fix security issues remotely. You can even track your lost or stolen laptop, tablet or phone, locking or wiping missing devices using the Anti-Theft dashboard feature. Many competitors, like Avast, Kaspersky, and Panda offer anti-theft features, but they’re designed for recovering Android phones and tablets, not PCs. With Bitdefender, however, even your PC is recoverable.

There’s a weekly security report that provides a snapshot of the total number of issues fixed to date, while the updated security widget on your desktop tracks your security-related tasks in real time and sends notifications to your PC about the latest events reported by Bitdefender. And if you want to quickly scan a file or folder, you can simply drag-and-drop it into the widget. This quick option is great for when you don’t want to spend the time to open your security suite, search for the file, and scan it like with other programs.

Bitdefender’s handy Vulnerability Scanner takes the guesswork out of keeping up with the latest security patches or wondering if your password is weak. The feature regularly scans your computer for possible vulnerabilities, indicating the number of risks posed by outdated apps, weak passwords, or missing security patches. The report will also offer recommendations and solutions for each vulnerability.

While other products like McAfee Antivirus Plus also have a vulnerability scanners, it’s hard to find a program that scans the strength of your passwords like Bitdefender does. Generally, consumer security suites just offer password management tools that save your login information for various sites. For instance, Kaspersky’s free version of its Password Manager offering does store login credentials and can even generate stronger passwords, but it’s not designed to evaluate the passwords you already have. So if you want both a vulnerability scanner and a password evaluator, then Bitdefender is the way to go when it comes to preventing threats that could arise thanks to outdated software or poor passwords.

Threats that don’t originate from your PC are extinguished by Bitdefender as well. Viruses can covertly enter your PC via flash drives, for instance, but Bitdefender wards off such threats with its USB Immunizer, a feature that prevents auto-run malware from launching on your PC from a connected drive or memory card.

Additional features include a virtual file shredder that ensures no traces of your deleted files remain on your PC, a two-way firewall that protects you even over Wi-Fi networks, and file encryption to secure your confidential files in an encrypted vault. There’s also a top-rated anti-phishing feature that blocks malicious websites; PCMag ranked it highly because it outperformed Norton 360 (anti-phishing tools traditionally never come close to Norton’s accuracy, but Bitdefender scored five percentage points better than Norton, according to PCMag).

System speed

If you’re noticing your PC is acting sluggish, you can speed things up with Bitdefender’s OneClick Optimizer feature. OneClick will analyze your machine for disk, registry, and privacy issues, and then start the optimization process, which includes disk cleanup (removing Windows junk files, like Windows cache), registry cleanup (removing corrupt registry entries) and privacy cleanup (clearing your download history, temporary files, and more).

There’s also the new Startup Optimizer feature, which minimizes boot time by managing programs that launch at startup. Norton 360’s Startup Manager is similar, although Bitdefender’s version is better because it actively monitors how long it takes your device to start and how much time it takes each program to launch. To fully optimize your PC’s performance, you can enable the Bitdefender Profiles feature, which ensures that your PC performs its best based on a particular type of activity. You can choose — or let the software auto-detect — work, movie, and game modes, for instance, preventing popups or system updates from happening. While other security suites offer similar use-based optimization, it’s typically limited to gamer mode and often must be manually enabled.

Speaking of interruptions, some of the most common security product annoyances are the repetitive alerts. Bitdefender brought the Autopilot feature — which makes optimal security-related decisions without interrupting you — back from last year’s lineup and enhanced it for Total Security 2015. That means no more pop-ups and nothing to configure. If there’s a critical function disabled, such as the Bitdefender two-way firewall, Autopilot will fix it.

Online safety

For those who like to shop online, Bitdefender’s password-protected Wallet feature is a secure solution for storing your credit card details and important passwords, automatically filling in the pertinent fields as you browse and storing your credentials for new sites on the fly.

Bitdefender’s lineup also includes a fraud-warning feature that will alert you if Google and Bing search results or Facebook links are unsafe before you click on them, and will block access to infected links you accidentally click. AV-TEST found that sister product Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 — which uses the same technology — never wrongly detected a website as suspicious.

Parental controls

If you have little ones accessing the Internet, you can take advantage of the advanced parental controls settings that block inappropriate content, limit access based on hours you set, and even let you monitor their location, online activity, text messages, and calls when paired with the Parental Control app for Android. You can access your control settings online from your MyBitdefender account, which is a nice touch.

Similar to too-basic password management, other security systems can come saddled with flawed parental controls. For example, Trend Micro has a very basic parental control system that just that filters web content and offers time scheduling. To match the more advanced controls you get with Bitdefender, you’d have to install additional software. PCMag reports that once Trend Micro’s Online Guardian for Families is installed, it’s still riddled with flaws. For example, Online Guardian doesn’t run independent of web browsers, so if a child accesses the Internet via an off-brand browser, they’ll be able to view any web page they want, regardless of the limitations you set.

However, a real competitor to Bitdefender’s parental control features is AVG Family Safety, which is browser-independent. PCMag points out that AVG’s feature can even let older children with an approved password override site blocking so they can access sites that may be deemed inappropriate for their younger siblings. AVG Family Safety is actually a separate feature that costs an additional $49.99 per year for three computers, though. At that price, it’s more cost effective to opt for a full suite with robust parental control features, like Bitdefender.

Overall

Bitdefender Total Security 2015 is overflowing with features. It runs fast and light, and sports a straightforward interface that ties nicely into online controls accessed in the MyBitdefender hub. And most importantly, it’s a high-quality protection suite at a fraction of the cost of its competitors.

Bitdefender Total Security 2015 costs $89.95 for a one-year subscription that covers up to three Windows PCs (currently available on Amazon for $53.97). Bitdefender Total Security Multi-Device 2015 costs $99.95 for a one-year subscription that covers five devices, Mac and Android included.

The Best Free Option

We also went hunting for the best freeware out there. In reality, free security suites don’t exist, but free antivirus offerings are pretty common. You generally get bare-bones features, such as a system scanner, a scarce interface with little context (and riddled with popups asking you to upgrade to a paid version), and adequate to good antivirus protection.

For most consumers, though, adequate doesn’t cut it. So we searched for a product that was easy to use, earned superior security ratings in its class, and offered a bonus feature or two to put it over the top. In that search we narrowed it down to a product that was the pioneer in its industry: the first free cloud-based offering that not only sets the bar among freeware protection, but even outperforms a few paid providers.

Panda Free Antivirus (formerly Panda Cloud Antivirus) is as good as it gets for Windows freeware. It has a simple interface and is very effective at detecting malware, spyware, and viruses. As the first free cloud-based antivirus software on the market, it’s got a few nice tricks up its sleeve. You’ll need to install a small program that runs on your PC and connects to Panda’s cloud engine, but setup is a breeze and to make PC users comfortable, Panda mimics Windows 8’s tiled look once it’s running.

Cloud power

Most security programs use cloud-based technology one way or another to detect threats. Many connect to servers to update their software or to maintain a real-time database of active malware threats; Panda Free Antivirus is no different. It’s an entirely cloud-based program, so there’s no need to worry about installing updates or configuring your machine aside from the one-time installation of the connector software. And its offline cache of active malware signatures ensures you’re protected even when you’re not connected to the Internet.

In recent comparative tests by independent labs, Panda Free Antivirus led the pack in protection. It scored 100-percent protection rates in AV-TEST’s results. And in AV-Comparatives real-world testing, Panda scored highest among its freeware counterparts, even outperforming a few paid software programs, including AVG Internet Security, McAfee Internet Security, and Sophos Endpoint Security 10.3. And in PCMag’s tests, it scored a perfect 18 points in protection, performance, and usability along with Bitdefender and Kaspersky.

Panda Security’s latest creation, the XMT engine, is a type of smart engine that offers a higher level of efficiency and greater malware detection rates. Panda has made XMT available on all of its products, including Panda Free Antivirus, which promises to scan your computer 50 percent faster than its predecessor while minimally impacting system overhead. While the industry average for slowing down a machine was four seconds in AV-TEST’s findings, Panda only slowed things down by three seconds.

Other features

As an added bonus, Panda Free Antivirus packs a rescue-drive creator. If malware prevents you from booting up a particular machine, you can create a bootable USB rescue drive that scans and removes viruses from the infected machine. There’s also a USB Vaccine feature, which scans flash drives and can prevent infected ones from automatically running programs.

While the rescue drive feature and autoplay disabler are nice touches, you miss out on Panda Antivirus Pro’s features, including firewall protection and chat-based support. And if you want some mobile protection for your Android device, you’ll need Panda Mobile Security, which is $14.99 per year.

Panda may be free, but it isn’t perfect. In AV-Comparatives’ tests, it occasionally wrongly blocked safe Internet domains or downloaded files. The average score for wrongly blocked files was 18; Panda scored a dismal 46. But in AV-TEST’s results, it didn’t wrongly block websites, and it only blocked one legitimate software download. However, Panda was twice as likely to wrongly detect legitimate software as malware during system scans.

Overall

Better safe than sorry. If you can handle some false alarms, Panda Free Antivirus‘s impressive protection rate and real-time malware database places it ahead of its freeware competitors. And its bonus security features are practical additions you’ll be glad to add to your computer’s arsenal. It’s the go-to solution for free antivirus protection.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Security

This Is the Best Mac Security Software You Can Buy

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Avast Avast Free Mac Security

Avast Free Mac Security 2015 is the go-to free software

Many Mac owners may be under the impression that their computers don’t need antivirus protection. They’re inherently safer, right? While there are fewer Trojan horses, viruses and worms designed to attack Macs than PCs, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to infection.

“Many threats, like phishing, don’t care whether you’re running Windows or a Mac,” says Christopher Budd, global threat communications manager for Trend Micro.

In fact, a serious threat to Macs was verified as recently as December 2014, according to the National Vulnerability Database. To combat this threat, Apple issued its first ever automatic security update for Mac computers in December. (Previously, Mac users would initiate the security updates themselves.) The bug, CVE-2014-9295, could enable hackers to gain remote control of machines through a vulnerability with the network time protocol, or NTP, which synchronizes a computer’s clock. It was serious enough that Apple didn’t want to wait for users to fix it themselves, according to Reuters.

With even one threat on the table, protection is needed. So we set out to find the best Mac antivirus software out there. We reviewed security lab results, interface accessibility data, and product feature ratings from independent experts and websites to recommend our favorites.

We placed an emphasis on performance and security over a trunk full of features. To find the best freeware, it had to meet top-notch security ratings while still offering a few perks. For paid software, we decided it had to not only achieve high security ratings, but it had to cost less than $100, offer a one-year subscription with multi-device protection, and be designed for home use.

With that, we narrowed it down to our two security software picks — one free, one paid — for 2015.

The best free Mac security software

Avast Free Mac Security 2015 is the go-to software for protecting your Mac without spending a penny. It’s a simple, on-demand scanning platform that can complete four different types of scans: Full System Scan, Removable Volumes Scan, Home Scan or Custom Scan. While the variety is useful for performing different system checks, it lacks the scheduled scans feature that many busy consumers want. Nonetheless, its simple-to-use interface, strong all-around coverage, and anti-spam features still pull it ahead of other free offerings.

While it’s not perfect at detecting all intrusions, independent security researcher AV-TEST reports that it gets the job done — after all, it’s free. In testing, it performed the highest among its freeware counterparts, detecting 97.4 percent of all on-demand threats (above the average of 80.8 percent). It even outperformed some paid competitors, including Kaspersky, which only detected threats 93.2 percent of the time. It also held its own with paid offerings when it came to minimizing system slowdown.

Once Avast detects something suspicious, it locks it away in a quarantined area called the Virus Chest, where you can choose to restore it if it’s a falsely-identified file, or delete it altogether. And like most of its competitors, Avast also detects Windows malware.

Generally, free security packages are pretty bare bones in their features. But Avast takes the freeware landscape to a new level by offering an anti-spam tool, which is uncommon among its freeware competitors. Similar to paid versions, Avast monitors incoming web data — through its Web Shield and Mail Shield features — like malicious links or attachments, and flags and isolates any threats it finds.

Additionally, in early 2015, Avast will include the industry’s first four-pronged home network security system. The system’s Home Network Security scan can identify misconfigured Wi-Fi networks, routers with weak passwords and compromised Internet connections. The SecureDNS feature encrypts the Internet traffic between Avast-protected devices and Avast’s DNS server to prevent users from being directed to malicious sites. A new Smart Scan feature will integrate all on-demand scans into one (antivirus, Home Network Security, junk-file cleaning, and software update scans) to meet your security needs.

Rounding out this four-component security system, Web Shield will get an upgrade to be able to scan securely-encrypted sites for malware and threats. Web Shield will accomplish this by detecting and decrypting TSL/SSL protected traffic in its web-content filtering component for any threats, Avast says.

The best paid Mac security software

Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac offers greater security than its competitors at a comparable cost. It’s $59.95 for a one-year subscription, which covers up to three Macs.

Some Mac antivirus protection products tout just the “Internet security” feature and neglect the rest of a computer’s needs. Or for “total” protection, you’re limited to protection for just one device and it costs 50% more than standard protection. Bitdefender balances cost and protection in the same product, offering coverage against adware, polymorphic viruses, spyware, trojans, worms, and more.

Bitdefender has a simple interface that’s easy to understand. If your Mac’s safe, you’ll know it because a green checkmark in the status bar will tell you so. If a security issue is detected, the status bar turns yellow and offers tips on how to quickly fix the issue.

To scan your Mac for possible threats, you have four options: Scan Critical Locations, Full System Scan, Scan a Custom Location and Continuous Scan. Scanning critical locations checks for malware in your vulnerable hotspots, such as documents, downloads, attachments, and temporary files folders. The full scan checks for malware on the entire system, including connected mounts, like external drives. You can hide certain folders and drives from Bitdefender’s watchful eye by adding them the exclusions list, or choose to scan a specific location, such as a once-hidden external drive.

A downside is that you can’t schedule scans. Instead, Bitdefender includes Continuous Scan mode, which keeps the software running day and night in the background. On the plus side, you’ll always have the most up-to-date protection because it’ll automatically update its virus-tracking database in this mode. (If Continuous Scan mode is off, you can still update the by going to Actions > Update Virus Database.) And you may never even know it’s there: in the third-party lab tests, “Bitdefender hardly slows the system at all,” says AV-TEST.

If you share files with Windows users (or your own PC), you’re covered as well. The software detects Windows viruses on your Mac, and while these threats can’t affect your Mac, you can still pass them on to Windows computers on the same network if you’re not protected.

Bitdefender also automatically scans any files you download for security threats, alerting you when a problem is detected. You can track and adjust these alerts since they’re fully integrated into your Mac’s Notification Center (go to System Preferences > Notifications).

For security on the web, Bitdefender connects its free TrafficLight extension, which monitors your web traffic and blocks any malicious content. It also notifies you of worrisome websites in your search results (with a red dot), and detects and blocks suspicious links it finds on Facebook and Twitter. TrafficLight detects “trackers” as well; code snippets that track and analyze browsing behavior. All scans happen in the cloud, so the extension offers a strong layer of protection without slowing you down. TrafficLight is available for Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari.

While Bitfender excels at malware protection, it’s still lacking in a couple of areas. For example, families may prefer a security suite with parental controls added in. But OS X’s complementary parental controls system already lets you manage and monitor your child’s computer use, interactions and Internet activity (to access this feature, go to System Preferences > Parental Controls).

It’s also missing its own firewall protection, but again, your Mac already has its own firewall tools to stop malicious network traffic. Plus, in third-party lab tests, some of Bitdefender’s competitors that do offer firewall protection actually performed poorly at malware detection tests. (For example, Symantec only detected threats 54.7 percent of the time, compared to Bitdefender’s 100 percent, according to AV-TEST.) So we’ll take greater malware protection and speedy performance over additional bells and whistles any day.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

6 Gadgets That Can Help You Save Money on Your Energy Bill

A thermostat from 'Nest' displayed at Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 8, 2015.
Britta Pedersen—AP A thermostat from 'Nest' displayed at Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 8, 2015.

Use this tech to cut down on your monthly costs

Getting a handle on your household energy consumption can save money and the environment. Your heating and cooling usage is an obvious target, but did you know it’s also important to monitor your gadgets and electronics gear?

The average U.S. household spends $100 per year powering products that are turned off or in standby mode, according to the EPA. And, nationwide, we spend $10 billion a year in energy costs.

Below you’ll find devices that help determine where you’re losing your money and ensure you keep spending under control.

Saving money on heating & cooling

Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector

You’ll see big savings on your monthly energy bill when you stop heat and air conditioning from leaking out of your house. A thermal leak detector, like the Black& Decker TLD100, can show you where your home’s leaks are. Once the device has read the ambient temperature, you can start checking around windows, door frames and other places air could be escaping. The light will change to red for warmer spots and blue for cooler spots. You can set the temperature tolerances to one, five or 10 degrees.
Price: $33.21 on Amazon.com

Nest Learning Thermostat

The Nest Thermostat (2nd Generation) is smart enough to know when you’re away. So if you forget, it can lower the temperature about two hours after you’ve left. It’s continually monitoring your habits, so it can automatically adjust the temperature based on your needs. And, Nest lets you know when you’re saving energy, rewarding you with a green leaf icon. Even small changes to your thermostat settings can impact your monthly energy bill. For instance, each degree above 68° F can add 3% to the amount of energy needed for heating, according to the Edison Electric Institute.

Price: $249.00 on Amazon.com

Reducing energy use

Belkin Conserve Insight Energy-Use Monitor

Want to find out which electronics items are the biggest energy hogs in your home? Plug suspects like your networked printer, TV or even a whole power strip into the Belkin Conserve Insight Energy-Use Monitor to find out. It tracks and displays the annual cost (based on the pre-loaded U.S.-average rate or your own rate), CO2 emissions and power consumption. And if the outlet is hard to reach, the display’s six-foot cord make it easy to put it in a place that’s convenient to read.

Price: $40.00 on Amazon.com

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

Curling irons, space heaters, coffee makers: they’re all easy to accidentally leave on when you’re rushing out the door. So to ensure they’re turned off, you can plug them into a Belkin WeMo Insight Switch. Use it to remotely check in on an appliance or electronic device and turn it off (or on), set a schedule and monitor and control energy usage. If your device is on a switch, like your lights, try the WeMo Light Switch. It works with your existing wall plates.

Price: Belkin WeMo Insight Switch: $50.99 on Amazon.com, Belkin WeMo Light Switch: $43.99 on Amazon.com

Monster MP HT 800G Home Theater PowerCenter

When your TV is off, you don’t need your DVD player, surround receiver or game system turned on. With The Monster MP HT 800 G Home Theater PowerCenter with Monster GreenPower, you plug your TV into the green master plug on the lower right, and the outlets on the same row to the left, the GreenPower outlets, shut down automatically when the TV is turned off. The three outlets on the top row stay on, so you can continue to record programs on your DVR. In case of a power surge, you’ll get 2160 Joules of protection and an alarm will sound. If your power strip is buried at the back of your entertainment center, try the Belkin Conserve Switch Energy-Saving Surge Protector. It comes with a wireless remote for turning off power.

Price: Monster MP HT 800G: $46.63 on Amazon.com, Belkin Conserve Switch Energy-Saving Surge Protector: $34.42 on Amazon.com.

Lutron Maestro Dimmer with Occupancy Sensor

Have a light someone’s always forgetting to turn off? Install a motion-sensing light switch that will automatically shut off when the room is empty, like the Lutron Maestro Dimmer with Occupancy Sensor. It has a 150-degree motion detector with an angle up to 30 feet. You can set the sensitivity and the time or operate it manually. The light will go back on at whatever dimming level you set it at last. For use with incandescent and dimmable compact fluorescent bulbs.

Price: $37.65 on Amazon.com

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Smartphones

The Best Ways to Print Photos From Your Smartphone

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You can now print your photos professionally, on the go or at home

One of the best cameras is the one you have with you — and for most of us, that camera is your smartphone. But unless you’re meticulously sharing and backing up your photos online, most of them are probably languishing in your smartphone’s digital archives.

Free your photos from the shackles of your smartphone with services and hardware that make it easy to print your photos professionally (for shipping directly to you), on the go or at home. We’ve rounded up our favorite, easy ways to print photos from your smartphone.

Order professional prints with an app

Most photo developers today print smartphone pictures. Apps such as Kicksend and Snapfish let you order prints for pickup at retailers such as Walgreens. Even more streamlined photo services let you order prints from your smartphone for delivery to your home within a couple of days. Send photos from your smartphone to one of our favorite print services to get lab-quality prints without leaving the house or shelling out for your own printer.

PrintStudio

This sleek, intuitive app takes care of printing pictures as well as photo books, greeting cards and other photo products from your phone camera or Instagram account. Ordering prints is a simple matter of choosing exactly the size of photo you want, from a set of photo strips to a 54-image poster, and then picking the best of your snaps.

You can print photos in several unusual sizes, including 4″ x 4″ squares, 2″ x 2″ mini-squares and business-card-sized prints, as well as standard formats including 4″ x 6″ and 8″ x 10″ prints and 20″ x 30″ posters (probably best for owners of uber-high-megapixel phones like the iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung Galaxy S5). Send prints anywhere in the world. (Last-minute long-distance present, anyone?)

The app makes it easy to order unique frames and displays, including a reclaimed Santa Cruz block frame or multi-picture wooden and concrete displays.

Price: Free at Google Play and iTunes

Prints: $12 for 24 square prints; $15 for 24 4″ x 6″ prints; $10 for a set of nine photo strips (36 pictures); more prices at PrintStudio

Shipping: $6 by FedEx and DHL; $12 international shipping; free shipping for U.S. orders over $50

Speed: 3-10 working days

Editing capabilities: None aside from cropping or shifting pictures to fit inside the print size

Best for: Interesting frames and unique prints (the mini-squares and 4″ x 4″ squares are particularly cute for Instagram images)

FreePrints (Android / iOS / Windows Phone)

FreePrints is an offshoot of online photo printing shop Photo Affections, which perhaps explains why it can offer 85 free 4″ x 6″ prints per month. This streamlined app is an easy way to print photos from your phone camera as well as Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive. One click from the home interface takes you to a photo selection page for uploading and ordering prints, which can arrive as quickly as within two days.

You can order square prints for Instagram shots as well as 5″ x 7″, 8″ x 10″ and larger prints at an additional cost. If you use an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, pay for orders instantly using Apple Pay. Photos are printed on lab-quality paper from Kodak and Fujifilm, with an matte finish.

Price: Free from Google Play, iTunes, and Windows Store

Prints: Free for 4″ x 6″ prints (up to 85 per month or 1,000 per year); from $0.49 each for 5″ x 5″ prints

Shipping: $1.99 to $9.99; $1.00 more for two-day shipping; free shipping the first time you use the app

Speed: Four to six days; two working days for express shipping

Editing capabilities: Minimal; cropping, black-and-white filter

Best for: Low-cost, high-quality prints

Hipstamatic (iOS)

Remember the big kid on the block pre-Instagram? Hipstamatic and its vintage camera interface offer lenses, flashes and filters to create hundreds of old-school effects for your new-school pictures. The app links to its own print lab service so that you can order square prints of those analog-looking digital photos in sizes from 4″ x 4″ to 10″ x 10″ and 30″ x 30″ formats.

We love the reusable packaging, which doubles as a self-supporting frame for one picture. Pictures are printed on high-quality archival paper from Fujifilm. Share pictures to the usual lineup of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr.

Price: $2.99 from iTunes

Prints: $4.99 for nine square 4″ x 4″ prints, $49.99 for nine 10″ x 10″ prints; more prices on site

Shipping: From $2

Speed: 3-10 days

Editing capabilities: Abundant; preloaded effects to tweak color, saturation, exposure and more, downloadable packages of “looks” such as the Williamsburg Hisptapack or Foodie Histapack ($1.49 each)

Best for: Artsy photo prints and Instagram-esque editing

Print on the go with a portable smartphone printer

Pull out one of these printers during your next vacation and instantly print anyone’s smartphone photos for hard-copy keepsakes.

Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 (Android and iOS)

This book-sized printer from the current king of instant cameras uses the same film and printing technology as the Fujifilm Instax Mini line. It connects via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to your smartphone, with an app for selecting and printing photos to a roll of instax mini film.

The app lets you add black-and-white or sepia filters, as well as templates for text and graphics and “Real Time” details such as dates, location, time and weather. Prints have that slight vintage blur; if you’re looking for fine detail, you may want to consider a desktop printer instead.

The SP-1 runs on flat-cell CR-2 batteries with a lifetime of about 100 prints before the batteries need to be replaced.

Price: $155.63 from Amazon

Prints: $18.37 for 20 sheets at Amazon

Speed: 16 seconds per print

Editing capabilities: Black-and-white or sepia filters in the Fujifilm app, templates for personalized text and greeting cards

Best for: Printing photos on the go

LifePrint (Android and iOS)

This wireless photo printer includes its own social network, allowing you to send photos from your smartphone to your friend’s LifePrint printer (or, of course, your own). Once the printer is online via your home wireless network, your smartphone can link up from anywhere in the world to print pictures off its camera roll, including additional saved pics such as Whatsapp-sent photos or Instagram-edited pics. The LifePrint is about the size of an iPad and prints only 3″ x 4″ photos.

Price: $199.99 at LifePrint Photos and shops, from April

Prints: $19.99 for 30 prints

Speed: 60 seconds per print

Editing capabilities: Minimal; add text to photos, tweak the size of the border

Best for: Sending printed photos as easily as digital photos

Print at Home with a desktop printer

Printing your photos at home can not only work out cheaper, but far more convenient. If you’re looking for pro-quality home prints, dedicated photo printers can handle ultra-high resolutions and fine color detail, while standard models still offer decent picture quality at an affordable price.

Canon Pixma iP8720

Forget the four-cartridge ink system on your old home printer; the Pixma iP8720 sports a six-ink system including an individual grey ink for extra-fine color and gradation in black-and-white prints. It connects over Wi-Fi as well as Google Cloud Print and Apple AirPrint, making it easy for any device to link up and print.

The printer uses an Android/iOS app to select photos from a smartphone or tablet for batch printing. Print resolution goes as high as 9600 dpi with photo sizes up to 13″ x 19″.

Price: $299.99 from Canon

Prints: From $7 for 100 sheets of 4″ x 6″ glossy paper; $113 for a set of six ink cartridges (PDF) ($0.48 or less per print)

Speed: About 35 seconds per smartphone photo, 1 minute or more for larger prints

Editing capabilities: None

Best for: Professional-quality home photos

HP Envy 5660

If you simply want to print photos for personalized cards or family albums, a multifunction inkjet printer like the Envy 5660 produces good clarity and color, especially with smaller prints. It can connect to any smartphone over Wi-Fi via the HP app, while Apple AirPrint support lets you print directly from iPhones without an app.

Photos can be printed in sizes up to A4, with a dedicated paper tray for 4″ x 6″ prints. If you regularly print photos, buy the Envy 5660 with an HP Instant Ink subscription plan that gets you 50 prints per month for $2.99, with HP connecting to your printer to send new cartridges when you’re running low.

Price: $110 from Amazon

Prints: From $7 for 100 sheets of 4″ x 6″ glossy paper; $80 for a set of high-yield ink cartridges (about $0.27 a print, $0.13 if you subscribe to Instant Ink)

Speed: About 45 seconds per 4″ x 6″ photo

Editing capabilities: None

Best for: Affordable home photo printing

An all-in-one option

Polaroid Socialmatic

Love instant cameras but feel nervous about getting the shot right first time? This Android-powered digital camera is pimped out with Polaroid picture-printing technology so that you can pick the pictures you want to print and store the rest in its 4GB of internal memory. (You can also expand the storage by popping in an SD card.)

The camera clocks in at 14 megapixels with an LED flash and a 4.5-inch touchscreen display for selecting and editing photos. There’s a 2-megapixel front camera for the obligatory selfies, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect with smartphones to print photos and share them online.

Photos are printed out on 2″ x 3″ zero ink paper, which despite the high megapixel count of the camera lens produces that cloudy, old-timey effect on pictures. Each print is adhesive-backed, so you can stick the credit card-sized pics anywhere you please.

Price: $299.99 from Amazon from Feb. 1

Prints: $25 for 50 prints from Amazon

Speed: Under a minute

Editing capabilities: Add color filters and moody effects on the touchscreen

Best for: Vintage-style photos printed the old-school Polaroid way

What’s your favorite way to print photos from your smartphone? Let us know in the comments, and tell us if we’ve missed your go-to.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

Here’s How To Find Cheap and Free eBooks

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There's a wide range of resources depending on which device you own

When it’s cold or rainy outside, there’s nothing like curling up with a good ebook. But at prices averaging $7.00 a pop, a steady supply of ebooks can get real expensive real quick.

The good news: There are plenty of places to find great ebooks for free or at a significant discount. Here are our favorite places to go for 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 hardcovers and paperbacks. To find out which 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 approximate 46,000 public domain titles from authors like William 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 Lending Library

If you’re 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 e-books, 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.

Free eBooks for Kindle, Kobo and Nook

Amazon, Kobo and Barnes and Noble have selections of free ebooks designed to whet your appetite for more. You’ll find new authors, first titles in a series and much more. All you need is the free Kobo, Kindle or Nook app.

Kindle, Kobo and Nook Deals

Like most major bookstores, online book stores have a sale section too. Before you pay full price for an e-book, check out Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals, Nook Books Under $5 and Kobo Great Readers Under $4.99, where you can find titles for teens and adults priced between $.99 and $4.99. There’s a little bit of everything to discover, from historical biographies to mystery novels to light romance fare. And if you don’t like what’s currently available, check back – the deals are updated every day.

Oyster, Scribd and Kindle Unlimited eBook Subscription Services

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, Scribd or Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. These relatively new subscription services are akin to a Netflix for books.

Oyster has more than 1 million titles, Kindle Unlimited has more than 700,000 titles and Scribd has more than 500,000 titles from smaller and top-tier publishers like HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. Plus, Scribd and Kindle Unlimited offer audiobooks, in addition to ebooks. In short: Even the pickiest readers are guaranteed to find something worth their time.

New members get a free month of service on all services, allowing you to get sense of the libraries without spending a dime. After the free trial, Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 per month, Oyster costs $9.95 per month, and Scribd is $8.99.

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TIME How-To

How To Get Your In-Ear Headphones to Fit Better

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Try looping the cable that connects them behind your head and around the top of each ear

If your earphones are too loose or aren’t seated well in your ear, even the best in-ear headphones, or earphones, can sound awful. And if they’re too tight, they can quickly become uncomfortable. To get the most out of your earphones, follow these tips to getting the proper fit.

Size and material matter

The key to a proper earphone fit is using the right size ear tip. So try the various sizes of foam and silicon tips that come with your earphones. Foam tips are more forgiving for size differences, so they’re a good option for hard-to-fit ears.

For comfort and better fit, you can also buy specialized tips. Comply also makes a 3-pair foam variety pack that includes a pair of sound isolation tips, sport tips (without SweatGuard) and comfort tips in your choice of S, M or L for $14.95 on Comply.com. And Monster makes a 6-pair variety packs with extra-soft gel tips and foam tips in S, M and L for $17.71 on Amazon.com.

Also, one of your ears may be slightly larger than the other, so you may need to use a different size tip for each ear.

Seat the eartip firmly

To get the best sound, you need to seal your ear canal with the eartip. So simply pushing an eartip into your ear often isn’t enough to create a proper seal. Try gently pulling on the outer rim of your ear to ease the tip into a comfortable position. You should notice a drop in ambient noise when the tip is seated correctly. And when you’re listening to music, you’ll notice more range, especially bass.

Secure the tip for sports

Getting headphones for working out to fit well is particularly tricky. The constant pulling on the eartip as you move can loosen even well-inserted eartips.

Try looping the cable that connects them behind your head and around the top of each ear. For eartips that are angled to fit in the ear canal, place the side marked “L” in your right ear and the side marked “R” in your left ear. Some headphones, like those made by Shure, are designed to be worn this way, so check before swapping sides.

Make sure to use any stabilizers that may have come packed with the earphones. These plastic pieces basically wedge the eartip into place to keep it from wiggling as you move. You can also try a generic stabilizer, like the BudLocks Earphone Sport Grips ($14.95 on Amazon). And for Apple Earpods, there are Earbudi Clips ear hooks ($9.99 on Amazon) you can attach to help them stay in place.

If your earphones come with eartips that have double or triple flanges, you may find they stay put better than the regular tips. And check to see if your earphones are compatible with Comply’s new Sport Plus tips ($12.95 on Comply.com) with SweatGuard that prevent slipping when you exercise and moisture from getting in your earphones.

You can also try anchoring the headphone cable to your shirt with a clothing clip so it doesn’t flop around as much. I like Bud Button, a magnetic cord holder ($11.99 on Amazon) that anchors your earphone cord to your shirt, or Sport Guppy ($12.99 at Amazon.com), a magnetic clip that also attaches to your shirt and holds excess cord.

Need a new pair of headphones? Check out our picks for great sports headphones under $50 and the best Bluetooth headphones.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

How To Boost Your Wi-Fi With a Range Extender

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Here's how to get your Wi-Fi network to finally cover your whole house

I love the Wi-Fi service available in my home. I have my laptop, my smartphone and my tablet hooked up to it so I can surf the web from anywhere in the house. Well, almost anywhere.

The Wi-Fi gear is installed towards the back of my place. The further I go towards the front of the house, the worse the signal. If I try to do much more than check email in my front room, it takes forever. Streaming YouTube or Netflix is out of the question.

Fortunately, this is why they make wireless Wi-Fi range extenders. These are small boxes that can extend the range of your Wi-Fi signal by boosting it and retransmitting it.

What to buy

When looking for a wireless Wi-Fi range extender of your own, you don’t need to buy from the same manufacturer as your Wi-Fi box (though it doesn’t hurt, either.) The features you are looking for are easy set up, matching frequency band (2.4 and/or 5Ghz) and a signal-strength indicator.

Two-button set up

If you aren’t especially tech-savvy, you’ll want to stay away from extenders that require you to fiddle around with their internal settings through a web browser. Watch out for any product that comes with a CD or software.

The easiest set up is if both your Wi-Fi box and the expander have WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup). Pushing the WPS buttons on both your Wi-Fi box and your extender at the same time allows the systems to talk to each other and take care of the setup without you having to muck around with the settings.

Match the frequency

Is your Wi-Fi box running on a 2.4 or 5Ghz band? Make sure the extender matches. If you have a choice, boosting a 2.4Gz signal will go further, but boosting the short-range 5Ghz signal will be stronger. Dual-band extenders cover both.

Signal strength indicator

How do you know where to put your extender for the best signal boost? Too close to your Wi-Fi box and you won’t get the best coverage. Go too far and the weakened signal won’t do you any good. Look for extenders that give an indication of signal strength so you can find just the right spot.

Our recommendation

Netgear’s WN2500RP Dual Band Wi-Fi Range Extender ($54 on Amazon) has all the bells and whistles we covered here. We particularly like the LED lights that give you a great indicator of the signal strength.

That’s all there is to it. With a repeater in place, you can be streaming music in your garage or checking Facebook on the porch in no time. But what if an extender can’t get the Wi-Fi to the room you want? Then it’s time to consider a wired alternative.

Wired extender alternatives

1. If your home has been wired for cable, you may have a coax (cat 5) jack in your home’s Wi-Fi dead zone that you can use to extend your coverage. A coax adapter creates a wired connection from your router box to the are where you need coverage without having to run a cable.

It’s as simple as plugging one adapter into a coax jack next to your existing router and using an Ethernet cable to connect them. Then plug the second adapter into a coax jack in the area where you need Wi-Fi coverage and use an Ethernet cable to connect the adapter to the included, second Wi-Fi router. You should get the same speeds as your current W-Fi network and higher speeds than a Wi-Fi repeater will provide.

If this sounds like the option for you, we recommend the Actiontec Dual-Band Wireless Network Extender and Ethernet Over Coax Adapter Kit ($149.99 on Amazon).

2. A powerline adapter creates a wired connection from your router box to the room you need it without having to run a cable between the two areas. It does this by using the existing electrical system already built into your house.

It’s as simple as plugging one adapter into a power outlet next to your router and using an Ethernet cable to connect them. Then plug the second adapter into an electrical socket in the room where you need it and plug another Ethernet cable from that one into whatever computer, game console or smart TV requires an internet connection. Pair the two adapters by pressing the buttons on the front of them and you’re good to go.

A powerline adapter will likely provide a faster internet connection than a Wi-Fi repeater, though it will depend on how your house is wired. It’s ideal if you’re only trying to connect one device that has an ethernet port.

If this sounds like the option for you, we recommend the TP-LINK TL-PA4010KIT AV500 Nano Powerline Adapter Starter Kit ($40 on Amazon). It is small, powerful, secure and has an energy-saving mode. You can buy extra adapters if you want a signal in more than one room.

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