App of the Week: DuckDuckPro

A Year of DuckDuckGo – a review

 

By Tom Wood of designwithtom.com

I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as my default search engine instead of Google for about 12 months. This is why I could never go back.

1. Privacy

The main reason I switched over in the first place was a privacy concern. Spawned from a talk by the irrepressible Aral Balkan, the notion of corporatocracy was first lodged in my brain. Google weren’t just storing all my search history, but they were using it for all manner of things except for the one thing they assured me it was for; improving my searching.

With a Privacy Policy written in clear English, DuckDuckGo are all about you.

2. Quality of Search

Using Google you’re subject to what is known as the filter bubble. The filter bubble is where your search results are conditioned by the history of your previous searches. That means that different results are shown to different people. Not everyone who searches for Donald Trump (or guns) sees the same thing.

There is no filter bubble on DuckDuckGo. The ability to switch which local region you’re searching in gives you more options and ultimately, a truer search.

3. Design

Look at it. Look how clean it is! Don’t like how it looks, then head straight to part 4!

Lose the visual clutter of Google, and the mismatching styles and enter some gentle alignment and you get DuckDuckGo. Search for a topic like Airbnb and you’ll get a tidy summary (from Wikipedia of course) at the top of the page, and some genuinely related links to the right. All of this in your search results.

Search for an HTML snippet like <td>, and you’ll get an HTML table in correct syntax ready for you to copy and paste. Occasionally a StackOverflow answer will even appear up there!

4. Customization

So you don’t like how it looks and you prefer Google. Why?! Only joking.

You can change how DuckDuckGo both looks and behaves. You can change the default ProximaNova font to Helvetica Neue, or the colour to pink. You can change the way links open, or stop the favicons from displaying. You can truly cater it to your tastes.

5. Instant Search

You know how Google can give you the results to basic arithmetic, or tell you the weather without having to leave your search results? Well DuckDuckGo have been doing that for longer, and arguably, they do it better.

The weather is supplied by the wonderful and gorgeous Forecast.io (now renamed DarkSky), the clean strokes and bold lines are a breath of fresh air.

But perhaps the cleverest thing, is DuckDuckGo’s ability to play a song from within the search results. Try it. You can play a Soundcloud tune without ever having to leave your search results.

Oh, and if you search for “Stopwatch” you get (you guessed it) a working stopwatch.

6. !bangs

Bangs are the most useful part of DuckDuckGo. A bang is when you type an “!” followed by a letter, and then type your search query to instantly search on another site. Directly. Use wikipedia right from DuckDuckGo; “!w trainspotting”, or thousands of other sites.

You can use it to search Google if you need to, !g or !guk or even !maps. It’s such an intuitive way of searching. Visit DuckDuckGo for the full list (or submit your own)

It’ll work with !wikipedia, or !stackoverflow, !verge, and so on and so on (9,088 at the time of writing. Wow).

But the best part? DuckDuckGo does all of this anonymously, and if you don’t know why that’s a big deal (or if you don’t care) then I implore you to watch Aral’s talk below.

 

Download DuckDuckGo for iOS here
Download DuckDuckGo for Android here


Do you have a favorite browser you use for security? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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How to: Convert Several Images into a Single PDF Using Preview

 

By Tim Hardwick of MacRumors

Over the years, Adobe’s PDF file type has become a universally accepted method for sharing digital documents. The format’s cross-platform adoption means the documents can be viewed on almost any mobile device or computer, so it’s no surprise to find that macOS includes native support for viewing and creating PDF files.

In the Preview app, for example, it’s possible to create a single multi-page PDF document out of several separate image files. The feature is particularly useful if you need to share a number of scanned documents over email or digitize something for reference. Keep reading to learn how it’s done.

HOW TO CONVERT SEVERAL IMAGES INTO A SINGLE PDF

In Finder, select all the images you want to include in the PDF. To do this, drag a box over several images files using your mouse cursor, or select them individually by holding the Command key and clicking them one by one.

Right-click (or Ctrl-click) one of the highlighted files and select Open With -> Preview in the contextual dropdown menu.

 

In Preview’s sidebar, drag the thumbnail images into the order that you want them to appear in the PDF document. Use the Rotate button in Preview’s toolbar to change the orientation of individual pages (drag a selection over multiple pages to rotate several at once).

In the Preview menu bar, select File -> Print…, or use the Command+P keyboard shortcut to bring up the Print dialog.

Click Show Details to expand the Print dialog and browse the full set of options. Make sure the All button is selected in the Pages options. Note that you can double-check the orientation of each image by clicking the arrows below the print preview, and use the Orientation buttons to correct any if required.

 

Select Save as PDF from the PDF dropdown menu in the lower left of the Print dialog.

The Save dialog will appear. Give your new PDF a name and choose a save location. Fill in the Title, Author, Subject, and Keywords fields if desired (these details are searchable in Spotlight). The Security Options… button also lets you optionally set a password to open the document, copy from it, and/or print it.

Click Save when you’re done.

Note that the Save as PDF option can be accessed from the Print dialog window within a number of macOS apps, not just Preview. You can use it to create PDFs of web pages viewed in Safari, or Word documents opened in Pages, for example.

Do you have any slick Preview tips? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

App of the Week: Acorns

 

 

By Investmentzen.com

Summary

If you have never heard of Acorns, that is about to change. To save you time from scouring the web for quality Acorns reviews, we went ahead and put together everything you need to know here.

Acorns uses the “micro investing” approach by allowing you to round to the nearest dollar for every purchase you make and investing the difference. All those pennies start to add up and compound over time, and best of all it happens automatically when you make purchases you would normally make anyways!

Account Minimum
$5
Fees
$1/month or 0.25% per year for accounts greater than $5000.

Expert Walkthrough

What is Acorns?
Saving money today can be difficult. That amount of people who are investing in their future is far lower than it should be. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. It doesn’t have to be this way!

It can be difficult to reach the goal of a comfortable emergency fund or even starting to save for retirement. It takes both time and attention. With how busy life gets, these two things are not always easy to find.

Now Acorns has entered the game and is helping people in this exact situation. This is a service that allows you to get your feet wet with investing with little to no knowledge required. With such an inventive idea, we’ve put together this Acorns review for you to see how they can help you start investing today.

Acorns is revolutionizing the way millennials invest. They are taking charge in a time when it is well known that most people are not saving nearly enough to guarantee a comfortable retirement. This is a problem! Retirement can be as long or longer than your working career, so you want to make sure you are planning for it.

This is why Acorns allows college students to pay absolutely no fees for four years. Once you provide a valid .edu email address, you won’t pay a dime to Acorns for the remainder of your four-year degree.

Acorns does an excellent job explaining the investing process to beginners. Throughout the experience of signing up and investing, key terms are defined in a digestible format. This way, you know the implications from every action you take within your investment portfolio.

 

 

How Does it Work?

Acorns enables you to round to the nearest dollar for every purchase you make and invests the difference automatically.

These pennies are invested in one of six asset allocations. Each portfolio is made up of different Exchange Traded Funds (ETF). These options allow you to decide how aggressive or conservative you want to be.

The portfolios that are available are:

Conservative
Moderately Conservative
Moderate
Moderately Aggressive

Each of these portfolios are balanced differently to aim for your desired level of risk.

It really is that easy.

In addition to “Rounding Up” you have the option of contributing lump sums on a weekly or even daily basis.

This method takes more effort because you have to go out of your way to send money initially, or regularly. While it is a great way to get in the habit of investing, Acorns mainly focuses on sending a few cents on each transaction you make. It is done in the background so you may even forget it is happening.

There is no cost to sign up, but a $5 deposit is required to begin investing.

It is easy to login and check your balances and performance of your investments. Acorns will automatically reallocate your funds to fit the asset class you have selected.

This way, if the small business cap stocks have a good month, you won’t have too much tied up in that sector after the rally. Your money will be redistributed to other asset classes, potentially limiting the risk of losing these gains.

Pros

Acorns has changed the game for millennial investors. Although those from all walks of life use the service, the younger generations are taking advantage of this micro investing approach more than others.

Acorns makes investing easy. With a “set it and forget it” methodology, in a way it forces you to begin investing by rolling in few cents for every purchase you make.

This is a great way for college students who may not have access to a 401k plan to build up a savings account. Acorn investments will grow just as if the funds were placed in an individual mutual fund with an investment bank.

They do all the work. When you sign up with Acorns, the hardest part of your job is initially deciding where you want your money and linking your cards (which is not difficult). After that, you are saving money.

Acorns also offers a mobile application for iOS and Android devices. Take a look at the Acorn app reviews in the app store to see what people are saying. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive. The app is helping so many people, there may be use of a full Acorns app review in a future article.

Acorns is very useful if you are just beginning to learn about investing. They make it very easy by doing virtually all of the work for you. Your everyday purchases contribute to your savings.

From the time you swipe your linked card, you will decide which asset allocation you want to invest in. Acorns puts your money in a well diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds.

 

 

Cons

Acorns isn’t perfect for everyone. This service is not a way to replace a 401k or Roth IRA. The lack of tax benefits may steer some away.

The fees to use the service can be rather high when combined with a low account balance.

If you take advantage of the Round-Up program that Acorns offers, the pennies you are contributing will add up over time. Depending on how much you spend, you could be hovering under $20 for quite some time.

A $1 fee on a $20 balance is a 5% fee. When compared to retirement accounts with other financial institutions, 5% would be extremely high.

You can of course lower the fee percentage by depositing a larger initial amount, which would dilute the $1 fee to a lower percentage of your total savings.

Limited investment options. Acorns does offer 6 different assets allocations that are well diversified. However, hundreds more options can be found by dealing with a commercial investment company like Wells Fargo or Fidelity.

 

 

Is Acorns Worth It?

Acorns is an amazing tool to get started with investing. If you do not have a company offered retirement account like a 401k, it allows you to put your money in the stock market with little barrier to entry.

It is not a way to replace a 401k or Roth IRA. Acorns does not provide a match like most companies, and the growth is not tax deferred or tax free.

The passive nature of using Acorns works well for investors who want a hands off approach. With reallocating and depositing done in the background, you have more time to focus on other things in your life.

If you would rather get a root canal than learn about investing, then Acorns could very well be the solution to your problem. Use this Acorn review and decide for yourself if this method of investing will be beneficial for you.

Download Acorns for iOS and Android

Do you have a favorite investment app? Tell us about it in the comments below?

How to: Add AirDrop to Your Mac’s Dock for Quicker Access

 

By Chris Hauk of MacTrast

AirDrop is a great way to send and receive files between Macs or between your Mac and iOS devices. Here’s a quick way to shave a few clicks off of the process.

If you’re initiating an AirDrop transfer from your Mac, you usually have to open a finder window and then navigate to AirDrop. But, by following the quick steps below, you can open an AirDrop window with a single click.

1.) Open Finder on your Mac. (You can just click anywhere on your Mac’s Desktop and the Finder menu will be enabled.)

2.) In the Finder menu, click on the “Go” menu item, and then select the “Go To Folder” item in the Go menu.

3.) In the dialog box that appears, enter the following directory path exactly, then hit the Enter / Return key:
/System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app/Contents/Applications/

4.) A window will open on your Mac’s Desktop, in it you’ll see an icon marked “AirDrop,” as seen below.

5.) Click and hold on the icon with your mouse pointer. Then drag-and-drop the icon onto your Mac’s Dock, dropping it in the spot where you want it to appear.

6.) Close the folder you grabbed the AirDrop icon from.

The AirDrop icon will now always be available in the Dock. Just click on it, and an AirDrop windows will open, ready to go.

For more tips and tricks on how to make better use of your Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, or Apple TV, be sure to visit the “How To” section of our website.

What’s your favorite AirDrop tip? Tell us in the comments below!

Tips & Tricks: You’re Not Using a VPN? Bad Idea

A PCMag survey demonstrates that most people are aware of the privacy risks on the internet, but most aren’t doing anything about them.

 

 

By Max Eddy of PCMag.com

In the past few years, PCMag has seen VPN services go from being fringe security utilities to red-hot, must-have cyber accessory.

The popularity (and necessity) of the once-lowly VPN is certainly due to the ever-growing legal and technological challenges to individual privacy. Virtual private networks are a tool whose time has clearly come. That’s why it’s so surprising that a poll conducted by PCMag found that, despite understanding the threats to their privacy, the vast majority of respondents don’t use VPNs and never have.

Unsecured Traffic

Of the 1,000 people polled by PCMag between Feb. 7-9, 71 percent have never used a VPN.

That struck me for two reasons. First of all, the search volume we receive at PCMag for VPN-related articles is enormous. Second, many companies require the use of a corporate VPN when working remotely. That might explain why 15 percent had used a VPN in the past, but don’t currently log on.

Most people, I assumed, would have crossed paths with a VPN at some point. And yet, the vast majority of respondents not only do not currently use a VPN, they have never laid hands on one.

New (and Old) Threats to Privacy

What’s interesting about the recent interest in VPNs is that it hasn’t been tied to a single issue, but rather an avalanche of privacy and security concerns. An awful lot has happened in the last few years, the answer to which has often been “use a VPN.”
One of the first news items that seemed to spur VPN adoption was the decision by Congress to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to sell anonymized user data.

That’s reflected in our survey data, where 25 percent of respondents (correctly) identified ISPs as the biggest threat to their individual privacy.

In our survey, 24 percent of respondents also listed Facebook as a threat to their privacy. This was despite the fact that our survey was in the field back in February, before the Cambridge Analytica scandal raised nascent privacy concerns about the social network to a new level. I imagine that if we ran the same survey now, even more consumers would be concerned about Facebook, and rightly so.

Admittedly, a VPN won’t do much when it comes to the kind of surveillance carried out by Facebook, but it’s still spooky to learn that the company is even tracking users who don’t have Facebook accounts.

These issues haven’t been limited to the US. Russia and China have introduced new rules that make it much harder for VPNs to operate within those countries. Furthermore, Russia recently banned popular encrypted messaging app Telegram, reportedly driving more users to adopt VPNs.

Another threat reflected in the survey is the dangers in using public Wi-Fi networks. There’s no way to know that the network labeled “Starbucks_Wifi” is legit and not a network created for the express purpose of nabbing people’s personal information. Fortunately, 43 percent of respondents said the main reason they would use a VPN was to access public Wi-Fi.

And then there’s net neutrality. Many hoped that the ongoing fight to ensure that ISPs must treat all web traffic equally in terms of speed and accessibility would end with updated FCC rules during the Obama administration. Unfortunately, a new FCC chairman decided (incorrectly) that these rules were unnecessary and successfully dismantled them.

This is where our numbers seem a bit out of step with reality, as we found that 55 percent of respondents who agreed with the concept of net neutrality had never used a VPN. Although 46 percent said they supported it, 32 percent didn’t know what it was. That’s disappointing on its own.

Is Privacy Dead?

Also disheartening were the responses about voluntarily surrendering personal information.

A dismal 62 percent of respondents said they’d willingly hand over personal information for free Wi-Fi. Another 23 percent said they would hand over personal info for exclusive content on video streaming platforms, and 13 percent said they’d do it for exclusive content in video games.

A staggering 7 percent said they would surrender personal info for free adult content. I find this particularly mind blowing, as there is not (last I checked) a dearth of free porn on the internet.

That said, a key caveat of this particular set of questions was the phrase “willingly.” Too often, people aren’t aware of the information they’re giving up in exchange for a free mobile app or what companies can see when they share a post on Facebook. If we’re going to use our personal information as currency, it’s better that we make those transactions willingly.

You Should Definitely Use a VPN

In all my writing about VPNs, I’ve tried to stress their limitations. They won’t make you truly anonymous online (you need Tor for that), and there’s a risk anytime you use a for-profit company for security (you can roll your own VPN with Outline, but I digress).

Many of you have concerns about using VPNs in general, such as what kind of impact a VPN will have on internet speeds (37 percent), whether or not it will work with a particular online service (15 percent), and if it can be used to access Netflix (28 percent). Those are legitimate concerns, and ones that have only been partially solved by VPN companies.

But the last few years have shown that an economy based around gathering user data has real consequences. Between data breaches, foreign election influence, and the sheer volume of data being gathered by seemingly innocuous services, it’s never been more urgent to take control of our privacy online. A VPN won’t solve all those issues, but it’s a start and one that only 29 percent of you have so far used.

 

Do you use a VPN for your personal network? Sound off in the comments below!

App of the Week: Record Player

There’s An App Like Shazam But For Album Covers

 

Shazam has proved to be a really useful piece of kit for the casual music listeners amongst us.

Hearing a tune in the background on the office radio or in a store that spikes our interest once upon a time may have ended there. A potentially momentarily frustrating situation if ever there was one.

Along came Shazam to solve such a problem, easing our mysterious musical woes. Just hold your phone up to the sound and the app will tell you what song it is as well as nudging you towards purchasing it on iTunes (support the music man).

It was obviously fairly popular as Apple bought the service last year for around $400 million.

Record Player has seen those successes and applied it to something more visual. Album covers.

The concept is simple. You’re browsing a record store and you see an album that tickles your fancy – however you may not have listened to it properly in the past. Vinyl isn’t exactly cheap so you may want to take the record out for a ‘test run’.

Snap a picture of the cover and the app will use the Google Cloud Vision API and the Spotify API to bring up the playlist on Spotify.

According to Billboard and Nielsen Music, vinyl LP sales have reached a record high, accounting for 14% of all U.S. physical album sales in 2017, an 11% increase from 2016.

Download Record Player for iOS here
Download Record Player for Android here


Do you have a favorite reference app like Shazam or Record Player? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

How to: master Split View on the Mac

 

By Charlie Sorrel of Cult of Mac

Split view on the iPad is amazing. Two apps, side-by-side, open up all kinds of neat shortcuts. You can drag text, links, and pictures from Safari into notes apps, emails, Pages documents and so on. The Mac is less in need of such a mode, because screens are bigger, and you can already place two windows side-by-side, but on a little MacBook, where every 1/64th inch counts, Split View is a great feature. Here’s how to use it.

Split View on the Mac

Split View on the Mac is possibly harder to use than on the iPad, but once you get used to it it works just as well. Instead of grabbing an app icon and dropping it onto your workspace, like on the iPad, Mac Split-View uses app windows. So, how do you grab a window on the Mac? After all, we grab and drag Mac windows all day long, and they never try to go into a full-screen split view.

To enter Split View on the Mac, you have to click and drag on the green full-screen button at the top left of any window. Doing so will drop you into Split mode. The menubar disappears, your window shrinks, and a transparent gray block covers half the screen. This block is the target for Split View. Drag your window to the left of the right of the screen, and then drop it.

That’s step one. Once you have dropped your window into one half of the screen, the other half gets filled with miniature versions of all the other app windows that are open. Just click on any one of these to select it as the partner to your first window. Boom, as they say. You’re now in Split View, with two apps each using half the screen, with no menubar. It’s very Zen.

Enter Split View when you’re already in full-screen

 

If you already have an app in full-screen view, you can add another app to make it a Split View. To do so, swipe up on the trackpad with four fingers to Open Mission Control. This opens a section at the top of the screen showing your full-screen apps. Just grab an app window from the lower section of the screen, and drag it onto the full-screen app in the top section. That’s it. The apps will share the screen 50:50.

How to resize apps in Mac Split View

Just like on iPad, you can resize your windows in Split View. To do so, hover the mouse pointer over the line that splits the apps. The mouse pointer will turn into a horizontal, double-ended arrow. Use this to drag the centerline and resize the app windows. On iOS, you can only split 50:50 or (roughly) 70:30. On the Mac, there are no such restrictions. You can resize the windows however you like, although there is a minimum width for the smaller window.

How to exit Split View on the Mac

You can exit Split View, in two ways. You can click the green full-screen button of one of the apps, and that app will shrink back into a normal window. The other app will be left as a full-screen app, which you can return to using Mission Control.

The other method is to hit the Escape key, which does the same thing. I find the Escape shortcut quite annoying, because sometimes I’m using the escape key for something else, and I end up getting kicked out of Split View.

Do you know any slick tricks like this for the Mac? Tell us about it in the comments below!