Tuesday, May 8, 2018

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Buy Apple’s HomePod Right Now

By Khamosh Pathak  

The Apple HomePod is an amazing speaker that’s designed to work seamlessly with Apple Music and AirPlay. It’s an engineering marvel, given how much Apple was able to stuff into this pudgy little 7-inch cylinder.
This $349 smart speaker is filled with amazing technologies. There’s a seven tweeter array at the bottom, a six-microphone array at the top and an A8 processor from the iPhone 6 to supply the smarts.
Reasons You Should Stay Away From HomePod 1
But there’s still a chance you’ll be disappointed when the HomePod actually shows up on your doorstep. While Apple has outdone itself creating a great speaker, there are some glaring issues when it comes to usability, software and just general feature set we’ve come to expect from smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Assistant.

1. Walled Garden, Now With Higher Walls

HomePod costs $349. This is double what you’d pay Amazon or Google for a smart speaker. Even if you’ve got Apple devices everywhere, you can’t expect HomePod to work with everything all the time.
HomePod only supports Apple Music (with iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library). So if you’re a Spotify subscriber, you basically can’t use any of the “smart speaker” functionality. You can AirPlay your music to the HomePod but you can’t use your voice to start or control playback.
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Yes, we are used to Apple’s walled garden approach and with things like App Store, and it can be a positive restriction. But HomePod goes against the notion of what we think of a speaker. Even Amazon Echo and Google Home let you switch the default music streaming service!
Reasons You Should Stay Away From HomePod 2

2. Siri Still Sucks

Whenever we do a voice assistant comparison here at MakeUseOf, Siri consistently ends up at the bottom of the list.
Google Home is great at understanding anything you have to say, and it will reply with the knowledge graph of Google Search. Amazon Echo takes a narrow, command-based approach but it works almost every single time. Siri is known to be hit or miss on iPhones and iPads and HomePod runs an even more limited version of that.
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Siri works reliably when you’re asking her to do something on your device (like calling or messaging someone). And that part is still true for HomePod. When you ask HomePod to play a song, a playlist, a podcast, take notes or to control your HomeKit devices, HomePod will do that reliably most of the time.
Make the Most of Hands-Free "Hey Siri" on Your iPhone or iPad Make the Most of Hands-Free "Hey Siri" on Your iPhone or iPadHere's how Apple's hands-free "Hey Siri" command can make your life easier.READ MORE
But Siri on HomePod is extremely limited. You can only listen to Podcasts from Apple Podcasts and you can only control smart home devices which are HomeKit compatible(which isn’t a long list).
Siri can’t even set multiple timers, which is one of the most common uses cases for a smart speaker. And unlike the Amazon Echo, there aren’t thousands of skills that will add interesting and novel use cases to the HomePod either.
How to Use Amazon Echo and Alexa to Be More Productive How to Use Amazon Echo and Alexa to Be More ProductiveIf you have an Amazon Echo, you have Alexa, the virtual and voice-activated personal assistant that can improve your productivity.READ MORE

3. No Audio In, No Bluetooth Streaming

If you’re all in on the Apple ecosystem — everyone in your family uses iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks — then sure, HomePod will work great for you.
But if you’ve got an Android phone, you can’t even set up the HomePod. And while HomePod does have Bluetooth 5.0 built-in, you can’t use it stream music from any device. Streaming only works over AirPlay. There are some Android apps like DoubleTwist which do support AirPlay, but it’s more of an exception than the rule.
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Another glaring omission is the lack of a physical audio-in port. So if you’re looking for a plug and play, reliable speaker system that will work regardless of the internet connection and the proximity of your iPhone, HomePod isn’t for you.
This not only severely limits HomePod’s use case as a speaker, but it also drastically decreases its lifespan. HomePod is equal parts computer and a speaker. And if three-five years down the line, Apple stops updating the software, HomePod will essentially turn into a big, expensive paperweight. With phones and computers, we are used to this.
But speakers last for a couple of decades, not a couple of years! This is yet another way HomePod is challenging our notion of what exactly a speaker is.
Reasons You Should Stay Away From HomePod 3

4. Not the Stereo Replacement You Hoped For

You’re thinking, “It doesn’t matter if it has a line-in port or not, I can still use it as a stereo because I’ve got an Apple TV!” But there are two main issues.
First of all, HomePod doesn’t directly integrate with the Apple TV. You can’t ask HomePod to play something on Apple TV for you (something you can do on Amazon Echo and Google Home and (with Fire TV and Google Chromecast respectively). You can manually change the sound output to HomePod but it will lose the connection the next time you play some music and you’ll have to start the process all over again.
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And second of all, HomePod’s promised stereo mode still isn’t here. Even if you spend $700 to buy two HomePods and put them right next to your TV, you can’t use them in a stereo setup because Apple is yet to ship the AirPlay 2 technology which will make this possible.
Granted, AirPlay 2 should ship in the next couple of months, after which, you should be able to do a multi-room setup. But it will still be about playing Apple Music using your voice. HomePod won’t be able to replace your sound bar or your 5.1 surround stereo setup.
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5. HomePod Is a Different Kind of Privacy Nightmare

Apple prides itself on respecting your privacy and not collecting your data like other giants do. But while that’s true, there’s a whole different kind of privacy issue with the HomePod.
You see, HomePod can’t recognize multiple voices right now. If you rushed through the setup process, you’ve enabled the Personal Requests feature that can let anyone in your home read and reply to your messages.
Yes, HomePod requires your iPhone to be on the same network for this feature to work but that won’t stop your siblings from messing about when you’re upstairs or in the shower. For a company that prides itself on privacy, this is a glaring omission. Thankfully you can turn this feature off from the Home app.

Ultimately, the Apple HomePod Is Half-Baked

If you’re in the tiny minority of audiophiles who can truly appreciate HomePod’s sound quality and you’re ok with only ever using it with Apple Music, go ahead and order the HomePod. But for most Apple users, I would suggest you either wait six months or just buy an Amazon Echo, Google Assistant or even the Sonos Play:1 (which is also a really good speaker without the limitations of the HomePod).
It’s clear to me that this is very much version 0.9 of the HomePod (I’m hesitant to even call it version 1.0 because it doesn’t ship with AirPlay 2). But the hardware is all there, and it’s great. So there’s hope that in the future, HomePod will be a lot more appealing to a lot more users. Apple could come up with more SiriKit extensions for third-party apps at WWDC 2018. And if they want, they could open up Bluetooth streaming as well (but I’m not going to hold my breath for that one).
If what you want is an actually useful smart speaker with good enough sound quality, buy an Amazon Echo Plus or a Google Home. Spend the rest of the money on a pair of AirPods. Unlike HomePod, AirPods are everything they promise to be and a lot more.
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Source: www.makeuseof.com

5 Ways to Check Who Is Tracking You Online

By   Gavin Phillips

How much do you love online content? So much you pay for everything you can? Or do you, like the overwhelming majority of internet users, accept advertising and tracking as a way of life?
The adage goes “if you’re not paying you’re the product,” and in the internet services and media era, this is truer than ever. Finding out who and what is tracking you isn’t easy, but there are a number of sites and browser extensions that give you a little more clarity. Here are some of the best.
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1. Panopticlick

Panopticlick is one of the first sites to check out. Panopticlick analyzes your current browser setup, including add-ons and extensions, to measure just how many trackers are tracing your browser session.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) research project takes it one step further by detailing unique configuration features that make your browser more noticeable amongst tracking data.

How to Use Panopticlick

Head to the Panopticlick site and hit the giant orange “Test Me” button. Wait for the analysis to complete. Remember, you will experience different levels of tracking depending on your list of add-ons and extensions. My browser has several extensions blocking almost all trackers, as you’ll spot in the results below.
see who is tracking you online with Panopticlick

2. Am I Unique?

Am I Unique? is a tracker analyzer with a focus on the unique fingerprint your browser broadcasts. Browsers are relatively unique and are frequently used to identify you online.
Am I Unique take a fingerprint of your system and add it to their own database, adding a four-month cookie to your system in the process. You can then head back to the site in a few weeks and examine the changes to your browser fingerprint and if you have become more or less unique.

How to Use Am I Unique?

Head to the Am I Unique site and hit the View My Browser Fingerprint button. Wait for the analysis to complete, then check your results.
see who is tracking you online with Are You Unique
If you want to periodically analyze your fingerprint evolution, head to the “My timeline” tab in the left-hand menu column. Download the add-on for your browser (there is support for Chrome and Firefox) and check it periodically for changes.

3. Disconnect

Disconnect features in many tracker-blocking lists and for a good reason. The browser extension blocks over 2,000 individual trackers from following you around the internet. Not only that but by blocking such a vast amount of trackers, websites actually load faster—up 27 percent faster, according to Disconnect.
The best Disconnect feature, however, is the option to allow some trackers and not others. If you’re a discerning internet user, you whitelist the sites that give you great content for free. MakeUseOf, for instance.

How to Use Disconnect

Using Disconnect is extremely easy. First, head to the Disconnect site and hit the “Get Disconnect” button. Disconnect is currently available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera (download links below). Once you install Disconnect, head to a website and open the extension. The drop-down panel shows you the entire range of trackers currently jotting down your browser session.
see who is tracking you online with Disconnect
Unlike Panopticlick and Am I Unique, Disconnect lets you visualize the trackers, too. Again, this depends on your other browser settings, but you should see some trackers directly connecting to the site. Some might be harmless or relate to your work or business, so be mindful of precisely what you’re turning off.
Download: Disconnect for Chrome | Firefox | Safari | Opera

4. Lightbeam

Lightbeam is a visual aid to online trackers, displaying the extremely tangled web of trackers between individual sites you visit. Unfortunately, Lightbeam is only available for Firefox. However, because of its ease of use and visual approach, I would advise downloading the browser and extension to play with it yourself.

How to Use Lightbeam

Head to the Mozilla Firefox main site, then download and install the browser. Next, head to the Lightbeam extension page and add this to your browser. Open the extension by clicking the Lightbeam icon in the top-right corner of the browser.
see who is tracking you online with Lightbeam
You arrive at an empty graph. You can quickly populate the graph by heading to some of your favorite sites. Each site will populate the graph with its icon and associated trackers. As you visit more sites, the links between them grow, quickly creating a spaghetti monster of tangled lines. It perfectly illustrates which trackers are following you.

5. Trackography

Trackography is your third visual tracker-guide, this time with a more interactive take. Trackography, developed by the Tactical Technology Collective, is an open source project aiming to “lift the veil on the global tracking industry” by visualizing the vast array of trackers following you around the internet.
You can use Trackography to check:
  • Which companies are tracking you.
  • The countries hosting the servers of those tracking companies.
  • Countries hosting the servers of the website you’re viewing.
  • The countries hosting the network infrastructure required to access those media servers and tracking companies.
  • Further information on how tracking companies handle your data with regards to their privacy polices.
Overall, Trackography is a great visual resource if you want to understand more about the flow of data tracking around the globe, and where you fit into it.

How to Use Trackography

Head to the Trackography site. Select your host nation. Next, select a media website you want to connect to. Connection lines will immediately spread from your host nation, illustrating the path your data takes, as well as the multiple locations you had no idea your data was traveling through.

Blocking the Trackers

Several exceptional tools stop trackers following you around the internet (as well as cleaning up your online presence):
  • uBlock Origin: Block trackers, malicious advertising servers, malware, and more.
  • HTTPS Everywhere: Enable HTTPS to protect your data in transit.
  • NoScript: Block background scripts.
  • Privacy Badger: Block trackers and unwanted cookies.
  • PixelBlock: Block tracking pixels in Gmail.
  • Google Activity Controls: control what Google remembers about your searches.
  • me: Delete your old online accounts in a single click.
  • Tor Browser: Uses built-in script blocking and onion routing protocol to protect your privacy.
  • DuckDuckGo: Search the internet without trackers taking note.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it will set you on the right path to avoiding trackers where possible.

Online Tracking Is Endless

The 2018 Facebook revelations pushed online tracking and data collection further into the public eye than before. For many, it was the first realization that everything they do, say, watch, and read online is likely recorded—and out of their control.
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Online tracking informs the swathes of advertisers as to what you’re looking at online. Ads become more relevant to your interests and in theory, you buy more. In a sense, the system works. You can access a phenomenal amount of free content that is paid for by advertising (the content you’re reading right now, no less).
But online tracking does matter. For all the anonymity that Google search data aggregation and anonymization grants you, Cambridge Analytica is abusing different data to target your profile. Tracking might sound harmless. But in reality, we have little control over our data, our profiles, and how our data is handled.
Here's Why You Should Simply Give In to Google Here's Why You Should Simply Give In to GoogleThere aren't many areas where Google isn't involved. Even as privacy advocates have serious concerns about Google, it makes life a little bit easier and productive.READ MORE

Source: www.makeuseof.com

Friday, April 27, 2018

8 Starter Tips for Managing Your Photos Library on Mac

By  Akshata Shanbhag  

In these snap-happy times, you need all the help you can get to manage your photos.
We have shown you how to import, organize, and edit photos in Photos on macOS. Now let’s see what else you can do with the Photos app to keep your photo/video collection sparkling and up to date.

1. Set Up Folders

Photo Library Mac - set up folders
Photo collections can get out of control in a flash (no pun intended). But you can keep them sorted in Apple Photos by setting up folders. Click on File > New Folder to get started.
Albums and folders sound interchangeable. Are they? Not at all. Albums allow you to organize your photos and videos, while folders allow you to organize your albums.
Folders can have folders within them, and can have nested albums too. But albums cannot have child elements.
The folder structure comes in handy for managing collections of collections around a certain theme. Let’s say you have a separate album for every trip you have ever been on with your family. Then it makes sense to bring all those albums under a single umbrella, which can be your Family Vacations folder.

2. Tag People

Photo Library Mac - tag people
It’s convenient if you can isolate photos of specific friends or family members. Photos knows this and eases the way for you by allowing you to tag people in photos.
The app automatically scans faces that show up in your photos and collects them in the People section of the sidebar. Double-clicking on a face displays photos in which that face appears, across all albums.
You can match names to faces by clicking on the Name option that appears when you hover over a face. Once you have tagged people this way, you can search for their photos by typing in their name in the search box.
We’ll interrupt with a word of warning here: while it’s great that you can tag people in photos, you must consider the impact of facial recognition on your privacy.

3. Add Location Information

Photo Library Mac - add location details
All photos that have a location assigned to them show up on an interactive map in the Places section of the sidebar. Click on the thumbnail that appears for a particular location and you get a grid view of all the photos assigned to it.
Not all photos pick up the location information automatically. For some you’ll have to add it yourself. To do so, start by opening a photo and clicking on the i icon, which you’ll find in the primary toolbar at the top.
You should now see the photo’s Info section in a popup window. Click on the Assign a Location placeholder at the bottom of this window.
Photo Library Mac - assign location
Once you type in a location of your choice and hit Enter, a tiny interactive map with the correct pin shows up right there. Note that you can also add a title, keyword, and a description for the photo from this window.
You can assign a location to photos one at a time or in bulk; the process for both is the same.

4. Turn Albums Into Memories

Photo Library Mac - create memories
If you click on Memories in the Photos sidebar, you’ll see that Photos has taken your best shots and turned them into slideshows. With these special compilations you’re sure to rediscover some amazing photos that you’d all but forgotten about.
Apple doesn’t always get the photo selection right though. Hence, you might want to delete a few of the Apple-created memories and turn albums into memories yourself.
Open any album and click on the Show as Memory link for it to have the album appear under Memories. If you want to view the album as a slideshow without turning it into a memory, click on the Slideshow link instead.
You can also view a bunch of photos as a slideshow. To do so, click on the Play Slideshowoption in the context menu for the group of selected photos.
To play a selected memory, click on its Play button in the top toolbar and then on the Play Slideshow button in the menu that appears. Notice that you can also change the theme and background music for the memory from this menu.

5. Enable Cloud Sync

Photo Library Mac - enable icloud sync
Backing up your photos to iCloud makes them accessible from any device with an internet connection. You’ll be glad to know that even the edits you make to photos get synced to iCloud.
Ensuring that you have photo backups in multiple locations will help you recover from potential data mishaps without breaking a sweat.
If you would like to use the cloud sync feature for your photo library, head to System Preferences > iCloud. There, click on the Options button next to Photos. Now, in the box that shows up, select the checkbox for iCloud Photo Library and hit the Done button.
(Want to keep your photos off the cloud, but sync them across your Apple devices? In the above step, select the My Photo Stream checkbox instead of the iCloud Photo Librarycheckbox. This two-way sync works only for 1,000 of your most recent photos.)
Keep in mind that Apple allocates only 5GB of free storage space to each iCloud user. If you have a sizeable photo collection to back up, you’re likely to run out of space fast. And sooner or later you’ll need to think about buying more iCloud storage.
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To access your iCloud-synced photos online, you’ll have to visit iCloud.com and log in with your Apple ID.

6. Set Up Smart Albums

Photo Library Mac - set up smart albums
A handful of Mac apps allow you to create smart groups to filter items based on one or more criteria. Photos is one of those apps, and it calls these special groups smart albums.
Smart albums come in handy when you want to, say, filter photos that match a certain keyword or feature a specific set of people. You can also use smart albums to isolate pictures that Photos hasn’t been able to sync with iCloud.
To start setting up a smart album, click on File > New Smart Album. You’ll then get a popup box where you can select conditions for filtering photos from a set of dropdown menus. Once you have these conditions in place, hit the OK button. The album will then show up under My Albums in the sidebar.

7. Repair the Photo Library

Photo Library Mac - repair photo library
If the Photos app won’t open or if it crashes too often, you can tell macOS to repair it. To do so, hold down the Option and Cmd keys when you’re opening the application.
Once you hit the Repair button in the dialog box that shows up, the built-in repair tool does the rest. It fixes any database problems and inconsistencies to get the Photos app working again.
You might have a bit of waiting to do depending on the size of your photo library. After the repair process is complete, Photos relaunches by itself.

8. Create Photo Books and Calendars

Photo Library Mac - create calendars
If you want to turn some of your memories into, say, a photo book or a calendar, you can do it right from the Photos app. What’s more, you can have the product delivered to your doorstep. To get started, hover over My Projects in the sidebar and click on the Plus (+)button that appears next to it.
You’ll get a dropdown menu to select the product type you want to see in print. Once you select that, the app takes over. It walks you through the process of picking a theme, adding pictures, editing the layout, and placing the order for the product.
Photo Library Mac - select photo product

Mac Photo Management Made Simpler

Now that you have a grasp of the basics of Apple Photos on Mac, you’re better prepared to keep your digital memories well organized. Ensure that you aren’t making the usual photo management mistakes, and you’ll be ready to make your photo albums a delight to flip through!
5 Photo Management Mistakes You're Making (and How to Fix Them) 5 Photo Management Mistakes You're Making (and How to Fix Them)Organizing your digital photos can be a chore. And there are some mistakes almost everyone makes. Thankfully, there are also some simple solutions.READ MORE
Source; www.makeuseof.com

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Buy Apple’s HomePod Right Now

By Khamosh Pathak   The Apple HomePod is an amazing speaker that’s designed to work seamlessly with Apple Music and AirPlay. It’s an en...