Amazon Alexa gains ‘Brief Mode’ with less verbose remarks after doing simple tasks

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Recently, Amazon added a ‘Follow-Up Mode’ to its Echo line of devices, which allows users to repeatedly say commands to the assistant without saying “Alexa” again. The company even added a ‘feature’ where the Echo would laugh at you sporadically. Today, the tech-giant is adding a ‘Brief Mode’ which disables the chatter aspect of the Echo, and replaces it with a simple chime once a task is completed.

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10 Stupidly simple things I wish Google Home would do

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I love my Google Home(s). I’ve been using two of them for nearly a year in my apartment, and they were recently augmented by a couple of JBL Link speakers with Assistant and a Google Home Mini at work. I call upon them frequently throughout the day to ask about the weather, play music, set reminders and calendar events, control my smart home devices, and more. And I have spent countless hours testing and checking everything they can do, which culminated in a very long but super detailed Google Home tutorial that I suggest you read.

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Gadget Ogling: Smart Phones, Simple Phones, and Sparkling Water on Tap

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Oh, look, it’s a new flagship smartphone duo from Samsung. Shockingly enough, they’re called the “Galaxy S9” and “Galaxy S9+.” They have a similar appearance to the previous year’s models, but there are also a few differences, such as a new camera and stereo speakers. There’s a 960-frames-per-second slow motion mode, and there’s the option to add music to clips or turn them into GIFs. An adjustable aperture accounts for how much light there is in the field of view and can be adjusted accordingly for sharper photos.
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Review: PopSockets Are a Simple & Stylish Way to Secure Your Phone

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My kids are crazy for PopSockets ($ 10–$ 15) and I understand the appeal, especially now that the company has come out with a car vent mount option ($ 15). You have likely already seen these on the back of someone’s phone. You attach the adhesive back of the PopSocket to the back your iPhone case and then can pop it open and use it as a stand for your device or a means to get a better grip on your iPhone. 

Aside from its use as a stand or finger grip, a PopSocket is also a great way to decorate your phone with an image or design or even logo of your liking. PopSockets even offers a very reasonable $ 15 custom option where you just upload a photo, select colors, and even add text in your own font. There is also an option for corporate branding. And now the car vent clip adds a new element of usefulness. You simply slip the phone into the mount and let gravity keep it in place. 

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, PopSocket showed off tons of designs including licensed images from franchises like Harry Potter. They even have a higher-end Swarovski® Crystals options. My only concern is that they are semi-permanent; if you’re careful when installing a PopSocket, you can reposition it but not easily re-attach it without new sticky tape. I’d like to see an industrial-strength Velcro® option. And they aren’t compatible with some silicone or waterproof cases. Plus, the device itself might interfere with Qi-based wireless charging.

Pros

  • Tons of designs including licensed images
  • Customize your own
  • Swarovski® Crystals options
  • Vent mount option
  • Collapsible
  • Corporate logo options

Cons

  • Repositionable, but semi-permanent adhesive
  • Might interfere with Qi-based wireless charging
  • Not compatible with some silicone and waterproof cases

Final Verdict

If you want to dress up your case, and add a finger grip, PopSockets has a lot of designs to choose from. 

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Airplane Noise Can Be Reduced With a Simple Solution

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If you’re one of the many residents of the Boston area who likes to spend rare warm evenings out on the porch, you’re probably familiar with the interruptions that come with it: the scream of an airplane zipping overhead every few minutes, headed to or from Logan International Airport. Thanks to more precise navigation software, airplane noise has become concentrated over several routes like these around the country, with certain neighborhoods seeing plane after plane roar overhead all day.

After studying this problem around Boston, one Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor suggested a simple solution: just slow the planes down.

In a study jointly funded by the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) and MIT, aeronautics professor John Hansman found that slowing the speed of departing aircraft by just 30 knots (about 34 miles per hour) would significantly reduce noise heard below.

A community group mapped Boston Logan Airport flights departing to the northwest from 2013 (in green) and 2015 (in red), after the FAA began using new routes. Precision navigation concentrates planes over certain neighborhoods, creating new noise issues. (Data source: Massport) PHOTO: KENT JOHNSON
Flights departing Boston’s Logan airport from 2013 (green) and in 2015 (red), after the FAA began using new precision navigation software to determine routes. (Data source: Massport) Image Credit: Kent Johnson

For a typical Boeing 737, Hansman estimates the slowdown would add only about 30 seconds to its climb to 3 kilometers (10,000 feet), and burn roughly seven additional gallons of jet fuel.

Community efforts seem to suggest that it would be worth the time and slight increase in expense. Neighborhoods across the country are already fighting the routes brought on by precision software, so much so that Chicago has experimented with rotating runways and Phoenix has sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Yet there’s one factor that the MIT study doesn’t seem to have considered: the environment. Air travel is widely cited as one of the biggest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. Boston’s Logan airport alone sees an average of 16,500 departing flights monthly; if every plane experienced the same fuel increase Hansman expects for a 737, that would mean an extra 115,500 gallons of jet fuel burned every month. Going by U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA) estimates, that means a over 1100 additional tonnes of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere monthly — from one airport alone.

An FAA working group is currently evaluating the recommendations of the MIT study, and considering slowing departing jets from a speed of 250 to 220 knots (288 to 253 miles per hour). Certainly, there’s no need for millions of people to spend their lives waking up to the deafening roar of passing planes. Yet given that we already know climate change will have an outsize impact on future generations — even making air travel itself more difficult and expensive — here’s hoping aviation experts can find a way to strike a balance between quieter skies and a healthier planet.

The post Airplane Noise Can Be Reduced With a Simple Solution appeared first on Futurism.

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Jamf Now: Apple device management made simple [sponsor]

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Jamf Now is an on-demand and affordable device management solution for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. With no IT required, Jamf Now takes the hassle of managing devices away and allows businesses to focus on what they do best. Right now, anybody reading this can sign up and manage their first three devices for free. Forever!… Read the rest of this post here


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6 Simple, No-Nonsense Accounting Apps for Microbusinesses

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“Small” businesses today come in a broad range of sizes, from the 500-person light manufacturing plant to the “solopreneur.” One distinct category is the microbusiness, which typically features one owner with up to four other employees. A freelancer is a good example of a microbusiness, as is someone who owns his or her own landscaping or pool service company.

Super small though these businesses may be, even solopreneurs need to conduct basic accounting and bookkeeping functions. This includes accounts payable, accounts receivable, taxes, expense tracking, and even payroll. Depending on the microbusiness’s particular structure (corporation, sole proprietorship, etc.), it will have specific financial reporting responsibilities.

That’s where technology comes to the rescue. Companies have developed tax preparation software, accounting apps, and even AI-powered platforms to help businesses do the hard work themselves. “Now all firms, even small ones, should be thinking about how to adopt advanced technology like artificial intelligence (AI), whether it will be by contracting with specialized technology companies or building their own departments,” says Derek Bang, the chief strategy and innovation officer at Crowe Horwath.

Even today, there are now many simple, no-nonsense, and affordable accounting apps available to help microbusiness owners complete accounting, bookkeeping, and tax tasks from anywhere. Here are six small business accounting apps to consider for your microbusiness:

  1. Sage Expenses & Invoices

Sage Expenses & Invoices is a small business accounting app from Sage, a renowned accounting software development company that has delivered many innovative accounting solutions for businesses of all sizes. This free, valuable app for micro and small businesses is available on both the App Store and Google Play.

This cloud-based app provides a way to easily record business transactions from anywhere. It can account for and digitally store expenses, send and reconcile invoices, and maintain current business records. The app uses straightforward language and easy navigation, making it a snap to continually record income and expenses on the go. As your business grows, you can integrate the app with Sage One, which expands the range of available accounting features.

  1. 1tap Receipts

1tap receipts is an app from Receipt Bank that uses character recognition software to eliminate data entry — and the headache of lost receipts — for self-employed workers. Available for both iOS and Android, 1tap was developed to make it easier to be self-employed by enabling freelancers, contract workers, and others to take pictures of business expenses year-round to assist at tax time. The app can save them money, too, as tax professionals often charge self-employed clients 50 percent more to complete their taxes because of the additional organization and itemization required.

The app works in tandem with those accounting professionals to automate data collection and enable self-employed workers to leverage the information for analysis. 1tap retains all collected receipts in the cloud for 10 years, meaning the information can be resurrected at any time, as well as reviewed to find trends and patterns that might not otherwise be apparent.

Creating an 1tap account is free, and the app offers three different pricing levels to match individuals’ needs.

  1. FreeAgent Mobile

FreeAgent is another accounting software platform that has added a mobile app that works on iOS and Android devices. You’ll be able to instantly view what is outstanding in terms of bills and payments from clients while also gaining a longer-term picture of your expenses against budget. This small business accounting app lets you create new expenses and capture receipts via photo.

For invoices, the cloud-based app enables you to create and send invoices, issue estimates, and bill for expenses. The app will also help you focus on higher-level accounting issues related to cash flow, bank balances, taxes, and profit and loss statements. Lastly, the timer feature lets you set a timer so you can record how much time you spend on each task, information that can be used to generate an invoice or time slip.

FreeAgent offers a 30-day free trial, after which you can select a pricing plan that works for the size of your business.

  1. KashFlow Go

KashFlow aims to make the accounting process for your microbusiness as simple and comprehensive as possible through its web and mobile applications. It works with companies all over the world that need a simple way to track their invoices, expenses, and financial performance. Features include invoicing, quotes and estimates, taxes, banking, payments, and payroll. While originally developed for small businesses in the UK, many features can also be used by businesses in other countries.

This app, available in iOS and Android, offers a 14-day trial period. After that, you can select one of three pricing levels to align with your business size and scope.

  1. FinancialForce

FinancialForce does considerably more than just accounting, which makes it ideal for a micro business that could benefit from using one comprehensive platform rather than dozens of tools. It is designed to integrate with Salesforce, which allows you to combine your accounting tasks with your customer relationship management processes. There are numerous billing and financial management features, including an array of accounting tools, statements, and reports. It also offers tools for inventory and spend management as well as invoicing. You’ll even be able to tap into more sophisticated features such as automated forecasting.

FinancialForce offers free demonstrations and customized pricing to match your business needs.

  1. Xero

Xero offers regular accounting software as well as a mobile accounting application, for iOS and Android, that is built for small business owners. Xero offers a wealth of features that allow you to stay on top of your finances from anywhere. This includes reconciling bank transactions, capturing and approving expenses, and sending invoices from your phone instead of waiting to get back to the office.

You can also use the mobile accounting app to store information about your customers and suppliers, including their addresses, phone numbers, and other key details. If you have employees, the app allows you to give them access to certain tasks related to invoicing and expenses while restricting access to more sensitive financial information.

In addition, there are multiple tiers to Xero’s subscription plan based on the size of your business and the features you need, including whether you require a desktop version.

Start Using Accounting Apps and Stop Wasting Time

Now you don’t have to spend tons of time on tasks that don’t really make you money. Instead, these small business accounting apps enable you to get these tasks done quickly and much more effectively. That way, you can focus on nurturing customer relationships, finding new prospects, and generating revenue.

The post 6 Simple, No-Nonsense Accounting Apps for Microbusinesses appeared first on ReadWrite.

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T-Mobile ending Binge On free Vudu rental promo for Simple Choice Unlimited customers

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Way back in late 2015 when Binge On originally launched, T-Mobile offered a free Vudu rental for every month of 2016 to Simple Choice Unlimited customers. That offer was extended through early 2018, but now it looks like it’s coming to an end. T-Mobile is notifying customers that it’s ending its Binge On promotion that gives Simple Choice Unlimited customers a free Vudu movie rental each month. The offer is coming to an end on March … [read full article]

The post T-Mobile ending Binge On free Vudu rental promo for Simple Choice Unlimited customers appeared first on TmoNews.

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Give your MacBook or MacBook Pro 4 additional ports with this simple hub

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The new MacBooks are doubtlessly awesome. But, in order for Apple to achieve that ultra-slim and compact design, they unfortunately had to eliminate some popular ports. This HyperDrive USB Type-C 5-in-1 Hub brings back the full port functionality of the older models and then some, and it’s available for 20% off at $ 39.95.

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Google launched a simple browser-based sequencer for making music

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Chrome Music Lab has launched a new music creation tool called Song Maker. A browser-based experience, Song Maker is a sequencer that allows you to program loops for two different instruments of your choosing, then save it or send to someone else for collaboration.

Google Creative Lab launched Chrome Music Lab in 2016. A series of web-based experiments, each Chrome Music Lab installment let you play around with music and sound in a different way. This includes Oscillators, which has you squish and stretch a cute character to learn about frequency values, and Sound Waves, which shows a visual representation of how sound vibrations travel through the air.

Song Maker is a tad more complex, but is still very straightforward and foolproof. It…

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