How to Draw and Edit a Freeform Shape in Microsoft PowerPoint

powerpoint logo

PowerPoint gives you complete customization over shapes—merging shapes, changing the curvature of a shape’s lines, and even drawing your own. If you want to do the latter, here’s how.

Draw a Shape in PowerPoint

If you can’t find the shape you’re looking for, then you can draw your own. To do this, head over to the “Insert” tab and then click the “Shapes” button.

Select shapes in Illustrations group

A drop-down menu will appear. Head over to the “Lines” section and locate the last two options. These options are the freeform shape (left) and scribble (right) tools.

freeform and scribble in shapes

Freeform: Shape

Selecting the freeform shape option lets you draw a shape with straight and curved lines. To draw a straight line, click a point on the slide that you would like to start the line, move your cursor to the endpoint, and then click again.

Freeform straight lines GIF

To draw a curved line, click and drag your cursor.

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Daily News Roundup: Slack Will Reset Some User Passwords

Slack is resetting some user passwords after it became apparent hackers stole them in a previous breach. The hackers compromised Slack’s systems in 2015, copied encrypted passwords, and installed code to record plaintext passwords as users entered them.

In 2015, Slack discovered that hackers had compromised its systems. The hackers managed to make their way into Slack’s infrastructure and breach a database that stored usernames and passwords.

Thankfully, Slack properly hashed the passwords, which means they are encrypted and far less useful. Unfortunately, the hackers also installed code that would record plaintext passwords as users typed them in. When Slack discovered the problem, it tightened its security, removed the bad code, and reset passwords for anyone it thought had been affected by the breach.

Recently, someone contacted Slack through its bug bounty program with a list of compromised username and password combinations. The list was accurate, and when Slack investigated, it realized these passwords were in use during the 2015 breach. While the company thought it had discovered all compromised passwords at the time and reset them, that wasn’t the case.

Now, as a precaution, Slack is resetting all user passwords created at or before the 2015 breach. Slack says the reset affects about 1% of users and will contact them directly with instructions for the reset.

If Slack does contact you, you should also change your login details everywhere else if you reuse your passwords. If you do reuse passwords, you should stop. Breaches are now a common occurrence, and the safest thing to do is use a unique randomly generated password for every site. We recommend using a password manager for that purpose. [TechCrunch]

RELATED: Why You Should Use a Password Manager, and How to Get Started

In Other News:

  • Firefox will alert users of breached passwords: Speaking of breached passwords, Firefox wants to make you aware of when your passwords are compromised. If you save your passwords to the browser they will be checked against Have I Been Pwned. If Firefox finds any matches, it will notify you. [TechRadar]
  • A vulnerability in Bluetooth could reveal your location: Your Bluetooth devices are supposed to make secure connections, so only you have access to them. Unfortunately, the way many Bluetooth devices generate random connection information doesn’t prevent bad actors from tracking devices. Someone could place a series of beacons in a location, like in a mall, and track your movements. Android isn’t affected, but iOS and Windows is, and Fitbit is the easiest of all to follow. [Engadget]
  • Google removed apps designed for stalking from the Play Store: Google removed seven apps from the Play Store for violating its policies on commercial spyware. The apps touted that once installed; they could track location, record contacts, call logs, and the context of text messages (including encrypted services like WhatsApp) of a spouse, employee, or children. The apps came with instructions to install on a victim’s phone, then obfuscate the app so the phone’s owner wouldn’t know. Good riddance. [Gizmodo]
  • Microsoft showed off holographic language translation: In a novel HoloLens demonstration, Microsoft showed off a digital translator at the Microsoft Inspire partner conference. The hologram looked remarkably like the presenter and spoke with similar mannerisms as well. But it spoke in Japanese, whereas the presented spoke in English. Microsoft says live translation will be possible with this hologram, although the demo was a staged script. Pretty neat stuff. [The Verge]
  • Google starting to warn about apps not meant for children: Google previously told developers they would have to specify an intended age range for their apps. Now the company is starting to roll out “not designed for children” warning on apps that report an age range above children. Developers can even choose to apply the label proactively. Good stuff. [9to5Google]

The zombifying ant fungus is even more horrible than we already thought.

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How to Restrict Data in Google Sheets with Data Validation

Google Sheets Hero image.

If you use Google Sheets to collaborate with others, you can prevent people from typing the wrong data in your spreadsheet’s cells. Data validation stops users from inserting anything other than properly-formatted data within specific ranges. Here’s how to use it.

RELATED: How to Create Shareable Download Links for Files on Google Drive

How to Use Data Validation in Google Sheets

Fire up your browser, head to the Google Sheets homepage, open a spreadsheet, and highlight the range you want to restrict.

Highlight all the cells to which you want to add some data validation.

Click “Data,” and then click “Data Validation.”

Click Data, and then click Data Validation.

In the data validation window that opens, click the drop-down menu beside “Criteria.” Here, you can set a specific type of input to allow for the selected cells. For the row we’ve selected, we’re going to make sure people put in a four-digit number for the year a movie was released, so select the “Number” option. You can also select other criteria, such as text only, dates, a pre-defined list of options, items from the specified range, or your custom validation formula.

Click the drop-down menu next to "Criteria" and select the form of validation you want to use.

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How to DIY Your Next Move Without Going Insane

Family unloading a moving van and bringing the boxes into their new home.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Moving is stressful, no matter what—but it’s also expensive. That’s why many people opt to go the DIY route and keep costs down. Here are some tips for doing your next move yourself.

Let’s look at the details for a DIY move, such as recruiting your friends, hiring extra help, the best boxes to use, and some packing and unpacking tips. Don’t worry—you totally got this!

Recruit All Your Friends

Try to spend moving day surrounded by as many friends as possible. The more hands you have on deck, the easier and more fun it’ll be. Those who aren’t strong enough to lift heavy boxes can do random jobs, like hauling last-minute donations to the thrift store, picking up pizza, or cleaning.

You can wrangle friends, coworkers, relatives, and even your kids’ babysitter to help out. The more, the merrier—and the faster you’ll get done.

It’s also worth hiring some help. They’ll help you load and unload, but don’t drive the truck. They’re also paid an hourly rate (plus tip). You can look into Hire A Helper, as well as smaller companies that enlist local college students. Just make sure the hired helpers are bonded or insured.

Definitely reimburse your friends. Most are happy to help in exchange for some pizza, ice cream bars, snacks, or a cold beer at the end of the day. Don’t forget to have some chilled bottled water on hand, too. If you’re moving locally, a home-cooked meal for everyone after you’ve settled into your new place is a nice bonus.

Make sure to blast some catchy tunes to keep everyone’s spirits high, and try to avoid making anyone feel overworked.

Book Your Vehicle and Equipment

When it comes to DIY moving, you have to coordinate and schedule everything yourself. Make sure you plan well in advance, as trucks and trailers can book out—especially if your move falls on a long weekend or the day college lets out.

Here are some details to consider when booking your moving equipment.

Renting a Truck

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Wyze’s New Bulb Is the Fastest, Cheapest Way to Modernize Your Home’s Lighting

Two Wyze bulbs sitting on a table.
The Wyze Bulb is a cheap, easy way to expand smarthome functionality. Michael Crider

So, you want to get in on the smarthome craze, but aren’t crazy about the initial cost? Wyze’s new Bulb can help you out.

While it’s not the first all-in-one smart bulb on the market, it’s the cheapest from a reliable supplier. It also works with popular platforms, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, right out of the box. At $8 a bulb, with no need for a Hue-style hub (which is barely more than a conventional “dumb” LED light bulb), it’s an excellent choice for those who are just getting started or those who want to expand basic connected lighting to their entire home on the cheap.

There’s not much to the packaging: they sent me a four-pack of the new bulbs in a box that doesn’t look much different from something you’d pull off a hardware store shelf. It helpfully informs you that the bulbs inside work with Amazon, Google, and IFTTT, and they’re rated for 800 lumens of brightness.

Back of a Wyze bulb, sitting on a table.
The inexpensive bulb works in all standard lamps and lights. Michael Crider

What it doesn’t tell you (and what you might not assume) is that the bulbs are white only, offering a color temperature of 2700-6700 K. That covers a broad spectrum of “warm” to “cool” in conventional bulb terms, but Wyze’s budget bulbs won’t give you the rainbow colors you might associate with smarthome lighting.

That’s pretty much the only downside to this bulb, though, and it’s not much of a problem. If you want a cheap way to check out smarthome functionality, this works. And if you want to expand smart lighting to your entire home—with the small caveat that you can’t do it in Technicolor—it works there, too.

Wyze’s app is surprisingly adept at handling its myriad products, and the Bulb is no exception. You can add shortcuts, set them to different rooms (or “groups” in the Wyze app), change scenes for waking up or sleeping, and schedule events in an interface better than the major omnibus options (no surprise there). Link it to Amazon or Google instead, and it works exactly as you’d expect. For an inexpensive and simple gadget, you can’t hope for much more.

The Wyze app makes it easy to set up and manage the Bulbs. It also interfaces with Google and Amazon.
The Wyze app makes it easy to set up and manage the Bulbs. It also interfaces with Google and Amazon.

The bulb, at five ounces, is heavier than even the hub-free bulbs I’ve tried from other budget manufacturers. But unless you plan to use it in lamps that are oddly fragile or rely on tension to stay in place (like a Pixar-style desk lamp), this won’t be an issue for most people.

As a value proposition, next to products like Hue (which cost $15-$20 for a white-only bulb, not including the mandatory wireless hub or more expensive Bluetooth versions), the Wyze Bulb is phenomenal. It’s even cheaper than some of the no-name bulbs out there, and it doesn’t give you headaches from its branded app or when connecting to Google or Amazon.

Fill your smarthome up with these bulbs, and your bank account will thank you.

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The Updated Nintendo Switch Solves Battery Life Woes

Nintendo Switch
Wachiwit/Shutterstock.com

Hot on the heels of the new Switch Lite, Nintendo announced an updated Switch that ups the battery life from 2.5 to 6.5 hours to a much more reasonable 4.5 to 9 hours. That’s a pretty significant improvement.

RELATED: How is the New Switch Lite Different from the Nintendo Switch?

What it’s not announcing, however, is what made this battery improvement possible. Still, we can speculate, and it’s most likely due to a processor upgrade. Not only does the Switch Lite feature a slightly tweaked chip to bolster its battery life, but, but a recent FCC listing showed off a slightly updated Switch with a new CPU and storage. That’s what this new Switch is.

But here’s the real fun part: you’ll have to pay close attention to which model of Switch you’re buying to get the best battery life—at least in the short term while Nintendo sells all the backstock of the original unit. The new Switch has a Model Number of HAC-001(-01), while the original is just HAC-001. You’ll need to take a close look at that, but you can also confirm by checking the serial number—the original model starts with XAW, while the upgraded model starts with XKW. They couldn’t make this easy, could they?

Nintendo Switch battery life

Now, all that said, it doesn’t look the upgraded Switch is available just yet. According to Kotaku, you should be able to pick up the new console starting “this August.”

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The Best Ways to Watch VHS Tapes on Your HD or 4K TV

A picture of an HD TV playing a The Big Lebowski VHS tape.

People assume a VCR won’t work with HD and 4K TVs, but that’s not the case. If you want to watch those old VHS tapes and home movies, all you need is a VCR and some cables.

Well, it’s not that simple. VHS is a long-dead format, so many people might not even have one. Also, newer TVs lack the cable inputs that work with a VCR, and tapes can look like crap on a big screen.

That’s why we’re going to cover each of your cable options, along with some tips on how you can improve VHS quality or buy a new VCR.

A quick warning: VCRs are ancient, fragile machines. Don’t expect high-quality video from a VHS tape, and always test your VCR with a tape you don’t care about before risking your most precious films (even if it’s been tested by someone else).

A Quick List of Your Cable Options

If you’re already an expert on video cables, there’s no reason to drag things out. Here’s a quick list of your options (from best to worst picture quality) before we get into the nitty-gritty:

  • HDMI Converter Box: The easiest (and most expensive) way to play VHS tapes on a big screen. These boxes work with RCA and S-Video cables, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues or quality loss.
  • S-Video: If your TV and VCR have S-Video ports (your TV probably doesn’t), use S-Video. It produces a better image than RCA or coaxial.
  • RCA: Even some new TVs have an RCA port, and you probably have a few RCA cables lying around. They aren’t as good as S-Video cables, but they’re still an easy option.
  • Coaxial: In a worst-case scenario, you can use coaxial cables. There will be a decent loss in quality, though, which can make the shoddy picture from a VCR even worse.

If you’re ready for some more in-depth cable info, tips on how to improve tape quality, and info about where to buy a VCR, read on.

Use a Converter Box for HDMI Input

The Tensun HDMI converter box.
Tensun

Your TV might not have S-Video, RCA, or coaxial ports. This can be a problem, as VCRs don’t have HDMI ports unless you’re using a DVD/VCR combo.

In this situation, you have no choice but to use a converter box. These boxes simply take the signal from a set of RCA or S-Video cables and shoot them to your TV through an HDMI cable (without any quality loss). We suggest using an S-Video cable with a converter box, as S-Video produces a cleaner signal than RCA. This is your best-case scenario when it comes to picture quality, especially if your TV doesn’t have an S-Video port, but your VCR does.

Use S-Video Cables for a Sharp Picture

Cmple s-video cables.
Cmple

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How to Clean Your HVAC Return Vents

A floor-level air return vent in a home with hardwood floors.
Claude Huot/Shutterstock

Your central air and heating system (HVAC) is equipped with supply and return vents. While both types of vents could use some cleaning from time to time, you should pay special attention to the return vents.

Supply vents blow hot or cold air out, while return vents pull the air in for recycling into your heating and cooling system. If your supply vents are on the floor, stuff can fall into them, but when the system is running, they push air out, which tends to keep things like dust bunnies away. Return vents, on the other hand, suck air in when the system is running and tend to get a lot dustier a lot faster.

How to Find Your Return Vents

If you don’t already know which vents are the returns, there are some easy ways to find them:

  • Return vents are generally larger than supply vents.
  • Return vents don’t have adjustable louvers like supply vents often do. You don’t want to block off or close them because they’re pulling in air, and they can’t do that if they’re blocked.
  • They’re sometimes located in the ceiling but, typically, are near the floor.

Not sure if you’re looking at a return or supply vent? When your HVAC system turns on, place a piece of paper by the vent. If the paper is sucked to the vent, it’s a return. Your house will have at least one return vent.

Why Should You Clean HVAC Return Vents?

Keeping your return vents clean helps your HVAC system run more efficiently, but there’s more to it than that. Clean return vents reduce the allergens in your home and keep the furnace filter cleaner, longer (so it can trap more dust and allergens).

Cleaning Return Vents

So, how do you clean those returns, and how often should you do it? Here’s a breakdown of what you should do and when you should do it.

Things to Do Monthly

Every month there are some things you can do to help keep your HVAC system running smoothly:

  • Change the Filter: In larger homes, the filter is typically located at the furnace itself. In smaller homes and apartments with only one large return, it’s often located there for easy access. The filter should be changed monthly when your HVAC system is in use. If a filter doesn’t have a place to write the date on it, put it on your calendar, so you’ll remember to change it when it’s time.
  • Clean Out the Vents: Turn off your heat or A/C and cover furniture if your vents are in the ceiling. Vacuum your vents with a dust attachment, and then use a microfiber duster to loosen anything missed by the vacuum. Avoid using water and cleaning products, as they smear the dust around and turn it into a paste.

What to Do the Rest of the Year

There are some things you can do less often to keep your return vents clean. Aside from the filters and basic vacuuming, twice a year, you can do an extra deep clean, including:

  • Cleaning the Vent Covers: Again, turn off the heat or A/C. Completely remove the vent covers and wash them in the sink in hot, soapy water. Be sure to use a microfiber cloth and only soak them for a short time. Also, don’t rub too hard, or the paint might start to come off.
  • Removing Oil From Vent Covers: If you burn a lot of candles or have vents in the kitchen, you’ll need to remove grease during your deep clean. Rubbing alcohol cuts grease quickly and doesn’t require a lot of rubbing.

If the intake covers don’t fit in the sink, take them outside to clean them or use your bathtub—put an old towel down in the tub first, though, to protect it from being scratched by the metal edges of the vents. No matter where you wash them, be sure to dry the vent covers completely before reattaching them.

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How to Enable/Disable Multiple File Downloads in Chrome

chrome logo

By default, Google Chrome asks for confirmation when a site tries automatically to download files in succession. However, if you want to block all attempts regardless of the site, or maybe you would rather blacklist a specific website, here’s how.

Sometimes when you download a file in a browser, the website will try to download another file immediately after the first finishes. While there are legitimate circumstances—like a file conversion site—there are sites who used it maliciously to force virus or harmful scripts to download without your knowledge or permission. However, for security reasons, Google Chrome now prompts you when a website tries to download multiple files.

How to Disable Multiple Automatic File Downloads

Fire up Chrome, click the menu icon, and then click “Settings.” Alternatively, you can type chrome://settings/ into the Omnibox to go directly there.

Click the menu button, and then click Settings

Once in the Settings tab, scroll down to the bottom and click “Advanced.”

Under Settings, click Advanced at the bottom of the page.

Scroll down to the Privacy and Security section and click on “Site Settings.”

Click on Site Settings

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Daily News Roundup: Google Bans Touchpal App Dev from the Play Store

Google has banned CooTek, the developer behind the Touchpal keyboard and hundreds of other apps, from its ad network and the Play store. CooTek had a history of disruptive ads in its apps, that displayed even after users closed the app.

It was only a month ago that security firm Lookout discovered CooTek’s terrible app practices. CooTek loaded disruptive apps in hundreds of apps that could pop up even when users close the app. The ads were so prevalent they could render the phone unusable.

CookTek developers injected the ads with a BeiTaAd plugin and made an effort to hide what they were doing, even pausing the ads for a day or two after the app was first installed. By holding off on the ads, you might blame a newer installed app instead.

After Lookout reported its findings to Google, the offending apps were removed from the Play Store. CooTek apologized, promised to stop the practice, and uploaded “clean copies” of the apps, with the ad code removed.

While it’s true the company removed the BeiTaAd plugin, Lookout discovered the apps still could display equally disruptive ads. And again, CooTek made an effort to disguise what it was doing. Lookout reported its new findings to Google, who investigated and confirmed the presence of new code to load disruptive ads.

Because of those discoveries, Google banned CooTek from both its ad platform and from publishing apps in the Play Store. In a statement to Buzzfeed, a Google spokesperson said: “Our Google Play developer policies strictly prohibit malicious and deceptive behavior, as well as disruptive ads. When violations are found, we take action.”  [The Verge]

In Other News:

  • Microsoft will auto-update older Windows 10 machines to the May 2019 Update: Last month, Microsoft said it planned automatically upgrade machines running older versions of Windows 10 to the May 2019 Update. Now the company is moving forward with that plan, starting with a slow rollout of the upgrade process. [Microsoft]
  • Apple may fund original podcasts: Spotify and other podcasting companies have been busy funding original (and therefore exclusive) podcats. Now Apple may be jumping into the fray. Bloomberg cites “sources” who claimed Apple reached out to express interest in buying exclusive rights to podcasts. Apple does have a podcast app, so exclusives to drive usage is a sensible move. [Bloomberg]
  • Google Maps now shows bike-sharing stations worldwide: About a year ago, Google Maps began showing bike-sharing station locations in New York City. Now the company is expanding that service in 23 cities across the world, from Barcelona to Zurich. Users can find the closest station, whether to pick up a bike or drop one off. [VentureBeat]
  • Tesla raises Full-Self Driving option by $1000: Tesla offers a Full-Self Driving option add-on you can purchase with its already expensive car. The option doesn’t do anything, as Full-Self driving (or Level 5 Self-Drive) is a dream of the future. Starting in August, that promise of a dream will increase by $1000, to a total cost of $7000. [Ars Technica]
  • Nintendo upgrades the processor in the Switch for longer battery life: When Nintendo announced the Switch Light, it included a better processor than the original Switch used. Now Nintendo is bringing that processor to an upgraded version of the original Switch. Pricing remains the same, but the better processor adds 2 hours of battery life to the handheld — extra time for the tiny buttons to kill your thumbs. [ReviewGeek]
  • Apple is automatically patching latest Zoom vulnerability: In an update to the ongoing Zoom saga, Apple is patching the vulnerabilities in the RingCentral and Zhumu apps. The apps use Zoom’s software and are vulnerable to the same webcam hijacks Apple previously addressed. Apple’s updates are automatic and silent, so you don’t have to do anything to get the patch. [MacRumors]

When he’s not building cars, launching rockets, or drilling holes in the ground, Elon Musk is apparently researching brain implant technology.

His latest venture, Neuralink, came out of stealth mode last night to show off a new thread-like brain implant tech and a robot that sews it into your head. Scientists have been experimenting with brain-computer interfaces for some time, but the current technology is very invasive. The hope has been to solve brain disorders and better understand the human mind.

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How to Download Your Save Games From Steam Cloud

Steam Store on a laptop and desktop.
Casimiro PT/Shutterstock

Steam synchronizes many save files to its servers. They’re automatically downloaded via Steam when you install a game, but that’s not the only way you can get them. You can download them directly from Valve’s website in your browser, too.

Enable Steam Cloud Sync in Steam

If Steam isn’t automatically downloading your old save games after you install a game, ensure Steam Cloud is enabled for that game within Steam.

To do so, locate the game in your Steam library, right-click it, and then select “Properties.” Click the “Updates” tab and ensure the “Enable Steam Cloud synchronization” option is checked for the game. If this option isn’t checked, Steam won’t automatically download your cloud saves—or upload any new ones.

If you don’t see a Steam Cloud option for a game here, that game doesn’t support Steam Cloud. Not all games on Steam do—it’s up to each game developer.

Click "Updates" tab and check the "Enable Steam Cloud synchronization for" option.

Download the Files in Your Web Browser

Valve lets you download your Steam cloud save files via a web browser, too. You can download just your save files without re-downloading the entire game.

To find your save files, visit Valve’s View Steam Cloud page in your web browser and sign in with your Steam account.

You’ll see a list of games using your Steam Cloud storage. Locate the game in the list (hit Ctrl+F to use the browser’s search)—and click “Show Files” to see all the files for a game.

List of Steam Cloud's saved games on the web.

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How to Remotely Open a GUI Application With PuTTY

SSH on laptop concept
Eny Setiyowati/Shutterstock.com

Want to remotely access a Linux machine and launch a graphical application? PuTTY to the rescue, thanks to the “enable X11 forwarding” option. You can even do this from Windows—all you need to do is quickly install an X server.

The PuTTY program was initially written for Windows, 20 years ago. It has been ported to many other platforms since. It is a graphical application that provides a terminal window and remote connection to other computers. Typically, the connection is made using SSH, but other protocols are supported.

As well as the traditional terminal window command line interface, PuTTY can be configured to open graphical applications on the remote computer.

Installing PuTTY

If PuTTY isn’t already installed on your computer, you can install as follows.

On Windows, download PuTTY from the web.

To install PuTTY on Ubuntu, use this command:

sudo apt-get install putty

sudo apt-get install putty in a terminal window

To install PuTTY on Fedora, use this command:

sudo dnf install putty

sudo dnf install putty in a terminal window

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What Is Slack, and Why Do People Love It?

Slack's logo

Slack is a workplace chat app that’s so popular, the company that owns it was valued at more than $20 billion. You’ve probably seen it mentioned in the news. If you haven’t used it yet, here’s what you need to know.

What is Slack?

Slack is a workplace communication tool, “a single place for messaging, tools and files.” This means Slack is an instant messaging system with lots of add-ins for other workplace tools. The add-ins aren’t necessary to use Slack, though, because the main functionality is all about talking to other people. There are two methods of chat in Slack: channels (group chat), and direct message or DM (person-to-person chat). Let’s take a quick look at the user interface.

The Slack interface with the instance name, list of channels and DMs, and the chat window
Slack

There are four main things to pay attention to in Slack:

  1. The name of the Slack instance.
  2. The list of channels you’re a member of.
  3. The list of people you’ve direct messaged.
  4. The chat window.

When a customer wants to start using Slack, they choose a name for their Slack instance. This then becomes part of the unique URL. So, if Wile E. Coyote wants to create a Slack instance for ACME Slingshots, his Slack instance would be https://acmeslingshot.slack.com/. Wile E. can then invite anyone he wants to be a member of his Slack instance.

Channels in Slack can be public, meaning any member can see and join that channel, or private, meaning only members of that channel can see it or invite others to join. DMs are always private, although they can include up to 8 people.

The chat window is where all the actual communication happens. You can read any reply to messages, use emoji reactions, add gifs, see RSS feeds, set reminders, get add-in notifications, and various other bells and whistles. But more than anything, this is where you talk to people.

What’s So Great About Slack?

When Slack came along, there were no real competitors in the market. That’s not to say there weren’t other chat apps, but Slack combined an intuitive UI with both group and person-to-person messaging. It also allows companies to have a measure of control over who can use it through the invitation system. Other tools could do the same, but without the same usability (Campfire, now BaseCamp, was an obvious one). None of the traditional vendors (Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Sun, and so on) had anything comparable to Slack.

This lack of corporate size was also a benefit. Slack was small enough to be responsive and quick when it came to adding new features, like emoji reactions (great for users) and 2-factor authentication (great for admins). For some users, the fact that Slack wasn’t owned by a big traditional vendor was benefit enough, but that doesn’t explain why Slack is so popular.

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How to Sell Your Old iPhone for Top Dollar

iPhone 8s Plus lying on top of three $100 bills.
Mykola Churpita/Shutterstock

The iPhone has one of the best resale values of any smartphone. You’ll get more money if you sell it yourself and skip the trade-in. Here’s how to prepare your iPhone, pick a price, and make the sale.

Before You Start, Create a Backup

If you’re selling your old iPhone to buy a new one (rather than switching to an Android device), the first thing you should do is create a backup. This allows you to transfer the backup to your new device, along with all your personal data, apps, and other information.

The best way to create a backup of your iPhone is by using iTunes on a Mac or PC. You can also create backups using iCloud, but these can take a long time to complete if you aren’t already doing so, and the restore process takes a lot longer, too. iCloud backups are limited by the speed of your internet, so the backup and restore procedure can take hours or even days.

Windows users can download iTunes from Apple’s website.

  1. Launch iTunes and connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC using a Lightning cable.
  2. Wait for the device icon to appear in the top-left corner (screenshot below), and then click it and select your iPhone.
  3. On the Summary tab, click “Back Up Now” and wait for the backup process to complete.

Click the Device Icon in iTunes.

Check “Encrypt iPhone Backup” to save sensitive data, like passwords, Wi-Fi network credentials, Health data, and HomeKit data. You’ll need to create a password to do this. You’ll also need this password to restore the backup to your new iPhone at a later date. We recommend using a password manager to save it for you.

Click the Box next to "Encrypt iPhone Backup."

When you’re ready to restore this backup to your new iPhone:

  1. Turn on your new iPhone and follow the setup procedure to activate the device.
  2. When prompted, choose “Restore from iTunes Backup,” and connect your iPhone to the same Mac or PC you used to back up your old iPhone.
  3. Click on the device icon in the top-left corner, and then choose your new iPhone.
  4. On the Summary tab, click “Restore Backup,” and then choose the backup you made previously. Type your password if you chose to encrypt your backup, and then wait for the process to complete.

Create an iCloud Backup

If you’re backing up your iPhone to the cloud, you can always restore it from iCloud instead, when prompted. However, restoring from iCloud takes much longer than restoring from a Mac or PC, so we recommend doing it locally.

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How to Clean Up Your Messy Car (And Keep it That Way)

woman cleaning her car with a vacuum cleaner
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If you spend a lot of time in your car, be it commuting for work, shuttling the kids around, or both, you know how messy things can get. Here’s how to get things tidy and keep it that way to avoid your car turning into an embarrassing dumpster.

Messy cars happen easily, even if you’re the only person who is ever in your vehicle. You get fast food and drop a fry or two. You toss a tissue or napkin to the side to pick up later, only later never comes. The change falls out of your pockets. Sand and gravel come in off your shoes.

Just like cleaning your house or maintaining your yard, keeping your car clean is an ongoing project, but there are some things you can do to keep your car more organized and make cleaning less of a chore.

Let’s start with cleaning the car so that you have a fresh slate to work with and then look at tips and habits to use to keep it clean going forward.

Cleaning Your Messy Car

There’s a big difference between getting your car detailed to the point that it looks showroom fresh and just getting things tidy. There’s something to be said for cleaning a car to the point where you’re using q-tips in tiny crevices, but if that’s not your style, all that really matters if you give the car a decent cleaning to get rid of garbage, debris, and dust.

Empty Your Car

The first step in cleaning your messy car is to pull everything out of it, whether it’s trash, clutter, or your favorite CDs. Pull out floor mats while you’re at it. You may as well get a nice deep clean while you’re in there.

Toss the stuff that’s trash in the trash and set the things that need to go back in the car to the side. Anything that’s left should get put wherever it belongs inside your home or garage.

Vacuum

Grab a hand vac and vacuum all the nooks and crannies in your car. You’d be surprised what’s hiding under your seats (and in the seats as well). If you don’t have a vacuum at home, take your car to a car wash and use the ones there.

Vacuum the floor mats as well. If you have plastic mats, you can use the hose to clean them off and then let them air dry while you’re reorganizing your car. Some bay-style self-wash car washes will have clips on the wall of the bay where you can clip your mats and use the spray wand to really deep clean them. If so, you can give them a good spray down and then take them home to dry in the sun.

Wipe Down the Surfaces

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Everything You Need to Get Started with Indoor Rock Climbing

A couple indoor rock climbing.
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Rock climbing is accessible to virtually anyone, and it can be done anywhere in the world. It requires a minimal investment to get started, but it’s a fun way to get active either by yourself or with friends and family.

If you’re ready to take your first steps into this world, this guide to indoor rock climbing is for you. 

Climbing Walls 

While outdoor rock climbing might seem like the most exciting version of this engaging sport, there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Aside from being physically and mentally demanding, it also involves a few limitations, such as location, weather, and the availability of a climbing partner. This is why it’s recommended that beginners start on an indoor wall. In this setting, you can independently work on your technique and learn about the risks involved without having to travel too far. 

Most climbing gyms offer introductory courses for people of all ages and provide you with a certificate of completion once you master all the basics. At certain walls, they take experience very seriously and only allow entry to people who have taken the course or who can prove a certain degree of expertise.

Thus, indoor rock climbing is as practical as it is convenient. Given its recent rise in popularity, indoor walls are now in most cities, and many offer different walls and the gear to practice the most common styles of climbing: bouldering, top-rope, and lead.

Climbing Styles 

Young woman indoor climbing.
Poprotskiy Alexey/Shutterstock

There are three main styles of climbing that can be done both indoors and outdoors, and they differ in gear and skill requirements.  

Bouldering 

Although just as demanding as the other disciplines, this is the most accessible form of rock climbing and the most popular with novice climbers. Bouldering involves low walls with intricate routes that call for good technique, a solid grip, and plenty of strength, as you navigate from the first hold to the last. Thick crash pads are located on the floor along the wall as protection in case of a fall. In some gyms, they require that you have a spotter, which is a person there to prevent you from falling headfirst. 

Like every other style of climbing, the routes are graded according to their level of difficulty. Every new grade requires an increasing amount of core and finger strength, as well as flexibility, rendering this discipline much more challenging than it might seem at first.

Bouldering only requires footwear and a bit of chalk to prevent sweaty hands from slipping from the holds. It’s a great training option for those who are afraid of heights or those who want to build upper body strength and skills.

Top-Rope Climbing

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How to Cancel Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime logo

Amazon Prime normally costs $119 per year unless you can score a discounted Prime membership. If you’re ready to give up free two-day shipping, the Amazon Prime Video library, Prime Day, and other perks, here’s how you can quit Prime.

Here’s the good news: You might be able to score a refund if you’re paid for Prime but haven’t used your benefits in this period. So, if Amazon just automatically renewed your Prime subscription and charged you, you may be able to get your money back. Even if you can’t get a refund, you can cancel Prime and you’ll keep your benefits until the end of your paid membership period. Amazon won’t automatically charge you to renew.

To get started, head to Amazon’s website. Sign in with your Amazon account if you’re not already signed in. Mouse over “Account & Lists” near the top right corner of the page and click “Your Prime Membership.”

Option to manage Prime membership on Amazon.com

Click the “End Membership and Benefits” link under Membership Management at the left side of the page. This begins the process of canceling your membership.

Option to end Prime membership benefits on Amazon.com

Amazon will remind you what you’re giving up. You can click “End My Benefits” and go through the prompts to continue the cancellation process.

Amazon's Prime cancellation wizard

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Are Extended Warranties Ever Worth Buying?

A group of people looking at an iPad screen displaying an offer for extended warranty.
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Extended warranties are everywhere. But whether it’s on a car or an appliance, extended warranties are almost always a waste of money.

The Best Warranty Is a Savings Account

Extended warranties are rarely worth your money. Products don’t break on their own, and when they do, the price of repairs is usually lower than what you’d spend on an extended warranty.

Sure, some people have saved a lot of money with extended warranties. That’s great! But take a moment to ask yourself why a company would offer you an extended warranty. The answer is: because they’re profitable.

According to Warranty Week, a newsletter dedicated to service plans, extended warranties are a $40 billion business. This figure alone indicates that extended warranties are grossly overpriced and rarely used.

In most cases, it’s best to skip the extended warranty and use your extra cash to build up an emergency fund. But every situation is different, and some extended warranties are more useful than others. That’s why we’ve researched some popular products that usually offer extended warranties and explain whether it’s worth your money.

Extended Warranties for Cars Are Scams

A man's hand handing a stack of money to another man's hand over a table with a contract and a car key sitting on it.
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Extended warranties for cars are a giant scam. They don’t exist to make people’s lives easier, and they’re not worth your money. Of course, everyone’s situation is different. If you’re offered a cheap extended warranty for a car with a lot of mileage, for example, it might be worth going over the pros and cons.

Dealerships offer extended warranties to supplement reduced prices on the showroom floor, to push people into high-interest, low-payment deals at the last second, and to ensure that people go to dealerships (instead of small businesses and competitors) for servicing. On top of all that, dealerships don’t always honor extended warranties, and most of the money from them goes toward a dealer’s commission, not a vehicular social security program.

The average extended warranty for a car costs between $350 and $750 a year (plus interest, if you add the warranty cost to your loan). And, in most cases, an extended warranty won’t cover routine maintenance (which costs less than $100 a year when paid out of pocket and prevents most unexpected breakdowns).

If you take that $350-$700 and stick it in your savings account, you’ll have more than enough money to pay for any surprise repairs. If you do run into a problem that’s too expensive to deal with (an engine replacement, for example), you can sell your car and use your savings as a down payment on a new one. This way, you also avoid Blue Book depreciation and future breakdowns (after one serious failure, cars tend to suck the money out of your wallet).

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