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How to Draw and Edit a Freeform Shape in Microsoft PowerPoint

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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

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.

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.

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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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