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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

13-inch MacBook Pro battery replacement program FAQ: What it is and how to use it By Michael Simon


It’s been a rough year for Apple’s batteries. After announcing a program to replace batteries in the iPhone 6 and 7 earlier this year, Apple has now launched a program to swap them out in the 13-inch non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro (affectionately known as the “MacBook Pro ESC” due to the presence of actual function keys). So if you have a laptop that’s been dying out mid-way through your day or just noticed some performance oddities, you might be able to get your battery replaced with a new one. Here’s everything you need to know about the new program:

What’s the reason for the program?

Apple has said that a component inside “a limited number” of 13-inch MacBook Pro units could fail, “causing the built-in battery to expand.” Apple did not specify which component was faulty or how it affects the battery.

That sounds bad. Is my laptop at risk?

Nope. While expanding batteries generally pose of risk of fire or explosion, Apple assures that this isn’t a safety issue.

What models are included?

A pretty small amount actually. First, only non-Touch Bar models manufactured between October 2016 and October 2017 are affected. And among that group, only some of the units manufactured during that time are affected by the issue.

How do I know if my MacBook is eligible?

You can check your serial number on Apple’s site here.

How do I find my serial number?

Click on the Apple logo at the top left of the menu bar and go to About this Mac. You’ll see your serial number in the window that appears. From there, you can copy it and paste it into the search bar on the support page.
macbook pro find serial number IDG
You can find your MacBook Pro’s serial number in the About This Mac dialoge box. Don’t worry, yours will be legible.

OK, my MacBook is one of the affected units. Now what?

You’ll need to take it in far repair in one of three ways:
  • Make an appointment at an Apple Store.
  • Make an appointment at an Apple Authorized Service Provider. You can find a list of service providers in your area on Apple’s support site.
  • Mail your MacBook to the Apple Repair Center.
As always, make sure to back up your data before sending your MacBook in for repairs.
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How long will it take?

Since the program is limited, wait times shouldn’t be nearly as long as they are with some iPhone 6 models. Apple estimates service time is 3 to 5 days, though it could be longer depending on the availability of batteries.

How much will it cost?

Nothing. However, Apple notes that if there is prior damage to your MacBook that “impairs the replacement of the battery,” the service technician may need to fix that problem first, resulting in a possible charge.

Will my warranty be extended?

Unfortunately, no.

How much time do I have to get it fixed?

Apple hasn’t put a specific expiration date on the program, but it does say that the program covers affected MacBook Pro models for five years after the first retail sale of the unit. So that means Apple will replace batteries until sometime in 2022.

QLED vs. OLED TV: Similar names, totally different technologies By Gabriella Didio, Komando.com


Wondering which TV is right for you? While LG’s OLED and Samsung’s QLED may sound very similar, there are major differences at the core level.

OLED, which stands for “organic light emitting diodes,” is the top choice for most people. Its technology replaced the need for backlights - which are the lights that shine behind the LCD screen to illuminate them. With OLED, the LED bulbs emit light that creates the picture.

On the other hand, QLED stands for “Quantum Dot LED,” and can be compared to an LCD TV because it uses a backlight. When light reflects onto the quantum dots, they emit light. They also produce a more undiluted light than LEDs. TV experts may roll their eyes at the use of a backlight. But, if you’re in the market for a new TV, here’s what both of them have to offer.

Price

As new technologies hit the marketplace, they are priced at a premium. In time, these electronics become more accessible to the public and the price begins to drop. Today, OLED TVs are pricey but cheaper than when they first debuted. You can purchase an LG 55-inch 2017 OLED B7 and C7 for under $2,000. If you are after a steal, the QLED is the friendlier option for your wallet.

Image Quality

When TV shopping, most of us focus on two things: image quality and the black levels or brightness. The OLED outperforms the QLED because it delivers images with a deeper black tone. The QLED advertises that it has stronger colors than the OLED on screen. While the color may be brighter, the drawback is that when critics tested the Samsung Q7 QLED - especially with HDR material- it underperformed OLED.

Display

OLED and QLED TVs come with added features that can enhance your viewing experience. The LG OLED has Dolby Atmos and DTS Audio. These features create the feeling of surround sound. Four types of high dynamic range are offered: Technicolor, HLG, Dolby vision and HDR 10. And the Alpha 9 Processor creates high-quality images with less movement when the images are not moving.
Samsung QLED features include Ambient mode, which disguises large displays and blends seamlessly into the wall behind it. Also, rather than having the HDMI and USB Ports built into the TV itself, Samsung keeps them in a separate box and then they are connected to the TV through a slim chord. This design element is great for those who want a cleaner and sleeker look to their TV. HDR10+ and HDR Elite create a good picture quality.

Size and Viewing Angle

The OLED can be purchased with a screen size of up to 88 inches. The LCD screen operates with less limitation. So, you can find a wider array of screen sizes with the QLED. The QLED offers screens of up to 100 inches. But, the more aesthetic-centric user will love the thin size of the OLED TV. It’s also lighter and uses less power than the QLED.

The viewing angle refers to how the picture quality remains when you watch the TV from another spot in the room. LG is tough to beat because its IPS Panel has an accurate viewing angle that keeps its picture quality and color.

You can capture the best picture when you sit directly in front of the QLED. But, Samsung has added an updated panel design and anti-reflexive coating to its top of the line models. These two features make up for the dwindled richness and difference in color.

When purchasing your new TV keep these tips in mind, and check back for updates.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Atlanta spent at least $2.6 million on ransomware recovery By Zack Whittaker for Zero Day


Atlanta spent more than $2.6 million on recovery efforts stemming from a ransomware attack, which crippled a sizable part of the city's online services.

The city was hit by the notorious SamSam ransomware, which exploits a deserialization vulnerability in Java-based servers. The ransom was set at around $55,000 worth of bitcoin, a digital cryptocurrency that in recent weeks has wildy fluctated in price.

But it's understood that the ransom was never paid -- because the portal used to pay the ransom (even if the city wanted to) was pulled offline by the ransomware attacker.

According to newly published emergency procurement figures, the city spent around 50 times that amount in response to the cyberattack.

Between March 22 and April 2, the city spent $2,667,328 in incident response, recovery, and crisis management. (Hat tip to Ryan Naraine for tweeting out the link.)

Among the costs, Atlanta spent $650,000 on hiring local security firm Secureworks for emergency incident repsonse services, and an additional $600,000 on advisory services from Ernst & Young for cyber incident response.

The city also spent $50,000 to hire Edelman, a public relations firm specializing in crisis response management -- in other words, trying to make things look less bad than they actually are.


When reached, a spokesperson for the city did not immediately respond to several questions we had. If that changes, we'll update.

Last month we reported that Atlanta narrowly missed out falling victim to another cyberattack in 2016, when the now-infamous WannaCry ransomware attack spread across the globe.

Speaking to ZDNet at the time, Jake Williams, founder of cybersecurity firm Rendition Infosec, said that the city's networks were left unpatched for weeks -- making them vulnerable to ransomware attacks.

He found that at least five internet-facing city servers were infected with the NSA-developed DoublePulsar backdoor in late April to early May 2017. That was more than a month after Microsoft released critical patches for the exploits and urged users to install.

Based on his data, he said that the city "had a substandard security posture" at the time.

7 awesome things you forgot your Mac could do by Francis Navarro, Komando.com

Do you own a Mac computer? You probably know that Apple's feature set for its macOS always grows steadily with every update, adding functions and options that make our computing lives so much more convenient and efficient.

As such, there are features that you may have missed but could make a big difference in your everyday tasks. From text messages and printer sharing to sending files instantly, there's probably that little essential option that you haven't used but it's there all along. You just need to look at the right place!

Here are seven great features that you may or may not know that your Mac can do.

1. Send and receive texts on your Mac

Apple's iMessage has long allowed you to message other iPhone users from the iMessage app on your Mac but you can also send and receive any kind of SMS text messages right from your Mac. So when friends text you, regardless of what brand of phone they are using, you can now read and reply from your Mac as well as your iPhone.

All the messages that appear on your iPhone now show up on your Mac, too, so your conversation is up to date on all your devices. You can also start an SMS or iMessage conversation on your Mac just by clicking a phone number in Safari, Contacts, Calendar, or Spotlight. Group chats are now enabled, as well. Click Details to name a group chat, add or remove someone, and see friends who’ve shared their location on a map.

Just sign into your Mac with the same iMessage account that also has your phone number linked then turn on Text Message Forwarding for your Mac under Settings >> Messages on your iPhone.

2. Use Split Screen view

Sometimes one screen just isn't enough, but you don't have to resort to shrinking the size of your windows to display two applications on your screen at once.

Here's a quick way you can try to manage multiple windows on your Mac. This is great for juggling two tasks at the same time.

Left-click on the window's green maximize button (on the upper-left hand side), hold it, drag it either to the left or the right of your screen then pick another window to pair it with for the perfect split screen view, with both windows sitting side by side.

3. Take screenshots instantly

Do you need a quick snapshot of just about anything on your Mac's screen? Do it with these handy shortcuts!

To take a screenshot of your entire screen, just press Shift, Command and the number 3 at the same time.

To capture a specific area of the screen, press Shift, Command and the number 4 and a cursor will appear. Just left-click and drag that cursor over the area you want to screenshot.

To capture a specific window, press Shift, Command and the number 4 then hit your spacebar. A camera icon will appear then simply left click on the window you want to capture.

Note: On a Touch Bar-enabled MacBook Pro, you can press Shift, Command and the number 6 to take a snapshot of OLED Touch Bar itself.

4. Convert units instantly in Spotlight

It's easy to overlook the little magnifying glass that's perched in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. When you need to find a file quickly, you might remember it's there. But did you know this search tool does much more than help you locate things? For example, you can do conversions within Spotlight!

When you type in a dollar amount, measurement, etc., Spotlight will bring up some instant conversions. It makes its best guess as to which conversion you're looking for, but you can always adjust your search by making things more specific. For example, when you start by typing "12 feet," Spotlight automatically calculates a conversion to meters. However, if you type "12 feet to inches" you'll find exactly what you're looking for.

5. Airplay your Mac's sound and screen

If you have an Apple TV or Airplay-enabled speakers, you can stream your Mac's audio wirelessly to them. And with iTunes, you can stream audio to multiple AirPlay speakers simultaneously.

Simply click the Airplay icon on iTunes and you can select all the Airplay-enabled speakers and gadgets that are available on your network.
Newer Macs (2011 and newer) can also mirror their screen to an Apple TV wirelessly, great for presentations, video or a secondary monitor. Just click the little Airplay icon on the menu bar then select an available Apple TV.

6. Share your printer with other Macs

Do you have multiple Macs and just one printer? Don't worry, you can simply connect it to one Mac then share wirelessly throughout your network! No need to move it around.

To share your printer, open System Preferences >> Sharing then check Printer Sharing. From here, you can specify which printer to share and to whom to share it with.

7. Use Airdrop to instantly send files

Do you find email or network sharing a bit cumbersome for sending files? Well, with Airdrop you make file sharing so much simpler.

AirDrop is an Apple protocol that lets you instantly send and receive files between nearby desktop Macs and iOS gadgets like iPad, iPhone or iPod touch via Bluetooth.

To use AirDrop from a Mac, just right-click on a file in Finder, select Share >> Airdrop. Your Mac will then search for nearby gadgets that it can Airdrop with.

This includes Mac computers with OS X Lion or later installed, and iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices with iOS 7 or later.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What Is Blockchain in Simple Terms and How Does It Work? by Dann Albright

Bitcoin has become a staple of the modern internet—and with it, the blockchain. People say that blockchain technology will cause a fundamental shift in how the internet works, how businesses function, and just about everything else.


But what is blockchain?
Let’s cut through the marketing speak, technical jargon, and confusing explanations to figure out what blockchain really is.

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What Is Blockchain? The Simple Answer

A blockchain, in the most simple terms, is a distributed ledger.
To understand what that means, we’ll first look at its opposite: a centralized ledger. Because blockchain technology got its start in finance, we’ll use the example of a bank.
Here’s what happens when you use your debit card:
  1. You swipe your card for a purchase at a store.
  2. The merchant sends a bill to your bank for the amount agreed upon.
  3. Your bank verifies that it’s likely you who authorized the purchase.
  4. The bank sends the money to the merchant.
  5. Finally, the bank makes a record of this information in its ledger.
There’s a lot of technology involved here, but that’s basically it. That final step is important—the bank keeps a record of all the transactions made by its customers. This ledger goes all the way back to the very first transaction the bank made.

That ledger is kept, maintained, and regulated by the bank. You might be able to read it in your online bank account, but you can’t change it. The bank is in complete control. If it decides to make a change, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Crucially, if a hacker gets access to the bank’s ledger, they can cause a lot of problems. They could change account balances, make it look like certain transactions never happened, and so on.

Which is why a distributed ledger is so cool.
Blockchain network visualization
If a bank operated on a distributed ledger, every member of the bank would have a copy of the ledger going back until the beginning of the bank’s existence. And whenever any member of the bank made a purchase, they’d tell every other member of the bank.

Each member would verify the transaction and add it to the ledger (the added record is called a “block”). This has some serious benefits, as there’s no centralized authority that could manipulate the record. And hackers getting access to one ledger wouldn’t be a huge problem, because the other ledgers could easily verify it.

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On the other hand, it would take a ton of work. This second system is, in a nutshell, the blockchain (at least in a financial scenario).

What Is Blockchain? The More Detailed Answer

As we saw above, a blockchain is a decentralized list of transactions. If I send James .02 Bitcoin, I’d send a message to everyone in the network saying “I’m sending James .02 Bitcoin” and they record the transaction.
Bitcoin transactions
But the transaction must be validated. And that’s where blockchain technology becomes a bit more complicated. Every Bitcoin wallet (we’ll get to that in a second) has a public key and a private key.

You use the private key to send a transaction request to the other members of the network, and they verify that you have the cryptocurrency in your account. If you do, they allow the transaction to register on the ledger.

The mechanics of the public/private key system are complex, but what it all comes down to is that each transaction is both verifiable and secure.
The entire system, however, is computationally expensive. Everyone updating the ledger needs to have a lot of power to verify transactions and modify the ledger. That’s where mining comes in. The people who verify and modify use their own computational resources and are rewarded with small transaction fees every time they do so.

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And they’re using a huge amount of electricity to do it. According to Digiconomist, Bitcoin mining consumes about as much electricity as all of Colombia.

Bitcoin energy consumption graph
Image Credit: Digiconomist
In this way, every transaction gets verified and added to the ledger, and the people doing the verification and modification get paid. It’s an elegant system.

It’s also very secure. To change a single block, you’d have to change every block that follows it. And after all that work, verification would fail, because the other copies of the chain would show that someone had tampered with one.

Someone could do it, but it would be astronomically difficult.

The Difficulty in Defining a Blockchain

While the mechanics behind blockchain technology aren’t always intuitive, it seems like it’s not too difficult to explain what a blockchain is. But what we’ve described here is only the traditional definition.
Google results for "what is blockchain?"
We can use this particular type of blockchain for a wide number of applications; cryptocurrency, sharing medical information, sending secure messages, and so on. But more blockchain-like technologies are in development for other uses.

For example, a company might use an internal blockchain to manage issue tracking in software. Each block on the chain could represent an issue, and users could post updates to the network. But is that a blockchain? The ledger isn’t public in this case—it’s only visible within the company.

Some people would say that makes it not a blockchain.

Other blockchain-like technologies aren’t encrypted. Are they still blockchains? What if it’s centrally managed, but uses other blockchain characteristics? What defines blockchain technology at the lowest level?

There’s no agreement on these matters.

What Is a Blockchain Wallet?

You’ll usually hear people talk about Bitcoin wallets, Ethereum wallets, and other cryptocurrency-specific wallets. But wallet technology could be used for any system using a blockchain.

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A wallet is a piece of software or hardware that “holds” your cryptocurrency. But it doesn’t actually hold anything—it’s simply a place that your public and private keys are stored. That information allows you to access the currency that the public ledger says you own.

The wallet is the only record of your keys. So if you lose it, you’ll no longer have access to your cryptocurrency.

Will Blockchains Change the World?

The decentralized nature of blockchain technology has many people talking about the democratization of the internet. And these claims might have some merit. But will blockchain fundamentally change how we communicate, do business, and run our lives?

We’ll find out someday. In the end, the technology simply lets us verify transactions without running the risk of a centralized ledger.
We’ll find out someday. In the end, the technology simply lets us verify transactions without running the risk of a centralized ledger.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Nest x Yale Lock review: Nest’s first smart lock is a solid effort, but it needs refinement By Christopher Null




With its Nest x Yale Lock, Nest Labs takes another step toward complete smart home control by moving into the smart lock space. Nest isn’t going it alone this time, however; the Google company has partnered with old-guard manufacturer Yale, founded in 1868. I’ve reviewed three of Yale’s smart locks to date, and none have been among my favorites.

Cosmetically, this deadbolt borrows nothing from Nest’s upscale design sensibility. In fact, it pretty much looks like any other Yale smart lock. The exterior escutcheon features a compact but industrial panel bearing nothing but a touchscreen. On the inside of the door, a two-tone design dominates, with the entire escutcheon clad in metal, with a large black panel covering the electronics and battery bank. The lock is available in satin nickel, bright brass, and rubbed bronze finishes.

In an interesting move, this panel is not attached by a screw. Rather, it is removed by pushing a large pin (or a straightened paperclip, when you inevitably lose the pin) through a hole in the top, which pops off the panel. I’m not sure whether this method is more or less convenient or secure than a regular screw.
nest x yale interior esthcheon Nest Labs
The interior side of the Nest x Yale smart lock isn't the prettiest we've seen.
Installation is largely in line with other smart locks, though it can be tricky to get the cover of the interior escutcheon properly seated. Once you do get it attached, the lock feels stable and solid, and it’s easy to keep it from listing to one side, a frequent problem found with other locks. The locking mechanism is smooth and reasonably quiet, though there are plenty of chimes and beeps to alert you to various stages in the process.
After the batteries are installed, voice prompts—a helpful Yale deployed in its first generation of Yale Real Living smart locks in 2011—guide you through initial setup, including setting a master PIN code. This doesn’t last long, though, as you are quickly shunted over to the Nest app to continue your setup (which overwrites that PIN code anyway).
nest x yale 2 Christopher Null / IDG
Trouble abounds with the lock setup…
At this point, you’ll need a Nest Connect device, which is a small hub that plugs into wall power near your lock (within 40 feet), creating a bridge between the lock and your Wi-Fi network. Nest sells the lock together with the bridge for $279. (If you have a Nest Secure system, you won't need the Nest Connect.) To set up the lock with the Nest app, you first scan a QR code on the back of the Nest Connect, configure it to connect to your Wi-Fi network, then scan a QR code inside the lock itself to finish the job.

Both these steps gave me a considerable amount of trouble, which was a big surprise, throwing out error after error, refusing to connect to the network. I was about to give up on the Connect but gave it one last try after a short prayer, and at last it finally worked.

Nest x Yale appears in the Nest app as a separate device, and management is fairly intuitive. As noted above, the app will walk you through setting a new master PIN, overwriting the one you set on the lock upon initial hardware configuration. My initial experiences with the app were rocky, much like the initial setup. The app would hang, requiring a force quit and restart, or crash alt together during locking or unlocking.
nest x yale 3 Christopher Null / IDG
…and sometimes in use, too.
That’s unfortunate for an app that is supposed to replace your keys; in fact, you even activate “privacy mode,” which disables the keypad altogether, making you completely reliant on the app to open the lock from outside. Early quibbles aside, over time, the app finally settled down and its early stability problems vanished.

As with most Nest products, the Nest x Yale lock is designed to be simple in use. Advanced options like an auto-locking system are limited and, for the most part, easy to understand. If you want to give full access to another user, they’ll need an account on Nest and a copy of the app installed on their phone.

While that’s probably fine if you’re trying to set up different codes for your family, it might be overkill for an Airbnb user or someone else with temporary access needs. For these folks, you can set up additional numeric PINs within the Nest app; these can be used without a Nest account (or a phone). These PINs can be set to expire at a certain time, or open the door only on certain days or at certain hours; anyone with app-level access has full control over the lock.

All told, Nest x Yale covers almost all the expected features of a modern smart lock—there’s even a 9-volt emergency terminal so you can get in if the batteries die—but its lackluster design and setup headaches keep me from recommending it fully at this point. As well, given the hefty price tag, I’d be inclined to wait for version 2.

To comment on this article and other TechHive content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • Nest’s first smart lock is a somewhat buggy Yale product with Nest features, not the other way around.

    Pros

    • Integrates well with the Nest ecosystem
    • All the expected features are front and center
    • Sturdy hardware

    Cons

    • Not terribly attractive, particularly inside the house
    • Considerable trouble during setup
    • Expensive, especially if you also need to buy a Nest Connect

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Which budget smartwatch is right for you? By Michael Simon


After three years, Apple Watch finally has some competition. Fitbit's new Versa is on sale today, and if you're in the market for a smartwatch that costs less than $300 and up, it's worth considering, even if you're a staunch Apple user. Let's take a look at how it stacks up against Apple's Series 1 Watch.

Fitbit Versa vs. Apple Watch Series 1: Design

fitbit versa flowers Michael Simon/IDG
Versa has decidedly softer aesthetic than Ionic, which should appeal to a broader range of buyers.
With a square, aluminum body, Fitbit's Versa is inevitably going to be branded as a rip-off of Apple Watch's design. But it's easy to forget that Apple Watch wasn't the originator of the square smartwatch design—Pebble was. And Fitbit just so happens to own Pebble. But no matter who can claim ownership of the rights to pioneering the square, the fact of the matter is it's the only shape that makes sense for a smartwatch and it works great on both watches.

Shape aside, the Versa is a nicely designed watch, with an aesthetic that's similar but not exactly like Apple Watch. Where Apple's wristwatch has curved edges, Versa's sides are chamfered and more aggressive. There's also no crown on the Versa, with Fitbit opting for a trio of buttons (two on the right and one on the left) instead.

Both Versa and Apple Watch Series 1 are available in silver and black aluminum, while Versa adds a rose gold color.
Winner: Even

Fitbit Versa vs. Apple Watch Series 1: Size

fitbit versa vs apple watch Michael Simon/IDG
Versa is shorter and wider than the 42mm Apple Watch.
One of the most important things to consider when buying a smartwatch is whether it will fit your wrist. Apple makes one of the only watches that comes in two sizes to accommodate smaller wrists, with 38mm and 42mm varieties. Fitbit's Versa only comes in a single model, but it's closer in size to the smaller 38mm Apple Watch than the 42mm one, a rarity in connected wearables:
Apple Watch Series 1 (38mm): 38.6 x 33.3 x 10.5mm
Apple Watch Series 1 (42mm): 42.5 x 36.4 x 10.5mm
Fitbit Versa: 39.4 x 37.7 x 11.2mm

Fitbit's Versa strikes a nice balance between Apple's two watches, with a wider frame that's only slightly taller than the 38mm Apple Watch and will look good on all but the smallest of wrists. And keep in mind that Apple charges a few dollars more for the 42mm watch.
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Winner: Versa

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Display

versa rose gold Michael Simon/IDG
Without an OLED screen, Versa's boundaries are quite visible.
All three watches have very similar displays, with mere millimeters separating them, but the Versa is the smallest of the lot:
Apple Watch Series 1 42mm: 1.65 inches
Apple Watch Series 1 38mm: 1.5 inches
Fitbit Versa: 1.34 inches

But while the screen size isn't something you're likely to notice in regular use, the quality of the display is. While both have enough pixels to be considered retina, Apple Watches use OLED tech, so the black background on most screen blends into the body of the watch, giving it an edge-to edge feel. With the Versa's LCD screen, you can plainly see where the screen ends at all times, which makes the bezels feel much bigger than on Apple Watch.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 1

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Bands

fitbit versa band Michael Simon/IDG
Versa's band-switching mechanism isn't as elegant as Apple Watch's, but it does the trick.
A brand new Apple Watch Series 1 comes in just two flavors: silver with a white sport band and black with a black sport band. Versa also pairs its black watch with a black band, but you'll get a gray one with the silver model and a peach-colored one with the rose gold color. There are also two special edition models with woven bands in charcoal (with a graphite aluminum case) or lavender (which is paired with a rose gold watch).

Like Apple, Fitbit is selling a variety of bands for Versa. While there are only 14 to choose from so far—as compared to dozens for Apple Watch—they're quite a bit cheaper, ranging in price from $30 to $99. Apple's bands start at $49 and can cost as much as $450 for a stainless still link bracelet.
Swapping out the bands is easy enough on Versa, with a quick release mechanism that pulls the pin back. However, if you're going to be swapping out bands often, Apple's press-and-slide method is far superior.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 1

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Apps and clock faces

fitbit versa clock faces Michael Simon/IDG
There are lots of clock faces in the Fitbit store, including this one inspired by Thor: Ragnarok.
Apple has slowly expanded its watch face offerings, but there's still only a handful to choose from and developers can only create complications, not full custom faces.

On Versa, anyone can create a custom clockface and there are dozens of mostly free ones to choose from in the store. And Fitbit says many more are on the way, so a Pebble-sized library is definitely in the making. If customization is your main reason for wanting a smartwatch, Versa is the way to go.
Apps are another story. While Apple's store has many to choose from, some of the bigger names—Twitter, Instagram, eBay, etc.—have stopped making Apple Watch apps for various reasons. Fitbit's store is far less populated than Apple's, but there are some good ones available, including The New York Times, Philips Hue, and Starbucks. However, with either watch, you're probably going to be spending more time with the watch face than the apps.

Winner: Versa

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Battery

fitbit versa buttons Michael Simon/IDG
Versa's fits a big battery in its small frame.
If you don't mind charging your smartwatch every night, either watch will do, but if you're looking for multi-day use on a single charge, Versa is the clear winner. While Apple Watch Series 1 will comfortably get you through a day of use, Fitbit promises up to four days of use with Versa, and in our testing, those estimates were accurate. That means you can sleep, shower, and run with it for the better part of a week before you'll need to take it off for charging.

Winner: Versa

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Water resistance

fitbit versa metal Michael Simon/IDG
Even with a metal band, Versa can withstand a dunking.
For swimmers, there's no competition here. Apple Watch Series 1 is merely "splash resistant," with an IPX7 rating for up to 1 meter of submersion, while Fitbit Versa is water resistant up to 50 meters for tracking laps in a pool. In short, you don't need to worry about it unless you're going deep-sea diving.

Winner: Versa

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Fitness tracking

fitbit versa fitness Michael Simon/IDG
Fitbit Versa is still a fitness tracker at heart.
With the Fitbit name, Versa is obviously a top-notch fitness tracker, but Apple Watch Series 1 is no slouch. Both watches feature an array of sensors to keep track of your movements, including:
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • 3-axis gyroscope
  • Optical heart rate sensor
Versa also includes an altimeter for tracking elevation, a sensor that is limited to Apple Watch Series 3. Neither Apple Watch Series 1 nor Versa includes a dedicated GPS chip, so both rely on a phone connection for tracking distance. However, Fitbit has a greater selection of apps for fitness, with on-screen workouts, coaching, and numerous exercise modes. You can also check your daily stats just by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.

Winner: Versa

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Compatibility and connectivity

fitbit versa today Michael Simon/IDG
Versa pulls its info from the Fitbit app on iOS, Android, or Windows.
Like Fitbit's other devices, Versa works with iOS, Android, and Windows Phones, while Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5s or newer. Apple also includes support for Siri on Apple Watch, while Fitbit has no AI assistant or voice control.

Both watches will alert you to incoming calls and notifications, but Apple Watch's integration with iPhone is much stronger than Versa's, allowing you to respond to messages and texts, and answer calls. Versa will only tell you that you have an alert. You'll need to go to your phone to answer it. However, Fitbit is promising support for Android quick replies in a future update.

Both Apple Watch and Versa have NFC chips for making payments through Apple Pay and Fitbit Pay, but you'll need to spend an extra $30 on the higher-priced special-edition Versa models to get it. Both watches include support for 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and neither has an LTE chip.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 1 for iPhone users, Versa for everyone else

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Price

fitbit versa front Michael Simon/IDG
Versa is a whole lot cheaper than it looks.
If none of the above categories are a deal-breaker for either watch, price will probably push you into buying Versa:
Apple Watch Series 1 38mm: $250
Apple Watch Series 1 42mm: $279
Fitbit Versa: $200
Fitbit Versa Special Edition: $230
Even if you opt for the special edition model with NFC, you're still paying less for Versa than the 38mm Apple Watch Series 1. Granted this isn't taking deal into account—earlier this month Walmart was selling both sizes of Apple Watch Series 1 for $100 off—but all things being equal, Versa is the better deal.

Winner: Versa

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Verdict


It's not a clean sweep, but for most people, Fitbit's Versa
makes more sense than Apple Watch Series 1. It has a better collection of watch faces, is small enough to fit on most wrists, works with an array of phones and OSes, and has excellent battery life. Not to mention it's cheaper.

This story, "Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 1: Which budget smartwatch is right for you?" was originally published by Macworld.

Kim's 5 reasons to set up a financial Chromebook By Mark Jones, Komando.com




Do you have a Chromebook in your arsenal of gadgets? If you don't know, they are similar to a laptop but just a little bit different.  Chromebooks run on a web-based operating system by Google known as Chrome OS. It's specifically built to be used with an internet connection and they are fairly inexpensive.

Most of the apps and documents for a Chromebook are based in the cloud. The great thing is, Google provides 100 GB of cloud storage for free on all Chromebooks for the first two years.

(Note: 100 GB of storage is $1.99 per month or $9.99 for 1 TB per month after the first two years.)
There are many practical reasons to get yourself a Chromebook. One is to use a dedicated Chromebook to take care of your finances. Some of you might be skeptical, asking yourself, why not just buy a laptop?

That's why you need to know Kim's five reasons to set up a financial Chromebook.

1. Conduct your financial business with peace of mind

The best reason to set up a financial Chromebook is for security purposes. Using a Chromebook strictly for the purpose of conducting financial business is a procedure known as "sandboxing."

Sandboxing is a security term that refers to programs that are set aside from other programs in a different environment. This is important in situations where errors or security issues occur. When programs are separated like this, issues will not spread to other areas of your gadget. Programs or files are sequestered in their own area, in the case of Chromebooks, in the cloud.

Since Chromebooks store everything in the cloud and not on a hard drive, you don't have to live in fear of being infected with a virus. Using Google's Chromebook means you don't have to worry as much about security.
Google has multiple layers of protection built into Chromebooks. Those include:
  • Automatic Updates - Chromebooks are always running the most updated version of the OS, so you don't have to download patches.
  • Sandboxing - Each webpage and application runs in a confined area called a sandbox. If the Chromebook is directed to an infected page, it can't affect the other tabs or apps, or anything else on the machine. The threat is contained.
  • Verified Boot - Chromebook automatically checks for malware when you start it up, and it fixes any problems before it opens.
  • Data Encryption - Most data on Chromebooks are saved to the cloud, but anything saved to the computer is encrypted so it's nearly impossible to be hacked.
  • Recovery Mode - If anything goes wrong, you can simply revert to an earlier version that was safe.
Another reason Chromebooks are secure is its operating system does not allow the installation of traditional apps or programs. This really cuts down the chance of downloading a virus.

To keep your finances secure, only use the Chromebook for financial business. Don't use it to surf the web, check email, shop online, or visit any social media sites.

Also, delete all financial bookmarks that you might have on your old computer and don't forget to clear its history. Once your financial Chromebook is set up, never use another gadget to access your financial accounts.

2. The right gadget at the right price

Another reason to set up a financial Chromebook is the low cost. Laptops can run you over $1,000, which wouldn't be cost effective to exclusively use it for one function.

However, you can pick up a powerful Chromebook for under $200. (Psst! Keep reading and we'll show you a few under $200 Chromebook options.) That makes it the perfect device to have for the sole purpose of conducting financial business.

3. Programs you want with no extra costs

When you're working on your finances, you might want to use some of the programs that come with Microsoft Office. As you know, that can be expensive and not something you want to pay for if you're trying to save some money.

Good news! Chromebook's use the free Google Drive suite for its spreadsheet and word processing functions. Since it's free, you won't have to pay for Office and you can keep some coin in your wallet.

4. Super easy to use

With a portable design and seamless offline transition, Chromebooks make work easy for everyone on the go. It's basically an instant-on gadget.

What I mean is, once you've logged into your Google account, you're ready to go. No long load times and no confusing setup. Just flip it open and get going.

5. Stay charged all day

Chromebooks are known to have extremely long-lasting batteries. In fact, there's a good chance that your Chromebook's battery will last from one charge for most of the day.

The typical Chromebook has up to 10 hours of battery life. That makes it a reliable device to keep track of all your financial business whenever you need it.

Keep reading for a few of our Chromebook picks that you can choose from. They're easy on the wallet so you're sure to love them.

Check out these impressive under $200 Chromebooks

Google created the Chromebook operating system. Then, manufacturers like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung make the gadgets that run Chromebook OS.

So, you have a lot of options when buying one. Of course, when you're paying $200 or so for a Chromebook, you're not getting all the bells and whistles you will with a more costly laptop.

Yet, you can do just about everything on a Chromebook that you would on a more expensive laptop. You'll want to check each Chromebook's specs, though, to compare one to another.

If you're thinking about picking up one of these inexpensive devices, here are a few to look into. These Chromebooks are available for under $200 on Amazon.
HP Chromebook
This HP Chromebook 11 G5 is affordable but still packs a punch. It has an 11.6-inch screen with a sharp LCD display.

It comes with a 16 GB hard drive, 4 GB of RAM, and an Intel Celeron processor with a processing speed of 1.6 GHz. It weighs just 3.9 pounds and runs the Chrome operating system.

You can't go wrong with this HP Chromebook. Order yours from Amazon for under $185 today while you're thinking about it by clicking the link below.

Samsung Chromebook 3
If you're looking to spend even less, this certified refurbished Samsung Chromebook 3 might be perfect for you. It comes with a 90-day warranty, so don't fear the refurbished tag.

This Chromebook has an 11.6-inch display and a 16 GB hard drive with an Intel Celeron processor. The Google Chrome operating system is used and has 4 GB of RAM. Simply click the link below to pick one up today.

Acer CB3
Here's another under $200 Chromebook that will get the job done. Acer's Chromebook CB3 has an 11.6-inch screen that provides sharp images.

It has an Intel Celeron processor and runs the Chrome operating system. This slick gadget has a 16 GB hard drive with 2 GB of RAM. Order yours from Amazon for under $185 by clicking the link below.

20 incredibly useful websites you wish you knew earlier By Francis Navarro, Komando.com

Do you have a specific need or problem? With more than a million websites you can visit now with a click of a button, there's bound to be something that you can use to solve your tech issue. That's why Kim put together this list of some of the most useful sites.

If you like this list and other content we produce, consider supporting what we do by becoming a Kim's Club member. For about $5 a month, you get Kim's three hour weekend radio show podcasts, video webcasts, special discounts and more. Click here to learn more about being a Kim's Club member. Seniors, military, and service personnel save $10! Thank you!

Most of the time, smaller websites are like hidden gems just waiting to be discovered, you just have to know where to look. Some of these sites are so useful, you can't believe you haven't heard of them before!

So Kim did all the work for you. Here's a big list of incredibly useful websites that you wish knew earlier.

1. Print webpages minus the clutter

Printing an article straight from the web can be frustrating. Ads, links, images and all that extra text can ruin an otherwise perfect page. This clutter is not just unnecessary, it's a waste of ink and paper too.

Thankfully, there's an easy way to clean up all that unwanted junk.

CleanPrint is a free print tool that will save you precious printer ink, paper and money by keeping your printed webpages tidy and clean.

Simply install the CleanPrint browser extension, press its menu button and it will automatically trim the output and delete the extra information for easy printing.

Not only that, you can tweak your print output further by manually deleting the sections you don't want and by adjusting the font size. If you want to get rid of wasted ink and paper, CleanPrint is a must-have.
Click here to clean up online articles before printing them.

2. Send a fax straight from your computer


Email and messaging apps may be the preferred means of sending documents now but the humble fax machine is still sticking around. While it is slowly being phased out, there are still plenty of businesses that use it. In fact, people in the legal, finance and medical industries still rely on fax machines for essential documents.

But what about the regular people like us? Not everyone has access to a fax machine.
If you absolutely need to send out a fax, you don't have to rush out to the nearest FedEx. Just do it from home with this useful site!

With FaxZero, you can send faxes completely free from your computer. You can attach up to three documents (up to five free faxes a day), with a total fax limit of three pages, including the cover page. Note: There will be an ad on the cover page.

For both business and personal use, you can now send a fax without a fax machine! Click here to try FaxZero now.

3.  Get your gadget's manual for free


Keeping your gadget's printed manual around can be handy especially when you're trying to look up a quick fix. But not everyone keeps their manuals and they often end up in the trash can.

Thankfully, all of these manuals are available online nowadays, you just need to know where to look.
If you're ever in need of a gadget's manual, check and see if it's available on ManualsLib. There are manuals for more than 40,000 different brands, 1.5 million different products and more than 2 million PDF manuals for major brands and manufacturers like Apple, LG, Sony, GE and many more.

It has information on everything you'll need, from your smartphone to your refrigerator. Best of all, access to all of the manuals are free!

Just visit ManualsLib, enter the product or brand name into the search bar. From there, you'll be taken to the manual and hopefully connected to the information you need.
Click here to search ManualsLib for all your manual needs.

4.   Send self-destructing notes to anyone

Ever wished you can send a confidential self-destructing note to anyone ala Mission Impossible?
Type a note, send it, then have it destroy itself after it's read. Well, get your Ethan Hunt mask out because this cool site will let you do just that.

Privnote is a web tool that lets you write notes that can self-destruct (virtually, of course) after a recipient reads them. You can also do scheduled self-destructs instead and have your notes expire after a set time.

Simply write your note on the site, pick your self-destruct method then send out the link as desired. It's as easy as that.
Start writing your own self-destructing notes now with this cool web tool.

5.  An easy way to delete any online account or profile

There are dozens of sites that I have accounts on that contain bits and pieces of my information. But guess what? They have the same scoop on you. Most sites will have your email address, username and password at a minimum. This could be a problem if any of the sites have a data breach.

There are steps you can take to keep yourself protected. I recommend getting rid of old, unwanted and unused accounts. Just wipe the slate clean.

Sound like a tough thing to tackle? Sure, every site has different rules on how to close your account, and some are more difficult to get rid of than others. The good news is, this cool site can help with that.

AccountKiller is a free site that has a collection of direct links and instructions on how to easily delete your accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Groupon and hundreds of other sites and services. With its color-coding system, you can see at a glance if a site will be easy or hard to leave.
Deleting your online accounts doesn't need to be a chore. Try this useful tool to get rid of your unwanted online accounts.

6.  Paper templates you can print for free

Although it's now preferable to save our notes and papers on our smartphones and apps, there's still that occasional need to write some of it on hard copies. School assignments, music scores, budget plans, decorations, there's always a need for those old-style sheets.

With Printable Paper, you can download and print more than a thousand varieties of old-school templates for free. Choose from lined notebook paper, graphing paper, monthly budget spreadsheets, music sheets - any throwback paper sheet you can imagine, Printable Paper has them all.

If you need to relive the old glory days of printed paper sheets, click here to visit Printable Paper now.

7.   Web-based photo editor that's a cinch to use

In this age of social media and photo sharing, stylistic individuality is almost a must. Filters, effects, borders and stickers can transform an average photograph into a spectacular work of art if done right.

For those quick spontaneous artistic photo edits, try Pixlr's web apps. They're all browser-based so you don't need to download or install extra software. (It does require the Flash plugin to run, though.)

For starters, you can start with Pixlr Express. It is the web-based brother of Pixlr desktop with almost the same set of tools, effects and filters.

For more advanced photo editing, try Pixlr Editor. It is an advanced photo editor with layering support and a complete set of tools similar to other software like GIMP. For experienced photo editors, Pixlr Editor is a great web-based alternative.
Click here to create your inspired photo creations with Pixlr.

8.  Learn how to create your own apps

Creating apps is a great project for anyone, whether for fun or business and it's one good skill to have in this highly digital world we live in.

If you want to learn how to create your own apps but you don't know where to start, here's a useful site you can visit to get you going.

It's MIT's App Inventor and it has step-by-step guides and tutorials to start your app creation journey. You don't even need coding knowledge to get started! Just select one of the site's guides, install the necessary programs and you can start building and sharing your very own apps in no time.

Who knows? If you have an excellent app idea, you might strike gold and even create the next viral hit. Click here to start creating your very own app with App Inventor.

9.  Create your own professional-looking resume

You only get one chance to make a first impression. When you're applying for jobs, that means you have to create a killer resume that's organized the right way and looks good, too.

If you're looking for a way to stand out from the pool of job applicants, give this free resume site a try.

CVMaker lets you choose from a vast range of professionally created resume templates, save them and print them anytime. You can even select different resume templates for different types of job applications and have them handy when they're needed. Just edit any template as you wish then save on the fly.

If you want to create fast, professional-looking resumes that can make good first impressions, click here to give CVMaker a try!

10. Download thousands of free fonts

We all love fonts. Especially unique fonts that make websites and posters and flyers stand out. If you're getting creative, you might want to go hunting for the perfect new font (or more than one) for your project.

Many sites charge for fonts, and if you're going to use a font for a commercial purpose, rather than personal use, you'll likely have to pay for it. But did you know that Google has its very own site for free fonts?

Google Fonts is a collection of free fonts that you can download and use for free. From exotic to edgy fonts, Google has you covered! Just hit the "quick use" button of any font that you may fancy and start using it for your projects, papers or websites.

Click here to add some font flair to your work with Google Fonts.

11. Create your home in 2D and see it in 3D

You probably have an idea of what your dream home will look like, right?

With the blueprint outlined inside your head - the floor plan, the number of rooms, even the type of furniture and appliances, all the way down to the type of paint or wallpaper you're going to adorn it with, you just can't wait to make that dream a reality.

Don't you just wish there's a way to render your construction or remodeling ideas into something that's in three-dimensional space?

With EasyHome Homestyler, you can. This free site lets you design, build, visualize then render your dream house. You can even virtually walk around it!

Simply design a floor plan, populate it with doors, windows, furniture, appliances, and even people and then experience it in a real-time 3-D space! And if you want to visualize your virtual home design in a more pleasing, real-world setting, you can try rendering a snapshot of a specific view. Now that's cool!

To start designing and visualizing your dream house with Homestyler, just click here visit its homepage. There's no place like home - your virtual home!

12. Send files that are too big to email

Let's face it, file sizes are getting too big. We now have to contend with high-resolution photos, ultra-high definition videos, and uncompressed audio files even when we're out and about. Even modern mobile apps can take gigabytes of data these days.

So what can you do if you need to send out a lengthy HD video or a big application file but it is deemed too big by your email program?

Here's a free solution - a free online tool called WeTransfer.

WeTransfer lets you share files of up to 2 GB in size with its free service and it's very simple to use.
Here's how: Go to the site, select the free option, then click "Add your files" to upload them from your computer. Enter both your email and your recipient’s email, an optional message and hit the “Transfer” button to start the process.

Now wait while WeTransfer uploads the file (or files) and when it's done, it will send an email to the receiver with the link to download the files. Easy as that.
Click here to send out those gigantic files now with WeTransfer.

13.  Free program to help you manage your time

With the internet, social media, YouTube, game apps and other marvels of the digital age at your fingertips, it's easy to get distracted by things you actually need to do. You might decide to take a break for a second and end up wasting the whole day.

If you've ever reached the end of the day and wondered where the time went, take a look at this site.
RescueTime will show you how long you spent working in your programs, how long you were using your browser and even what sites you visited.

A handy graph shows how long you spent on each thing so you know your weaknesses to avoid. You can get an overall productivity score and weekly summary email for quick measures of how you're doing. There's even an option to set daily goals so you know what you need to work on.
Click here to manage your daily schedules with RescueTime.

14. Free sounds to melt that stress away

Have you ever been at your job and just wanted to get away? Maybe your co-workers won't stop talking or are just making too much noise, keeping you from concentrating and making your deadline. Don't worry, here's a free site that can help you melt that stress away.

A Soft Murmur has a collection of calming sounds and mixes that you can play for free. Choose from a variety of sounds you can mix and match - rain, thunder, waves, wind, fire, birds, crickets, coffee shop, singing bowl, and white noise.

It even has individual volume sliders for each sound so you can create your perfect mix of serenity. You can then save and share your own mixes with friends.

When the going gets tough, click here and give A Soft Murmur a try for instant stress relief.

15. Fun game that drops you somewhere in the world

Take a break with this surprisingly fun online game you can play by yourself or with friends.
It's called GeoGuessr and it drops you on a random map location and you have to guess where in the world you are.

The game uses Google Maps' images to show you the surrounding area. For clues, you can navigate around these images to see people, roads and anything else that can be used to give you an idea of your whereabouts.

Once you begin to play, you have five rounds. Each round you're dropped in a new location and you have to guess where it is. The closer you are to being correct, the higher the score that you receive.
Beware though. GeoGuessr is quite addictive. You can get lost for hours just exploring the maps, figuring out where you are.

Are you up to the challenge? Click here to play this amazingly simple but quite entertaining exploration game.

16. Search Craigslist, eBay and Amazon all at once

When you're looking for an item, doing multiple searches on various online shopping and classified ads sites is a hassle. Having multiple browser tabs and websites open while searching for one item is tedious and quite aggravating.

SearchTempest eliminates this problem. This handy search engine lets you look up multiple classified ads in one easy search. Just enter your ZIP code, your search keywords and it will crawl through eBay, Amazon, and eBay for relevant results.

If the price is right, you'll find the exact item you're looking for in no time at all.

Even better, SearchTempest also has a section called AutoTempest that lets you search eBay, Craigslist, Cars.com, Auto Trader, Cars Direct and Oodle all at once for car listings.

Take the hassle out of online shopping. Click here to search through multiple shopping sites in one click!

17. Test your vision at home with this free web tool

Do you sometimes mess with your eyes to read signs properly? Does your vision go fuzzy when you read? Maybe it's difficult for you to drive at night. Whatever the case may be, you should begin by testing your vision online.

Essilor.com allows you to check for things like myopia or hyperopia, test both your near and far vision, find out if you could have astigmatism or daltonism (color-blindness). The tests are quick and easy and shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes to complete them all.

Although the site states that the test has no diagnostic value, it's a quick way to know if it's time to consult with a vision care professional for a detailed eye examination.
For a quick and easy eye test, visit this free online vision test now.

18. Replace lost military awards and medals

Recognitions from the U.S. military such as medals, decorations, and awards are often considered as historical mementos and priceless family heirlooms.

Although the honor that these military medals represent should endure forever, the physical medals themselves may not. They can be misplaced, lost, stolen or simply begin to show their age over time.
The U.S. military understands the importance of this legacy to families and it offers replacement medals, decorations, and awards available to decorated veterans and their families.

Just visit the National Archives Veterans' Service Records page and this site has all the information you'll need for replacing your family's lost military awards.

Click here to replace your family's lost military awards and heirlooms now.

19. Save big on surplus and confiscated items

Have you ever wondered where confiscated items from airport security end up? On average, the TSA seizes an estimated 750,000 items a year. That's a lot of stuff with nowhere to go.

When people voluntarily surrender certain belongings such as knives or sports equipment, they become available on GovDeals.com. It's an online auction site that gathers confiscated or surplus items from government agencies.

You will be amazed by some of the things up for bid. Last time I checked, I found retired police cars in working condition, a collection of lost Bluetooth headsets, an old hockey arena scoreboard and even traffic lights! There are plenty of practical items listed on the site too, from working automobiles to generators to motorhomes and RVs.

With GovDeals.com, you just don't know what hidden gems you might find. Click here to save big on government surplus and confiscated items.

20. See how much crime takes place in your neighborhood

No matter how pristine a neighborhood is, you shouldn't assume that it's free of crime.
Whether you're searching through real estate listings to find a new home, or have lived in the same neighborhood for over a decade, you're probably wondering: Is this neighborhood safe?

There's an easy way to find out. A site called SpotCrime collects public data from police agencies and plots it on a map, giving you access to timely information about reported crimes in an area.

With SpotCrime, you can find safety information for an entire city or town anywhere in the country, and many other countries worldwide. You can also narrow it down to see reported crimes in a particular neighborhood or ZIP code, even on the street you live on.

Ready to get a safety snapshot of any particular area? Click here to visit SpotCrime for an instant report.