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What the Tech: Consumer hacks


When you hear someone say “computer hack”, you immediately think of the worst. Stolen identities, stolen credit cards or passwords. Some hacks are good though, the ones that make life easier.

Like this one: if you’re a parent who wants their kids to read more, use the television. Find a TV show, or better yet a movie. Whether that’s on DVD or Netflix it doesn’t make a difference. Turn on closed captioning or subtitles and turn down or even mute the sound. If kids want to know what’s happening in the movie, they’ll have to read the subtitles. I’ve found this works a little better with the sound turned so far down you can just barely hear it. That way, when there’s music or sound effects, you’ll be able to hear just enough to understand what’s happening. Low volume is more engaging for kids than turning off the sound completely.

If you find yourself visiting the same website or websites several times a day, you can make it a lot easier on yourself by creating an app for the site. Go to the site’s home page then tap the share icon. You’ll find it at the bottom of the screen using the Safari browser and at the top of the screen in a Chrome browser window.

After tapping share you’ll see several options and one of them is “add to home screen”. If you do that you’ll create a shortcut but the phone will place it on the home screen alongside other apps. For all intents and purposes you’ve just created an app for your favorite websites. In fact, some apps that you install on your phone are nothing more than shortcuts to the mobile version of their website.

You can also use that technique with some apps that use a lot of data or take up a lot of storage. Facebook is notorious at those things. To save space you can create a Facebook app and placing it on your homescreen. Then you can delete the Facebook app. Don’t worry, if it turns out to be something you do not like, you can re-install the Facebook app and you won’t lose any data or photos etc.

If you’re watching videos or listening to music through YouTube, you know it isn’t always quick and easy to adjust the volume. Instead of tapping the volume bar and holding the mouse clicker down to slide it, just hover the mouse pointer over the volume slider. You’ll be able to control the volume with the center wheel of the mouse. If it doesn’t work the first time, click anywhere on the slider and it will work from then on.

You can also use that center wheel to open links in new a new window. Just hover over a link you want to open and click the center wheel. The link opens in a new window so you don’t lose any work in other windows that are open.

Call these hacks or shortcuts, they can make life easier.

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