4 months ago

Getting to know Google+ - Pages, Communities, and What's Hot


Some areas of Google+ are great for immersing yourself in a topic, but it's easy to get overwhelmed when the signal to noise ratio tips.

Once you gotten yourself settled in to Google+, by which I mean your account has been completed and you've either located your current friends or gone out to find some new ones through Google's recommendations, it's time to really make the service yours. Google+ has some terrific tools filling your stream with as much or as little information as you choose, and that content can either be narrowed down to specific topics or a firehose of whatever is popular on the service right now. If you so choose, there are even tools to set yourself up as a broadcaster of exciting content. All you need to know is which buttons to push, and how to turn it all off if you've made a mistake.

We're going to explore some of the content-specific portions of Google+ here. Using Communities, exploring What's Hot, and how to set up and manage a Page.

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4 months ago

All about photos on Google+


Photos can make or break your experience on social media.

While text may be the way we primarily communicate online, when we add visuals to our words, social media becomes a lot more fun, a lot more addictive, and to an extent a lot easier. After all, a picture says a thousand words. Communities like the Art of Bread probably could still capture interest and share recipes with text alone, but its the pictures that make not-so-diehard bakers come to drool and to learn. Pictures are also important to more technical pursuits on Google+ like beta testing. You could just describe the issue you're having with the new material beta in Nova Launcher, but when you have pictures to show your particular bugs, not only is it easier for users to report but it's easier for the developers to see.

Google+ has been a platform loved by photographers and artists because of the freedom offered by Google+ Photos. Photographers like Trey Ratcliff and Patrick Smith have racked up tens of billions of views. Yes, billion with a b. And their massive public collections of full-scale, quality photography has been put on display through Chromecasts all over the world.

So, what makes photos so special on Google+?

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4 months ago

Android 5.1: Muting your Lollipop phone overnight just got a bit easier

Android 5.1 Mute option

Android 5.1 Lollipop brings new 'interruptions' options that make it easier to silence your phone while you're sleeping.

It's a long-running complaint with many Android Lollipop phones — you want to mute your phone, but that option's just not there anymore. Instead you have to deal with the slightly confusing interruptions system and decide whether you want to mute absolutely everything — including alarms — or set up "priority" mode and decide what you want to let through.

Now, thankfully, in the new Android 5.1 release, there's there's an easier way.

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4 months ago

Managing your Google+ stream


The Google+ homepage — called the stream — can be somewhat unpredictable at times. That label at the top may say All Circles, but posts from your communities and from complete strangers — in the form of Extended Circles or Hot and Recommended posts — wind up here, too. It can be wild, it can be unruly, or — even worse — boring if you don't have your stream set up right. But with a few simple tools, you can try to tame your Google+ stream and sculpt your stream into a fountain of knowledge.

Or a black hole of fan community posts, gifs, and cat videos. We're not judging.

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4 months ago

Zen and the art of Google+ circles

Circles in Google+ provides layers to your interactions.

Circles — like Google+ itself — are often misunderstood.

See, on most social media platforms, lists are something of an afterthought. You follow someone and then you add them to a list through the profile options or some similar method. On Google+, your lists — called Circles — are front and center. Anyone you follow must belong to one of your circles, and you can add them to more than one if you so choose. And while you may have everyone you follow in a 'Following' circle and have that be the end of it, managing your circles is about more than just getting their posts. In fact, circles have as much to do with your outgoing posts as incoming ones.

Let us begin on the path to enlightenment, or at least better circle management.

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4 months ago

Getting started with Google+


If you already use Google, making the jump to Google+ is surprisingly easy.

In several subtle ways, you probably are using parts of Google+ already. Your Google+ profile goes a lot of places. It ties into the Google Play store, putting a name and face to your +1s, ratings, and reviews. It ties into YouTube, tying together your comments and allowing you to reply to subsequent comments more easily from the notifications count that appears on most Google websites. Your Google+ profile photo may well already be in the top corner of your quick settings screen on your Android devices. If you're sending emails to Inbox users, your Google+ profile photo even shows up on your emails. So even if you're not going to be hanging out in your stream or the plentiful beta communities all day every day, you should at least set it up and put your smiling mug up in place of that little blue silhouette picture.

Time to visit the haunted mansion.

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4 months ago

Does the switch to Daylight Saving Time mean I have to do stuff to my Android?

Date and time settings

Let's do the timewarp again ...

The yearly springing forward of time for much of the US is upon us, and this inevitably leads to folks new to the platform wondering what they have to do to their Android so things work right after the switch. If this sounds like you, we've got good news:


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5 months ago

How to take a screenshot on the HTC One M9

There are a couple of easy ways to capture what's on your M9's screen

There are a bunch of reasons why you might want to capture what's on your HTC One M9's's screen and keep it for posterity. Maybe you want to show off a cool app, quickly share something with a friend, or make a quick copy of some important information. Whatever the case, there are a couple of ways to take a screenshot on the HTC One M9, and for the most part everything works just as it does on earlier phones like the M8.

So if you've used an HTC phone before you'll probably be right at home. But if you're new to Android or HTC, or just want to reacquaint yourself with the basics, we've got a quick guide to taking screenshots on the HTC One M9 after the break.

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5 months ago

How to take a screenshot on the Samsung Galaxy S6

These two shortcuts let you easily take a screenshot on your Galaxy S6 or S6 edge

Just like earlier Samsung phones, taking a screenshot on the Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 edge is simple enough once you know how. So if you're upgrading to Samsung's 2015 flagship from a previous Galaxy phone, chances are you'll be right at home — taking a screenshot works just as it does on the GS5 and earlier handsets.

But if you're new to Samsung or Android in general, it's worth recapping this basic function, as there are countless situations where capturing an image of your phone's screen can be useful.

Let's take a look at the two main methods.

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5 months ago

How to use your Android to prepare for severe weather

The ice storm cometh!

Severe weather takes many forms.

Blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, even haboobs can turn a regular day into a disaster, and if you're not prepared, it can turn from disastrous to downright dangerous. While you're stocking up the liquor cabinet, boarding up the windows, and collecting the games/movies from around the house to keep any little ones happy and distracted, don't forget to prepare your phone for the rough road to come. There's a lot more to preparing your phone for severe weather than just charging it up.

Be prepared.

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5 months ago

How to get weather information without downloading an app

Asking questions is a great way to learn, especially when your apps listen to voice commands.

'OK Google, what's the weather like?'

Weather is important, but sometimes you don't need a full two week forecast with barometric pressure and the exact phase of the lunar cycle. Sometimes, you just need to know if it's warm or chilly outside. Sometimes, you want to know the weather, but you just don't have your hands free.

Sometimes, you just need Google.

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5 months ago

How to disable encryption in Android Lollipop

Lollipop Encryption

So it turns out encryption wasn't exactly what you wanted.

Encrypting your smartphone or tablet is a great way to add a passive layer of security to your device, something that doesn't require a lot of work on your end and could actually protect your data if your device is stolen or you've somehow managed to become a target of some kind. It's far from an impenetrable shield in terms of security, but as long as its not getting in your way there's certainly no harm in having the protection, right?

Truth is, sometimes Full Disk Encryption can get in the way. Performance hits, especially when combined with the workload some power users (you know who you are) put on their devices, can be too much to deal with. The good news is it's pretty easy to turn off encryption on most devices, even the new encryption offered in Android 5.0. In most cases all you really need is 20 minutes near an outlet and some know how. In other cases, most notably the Nexus 6, things get a little stickier.

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5 months ago

How to enable encryption in Android

Android encryption settings

Locking down your Android is easier than you think

We've talk a bit about encryption recently, specifically Android's full disk encryption setting. You can read a bit about what encryption on Android is and how it works here, and you can have a look here to see why you may or may not want to use it and how it affects you. Right now, let's have a look at how to enable it if you decide you need (or want) it.

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5 months ago

What is full disk encryption in Android Lollipop?

Lollipop encryption

Keeping your bits and bytes as safe as possible through encryption is a complicated affair.

There's a lot of information out there about Android 5.0 Lollipop's "default" full disk encryption (FDE). Some of it is good information, some of it is bad information, and plenty of it is just repeated snippets of speculation. While this makes for good conversation — and FDE is something worth talking about — we wanted to break down the finer points into an easy-to-read discussion.

This isn't meant to be the be-all end-all document on Android encryption. Google has already posted that one. We're going to tackle the consumer-oriented questions we keep hearing. As always, use the comments for discussion so we all can learn a little something.

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5 months ago

How to use Google Maps Street View on your phone or tablet

Google Maps Street View

Sometimes you need to get up close and personal with your maps — Street View has you covered.

Google Maps

While most people have played around with Street View for some fun exploring on the web, the full suite of Street View imagery is also available on your phone or tablet in the Google Maps app. Of course viewing Street View on a smaller screen isn't ideal, but it's quite amazing to have so much power in the palm of your hand — and the additional sensors available in your phone and tablet offer at least one feature you can't get on your desktop. Let's explore what Street View is all about.

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