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Add Drive Shortcuts to your Desktop

Download and install TweakNow DriveShortcut.

This is anecdotal but during installation, my external monitor turned off and media that I was playing from my external drive began to stutter. As a precaution, I disconnected both the external drive and the monitor. You might want to disconnect external drives while you’re installing the app.

Once the app installs, you will need to configure it first. The app lets you pick which types of drives are added to the desktop. You can enable a desktop shortcut for CD drives, removable drives (external/USB), a fixed drive (internal drives), a network drive, and a RAM drive. Once you’ve selected the drive types you want to use the app for, Click the Save button at the top.

Close the window and the app will minimize to the system tray. Connect your external drive (or whichever drive you enabled the app for), and it will automatically be added to the desktop as a shortcut. Double-click it and you will be able to access the drive.


Windows 10 Finally Becomes Most Popular Desktop OS

Three years and five months. That's how long it took Microsoft to grow Windows 10's market share enough to grab the top spot in the desktop operating system rankings. The OS it knocked off the top spot isn't Windows 8, but the 9-year-old and still popular Windows 7.

While it's true to say that Windows 10 is now the most popular desktop OS, it's still a very close race. According to New Marketshare, in November last year Windows 7 held 38.89 percent of the market while Windows 10 was second with 38.14 percent. In December, the change happened, with Windows 10 increasing to 39.22 percent and Windows 7 dropping to 36.9 percent. That will likely now continue to be the trend, with Windows 10 steadily growing its share as more users upgrade away from Windows 7 by buying new hardware. For business users especially this will be the case.

Microsoft will no doubt be sighing with relief the change finally happened, but there's still a long way to go before it can truly leave Windows 7 behind. As The Verge points out, Windows 7 extended support doesn't end until Jan. 14, 2020.

Meanwhile, Windows 10 doesn't have much competition to worry Microsoft. Mac OS X 10.14 only manages 4.73 percent in third place and Linux is down in seventh place with just 2.00 percent. Microsoft's cause is also helped greatly by Windows being the overwhelming first choice for new hardware at all non-Apple retailers. Budget laptops for less than $600 all using Windows 10 also helps a lot.

Windows 10 is meant to be the last version of Windows, which suggests that the market share breakdown may never again have a change at the top. Unless Microsoft revolts and launches a Windows 11, where would that new contender appear from?


How to remove audio from a video with VLC Player

Extracting audio from a video is incredibly easy if you have a file conversion app. You can take almost any sort of video and convert it to MP3 to get just the audio. If, on the other hand, you want to remove audio from a video, it might seem a little tricky. A quick search might give you suggests for various apps that can do the trick but all you really need is VLC player.

Need to create a video, or more precisely a screencast? VLC player has you covered.

Remove audio from a video

Open VLC player from the Media menu in the title bar, and select Convert/Save.

On the Open Media window, click the Add button and select the video that you want to remove audio from, and then click the dropdown arrow next to the Convert/Save button. From the dropdown menu, select the Convert option.

This will open a new window. On this window, you will see a Profile field. Click the wrench button. This will open the Profile edition window. Give the profile a name, any name. Go to the Audio Codec tab, and make sure that the Audio option is unchecked. Click Create to return to the previous window. Give the file a name in the Destination File field and click the Start button.

You won’t see the video play in VLC player however the seek bar that normally shows video progress will show you conversion progress. The conversion won’t take too long unless you have a file that is hours long. Once it’s done, open the same location where the original file is saved and you will find a copy of it with the audio removed.

The output file is the same quality as the original, minus the audio. You can also use the same conversion window to change the output format of the video. The Profile Edition window is where you can select a different codec for converting the video. You should read up on which codecs are best for converting to certain file formats and then pick the right one.

We mentioned earlier that you can extract audio from a video by converting it to an MP3 file. If that’s what you need to do then you can use VLC player for that as well. Follow the above method but instead of leaving the Audio codec unchecked, check it and from the Codec dropdown, select MP3. Start the conversion and a new file containing only the audio from the video will be created. It shouldn’t take too long but again, as with the audio removal, if the file is hours long, it can take a while to convert to MP3.


Ways to Increase your Laptop battery life

Use the Windows Battery Performance Slider

The first stop on our battery-life betterment tour is the Windows battery performance slider, a recent addition to Windows 10. It aims to group all of the settings that affect battery life into a few easy-to-understand categories. The company that made your PC determines exactly which settings the battery slider controls. But in general, keep these guidelines in mind:
  • The Best Performance mode is for people willing to trade off battery runtime to gain performance and responsiveness. In this mode, Windows won't stop apps running in the background from consuming a lot of power.
  • The Better Performance setting limits resources for background apps, but it otherwise prioritizes power over efficiency.
  • Better Battery mode delivers longer battery life than the default settings on previous versions of Windows. (It's actually labeled "Recommended" on many PCs.)
  • Battery Saver mode, a slider choice that will appear only when your PC is unplugged, reduces the display brightness by 30 percent, prevents Windows update downloads, stops the Mail app from syncing, and suspends most background apps.

Close Specific Apps That Use Lots of Power

Multiple apps and processes running on your system will chew through battery life more quickly, and chances are you probably aren't actively using everything that's currently running on your PC. In Windows 10, the Settings App is the first step to find energy-hogging programs.

Type "see which apps are affecting your battery life" into the Windows search bar for a list of apps that are consuming the most power. If you see an app that you rarely use hogging a lot of power, make sure you close it. Often, these are apps you've opened in the background and forgot about, such as Spotify or Adobe Reader.

Next, type "See which processes start up automatically when you start Windows" into the search bar. This will open the Task Manager's Startup tab, which lists every utility that runs as soon as you start your PC. Anything with a name like "Download Assistant" or "Helper" is usually safe to disable. For example, unless you frequently open Spotify playlists, tracks, or albums from links in a web browser, you can disable the Spotify Web Helper.

To perform similar app purging in macOS, search for Users & Groups, then click the Login Items tab, where you'll find a list of apps that run in the background when you start up your Mac.

Use Battery Settings on macOS

Apple's MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro laptops don't have a battery slider, although many of the same settings described above are present in the Energy Saver preferences.

To open it, click on the Spotlight magnifying-glass icon in the upper right corner of the screen, search for Energy Saver, and then click on the Battery tab. If you want to approximate the Windows Better Battery or Battery Saver modes, make sure that the options "Put hard disks to sleep when possible" and "Slightly dim the display while on battery power" are checked, and the option "Enable Power Nap while on battery power" is unchecked. (With Power Nap enabled and your MacBook asleep, the machine will wake up now and then to check for updates. Disabling it keeps your MacBook fully asleep when it is asleep—until you choose wake it up.) On recent MacBook Pro laptops, the display brightness adjusts to 75 percent when you unplug the computer from power if you have "Slightly dim the display while on battery power" enabled.

So, if you want the best battery life, should you use Battery Saver all the time? Not exactly. Because Battery Saver mode disables some useful features, you might want to use it only when your battery is below 20 percent and a power outlet isn't near. Likewise, turning off Power Nap can mean it will take longer to catch up on notifications you've missed while you're away from your MacBook. That's why most users should use the Better Battery setting and enable Power Nap most of the time.

Simplify Your Workflow: Closing Apps, and Using Airplane Mode

On the other hand, if you're writing a novel or playing a local video file and don't need to be distracted by notifications, it's fine to enable Battery Saver. It's a good habit to adjust your laptop use in more battery-conserving ways, such as by sticking to one app at a time and closing everything else when you're not using it. It's a bit like turning off the lights when a room is vacant. If you're going back and forth between the kitchen and the pantry all the time, or between Firefox and Word, by all means keep both sets of lights and apps on and open. But if you're just cooking or watching a YouTube video, you'll be best served by turning off and closing everything else.

In addition to aiming to single-task, consider enabling Airplane mode in Windows, or turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in macOS if you know you'll be editing a document with no need for web access. In addition to eliminating distractions, Airplane mode eliminates a significant source of battery drain: not only the wireless radios themselves, but also the background apps and processes that constantly use them, such as updaters and push notifications.

Firefox to Display Warning if You Visit a Site That's Been Breached

The Firefox browser will soon issue a warning if you visit a site that recently suffered a data breach.

The warnings will appear on Firefox's desktop browser as pop-up notifications that tell you how many accounts were compromised in the breach.

The same pop-up will show you a link to Firefox Monitor, a free service that lets you check whether any of your internet accounts were ensnared in a data breach. Simply click the link and type in your email address to view whether your accounts were hit.

Firefox Breach Warning

The new function will roll out to Firefox in the coming weeks, at a time when users are demanding more security and privacy features, Mozilla said. "Data breaches are common for online services," company privacy engineer Luke Crouch wrote in a blog post. "Some online services discover, mitigate, and disclose breaches quickly. Others go undetected for years." Making matters worse is that most people simply don't know that a breach has affected them, he added.

The pop-up warnings from Firefox will hopefully change this. It'll also give users a chance to secure their affected accounts—before hackers have a chance to take advantage of the situation. For instance, when a breach occurs, you should change the password on the affected account and enable two-factor authentication if available.

It's also good idea to make sure all your internet accounts are secured with unique passwords. Hackers like to check whether their victims re-used any exposed passwords on other internet accounts.

Mozilla built its notification system using data from security researcher Troy Hunt, who maintains an active library of all the latest data breaches at Haveibeenpawned. His site also lets you type in your email address to check whether it's been affected in a data breach.

So how often will you see these alerts from Firefox? "This alert will appear at most once per site and only for data breaches reported in the previous twelve months," the company said.

You'll see an additional alert if the website you visit experienced another reported breach within the last two months. Mozilla settled on this time-frame to avoid stoking unnecessary fear. "We don't want to alarm users or to create noise by triggering alerts for sites that have long since taken significant steps to protect their users. That noise could decrease the value and usability of an important security feature," Crouch said.

If you get annoyed with the alerts, you can turn them off. Click the drop-down arrow on the pop-up notification, and choose "never show Firefox Monitor alerts."

But if you'd like to know more about the latest data breaches and whether you're affected, sign up for email alerts through the Firefox Monitor service or Haveibeenpawned. They'll notify you if your data crops up in another publicly known breach. You can also read our tips on staying safe online here.


T-Mobile has blocked one billion spam calls in the last 18 months

We’ve told you in the past about estimates suggesting that your cell phone is going to be bombarded with a ton more spam calls next year. Estimates vary, but the increase is forecasted to mean around half, and maybe more, of all mobile traffic in 2019 will be attributable to such calls.

That’s not to say preparations aren’t being made to fight them. Indeed, T-Mobile today has touted its record over the last 18 months of having blocked 1 billion such spam calls to its customers’ phones, and that its Scam ID and Scam Block technology has helped the so-called Un-carrier flag more than 6 billion calls as “likely” spam.

Building on that, T-Mobile also announced today that it’s rolling out more protections to stop customers from being harassed by such calls. On the heels of the FCC calling on the industry to implement STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited) and SHAKEN (Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) standards, T-Mobile said today that it is the first in the industry to be ready to implement both standards. “When adopted industry-wide,” according to a spokesman, “these standards will allow customers to know the calls they are receiving are verified as authentic and not spoofed or hijacked by scammers.”

Meanwhile, T-Mobile also said today that it’s integrated new spoof identification technology at the network level, “meaning that Scam ID and Scam Block, the Un-carrier’s free scam detection services, can now better catch and stop spoofed numbers from reaching your phone.” the spokesman continued. In terms of other benefits, the Un-carrier also touts its offering of free scam protection on any device without the need for an app or registration.

“In addition to being first to announce readiness for both the new STIR/SHAKEN standards,” T-Mobile said in its announcement today, “T-Mobile improved its popular Scam ID and Scam Block with new protections against the increasingly common ‘Neighborhood Spoofing’ — where scammers temporarily hijack a phone number to match the area code and 3-digit prefix of the person they are targeting, making the incoming call look familiar. Existing protection apps can only black-list against known scam numbers, not legitimate numbers that’ve been temporarily hijacked by scammers.

“Together with partner First Orion, T-Mobile is the only major wireless provider to add and deliver new protections at the network level. That means Un-carrier customers can expect fewer of these types of calls, thanks to intelligent analysis of network-wide data that better pinpoints and identifies the origin of a call before it reaches your phone.”