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Tips & Tutorials

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The ultimate guide to Google Home: Tips and tricks for understanding and making the most out of your assistant speaker

You just got a Google Home, and after unwrapping it and setting it up, you've asked about the weather, requested a few songs to play, and set a timer for 5 minutes to see how it rings. Now what?

I've been covering Google's smart speaker for more than a year now and I've owned a couple of Google Homes for about a year, yet I still feel like I'm not using them to their full potential. Every week brings new features and integrations that make it tough to remember all that can be done, so for those of you who don't know what to ask beyond playing music, those who are getting confused by hearing a different voice sometimes from the speaker, those who are always wondering why some actions work for them but not other members of their household, this is the most accurate tutorial I can write right now.

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Tip: How to stop websites from displaying that annoying notification prompt in Chrome

Chrome notifications are great in theory, but now that virtually every site supports them, that constant, nagging banner under the URL bar can get annoying fairly quickly. Of course, you can always block each site individually, but that doesn't really solve the issue, since you'll still get the pop-up every time you visit a new site that supports Chrome's notifications.

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Tip: Disabling "Ok Google" detection on Android Wear could fix your smartwatch's stuttering and lag

I love my Huawei Watch because it can vibrate and notify me silently of new messages and calls without disturbing everyone around me like my phone does, but recently I've stopped using it for anything else because of the lag. One out of every 3 or 4 taps or swipes seems to stutter and take forever. And I often find it faster and easier to take out my phone and do things than wait for Android Wear's whims to execute a command.

But it looks like the fix is a simple toggle. As discovered by redditor Yozakgg, disabling "Ok Google" detection under Settings -> Personalization on your watch will remove a lot of stutters and lag.

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Tip: Turn on your Christmas tree with Google Home and a smart plug

Two years ago, when I started getting into smart home stuff, I had a small epiphany when I heard a podcaster say they set up their Christmas tree to turn on and off with their iPhone. Until then, I had considered smart plugs completely useless for me, since we use recessed ceiling lights a lot here in Lebanon and rarely have floor or desk lamps. But a Christmas tree and one you can turn on and off without kneeling, ruffling half the tree, and dropping several decorations in order to unplug and replug the lights?! That was a light bulb moment, if ever there was any.

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Tip: Get the ding sound after your "OK Google" command by enabling one accessibility service

Oh Google, all the mysterious ways in which you work will continue to elude us, but now we shall shed the light on one very important puzzle that's been making us scratch our heads for months, nay years. One day you say "OK Google" to your phone and it responds with a ding letting you know it's listening. A few weeks later, you try again, and there's no ding so you have to look at your display and spot that tiny animation on the bottom to figure out if it's listening to you or not. What's the difference? It's not your phone's volume level - you sometimes hear the ding even with Do Not Disturb on and then other times you don't hear it with the volume up to maximum.

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Tip: You can remove series from 'Continue Watching' on Netflix, but it's harder than it should be

British English alternative title: You can remove series from 'Continue Watching' on Netflix, but it's a bit of a faff

If you've ever wanted to remove that show you accidentally clicked on from your 'Continue Watching' list on Netflix, then this is for you. Or maybe you watched something a little raunchy that you don't want your flatmates to know about. Either way, we didn't think it was possible before. Now we know it is.

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[Update: No longer works for YT] Tutorial: How to force Picture-in-Picture mode on Oreo for YouTube, Google Maps, Duo, and others

One of Android Oreo's best features is Picture-in-Picture mode for phones and tablets. When you press the home button while playing media (on an app that supports PiP), the video collapses to a floating window that you can move around the screen. YouTube is one of the few apps that support this feature already, but it's only enabled if you pay for YouTube Red. Thankfully, there is a way to force PiP mode for any app that supports it, including YouTube and Google Maps.

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Reminder tip: Disable Wi-Fi during sleep to dramatically increase idle battery life on tablets and devices you don't often use

Many of us have a tablet or an extra phone (or more) that we keep lying around the house or office for media use, for reading or browsing, for testing, or maybe even as remote controls for smart home appliances. Thing is, 8 times out of 10, when you pick up this tablet or phone to use it, you discover the battery is completely drained because you forgot to put it on the charger and you haven't used it in a while so you didn't notice the low battery level.

The issue is multi-fold and hard to diagnose: sometimes there's a sleep bug in the processor, sometimes your Wi-Fi network is jammed and exacerbates the battery drain, and sometimes you have so many things syncing in the background that the device is constantly working and never really idle.

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[Small Tip] If the keyboard is your preferred Assistant input method, you can switch to voice by triggering Assistant again

Many of us were happy to see the recent addition of a keyboard input method in Assistant and the setting to choose it as a preferred method. After all, many of us don't like to shout at our phones all the time because we either need some privacy, we're often in public, or we may simply not feel comfortable talking to an inanimate object.

But what if the keyboard is your preferred input method and there's that one time where you would rather use voice instead? Maybe your hands are wet or dirty, maybe you're carrying something with your other hand and you can't easily type your request with just one, or I don't know...

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A buyer's guide to microSD cards: classes, speeds, recommendations, and more (Spring 2017)

This is a buying guide, but I would be remiss to just point you at a list of microSD cards with no information to make your own informed decision. If that’s what you are after, feel free to scroll straight to the bottom and enjoy. But, if you’re interested in exactly why I recommend those cards and want to understand what to consider when making the decision yourself, then I encourage you to read on. Consider this your daily dose of wiki-hole science as applied to the subject of microSD cards.

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