Hidden features in iOS 14.5

By Tracey Dowdy

Apple’s release of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 brought users several new features, including unlocking your iPhone while wearing your mask as long as you have an Apple Watch. There are new Siri voice options, and you can now force apps to ask your permission to track you; and another feature Android users have had for years is the ability to fully customize your home screen, complete with custom app icons and placing widgets wherever you choose.

These are some of the updates that have garnered the most attention, but there are several other features you’re going to want to take advantage of – here are some of my favorites. 

Apple Maps reporting feature 

Like Waze’s functionality, Apple has added tools to report an accident, road hazard,s and speed checks to Apple Maps. Apple verifies the Report and then shows an icon to alert drivers of the hazard, but not speed traps -you’ll only get an alert for speed traps while using turn-by-turn navigation. 

To report, either say something along the lines of, “Hey, Siri, there’s a speed check here,” “report an accident,” or “there’s something in the road.” You can also tap the card at the bottom of the screen to view the options card while using turn-by-turn navigation, then select Report and pick the appropriate option.

Delete Mail and Safari

In a move we thought we’d never see, Apple is finally allowing users to drop native apps like Safari and Mail. Finally, die-hard Gmail fans like me can make it my default email and Google my default search engine. Open your iPhone or iPad’s Settings app, then scroll down to the bottom, where it lists all installed apps. Choose your preferred mail or browser app and tap on it. If it’s been updated for iOS 14 – not everything has yet, so keep checking – you’ll see either Default Browser App or Default Email App. Tap it, then make your selection. So far, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Outlook, and Hey email are updated to include this new “default” toggle. 

Easily search the emoji keyboard

Speaking of updates that have been a long time coming, iOS 14 has refined the search feature for emojis, making it much easier to find precisely the emoji you need. Once you launch the emoji keyboard, you’ll see a search bar at the top of the keyboard. 

Send Downloaded Apps Directly to App Library 

It takes time to curate your Home screen, get those App icons customized and widgets in place. 

Previously, when you downloaded a new app, it defaulted to your Home screen, but with iOS 14, you can send it directly to your app library. Simply open Settings > Home Screen and choose App Library Only in the top section. Your recently downloaded apps appear in the App Library’s Recently Added category, making them easy to find when you’re ready to move them to their new home. 

Hide – and this time they mean it – photos you want hidden

Apple included the ability to hide photos in iOS and iPadOS for quite some time. However, photos you didn’t want to see anymore – or didn’t want others to see if they were scrolling through your phone – were stored in a Hidden Album in the Photos app that was way too easy to find. With iOS 14, Apple finally gets it right. 

Go to Settings > Photos and make sure the Hidden Album switch is turned off. That may seem counterintuitive but in this case, enabling the setting means the Hidden Album will show in the Albums tab. Now, images and videos you hide in your camera roll will still be saved on your device and in the iCloud Photo library, but you can’t access them unless you go back and turn the Hidden Album feature on.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


Customize Your Facebook Feed

By Tracey Dowdy

Facebook announced changes that make it easier to manage what appears in your news feed and who can comment on your posts. Now you’ll have more options for who and what you see in your news feed and the audience who can interact with your posts. Remember, by default, everyone can comment on your public posts, even people who don’t follow you.

To change who can comment on your public posts:

  • Click the down button in the top right corner of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy, then click Settings.
  • Click Public Posts on the left.
  • Go to Who Can Follow Me and make sure Public is selected.
  • Click Edit next to Public Post Comments.
  • Select who is allowed to comment on your public posts:
    • Public: Includes everyone, even people not following you.
    • Friends: Includes your friends on Facebook. If anyone else is tagged in a post, the audience also expands to include the tagged person and their friends.
    • Friends of Friends: Includes all of your friends and any friends that they have.

You can also choose who can comment on individual public posts on your profile. This action applies to that post only; it doesn’t change your settings for who can comment on your other public posts or your public profile information. 

To change who can comment on an individual public post on your profile:

Go to the public post on your profile that you want to change who can comment on it.

  • Click the three dots in the top right of the post.
  • Click ‘Who can comment on your post?”
  • Select who is allowed to comment on your public post:
    • Public
    • Friends
    • Profiles and Pages you mention

If a profile or Page that wants to comment on your post isn’t in your selected comment audience:

  • They won’t see the comment box below the post.
  • They’ll know that you’ve limited who can comment on your post.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Archive Facebook Messenger Chats

By Tracey Dowdy

How many unread emails do you have? Text messages? Messenger chats? If you’re like me, that number is minimal – I cannot abide notifications. That little icon telling me I have unread messages gives me low-key anxiety. I turn off the alerts on my phone and at least once, but usually at least twice a day, I hit “Select All” and delete everything under the Social and Promotions tabs in Gmail. Anything in Primary gets read and responded to or noted as important to address later. I’m a little obsessive.

I was thrilled to learn that Facebook allows users to get rid of message bloat through an archiving feature that removes messages from your Chat inbox while saving them to access later. The feature has been around for a while, but I’d never taken advantage of it.

We all leaned more heavily on social media for connection during the pandemic, so you may notice that your Messenger Inbox has chats from people you don’t want to lose touch with but also don’t need to be at the top of your chat list when you open the app.

To archive those old messages but still be able to access them later:

1. Open the Messenger app.

2. In the main Chats inbox, find a message you want to archive. Swipe left on the message.

3. Tap the purple tab that says Archive. (If you tap the More tab, you’ll see options to mark as unread, mute, ignore, delete or block.)

If you want to go back and find your archived messages, here’s what to do:

1. Open the Messenger app.

2. Tap your profile picture in the top left corner.

3. Tap Archived Chats.

All your archived chats will be visible. Swipe right on each chat you want to bring into your main Messenger pane hit unarchive, or tap More to mark as unread, ignore, delete or block.

Messenger has added a few new features this week, including new Star Wars and Selena: The Series chat themes, stickers that celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and read receipts (just like in text messaging) to messages in the inbox view, so you can now see if your message was received.



Speed Up Your PC

By Tracey Dowdy

After months on the couch, working from home, most of us are feeling the weight of the past year. That may include your devices, including your PC. If it’s your work computer, you may have an IT department to lean on, even remotely, but if it’s your personal computer running Windows, you may benefit from these tools that will improve processing speeds and reduce lag. 

Task Manager operates as a window into your PC’s health. You can see exactly what programs are taxing the processor, the amount of memory a program or app is taking up, and how much network data a program has used. 

To open, right-click on the Taskbar and select Task Manager from the list of options. The default view will which apps are currently running. Select More Details in the bottom left corner to open a list of Apps and Background Processes. It constantly refreshes, so it’s best to let it run for a few minutes and just observe. Look for apps that shoot to the top of the list, then disappear a few seconds later, and for processes that stay at the top of the list with high memory or CPU use. To close an app or process that you suspect may be partly responsible for slow performance, click on the listing, then click End Task.

Several things could be causing your PC to be sluggish, and at the top of that list is antivirus scans that can slow down your system while it’s actively scanning your computer for malware and viruses. To avoid scans interfering with your work, schedule it to run when you’re not likely to be using your PC, such as overnight or while you’re out for lunch.

Another cause for lag is the number of apps and programs that launch at startup. To clean up the list, open your Task Manager and eliminate anything that you don’t need to have locked and loaded when you start your computer by clicking the app name, followed by Disable.

One common issue is the number of browser tabs open at one time. Remember, each window and tab takes up memory and processing power. Over time, that constant pull will slow down your PC. 

To see which extensions and tabs could be to blame, in Task Manager, click on the arrow next to your browser’s name. If you use Chrome, it has a built-in task manager of its own. Launch it by pressing Shift+Esc while using Chrome, or click on the menu button > More Tools > Task manager. If the problem persists, try switching browsers or limiting the number of tabs you have open. 

Additionally, be sure to close apps down completely when you’re done. If you’re not sure, check the notification tray (next to the volume and Wi-Fi indicators) to see what’s still running in the background. 

It’s also a good idea to shut down and power off your computer completely – don’t just restart it. Let it cool for a few minutes to clear out the memory and fully reset before powering on again. 

Finally, pause OneDrive syncing by clicking on the OneDrive icon in the notification tray, select More, and then Pause syncing.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Video Games To Help Kids with Special Needs

By Tracey Dowdy 

The rules about screen times became obsolete once virtual learning became the norm. Trying to balance how much is too much has long been debated, but there is no question that educators and parents can help students strengthen skills through play. It’s a proven strategy to help kids learn.

Video games offer particular advantages to students with special needs. These students can improve communication, small motor skills, spatial and organizational skills, and even improve their social skills through gaming. 

While many games are designed to improve specific skills geared to special needs children, many mainstream games offer similar benefits. Here are a few. 

Communication Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media’s parenting editor, says, “Games that use visual storytelling, social modeling, and language patterns can help kids with speaking, listening, and communicating.” Suggested games: Moving OutOvercookedAmong UsKeep Talking, and Nobody ExplodesThe Jackbox Party Pack 7.

Motor Skills Games that encourage your kids to get up and get moving, whether dancing, sports, stretching, drawing, or handwriting, will improve muscle memory and put a name to an action. Suggested games: Beat SaberJust Dance 2021Ring Fit Adventure

Organization Children who struggle with executive functioning skills – transitioning between activities, time management, completing a list of tasks, developing a new routine – struggle in areas neurotypical children find less complex. Playing games that emphasize visual scheduling or break down lists into more manageable tasks help build confidence and equip them with the tools to accomplish more than they thought they could do. Suggested games: MinecraftNintendo Labo Toy-Con Variety KitDreams.

Reading and Writing Children who struggle with written rather than verbal instructions will benefit from games that offer both and break down instructions into small steps and allow players to focus on their strengths. The confidence boost enables them to face more demanding challenges, expanding their vocabulary and reading and writing skillsets. Suggested games: Elegy for a Dead WorldLayton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy – Deluxe EditionScribblenauts Mega Pack.

Social Interaction Some special needs children need help learning to identify facial expressions, the appropriate time to wait for responses during conversations. These games offer safe, supported chatting that can go a long way in developing practical social skills. Suggested games: Assemble with CareUnravel;  Doki Doki Universe.  

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Best Father’s Day Gifts Under $50

By Tracey Dowdy

What do you get for the guy who, when asked, “What would you like for Father’s Day?” responds with, “I dunno, surprise me!” That’s a tough one. The good news is that you have until June 20 to find him the perfect gift, and this list can help. 

Amazing Clubs is a subscription service offering dozens of gift options, with many starting under $30 a month. Choose from beer, wine, coffee, hot sauce, cigars, honey…the list is varied and almost endless. If you’re not sure what he’d like most, choose a custom Variety Club or let him choose with a gift card. 

Is there anything more “dad” than a graphic t-shirt to go along with his cargo shorts, socks, and sandals? Of course not! Choose a custom shirt from one of Etsy’s sellers, or check out the options at Crazy DogDaily StealsThink GeekCafePress, or SnorgTees.  

When you think of subscription boxes, you may think of makeup, food, or clothing, but did you know there are book subscription boxes? My Subscription Addiction has a list of options for everything from bestsellers to guilty pleasures. Some even include children’s books, so dad can find selections for himself and books to share with his children and grandchildren. 

I bought my son-in-law a Rocketbook reusable notebook for Christmas, and it was a hit. It’s a smart, reusable spiral-bound notebook that wipes clean with a damp cloth. Rocketbook pairs with the Rocketbook app to preserve all dad’s notes, doodles, or random ideas in the cloud.  

After months of quarantining with many families spending more time together than ever before, maybe dad would appreciate the gift of a bit of peace and quiet. Noise-canceling headphones are a great gift any time, and the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 is a solid option. If your budget can stretch further, Tech Radar has a great list of options

Smartphones and laptops keep us connected, but sometimes a guy needs to disconnect. Amazon’s Fire 7 tablet has a 7″ display and runs on WiFi, making it easy for dad to scroll through Facebook and TikTok, read, watch movies, or listen to music but not be distracted by work emails. It’s available in four colors and comes with expandable storage, a feature iPads are sorely lacking. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Prime Day 2021

By Tracey Dowdy

Amazon’s Prime Day is coming up next month, though Amazon has yet to give us an exact date. They have, however, teased us with what’s going to be on sale and have given us an idea of what price drops we can look forward to. 

Prime Day typically includes discounts on more than one million items, including intermittent “Lightning Deals” for Prime members. Last year, thanks to the pandemic, many of the deals were focused on making the most of being quarantined. “This year, we’ve swung back in the other direction,” Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at DealNews.com. Consumers can expect significant discounts on items related to entertaining and traveling, including backyard games, TVs, headphones, exercise gear, and Amazon devices like the Kindle, Fire TV streamer, or Ring video doorbell.

Only Amazon Prime members can take advantage of Prime Day deals (month-to-month membership for about $13 or $119 annually). Your membership also includes access to free music, movies, and e-books, as well as discounts on groceries and sundries at Whole Foods.

Ramhold advises scrolling through upcoming deals and marking the items you are interested in as “watching,” so you’ll receive a notification when the price drops. Once the item goes live, add it to your cart immediately, as some Lightning Deals can sell out quickly. You have 15 minutes to decide whether to complete your purchase. Another option is to create a wish list, and Amazon will alert you if it becomes part of a Prime Day deal. 

If there is a specific product that you really want and you don’t see it in upcoming sales, you can create a wish list, and Amazon will alert you if it does become part of a Prime Day deal.

According to a recent spending survey by LendingTree, nearly half of all consumers reported they are so eager to shop that it’s at least somewhat likely they’ll go into debt this summer, their survey of more than 2,100 Americans found.

Jack Kleinhenz, the chief economist at the National Retail Federation, says, “This feel-better situation will likely translate into higher levels of household spending. Today’s year-over-year numbers are off the charts in some categories,” he added, “particularly clothing, furniture, and sporting goods.”

“The economy and consumer spending have proven to be much more resilient than many feared a year ago,” Kleinhenz said. That’s good news for retailers and for consumers. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Celebrate Juneteenth with Your Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

Juneteeth, also known as Freedom Day, is celebrated annually on June 19. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when federal orders finally reached Galveston, Texas, stating that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had officially outlawed slavery in Texas and the other states in rebellion against the Union almost two and a half years earlier. However, enforcement relied on the advance of the Union army. Texas was the most remote of the slave states with the smallest number of Union troops, making enforcement slow and inconsistent.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, however,  it was still legal and practiced in two Union border states – Delaware and Kentucky – until later that year when ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished chattel slavery nationwide in December.

Because this is such a significant day in history and particularly in the fight to end slavery in the United States, we should make every effort to educate both ourselves and our children and celebrate this momentous event. 

We’ve got a couple of weeks, so there’s plenty of time to get some background reading in. Floyd Cooper’s Juneteenth for Mazie,  Angela Johnson’s All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, and The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure by Steven Otfinoski are three great options that will appeal to kids of all ages. 

If your kids aren’t big readers but you still want them to understand the history and significance of Juneteenth, consider What is Juneteenth?; Juneteenth Celebration; The Meaning Behind Juneteenth; Juneteenth by PBS Kids; or Why Is Juneteenth Such An Important Holiday?

Teaching Juneteenth in the classroom presents educators with the opportunity to acknowledge a dark chapter in American history while also empowering their students to advocate for change. For teachers seeking resources to supplement their curricula, check out Teaching Juneteenth from Learning for Justice. Students in Grades 3-5 will benefit from Juneteenth Activities on TPT from Teachers Pay Teachers and this  Juneteenth Lesson on Identity from Learning for Justice. Juneteenth: Teaching Culture as Resistance challenges students with questions like What makes us who we are? How are our identities today shaped by society? What does it feel like to be belittled or criticized because of your identity?  

“Now I’ve been free, I know what a dreadful condition slavery is. I have seen hundreds of escaped slaves, but I never saw one who was willing to go back and be a slave.” Harriet Tubman

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.