Mount Etna Erupts! Italian Volcano Spews Ash And Lava

Mount Etna, the famous Sicilian volcano, turned on the fireworks Wednesday (Jan. 12) as it shot lava hundreds of feet into the air.

Volcanic tremors at Mount Etna, on the Italian island, were detected around 21:00 GMT (4 p.m. EST) on Jan. 11. The tremors peaked the next morning and lava began erupting at the Southeast Crater, about 4,500 feet (1,375 meters) high. The crater pit overflowed with lava and ash plumes spewed into the air, which forced a local airport to halt service. The ash plumes had stopped by about 3:30 p.m. local time today (Jan. 13), according to the Italian Institute of Vocanology (INGV), citing surveillance cameras observing Etna.

But more eruptions could be on the way, scientists said.

"This eruption is very similar to more than 200 episodes of lava fountaining at the summit craters of Mount Etna — including 66 from the Southeast Crater in the year 2000," said Boris Behncke, a volcanologist and expert on Mount Etna. "The same vent that erupted last night already produced nearly identical — though longer-lasting — episodes in September and November 2007 and most recently on May 10, 2008."

Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and one of the world's most well-known. While 2010 was an exceptionally calm year for Etna, it is nearly constantly active and there is rarely a full year that passes without some eruptive activity on Etna, Behncke told OurAmazingPlanet.

"We expected Etna to return to activity in this period," Behncke said. "There had been lots of premonitory signals."

Two episodes of much weaker activity at the same vent that erupted last night — one on Dec. 23 2010, and the next on Jan. 2 and 3 of 2011 — suggested that a larger eruption was on the way.

"We expected further episodes at similar intervals, and also thought they would get stronger with time," Behncke said. "Things did accelerate maybe a tiny little bit faster than we had imagined, but the evolution was very logical, and again, very similar to many events in the past."

Etna's lava fountaining may go on for weeks or even months, similar to past episodes such as the series of 66 lava fountains during 2000, which lasted seven months, Behncke said.

At a height of 10,900 feet (3,328 meters), Etna looms over the city of Catania. As active as the volcano is, it's not a pressing danger to locals, and no damage or injuries were reported or expected from yesterday's eruption. Etna's most violent eruption was in 1669, when 15,000 people were killed.

The eruption is what's called a strombolian explosion, named after the nearby volcano of the same name that has been erupting for hundreds of years. Bursting gas bubbles within the magma drive these explosions, which eject lava tens to hundreds of meters into the air from a single crater. These episodes happen every few minutes, rhythmically or irregularly. The lava fragments — volcanic bombs — are rounded as they fly through the air.

The ancient Greeks believed Mount Etna to be the home of Vulcan, the god of fire. To them, Mount Etna erupting merely meant Vulcan was forging weapons for Mars, the god of war.

Reach OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel at bisrael@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @btisrael.

Missed Evo 2014? 6 Matches You Need To See

The last couple of weeks have been huge in the world of eSports. We had the International 4, the giant Dota 2 tournament with a prize pool of over $10 million, and we had EVO, the annual event where the best fighting game players gather to compete in games like Street Fighter 4, Marvel vs. Capcom, and Smash Brothers.

As is the case every year at EVO, some incredible matches took place. When you put the best fighting game players around the world together, you’re bound to get some special fights, and those are the battles we are going to look at today. If you missed the event, here’s some of the most intense matches that you absolutely need to see.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 – Filipino Champ vs. Justin Wong

Context

Justin Wong is a name synonymous with high-level fighting game play. He’s originally known for his exploits in the second Marvel vs. Capcom, and he then shifted focus to the world of Street Fighter 4, but he’s back in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (MVC 3) now. He’s done it all, and an MVC 3 championship at EVO 2014 would be the icing on the cake of his spectacular career. Filipino Champ is another force in the world of competitive MVC 3, and when the two meet, it’s always something special. In fact, in a previous meeting Wong made one of the most epic comebacks ever, and this match had all the making for another battle of epic proportions.

The Match

This one comes down to the very last moment, with one player looking like he’s about to go down, but a split-second decision at the very end of the game turns things around. Even if you don’t understand the finer nuances of the game, the way it ends is truly shocking, and it rivals any of the best moments you will find in traditional stick and ball sports.

Ultra Street Fighter 4 – Louffy vs. Bonchan

Context

Street Fighter 4 is still the biggest game at EVO, and this is the grand final. That means it’s the two players who made it all the way through the gauntlet of incredibly skilled players. You really don’t see a bigger moment than that in competitive gaming.

The Match

In a game ran by players who have been on the scene for a while, this year’s final saw relative newcomers Bonchan and Luffy go at it. To make it more interesting, Luffy played the whole tournament with a rather odd controller choice. Just watch it, and prepare to be entertained.

Injustice Gods Among Us – Pig of the Hut vs. Sonic Fox

The Context

Injustice is far from the most popular fighting game on the scene, but it’s mechanics are interesting enough to make it feel different from others out there. In this match, there’s not a ton of special context or a grand story that sets the table, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less worth watching. It is the finals though, so the stakes are high for the players involved.

The Match

This is just an intense match filled with great action. Even if you’ve never played Injustice, or any fighting game for that matter, you can still appreciate the battle that is raging on the screen in front of you. Watch it, and you’ll be glad you did.

Super Smash Bros. Melee – PPMD vs Hungrybox

The Context

Jigglypuff! Everyone loves a good Jigglypuff match, and to see the beloved Pokemon square off with Falco, another very popular character, is always a treat. Hungrybox is generally regarded as one of the best Jigglypuff players in the world, while PPMD is lauded for his Falco play, so we’re looking at a quality match. It’s not a particular important match in terms of the overall tournament, but as you’ll see, the quality of the fight is so high, I just had to include it.

The Match

The fight itself is a downright fantastic display of skill and speed that actually prompts the commentators to scream “he’s a wizard” about one of the combatants. There’s an epic comeback, that you just have to see to believe.

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma – Dogura vs Garireo

The Context

This is the grand finals of the BlazBlue tournament, which is really all the context you need. We have two of the best players in the world going at it on the biggest fighting game stage in the world. It doesn’t get much bigger than that for fans of this game.

The Match

This is such an evenly matched battle that it’s impossible not to be entertained. I’ve never played a BlazBlue game, and I still thoroughly enjoyed watching Dogura and Garireo go at it. This is a match where an offensive style meets that of a defensive player. Who will win? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Killer Instinct – CDJR vs. Justin Wong

The Context

We mentioned Justin Wong and his awesomeness in the world of Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom, but now here he is taking his skill to the combo-focused Killer Instinct at the very same EVO where he competed in MVC 3. This wasn’t a huge match, as it wasn’t a grand final or anything, but seeing Justin Wong adapt his skills to a completely different type of fighting game is certainly impressive, and the match is worth watching for that alone.

The Match

Justin picks Saberwulf and CDJR picks Sadira, a matchup that favors Justin’s character. It’s a back and forth fight, and as is the case in most high level fighting games, it comes down to one player making a mistake and suffering a crushing defeat. Who makes the mistake? Watch the fight to find out.

Your Turn

So now, we turn to you, our loyal readers. What matches from EVO 2014 had you the most excited? Hit the comments below and tell us about your favorite fights!

Drug Helps Obese People Drop Weight And Keep It Off

The diabetes drug liraglutide can help obese people who don't have diabetes lose weight and keep it off, new findings confirm.

Researchers found that 63 percent of study participants given liraglutide for 56 weeks lost at least 5 percent of their body weight — the amount experts agree is needed to make a difference in obesity-related health problems — whereas just 27 percent of the placebo group lost that much.

"It is a very effective drug. It seems to be as good as any of the others on the market, so it adds another possibility for doctors to treat patients who are having trouble either losing weight or maintaining weight loss once they get the weight off," said Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer,  a professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and first author of the new study published today (July 1) in the New England Journal of Medicine. The company Novo Nordisk, the maker of liraglutide, funded the research.

Liraglutide has been available in the United States for treating people with diabetes since 2010. The drug mimics a naturally occurring hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1, which is released in the human intestine and reduces hunger, increases satiety and slows the rate at which the stomach empties its contents into the small intestine. The Food and Drug Administration approved liraglutide (at a higher dose than is used for diabetes) for treating obesity in December 2014.

In the new study, Pi-Sunyer and his colleagues randomly assigned 3,731 men and women with a body mass index of at least 30, or a BMI of at least 27 if they also had high cholesterol or high blood pressure, to receive a 3.0-milligram dose of liraglutide daily, or a placebo shot. Study participants also received counseling on ways to change their lifestyle to promote weight loss. About 2,500 patients in the study were given liraglutide, and about 1,200 were given the placebo injections.

After 56 weeks, the participants on liraglutide lost an average of 18.5 pounds, compared with 6.4 pounds for the people on the placebo. Among the patients on liraglutide, 33 percent lost at least 10 percent of their body weight, whereas just 11 percent of the placebo group lost that much. [7 Biggest Diet Myths]

The most common side effects of the drug were nausea and diarrhea. Patients on the medication were also at increased risk of gallbladder-related problems, which, the authors noted, could have been due to their above-average weight loss.

Starting patients at a lower dose and then increasing it gradually helps reduce gastrointestinal side effects, Pi-Sunyer said. For most patients, the nausea went away after they had been on the drug for four to six weeks, he added.

Drawbacks to the medication include its high cost — about $1,000 for a month of treatment — and the fact that it must be given by injection. Currently, most insurers don't cover liraglutide for treating obesity. Also, Pi-Sunyer said, patients will probably have to be on the drug indefinitely to maintain weight loss.

Nevertheless, "every tool we discover for obesity is good news," said Dr. Elias Siraj, a professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the new study but co-authored an editorial accompanying it in the journal. "The reason is, we are in the midst of a huge global obesity epidemic, and there's no question it has not been easy to manage obesity."

Many of the people in the study who lost weight on liraglutide remained obese, Siraj said, although this doesn't mean they didn't benefit from losing weight. "Previous studies have shown if you lose more than 5 percent of your body weight, it may not make a difference in how you look from outside, but it does make a difference in terms of metabolic parameters and cardiovascular risk factors," he said.

The patients who will likely benefit the most from liraglutide are those with diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and other obesity-related problems, he added. "You can't make a blanket recommendation that everyone should be on it," he said. "Cost is going to be an issue initially, but hopefully down the road the cost will get better."

The increased risk of gallstones and other problems associated with liraglutide should be investigated further, Siraj said. "There is always room for caution until we have long-term data."

"While there's room for options, we also have to note that this is not a cure," he told Live Science. "Fundamentally, obesity is a disease of lifestyle — diet and exercise — and therefore lifestyle modification has to be the core, no matter what you do. Medications alone are not going to do it."

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

How To Connect A Microsoft Account To Windows 10

Of the many new tricks that are available in the Anniversary Update, one of the more noteworthy improvements is the ability to tie your Windows license to a Microsoft account instead of tying it to your hardware.

That way if you ever decide to upgrade your PC motherboard, for example, you won’t have to deal with Microsoft customer support to reactivate your license. This hassle could also happen if you upgrade other PC components.

Of course this requires that you create and use a Microsoft account when logging into Windows 10. Here’s how to set that up.

windows-10-anniversary-microsoft-account

Launch the Settings app and navigate to Account > Your info. In the right panel, you should see your account information including whether or not you’re using a local account or a Microsoft account (indicated by an email address, in which case you’re already done).

Click on Sign in with a Microsoft account instead. This will prompt you to either sign in with an existing Microsoft account or create a new one. Valid Microsoft accounts are any that exist on the Outlook.com, Live.com, Hotmail.com, or MSN.com domains.

Once switched, your local files and data will be migrated over.

Note that this does NOT mean your Windows 10 license is now connected to your Microsoft account. That requires using the new Activation Troubleshooter tool that was made available in the Anniversary Update.

Do you use a Microsoft account with Windows 10 or do you use a local account instead? Tell us why in the comments below!

Windows Phone Marketplace: Find & Download Apps For Your Windows Phone

It was only a matter of time before Microsoft launched its phone app website like the iTunes store and Android Marketplace. Now Windows Phone owners can browse and get apps for their devices from the Windows Phone Marketplace.

download apps for windows phone

The Windows Phone Marketplace is exactly what its name suggests – an application browsing space for Windows Phone devices. You can start browsing applications based on free ones, the top apps, or the latest additions to the Marketplace. You can also search apps and games by name in case you had a particular one in mind. The Featured Apps section brings the best of the latest applications to you.

windowsphone

To view any app’s details, simply click on it and you will be able to read its description, see its user rating, view user comments, and see other relevant applications.

Windows Phone Marketplace: Find & Download Apps For Your Windows Phone Adobe

When you decide to get an app, simply log in using your active Zune account.

Features:

  • A user-friendly website.
  • Offers applications for Windows phone.
  • Categorizes apps as free, latest, top, and featured.
  • Provides application details, rating, and user comments.

Check out Windows Phone Marketplace @ www.windowsphone.com/en-US/marketplace 

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Review And Giveaway

With the iPhone excitement slowly cooling down, it’s time to take a look at the other side of the fence. Release cycles being as they are, the Samsung Galaxy S4 seems old to us already, despite being released a mere 6 months ago. But did you know about the S4’s little brother?

Released back in July, the Galaxy S4 Mini is Samsung’s newest major release, and claims to pack most of the goodies you know from the regular S4 into a smaller, lighter, and more affordable package. For half the price of the Galaxy S4, you get a shrunken version of the phone, which nonetheless looks almost identical. Is this the bargain everyone’s been missing, or do they just look alike?

I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini as my primary phone for the past week, and I have some answers. What’s more, one of you will be lucky enough to win this $400 Galaxy S4 Mini for free!

Galaxy S4 Mini vs. Galaxy S4 vs. Galaxy S3 Mini

There are tons of Android devices out there, but if you’ve decided to go with Samsung, you’re probably curious how the Galaxy S4 Mini shapes up next to its siblings, the Galaxy S4 and the older Galaxy S3 Mini. Without getting too technical, we’ll go over several major features, and look at some prominent differences between these three devices.

Display: The Galaxy S4 Mini features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 540×960 resolution and a pixel density of around 256 ppi. This is considerably better than the Galaxy S3 Mini with its 4-inch 480×800 pixel display, but is obviously inferior to the Galaxy S4’s 5-inch 1080×1920 display. On paper, the Galaxy S4 Mini’s resolution is not very impressive, and falls far behind that of the iPhone 5, which has a similar sized screen.

Camera: The S4 Mini’s camera is 8 megapixels, with a 1.9 MP front-facing camera to boot. It comes with a LED flash, produces images up to 3264×2448 pixels in size, and can shoot 1080p HD videos. The Galaxy S4’s camera is only somewhat better at 13 MP with a 2 MP front-facing camera, but includes several software features such as smile recognition and dual-shoot that the S4 Mini doesn’t. The S3 Mini features a pretty weak 5 MP camera, and an even weaker 0.3 MP front-facing camera. It can only shoot 720p videos.

s4-mini-s4

Memory and CPU: The Galaxy S4 Mini comes in a 8 GB version only, but includes a microSD slot which supports up to 64 GB. It comes with 1.5 GB of RAM, and runs a dual-core 1.7 GHz CPU. In this too, it sits between the Galaxy S4’s 16-64 GB storage, 2 GB of RAM and quad-core CPU, and the S3 Mini’s 1 GB of RAM and 1 GHz dual-core CPU. Unlike the S4 Mini, though, you can buy the S3 Mini with 16 GB of storage, but you can only use a 32 GB or less microSD card in it.

Price: When deciding on a smartphone, price is one of the most important aspects most people consider. It’s obvious that the S3 Mini is a far less powerful device that the S4 Mini, but at $230 it’s a very affordable option with adequate features. The Galaxy S4 is not very affordable, but for $600 you get a very competent device with almost anything you can ask for. The S4 Mini comes in two versions: a 4G LTE-enabled model (which we’re reviewing today), and a regular, non-4G model. The price for these ranges from $370-$400.

These are the technical details. They make a difference, but at the end of the day, numbers only tell half a story, and you’re probably curious how the device fairs in everyday use. So let’s dive in and see what the Galaxy S4 Mini is all about.

What’s In The Box

s4-mini-1

The Galaxy S4 Mini comes in the regular fake wood Samsung box, and with every basic accessory you could possible need for it. These include a wall charger, a USB cable, earphones with interchangeable earbuds, and an instruction booklet.

s4-mini-2

Unlike other smartphones in the market which are not made by Samsung, the Galaxy S4 Mini comes with another exciting accessory: a battery! The back of the S4 Mini comes off easily, so you can remove and change batteries in seconds. This is also where you’ll find both SIM and microSD card slots.

s4-mini-3

The S4 Mini runs Android 4.2.2 out of the box, with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on top. This model comes with NFC, but the I9190 model of the same device (non-LTE) does not.

Note: the device is rooted, and came so out of the box.

Getting To Know The Galaxy S4 Mini

If the Galaxy S4 Mini looks uncannily like the Galaxy S4 in these pictures, it’s because it truly is very similar. In fact, you can’t help but wonder if the only difference is in size, despite knowing better.

s4s

Like all Samsung phones, the Galaxy S4 Mini sports a plastic back that doesn’t give you that “premium” feel you get from the Nexus 4, HTC One, or the iPhone. It doesn’t feel bad to hold, but it is incredibly slippery. Together with the smaller size, the S4 Mini has a tendency to slip out of your hand at the worst moments.

s4-mini-3[3]

On the back, you can see the camera lens and the LED flash, as well as the device’s speaker. Yes, the speaker is on the back, but unlike the Nexus 4, you still get really good sound even when the phone is lying on its back.

Like all modern Samsung phones, the Galaxy S4 Mini includes a micro-USB port for charging. While it seems usual enough, I found it extremely difficult to plug the phone into any charger. It may be an issue with my unit, but I actually had to use force to get the connector to plug in. This happened every single time I wanted to charge the phone.

In front, you’ll find the front-facing camera along with some sensors, and the signature squished home button.

s4-mini-5

Two glowing capacitive buttons finish the job with “back” and “menu” options.

s4-mini-6[3]

What you won’t find here is a notification LED, so there’s no way to see if there are missed calls or messages waiting at glance. You’re going to have to turn on your screen for that. This is a sorely missing feature, and it’s hard to understand why Samsung decided not to include it here.

As you can see, the Galaxy S4 Mini comes with a tiny screen bezel. This leaves lots of room for a bigger screen on a small device. This combination gives us a small device that’s very easy to use with one hand, but that nonetheless has a nice sized screen.

There’s a downside to this, however. The small bezel means there’s not a whole lot of room to hold the device while reading, browsing or texting. Many times, I found myself fumbling with my fingers to find a good grip, accidentally pressing the capacitive buttons on the way.

Display and Sound

The S4 Mini may be small, it may be less powerful than other premium devices, but when it comes to display and sound this little phone packs a surprising punch.

s4-mini-7

From the moment I started using it, I was highly impressed with the display. I hadn’t expected it, but using the Galaxy S4 Mini made my Nexus 4’s display feel faded and colorless. This may be due to the difference between LCD and Super AMOLED screens, but the colors on the S4 Mini just seem to pop. The display is sharp and clear, and even simple apps such as Instagram look fantastic.

Sound-wise, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Galaxy S4 Mini is quite the audio animal. While it’s not great sound for audiophiles, it’s definitely loud, and you won’t have any trouble watching videos or holding audio chats and hearing every word. It’s loud enough to have it play music and enjoy it throughout the room.

The phone managed to run every app I threw at it, including complex and resource-heavy 3D games such as Real Racing. Here’s what it looks and sounds like:

Camera

Don’t get discouraged by the 8 MP specification. The S4 Mini’s camera is actually excellent, and unless you’re habitually shooting high-definition photos, you’re going to be very satisfied with what it can produce. The camera interface is the usual Samsung fare, with 10 shooting modes to choose from, including panorama, night, and HDR.

s4-mini-camera

It also comes with flash controls, automatic sharing, a timer, and voice commands. If you choose to enable these, you can use the words “smile”, “cheese”, “capture” or “shoot” to take a picture without touching your phone, or “record video” to start recording a video.

The camera produces great photos in everyday use, and manages to perform well even with low light condition (in Night mode). It even managed to take great shots of my cat while he was constantly moving.

s4-mini-camera-2

While the camera doesn’t come with Macro mode, you can still use it to good results, even up close and personal.

s4-mini-camera-3

Software

This may rub some people the wrong way, but to me, the worst feature of this phone is the TouchWiz UI. No, it’s not slow or unresponsive. Quite the opposite: it feels great to use, it’s very responsive, and finding your way around is easy. If you like Samsung’s TouchWiz, you’re going to love it. If, like me, you can’t stand it, you’re in for quite a ride.

touchwiz

The S4 Mini comes with a watered down list of Samsung apps (compared to the Galaxy S4), but you’ll still find a surprising number of apps you’ve never asked for, will probably never use, and can’t really get rid of using conventional methods. These include:

  • ChatON: Duplicates WhatsApp, Viber, and just plain text messages.
  • Group Play: For playing games, and sharing photos and documents with other devices.
  • S Memo: Duplicates Google Keep.
  • S Planner: Duplicates Google Calendar.
  • S Translator: Duplicates Google Translate.
  • S Voice: Duplicates Google Now.
  • Samsung Apps: Duplicates Google Play.
  • Samsung Hub: A content store for videos, games, music, and learning.
  • Samsung Link: For streaming content to a TV, tablet, or computer.
  • Story Album: Organizes your photos and creates album based on specific events. You can then order physical copies of those albums.
  • WatchON: For watching on-demand video. If this sounds confusingly similar to Samsung Link, that’s because it is.

On top of these, apps such as Dropbox, Flipboard and TripAdvisor came pre-installed, as well as multiple Google apps such as Google Search, Google+, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google Play Music, Google Talk, and more.

It also comes with some built-in voice commands that make themselves apparent in the right moment. For example, every time your phone rings, you’ll see a message telling you that you can answer the call hands-free by saying “answer”. The call will be answered on speaker when you do this.

Aside from the usual Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth toggles, you’ll find many other useful toggles right at your fingertips, accessible by swiping down with one or two fingers.

s4-mini-8

From here, you can quickly enable or disable modes such as Smart stay (screen shouldn’t turn off while you’re looking at it, doesn’t work well in low light), Blocking mode (only certain notifications get through), Driving mode (for hands free calling and texting), and more. You can customize which buttons appear on top of the notification panel, and change their order as you wish.

Living With The Galaxy S4 Mini

Going into this, I had no special expectations of the S4 Mini. Turns out this is not only a capable and affordable phone, it’s in some ways better than what I was used to. To start, the smaller size is somewhat a relief. Texting and browsing with one hand is a breeze, and you can barely feel it in your pocket. I’ve become so accustomed to huge phones, spending a week with a smaller one felt a little like going back to the “good old days”.

s4-mini-living

The battery life on this device is also very good. I managed to go more than 48 hours without charging, and even then the battery wasn’t completely drained. This wasn’t under heavy use, but I did use the phone for short navigations, browsing, Facebook, texts and some calls during this time.

Despite the phone’s weaker specs, I couldn’t get it to fail on anything I tried, and it’s AnTuTu benchmark score of over 20,000 is better than many of its bigger competitors. If it weren’t for TouchWiz, I would be having a hard time going back to my Nexus 4.

Should You Buy The Galaxy S4 Mini?

This a great phone for a great price. If you have no special cravings for huge screens, and can stand TouchWiz (or alternatively, are willing to flash a new ROM) the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is a great buy.

MakeUseOf recommends: Buy it.

How do I win the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, October 18. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

The Winner

Congratulations, Rachel Beltz! You would have received an email from jackson@makeuseof.com. Please respond before October 28 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

Who Needs Instagram? View Nearby Twitter Images With Vizible [ios]

nearby twitter searchVizible is a brand new iOS app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. What makes it special for me, is that its made by the same developers as Twizgrid, which to this day remains one of my favorite iOS apps of all times. If you’re curious, I’d recommend reading my previous post about Twizgrid, but in a nutshell, Twizgrid is a visual Twitter client which makes the recent quarrel between Twitter and Instagram seem insignificant. It lets you browse Twitter users, hashtags, locations, and keywords, and presents beautiful image grids of photos that have been uploaded to Twitter.

Vizible is the new, younger sibling to Twizgrid, and it actually doesn’t do much that Twizgrid can’t do. If, however, you’re not interested in all the features Twizgrid has to offer, and only care about finding Twitter pictures around your current location, Vizible can be loads of fun. With Vizible, you can instantly see every photo that’s been uploaded to Twitter around your current location, get a feel for new places, or see what people are doing around you.

Vizible, like Twizgrid, is completely free. If you like images, Twitter, and gorgeous apps, this one is for you.

Vizible As An Image Browser

Before you can start using Vizible at all, you’ll have to connect it to your Twitter account. Vizible connects to accounts already configured on your iOS device, and lets you choose which one you want to connect the app to (if you have more than one).

nearby twitter search

That’s pretty much all the set up you’re going to have to do. Once that’s done, Vizible will ask for permission to use your current location, and you’ll be on your way. Unlike Twizgrid, you can’t choose any location you’d like – Vizible is only about things happening around you, and will only show pictures that have been taken or uploaded nearby.

Naturally, the results depend on where you live, but on my first time with Vizible, all I managed to get was this disappointing screen:

nearby twitter users

This did not change no matter what I did, and I was just about to give up on the app, when I remembered something I encountered on Twizgrid. I recalled that the older sibling asked for Safe Search to be turned off in order to conduct certain location-based searches, and while Vizible made no such request, I went ahead and disabled it from the settings.

nearby twitter users

Upon hitting the refresh button, the magic finally happened, and Vizible showed me what was happening around me. I was still surprised to note, however, that the results I was getting through Vizible were very different from the ones I was getting using the “Around me” setting on Twizgrid. According to one of the co-founders, this is due to more image hosting services being included on Vizible, and increased control over radius.

Below you can see Vizible’s results on the left and Twizgrid’s results on the right. To start, Vizible kept presenting the same images over and over again, probably because many people retweeted them. There was no such issue on Twizgrid. In addition, the images presented by Twizgrid seemed much more relevant, although most of the images presented by both apps seemed to indeed be local ones. The app’s developers assure me that the duplicate photo issue is being taken care of, and you may not encounter it if you try the app right now.

nearby twitter users

If you want to control the results somewhat, you can change the radius Vizible is looking at. Tap the location button, and use the slider to set your preferred radius. The options are limited to 1, 2, 5, 10 or 25 miles. This is different from Twizgrid, which does not let you control the radius in the “Around me” search option, but is much more flexible when setting a location manually, lets you set a radius of up to 500 miles, and also supports kilometers.

nearby twitter

You can browse the results through the grid view, or tap an image to switch to single-image view. Each image comes with all its accompanying Twitter information, and includes reply, retweet, and favorite options, as well as a timestamp for the tweet. Additional options such as quoting, copying or copying tweet link are also available. You can tap on a user to view their Twitter profile and a list of recent tweets, and can even follow and unfollow users through the app.

nearby twitter

It’s nice to note that Vizible never exposes the exact location a picture was taken in. You know the image is from somewhere nearby, but you’re not invading anyone’s privacy, and it’s easier to protect your own.

Vizible As A (Limited) Twitter Client

Unlike Twizgrid, Vizible cannot replace your regular Twitter client – it’s only meant as a casual image browser. Nevertheless, it does include some handy Twitter features which you can use to post images or just plain tweets to Twitter.

As mentioned above, you can use the app to reply to, retweet or quote other tweets, but you can also compose new tweets from scratch by tapping the compose button. From here, you can tweet an image by taking it using your device or by choosing one from your photo album, or tweet a regular text tweet.

nearby twitter search

The compose option comes with some pretty useful features, but is missing some others. For example, when you start typing a username, Vizible will automatically load a list of users you follow which makes it easy to find the one you’re trying to mention. On the other hand, the app doesn’t come with a link shortener, so links are truncated according to the tweet’s length. You can also add your location to the tweet, which will make it pop up for other Vizible users.

Bottom Line

So how does Vizible fare compared to Twizgrid? For most users, I still recommend getting Twizgrid. It’s an awesome app, and comes packed with fun and useful features. Vizible is basically one Twizgrid feature made into an app, but if that’s your favorite feature, Vizible is definitely worth getting, and may even inspire you to start sharing images through Twitter. Need more help with that? Check out these 7 Twitter photo sharing tips to spread your photographic masterpieces.

Is Twitter a worthy place to share photos? Do you find use for a location-based image browser that’s based on Twitter? What do you think of Vizible? Share your opinions in the comments!

Facebook Reminds Us There’s Life Beyond Facebook

Facebook is introducing Moments to the top of everyone’s News Feeds. These Moments are designed to encourage people to share more stuff with their family and friends. However, they should also help us all remember that there’s a whole world of things happening outside of Facebook.

For many of us, Facebook bookends our days. We check Facebook in bed in the morning, and then check it again last thing at night. And, of course, we check it constantly throughout the day to find out what our friends and family are doing at any given moment.

However, there is a big waiting to be explored offline. And as much as social networking sites have broadened our horizons, they have also made some of us shun anything but our own inner circles.

This is why Facebook is struggling with its fake news problem, with many people choosing to believe the stories placed under their noses rather than actually dig a little deeper in order to find the truth.

Facebook’s new initiative should help us all keep some perspective, as Moments remind us that there’s bigger things going on in the world than what your Uncle Bert ate for lunch.

Facebook Wishes You a Happy Holidays

With Moments, Facebook will be placing messages at the top of everyone’s News Feeds. These will focus on a specific event or happening, including cultural moments both past and present. Facebook has been testing this for some time, with recent examples being Thanksgiving and the Supermoon.

The first message everyone should see is one wishing them Happy Holidays. And users will be able to choose one of 18 custom-designed cards to share with their Facebook friends.

Facebook is essentially trying to outdoodle Google Doodles here. With Doodles, Google uses the envious power and popularity of its homepage to tell us all about a momentous occasion. And Facebook is now doing pretty much the same thing, but adding some encouragement for us all to share.

What do you think of Facebook’s new Moments? Is this a welcome initiative helping people learn about the world around them? Or just another way of Facebook encouraging us all to share anything and everything with our friends? Please let us know in the comments below!

20 Awesome But Hidden Amazon Features You Can’t Afford To Ignore

Amazon is packed with cool features that can make your life easier. You’ve got your core set of Prime benefits, plus several newer Prime features that trickled in over the years. There’s a lot to love about Prime.

But what if you don’t have Prime? No problem!

Amazon still has dozens of other useful perks that you can take advantage of right now without paying an extra cent. You probably know about a few of these already, but I guarantee there are a handful you’ve never even heard of before.

Orders and Shipments

1. Shipment Updates via Text

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature shipment updates by text

Amazon offers free tracking on all orders, which is fantastic. But if you live in an apartment like me, you’re tired of logging in and refreshing the status every few hours to see if your packages have been delivered yet.

Or you live in a shady neighborhood and need to know when packages are delivered so you can notify your friend to pick it up for safe keeping while you’re at work.

Just go to the Shipment Update Settings page and add as many phone numbers as you want. Whenever Amazon detects a change in package status, updates are sent by text message (but only between 4 AM and 5 PM EST). Message and data rates may apply.

2. Order History Reports

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature order history reports

On the Order History Reports page, you can export a CSV file that includes all of your Amazon purchases between a start and end date. CSV files are viewable in all spreadsheet apps. Other report types include refunds, returns, or everything.

You can use these reports to see how much you spent on Amazon in a year, which could possibly open your eyes to a potential spending addiction.

3. Gifting Addresses

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature gifting address

Amazon offers two interesting features that work together:

  1. You can set a default shipping address for your account.
  2. You can connect with Friends and Family members.

When you check out, the “Select a shipping address” section of the process will have the option to select a recipient from among your Friends and Family. The recipient’s default shipping address also acts as their Gifting Address, which is where the package will go.

4. Amazon Lockers

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon locker checkout selection location

Amazon Lockers are bright yellow locker stations available all around the United States, though most concentrated in metropolitan areas. When checking out, you can have packages delivered to one of these lockers — almost like a temporary P.O. box.

This is an excellent option if you live in a neighborhood with high rates of theft. Packages must be picked up within three days of delivery. Learn more in our overview of Amazon Lockers.

Free Perks

5. Free Cloud Storage

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature free cloud storage

All Amazon accounts receive 5 GB of free cloud storage on Amazon Drive. This is a private file storage service similar to Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. If you have a Prime membership, you instead get unlimited photo space and 5 GB of space for files and videos.

If you need more space, paid plans start at $12 per year for 100 GB. After that, storage limits increase in 1 TB increments with pricing at approximately $60 per year per TB.

6. Coupon Discounts

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature coupon deals

Amazon has a coupons section where you can find discounts on all kinds of items: health, personal care, food and beverages, electronics, pet supplies, home goods, and more.

Most of the coupons provide tremendous value. For example, a quick peek shows a $2 Off coupon for a Head & Shoulders shampoo product priced at $7. Another coupon shows 30% Off for a 12-pack of Starbucks Refreshers priced at $18.

7. Deals on Used Products

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature warehouse deals

You probably already know about Amazon’s Deals, which include Deals of the Day, Lightning Deals, and Prime Early Access Deals.

But have you heard of Warehouse Deals? These are discounts on used and open-box products sold in one of four conditions: Like New, Very Good, Good, and Acceptable. These are a great way to save money for very little risk.

Payment Methods

8. Amazon Allowance

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature gift card allowance

Let’s say you have kids and you want to give them the freedom to shop on Amazon, but with an upper limit on how much they can spend. You can do this through Amazon Allowance.

First, set up an Amazon account for the recipient. Then, use Amazon Allowance to deposit funds into their Gift Card Balance. They can shop freely and never spend more than what’s on their Gift Card. Deposits can be one-time or recurring.

9. Amazon Coins

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature amazon coins

If you have any of Amazon’s many devices (e.g. Fire Tablet, Fire TV, Kindle Fire, etc.) and shop on the Amazon Appstore for apps, games, and in-app purchases, then you can stretch your money further with Amazon Coins. You buy Coins with cash and 100 Coins are worth $1 in the store — but when bought in bulk, Coins can provide a discount up to 25 percent.

10. Amazon Pay

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature amazon pay

Do you have credit cards and bank accounts tied to your Amazon account? Amazon Pay lets you use those payment methods when shopping on non-Amazon e-commerce sites, as long as those sites accept Amazon Pay.

The benefit is that you don’t have to type in your credit card numbers and bank account numbers on those sites, which limits the risk of identity theft. Amazon keeps your details secure.

Entertainment

11. Amazon TV Rentals

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature rent tv movies

If you thought video streaming was only available to Prime Video subscribers, here’s a surprise: it’s not! You can rent and stream movies, individual TV episodes, or entire TV seasons. You have 30 days from time of rental to start watching. Once started, you have 48 hours (for movies) or 14 days (for episodes and seasons) to finish watching.

You can also set a PIN on your Amazon account to restrict unauthorized purchases and set parental control viewing restrictions.

12. Book Previews

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature book previews

Thinking of buying a book but not sure if you’ll like it? If it has a Kindle version available, Amazon will grant you a sneak peek using its online book reader. The length of the preview varies, but I’ve often been able to read at least the entire first chapter this way. To launch the online book reader, just click on the book’s cover art.

13. Kindle Ebook Returns

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore kindle coffee mug relax

If you buy a Kindle ebook, get through the first few chapters, and realize it’s not what you expected, then you can always return it for a full refund — but only within seven days of the initial purchase. If you wait too long, you’re stuck with it.

Miscellaneous

14. Wish Lists and Idea Lists

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature wishlist idealist

When you come across something you want on Amazon, fighting the urge to buy it on the spot can be tough. One trick for spending less on Amazon is to utilize its Wish Lists feature: save it on a list for at least one month, and if you still want it, then buy it.

On the other hand, the Idea Lists feature lets you create lists that are publicly visible. This comes in handy when others want to buy you a gift, such as for your birthday or for a round of Secret Santa. Unwanted gifts will be a thing of the past!

15. Baby and Wedding Registry

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature baby wedding registry

If you’re pregnant and/or engaged, you can use Amazon as a Baby Registry and a Wedding Registry. Most people already shop on Amazon so this makes it easy for everyone involved. If Amazon doesn’t carry an item you want, you can add items from other e-commerce sites.

The Baby Registry offers a 90-day return policy while the Wedding Registry offers a 10 percent discount for all items shipped by Amazon (20 percent discount if you’re a Prime member). Get started with our guide to starting a registry on Amazon.

16. Textbook Rentals

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature textbook rentals

Are you a college student? Textbook costs can eat away at your budget, causing you to spend far more money than expected. Not only are they expensive, but they have terrible resale value. Fortunately, Amazon has a Textbook Rental feature just for you.

To rent a textbook, add it to your cart but select Rent instead of Buy New. You’ll see a due date, which is usually at the end of the current semester. Shipping for textbook returns is free. If you don’t return it on time, you’ll be charged a 15-day extension fee, then the book’s purchase price.

17. Follow Brands and Interests

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature follow recommendations

A feature called Amazon Follow lets you “follow” various authors, brands, interests, and even other customers on Amazon. Doing so alerts you when new products are released, or in the case of customers, when they post new product reviews. For follow recommendations, check out this page. To manage follows, go to your Who I Follow account page.

18. Run Giveaways and Sweepstakes

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature giveaways

Want to run a giveaway or sweepstakes to promote your event, company, or organization? Amazon can do all of the hard work for you. Just pick a prize (here are all eligible items) and set up the giveaway details. Amazon will handle the entry requirements, winner selection, and prize fulfillment so you have nothing to worry about.

19. Amazon Help Co-Pilot

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature copilot support

The immensely helpful Co-Pilot feature allows an Amazon support agent to take control of your web browser to help you out in a more direct way (e.g. show how to use a site feature).

Before control is given, the support agent will share an activation code that you must type in to confirm permissions. The code only lasts for five minutes, at which point you’ll have to re-enter another activation code to extend permissions.

20. Review Pre-Release Products

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore tablet apps mobile entertainment

Have you heard of Amazon Vine? It’s a special program where Amazon customers can test and share their opinions on newly released (or yet to be released) products for free. This is an invite-only program that targets customers who regularly write in-depth product reviews. Perhaps it will give you the necessary motivation to take product reviews more seriously.

As you can see, there are many aspects of Amazon that you probably aren’t taking advantage of — and none of them require a Prime membership! Surprising, right?

How many of these Amazon features are new to you? Are there any other hidden Amazon features that we missed? Share with us down in the comments below!

Stay Sharp: How To Have A Productive Gap Year – Youqueen

Gap years are often viewed as taking a year off from the real world to spend all your time partying and sunbathing. Here’s how to have a more worthwhile experience.

So you’ve chosen to take a gap year. You’ve worked out where you want to go, and when you will start your adventure. You’re over the moon with excitement… until the worry creeps in. Is taking a year off really a wise thing to do?

Will you lose all your professional skills by taking so much time away from work and study? Will it be hard to find a job when you return?

And perhaps the question that sounds the most ridiculous, will you get bored of doing nothing but exploring and enjoying yourself?

A gap year doesn’t have to be all about rest, relaxation, and checking out the museums and bars of every place you find yourself in. Wherever you go in the world, there are lots of options to continue learning, working, and volunteering as you travel.

Not only will it be better for your future employment prospects, but it should be great fun and very interesting too.

Volunteer

Volunteering is the ultimate gap year cliché. When you combine a trip abroad with some community work, it becomes known as ‘voluntourism’.

However, you don’t need to pay lots of money to a large travel company in order to lend a hand while you’re travelling. By talking to the people you meet, both other travellers and the locals, you can hopefully find out where there are organisations and projects that might need your help.

If there is a language school nearby, see if they need any classroom assistants.

If you are a native English speaker you could offer your services as a conversation partner, allowing people the opportunity to chat to you in English to improve their skills and become more comfortable speaking in English.

(If you are interested in learning the native language of the country you’re in, you could set up a language exchange club.)

If you’re interested in working with children and young people, look out for a summer camp where you might be able to help out. There are likely to be many of these, especially in the summer months, and you might be able to assist with planning and implementing activities.

Work

waitress is carrying two plates with meat dish

Even with unemployment rates rising in many countries, you can often find temporary jobs to keep you occupied while travelling. These will often be jobs in the service industry, or involving manual labour.

Though you are unlikely to find a secure job with good career prospects, you might find something to occupy your time, to earn you some money, and to cite as work experience when you get back to the world of work.

Getting a job in a bar, café or restaurant is a great way to socialise, meet new people, and practice your new language skills.

Many skills gained through work in the service industry are highly transferable to other industries, and could be used in your first job when you return from your gap year. The fact that you managed to find work in an unfamiliar country might be impressive in itself to your prospective employer.

You might even be able to find work as a nanny in some countries, which will be a worthwhile experience if you plan to go into a career in childcare.

It might be low-paid, but working as a nanny will usually include free accommodation, which means you will not have to worry about booking into a hostel or renting an apartment for a few months. It also usually leaves your nights free, so that you can still head out on an evening to socialise and meet new people.

Study

Although you might be taking a gap year to celebrate the end of your education, or to take a break before starting a new course, there is no reason that you shouldn’t keep learning or studying while you are on your trip.

If you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, it is a great idea to attend a few language classes. Not only will this make it easier for you to navigate and socialise, it will be another string to add to your bow, especially as language skills are in high demand in many industries.

If you are comfortable with your language skills as they are, there are still many courses you could take. You could try learning a new skill or craft, or you could find out if the local college or university has any classes or lectures available to you.

What if you find yourself in a part of the world where classes and courses are few and far between? If you have a laptop and an internet connection, there are many opportunities to take courses for free online. Look for something suited to your interests on Coursera.org, Alison.com, or Openculture.com.

If you are starting a new degree course when you return from your gap year, you could use this opportunity to gain a good foundation of knowledge in order to make the transition smoother. If you’re going to start looking for jobs when you return, take a course that will be relevant to the industry you are hoping to go into.

Alternatively, if you don’t know what job you want, browse through some courses and learning materials to see what interests you.

Project

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Whatever your passion is, be it writing, photography, design, or something else entirely, try channelling it into a project while you travel. Starting a blog while you are away is a great way to keep in touch with people back home – or to stop your parents from worrying about you – but it can also be a wonderful way to showcase your creativity.

If your dream is to be a travel writer, then write a few pieces about each place that you visit. A good combination of topics would be to write one article about a tourist attraction, one about a hidden gem, and one about current affairs or something in the local community.

As well as publishing these on your own blog, you could try pitching them to your favourite websites, magazines and newspapers.

If you are a novice photographer, use your blog to show off your pictures of the beautiful places you are visiting. Remember, everyone will be snapping a few hasty shots of their street food and of the temple they just visited, but you could do so much more than that.

Pick a theme and plan your pictures carefully. Try to tell a story through your pictures, rather than telling the story alongside your pictures.

If you’re a writer of a more creative sort, you can use this time to build up your writing portfolio. Let yourself be inspired by the beautiful nature and fascinating culture you come across, and craft some short stories or poems about each town or city.

Or, for the more ambitious, this could be the perfect time to start your novel. They say that everyone has a novel in them, and what better time to let yours come out than when you are carefree and travelling the world?

Freelance

More and more people are spending many years of their lives travelling the world, while working on a freelance basis, doing freelance writing, editing, or web design work.

If you are able to do any work that can be done primarily on a computer, and completed remotely, then you have the chance to be a digital nomad too.

Some people are able to earn a good living wage by working remotely, and then make this wage go further by living in countries where living costs are generally low.

There are many websites on which you can look for paid work in areas such as writing, programming, translation, web design, and sales. Try Elance.com, Guru.com, or Peopleperhour.com.

If you already have a few good freelance contracts, or have made a name for yourself in your chosen field before you set off on your trip, get the word out that you will still be taking on work while you are away.

Update your LinkedIn or professional website accordingly. Unless they know otherwise, your contacts may think that you are taking time off from your work as well, and will pass you over for another contractor.

Similar to starting your own project while you are travelling, you could start writing a travel blog. The difference between this and a personal project is that you could monetise your blog and live off the money you make.

Make sure you keep the content fresh and exciting, and that you dedicate enough time to doing fun things to write about, rather than just writing the same as everyone else.

Try to focus on having a mix of exciting and informative content, and to balance your personal anecdotes with the culture and history of the country.