Operating System Not Found? Here’s How to Fix It | MakeUseOf

Out of all the errors, glitches, and problems you might encounter while using Windows 10, few generate as much fear as the dreaded "Operating system not found" screen.

Visions of losing your entire media collection flash before your eyes, students weep at the thought of irretrievable essays and assignments, and professionals worry about what their boss will say when they learn months of project work has vanished. Stop. Take a deep breath. Your data is still there---and just as importantly, you can fix the problem.

Let's take a look at how to fix the Operating system not found error on Windows 10.

You need to check for two things in the BIOS. Firstly, you need to ensure your machine recognizes your hard drive. Secondly, you need to make sure the drive on which you installed Windows is listed as the preferred boot drive.

The methodology for entering the BIOS changes from manufacturer to manufacturer. Typically, you'll need to press Escape, Delete, or one of the Function keys. You should see an onscreen message advising you which is the correct key during the boot process.

The BIOS menu itself also varies between devices. Broadly speaking, you need to locate the Boot tab along the top of the screen. (You can only use your keyboard to navigate the BIOS menu.)

Within the Boot tab, highlight Hard Drive and press Enter. Make sure Hard Drive is listed above USB Storage, CD\DVD\BD-ROM, Removable Devices, and Network Boot. You can adjust the order using the + and keys.

If everything in your BIOS menu looked fine, jump to step three. If you didn't see the hard drive listed, go to step two.

If your machine is not recognizing your hard drive, there are lots of possible causes. For non-tech-savvy users, the only easy solution is to try resetting the entire BIOS menu to its default values.

At the bottom of the BIOS menu, you should see a key for Setup Defaults or Reset BIOS. On my machine it's F9, but it might be different on yours. Confirm your decision when prompted and restart your machine.

If the operating system is still not found, you can stop reading this article. Unless you know a lot about building computers, you'll need to take your machine to a computer repair shop.

Windows primarily relies on three records to boot your machine. They are the Master Boot Record (MBR), DOS Boot Record (DBR), and the Boot Configuration Database (BCD).

If any of the three records becomes damaged or corrupted, there's a high chance you'll encounter the "Operating system not found" message.

Thankfully, fixing these records is not as complicated as you might think. You just need a removable Windows installation drive. Use Microsoft's Media Creation Tool to create Windows 10 installation media.

When your tool is ready, you need to use it to boot your machine. Depending on your device, you might only need to press a single key during the boot process, or you might have to change the boot order in the BIOS menu.

Eventually, you will see the Windows Setup screen. Enter your preferred language, keyboard, and time format, and click Next. On the next screen, select Repair your computer.

Next, navigate to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Command Prompt. When Command Prompt loads, type the following three commands. Press Enter after each of them:

  • bootrec.exe /fixmbr
  • bootrec.exe /fixboot
  • bootrec.exe /rebuildbcd

Each command might take several minutes to complete. Once all the processes are finished, restart your PC and see if it boots successfully.

Almost every Windows machine is shipped with UEFI firmware and Secure Boot enabled. However, in some cases, it might not work. For example, if Windows is installed on a GUID Partition Table, it can only boot in UEFI mode. Conversely, if Windows 10 is running on an MBR disk, it cannot boot in UEFI mode.

As such, it's prudent to either enable or disable UEFI Secure Boot and see if it makes a difference. You make the adjustments in the BIOS menu. Usually, the option will be called Secure Boot and can be found in the Security tab.

It's possible that the partition which Windows is installed on has become disabled. You can fix it using Windows' native diskpart tool. To work through the following steps, you will once again need a Windows installation media USB.

Turn on your machine and boot from the tool. As in step three, you'll need to enter your language preferences, etc., click Next, select Repair your computer, and go to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Command Prompt.

In Command Prompt, type diskpart and press Enter, then type list disk and press Enter. You will see a list of all the disks attached to your machine. Make a note of the disk number you need. Typically, it's the largest one.

Next, type select disk [number], replacing [number] with the aforementioned number. Press Enter.

Now type list volume and press Enter. It will show you all the partitions on the disk you selected. Establish which partition Windows is installed on and make a note of the number, then type select volume [number], again replacing [number] with the number you just noted.

Finally, type active and press Enter. To see if the process was successful, restart your machine.

Easy Recovery Essentials is a third-party app that specializes in fixing boot issues. If none of the previous five steps have worked, it's worth trying.

In addition to fixing the "Operating system not found" message, it can also solve other common startup error messages. They include INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE, INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_VOLUME, UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME, BOOTMGR is missing, The Boot Configuration Data for your PC is missing or contains errors, An error occurred while attempting to read the boot configuration data, boot.ini not found, and more.

Just download the app, burn the ISO to a CD, and use the CD to boot your machine. The app's wizard guides you through the repair process.

Our tips should help you fix the operating system not found error on Windows 10 in all but the direst of circumstances. Unfortunately, however, it's just one of many error messages that you're likely to encounter while using Microsoft's operating system.

If you're coming across other issues, such as unexpected store exceptions, update error 0x80070057, or error code 0x80070422, read our articles to learn how to fix the problems and get back on track.


The 7 Best File Managers for Android TV | MakeUseOf

Everyone Android TV user needs to install an Android TV file manager for a couple of reasons.

First, Android TV doesn't ship with a native file explorer. Second, because lots of app developers still haven't made their apps compatible with Android TV, you'll need a file explorer to sideload APK files for apps that aren't available in the Play Store.

Here are some of the best file managers for Android TV.

As we walk through these choices, you'll notice some recurring themes. Most importantly, all the apps are easy to navigate using your Android TV remote. Sideloaded file explorers often require an external mouse or a gaming controller to operate, so we're going to avoid those.

The first choice we recommend is X-plore File Manager. It takes a dual-pane approach to file management. In the context of sideloading, this is great. The two panes make it easy to move an APK from a USB stick to your Android TV's storage drive.

On the downside, it's not particularly user-friendly. While it's not complicated, it takes a while to get accustomed to how the app works.

Importantly for an Android TV file manager, it can also connect to your cloud drives. Given lots of people use Android TV to watch personal media (such as DVDs you've ripped to you hard drive or home videos you've converted to digital format), having a way to quickly access and play your cloud-based videos means you can watch your content easily from anywhere in the world.

To add a cloud drive, go to Web Storage > Add Storage in the left-hand panel. It works with Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive, OneDrive, Flickr, and many more.

The final useful feature from an Android TV perspective is Wi-Fi file transfers. If you have a file on your laptop that you want to watch on your TV, it's easy to send over---no cables or USB sticks required!

Download: X-plore File Manager (Free, in-app purchases available)

Total Commander will be familiar to many users. It's one of the best file managers for the mobile version of Android. However, it also works wonderfully well with Android TV; it's packed with features that are especially useful for the big screen.

First, the app offers native support for Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox. We've already discussed the value of having access to such services.

Second, it offers a built-in media player. While long-term Android users might initially balk at the idea of using a media player that's part of a file manager, Total Commander's media player has an important feature. It can stream directly from LAN, WebDAV, and cloud plugins, thus killing two birds with one stone.

Finally, Total Commander offers a range of plugins. They offer everything from WebDAV functionality to FTP and SFTP clients. Sure, they sound technical, but if you've bought an Android TV device so you could become a dedicated cord cutter, you'll quickly understand their value.

Download: Total Commander (Free)

Unlike X-plore File Manager and Total Commander, TvExplorer is not available on the mobile version of Android. You can only find it via the Play Store on your Android TV device.

Because it's exclusively available on Android TV, the app adheres to Android TV design guidelines. As such, TvExplorer has arguably the most aesthetically pleasing interface out of the apps here. And when you're looking at an app on a 60-inch screen, that's a critical feature.

Unfortunately, it cannot rival the other two apps in terms of features. It does the basics (like renaming files and extracting ZIPs) but not much else. There is no way to connect with apps like Google Drive and Dropbox. However, there is a Wi-Fi file transfer feature.

Ultimately, you need to ask yourself whether you need all the extra bells and whistles. If you just need a file manager to run APK files, this fulfills your needs and looks incredible. If you want something more powerful, look elsewhere.

It's also worth noting that TvExplorer only works with Android 5.0 and later. All the other apps on this list work with Android 4.2 and later. Given that many older smart TVs which run on Android only have version 4.2, this app is not suitable for everyone.

Download: TvExplorer (Free, in-app purchase available)

Not all Android TV devices enjoy a vast amount of storage. Sure, the top-of-the-range Nvidia Shield comes with up to 500GB, but some cheap entry-level gadgets might not have more than 4GB.

If you play a lot of games on your Android TV device, or if you frequently send files over Wi-Fi to watch on your TV, space can quickly become an issue. Of course, you can expand the capacity by using adoptable storage, but that's not always practical.

If you constantly bump up against your device's capacity, try AnExplorer File Manager. It's a super lightweight app adapted for the Android TV interface. It takes up just 3MB on your device and supports cloud storage.

AnExplorer has one other important feature that warrants its inclusion in this list: accessibility tools. These include customizable high-contrast themes, adjustable text size, and in-app sounds.

Download: AnExplorer File Manager (Free, premium version available)

Solid Explorer is another of the best file explorers for Android TV. Unlike some of the other apps we've looked at, it does have a native Android TV version that you can install directly from your device.

The app uses the two-panel approach to file management, both of which can serve as standalone file browsers. It supports FTP, SFTP, WebDav, SMB/CIFS clients, allows for root access, and even lets you password-protect your files.

Solid Explorer is also much more customizable than many of the other Android TV file managers. You can add your own icon sets, color schemes, themes, and more.

Solid Explorer is not free. After the 14-day free trial, you'll need to pay $2.

Download: Solid Explorer ($2, free trial available)

File Explorer is the most simplistic app on our list. It doesn't have any fancy features (for example, there's no cloud storage support, no network connectivity, and no batch editing). The app is purely for viewing the files on your device.

But don't write it off. If your sole reason for installing an Android TV file manager is to sideload APK files, File Explorer might be the best app on the list. As the screenshot above demonstrates, there's a tab specifically dedicated to the APK files on your device.

The app can also read any connected storage devices. So if you're using expanded storage or an external hard drive, File Explorer view display its contents.

File Explorer was designed for Android TV, so you'll find it in Android TV Play Store on your device.

Download: File Explorer (Free)

Rather than listing another app, we're going to leave you with something a bit different. Why not avoid installing a file explorer on your Android TV device and just use File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac) instead?

To use your computer as an Android TV file explorer, you need to enable the feature on your device. Go to Settings > Storage and Reset > Storage Access and slide the toggle next to Over local network into the On position. The device will give you a username and password; make note of them.

Next, on your Windows computer, type \\SHIELD in File Explorer. On Mac, head to Go > Connect to Server and type smb://SHIELD/. Enter your username and password when prompted, and you will have access to all your device's files and folders.

It's a good idea for every Android TV user to install a file explorer on their device, and now you know the best tools for the job. However, this is just one small part of getting the operating system set up for your needs.


8 Essential Router Tips for Optimal Gaming Performance

When playing games online, your router has an effect on your experience. Your connection speed goes to waste if you have a junky router that can't keep up or keep you connected.

If you're experiencing disconnects, lag, or other online gaming problems, check out these best router settings, tips, and tweaks for gaming.

A gaming router is one that's specifically designed to optimize network settings for the best gaming experience possible. Or at least, that's what marketers want you to think. They want to convince you that gaming routers offer something that normal routers don't, in the hopes that you'll pay more money for a better-quality connection.

While gaming routers may have been superior in the past, there's really no reason you must use them anymore. While they may offer some useful features, like extra Ethernet ports and more powerful antennas, these aren't necessary for casual players. This is especially the case if your gaming system is the only device using bandwidth in your home.

As it turns out, most modern routers, even basic ones, support the features necessary for a smooth gaming session. That doesn't mean you should go for a super-cheap router, though. A $20 model might have the right specs on paper, but likely won't be reliable in day-to-day use and won't last long.

If after shopping around, you find that the best value is a gaming router, then go ahead and buy it. Just keep in mind that a router marked as "for gaming" doesn't necessarily make it better. If you can find a respectable non-gaming router with the right specs, it should more than suffice.

Now let's look at how to optimize your router for gaming using the following options and features. These will help you minimize network issues, maximize performance, and hopefully get interruption-free gaming sessions.

Quality of Service is a router feature that prioritizes data packets for specific connected devices. It comes in handy when you have multiple users on the network all doing network-intensive activities.

For example, if your spouse is watching 4K Netflix while your son is video chatting with his friend and downloading a huge amount of data in the background, that will all hog a lot of bandwidth. When you try playing a game with all this going on, there won't be much bandwidth left, resulting in lag and poor performance.

With QoS enabled, you can prioritize your gaming PC or console over other devices using the network. This forces your router to handle gaming data first before worrying about everything else. To learn more, see our guide to setting up QoS on routers.

When gaming, if at all possible, you should always prefer Ethernet over Wi-Fi. While gaming on strong Wi-Fi is usually good enough, it sacrifices speed and latency for the convenience of being cable-free.

To ensure future-proofing and maximum performance, you should use a router with gigabit Ethernet ports. Gigabit Ethernet can handle speeds up to 1,000Mbps, assuming your connection can deliver those speeds. If you have multiple gaming systems, look for a router with more ports so you don't have to buy a switch separately.

If your router is far away from your gaming machine and you can't run a cable, try using powerline adapters. These let you transfer internet data through the normal power outlets in your home. They come in pairs: plug one in near your router and the other one near your console or PC, then use an Ethernet cable to connect the adapters to your router and system. While they're not as reliable as true Ethernet, it's an easy way to get Ethernet across rooms and is better than Wi-Fi.

If Ethernet isn't an option, then you should make sure to get a router that supports current wireless standards. On most routers, you'll see a value such as AC2600 or AX1500, which tells you the standard it uses and its theoretical maximum speed.

AC, or Wi-Fi 5, is common on routers in 2020. But AX, or Wi-Fi 6, is becoming the new standard. Wi-Fi 6-compatible devices aren't widely available at the time of writing; none of the current-generation consoles support it. So if you're looking for a new router, buying a Wi-Fi 6 model will future-proof you, but Wi-Fi 5 is still suitable for now.

Almost every modern router is dual-band, meaning it supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. 5GHz networks are more reliable than the older 2.4GHz band, but have a downside of a shorter range.

Some older devices only support 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, but you can take advantage of 5GHz with newer devices, making a dual-band model vital. If you have to use Wi-Fi for gaming, use the 5GHz band if your system supports it.

In a small apartment, you don't have to worry about the shorter range. But in a large house, try to rearrange your setup so that the router isn't more than a room away from your gaming device.

MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output) is an important feature if your network serves many different devices. As mentioned above, it's common for multiple users to use high-bandwidth applications while you try to play games.

Without MU-MIMO, your router has to serve each device one by one, which can reduce overall network speed. With MU-MIMO, the router sets up multiple "mini-networks" and works with each device simultaneously. You can learn more about this in our overview of MU-MIMO.

One of the main reasons to avoid Wi-Fi when gaming is that Wi-Fi signals can interfere with each other. When a signal meets interference, it fails to reach its destination and has to resend the data. With enough interference, latency and packet loss will increase, affecting your game.

Interference can occur on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, but it's far more common when using 2.4GHz. The 2.4GHz band can only broadcast on 11 channels in the US, and only three of them are non-overlapping. Because the 2.4GHz band is close to what other common household devices use, like microwaves and baby monitors, you can pick up interference even from non-Wi-Fi devices.

In contrast, the 5GHz band has 23 non-overlapping channels. The more broadcasts on a channel, the greater the congestion---meaning that there's more space on 5GHz networks in physically crowded spaces.

Regardless of which band you use, you should definitely analyze your Wi-Fi network, find which channel is least-used, and manually set your router to use that channel. This should help with interference and congestion.

CPU and RAM are important considerations when choosing computers and mobile devices, but you probably don't think about it for your router. And while routers don't have to run resource-intensive apps like Photoshop, they do have to handle tons of network data constantly.

If your router's CPU is weak, it may not be able to keep up with heavy network demand. Games don't usually send a whole lot of data on their own, but once you add in the constant data influx of video streams, file downloads, video chat, and other usage from multiple connected devices, a weaker router could struggle under the load.

If your computer and smartphone are the only devices on the network, you may be able to get away with a cheaper router. But if you have dozens of tablets, laptops, other smartphones, smart TVs, and various other IoT devices, then a fast CPU should be a priority.

When something goes wrong with a device, you probably know what troubleshooting step to take first: turn it off and on again. This is especially true for older routers, which can suddenly drop connections and freeze for seemingly no reason.

For this reason, you can remove some headaches by automating a router reboot schedule. Some routers have this built-in; if you don't, switching to a custom router firmware may grant you the option. Otherwise, you can always buy a programmable timer switch to plug your router into.

UPnP, or Universal Plug and Play, is a common feature on routers that simplifies the process of port forwarding for you. If you're not aware, various internet protocols communicate over different ports, which your router uses to determine which devices traffic should go to.

Online games use many different ports; if you have trouble using voice chat in a particular game, you probably need to forward the port on your router so it knows where to send that traffic.

UPnP automatically forwards ports as they're needed by various devices on your network. Enabling this is convenient, as it prevents you from having to mess with ports every time you play a new online game.

However, using UPnP is a potential security risk for your router, as it could let malicious activity through to your network. It's up to you to decide whether the convenience is worth it.

It's important to understand what aspects of your router and home network actually affect online gaming.

A blazing-fast network speed is not vital for good performance in online games. Speed mostly affects downloading game updates in a timely manner (and having enough bandwidth on a crowded network, as discussed earlier). Once you have a game downloaded, you can have fine performance with it on a slower connection---as long as it's stable.

The most important aspect is the stability of your connection to the game server, which most games show as your latency or ping. While a powerful router might offer a fast and stable connection from your game console to your modem, it doesn't really affect the connection from your system to the game server. If your ISP is unreliable, you might end up with a poor connection even with a top-of-the-line router.

For most home users with average internet connections, you'll usually see somewhere between 50 and 100ms ping in online games (depending on how close you are to the servers). That's well below the average reaction time of most humans, meaning that dropping your ping down to something like 30ms would have little benefit.

In short: router features that help you prioritize traffic to your gaming device are most useful on busy home networks. With a simple one gaming device setup, high ping is the result of an unstable connection to the game server.

Now you know some of the router features you can use for a better gaming experience, or ones to look for next time you buy a router. You don't need a $500 gaming router that looks like something from a sci-fi movie for a solid gaming experience; you just need a reliable model with the features that matter for gaming.

If you need a new router, check out the best reliable Wi-Fi routers. And keep in mind that factors other than your network come into effect for gaming performance, especially when playing on PC. Have a look at how to optimize Windows 10 for gaming.


How to Change Taskbar Icons for Programs in Windows 10

When customizing Windows 10, it's easy to forget about the icons on your taskbar. Whether an app icon is ugly and outdated, or you'd rather set them all to use a consistent theme, it's possible to add a fresh coat of paint.

Note that these instructions only work for traditional desktop programs, not apps from the Windows Store.

To change an icon, you should first pin it to the taskbar so it sticks around after you close it. Simply open the app (you can search for it using the Start Menu to do this easily) and it will appear on the taskbar.

Right-click the icon and choose Pin to taskbar to keep it there.

Now, you can actually change the icon. Right-click it again and you'll see a list of options, which differs depending on the app. Above Unpin from taskbar, you should see the app name listed again. Right-click on this name to show another list of options and choose Properties there.

This will open a window to the program's properties panel at the Shortcut tab. There, click the Change Icon button at the bottom and you'll be able to select a new icon in this window.

Some apps, such as Google Chrome, have alternate icons in a gallery here. You can pick one of these if you like. Otherwise, click Browse to locate a new icon on your PC. When you're happy, click OK twice to save your changes.

To easily remove the custom icon in the future, just right-click on the app and choose Unpin from taskbar. If you pin the app again, it will use the default icon.

After you make the change, you might not see the new icon reflected on your taskbar yet. If that's the case, right-click on an empty space in the taskbar and choose Task Manager to open that utility. If you see the basic interface, click More details at the bottom to show the full window.

On the Processes tab, find Windows Explorer in the list. Right-click it and choose Restart. This will close and reopen the Explorer process, meaning you'll see your taskbar and other Windows elements disappear briefly. Once it restarts, your icon should be updated.

If it's not, log out and back into your account or reboot your PC to force an update.

Unless an app has extra icons built-in, you probably don't have appropriate icons sitting around on your computer. Thankfully, it's not difficult to find cool icons online and put them to use. Check out our favorite Windows 10 icon packs for some ideas to get you started.

If none of them work for you, it's pretty straightforward to turn any image into an ICO file that Windows can use as a program icon.

Follow our guide to customizing all icons in Windows for more information about how this works. You'll also learn how to change the desktop shortcuts and other icons.

While it's a small touch, having custom taskbar icons makes your Windows computer feel more unique to you. Whether you want to apply a custom color scheme or go wild with unique icons, all it takes is a bit of time and effort.

Keep in mind that taskbar customization doesn't end here, either.

Image Credit: SSilver/Depositphotos


How to Write Longer Tweets: 7 Easy Methods | MakeUseOf

In late-2017, Twitter doubled the number of characters allowed in tweets from 140 to 280.

For some users, however, 280 character still aren't enough. So, if you have something important to say, you need to know how to write longer tweets. So here are seven easy ways to do just that.

TwitLonger is perhaps the most well-known app for writing longer tweets; it's been around almost as long as Twitter itself.

It's easy to get started with TwitLonger. To begin, head to the TwitLonger website and click Write a Post in the upper right-hand corner. If it's your first time using the app, you will need to give TwitLonger permission to access your Twitter account.

When you're ready, type your tweet in the box, give it a title if you wish, and click Post It. On the final screen, you can click Reply to create a thread of longer tweets.

On the posted tweet, TwitLonger will add a link to the rest of your message. Anyone can access it; there is no way to restrict your longer tweet to specific users.

If you find yourself using the app a lot, you can subscribe for $1/month to remove the ads.

This is a simple-yet-effective workaround for posting longer tweets. Using screenshots to write longer messages is a growing trend. You've probably seen people using the "cheat" in your own timeline.

The principle is simple. Use one of these note-taking apps for Android or iOS and write what you want to say. Just make sure it all fits on one screen.

Next, take a screenshot of what you've said and fire up the Twitter app. Tap on the new tweet icon and attach the screenshot to your tweet. You don't even need to write any text. When you're ready, press Tweet.

Not long after the increase to 280 characters, Twitter launched its Threads feature. The feature lets you create a series of connected tweets than display in a continuous scroll format when viewed through the app. It's a way to tweet longer thoughts and ideas without relying on external apps and tools.

To create a thread on Twitter, start composing a tweet in the usual way. When you're ready to write the second tweet, click on the + button.

You can post an entire thread at the same time by clicking the Tweet all button. You can also add more tweets to a thread at a later time by selecting Continue Thread > Add to your last tweet from the Compose window. Click on the More icon (three horizontal dots) to continue older threads.

JumboTweet is another easy-to-use web client for anyone that wants to make a long tweet. As with TwitLonger, you log into the site using your current Twitter credentials. You can write as much text as you like, and a link to your extended text will be included in your tweet.

Click Sign in with Twitter to get started. Once you've authenticated the app, you'll be redirected back to the message screen.

Go ahead and write your message, but before you post it, make sure you pay attention to the settings at the bottom of the page. JumboTweet maintains its own feed of content that was written in the app. To prevent your tweet from appearing in the company's feed, uncheck the box next to Display the post publicly on JumboTweet stream.

ControlC is a great way to share any extended content with a lot of people online; it's not Twitter-specific. That said, it's a fantastic tool to use for longer tweets.

Unlike every other app we've covered, ControlC offers text formatting. You can edit font size, text style, text color, and more.

As such, it's a great way to quickly share longer content that extends beyond a simple few sentences. For example, perhaps you want to share some technical instructions or detailed directions and need to highlight certain parts of the text.

To use the app, write and format your text in the on-screen box. When you're ready, click Submit, and you'll get a link to share with other people. Sadly, you cannot send the link to Twitter directly from the web app.

We've all written tweets that are a few characters too long and ended up scanning the text over and over for any little savings that can be found.

Rather than doing the hard work yourself, you should just paste your tweet into the Tweet Compressor site.

It uses unicode to replace specific two-letter combos with single characters. The compressible combinations are:

  • cc
  • ms
  • ns
  • ps
  • in
  • ls
  • fi
  • fl
  • ffl
  • ffi
  • iv
  • ix
  • vi
  • oy
  • ii
  • xi
  • nj
  • period followed by a space
  • comma followed by a space

You can see what the Unicode replacements look like in the image. For those who don't know, Unicode is an IT standard that allows for the consistent encoding of all the world's writing systems. It has almost 150,000 characters in total.

Tweet Compressor uses single-character unicode replacements such as Roman numerals and scientific abbreviations.

Twishort lets you write a long tweet and post it directly to Twitter.

However, the service really shines thanks to the iOS app and Chrome browser extension. The iOS and Chrome apps are the only way you can attach images and videos to the longer tweets you created on Twisort.

The app used to be available on Android too, but at the time of writing, it is no longer listed on the Google Play Store.

If you are using the web app, you can reply directly to another tweet with a long reply. You can also send a long tweet directly to another user via Twitter's mention feature.

We'll end with a tip about how to add a long location field to Twitter.

In theory, Twitter limits the Location field to 30 characters. However, there is a workaround, but you'll need to use a third-party app called Twitterrific. It lets you add more text which Twitter will recognise and save. Unfortunately, we can't promise how long this workaround will continue to work for.

Learning how to write longer tweets is just one small part of becoming a Twitter power user. But there are plenty of other tips for beginners which will help you get more out of the social media app.


9 Fantastic DIY RetroPie Game Stations You Can Build in No Time

One look at the Raspberry Pi shows you that miniaturisation affects all facets of life---even retro gaming! With the Raspberry Pi 3 and 4, almost every retro gaming platform can be emulated.

So, why not build a dedicated, retro-themed arcade machine with RetroPie?

What Is a RetroPie Arcade Machine?

If you want to play retro games on your Raspberry Pi, you have several options. The first is to install a single, standalone emulator, load up the ROMs, and play.

Another is to play games that actually run on the Raspberry Pi, without emulators.

The third possibility is to install an emulation suite, a collection of emulators available as a disk image. Several retro gaming platforms are available for the Raspberry Pi. Among the most popular are RetroPie, RecalBox, and PiPlay (a Raspberry Pi-based version of MAME).

Below we're going to show you a collection of DIY retro game stations that use RetroPie to load classic games. However, most of these examples will run the same with RecalBox or any other emulation suite you try.

Note: Downloading ROMs you don't already own in physical form is illegal.

The builds below will run with a Raspberry Pi 3 unless otherwise specified.

Before we continue, check out how to build your own NES or SNES Mini with RetroPie.

1. RetroPie Bartop Arcade Cabinet

Let's start with this more traditional build. Almost every classic gaming enthusiast wants to at least consider a traditional-style arcade cabinet for Raspberry Pi retro gaming.

Essentially a half-height arcade cabinet with a Raspberry Pi inside, this build is one of the most polished we've seen. The use of a trim router to cut the insertion slot for some T-Trim is particularly pleasing. Don't want a bartop cabinet? Simply adapt this build into a full size retro arcade cab.

Find the full guide at Meanwhile, MakeUseOf has produced a similar RetroPie bartop build.

2. Retrobox All in One RetroPie Arcade Joystick

What if you don't want a static game station? You might not have the skills, or the materials, to build something so big. One alternative is the Retrobox, essentially a Raspberry Pi in a box! It features an arcade machine-style controller with buttons attached.

The idea is simple. Connect the Retrobox to a HDTV, power it up, and start playing. With access to the Pi's USB ports, you can add one or more USB game controllers.

The Retrobox even has its own USB cable, allowing it to be used with other consoles. Find the full steps at Howchoo, including a link to the parts and useful drilling templates.

3. Picade Desktop Retro Arcade Machine

Looking for something more desktop-friendly without the dimensions of a bartop or standing arcade machine?

The Picade could be what you need. Available in kit form from Pimoroni this is a Raspberry Pi arcade machine with an 8- or 10-inch 4:3 ratio LCD display, perfectly suited to retro gaming.

Better still, it's also Raspberry Pi 4 compatible, and includes a USB-C version of the Picade HAT (also available separately). The kit includes a 3-inch speaker, joystick, arcade buttons, authentic artwork, the final build measures 350x230x210mm.

It's the perfect RetroPie desktop cabinet.

4. MintyPi: Mobile Gaming in a Tin!

MintyPi squeezes RetroPie and a Raspberry Pi Zero W into an Altoids tin for retro gaming on a pocket-sized scale.

This is a long build, requiring some custom-built pieces. You'll also need some 3D printed components, a battery, the 2.4-inch LCD, and the all-important Altoids tin. The result is a fantastic little retro gaming portable console that is small enough to take anywhere. What's not to like?

Don't miss the full set of instructions to build your own MintyPi.

5. Raspberry Pi Arcade Table

While the stand-up variety of arcade game has endured for decades (predating the digital era), sit-down machines were also popular. Basically tables with glass surfaces and an up-facing monitor, they feature a joystick at each side for two-player action.

This Instructables build shows you how to build a "cocktail arcade" machine from scratch. To save time, you might track down an original and replace the internals. However, this won't be cheap as they're popular on eBay and other specialist sites.

Cocktail arcade tables are a great way to have a machine in your home without taking up too much space. They're essentially coffee tables!

6. Arcade in a Briefcase

While there are no instructions for this build, you'll probably be able to make your own regardless. After all, there's not much building required---all you need is a Raspberry Pi, a display, and a suitcase!

It's unlikely you'd be able to power this with a battery, sadly, due to the size of the screen. However, if a power supply is available, opening and handing out controllers will make a great portable gaming party.

You'll probably find that an internal structure is needed for this, so make some detailed plans. You should provide fixings for the Raspberry Pi, power adaptor, and display.

7. The Cupcade: A Micro Arcade Machine

If you want to go small, try the Cupcade. This is a micro arcade machine, sold in kit form, which you can order online at Adafruit. It's around the size of a mass-produced Double Dragon mini arcade machine, predating those devices by a couple of years.

Relying on a PiTFT 2.8-inch display, this tiny build proves that a RetroPie arcade machine doesn't need a six-foot cabinet.

8. Even Smaller: World's Smallest MAME Arcade Cabinet

Think the Cupcade is small? Think again! The World's Smallest MAME Arcade Cabinet was the result of a hacking session, and is incredibly small.

Roughly the size of a Pi Zero, be aware that this is not available to buy; detailed instructions are unavailable. According to the Adafruit team, it "was a lot of trouble to build and only marginally fun to play."

So, it's a project that should give you plenty to think about. After all, the possibilities for Raspberry Pi retro gaming machines are endless!

9. Retroflag GPi Case

Designed to hold a Raspberry Pi Zero W, the Retroflag GPi Case is a super portable RetroPie gaming solution. It's a self-assembly kit that will take you about 30 minutes to put together and set up. If you prefer your DIY RetroPie machine to be light on hammering and gluing, this is a great option.

Various Game Boy kits and builds are available for the Raspberry Pi. You might repurpose an existing Game Boy, 3D print a case, or buy a Raspberry Pi Game Boy kit.

DIY RetroPie Arcade Builds for All Difficulty Levels

With so many types of RetroPie project to build, you should have plenty to think about. These examples are suitable for weekend projects of all lengths, from under an hour to working on consecutive weekends.

Remember, there's more to your retro Raspberry Pi arcade build than just the games. It must look awesome, too, so take the time to decorate it and choose a suitable RetroPie theme.


How to Install the Full Version of Minecraft on a Linux PC

Minecraft is the biggest game in the world, with a massive following. It's available on almost every platform, from mobile to desktop.

This means you can run the full version of Minecraft on Linux, with a dedicated installer suited to your distro. If that isn't suitable, you can still install the Java Edition on lower spec computers.

Want to take Steve on some new adventures on your Linux PC? Here's how to install Minecraft on Linux.

Previously, Minecraft was distributed purely as JavaScript software. This made releasing it on multiple platforms simpler---as a result, you would find it on Windows, macOS, Linux.

However, Java has a bad reputation when it comes to security. It was once declared the most vulnerable software on Windows computers, weaknesses also present on Linux or macOS.

Installing Java on your Linux computer will, therefore, make it less secure. Rather than become a security issue, Minecraft has been rebuilt by Mojang (following purchase by Microsoft). There are now dedicated versions for each platform.

Linux users can find a version for Debian distributions. But there remains a Java Edition that you can install on lower-spec PCs.

Steps for installing Minecraft on each can be found below.

First, however, just make sure you've actually bought Minecraft before proceeding.

Install Minecraft on Linux

Once upon a time, Minecraft was free. That is no longer the case. As of 2020 it has become the best-selling video game of all time, with 200 million copies sold across all platforms. It has 126 million monthly active users.

To play Minecraft, you need the right version. Three main Minecraft downloads are available for Linux. These bundle the game software and JDK (Java Development Kit) to make installation easy.

  • Debian and Debian-based distributions: a DEB installer file
  • Other distributions: this is a TAR file for unpacking and compiling
  • Java Edition; visit the Minecraft Java Edition page to download

Get Started: Install Graphics Drivers

Whichever version you're installing, you'll need the right graphics drivers. After all, Minecraft utilizes 3D graphics.

Most Linux distributions install open source graphics drivers, but in most cases, proprietary alternatives (drivers produced by the graphic card's developers) are available. Which drivers you need depends on your GPU:

  • Intel Graphics: You'll already have the best driver installed.
  • Nvidia Graphics: Swap from the open source driver to the proprietary version.
  • AMD Graphics: Again, you'll need to overlook the open source driver in favor of the proprietary option.

To change the driver in Ubuntu (and similar) Linux operating systems, open Software & Updates, select the Additional Drivers tab, and select the proprietary option. Click Apply Changes when done, and wait. Once complete, you'll need to click Restart to reboot your computer for the changes to take effect.

Usually the proprietary driver isn't selected by default, but you can switch to it here. See our guide to installing proprietary drivers in Linux for further details.

Installing Minecraft on Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint and similar distributions is straightforward.

Simply download the DEB file and double click it to prompt the installer software to run.

Alternatively, grab it with wget and install it with dpkg in the terminal:

You can launch the game from your usual applications menu.

Set a graphics driver for Minecraft on Linux

To install the Java Edition, you'll need to choose a suitable Java runtime. This is a software platform upon which the Minecraft software will run.

Two options are available

Who says you can't play Minecraft for free any more?

While relying on JavaScript elements, the Linux version of Minecraft is the main desktop version. As such, you'll be able to host your own Minecraft server. In time, the Java version of Minecraft will fade away, forcing Linux users to employ the DEB version. There is also an Arch version, although this isn't yet considered stable enough to use reliably.

On a high spec system running Linux, Minecraft will be indistinguishable from the Windows or console versions. It's exactly the same game, the Bedrock version, and compatible with all subsequent updates. Minecraft is an important element of Linux gaming, a phenomenon that has seen the open source operating system grow considerably in the past decade.

Now you've installed Minecraft on Linux, it's time to begin building. Who knows what you'll do next with Minecraft?


The 6 Major VPN Protocols Explained | MakeUseOf

You've probably heard this: "You need to use a VPN to protect your privacy!" Now, you're thinking: "Okay, but how does a VPN actually work?"

That's understandable. While everyone suggests using one, not many take the time to explain some of the core VPN technologies. In this article, we're going to explain what VPN protocols are, their differences, and what you should look out for.

Before we look at specific VPN protocols, let's quickly remind ourselves what a VPN is.

At its most basic, a VPN allows you to access the public internet using a private connection. When you click a link on the internet, your request passes to the correct server, usually returning the correct content. Your data essentially flows, unhindered, from A to B, and a website or service can see your IP address, among other identifying data.

When you use a VPN, all of your requests are first routed through a private server owned by the VPN provider. Your request heads from A through C to B. You can still access all the data previously available to you (and more, in some cases). But the website or service only has the data of the VPN provider: their IP address, and so on.

There are many uses for a VPN, including protecting your data and identity, avoiding repressive censorship, and encrypting your communications. See our introduction to using a VPN to get started yourself. You can even set up a VPN on your router.

A VPN protocol determines exactly how your data routes between your computer and the VPN server. Protocols have different specifications, offering benefits to users in a range of circumstances. For instance, some prioritize speed, while others focus on privacy and security.

Let's take a look at the most common VPN protocols.

OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol. This means users can scrutinize its source code for vulnerabilities, or use it in other projects. OpenVPN has become one of the most important VPN protocols. As well as being open-source, OpenVPN is also one of the most secure protocols. OpenVPN allows users to protect their data using essentially unbreakable AES-256 bit key encryption (amongst others), with 2048-bit RSA authentication, and a 160-bit SHA1 hash algorithm.

In addition to providing strong encryption, OpenVPN is also available to almost every platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, routers, and more. Even Windows Phone and Blackberry can utilize it, meaning you can set up a VPN on all your devices with it. It's also the protocol of choice among popular and easy-to-use VPN services like CyberGhost.

The OpenVPN protocol has faced criticism in the past due to low speeds. However, recent implementations have resulted in some boosts, and the focus on security and privacy is well worth considering.

Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol is a very popular VPN protocol. L2TP is the successor to the depreciated PPTP (for more details, see the PPTP section below), developed by Microsoft, and L2F, developed by Cisco. However, L2TP doesn't actually provide any encryption or privacy itself.

Accordingly, services that use L2TP are frequently bundled with security protocol IPsec. Once implemented, L2TP/IPSec becomes one of the most secure VPN connections available. It uses AES-256 bit encryption and has no known vulnerabilities (though the NSA has allegedly compromised IPSec).

That said, while L2TP/IPSec has no known vulnerabilities, it does have some slight flaws. For instance, the protocol defaults to use UDP on port 500. This makes traffic easier to spot and block.

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is another popular VPN protocol. SSTP comes with one notable benefit: it has been fully integrated with every Microsoft operating system since Windows Vista Service Pack 1. This means you can use SSTP with Winlogon, or for increased security, a smart chip. Furthermore, many VPN providers have specific integrated Windows SSTP instructions available. You can find these on your VPN provider's website.

SSTP uses 2048-bit SSL/TLS certificates for authentication and 256-bit SSL keys for encryption. Overall, SSTP is quite secure.

SSTP is essentially a Microsoft-developed proprietary protocol. This means nobody can fully audit the underlying code. However, most still consider SSTP secure.

Finally, SSTP has native support for Windows, Linux, and BSD systems. Android, macOS, and iOS have support via third party clients.

internet Key Exchange version 2 is another VPN protocol developed by Microsoft and Cisco. On its own, IKEv2 is just a tunneling protocol, providing a secure key exchange session. Therefore (and like its predecessor), IKEv2 is frequently paired with IPSec for encryption and authentication.

While IKEv2 isn't as popular as other VPN protocols, it features in many mobile VPN solutions. This is because it is adept at reconnecting during moments of temporary internet connection loss, as well as during a network switch (from Wi-Fi to mobile data, for instance).

IKEv2 is a proprietary protocol, with native support for Windows, iOS, and Blackberry devices. Open-source implementations are available for Linux, and Android support is available through third-party apps.

Unfortunately, while IKEv2 is great for mobile connections, there's strong evidence that the NSA is actively exploiting IKE flaws to undermine IPSec traffic. Therefore, using an open-source implementation is vital for security.

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol is one of the oldest VPN protocols. It is still in use in some places, but the majority of services have long upgraded to faster and more secure protocols.

PPTP was introduced way back in 1995. It was actually integrated with Windows 95, designed to work with dial-up connections. At the time, it was extremely useful.

But the VPN technology has progressed, and PPTP is no longer secure. Governments and criminals cracked PPTP encryption long ago, making any data sent using the protocol insecure.

However, it isn't quite dead... yet. You see, some people find PPTP gives the best connection speeds, precisely due to the lack of security features (when compared to modern protocols). As such, it still sees use for users simply wanting to watch Netflix from a different location.

Wireguard is the newest VPN protocol. It is open source and uses a much simpler codebase in comparison to other major VPNs. Furthermore, Wireguard VPN services are easier to setup than OpenVPN and include support for a broader range of encryption types and primitives.

The combination of encryption types and primitives and the smaller code base, along with other improvements, makes Wireguard one of the fastest VPN protocols. In addition, Wireguard is a better option for portable devices, "suitable for both small embedded devices like smartphones and fully loaded backbone routers."

The ChaCha20 encryption algorithm that Wireguard works well with mobile devices, too, offering faster speeds than AES and with fewer resources.

That means when you use a Wireguard protocol VPN, your battery should last longer than with other VPN protocols. Wireguard is "built directly into the Linux kernel," which should provide speed and security boosts, too, especially for internet of Things devices (many of which use Linux-based embedded systems).

Wireguard is available to all major operating systems, although interestingly, it was last to appear on Windows.

We've looked at the five major VPN protocols. Let's quickly summarize their pros and cons.

  • OpenVPN: Open source, offers the strongest encryption, suitable for all activities if a little slow at times
  • L2TP/IPSec: Widely used protocol, good speeds, but easily blocked due to reliance on a single port
  • SSTP: Good security, difficult to block and detect
  • IKEv2: Fast, mobile-friendly, with several open-source implementations (potentially undermined by NSA)
  • PPTP: Fast, widely supported, but full of security holes, only use for streaming and basic web browsing
  • Wireguard: Fast, open-source, with growing support among VPN providers

For complete security and peace of mind, choose a VPN provider that offers you a choice of protocol. Furthermore, MakeUseOf advises using a paid VPN solution, like ExpressVPN, rather than a free service. When you pay for a VPN, you're buying a service. When you use a free VPN, you've got no idea what they might do with your data.

Unsure where to start? Check out our list of the best VPN services. And here's what you should look for in a VPN provider. Furthermore, we must warn you that while they're mostly a safe solution, VPNs can be hacked. Learn what that means for your privacy.


7 Internet Safety Games to Help Kids Become Cyber Smart

Today's children are growing up in a digital age, exposing them to all the wonders and dangers that the internet brings. It's important to educate children about online safety: content, scams, and the people who inhabit it. What better way to do that then through games?

Many children love video games and parents should know about them too. We're going to detail some free games that educate children on the modern dangers of being online, while letting them have some fun at the same time too.

Trust Google to go all out when it comes to building awesome online experiences. Interland is part of Google's Be Internet Awesome Program, which has lots of great resources for parents and teachers to educate children about internet safety.

This game lets children play as a little robotic Internaut, learning all about cyberbullying, phishing, data protection, and more. This is taught through a variety of mini-games that are spread out across floating islands.

The educational content of this game is great, but kids are sure to love it because of its high production values and genuinely fun games. They might not even realize they're learning while having fun.

With a fun superhero theme, the aim of Cyber Defense Quiz is to answer as many questions as possible in order to unlock the colorful cast of superheroes and villains.

The quiz teaches children about a range of safety topics, like email attachments, password strength, cyber crime, and much more.

While the questions on offer are great, it's best to play this alongside your children. That's because it doesn't explain why an answer is wrong, so it's helpful if an adult can be on hand to help explain.

Once this quiz has been exhausted, there are more games featuring similar characters at The Carnegie Cyber Academy.

Who knew that cyber criminals shopped at Spymart? This game's fun concept has children answering quiz questions in order to take down a cyber criminal. For each question answered correctly, players can remove a dangerous gadget from the criminal's suitcase.

The main theme of this multiple-choice quiz is protecting against online theft. That involves practices like using strong passwords, knowing who you're talking to, and keeping software like antivirus scanners up to date. Between the questions there's a simple dexterity challenge---click the criminal's face as it moves between the screens in order to answer the next question.

This one has some fun music and a simple cartoon style. Children are sure to enjoy the spy themes and giggle at the silly James Bond-style gadgets in the suitcase. At the same time, it's also great at teaching about protecting personal information.

Internet safety aside, Band Runner is a fun game in its own right. Children choose to play as Ellie or Sam and must time their jumps correctly to help them avoid obstacles. They can also use their guitars to help demolish the blockers---Ellie and Sam are on their way to a gig, after all!

If an obstacle isn't cleared, Ellie or Sam will trip and fall. Children must then answer a 50/50 question before they can continue, like whether it's safe to share videos or tell someone your age.

The game speeds up after each level, which offers an exciting challenge that is sure to hook children who want to reach the end. All the time they play, they're learning about internet safety.

Everyone knows how to play Hangman! This version of the classic game aims to teach children about how to talk to others online and what sort of information you shouldn't share online.

With only ten questions, you can complete it fairly quickly. In addition to teaching best practices, like not telling someone your age, this quiz goes the extra mile and also defines terms like "link" and "chatting".

Children can keep going until they reach 100 percent, or until the hangman is complete due to incorrect guesses. It's a simple game, but one that's worth a quick try as a refresher to some key tips for internet safety.

It's important for children to know how to protect their personal information online and Privacy Pirates is a great game to help teach them. The aim is to put together a map that will eventually lead to some pirate treasure.

Brought to life with fun cartoon graphics and voice-overs, this game uses quiz questions to help children understand the value of their privacy and how context can impact what information should be shared.

If players get stuck, a guide is always on hand to point in the right direction---and even if they get a question wrong, the game is more interested in educating than penalizing.

Cyber-Five is a fun and colorful animation that revolves around Hippo and Hedgehog, two friends who are learning about the golden rules of internet safety.

After watching, children can then take a quiz or a test---the questions are the same, but the former allows for multiple attempts at getting the answer right. The questions revolve around what one should do in certain situations, like if someone asks for your password or sends a mean message.

If you're short on time, this animation and game are a quick and enjoyable way to teach the basics of internet safety.

Hopefully your children enjoy playing the games we've listed and learn something about being safe online while they're at it. If you need help, you can restrict the content your child can view. Also, take a look at these educational mobile games to make smartphone time productive for your kids.

If you're looking for more advice, check our list of parenting websites for raising teenagers and tools to keep track of your child's online activity.

Image Credit: wdnet/Depositphotos