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The 7 Best Music Streaming Services for Audiophiles

Music streaming services haven’t traditionally targeted audiophiles by focusing on audio quality. Spotify and Google Play Music both boast maximum bitrates of 320 Kbps, while Apple Music comes in at just 256 Kbps.

This might sound like a lot, and for most users, it’s certainly enough. However, when you compare the quality of most streaming services to CDs—which typically offer 1,411 Kbps—there’s no contest.

If you’re an audiophile, this poses a problem. You demand the clearest and most refined music available, and don’t want to put up with low-quality audio. As such, your options are rather limited. However, here are the best streaming services for audiophiles.

1. Tidal

tidal logo

Tidal is the best-known high-definition music streaming service around right now. Operated by global rap star Jay-Z, the service’s entire reputation has been built on its high-quality audio offering.

Tidal offers users two different plans. The Premium plan costs $9.99/month and provides a music bitrate of 320 Kbps. If you’re an audiophile, you need to focus on the Hi-Fi package. It offers lossless, CD-quality 1,411 Kbps music for a monthly fee of $19.99. Both packages have family plans available.

And just because Tidal doesn’t have the same allure as the big three—Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music—don’t worry about not being able to find something to listen to. At the time of writing, Tidal boasts more than 60 million tracks.

2. Qobuz

qobuz playlist

Another of the leading audiophile streaming services is Qobuz. Based in France, entrepreneur Yves Riesel launched the company in 2007. In addition to streaming services, it also offers music downloads.

Unfortunately, the app does not have the international reach of some of its competitors. While Tidal is currently available in 54 countries worldwide, Qobuz operates in just 12: the US, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Austria.

Today, Qobuz holds the largest catalog of lossless CD and hi-res albums in the world. The library, which spans 50 million songs, has both new releases and niche genres.

Two subscription plans are available, Studio Premier ($15/month) and Sublime+ ($250/year). The audio quality is the same on both plans, but Sublime+ allows for cheaper music purchases.

3. Deezer

deezer hifi

If you live outside Qobuz’s supported countries but don’t want to subscribe to Tidal, Deezer might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Although it’s not known for as an HD audio music streaming app, the $20/month Deezer Hi-Fi offers 16-bit, 1,411 Kbps FLAC audio. In comparison, the regular Premium plan only offers 320 Kbps and the free tier just 128 Kbps.

The lossless plan was originally introduced in 2014 thanks to the company’s partnership with Sonos. At the time, it was only available on Sonos speakers. Today, however, the Hi-Fi subscription works on most smart speakers, including Bang and Olufsen, Harman/Kardon, Sony, and Google Home.

4. Primephonic

primephonic playback

Primephonic launched its streaming service for classical music fans in 2014. It was instantly popular, as users praised the app for its reimagined approach to cataloging tracks, its impressive artist biographies, and its ease-of-use.

Classical music-loving audiophiles will be delighted to learn that Primephonic streams all of its content in 16-bit, 1,411 Kbps CD-quality if you are happy to pay for the $15/month Platinum plan. A cheaper $10/month plan is available with 320 Kbps MP3 streaming. Primephonic also lets you buy music. Again, all of your purchases will be downloaded in high-definition audio.

The use of FLAC audio for classical music makes sense. It’s the music genre that has the most to gain from high-definition audio. After all, you don’t want your Mozart masterpieces to sound like something your school orchestra has thrown together.

5. Amazon Music HD

amazon music hd details

Amazon Music HD is one of the newest audiophile music streaming services on the market following its launch in the second half of 2019.

More than 60 million HD songs are available on the platform. Around 50 million of them are in 850 Kbps and 16-bit/44.1 kHz, with a further 10 million available in 3730 Kbps and 24-bit/192 kHz. That’s more than 10 times the quality found on most rival music streaming apps.

Before you sign up, make sure your device supports 24-bit songs. If you own a pre-2015 Android or iOS gadget, you will probably be out of luck. Amazon’s Fire devices are all supported.

A subscription to Amazon Music HD costs $15/month (or $13/month if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber).

6. YouTube Music

youtube music videos

YouTube Music initially launched with a maximum bitrate of 128 Kbps, though that has since increased to 256 Kbps. But that’s still way behind some of the other apps in this list, so why have we included it as one of the top streaming services for audiophiles?

Well, for the music videos. Music as an art form is about more than the audio. Ever since Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles became the first music video to air on MTV in 1981, artists have been falling over themselves to produce more and more extravagant video content. As you can see in our brief history of music videos.

If this side of the music world appeals to you, YouTube Music is king. Not only is there a vast selection of music, but you can watch the videos, concerts, and recording sessions that accompany your favorite tracks.

7. Spotify

spotify playlists

Spotify offers its users a maximum audio quality of 320 Kbps. However, despite the lesser quality, Spotify is still worth considering if you’re an audiophile purely for the vast library. More than 50 million tracks are already available, with a further 40,000 being added every day.

The service’s music discovery tools are also unrivaled. Even if you have niche tastes, Spotify will still be able to find new music that you’ll almost certainly love. For music lovers who want to embark on an audio journey, there are few better ways to broaden your horizons.

And remember, Spotify is one of the most device-agnostic services. There is a Spotify app available for just about every operating system and smart speaker on the market. Some of the lesser-known services don’t offer such widespread support.

Interestingly, in 2017, Spotify announced that it was planning to enter the world of high-definition audio streaming. Branded as Spotify Hi-Fi, the company started testing it around the world. Since then, the trail has gone cold and Spotify has offered no further updates.

It is still one to keep an eye on though; Spotify is already one of the world’s top music streaming services. If it did enter the HD music arena, its vast library and powerful music discovery tools would make Tidal vs. Spotify a more interesting battle.

Keeping Even the Pickiest Audiophiles Happy

These music streaming services for audiophiles should be more than enough to keep everyone satisfied. Yes, even the pickiest audiophile. And if you don’t already own one, here are the best digital audio players for music without your phone.

Read the full article: The 7 Best Music Streaming Services for Audiophiles

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Where to Buy Refurbished MacBooks: The 4 Best Sites

When choosing a laptop, reliability is essential—especially if you plan to use it as your primary device. Apple is one of the world’s most successful hardware manufacturers thanks to its commitment to hardware design and user experience.

As a result, Apple’s computers are known to last. However, Mac laptops don’t come cheap. If you’re after the Apple experience without the Apple price tag, you could opt for a refurbished Mac instead.

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With that in mind, here are the best places to buy a refurbished MacBook.

1. Apple Certified Refurbished

Apple Certified Refurbished online store

As the manufacturer of Mac laptops, Apple is best-suited to refurbish them. The company recognized this and quietly launched its own Certified Refurbished online store. Many of the refurbished devices were returned through the company’s physical and online retail outlets. This could be as part of a trade-in program, after they were designated as faulty, or simply returned after purchase.

As a result, the range of refurbished devices available may vary. Regardless of the reason, the company inspects each product, tests them, and replaces any necessary components with genuine Apple parts. In effect, you can buy a like-new device at a discounted rate. This isn’t the only way you can score savings on Apple devices, though. There are other Apple hardware discounts you can take advantage of, too.

Despite their many benefits, Apple products are also infamous for their proprietary components. If you’ve ever damaged an iPhone screen and had it replaced by a third-party, you may have seen this in action. Your Apple devices can identify when it’s using unofficial parts, which can have an impact on performance, operability, and even your warranty.

Buying from Apple’s Certified Refurbished store gives you peace of mind that your MacBook will just work as if it was a brand-new device. To add to that experience, these refurbished devices also come with Apple’s standard one-year warranty and 90 days of technical support. You also have the option to further protect your purchase with AppleCare+.

2. Mac of All Trades

Mac Of All Trades screenshot

There are many benefits to purchasing through Apple’s Certified Refurbished store, but you won’t find significant savings there. A reliable and reputable alternative is Mac of All Trades. The company even pre-dates the internet era; it first set up shop in 1995 before switching to online operations in 2002.

While this information is interesting, you might think it’s unnecessary. However, we include the background here because reputation is crucial when purchasing refurbished devices. You need to be able to trust the organization you buy from. Not only is it crucial that they’ve done a thorough refurbishment, but you also want to know they’ll take care of you when something goes wrong.

Fortunately, Mac of All Trades has both cases covered. The company operates a four-part refurbishment process. This includes a visual inspection, two-stage cleaning process, hardware testing, device repair, and repackaging. Each refurbished Mac is given a quality rating; Excellent, Very Good, Good, or Fair.

The site is among the best places to buy a refurbished MacBook thanks to its one-year warranty. It also operates a 14-day return window, and you can extend the standard warranty with the company’s Platinum Warranty. This helps reassure that you’ll be protected in the case of any defects or hardware failures with your refurbished Mac laptop.

3. OWC

OWC Refurbished MacBook Pro store

Like Mac of All Trades, Other World Computing (known as OWC) has been in the computer retail sector for many years; the company’s origins stretch back to 1988. It primarily trades in components, allowing you to customize and upgrade your existing equipment. However, OWC also stocks a range of used and refurbished MacBooks.

The language of the second-hand market can be confusing, so be sure to check out our comparison between refurbished, used, and pre-owned devices. Of note here is that OWC mainly sells used MacBooks. These are second-hand devices that have undergone some level of inspection.

Unlike Certified Refurbished laptops, though, used devices aren’t subject to as thorough inspection and testing. In most cases, you should assume that used devices are sold “as-is.” That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with used devices. In fact, they’re often available at a significant discount.

However, shopping with OWC is a grade above buying any second-hand device. As the company specializes in computer upgrades, you can choose to customize your second-hand MacBook. After you’ve selected a model, there are options relating to disk size, memory, and the second-hand condition.

4. Amazon Renewed

Amazon Renewed storefront

Amazon is one of the world’s largest retailers, so it won’t come as a surprise that it also stocks a range of refurbished items on the Amazon Renewed storefront. The company first set up shop as an online bookseller in 1994, before quickly expanding into all areas of retail.

One of the main reasons Amazon is so successful is the variety of products on offer. However, it’s not always Amazon selling to you directly.

Third-party sellers are key to Amazon’s success. That’s also the case with the Amazon Renewed store. The majority of the items for sale here are not sold by Amazon, but are inspected and refurbished by third-party sellers. Amazon implements standards, though, so you can still be sure any second-hand item purchased through this store will be in good condition.

Using the Renewed store, you get access to a wide range of electronics and other household goods, including refurbished MacBooks. Not only does this make it a convenient place to shop, but you get to interact with Amazon’s customer service should something go wrong.

For example, the Amazon Renewed Guarantee gives you 90 days to return the product if you aren’t happy with it. If you have any technical problems, simply contact Amazon for help troubleshooting the issue. In this way, the Amazon Renewed store helps you score a good deal on a refurbished MacBook Pro or MacBook while offering the service of the most popular online retailer.

Keeping Track of Mac Deals

Finding the perfect deal on refurbished products is often a complicated process due to ever-changing inventories. Because of this, you should consider two other sites that take the guesswork out of finding great deals.

Refurb Tracker provides email alerts and RSS feeds listing refurbished products on Apple Store websites. To get started, create an alert on the website indicating the type of product you hope to find. In addition to Macs, Refurb Tracker offers alerts for iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, and Mac accessories.

RefurbMe also offers an alert system on refurbished and certified pre-owned Apple products. Besides Apple Store websites, RefurbMe tracks items from Best Buy, GameStop, Gazelle, Target, and Walmart. In addition to Macs, RefurbMe offers alerts for iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

The Best Places to Buy Refurbished MacBooks

Refurbished MacBooks are a great way to save some money, so long as you choose a reputable seller with a professional restoring process. The sites we’ve listed here are among the best places to buy a refurbished MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro.

If it’s peace of mind you’re after, the Apple Certified Refurbished store should be your first choice. However, the other sites here all offer a unique take on the second-hand device that may better suit your needs.

That said, you must do your research before committing to a second-hand MacBook. Despite the many upsides, there are potential pitfalls you need to keep an eye on. Be sure to familiarize yourself with what you need to know when buying a refurbished Mac.

Read the full article: Where to Buy Refurbished MacBooks: The 4 Best Sites

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6 Funny Comedy Blogs That’ll Make You Laugh Without Pictures or Videos

While being online 24/7 is not always great, the list of ways that you can entertain yourself through the web is practically endless. On top of social media sites, there are also tons of funny blogs to read when you’re bored.

To put it in perspective: everyone reading this article has probably heard of The Oatmeal, Fail Blog, or The Onion at least once.

However, one thing all these websites have in common is that they are immensely popular, and need little introduction. A lot of them also rely on images instead of text in order to give you a laugh.

So to show you the other side of “absolutely hilarious,” here are six more blogs, forums, or social media accounts that will make you laugh with just text—no pictures or videos.

1. Not Always Romantic

Funny Blogs Not Always Romantic

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you might have heard about Not Always Right. It’s a blog that documents how employees try to satisfy unreasonable customer demands from the employee’s perspective.

Not Always Right also has a sister site called Not Always Romantic. Once again, it parallels the same concept. Through Not Always Romantic, readers can send in their stories detailing weird, offbeat, quirky, or downright strange conversations between themselves and a loved one.

From unromantic quotes, to stories about how couples first met, this funny blog has it all. At the very least—even if you’re not laughing—it will leave you feeling slightly amused. Not Always Romantic is definitely one of the more interesting blogs to read when you’re bored.

If you’re looking for other “odd-ball” things to do that may be romantically inclined, you can also check out our list of hilarious Valentine’s Day pranks. Fair warning, though: be careful who you try these pranks on.

2. Not Always Related

Funny Blogs to Read When Bored Not Always Related

Following in the tradition of our previous recommendation, we also wanted to give a shoutout to Not Always Related, which, once again, is related to Not Always Right.

Featuring stories about family members, these funny blog posts talk about the weird occurrences, strange events, and odd conversations that occur between readers and their relatives.

There’s even a hall of fame section that will guide you through the most upvoted posts. Usually, those posts are a distinct combination of superbly awkward but amusing.

3. Don’t Even Reply

Funny Blogs to Read Don't Even Reply

Looking for funny blogs to read that are all about classified ads, and nothing but? The creator of Don’t Even Reply—a consummate troll of the old-school variety—has set up a website with this premise.

While some of these posts may be shocking, we think there’s a high chance it’ll keep you entertained.

Basically—for each blog post—the author of the website finds a classified ad and replies to the person who posted it. When the original poster responds, the blogger sends back increasingly nonsensical replies until the recipient becomes understandably angry. You can’t help but feel bad for some of these ad owners.

While this blog has not been updated in a very long time (since 2013), its magic lies in how it’s a window to an earlier internet time period. Since these conversations often involve ridiculous levels of trolling, the posts do contain profanity more often than not. So heads up on the language.

If you’re looking for more humorous blogs or ways to entertain yourself when you’re bored, check out our list of fun things to do online when you’re bored at work.

4. r/IAmVerySmart

Funniest Blogs r/iamverysmart

While this subreddit does dip into screenshots—and screenshots are technically pictures—most of the screenshots on r/iamverysmart are usually of text. As such, we think it should make the list.

As a forum devoted to making fun of online posts from people who think they are “very smart,” r/iamverysmart is one of several massive subreddits that cover the huge levels of ego that you can find on the web.

These posts range from people preening about their IQ scores in ironic ways, to “not-so-humble-brags.” It seems that everyone wants to shout from the rooftops that they are better than everyone else in the room, and often, it comes back to bite them.

With over 1 million members, this subreddit is definitely updated frequently. Although it’s not a blog in the technical sense, it can definitely fall under the category of “fun blogs to read when you’re bored.”

5. Clients From Hell

Funny Blog Clients From Hell

Clients From hell is a text-based website that I’ve personally been following on-and-off since I was a university student. It’s also one of the funniest blogs around.

The concept of “Clients From Hell” is very simple. Like Not Always Right, the blog documents customer interactions from the point of the employee, except this time the employees are specifically designers.

From people who try to get out of paying for a service, to downright illegal requests, the stories on this site are numerous, mind-boggling, and absurd. The levels of difficult behaviour that designers must put up with is astounding, and there are actually so many stories that each post is filed under a particular story “type.” These types range from deadbeat clients to full-on bigots.

We definitely recommend checking out Clients From Hell if you want to work in a design-related field.

6. So Sad Today

Funny Twitter Accounts So Sad Today

Last on the list, we want to recommend So Sad Today: a Twitter account devoted to sad-but-funny one-line tweets.

Part millennial humor, part self-effacing doom and gloom, this Twitter account captures the mindset of a generation (or several) that is always on the brink. Even still, it seeks to find some laughter in the darkness.

So Sad Today has almost a million followers. In fact, there’s even a book to go along with the account. The book is called So Sad Today: Personal Essays by Melissa Broder. It’s a must-check-out if you’re a regular Twitter user.

Laugh Out Loud With More Funny Sites

With this list of blogs to read when you’re bored, you can settle in, start reading, and smile.

If you’re looking for other funny sites that have less of a text-based focus, you can also read up on these hilariously random websites to help you procrastinate.

Read the full article: 6 Funny Comedy Blogs That’ll Make You Laugh Without Pictures or Videos

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The 5 Best Free Internet Security Software for Windows

As a Windows user, you have three possible paths regarding system security. You can use the built-in Windows Security suite, install third-party security software, or ignore security altogether. The path you take is crucial.

Windows Security (formerly Windows Defender) is better than it has ever been. As a default security option, you’re in safe hands. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t opt for a free security suite alternative.

So here are five of the best free security suites for Windows, all of which offer antivirus, antimalware, and real-time protection features.

1. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition

bitdefender free antivirus

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition consistently ranks highly on independent antivirus testing sites, offering award-winning protection for your Windows computer.

The free Bitdefender version brings you the core of the premium Bitdefender suite. This means excellent protection against viruses, malware, ransomware, phishing, and other scam sites. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition provides real-time antivirus protection and takes instant, autonomous action to protect your system.

The only downside to Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is that autonomy. There is little by way of customization in the free Bitdefender version. While that is perfect for those that want to download, install, and receive instant protection, it can cause issues at times with false positives.

That said, those instances are few and far between. Overall, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is an outstanding free internet security suite.

Features at a glance:

  • Award-winning antivirus and antimalware protection
  • Automatic detection and removal of malware, zero-day exploits, rootkits, and spyware
  • Works well with other resource-intensive programs, such as games and media editors

2. Kaspersky Security Cloud Free

kaspersky security cloud internet security

Kaspersky Security Cloud Free is the free internet security suite from Kaspersky Lab. Although there were allegations of Kaspersky Lab antivirus products being spyware tools for the Russian government, there is little indication that regular consumers should stop using one of the most effective antivirus tools around.

In that, Kaspersky Security Cloud Free is another internet security tool that performs consistently well in antivirus and antimalware tests. Like the free version of Bitdefender, the free version of Kaspersky brings you the core antivirus experience from the premium product, without all the bells and whistles.

Recent updates to Kaspersky Free include an integrated VPN option to protect your online data, plus a secure password storage function. Plus, the security suite is simple to navigate.

Kaspersky Lab also offers a bootable antivirus disk you can use to clean stubborn malware from your system.

Features at a glance:

  • Automatic silent virus and malware removal—no irritating popups
  • Very low impact during system scans, runs well in the background
  • Optional Kaspersky Free browser extension to check malicious webpages
  • Includes email, instant messaging, and other local program scanning and protection

3. Avira Free Antivirus

avira antivirus free 2020 internet security

Avira Free Antivirus (not to be confused with AVG or Avast) is one of the best free internet security suite options currently available. It regularly outperforms the big-name kings of security—including Kaspersky, Norton, and McAfee—in controlled comparisons of real-world effectiveness from sites like AV-Comparatives.

You get what you’d expect and more. The antivirus/antimalware scanner provides manual and real-time protection against all kinds of hazards, and the real-time scans use a cloud database to stay up-to-date and guard you against new and emerging threats.

What’s nice about Avira is that it also detects and blocks potentially unwanted applications—those bundled programs that hitch rides within installers and end up on your system without your knowledge.

If you install the free Avira browser extension, then you can also take advantage of features like harmful website detection and the ad-tracker blocker.

The only major downside to Avira Free Antivirus is the number of popups. It does hassle you at times to upgrade to the premium version of the internet security suite. There are several alternative free suites that don’t bother you with desktop advertisements, which Avira could learn from.

Features at a glance:

  • Antivirus blocks malware, Trojans, worms, and spyware
  • Real-time protection based on up-to-date cloud database
  • Blocks unwanted applications bundled inside installers
  • Browser extension offers even more protective features

4. Sophos Home Free

sophos home free internet security suites

Sophos Home Free brings Sophos’ powerful business-grade internet security suite to your home computers. You can use Sophos Home Free to protect up to three computers simultaneously, which is a handy option in conjunction with the integrated parental controls.

Sophos Home Free doesn’t offer much in the way of advanced features. However, you can happily download and install Sophos Home Free and let it go to work. It’ll block and remove viruses and malware automatically.

Furthermore, Sophos Home Free adds internet protection. The free security suite blocks malicious websites from opening and stops potential phishing attacks.

You’ll note that the image displays the Premium version of the Sophos Home security suite. When you download and install Sophos Home Free, you receive a 30-day free trial of the premium version.

Features at a glance:

  • Handy cloud-control of security settings for computers in your network
  • Integrated phishing and malicious webpage blocking
  • Easy to use interface with parental controls
  • Unlimited protection for Android and iOS devices

5. Panda Free Antivirus

panda free antivirus internet security

Panda Free Antivirus is a highly rated free internet security suite for Windows. You must feed it bamboo to get it up and running, but it is well worthwhile. Silly name aside, it nails the trifecta of security software: light on resources, easy to learn and use, and effective at keeping your system secure.

Panda Free Antivirus is as simple as they come. It was designed with the phrase “install and forget” in mind, with few settings to fiddle with. It stays out of the way, making it great for those who aren’t tech-savvy. If you want a simple solution that’s better than Windows Defender, this is it.

Recent updates to Panda Free Antivirus have modernized the user interface, giving it a sleek and modern feel. Yet, it remains easy to navigate. Those same updates also introduced a multimedia/game mode which stops Panda Free Antivirus interfering with system resourcing at critical points.

Compared to their premium products, Panda Free Antivirus might seem a bit limited. There is no online shopping protection, no data backups, no file encryption, no system optimizations. But what it does do, it does well, and that’s real-time protection against malware and spyware.

Features at a glance:

  • Antimalware, anti-spyware, and external device protection
  • Up-to-date malware definitions using a cloud database
  • Internet protection through URL/web filtering and analysis
  • Advertisement popups asking to upgrade every once in a while

More Free Security Software for Windows

Here you have the choice of five excellent free internet security tools for Windows. They all offer exceptional protection against malware, viruses, phishing attacks, malicious web pages, and much more. However, some of the options might struggle against advanced threats, such as code-signed malware.

Your choice comes down to what you need, what you can live without, and how much you trust the companies behind said products.

Of course, these are not the only security tools on the market. There are plenty of excellent security, antivirus, and antimalware tools to consider.

Read the full article: The 5 Best Free Internet Security Software for Windows

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The 10 Best Beginner Projects for New Programmers

There are so many things to wrap your mind around when you’re just starting out programming. If you’re not mastering PHP, you’re learning Python. If it’s not a programming language, it’s a new web framework.

You’ve got to start somewhere. When there’s so much to learn, where should you begin? The best way to sharpen your programming skills is by applying your knowledge to build coding projects.

Whether you’re a beginner or you’re getting back into coding, here are the best programming projects to build your confidence and make you a better developer.

Beginner Programming Projects

If you’re an absolute beginner, you’ll want to know the basics of two web markup languages: HTML and CSS. Understanding the basics of HTML code is the first thing you need to know about creating web apps.

If you’re comfortable with the basics, you can venture out and create projects. The best projects end up being crash courses in coding themselves. They push the boundaries of what you already know and give you a practical exercise in whichever language you choose.

These projects are simple, even if they’re not easy to make at first. You will walk away from with two things: a portfolio piece you can use to prove your ability and a better understanding of how powerful programming can be.

Some of these examples will use different languages like Java or JavaScript, but you can make them in any language you feel comfortable in.

Let’s dive into some practical projects!

1. Make Your Own Chess Game

Building a chess game is a great way to take a classic game you may already know and turn it into a program. Chess makes for a fantastic starter piece—pun intended—towards a programming career.

You’ll start by mapping out your board and your pieces. Then, you’ll go on to giving specific movements for your pieces. You’ll be forced to think of chess as a programmer, trying to turn concepts into algorithms a computer can understand. Check out the video to begin learning how to create your very own chess program in Java (and how to modify it to create your version).

It isn’t exactly a step by step tutorial to create the program, but it has great insight into how programmers think to build a complex project.

If you’d prefer more video you can follow along with, take a look at these code-along YouTube channels to learn programming.

2. Code a Mobile App

It’s important to be able to create interfaces that are mobile-device friendly. You don’t need anything other than HTML and CSS to create beautiful layouts that can be worked into an Android or iOS app. This project is important because it teaches you how to create an interface, not just coding logic.

This tutorial shows you how easy it is to make a layout by creating a simple product card. This is a great way to practice your design skills. You don’t have to copy the code line by line, try giving it your own flavor and make it look how you want. There is no limit to the type of designs you can make using CSS.

3. Build Your Own Calculator

A calculator is one of the most popular beginner projects to learn.  Creating a calculator gives you practice writing a layout, logic that reads numbers or symbols from the layout, and logic that processes the information to get a result. It’s simple enough to start and challenging enough to make you think when you test the calculator and realize what goes into it.

JavaScript is a great language to pair with HTML and CSS to build this app.

 4. Create a To-Do List App

Building a to-do list app is another great coding project to test your programming skills. It involves most of what you need to create a simple UI: buttons, animation, user interaction, and events.

This video will walk you through the app using the big three—HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (learn more about JavaScript)—you can upload it to a portfolio of your choice for showcasing. Try putting your own spin on it to challenge yourself.

5. Develop a Weight Conversion Tool

A simple weight conversion tool is a great project for new developers. Much like the to-do list app, it will challenge you to create a layout and perform some logic that responds to the information input into the form. Keep in mind as you’re building projects that you should customize them how you like. Getting creative with beginner coding projects helps you discover your identity as a developer.

The above example integrates Bootstrap into your project, which can be a great starter tool to help you create web apps.

6. Code a Rock, Paper, Scissors Game

Rock, Paper, Scissors is a classic game that can be turned into a programming challenge. It requires both user input and creating random elements. You’re creating both the game and the logic behind the robot you’re playing against.

Additionally, it provides beginner coders with an interactive product you can pick up and play immediately. A little instant gratification goes a long way towards staying inspired. Since there are various graphic objects to interact with you can be as creative as you’d like!

7. Build Your Own Tic Tac Toe Game

Tic Tac Toe is a classic childhood game with straightforward rules. Building a Tic Tac Toe app is a little more challenging than it appears. Creating the layout is pretty simple, the logic is where it gets interesting. Programming the code to know when to end the game is sure to exercise your mind in the best way.

Using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript you can learn how to create an unbeatable Tic Tac Toe bot.

8. Web Scraper With Python

Python is famous for how well it works for just about any coding project. You can use Python, along with a Python library called Beautiful Soup, to extract data from HTML and XML documents.

This example of web scraping exports the data into a CSV file so you can use a program like Excel to create charts, graphs, plots, and more using your data. Python can do more than scraping HTML code. You can build Twitter, Instagram, or Reddit bots using Python.

You will need to download a Python distribution called Anaconda to build this project. It’s a large library with all kinds of tools built-in to use Python. Learning how to find and download helpful tools is going to be critical as you advance as a coder.

9. Build a Basic HTML5 Website

Few projects will teach you as much as building a full HTML and CSS website. Creating a simple website combines design principles, file linking, web hosting, and coding logic. This is a great piece to include in your portfolio, especially if you’re on your way to becoming a web developer.

The complexity of your website will grow the more you learn. Other programming languages you discover can be used on the back end of websites, making them a fantastic go-to when flexing your programming skills.

10. Build a Simple JavaScript Slideshow

Building a JavaScript slideshow is a fun little project that isn’t all that much work. This coding project is recommended because it teaches you the basics of interacting with the Document Object Model (DOM) in a browser and making your website dynamic.

This project is valuable because it can be used over and over again. If you want to be a full-time web developer you may find yourself using something like this on many different websites with all kinds of designs. The logic remains the same so learning it here is highly recommended.

Start Small, Think Big

Programming projects snowball your coding skills. Pick up a project with HTML and CSS and soon you’re using JavaScript. Before long, you’ll be creating complex Python games and apps. It’s amazing what a steady, consistent flow of projects will do for your programming knowledge.

Now you have 10 beginner coding projects to pick apart and piece together.  Choose one, two, or all, but whatever you do: get coding!

Ready? It’s time to check the best sites for free online programming courses.

Read the full article: The 10 Best Beginner Projects for New Programmers

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Use the “Make a Copy” Trick When Sharing Google Drive Documents

It’s easy to make a copy of any document within your own Google Drive account. But what if you want your collaborators to automatically make a copy of a Google Doc when they receive a share link?

Try these tips which utilize a small tweak to the shared URL.

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The utility of this neat Google Drive hack isn’t quite clear from the title but try it out once and you will see the immediate benefit when collaborating with others on Google Drive.

This method is handy when you want to preserve the original document while giving others the space to edit a copy of the document in their own Drive folder.

It will save them a trip to the File > Make a Copy command and share a copy of a Google Doc in the usual way. Here’s how it works.

Share a Copy of a Google Doc Automatically

A typical case is a Google Doc that needs to be filled out individually by each respondent. Collaborators can enter the details in their own copy of the document without corrupting the original.

You won’t have to ask them to make a copy. Simply follow these steps and the copy will be made automatically for them.

This hack works on Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides.

  1. Open the Google Drive document you want to share.
  2. Click the blue Share button on the top-right of the document.Google Drive Share Button
  3. In the Share with people and groups dialog, click anywhere on the Get link box as indicated by the prompt.Google Drive Share Dialog Settings
  4. Grab the document link with a click on Copy link. You can send this link to anyone via email or any other medium and then can view, comment, or edit the document. You can set the access by choosing between Viewer, Commenter, or Editor with a click on the little downward arrow on the right.Copy Google Docs Link
  5. Copy-paste the shared link in an email. Now, delete everything after the forward-slash in the link and insert “copy”. Edit this little part of the entire link only part. If you make any other edits, it will show up as an error page for your recipient.Copied Google Drive URL in email

    This is how the new link looks now:
    Add "Copy" at the end of a Google Doc sharing URL
  6. Send the email and your work is done. When the recipient clicks on the link, it takes them to their Google Drive screen that prompts them to make a copy of your document.Make a Copy in Google Docs

When they click Make a copy, a local copy of the document is saved on their Google Drive. Also, the copy is received without the comments if any in the original. If you want to send a file with the comments, read the next tip below.

Other Google URL Tricks You Can Use to Share a Google Document

There are a few more variations you can force on the shared links depending on what you want your collaborator to do with it. Let’s go through these four URL tweaks.

1. Share a Copy of Google Docs That Includes Comments

Google Dive Sharing URL Example

Sometimes you want your comments to carry over to the copy so that your team members can use it to work on their version. You can do it in two ways:

  • Replace /edit with /copy?copyComments=true in the file URL.
  • Replace /edit with includeResolvedCommentsOnCopy=false to avoid copying resolved comments.

2. Share a Google Docs Copy as a Preview

Google Dive Sharing URL Example

The Preview mode is different than the View option because it displays the document in an uncluttered interface without menu bars and buttons. For instance, you can share a Sheet or a Slide presentation to anyone outside your collaborating team.

Use the Preview mode by replacing /edit in the Google Drive file URL with /preview.

Do note that a Preview link removes menus. So recipients will not be able to use the File > Make a Copy option to add a copy to their own Google Drive.

To bypass that restriction, recipients can go to the address bar in their browser and replace /preview with /edit again to make a copy for their own drive.

3. Share a Google Document as a Template

Google Dive Sharing URL Example

You can share a Google document as a template. The recipient gets a clutter-free copy of your document minus the Google Drive menus. They can also make a copy of the document for their drive with a click on the blue Use Template button.

Replace /edit with /template/preview

This method combines the Preview option with the choice to “Make a Copy”.

4. Share a Google Docs Copy as a Direct Download Links

Google Dive Sharing URL Example

A direct download link works as it says. Your team member just has to click the link and the file will be downloaded to their desktop.

Replace /edit with /export?format=FORMAT

Add the file format (like PDF or CSV) that the document should be saved as, and your download link is ready. The PDF or CSV option is ideal because it is a universal format and the recipient does not need a Google account to open and view the file.

Also, the receiver gets a print-ready file they can instantly send to the printer. This works with Google Docs and Google Sheets, but not Google Slides.

Keep an Eye on Google Drive’s Sharing Settings

Google Drive is built around collaboration. But it’s always a good idea to track who you are sharing your files with. It’s easy to lose track when you are working in a large team.

The above examples show that it is easy to tweak the shared URLs and access the files if your sharing permissions are not set with security in mind. Spend some time in managing your shared files in Google Drive and you won’t have to worry about files falling into the wrong hands.

Read the full article: Use the “Make a Copy” Trick When Sharing Google Drive Documents

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How to Recover Deleted or Missing WhatsApp Messages

Do you need to recover deleted or missing WhatsApp messages? It’s certainly possible, and in this article we explain how to do it.

Instead of archiving a WhatsApp chat, you might have accidentally deleted it. What’s the difference? Archived chats are easy to recover from within WhatsApp, whereas recovering deleted messages isn’t so easy. But rest assured that you CAN do it.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to recover deleted WhatsApp messages on your iPhone or Android. We’ll then teach you how to set up an advanced WhatsApp backup plan to ensure you never lose any of your WhatsApp messages again.

Understanding WhatsApp Chat Backups

In order to retrieve deleted WhatsApp messages, you need to have enabled Chat Backup in the app’s settings. To reach this, just tap the Settings tab at the bottom on iOS, or open the three-dot menu at the top-right and choose Settings on Android.

From there, head to Chats > Chat backup. Here (under Auto Backup on iOS and Back up to Google Drive on Android), WhatsApp offers several backup frequencies:

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • Off

On Android, WhatsApp makes a local backup every night, but this won’t help you if you lose your phone. Which is why cloud backups are vital.

WhatsApp deletes older backup files as you create new ones. The iPhone app only keeps the latest backup file, while the Android version keeps “up to the last seven days’ worth” of backup files. Keep that in mind as you choose the right backup frequency for your needs.

By having daily auto backups, you’ll be able to easily recover messages soon after deleting them. On the other hand, weekly auto backups will allow you to go further back in time to recover deleted WhatsApp messages, at the expense of losing recent chat messages.

For a more advanced backup plan for Android devices, please scroll down to the “Advanced WhatsApp Backup Strategy on Android” section below.

How to Restore Archived WhatsApp Chats

On iPhone, if you archive an old chat, you can reverse the archival by shaking your iPhone and choosing Undo to recover the archived chat.

To unarchive a chat later:

  1. Scroll up in the chat list until Archived Chats appears.
  2. Tap on it, then swipe left on the chat you want to restore.
  3. Hit the Unarchive button that appears.

To unarchive a chat on Android:

  1. Scroll to the bottom of the chat list and tap Archived (X).
  2. Press and hold on the chat you want to recover.
  3. Tap the unarchive icon, which looks like a box with an upward-facing arrow.

How to Retrieve Deleted WhatsApp Messages

Wondering how to get back deleted WhatsApp messages after backing them up? Simply uninstall and reinstall WhatsApp on your device. When you reinstall the app, you will be prompted to restore your message history from the backup file. Tap Restore and you’ll retrieve everything from the latest backup.

This method of recovering deleted WhatsApp messages works on both Android and iOS as long as you have a backup. Keep in mind that it has to be within your selected auto-backup frequency, however. For instance, if you’ve set the app to back up daily, you can recover any deleted chats before the next daily backup occurs.

Recovering Deleted Media on WhatsApp

Hopefully, restoring your backup file allowed you to retrieve any deleted media from your chats. If that didn’t work, however, read our guide to recovering deleted photos from WhatsApp.

On Android, you can simply open a file explorer app and navigate to /WhatsApp/Media. From there, simply sift through the folders until you find the deleted files to want to recover. Check the above guide for additional methods.

How to Recover Older Deleted Chats in WhatsApp

Getting deleted messages back after a new backup has run is slightly more difficult. Your success will depend on your selected auto-backup frequency. Note that this process only works on Android devices, since it lets you access the local backup files.

Before we dive into the process, here’s an overview:

  1. Open a file explorer app on your device.
  2. Navigate to /WhatsApp/Databases.
  3. Rename msgstore.db.crypt12 to msgstore-latest.db.crypt12.
  4. Rename msgstore-YYYY-MM-DD.1.db.crypt12 to msgstore.db.crypt12.
  5. Uninstall WhatsApp.
  6. If Google Drive backups are enabled, open Google Drive, slide out the left menu, tap Backups, and delete the WhatsApp backup file.
  7. Reinstall WhatsApp.
  8. When prompted, restore from the backup file.

How to Recover Older Deleted WhatsApp Chats on Android

As mentioned before, WhatsApp retains several days of chat backup files. One is, of course, the latest chat backup. The others, depending on your auto-backup frequency, could be one day or many days old. In addition to the Google Drive cloud backup, WhatsApp stores these backups on your device’s local storage.

Open your device’s file explorer app (Files by Google is a good option if you don’t have one installed), and navigate to /WhatsApp/Databases. Depending on your device, the WhatsApp folder may appear under /sdcard/, /storage/, or similar.

Within that folder, you’ll find the various chat backup files. The latest one is named msgstore.db.crypt12, while the others look like msgstore-YYYY-MM-DD.1.db.crypt12. As you’d expect, YYYY-MM-DD represents the year, month, and date, respectively.

To retrieve WhatsApp messages deleted sometime between two backups, simply do the following:

  • Rename msgstore.db.crypt12 to msgstore-latest.db.crypt12. This changes the latest backup file, since you’re about to give an older backup its name.
  • Next, rename the msgstore-YYYY-MM-DD.1.db.crypt12 file that you want to restore to msgstore.db.crypt12.

After that, uninstall WhatsApp. If you’ve enabled Google Drive cloud backups, open the Google Drive app, slide out the left menu, and select Backups. You’ll see a WhatsApp backup file with your phone number in it. Tap the three-dot Menu to the right of this and choose Delete backup to erase it.

Doing this prevents WhatsApp from using the backup file from Google Drive instead of the local file you want to restore.

Now, reinstall WhatsApp. During the setup process, you’ll be prompted to restore from the backup file you’ve just edited—it will show as X days old instead of the most recent backup file.

That’s all you have to do in order to retrieve deleted WhatsApp messages from older backups. Once you restore those messages, feel free to start using WhatsApp as normal again.

Export Retrieved Messages and Return to the Latest Backup

If you only walked through the above process to restore a few messages, and don’t want to lose the latest messages, you can export the retrieved chat messages and then restore WhatsApp to the latest backup. You’ll have to run through the entire process again, but it’s not difficult.

To export messages, open the chat containing the messages you want to save. Tap the three-dot Menu button at the top-right, followed by More > Export chat. If the chat has media, you’ll see an option to export Without media or to Include media.

Including media will add all recent images as attachments, which obviously increases the size of the export file. You can export up to 10,000 messages with media, or 40,000 messages without media.

After you make your choice, choose an app on your phone to share the text file (and attachments, if applicable) containing your messages. You can email this to yourself, add it to cloud storage, or similar.

Repeat this for any other chats with messages you want to save. Once that’s done, follow the steps in the above section again. When you come to renaming the backup files, reverse the process:

  • Rename the existing msgstore.db.crypt12 (which contains the messages you retrieved) to msgstore-YYYY-MM-DD.1.db.crypt12, using today’s date.
  • Then rename msgstore-latest.db.crypt12 (the latest backup created when you started) back to msgstore.db.crypt12.

Uninstall WhatsApp, delete your Google Drive backup if needed, reinstall the app and restore from backup, and your latest chats will reappear.

Advanced WhatsApp Backup Strategy on Android

Because you can easily view and edit WhatsApp chat backup files on Android, it’s easy to manipulate them if you like. Renaming them allows you to keep as many backup files as you want.

All you need to do is rename a backup in the msgstore-YYYY-MM-DD.1.db.crypt12 format to something else, such as oct11.db.crypt12. Because this file doesn’t use WhatsApp’s naming convention, it’s now protected from being overwritten by WhatsApp.

Consider creating your own backup file in this way once every month or so. That way, you won’t lose tons of messages if you have to restore one of them. For even more safety, copy your backup files to cloud storage or your computer so that they’re safe in case your phone stops working.

Recover WhatsApp Messages to Preserve Memories

As you can see, it’s fairly easy to recover deleted WhatsApp messages. However, this is only the case if you’ve backed up your messages ahead of time. This is why the advanced backup strategy is worth setting up if you’re an Android user.

Now that you’ve set up a full backup for WhatsApp and know that you won’t lose any messages, it’s a good idea to learn more about how WhatsApp works. Check out our rundown of the best new WhatsApp features you might have missed.

Read the full article: How to Recover Deleted or Missing WhatsApp Messages

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The 6 Best Alternatives to Audacity for Recording and Editing Audio

Audacity is the biggest name in free audio editing. It’s open-source software that has been around since 2000. And it’s effective at what it does and can be used for more than just recording and editing audio.

There’s nothing wrong with Audacity, and we recommend giving it a try if you haven’t already done so. Audacity is popular for a reason and you should only look for an alternative if you find it buggy or annoying.

Fortunately, if that is the case, there are plenty of alternatives to Audacity. So here are some of the best Audacity alternatives to use…

1. Ocenaudio

Ocenaudio audio editor

Ocenaudio is a tiny, lightweight, and fast audio editor. It’s based on the Ocen Framework, which is a powerful cross-platform library that standardizes the manipulation and analysis of audio. In short, that means Ocenaudio performs well and remains stable no matter which operating system you use it on.

Because it’s so slim, you probably won’t want to use it for editing-heavy projects like music production. However, if you just want to record a monolog or an interview, then Ocenaudio is one of the best free audio editors available.

Think of Ocenaudio as the Microsoft Paint of audio editing: perfect for quick and easy cropping and splicing, but not so great when you need to do something more complex.

Download: Ocenaudio for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)

2. Wavosaur

Wavosaur audio editor

One of the big draws to Wavosaur is that it offers a multiple-document interface. That means you can switch between multiple different projects from the same window. Of course, you can open multiple projects in Audacity as well, but it isn’t as easy to switch between them.

Wavosaur also comes with a handful of advanced features, such as auto-trim, silence remover, crossfade looping, and audio region exporting. Wavosaur even supports VST plugins.

It’s a little harder to learn, but not by much. The only true downside is that Wavosaur is neither open-source nor cross-platform: it only works with Windows.

However, at least it’s completely free.

Download: Wavosaur for Windows (Free)

3. AV Audio Editor

audio-editor-av-audio-editor

AV Audio Editor is an Audacity alternative that’s also something of a hybrid between Ocenaudio and Wavosaur. It’s similar to Wavosaur thanks to its robust audio-editing features, support for common audio formats, and ability to edit multiple projects at once. But it’s like Ocenaudio in its simplicity and ease of use.

Unfortunately, AV Audio Editor is also only available for Windows.

Another drawback is that AV Audio Editor doesn’t have a built-in recording feature. But you can just use AV Audio and Sound Recorder for that. Not only is it free, but it’s advanced enough to record from multiple microphones and audio sources at once.

Download: AV Audio Editor for Windows (Free)

Download: AV Audio and Sound Recorder for Windows (Free)

4. WavePad

WavePad audio editor

WavePad is a fully-featured professional audio editing program that feels like a souped-up version of Audacity. On top of all the basic editing features you’d expect, WavePad supports all kinds of effects, compression, batch processing, scrubbing, bookmarking, spectral analysis, and Audio Unit plugins.

And all of this power is made easy to use with a straightforward interface. WavePad is a completely free audio editor for personal use. To use it for commercial purposes, you need to buy it for $60 or $99, depending on whether you want VST support or not.

You can install WavePad on Windows or Mac. Something that makes Wavepad much better than Audacity is that it also offers mobile apps for Android and iOS.

Download: WavePad for Windows | macOS | Android | iOS (Free, with a premium purchase available)

5. Adobe Audition CC

audio-editor-audition-cc

Adobe Audition is an absolutely amazing audio editor that is much better than Audacity. However, it’s only worth considering if money is of no concern whatsoever or you’re a digital artist, graphic designer, or photographer with other reasons to buy a Creative Cloud subscription.

Adobe Audition is a precision editing app. It provides a bunch of neat features and tools for cleaning up audio, restoring poor quality, implementing effects, and mixing multiple sources together. It’s perfect for podcasting, sound design, and even music sampling.

But is it worth the monthly recurring cost? Only you can decide that. The best value would be to get the full Creative Cloud plan, which costs $52.99/month if you sign up for a full year and comes with 20 apps, including Audition, Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, and more.

If you aren’t sure about the cost, you can test it out by making use of Adobe’s seven-day free trial.

Download: Adobe Audition CC for Windows | Mac ($20.99/month, free trial available)

6. Ardour

audio-editor-ardour

It’s hard to find high-quality creative apps on Linux, and the realm of audio editing is no exception. Even in this post, the only other Audacity alternative that works on Linux is Ocenaudio. If Ocenaudio is too barebones for you, Ardour is another solid option.

With Ardour you can record inputs, edit waveforms in a number of ways, splice and mix multiple waveforms together, and use hundreds of plugins to expand those functions. It’s perfect for composers, musicians, and sound engineers. Although it may be too complex for simple podcasts or quick audio fixes.

Note that Ardour has an unusual pricing structure. The free version periodically goes silent after 10 minutes, which is enough time to let you try the app but also enough of a nuisance to make you want to buy it.

If you do buy Ardour, you can essentially pay what you want for it—even as low as $1. If you pay less than $45, you don’t get access to all future upgrades. But you can choose a subscription instead—for as little as $1/month—that gives you upgrades for life.

Download: Ardour for Windows | macOS | Linux (From $1, free demo available)

Audacity Alternatives: Which Is Your Favorite?

There are certainly more Audacity alternatives on Windows than Mac or Linux. But the good news is that you can find apps similar to Audacity on any platform. And all of them offer something different.

Sticking with Audacity has the benefit of a large userbase, but if you really can’t stand it, hopefully one of these alternatives to Audacity will work for you instead.

And now that you’ve found the best audio editor for your needs, you should take a look at these tips for recording better audio to make your productions sound better than ever.

Read the full article: The 6 Best Alternatives to Audacity for Recording and Editing Audio

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New to PC Gaming? The Essential PC Gaming Accessories You Should Have

PC gaming is different from console gaming. Console gamers typically spend money on specific gaming accessories, making sure they’re device compatible. Whereas, PC gamers can go wild with a huge range of options. Once you invest in a cockpit simulator or full sim-racing rig, there’s no turning back!

Whether you’re new to PC gaming or looking to level up your battle station, you should check out this guide to the best PC gaming accessories. Let’s start from the top: what are the essential PC gaming accessories that no gamer can do without?

Entry-Level Gaming Mice

When it comes to gaming, both your mouse and keyboard are essentials. A decent, responsive mouse can vary in price significantly. Plus, you don’t always get what you pay for. That said, your lousy trackball Dell mouse just won’t do for gaming. Here is a selection of decent budget mice that pack a punch.

VicTsing MM057

VicTsing MM057 VicTsing MM057 Buy Now On Amazon $15.99

There are plenty of cheap mouse options available. Few are as highly favored as the VicTsing MM057. I prefer the minimal profile gaming mouse model (read: no lights), so this mouse was a cinch, style-wise. It has five adjustable DPI levels (2400, 2000, 1600, 1200, 800), an ergonomic design, and two customizable side-buttons, which are staples for any gaming mouse.

If you’re interested in a flurry of flash as well, check out VicTsing’s Wireless Gaming Mouse. It’s essentially a fuller size with an extra DPI button, and red LED lighting.

ROSEWILL NEON M55

ROSEWILL NEON M55 ROSEWILL NEON M55 Buy Now On Amazon $19.99

If RGB lighting is more your thing, check out the ROSEWILL NEON M55. The M55 is a highly rated budget gaming mouse with a decent ergonomic design. It features six adjustable DPI levels; 6000, 4000, 3000, 2400, 1600, and 800.

There is also an optical gaming sensor to give you an edge in first-person shooters (FPS) and other fast-paced games. The NEON M55’s RGB lighting is customizable, as are the buttons on the mouse itself.

Entry-Level Gaming Keyboards

For beginner gaming, a decent keyboard is absolutely necessary. While all keyboards generally work the same, aspects like build quality, input lag, and customization all play important roles. Backlit keys, for example, are typically considered extraneous until you’re playing in a dark room. For our purposes, we’ll be focusing on all-around keyboard models.

Redragon K552 Kumura

Redragon K552 Kumura Redragon K552 Kumura Buy Now On Amazon $38.99

The Redragon K552 Kumura is a mechanical keyboard that often surprises users with its quality. With a classic red backlight, Cherry MX Blue-style key switches, spill-resistance, and a minimal decal, few other keyboards match up to this one at this price point.

Redragon K502 Karura

Redragon K502 Karura Redragon K502 Karura Buy Now On Amazon $28.99

The Redragon K502 Karura is a quiet keyboard that uses island-style Chiclet keys (rather than the clunky switches found on mechanical keyboards). The keys have less travel distance than a mechanical keyboard, too. Could that help your gaming performance?

Gaming performance aside, the K502 Karura has six different RBG lighting modes, four backlight lighting levels, plus other adjustable lighting features. The keyboard itself is splash resistant (think spills, not plunging into the bathtub), and has some handy rollover media keys, too.

Recommended PC Gaming Mice

The first section covering mice was for standard though effective models. Honestly, you’ll do fine with one of those. However, you can always want more and aspire for a more exciting model with extra features.

With gaming mice, you do tend to get a little extra when you splash a little more cash. Faster connections, more in-depth acceleration settings, higher-quality sensors, and a comfortable, ergonomic feel are absolutely necessary for a gaming mouse.

Think about it; you’re going to use this mouse for thousands of hours’ worth of gaming, plus any other work you do on your computer. Why not grab a comfortable, powerful model?

Razer DeathAdder v2

Razer DeathAdder V2 Razer DeathAdder V2 Buy Now On Amazon $69.99

The Razer DeathAdder V2 is the second iteration of the wildly popular DeathAdder gaming mouse. The DeathAdder V2 remains one of the top-selling PC gaming accessories, at least three years since its release. You can customize the DeathAdder V2 with Razer’s Chroma RGB lighting, supporting millions of color combinations.

The mouse also has multiple sensitivity settings, ranging up to 20,000 DPI. The switches use Razer’s optical mouse light-based actuation, which means button presses register with extreme speed.

Logitech G403 Hero

Logitech G403 Hero Logitech G403 Hero Buy Now On Amazon $49.99

Logitech continues to make fantastic, durable gaming mice. The Logitech G403 Hero is no different, carrying on that strong tradition. One thing to really like about the G403 Hero is the removable weights. The mouse weighs in at 87g, but also comes with 10g removable weight. If the mouse feels slightly too heavy, you can customize the weight to your preference.

Aside from the weight, the G403 Hero uses Logitech’s Lightsync RGB system to provide a massive gamut of color, which you can extend across your other Logitech hardware. There is also up to 16,000 DPI, six customizable buttons, and a handy 2.1-meter USB cable.

Corsair M65 Elite

Corsair M65 Elite Corsair M65 Elite Buy Now On Amazon $70.77

The Corsair M65 Elite is built with FPS-type games in mind, featuring an adjustable DPI sniper button. The extra button enables you to toggle between two preset DPI settings, allowing you greater precision for those precision shots.

You’ll also find up to 18,000 DPI with six different custom presets, eight programable buttons, customizable mouse weights, plus a massive amount of RGB color customization through Corsair’s iCue software.

Recommended PC Gaming Mouse Pads

If your mouse pad doesn’t cover most of your desk’s surface, you’re using the wrong mouse pad. Some consider it trivial. That ends when they get one.

LIEBIRD Extended XXL Gaming Mouse Pad

LIEBIRD XXL Gaming Mouse Pad LIEBIRD XXL Gaming Mouse Pad Buy Now On Amazon $10.99

The LIEBIRD Extended XXL’s map graphics and high-quality rubber base make it an excellent choice. A little geography lesson never hurt, either. There are several other options available, including almond blossoms and different world map designs.

Tilted Nation Extended Gaming RGB Mouse Pad

Tilted Nation Gaming RGB Mouse Pad Tilted Nation Gaming RGB Mouse Pad Buy Now On Amazon

Are you looking to add more color to your gaming rig? The Tilted Nation RGB is a massive mousepad with edge-lit LEDs. The mousepad comes with seven different lighting modes or a standard RGB breathing option.

Recommended PC Gaming Keyboards

When keyboards are good, they’re really good. Unfortunately, they’re often also really expensive.  Here are a few essential keyboards which will last, feel incredibly comfortable, and won’t break the bank.

Logitech G213 Prodigy

Logitech G213 Prodigy Logitech G213 Prodigy Buy Now On Amazon $44.99

Logitech’s keyboards are comparable in quality to their mice, and the G213 Prodigy is a trustworthy keyboard. Not only does this provide a classic chroma aesthetic, but keystrokes are also smooth and quick. The added built-in hand rest seals the deal.

Corsair Gaming K55

Corsair Gaming K55 Corsair Gaming K55 Buy Now On Amazon $59.18

Corsair is at the top of the heap for gaming peripherals. It continually creates fantastic, slightly different products to fit particular budgets and interests. The K-Series is always a safe bet, including the Gaming K55 RGB keyboard. Six programmable keys, quick response, and a quiet clack make this one of the best keyboards you can get for the price. It’s highly popular for a reason.

Razer Huntsman Elite

Razer Huntsman Elite Razer Huntsman Elite Buy Now On Amazon $185.89

Just like the Razer DeathAdder V2, the Razer Huntsman Elite is one of the top-selling gaming accessories in the US. The Huntsman Elite is built solidly and comes with an ergonomic arm-rest for extra comfort. The keyboard uses Razer’s optical light actuation to register keystrokes with incredible speed and accuracy

Importantly for gamers, it also features 1000Hz ultrapolling for maximum response time. You can further customize the Huntsman Elite using Razer Hypershift, which lets you remap all keys and keypress combinations into special complex commands. Oh, and you can sync its RGB colors to the games you play through Razer Chroma. We’re big fans of the keyboard-based volume dial, too.

Corsair K63 Compact

Corsair K63 Compact Corsair K63 Compact Buy Now On Amazon $79.99

If you’re building a battle station with limited space, the Corsair K63 Compact is for you. The K63 Compact does away with the Numpad and corresponding area, bringing you a compact but punchy mechanical gaming keyboard.

Powering your games are the Cherry MX Red switches for maximum feedback, and you’ll enjoy the basic red LED lighting. The K63 Compact also features dedicated media and volume control buttons, which is always a nice additional feature.

Recommended PC Gaming Headsets

At some point, you’re going to want to talk to your friends, and maybe even your foes. Multiplayer gaming is all about communication, especially if you want to win. Plus, there is nothing like putting on your headphones and immersing yourself in the sounds of the game.

HyperX Cloud Alpha

HyperX Cloud Alpha HyperX Cloud Alpha Buy Now On Amazon $159.70

The award-winning HyperX Cloud Alpha is an excellent headset to delve into the world of multiplayer comms. The headset comes with dual 50mm drivers for crisp audio delivery, padded ear cushions, and a handy inline audio control.

The Cloud Alpha gaming headset also comes with a detachable noise-canceling microphone. You can position the microphone away from your mouth to stop any Darth Vadar microphone moments, knowing that your teammates will still hear you clearly.

SteelSeries Arctis 7

SteelSeries Arctis 7 SteelSeries Arctis 7 Buy Now On Amazon $149.99

If you prefer a wireless headset, try the SteelSeries Arctis 7. Like the HyperX Cloud Alpha, the Arctis 7 is an award-winning headset. It promises up to 24-hours battery life, so should outlast your gaming sessions.

The SteelSeries Arctis 7 also features DTS Headphone: X v2, which is a type of spatial sound technology. When you’re in-game, all of the sounds you hear will come from their actual location, rather than just a left or right channel. It creates an extra level of immersion and can help in games where your position is important.

Adding to that, the Arctis 7 has a brilliant detachable noise-canceling microphone, which is also very highly rated.

Blue Snowball USB Microphone

Blue Snowball USB Microphone Blue Snowball USB Microphone Buy Now On Amazon $47.99

If you already have a decent set of headphones, you could opt for a standalone USB microphone. The Blue Snowball is a great USB microphone with an integrated condenser that looks stylish on your desk.

Recommended PC Gaming Monitors

You might wonder why monitors didn’t feature in the Essentials section. Well, you likely already have a monitor. But you can level up your monitor to something more suiting PC gaming.

You’re looking for two important details for a gaming monitor: savings per inch and IPS (In-Plane Switching). IPS displays will not warp the image on your screen given the viewing angle. Typical TN (Twisted Nematic) displays will.

There is some debate as to whether IPS monitors are better for gaming. Those who don’t agree tend to point to other technologies, such as AMD’s FreeSync, that can also make a difference to your gaming experience. However, few regret opting for an IPS panel, so it is something to consider within your battle station budget.

PC gamers, rejoice! The monitor market is extremely competitive, so you’ll find excellent quality PC gaming monitors for all budgets.

ASUS VP249QGR

ASUS VP249QGR ASUS VP249QGR Buy Now On Amazon $299.95

Why choose between FreeSync and IPS when you could have both? The ASUS VP249QGR is a 23.8-inch 144Hz Full-HD IPS panel. The 144Hz figure means the response and update time for the images on your monitor is fast. The fast refresh rate can help in certain types of games. At the very least, it can help with playback.

Acer R240HY

Acer R240HY Acer R240HY Buy Now On Amazon $169.53

Very few have been disappointed by an Acer monitor. The Acer R240HY IPS monitor provides a high-definition picture, crisp color quality, and 23.8 inches of glorious gameplay.

Behind the scenes, the R240HY has a 4ms response time, a 60Hz refresh rate, and supports HDCP 1.4. Another nice touch is the almost bezel-less edging, using the Acer Zero Frame design.

Sceptre C248B-144RN

Sceptre C248B-144RN Sceptre C248B-144RN Buy Now On Amazon $257.49

If you want something a little special, try the Sceptre C248B-144RN. It’s an entry-level 144Hz 24-inch curved gaming monitor that also features FreeSync. The C248B-144RN uses an edgeless design to maximize your screen real-estate. For the price point and the quality on offer, you could do a lot worse than the Sceptre C248B-144RN.

Recommended PC Gaming Chairs

Gaming chairs are sort of like solid-state drives: they don’t seem necessary until you get one. Then, you’ll wonder how you functioned without it.

Keep in mind that your gaming chair is a matter of comfort, not flash. While some awesome chairs may seem expensive compared to most gaming peripherals, a comfortable $300 chair that lasts you ten years costs $30 a year.

Consider your seat an investment.

IKEA Markus Swivel Chair

ikea markus office chair

If you didn’t know about this chair before, you’re in luck now. The IKEA Markus Swivel Chair is comfortable, ergonomic, and critically acclaimed online. Comparatively speaking, it’s also inexpensive. Your back will thank you.

Furmax Office Chair

Furmax Office Chair

On the lower-budget end, the Furmax Office Chair is almost unmatched. If you can’t spend much and are suffering on a kitchen seat, get this chair. The added gaming colorways also allow for some customization.

OFM Essentials Collection Gaming Chair

OFM Essentials Gaming Chair

The OFM Essentials Collection Gaming Chair is the number one selling gaming chair on Amazon. It combines stylish soft leather with an ergonomic design for maximum comfort. You can spend hours gaming in this chair without experiencing backaches or otherwise.

Useful USB Device Adapters

An adapter is a USB device that allows for wireless capabilities between devices and PCs. That includes both mouse/keyboard options and gaming controllers.

TP-Link Archer T3U

TP-Link AC1300 Wi-Fi Adaptor

The TP-Link Archer T3U is a dual-band USB Wi-Fi adapter. You plug the T3U into a USB slot on your PC, creating the option to connect to your home Wi-Fi network. The T3U is a dual-band Wi-FI adapter, which means you can connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz connections.

The T3U can provide speeds up to 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 867Mbps on the 5GHz band.

Plugable Bluetooth Adapter

Plugable Bluetooth USB Adaptor

Another best-seller, the Plugable Bluetooth Adapter has been used by thousands of people to add Bluetooth connectivity. After purchase, you can use your PC for speakers, controllers, remotes, mouses, keyboards, and more.

Other PC Gaming Accessories

Now that you’re getting into gaming, chances are you’re going to start taking quality into consideration. The following PC gaming accessories will help turn your gaming hobby into a gaming experience.

Xbox One Controller

Xbox Wireless Controller

The Xbox One Controller is an excellent handheld gamepad for PC gaming. It pairs easily with Windows, and almost all games these days support the Xbox controller out of the box. Furthermore, there’s often retrospective support for older games via patches and other workarounds.

If you don’t fancy an Xbox One controller, you could always opt for the older Xbox 360 controller, which many would argue is the superior option.

Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub

Sabrent USB Hub

USB 3.0 ports at a premium? Try the Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub to increase your connectivity options, at least for your USB PC gaming accessories.

The Sabrent model is great because you have individual indicators for each USB port, letting you know the status of the connection. Plus, the LEDs add another nice level of color to your battle station. Win-win, really.

The Best PC Gaming Accessories, Summed Up

There are oodles of choices between the various mice, keyboards, headphones, and other accessories you can use to game.

You can pick a few unusual gaming accessories, too. Don’t forget to optimize your computer for gaming, and you’ll be all set.

Read the full article: New to PC Gaming? The Essential PC Gaming Accessories You Should Have

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News

Apple iTunes Gift Cards FAQ: 7 Common Questions, Answered

iTunes is Apple’s marketplace for all sorts of media, software, and entertainment. If you’ve been given an iTunes gift card, you can use it to purchase apps, books, music, movies, and more.

If you’re not familiar with iTunes or have never received an iTunes gift card before, you might have a few questions about how to use it and what to buy. Let’s address some of the most common iTunes gift card questions.

Note that with the release of macOS Catalina, Apple has removed iTunes in favor of individual apps, such as Apple Music and Apple Books. iTunes is still available on Windows, as well as individual apps on iOS.

What Is an iTunes Gift Card?

apple itunes gift card promo

An iTunes gift card (usually labeled as an App Store & iTunes card) is pre-purchased credit for Apple’s various digital services. This includes the iTunes Store—Apple’s media and software marketplace where you can buy music, movies, apps, and more. You can also use iTunes gift cards to subscribe to Apple Music and other Apple services.

Be aware that iTunes gift cards are different than Apple Store gift cards. Apple Store gift cards let you purchase physical Apple products, like an iPhone or MacBook, at Apple’s physical or online stores.

iTunes gift cards are available as physical cards, as well as digital codes delivered via email. The gift card don’t expire, and once the credit is applied to your account, it won’t expire either.

You can only redeem your card in the same iTunes Store from which it was purchased. Thus, a US gift card is only good in the US App Store.

How to Buy an iTunes Gift Card

You can buy an iTunes gift card in the following ways:

  • At the Apple Store online.
  • On an iPhone or iPad: Launch the App Store app, tap your user icon, then choose Send Gift Card by Email.
  • Using a Mac running macOS Catalina or higher: open the Music app, click iTunes Store in the sidebar, and choose Send Gift.
  • On older versions of macOS or a Windows PC with iTunes: Click the Store tab, then choose Send Gift.
  • At physical retail locations like the Apple Store, supermarkets, and convenience stores.

iTunes gift cards are a good way to pay for items if you don’t have a credit card, or are traveling and want to make a purchase on another country’s iTunes Store. When needed, you can often find these online from secondary sellers.

If you’re lucky, you can find discounted iTunes gift cards for cheap. Just be cautious when browsing gift card deals, as scams are prominent in this area. Review some important tips on how to recognize free gift card scams to keep yourself safe.

Speaking of safety, you should know that many common phone scams demand gift cards as payment for outlandish claims, such as overdue taxes or ransom payments. These are never legitimate, so if a caller demands that you buy thousands of dollars of iTunes gift cards for some reason, just hang up.

How to Redeem iTunes Gift Cards

To redeem your iTunes gift card on an iPhone or iPad:

  1. Launch the App Store.
  2. On the Today tab, tap your user icon in the top-right corner.
  3. Choose Redeem Gift Card or Code.
  4. Use your device’s camera to scan your gift card, or enter the code manually.

To redeem your iTunes gift card on macOS Catalina and later:

  1. Launch the Mac App Store and click on your name in the left sidebar.
  2. Choose Redeem Gift Card at the top-right.
  3. Login with your Apple ID and password if needed.
  4. Use your webcam to scan the card or enter the code manually.

To redeem your iTunes gift card on a Mac or Windows PC running iTunes:

  1. Launch iTunes.
  2. At the top of the screen, choose Account > Redeem.
  3. Sign in with your Apple ID and password if needed.
  4. Enter your gift card code to redeem it.

Redeem iTunes Card Windows

How to Check Your iTunes Gift Card Balance

Your iTunes gift card balance is also known as Apple ID credit, since you can use it for many Apple services.

To check your iTunes gift card balance from an iPhone:

  1. Launch the App Store.
  2. On the Today tab, tap your user icon in the top-right corner.
  3. If you have iTunes credit, it displays below your name.

To check your iTunes gift card balance on macOS Catalina and later:

  1. Launch the Mac App Store and click on your name at the bottom of the left sidebar.
  2. If you have credit tied to your Apple ID, it will show below your name.

macOS Catalina in the Mac App Store

To check your iTunes gift card balance on a Mac or Windows PC running iTunes:

  1. Launch iTunes and ensure you’re signed in under Account > Sign in. You’ll see your Apple ID at the top of the dropdown list if you’re signed in.
  2. Click on the Store tab and look for your balance in the top-right corner.

If you don’t have a balance, you won’t see a value in any of these places.

When you redeem your iTunes gift card, the balance is transferred to your Apple ID account. If you’re not sure if you’ve used a gift card already, try redeeming it.

What Can You Buy With an iTunes Gift Card?

Once redeemed, you can spend iTunes credit on these services:

  • Apps and games from the iOS App Store and Mac App Store, including Apple Arcade subscriptions.
  • Music, TV shows, and movies from iTunes or the Apple TV app.
  • Books from Apple Books.
  • Subscriptions that normally charge your iTunes account, such as Apple TV+ or Apple News+.
  • iCloud storage space upgrades.

Can You Use iTunes Gift Cards for Apple Music?

You can use your iTunes gift card to pay for an Apple Music subscription. Redeem your card as described above, then start an Apple Music subscription using the Music app on your iPhone, Mac, or Android phone. On a Windows PC, you can subscribe to Apple Music using iTunes.

As long as you have credit on your Apple ID, your subscription will deduct from that balance. Once it runs out, you’ll be charged on your primary payment method instead.

Can You Use iTunes Gift Cards for In-App Purchases?

apple itunes gift cards

Yes. As mentioned above, all digital purchases you make with your Apple account will automatically use your Apple ID balance first. This means you can use your iTunes balance for in-app purchases, including both subscriptions and one-time purchases.

Beware of any in-app purchases that charge a payment method directly (like ride-sharing apps or food delivery services) since they will charge the credit card you have on file for that particular merchant instead.

How to Use iTunes Gift Cards Instead of Credit Cards

When you sign up for an Apple ID, you’re given the opportunity to add a payment method. However, you don’t have to add a credit card to your account. If you prefer, skip the step of adding a payment method, then redeem gift cards to add credit to your account instead.

Remember that iTunes and Apple services will always use your iTunes balance before charging your credit card. There’s no way to buy an app or pay for a subscription with a credit card to preserve your iTunes balance.

For example, if you get $100 iTunes gift card as a present and you have an ongoing Apple Music subscription, your subscription will use that balance over time until it’s all gone. Once you’re out of credit, your subscription will use your default payment method again.

Can You Use iTunes Gift Cards in the Apple Store?

apple itunes gift card devices

No. iTunes gift cards must be redeemed for digital Apple services on the App Store, iTunes, Apple Books, and similar. Apple Store gift cards are a separate product used for Apple hardware. They are usable at physical Apple Store locations, as well as Apple’s online store.

How to Add Funds to Your Apple ID Without Gift Cards

If you have a credit card attached to your Apple ID, you don’t need to buy gift cards for yourself. You can add funds to your Apple ID account by charging your payment method.

To do this on your iPhone:

  1. Open the App Store.
  2. Tap the Today tab, followed by your profile picture in the top-right.
  3. Select Add Funds to Apple ID, choose an amount, and complete your purchase.

On a Mac or Windows PC:

  1. Open the App Store on macOS Catalina. Launch iTunes on an older Mac or a Windows PC.
  2. On a Mac, choose Store > View My Account. On Windows, select Account > View My Account. Sign in again if needed.
  3. Scroll down to the Apple ID Account section and choose Add Funds to Apple ID.
  4. Choose the amount you want to add and walk through the steps to complete payment.

Apple ID Add Funds Windows

How to Use the iTunes Pass

If you don’t have a payment method on file with your Apple ID but don’t want to buy gift cards for yourself, Apple also offers a service called the iTunes Pass. This lets you add credit to your Apple ID by visiting an Apple Store or other participating retailer.

To create an iTunes Pass:

  1. Open the iTunes Store app on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the Music page and tap your Apple ID. Sign in if you’re not already.
  3. Choose View Apple ID.
  4. Select Add iTunes Pass to Wallet.
  5. You’ll see a preview of the pass. Tap Add in the top-right to send it to your Wallet app.

Now, you can open the Wallet app to view your iTunes Pass. When it’s open, show it to a store employee and let them know how much you’d like to add to your balance. They’ll complete your purchase in the store and you’ll have access to the credit right away.

A World of iTunes Entertainment Awaits

Now you know what iTunes gift cards let you buy, how to use them, and where to check your balance. In short, since iTunes gift cards add credit to your Apple ID, they’re good for pretty much any digital service Apple offers. Whether you want to buy paid apps, subscribe to Apple Music or Apple News+, or get more iCloud storage, iTunes gift cards let you pay for it.

If you’re not sure what to buy, we have you covered. Check out great uses for your iTunes or Apple gift card, including some hardware ideas if you have an Apple Store card.

Read the full article: Apple iTunes Gift Cards FAQ: 7 Common Questions, Answered