How to add a number row to the Google keyboard

google keyboard numbers 1

Typing in a series of numbers can be a cumbersome process on a touch-screen keyboard.

Fortunately, Google Keyboard lets you create a dedicated number row across the top of the keyboard so you can fly through your data entry.

If you’re using another keyboard, make sure you change your keyboard to Google Keyboard for this exercise.

Next, you’ll need to head to the Google Keyboard settings, which are found in the keyboard’s app icon. Or you can go to the Settings app > Language & Input > Google Keyboard.

google keyboard switch numbers
With a few steps in the settings you can set up a dedicated number row at the top of the Google Keyboard.

From here, go to Appearance & layouts > Custom input styles. Then touch the plus icon. Choose English (US) as the language and PC as the layout. Then touch Add.

Now launch the keyboard from an app. Hold down on the space bar to switch to your new creation, which will be labeled English (US) (PC).

You’ll have an extra top row, which is now full of numbers. It takes up a little extra screen real estate, but it’s well worth it if you’re working with Excel, Google sheets, or doing another task that requires typing in a lot of numbers

How to Reduce Your iPhone’s Cellular Data Usage

Not everyone has unlimited cellular data. If you find yourself going over your cellular data allowance and paying overage charges or getting throttled, you can make your iPhone use less data.

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to micromanage any of this stuff. But we don’t all live in that world yet, and there are many ways to reduce the data your phone is using.

Check Your Data Usage

To check your cellular data usage, open the Settings app on your iPhone and tap the Cellular category. Scroll down and you’ll see an amount of data displayed for the “Current Period.” This period doesn’t automatically reset every month, so the data usage you see displayed here may be a total from many months. This amount only resets when you scroll to the bottom of this screen and tap the “Reset Statistics” option.

You can also see the amount of cellular data used by your apps for the period since you’ve reset them. This will tell you exactly which apps are using that data — either while you’re using them, or in the background. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom to see the amount of data used by the “System Services” built into iOS.

Restrict Apps From Using Cellular Data

You can choose to restrict individual apps from using cellular data. Just flip the switch next to an app on this screen. They’ll be allowed to use Wi-Fi networks, but not cellular data. Open the app while you only have a cellular data connection and it will behave as if it’s offline.

Disable Cellular Data

For a very extreme solution, you can head to the Cellular screen and toggle the Cellular Data switch at the top to Off. You won’t be able to use cellular data again until you re-enable it. This may be a good solution if you need to use cellular data only rarely, or if you’re nearing the end of the month and you want to avoid potential overage charges.

You can also disable cellular data while roaming from here.

Use Per-App Options

Different apps include their own options for controlling when cellular data is used. For example, you can prevent the App Store from automatically downloading content and updates while your iPhone is on cellular data, forcing it to wait until you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. Open the Settings screen and tap iTunes & App Store to access these options.

If you use the built-in Podcasts app, you can tell it to only download new episodes on Wi-Fi. Open the Settings app, scroll down, and tap Podcasts to access these options. Other apps will often have their own options for minimizing what they do with cellular data and waiting for Wi-Fi networks.

Disable Background App Refresh

Apple now allows apps to automatically update and download content in the background. This feature can harm battery lifeand cause apps to use cellular data, even while you’re not using them. Disable background app refresh and an app will only use data when you open it, not in the background.

To access these options, open the Settings app, tap General, and tap Background App Refresh. Toggle apps to off if you don’t want them to refresh in the background, or disable the background app refresh feature for every app on your phone.

Disabling push notifications can also save a bit of data, although push notifications are rather tiny.

Disable Mail, Contacts, and Calendar Sync

By default, your iPhone is set up to automatically receive new emails, contacts, and calendar events. If you use a Google account, it’s regularly checking the servers for new information. Either way, it’s downloading those emails as soon as they’re available.

If you’d rather check your email on your own schedule, you can. Open the Settings app, tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and tap Fetch New Data. You can adjust options here to get new emails and other data “manually.” Your phone won’t download new emails until you open the Mail app.

Reduce Web Browser Data Usage

There’s a good chance you do quite a bit of web browsing on your phone. You can reduce the data used by your web browser by using a browser with a built-in data compression proxy, like Google Chrome or Opera — sorry, Apple’s own Safari browser doesn’t offer this feature. Enable the data saver feature and web pages you visit will be sent to Google or Opera’s servers first, where they’re compressed and sent to your phone. They’ll be smaller downloads, so you’ll save data on your normal browsing activities. For security reasons, secure HTTPS websites won’t be sent through the proxy. In Chrome, open the Settings screen, tap Bandwidth, and enable the Data Saver option to take advantage of this.

A similar — but more extreme — option is using a VPN solution that specializes in data compression. All the Internet traffic on your iPhone can be sent over this VPN, so you won’t just get the benefit in one browser app — you’ll get it in every app.

Cache Data Offline

Prepare ahead of time and you won’t need to use quite as much data. For example, rather than using Spotify or another music service to stream music to your phone, cache those music files for use offline using the app first. Rather than stream podcasts, download them before you leave your home. Rather than browse the web, queue up some interesting articles in Pocket and have them cached offline on your phone so you can read them on the go without data usage.

If you need maps, try using a mapping app that can cache a map for your local area offline and possibly even provide offline navigation instructions, saving you the need to download map data. Think about what you need to do on your phone and figure out if there’s a way to have your phone download the stuff ahead of time.

How to Mark Up Image Attachments in Apple Mail

Collaboration is key in many organizations, so using the tools you have on hand well, is important. Apple Mail gives you access to simple markup tools right within message composition. Thus, you can make quick edits inline and never leave the application.

In Mail, you can mark up your image and commit to the changes within the message. This is a great deal more direct and convenient than say, adding text comments to the message, or opening the image in an external application, adding the markup, saving the image, and then attaching it.

Accomplishing this in Apple Mail is seamless. Mail uses many of the same markup tools found in the versatile Preview application, which we discussed in our article about signing PDF forms. So, if you’re familiar with Preview, then these will be a piece of cake.


First, with Apple Mail open, compose your message and attach your image as you normally would, then click on the image so it is selected, and then click the arrow in the upper-right corner.


A small menu (two whole choices) will open, which will allow you to open the “Markup” tools.

The rest of the message will turn gray and the markup toolbar will appear above your attached image.

There’s quite a bit you can with this small toolbar. Let’s take a little time to show you what each thing does.

Starting from the left, the first four buttons let you affect changes. The pen icon will let you draw freely on the image as if using a pen, next you can draw squares and circles, then you can add text, and finally you can affix a signature.

The last item is of particular interest. Let’s say someone sends you an official document image. You can sign it with your trackpad or camera, lock in the change, and then immediately send it back.

The second group of four buttons, let you alter how your markup looks – line thickness and style (dotted, arrows, etc.), border color, fill color, and text style.

Once you’re finished making your changes, you can click “Done” and they will be saved to your image.

On the receiving end of things, you can collaborate further by making more changes to the image. To do this, first reply (or forward) to the message and on the compose window’s toolbar, click the button to include the attachment from the original message.

The attachment will now be placed back into your new message and you can again click the arrow in the upper-right corner, then “Markup” to open the tools. Once you’re finished, again click “Done” and send the message.

Being able to mark up an attachment like this means you save quite a bit of time and effort not dealing with external image editors, saving, and reattaching it to the message.

Best of all, it requires no add-on software, no plugins, or settings adjustments, which also lessens the time needed to train others how to use these tools.

How to Fix Conflicting Country Codes and Improve Your Mac’s Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi isn’t the same in every country. Regulatory agencies in countries around the world limit Wi-Fi to different parts of the radio frequency spectrum. Some routers broadcast the countries they think they’re in.

The Wireless Diagnostics utility on Mac OS X shows you an error message if there are “conflicting country codes” nearby. Not every router broadcasts these details, but a misconfigured router can cause problems.

Finding Conflicting Country Codes

To determine whether there are conflicting country codes in an area on your Mac, hold the Option key, click the Wi-Fi icon on the top bar, and select “Open Wireless Diagnostics.” Go through the wizard, which will scan your area and alert you to things you can do to improve your Wi-Fi.

At the end of the process, you’ll see “Conflicting Country Codes” in the summary. This indicates there are wireless routers with two different country codes nearby. Either there’s a misconfigured router, or you’re almost exactly on the border between two different countries!

Why Conflicting Country Codes Are a Problem

Some routers broadcast country codes using the 802.11d standard. This informs nearby Wi-Fi-enabled devices — like your MacBook — which country they’re in and which Wi-Fi settings they should use. For example, in our example below, we have a nearby rogue router with a TW country code, which conflicts with other routers and their US country codes.

This can confuse your Mac. When it wakes up, it scans for nearby Wi-Fi networks and the country code information tells the Mac which Wi-Fi settings it should use for this area. It appears that the Mac uses the country code from the first network it finds broadcasting this information. If you’re in one country and there’s a router with another country’s code nearby, your Mac may think your’e in that country, use those Wi-Fi settings, and have problems connecting to wireless networks using the proper settings for the country you’re actually in.

Apple’s information dialog here indicates that “this may prevent your Mac from automatically re-joining a previously joined Wi-Fi network.” It also says using a wireless router in a country it wasn’t designed for “can result in performance and reliability issues for nearby Wi-Fi clients.” Ideally, you could configure your Mac to ignore these conflicting details and tell it which country you’re in — but you can’t.

Identifying the Problem Network

To identify the router with a conflicting country code, click the Window menu in the Wireless Diagnostics application and select Scan.

You’ll see a list of nearby Wi-Fi networks. Glance at the “Country” column to find the one router broadcasting an incorrect country code. You can get the name of the router’s wireless network from the “Network Name” column, and that will tell you which router is broadcasting the incorrect country code.

Fixing the Problem

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to force your Mac to listen to only a specific country code. There’s no clear way to prefer a particular country code when multiple ones are nearby. The only real solution is to locate the offending wireless router and either change its country code or replace it with a router that’s properly configured to operate in your current country.

This may be a problem. Unless the router belongs to you or someone else you know, there may not be much you can do about this. You could walk around with your laptop or phone, looking for where the signal appears strongest and knocking on your neighbors’ doors to locate the rogue Wi-Fi network and ask your neighbor to fix it. It sounds like a ridiculous solution, but that’s what Apple recommends — as the Wi-Fi Diagnostics app says, you should “contact the network owner to resolve the problem.” It’s not an easy solution, or even a realistic one in many situations, but it’s the only one that will work.

A nearby router broadcasting an incorrect code may be operating on unlicensed frequencies, and this may actually be a violation of applicable regulations and laws. In the US, the person operating the router may be violating federal telecomunications law. But don’t expect the government to come down on your neighbors’ foreign router unless it’s causing serious problems — for example, interfering with emergency communication frequencies.

Routers broadcast this information using the 802.11d standard. It doesn’t seem possible to disable 802.11d on a Mac, so there’s really no way around this short of questionable solutions like modifying your Mac’s network driver file. We didn’t try this particular solution — it’s an example of the lengths you’ve had to go to prevent your Mac from obeying these inaccurate codes.

How to Configure Automatic Text Message Alerts for Important Emails

Despite the ever increasing reach of cellular data networks there are still plenty of places where the only cell coverage you’re going to get is sparse at best with phone calls and plain text messages (SMS) only. Read on as we show you how to set up text message alerts so even when your email client can’t update you’ll still get critical notifications.

Why Do I Want To Do This?

Although it would be lovely if all of us with our various cellular providers could enjoy coast-to-coast total data coverage, well all know that’s currently (and for the foreseeable future) a fantasy. In reality even with great cell phone coverage there are plenty of times we find ourselves in areas where data coverage is non-existent and we’re lucky to even get the basic coverage that provides for phone calls and text messages.

Most of the time this isn’t a huge deal as the majority of us can live without getting constant email updates. There are those times, however, when the email updates you’re expecting are critical enough that you’d want to drop everything and get to a computer immediately to interact with your email and other services: job acceptance notifications, real estate transactions, high profile auction notices, and the like, all might merit greater urgency and attention than your typical email.

In instances like that, where you really truly want that alert no matter where you are, it makes sense to configure your email client to forward those critical emails to your phone via SMS so that, even outside of data network coverage, you’ll receive the alert.

What Do I Need?

To configure automatic email forwarding, you’ll need a few simple things. This trick should work for nearly everyone but there are a few minor exceptions that we’ll highlight in this section.

First and most obviously you’ll need the number of the phone the messages will be forwarded to. Second, you’ll need to identify which carrier the phone is attached to (e.g. Sprint, Verizon, etc) and then lookup the email or SMS gateway for that cellular provider.

We highlight the addresses for major U.S. carriers in this article but this list offers a more extensive overview of SMS gateways for both smaller U.S. providers and providers around the globe. If you have trouble finding your provider’s SMS gateway or want to verify it with official documentation from the company website or the like, you can always search for something like “providername sms gateway” to turn up an official reference.

Finally you will need an email service that supports always-active forwarding rules. If you have a web-based email service this is a non-issue as your email service immediately processes all incoming email and applies any rules you have set. If you’re using a server-to-local-client model for your email you’ll need either the ability to set forwarding rules on the server (so they act immediately and independently of any rules on the local client) or you’ll need to leave your computer and email client running for the duration of the time you require the email-to-SMS alerts.

For the purposes of this tutorial we will be using a Gmail account as Gmail is widely used and the instructions can be easily adopted to nearly any service.

Configuring Your Email Client for SMS Forwarding

Once you’ve done the legwork of collecting the necessary information as outlined in the previous section, it’s simply a matter of plugging it all into your email client in the form of an auto-forwarding email filter triggered when you receive an email from the source you’ve deemed critical. Let’s take a look at setting up just such a filter in Gmail.

Authorize the Forwarding Address

First stop is to add an authorized forwarding email address to your account. Not all providers require this step but Gmail does, and it’s a welcome security feature. Navigate to the forwarding menu by clicking on the gear in the upper right hand corner and Settings -> Forwarding POP/IMAP.

Click “Add a forwarding address.” When prompted insert your phone number and SMS gateway in the format specified by your cellular provider. If you’re using Spring, for example, the format is

After you enter the address and click OK you’ll receive a message from Google at that address (and by address we mean to your phone via SMS) with a security code. The code is the nine digit number in the subject line. Enter that code to confirm that you control the address the mail will be forwarded to and click OK.

Back at the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” menu you’ll now see the forwarding disabled by default and the new address listed (as seen in the screenshot above). This is perfect, you needed to authorize the address so it was available for general use but you don’t want to blanket forward all your email to that address.

Create the Filter

Before you set up a filter for the emails you’re expecting we suggest setting up a filter for an email address you control so that you can test out the filter to ensure it works. It’s easy to use the very email address you’re setting up the filter on for this task.

To create a filter in Gmail you simply use the search function to search for the string you wish to filter for. For example if you want a specific email address, search for that email address (e.g. If you want email addresses from a certain host you can use a wildcard (e.g. * and so on. Click the down-arrow on the search box after you complete the search and you’ll see an advanced menu.

It’s worth noting you can also do this by navigating to Settings -> Forwarding and POP/IMAP -> Creative Filter, but using the search method is faster and pre-populates the filter form for you.

Down at the bottom of your search results you’ll see a small link “Create a filter with this search.”

On the next screen, check “Forward it to” and select your SMS gateway address.

Select “Create filter” to save your filter.

Testing the Filter

You can wait around for the actual email address in question to send you an email or you can, as we suggested in the previous section, use an email you have control of for testing purposes. Let’s take a look at how an email comes through as an SMS message by firing off an email from our How-To Geek account to our private email (where we configured the filter).

The test is a success! It also highlights one significant (but not unexpected) limitation of the SMS alert system. You’ll get the subject and only a fragment of the message (unless it’s very short) because of the 160 character limitation of a single SMS message.

Given that the purpose of the alert is to notify you that you have an important email that needs attending to (and not to break up a long email into dozens and dozens of text messages) that’s little cause for concern.

How to Disable Your Webcam

Once a concern that was the province of the paranoid, years worth of reports and revelations have made it readily apparent that people really can (and do) spy on you through your webcam. Read on as we discuss why you should disable or cover your webcam, how you can do so, and review some handy products that can help make the job simple.

TL;DR version: Script-kiddie hackers and teenagers can, and do, use easily accessible tools and phishing techniques to hijack webcams of unsuspecting people, often who they know, and watch them through their camera. They can store images and videos of people in compromising situations in their bedrooms, and many of these images and videos are uploaded to shady websites.

If you have kids, you should strongly consider reading the entirety of this article and implementing something to stop their webcams from being on all the time (or ever).

Is Webcam Spying Really A Threat?

Ten years ago the idea that people, be they government agents, hackers, or just law-breaking voyeurs, could actively spy on you through your computer’s webcam would be the considered the ramblings of a paranoid conspiracy theorist at worst or a hypervigilant privacy advocate at best. A slew of news stories over the intervening years, however, have revealed that what was once considered paranoia is now an uncomfortable reality.

In 2009, a student sued his school when he discovered his school-provided laptop was secretly photographing him (the ensuing legal investigation revealed that the school had collected 56,000 photographs of students without their knowledge or consent). In 2013, researchers demonstrated that they could activate the webcam on MacBooks without the indicator light turning on, something previously considered impossible. A former FBI agent confirmed that not only was this possible but that they’d been doing it for years.

In 2013, courtesy of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, we learned that the NSA had successful programs they used to gain backdoor access to the cameras on iPhones and Blackberries. In 2014, again courtesy of the Snowden leaks, we learned that the NSA has a host of tools at its disposal to remotely monitor users like “Gumfish”: a malware tool that allows for remote video monitoring via your webcam. In early 2015, a group known as BlackShades was broken up after it was discovered that the software they sold for $40 a pop had been used to give millions of purchasers remote access (including webcam access) to victims computers; that’s hardly a new trick though as old programs like Back Orifice were used in the same fashion back in the 1990s.

It’s Not Just the NSA

We want to emphasize the whole “hardly a new trick” bit and the ease with which even marginally skilled malicious users can gain access to your computer. This long-form article over at Ars Technica, Meet The Men Who Spy On Women Through Their Webcams, is an unsettling account that really drives home that the majority of people doing the spying aren’t government agents but low-tier hackers that use simple phishing tricks and malicious websites to net thousands upon thousands of computers and then, for little more than their own amusement in most cases, use simple tools to catalog and monitor all the devices they have access to.

So before you shrug your shoulders and say, “Well the NSA doesn’t care about my boring life, so it doesn’t matter,” understand that while we might all find allegations of government spying the most troubling on a global and intellectual level the majority of actual webcam spying is carried out by what amounts to creepy Peeping Toms.

Call them Remote Access Tools (RATs), call them Trojans, call them malware, regardless of the name there are clear and well documented examples in the wild that show you simply cannot trust that your webcam is only active when you’re snapping selfies or Skyping. Further, you can’t even trust the indicator light as the camera can be active without the light enabled.

So the short of it is: yes, webcam spying is a real threat. When everyone from the spooks at the NSA to the kid next door has access to tools that can turn a webcam against its owner then the threat is legitimate.

What Should I Do?

You should, no questions asked, disable or obscure your computer’s webcam. There is no good reason, especially in light of the numerous documented cases of webcam spying, to leave an insecure recording device permanently accessible and/or active on your computer.

Given the ease with which you can, in most cases, permanently disable or remove a webcam if you don’t use it (or use it infrequently) and the ease with which you can temporarily modify it to obscure the lens if you are a frequent webcam user, it makes little sense not to do so.

In the following sections we’ll highlight different methods (as well as their effectiveness, ease of use, and ease of reversibility) you can use to disable your webcam.

Make Sure You’re Using Antivirus

While antivirus isn’t going to detect all of these things, and won’t detect many of the latest ones that are out there, it will at least help in dealing with the possibility of infection through a link or running the wrong executable.

The problem is that if the threat is actually the college kid that offers to help people with their IT problems, they can easily whitelist a trojan so an antivirus won’t detect it. Or malware could do the same thing.

You can’t really trust that little icon that says you are secure. But it’s at least a help.

Unplug It

For desktop users with external webcams (which is 99%+ of the desktop machines with webcams) the easiest solution is to simply unplug the external USB web cam. No amount of hacking is going to magically plug an unplugged device back in.

This is the solution we use around the HTG offices; we leave the webcams in their usual position atop their respective workstation monitors and then when we need to use them we plug the USB cable into an easily accessible front or top USB port on the said workstation.

It’s the most foolproof way to approach the problem if you have an external webcam and works regardless of the hardware or operating system.

Disable It in the BIOS

This option is only viable for laptops with integrated webcams (and those rare all-in-one desktop models that also sport integrated webcams in the monitor frame). In order to disable the webcam via the BIOS, the BIOS and the hardware must support such a function.

Reboot your computer and enter into the BIOS (follow the onscreen instructions, typically you access the BIOS by pressing the F2 key, the DEL key, or a function key combination of some sort). Look through the BIOS options for an entry labeled something like “webcam,” “integrated camera,” or “CMOS camera.” These entries will typically have a simple toggle like enable/disable or lock/unlock. Disable or lock the hardware to turn off your webcam.

Unfortunately the BIOS solution is relatively rare and typically found on computers from vendors with heavy institutional sales. Dell and Lenovo laptops, for example, commonly ship with this feature in the BIOS because their corporate buyers want the ability to lock/disable the webcam. With other vendors (and even within computer lines from the aforementioned vendors) it’s hit or miss.

Be forewarned that disabling the webcam typically disables the microphone too as in most laptops the camera and microphone module are on the same small expansion board. This is obviously a benefit (from a privacy standpoint) but you should be aware of it so you’re not left wondering why your mic is dead.

Disable It in the OS

This solution isn’t quite as secure/foolproof as disabling the webcam in the BIOS but it’s a welcome next step. You can cripple your webcam by disabling it and removing driver support for it.

The technique for doing so varies from operating system to operating system, but the general premise is the same. In the screenshot above you can see the Windows Device Manager; there you can locate your webcam under the “Imaging Devices” category and disable it and/or outright remove the device from the roster of devices on your machine.

Obviously this isn’t a perfect solution. If someone has remote administrative access to your machine they can always, with a greater or lesser degree of hassle, install the missing drivers and enable the device again.

Barring that kind of focus and determination, however, it’s a simple and easy way to disable your webcam. At the same time it is rather inconvenient if you actually use your integrated webcam with any regularity. This brings us to the next solution, obscuring the lens with a cover.

Cover It Up

A compromise between the hassle of disabling the the webcam in the BIOS or operating system and leaving it wide open all the time is applying a simple physical cover to your webcam lens. As elementary and simplistic as it seems it’s actually a really effective technique. You get instant visual confirmation the lens is disabled (you can see the cover every time you look at your laptop), it’s easy to remove, and we even tried out some dirt cheap DIY options that keep the cover-up option economical.

Presented below, for reference, is the laptop we’re using without any of the solutions (commercial or DIY) applied. The indicator light is on the left, the webcam lens is center, and the microphone is on the right.

Before you run off to grab a roll of duct tape, let’s run through the commercial and DIY options we’ve reviewed on your behalf. Our methodology was straight forward. We looked at the best selling “webcam privacy” devices on Amazon, ordered the most popular devices, and then tested them on your behalf. As long as they worked (the webcam was rendered unable to create a partial or blurry image) we included them here with our review notes.

Eyebloc Cover (~$6)

This was the first search result, the best selling, and the most reviewed product on Amazon. The design is really simple: it’s a C-shaped plastic clamp that you slip onto your laptop (it can also be applied to tablets and smartphones in a similar fashion).

No doubt about it, it was easy to apply, easy to remove, and like advertised it had no adhesive to speak of (so there was no risk of residue). It also completely blocked the webcam lens on all devices we tested it on. That said, this thing is really, really, ugly and obvious. In terms of style we’d rank the Eyebloc right up there with the massive fit-over-sunglasses you’d see around a retirement community.

This is also the only device we tested that won’t work very well for smart TVs, game consoles, or any other larger device that has a webcam-like device built in. If you’re not attaching it to a slender object like a laptop lid or tablet, it won’t work.

C-Slide (~5)

The C-Slide is a tiny (and we do mean tiny) plastic slider that you adhere onto your laptop or tablet. The entire device is the size of a very small mailing label (1.4″ x 0.5″ and a scant 1mm or so thick). It’s so tiny, in fact, that it was delivered stuck to a piece of cardstock in a common #10 business envelope and the outside of the envelope had “Your webcam cover order is inside!” in large highlighted print to, presumably, ensure we didn’t scrap it as junk mail.

Unlike the other solutions in this roundup the C-Slide is intended for permanent application to the device. You enable and disable the webcam by sliding the tiny little panel of plastic back and forth to open and close the webcam much like some larger external webcams have a physical slider that covers the lense when not in use.

Despite our misgivings about how tiny the C-Slide is it worked quite well. It’s so slim that you can easily close the laptop without any noticeable gap between the lid and body. There were only two issues we found with the C-Slide.

First, if you have a laptop that has a curved bezel it does not adhere very well and will likely fall off immediately (or shortly after application). Second, you’ll want to place it very carefully so that it doesn’t accidently stick over the microphone hole on your laptop or cover the indicator light. Second, before you peel the double-sided tape off the back and slap it on, take a minute to experiment with placement. Our initial placement was less than idea as it blocked the indicator light and resulted in a blocked microphone when the slider was open. By offsetting the opening in the slider slightly from the webcam lens we were able to position the device such that the microphone wasn’t obscured or taped over and the only time the indicator light was blocked was when we had the slider open to use the webcam.

Those minor issues aside, the C-Slide will work on any camera embedded in a flat surface so long as the camera lens is smaller than the roughly square centimeter opening of the slider (approximately the size of the nail on your pinky finger). Overall this was our favorite solution. It’s easy to apply and it’s easy to use: no picking at a little sticky disk and no misplaced parts.

Creative Cam Covers (~$10 for 6)

The Creative Cam Covers feel and look very similar to cut vinyl decal clings like those you would order from a sign shop or purchase to peel out and stick on your car window. The pack comes with an alcohol wipe and six black circular stickers roughly the size of a dime.

Stickers is actually a bit of a misnomer here because, as we alluded to above, they’re made out of the same material as vinyl window clings. They have no adhesive but instead use static electricity to cling to smooth surfaces.

This is both a benefit (no sticky residue and they’re easy to remove) and a flaw (they work great on smooth surfaces but not so great on textured ones). As such they work super well on laptops with glossy piano black bezels and tablets that have smooth glass bezels, but if your laptop is brushed aluminum (like a MacBook) or just has a rough texture on the bezel, you may find they readily fall off.

In light of that we can only recommend the product for those situations: super smooth and flat laptop bezels or glass surfaces like those found on tablets. None of our laptops have a gloss case and the Cam Covers would not stick (even for a fraction of a second) to the bezel of the laptop we used for demonstration purposes in this article. They did, however, stick incredibly well to the perfectly smooth glass surface of our iPad mini, as seen in the photo above. If you’re looking for a non-adhesive solution for a tablet or laptop with a gloss bezel this is a great solution.

DIY Electrical Tape Covers (< $1)

While field testing all these solutions, it occurred to us that if you weren’t afraid of a tiny bit of adhesive then the cheapest solution would be to simply punch a hole in a piece of electrical tape with a hole punch and you’d have a perfectly round little dot you could place right over the lens of your integrated webcam.

Note: we used white electrical tape for this review specifically because it doesn’t blend into the frame of the laptop so you could see it better; we recommend using plain old black electrical tape for a nearly invisible installation.

A quick trip to the old supply closet for some tape, a hole punch, and FedEx label (to steal a bit of the non-stick paper backing) and we had the fixings for hundreds of webcam covers.

All this little DIY trick requires is that you unroll a few inches of the tape onto the non-stick paper, work a hole punch down the strip of tape punching out as many little electrical tape dots as you need, and then peel and stick them wherever you need them.

The only downside to this technique is that, yes, you’ll potentially have a little adhesive to deal with when removing the dot (although this is mostly a temperature-related issue as in cooler temperatures the dot peeled up cleanly) and it would be easy to lose or mangle the little dot of tape if you were using it while traveling about. Given how cheap they are to make you could easily stash a few in your laptop bag.

The Internet of Things and the currency of privacy

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If you’re like most people, you share a lot of personal information with companies like Google and Facebook for the convenience their free services provide. In turn, these companies sell your tastes and preferences to marketers, probably for less than $2 a pop.

You read that right. The Financial Times created an online calculator to estimate how much your data is worth down to the penny. Mine is worth $1.55. Face it: Privacy is a commodity; even a form of currency. And everybody’s info is worth a different dollar figure – to marketers, and to you.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) proliferates, providing us with more connected gadgets, marketers will get to know you even better. Consider what your watch, your light bulbs, and your refrigerator can add to the conversation.

The advertising industry is already salivating over the Internet of Things’ potential. “The primary benefit of the IoT to marketers is the remarkable consumer data it provides,” wrote Marko Muellner in a ClickZ article. (ClickZ is a news site for the marketing industry.)

Big data keep on turnin’

According to George Lee, the Chief Information Officer of Goldman Sachs’ Investment Banking Division, “Ninety percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years.” The large Internet companies are the primary collectors of this massive assemblage of bits.

We’re all complicit in these data gathering methods. We choose to join social networks, and we tell them where we are and what we’re doing. We carry smartphones that, by their very nature, track our location. And we sign off on the collection and use of this data as a mandatory and cursory matter when we sign up for any new service.

And most of the time, there are no negative results. The corporations will use your data for targeted advertising and market research, creating a smarter and more efficient system for ecommerce.

Still, many people feel uncomfortable with these practices. A growing awareness of exactly how these big data tools work is leading people to be more guarded about the information they share online. In the future, as they become perpetually more connected and ingrained in the economy of information, consumers will look to strike a clearer definition of what data they see as ‘private’, what they are willing to provide in exchange for services, and what kind of a price tag to put on it. Armed with the right knowledge and outlook, you can make this arrangement work to your advantage.

Know the tradeoffs and buy in with your eyes open

ClickZ’s Muellner acknowledges that “We’ll only get access to that data by providing real value in exchange.” In other words, consumers won’t turn over their personal information unless they get something out of it, like a free online service or a smart home convenience. By gauging the value of that service or convenience against an understanding of the type of information it can accumulate, you can intelligently weigh the risks and make an informed decision about the value of your privacy.

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