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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

How to keep Twitter from spoiling 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' for you

Disney/Lucasfilm

The good news Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens today. The not-so-good news: If you're not among the first fans to see it, today's the day you need to start worrying about someone spoiling it for you. And you'll want to jam those since you know they're coming.

Let's face it, there's not going to be any 100 percent effective way to protect yourself — especially if you have friends or family members prone to blurting out plot points when they should know better. But there might be some ways to keep random strangers on social media from ruining the movie for you. I've found a couple tricks that (so far) are working for me:

Mute keywords in Twitter

Whether you're able to block tweets containing certain words or phrases will depend on the Twitter software you use. I use TweetDeck on my laptop and Tapbots' third-party Tweetbot client on my iPhone and iPad, so I was in luck. …

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Getting a drone for Christmas? You'll need to register it with the FAA

A drone is demonstrated in Brigham City, Utah. Owners of many small drones and model airplanes will have to register them with the government. The Federal Aviation Administration announced the requirement Monday in response to increasing reports of drones flying near manned aircraft and airports. The requirement covers aircraft weighing from a half pound to 55 pounds. Drone owners who are 13 and older will have to register on an FAA website that's available starting Dec. 21. The FAA expects parents to register for younger children.

[Associated Press]

A drone is demonstrated in Brigham City, Utah. Owners of many small drones and model airplanes will have to register them with the government. The Federal Aviation Administration announced the requirement Monday in response to increasing reports of drones flying near manned aircraft and airports. The requirement covers aircraft weighing from a half pound to 55 pounds. Drone owners who are 13 and older will have to register on an FAA website that's available starting Dec. 21. The FAA expects parents to register for younger children.

Published today on tampabay.com:

Spurred by numerous reports of drones flying near jets and airports, the federal government has decided to require that the aircraft be registered in order to make it easier to identify their owners and educate amateur aviators.

The move, announced Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration, comes at a time when the agency is receiving more than 100 reports per month about drones flying near manned aircraft. The FAA prohibits drones and model airplanes from flying higher than 400 feet or within 5 miles of an airport.

Read more here.

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Is Apple stalling Pebble's smartwatch software?

An image posted to Kickstarter by Pebble shows an app update for Pebble Watch (the one that's been on the market since 2013) that has been awaiting review for more than a month.

kickstarter.com

An image posted to Kickstarter by Pebble shows an app update for Pebble Watch (the one that's been on the market since 2013) that has been awaiting review for more than a month.

There's no question the Apple Watch is dominating the smartwatch discussion these days. I've worn a Pebble smartwatch since for about two years now and loved it, but it'll be an uphill battle for such a small outfit to compete with a company that has the design, materials and manufacturing chops Apple does. The first shipments of Pebble's second iteration, the Pebble Time smartwatch, is shipping now. Few are paying close attention, and so far it seems it won't give Apple much to worry about.

Or will it?

The first Pebble Times started shipping the last week of May (mine hasn't shipped yet, but should soon), but iPhone users who received theirs have been stuck — the app needed to set up the watch isn't available in Apple's App Store. Sure they're a small outfit, but how could Pebble allow this to happen? Company officials took to Kickstarter today to explain. …

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Google offers unlimited free storage of photos and videos for everyone

Google Photos director Anil Sabharwal announces the new service Thursday during the 2015 Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Calif. The annual conference runs through May 29.

[Getty Images]

Google Photos director Anil Sabharwal announces the new service Thursday during the 2015 Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Calif. The annual conference runs through May 29.

It's all you want, really, isn't it? A digital equivalent of that shoebox full of photos in your parents' closet — a place you can store all the photos and videos you're taking, without having to worry about having enough space for them.

Because here's the thing: Your parents' shoebox didn't cost them anything. If you decide you want a phone with more storage space, it could cost you a couple hundred bucks. If you can figure out how to get them off your phone onto a disk, you've got to buy that, too — and then you'll have to worry about what happens to all those photos and videos if it gets broken or lost. Storing them online seems like the best option, but storage space is always an issue. You can get the space you need, but you'll pay for it, every month, for as long as they're willing to store your stuff.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, Google announced Google Photos, and it might be a game-changer in the cloud storage game. Google Photos will store all of your photos and videos. For free. All of them. …

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IT'S APPLE WATCH DAY, YOU GUYS!

OMG, OMG, IT'S FINALLY HERE! IT'S … (ahem) uh, today's the day Apple begins accepting online preorders and try-on appointments(!) for the Apple Watch — exciting news for people with empty wrists around the world. The Associated Press is updating a live blog with bulletins from all over the globe.

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What everybody thinks about the Apple Watch in one big chart

Apple Inc.

You can't buy an Apple Watch yet — you can't even preorder one until tomorrow — but yesterday was the first day Apple would allow reviewers to post their Apple Watch reviews if they wanted to be among the first ones to take one on a test drive. So yesterday was the day tons of reviews hit the Web.

It was almost too much to digest. Fortunately, Mashable compiled about 20 reviews in one big table, with a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down for each (and links to the full review in case you wanted to read more).

My own take on the Apple Watch is that I'm 100% sold on the concept, but I'd think twice before buying the first-generation model. Wait a year (maybe even less), and you'll probably get a much more refined model that will make you happier — and you might spend less on it, too.

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Do you need to know what Meerkat and Periscope are? (Spoiler: Probably not yet)

There's been a lot of buzz recently surrounding live video streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat, and you might be wondering what they do and whether they're another thing you'll have to learn about if you want to be able to understand what your kids are talking about today. Here's what the AP had to say about it yesterday:

"Download Periscope, Twitter's just-launched live video-streaming app, and you'll find people broadcasting all sorts of mundane stuff: waiting for AT&T to fix their wiring, getting out of bed in Silicon Valley, looking outside their office window in Chicago.

"Watch the videos, and you might ask yourself, is this really the next big thing? It could be. Check back in a few months …" (Full story here.)

And that's about it. Could watching live video from dozens of users' phones be an amazing way to witness the next Ferguson, or Times Square New Year's Eve party, or some other breaking news event? Maybe. There's a pretty big skills gap between the average smartphone user and a professional videographer, tho', so maybe not. We'll have to see. …

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Why Yahoo's latest take on passwords could be a step down in security

Yahoo recently announced it would offer an alternative to the passwords its users have always used to log into their accounts: temporary codes sent to your phone via text message every time you want to log in.

That sounds a lot like the two-factor authentication you might know and trust from your bank or even from Facebook, but there's an important difference.

Two-factor authentication is popular with services who want to show their concern about security. The two factors used to prove you are who you say you are are usually that 1) You know your password, and 2) you are the one holding your phone. Since Yahoo isn't asking for a password, they're back down to one-factor authentication — and that one factor belongs to whomever's holding your phone.

Yahoo security chief Alex Stamos points out that the company offers users two-factor authentication to secure their accounts — they have in the past, and they will continue to do so. But here's the thing, he says: People don't use it. They'd rather just use and reuse short, easily guessed passwords that are easy to type on a phone, on one hand, but easy targets for hackers on the other. …

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So, should you order an Apple Watch? (w/video)

The three Apple Watch case options — (from left) 18K gold Edition, aluminum Sport and stainless steel — with three of the available bands.

[Apple.com]

The three Apple Watch case options — (from left) 18K gold Edition, aluminum Sport and stainless steel — with three of the available bands.

Apple hosted their big shindig on Monday to announce new Apple Watch details, new MacBook laptops and more. The folks at MacRumors have some excellent roundups, if you're interested in the nitty gritty. The highlights:

Apple Watch

—Pricing starts at $349 for an alumninum Sport model and goes all the way up to $17,000 for the 18K gold Edition. Prices vary by material (aluminum, stainless steel and gold) and size (42mm and 38mm). Buyers can choose bands ranging in price from $49 to $449.

—Starting on the April 24 launch date, you'll be able to make a reservation at an Apple Store to try on an Apple Watch model you select online.

—The Apple Watch will be water resistant, but it won't be waterproof, per se. You'll be okay wearing one while exercising, in the rain and while washing your hands (or all three, simultaneously), but it should not be submerged (i.e., while swimming). …

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Apple releases iOS 8.1.3, which is no big deal — except …

MacRumors.com

… that it addresses two of the very small, very irritating things about iOS 8:Full Story

I want this

WayTools.com

A Bluetooth keyboard that snaps apart to slip in your pocket? Yes, please!

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Laying out the problems with Apple's Family Sharing

I think I've written before about Family Sharing, Apple's solution for families that want to be able to share the stuff they buy in Apple's iTunes Store.

The idea is that family members shouldn't have to buy a song, movie, etc., if someone else in the household has already bought it. In the past, most families accomplished this by sharing one iTunes Store account — everyone in a family could access the same stuff, because everyone was buying stuff under the same name.

That was what my family used to do, and it did make sharing purchases dead simple. There are only four of us, only one of us uses more than one iThing (raising my hand, sheepishly) and we all pretty much want to watch and listen to the same stuff. The most awkward the arrangement usually ever became for us was when one or both of the kids were given iTunes Store gift cards. We'd load them onto our shared iTunes Store account, then we'd have to keep our own checkboook-style register so we knew who had how much left to spend.

Family Sharing arrived with iOS 8, probably because iOS 8 makes a stronger assumption that devices sharing the same account belong to the same person. Until we signed up for Family Sharing, I had a hard time convincing iOS that all of our devices didn't belong to my wife, for example.

But Family Sharing isn't without its shortcomings, and David Sparks described them eloquently in a New Year's Day blog post. He runs through several points in fine detail, but here are the ones I've run into in our family:Full Story

Apps that help you avoid sleeping at the airport

Just Landed's design is elegant both on your iPhone screen and under the hood.

itunes.apple.com

Just Landed's design is elegant both on your iPhone screen and under the hood.

Even if you're staying home this holiday season, there's a good chance you're going to be asked to pick someone up at the airport. And there's a good chance that's not going to be as simple as it sounds.Full Story

Four ways Mac owners should keep them safe

Apple Inc.

So, here's another in what seems to have become a series of links aimed at fellow Apple users: MacUser has a great article up today titled, "The four Mac security options everyone should know."Full Story

How owners of older Macs can get iWork for free

Apple Inc.

I mentioned yesterday that most of the gadgets I've bought for myself (and my family) have been Apple products. As it turns out, I'm also a longtime subscriber to their online services, starting back when iTools was completely free. Remember iTools? It was what iCloud was before it was MobileMe before that was .Mac — we're talking 14 years ago, now.Full Story