How to

The Nanoleaf Canvas Light Panel smarter pack is $50 off at Costco

If you like your lighting to be on the adventurous side, rest assured that Nanoleaf’s canvas light panels aren’t made to be subtle. The touch-sensitive squares are flashy and versatile, with the ability to display more than 16 million colors and a modular design that lets you place them in a variety of patterns. The bright LED panels also work with all the major smart home platforms, and can cycle through a number of preset colors or respond to sound when in “Rhythm Mode,” a feature that’s just as suited for the ambient noise outside your bedroom as your favorite record. Right now, Costco members can purchase Nanoleaf’s Canvas Light Panel smarter pack with nine panels and everything needed to get started for $50, one of the better prices we’ve seen on the intuitive lighting system.

Nanoleaf Canvas Light Panel smarter pack

Nanoleaf’s colorful, touch-sensitive LED panels support all major smart home platforms and can cycle through more than 16 million colors, making them the perfect accent piece for any room in need of a little flair.

The Razer Nari Essential is by no means a groundbreaking headset, yet, for the price, it’s an admirable entry-level model that will appease most gamers, especially on the PC side. The jet-black wireless gaming headset features an adjustable headband, a sturdy build, and support for both PC and PlayStation consoles, with THX Spatial Audio simulated surround sound available on the former. Normally $100, it’s currently available at Woot for $55, more than 45 percent off its typical list price. If Razer’s budget-friendly Nari Essential doesn’t offer what you’re looking for, however, we’ve also rounded up the best gaming headsets overall, including multiplatform models and both wired and wireless alternatives.

Razer Nari Essential

At $55, the Nari Essential is hard to beat. It’s one of Razer’s more affordable wireless headsets, with 16 hours of battery life, a well-made build, and simulated surround sound on PC, a feature that lets you pinpoint enemies before sneak up on you.

Good noise-cancellation can be hard to come by for $100 — just look at the Nothing Ear 1s. Fortunately, there’s the second-gen Amazon Echo Buds, a pair of true wireless earbuds that churn out satisfying sound while benefitting from improved comfort and noise cancellation over their first-gen counterpart. Amazon’s mid-range earbuds, which are now on sale for a limited time at Best Buy for $80, also feature IPX4 water and sweat resistance, and allow for hands-free voice commands via Alexa, meaning Amazon’s virtual assistant is always available at the tip of your tongue. Read our review.

Amazon Echo Buds (second-gen)

Amazon’s Echo Buds 2 improve upon the originals with a more comfortable design, improved ANC, and a more natural ambient sound mode. They still offer hands-free Alexa voice commands as well.

Other deals of note

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Telegram’s group video calls can now have up to 1,000 viewers

Telegram has announced the latest new features and improvements making their way to the popular messaging app. Video is the focus this time around. After launching group video calls last month, those sessions are now able to tally up to 1,000 viewers. The maximum number of people able to participate and broadcast to the video call remains at 30, but you can have quite the audience now for “anything from online lectures to live rap battles,” according to the company.

Video messages will also now come through at a higher resolution, and you can tap them for a larger view of the clip. When recording your own video messages, Telegram says that audio from your device will now keep playing as you do so, “so you can now sing along to your favorite songs or reply without pausing your podcast.” You can now zoom in when recording with your phone’s rear camera, as well.

Other additions include screen sharing for one-on-one video calls (with audio from the device of whoever’s broadcasting), the option to auto-delete messages after a month — the longest option was previously a week — and more precise drawing. Telegram has also spruced up the user experience with animations for the passcode screen and when you send messages on Android; iOS users already got these message animations in a previous update. For the full list of changes, head over to Telegram’s blog.

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How to ‘dislike’ TikTok videos

TikTok’s algorithms can be very perceptive when it comes to the types of videos you want to see in your For You feed. But when it doesn’t work, you may find yourself facing a steady stream of the type of video you really don’t want to deal with.

I’m not just talking about something egregious — like, for example, political or religious or social statements that you might feel are completely counter to your beliefs. I’m also referring to videos that you might simply find annoying, such as a type of music that you don’t like, or a type of humor that doesn’t suit. For example, for some reason I suddenly found myself swiping though a bunch of videos from so-called fortune tellers offering advice to their commenters. I really didn’t need to see those.

So what can you do?

Well, it turns out that you can actually “dislike” TikTok videos — or, at least, you can tell TikTok that you are not interested in it, and so (hopefully) tweak the algorithm to not show you other videos like it.

Here’s how:

  • Long press on the video that you don’t like.
  • You’ll get a pop-up menu that lets you save the video, add it to your favorites, report it (if you feel it’s really offensive), or say that you’re simply not interested. In this case, tap on “Not interested.”
  • You’ll then get the choice to either hide videos from that user or hide videos that use that sound (if you’re just tired of a particular audio track).

Long-press on the screen to bring up this menu. (Note: this is just an example; I had nothing against this video.)

You can either hide all videos from the creator, or hide all videos that use that sound clip.

You can either hide all videos from the creator or hide all videos that use that sound clip.

And that, hopefully, will be that. You can also, by the way, long-press on live videos that you don’t like; in that case, you’ll immediately get the choice to either say you’re not interested or report the video.

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The Verge Guide to TikTok

Despite having to weather a variety of controversies having to do with its content and its ownership, TikTok persists as a popular video app — and no wonder. It allows you to quickly create videos, add a variety of effects, text captions, and audio backgrounds, and show to the world what you think is cute, funny, politically problematic, deadly serious, or in need of fixing. TikTok is full of cute animals, weird dances, snarky remarks, and imaginative dialogues between the same individual dressed up in two different ways.

In fact, it is hard to say who is having the most fun: those who are swiping through the wide variety of videos out there, discovering what other people are doing, dancing, and discussing, or those who are creating these imaginative videos and enjoying the attention and comments that they engender. (Or not enjoying it, depending on those comments — this is social media, after all, and so there are a lot of angry people out there.)

If you want to know what all the fuss is about and want to give the app a try, either as a watcher or as a creator, we have your back. In The Verge Guide to TikTok, we’ve got step-by-step directions for new users and some excellent tips for knowledgeable creators. We explain how to find what you’re interested in, how to decline what you’re not interested in, and how to deal with the algorithms that determine what you’re going to see next.

We hope you find them useful in your explorations of the wonderful world of TikTok.

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How to use the Green Screen effect on TikTok 

Green screens used to be reserved for those with access to, well, a green screen. This method has been around for a long time: allowing creators to superimpose a photo or video onto a background in a film or video. Traditionally, that means using a setup that has a large sheet of (usually) green material behind the subject. The solid color makes it easy to digitally remove that color in post-production and add whatever image or video should be there.

Now the idea of green screens has gone digital as a way to hide backgrounds in meetings or to create fun videos on social media. TikTok has taken this idea and run with it by creating an effect within the app that does basically the same thing. While not as polished as a traditional green screen, it still gets the job done and allows the creator to remain on-screen while showing the audience an image in the background of the video.

The effect is a great way to spice up a video and provide an interesting visual. I use it regularly on The Verge’s TikTok so the audience can see whatever object or topic I’m discussing. Even though I usually rely on the basic green screen option, which adds a photo to the background, there are plenty of different effects to choose from.

Here’s how you can do it in TikTok:

  • Tap the + icon in the bottom center of the screen to create a new video.
  • Click “Effects” in the bottom left corner.
  • Choose “Green Screen” from the menu.
  • Browse all of the Green Screen effects and decide which one best suits what you want to do with your video.

There are a lot of different Green Screen effects to choose from.

Whatever image you choose will become the background.

The most common effects used are the simplest: they add a photo or video to the background that stays in place as the subject moves around the frame. But there are others that you can try that get pretty creative. You can add an image as a sticker that can be resized and moved around, or you can superimpose an image over your clothing to change your look. There’s even a feature to add parts of your face to a photo just in case, say, you want to pretend your dog can talk.

The options are limitless once you use a little imagination.

Turn your pet into a terrifying creature using the face green screen effect.

Change your outfit up using a photo or design.

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How to change Alexa’s voice

Alexa’s pleasant, feminine voice has filled the homes of millions over the past few years, but now Amazon has finally released a masculine counterpart for it. Amazon is late to this — both Apple and Google have offered different voices, both feminine and masculine, in their virtual assistants for years. But late or not, it’s nice that Amazon is finally giving some choice for Alexa.

In addition to the two main Alexa voices, Amazon also has celebrity voices (right now you can choose between Samuel L. Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Melissa McCarthy). These are programmed to work with certain phrases and answer select questions — mostly alarms and timers, jokes, or weather reports. They also cost $5 each. Any query to an Echo device that’s not supported by the chosen celebrity voice will get a response from the native Alexa voice.

There are two ways you can change the voice of Alexa on your Echo devices: through the device itself or through the Alexa app. Note that changing the voice through the device was less reliable for us — the surest way to do it is through the app.

Changing the voice only applies to the Echo device you’re currently using — if you want to switch to the masculine voice on multiple Echo speakers or displays in your home, you’ll have to do it one at a time. It’s also not possible to change the Alexa voice used by the smartphone app itself; that remains the original, feminine voice. Hopefully, in the future Amazon will add a way to change it globally for all the Echo devices on an account.

Without further ado, here’s how to change Alexa’s voice on an Echo device:

On an Echo or Echo Show:

  • Say the command “Alexa change your voice.”
  • If you have more than one Echo, Alexa will ask you to specify the device.
  • Say the name of the device you want to change the voice on.
  • If it is successful, Alexa will respond with the new voice and confirm that is how it will sound going forward.
  • If it doesn’t work, Alexa will say something to the effect of “Sorry, [name of your device] doesn’t support that.”

In the Alexa app for iOS or Android:

  • Tap on the Devices tab at the bottom.
  • Tap on the Echo & Alexa button in the top left.
  • Tap on the device you want to change Alexa’s voice on.
  • Tap the Settings cog wheel button in the upper right.
  • Scroll down to the option for Alexa’s Voice and tap on it.
  • Choose either Original (the feminine voice) or New (the masculine voice).

How to use a celebrity voice:

  • Say “Alexa introduce me to [name of celebrity].”
  • Alexa will switch over to the celeb voice you’ve selected and explain the things you can do with it. If you want to purchase the voice, you will be asked to confirm the charge to your Amazon account.
  • Once enabled, you can say “Hey [celeb name]” to wake the Echo device. You can also enable the voice on each Echo you want to use it on. The standard Alexa voice is still available if you use the Alexa wake word.

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How to download your TikTok video watch history

I have a very bad habit of accidentally touching my phone’s screen, which often results in going a page forward or back in the book I’m reading or leaving the YouTube video I’m watching — or going to a different TikTok video than the one I was just enjoying. In addition, if I have to take a phone call or answer a Slack message, I can lose track of where I was.

Usually, this is an easy fix: I can just back up to the previous page of the book or check out my YouTube history. But unfortunately, it’s not as easy with TikTok, which doesn’t have a simple way to check the history of which videos you’ve watched.

For example, the day I started writing this, I accidentally swiped out of videos I was watching at least two times and was unable to immediately get back to them. And because I couldn’t remember the name of the creator, I was essentially sunk.

What to do?

Well, if I had been smart quickly enough to “like” the video — or follow the creator — it would have been easy:

  • Tap on the “Me” icon in the lower-right corner.
  • If you “liked” the video, tap on the heart icon below your profile to see thumbnails of all the videos you’ve liked.
  • If you’re following the creator, tap on the “Following” link just below your username to see a list of all the creators you’re following. Then tap on that person to see thumbnails of all their videos.

Tap on the heart to see your “liked” videos. Or tap on the “Following” link on top… see all the creators that you are following.

…to see all the creators you are following.

However, if you haven’t yet liked the video or are not following that creator — something that often happens to me — then the best way to find your watch history is to download it.

  • Go to your profile page (by tapping the “Me” icon in the bottom right), and tap on the three lines in the upper-right corner.
  • Select “Privacy” > “Personalization and data” > “Download your data”
  • Under the “Request data” tab, select whether you want to download your data as a TXT file or a JSON file, and tap “Processing request”

Select “Download your data” to get a copy of your watch history.

Select “Download your data” to get a copy of your watch history.

You can get your data in the TXT or JSON format.

You can get your data in the TXT or JSON format.

And wait. Unfortunately, this isn’t a fast process; it could be at least 24 hours — or more — before your data is made available. Until then, if you go to the “Download data” tab, you’ll see a grayed-out “Pending” button.

It took about three days before I saw the red “Download” button appear under the “Download data” tab. It took me to the web version of TikTok, where I had to sign in again and was finally able to download a zipped file of my data. When I unzipped the file, I went to the Activity folder, where I found text files for Favorite Effects, Favorites Sounds, and so on — along with one labeled “Video Browsing.” It was there I finally found a list of dates and URLs for the videos I’d been looking at.

Once your data is available, you will be able to download it for up to four days. By the time you finally get it, of course, you may have completely forgotten which video you wanted to go back to or why. But it doesn’t hurt to have a record of all the videos you’ve looked at — and you may be surprised at just how many there are.

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How to change your profile name and username on TikTok

When you start using TikTok, you’re asked for a profile name and a username. If you’ve been using TikTok for a while, though, it wouldn’t be unusual to decide that you want to change one or both. Perhaps you used your real name and weren’t aware at first that your name would be made public. Or perhaps the name you originally chose is no longer quite right for the type of content you’re going to post. Or perhaps you simply decided that you want to be known by something more exciting.

Either way, it’s simple to change either your profile name or your username. (In TikTok, the username is the one preceded by an @ sign.)

Go to your profile page (by tapping the “Me” icon in the lower-right corner).

  • Select “Edit profile.”
  • Select “Name” (to change your profile name) or “Username.”
  • Type in your new name. (In the case of your username, remember that will have to be unique.)

You can change names on the “Edit profile” page.

You can only change your username once every 30 days.

You can only change your username once every 30 days.

There are several other things you need to be aware of before you change your username. First, your username can only be changed once every 30 days, so make sure it’s one you can live with, at least for that period. In addition, if you change your username, that means you’ll be also changing your personal TikTok URL (which is usually in the form of something like As a result, anyone who tries to use the older address will no longer see your videos.

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How to use video to reply to your comments on TikTok

If you’re a video creator on TikTok, then your comment section could be really frustrating, especially if somebody leaves a comment that completely misinterprets what you’ve been saying (to say the least). You could send a text reply or simply create another video, but according to TikTok, now you have a third option: you can reply to your comments using video rather than text.

(Note: since this is something specifically for creators who want to video-reply to comments, we haven’t been able to test it yet. If / when we do, we’ll let you know.)

To add a video to a comment on one of your existing TikTok videos:

  • Tap on the comment you want to reply to.
  • If you have the ability to reply using a video, you’ll see an icon of a video camera on the left side of the field. Tap that icon. You can also press and hold the comment you want to reply to.
  • Record your video as usual.
  • If you wish, you can have the comment that your video is replying to attached to that video. This will allow anyone who views your video separately to see what you’re responding to.
  • Post the video as usual.
  • Your video will be available both in the comments section (of the video you’ve commented on) and on your own page.

Got it? If not, TikTok has a video showing how it works:

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How to use Focus modes for notifications on iOS 15

One of the most powerful new features in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey, is Focus mode.

At its core, a Focus mode is a more customizable version of Apple’s existing Do Not Disturb and is accessed from the same menu on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. But Focus modes are far more customizable, allowing for more granular triggers for when you’re filtering out notifications.

  • To set up a Focus, head over to “Settings” > “Focus” and hit the plus button to add a new Focus. You’ll also be able to see existing Focus modes that you’ve set up and edit them.
  • Apple offers a variety of preset Focus modes to start with, including Personal, Work, Fitness, Gaming, Reading, and more. You’re not limited to Apple’s preset suggestions, though some of the presets — like the Driving, Fitness, or Gaming ones — offer additional features and triggers that aren’t available to user-created ones. Apple’s Fitness Focus mode, for example, can be automatically triggered when you start a Fitness Plus workout on your Apple Watch, while the Gaming mode can turn on whenever you connect a Bluetooth controller.
  • You can create a custom Focus by selecting Custom, which will let you select a name, icon, and color for that specific focus.

Setting allowed contacts on a Focus mode.

Selecting which apps can send notifications.

  • Next, you’ll be asked to choose which of your contacts (if any) you’d like to be able to message you when that Focus mode is activated — similar to how Do Not Disturb works.
  • The following screen will ask you to select which apps (if any) you want to allow to send notifications when that Focus is active. For example, if you’re making a “Work” Focus, you might only want your email and Slack apps to be able to send you pings.
  • Lastly, Apple will ask if you’d like to be able to receive special “Time Sensitive Notifications” — a new category of extra-important notifications that apps will be able to send that might not be able to wait until later.

The toggle to permit time-sensitive notifications.

The main Focus setting menu.

Once you’ve finished setting up your Focus, you’ll end up on the Focus mode’s setting menu, where there are a few additional things you’ll be able to configure. You can also get back here at any time by heading to “Settings” > “Focus,” then selecting the Focus mode you want to edit.

  • The Focus Status menu will let you decide whether contacts will see a notice if you’re in an active Focus mode and their messages are muted. (Although right now, the only app that supports the feature is Apple’s Messages.)
  • The Home Screen menu allows you to hide specific home screens on your iPad or iPhone when you’re in a Focus mode. Combined with iOS 15’s App Library and the new ability to create multiple copies of an app icon, you can use this feature to customize what your phone looks like in different situations.
  • The Lock Screen menu offers the option to show or hide silenced notifications on the lock screen or to dim the lock screen when the Focus mode is active.

Focus modes on iPadOS 15.
Image: Apple

Finally, there’s the actual activation of a Focus mode. Apple offers two ways to turn on a Focus mode: you can either manually select it from the moon icon in Control Center or schedule it automatically (settings for which can be found in the Focus menu).

The simplest option is “Smart Activation,” which has your device automatically toggle a Focus on its own. But you can also add more granular manual controls, activating a Focus for specific times, when you’re at a specific location, or when you’re using specific apps.

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