How to

How to use your Nvidia graphics card to improve the quality of your calls

If you’re finding that background noise is disrupting voice or video calls made from your computer, then a new piece of software from Nvidia might help (provided you have the necessary hardware to run it). Released in April 2020, RTX Voice uses the hardware found in Nvidia’s RTX (and more recently, GTX) GPUs to process your incoming and outgoing audio and eliminate almost all background noise.

Below, you’ll find a quick demonstration I recorded to show how it works. This was recorded from a Blue Snowball microphone using the built-in call recording functionality in Zoom. When I don’t have the software enabled, you can hear the loud clacking of my mechanical keyboard in the background of the call. But when I turn on RTX Voice, the sound completely disappears.

As well as processing your microphone’s input so that the people you’re speaking to can’t hear any background noise around you, you can also set the software to eliminate background noise coming in from other people. So you can save yourself from your colleagues’ loud keyboard as well as protecting them from your own. It’s a win-win.

How to use RTX Voice to reduce background noise

RTX Voice is pretty simple to use, but the big caveat is that you need the right hardware. In order to run it, you’ll need an Nvidia GeForce or Quadro RTX or GTX graphics card since the software uses this hardware to process your audio. That means you’re out of luck if you’ve got a Mac, or a Windows machine without a dedicated GPU.

As well as hardware requirements, the other thing to note about RTX Voice is that since the processing is being done by your graphics card, it might take system resources away from any games or other graphically intensive applications you’re running. I ran some quick and dirty benchmarks to try to gauge the performance impact and found that running RTX Voice on my Discord microphone input reduced UniEngine’s Heaven Benchmark by just over 3fps or around 6 percent, rising to over 8fps or 14 percent if I used the software to process incoming audio as well. That more or less tracks with YouTuber EposVox’s report of a 4 to 10 percent reduction when using it on his microphone, rising to 20 percent with both mic and speakers.

I think that makes RTX Voice a much better option for calls where you’re unlikely to be running something graphically intensive at the same time, like a work conference call, rather than while you’re running a game simultaneously. If you’re looking for something more gaming-specific, Discord recently launched its own noise suppression feature, which might be a better alternative.

RTX Voice can be set it up in just a couple of minutes.

  • First, update the driver software of your graphics card if it’s not already running on version 410.18 or above
  • Download RTX Voice from Nvidia’s website and install it
  • Once the software is installed, you can configure it to improve your incoming audio, outgoing audio, or both. Nvidia recommends only turning it on for your input device (read: microphone) to minimize the impact the audio processing will have on the performance of your system. You can also select how much noise suppression you want. I left it at 100 percent, but you might want to play around to find what works best for you.

You can set RTX Voice to work on your microphone input and / or your speaker’s output.
Screenshot by Jon Porter / The Verge

  • Once installed, “Nvidia RTX Voice” will appear as an audio input and / or output device for your PC. That means you can go into your voice chat app of choice and select it as though you’d plugged an extra microphone or set of speakers into your PC. Check out Nvidia’s site for specific instructions on how to configure the software for individual applications; here’s what the setting looks like in Zoom.

Once enabled, most chat apps will let you manually select RTX Voice as though it’s an input or output device.
Screenshot by Jon Porter / The Verge

Nvidia’s software isn’t unique. In addition to Discord’s feature, Microsoft also plans to add a similar piece of functionality to Teams later this year. The advantage of RTX Voice, however, is that it works across a much broader range of apps. Nvidia’s site lists 12 apps that it’s validated. However, I tested out audio recording app Audacity, which Nvidia doesn’t list as being supported, and found that RTX Voice worked just fine, so there are likely to be other unlisted apps that also work.

Not everyone will have the hardware to take advantage of this latest feature, and for others, the performance hit won’t be worth it. However if, like me, your gaming PC is mainly being used as a work computer these days, then using RTX Voice is a no-brainer.

Correction: This article originally stated that RTX Voice won’t work on a Windows machine with a dedicated GPU when it should have read that it won’t work on a Windows machine without a dedicated GPU. We regret the error.

Update 10:31AM, April 6th: Nvidia has extended RTX Voice support for earlier GTX, Quadro, and Titan-branded graphics card, so we’ve updated this post with relevant info.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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How to check if you’re part of the Facebook data breach

By now, you have probably heard of the huge Facebook data breach, in which upwards of 533 million Facebook users from 106 countries had personal data leaked online, including phone numbers, Facebook IDs, birthdates — you name it.

Your first question will be, of course, how to check whether you are part of that breach. There are a couple of places out there where you can find out whether your data has been compromised.

One well-known site that tracks data breaches is Have I Been Pwned. Just follow the link to the site and put in your email address. You will find out not only if you’ve been part of the Facebook breach, but also any other breaches in which your data may have been compromised.

While as of this writing, you could only do a search using your email address, Troy Hunt, creator of Have I Been Pwned, was considering whether to include a phone number search as well:

If you want to check your phone number against the leaked Facebook database, Gizmodo has suggested a tool created by a site called The News Each Day, in which you input your phone number to find out whether it’s part of the breach. However, that site is not as well-known, so until more is known about it, you may want to stick with the more trusted site listed above.

And if you do find out that your data has been compromised? Some of the steps you can take are to change the passwords of compromised sites, use a password manager so that you can create and track unique passwords for each site (so that if one is compromised, it won’t affect any others), use two-factor authentication for additional security, and stay alert for news of any other breaches.

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How to change Siri’s voice in the iOS 14.5 beta

Until recently, the default voice for Apple’s Siri assistant has been stereotypically female-sounding. However, studies have found that having AI assistants default to female-sounding voices can reinforce harmful stereotypes, so Apple has tried to fix that in its upcoming iOS 14.5, which is now in beta.

When you update your phone to iOS 14.5, you’ll be prompted to pick a default voice for Siri — and Apple is including two new voice options. However, if you’ve changed your mind and want to use a different voice (or are using the 14.5 beta and weren’t prompted), this guide will show you how to change the voice after setup.

It’s a reasonably simple process. First, go to the Settings app, then to Siri & Search, and tap Siri Voice. There, you’ll be presented with the list of options.

Tap Siri Voice to be taken to the list of options.

At the moment, the American variety is the only one with four voice choices; Australian, British, Indian, Irish, and South African versions only have two. The four US voice choices are:

  • Voice 1, which is a soft-spoken male-sounding voice
  • Voice 2, an energetic, confident female-sounding voice
  • Voice 3 is similar to Voice 2 but male-sounding
  • And finally, Voice 4, which is similar to the default Siri voice that’s been around all these years

If you want to hear what the voices sound like for yourself, they’re in the embedded tweet below.

Tapping on a voice will play a snippet of it saying “Hi, I’m Siri. Choose the voice you’d like me to use.” If you choose voices 1–3, it will have to download them before you can use them, but you don’t have to stay in the Settings app while it does so. Once it’s finished downloading, Siri will respond with your chosen voice.

This process is unlikely to change in the final version, but if it does, we’ll be sure to update this how-to.

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How to type special characters on a Windows PC

Here’s the situation: you’re typing a report for work, and you suddenly have to write the phrase “Jones née Berkowitz.” Or you are adding a phrase in Spanish and need to use the word “años.” How do you add the special characters to the letters?

Special characters (also known as diacritical marks) may be more common in certain languages, but there are plenty of circumstances in which English speakers may need to use them. But because they are so rare in English, native English speakers may not have learned how to add those marks to documents, emails, or other writings. It’s not difficult to add them to your Windows document, although it’s not quite as smooth an operation as on a Mac, where all you have to do is hold the appropriate key down. (In fact, once upon a time, you would have had to look up the symbol character codes…)

Use the touch keyboard

The easiest way to add diacritical marks to a document is to enable the Windows touch keyboard. (Thanks to Ed Bott from ZDNet for first leading me to this method.) The touch keyboard automatically appears if you’re using a Windows tablet or if you’re using a PC in tablet mode. If you don’t have a touchscreen, you can use the keyboard icon that appears in the taskbar, on the right side near the date. Don’t see it? This is how you get it:

  • Right click on the taskbar.
  • Click on “Show touch keyboard button.”

Click on “Show touch keyboard button”

Now, when you want to use a special character:

  • Click on the touch keyboard icon.
  • The touch keyboard will appear. Long press (with your mouse button or, if you have a touchscreen, your finger) on the letter you want to use.
  • You’ll now see several extra keys showing the ways you can type that letter with different symbols. Select the one you want, and it will appear on your document.
  • If you want to enter an emoji, click on the emoji key (on the left of the “space bar”).

Select the special character you want, and it will appear on your document.

Select the special character you want, and it will appear on your document.

Use the character map

If you’d like to try a more old-fashioned method of adding special characters to Windows, you can use the character map, which is a less polished and more complicated version of the touch keyboard but offers a similar service.

To access it on your Windows 10 system:

  • Type “character” in your search field and then select the Character Map app.
  • You’ll get a pop-up map showing a bunch of special characters for a specific font. You can change the font by clicking on the drop-down font menu at the top.

The character map lets you access a wide variety of special characters.

The character map lets you access a wide variety of special characters.

  • Click on the letter(s) or special characters that you want to use in your document and then click on the “Select” button. They’ll appear in the “Characters to copy” field.
  • Once you’ve selected all the characters you want, click on the “Copy” button and then paste the character(s) into your document.

Use the Unicode value

If you look at the lower right-hand corner of the character map after you’ve chosen a letter or special character, you’ll see the word “Keystroke” followed by “Alt” and a four-digit number. This number represents the Unicode value of the symbol and is the time-honored standard for adding characters.

If you use a few special characters consistently, it can be faster to simply add the character you want using your keyboard. There are several ways to do this; here are two of the easiest (each of which has its limitations):

  • Press the Alt key and then type the four-digit Unicode value. For this to work, you need to have a separate number pad on your keyboard, and the NumLock key should be enabled.
  • If you’re working with Microsoft Word, WordPad, Outlook, or another Microsoft app, you can type in the Unicode value and then type Alt-X.

Update March 26th, 10:50AM ET: This article has been updated to add a section on using the Unicode values.

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How to write special characters on Macs

Here’s the situation: you’re typing a report for work, and you suddenly have to write the phrase “Jones née Berkowitz.” Or you are adding a phrase in Spanish and need to use the word “años.” How do you add the special characters to the letters?

Special characters (also known as diacritical marks) may be more common in certain languages, but there are plenty of circumstances in which English speakers may need to use them. But because they are so rare in English, native English speakers may not have learned how to add those marks to documents, emails, or other writings on their Macs.

Here’s how:

For access to more common diacritical marks, you just need to hold down the key for the letter you want to use until a small numbered menu appears on-screen. The menu that pops up will show all of the diacritical marks available for that letter; just type the correct number, and the letter with the mark will appear on your screen.

If you hold down the “e” key, all of the available diacritical marks will appear with numbers.

Use the Keyboard Viewer

There are a number of other special characters that you may want to use, which you can access by pressing down the Option key on your Mac’s keyboard and then pressing the appropriate key. Not sure which key is the appropriate one? There is a Keyboard Viewer that will let you see all of the variations that you can use.

It’s simple to find the Keyboard Viewer — if you’ve got the icon for the Input Menu in your menu bar.

The icon for the Input Menu appears in the upper right menu bar.

The icon for the Input Menu appears in the upper right menu bar.

Don’t see it? Here’s how to get it into your menu bar:

Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Keyboard. Click on the Input Sources tab and look for the checkbox labeled “Show Input menu in menu bar.” If it’s not checked, then check it.

To get the Input Menu icon, you need to enable it in your Keyboard preferences.

To get the Input Menu icon, you need to enable it in your Keyboard preferences.

Click on the Input Menu icon (which will now be on the right side of your menu bar). Select “Show Keyboard Viewer.”

A visual of your keyboard will appear on your screen. If you press on the Option key on your keyboard, the Keyboard Viewer will show you what special characters are available if you press those keys in combination with the Option key.

The Keyboard viewer will show you available special characters....

The Keyboard viewer will show special characters….

...if you press the Options key.

…if you press the Option key.

Note: some of the keys will be outlined in orange. These are the keys we mentioned earlier, the ones that have several special characters and can be held down to see the various characters that can be used with them.

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Today I learned how to mute PS5 audio with the DualSense controller

Did you know that you could mute all system audio by simply holding the mute button on the DualSense for about one second? I’ve had a PS5 for months, yet I only now realized this hidden feature exists after watching a YouTube video that the algorithm served me. You’ll know it’s working when the orange mute light strobes softly, then you won’t hear any system sounds.

Apparently, this trick works to disable all audio, no matter the audio source, be it your speakers, headphones wired into the controller’s 3.5mm jack, a wireless gaming headset, or one plugged in via one of the console’s USB ports. Even though the DualSense has some limited PC support, this feature is exclusive to PS5, it seems.

This video isn’t the exclusive source for this information, and it doesn’t appear to have been the first to crack that the function exists. A Google search for this feature shows a steady stream of gamers are accidentally stumbling upon it on a rolling basis, perhaps as more PS5 consoles become available to buy.

Given that the console is still difficult to buy, let alone find in stock, I figured it’d be useful for anyone reading this who’s trying their luck at getting one. I’m not sure I would have ever figured it out myself if I hadn’t been served that one video, either.

It’s a handy feature, though it might take a little practice for me to take advantage of this feature versus my usual muting method, which is just to yank my headphones off.

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How to find out if you’re getting the third stimulus payment

It’s always nice to anticipate an influx of cash, especially if things have been a bit tight lately. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was signed into law on March 11th, 2021, includes Economic Impact Payments in the amount of $1,400 or less, depending on your reported income. In fact, as of Wednesday, March 17th, you may have already gotten yours; that was when the first payments began hitting bank accounts.

So if you’ve been using direct deposit to pay your federal taxes (or get your tax refunds), then check your bank account. If you don’t use direct deposit and you qualify for a payment, you should get either a check or a prepaid Economic Impact Payment (EIP) card in the mail.

Haven’t seen anything yet and want to find out your status?

The best way to find out where your payment is (and if one is coming) is via the IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool, which will tell you whether you’re eligible and, if so, when you will see the payment.

If you use the tool and are getting a “Payment Status Not Available” message, then, according to the IRS, this means “either we have not processed your payment yet, we do not have enough information to issue you a payment or you are not eligible for a payment.”

The IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool may help you find out where your stimulus payment is.

How do you know if you’re eligible?

It’s complicated. Whether you get a payment can depend on what your adjusted gross income (AGI) was, based on your 2020 taxes (if you’ve already filed) or your 2019 taxes (if you haven’t). The AGI is basically the amount you earned that year minus such things as contributions to a retirement account, and it can usually be found on line 8b of your 1040 tax form.

If you are an individual and your AGI was below $75,000, you qualify. If your AGI was at least $75,000 but below $80,000, you will get a portion of the $1,400. But if your AGI was $80,000 or higher, you’re completely out of luck.

This changes, of course, if you’re the head of a household (in which case, you get $1,400 if you make below $112,500 and nothing if you make $120,000 or more) or a married couple who files jointly (in which case, you get the $1,400 if the AGI is below $150,000 and nothing if it’s at least $160,000).

There are a variety of calculators available online that can tell you how much you can expect.

Speaking of calculators, your AGI isn’t the only factor being taken into consideration. There are other considerations as well. Among them:

  • Non-citizens don’t get payment
  • If you don’t file taxes, you should be okay — unless you also didn’t file last year and didn’t get a check, in which case, it might be a good idea to file
  • Adult dependents in a household (such as college students or elderly parents) will qualify for payments as well

The IRS has a FAQ that should answer most (if not all) of your questions.

What if you never got your first or second stimulus payments?

If you were eligible for one or both of the first two stimulus payments but never received it, it’s too late now to actually get paid. You will have to apply for a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 taxes. It’s not as good as getting a direct payment, but at least you’ll recover some of what you would have paid in taxes.

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How to use your Echo with two Amazon accounts

If you’ve got an Alexa device in your home, like an Echo smart speaker, anyone in your home can use it. But there are certain disadvantages to having it associated with only one account. Mainly, it means that everyone is pretty much sharing the same account.

You can create what Amazon calls a “household.” That means that there can be two adult accounts on the device. On an Echo, that means it can display photos and allow notifications (for example, for a to-do list) from both accounts. Creating a household also permits one member of the household to make a purchase using the other’s account, which can be useful if one person has a Prime account. (You can add a code if you’d rather not allow the other household member to make purchases.) And outside of an Alexa device, having a household lets you share digital content such as ebooks and games.

There are a few limitations.

First, you can only add one other adult (or teenager) to a household account. You can add up to four teens age 13–17 (who can shop on their own with parents approving the purchases). You can also add four children age 12 and under via the Amazon Kids Plus plan, which costs $4.99 a month (or $2.99 a month for Prime members) for a single child and $9.99 a month (or $6.99 a month for Prime members) for up to four children. Also, don’t confuse this with Amazon Household, the service attached to a general Amazon account, which allows two adults, up to four teens, and up to four child profiles to share an account.

Here’s how to add someone to your household:

  • Go to the Amazon Household page on the Amazon website. (You can no longer add a household member using the Amazon app.)
  • Select “Add Adult” (or “Add a Teen” or “Add a Child”)

Click on “Add Adult” to add someone to your household.

  • Add the name and email of the adult you want to share the account with. They will be invited to join your Amazon Household. (A teen will also get an invite; you will need to create a child’s profile yourself.)

Your new Household member will be send an email

Your new household member will be sent an email.

Once that’s done, to go from one account to another, you just have to say, “Alexa, switch accounts.” (If you’ve lost track of whose account you’re using, you can say, “Alexa, identify account.”)

Remove a second account

What if you no longer want the other adult on your account? (Breakups do happen.) You can easily remove them from your household:

  • Go to the same “Manage your Household” page on the Amazon site. On the left, you’ll see icons representing you and the other member of your household.
  • You can either select “Leave” to leave the household yourself or “Remove” to remove somebody from your household. Be aware that any adult leaving or removed from a household won’t be able to join another for 180 days (in other words, six months).

To remove a Household member, go to the “Manage Your Household” page

To remove a household member, go to the “Manage Your Household” page.

That 180-day restriction could be a problem if, for example, you’re simply trying to transfer a household member to a different account or if you’ve accidentally removed somebody. In either case, it’s a good idea to contact Amazon customer support via chat or phone. According to a customer service rep I chatted with, Amazon can remove a household member without imposing the 180-day ban if requested. And if you’ve already removed one, it can reset the account so that you can add another before the six-month period is up.

Update March 18th, 2021, 2:15PM ET: This article was originally published on November 19th, 2019, and has been updated to accommodate changes in Amazon’s Household plan.

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AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT: Where to buy

AMD’s new Radeon RX 6700 XT GPU will be available to purchase today starting at 6AM PT / 9AM ET, with a retail price of $479.99. Like other GPUs released within the last few months, AMD’s latest Radeon RX graphics card will likely sell out quickly, though AMD tells The Verge that you should be able to buy this graphics card.

The Verge’s Sean Hollister reviewed the RX 6700 XT and noted in his review that the GPU is a solid performer that delivers a 1440p experience for most games, but the performance is not quite as good when compared to Nvidia’s 3060 Ti and RTX 3070 cards.

So far, only Micro Center has listings up for various iterations of AMD’s Radeon RX 6700 XT GPU. We will continue to update the list of cards and retailers selling them as they become available.

Best Buy Radeon RX 6700 XT Listings

Micro Center Radeon RX 6700 XT Listings

You may also be able to find the graphics card at AMD’s direct website, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Adorama in the US; Currys and Ebuyer in the UK; or Best Buy CA if you live in Canada.

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How to create a signature for PDF documents on a PC

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic closed most offices, more and more official papers were being turned into PDF documents. (PDF stands for Portable Document Format; it is a standard created by Adobe in the early 1990s that allows paper documents to be turned into exact digital copies.) These days, hard copy paperwork is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule. However, even digital documents have to be signed. You can do it the long way — print those documents out, sign them, and then scan them back into your computer — or you can create a digital signature and place it directly on the PDF.

Unfortunately, while Windows doesn’t offer a built-in PDF signing feature the way a Mac does, there are third-party apps you can download that will give you the same ability. In this case, I’m using Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, which is Adobe’s free PDF reader. Here’s how to set it up and use it to sign your PDF documents.

  • Download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. Adobe has the unfortunate tendency to encourage people to download excess apps, so make sure you uncheck all the additional installations that may pop up on the page: in my case, it was two McAfee apps and Acrobat’s Chrome extension. (You can install this last one later if you think it might be useful.)
  • After you click on “Download Adobe Reader,” you can start the install by clicking on the downloaded .EXE file.

It’s a good idea to uncheck Adobe’s promotional offers before downloading Acrobat Reader.

  • At the end of the installation, Acrobat Reader DC will ask if you want to make Adobe Acrobat Reader your default PDF application. Up to you.
  • Once it’s installed, Acrobat Reader will open. Look for “Fill & Sign” in the main window. Click on that and then click on “Select a File” to choose a PDF file to work on.

Start by selecting “Fill & Sign,” and then choosing the PDF file you want to work with

Start by selecting “Fill & Sign,” and then choosing the PDF file you want to work with.

  • Alternatively, you can open the file first (by going to “File” > “Open”) and then select the “Fill & Sign” feature from the app’s right-hand column. (If you don’t see any labels under the icons, it’s the one that looks like a pen in the act of writing.)
  • A new window will ask “What do you want to do?” Click on the “Fill and sign” button under the left-hand picture.

Select “Fill and sign”

Select “Fill and sign.”

  • Your document will come up in Acrobat. Click on the “Sign” icon (another pen) in the top line.
  • Click on “Add Signature.” (If you already have added a signature, you can use the “Add Initials” choice to save a second signature, if you wish.)

Select “Add Signature.” Once you’ve saved your signature, it will appear on this drop-down menu.

Select “Add Signature.” Once you’ve saved your signature, it will appear on this drop-down menu.

  • A pop-up window will give you three ways to sign your document: type your name (Adobe supplies you with several handwritten-looking fonts), draw your signature (either using your touchpad or directly on a touchscreen), or upload an image of your signature.
  • However you create your signature, if you will want to use it in the future, make sure the “Save signature” box is checked. Then click on “Apply.”

There are several ways you can create a signature

There are several ways you can create a signature.

  • Once you’ve hit “Apply,” your PDF document will be back. Place your new signature where you want it on the document and left-click. You can then change the size or placement of the signature if you wish.

Now you can place your signature where you want it.

Now you can place your signature where you want it.

And you’re done! Now, if you want to add your signature to a PDF, just open your document using Adobe Acrobat Reader and click on the “Sign” icon. You can then select your saved signature and place it where you need it on your PDF document.

Your signature is now available whenever you need it

Your signature is now available whenever you need it.

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC is, of course, not the only app that you can use to read and / or edit a PDF document. There are a variety of other apps out there with free versions that will let you do basic PDF work, such as HelloSign, Smallpdf, and Docsketch. However, most of those free versions come with limitations — for example, both HelloSign and Docsketch let you sign up to three documents a month, while Smallpdf lets you process up to two documents per day. Adobe Reader doesn’t have any limitations on your ability to sign documents, but if you want to create a PDF, or export it to another format, you’ll have to get the Pro version.

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