How to Check Your Google and Facebook Connected Apps

Are you a regular or robust user of Google tools? Have you used your Google account to sign into third party apps? Do you often take quizzes sent by friends on Facebook? Or, as with Google, have you used your Facebook account to log in to third party apps or websites?

Last, are you alarmed by the recent news about the social media companies in privacy breaches? Apart from rigorous password hygiene and mandatory two factor authentication or simply jettisoning these companies entirely, you can take another step to greater security by periodically policing the apps/modules/websites that you’ve allowed to access your Google and Facebook accounts.

Below, we show you how to review, check, calibrate, and remove connected apps from your Google account and Facebook accounts.

Google Connected Apps

Assume that from time to time, you use your Google account to sign into third party apps. Even if you can’t recall doing this, a lot of times you won’t even realize you are giving an app access to your Google account.

Here is Google’s guidance:

Remove Third Party Access

Now, let us explore how to monitor and remove these Google connected apps. Sign in with your Google Account using a web browser.

At the top right of the screen, you’ll see your profile photo.  Click on it, and then click on My Account.

This My Account page includes several modules such as security, privacy, and preferences; it is well worth reviewing, especially the Security Checkup wizard.

For purpose of this article, look down along the left under Sign-in & Security and select Apps with account access.

On the Apps with account access page, click on Manage Apps to get a full list of connected apps.

Notice how Google groups the connected apps, displaying first the 3rd party apps that have access to your account. Below these 3rd party apps, you’ll see a list of apps that are trusted by Google that have access.

Now check these lists for apps that are unfamiliar or that you no longer use. Click on one of the apps. Here you will see details, including when the app was authorized and what level of access it has. To remove it, click on Remove Access.

Google then displays a pop up explaining that you are removing the apps access to your account and to use this app or service again, you will need to grant access. Click OK, and Google removes the apps access and removes it from the list.

Continue to remove access for all apps you do not actively use.  And remember that if you need to use a third party or Google app again that you’ve removed, you simply have to authorize it again.

Facebook Connected Apps

Many website logins ask new users to sign in using Facebook. Also, if you have used the many popular shared game and quiz apps on Facebook, these apps also access your personal information. Facebook is prominent in the news now because of how this data is being misused. In response, Facebook may soon be simplifying the privacy settings. But for now, here is the current, not so easy, way to check and remove these Facebook connected apps.

Once logged into Facebook, pull down the toggle/arrow at the right top of the Facebook screen. This will expose your Facebook account and other features.  Near the bottom of this list, choose Settings.

On Facebook General Account Settings page, scroll down and select Apps and Websites in the left-hand menu.

The next page shows the Facebook applications that have been given account access, via the ways discussed above.  These range from fun apps like Words with Friends to automating integrations like If This Then That (IFTTT), and productivity apps like Hootsuite.

You may easily remove the app entirely by checking the box to the right and selecting Remove as shown above.

If you select one or more apps and click remove, you’ll see another dialog box. Here, notice the additional checkbox option referring to previous activity.  Consider whether to instruct Facebook to also delete prior posts made using the app.  So, for example, if you use IFTTT to automatically post to Facebook any entries posted on Blogger, you may still want the previous posts to remain.

Several other important notes here. Once removed, the app or website will no longer have access to your information, yet they may still retain previously shared information. If the app or website has your email address, you may certainly “unsubscribe” to stop future emails, but it will be necessary to contact the app or website developers directly to ask what if any information of yours they continue to maintain.

Facebook makes it easy for users to contact app developers, by selecting “Report/Contact” in the bottom right when you click on the app.  Thus, if you are concerned, you may want to first use this contact tool before removing the app.

Edit Facebook App Privacy Settings

Note too that Facebook allows users to specify the exposure that each connected app is allowed. So even after removing apps entirely, consider visiting and changing the privacy settings for each app that remains.  Here’s how.

For one of the apps, click on View and edit.

First, check App visibility, meaning who on Facebook will be able to see that you use this app.  For this visibility, you can pick from Public, Friends, Friends except acquaintances, Only Me or Custom.

Even more important, check the personal information provided to the app. For many apps, the public profile may be required, but other info such as your list of Facebook friends, birthday, hometown, and your email address can be deselected. Also, most of the time, there is no need for the app to access your pages or manage your business.

So trim the access for each app or remove them entirely. Upon removal, you will no longer see this app or website in your Facebook connected apps list.

Congrats on bringing some small level of privacy control to the continuing privacy battles we all face when using social media sites. Please let us know of any comments or questions. Enjoy!

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Sync Any Windows Folder with Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox

As of today, I have a cloud storage account on Amazon Drive, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, iCloud Drive and Dropbox. I mostly use Dropbox overall, but I also use Amazon Drive on my Kindle Fire, OneDrive on Windows 10 and Google Drive for my photos and videos. One issue that I always had is that I want to sync my folders with these services, but I don’t like the fact that I have to copy or move all the files to their special container folders.

Instead, I wanted a way to be able to keep my folders in My Documents or wherever I had them and still have them sync with the cloud services. I learned that the best way to do this is to use symbolic links in Windows. A symbolic link is kind of like creating a shortcut to a folder, but it’s more permanent and acts like a separate folder, even though it’s not.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the steps to create symbolic links so that you can sync any folder on your computer with your cloud service without moving it. Note that Google has a separate program called Backup and Sync that allows you to choose any folder(s) on your computer to backup to Google Drive, which I will explain below.

Sync Folders to Dropbox and OneDrive

Before I get into the steps for OneDrive, I wanted to mention that they now have an option called AutoSave that lets you move the contents of the Desktop, My Documents and Pictures folders to OneDrive without having to do anything on your part. Basically, they point the local folders to the OneDrive folders to make it seamless.

However, it’s only for those three folders. If you have a folder saved somewhere else, you’ll need to either move it to the OneDrive folder or create a symbolic link. To get this done for Dropbox or OneDrive, I have created an example to walk you through the process. As you can see below, I have my OneDrive folder on the left and a folder called OneDrive Test inside C:\Test.

So I want to sync the OneDrive Test folder to my OneDrive account folder without moving it. To do this, you have to open an elevated command prompt and type in the following command:

mklink /J "C:\Users\Aseem\OneDrive\Personal" "C:\Test\OneDrive Test"

So let me explain what we are doing here. We are creating a symbolic link (symlink) using the mklink command. It takes two parameters: the first is the location of the symbolic link you want to create and the second is the source directory. As you can see, I don’t need to create the Personal folder in the OneDrive folder, the mklink command will do that for me. Also, you can use any name you want for the folder.

So I am telling Windows to create a symbolic link folder in the OneDrive folder called Personal that is actually just pointing to the C:\Test\OneDrive Test folder. After the link is created, you’ll see the Personal folder inside of OneDrive folder:

If you open that folder, the path will show as if it’s stored in OneDrive\Personal, when it actually is stored in the Test folder. So now you can add files to the folder from either location and both will have the same contents since it’s actually one folder, not two. That’s it!

OneDrive and Dropbox both support symbolic link folders and will sync everything up to the cloud like shown below:

Sync Folders to Google Drive

For Google Drive, start by downloading the Backup and Sync software mentioned above. Once you start the installation, you’ll get the following screen for step 2:

By default, it will select Desktop, Documents and Pictures, but you can click on Choose Folder and pick any folder you want. You can also click the Change link to backup only photos and videos or add file extensions that you do not want to sync.

In step 3, you choose which folders you want to sync down to your local PC. What I normally do is just uncheck Sync My Drive to this computer, since I’m only using it as a backup for my PC.

So there you have it! Now you can sync any folder on your computer with your cloud service. Either you’ll have to create a symbolic link or there may be a feature whereby you can pick the folders you want to sync. If you have any questions or problems, post a comment here and I’ll try to help. Enjoy!

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5 Ways to Automate Your Computer When It’s Idle

If you’re like most people, your home computer probably sits idle most of the day. Maybe you’re at work or watching the kids or grocery shopping or watching TV. Whatever the case, 80% of the time my computer at home is either off or sleeping.

This is good for saving power and money, but most computers don’t cost that much to keep on all the time anyway. Instead, I decided that I wanted to have my computer do something useful while I wasn’t working on it. Well, what can you accomplish on a PC without being around? Quite a few things actually. Here are five things you can try.

Help Mankind

There are quite a few projects out there that are trying to solve really complicated problems in the world, but need more resources. If you want to help with scientific research, there are several programs from universities around the world that can harness the power of your computer along with millions of other computers to create a super computer.

The BOINC Project

This is a project from the University of Berkeley where you can volunteer your computer resources to help cure diseases, study global warming, find objects in space, etc. They have over 172K volunteers with over 850K computers in the network. This gives them a whopping 27 petaflops of computing power. Just download the software and choose the projects you want to support.

Folding@home

The other big project for volunteer computing is Folding@home from Stanford University. Its main purpose is to research diseases by looking at protein folding. It’s all quite technical and way over my head, but you’re basically helping them design new drugs to fight diseases.

Automatically Backup Your PC

If you’re not backing up your computer, you should really take the time out to get a proper backup plan in place. Even if you don’t have any important data stored on your PC, you can still save yourself hours if your computer crashes and you need to perform a restore.

Reinstalling Windows along with all of your programs is a time-consuming process. Why not have your computer backup when it’s idle? You can create your own backup images manually, but you’re way more likely to create the backups if they are done automatically.

The best options here is to use a cloud backup service. The ones I have used personally are BackBlaze and Carbonite. These services obviously cost money, but they are super easy to use and give you the freedom to not worry about manually backing up your computer.

Update Your PC

If you hate your computer restarting in the middle of a work day, then you can easily adjust your settings so that Windows only updated your PC when you’re not using it.

In Windows 10, you simply click on Start, then Settings and then Update & Security. Click on Change active hours and set the time that you work on your PC. Windows will only do updates outside of this time range.

In Windows 7, open Control Panel and click on Windows Update. In the left-hand pane, click on Change settings.

You can choose to install new updates every day or you can pick one day of the week. You can also choose the specific time when you’re most likely not using the computer.

Setup an FTP or Game Server

If you’re someone who likes to share a lot of content with others, then you might consider setting up your computer as a file sharing or game server. I wrote an article about some third-party software you can use to create a home file server.

You can also install IIS in Windows Pro and higher versions to create your own FTP server or web server. Finally, if you enjoy gaming with friends, you can setup your own game server to play games like Minecraft, Counter-Strike, Quake, etc.

These are a bit more complicated to setup, but your friends will definitely think you are cool if you have one of these running from home.

Become a Tor Relay

If you have a powerful machine, an unlimited Internet connection and one hell of a router, you might consider becoming a Tor relay. Tor, if you didn’t know, is a project that aims to help users browse the Internet without being tracked. It’s not full-proof, but works well for a lot of people.

However, the network is made up of volunteers who act as relays. When you visit a website, your request goes through several relays before reaching the final destination. This helps mask your true identity.

Becoming a Tor relay has some technical requirements and legal implications, depending on where you live, your ISP, etc. However, if you can, it’s a great way to make the web more private.

Other Extra Uses

I only listed five ways to use the extra processing power of your PC, but there are so many more that I figured I would add a couple of more.

  1. Mine Bitcoin – You probably won’t be making much money if you use a single computer with one graphics card, but if you have a powerful multi-GPU rig, you could earn a couple of dollars a day (possibly). Or you could join a mining pool. One free and clean Bitcoin mining program is GNUMiner.
  2. Record Movies and TV Shows – If you have an OTA antenna and some extra hard drive space, you can easily record TV shows and movies for free. Download a program like Plex onto your computer, connect a digital tuner and you’re good to go.
  3. Automate Usenet Downloads – Download a program like SABnzbd to automatically download files from Usenet.

There are a lot of other things you can do with an idle PC, but these were just a few that came to my mind. If you have another cool way to utilize an idle PC, let us know in the comments. Enjoy!

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How to Create a GIF from a Video using Photoshop CC

Ever wonder how those long GIFs you see on sites like Imgur are created? A lot of times, the creators take a video, convert the whole thing into an animated GIF, and then superimpose text to make it entertaining.

Now this post isn’t going to teach you how to create those fancy GIFs from start to finish, but it will teach you how to take a video and at least convert it to an animated GIF. I’ll write up another post on how you can add text and graphics to your GIF.

I’ll be using Photoshop CC for this tutorial because it allows you to have more control over the final product in terms of size, quality, frames, etc.

Convert Video Before Importing

Before you start, you may need to convert your video to a file format that Adobe Photoshop will support. For instance, I took a video from my iPhone and downloaded it onto my computer. I then tried to import the video into Photoshop, but got the following error:

Could not complete the Video Frames to Layers command because the file has no video frames.

The video was a MOV file, but the codec that Apple uses is not supported in Photoshop. In order to fix this type of problem, you need to download a program like HandBrake to convert the video.

It’s very easy to use HandBrake. Just click on FileChoose Source and pick your video file. At this point, all you really have to do is click the Start Encode button. By default, it will use the Fast 1080p30 preset that you see listed on the right. They have many presets, so choose the one that works for you. Note that you can reduce the resolution of the GIF in Photoshop later on, so you don’t have to do it in HandBrake.

Once it has been converted to an MP4 file using the H.264 video codec, we can now import it into Photoshop.

Import Video and Create GIF in Photoshop

Open Photoshop CC and click on File, then Import and then Video Frames to Layers.

Pick your video file and click Open. This will bring up a dialog with a small preview of the video and a couple of options.

Now if you want the entire video as a an animated GIF, go ahead and leave the radio button to From Beginning to End. If you only need a portion, choose Selected Range Only and then use the trim controls below the video to pick the range.

In addition, to reduce the size of the final GIF as much as possible, you can also limit the number of frames. For example, if you check the box and leave it at 2 frames, that means Photoshop will remove every other frame from the video.

Lastly, you need to make sure the Make Frame Animation box is checked. Click OK and your video should be imported as a bunch of frames in Photoshop. If the program crashes, you may need to reduce the quality of the video even further before trying to import.

Now all we have to do is save the frames as an animated GIF. To do this in Photoshop CC, you need to click on FileExportSave for Web (legacy). Note that before saving it out as a GIF, you can edit and delete frames as desired.

 

On this dialog, there are a bunch of options that you will have to play around with. Most of them will affect the quality of the GIF, which you will be able to see in the preview area on the left. The right pane is where you will make most of the adjustments.

Up at the top, you’ll see a dropdown called Preset. You can click on that and choose one of the presets or you can adjust the values yourself. Choosing one of the presets will reduce the quality of the GIF, but will make it smaller also. Make sure that GIF is selected in the dropdown below Preset.

At the bottom under Image Size, you can adjust the final output resolution for your GIF. So if you video was 1920×1080 or 4K, you probably will want to reduce it significantly here. Under Animation, you can choose Forever, Once or Custom for Looping Options. By default, the GIF will loop continuously. You can use the controls at the bottom to play the GIF to see how it looks.

Click Save and choose a location to save your GIF. That’s about it. Photoshop makes it very easy to create animated GIFs from videos and allows you to tweak the settings to get it just right. Also, read my posts on how to create animated GIFs from images using Photoshop. Enjoy!

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How to Overclock Your GPU Safely to Boost Performance

Not many people know how to overclock their graphics card, and many others are simply afraid they’ll mess up their computers if they don’t do it correctly.

Overclocking your graphics card is generally a safe process – if you follow the steps below and take things slowly, you won’t run into any problems. These days, graphics cards are designed to stop the user from causing any serious damage.

Read through the entire guide to learn the important details about overclocking, find out the software you need, and to know what steps are required to overclock your graphics card to its fullest potential.

Prepare Overclocking Software

To overclock your graphics card, you’ll need two pieces of software. Firstly, you’ll need the software that can be used to set new speeds for your GPU. Secondly, you’ll need a program that can stress test your system to make sure the settings you’ve used are stable.

You may also want to download an optional third program that can monitor your GPU temperature. The overclocking software suggested below already does this, but it’s nice to have an external program that can be minimized to the system tray.

  • For overclocking software, you should download MSI Afterburner from MSI.com.
  • For stress testing software, you should download Heaven Benchmark.
  • Finally, if you’d like an extra temperature and voltage monitor, you can download GPU temp.

Understanding What Overclocking a GPU Does

Before we get into the overclocking process, let’s first talk about what overclocking a GPU actually does.

Essentially, overclocking a GPU increases its performance by boosting the speed that the graphical processor works at.

All GPUs are set to run at a certain speed, called the base clock, but different cards usually have the potential to surpass the speed set by the manufacturer.

By overclocking the speed, your GPU will increase in temperature and it will draw more power. It’s important to find a good balance between more performance and a stable temperature for your graphics card.

Every GPU is different. For example, your GTX 1080 may be able to safely overclock to a higher speed than your friend’s GTX 1080. As a result, you must test your own overclocking speeds to find the sweet spot.

If you try to push your GPU too hard with the MSI Afterburner overclocking software, your graphics card will either show graphical glitches, or your PC will crash.

Don’t worry – you can simply dial your GPU speeds back down to a safe level if this happens. It’s best to start slow and make your way up until you notice problems.

Getting Started With The Overclocking Software

Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s look at how you can start to overclock your GPU.

First, open up MSI Afterburner. You’ll need to get to grips with this software as you stress test your GPU.

In the image above, we’ve numbered the different elements in Afterburner that you need to pay attention to. Details for each element have been provided below.

  1. This is your core clock speed – this is the main speed you’ll be overclocking.
  2. This is the memory clock speed – this can also be overclocked, but only after testing the core clock.
  3. This is the control panel – use this to overclock your core clock, memory clock, and fan speed.
  4. This is the temperature of your GPU.

It’s now time to open the UNiGiNE Heaven stress testing software. Once it’s open, you should run a base test to see how your graphics card performs on default clock settings.

  1. Install the UNiGiNE Heaven software and then run Heaven Benchmark 4.0 from your Start menu
  2. Once you’re in the UNiGiNE Heaven software, click RUN

In Heaven, you’ll see a 3D scene being rendered and some buttons at the top. Click the Benchmark button at the top left to start the benchmarking process.

Heaven will now run a series of tests. During the test, you’ll get to see the temperature, frames, graphics clock, and memory clock.

Let the test run through all 26 scenes. This can take roughly 10 minutes. During the test, pay close attention to the stats at the top right of the screen.

It’s likely that your GPU will reach a certain temperature and will stay at that temperature throughout the test. This piece of information is crucial because it’ll give you an idea of how much room for overclocking you have.

You will also be given a score and average FPS stats. Make sure to save the results, so that you can refer back to them later.

You should take note of the following:

  • Temperature during test
  • FPS at the end of test
  • Score at the end of test

Preparing Your Graphics Card for Overclocking

Now that you’ve tested the software, have your base score, and understand how things work, it’s time to overclock your graphics card.

Go back to MSI Afterburner and click the Settings icon.

You’ll need to restart your PC in a second, so make sure to bookmark this page so that you can come back to it.

Next, click on the General tab in Afterburner and tick Unlock voltage control, Unlock voltage monitoring, and Force constant voltage.

After applying the settings above, click OK. You’ll be asked to restart your system. Click OK.

Once you’ve come back from your restart, open MSI Afterburner and Unigine Heaven again.

  1. This time, slide your temperature limit to 87 degrees Celsius.
  2. You should notice that your power limit (%) slider also goes up.
  3. Put the core voltage (%) slider all the way to the right. The percentage you get will be dependent on your graphics card.
  4. Finally, click the Check button underneath the sliders.

Here’s an image of the settings you should have. These settings ensure you can get the highest clock speed possible while still staying within a safe temperature range.

Stress Testing Your Graphics Card

Now that you have the optimal MSI Afterburner settings, start by moving the core clock (MHz) slider to the right. Add +23 to the number and click the check button.

Next, run Heaven Benchmark 4.0 and click the Benchmark button again. Go through the 26 scenes and wait for your test results. You should notice your score improves slightly from last time.

As you can see from the image below, our first test improved our average frames and test score slightly. You should also see an improvement, and you may notice a 1-2 degree increase in temperature during the test.

This is just the beginning. The next steps will involve you pushing your graphics card to the limit. Follow the steps below to overclock your graphics card to its full potential.

  1. Add an additional 20-30 to your clock speed.
  2. Run Heaven Benchmark 4.0 again
  3. Click the benchmark button and complete all 26 scenes
  4. If your PC doesn’t crash and you don’t notice any graphical glitches, repeat from step 1

If your PC Crashes or you notice graphical problems: Don’t worry – It’s completely normal. Simply open MSI Afterburner again and lower the clock speed by 30. This will be your optimal clock speed.

Final Steps for Overclocking Your GPU

You’ve almost completed your overclocking. If you’d like, you can repeat the steps above for your memory clock as well. However, most new graphics cards have enough memory as it is, so it won’t provide as much of a performance boost in games.

Once you’re finished with overclocking, click the Save icon on MSI Afterburner and then click a number to assign it to that slot to save your settings. You can now automatically load up these settings each time you want to have better performance while playing your favorite games.

The final test is to try out your new overclocked graphics card in your favorite games. In most cases, you’ll find that performance will be improved.

Some games may not work as well with overclocked settings, so if you notice graphical glitches or your game crashes, simply click the reset button to go back to default settings.

Thanks for reading our in-depth guide on how to overclock your graphics card. We hope this guide has been useful. Have any questions? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Enjoy!

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