7 Google Home Mini Features You’ll Love

The Google Home Mini is one of the most popular smart assistants. It’s a small size, has a sleek design, and a wide range of functionality which makes it an appealing option for many people. Especially if they don’t want the air freshener design of the Google Home on display.

Another reason why the Google Home Mini is such a popular option is due to the number of functions it has. Outside of its basic smart assistant functionality (that is, answering questions, playing music, and controlling smart home devices), the Google Home Mini—or Nest Mini, if you have the most recent version) can do much more.

Here are the best additional Google Home Mini features that you will love.  

Google Can Find Your Phone

How often do you lose track of your phone throughout the day? Sometimes it’s as simple as the device slipping between the couch cushions, but sometimes you set it down and forget where you put it. It happens to everyone.

The good news is that Google can ring your phone for you. All you have to do is program your number into your account and then ask, “Hey Google, find my phone.” This function works with both Android and iPhones, so you can avoid bugging your spouse to call your phone.

Google Can Perform Daily Routines

One of the major benefits of owning a smart home is the ability to automate many mundane tasks. You might not think much of doing it, but flipping off every light (or even asking Google to do it individually) takes up a lot of time.

With Google Home Mini, you can create routines that will trigger when you say a specific phrase. For example, you can say, “Hey Google, good morning,” and the device can be programmed to turn on lights throughout the home, begin brewing your coffee, and start your morning playlist.

You can set up custom phrases for custom routines. Something like, “Hey Google, game time” could dim the lights, crank up the volume on a connected sound bar, and turn on your Xbox for a great night of gaming.

Google Can Broadcast To All Devices

How many times have you needed to gather every member of the family, but couldn’t find an easy way to do so without yelling at everyone in the house? If you have more than one Google Home Mini inside the home, one Google Home Mini feature is the ability to broadcast to every device at once.

You can say something like, “Hey Google, broadcast that it’s time for dinner.” After you give the command, a dinner bell will ring from each device. You can also use it like an intercom, even if you aren’t at home. Telling Google Assistant on your phone that you want to broadcast that you’re on the way home will pass the message to each device within the home.

Google Can Be A White Noise Machine

Many people find it impossible to fall asleep without some kind of sound in the background—a TV, a ceiling fan, or a white noise machine. If you fall into one of these camps, your Google Home Mini can help. You can ask Google to play a variety of sounds, and the device will respond.

The sounds aren’t limited solely to white noise, either. You can ask for specific tracks, like the sound of rain or the sounds of the forest. No matter what ambient noise helps you sleep best, there’s a better than average chance that Google can play it.

Google Can Function As A Phone

If you have linked your contacts to your Google account, Google Home Mini features hands-free functionality. It’s simple. All you have to do is say, “Hey Google, call mom,” and the device will dial your mom’s number.

Best of all, Google’s Voice Recognition function means that it will recognize the voices of regular users. Since everyone has “mom” in their phone, Google can distinguish who is speaking to it and call the right “mom” based on the speaker.

Google Can Be A Personal Assistant

How often do you set something down and think to yourself, “I’m going to forget where that is?” Instead of trying to remember where you put something, just tell Google. If you say, “Hey Google, my spare key is in my desk drawer,” Google will remember.

When you start to look for your key and can’t find it anywhere, just ask Google where it is and it will tell you where you last placed it.

Google Can Adjust The TV Volume

Misplaced the remote? No worries—just ask Google to turn the TV on, to stream your favorite show, or to adjust the volume. If you have a Chromecast plugged into the back of your TV, your Google Home Mini can act as a remote. 

If you have linked your streaming services to your Google account or your Chromecast, you can stream specific episodes, skip over those you don’t like, and much more with just your voice alone.

The Google Home Mini is a fantastic tool with an equally approachable price point. Many people see it as subpar because it is a previous model than the Nest Mini, but there are no worthwhile differences between the two devices.

If you’re looking for a useful, affordable smart assistant to use around the home (or even to serve as a Bluetooth speaker in an office), try and pick up a Google Home Mini. You won’t be disappointed.  

How to Fix Screen Tearing on Windows 10 and in Games

Screen tearing is when multiple bits from multiple frames in a video all display at once on the screen. Instead of seeing a solid scene, you get these smaller parts of multiple frames all jumbled into one. This may be minimal where it just looks like two or three images cut and cropped and placed on top of each other, or it may be extreme to the point where you see an entire section show lines (vertical or horizontal).

What is screen tearing

Screen tearing is a visual defect but it doesn’t necessarily signal a problem with your hardware. In many cases, it may be a software problem that you can resolve on your own. That said, it isn’t always unrelated to hardware i.e., your GPU plays a role in it. For this article, we’re going to focus on users who have an Nvidia GPU.

Basic hardware check

Before you try to fix screen tearing on your Windows 10 system, make sure;

  • Your system is not experiencing power surges and everything is securely plugged in.
  • The cable connecting your system to your monitor is not damaged.
  • Your system is not overheating and is placed in a well-ventilated area.
  • Your monitor is not physically damaged.
  • Check if the screen tearing is general or if it only occurs when you play a specific game or video.

How to Fix Screen Tearing on Windows 10

Fixing Screen Tearing Issues on Windows 10

Screen tearing may occur on your desktop, when you’re watching a movie, or when you’re playing a game. Try the following fixes.

1. Run Video Playback troubleshooter

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to Update and Security>Troubleshoot.
  3. Click Additional Troubleshooters.
  4. Select the Video Playback troubleshooter.
  5. Apply any fixes it recommends and restart your system.

2. Check/Change screen resolution

The screen tearing may be occurring because you’re using the incorrect resolution. It may be set too high, or too low.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to System>Display.
  3. If you have a multi-monitor set up, select the monitor you’re experiencing screen tearing on.
  4. Open the Screen Resolution dropdown, and select the ‘Recommended’ setting. If it’s already set to ‘Recommended’, try going higher or lower, and check if the problem goes away.
  5. If you’ve enabled scaling, turn it off.

3. Change screen refresh rate

Screen tearing may also occur if the refresh rate of the screen is set too low, or too high.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to System>Display.
  3. Scroll down, and click on Additional Display Settings.
  4. Choose the display you’re experiencing tearing on.
  5. Click ‘Display adapter properties for Display’.
  6. A new window will open. Go to the Monitor tab.
  7. Open the Screen Refresh rate dropdown, and select a lower (or higher) rate.
  8. Click Apply and restart the system.

4. Update graphics driver

If your graphics driver is outdated, it may be responsible for the screen tearing.

  1. Open the Device Manager.
  2. Expand Display Adapters.
  3. Right-click your Nvidia GPU, and select Update driver.
  4. Install any and all updates that it recommends.
  5. Repeat for the on-board graphics card if you have one.

5. Turn off Game Mode

Game Mode is a Windows 10 feature that aims to improve gaming but it can often result in an inferior gaming experience, and it can cause screen tearing.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to Gaming>Game Mode.
  3. Turn the ‘Game Mode’ switch Off.

6. Disable fullscreen optimization

Fullscreen optimization is yet another feature that aims to give apps in fullscreen access to more system resources so that they run smoother. If you’re experiencing screen tearing in a particular app, disable full-screen optimization for it. We’re taking the example of VLC player but you can do this for any desktop app.

  1. Create a desktop shortcut for the app that you’re experiencing screen tearing in.
  2. Go to the shortcut, and right-click it. Select Properties.
  3. Go to the Compatibility tab.
  4. Check the ‘Disable fullscreen optimizations’ option.
  5. Click Apply.
  6. Open the app using the shortcut, and play media.

7. Reduce framerate

If you’re experiencing screen tearing in a game, try to reduce the framerate. Most games will have a built-in option to change the frame rate.

  1. Open the game you’re experiencing screen tearing in.
  2. Go to the game’s settings.
  3. Look for display or performance settings.
  4. Find the FPS control, and lower it.
  5. Apply the change and try playing your game.

Conclusion

Screen tearing, if constant, makes it impossible to use your system but unless your system is exceptionally old or you haven’t taken good care of it, the problem is easy to fix. With older systems, you may be looking at a hardware failure.

Make sure any media that you’re playing is running from a local disk and not from an external one if you’re on a very old system. If your hard drive is old, it may be slowing down to the point where data cannot be read from it at the rate it an app or game needs.

For old hardware, there isn’t much you can d,o but on newer systems the problem is solvable.

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The Wizard Could Not Start Microphone (Windows 10): Here’s How to Fix It

All laptops come with a built-in microphone and they have support for external mics while desktops only work with external ones. Unlike speakers or headphones, a stand-alone mic isn’t as easy to set up. On paper, they’re plug & play but generic mics are often incompatible with newer audio drivers, new hardware, or the latest Windows 10 updates.

Setting them up takes time, so if you’re trying to use a generic or name brand mic with your Windows 10 system and the wizard could not start the microphone, or you’re unable to configure it via the built-in wizard, there are a few simple fixes you can try.

Wizard Could Not Start Microphone: Check the Basics!

Microphones are a bit complicated to set up on a Windows 10 desktop but you’ll find most mics that connect via an audio jack will work easily with a phone. Try connecting your mic to a smartphone and see if it is detected. Try connecting it to other devices to see if it’s working.

If the mic has physical volume controls or its own On/Off switch, make sure that it is turned on. If you’re connecting it via the audio jack, try connecting a different device to it and see if it works. If not, you might have a problem with the audio jack itself.

The Wizard Could Not Start – THE FIXES

1. Check Microphone access

If you’re using an external mic, it is possible that it hasn’t been enabled in Windows 10.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to the Privacy group of settings.
  3. Click Microphone.
  4. Make sure you see the message ‘Microphone access for this device is on’ message. If you do not, click Change, and enable access.

2. Run audio recording troubleshooter

If your microphone isn’t working or fails to set up, run the audio recording troubleshooter.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to the Update and Security group of settings.
  3. Select Troubleshoot.
  4. Click Additional Troubleshooters.
  5. Select the Recording audio troubleshooter.
  6. Apply any fix that it recommends, and restart the system if prompted to.

3. Check audio manager

Some systems, particularly those sold by Dell and HP have an audio manager app installed by default. These apps may be preventing the mic from working.

  1. Open the audio manager app installed by your system manufacturer.
  2. Go to the audio input or microphone tab.
  3. Make sure the mic is enabled.

4. Check mic volume level

A mic, like speakers, has its own volume level. If the volume level is set to zero, the mic may appear to be working but it won’t detect any audio input.

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Go to Hardware and Sound.
  3. Click Sound.
  4. Go to the Recording tab.
  5. Double-click the mic to open its properties.
  6. Go to the levels tab.
  7. Make sure the ‘Microphone’ level is not set to zero, and it’s not set too low.

5. Enable microphone

A device may be connected to your system and be disabled at the same time. This will keep it from showing up in apps, and your system will not be able to detect it at all.

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Go to Hardware and Sound.
  3. Click Sound.
  4. Go to the Recording tab.
  5. Right-click in an empty area, and select ‘Show disconnected devices’ and ‘Show disabled devices’.
  6. If your mic appears, right-click it and set it as the default device.

6. Uninstall and reinstall the device

A problem installing the device when it was first connected to your system can prevent it from working and being set up. Uninstalling and reinstalling it will often fix any errors that might have occurred during the first installation.

  1. Open the Device Manager.
  2. Expand the Audio inputs and outputs group of devices.
  3. Right-click your mic and select Uninstall device.
  4. Once the device has been uninstalled, disconnect the mic (if it’s an external one) and connect it again. If it’s an internal mic, restart the system.
  5. Windows 10 will automatically detect the new hardware and install drivers for it.

7. Check for audio driver updates

An audio driver update may be needed to get the mic to work.

  1. Open the Device Manager.
  2. Expand the Audio inputs and outputs group of devices.
  3. Right-click the mic, and select Update drivers. 
  4. Install any updates that are found and restart the system.

8. Install proprietary audio apps

If you’re using a name brand microphone, you may need a proprietary app to get it to work and configure it.

  1. Visit the website of your mic’s manufacturer and check for apps that go with your model.
  2. Install the app.
  3. Connect the mic to your system, and run the app.
  4. Allow it to detect and set up the mic.

9. Use an audio jack to USB adapter

It is possible that there’s a problem with the audio jack. The problem may be a hardware or a software problem but in a pinch, you can buy a cheap audio jack to USB adapter and connect the mic over a USB port. It’s highly likely that the mic will show up and you’ll be able to use it. Check out our guide on how to use a converter. 

Conclusion

Mics are complicated to set up even though most use the same audio jack that speakers and headphones do.

Windows 10 hasn’t really made it any easier to set them up which is why it’s often a long process to get a mic up and running but these solutions will allow you to set up your device and use it fairly easily.

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How to add a crosshair to a game on Windows 10

A crosshair is found in all sorts of apps but it’s a staple in games, particularly FPS games. The crosshair helps players aim and it might also help reduce motion sickness by allowing users to focus on one spot on the screen.

Games generally offer lot of customization options but they do not let users customize the crosshair. You get what you get unless you’re committed enough to mod the game and change the crosshair. Some games can benefit from a crosshair but do not have them. In either case, you can add a better crosshair to your game with the help of an app.

Add crosshair in game

To add a crosshair to a game, follow these steps;

  1. Download and install a free app called Crossover.
  2. Run the app.
  3. Tap the Ctrl+Alt+Shift+X keyboard shortcut to lock the crosshair.
  4. Open the game you want to play.
  5. Pan around and the crosshair in the middle of the screen will allow you to aim better.
  6. To move the crosshair, return to the app.
  7. Tap the Ctrl+Alt+Shift+X keyboard shortcut to unlock it.
  8. Click and drag the little grid icon to position the crosshair anywhere on the screen.
  9. Lock it again, and return to your game.

Customize crosshair

One of the reasons we’re recommending using Crossover is because it allows users to customize the crosshair that the app adds.

  1. Run Crossover.
  2. Use the ‘Size’ slider to change the size of the crosshair.
  3. Click inside the color (yellow by default), and pick a different color for the crosshair.
  4. Click ‘Choose Crosshair’ and you can choose a different look for the crosshair. There are dozens of options to choose from.
  5. You can reset the app by tapping the Ctrl+Alt+Shift+R keyboard shortcut.

Limitations

The crosshair is going to be static on the screen. In order to use it, you will ‘pan around’ the game bringing various objects into focus. It may not be what you’re looking for but the app is free and definitely worth a try.

On a personal note, I did find the crosshair helped reduce motion sickness to some extent.

Conclusion

A crosshair isn’t the central focus when it comes to game design. All games that have one make sure that it is visible when you’re not actively playing a game but once you start moving around, aiming, and trying to shoot something, the crosshair can disappear against the background. With Crossover you get a lot of color options that make up for this shortcoming.

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How To Transfer Files Via Bluetooth To Your PC

If you want to transfer files between different devices, you have a few options. You could use a direct cabled connection, but this only works if your device supports this and if you have the correct cable to hand. You could use cloud storage to sync your files between devices, but this relies on an internet connection.

For most users, the best option for local file transfer from devices like smartphones or digital cameras to your PC is to use Bluetooth. While you can use Bluetooth for all kinds of uses, including for communication, one of its best uses is for file transfers. You can transfer files via Bluetooth on Windows by following these instructions.]

How To Enable Bluetooth In Windows 10

Before you can send files to a Windows PC using Bluetooth, you’ll first need to turn Bluetooth on to allow it to connect to your PC.

  • To do this, you’ll need to access the Bluetooth settings menu. Start by right-clicking the Windows Start menu and clicking Settings.
  • In the Settings menu, click Devices > Bluetooth to access your Bluetooth settings. To enable Bluetooth, click the slider next to the Bluetooth option. You’ll know that Bluetooth is enabled because On will appear next to the slider once Bluetooth has been enabled.
  • You’ll need to allow Bluetooth devices to find your PC. To do this, click the More Bluetooth options option under the Related settings section on the right.
  • Under the Options tab, click to enable the checkbox next to the Allow Bluetooth devices to find this PC option.
  • You’ll probably want to quickly access your Bluetooth devices and settings from the Bluetooth taskbar icon, but this may not be enabled by default. To enable this, click to enable the checkbox next to the Show the Bluetooth icon in the notifications area option, shown under the Options tab of the Bluetooth Settings window. 
  • Click OK to save.

With these settings enabled, you can now transfer files via Bluetooth from other devices. This process will differ, depending on the type of device you’re using.

Pairing Bluetooth Devices On Windows

Before you can send files to a Windows PC using Bluetooth, you’ll need to pair your devices together. This creates a secure connection between your PC and the Bluetooth capable device, allowing you to send and receive files.

  • To pair a device on Windows, open the Bluetooth settings menu (Settings > Devices > Bluetooth) and press the Add Bluetooth or other device button at the top.
  • In the Add a device menu, click Bluetooth. Make sure that Bluetooth is enabled and discoverable on your other device.
  • Windows will scan for nearby devices. Once it locates your device, click on it to begin the connection. Windows will provide an authentication PIN code that you may be required to type in on your other device to ensure a connection is successfully made.
  • Once the connection is made and your devices are successfully paired, you should see a Your device is ready to go message in the Add a device window.

Transfer Files Via Bluetooth To A Windows PC

You can send and receive files to a Windows PC once Bluetooth is enabled, your PC is set to be discovered by others, and if you’ve been able to successfully pair your Bluetooth device to your PC. If you followed the instructions above, this should now be the case.

  • To send a file to a Windows PC, find the Bluetooth icon in the notifications area of your taskbar. Right-click the icon, then press the Receive a File option.
  • Windows will now be in a position to receive files. You should see a Waiting for a connection message in the Bluetooth File Transfer window.

You can now send files to your PC if the device you’re sending from has Bluetooth connectivity. This process will vary, depending on your platform. 

  • There are multiple ways to transfer files via Bluetooth from Android to PC. Most Android photo gallery or file management apps, however, will have a Share button, with various methods listed for sharing your files. Select your files in your chosen app, tap Share, then choose the Bluetooth option to begin the file transfer process (selecting your paired Windows 10 PC in the process).
  • Unfortunately, it isn’t really possible to send photos or other files from an iPhone or iPad to a Windows PC using Bluetooth. Apple devices use AirDrop for easy file transfers, but this method isn’t supported by Windows PCs. If you want to move files between iPhones, iPads and Windows, you could use iCloud to do so. Files stored in your iCloud storage can be accessed on Windows using the iCloud web interface.

Other devices, such as digital cameras, will have their own methods for enabling Bluetooth and sending files. The pairing and file transfer process remains the same, however. Ensure that Bluetooth is active and your device is paired with your PC, and make sure the Receive a File window is open and ready to receive your files.

If the process fails at first, try again. Bluetooth connections can fail for various reasons, including too much distance between the devices, interference from other sources, or a lack of approval for transfers (eg. being too slow to approve them on your devices), so be sure to double-check your connection before you proceed.

Sending Files To A Mac

File transfers from Bluetooth devices to a Mac are usually easy to complete if you’re using an iPhone or iPad, as you’ll be using AirDrop for transfers. You can access your Bluetooth devices and settings from the System Preferences > Bluetooth menu, where it’s possible to view and connect to other devices.

You can quickly access AirDrop on your Mac by opening Finder and clicking AirDrop in the left-hand menu, where nearby Apple devices will be listed.

As long as the Allow me to be discovered by setting at the bottom of the window is set to Everyone, other local Mac, iPhone, and iPad users will be able to send files to this device.

Unfortunately, transferring files to a Mac from other types of devices is a little harder.

Android devices, for instance, will find it hard to connect to a Mac and use Bluetooth file transfers. You can use Bluetooth for other uses, such as internet tethering, but file transfers typically fail. You would need to use an alternative method, such as a direct USB connection or alternative cloud storage method to move files instead.

You may face similar issues with other types of Bluetooth capable devices. If this is the case, investigate other connection methods for those devices, such as by cable or external media.

Using Bluetooth On Windows and Mac

You can save time and effort if you decide to transfer files via Bluetooth, but this is only possible if your devices are close by. Other methods are better for long-distance file transfers, including sending large files by email or by using a secure online service for file transfers instead.

Bluetooth has other uses, however. Once a PC is Bluetooth capable, you can connect wireless peripherals to your PC, stream music wirelessly to Bluetooth speakers like the Amazon Echo, or use Bluetooth for wireless communication using a headset or mic.