How To Optimize Data Transfer Speed To & From External Drives

Transferring data between a PC’s internal storage and an external drive is one of the most common tasks a user performs. Photos, videos, important files, data backups; they all need to be transferred to and fro, sometimes multiple times.

That’s why slow transfer speeds can be so frustrating. No one wants to wait ten minutes for a few gigabytes of data to transfer, and it can be particularly troublesome if you’re late for a meeting or appointment and need the data now. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to improve transfer speeds.

Set Your USB Drive to Better Performance

Windows defaults USB drives to use a “Quick removal” data transfer policy. This disables write caching, which slows down transfer speeds, but lets you disconnect a device safely without using the “Safely Remove Hardware” prompt.

usbdrivespeed

To disable this feature, do a Windows Search for Device Manager, and open it. Expand the Disk Drives tree and locate the USB drive you’d like to improve (it must be plugged in to the PC). Double-click the drive’s icon and, in the window that appears, find the Policies tab. Click the “Better performance” radio button and then, underneath, check the “Enable write caching on the device” checkbox (some devices don’t support this, however). Then click OK.

Remember, if you enable this feature, you will have to remove the device from within Windows before unplugging it. Failure to do so can result in data loss. To make this easier for you, right-click on your desktop and create a new shortcut, then enter the following as its path:

%windir%System32control.exe hotplug.dll

This creates a shortcut that takes you directly to the Safely Remove Hardware menu.

Change the File System

The file system you use to format your drive can have an impact on performance. Many come from the factory with conservative formatting that allocates data in small chunks, which in turn maximizes the drive’s storage capacity. Increasing the size of these chunks, however, can improve performance.

usbfilesystem

If you use Windows, you’ll want to use the NTFS file format with an allocation size of 64 kilobytes. This is the quickest configuration for a modern Windows PC. If you also need to use the drive with DOS, Mac OS X, Linux or your a device like your TV, FAT32 is the right choice, and it too can be set to an allocation size of 64 kilobytes.

Formatting via Windows is simple. Just open My Computer, right-click the USB drive, and click format. A menu will open in which you can change the file system and allocation unit size. Set each to what you desire, then click Start to begin formatting. Remember, as with any format, this will delete all data on the drive – make sure nothing important is on it before you begin!

Disable Legacy Mode in BIOS

Extremely slow transfer speeds are sometimes caused by a BIOS feature called USB Legacy Mode. This feature is meant to provide compatibility with old USB devices that otherwise might not work, but it can restrict transfer speeds.

The exact steps for disabling Legacy Mode will depend on your motherboard, but here are some guidelines. First you’ll need to enter the BIOS, which in most cases is performed by pressing F12 or Del when your computer boots (if you get to the Windows loading screen, it’s too late; restart and try again).

Once in BIOS, look for an “Advanced” or “Drives” section, and then look for the Legacy USB Support setting. It’ll be either disabled or enabled; if enabled, disable it. Then save your settings and restart your PC. For more specific instructions, consult the support website of the company that made your motherboard or, if you own a name brand PC, consult the brand’s support page.

Note that disabling Legacy Mode could make some aging devices, particularly keyboards and mice, non-functional.

Upgrade to USB 3.0

The newest USB standard, USB 3.0, appeared several years ago, but many people still use 2.0 devices. This is because the newer 3.0 drives tend to be more expensive, and they’re still not that common; a lot of stores stock a larger selection of 2.0 drives because they’re more affordable and, as a result, more popular.

Sandisk-Extreme-USB-3

Why upgrade? Speed! We put 3.0 to the test by pitting a popular 2.0 drive, the Kingston DataTraveler G3, against two new 3.0 drives. The new drives demolished the older model by transferring a 2.11GB folder five times more quickly (10 minutes, 23 seconds for the 2.0 drive vs. 1 minute, 16 seconds for the 3.0 drive).

Leaping to USB 3.0 requires more than just a 3.0 drive, however. Your computer also must have USB 3.0 ports. Desktop users can upgrade by buying a new motherboard or, if your current mobo still serves your needs, buying and installing a USB 3.0 PCIe card. Laptop users can upgrade using ExpressCard; however, many laptops do not support this feature, so you may have no choice but to buy an entirely new system.

Replace an Old Drive With a New One

Solid state drives become slower as they age because repeated read/write cycles wear down the available cells of memory, rendering some inoperable. The drive’s controller can compensate for this, but doing so takes more thought on its part, thus decreasing speed. Eventually, after heavy wear, the drive will stop working altogether.

This is not really an issue for consumer SSDs, but flash drives are built to a low price point and often not rated for as many read/write cycles as an internal drive. Most users still won’t manage to eat through a significant portion of a flash drive’s life before it’s lost, broken or succumbs to some other death, but heavy use can wear the drive down.

If your drive is slow, and the typical solutions do not work, replacing it may be the only option.

Conclusion

These tips should help you increase your transfer speeds, and in some cases the improvement will be dramatic. Switching from a poorly optimized, old USB 2.0 drive to a new, optimized 3.0 drive can shave huge chunks off the times required for transfers. Let us know how much time you saved in the comments!

Image Credit: Flash Drive by Vincent Wei via Flickr

Boxer Shows Escape Artist Skills

Crate training can be a very useful thing, especially if you plan to do any traveling with you dogs.  However, it can be very challenging sometimes.  It can be even more of a challenge when you have a crafty dog, that is good at problem solving.  Just like this dog here!

Genius Dog Escapes CageThis is one seriously crafty dog. via ViralHog

Posted by UNILAD on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Best Cyber Monday Deals From Amazon, Walmart, Target, And More

Cyber Monday starts now. And with stores (and websites) opening their doors earlier than ever, it’s vital that you know the best deals ahead of time (how to prepare for Black Friday).

We’ve scoured the early leaks and picked out some of the best Cyber Monday deals. These products are both well-reviewed and come at a solid discount, so set your sights and get ready to shop.

1. Target: 15% Off Store-Wide | PS VR Bundle

We start with a great deal. Target is taking 15 percent off everything on its website for Cyber Monday, and you don’t even need a coupon to take advantage of the offer. This is a great opportunity to save on items that don’t usually see discounts or anything brand-new that hasn’t had a chance to go on sale yet.

One of the best items on offer at Target (and other retailers) is the PlayStation VR Gran Turismo Sport Bundle for $300. This includes the PS VR unit (our review), the PS Camera (which is necessary for VR), and Gran Turismo Sport. Considering the normal retail price of the PS VR and camera is $400, you’re getting $100 off and a $60 game for free. That’s pretty sweet!

2. Amazon: Various Amazon Devices

Amazon is always happy to offer heavy discounts on its own line of devices for big sale days like Prime Day. Cyber Monday is another chance to grab fire-sale Amazon products. If you’ve had your eye on an Echo or Kindle, now’s the time to buy.

Highlights include:

  • The Echo Show, normally $230 but now costs just $180. This newer Echo device has a screen and camera that allow you to interact with Alexa in all-new ways. Check our review of the Echo Show for more info, as well as our setup guide to start using yours.
  • The basic Echo Dot is only $30, down from $50. While its built-in speakers aren’t great, the Echo Dot is a great way to get started with a smart assistant on the cheap. At this price, you can buy a few to scatter a few around your house. Check out our Echo Dot setup guide and our comparison of the Echo devices if you’re not sure which is right for you.

For more, including Fire tablets and Dash Buttons, check out Amazon’s Device Deals page.

3. Amazon: Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus

PS4 and Xbox One owners need PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold to play online, get free games every month, and more. Both of these services normally cost $60/year, but you can score a discount on Cyber Monday.

For PlayStation, you can grab a 12-month membership code for just $40. $20 off is a great deal for a year’s worth of games and benefits.

The Xbox Live deal is a bit different. You can grab a 12-month Live membership card for $50, but there’s actually a better deal. The 3-month membership card is just $10 instead of the usual $25. Normally, buying anything under a year membership isn’t cost-effective. But with this discount, you can get a year of Live for $40.

Amazon limits you to two per transaction, so you’ll have to make two purchases to get a full year. Since these are digital codes, you’ll have them ready to use in your email inbox in minutes.

4. Amazon: Chromebooks

Amazon is discounting select Chromebooks for Cyber Monday. The Acer Chromebook 11 is just $130, down from the usual $200. Its low-resolution and tiny 11″ screen means you probably wouldn’t want it as your primary PC (is a Chromebook right for you?). But this would make a great gift for someone who’s not computer-savvy, or just a backup/travel machine.

5. Walmart: Samsung 58″ 4K Smart TV

4K TVs are finally going mainstream. Thanks to the widespread availability of 4K content through video providers like YouTube, Netflix, and new gaming consoles, it’s not a waste to buy a 4K TV anymore.

This Samsung model (UN58MU6070) is a great choice that won’t empty your wallet. Normally $799, this TV is just $598 for Cyber Monday. At 58 inches, it should look great in any room. It has smart TV functionality, HDR support, and comes from a trusted company. This would make a great upgrade for your living room!

6. Amazon: HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset

The HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset, marked down a whopping 47 percent, now sells for $50. It received an excellent 4.2 stars out of five and works with pretty much any device with a USB port (PS4, Xbox One, PC, and more). If you’re interested in quality sound at an affordable price, check out the Cloud Gaming Headset.

best cyber monday deals

7. Google Pixel 2 Smartphone

Google sells the Pixel 2 (our 9/10 Pixel 2 review) smartphone for $650, with $100 in Google Play credit and a free ($50 value) Google Home Mini. The Home Mini is a personal assistant, similar to the Amazon Echo. The difference is that it uses Google Assistant, instead of Alexa.

Best Cyber Monday Deals From Amazon, Walmart, Target, and More google mini pixel 2 promo 670x479

8. Other Deals

Some other notable deals include the Netgear AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender and Extra Outlet (EX3800-100NAS) which is discounted by 46 percent down to $30. And the Bose SoundSport Headphones, marked down 23 percent to $99.

9. Ongoing Amazon Black Friday Deals

Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet

From November 11 to 27, Amazon will offer $30 off this bundle, bringing the price down to $69.99. Our Amazon Fire 7 tablet review breaks down all the important information. If you’re worried about it going cheaper at some point, don’t! Amazon has never sold it for less than $69.99, and it’s unlikely that it will anytime soon!

Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet

For this deal, the $40 discount brings the total down to $89.99. That price is good from 11/18 to 11/27, so don’t wait too long to snag your kids the tablet they’ve always wanted. Looking back on the price history, this bundle has sold for $89.99 before, but never any lower.

Fire HD 10

If you’re looking for a tablet for yourself, or your kids are a little older and don’t need a rugged device, Amazon will also offer discounts on the Fire HD 10. This is Amazon’s flagship tablet in terms of physical size and power, but it comes with a price that’s far more reasonable than most of its competitors.

Starting on 11/18 and running through 11/27, you’ll save a whopping $50 off the Fire HD 10, bringing the cost down to only $99.99. If you’re not sure, check out our review for a detailed breakdown of everything it can do. The HD 10 has never been offered for this cheap before, so it’s time hop in!

Kindle

Amazon’s Black Friday special see the Kindle reduced by $30, bringing it down to $49. This only runs from today through 11/27, so if you’ve always wanted to get an ereader for yourself or you know someone who wants one as a gift, this is a good time to get one. This is tied for the lowest price ever offered on the Kindle, so there’s no reason to wait on this.

Kindle Essential Bundle

If you need accessories with your Kindle, Amazon will offer $30 off the Kindle Essentials Bundle through the 11/27. That means you’ll get the Kindle itself, the Amazon Cover for Kindle, and the Amazon 5W Power Adapter for $99.97.

Kindle for Kids Bundles

Running until 11/27, you can also save $30 on the Kindle for Kids bundle. This comes with the Kindle reader, a cover, and a two-year warranty that’ll get you a new Kindle if your kids get a little rough with theirs. That’s $69.99 for all that good stuff.

Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon will offer $30 off, bringing the price down to $89.99. Like all the deals, this runs from now until 11/27, so there’s no reason to hold off any longer (Black Friday is 11/24, so it’s included in this deal). Historically, $89.99 is the lowest price ever offered on the Paperwhite, making this the time to buy.

Kindle Paperwhite Essential Bundle

This bundle comes with the Paperwhite reader, an Amazon Leather Cover, and an Amazon 5W Power Adapter. Until the 27th, you can snag this bundle for $139.97, which is $40 off the normal price.

Dash Buttons

Running from 11/18 to 11/27, Amazon is offering half-off Dash buttons. Instead of $4.99 each, you can hop in for $2.50. If there’s any product you need to buy frequently, these convenient buttons are perfect for you. There are products like paper towels, laundry detergent, toilet paper, and just about any other essential you could think of.

Fire 7

Normally, the Fire 7 sells for $50, and last year Amazon dropped the price down to $40, which was a really good deal. But for 2017, it’s pulling out all the stops and taking $20 off — bringing the cost down to $30! It’s hard to believe that you can get a decent tablet for such a tiny cost, but it’s true. Don’t just take my word for it; check out our Fire 7 review! Grab one for yourself, and pick up a couple for everyone in your family!

Fire HD 8

Along with the Fire 7, Amazon is discounting the more powerful Fire HD 8. Amazon will drop the price by $30. That means you can get the Fire 8 for $49.99. Inside the 8, you’ll get 16GB of storage,  a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1.5GB of RAM, an 8-inch HD display, and 12-hours of battery life! You really can’t go wrong with either of these tablet deals.

Fire TV Stick

Amazon is offering the Fire TV Stick for $15 off the normal price from 11/22 through 11/27. That’s right, instead of the already reasonable $39.99, you can get it for $24.99. Up to this point, the lowest price Amazon has ever had the Fire TV Stick for is $29.99, so we’re dipping even lower for Black Friday 2017. Once you pick one up, make sure to check out our guide to getting it up and running!

All-New Echo

What better way is there to start off the Echo deals than with the original Echo? Normally, the Echo sells for $99.99, but Amazon is offering it for $20 off bringing the price down to $79.99! The All-New Echo has never been offered at a discount before, so if this device is something that’s been on your radar, now is the time to buy. Check out our article breaking down 10 things the new Echo can do for a detailed breakdown.

Echo Plus

The Echo Plus comes with all the features of the standard Echo, but it adds a ZigBee (compare ZigBee to Z-Wave) smart home hub that lets you manage all the devices in your home. Normally, the Echo Plus sells for $149.99, but from now through 11/27, you can get $30 off, bringing the cost down to $119.99.

Echo Dot

Amazon has offered the Echo Dot for $10 off quite a few times, but from 11/22 through 11/27, Amazon is taking $20 off the already affordable $49.99 price tag. That means you can get an Alexa-equipped mini speaker for only $29.99, which is a ridiculously good deal. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value than this one, as you’re getting the Dot for around the same price as a cheap, basic Bluetooth speaker.

Echo Show

If you prefer your Echo to come with a screen, the Echo Show is the device for you. Amazon is offering it for $50 off, making it only $179.99 through the 27th. The device has been on sale for $199.99 in the past, but it’s never been this cheap before. If you’re not sure if the Show is for you, check out our in-depth review that breaks everything down. The Echo show is a complicated device, but fear not, because we’ll show you how to use it in our set up guide.

Amazon Tap

The Tap sits comfortably between the full-sized Echo and the Dot in terms of size, power, and price. It differs by requiring manual activation and it includes a battery. It normally sells for $129.99, but from 11/22 through 11/27, Amazon has it for $79.99. That’s $50 off, which makes it Amazon’s largest discount (in terms of percentage). If the fairly weak speaker of the Dot won’t handle what you need, but you don’t want to break the bank buying a full Echo, get a Tap!

Amazon Cloud Cam

Amazon actually offers a really solid indoor security camera with full Alexa support for $119.99, which is a solid price. However, from 11/22 through 11/27, Amazon is taking $20 off, bringing the camera down to $99.99!

What Will You Grab on Cyber Monday?

We’ve shared some of the top tech picks for Cyber Monday deals. Of course, these are far from the only deals that will be available. Be sure to keep an eye out for savings on other categories of goods, as lots of retailers are participating!

While you shop, make sure to keep an eye out for Cyber Monday scams.

What are you hoping to find on sale this Cyber Monday? Do any of the above deals appeal to you? Talk with fellow shoppers down in the comments!

Image Credit: amarosy/Depositphotos

How To Skip Pending Updates When Shutting Down Windows

Starting with Windows 8, you may have noticed that the operating system has gotten a bit aggressive with its need to install updates as soon as they’re available. If you have updates pending and you need to shutdown right away, you’re usually out of luck.

For example, let’s say you’re on a laptop, the battery is now down to 1%, and you don’t have a charger available. If you shutdown normally, you have to go through the update process — and with 1% battery, your laptop could shut off in the middle, and that could be catastrophic.

windows-shutdown-bypass-updates-command

Fortunately, there is a way that you can shutdown the system and bypass those pending updates. You don’t even need any third-party tools of anything like that. All you need is to open the Command Prompt and type:

shutdown -s -f -t 00

The parameters are as follows: -s means shutdown instead of restart, -f means force close all programs, and -t 00 means a delay of 0 seconds (instant). This command works on Windows XP and beyond, up to and including Windows 10.

Note: To open the Command Prompt, open the Run window using Windows + R and type in cmd.

Be aware that even though you bypass the updates to shutdown, the updates will automatically apply themselves the next time you boot the system up. As such, this isn’t a perfect workaround for the shortcomings in Windows 10 Update.

Did you find this useful? Got any other tips regarding Windows Update? Share with us in the comments below!

Letting A Cat Design Your Home

What would happen if your home was designed by a cat? You’d have what’s called a smash room, where everything is near the edge of a surface, therefore smashable. There’d be a hunting room, with large aquariums filled with real fish. Cats are crazy.

Letting A Cat Design Your Home let your cat design your home

via Terry’s Fabrics

Stray Dog Crashes Wedding … And Gets Adopted!

Photo: Felipe Paludetto

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While entertaining a wedding crasher isn’t at the top of every couple’s list, once in awhile a stranger shows up who ends up making the celebration extra sweet.

Such was the case for Matheus and Marilia. The couple were saying their vows at a beautiful ceremony in São Paulo, Brazil. Although they’d planned on an outdoor wedding, inclement weather had driven the party into a large tent. All their friends and family had gathered to bear witness to the nuptials when an extra guest came in, trying to escape the bad weather: a stray dog.

Although shooed away at first, the pup was adamant about making himself at home amid the good vibes of the wedding, eventually finding his way to the long bridal train of Marilia herself, where he made himself comfortable as she recited her vows!

Marilia, hardly a Bridezilla, wasn’t angry — she was charmed!

“It was a very pleasant surprise for me, because I love animals,” she told The Dodo. “I liked it very much.” Eventually, with the rain subsiding, the stray dog ventured out of the reception and back to the streets.

Matheus, Marilia & their wonderful, surprise wedding gift: Snoop! Photo: Marília Pieroni

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

She and Matheus were disappointed; they’d hoped to rescue him. But fate smiled on their union and they managed to track him down! Now named Snoop, he is a part of their new family.

“He came home, and I showered him,” Marília recalled. “He played a lot, ate, drank water. He is very happy and slept super good the first night.”

Their fairy tale wedding—captured in gorgeous shots by photographer Felipe Paludetto—now has a storybook ending.

Focus! 4 Best Tools To Temporarily Block Facebook & Co

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Don’t let social media take over and dictate your life. You’re worth more than that.

At best, you might describe it as a compulsive distraction


6 Tips Prevent Internet Procrastination




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. At worst, it may be a full-blown addiction – a problem that can be symptomatic of deeper issues, such as Internet addiction


Take A Break From the Internet – You’ll Thank Yourself Later [Opinion]




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, smartphone addiction


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, and more. When you find yourself lacking in digital willpower


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, sometimes the answer is to block the distractions altogether.

Fortunately, you are neither the first nor the only one to suffer from this ailment. Many tools have been developed to combat it and most of them are freely available. Here are some of the better ones that we’ve used.

LeechBlock [Firefox]

block-facebook-leechblock

LeechBlock is my bread and butter addon for Firefox. Without it, my productivity would plummet and I would be rendered a mess. If you’re a regular Firefox user and you haven’t tried LeechBlock yet, do yourself a favor and go install it right away. The setup is easy enough and you’ll recover many hours per day that might’ve been wasted away.

With LeechBlock, you can designate up to 6 different sets of websites that are blocked according to various conditions. Which days of the week? During which hours? For how long? Should it repeat? How do you want the sites blocked?

Each set can be customized, allowing you to block social media during the day, block work sites at night, block porn at all times, etc. You can also block sets on demand rather than waiting for their scheduled times. Check out my LeechBlock review


Distracted By Time-Wasting Websites? LeechBlock For Firefox Will Take Care of That




Distracted By Time-Wasting Websites? LeechBlock For Firefox Will Take Care of That


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for a deeper look at this essential addon.

StayFocusd [Chrome]

block-facebook-stayfocusd

StayFocusd is reminiscent of LeechBlock except that it’s built for Chrome. I don’t know which one came first, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because they both excel at what they’re meant to do. Need to block pesky websites so you can stay focused on your work? This is the extension you want, pronto.

The concept is the same. You maintain a list of blocked sites and you set up conditionals for when those sites are blocked according to days of the week and times of the day. Unlike LeechBlock, you can only maintain one set of sites.

You can set a “Max Time Allowed” setting that lets you browse blocked sites for X minutes every day. For example, if you block YouTube but set this option to 30 minutes, you can browse 30 minutes of YouTube on days when YouTube is blocked. Check out Aaron’s review of StayFocusd


Stay Focused With StayFocusd For Google Chrome And Say Goodbye To Distractions




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for a deeper look at more features.

ColdTurkey [Windows]

block-facebook-coldturkey

To quit something “cold turkey” means to give it up abruptly and all at once. As such, Cold Turkey is an aptly named program. Like LeechBlock and StayFocusd, it cuts off access to whatever sites you’ve blocked, but it’s a desktop program that’s far more powerful than either of those two browser plugins.

Cold Turkey blocks websites at the computer level rather than the browser level. This means that you won’t be able to access said sites with ANY browser, but furthermore, you won’t be able to access certain sites through other programs like video games (e.g. Steam). In addition to blocking sites, Cold Turkey can block entire programs from running.

Advanced computer gurus may be able to get around Cold Turkey’s restrictions, but it’s strong enough to deter most users. It can’t be stopped using the system tray or the task manager, nor can it be disabled by uninstalling it while active.

xMinutesAt [Website]

block-facebook-xminutesat

When your willpower is good, but not good enough, xMinutesAt is the website that’ll help you bridge the gap. Let’s say you have an itch to browse your favorite forums, but you know that you’ll get carried away for hours without realizing it. Sounds familiar, right?

With xMinutesAt, you can spend “X minutes at” a certain website before it will tell you that time’s up. That reminder might be all it takes for you to snap out of it, close the tab, and get back to work. Using the site is easy, too. All you have to do is enter how long you want your grace period to be followed by the site’s URL.

Or you can drag the bookmarklet onto your browser’s bookmark bar, allowing you to quickly set up a time limit for the current page you’re on. For directions on that, check the xMinutesAt site.

If these solutions aren’t enough, perhaps you’d fare better with a router-based website blocker


How to Really Block Time-Wasting Websites




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Finding yourself unproductive because of distracting sites? Block them. No, seriously: block them. If you’ve got work to get done, and you can’t focus because the Internet is too fascinating, make it impossible for your…
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?

Do you use any tools to help block distracting, time-wasting websites? If so, which ones? It would be helpful for all of us if you shared, especially if your favorite tools aren’t well-known by the public. Post a comment down below!

5 Simple DIY Hacks for Filmmaking on a Budget

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You’re making a film, but your budget is low. You can get great quality video from the family DSLR as a video camera


More Than Just Photography: 10 Videos Shot With DSLR Cameras




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, or even a smartphone camera (the iPhone can make particularly good movies


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, as can Microsoft’s high-end Lumia devices


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), but putting together well lit and smooth motion shots can be tough without costly accessories.

But budget doesn’t have to mean no movie. With a bit of invention, lighting issues can be resolved and Steadicam-style camera work can be introduced, for very little or even no money, using tools and equipment that you may already have in your office, shed or workspace.

No Steadicam? No Problem!

One of the big problems facing amateur and low budget film makers is the price of a Steadicam. The genuine article will set you back $320 on Amazon, while low budget alternatives can cost anything from $20 to $130.

Now, you might find that making your own Steadicam is something you’re interested in doing, and with the right equipment this is achievable. Online DIY sites are chocked full of home-built Steadicam alternatives, but this is one of the best we’ve seen:

DIY Steadicam, Without the DIY Skills?

Just suppose you’re completely useless at DIY. You may have the ability to screw and unscrew things, but when it comes to putting materials together, you prefer to pass. Well, this might just be the solution to your Steadicam dreams.

Known as the Merricam (named after its inventor, Will Merrick) this Steadicam alternative utilizes the physical properties of a standard camera tripod, and requires you to remove a single screw. Note that this may not work so well with cheaper, lightweight tripods, but is perfect if you have a standard tripod to the same or similar design.

(And if you are completely bereft of DIY skills, you can always learn them on YouTube


Learn Basic DIY Skills Online With YouTube




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.)

Hello, Dolly

Smooth motion is an absolute must-have for amateur movie making, and at the same time very difficult to achieve. While Steadicam hacks are one way of achieving this, you might also want to track and zoom slowly, something achieved in film production with a dolly, a small platform on wheels upon which the camera is mounted.

Typically these devices have track along which they are pushed. But given how much smaller scale your movie project might be, you could construct a DIY dolly using parts you have in your shed, or that are easily affordable.

Built using an old skateboard and two lengths of aluminum, this DIY dolly gives great results.

Drive by Shooting

If some wheels and a DIY track aren’t quite big enough, why not employ a car?

No, really.

The truth is, shooting from a car can give great results, not just as a dolly substitute for tracking and zoom shots, but also for elevated camera work. You might mount your camera on the side of the car (although this can be expensive) or you might prefer to wind down a window or sit in the boot to get the right shot.

As you can see from the video, you can shoot footage inside a car safely, and use the vehicle to record some impressive stunt shots too, with zero expense on stuntmen!

If this isn’t an option, you can also manage in-car video shooting using just a smartphone mount. Like this…

Ahem.

Let There Be Light

Lighting is almost always a problem for amateur and budget moviemakers, but if you’ve got the right skills or personnel, you can take advantage of affordable equipment and build your own lighting solutions.

These might be as simple as adding some extra bounce to your flash, or building an entire lighting rig.

DIY lighting solutions don’t have to be a stop-gap, either – they can create results that might otherwise prove very difficult or expensive. Here’s a bonus example, which demonstrates how to achieve subtle, scary lighting with an IKEA trash can.

Doesn’t that look great? Repurposing IKEA furniture is great for DIY projects – take a look at our budget standing desk built from IKEA tables


How To Build A Cheap Standing Desk From Ikea, And What It’s Like To Use




How To Build A Cheap Standing Desk From Ikea, And What It’s Like To Use

There’s a current craze emerging for standing desks, literally desks that you stand at while working. Having spent the last five years as a self-employed freelance writer who spends most of his days sat at…
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Keep Up With the Film Making Hacks

These videos are just the tip of the iceberg of DIY film making tips that you can achieve with little or no budget. But where can you find more?

A good place to start is Indiewire, the first stop for independent filmmakers online, which has a section dedicated to DIY filmmakers. Indeed, there is very little reason to avoid this site as it is full of useful articles and features.

Several online video channels are worth following too, such as DigitalRev TV who produced the first lighting video above, and the Vimeo Video School. For a more in depth discussion on DIY video techniques, the DIY Filmmaker’s Podcast is also a good choice.

Meanwhile if you have a Lynda.com subscription, you can take your movie making further with some courses compiled and hosted by professionals.

What are your favorite DIY film making tricks? Perhaps you have already produced a stunning movie on a low or zero budget that you would like to share? Tell us about it in the comments.

Woman Saves Dog Shot, Dragged & Hit By Car

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After being dragged and hit by a car, shot, and left to die on the road, Belle is now recovering and learning what it means to be loved by people.

Julie Jones Horton of Easley, South Carolina was driving down a country road last week when she saw a badly injured animal hobbling across the street.  As she drew closer, she saw that it was a dog.

The poor bedraggled creature could not have been found by a better person – Horton is a dog foster mom.  When she stopped her vehicle and attempted to approach, the dog flopped on her side in a ditch, peering up at Horton, blood streaming from her mouth.

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The woman went to get a blanket to wrap up the dog and carry her to the car, but by the time Horton returned, the dog was scampering off.

“I thought, ‘If she goes into the woods, she will bleed out overnight,’” Horton told Fox Carolina.  “I had to help her.”

She chased the little dog for about a mile before other drivers took notice.  The dog actually jumped right into the vehicle of one woman who had pulled over to assist.

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Horton took her to the Magnolia Veterinary Hospital for treatment.  It was discovered that the dog, whom they began calling Belle, had been shot with a BB gun, hit by a car, and dragged by one.

“It appeared she may have been intentionally dragged because the damage was only on her underside,” Horton said.  “There were old wounds there, too. It looked like it wasn’t the first time.”

Along with another woman, also an animal foster mom, who had stopped to help, Horton paid as much of the $1,000 vet bill as they could.  Sugar wraps are being used on Belle’s paws.  They must be changed daily, with $40 being racked up each time.

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Anyone who would like to help with Belle’s care may donate via PayPal to [email protected] or by contacting Magnolia Veterinary Hospital.

Belle is now recovering slowly, but well.  It will take time to heal both her physical and mental wounds, but with all the love and care she is receiving, she will be able to start a new life.

“She’s eating and coming around with some tail wags, but any voice that might seem loud, it just scares her.”

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What Are 2-In-1 Laptops And How To Pick The Best One?

Ever since Windows 8 pushed hard to be a good tablet operating system, the humble laptop has really evolved over the last few years. A new kind of notebook — the beloved 2-in-1 — even combines the features of both laptops and tablets, but can it really give you the best of both worlds?

We know that a Windows 8 tablet cannot fully replace a PC, so a tablet-cum-laptop is a better solution. But it’s still difficult to figure out which 2-in-1 you should buy because the answer isn’t simple. The hardware differs wildly, and different form factors make it a subjective decision.

Basically, what’s right for your friend might not be right for you. Knowing a few things can help you make the best purchase for your needs, so here’s what you need to pay attention to.

Two Types of 2-in-1 Laptops

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Broadly speaking, 2-in-1 laptops can be categorized into two types: hybrids and convertibles. These aren’t actually the category names used across the industry, but I’m borrowing these terms from CNET since they make it easier to explain the two concepts.

Hybrids: A hybrid is a laptop where the screen can be completely detached from the keyboard base and serve as a standalone touchscreen tablet. The base is a proper keyboard, complete with USB ports and its own battery source.

Convertibles: A convertible is a laptop where the screen can be flipped back or swiveled to be used as a tablet. The screen and the keyboard never detach, but it’s a touchscreen so you can use it like you would a tablet.

The Pros and Cons of Hybrids

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Pro: Better Battery Life — Generally, both the tablet base and the docked keyboard have a built-in battery. What this means is that you get two batteries, thus lengthening the overall battery life of the combined device. As a rule of thumb, you’ll get better battery life on hybrids than convertibles in the same price range.

Plus, several of these hybrids support Android phone-like microUSB cables, which is super convenient while we wait for USB Type C to become the standard.

Pro: A Proper Tablet — The tablet functions as a proper tablet regardless of whether you want to use the keyboard or not. We’ve seen that Windows 10 is pretty good on a tablet, so if you’re on a work trip, you can save yourself the trouble of carrying an iPad along with your laptop.

Pro: Value for Money — Buying a full-fledged Windows laptop and a full-fledged Android tablet or iPad would set you back several hundred dollars more than these hybrids. So if you’re trying to be as economical as possible, you’ll save some big bucks going with a hybrid.

Latitude 13 7000 Series 2 in 1 Notebook

Cons: Underpowered — Hybrids are powered by the mobile-friendly Intel Atom series or the Intel Core M processor since they have to be light and battery-efficient without heating up. These processors are good for basic tasks (e.g. browsing the Internet, working on Office) but not for heavy-duty tasks (e.g. major multi-tasking, image editing, gaming).

Cons: Jack of All Trades — Being a tablet and a laptop usually results in these hybrids being the proverbial jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. The big sell here is the convenience of a full-fledged desktop operating system running on a single device that serves as both laptop and tablet depending on your needs, but it will never be a fantastic tablet experience nor a fantastic laptop experience.

Cons: Lack of Tablet Apps — The proper tablet experience of Windows 10 fails on one front: apps. Compared to Android or iOS, Windows lacks several major apps and games. You can still use it well for reading, watching movies, or browsing, but you might feel left out when all your friends have an app on Android or iPad that you can’t get.

The Pros and Cons of Convertibles

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Pro: Great Laptop Hardware — Unlike hybrids, convertibles can follow the standard laptop ideals of stuffing good hardware in the keyboard base. So in terms of actual performance, you get Intel’s powerful laptop processors instead of low-powered mobile-friendly processors.

Pro: Great Build Quality — Convertibles can still be thin and elegant, since the screen doesn’t need to pack any hardware. In fact, you will find many convertibles that follow the aesthetics of an ultrabook, even boasting of full aluminum bodies.

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Cons: Heavy As Tablets — A convertible is cumbersome to use as a tablet. While it offers that functionality, you won’t find yourself relying on it often. Convertibles are far too heavy and bulky to compete with the convenience of a proper tablet.

What Should You Buy?

Like I said at the beginning, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation here. You should buy based on your personal requirements.

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Hybrids are great for travelling executives or those looking to get both a tablet and a Windows laptop on a budget. The use-case scenario you are looking at is 60% laptop, 40% tablet.

Hybrids worth considering: Dell Latitude 13 7000, Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi, Asus Transformer T100

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Convertibles are great for professionals who need more horsepower to get work done on laptops, but want the convenience of a tablet once in a while. The split would be about 85% laptop, 15% tablet.

Popular examples of convertibles: Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro (read our review of the earlier Lenovo Ideapad Yoga), Acer Aspire R13, Asus Flip

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There are also what CNET calls “Hybrid Lites” like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which is basically a tablet with a soft keyboard. It’s not a proper hybrid laptop though, since the keyboard dock doesn’t have its own battery or extra connectivity ports, and it’s not stable enough to prop up the device to be used on your lap safely.

Yup, can’t call it a laptop then, right?

Beyond Windows…

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Since you don’t have to worry about Windows Pro and Windows RT anymore, Windows is obviously the big drawing point of these 2-in-1 devices. But hybrids and convertibles aren’t limited to Windows alone.

The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, for instance, is a hybrid that runs Android. Check out our review of it to see if it’s good for you — a pretty solid choice if you mainly want an Android tablet which you can use as a laptop. In such cases of an Android-based hybrid, the use-case ratio would be 70% tablet, 30% laptop.

Similarly, on the convertible front, there is the Asus Chromebook Flip (check our review of this one, too) which is a pretty capable computer. There’s a compelling case to switch to Chromebook and never look back, especially when you consider that it can now run Android apps.

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And of course, you can consider “hybrid lites” here too, like the iPad Pro (which isn’t just a bigger iPad) and the newly announced Google Pixel C.

2-in-1 vs. Dedicated: Have Your Say

Given a choice, what would you buy: a 2-in-1 Windows device or a dedicated laptop and a dedicated tablet? With Android tablet prices dropping, getting a proper Windows laptop and an Android tablet sounds like a tempting option, don’t you think?