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The events of the past few months have brought disasters back to the
front of corporate agendas.
Unfortunately, not all organizations realize the critical need to
internalize planning and may figure they will let the government help
them if the time comes. What they don’t realize is that even if a
disaster strikes, there may not be aid. They must take care to preserve
their own business continuity.
Organizations simply must take control of their own recovery plans.
Hurricanes like Katrina and Rita are vivid in peoples’ minds right now as
is the outcry for assistance from the government and private
organizations. However, assistance isn’t always forthcoming.
In September, Wisconsin was struck by 27 tornados that damaged 400 homes.
Their request to be declared a federal disaster area to get government
assistance was denied. Accusations are being leveled that the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is spread too thin and can not help
Wisconsin, though they would have in times past.
Can you gamble on getting assistance?
Despite living in a city that was below sea level, many in New Orleans
did not have flood insurance, yet were covered for hurricanes — or so
they thought. Heated debate and lawsuits are arising from carriers
declining claims based on arguements that the property damage was not
caused by the hurricane directly, which would be covered. Some claim the
storm surge and subsequent flooding is what caused the damage and that
would not be covered by insurance policies.
The issue is that flooding requires a separate rider that many did not
buy. If those families and businesses do not get reimbursed from
insurance, how will they fair? Have you checked your insurance policies
lately against your most likely risks to make sure you have the
appropriate coverage to ensure that recovery is possible?
To worsen many already dire situations, some organizations in New Orleans
dutifully sent their backup media to offsite storage sites located around
the city. Not only did some groups lose their on-site data, but the
offsite data was destroyed, as well.
Given your most likely risks, do you have a backup process that
safeguards your data from regional incidents? Do you need to guard
against regional disasters, and if so, how far away must the backups
The Need for Planning
With just these few examples in mind, when was the last time you and your
team sat down and ran through the most likely scenarios that threaten
your organization? The careful review should move beyond abstracted risks
and focus on layered situations. Move past ”what if we lose power?” and
instead focus on realistic matters such as ”whatif lightning takes out
both the primary and secondary grids that feed our facility?”.
The power company’s communication structure is in disarray and an
estimated time to recover is not even available. What must be done
immediately? What do we do 30 minutes into the outage? What do we do an
hour in? At what time do we begin powering down systems and in what
order? How do we inform employees?
The idea is to use realistic situations to foster dialogue and to capture
and formalize ideas that are scattered through the team. The end result
must be a disaster recovery plan that covers the most likely scenarios.
Whether there are three, five or 20 scenarios, the exact count will
depend on the organization and the risks that confront it.
The goal is to plan to the level that management feels is adequate.
Whenever a disaster strikes, even a small one, take the time to review
lessons learned. Determine what worked well, what did not and revise
Moving beyond disaster recovery is the idea of business continuity.
How will you keep the business running during some kind of disaster? If
disaster recovery is concerned about restoring a given service back into
production, business continuity planning is concerned with the holistic
issues surrounding keeping the business running or getting back up and
running as quickly as possible to minimize impacts.
Some organizations get hit by a disaster and disappear. We, of course,
don’t want that to happen to us. If we return to our power example from
above, think about what business processes are most critical to our
ability to stay operating. What is needed to operate? If the automated
systems are down, can they run manually?
These questions are aimed at understanding the organization’s
requirements and then layering IT’s capabilities in to support the
business. Organizations must review their risks and then develop options
to mitigate continuity risks.
For details, there are many resources on the Web that have been quietly
evolving. There is a wealth of recommended practices out there to aid in
your planning, including recommendations in ITIL and ISO 17799.
Furthermore, discuss matters with your team and industry association to
There are many avenues to consider. Groups that haven’t dusted off their
disaster recovery and business continuity plans since Y2K should get them
out and run through them, thinking about the disasters most likely to
strike. The scenarios should be detailed enough that responses are
gauged, corrective actions defined and investments approved.
Organizations can’t take their responses for granted. If they do, they
might be faced with the day when planning would have made the difference
between being in or out of business.
Here are some additional resources:
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Unlike Windows PCs, going for a Mac with more RAM isn’t as simple as popping in more modules when you need them. To future-proof your Mac, you need to buy the right amount of RAM from the start.
Modern Macs generally have specs with at least 8 GB of RAM. This sounds like a small amount, especially when you’re paying thousands of dollars for a computer, but is this RAM enough for a Mac?
Table of ContentsWhy Does RAM Matter In Your Mac?
Random Access Memory (RAM) is a form of computer memory used to temporarily store data that the computer is currently using or processing. It is called “random access” because the computer can access any part of the memory directly rather than going through a sequence of memory locations.
RAM is an important component of a computer because it determines how much data it can work with at one time and how quickly it can access that data. When a computer runs out of RAM, it can slow down or even crash because it needs to use a slower form of memory, such as a hard drive, to store data.
Having enough RAM is particularly important for running multiple programs at once or using resource-intensive applications such as video editing software, graphics design, gaming, or running virtual machines.How Much RAM Can You Get With a Mac?
Recent models of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops usually come with 8GB or “gigs” of RAM as a standard configuration, but some higher-end models can be configured with up to 16GB or even 32GB of RAM or more. The MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13”, Mac mini, and iMac desktop computers also typically come with 8GB of RAM as a standard configuration, but they can also be configured with 16GB RAM, 32GB RAM, or more in high-end models such as the Mac Studio equipped with an M1 Max or M1 Ultra.The Mac RAM Upgrade Problem
The RAM configuration of a Mac is not upgradeable on all models, especially on newer models of MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. In those cases, the RAM is soldered to the motherboard and can’t be upgraded after purchase.
In general, for most regular users, 8GB of RAM should be enough for running basic applications and a few browser tabs. But if you are doing heavy lifting like video editing, rendering, running virtual machines, or work with many browser tabs open, then you should consider getting more RAM, especially if you’re using an older Mac.
Why especially for an older Mac? This is where things get a little more complicated since older Intel-based Macs need more RAM to do the same job as an Apple Silicon Mac.Intel and Apple Silicon Macs Use RAM Differently
Macs with Intel processors and Macs that use Apple Silicon processors have different approaches to RAM usage.
Macs that use Intel processors use a traditional memory architecture, in which the RAM is externally connected to the processor via a memory controller that runs at different speeds depending on the motherboard and processor generation.
On the other hand, Macs that use Apple Silicon processors use a unified memory architecture (UMA), in which the RAM and the processor are closely integrated and share the same physical chip package. In UMA, the memory is shared between the CPU and the GPU, allowing the two components to work together more efficiently and making the amount of RAM less of a bottleneck for performance.
In practice, this means that a Mac with an Apple Silicon processor might be able to perform better even with less RAM than an Intel-based Mac with the same amount of RAM would be able to. This also means that on an Apple Silicon Mac, the performance increase from upgrading RAM is not as significant as on an Intel-based Mac.
It’s important to note that in both cases, having more RAM is still beneficial for running multiple applications simultaneously or running memory-intensive tasks, but the unified memory architecture of Apple Silicon makes the amount of RAM less of a bottleneck for performance.
Another key reason that Apple Silicon Macs can get away with less RAM is thanks to their tightly Integrated SSDs. You’ll recall we mentioned how RAM helps the computer avoid resorting to slower storage such as hard drives. That’s still true in general, but because Apple Silicon SSDs are so fast, they can act as a high-speed buffer when multitasking. On an M1 MacBook Air, for example, the SSD can write 2.2GB/s and read 2.8GB/s. This means that it can move the entire contents of RAM to and from the SSD in less than four seconds on an 8GB system. So dumping background apps you aren’t currently using to the SSD can happen without the user knowing about it or noticing performance degradation.More RAM, Less SSD Wear
Having more RAM can potentially reduce wear and tear on the SSD (solid-state drive) of a Mac with an Apple Silicon processor.
When a computer runs out of RAM, it starts using a feature called “virtual memory,” which is a combination of the computer’s RAM and a portion of the hard drive. Virtual memory allows the computer to use the hard drive as an extension of RAM, effectively increasing the amount of memory available to the system. However, using the SSD as virtual memory can cause additional wear and tear.
It’s also worth noting that SSDs are more durable than traditional hard drives and can last for years even with frequent use. Modern operating systems like macOS are optimized to use the flash storage more efficiently, reducing wear and tear.Most Macs Have Unified Memory Now
In Apple Silicon Macs and some Intel-based Macs with integrated graphics, the memory (RAM) is shared between the CPU and GPU. This means that the CPU and GPU can access the same memory pool and share data, which can improve the efficiency of the system’s memory usage.
It’s also worth considering the GPU capabilities and its limitations too. Some integrated GPUs may have limited memory and performance capabilities, and the amount of RAM may affect the performance of the GPU, so for these cases, the optimal amount of RAM would be at least 16GB.
Considering that the GPUs in M2 and M1 Macs are comparable in power to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox Series S, respectively, having only 8GB of RAM may limit the quality of the textures these GPUs are capable of processing. This doesn’t just apply to Mac gaming (which is undergoing a revival), but any of the 3D creative and professional applications that benefit from having more texture memory.
If you want to try the latest Mac video game ports or any sort of 3D-accelerated application at all, it’s likely worth springing for 16GB or more. That being said, in our long-term use of a base model 8GB MacBook Air M1, even heavy games such as Tomb Raider run just fine at 1080p.The Bottom Line: Is 8GB Enough For a Mac?
So let’s get down to directly answering the main question here. After all, if you buy a new Mac with 8GB of RAM, you’ll have no opportunity to get more RAM without buying a whole new Mac, so it’s an important decision. It doesn’t help that the price difference between models with different RAM allocations is substantial!
To make it easy, we’ve broken down some example use cases where 8GB RAM in a modern Mac is enough. Keep in mind that this does not include Intel Macs (2023 and earlier) which, as mentioned above, use RAM differently to later Apple Silicon systems.
If you have an Intel Mac with 8GB of RAM and it still does everything you need at a speed you’re happy with, then that’s enough to end the debate. If you’re looking to buy a current Mac however, these are the use cases:
Basic video editing in 4K, or more involved editing in 1080p using apps like Luma Fusion, Adobe Premiere, or Final Cut Pro. Our 4K YouTube channel is edited on an M1 MacBook Pro (MBP) with 8GB of RAM. More subscribers are always welcome!
Photo editing with apps like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Unless you’re editing images with truly insane resolutions or hundreds of layers, 8GB of RAM in a new MacBook Pro or Air is more than enough.
Streaming Netflix, Amazon Prime or YouTube videos. Listening to music on Spotify or Apple Music.
1080p gaming at medium to high settings depending on the age of the title. For example, we played Rise of the Tomb Raider and Alien Isolation on an 8GB MacBook Air with an M1 chip without any issue at this resolution.
Unlike many other rivals, Netflix offers numerous plans to cater to different budgets and needs. But what’s the best plan for you? We’ve compared Netflix Standard with Ads, Netflix Standard and Netflix Premium and categorised them into whose best suited for what. You can sign up now on the Netflix website.
Before we break down the three plans, here’s a couple of things to consider when signing up for Netflix. You can also check out the best TV shows and movies on the platform right now. We also have a similar guide for Spotify Premium plans, and you can read up on how to avoid the Peacock price hike.The lowdown on Netflix plans
The first thing to be aware of is that Netflix no longer offers a 30-day free trial. Instead, there’s sometimes a chance to have a free upgrade to a higher plan during your first month when you sign up.
You can only register one payment option to your account, but if you’re happy to do so you can share your email address and password with members of your household so they can make their own profiles. Make sure that the information you share isn’t sensitive – such as using the same password for your internet banking.
Note that you can’t share a password with anyone who doesn’t live in your household, though they can be added to your account for an additional fee as extra members.
If you want to split payment for your account, then you can either get people to set up a simple standing order, pay via PayPal and split the cost through here, or use something such as Monzo. You can create up to five profiles across all of the plans, but the type of subscription that you have will affect things such as simultaneous streaming.
If cost is your main concern, we’ve also totted up what a monthly subscription will cost you per year. However, keep in mind that you can only pay for Netflix monthly – no annual plans are offered. You can cancel a monthly rolling subscription at any time.
Some TV packages such as Virgin and Sky also offer Netflix as an add-on in their bundles, so if you plan on going with these for your entertainment needs you can put it together with your TV bill and have everything go out at once.Is Netflix Standard with Ads for me? Cost: £4.99/US$6.99 per month (adds up to £59.88 or US$83.88 per year)
Best for: Those who want to spend as little as possible and don’t plan on sharing Netflix
Netflix Standard with Ads is the newest tier from the streaming giant. Whilst its the cheapest tier on the list, there are many restrictions to keep in mind.
The main downside of this Netflix tier is that it is missing some major third-party shows and films, including The Office, The Good Place, Arrested Development and Skyfall – the content missing will depend on your region. You can find out more with our hands-on of the Netflix tier.Is Netflix Standard for me? Cost: £10.99/US$15.49 per month (adds up to £131.88 or US$185.88 per year)
Best for: Those looking for a balance of cost and perks, small groups
On Netflix Standard, you’ll be able to stream up to 1080p, so your picture quality will be reasonably good for whatever you’re streaming on.
Double the simultaneous streams make this account good for friends who watch Netflix around the same time as you, or multiple family members who like to tune in from different parts of the house. But again, this plan still doesn’t give you the max amount of screens that you can have.
Consider who you’ll be sharing your plan with, and what’s the maximum amount of dosh you want to fork out each month.Is Netflix Premium for me? Cost: £15.99/US$19.99 (adds up to £191.88 or US$239.88 per year)
Best for: Large groups and tech whizzes
If cost is no concern – or you’re sharing your account with a big number of people – then it’s worth considering Netflix Premium.
If you want to get the most out of your 4K telly or laptop, then the Premium tier of Netflix offers Ultra High Definition (UHD), which is 4K streaming. Of course, be aware that not every single show and film on the platform is available in 4K – it’s mostly newer releases and they’ll be labelled as such (find out more in our guide to watching Netflix in 4K).
Of course, if all these streams are taking place in one household (and all are in 4K), keep in mind that you’ll need a fast broadband connection to avoid any buffering issues.What about Netflix Basic? Cost: Only for existing members – £6.99/US$9.99 per month (adds up to £83.88 or US$119.88 per year)
Best for: Cost-conscious individuals or pairs, those with older TVs
Netflix Basic is no longer an option for new and returning customers, but if you’re already subscribed to this plan then you can stay on it until you cancel or change.
Netflix Basic still has access to the entire library of TV shows and movies, so you’re not missing out when it comes to content. The main restrictions are down to the resolutions you can stream in and the number of simultaneous streams.
Netflix Basic now offers streaming in high definition (HD), which is 720p. This applies across any device – your TV, phone and laptop. If you’re watching Netflix on an older TV that isn’t capable of higher definitions, then this won’t be a real sticking point for you.
Though Netflix allows you to make up to five profiles across all plans, the Basic version only allows one stream at a time, which means no simultaneous streaming. Therefore if you want to get Basic, you’ll have to be content with it either being exclusive to one device in your household or be very good at juggling your watching habits with your family or friends.
You’re also only allowed to download content on one phone or tablet, so this is something to keep in mind if you like to stream on the go.
Basic uses the least data, but you can adjust data usage in other plans.So, which Netflix plan is the best?
Honestly, that comes down to you and your watching habits.
If you just plan on streaming the odd thing here and there and are only watching on one device, then you can save some cash with Standard with Ads. If you’re at the other end of the scale and want the best picture quality, plan on streaming a lot and splitting your account with friends, go for Premium. Or alternatively, get the best of both worlds when it comes to price and perks and stick with Standard.
Consider who you want to split the account with, the effect this will have on cost, and the type of devices that you can watch your content on – there’s no point in 4K streaming if you don’t have a 4K device! And remember – you can always switch between accounts until you find the one that’s just right.
Photoshop has lots of tools and features that will make graphic editing and creating very easy for professionals and novices alike. Some users have reported that when trying to save a file, Photoshop is taking forever to save!Photoshop is saving slowly
Photoshop does not take forever to save every file that you try to save. You will notice that some files will save faster than others. You may realize that files with more layers and higher resolution takes more time to save. You may notice that you have to wait a long time for the file to save. This can be a problem if you have to save often and you have limited time for a project.Photoshop is taking forever to save
Keep reading to find out why Photoshop will save slowly and what you can do to fix or prevent it.
Large file size
File compression turned on
Saving to a network or external drive1] Large file size
Photoshop files can be very large especially when they have a high resolution. These files will take up a lot of space in RAM as you work on them. If you remember, as you work on a file, Photoshop will hold these files in RAM so that you can make updates as you work. As you work, Photoshop has a temporary file that has the most recent updates. This means that you will have the current file and its temporary file. This will take up a lot of space on your hard drive and your computer’s RAM. This can cause Photoshop to slow down and this can also cause Photoshop to take forever to save.
If your computer is slow due to low RAM or a slow hard drive, you can upgrade these if possible. You should also decrease the number of History states and increase the Cache. This History states that is what allows you to undo mistakes. The more History states that you have to more undos you can do. However, the more History states, the more RAM you will use up.
Read: How to install Plug-ins in Photoshop
To decrease the History state go to the top menu bar and press Edit then Preferences then Performance.
The preferences window will appear, look for the History state and lower the value. You can choose a History state number that you are comfortable with. You then press Ok to keep the changes and close the Preferences options window.
To increase the cache go to the top menu bar and press Edit then Preferences then Performance.
The preferences window will appear, look for the Cache level, and increase the cache level. The recommendation is a minimum of 2 and the highest it will go is 8. When you have changed the Cache level, press Ok to keep the changes and close the Preferences options window.2] Complicated design
Photoshop files with complicated designs can take up a lot of RAM to process. When you go to save your file, you will notice that it is slow to save. Complicated designs are also slow to save in cases where you do not have a dedicated graphics card. this means that the computer’s RAM will have to be shared to take up the job of the graphic card. This means that the complicated designs will require more processing power, which will put more pressure on the RAM, this will then make Photoshop take forever to save the file.
If possible, get a computer with a dedicated graphics card. If this is not possible, you can try to upgrade your computer’s RAM. This will make saving much faster.3] Many layers
Photoshop uses layers to make up your artwork. Layers are like transparent sheets that you place your elements on. If your document has a lot of layers, this could make Photoshop save slowly.
Solution:4] File compression turned on
When you are working on your artwork in Photoshop, you will notice that Photoshop will save some files slowly. You may have a fast hard drive and more than enough RAM but it is still taking forever to save. You may think of updating your hardware to make saving faster. However, you may not have to make expensive updates, just tweak Photoshop.
Turn off file compression
File compression is what Photoshop uses to make sure that your Photoshop files don’t fill up your hard drive too fast. As you work and save your work, Photoshop will compress the file while it saves. While this is good, it slows down the save process. You can disable the compression so that the file saves faster. This will make the file much larger on your hard drive. You can choose to compress the file after you have finished making all your changes.
To disable the compression, go to the top menu bar then press Edit then Preferences then File handling.
The preferences options window will open and here you will see the heading File compatibility. Under the heading, File compatibility select the option Disable compression of PSD and PSB files. You will then notice that your files save faster when you are working and when you save your editable PSD files in Photoshop. You will also notice that the files are larger and take up more space on your hard drive.
When you have completed all edits to the file, you can then enable file compression by following the same steps that you used to disable it. You just need to unselect Disable compression of PSD and PSB files. When you have enabled file compression, you then save the file. The file will then be compressed and made smaller.5] Saving to a network or external drive
When Photoshop has to connect to a file that is saved on a network drive or an external drive, it will be slower. When Photoshop has to work with and save the file onto a network or external drive it can take forever to save. Computers will save faster on their internal drives faster than they save on a network or external drive.
Whenever you work in Photoshop, it is best to have the file you are working on, saved on the computer. You can take the file off the network drive or external drive and place it on the computer. You would then work on it in Photoshop. When you are finished working on the file, you then save it, and you can then place it on the network drive or external drive.
Read: Photoshop running slow on Windows PCHow do I make Photoshop save faster?
Photoshop will often save slower if your files are large, complicated, have many layers, compression is turned on, or if they are being saved to a network drive or external device. If a few or all of those are associated with your file then you will be saving even slower. You may think that increasing your computer’s hardware will help, but this may not help if you have those associated with your file.
To make Photoshop save files faster you should disable compression of PSD and PSB files until you are finished doing all editing then you can enable compression for the last file. You should also save directly to the computer instead of on a network drive or an external drive. You can also reduce the number of history states that are saved and increase the cache size.How do I free up RAM and clear the clipboard in Photoshop?
When you work in Photoshop, the history states and the cache will hold files temporarily. This also happens when you copy and paste. These can affect the speed of Photoshop as they take up RAM space. To clear these and allow Photoshop and other programs to have more access to RAM and move faster, you will need to do a purge. To do a purge go to the top menu bar and press Edit then Purge then All. You can also follow those steps but instead of doing all, you can clear the Clipboard or the History.
Lily Katz / Android Authority
With so many of us tightening our budgets, expensive earbuds may seem frivolous. After all, cheap earbuds have improved over the past few years. Many earbuds that cost $50 or less boast pretty good sound quality and even offer features like water resistance and wireless charging. With all that cheap earbuds have to offer, is it even worth it to pay more for Sony, Samsung, or Apple’s flagships?
With concrete examples, we’ll break down the differences between cheap and expensive true wireless earbuds. In the end, you may find the price is just right between those two extremes.
Mid-tier noise-cancelling performance is all over the place. ANC on the Beats Studio Buds and Nothing Ear 1 does little to cancel out background noise. Then there are the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 and Sony LinkBuds S that dampen background noise quite a bit. Sony’s own LinkBuds S actually has better ANC than the flagship WF-1000XM4 from 75-350Hz, so wind, engine rumbles, and A/C whirs will all sound a smidge quieter with the LinkBuds S than with the XM4. No matter what, though, the WF-1000XM4 block out more high frequencies like chatter, keyboard sounds, and clinking dishware.
Performance is consistently great when you get to high-end earbuds. Look at how the Google Pixel Buds Pro, Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, Apple AirPods Pro 2, and Sony WF-1000XM4 compare above. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro cancel out more super-low frequencies than any of the other earbuds, but the effect may not sound as pleasing as with the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) or the WF-1000XM4.
If you are on the lookout for great noise-cancelling earbuds, don’t cut corners. We recommend you put off your purchase and save for a few more weeks or months to experience great ANC. Your ears will thank you.
Custom EQ module and EQ presets: You can change the earbuds’ frequency response to your liking, or choose from a handful of premade profiles.
Personalized EQ with hearing test: Some apps prompt you to take a hearing test to optimize the frequency response to your hearing abilities.
Control customization: You can change the earbud commands to your liking.
Personalized spatial audio with head tracking: Listeners can personalize the spatial audio effect for a more immersive experience. Enabling head tracking sets your phone as an anchor point, and the audio changes as you move your head relative to your phone.
Ambient sound or transparency mode: These listening modes let you filter background noise through the earbuds.
Location-based sound modes: When you enter or leave a certain location, the sound changes to a predetermined setting that you created.
Automatic ear detection: When you remove the buds, your media pauses. Inserting the earbuds resumes playback.
Ear tip fit test: The app will run a test emitting noises through the earbuds to determine if you’re using the best size ear tips for your ears.
Bluetooth codec options: You can toggle between the earbuds’ Bluetooth codecs.
Bluetooth multipoint: The earbuds can connect to two devices simultaneously. This is good for productivity when you want to watch a YouTube video but keep an ear on your phone for incoming calls.
Ongoing firmware updates: All apps offer access to firmware updates to keep the earbuds competitive and to fix bugs.
While none of these features are necessary for connecting your earbuds to your Android phone or iPhone and listening to music, they sure enhance the experience. You’ll have a hard time finding any earbuds with an original retail price of $50 or less that come with an app at all.
Instead, the appeal of cheap earbuds is that what you buy is what you get. However, simplicity has its downsides. App-less earbuds can’t receive updates to improve the product throughout its lifetime. Most earbud manufacturers start offering apps at around the $100 mark, which is a reasonable price for access to a few or all of these features.
What to watch out for before buying expensive earbuds
Austin Kwok / Android Authority
While expensive earbuds have plenty to offer, wireless earbuds don’t last very long. With regular use, you’re lucky to get more than a couple of years out of them. That’s right, you could spend well over $200 on earbuds that can’t hold a charge after two or three years. How does this battery degradation happen? Simply put, we subject earbuds to an unending charge/recharge cycle. This puts a lot of stress on the tiny lithium-ion batteries, hastening battery breakdown.
Most wireless earbuds won’t survive more than two years of daily use.
If you don’t want to buy a pair of earbuds every two years, we recommend buying wired earbuds. The KZ ZSN Pro X ($23 at Amazon) and Tin Audio T2 HiFi ($49 at Amazon) fit the bill as great wired earbuds. Alternatively, wired headphone batteries last much longer than those in earbuds because they’re bigger and aren’t always recharging. The Anker Soundcore Life Q35 don’t cost too much ($99 at Amazon). Listeners who are ready to go big can grab the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones for $398 at Amazon.
Those who insist on wireless earbuds may find purchasing mid-tier earphones is an easier financial pill to swallow. These usually fall between $75 and $160. Spending this much opens the door for app support, with a feature set near or identical to a brand’s flagship option.
Given that you’re probably within range of at least one microphone for the majority of your day, you’d be justified in worrying that someone might be listening to you. Amazon, Google, and Facebook, with their smart home devices and smartphone apps, could be spying on you, as rumor often suggests, but they’re probably not.
In theory, hackers are a bigger concern – they could get into your microphone as easily as they do your webcam. However, microphones aren’t exactly goldmines of sensitive information, so they’re not hacked very often at all. Overall, given how many people could be listening to you, it’s almost surprising that there haven’t been more cases of it reported.Has it happened, though?
The short answer is yes: companies and hackers have both gotten access to users’ microphones without their permission. There is only one confirmed story of a smart device accidentally recording and storing speech, but there have been two other major cases of sneaky smartphone mic use.
2023: some Google Home Minis developed an issue which led to them self-activating and recording everything around them. The issue was quickly discovered and fixed, and the logs deleted.
For hackers, average users’ microphones are just not the most interesting target out there; most major hacks of this kind have been espionage-related. Webcam hacks are a much bigger concern in general, as it’s much easier to scan through video for interesting material.Are your devices doing it by design?
The short answer: almost definitely not. Almost every computer, phone, and smart home device out there should keep your microphone private by default. Smart homes are always listening, but they only store a few seconds of audio at a time — anything you say that doesn’t include “Okay Google” or “Hey Alexa” gets deleted almost as soon as you’ve said it. If Facebook shows you an ad for the tropical vacation you were just talking about, it wasn’t listening in – it was just using all the other data it already has about you to figure out what you’re thinking.
Of course, it could happen. In 2014, Amazon filed a patent for technology that would enable the Echo to listen for keywords and the surrounding sentences in order to pick up on peoples’ desires and preferences. This is just an “exploratory patent,” which companies register all the time without ever following through, but it does show that the possibility exists.How vulnerable are my devices?
Almost everything is hackable. It’s just a matter of how hard it is to get to the vulnerability.
Computers: Hacking a computer microphone is probably the easiest. Relatively unskilled hackers can do it if they can just get some software on your machine.
Phones: Any app with microphone permissions can more or less hear whatever it wants (though measures are being taken to implement extra security), so malicious apps are the most common breach. Hackers can get into your phone and install software in other ways, but that’s quite rare. Your best bet here is to disable microphone permissions for any app you don’t trust/need the microphone for.
Smart home hubs: Despite the worries, these devices have fewer attack vectors than computers or phones. Most demonstrated vulnerabilities require someone having physical access to or being within Bluetooth range, though the known Bluetooth hack has been mostly fixed.How can I protect myself?
Covering your webcam is a pretty good idea. They’re easy to hack, and you don’t want to be on somebody’s shortlist of interesting webcams. Following Mark Zuckerberg’s lead and taping over your microphone, though, will straight up not work. Tape does not stop sound waves.
Computers: Disable your microphone when it’s not in use. Determined hackers can turn it back on, but it’s easier for them to just move on to a slower antelope. If you’re still paranoid, the only option is to open up your computer and take out the mic.
Smartphone: Check your permissions and make sure only apps you trust have microphone permissions. Again, hackers might circumvent this, but unless you’re Edward Snowden, ripping out your mic is probably overkill.
Smart home device: Keep your network secure, don’t keep your device in a public place, and don’t let any shifty-looking types with screwdrivers get too close to Alexa. For the Echo, you can also use the hardwired microphone kill switch on top; there’s no way to disable it with software.Should I be worried?
You can take out all your microphones and ban anything smarter than a toaster from entering your home, but if you go within a few feet of someone carrying a phone, you’ll be on the air again. Given this reality, there’s no point worrying too much about it. Companies aren’t harvesting your data (yet), hackers don’t think your microphone is very interesting, and as long as you’re not an easy target, you probably aren’t in much danger.
As with most things, we’ll have to wait until there’s a big issue before we get a big solution, so until then, keep on talking to your robot friends.
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