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After Math: Showing and Growing

It was a big week for expanding one’s business. Netflix revealed its new slate of anime series, LastPass doubled its premium price, and the Chevy Bolt proved it could outrun a Tesla 3 over distance. Numbers, because how else are we going to measure the extent of our worth?


The best essential oil diffuser

By Shannon Palus

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

We spent more than three weeks testing 13 diffusers, and our favorite is the Urpower 300ml Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser. It has nearly three times the capacity of most other options at its price, and it has the same clean design as diffusers that cost more than five times as much. It will change the ambience of any room, with light in multiple colors, mist, and a subtle scent.

Who should get this

If you want your place to smell nicer, a diffuser is a solid alternative to candles. Because a diffuser can’t catch fire, you can leave it on in one room while you’re in another, or while you’re sleeping. Unlike candles or more passive scent dispensers like Glade PlugIns, you can vary the scent just by choosing a different oil. A diffuser will also make any bath feel a little fancier.

While researching this guide, I saw blog post after blog post—often on sites that had the word “wellness” in their name—about what essential oils can do for your health. But there’s little scientific evidence to back up those claims. Berkeley Wellness, a rare “wellness” site that relies on peer-reviewed research and is edited by an MD, has a good summary of what researchers do and don’t know. We can recommend diffusers here only for their ambience, not their aromatherapy capabilities. An essential oil diffuser should never, ever be a replacement for medical care.

How we picked and tested

Most diffusers light up. Photo: Michael Hession

All diffusers will do the basic job of making a room smell nice. But pick one at random, and it might be too small, produce a weak stream of mist, clash with your decor, or have buttons that are confusing to operate. Before we get to those details, though, we need to note the different kinds of diffusers—ultrasonic diffusers and nebulizers.

The most popular electronic diffusers are ultrasonic diffusers. Such models have a small tank of water to which you add a few drops of essential oil, or more if you prefer a stronger smell. A vibrating diaphragm in the diffuser turns the water and oil into fine, cool mist (like boiling, but with force). Because they light up and produce a stream of mist, they are nice to look at, but the scent they produce is subtle compared with that of nebulizers or your average scented candle.

If you want a stronger smell and can spend more money, consider a nebulizer, which diffuses oil directly by blowing compressed air through it to turn it to mist. These models cost about $100, can be loud, and aren’t as interesting to look at, but they produce a more concentrated smell.

I spent three weeks using a selection of ultrasonic diffusers and nebulizers in numerous locations around my apartment. I quickly eliminated a few for having undesirable design elements, like taking up a lot of space or having buttons that I found impossible to navigate without looking at the manual. I also paid attention to the noise level from the nebulizers, which produce a buzzing sound when at full-blast.

Our pick

The Urpower 300ml, our top pick, produces a strong stream of mist. Photo: Michael Hession

The Urpower 300ml Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser runs for longer and produces a stronger stream of mist than anything available at the same price; it can go for nearly seven hours on a single fill. It has a clean and simple design, unlike many other units we looked at. Its top snaps snugly into the base, making it easy to pick up or rotate the entire diffuser by the lid. It lights up in seven colors, has two brightness levels for each color, and its LED indicator lights aren’t too bright or annoying. It also has a convenient timer function, and it’s pretty quiet. Though you can get an equally strong diffuser with a sleeker appearance for more money, we think most people will be pleased with the Urpower 300ml.

One problem we ran into with the Urpower 300ml and nearly every other ultrasonic diffuser we looked at is that the device has just two buttons. This means you don’t get a simple on-off switch for the mist or the lights, and instead have to cycle through every setting to turn either feature off. On the Urpower 300ml, this design is particularly annoying for the light, because you have so many options.

A smaller version of our pick

The Urpower 120ml produces a weaker stream of mist than our top pick, but we like its buttons better. Photo: Michael Hession

If our top pick is sold out, consider the Urpower Essential Oil Diffuser 120ml Aromatherapy Diffuser. The design is still simple compared with much of the competition, and it’s easy to use and clean. Like our top pick, it lights up in seven colors. Though the Urpower 120ml doesn’t run as long as our main pick, it does cost half as much as many other diffusers its size.

The Urpower 120ml runs for three hours on the continuous-mist setting or six hours on the intermittent setting (30 seconds on, 30 seconds off). Though our top pick doesn’t have an intermittent-mist feature, this model lacks a timer setting; it will always run until it’s out of water.

We like that the buttons don’t beep when you push them. But the mist button has an indicator light that’s green or red, which we found unsightly compared with the yellow-green indicator on our top pick.

The best nebulizer for a stronger scent

Our favorite nebulizer, the Raindrop 2.0, is the nicest-looking diffuser we considered. Photo: Michael Hession

If you are willing to spend more money and are more focused on scenting your place with essential oils without the ambience-enhancing features of a diffuser, we like the Organic Aromas Raindrop 2.0 Nebulizing Essential Oil Diffuser. Of the five nebulizers we tested (which were all great at diffusing), it’s by far our favorite for aesthetic reasons. On low settings it’s just as quiet as an ultrasonic diffuser, and it’s the prettiest diffuser we tested overall. Unlike other nebulizers, it has neither a ton of buttons to mess with nor too few options to control your experience.

The Raindrop 2.0 runs intermittently for two hours on about 20 drops of oil. It disperses oil for two minutes and then turns off for one minute. If you want the Raindrop 2.0 to run longer, you have to reset it, but two hours should be long enough to scent a room and have the fragrance last a bit.

In our tests, the touch-sensitive button to turn the light on and off was too easy to press by mistake when we turned the device on, and sometimes it took a couple of taps to turn off. This was annoying, but not a dealbreaker.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.


HomePod Firmware Suggests iPhone 8 Will Be Able to Scan Your Face While Device is Laying Flat

The newest discovery found within the HomePod firmware has shed some light on the iPhone 8’s facial recognition software, and how it could potentially scan a user’s face even when the smartphone is laying flat on a table. Uncovered by iHelp BR, code within the firmware related to “Pearl,” which is Apple’s internal name for the new facial recognition system, also includes multiple references to the word “resting” alongside “unlock.”

The feature was discovered to be categorized as an accessibility option, specifically called “AXRestingPearlUnlock” and “”. While not an exact confirmation, the HomePod firmware discovery does corroborate a report by Bloomberg from July that said Apple was working on an “improved” facial recognition system for iPhone 8, which would replace Touch ID and allegedly work even when the smartphone was flat on a table.

Image via iHelp BR
That story claimed the iPhone 8’s facial recognition would capture more data points than Touch ID, making it more secure. When rumors first came out that the iPhone 8 would potentially remove Touch ID completely, many iPhone users raised concerns about not being able to unlock their devices as they have been for years, due to a facial recognition system that would need to have the iPhone brought up directly in front of their face.

According to Bloomberg’s report, and the new HomePod firmware findings, Apple’s facial identification software will have far more nuance than simply scanning faces head-on, and allow the smartphone to be unlocked even when it’s at an odd angle. At the time of the report last month, the advanced facial recognition feature was “still being tested” and had the potential to not appear in the iPhone 8 this year. The new discovery within the HomePod firmware, which runs a modified version of iOS, makes it more likely that the advanced face ID system could make it into the iPhone 8.

One of the first HomePod firmware discoveries was a glyph of the iPhone 8
The firmware also includes references to Apple’s facial detection software working with third-party apps, found in a string called “APPS_USING_PEARL”. This means that users would potentially be able to unlock features within certain apps using their face, like they can currently within banking apps, for example, using their fingerprint and Touch ID. Another line includes a detail called “PEARL_AUTOLOCK”, and iHelp BR theorizes this could be a security feature that automatically locks the iPhone when it detects someone trying to open it whose face doesn’t match that of the authenticated user.

According to a recent Tweet by Mark Gurman, Apple’s pitch for facial recognition will be that the new feature is “quicker, more secure, and more accurate than Touch ID.” Other recent HomePod firmware leaks revealed that the iPhone 8’s facial recognition will likely work with Apple Pay and that the smartphone might record 4K Video at 60 FPS with both front and rear cameras.

Related Roundups: iPhone 8, HomePod
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Master the way of the spreadsheet with these Excel tips and tricks

Who doesn’t love spreadsheets? Probably a lot of people, actually, but even if the thought of filling rows and columns with various data points doesn’t get your pulse rising, there are a number of industries where spreadsheets are a necessity. However, though there are plenty of third-party alternatives to Microsoft’s iconic office suite, Excel remains the premier application for making and managing spreadsheets. If you’re new to Excel — or an old hand who wants to plumb Excel’s depths — our Excel tips and tricks are sure to help you increase your productivity. Read on for all the details.

If you’re looking for additional Excel pointers, we’ve put together  guides on how to password protect an Excel document and how to make a graph in Excel.

Select All

If you want to highlight a specific grid of cells, you can simply click and drag, but what if you want to select all of them? There are two ways. You can use the keyboard shortcut — Ctrl + “A” in Windows 10, Command + “A” in MacOS High Sierra and earlier iteration of MacOS — or go to the smaller cell in the upper-left corner (marked by a white arrow) and click it.

How to shade every other row

Spreadsheets can be awfully drab, and if you’ve got a lot of data to look at, the reader’s eyes might start to drift aimlessly over the page. Adding a splash of color, however, can make a spreadsheet more interesting and easier to read, so try shading every other row.

To start, highlight the area you want to apply the effect to. If you want to add color to the entire spreadsheet, just select all. While viewing the Home tab, click the Conditional Formatting button. Then, select New Rule from the resulting drop-down menu.

In the Style drop-down menu, choose Classic.

Afterward, select Use a formula to determine which cells to format.

The formula to enter is “=MOD(ROW(),2).”

Choose which fill color you want, then click OK. Now the rows should be shaded in alternating color.

Hide/unhide rows

Sometimes, you may want to hide some rows or columns of data. This can be handy if you want to print copies for a presentation, for instance, but the audience only needs to see the essentials. Thankfully, it’s easy to hide a row or column in Excel. Just right-click it, then select Hide.

The column or row will be noted by a thick border between the adjacent columns or rows.

If you want to unhide a specific row or column, you will need to highlight the columns or rows on either side of it. Once done, right-click and select Unhide from the resulting list of options.

If you have hidden multiple rows and/or columns, you can quickly unhide them by selecting the rows or columns in question, then right-clicking and selecting Unhide. Note: If you’re trying to unhide both rows and columns, you will need to unhide one axis at a time.

How to use vlookup

Sometimes, you may want to ability to retrieve information from a particular cell. Say, for example, you have an inventory for a store, and want to check the price of a particular item. Luckily, you can do so using Excel’s vlookup function.

In this example, we have an inventory where every item has an ID number and a price. We want to create a function where users can punch in the ID and get the price automatically. The vlookup function does this, letting you specify a range of columns containing relevant data, a specific column to pull the output from, and a cell to deliver the output to.

We’re going to write the vlookup function in cell I4; this is where the data will be shown. We use cell I3 as the place to input the data, and tell the function that the relevant table runs from B2 to D11, and that the answers will be in the third column (vlookup reads from left to right).

So, our function will be formatted like so: “=vlookup (input cell, range of relevant cells, column to pull answers from),” or “=vlookup(I3,B2:D11,3).”

How to create a drop-down list

If you want to restrict the range of options a user can put into a cell, a drop-down menu is a good solution. Thankfully, you can easily create one that offers users a list of options to choose from. To start, choose a cell, then go to the Data tab and select Validate.

Under Settings, find the drop-down menu labeled Allow. Then, select List.

Now, highlight the the cells you want users to choose from and click OK.

Now, when users click on the cell, they can choose options from a drop-down menu.

Keep your zeroes visible

Sometimes, you may want to enter strings of numbers beginning with one or more zeroes. Unfortunately, Excel may not show these zeroes, by default. To fix this, add a single quotation mark before the zeroes, e.g. “‘00001” instead of “00001.”

How to concatenate

Sometimes, you may want to reorganize data and combine info from different cells into one entry. You can do this using the concatenate function.

In this example, we have a basketball fantasy league roster, with fields for players’ last names, first names, and positions. If we want to combine all that information in one field, we will need a formula that reads “=concat(first cell, second cell, third cell),” or, in this case, “=concat(C6,B6,D6)” without the quotes.

Unfortunately, concatenate doesn’t automatically put spaces between text from different cells. To make a space appear, you will need to add quotation marks with a space in between. Now the function should read “=concat(C6,” “,B6,” “,D6).”

To apply this formula to all the rows we need, click the blue box in the corner of the cell and drag down.

Excel will automatically copy the formula and fill in appropriately.

How to wrap text

Got a lot of text in a single cell? It will probably spill into other cells, which might not look as nice as you’d like. Thankfully, it is easy to make text wrap within a cell.

Start by selecting the cell with the excessive text in it. Right-click and select Format cells.

Under the Alignment tab, check the box beside Wrap text.

Adjust the width of the cell to your liking.

How to see the developer tab

If you want to do more advanced work in Excel — such as create macros — you will need to access the Developer ribbon. Sadly, this tab is hidden by default. To view it, click Excel in the upper-left corner and select Preferences.

Next, click the Ribbon button.

You should see list of buttons, and checkboxes that determine whether you can see the various components. Here, scroll down to the Developer box and check it.

Now you should see the Devolper ribbon at the top.


Here’s what is coming to the Gear VR in August!

Are you ready for more Gear VR apps?.intro


The biggest mobile VR library is getting a lot bigger this month! Oculus is planning a big surprise party for the Gear VR near the end of the month, with a bunch of games launching with support for the new Controller! Adding a special Controller you can see from inside the headset is going to be a lot of fun, but it’s far from the only thing coming to the Gear VR this month.

Read more at VR Heads!


Ben Heck’s portable Raspberry Pi photo booth


Karen has an idea for a project: With Felix’s help, she’ll create a portable Raspberry Pi photo booth, useful for weddings and other events. This isn’t just a hardware project, though — it also needs Linux software to allow the system to save and upload files. Felix takes this as an opportunity to give everyone a crash course in how to run Linux on the Raspberry Pi. After they finalize the design, Karen talks us through her Python logic underpinning the built-in camera. How’s your Python programming? What Pi Cam projects have you made? And what would you have done differently here? Let us know over on the element14 Community.


Nanoparticles fool your body into allowing organ transplants

Organ transplants are frequently life-saving, but they remain a gamble when your body can reject the new organ well after the initial surgery. Yale researchers have discovered a clever solution to this: prevent your body from noticing the organ until it settles in. They’ve developed a drug delivery system that uses nanoparticles to slowly supply small interfering RNA (siRNA) that stops your body’s white blood cells from attacking the organ as a foreign presence. Instead of lasting mere days, the siRNA lasts as long as 6 weeks. This won’t necessarily eliminate the rejection response, but it should be far easier to control if and when it kicks in.

You can customize the nanoparticles to achieve a specific effect, such as carrying more of the drug. It’s also specific to the organ you’re targeting, so there shouldn’t be inadvertent damage.

The team’s next focus is on applying their nanoparticle system to kidney transplants, and it’s going to be a long time before this method is useful in the field. If it does pan out, though, it could dramatically reduce the risks associated organ transplants. Scientists would want to develop artificial organs more to keep up with demand and less as a backup for those times when natural organs don’t take.

Source: Yale News


Chicago police see less violent crime after using predictive code

Law enforcement has been trying predictive policing software for a while now, but how well does it work when it’s put to a tough test? Potentially very well, according to Chicago police. The city’s 7th District police report that their use of predictive algorithms helped reduce the number of shootings 39 percent year-over-year in the first 7 months of 2017, with murders dropping by 33 percent. Three other districts didn’t witness as dramatic a change, but they still saw 15 to 29 percent reductions in shootings and a corresponding 9 to 18 percent drop in murders.

It mainly comes down to knowing where and when to deploy officers. One of the tools used in the 7th District, HunchLab, blends crime statistics with socioeconomic data, weather info and business locations to determine where crimes are likely to happen. Other tools (such as the Strategic Subject’s List and ShotSpotter) look at gang affiliation, drug arrest history and gunfire detection sensors.

If the performance holds, It’ll suggest that predictive policing can save lives when crime rates are particularly high, as they have been on Chicago’s South Side. However, both the Chicago Police Department and academics are quick to stress that algorithms are just one part of a larger solution. Officers still have be present, and this doesn’t tackle the underlying issues that cause crime, such as limited access to education and a lack of economic opportunity. Still, any successful reduction in violence is bound to be appreciated.

Source: Reuters


Harvard’s tiny robotic arm can make endoscopic surgery safer

Minimally invasive surgery is already amazing as it is, but a team of Harvard scientists have created a device that expands its possible applications even further. They designed a tiny robotic arm that lays flat while the endoscope is moving through narrow passages and pops up to reveal tools surgeons can use for the procedure. Unlike the typical surgical tools doctors use today, which are completely rigid, the team’s creation has a hybrid design featuring a rigid skeleton surrounded by soft materials. Even better, it has sensing capabilities that can give the surgeon a sense of where the arm is, what it’s touching and how it’s moving.

By using a combination of the soft and rigid components — connected to each other by chemical bond instead of adhesive — the device is more flexible than completely rigid tools. Its soft parts include a suction cup that can handle tissues more gently than a hard and sharp tool can. The device also has a water-powered actuator, which is how it pops up for use after traveling through the body while lying flat on the endoscope.

Harvard says the fabrication method the team used is simple enough for bulk manufacturing. Further, the design can be scaled down to one millimeter for incredibly complex procedures in the lungs or the brain that would require an endoscope to travel through tiny spaces. The team already performed an ex-vivo (outside the body) test on a pig’s stomach, but that’s just the beginning. Before doctors can use it on actual patients, the team still has more tests to go: in fact, their next goal is to use it on a living animal.

Team member and paper co-author Robert Wood said:

“We are focused on some of the more challenging endoscopic techniques where tool dexterity and sensor feedback are at a premium and can potentially make the difference between success and failure.”

Source: Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences


Tesla fans reach a symbolic long-distance EV driving milestone

There’s been a relentless quest to set electric car driving records in 2017, and a team of Italians just managed to smash a couple of those records in style. Tesla Owners Club Italia drove their Model S P100D 1,078km (669.8 miles) on one charge, setting a new long-distance record (the previous was ‘just’ 901.2km) and becoming the first to drive a production EV more than 1,000km before plugging in. They did have to make some major sacrifices to hit their target, but it’s still a symbolic victory.

Like many past record-holders, the Italian team had to hypermile (that is, optimize their driving behavior) to keep the P100D going for as long as possible. They drove around Salerno at a pokey 40km/h (24.9MPH) with low rolling resistance tires, the air conditioning turned off and an emphasis on smooth driving techniques (such as the use of Autopilot) that made the most of the battery. All told, the feat took 29 hours — you wouldn’t want to try this if you were in a hurry to get anywhere.

You likely won’t see EVs achieving this kind of mileage in everyday driving any time soon. Tesla officially rates the P100D’s range at less than half this figure for a good reason, since the realities of the road are going to shrink the usable distance. However, the fact that it’s achievable at all is important. It suggests that truly long-range EVs aren’t that far away.

Via: Elon Musk (Twitter)

Source: Tesla Owners Club Italia (PDF)

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