Give your videoconferencing calls killer audio quality

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Not every videoconference audio setup has to be as janky as this.
Not every videoconference audio setup has to be as janky as this.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

You’ve probably made more video calls in the last few weeks than you’ve made in the previous few years combined. And if they were on your iPhone or iPad, then they probably sounded great. But what if you’re using a Mac, with its prehistoric mics1?

No worries. Through the magic of technology, you can use a better mic with your Mac’s Skype or FaceTime. (As a bonus, it also might make you feel more comfortable during videoconferences.)

How to make your own coronavirus Ragmask

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Make your own protective mask with Ragmask's amazing guide.
Make your own protective mask with Ragmask's amazing guide.
Photo: Ragmask

Do you need a coronavirus mask? The World Health Organization still says no, unless you are caring for someone with COVID-19 or carrying the virus that causes it yourself. But perhaps The WHO isn’t as impartial as we’d like to think. As health experts’ opinions on the subject evolve, a DIY homemade mask looks increasingly enticing.

Perhaps wearing a mask when you take the subway or visit a supermarket is a good idea after all. Whatever, none of this changes the fact that you cannot buy a mask anywhere. But you can make your own. Check out the Ragmask, a homemade mask deign from Loren Brichter. Yes, that Loren Brichter — the former Apple employee who went on to develop Tweetie and was dubbed the “high priest of app design” by The Wall Street Journal.

5 Zoom alternatives to keep you connected during COVID-19 crisis

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Zoom definitely isn't your only option for videoconferencing. Check out these Zoom alternatives, including Houseparty.
Zoom definitely isn't your only option for videoconferencing.
Photo: Life on Air

Zoom might be the best video-conferencing app, but that’s a bit like saying Facebook is the best social network. It might be true 1, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel dirty if you use it. Despite a seemingly never-ending stream of privacy violations, security holes and utter disregard for its customers, Zoom is still being used as the de facto standard video conferencing and broadcasting tool during the COVID-19 crisis.

We’ve already seen the problems with Zoom. And we’ve also shown you how to protect yourself if you choose to use Zoom despite the company’s many privacy missteps. (Zoom pledged to do better this week.) But what about other services you could rely on during the coronavirus shutdown? Read on. We have five great Zoom alternatives you can use.

How to make private, at-home podcasts for family and friends

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home podcasts
You don't need any fancy gear to record and publish a podcast.
Photo: Jonathan Farber/Unsplash

You’re stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, and maybe you’re spending lots of time keeping up with family and friends. But here’s an idea: Why not make a podcast? Not that you should stop actually talking to the people you like and love, but as a home project, making a podcast is a lot of fun.

And if you’re a musician, or you have kids, you can do a lot more than just monologuing into your iPhone’s mic. You can talk, add music, interview other family members, and anything else you can think of. Then, your friends and family will have a cool show to look forward to every day, or however often you publish.

How to get new music notifications in Apple Music

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new music notifications
Never miss new releases from your favorite artists again.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

You may have seen a notification from Apple Music at some point. It popped up, told you about a new album from a favorite artist, and you thought, “Thanks Apple Music! That’s great news.” Finally, you thought to yourself, this is a machine doing what machines are supposed to do. Then maybe you clicked on that notification, and the Music app launched, but didn’t go to the artist or album. Or perhaps you dismissed the alert, and when you opened the Music app later, you were confused because you couldn’t find the notification anywhere.

Now, Apple has (maybe) fixed this problem. Instead of just plain old lock-screen notifications, the Music app will now show you new music alerts inside the app itself. Here’s how to switch them on.

No, you shouldn’t try to decontaminate N95 masks in your oven

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decontaminate n95 masks
Do not put used N95 masks in your oven.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, N95 filtration masks are in short supply worldwide. It remains unclear whether wearing a mask as a prophylactic is necessary, but that isn’t stopping people from strapping them on when they venture outside their homes. And if you are infected with the COVID-19 virus, or you are working closely with infected people, then you probably do want a mask.

Can these masks be reused? New guidance from Stanford Medicine says yes, you can sterilize N95 masks — by “baking” them in a low-temperature oven. However, you should definitely not do this at home.

Using Zoom? Take these steps to protect your privacy [Updated]

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yoga class zoom
Zoom lets you keep attending your local yoga class, but at what cost?
Photo: Anupam Mahapatra/Unsplash

Video-conferencing tool Zoom is seeing a surge in use during the coronavirus pandemic, due to people being stuck at home and unable to meet in meatspace groups. I’ve read about people using Zoom to drop in on yoga and pilates classes, as well as for more usual business-related activities.

How to borrow library books on your Kindle

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kindle lending library
Read borrowed library books on your Kindle
Photo: Aliis Sinisalu/Unsplash

Kindle library books can provide hours of entertainment as you self-isolate due to the coronavirus pandemic. You likely can check out ebooks from your local library, just like a regular paper book.

In the United States, you typically can check out books using an Amazon Kindle or an iOS app. In other countries, you can use alternative e-readers or apps. By borrowing books online, you can avoid leaving your house — perfect when libraries are closed during COVID-19 lockdown — and you don’t need to leave your house to return anything, either. Returns happen automatically at the end of the borrowing period.

Let’s see how it works.

Apple leaks new Logic Pro X Live Loops feature

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Logic Pro X Live Loops
This screenshot shows an as-yet unreleased version of Logic Pro X.
Photo: Apple

Sometime before this past weekend, Apple posted a screenshot of what is presumably an upcoming new version of Logic Pro X, its pro music-creation app, onto its education page. It shows a brand new feature, previously only seen in the iOS version of GarageBand: Live Loops. Live Loops is a way to trigger music clips live, on-the-fly, so you can create music like a DJ.

And the Logic version looks great. And more importantly, it finally adds Apple’s take on the Session View from Logic’s biggest rival, Ableton Live.