How sneaky kids use AirPods to ‘talk’ in class

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fake AirPods talk in class
Totally legit Apple AirPods.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

When I was a kid, we communicated in class by writing notes on pieces of paper, and passing them to other kids. It was called “passing notes,” and is now probably taught in schools as an artisanal pastime, along with “going outside” and conkers. In 2020, kids use insane workarounds to avoid actual writing.

Today we’ll see how to “pass notes” using nothing but two $700 iPhones and two $160 pairs of AirPods.

iPadOS 13.4 lets you (finally) use a PC keyboard with your iPad

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remap iPad keys
Finally, you can remap that stupid globe to an escape key.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Using a keyboard with your iPad is a beautiful thing. It seems like every iOS update brings more and more keyboard shortcuts. But until now, you’ve been stuck using Mac-compatible keyboards only. If you hooked up a PC keyboard to your iPad, then the ⌘ and ⌥ keys would be the wrong way around.

On the Mac, thats always been easy to fix, thanks to a preference screen for switching these keys via software. And now, in iOS 13.4 beta, you can finally remaps modifier keys, too. And, yes, you can even remap the stupid globe icon on Apple’s Smart Folio Keyboard.

How to make AirPods Pro fit any ears

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AirPods pro memory foam
This is the simplest "hack" ever.
Photo: Cult of Mac

I sent my first pair of AirPods Pro back to Apple soon after buying them. Why? Because they were too small for my ears. Even with the biggest silicone tips fitted, I could never get too green checkmarks on the Ear Tip Fit Test. But, thanks to an absurdly simple hack, I’m back in the game. Now my AirPods Pro past the fit test every time. More importantly, noise really is sealed out, and the AirPods Pro are super comfy.

Check out these secret (and super-useful) settings for your Mac

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JPG screenshot location
Dust off your Terminal to use these great hacks.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

By using commands in your Mac’s built-in Terminal app, you can quickly change settings you probably didn’t even know existed.

Some of these Mac settings are just shortcuts — you can enable them in the usual way, using the mouse. But Terminal makes things simple. Instead of opening the System Preferences app, then finding (or remembering) a setting you want to change, and then searching further until you actually find the right checkbox, you can just type (or paste) a command, then  hit return.

Most of these are secret settings, though. They are impossible to change without Terminal. Let’s check them out.

How (and why) to make your own power-only USB cable

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Title image
Assemble your tools for a fun hack attack
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

USB is dirty. Just like you’d never stick your body parts into a mysterious public hole, neither should you plug your iPhone into a public charging station. iOS is pretty good at rejecting unknown connections from USB, but why take the risk?

There are a few ways to make public iPhone charging safe. One is to plug into a power outlet using your own plug and cable. But what about on a plane or train, or other public spot where only USB outlets are available? Or a friend’s computer, one that might be riddled with malware? Then you need a custom USB cable, one that only passes power, and not data. The good news is that, if you have an old Lightning USB cable laying around, you can easily fashion your own, just by yanking out two pins from inside the USB plug.

Here’s how.

How to mod your AirPods to fit tight in your ears

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WTF is going on here?
WTF is going on here?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

I love my AirPods, but I hate that they don’t fit right in my ears. They’re not designed to seal the ear canal, and therefore block external noise, but they often sit so loose in my ears that a) I can’t hear them without setting the volume way too high, and b) they feel like they’re about to fall out.

Today we’ll see how to add grippy dots to your AirPods. These dots will make the AirPods fit snugly in your ears, but — crucially — they will still fit in their charging case.

How to increase the font size in Mobile Safari

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Do you see what we did here?
Do you see what we did here?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iPhone and iPad are usually great at making web pages easy to read, even when they have lots of small text. Double-tap on a column of text, and it automatically zooms to fill the screen. Double-tap it again and you’re back where you began.

But sometimes a page behaves badly. You see it often on Internet forums, or the mobile-friendly (!) version of Reddit, for example. The text is tiny, and runs from edge to edge. There’s no way to zoom in. Even if you turn your device on its side to make the screen wider, the text just reflows — the same tiny letters, but in even longer lines.

This weekend I got sick of this, and set out to find a way to increase the font size in Mobile Safari with a bookmarklet. It didn’t take long.

Replace your home-screen app icons with actions

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Home screen actions
It’s easy to make you home screen more useful.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iPad’s home screen is a waste of space. The 4X5 grid of icons looks absurd on the 13-inch iPad Pro. In fact, the fact that you’re limited to a grid of app icons is itself absurd. Where are the live readouts from your weather app or stock ticker? Where are the actions to send a message direct to your spouse/boss without opening an app first?

Worse, because the iPad doesn’t have 3D Touch, you can’t do anything useful with those icons other than launch the app1.

Today we’ll fix that. Using a combination of shortcuts, you can add actions to your home screen, instead of apps. For instance, you can create a grid of custom icons which can email a contact, create a new blank file in your text app of choice, create a quick reminder, and so on. Check it out.

Data recovery firm helps anyone hack locked iPhones

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iPhone passcode limit can be bypassed with a keyboard
This tool was previously only available to law enforcement.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Even the FBI struggled a few years back when it tried to get Apple to unlock the iPhone belonging to the suspect in a shooting case. But data recovery firm DriveSavers claims that it has developed a “passcode lockout recovery” that enables even an ordinary member of the public to crack an iPhone.

While it doesn’t share details, it claims that service is “100 percent” successful. It’s not cheap, however. The service reportedly costs around $3,900.

Download Instagram photos with this Siri shortcut

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Download Instagram
You can download any Instagram photo -- even this one.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

If you like a photo or video on Instagram, you can like it, or you can save it to your collection. But what about just saving it? You just can’t download Instagram photos.

This week, a friend of mine posted some awesome videos he shot on tape back in the 1980s. I don’t want to dig around in Instagram’s ever-more-convoluted app just to watch them. I want to save them to my iPhone’s Photo Library. Instagram doesn’t let you save an image. Even if you copy the Instagram link using the share feature, then open that image in iPhone Safari, you can’t get at the image.

So I made a shortcut to do it for me. Check it out.