10 Things You Didn’t Know Your Video Game Console Could Do

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iStock

Modern video game consoles are all-in-one entertainment machines that offer you the ability to not just play games but to watch movies, log onto Facebook, turn on your television, and engage in a whole host of other built-in benefits to make your gaming experience better. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know your video game console could do.

1. TURN ON YOUR TV.

Instead of turning on your TV and PlayStation 4 separately, you can actually turn them both on at the same time with HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) via Device Link. Simply connect your PS4 to an HDMI CEC-enabled TV. Once connected, go to settings on your PS4, then select “System,” and then check the box for “Enable HDMI Device Link.” That's it!

Every time you turn on your PS4, it will automatically turn your TV on at the same time. The feature will even automatically switch your TV’s input to PS4, if you’re watching something else like cable TV.

Both the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One have this feature, too. It’s under “Match TV Power State” in “TV Settings” on the Nintendo Switch and “Devices” under “TV & OneGuide” in settings on the Xbox One. Just make sure your TV supports HDMI-CEC and that it's enabled.

In addition, there are many streaming devices that utilize this same feature, including Google’s Chromecast, Roku, and Apple TV.

2. PLAY GAMES FROM OTHER COUNTRIES.

The Nintendo Switch is a region-free console, which means that you can play any game from around the world, though the video game company limits your access to the country where your account is based. However, with a special (and simple) workaround, you can visit any eShop from any country of your choosing, without actually having to be physically there.

Simply create a new account and choose the country you want to be associated with when prompted. Once your account is verified with a new email address and a profile is made, you can browse and play any video game from the region of your choice. In addition, you can add multiple profiles to one account to make it easier to switch between countries. Just be aware that the eShop will be in the country’s native language (which could pose a problem if you want a Japanese game, but can't read the language).

3. BROWSE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS.

Facebook home page
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While the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a dedicated web browser, there is a clever workaround to access Facebook and Twitter as a “secret” web portal. Under the “Users” tab in “System Settings,” you can access your social media accounts under the “Post on Social Networks” tab. Once prompted and logged in, you can access anything posted on Twitter or Facebook, including YouTube videos and news articles.

4. PLAY IN WINDOWS 10.

One of the best things about the Xbox One is that Microsoft manufactures both its hardware and software, which mean it’s easily integrated into other Microsoft platforms—namely, Windows 10. Just make sure your Xbox One is set to game streaming by going into "Settings," then “Preferences,” and “Xbox App Connections,” and then check “Allow Game Streaming To Other Devices.”

Now go to the Xbox One app that comes pre-installed on Windows 10. If you don’t have the app on your computer, you can download it for free from the Microsoft Store. Once you open the app, connect your Xbox One to your PC under the “Connect” tab. Add the device via the same Wi-Fi network. Now you can play any Xbox One game on any PC or tablet, as long as it’s running Windows 10.

5. ACCESS YOUR SMARTPHONE.

The PS4 was built with smartphones in mind, and has several useful features that connect the console to your iPhone or Android. Once you download the PlayStation App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, just sign in with the number displayed on the TV and you can use your smartphone as a second screen or as a trusty keyboard accessory when it’s paired with your PS4 via the same Wi-Fi network. It comes in handy when typing, so you don’t have to awkwardly “hunt and peck” on the console’s virtual keyboard with your controller.

You can also use the PlayStation App to buy and download games when you’re away from home, or if your PS4 is in standby mode. Simply browse through the PlayStation Store on the app and your newly purchased games and movies will automatically start downloading to your PS4 via the Internet. You can even remotely turn your console on or off from the app.

6. SHARE GAMES.

Xbox One controller
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Although most games aren’t made with physical discs anymore, you can still share your favorite Xbox games with your family members and friends in the same household with a neat feature called “Gameshare.” You can even Gameshare with a close friend who lives elsewhere. However, Gameshare only works with two Xbox Ones at a time and only with digitally purchased games.

Just have your Xbox One profile added to a family member or close friend’s account with an Xbox Gamertag and password. While still signed into the other account, under settings go to “My Xbox,” then “My Home Xbox,” then select “Make this my Home Xbox.” Then have your friend or family member do the same thing on his or her Xbox One console. Now both profiles can access your digital library of games, as new content will be found in the “Ready To Install” section in “My Games & App.”

7. REFRESH YOUR FROZEN DASHBOARD WITHOUT GETTING UP.

Sometimes the Xbox One’s dashboard can become overwhelmed, which leads it to freeze or become otherwise unresponsive. Instead of getting up off the couch to restart the console, you can use a simple trick with the controller to reset the system.

Press and hold down the “LT” (Left Trigger) + “RT” (Right Trigger) + “Y” buttons at the same time for a few seconds and then release. The dashboard will refresh itself and reload every element on the home screen. Think of it as the Ctrl-Alt-Delete for your Xbox One.

8. PLAY PS4 GAMES ON PS VITA.

If you happen own a PlayStation Vita handheld device, you can use it to play PS4 games if your TV is in use, or if you’re in another room. Sign in to your PSN ID on your PS Vita and enter a code and you can access and play games while on the same Wi-Fi network.

9. PAIR JOY-CON WITH YOUR ANDROID, PC, OR MAC.

You can pair the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons or Pro Controller with any Android, PC, or Mac device (according to TechCrunch, iOS has its own specifications and isn’t natively compatible). Just hold on to the small sync button on the top of either controller and wait for its green light to start flashing. Then go to your device and look for the Joy-Con in your device’s Bluetooth settings. Now you can play mobile games on your device with a physical controller instead of a virtual D-pad or keyboard.

10. PLAY BREAKOUT.

'Breakout' Atari game cartridge
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Nintendo is known for building fun Easter eggs into some of its games. The video game company even hid a few clever little secrets in the New Nintendo 3DS—namely, the ability to play a version of Breakout for free.

If you go to the handheld device's Internet browser and then go to “New Page,” you can unlock the retro game when you use the stylus to tap out the theme to Super Mario Bros. on the lower screen. The “Bookmarks” label will change to “Stage Select.” Now choose any of the options below, and the screen will automatically change to play a quick game of Breakout.

Fun fact: Before they co-founded Apple, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs helped create and design Breakout when Jobs worked at Atari during the early 1970s.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Why Does Altitude Affect Baking?

This woman is going to make a quick stop at Whole Foods' bakery section before book club.
This woman is going to make a quick stop at Whole Foods' bakery section before book club.
nicoletaionescu/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you’re highly skilled in the kitchen, you might find yourself with a deflated cake or bone-dry brownies if you happen to be baking in Aspen, Colorado, for the first time. But why exactly does an oven at high altitude so often wreak havoc on whatever baked good is in it?

According to HuffPost, it all comes down to air pressure. The higher you are above sea level, the lower the air pressure is. This is mostly because there’s less air pressing down on that air from above, and it’s also farther from the gravitational forces on Earth’s surface. With less air pressure keeping liquid molecules in their liquid form, it takes less heat in order to vaporize them—in other words, boiling points are lower at higher altitudes.

“For every 500-foot increase in altitude, the boiling point of water drops by 0.9°F,” Dr. Craig F. Morris, director of the USDA ARS Western Wheat Quality Laboratory at Washington State University, told HuffPost.

Since liquids evaporate at lower temperatures, all the moisture that makes your signature chocolate cake so dense and delicious could disappear long before you’d normally take it out of the oven. To avoid this, you should bake certain goods at lower temperatures.

With less air pressure, gases expand faster, too—so anything that’s supposed to rise in the oven might end up collapsing before the inside is finished baking. Cutting down on leavening agents like yeast, baking powder, and baking soda can help prevent this. This also applies to bread dough left to rise before baking (otherwise known as proofing); its rapid expansion could negatively affect its flavor and texture, so you might need to adjust how much yeast you’re using.

If all the ways a recipe could go wrong at high altitudes—and all the experimentation needed to make sure it goes right—seem like a lot to keep track of, Betty Crocker has a handy chart with various types of baked goods and suggested modifications for them.

[h/t HuffPost]