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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Squirrels Are Assaulting Porch Pumpkins Across the Country—Here's How to Stop It

Squirrels are looking to pumpkins for sustenance this year.
Squirrels are looking to pumpkins for sustenance this year.
Ian Lee, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you ever come home to discover a cherished Halloween pumpkin destroyed, don’t assign blame to any neighborhood vandals. This year, it might be the work of squirrels.

According to a series of news reports from around the country, the bushy-tailed rodents that once occupied a place of esteem as a pet for President Warren G. Harding have taken to assaulting and defacing pumpkins left out on porches for Halloween by using them as a source for food.

What makes this year different? There’s been speculation that fewer acorns might have squirrels foraging for food more than usual. Another theory is that reduced traffic in parks and restaurants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic might mean fewer scraps for squirrels to gather.

In New York and Pennsylvania, a drought may be to blame. Charlie Todd, owner of Chamberlain Acres Garden Center in Southport, New York, told 18 News that a lack of rainfall reduced the amount of available vegetation squirrels normally dine out on.

Can this squirrel crime wave be stopped? A number of solutions are circulating online, from spraying pumpkins with soap and hot sauce to coating it with a sticky solution. But if a squirrel is desperate enough, it’s probably going to take what it can get. Some people leave out other snacks, like peanuts, to deter the squirrel from munching on the gourd, but leaving food out can attract other animals, too. If you have a prized pumpkin and fear its destruction, displaying it inside your home is probably your safest bet.