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11 Smart Ways to Reuse Your Old iPhone or Android

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Sure, you can sell back or donate your old phone when you upgrade—but you can also keep that old smartphone and put it to other inventive uses around your home. Here are a few of them.

1. A REMOTE CONTROL

Most of the newer Android devices from Samsung, LG, and HTC come with a built-in infrared blaster, which works with your TV, DVR, cable box, or DVD/Blu-ray player. You just need to download an app like IR Universal Remote from the Google Play Store to turn your device into a remote control. If you have an Apple TV, you can use your old iPhone as an alternate remote for your set-top box.

If you have an older device or one that doesn’t have a built-in IR blaster, there’s still hope. Some companies make external IR blasters that allow you to connect your phone via bluetooth, which then gets transmitted to the TV via a special device.

2. A DIGITAL CAMERA

If your old smartphone has an 8-megapixel camera or higher on its rear, then you have a decent enough sensor to turn it into a dedicated point-and-shoot digital camera—one that can upload photos directly to your social media accounts when you get to a Wi-Fi network. You can even buy lenses from olloclip.com or photojojo to make your old iPhone’s photos crisper, wider, and more dynamic.

3. and 4. A BABY MONITOR AND A HOME SECURITY SYSTEM

Video baby monitors can get pretty pricey; put that cash toward diapers and use your old smartphone instead. All you need to do is download an app like Cloud Baby Monitor or Baby Monitor 3G (which both retail for $3.99), place your old phone so that it looks into the crib, connect it to your home Wi-Fi network, and use another device or computer to watch your child from afar.

The same thing goes for a security system in your home. If you want to keep an eye on your house (or monitor what your cat or dog are up to) while you’re at work, download an app like Presence and buy a robotic viewing stand that can rotate a full 360 degrees. After placing the phone in the stand and connecting it to your home Wi-Fi network, you can use the app to turn the phone in any direction to ensure that all is well.

5. A KITCHEN COMMAND CENTER

A kitchen can be a hazardous place for an expensive smartphone or tablet. Keep your current device clean by using an old phone to store recipes and search for cooking videos on YouTube. There are a number of recipe apps, including HotPot and BigOven, that can help with a big family dinner, while apps like How to Cook Everything guide you through the process of making fresh pasta. With note-taking apps like Evernote and Google Keep, you can sync shopping lists across all of your smart devices. You can also use Siri or Google Now to set timers. 

6. A CAR GPS

As long as your device has GPS capabilities, it can be used as a navigational device—even if you don't have a data connection. Most of the smartphones made within the last five years have GPS built-in, so all you need are the proper apps to get the most out of your old iPhone or Android device on your next road trip. TomTom USA, CoPilot GPS, and NavFree USA all offer offline regional maps and turn-by-turn directions; you just need to download the area map on your home Wi-Fi network before you hop into your car. A map of the entire United States could take about 2 GB of space, so make sure your old device has plenty of room or a microSD card slot for additional storage. While these apps range in price from $10 to $40, Google Maps offers the same offline capabilities for free.    

7. A SKYPE STATION

Set up your old iPhone or Android device as a dedicated webcam for Skype or other VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services, such as Vonage and Google Hangouts. Just make sure you have steady Wi-Fi and a desktop dock or stand to make video and voice calls to your family and friends. If you have an iPhone 4 or iPad 2 or higher, you can still use your old iOS device for FaceTime with your loved ones over a good Wi-Fi connection.  

8. AN E-READER

Why let a perfectly good screen go to waste? If your old smartphone’s screen is still in good shape, turn it into a dedicated e-reader. Just download apps like Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or Google Play Books to read books on your device. You can even download apps like Pocket or Instapaper to read articles you saved from your favorite websites to read later.

9. AN ALARM CLOCK

It might not be the most exciting way to repurpose your old smartphone, but turning it into a nightstand clock might get you out of bed on time. There are a number of clock apps, like Nite Time and Night Clock, that are simple and reliable, while apps like WakeVoice and Alarm Clock HD can give you weather updates and the latest news when you awake. 

10. A TOY FOR YOUR KIDS

Your kids already can't get enough of your smartphone, so when it’s time to upgrade to something newer and shinier, give your old one to them. You’ll give them endless ways to play games and watch videos, but be sure you take some time to back up your data and wipe the phone back to factory settings before you hand it over.

For iOS users, connect to your home Wi-Fi network and then go to “Settings,” then “iCloud,” and then “Backup.” Turn on “iCloud Backup,” select your device, then start the backup process. Once that’s complete, connect your iOS device to your computer and launch iTunes. In the “Summary” panel, click “Restore” and confirm factory reset.

For Android users, connect to your home Wi-Fi network, and then go to “Settings,” then “Backup & Reset.” Make sure “Backup My Data” is set to “On.” Once it’s done backing up all of your photos, passwords, and contacts to your Google account, go to “Factory Data Reset” to restore your phone to its original factory settings.

After you reset your device—but before you hand it over to your kid—set the phone with parental control or restricted access, so your child don't spend hundreds of dollars on in-app purchases or access inappropriate content or websites. Make sure you set up a password or PIN for every download on your device, so that he or she has to ask for your permission every time they want to download something or make an in-app purchase. After you restrict access, download kid-friendly games, apps, and YouTube Kids, which can only access videos suitable for children. 

11. A TOOL FOR SCIENCE 

You can donate your old device’s idle computing power to advance scientific research from around the world. The projects include everything from exploring new medical therapies to the discovery of planets and stars.

Research scientists at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory developed an Android app called BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing), which allows the researchers to tap unused processing power from smartphones and put it toward analyzing data or running simulations that would otherwise be too expensive and costly. BOINC users are volunteering their mobile phones' resources and power to essentially build a large supercomputer for scientific research. 

By default, BOINC taps into your smartphone’s computing power only when it’s plugged in, charging, and not in use. The Max Planck Institute, National Science Foundation, and Google Inc. have funded the BOINC project and app with assistance from IBM. BOINC and its volunteers help popular research projects, such as searching radio telescope data for pulsars and finding more effective AIDS therapy and treatments. Currently, researchers and app developers are working on bringing BOINC to iOS devices

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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