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How to Make Sure Your iPhone Sends iMessages Instead of Texts

I have an iPhone 5, and have iMessage turned on; however, when I send a message, sometimes the iMessages are switched over to texts even though I have the “Send as SMS” setting turned off in Messages settings.

To avoid your iPhone using SMS when you wish to send an iMessage, you will want to be sure that a few items are set correctly in Settings > Messages.

Howto Imessage
Try sending iMessages to recipients’ email addresses instead of their phone numbers to avoid potential SMS messaging charges.

First, you’ll want to check that iMessage is turned on, and confirm that your iCloud account and receiving addresses are correctly set in the “Send & Receive” section. Also, you’ll want to set “Send as SMS” to Off.

To ensure that all of your messages are ever sent through the iMessage network, consider sending iMessages only to the email address of the iMessage recipient instead of their iPhone phone number.

Howto Imessage2
When sending a message, a blue send button in the Message app denotes the message will be sent via iMessage; a green button denotes SMS or MMS.

Finally, iMessage does have a tendency to go offline on occasion. You can keep a track of when iMessage is experiencing an outage by bookmarking this support page on Apple’s website.

Got a tech question or a helpful tip to share? Email us at ask (at)

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Studio Artist 4 Review

A new canvas for your masterpieces

In a world studded with Photoshop-style image editors and Painter-like natural-media tools, it’s really tough to find a new kind of artistic software that brings something truly unique and innovative to the table. But the little-known Studio Artist 4 totally pulls it off, delivering a one-of-a-kind creative application that can craft visuals like nothing else—if you’re prepared to spend some time mastering its intricacies.

Studio Artist 1

Getting an organic oil-paint look is practically effortless.

The moment you launch Studio Artist, you quickly realize it’s not your daddy’s paint program—the normal array of brushes and editing tools is replaced by a series of preset combinations, organized by groupings such as abstract, AutoCloning (which redraws a source image in any number of artistic styles), chalks, lighted tubes, dry brushes, and many, many more. The program ships with thousands of presets, and for plenty of users, that’ll be as deep as they delve into the available tools. You can base your work on an existing image or start from scratch—open an image, and Studio Artist converts it into a series of vector shapes that are then used to re-create the image by “redrawing” it with custom brushes. This process can either be done automatically—filling in the image while you watch—or manually by painting the image with brushes using colors derived from the source. The vast array of brushes is especially luscious when using a graphics tablet as you can radically alter the characteristics (color, thickness, shape) by tilting the stylus or changing the amount of applied pressure. The results are wonderfully organic—drippy paint, rough edges, all the entropies of reality. Turning a photo into a gorgeous oil painting is almost effortless, but when we took a picture and rendered it as a pile of colorful, dimensional glowing jellybeans, that went well beyond what we expect from a painting program.

We love Particle brushes—imagine painting with a brush that spawns pixie dust. We’ve never seen anything like it, and that’s literally just the tip of the iceberg. Built-in vectorization capabilities give you some amazing options for converting bitmapped images to vector-based EPS files, perfect for advanced print and animation tricks. Ever want to expand a web-res image into a poster-sized, stylized masterpiece? No problem! You can pipe live video into the paint engine, letting you paint with a brush that sprays video frames all over the screen, which is even more fun than it sounds. Then there’s an entire programmable set of Photoshop-style image-processing filters that far supersede those found in Photoshop, as well as a texture generator capable of gorgeous organic patterns that you can even apply to video, creating rotoscoped effects that belong in a bleeding-edge music video. Morphing, warping, custom distortions—it’s like a visual candy store with both familiar indulgences and wildly colored offerings you’ve never even imagined.

Once you decide to move beyond the presets and try customizing things, prepare to be intimidated. Studio Artist is wickedly complex under the hood, and we saw signs that this program was created by someone who has some serious math on the mind. Some of the options dialogs in Studio Artist look like they were lifted from alien spacecraft flight manuals. Quality time spent with the comprehensive documentation is a worthwhile investment.

The bottom line. At $399, Studio Artist isn’t cheap, but it delivers an intensely deep set of creative tools for visual artists and video animators. It’s as much graphic fun as you’ll ever have on a Mac.

Review Synopsis









Mac OS 10.3.9 or later


Unique painting tools. Extensive graphics tablet support. Deep toolset.


Can be daunting to master. Interface sometimes cryptic, especially for new users.

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How To Make the Most Out of VLC for iPad

It's called the Swiss Army Knife of video players, and not for nothing. VLC is your standard go-to software when you end up with some bizarre codec-locked movie file that just won't play in your standard players. With the news that Apple was relaxing its App Store regulations and letting in all kinds of video players, we prayed to see VLC show up. It did, and we grabbed it the moment we could.

Vlan Ipad


First off, we've got nothing but great things to say about our desktop and laptop installations of VLC. Even with DVDs we've rented that won't play on our friends' PCs, VLC rides to the rescue. Simply put, we've never had a file format that could stump the software. And when CineXPlayer came to the App Store, we prayed our VLC iPad dreams would come true. That day has arrived.

However, unlike our the desktop counterpart, this mobile iteration of VLC might be a bit different for some users. For that reasons, we've compiled a small selection of tips on how to get started with the VLC Player for iPad.

Adding Videos to VLC

To begin, you can queue up videos in the client by hooking up your iPad to your computer, selecting the device in iTunes, and going to the Apps tab. There, in the lower File Sharing part of the screen, you select VLC from the list of programs that support USB syncing, click Add, and then select the media files to add--that's all there is to it. (You can even drag and drop if that's more your style.)


As easy as 1, 2, 3, 4


Sorting Files

There's a surprising lack of tweaks you can perform on the VLC app. Videos auto-populate a row of shelves in chunky block icons, and you scroll through them by running your finger along the screen. Videos seem to fill in randomly and are not sorted alphabetically, nor are there options to view them as a list. You'll need to make sure your titles indicate what movie you want to view because if you upload several short files, they can get lost in the shuffle. Longer titles trail off into ellipses, so short and sweet is your friend.

Video Playback

Touch the icon and the video loads and begins to play. On the shelf, below the image of the video is the title, along with the length of the video, the size, and the aspect ratio, though not the format. This last piece of information would be especially helpful if you have multiple formatted versions that you're testing.

The video controls are the usual ones--fast forward, reverse, pause, drag to advance, and volume--and can be accessed by tapping on the screen. Turn your iPad horizontally, and you can watch movies in landscape or portrait mode. Clicking the OK button in the top left corner takes you back to your shelf of videos, and video playback picks up where you left off when you return to the app.




The Usual Control Button Scheme

As far as we could tell, there were few files that VLC would play that the iPad couldn't. The app did manage to open a DivX encoded AVI file, so if you only want one alternate video app, VLC might be your choice. However, Ogg Theora was unsuccessful, as were Windows Movie files, digital video (.dv) files from a camcorder, FLV, MKV, and MPEG. iTunes claimed that they were loaded on to the iPad, but the app refused to recognize them. If you're a longtime Handbreak junkie, you may wish to steer clear of any of the aforementioned formats if you're planning an iPad video party.


While playback was often good, there were some videos that froze the app or caused image ghosting and freezing while the audio continued to play. Some experimentation with the bitrate settings in your ripping software may be neccessary for optimal performance.

Vlan Ghosting

Ghosting Images Make Strange Art

Despite some of the limitations of the VLC app, we'll be eagerly looking forward to updates, with the hope for a bit more functionality and an ever-increasing list of compatible formats.

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5 Ways to Save Money, Your Sanity for Winter Driving

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By Trent Hamm

There are few things more miserable than being stranded along the road on a cold winter evening. Not only are you dealing with the stress of your car's situation (and the bill that will result from it), you're also freezing to the bone.

I've been a driver in the Midwest my entire life. I know from experience that winter car troubles can be miserable and expensive. However, there are several things you can do to prevent most of the common reasons for car troubles in the wintertime.

1. Check and Air Up Your Tires

One of the most common causes of a winter automotive emergency is a flat tire. The reason is simple: On a cold day, your tires slightly deflate compared to a warmer day, and that's often enough to expose any weaknesses in your tire.

You can take care of this problem by keeping your tires adequately inflated. Check your owner's manual for details on proper inflation for your make and model, then stop at a gas station that offers free air, and follow your manual's instructions for airing up your tires. You may need an inexpensive air pressure gauge, which shouldn't cost more than a dollar or two.

It's also worthwhile to inspect your tires, and make sure they're not overly worn. The procedure here is simple, too. Just examine the treads on your tire, and find the most worn spot. Then insert a penny into that tread with Lincoln's head facing the center of the tire. If the tread doesn't cover any of Lincoln's head, you need to replace your tires because the tread is dangerously low.

2. Pack an Emergency Kit in Your Trunk

If you find yourself in an emergency situation during the winter, adequate supplies are necessary to stay safe and warm and perhaps even fix the problem yourself. Of course, this only works if you've already packed an emergency kit for your trunk.

Put together an emergency kit with several blankets, a change of warm clothes for each common passenger in the car, a couple road flares, a first aid kit, extra hats and gloves, jumper cables, a simple tool kit and some ice melt. Those items are enough to get you out of many common jams.

3. Keep Your Car Fueled Up

During the winter, a low fuel level in your car can cause a bit of ice to form in your fuel line, making it very difficult to start your car if the temperature remains below freezing.

The simplest way to avoid that problem is to keep your car adequately fueled during the winter months. Avoid letting your car get below half a tank of gas and whenever you're in doubt, err on the side of refueling now rather than later.

Also -- and this is the voice of experience speaking here -- fuel up just before arriving at your destination at the end of a long holiday trip. It's often tempting to just "get there" with only a quarter of a tank of gas, but doing so can put you at risk for real problems on a very cold winter night.

4. Use a Winter Windshield Wash

During winter weather conditions, it's common to have ice and frost build up on your windshield at unexpected moments. Even when the car's interior is warm, a sudden drop in external temperature can cause frost to build up, leaving you with ice on your windshield and horrible visibility. That's in addition to the icy spray that can happen on a cold night when the temperature is several degrees below freezing, and the salt on the roads really isn't helping.

The problem in both cases is that you can't simply use normal windshield cleaning solution to take care of these problems. It will freeze, making things worse. Instead, you need winterized windshield cleaning solution.

If you shop around, you can get winterized windshield cleaning solution at a cheap price - it's mostly just water and methanol mixed together. Add that to the windshield washing container under the hood of your car, and you're ready for one of the big hazards of winter driving.

5. Get a Full Tuneup

Not only does the temperature change wreak havoc on your tires, it can also cause expansion and contraction of other fluids and components in your automobile. That's why early winter is a great time for a full maintenance checkup on your car.

Take your car to your trusted auto mechanic, and ask for a full checkup. The key here is to use a trusted mechanic, not a place that will find all kinds of reasons to "fix" your car.

The best step you can always take with your car, regardless of the season, is to stay up to date with the maintenance schedule and keep an eye on things that wear out, like the belts and the brake pads. A good auto technician will help you do just that.

Trent Hamm is the founder of, which provides consumers with resources and tools to make informed financial decisions.


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4 Best Apps to Organize Your Money in the New Year

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Blend Images LLC

Are you ready to turn over a new, improved financial leaf in 2015? The beginning of another year is a great way to hit the reset button and start making serious progress on your money situation.

Take advantage of this opportunity to set some fresh goals and refocus your mindset around money. That can sound (and can be) overwhelming, but here's the good news: you don't have to go it alone.

Money management apps constantly making their way onto the market, making it easier than ever to automate your finances. Putting your finances on autopilot means things don't keep slipping through the cracks and you don't keep missing the details.

These are the four best comprehensive apps that will help you to organize your money in the new year. All sync up with your various accounts so you only have to worry about logging into one program to get an overview of your finances.

1. Mint

Mint helps you track your spending, keeps tabs on your bills and accounts and allows you to set goals for your money. It links up with your various accounts (credit, debit, loans, investments, etc.) so that you have a full view of your financial picture at any given point.

Additionally, you can set spending limits for certain categories, and Mint will alert you when you're close to overspending. That's because it's truly automated and categorizes your spending for you.

Mint will also send you suggestions on how you can save more and improve your financial situation. If that's still not enough of the bells and whistles for you, the program can provide you with charts and graphs that allow you to analyze every last detail of your financial picture.

2. Personal Capital

Personal Capital is similar to Mint and also dives into your investments. When you become an investment client with Personal Capital, it pairs you with a team of advisers who create a personalized portfolio plan. It's not a replacement for a professional, fee-only financial planner, but it may be a stepping stone or starting place if you're starting to establish yourself.

While Personal Capital does offer budgeting tools, it's more for those looking to maximize cash flow and grow their net worth. It's a great tool for those who want to get more into investing, and who are looking to get organized.

3. You Need a Budget

You Need a Budget will do much more than just help you create a better budget. It will leave you feeling empowered about your finances, and it will help you keep all your spending organized.

Here's how the app describes itself: "Letting the budget interface show you what needs to happen now so you can handle what happens next is a strong suit."

That's the unusual feature: It gets you on a plan that uses your last month's income for this month -- instead of spending your current income in the current month. A big advantage to this system is that you can plan for irregular expenses like gifts and insurance premiums months in advance.

4. ReadyForZero

ReadyForZero is focused on those wanting to get out of debt. You can link all your accounts to it (credit card, student loan, car loan, medical loan, and more), and then it will personalize a debt payoff plan.

You'll have a much easier time paying the bills with everything in one place, and ReadyForZero will give you reminders when bills are due. Along with that, you can sign up for credit monitoring and see the impact paying off your debt is having on your credit score.

Sophia Bera is a virtual financial planner for millennials and the founder of Gen Y Planning. She is location-independent but calls Minneapolis home. She offers a free Gen Y Planning newsletter and is getting ready to publish her first ebook to provide a Gen Y guide to empowered personal finances.


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Santa's Little Investor: 4 Stocks to Gift This Season

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Jason DeCrow/Invision for Hasbro/AP
The malls are crowded. Shopping lists are long. It's so hard to get it right during the holidays, so why play by conventional rules? Instead of buying a trendy plaything or a toy that will either break or be forgotten in a few weeks, why not invest in the gift that keeps on giving and buy stocks?

A gift of stock -- even if it's only a share -- helps encourage a lifetime of investing. If you choose well, that gift may even appreciate over time, something that can't be said about this year's hottest video game. More important, there's no assembly required!

Let's go over a few of the kid-friendly investments that are in a good position to continue appreciating over the years.

Disney (DIS)

Let's start with the obvious name: Disney. The family entertainment giant's empire is larger than its namesake theme parks and animated features. Its Capital Cities/ABC acquisition in 1995 brought ESPN and ABC into Disney's portfolio, and since then it hasn't flinched when it had to pay billions to snap up Pixar, Marvel, and more recently, Lucasfilm.

It's a well-oiled machine. Disney taps its rich portfolio of characters to crank out movies that it can then use to cash in on as consumer products, theme park attractions, and TV shows. Disney's in a good place these days, and next year it will begin milking the Star Wars franchise that it recently acquired.

Disney boosted its annual dividend 34 percent to $1.15 a share earlier this month.

Hasbro (HAS)

Toy companies are logical first investments, but it's hard to find makers of playthings that are worth investing in. Mattel (MAT) is the country's largest toy manufacturer, but it's a mess these days. Sales and earnings are going the wrong way, and it has missed Wall Street's profit targets every single quarter over the past year.

Hasbro is holding up considerably better. Its top and bottom lines are still growing. As Mattel struggles to get Barbie back on track, Hasbro's selling plenty of Nerf, Transformers and Monopoly products. Hasbro also packs a healthy 3 percent yield.

Apple (AAPL)

If your child, grandchild, niece or nephew has a thing for iPads, iPhones, iPods, or Macs, then Apple is a good place to start the investing process. The popularity of Apple's products has catapulted the company all the way to the top, commanding the country's most valuable market cap. The majority of its sales is being generated by the iPhone these days, but it's a safe bet that Apple will continue to innovate in the future.

Despite hitting a new high recently that pushed it to a market cap of $700 billion, the stock is surprisingly reasonably priced. Shares of Apple are trading at just 14 times this new fiscal year's projected earnings.

Facebook (FB)

There are now 1.35 billion active users checking into Facebook in any given month, and an average of 864 million of them check in during any given day. The leading social networking website requires users to be at least 13 to join -- so odds are that younger kids may not relate to Facebook as an initial investment -- but young teens can probably appreciate the site's potential.

Some argue that Facebook is not as cool as it used to be. They'll say that kids aren't on Facebook anymore now that their parents and grandparents have taken over. They would rather be on Instagram, with its 300 million registered users who skew younger than Facebook's. That's cool; Facebook owns Instagram, too.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Facebook, Hasbro, Mattel and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, Hasbro and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Want to make 2015 your best investing year ever? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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