Microsoft adds Math Helper to its Bing application for mobiles

Microsoft Math Helper, or Microsoft Math, is a new feature of Microsoft’s Bing application for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating system.

The idea behind Microsoft Math is not new; scan an equation to get step-by-step explanations on how to solve it. Microsoft added additional bits of information such as visualization or help to the application that adds to the overall value.

Microsoft Math Helper

microsoft math helper

I tested the Android application of Microsoft Bing / Math Helper but the Apple iOS version works similarly.

The core functionality of Math Helper worked surprisingly well considering that my handwriting is not the prettiest. The app scanned handwritten and printed equations without issues and provided a solution for these after sending them to Bing.

The sending part is a clear downside as the processing is not done on the mobile device but in the cloud. Users of the app need to make sure that the capture does not contain any important information or data.

Apart from scanning equations, Math Helper supports typing equations directly in a calculator or using touch to write them directly on the screen. These equations are also submitted to Microsoft before results are returned.

math helper

Results are presented step by step by the application. Steps are explained in the application, e.g. when something is multiplied or subtracted. The app displays a graph on the results page, and if multiple variables are used in the equation, solutions for all are provided.

Math Helper remembers calculations and a tap on the notes icon in the interface displays the history.  Options to clear previous calculations or to pin important ones are provided on the page.

Closing Words

Microsoft Math Helper is a useful application, e.g. for pupils to verify the results of calculations or for parents to better understand or verify these calculations. Math problems can be added using the mobile device’s camera, typed using a calculator, or added using touch.  The app supports different types of equations and other calculations.

One downside to using the application is that it works only with the Bing app (as it is integrated in the app), and that it requires an active Internet connection as it won’t return any results otherwise.

Applications like Photomath, available for Android and iOS as well, provide similar functionality but without Internet connection requirement.

Now You: do you use educational applications like Math Helper or Photomath?

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Cloudflare's Warp VPN is now available to all: a first look

Cloud provider Cloudflare launched its privacy-focused DNS service 1.1.1.1 in 2018 and published apps for Android and iOS in the same year.

The company announced its Warp vpn service in April 2019 and invited users from all over the world to join a waiting list to test it.

The once-restricted VPN service is now available to everyone who downloads and installs the company’s 1.1.1.1: Faster & Safer Internet application for Android or iOS.

Warp establishes a VPN connection on the device to route traffic through Cloudflare servers; this hides the device’s IP address and may improve performance. Cloudflare suggests that Warp+ users see a 30% improvement in performance on average when loading websites.

Tip: if you are looking for a DNS solution, check out Adguard DNS.

Cloudflare Warp

cloudflare vpn warp

The 1.1.1.1 application installs a VPN profile on the user’s device when the option is selected. Cloudflare promises that it collects “as little data as possible” and that it won’t “sell, rent, share or otherwise disclose” personal information.

The app displays the terms on first start; these reveal what Cloudflare collects and what it does with the data. Data may include the app installation id, the amount of data transferred through Cloudflare’s network, and the average speed.

The registration ID is a unique random number that is assigned to each profile. Cloudflare notes that it is used for the referral system. The basic version of Warp is free and it has no traffic restrictions. Warp+ is an add-on service that improves the performance of connections made on the device by “avoiding traffic jams” and picking the fastest routes.

Users may refer others to receive up to 1 Gigabyte of Warp+ traffic for free per month. Each referral that meets the criteria adds 100 Megabytes to the referring account. The second option that is available is to pay $4 per month to get Warp+ Unlimited which enables Warp+ for the duration of the subscription.

The Cloudflare DNS service 1.1.1.1 is always enabled and it may also be used without Warp if that is desired.

The application works automatically once you have set up the VPN connection. It requires no registration. The main interface displays a huge toggle to connect and disconnect the VPN. The 1.1.1.1 app displays a prompt when you disconnect that lists the following options:

  • Pause for 15 minutes.
  • Pause for 1 hour.
  • Pause for this Wi-Fi.
  • Until I turn it back on.

The pause for this Wi-Fi option requires that you give the app location permissions. On Android, you get a notification that informs you when you are connected and controls to stop the connection from the notification area.

The app has just a few settings. You may switch from using 1.1.1.1 with Warp to just 1.1.1.1 there, enable the dark theme, and open the connection options to disable the app for select applications.

Some applications may not work correctly when you are connected to the VPN; this may be the case for applications that restrict content regionally. Use the whitelist to exclude these to continue using them.

Two connection options — protocol options and tunnel mode — were grayed out in the Android version that I tested.

Experience

I ran several speed tests to test the performance of the service. The speed tests, e.g, Fast.com, were promising as the connection was maxed out when I ran them. It is possible that this may change in the coming weeks when more and more users start to use the application.

I did not notice any improvements in regards to the loading of websites but the loading was certainly not slower than before. I did not test Warp+ but plan to do so in the future to see if it speeds up the loading significantly.

All sites and services that I tried worked fine and without hitches. It needs to be noted that the app does not include any content blocking or protective features that other applications of its kind sometimes offer.

The 1.1.1.1 application gives users no control over servers and regions that it connects to. In fact, there is zero information about the server and region that you get connected to while using the application.

A quick IP check revealed that Cloudflare routed me through data servers in Germany. I would have preferred an option to pick another region/country.

Closing Words

Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1: Faster & Safer Internet application brings the company’s DNS server and VPN service to Android and iOS. The VPN is free to use and without bandwidth limitations, but it limits options and features, and gives no control over regions and servers. Performance was excellent on the other hand and you get the benefits of being connected to a VPN.

Cloudflare is not without criticism though and there will certainly be Internet users who won’t go anywhere near the application. Privacy-wise, I’m worried about the unique ID associated with an account even though Cloudflare states that it is only used for the referral system. It may be better than requiring users to create an account to use the application, however.

Now You: Do you use VPN apps?

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KeePassium is an open-source KeePass client for iOS

About a month ago, I wrote an article about a KeePass client for iOS, called Strongbox. I also mentioned an alternative app named KeePassium and that I followed development of the application on GitHub and Reddit for a while.

KeePassium Password Manager is an application for Apple’s iOS operating system.

I looked at the free version of the app exclusively. There is a premium version available for $11.99 per year that lifts the 1 database limit to unlimited and unlocks additional settings.

Let’s take a closer look at the app.

How it works

KeePassium is an open-source KeePass client for iOS

KeePassium’s interface is clean, minimal and pretty. When you run the app for the first time, you will be prompted with 2 options: add a database or choose an existing one. If you pick the latter, you can use a database that is hosted on cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, One Drive, Box, NextCloud, or using WebDAV or SFTP.

Database, password generator and more

You will need to install the corresponding cloud service’s app on your iOS device for the option to show up in KeePassium. The advantage here is that KeePassium doesn’t need to be connected to the service as it can load the KeePass database from the Dropbox folder on the device.

That’s quite fantastic as it removes authentication worries from the entire process. Though KeePassium only saves a database that it creates in the KDBX4 format, it can also open/save KDBX3 and KDB formats. Of course, you can use the app to change the master password too.

KeePassium database

Once you add a database, it shows up on the side-bar. Tapping a folder displays all the logins inside it and selecting a login will show the username, password (hidden) and URL on the right pane. You can also attach files and notes to a password entry.

It also hides the actual number of characters in a password so that the information is hidden and is not revealed to others who catch a glimpse of the screen.

KeePassium password entry

You can sort the side-panel by tapping the icon on the bottom left. The search bar on the top of the pane lets you find entries quickly. There is a backup database option which will save an extra copy of the database on your device.

KeePassium sorting

The password generator can be accessed by tapping the + icon on the left panel and selecting “Create Entry”. This is also how you add new logins to the database if you create new accounts.

KeePassium can generate random passwords using the following parameters: password length, lower case, upper case, special symbols, digits, and look-alike characters (like 1Il). The autofill option works fine and can be used in Safari or other browsers to securely login to your accounts.

Security

KeePassium is open source and free, though it does have a premium version with some extra features.  The app supports ChaCha20 and AES (like KeePass does) and also supports Argon2, Salsa20, and Twofish algorithms for encryption.

KeePassium free vs premium

When you switch to another app, Keepassium locks the database as it should. Though I did find it annoying when I was testing it by switching to and from Safari to test the manual copy to clipboard and search options. Maybe keeping the database open for 10 seconds or something could help prevent this, an option to enable this would be sufficient.

The App Lock adds an extra layer of security to KeepPassium. When enabled, you will need to enter your device’s passcode just to access the app. You will still need to enter your master password to open the database which makes it time-consuming but provides better security.

KeePassium app lock

The “Unlock with master key” option is disabled by default and for good reason. When you enable it, Keepassium will remember the master key (master password) for the session so you don’t have to enter the password every time you open the app. When you switch to another app and return you will find an “unlock” button (instead of a password field) on the app’s home screen. The master key will be automatically cleared after the database has timed-out.

KeePassium unlock with master key
KeePassium unlock with master key 1

I personally don’t like such options, because if you forget to clear the master key and hand over your iPhone or iPad to someone, or it gets stolen or taken away, the database and all the passwords and information it contains can be accessed (unless you enable App lock).

The Database time-out is linked to the “unlock with master key” setting and Keepassium’s default auto-clear time is 60 minutes. That’s too much in my opinion but fortunately it can be customized and set to auto-lock from as low as 30 seconds and up to 24 hours or even never. Of course, you shouldn’t keep the database open for that long. I’d say keep it to 30 seconds or a minute for maximum security.

You can optionally use a Key File to unlock the database. I get that some of these options may be convenient for some people, but it really should be security over convenience any day.

KeePassium settings

Closing Words

The promise of open source, free, no ads, no analytics, and no in-app browser in KeePassium does seem to be true. I’d say you’re getting more than what you’re paying for, even with the free version. That being said, I misunderstood the Touch ID/ Face ID unlock option in KeePassium. It doesn’t unlock the database, it is one of the app lock options. You need to enable “remember  master key”, to get it to unlock the database. Well, maybe I’m expecting too much, but as a longtime user of Keepass2Android, it is one feature which I really like.

Strongbox doesn’t support search in the free version whereas KeePassium does. Other than that, I think both apps are equally good. This really is a try it yourself and decide kind of situation.

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How to enable the swipe keyboard in iPadOS

Typing on the iPad has never been easy. It’s a heavy device, and when you hold it in one hand, there is a giant keyboard on the screen which isn’t designed for one-hand usage.

When SwiftKey was released for iOS, I was happy but still not 100% satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good but I didn’t like swiping across the gigantic keyboard. It isn’t convenient.

How to enable the swipe keyboard in iPadOS

Note: I may be biased because the Android version of SwiftKey is re-sizeable, while its iOS counterpart isn’t. Though this may largely be an OS limitation.

Apple has finally added support for the swipe keyboard in iOS 13. iPadOS also received a similar option, called the floating keyboard.

How to enable the swipe keyboard in iPadOS

1. Open any app which has a text field (browser, App Store, Mail, etc), on your iPad.

2. Tap in the text field, to bring up the iPadOS keyboard in to view.

3. Now, use two fingers to pinch inwards on the keyboard. The gesture is similar to the zoom out pinch you may use on a touch screen.

4. The keyboard will shrink to a phone sized keyboard, which you can place anywhere.

5. Try swiping on the keys; it should work.

How to enable the swipe keyboard in iPadOS 2

Tip: To restore the keyboard to its original size, pinch outwards on the keyboard (like a zoom in gesture).

This works in landscape mode and portrait mode.

If that didn’t enable the swipe keyboard, you may need to enable the Slide option from the  iPadOS Settings. Navigate to the Settings > General > Keyboard section. Scroll down till you see the option which says “Slide on Floating Keyboard to Type”.

Make sure this toggle is enabled. Alternatively, if you were wondering how to disable the swipe keyboard in iPadOS, use the same method to disable the toggle.

How to enable the swipe keyboard in iPadOS 3

Tip: Sometimes the floating keyboard disappears, at least for me, and does not re-appear. To fix this, close the app in which you were using it, and re-open it, you will be able to access it again.

While this is much better than SwiftKey in terms of the size, there is still no resize option in the iOS floating keyboard. Apple really needs to let us resize the keyboard manually for the landscape mode. The animation for it does seem to exist though it doesn’t work.

How to move the floating keyboard in iPadOS

Hold the floating keyboard with two fingers, and drag it anywhere on the screen. Regardless of where you place it, it will always appear on the left-hand corner of the screen. This is something else that I think Apple should address before shipping iOS 13 to the masses. The keyboard should remember the position, and also start back up in the floating mode.

Don’t forget to check our iOS tutorials for configuring the DNS, VPN, and Safari.

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How to set up a VPN in iOS manually

Earlier we told you how to configure custom DNS and Apple Safari in iOS. Continuing with our security focused tutorials, we are going to teach you how to set up a VPN in iOS manually.

Normally, when you buy a VPN subscription, you will use the app provided by the service. These VPN apps are designed for simplicity, and employ a login-and-use method. While that is the easiest way to get a VPN working on your device, it isn’t the only way.

Depending on the app in question, it may also not be the best way if you experience stability or performance issues when you use an application to connect to a VPN server.

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually

Say, if you want to use a VPN connection in a specific protocol (IKEv2, IPSec, L2TP) or to connect to your workplace’s VPN, you will need to configure the settings manually on your iPhone or iPad.

It can enhance your security greatly but at a cost, you will only be able to connect to a particular server that you select.  To change the server, you’ll need to edit the VPN configuration again, as opposed to merely tapping a button in the app to select a different server location.

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually IKEv2

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to the “General” section and scroll down till you see the “VPN” option. Note: If you have already used a VPN before, you may have a “VPN” toggle in the side bar of the Settings screen. That’s literally just a switch, and cannot be used to configure the VPN. You will need to follow step 2, to set up the connection.
  3. Tap on “Add VPN Configuration”.
  4. Select the VPN type: IKEv2 or IPSec or L2TP.
  5. Enter the following details in the VPN configuration screen.

For IKEv2

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually IKEv2

  • Description – Give it a name
  • Server – The IP address of the VPN server you want to connect to.
  • Remote ID – Enter the same IP address.
  • Local ID – Not required. Leave it blank.
  • User Authentication – Username/Certificate
  • Username – Your VPN account’s username.
  • Password – The password for the account.
  • Proxy – Off

Note: Username is the easier option of the two, but some VPNs may not support it. In that case, you will be asked to install a security certificate on your device, to communicate with the VPN’s servers.

6. Hit Done in the top right corner of the screen.

7. Enable the VPN from the toggle on the side bar, or from the VPN settings page.

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually IKEv2 ready

You will need to visit the support portal of your VPN service to get the manual configuration details (also called native protocols) which you need to enter in the VPN set up screen.

This method is common across all recent versions of iOS. I tested this on iOS 13 beta and it works flawlessly on both IPSec and IKEv2. In case the VPN connection failed, you don’t have to start from scratch. Just go back to the VPN section in iOS’ settings, and use the “Edit” option to modify the fields.

Please be aware that some VPN services use a different authentication method for manual settings. Using your regular account username and password will not authenticate the connection. You may be required to use your account’s dashboard to create a new configuration. This will generate a random username and password to authenticate your account for the specific protocol.

Just FYI, there is a new protocol called WireGuard, which promises faster encryption and better speeds. It isn’t available for use yet, but is expected to be supported by all major services and operating systems.

Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here (https://www.ghacks.net/support/) or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/ghacks)). Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post How to set up a VPN in iOS manually appeared first on gHacks Technology News.